Archive for November, 2006

Wii thoughts

Well I’ve had a bit of time to play around with the Wii so I thought I’d share my thoughts like everyone else seems to. This review actually took a couple days to write so sorry it took so long.

Graphics: I am a self prophessed gamer whore, therefore I never really have cared much about the graphics after 3D got decent. So yeah I think the graphics are better than the Gamecube, and I was happy with the Gamecube’s graphics so I am happy with the Wii’s graphics. Beautiful graphics are great, but I ain’t pain $150-300 more for the console plus $10 for each additional game just to get them. The main thing I keep hearing from 360 and PS3 games for defense on how good of games theya re is how “good their graphics” are, well I am watching an NFL game on ESPN and I gotta say the graphics of the game blow the 360 out of the water and I pay less for the ESPN games. So screw it, it’s a game if it isn’t fun and innovative but it is pretty I could care less.

The control: it isn’t as easy to pick up as everyone says it is. There is an adjustment and there is a decent amount of set up. It took me quite awhile to get my bar positioned right so it didn’t jiggle so much when I was using the remote. Maybe it is because our TV is diagonal to our straight couch and that causes issues but it did take awhile. That being said it does feel very natural to sit there and play with the remote, especially with Zelda… I like Wii sports but when I sit down and play Zelda I am so relaxed, the game feels so natural it just is unbelievable that some reviewers are saying the controls feel tacked on because honestly they are perfect. Overall I like the controls, and I will also add that I have been warry of the controls because I thought they were a bit gimmicky… (I thought they were a lot like those cheap baseball games you could get at toys r’ us and I couldn’t figure out why people would make a big deal out of the wii when the tech has been around in games and not making a splash for awhile, but it works). About the Speaker, I think it is somewhat neat but I don’t think it was really necessary to the system. Though unlike some reports I’ve read, the sound quality is decent.

Virtual Console: Thus far this has been my biggest disappointment with the system. What is ironic is this is what I really wanted the console for but I don’t know, it just doesn’t work well as I wanted it too… first of all the games are quite pricey I think. I thought that 3,5,8 would have been fine for NES, SNES, and N64 respectively… it would have provided enough money to make a decent profit and would have undercut microsoft. Now Microsoft’s games look like a better deal because theirs are about the same prices as the VC and they also have multi-player, points, and online play added to them which the VC does not have, though maybe this is something they will add in the future. Secondly the games available have been less than stellar, at launch the only ones I’m really interested in are F-Zero, Altered Beast, and Zelda.. this week they did add Ecco the Dolphin and Golden Axe which I am really jazzed about as well so maybe things are getting better. Also the manual says that you can’t download games onto an SD card which seemed like half the point of having the SD slot, but I’ve heard reports that this has changed so I will have to check this out before I am too upset.

Channels: I’m a little dissapointed that the browser, the news, and the forecast channels weren’t available at launch.. though it is looking like they really want this to be launched when the system is officially out globally and people have a chance to enjoy it. (Maybe they got better deals if more people were going to them). That being said the Photo Channel is fun, not great, but I can see Nintendo coming out with an advanced version next year for 1000 points or something… Miis are amazing… I am disappointed that they don’t save game info like Microsoft’s profile does, but maybe this could be a future feature? I think it would really make them better, but they are still quite fun. I’d also like to see more games use them and I am sure that will happen (I’ve heard that WarioWare and Wii Play both use them, and I assume they will use them for Animal Crossing and think they do for Sims Wii too, so maybe more companies will buy into this in the future). I also suspect that at some point you will be able to buy special outfits for a low price. The message boards are nice, though not entirely useful, but maybe that is because I’m really the only one that uses it in my house and I don’t know anyone else with a Wii that I can message either. I think overall the Channels idea is a good feature and Nintendo was smart to make their UI like this. (I also hope they add skins though… the white is cool but it’d be nice if you could change the colors or have custom backgrounds or whatever).

Overall: I think the system is pretty good… I think the games at launch were a good start though obviously not perfect. Zelda is great, and I think Rayman, Monkey Ball, Rayman, Madden, and Red Steel would be good additions to anyone’s library but from what I’ve heard Trauma Center is nothing more than a slightly better looking DS version with an added level or two. I also am slightly disappointed in their lack of Wi-Fi at launch. I hope they are building it into these games even though it isn’t out yet. I don’t know why now especially Nintendo is choosing not to do it, they’ve done it already on the DS so it isn’t like they are going into uncharted territory anymore… however maybe they are just waiting to make sure that their networks can take it, or they want to wait to give later users a further push to buy. We are already seeing the various channels being launched pretty much every few weeks into Janruary and maybe even February, perhaps we will start seeing WiFi in March which is much too late but similar to what they did on the DS>

How I got my Wii

Ok so last week I tried and failed to get my Wii because I didn’t anticipate the crowds quite well. Well last night I just happened upon the amazon.com website forums for the Wii and found a lot of people talking that Best Buy was supposed to have more units today. At the time it was pure speculation but there was enough people to confirm it (either through working there or by calling their Best Buy that I believed it). So I planned on getting up early this morning and going out to Best Buy to try to get a Wii.

I got up at 4:30am but not because I wanted to, I had a hard time sleeping last night. I got all ready and was out the door by 7am, no Best Buy was scheduled to open until 10am but they said that the tickets would be given out at 9am and  I wanted to be in line an hour before that. So with that I went to the local Best Buy with no intention of actually going to that one. You see the previous night I had gone on the Best Buy website and the Madison ones had not gotten their Wiis in stock yet. I called and the guy said that he wasn’t sure but they thought that they were going to get Wiis today. So I thought it was possible that they’d get them but they didn’t know when the shipments would arrive. Janesville on the other hand already had theirs in stock, plus Janesville is a smaller town so I thought I might have an easier time getting one there than I might have here in town due to the lower population (I realize this also meant fewer Wiis at the store but I thought it was a worthy chance.)

So I drove half hour to Janesville and got there at about 10 to 8am. I brought some school work to read so that I’d have something to do while I was waiting and sat down patiently. Not long after I got there someone who worked there but was off duty and with friends came by and handed everyone in the line a pen. We were to write our numbers on our hands just in case the Best Buy didn’t have tickets to hand out so that we could keep ourselves sorted out. I was number 26.  I worried greatly about this because on amazon.com someone said that the stores would recieve between 24 and 60 wiis, and being a smaller store I worried that it’d be closer to 24.

But I decided that this was better than the 40=50 people who were already sitting in line when I drove by the Madison Best Buy at 7:10am so I decided it was worth a shot. I also hoped that maybe someone would leave or something (fat chance but hey why not).

9am rolls around and the Best Buy staff comes out and says that they have 27 units in this shipment. I don’t know if I sighed but I sure felt like it because I felt so much relief that this strategy paid off and I would return home with Wii in hand. The commenced handing out the tickets and I was #25 (I guess someone left after all). We were then told that we could leave if we wanted to as long as we were back by 10am when the doors opened.

So I went to the local McDonald’s and not wanting to take a chance, went through the drive-thru and returned to the best buy where I ate my breakfast in the car and warming up a little. I then returned to the line at about 9:30am just to try to get a chance at getting Zelda or a remote if any were there. (We weren’t lining up back in order so I actually was closer to the middle of the pack when I went back in.

I must say it was a relief to actually get my Wii in hand. Even though I had a ticket I was awefully nervous that someone would find a way to take mine, or that they miscounted or something would go wrong and I wouldn’t get one. But I got it, and I came home and opened it with my roommate. I am so happy and relieved to finally have it over. This afternoon I went to Target because they had a ton of Zeldas earlier in the week, and they had 2 left so I bought one. It turned out that the Best Buy only had a few Zeldas and didn’t get any controllers so I still can only play one player. But at least I got my Wii and the game I want, that is all I really could ask for.

Butcherblock

Ok so I realize I’m talking about EQ2 way too much but I really am loving this expansion… I keep thinking this is how EQ2 shoulda been at launch and can’t believe that one expansion can really change my perspective on the whole game. I went from being ok with the game to really and trully loving it. I hope that this continues.

So yesterday I made a trip to Antonica because I was starting to run out of quests to do in Greater Faydark and I also wanted to try to figure out how to get the teleport spells (turns out you need to be level 25).  So this run includes a run through butcherblock in order to get to the boats which I can then use to get to go to the old world. I had gone to Butcherblock previously just quickly when I first got in the game to get a sense as to what each zone was like but that quick view didn’t do it justice.

The zone is again completely amazing. It is completely different from anything else in the game and it is huge. Again like Greater Faydark it is not onlyhorizontally large, it is vertically large. There is a dwarven NPC stronghold in the middle of the zone but you can also go up the mountain, in the mountain, over cliffs, etc… there is so much to explore. The mountains themselves are nothing short of awe inspiring… they felt grand… this is exactly what MMOs were made for.

I have hit level 20 since then and have returned to the new world and am now hunting in Butcherblock. The lowest thing in the zone is white to me but I have some quests here so this is where I am… The zone seems largely dominated by kobolds which I don’t think have been in the game before, though I could be wrong. I have never seen them before. I thought they always looked like goblins in most fiction, but in this game they look like strangely deformed gnolls… it is quite cool. I also saw on the way through that there were also gorillas in this zone! I don’t know why but that made me happy. I haven’t seen gorillas in an MMO since Ultima Online and for some reason that felt like such the coolest creature in that game (and walruses)… yet this is the first time since then and i am more than happy to see them again!

My happiness with the expansion continues.

Initial EoF impressions

Well so far I love EoF. Which is actually a bit of a surprise. I have had high hopes for this expansion and usually high hopes are a sure way of getting disappointed, but so far I haven’t been. Now granted I haven’t seen a lot when it comes to EoF, I still like what I see.

So far I am level 13 I think with my fae. I guess I should start at the beginning. Many people have been raving about the new character creation, but honestly I don’t think it is that big of a deal… I like that you get a far view and a head view now without having to zoom between them, but outside of that it doesn’t really matter. I do however love the new character selection screen. EQ2 tried to be too fancy with their selection screen and because of that it took a few minutes to go between characters (they had this whole swoop animation and a big loading time just to get to the screen)… now it is just one distant backdrop so it doesn’t take a lot of resources and when you change your character, it just changes… no fancy swoops… it is nice!

Second, the Newbie experience. I love this one so much more than the other one. For one, you can go back to the tutorial area, and it also is much less tutorialish. It feels more like your natural quests that are given instead of explaining how to do stuff, you are just doing it. At the same time the tooltips pop up to explain things and the beginning quest does go through a range of options including harvesting, exploring, and fighting in various ways. The area isn’t seperate from the rest of the game like in the normal game, so it is much more natural in the game. In fact it isn’t even a seperate zone from Greater Faydark!

Greater Faydark itself is amazing. If this isn’t the largest zone in the game, it has got to be close. On the ground layer there is lowbie monsters to fight and is probably about the size of Thunderring Steppes and Antonica combined. In fact, it  is geared from 1-20 levels of play and because of that there are 2 dffierent types of harvest to get in the same zone. This is the first time that this has happened! It was quite confusing for me when I went to harvest something only to get a notice that I didn’t have the skill to do it. I did say layer correct, above the forest floor is the city Kelethin. And even though the city has fewer buildings than Qeynos, it feels more like a city to me. Qeynos felt very artificial with about a dozen zones with none of them really going together… this one is all one zone, and all of it is in the same theme… in fact not only is Kelethin one zone, you can jump off the treetops of the city and glide down to the forest floor…. this makes Greater Faydark not only large horizontally, but it is large vertically too! I am starting to get the hang of where things are but it is very easy to get lost both on the ground and in the city. I will also note that Kelethin is far and away my favorite city in the game and I very well may move all my characters there in time… it is a great city, the devs should be proud.

I haven’t really had much opportunity to go in any other zone, maybe I will log on one of my biggins and look through them, but for now I am fine with my newb. I have popped into Loping Planes, ButcherBlock mountains and ummm lesser Faydark quickly… they all seem much higher level than me so I haven’t had the chance to explore them, but I will soon enough I am sure. One thing I gotta say about the general look is that this game is very directly addressing one of my biggest complaints in the game… everything in EQ2 looks the same to me, well this isn’t the case with EoF… every zone is very different from anything previously in EQ2 and I LOVE it!!! Desert of Flames to me was just a giant commonlands, though granted I never played much in it… and Kingdom of Sky was just small portions of Antonica on islands (the islands were cool but the environment themselves were no different).

As for monsters, most of what i have seen so far has been recycled. Alot of snakes wolves, orcs, and goblins… but they also use some of the creatures that haven’t seen much use in EQ2 previously like Bixies which is a nice change of pace. These are low levels again so I honestly am not expecting new monsters at this level. I think they want to hold off the new stuff for higher levels where people will be fighting them more which is a good design. I’ve already started one of the new heritage quests which start only level 10! (the previous low was at 20) And I also gotta say that the legend and lore books are much easier to get in this area… I’ve already found 3 in Greater Faydark, most of them are in central areas…. I didn’t even realize they were going to make new versions of the books here in EoF…it was a nice surprise.

I haven’t had much chance to look that the new class specicific AAs.. I have gotten to AA level 2 already thanks to the lower AA level… but have only gone up 1 in each. From looking at the new ones, all of them seem to just improve current skills and then therea re 4 or 5 new skills to use at the ends of the line. In a way I kind of like this because then you aren’t overburdened by new stuff that you may not like… also I like the orginazation better here too… for the final skill you only need to get 20 in its previous types, but you can get them any way you want really so you don’t have to go up 4 in something you don’t want I don’t think… I found one skill in the new tree for my warlock that looks really cool that I want to give a shot at so I’m going up that line.. for these I’ve decided to stay away from the forums… I kinda wanna see the skills for myself before I deem them worthless…

Ummm Let’s see… I haven’t played with adornments, or the new tradeskills so I can’t really make a judgement on those… to be honest right now I really don’t care about tradeskilling so it may take me awhile to check those out.

I will probably have some more impressions as I advance in the game more.

Waiting on Servers

Over the weekend I have been working fairly hard in order to truly catch up on my school work. Not only to catch up really but to get ahead. I’ve gone through all the homework that I had due tomorrow for my Spanish exam done on Sunday, even corrected. I read what I could for my detective lit class, and got all my divine comedy caught up. In addition to this, I also got a lot of errands done yesterday including getting the medicine that I usually get on Tuesdays and also doing my final test for my Geometry class that I’ve been taking through the mail. All this in a hope to play Echoes of Faydwer today uninterrupted.  I was even planning on skipping two classes this morning to get an advantage.

So it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that they aren’t even planning on having the servers up until 8pm my time, and that is if things go well. I wasn’t really expecting this. I had heard from previous expansions that they will generally take the servers down at midnight Pacific and then bring them up at noon pacific, yet they were actually brought down at 6am Pacific this time and are still scheduled to be down for 12  hours! This throws my entire day out of whack and my plan to  playing this game.

I have a test tomorrow morning in my Spanish class so I can’t stay up all night and definitely can’t skip in the morning. I am still going to skip Spanish today and use the time to keep caught up in that class so that come tomorrow I won’t have any work to do after class is done. And I may skip my other class tomorrow. I will go to my second class today as the servers will likely still be down and I really shouldn’t be skipping that class anyway.

So I am now planning on other things to get done in order to prepare for this expansion. I want to clean up my system to make it work in tip top shape so I am uninstalling unused programs, after that I will clean the disks, and fragment them. I want to maintain my caught up status in school so what I may do is read next week’s detective lit material and do the writing assignment early for that class. I also want to study my Spanish in this downtime so that I can get a good grade tomorrow on my quiz. (I earned a BC on my last test, this is my highest grade and I think it was largely due to my new study techniques!)

So my day is still busy and hopefully this won’t actually be too awful. I can always use tomorrow to play all day as I have fewer classes anyway and then I won’t have to worry about a test. I just can’t imagine what they were thinking bringing the servers up at 9pm EST… people are starting to go to sleep at this time… this is essentially DELAYING the game! They should schedule it so that the servers would be up as soon as the first game stores open on the east coast… so they SHOULD be up by 10am EST, instead anyone who buys the game in anticipation will have to come home and wait for 12 hours. That is rediculous.

Echoes of Faydwer

Ok so if you didn’t realize by now I run another website called NorrathLiving.com. This site is basically a news site for the MMORPG called Everquest 2 (or EQ2 for short). Well on Monday they will be releasing their third expansion entitled Echoes of Faydwer.

So I am far more excited for this upcoming expansion than I have been probably for the last two expansions combined. Neither of the previous two I even bothered buying until a couple months after launch, I have already preordered EoF and am already setting up plans to play some hardcore gaming come launch day. So I thought I would take this opportunity to kind of explain what Sony did wrong with the previous two expansions that they finally got right in the third.

The first expansion was Desert of Flames. This expansion raised the level cap from 50 to 60, had 30 new creatures, 30 zones, voice emotes, climbing, a new city, and an arena pvp system. Now I don’t behoove them  the level increase, they certainly needed to up it in order to keep players interested. The creatures were great too… the voice emotes I think was a cool idea though they aren’t as useful as they sound. It was a great idea because you could now hear commands and such so that you didn’t have to read it, but in reality this just adds a tad bit of flavor and is probably better suited to an older generation of game before Teamspeak became the norm. Climbing may be cool but I have yet to even use it, same with the new city. And from what I heard almost no one uses the arenas. Now my main problem I think with this expansion wasn’t the number of zones, but the fact that the zones were only for 45 and above. I always thought that EQ2’s largest problem was a lack of variety in the game and thus I have always thought they needed to do more to improve the mid levels especially but also the high and low levels. My problem is that all the zones, outside of a few, look the same, and you tend to also fight the same monsters throughout the game. The common monsters at all levels seems to be Gnolls, Orcs, bears, wolves, zombies and skeletons. What makes this really sad is that none of these monsters are particularly interesting to even look at! So this expansion really never brought anything, it may have been really cool when you got to those 10 levels that it was designed for, but they shouldn’t have made. Final Grade: D
Next came Kingdom of Sky. This one had fewer new monsters and zones, again raised the level cap by 10, raised the guild level cap by 10, and added alternate advancement. Now the alternate advancement (AA) started at level 20 so this actually did add to the game for those under 60. However again they didn’t address any mid-level content at all outside of this. AA was certainly a good thing, but many of these skills were noticably lackluster. I give this expansion a tad more credit however, though there was actually less added to the game in it, I like Dragons a lot and thought that while the AA wasn’t great it did show an attempt to give something to everyone. Final Grade C.

Echoes of Faydwer. This is an incredibly large expansion, i don’t know how they are doing it. Now there are only 20 new zones (likely fewer than KoS), but they supposedly are extremely large zones. And they are for all level ranges from 5 all the way up to 70, so it doesn’t only give new options to the mid-levels but it also gives more options to high levels which I think is needed. They are adding the first new starting city and the first new player race (the Fae).  No new level increase this time but I think they are raising the level cap for guilds to 60 or 70. They are also adding in new systems for tradeskills. They are adding adornment slots to items to make items more customizable, and they are adding two new secondary tradeskills called transmutting and tinkering. I can’t remember what these are off hand but I am very excited to check them out! In addition to this they are adding full featured cloaks with guild emblems on them, and a second earring jewelry slot. 40 new monster types ( more than either of the other expansions). New class-specific AA skills and a belief system including new belief skills! In addition to all that, they are also adding a new type of item called an item set. The idea is that the items will get stronger as you get more items in the set, so individual pieces of armor in a set may not be great, but if you get the entire outfit, you will not only look cool, you will be leet as well! Lastly they are adding travel spells to druids and sorcerers like the old EQ1 days and I hear even putting in boats, which some may not like but I think will go a long way to make the game seem bigger which is another problem they’ve had. I’m soooo excited… Pending Grade: A

The woman dream

Last night I had one of those dreams where you are with someone else, married this time I think because I was giving her a surprise party for her like 40th birthday. This morning I began to wonder how people in a happy marriage respond to these types of dreams. As a single person I tend to feel depressed and extremely lonely all day (I have a great day to look forward to, yay!). However, does this happen to married people too? Or do they just wake up next to their spouse and wrap their arms around that person and forget all about it because they already have it?  Or do they wish they had a wife like that instead of the nagging wife they currently have?

I put a lot of stock in my dreams though. More than one story idea I’ve had has been influenced by dreams. Either directly by giving me the idea, or adding to the idea that I originally had. For instance this dream I had may not seem like much right now to anyone, after all many people have these ideas, however I can now use this dream to work into a story that involves a romance in which there are people of that age and types. And yes I have one that this fits perfectly into.

See sometimes it is difficult just figuring out the everyday life stuff when writing. The easy stuff is the big stuff, wife cheated on husband, someone dies, etc. The hard writing is really the little stuff… what did the wife do today before she cheated on the husband? What was the morning like for the person who died? These are more difficult questions. Often we can pick out the big events and describe it really well but can’t do the smaller steps that surround them. One way I cope with this is to use my dreams as best I can. Dreams have an innate ability to look real to us and thus are often easier to describe in writing than just coming up with the idea out of nowhere.