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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

12:15 AM - Skills

Guild Wars: Hell's Precipice

I completed the 25th and final mission in Guild Wars a few days ago. This marks the end of the story for the first chapter of Guild Wars and I'll have to wait for the 2006 expansion to see who'll make life in Tyria miserable next.

I might eventually create another character --- perhaps a Monk or a Warrior/Necromancer to sample a different combat experience --- but there's still quite a bit left to do with my first character. There are still skills to acquire, mission bonuses to complete and a couple of towns and outposts to visit.

There's also the PvP aspect of the game but I don't expect I'll spend a lot of time on that. My few attempts in the Arena at Droknar's Forge were, shall we say, less than successful. It's just too fast and frenetic for me and besides, playing in a typically uncoordinated PUG is a recipe for frequent defeat.

Tick, tick, tick, tick ... BOOM

The main draw for me right now is exploring the tactical skillset of a Necromancer in PvE. There's quite a varied experience to sample simply from one profession, and switching skills and attributes often makes a huge difference.

To cite just one example, I was getting (as the kids say) "pwn'd" by the Stone Summit and Avicara Tengu patrols while I was attempting to defeat Nhy Darkclaw in Mineral Springs. (I was keen on acquiring Well of Power from the Avicara Necromancer boss.) I had twice tried it with PUGs but the entire group didn't even manage to survive five minutes outside the Granite Citadel.

I then went with henchmen but I still found the bow-wielding Avicara Fierce in Mineral Springs lethal in large numbers and the large Stone Summit patrols in Talus Chute were giving me DP as well.

(DP in Guild Wars isn't the same thing as DP in porn but when you get down to it, it's effectively the same thing since getting a huge DP in Guild Wars means you are quite screwed.)

After a few failed attempts, I switched skills and went with a minion bomber build based on Animate Bone Minions, Death Nova and Taste of Death. Once a corpse presented itself during combat, I'd raise two Bone Minions and as soon as they engaged the nearest enemy, I'd cast Death Nova and Taste of Death on them in quick succession.

In one fell swoop, the opponent would be seriously hurt and poisoned while I received a major infusion of health and a boost of energy thanks to Soul Reaping.

Thanks to this build, I BOOMBOOMBOOM'd through Mineral Springs with such ease that only two of the NPC henchmen had died by the end of my quest.

Link  | 

Sunday, August 28, 2005

10:37 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Books are worse than videogames.
Brilliant.

Money for (virtually) nothing.
"If you play the online game 'Everquest II' and happen to have an extra Iksar (Fury)/Level-50 Sage character you don't need, you could soon be $2,000 richer." (See also.)

Kamen Rider Hibiki 28 out.
Torrent for the unsubbed episode. There's some really slick action in this episode.

Link  | 

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

11:13 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Virtual crime.
"In South Korea, where the number of computer game players is massive, some have reported the emergence of gangs and mafia, where powerful players steal and demand that beginners give them virtual money for their 'protection'." (See also.)

Winning Eleven 9 impressions.
"On the PSP side, we actually did get to see the game running on the PSP hardware. The basic look seems to have translated extremely well from the console game ..."

PSP to get expanded functionality.
It's a nice way to distract you from the recent pedestrian game releases.

Underwear endorsements in games.
"The virtual characters in these games truly represent men and women that require high-performance equipment, and this is a great opportunity to equip them with the same gear that their real-life counterparts demand, giving them a competitive performance advantage."

Link  | 

12:20 AM - Ascended

Guild Wars: Crystal Desert

The Crystal Desert is said to be the hardest area of the Guild Wars PvE experience. It's challenging simply to travel to the three towns offering the Ascension missions even with a six-person party and I can understand why some players prefer to make a pell-mell dash instead of methodically working their way to those locations.

The problem is the large areas between towns and outposts are populated with numerous patrols of tough monsters, and you'll often find a group of foes seemingly appearing out of the ether right on your ass as you're engaged with another group. Still, it's doable even with NPC henchmen.

The Ascension missions themselves are notable for their strict time limits. That said, you can (and really should) ignore the clocks aside from the Thirsty Rock mission where clock-watching is essential. I completed the Dunes of Despair mission with henchmen but the other two seemed very difficult without help from other players. (Be sure to read the Party Etiquette and Pick-Up Group guides on Guild Wars Guru before attempting to form a PUG for one of those killer missions.)

Upon completing those missions, you have to face one last hurdle before your ascension. The hurdle in question comes in the shape of your doppelganger which is apparently thus-named because it looks nothing like you and has access to weapons you don't.

It does, however, have access to the same skills you take to the battle and I found myself repeatedly frustrated as my own Necromancer spells were used to defeat me. Going to battle without my spells was not an option as I was outgunned (so to speak) by the doppelganger. I had a piddling twig that dealt out minimal damage whereas the doppelganger was dishing out major pain with his axe and bow.

The key, I found, was to maintain mobility. I would get close and use Vile Touch (a touching distance spell that hits for 62 points) and then back away before the doppelganger switched to his melee weapons. I would then wait for Vile Touch to recyle and strafe in the meantime to avoid the arrows from the doppelganger's bow. I repeated this sequence a few times and the doppelganger soon succumbed. Packing Order of the Vampire (which sacrifices 17 per cent of the caster's health) made my job easier since the doppelganger would make use of it injudiciously.

You're considered ascended once you're defeated your doppleganger and although this should feel like a pivotal moment, in actuality, it's no biggie and the game continues on with little change.

Link  | 

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

10:04 PM - Elsewhere on the web

"What's up with the PSP?" [via]
The main concern is the paucity of killer titles and I have to agree the PSP has lost almost all of its initial momentum game-wise.

Guild Wars producer Jeff Strain interview.
The two major strengths of the game: players are rewarded for their skill (rather than time invested) and the grind has been made optional.

Fergie's Fledglings.
"... 38 winners' medals in the Premiership, 2756 games and 387 goals for Manchester United, plus the small matter of 312 caps for England and 51 for Wales."

Link  | 

10:04 PM - 20

My Guild Wars Necromancer hit level 20 yesterday and is currently stationed in Augury Rock. Ascension beckons.

Guild Wars: The Amnoon Oasis

It's worth noting that not many people can pull off the oversized demon head belt buckle look but it really drives the chicks wild.

(Of course, by "drives the chicks wild," I mean it causes them to double up shrieking with laughter.)

Link  | 

Monday, August 15, 2005

11:27 PM - From the "Eh?" files

A recent search engine query hit for this site:

Eh?

Try not to think about it.

Link  | 

11:26 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Monomania's Mugenbine magnum opus.
The 59cm-tall Ziggurat is made of 36 figures. Monomania's site has more pictures.

Jeffrey Gaier's Microman/Micronauts podcast. [via]
The MP3 is 11.7MB in size and 10 minutes long.

WordPress 1.5.2 released.
Changelog. This upgrade includes a critical patch for a serious security flaw.

Link  | 

Sunday, August 14, 2005

11:44 PM - PUGs

Guild Wars may be a massively multiplayer online game but as I've mentioned before, I generally prefer playing the game's missions and quests with NPC henchmen. I like taking time out just to admire the scenery and I imagine most XP- and loot-lusting gamers wouldn't appreciate waiting while I get a Really Nice Screenshot of the surroundings.

The other reason is that participating in pick-up groups (ad hoc groups of strangers formed specifically for a single mission or quest) invariably results in my death count rising rapidly.

My very first PUG, formed in Piken Square, was outstanding. We had an experienced party leader who was very supportive of team members, and as a result we completed two back-to-back quests with little fuss.

On the other hand, my first attempt at the Aurora Glade mission with a PUG was more typical of my experience with PUGs in general. Moments after we left for the mission, I got that old sinking feeling when I asked who would be leading the party and received this reply:

We're all leaders here.

A comment about cooks and broth seemed warranted but I just groaned and hoped for the best. I can't say I was at all surprised when we ended up a) getting lost and b) failing the mission. It felt like such a waste of my gaming time.

I fared better with my next PUG. We spent about five minutes before the critical last section of the Aurora Glade mission discussing tactics and strategy, and it paid off. It got a little chaotic and I did die for the 71st time during the mission but we managed to complete it and the bonus quest as well.

Still, I think I'm going to stick with NPCs for party members as much as possible. Alesia and company may lack initiative and finesse but they make up for it by not being irritating jackasses.

Link  | 

Saturday, August 13, 2005

10:50 PM - Phobos

Magneforce Phobos

A photo of Takara's MagneForce Phobos figure.

The more I handle the Magneforce figures, the more it's reaffirmed in my mind that this is the perfect action figure design. The smoothness of the Magnemo joints make them an absolute joy to play with and the posability is further enhanced by a generous amount of traditional swivel, hinge and ball joints.

Being a robot fan, I'm also delighted with the more mechanical look. I'd like to see the designers further emphasise this the way it was done for the Titans Command series.

More Magneforce figures and compatible accessories, please.

Link  | 

10:35 PM - Hot air

The sky, a soul-sapping grey for several days, turned blue today. Visibility is much better now. At seven o'clock this morning, I stood outside and breathed in the sweetest, freshest, coolest air we've had in our area in a while. The winds seemed to have pushed the haze away.

Either that or all the hot air generated by local bloggers over the haze -- they knew exactly who to blame, how it was caused and what steps ought to be taken -- cleared it away.

Link  | 

10:35 PM - "As I preducted!"

The Guardian's pundits take a close look at their balls -- their crystal ones, that is -- and they all think Chelsea will retain the Premiership title this season.

(I wish I had the time to check their predictions for the previous season; I suspect they would have all picked Arsenal's "Invincibles" for the 2004/2005 title.)

Niall Quinn: United to finish 4th.

David Pleat: United to finish 2nd.

Kevin McCarra: United to finish 4th.

Michael Walker: United to finish 2nd.

Jon Brodkin: United to finish 2nd.

Daniel Taylor: United to finish 2nd.

Dominic Fifield: United to finish 4th.

Matt Scott: United to finish 4th.

Link  | 

Friday, August 12, 2005

9:59 PM - Pundit prognostication

Two more soothsayers play the prediction game.

First up, Mark Lawrenson:

(United to finish 3rd) I still worry about the way they struggled to break certain teams down last season - and the midfield is clearly not the force area it was five years ago.

Meanwhile, Alan Hansen, after modestly reminding everyone he got it right last season, predicts:

(United to finish 2nd) ... I feel United have the talent to challenge Chelsea.

Link  | 

9:59 PM - Quest-less

Guild Wars: Lion's Arch

I've been playing a lot of Guild Wars over the past few days. (What else am I going to do? Go outside to get some fresh air?) Anyway, I hit level 18 today and I'm currently in Bloodstone Fen.

Another thing I really like about Guild Wars is the way gameplay has been streamlined and kept simple. A giant green exclamation mark hovers over the heads of NPCs eager to send you on a quest and one quest usually leads you to another until you hit a new town.

There's one part of the game, however, that might leave you stumped. You could end up in Beacon's Perch, as I did, with no quests and no clues as to where you might obtain the next one.

The key quest here is the Refugee quest (obtained from Master Saberlin) which requires you to clear a path for the refugees by eliminating the Centaur Patrols on the road. You should be rewarded upon its conclusion by one Ranger Olson but that's actually not quite the end of it. I made the mistake (as did several others) of returning immediately to town to complete other quests and that's how I ended up losing the quest trail.

You need to keep on following the refugees to the Griffin's Mouth cave and then meet up with a guy named Master Seeker Nathaniel. He'll put you on the quest trail that will (eventually) lead to Lion's Arch.

If you've forgotten the location of the Ranger, just head to Beacon's Perch and accompany someone who has the Refugee quest active.

Link  | 

Sunday, August 07, 2005

8:20 PM - The tea leaves: EPL edition

Fuyoh! presents its latest feature: pundit predictions for English Premier League season 05/06. Will there be a pundit who will surpass Alan Hansen's "you'll never win anything with kids" reading of the goat entrails?

First up, Soccernet's Dale Johnson:

(United to finish fourth) "Ferguson has failed to strengthen the rest of the squad."

The Observer's Paul "I might very well be wrong, but at least I'm not sad" Wilson:

(United to finish fourth) "Plenty of goals, but suspect farther back."

Link  | 

8:20 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Streaming ads in Splinter Cell. [via]
See also: Gamasutra's feature.

Guild Wars screenshots.

Guild Wars sales.
650,000 units sold in the US and Europe and only 27,000 in Korea.

The people behind RPG player characters. [via]

Configuring Firefox's about:config. [via]

Hiroshima: the nightmares never end.
One of the most affecting stories I have ever read about Hiroshima concerned a girl named Sadako.

Link  | 

Friday, August 05, 2005

12:45 AM - Truly outrageous

I generally play Guild Wars accompanied by a NPC henchman or two but I hooked up with three other players to complete the Duke's daughter quest in Piken Square earlier.

We completed the quest relatively easily. While I was grateful for the aid and direction provided by the other members, I can't help feeling a little disappointed at how quickly we blazed through it. I mean, it was "LFG for duke's daughter," "OK I'm in" and then BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, we're done.

I personally prefer to take my time, consider the overall tactical situation, plan my approach diligently and then, with all the skill and ability I can muster, die repeatedly.

Guild Wars: Band

Anyway, here we are at the end of the 2,000-XP quest. The Warrior/Monk is playing the lead air guitar, the Elementalist/Monk is playing the air drums, my Necromancer/Monk is playing rhythm air guitar and the Monk/Mesmer is, I believe, jiggling.

Just off the screen is a well-built half-naked guy thrusting his hips in time.

I have no explanation to offer for any of this.

Link  | 

12:44 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Ebi's Doubleligersonic Convoy.
Somewhere in the midst of all that weaponry, there's a robot.

MagWarriors + Magnemo parts.
It's a nice bonus but the MegaBloks MagWarriors are appealing on their own.

Target real violence, not games. [via]
"Legislators fully recognize they would face certain peril if they tried to ban books, movies, or TV programs, so instead they take on a new technology and try to convince their constituents that graphic depictions of violence in an interactive format somehow make it more harmful to minors." See also: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked.

Video game console prices.
Adjusted for inflation to make it easier for you to justify the purchase of a next-gen console.

George Lucas wants improved storytelling.
You have to laugh.

Predictions for EPL 2005/06.
Peter Kenyon: "The winner of the title will come from a small bunch of one. Chelsea will be better this season than we were last season." I'd like to order an extra-large Humble Pie to be delivered to Mr. Kenyon in May '06.

Link  | 

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

11:11 PM - Moving

Guild Wars

One of the many things I like about Guild Wars is the way travel is handled. Travelling to a city or outpost you've been to previously is a simple matter of bringing up the map and double-clicking on the destination.

There might be occasions when you'd rather travel by foot in order to obtain XP and loot but I prefer using the insta-move option whenever possible. Discovering and exploring new areas is always fun but retreading the same old ground and triggering the exact same spawn encounters is not.

Link  | 

Monday, August 01, 2005

9:24 PM - Death and dyeing

My Guild Wars "campaign" continues.

My Necromancer/Monk is at Level 9 now. I've finally managed to procure the Heal Area spell and this ought to keep my Bone Horror sidekicks from decomposing before they're called into action.

I find myself being hamstrung by a lack of Energy in the heat of battle, though. I'm constantly firing off Deathly Swarm and Vampiric Gaze in combat and I often find myself lacking the energy to raise a Bone Horror when a corpse presents itself. I should probably add a few more attribute points to Soul Reaping.

Dye, dye, dye

I'm starting to see what the timesinks in this game are. Crafting armour requires raw materials which cost gold which in turn requires a lot of hunting and killing.

Fashionable players might be motivated to customise their newly-obtained armour with dyes and these, unsurprisingly, cost money as well. Not all colours are equal in Guild Wars. Yellow and Orange are cheap while Black and Silver cost a bomb.

A very expensive bomb.

And the thing with dyes is that each dye bottle is only good for a single piece of armour. If you'd like a colour-coordinated outfit (as opposed to looking like Garish McEyebleed, perennial winner of Ascalon City's Eyesore competition) you'll be spending a lot of time hunting and killing to acquire all the dyes you want.

Die, die, die

Combat is a bit unsatisfying at the moment. I usually play safe and venture out with a henchman, but the hostiles I'm currently facing are mostly in the Level 3 or Level 4 range. Battles tend to be so easy that dying would require remarkable incompetence on my part.

At this point, I should mention I've died 11 times.

Still, I'm getting better and hopefully, I'll be sufficiently skilled to team up with fellow players without embarrassing myself soon.

Link  | 

9:23 PM - Elsewhere on the web

MMOG addiction. [via]
See also: 1, 2, 3.

Taiko no Tatsujin Portable.
Hit the beat, keep your beat for the PSP.

Biker getting a ticket. [via]
"Biker" as in "a kid who owns a bicycle."

Soccernet's top 10 quotes.
"Velocity." Heh.

Link  | 

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