Archive for May, 2007

New Neriak & Arasai

SOE finally launched their latest update including a new race and starting area, now being a level 27 arasai, I have had plenty of experience dealing with it and thought I’d write my little review of it.

First of all, Neriak is a beautiful city.  I heard a lot of complaints in the beta test that it wasn’t anything like the EQ1 version of it, and that may be, but it is still a great city on its own. However, it remains one of the more unique fantasy cities I have seen in some while. Not like other underground cities that are all big and blocky and look very typical of what you’d think of in an underground setting. This city is in an underground river cavern, so it is complete with water systems and waterfalls which add a lovely ambiance. In addition to this, there are wisps floating around everywhere, and in the Death Grotto (where the palace is) there are floating heads. In the middle of the city there is a small cave with a waterfall going down in it, in the waterfall is some strange picture of a raccoon. And the whole city has an oriental theme, which helps me understand another reason why they put part of the work on this over to their Asian team. All of these features of the city really mean that there is something interesting to look at nearly everywhere.  To help you see it all, there is a helpful teleporter system which takes you to points throughout the city, not unlike the bells in Qeynos or Freeport.

These teleporters are one of my major irks with the city. This city has all the things that were complained about with Kelethin. They have a teleporter system which makes traveling through town easier, which Kelethin doesn’t even though it is bigger (granted this actually makes sense story wise why dark elves have it and fae don’t I guess). They have a teleporter that goes straight to TS or Nek, which has been one main complain of kelethin, this was softened by putting it to the spires in those zones, but in a way that is actually just as helpful as there is no spire at all in EoF.  In addition to this, there is a carpet not far into Darklight Wood that takes you to DoF which has been my biggest complaint about Kelethin is that it is so far away from the butcherblock docks.  There are also a druid ring and a spire in Darklight wood, though neither seems to be functioning which points to a future event at getting new spires functioning and such. Both of them have teleporter trainers nearby but I see no way to actually use them. Lastly, housing here seems to be slightly better, no round rooms, the big house has 5 small rooms instead of 4, is better laid out, and has long winding staircases that you can hang artwork in the hallways of. The only thing Neriak doesn’t seem to get is transmuting and tinkering guys the way that Kelethin has which I guess is one trade off but these aren’t that important of tradeskills where everyone needs them anyway.

Darklight Wood is ok. It is fairly bland, though it does look a lot like a less thick portion of Nek Forest. The forest is chock full of vampires, werewolves, and undead which will likely make it the place to go to get slayer titles and L&L since everything is below level 20. I had suspected that the zone would be off Nek Forest, but they also included an area that goes off to Commonlands as well, not a huge deal but does make traveling to Freeport fairly easy. The area is full of shinies, far more than usual I think, but they are all the old world newbie shinies, nothing new, or from EoF. It is basically bones, shards, and moths, but without the feathers and shells (those had gotten over used anyway). There isn’t a ton of interesting features here, but there are a lot of names. There is a spring that has skulls floating out of it, a crack in the ground that I have yet to jump down but would expect death, and a crater full of undead. Quests are fairly routine, though not as good as EoF they are still decent. One quest in particular gives you an owlbear pet, and there are a couple other nifty house items you can get (like skull candle set). The zone itself is much smaller than any of the EoF zones, which is to be expected considering it is a newbie area, though I think it is still much smaller than either Antonica or Commonlands.

I’d also like to point out that besides the new city and race, there were a couple other nice little surprises. They gave every account 1 new character slot, which has been desperately need, though I thought it would come with the next expansion. So thankfully, I don’t have to shell out another 10 bucks a month to get a new character like I had planned. They also overhauled the LFG panel, adding categories of roles that you think you would fill, as well as a note box for what type of group you are looking for. In addition, there is now a LFM tab in the panel which allows a group to tag themselves as looking for more, as well as what they are looking for and what they are doing. You can then search based on each, filter out groups/players that don’t match well, and find the role you need. It is fairly nice, though not many people use it still, it may take time… I always use it.

For a new area, probably not the greatest of additions, though for a free update this is an A+ and good job SOE. I never thought during EQ1 years that I would ever be satisfied with SOE’s service, but they have done a  lot to make themselves more involved than what they once were and it is now a value to play their games.

New Computer

I got the final pieces to my new computer last Thursday and then promptly got it set up. I was up till midnight the first night and I went to bed with the happy knowledge that I got it up and running with Windows cleanly running. Actually the whole process went fairly smoothly. I had a couple hiccups, but all the pieces worked perfectly and once I made sure all the power connectors were hooked up, it was up within minutes.

The computer itself is a dream. It is extremely quiet! You can barely tell that it is even on even with the TV and AC off. My last computer however, was really noisy and often required me to go and turn the TV up just to hear it over the computer. The new one also seems much cooler, no longer do I sit at my desk and feeling hotter than I would be if I stood 10 feet away. I also think the overall room is much cooler, so yet another positive. Lastly, the graphics are amazing. Whereas my previous computer could barely run EQ2 at extreme performance, I now run EQ2 in Very High Quality instead as a standard setting, and I could probably even raise it to extreme Quality, but I don’t want to push it and end up with lag. Right now it runs beautifully without any lag, I can go everywhere with great graphics.

Overall, I got to say that I’m very happy with the performance of the new computer and feel it was money well spent!

Why Digg.com has become irrelevant

I have been a long time reader and user of Digg.com. I have had apps on my homepages for years to get the latest stuff off of Digg. The idea is great, allow users to choose what news stories are actually worth looking at and which ones aren’t. However, over the last few months I have noticed an alarming trend with the site and it stems largely from the fact that users make up stories for the sole purpose of putting on Digg.

That is lists. Digg has become list-central. Just a quick perusal and you get lists of reasons to switch to linux, best things about macs, reasons to hate the RIAA, best ways to optimize firefox, best iGoogle apps, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, these are often handy lists, with often useful information. But it has deluted Digg to the point where it is difficult to find ACTUAL NEWS on the site anymore. All Digg is now is a site for people to submit their lists and have other people rate them,  often complete with rants and flames.

Now adays I think that Newsvine.com is the better source of news that allows users to rank and submit stories, as well as pays writers, and has an editorial stance to make sure that the good stories actually are on top instead of the lists. I think you can even emphasize that Digg even realizes this issue as the only thing left in the company that is worth the time is Diggnation which is still really good, not only because Kevin & Alex are funny, but also because they pick out the best stories. Note that this is editorial, they don’t use the most popular, just the best so that they can take out the crap… aka Lists.

In fact, I’ve taken my Digg app off my iGoogle page as I write this and have replaced it with Newsvine’s feed as we speak. At least I will know what is actually going on the world more.

Sundance Cinemas

Over the weekend I went to see “TV Set” at the Sundance Cinemas here in town for a birthday treat. Sundance opened 2 weekends ago now, and I have been very excited for quite awhile for the new indie theater here in Madison. So it seemed only natural to pick a movie and give the theater a shot.

First off, lemme say the choice of the movie was fairly random. We looked through descriptions, saw trailors made the best of what was there. The treat was to go to Sundance, we weren’t going for any particular movie. I think I had seen trailors for TV Set previously and thought it looked interesting so that is where we went. It also looked like it was somewhat funny which we have been in the mood for somewhat recently. The other movies the Sundance offered seemed largely foreign. In a lot of different languages including Russian and German which I found quite interesting. (Usually you either have Asian or French). There were only 2 or 3 movies in English which really isn’t a big deal but sometimes you just don’t feel like reading.

We initially were going to order our seats online. One of the features of the Sundance is that you can order particular seats ahead of time, so if you want to be in the center back, you can go an order the exact seats. But after looking and seeing that no seats were taken, and that there was a $2 charge for ordering seats, we decided to just skip it and go to the theater instead. When we got there, we found out that we had to reserve particular seats and that there was a $2 surcharge per ticket even if you were getting your tickets AT the theater. We found this completely rediculous and have no idea why there is an additional surcharge, especially in the theater. The tickets already cost more than the average cinema that shows mainstream tickets, a fee we were willing to pay to avoid the commercials before the movie, but another $2? For what? I still can’t figure out what we were paying for. This added fee essentially makes the theater unrealistic to go to for non-matinee times, as the price for matinee is now more expensive than the price for a non-matinee at a mainstream theater. It is rediculous.

While the idea of reserving your seats I think is good for some movies, when the theater is empty it doesn’t really work because then you may change your mind where you wanted to sit but even though there are 4 or 5 other people in the theater, you feel somehow pressured to sit in YOUR seats. The concept has both it’s ups and downs.

Next the concessions. They had much different things than the average cinema. In addition to standard popcorn, soda, and candy. They had pastries, sandwiches (even breakfast sandwiches), coffee, more specialized drinks, and the like. They also gave you real plates for your food to bring into the theater if you liked which was kind of cool. I had a danish and it was absolutely great. My rommate wanted a sandwich but they were premade and $8 and they didn’t look worth the price. It is not surprising that a theater overcharges but we really felt it was only the sandwiches as we got a large soda, a medium lemonade, a danish and a small popcorn for only about $12 which we thought was reasonable. But the sandwiches were not. The popcorn was also really good, instead of artificial flavoring like an average cinema, everything was made from real kernels, butter, and made fresh with an old style popper. It was great. The only real complaint here was price of sandwiches which didn’t make sense as one of the ideas of Sundance is that you can go into the cafe and order something if you are just wandering the mall and leave with just a snack and no movie. At these prices, it isn’t likely going to happen very often.

The theaters themselves were average. There wasn’t anything new or surprising, and we actually felt this was a bit of a let down. The other indie theater in town has just started installing ultra comfortable pleather seating and we kind of expected the brand new sundance would have the same, but it was standard mainstream mesh-like material and we were disappointed.

The only other complaint we had in the place was waiting for everything. There were long waits both at the ticket counter and at the concession counter. We felt that this could be for two reasons. One, the employees are all new and not used to the job yet. And two, there was a much higher density of elderly dealing with computers than you’d expect and thus, it took them a long time to do anything. I think both of these issues will get settled out in time however and I can’t blame Sundance for that. However, if this continues to be a problem in a few months then it will by and large be an issue.

Overall, we were a bit disappointed by the experience. I think the high cost of tickets alone was a bit unsettling. Especially when you consider that the pre-show entertainment isn’t exactly commercial free. They play Sundance Channel pieces which in reality is just an advertisement for the Sundance Channel. We have essentially decided that while we appreciate the additional independent theaters in Madison to see more variety in our viewing habits, we certainly prefer the other cinema over this one. Which is a shame, but it is what it is. We will likely return to Sundance when it gets a movie that we want to see, but we won’t go out of our way to go there and we will make sure to go during matinee pricing.

Back

So over the last couple of weeks I haven’t been updating my site as much largely because finals were on. Last night I finished my last final paper and sent it in, so now I am officially done with school and plan to get back to updating this site.

Since I’m starting a new summer I thought I’d lay out what my goals for the summer are.

1) Calenderize myself. I’ve never been a huge fan of Calenders, but lately I’ve been forgetting appointments and birthdays like there is no tomorrow. I am sure it is my medication which causes memory loss, but it worries me to the point that I really need to become a slave to a calender. I’ve already set up a new iGoogle homepage with the calender on it, and installed a calender attachment to my browser, now I have to set up the calender. I think the calender could also help me keep on schedule with my writing and my exercising as well.

2) Ramp up exercising schedule. I want to get out and exercise at least every other day if not every day, so I’m gonna try to do that. Right now I’m thinking flipping between a walk and a geocache.

3) Work for my mom, again. Just to pick up some extra cash.

4) Finish my book. I need to get my book done over the summer so that I will have time to publish it and hopefully begin making money off it by the end of next semester.

5) Clean my house. In particular my desk which has become aweful due to not getting it completely clean over spring or winter break. Might as well give the rest of the house a good cleaning while I’m at it.

6) Finish random school things. I have a few random things to do for school like ensure that my geometry class finally gets transfered in without  making me have to attend 15 more credits in the school.

Neriak returns to EQ

With the recent announcement that Neriak will be returning to the Everquest universe, I’m pretty excited. Yeah it is cool that something with a given history like EQ1 lore in it is making its way into EQ2, but I never played EQ1 much so that part I don’t care about. What is exciting about the announcement is that it is coming (I think along with another low level zone) free of charge later this month. Yeah you heard me!

So apparantly Sony must have initially come up with plans for 2 player races with the newest expansion but realized that it was just too much work so they cut one side out of it and just released Kelethin and the Fae. So the early rumors of a dark fae turned out to be true in reality, I figured it was something that got cut out of the expansion, but something I wasn’t expecting to see again. They apparantly decided that instead of getting rid of it entirely that they could unload the work over to the SOTA team (they are the team that runs the asian versions and have done Fallen Dynasty and the SOTA graphics previously). This move was brilliant because then, yes it’d take about 6-9 months longer to do, but they can continue working on other stuff and have more content coming with a unique and different feel to it that really rounds out the world, and helps give areas that feel better to the asian market.

Now EQ2’s free content this year seems huge, absolutely huge. They released Unrest earlier in the year, redid the quests in butcherblock, redid Darkfist Citadel, added the warg mount, finished the last 4 or 5 Hoolah hats, and now they are adding 2 newbie zones and a new player race, just amazing.

I wonder where Neriak is going to be? I don’t know the original location, I know it is underground which makes it fairly easy to put a hole anywhere for the new entrance. I think it was originally located through Fallen Gate off the Commonlands, but given this is part of the faydwer stuff I would almost expect it to be more off butcherblock or something. (Since BB picks up at about level 20 and the new zones are going to be 1-20 this would make sense). This could also explain why they went back through BB a couple months ago and fleshed its quests out more, to help the next influx of new characters….

So right now my plan for my new alt is to make a Defiler since that is a fairly needed class both in the game in general and also by our guild. And I think I’m also going to be upgrading my account to the access pass so that I get the two extra character slots. Maybe we can start having guild days in other MMOs SOE does too cause I think most of us have the access pass and at least the base copies of a few of the games (like EQ1 and SWG).

The Four Categories of MMOs and their relation to each other

Yesterday in class, my professor was talking about Worldiness vs. Gaminess in MMOs and categorized EQ as more of a worldey game and WoW as more of a gamey game. The second part I don’t really mind, but the first part I thought was odd as while EQ does indeed have more of a world to it, it certainly isn’t world based, it is still a very gamey game. So during class, making good use of the time, I drew an outline rating what I felt was the most worldey and gamey games in the MMO world and what I realized on this list was that there was a tendency for them to be grouped by some very specific types.

Virtual Worlds

This type of MMO is classified by the fact that they actually seem to have an intent to be as realistic with their world. Almost to the extent that there is little game involved other than the ones you create as the player. Examples of this type of world would be Ultima Online, Eve Online, and Star Wars Galaxies. You can use UO as a pretty prime example, there were no quests in this game. You ran around in a seamless world, killing stuff and harvesting, bringing it back to a tradeskiller who will make you better stuff. It doesn’t seem different on the surface, but everything really was planned to make it seem like a real working world, in beta they even had a virtual ecology working somewhat that they had to take out of the game due to technical issues.

PvP Worlds

These are worlds that specialize in bringing meaningful PvP to players. As such, there are more worldey like features to these games in order to make the PvP more substantial. For instance, Lineage has castles to defend and certain areas drop certain types of resources. This type of feature makes sense for a PvP world, but it also makes the game much more worldey and real than another game may. Examples of this type of game include Lineage, Shadowbane, and Dark Age of Camelot.

Core Worlds

The name of this category isn’t to infer that these are where core players play, but rather these are the type of worlds that really stereotype what it means to be an MMO and previously to WoW they were the most popular type of world. They are a lot more quest-based and even adventure-based than the above two categories, but still hold some sort of open feel. Games like Everquest 1 & 2, Asheron’s Call, and Anarchy Online really typify this category and if you notice most people would likely call these fairly standard MMOs in almost every sense of the word.

Single Player Worlds

These worlds are the most gamey of MMOs. The makers of them essentially took a single-player game and put it online to play. Examples for this type are World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and ToonTown Online. One of the features that comes with throwing a single-player game and putting it online is that these games are very very solo friendly, almost to the extent that many people don’t even bother grouping.

Further Clarification

Certainly there is cross-over here. For instance, SWG, WoW and AO all have PvP in them, but the intent of these three games was never PvP and they have more to do with an added feature than anything else. Another example of a cross-over is Dark Age of Camelot which I categorize as PvP largely due to the relic and fort capturing that occurs in the game, but it certainly leans more towards a Core game than Lineage and Shadowbane might. In order to really categorize these games well, you have to really look not at every little feature in the game but first what the developers were trying to do with the game, as well as whether they pulled it off. For instance, the original developers of Anarchy Online may very well have intended it to be a more PvP game, but in the end it turned out to be more of a core game than a PvP game. This kind of difference in category can be very tricky and really requires playtime in a game for at least a few months.