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Friday, September 29, 2006

11:37 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Peter Cullen interview. [via]
"I never saw a fan letter. I don't know who got them. That's why I was so surprised so many years later to find out that he was so popular. I didn't know." At least he knows now his talents were and are appreciated.

Kamen Riders arrested.
I love how Kaixa's actor gets so in-character that he's apparently about to punch somebody.

Japanese power suit. [via]
"The suit supports its own weight and carries a battery lifetime of about 30 minutes." Bad: 30 minutes of battery power. Worse: If it's powered by Sony batteries.

It's how you phrase the question.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

6:25 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Quad-amputee Duke.
War is hell, kids.

Guild Wars Nightfall cultural references.

Unused Guild Wars concept art. [via]
Guild Wars has some of the beautiful art I've ever seen in a game but I sometimes think the designers don't make the most of it. I'd rather play in environs as enchanting as pre-Searing Ascalon than dreary post-Searing Ascalon.

Guild Wars Nightfall intro music.
An in-game rip. Factions had rather subdued and melancholic music but it sounds like we'll get something more stirring and heroic in campaign 3. (Incidentally, NCSoft Taiwan has made available music from the earlier games.)

Screw Flash.

Superstitious. [via]
"The human mind is adapted to reason intuitively, so that it can generate theories about how the world works even when mechanisms cannot be seen or easily deduced ... I don’t think we’re going to evolve a rational mind because there are benefits to being irrational ..."

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6:23 AM - Daggers in the dark

Guild Wars: Assassin

I've sometimes wondered in the past what it must be like to be an untouchable, treated with disdain, constantly ignored and overlooked.

Now I know.

You see I play an Assassin in Guild Wars.

If you haven't played Guild Wars Factions, you don't know what I'm talking about. If you have, you're probably chuckling because you're familiar with the stereotype (if not perpetuated it).

One of the two new professions introduced in the second Guild Wars campaign, the Assassin is ostensibly a hit and run specialist. Towards that end, he has combo-based skills to dish out tremendous damage quickly and the ability to teleport.

He also has a remarkable tendency to die.

One could lay the blame on the profession's armour (which has a base armour level of 70) but I believe the main reason for the high mortality rate among Assasins is the profession's ability to dish out a lot of damage in a brief period of time.

Most Assassins tend to fixate on the damage they're causing (or about to cause) and completely overlook the damage they're taking. Assassins are not alone in this; most Elementalists I've seen in PvE PUGs are guilty of this as well. However, the Assassin is in much greater peril as he is a close combat specialist.

So Assassins die.

A lot.

(It doesn't necessarily have to be this way, of course. The Assassin skillset includes some terrific skills for defence and self-healing but again, players tend to fixate on increasing damage output instead of mitigating damage incurred.)

It's therefore not surprising players who don't play Assassins tend to treat the profession with great disdain. As someone noted in a forum, the only other profession to love the Assassin is the Necromancer and that's only because Assassin corpses are terribly convenient for creating undead minions.

Sin lfg masters

If playing an Assassin and keeping him alive is a challenge, getting an invite from a PUG is a greater one. Assassins are only invited when no other profession is available.

Most of the missions and quests in Factions are playable with NPC henchmen but earning the Master's Reward for missions is almost impossible without the aid of other players. Earning the Master's Reward in a mission nets you additional XP and gold but the main reason for getting it is to earn the Protector of Cantha title. I was keen on obtaining the title for my Assassin after obtaining it for my Mesmer but was dismayed by the difficulty I had getting into a PUG.

And once I got in a PUG, I had more problems to overcome. Assassins are all about timing: picking the right time to hit and picking the right time to exit. My ISP, on the other hand, is all about lag-spikes, poor connections and latency.

The two, as you might imagine, do not mix well.

Things got so bad in recent weeks that I was suffering from regular 10-second lag spikes. Frustrated, I gave up conventional melee Assassin builds and went with the Critical Barrager build. I generally dislike popular cookie-cutter builds -- the main attraction of the game for me is trying out new skills and tactics in combat -- but I felt this was the only way to earn the Protector title given my iffy connection.

I finally managed to earn the title a few days ago. On the face of it, it's not that impressive -- I've managed to get Protector titles for my Necro, Ranger and Mesmer -- but considering all the difficulties and frustrations I had obtaining it, it ranks as one of my great gaming achievements.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

12:22 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Superman: Macho man.
One Japanese Microman fan got a kick out of the fact Takara's new version of Superman is a little more buff than the slim Movie version.

Fake memory card performance. [via]
There was a suggestion on a local board that the fakes didn't differ that much from the originals in terms of performance but that benchmark test tells a different tale. But the real problem is telling the fakes apart from the originals.

Teachers packing heat.
"Teachers have one of the deadliest jobs in southern Thailand, with 44 killed by the bombs and bullets of an Islamic insurgency since 2004. So the teachers are learning how to shoot back."

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Monday, September 11, 2006

10:20 PM - "Must ... stop ... Bay ..."

Transformers Hybrid Style Convoy

A photo of Takara's Transformers Hybrid Style Convoy in action.

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10:20 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Hyper Hero Kamen Rider 555 review.
A fantastic pictorial by Yusuke.

Don Figueroa G1 Optimus Prime lineart.
Also available in colour and in desktop wallpaper format.

Larry Hama interview.
I wish the interviewer had asked about his work on the GI Joe bios. The first batch of bios were a bit dry but subsequent ones had intriguing well-researched details along with a healthy dollop of whimsy.

Sumatran Rhino discovered.
"Rhino protection units have since launched patrols to deter poaching." That's probably wise considering some Malaysians' penchant for turning endangered wildlife into soup for limp penises.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

12:00 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Toys inspire photographer.
"A portrait (of a human) might become very fine-tuned to their person. Whereas the toys are toys - you're projecting everything onto them. A toy can be a hero, a heroine, a good guy or a bad guy ... The images don't pose as much as exist in our unconscious ..."

Moe assassin.
Best use of a doll in a sixth-scale accessory review.

Micronauts Evolution evolving. [via]
"... it has been decided that we are 'Micro-sizing' … I think that they are going to be more fun, the cost is less, less shelf space…"

My favourite GameFAQs FAQ.
"My only advise is DON't swing your thing like idiot ... Dick and dick for more bomb, just pray for victory, kay? ... To beat YKK even quiker, dick for more bombs. ... Ok, once it pop-up but it is too far far away to reach and you rush to there it hide under the sand and run away again, damn!!"

Song in my head right now.
Irresistible. For bonus XP, keep count of the number of faces Nielsen pulls.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

12:36 AM - Diabolical duo

I've now played Monster Hunter Freedom for 190-plus hours. That's a lot of gaming time for a title that doesn't charge a monthly fee. Even more amazing is the fact I've yet to play a lot of the game.

Parts of the game are either inaccessible to the solo gamer (e.g. Treasure Hunter quests) or very challenging without a partner or three (e.g. the high-level guild quests).

The tougher quests are made more difficult without high-end armour and weapons, and these are difficult to procure without raising your Hunter Rating (HR).

To raise your HR, you need to complete guild quests designed for a multiplayer party. You can attempt these quests solo but some of them will tax your abilities to the max.

I recently finished the last guild quest required to level up to HR2 after failing numerous times. It was easily one of the most difficult missions I've ever played in a game.

Hard and horny

The quest in question is called Four Horns and you need clear it in order to raise your HR to 2 and gain access to the 5-star guild quests.

It's identical in structure to the equivalent village elder urgent quest (which is a toughie itself) but raises the bar since the two Diablos you will face in the guild quest might have triple the health of those in the village elder quest.

So what is a Diablos? Picture a creature the size of a bus capable of tunnelling through the ground at tremendous speed and sending you flying with a casual toss of its twin-horned head.

Oh, and it's constantly in a foul mood. No, wait, that's not quite accurate. It's mostly in a foul mood; it's sometimes in a murderous mood.

Still, killing a Diablos isn't too difficult. The difficulty lies in slaying two of them within the quest's 50-minute time limit.

Half the battle

There's a really good guide on the Capcom BBS that will serve the solo hunter well with advice on tactics and suggested inventory items. I followed the guide for the most part but used the following inventory items for my successful attempt:

Book of Combo 1
Book of Combo 2
Book of Combo 3
Mega Potion 10
Potion 10
Max Potion 2
Honey 10
Flash Bomb 5
Sonic Bomb 10
Gunpowder 20
Screamer 20
Armor Seed 10
Power Seed 10
Well-Done Steak 9
Mega Juice 4
Demon Drug 2
Whetstone 20
Psychoserum 3
Armorcharm
Cool Drink 3

Gear: Frost Edge+, Piercing Helmet, Rathalos Mail, Rathalos Vambraces, Rathalos Tasset, Rathalos Greaves.

The above items shouldn't be hard to acquire for the HR1 hunter who's only played offline. The main problem I faced was getting a suitable weapon.

Water's Edge+

I tried the quest with the Upper Battleaxe but found its lack of sharpness to be a real problem since my blows would often bounce off the Diablos' thick hide. These blows do still damage the creatures but the bounce factor and recovery time makes stringing together combos difficult. It took me far too long to kill the first Diablos and I would invariably run out of time while battling the second.

I ended up going with the Frost Edge+. This has green sharpness, which is good, and inflicts water element damage, which is better because Diablos is susceptible to it.

(It's not that straightforward, however, because the game's damage model is remarkably complex. There are separate hit-boxes for different parts of the wyvern -- for instance, Diablos is 90 per cent water resistant on its legs and 60 per cent resistant on its head -- and on top of that, damage is also dependent on the weapon type, armor skill modifiers, damage type and type of blow struck.)

Crafting the Frost Edge+ is no easy task, though. The key component is novacrystal, a mineral that's very hard to acquire for the HR1 hunter. It took me 180 hours to stockpile three of the four novacrystals I needed but there's a simple way to gain some and I used this method to get the final novacrystal.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

12:15 AM - A pocketful of Prime

Transformers Hybrid Style Convoy

A photo of Takara's Transformers Hybrid Style THS-02 Convoy.

I had a big smile on my face the moment I held this version of my favourite Transformer in my hands.

Wrap your head around this: a 10.5cm interpretation of Prime that's transformable, impressively articulated and looks good. It's a stunning engineering feat.

On top of that, this set includes Roller, Master of Subspace.

I believe that merits a "Phwoar," does it not?

It's not perfect, I'll grant you that. The truck mode is awkward, yes. But that's forgivable given the difficulties in attempting a Prime this tiny, this faithful, this dynamic, this ambitious, this clever.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

1:13 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Robots in Ragtime.
From 1951. The inventor also created a man-sized robot that smoked cigarettes.

Monster Hunter Freedom PSP wallpaper.

Real Kavaliers & Clays.
I was delighted with the comic book elements of Chaybon's novel with the passages detailing the conception of comic book characters proving particularly enjoyable.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

10:23 PM - Dinobot

Beast Machines Triceradon

A photo of a Beast Machines Triceradon.

It's a repaint of a Beast Wars Neo figure, Guiledart. I like the colours of the repaint but aside from that, there's little to recommend the toy. The designers somehow took two kid-cool concepts -- dinosaurs and Transformers -- and produced an uncool toy.

The figure looks best in beast mode but suffers from very loose forelegs due to loose-fitting joints. His beast mode gimmick is he plays dead. The panels on his side flip down to reveal ribs, his eyes roll back and his tongue sticks out a little. The end result is something that makes me stick out my own tongue with a heart-felt "Blecch!"

The transformation is an exercise in frustration since this is one of the worst revealer-type transformation designs. Transforming the figure takes time and a lot of cursing as you wrestle with parts.

Beast Machines Triceradon

It's a real challenge to make out the robot because of all the beast mode kibble. In terms of playability, Triceradon's robot mode is a frustrating action figure despite the generous amount of articulation since moving one part requires first moving other parts out of the way.

Not a fun toy is what I'm saying.

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