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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

1:29 AM - Bat

Transmetals 2 Sonar

A photo of Transmetals 2 Sonar in action.

The best thing about the figure is the compact bat mode and the transformation, which is surprisingly complex for a Basic-priced toy from that era.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

1:37 AM - Elsewhere on the web

The Toy and Action Figure Museum.
Details.

Captain America promotes Malaysian tourism.
Best use of a Malaysian town as a sound effect.

"Make the lightning crack as you ride."
Best use of whipcracks in a TV theme song.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

12:28 AM - Boogie

I finished the 13th and final Factions mission earlier. I had thought that was the end of it but it turns out there was one final challenge left. The Emperor himself decided to put my prowess to the test with a dance-off. The Emperor did well with some slick moves ...

Guild Wars Factions: Dance-off

... but none can best the Power of Riverdance.

Guild Wars Factions: Dance-off

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

12:49 AM - Power of prayer

Guild Wars Factions: the Power of Prayer

It's hard to believe it took only a few weeks of prayer to come up with that divine insight.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

1:23 AM - Sonar

Beast Wars Transmetals II Sonar

A photo of Transmetals II Sonar, a Beast Wars figure from 1999.

Asymmetry was big that year.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

12:21 AM - Aggro

My ISP, the comically inept TM Net, is undergoing one of its regular screw-ups. As of writing, I can't play Guild Wars. I can log in to server, I can mess about in town but the moment I try to travel or enter a mission, I get an err=5 message.

On the occasions when I have been able to play the game, the conditions have been far from ideal. I've been experiencing intermittent lag spikes so bad I have time to curse, ALT-TAB to Windows to check whether my modem has been disconnected, ALT-TAB back to the game, curse some more and still have time to pray my character is still alive when the lag spike resolves itself.

The aggravation I've been experiencing in Guild Wars isn't just lag-related either. I simply cannot fathom ArenaNet's thinking sometimes.

Take the acquisition of elite skills, for instance. Elite skills are captured from bosses who are found in specific locations. ArenaNet, for reasons known only to themselves, have opted to randomly spawn some bosses. This means you might have to revisit an area or replay an entire mission just to get the boss you want. It's usually not so bad. It might take two or three attempts to get the boss you need.

The boss spawns in the Sunjiang District mission of Factions, however, are just insane. There are 4 bosses who spawn at the end of the mission. That's 4 boss slots for 8 different bosses. You would think you'd need only two tries at most to get the boss you want.

Wrong.

Some bosses show up much more frequently than others. The Warrior and Ranger bosses are almost always there. This leaves two more slots for the other six bosses. The Necro and the Ritualist are not uncommon but the Assassin, the Elementalist and the Monk are relatively rare. The rarest of the lot? The Mesmer boss.

Guess which one I wanted to cap?

Tha-a-a-at's right.

It took me over a dozen attempts before I saw the Mesmer boss with each attempt taking a minimum of 18 minutes. That's way too much grind for a game that tries really hard to eliminate it for the casual player.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

12:22 AM - Classes

Additional Guild Wars Factions observations ...

Rangers with Barrage should have no problems getting invites in Cantha as there are a lot of closely-packed foes in most areas I've played in so far. Stay at bow-range, wield a bow with an energy-reclaiming Zealous string and fire away. Spamming Barrage can get tedious but there's no denying the satisfaction that comes from the impressively high damage numbers.

Mesmers will find it difficult to get a place in PUGs as usual. (I'm usually startled when my Mesmer is sent blind invites.) The problem is most PUG players aren't attentive enough to fully appreciate the Mesmer's brand of chaos. I've played mostly with henchmen and most quests and missions are doable with NPCs.

I haven't played much of the Assassin class but from what I've observed, it reminds me of my old N/W meleemancer: frail but capable of dishing out surprising amounts of pain. (The Assassin bosses certainly shocked me with their hitting power the first time I encountered them.) I think the trick with Assassins is you have to time your hit and run attacks well. Most Assassins I've observed in Cantha (and Tyria) are adept at the hitting and not as adept at the running. The real problem with the class right now, though, is that there's an overabundance of them. It's understandable everyone wants to try them out -- I've got one myself -- but their numbers are ridiculous.

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12:21 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Topobo. [via]
"... people can quickly assemble dynamic biomorphic forms like animals and skeletons with Topobo, animate those forms by pushing, pulling, and twisting them, and observe the system repeatedly play back those motions." Be sure to watch the videos to truly appreciate how all that technology enables one to make strange thingies dynamic biomorphic forms that move like a cheap battery-operated toy from the 60s.

Kotaku on Guild Wars campaign 3.
"Having been to both of those countries, we assume this means there will be a lot of NPCs hiking up their habibs to defecate in the gutter, only to come sprinting at your character to hit them up for spare change every time you zone." Say goodbye to my bookmark list and RSS reader, Kotaku.

Thai ISP caches P2P traffic. [via]
"... we reduced P2P bandwidth by more than 60%, resulting in over 40% cost saving for the company’s entire bandwidth expense."

A serious problem that had me laughing.
As the Germans would say ... schahahahaha.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

12:07 AM - Elsewhere on the web

"C"onvoy.
Where does Prime's trailer go when he transforms to robot mode? Mugenbine fan Rune has an idea.

Seven Wonders of Tyria.
It pays to just stop and gawk around in Guild Wars. Not always, though.

Guild Wars campaign 3.
A setting inspired by North Africa. Is this a first for MMORPGs? Regardless, it's fantastic. I hope we see campaign settings inspired by Native American or Middle Eastern cultures next. And speaking of MMORPG settings inspired by other cultures ...

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12:02 AM - Paint it black

Guild Wars Factions: Paint it black

I'm so glad my graphics card, which has a palette of millions of colours, has sufficient power to render all this blackness.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

5:15 AM - Me, a Me/E

Guild Wars Factions: Mesmer

My fifth Guild Wars character (and my first Factions character), a Mesmer.

I'd love to say I chose the profession for its intricate use of subtle but insidious magic but it's really about the dance emote. Be it in Cantha or Tyria, Riverdance never fails to crack me up. My other reason for creating a Mesmer was I kept getting purple and gold Mesmer gear as drops for my other characters and I took this as a sign I was meant to play a Mesmer.

I can't say I'm very adept at it. Interrupts seem particularly difficult for me at the moment. I do have points invested in Fast Casting but my interrupting ability leaves a lot to be desired. I'm not sure whether it's due to the latency of my connection or the fact I, well, suck.

One of the goals I had set for myself when I created my Mesmer was to obtain the Survivor title, a challenging achievement requiring zero deaths from character creation until at least 140,600XP. This ambition didn't last long. To be more specific, it lasted 1 hour 27 minutes after character creation. I've died 39 more times since then. Achieving the Survivor title is possible -- I've seen at least one Mesmer in Cantha with the title -- but I suspect it would take a lot of assistance and babysitting from fellow players. I seriously doubt it's achievable solo or with NPC henchmen.

I haven't got far into the game but Factions seems to have a quicker pace compared to Prophecies. Levelling is definitely faster. My Mesmer is now level 19 with 15-plus hours played. I got access to better armour a lot quicker as well. I was chagrined to find AL45 armour shortly after I had splurged for AL30 armour. In addition, characters get access to the Xunlai Storage agent quickly so it's easy to trick out new Factions characters with items and gold from your other characters.

In terms of annoyances, there have been some aggravating FedEx quests especially in the Wajjun Bazaar area.

Guild Wars Factions: There and Back Again

The route above looks simple enough but I had to traverse it far too many times for several quests. This was not fun. It was pretty damned far from fun, actually. Suffice to say, if I ever meet the quest designer(s) for this particular area, I will kick them where the sun don't shine.

And speaking of dark areas, I found the Undercity area quite irritating. I do get it. It's under the city. It's dark and foreboding. But does it have to so dark and foreboding that I have to dramatically boost the gamma setting just to avoid bumping into walls regularly?

These annoyances aside, I'm enjoying the game. It's nice to have new skills, characters and missions to play around with.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

4:05 AM - Elsewhere on the web

BlizzardWing Bomber.
Another excellent Mugenbine fan-mode by Gee.

Nak's Microman digirama.

The Great Regurgitator.>
"Vaudeville historians state that booking the regurgitators almost always had the effect of killing their supper shows." Don't miss this classic comment.

CG Girl 40 by iDNAR.
A bland title for fantastic picture.

Another Guild Wars interview.
"When we first introduced henchman A.I. we actually had to dumb it down in terms of their tactical thinking, because they were so good at what they did that if you brought a henchman healer into your party, you'd never play with a human player again as long as you lived." I'm just thankful I didn't have a mouthful of Lipton Yellow Label when I read that.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

12:15 AM - Arthur

Microman Magnepowers Arthur

A digi-doodle of Arthur from the 1999 Microman Magnepower line.

This was based on the toy rather than the anime version.

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12:14 AM - Elsewhere on the web

A review of Alternators Optimus Prime.
Can someone please go over to the designers' offices and burn their Go-Bot collection? Thank you.

The story of Automoblox.
Patrick Calello relates how he took his interchangeable wooden toy cars from a school project to the international market. A fantastic read.

Comic Art Community.
The gallery includes samples by my favourite comic artists: 1, 2, 3.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

11:09 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Face off.
I've seen the the face underneath Masterpiece Convoy's faceplate before but it still scares me. The thing looks evil and wrong, so wrong.

Nuclear power loves puffy sleeves.
A Firestorm painting by Tom Fleming.

Another one bites the dust.
A collector gives up a Playmobil collection of more than 3,000 sets spanning 30 years.

Gaiman on Good Omens.
"Terry probably wrote around 60,000 'raw' and I wrote 45,000 'raw' words ..." Ah yes, but who slipped in the Transformers references?

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

11:12 PM - Elsewhere on the web

The first and the best.
A selection of Optimus Prime and Convoy toys from the past 22 years.

Mmm, beer.
"How Stark fell off the wagon and went on a bender."

"Your battle is over."
Nice story. (What really happened: Théoden found out the hard way popping zits was a bad idea.)

Guild Wars mini-pets.
These gifts to year-old characters may be traded or sold.

"Chicken Soup for Guild Wars players."
A pick-me-up for those days when bad pick-up groups get you down.

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11:12 PM - Bunny!

This blog needs more bunny photos.

Honeybunny the Second

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

12:57 AM - The Warrior's Code

I never got the appeal of Diablo back in '96. I played the game, beat it and was left unimpressed. Combat, the meat of the game, was a clickfest and the action was as intense and as satisfying as, well, clicking the mouse. It was all far too simplified for my liking.

In the ten years since then, however, I've come to appreciate that kind of simple gaming. I've less time to spend on games these days and I often don't feel like putting a great deal of effort into a game unless it's absolutely worth it. I love the tactical combat in Guild Wars but it's a very intensive game which often leaves me frazzled after two hours. It's nice to have a back-up game that doesn't tax you so much.

Enter Untold Legends 2: the Warrior's Code for the PSP.

I knew exactly what I was in for before I got this game but I still ended up a little frustrated because somewhere in here is a design for a really good game. If the developers had shown greater ambition, this action RPG could've been a Diablo-done-right instead of Diablo Lite.

X-rated

I can't recall ever learning what the code referred to in UL2's subtitle was exactly but I wouldn't be surprised if it involved the letter X. This is because UL2's gameplay involves vigorously hitting the PSP's X button frequently. Almost every review of the game mentions this so it wasn't a surprise to me but it still bears repeating.

There's really little variety in gameplay. Foe(s) shows up on the mini-map. You close in and hit X several times (three is good number), your character grunts, animations play and the foe drops. You pick up any dropped loot and move on.

The gameplay revolves around combat so it's a pity the combat design seems flawed. There are charged attacks, attacks of opportunity, special powers, the ability to transform to a powerful beast as well as the ability to block attacks but there's little reason to try anything other than X-X-X.

(This, at least, was true when I completed the game with a Prowler-class character. The other classes might play differently but I can't summon the enthusiasm right now to replay the campaign to find out for sure.)

Another area that's off is the game balance. You can buy better weapons, armour, power-ups and potions but you don't actually need to do that as the game is overly generous with item drops. I never felt my character was ill-equipped at any point in the game and was able to overpower foes with ease.

It's likely that the multiplayer modes might offer the challenge missing from the single-player campaign but I couldn't tell you for certain. I don't know of anyone in my neighbourhood with a PSP let alone a PSP with a UL2 UMD.

The view from the top

The default view is zoomed way up and it's hard to make out much. I would strongly recommend zooming in a little to better appreciate the animation. (Avoid zooming in too much because you might miss crates just out of camera view.) Ultimately, though, I think the top-down view was a mistake. The developers should have opted for a third-person, camera-behind-protagonist view to provide a more intense action experience. After all, an action game is not much of an action game without satisfying action to appreciate.

The one area of the game that does show ambition is the writing. The plot is standard RPG fare but the individual lines are surprisingly good. The writing is certainly on par with that of recent BioWare games and the voice-acting is impressive as well. It's a shame the gameplay lacks the same panache and craftsmanship.

For all its shortcomings, however, UL2 is not without its appeal. Levelling up a character is always satisfying as fans of Diablo or MMORPGs would attest. And as I said earlier, there are times when near-mindless action is a perfect way to kill 30 minutes when I'm too frazzled for anything requiring more thought.

I must say, though, the most exciting thing on the entire UMD was the trailer for Field Commander. This turn-based strategy title for the PSP looks really good and it appears the developers nailed the strategy and tactics portion of gameplay. I'm eagerly awaiting its release.

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12:55 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Yo 'fro!
A Sigma 6 custom.

Robots Like Us: a museum exhibition.
"Marvel at more than 200 rare and valuable robots and space toys." There's a Flickr photoset.

Mainichi Shimbun subscribers' data leaked.
"Ironically, the leak was discovered by the paper’s own reporters, who were investigating cybercrime."

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