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nodham Blog

Another nail in the PC gaming coffin

I'm aware this editorial will probably be flushed away by the deluge of "I bot GTA4 lulz" blogs but I'm compelled to post it today nevertheless. I just read a news item about how some bigwig at Crytek has stated future games will not be PC exclusive, like Crysis, but on consoles as well. He blames this on piracy and the fact that console titles sell "4-5 times more". It's telling that this occurs at the time of arguably the year's biggest console release, GTA4, which is claimed will gross more than the box office takings of eight billion movies. I'll skip over the obvious implications for PC gaming, suffice to say the future looks bright for sloppy console ports.

Crysis, and its technical demands, are perhaps partly to blame here. I use that term loosely, for everyone's always whining about graphics and when mind-blowing ones are supplied, they switch to whining about them being unplayable. I personally have held off buying Crysis but that's mainly because I'm on a 6600GT and I prefer to make my toast in the toaster and not in the PC case. So there, I'm to "blame" too. What bothered me was some of the ignorant responses to the news article. One user went so far as to state that when someone blows 700 dollars on PC upgrades, it's annoying to have to pay another 50 to play the game. He even used the word "justified" when referring to piracy. Yeah, you keep telling yourself that. This modern mindset of being "owed" something really bothers me. "I deserve this." Why? Because you paid X bucks to a completely different company? If I blow my retirement fund on a [hawt] sports car, I'm not anticipating Shell will let me fill it with gas for free. It's high time people started being responsible about what they deserve and stopped seeing the world as one big vortex centred on themselves.

PC culture is partly to blame. What do you see in countless signatures? The specs of the user's "rig". I'm not one to have a nergasm upon seeing that someone has a quad core cpu, sigs irritate me more than anything, but it's symptomatic of the focus of the pc gaming scene. It's not about your collection, what you're playing, it's what kind of hardware you've shelled out for. Console gamers don't have to put up with that crap because no one's going to bother with: My Rig: Wii.

It's expensive to keep up with the latest gear. But one reason prices can stay that high is because there are enough people who play along and buy all that crap. PS3 was expensive, but too expensive as it wasn't selling, so down came the price tag. Is that possible with PC Hardware? Who knows...

My main point is, if PC gamers are going to (rightfully) complain about their format fading out, they should be doing something about it. It's not enough to harp on about consoles stealing exclusives, nor blame the companies for releasing demanding games. Start doing something more than hitting your favourite torrent sites as soon as the latest game comes out or posting bad reviews of Halo 3.

Try out some older games so that you realize that graphics aren't everything and can accept games on their gameplay merits rather than how good the reflections are.

Stop pirating. It's very simple. I won't judge the reasons, but if you (or your parents) can afford that sort of hardware, you sure can afford a game or two (that deserves it). The only way to save PC gaming is to vote with money on what games should be made. Otherwise, the future is a bleak post-apocalyptic world full of Cooking Mama games and ps3 ports. It's started already. If you think PC games are expensive, then wait for the price to go down. The message'll be "it sold xyz units when the price went down to this." Guess what kind of message downloading and playing it instead sends? You're seeing it all around you.

Support your favourite games. Developers deserve it.

Occasional randomness spices up gaming

Well, thank you for your patience! In exchange I offer nostalgic bleating on an era long gone.

I've been playing S.T.ALKER lately (I always get bored adding the dots) and let me tell you, it's quite an intriguing game. Not so much at the start but as the game world opened up so did my thirst for answers. I bring this up because while the game is enthralling, graphically and story-wise, the AI leaves much to be desired. Despite the characters all being relatively capable in the areas they inhabit, at times you'll just witness some really odd behaviour like someone just calmly strafing away over hills and valleys, aiming his gun at some figment of his imagination.

It's oddities like this that actually make the game more endearing to me. In today's flawless gaming world, you rarely get miniature failures but rather complete meltdowns as the game sends you to a bluescreen, ejects the entire DVD drive and changes your homepage to error.log. Roll on the patches.

Shortly after the switch to 3D and when complex AI began coming into play (more complex than look at player, fire projectile, anyway), my friends and I used to roll with laughter at the odd ideas the computer-controlled players sometimes had. You had to use your imagination to make up for graphics, so it was funny when you convinced yourself that this was a living, breathing team-mate, and he went ahead and started running in place in front of the wall. Picture a character running in circles on a bridge before jumping in the air and plunging off the edge, usually with a curt scream. You were used to those types of things because, frankly, that was the norm. I'm not saying you couldn't play the games as your characters were on par with lemmings, I'm just saying that you could forgive occasional randomness like this because it just came with the package.

That's probably why I get such a kick out of the chaos in Stalker. It gives it a sort of retro charm like the playable video games in San Andreas. A character might walk in one direction, pushing another character out of the way, while the other character stands still, arms folded, not really caring. They might even push you, the player. I had a wave of teammates give me a free ride as I stood in front of one and was pushed along. Oddly enough, however, there's a high concentration of chaos occurring at a specific area in the game. It might be because this is as close to a "city" as you get and there are frequently over 15 characters for the game to keep track of in a relatively small area. Admittedly, most of them are sitting around chatting or playing the guitar, though. As I was walking by on my way to trade some salvaged weapons for money, I came upon a dead guy. Just like that, a dead guy lying in the middle of the road. This was especially odd because this is a no-tolerance zone, so much so that when I tried to take out an annoying guard who repeats "git out of heer, Stokker." whenever you pass by him, I had a world of hurt brought down upon me. Yet here was a dead person, and nobody seemed to care. Naturally, I looted the body and moved on. This wasn't a "game body" placed there by the designers, though, as you can't loot those. This was a genuine NPC who had just kicked the bucket. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came upon another body in the same place on a future visit. Now, I know this was not the same body, as that one was still there. So now there were two dead bodies next to each other in the middle of the road. Either there was a sniper nearby or the bar was serving salami past its sell-by date, as they were just outside it.

Later on I found a visibly shaken NPC crouching with his gun drawn a few paces from the same place. If there's one thing the game does well, it's angst, as characters walk to and fro, gun drawn, alternating between stand and crouch and overall just looking like the last chicken in a box anticipating being taken away. In any case, there was now only one body, but one of the three NPCs usually sitting around a fire in a barrel a little further down had apparently keeled over and died. One of the them was visibly shaken, the other was just sitting down. When I came back, they were happily seated, playing a song on the guitar next to their dead colleague. Now that's a harsh world.

Just to clarify: I'm not looking for every future game to be populated with complete idiots (like online gamez lolz!!!1). I'm just saying that when a game can provide the immersion and storyline to captivate me, I'm willing to overlook the strange happenings as the rest more than makes up for it. And why not - you get a laugh out of it, and a blog topic to boot. I don't want gaming to be a chore. By all means get the AI working, the storyline down, and overall just give me the escapism I crave. I'll forgive other miniscule problems though, as I'm well aware of how far games have come.

This entry brought to you by
Antibiotics. Plenty.
STALKER, of course.
The National and The Decemberists
Creme Eggs
24 (S2)
A small stuffed dolphin toy

Game heroes are overrated. Merchants are where it's at!

Do people get sucked into games anymore these days? I don't mean figuratively, I just remember that this was a common occurence back in the 80s but I haven't seen it happen in any entertainment spectacles lately. They get pulled into comic books and TV shows/movies, maybe, but it's been awhile since I saw anyone get dragged into a game. The reason I ask, is because I was playing Beyond Good and Evil a few weeks back and it got me thinking about the best "role" to take on if you happened to become a victim of transplantation into a game.

See, almost every Pearl (the currency in that game) I found had to be handed over to a bunch of rasta rhinos so they'd upgrade my ship enough to enable me to continue in the game. I was only trying to save the whole planet, but I still had to pay through the nose to do it. I realized this happens time and again in games, and I arrived at the conclusion that taking a path of "selling or creating" is probably the best bet in the volatile world of a game.

Sure, the Hero gets all the glory. Whey-hey, they kicked the Evil Ruler out the window of the top floor of the Oppresive Dark Tower! All hail the Hero! Sure, that would be nice if you could get that far, but what about all the saves and extra lives you had to use? Naah, that's cheating. The heroes always have a whole lot of work to do and are frequently placed in precarious situations. Frankly, it's a lot more hassle than it's worth to get a kiss from a princess or something. Who knows if you're going to be the vanquishing hero, either? You might end up being one of those morons imprisoned somewhere and have to wait until the hero comes along and kills your guards, or, worse still, just a skeleton along the road, to be inspected (boots and coins taken), and forgotten.

You could be the evil overlord too, but you're just too big a target. You'd never get any sleep from all the worrying over whether you put enough spikes in the pit or goblins guarding the door. You do get to plot and scheme, though, and pepper it with a maniacal laugh. That does count for something, I'll admit, but think of all the things you have to plan for - foiling a hero's advances would surely take up all of your leisure time as well as business hours. What if he attacks when you're sleeping, too? You'd never get any decent rest. No wonder they're usually insane.

Don't even get me started on sidekicks, either. You risk your butt constantly, always get the second-best armor/weapons, and are frequently loaded with crap your boss doesn't want to be bothered carrying around himself. You also get stinky hand-me-downs from the Hero when he finds something better. And when you finally finish your quest, everyone remembers only the hero, at best you get relegated to "and co" in the history books. Nuts to that.

Now, I also think a bunch of those people standing around all day (or walking to and fro!) have it quite easy, but you don't really get anything out of it. Sure, your house is saved or he finds your lost frog, but overall it's a drab existence of shuffling about and whining. "You have to stop him!" or "Please, you're the only one who can save us!" are the types of things you have to spout. Lame, isn't it? Plus, if the Hero falls into the lava pit, you're doomed - I wouldn't like an existence like that.

And what about the Important Quest givers? Even worse. It's true that they don't have to work much, butthey're usually someone who can't do the mission themselves for who knows what reason, and once the hero is done with it, who's going to remember them? They're most likely going to be put under intense scrutiny and probably lose their job as a result of the fiasco. "So, you were the sheriff, were you? Why weren't YOU out in the bandit caves, then?" Once the press get a hold of it, you're finished, because frankly all you did was, yes, walk to and fro the whole time. Yes, like a chicken.

No, no. The best profession is the merchant, no doubt. You're never really put into any mortal danger, you sit in your house all day (where you can play Minesweeper at your leisure, as no one visits), and wait until that Hero sap stumbles in, bleeding, so that you can fleece him at your convenience. "I know you're saving our town, sir, but a guy's got to make a living and that's my best magical shield! 60,000 gold, I'm sorry. Okay, 59 999, because I like you. Sorry, you need more gold. Get back to fighting those orcs and stop ruining my rug." The Hero also saves you from going into any dangerous situation by bringing all the dungeon items back to you, leaving you to just knock 2/3 off the buying price and sell it yourself. You'll make a fortune from his constant visits! The merchants are also hardly ever in any real danger from the hero. Sure, you can slap some people around in some games, but the games mostly stop you from doing anything too serious. That, or there are loads of Fuzz around to make you pay dearly.
Overall it would depend what game I was in. Fallout, for example, allowed you to kill just about anyone, including merchants (although you might open a world of hurt on yourself), so I'd probably think twice about being a merchant in that world. All those mentats pills look mighty tempting to all the wrong people, whereas some loser eating tar off the side of the road doesn't merit a second glance. Come to think of it, I wouldn't want to be in that world at all if possible.
Most of the time, however, Merchants are well protected, and are definitely worth considering. I'm not really sure how you get started, though. Do you have to go spelunking somewhere to get some basic things to sell and build up your empire? In that case being a craftsman would be even better, as you'd only pay for raw materials. Or you could just go to the easier areas, clear them out, and wait until Bad Man realizes he needs to beef up security and sell your wares to the saps going in there to fight. Yes, methinks this needs much more planning and maybe isn't as easy a path as it would seem, but it's definitely the safest one.

Sometimes it seems the merchants get their just rewards, as in the fate of Griswold the Blacksmith (and the whole village) in Diablo, but this is not true. The fact is, if Griswold had given you the best stuff for free from the start, you would have made it to the bowels of hell all the quicker and accelerated everyone's demise. No, if you *are* doomed, you may as well stretch out your existence as long as possible.

Even the merchants in RTS games like WarCraft 3 have it easy. They just sell to whoever shows up and don't have to worry about being crushed like the rest of the people on the map. You make no enemies, and make a tidy profit to boot. Win win! In an RTS the merchant, if present, is by far the best, if you can't snag the role of "commanding arrow", that is.

In conclusion, I can't really find any reason why not to choose to be the merchant if the game decides to "play you" one of these boring sunday afternoons. You have great financial stability, you don't have to do the dangerous work, and you have a steady supply of goods coming in from all the adventurers out collecting. Saving the world is for suckers, the real money is in investing in the hero! Remember that, and don't forget to move out of the room quickly if your gaming system is suddenly hit by a wierd lightning bolt or ever starts glowing oddly. Do not touch it! Seek assistance! Oh and one more thing: if I ever play the game you're in, please give me some kind of finder's fee discount! I need that pistol!

This entry brought to you by
Age of Empires DS
Neko Case and KT Tunstall
AllRpg podcasts
Kick Stimulation Drink
ebay
the announcement that GH3 will be on PC

Nodham in console purchase shocker!

Well, I did it. It happened.
I am no longer a PC gamer only.
I have purchased a gaming system.

Now, I'm pretty sure one burger already knows what it is, and he is indeed correct.
I now have a DS Lite.
There was a good deal going at Asda (those of you in the UK, check it out doubletime, two days only!) and I decided it was time to take the plunge.

The actual purchase wasn't all that interesting, although I was told they were out of Silver by one person, only to come back a few minutes later and ask another person (I'm cheeky that way) and get a Silver after all. I was going to include a link to a youtube vid of Sound of Silver here, but the world conspired against me for that one (as I didn't find one).

You all know me and my rabid PC-centric views. Never gun' git a console, etc. So what made me go for the DS? Well, put simply, it gives me something I can't have on the PC. Gaming on the go is always fun, and my first-ever gaming system was the old Gameboy, which I couldn't get enough of. Sure, it had about 5 colours and those were all shades of grey and the games were about as long as an episode of 24, but I didn't care. I could play Mario on the school bus, nothing else mattered! Mario was all wrong, too. The koopas exploded, the goombas were rounded, and Mario flew a plane and piloted a sub. I still didn't care! It was all excellent!

Times change, and I changed. I've played a lot of games in a lot of genres and I've seen my share of innovations. Neither Sony nor Microsoft offer any innovations to me at this moment. Sure, they have great graphics, but considering I grew up in VGA, graphics aren't the most important thing to me. I don't have all the games on the PC that the consoles have, I admit that. And a lot of them look great. But why should I fork out dough to play something similar to what I have on PC? Look, you can tell me all you want about how a certain title is innovative, but in the end it all boils down to either FPS or 3D person adventure. With aliens. I have those on PC. I have them, and I can control them better, and most of the stuff gets (lazily) ported over to PC eventually. So I can just sit tight and enjoy the other games I need to get through.

I cannot, however, carry this PC around. I used to use the laptop now and then, but the batteries in that didn't last long and in the end I needed a plug anyway. Essentially, it was like I was bringing a console over to someone's, not a portable gaming device (duuh).

The DS lets me play on the go, and not only that, it has a good share (in my opinion) of interesting gameplay using that stylus. I've been playing a silly family game called Drawn to Life, where I drew the lead character using the stylus, and now I'm actually controlling him in the game. It's a gimmick, I know that, but I spent a good 20 minutes drawing a pumpkin on his shirt, giving him a claw for a hand, a plunger for a foot, and a Ninja Turtles-type eyemask. Satisfied, I sent PumpkinBoy into the game universe. Later I had to draw a platform for him to use. I drew a hotdog, and now the level is full of hotdog platforms to jump on. It's ludicrous and I'm loving it, and I know it'll appeal to the non-gamers in the family.

Another reason I went for the DS is because of nostalgia. I was contemplating the purchase of a used N64 a few months back. Then I realized I can play those gems like Mario 64 (albeit slightly tweaked) on the DS. Now all I need is Super Mario World, which is on GBA. Which the DS handles. Add to that the fact I got a Sonic game with the DS, and I'm just about set for oldschool revival (sort of) every commute!

I also find it strangely liberating that I know I can purchase any title I want and know it'll run fine on the DS. There's something sorely missing from my PC Gaming experience. ;)

So here I am, your fellow DS gamer. For the hardcore gaming you'll still find me on xfire as always, playing some 4 year old PC Game instead of Team Fortress 2. That's me, and I doubt it'll ever change. But when I just want to have that bit of fun, especially in that crammed train, I'll grab the DS. Yep, it's been about 17 years, but tell Nintendo: "I'm back!"

This entry brought to you by:
psychomode14's helpful answers to my stupid questions
asda charlton
LCD Soundsystem (silver, y'know.)
Heroes S2 and House S4
any suggestions for DS games you guys might have
so-green-it's-almost-fluorescent apple bubble gum
youtube "unboxing" videos. So idiotic, yet I can't...look...away...

Devil Horns

As in anti-Halo, if you will. Starring Apprentice Tribesman, or something.

The world, and Gamespot has gone Halo nuts. Almost every blog I have tracked seems to have it as a topic and while I have nothing against Halo 3, it's all wearing a bit thin for me. Thing is, I'm a PC Gamer (besides some retro consoles). That means I constantly get the short end (or the sharp one) of the Halo stick from Microsoft and co.

I understand Halo => Xbox = winnar. Fair enough, in today's capitalist society, something like this must be milked. I haven't seen Halo 3 cereal yet, but maybe that's just because I didn't go into the right store, otherwise I see tons of Halo-related products. Once again, not something I have a problem with. Getting gaming into the mainstream is always a good thing in my book. What bugs me is getting screwed over, in other words the "sloppy seconds" form Halo releases for the PC tend to take. The first one was fun, until I got caught in some sort of paradox and kept enterring the same room again and again. Then there were some vehicle shenanigans, but the room curse put me off labelling the game a masterpiece. Twas a good shooter, it just came out too late. If it had had a simultaneous release with the xbox one...

Then came Halo 2. I haven't played it. Gasp. It's probably good. I could play it, as I got a new PC a few months back and went with Vista. What annoys me is the fact that Halo's Vista-only. It certainly doesn't need Vista, judging from the screenshots. But they make it Vista-only so that it forces us to upgrade if we want to play it, much like with the 360. Oh, and we also have to wait years for what is essentially a port. I just love ports! Once again us PC gamers are getting a late invitation to the party. Not only that, it's a slightly dated party, that everyone's already left, and we can't get in without a newer model of shoes. Thanks, guys!

Halo 3 is upon us. Well, not upon me, because I have no 360, and MS can't release it on PC at the same time, because it's fueling 360 sales and they want to keep laughing at Sony. Where does this leave me? Well, no Halo 3 for a few years, and if I were really cynical I'd predict you'll need Vista SP2 to play it, but I'll just stick with "will need Vista" for now. I'm also probably going to get the ending spoiled like scott did, but I can't do much about that either, except open up some cans of whupass when it happens. Anyway, I had to buy something else today at the store, as everyone's getting new games. Then I saw it:

A lemmings pack! I don't know if this is as un-halo as you can get, since Lemmings 3D features first-person Lemming action, and Lemmings paintball has the critters shooting each other, but it's close enough in my book. I didn't buy it for that reason, though. I bought it because of that bite of nostalgia reminding me of the days of fiddling with sound card settings and typing "vgalemmi". I'd call it a simpler time, but I think that wouldn't be true, haha. I also haven't played Lemmings in years, despite being very much into them in their time.

So here's the thing. Continue making games for the PC, by all means, puh-leeeze! But don't treat us all like a bunch of slobbering walking wallets and just keep serving up the half-arsed ports. Otherwise we'll just return to our gems,of which the PC has many. PC Gamers may be a dying breed, but by golly, we're discerning croakers.

World of WarCraft trial pt 5

Episode IV: Burgger: Dueler, Capitalist, Marathon Man

This time I went with the Human race. While not as inherently silly as a scurrying little naked gnome, when created right a human character can come close in the odd-looking stakes. All you have to do is slap on the right face, and musclesbecome a symbol of brawn over brains. Here he is, our double-digit IQ friend.

It seems this look allowed me to get away with quite a lot, for I went into some duels and generally acted oddly and no one really questioned it. It's all in the looks, for better or worse.

First off I found a female. This wasn't that hard, but here was one who responded to my frequent pointings, wavings, or whatever chat-action I was trying as a "line." I sat down across from her. So far so good. I tried a few other positions, not really sure what to say. Burgger is one of those dumb, shy, lovable meatheads, I guess.

I tried dancing too, but she wasn't budging.

So I went with what I was familliar with and took off my pants.

She was gone before I got the rest of it off.

However, I noticed her a little later a little further off, now also naked. I guess it did work. She wanted to duel, so I decided there wasn't any harm in it and accepted. I lost, predictably, because I was jumping and running around most of the time and these confusion tactics don't work well against someone with bloodlust. Upon dying I sat down, and Glori came over and stood in front of me in such a fashion that it looked like things might have been happening, things that should not be shown before 10pm, and most certainly only on cable tv in the US. Fortunately I live in Europe.

Giggling, I got up and went to stand in front of a male character who was sitting down, afk. I really hoped he'd come back to the keyboard to see THAT, but unfortunately it looked like he was gone for long. It's just not the thing you expect someone with a manly name like Darkblack to be doing, and it's a shame I got no reaction.

Bored of standing around, I climbed up onto a small caravan and took a nap.

Sufficiently rested, although without Undead Spring Water, I decided it was time to organize some sort of massive quest. I went into the castle/monastery and explored. It was the usual situation, NPCs forever standing around, players forever rushing to and fro in their ceaseless quest for XP. I found a bench upstairs and sat down on it. Hoping to create some sort of "hockey player"-type screenshot, I attempted to organize a quest. "Need party for Sitting On Bench Action in Hall of Arms."

I guess I didn't make it sound sexy enough.

Disappointed as usual, I went back outside to find the other nerds. I found some sort of elf-thing that could change into a cat and was doing so, much to the general indifference of players standing around. I patted the kitty. It meowed, growled, and ran around in very much a role-playing fashion. In the end someone dueled me. I accepted, only because I figured anyone of level 20-something wanting to duel a level 1 has serious self-esteem problems and decided to do the charitable thing and give him a free win. He appeared somewhere and hit me once and I died. I was sitting down naked in the middle of the grassy field at the time, so odds are whether it brought him satisfaction. My bet is that it did, for he commented something along the lines of ":P". I told him I'd seen better and that he should level up so that he can kill me purely by thinking. He said nothing, so I hope he's not actually off trying to do that while his real life crumbles.

I took a lie down again, and some other naked woman character called Koskar decided to make it rated R. I have to say the cat jumping over the whole thing was a good touch. It made the whole scene seem almost arty, like one of those avant-garde films where no one knows how to hold the camera properly.

I then went off with Koskar to fight a few wolves. Actually she was fighting, and managed to climb up onto the caravan and stood there flexing at the wolf, who couldn't get at her (and vice versa). This looked fun, so I engaged the wolf and climbed up too. We stood there, naked, battle-ready.

At this point I realized that huge mallet I've been lugging around really detracted from the gameplay and so I un-equipped it and decided to fight future duels with only my fists. I had no time to think about dueling, however, because that elf-guy had let it slip that he might have been giving some gold to a fellow player. Female, of course. Burgger went on the whine offensive. "please give" gave way to sob stories about how "I have no clothes, I spent all moneys at gentleman's club." and this then became the blunt "give us moneys, cat man."

I decided to take up a begging position near the entry to that monastery.

Neither "giving me the moneys and I won't spend it on drinks and women" nor "for just 5 coppers you can feed and clothe Burgger and give him pants" had any success.

I went back to harrass cat man.

One player suddenly decided he wanted some cybering. I don't know why he decided this would be the best place for it (I hear Second Life is much better), but I tried my luck with "not unless you give me moneys, Billy." He refused to acknowledge me, leading me to the conclusion that he wanted a female to chat with. I also berated a fellow player for asking for some silvers. She didn't even have a cardboard sign, she called that begging? Billy tried a new approach, as there were quite a few people wanting to duel standing around. Burgger saw a chance to make a quick buck and tried to get in on the action.

They dueled, and to make a long story short, both Billy and myself came out unsatisfied. No cyber, no moneys. Oh well, worth a shot. "Will dance for moneys," I tried. Perhaps they needed proof of my skills, so I joined in a multi-user dance. By multi-user I don't mean many users at once, I mean many users in one place. And yes, all these body parts coming out everywhere made me recall a Gnomism.

"I need some help for the quest brotherhood of thiefs - please help me find them! :)" pleaded a fellow player. "If u cyber me?" ventured Billy. I guess no."Will someone please talk dirty to me?" whined a frustrated Billy.

I was losing my patience with these players as well. They just didn't want to deliver what either of us wanted, be it cyber or moneys. I decided to end it all and go running along the road. A nice cross-country trek should clear my head and help me think of new ways to acquire moneys, no doubt. "Marathon time. Who wants to run somewhere naked?" I asked, and got exactly the answer I expected. Or no answer, rather.

When a fellow player wasn't even interested in my near-mint pants, I decided to bid farewell to this bunch of losers and try my luck on the open road.

Not having anyone to even see me off, I said "go" and set off.

However, as I turned the first corner my attention was diverted by a fountain which I immediately jumped into. Another player must have seen my head sticking up over the rim, as he came to investigate.

I took a good long drink. I was going to need energy for my marathon.

"Hi, you want to run somewhere?" I asked. He didn't say anything, but he did follow me out of the fountain and down the road, so I thought we might be in business. I tried not to run too quickly, lest it spook him or something.

I stopped and waited for him to catch up again.

This frankly wasn't what I expected as a marathon, but I hoped it would last longer than the few seconds he had kept up so far. I tried saluting him and pointing at him, to keep him interested. Alas, he ran past me and hita tree. I could tell he'd go on to Great Things, so I left him.

Further down the road I found a dead guy floating in mid air. Interesting.

I attempted to emulate the levitation by lying next to him, or even in the same spot, but I remained anchored to the ground. Levitating would have made my marathon a lot easier, butit was not to be, so I set off on foot.

I arrived in town.

I found a woman in town asking if I had seen a certain player. I said I hadn't, but I said I'd let him know she was looking if I came across him as I was going running. I set off in one direction, changed my mind, and ran through the crossroads again. She was asking another person the same thing. That's some way to spend your afternoon, I tell ya.

Running along, I quickly emerged from the forest into some fields.

I found a dead player and noticed an enemy called a fleshripper nearby. Not good. Better get -

Curses. My ghost appeared in a nearby graveyard and I had to run all the way back to my corpse before a resurrect button appeared. I revived myself running and didn't stop to look behind me. A player said a word containing a load of Xs and various other consonants, deciding to leave out vowels. Not to be outdone, I hit the keyboard too and pressed enter. No response. Further down the road Isaw some sort of evil-looking bird flapping around the corner of the screen and was slightly nervous, but I made it past without trouble. It probably didn't see me. This couldn't be said about the Harvest Reaper.

Quick, before it -

I thought I would make it over to that NPC, but it took one swipe of the Reaper and I was, well, fit for the Reaper. Little did I know I was heading into the dark forest now, where things would keep getting worse.

I found a dead body and was killed by a spider.

I don't remember this happening to Forrest Gump. I went through the whole reviving thing and then arrived at a crossroads. I wanted to keep running, but none of the destinations looked like particularly happy places to go. Stranglethorn, Raven Hill, or Darkshire. Hmm, I wonder if they have strawberry ice cream. I forget which one I chose in the end, but it made little difference.

Now and then a player would rush past my dead body. Attempts to get out of there were pointless too, as no matter where I went I died. So I decided to end the marathon. Exhausted, cold, naked, and, err, dead, Burgger's futile Run for Moneys ended.

Verdict: More people probably go with human, which meant I had a lot of silly people to interact with this time, but I still didn't feel like it was worth it. Most of them seemed to be either about proving superiority in a duel (the fact that I was 20 levels below and naked didn't seem to matter) or soliciting "cybur." I can't say I didn't have fun, but it didn't grab me. The only thing that does sound interesting is being able to wander into cities of fellow factions/races. Unfortunately, a lot of time (and money) is needed to get there alive, as Burgger's marathon proved.

Next: Return of the Gnomes

World of WarCraft Trial pt 4

Episode III: Burgger Takes "nekkid" to the next level.

My next foray into World of WarCraft entailed a trip to the land of the Undead. Now apparently there's undead and there's Undead, which explains why a lot of the quests have you killing zombies and skeletons. I thought that was pretty odd, considering they should all be banding together for the good of all undeadness, but then again Humans tend to fight amongst each other at the slightest provocation as well.

My main problem with creating an Undead character was that all the faces looked pretty freaky, so it was hard to create those lecherous-looking faces like Burgerr the Gnome's. I at least attempted to create one which had a tinge of idiocy in its eyes. You know, like the zombie that gets stuck walking into a wall, or the face one might pullif caught at a timeshare sales event for eternity.

Where Burgger trumps all the other characters, though, is in his interpretation of naked. Yes, this one goes one step further.

This time the countryside was covered in Undead slaughtering skeletons and "mindless zombies". A metaphor for WoW players, perhaps? Yes, yes, don't go there, I know. Once again there was a quest that demanded you kill a certain number of skeletons, and the demand for these skeletons was so high it was hard to get to them in time before another player killed them. Not many people wanted to talk to me either, once again asking me only for duels. I came up with a standard refusal process and hoped it would jolt them into some sort of vocal activity towards me, but no luck. I would have even taken insults, but they just shrugged off all my rude refusals and went to duel someone else.

At this point I clicked Decline. One player was obsessed with noobs. I can only assume this was due to some insecurity on his part, because he kept yelling things about how anyone who was level 3 and killed by a level 1 could only be a noob (he used more o's in the word). In the end, however, he decided to jetison all superfluous words in his statements and reduced them to simply "noooooooooooooooooooob!" Not surprisingly, still no one cared. Least of all me, even though I like to taunt these kinds of players usually, but something about the Undead just didn't do it for me. It was a good area and everything, but I suppose when you're dealing with crypts and corpses and such there's just less room for wackyness. I did, however, find it amusing that all those putrid corpses feel the need to drink

I could just picture the ads too, panning from majestic snow-covered mountain peaks to a hand digging itself out of a grave, bottle in hand.

One of my frequent pointings was successful and the player stopped. I knew this was make-or-break time, so I started to dance.

Success!

Unfortunately, my attempt at communication failed, perhaps due to my choice of words.

Attempting to salvage our crumbling friendship, I at least tried to crush the enemy he was fighting by landing on it, just like Mario. No, you can't do that in this game, and it sent him running for the hills in the hopes that he didn't catch whatever I had too.

Time to crack out the Spring Water, then.

Frankly I was tired of being Undead. No one liked me and everyone was taking it way too seriously. I hadn't met one single other nekkid player, whereas it felt like every other gnome seemed to be in their underwear when I was in that area. I had seen a bunch of people running around with little freak minions. I quickly got to work on a quest to enable me to create a mini-burgger. Soon enough I summoned myself an imp. You can imagine my disappointment when I couldn't name him,although I must admit the name wasn't that bad.

This returned some of my enthusiasm for questing, but the next quest killed it dead. What was this supposed to be? What a stupid quest, ensuring everyone had clothing when they emerged from the crypt! I never had no clothing and look how I turned out.

No, this place was going downhill. Those free-spirited gnomes, they have the right idea. I had to get to the gnomes. I was getting out. I headed for the hills, my minion in tow.

Couldn't make it over the mountain, though. Nnnngh. Unnnggggh.

The pox on you and your invisible barriers. Nnnngggh. No good. I had to head back down and follow the road out. Frustrated, I pointed at my minion, spat on him, and set off.

I met a quest-giver at a crossroads who told me to go collect pumpkins, while a huge monster told me to collect some sorts of weeds. Frankly these Undead missions were starting to feel more and more like an MORshopping list. Granted, the pumpkins were being guarded by a bunch of redneck farmers and I barely survived the first encounter, retreating and letting the attacker tear my minion a new one. Gakkol kicked the bucket. It seemed I was going to need more backup than this.

Fortunately there was another player nearby. I asked him to join a party, and he did. Nice! I tried to roleplay a bit, but he was having none of it. My statement of "mmnuuugh kill farmurrr"wasmetwithsilence.We attacked together and collected some pumpkins and said player left the party the moment he had the pumpkins he needed, leaving me to deal with the angry farmers that had survived.There's the player population for you. Predictably, Gakkol kicked the bucket again because I high-tailed it out of there the moment I saw I was losing.

After resurrecting Gakkol and having a nice refreshing drink of Spring Water, I decided questing wasn't for me. I found a horse-merchant in one town and realised that the few coppers and silvers I had weren't going to equal 10 Gold for a long time. I really wanted a horse though! I wandered off into the wilderness, mumbling something, and stumbled upon the ruins of some human city. It seemed to be some sort of Horde hideout, because a lot of players were chatting about what they were selling and what they wanted. Someone wanted his stuff enchanted for free, someone else had a similar request, so I jumped in with my request: "want horse plz, give thx." No response. I suppose they figured if they showed any interest at all I'd never leave.

With no horse, no real friends, and no quests to entertain me, I started looking for somewhere to die. As usual. I found a river of green ooze, but it didn't seem to do anything.

I then came upon something that looked like a cross between a sundial and a ritual circle. There was a dead guy in the middle of it. Like the idiots who say "what was that?" and go explore the darkness in horror movies, I went to look at the dead guy. That there wasn't any enemies around should have given me a clue.

Ouchie! Gakkol was on fire now too, and that's how I left the game. Did Burgger survive? Who knows, but if he did he's probably still trying to make his way over to the Gnomes. Poor, misguided soul.

So what did I learn today?

Whoever said games weren't educational? Drink spring water, loot standing up. Noted.

Next: A human priest does a bit of PVP and then sets off on a nekkid marathon over hills and through valleys. It doesn't end well.

World of WarCraft trial pt 3

Episode II: The Rise and Fall of Burgerr the Gnome

Problems in Realm-land last time I played meant that the Realm that housed Burgerr the Dwarf was offline, meaning I had to pick a different Realm to play in and create a new character. Continuing with my theme of choosing the characters who look oddest when running around in underwear, I went with a Gnome. What a little freak.

Yes it's Burgerr the Gnome, another mug you could expect to meet in a dark dank alleyway where you'd beasked "you likess the par-tees?" Note the lovely flowing Mage robes. They didn't last long.

No doubt you're all ready with your Freudian analysis of why the first thing I do in these Virtual Worlds is strip naked, but I was actually stopped from doing this for a minute or two by the sheer madness of the Realm I entered. See, because there were a good few other Realms offline, everyone was probably choosing this one and as a result it was jam-packed with characters. A shock compared to what I had last time, this was like the Japanese Subway of realm-packedness. I stood standing there for a bit, watching all the gnomes and dwarves scurrying around the camp yelling things in Spanish. Yes, apparently a Spanish server had been shut down and they had all been dumped in here. Now I vividly remembered choosing "English" as my Realmlanguage, so I didn't understand why I had to deal with things like "el que me reta donde esta." Nevertheless, standing there wasn't accomplishing anything and I was getting new players spawning over me, making a nice gnome-dwarf amalgamation.

Seeing I'd have trouble communicating with people yet wanting to have some attention drawn to me, I took off my clothing and ran naked into the square yelling gooblagooblagoobla.

No one cared. How hurtful. Then again a lot of english-speaking folk have trouble telling languages apart so perhaps they just thought I was saying "your mother was a hamster" in Spanish. My plea for attention having failed, I took a lie down in the middle of the square, hoping someone would join in a nap. Instead I just kept getting stepped on by other little freaks rushing from quest to NPC.

I'm thinking there has to be some sort of massive sale over there, judging by the interest. Perhaps he's selling noobburgers.

Some other players were dancing and one was crying, perhaps that was connected somehow. Another player screamed out that "KATE" was a noob. Kate didn't respond to this as she was probably hidden under a pillow sobbing somewhere at this humiliation. In any case, after getting my head stepped on more than was healthy (doctors recommend no more than 3/day) I decided this Lie-in wasn't leading anywhere and ran off into the forests to go hunt wolves. The forests looked like quite the battlefield. Consider the fact that most players were starting a new character, and the first quest is to kill 8 wolves (and take their meat), and multiply that by the amount of players using this realm. That's a lot of wolves that had to die, and I'm sure some Cruelty to Animals Charity should have been called in. Burgerr wasn't all that bothered with it, though, deciding to engage in an unsettling butt-slapping dance in the middle of the corpses. Shockingly, still no one cared.

Frankly, this questing was getting boring. Burgerr was a mage, which meant that his main attack was a charge-up fireball of some sort. He could also beat on enemies with that stick he carried around, but that was more of a last resort attack, like insulting someone as you run away from them. No, it had to be fireball, and it was better to fire this from a distance, of course. Yet by the time I found a target, charged and fired, someone was already fighting it. This meant my fireball connected after the battle had started and the other person got the XP (and the ability to loot the corpse). Bored of running around attacking wolves futilely, I proceeded to point at a few players. One of them was called Dwarvensmash. With a name like that you sort of expectedthe only thing he'd be able to say would be, in fact, "dwarvensmash." No response. I said it before and I say it again, playing an MMORPG and only being concerned with XP is a waste. But there they were, rushing to and fro killing things asap and levelling up asap. I took one last look at the carnage and left.

Burgerr set off into the Dwarven Town In The Mountain. The only way to get anywhere when naked is by jumping, everyone knows that.

As I was walking through a short hallway to the main room of the underground town, I noticed a chair I could "interact" with. I right clicked, and suddenly I was looking through a transparent picture of myself at the hallway. OMG! I was sitting in the chair, facing the hallway! That's right, this game has Sitting In Chair Action(tm)! I was now seriously considering paying a monthly fee, as you can't just sit anywhere in real life. Unfortunately, once again no one really cared that I was sitting down in the chair and a few dwarves rushed past, no doubt delivering a mug somewhere for a few coppers.

I found another few chairs near a table and sat in those. It was all very thrilling, but no one was paying any attention to me, so I lept up onto the table and danced. As you do.

By now it was apparent to me that dancing wasn't going to catch anyone's attention, and I decided to go ask the locals where a Gnomish Male such as myself could get his freak on.

Everyone was still ignoring the naked gnome, who was now feeling extra lonely. To be fair, I would have ignored a gnome like that in real life too. Burgerr noticed there was a large fireplace in the middle of the room and attempted to enter it. Unfortunately there was an invisible force-field in front of it, no doubt some sort of noob-protection on account of lawsuits. When I was young fireplaces had no force-fields and look how I turned out! Err, nekkid, screaming gooblagoobla and dancing on tables. Right. Looks like my idea wasn't all that bad, though, as there were a few other players trying to enter the Luurvely Flames.

My next attempt at entering fire was unexpectedly successful and suddenly Burgerr the Gnome was dead. Shocker!

As a final insult, no one really noticed. The only person really making an issue of anything was some xenophobe screaming about calling "imigration" on all the Spanis (sic) people, who were apparently all his "biches." A fellow player suggested he perform an anatomically impossible action.

Meanwhile, Burgerr's spirit was released. It looked just like the normal world, except it was all in white and any attempt to point at something resulted in the "you are dead" message rubbing it in, in red letters in the middle of the screen. I watched a rabbit hopping around a bit.

Then, my patience at an end, I did what I do best. I took a nap.

So ends the saga of Burgerr the Gnome. May his ashes fill that Dwarf Town with light for years to come. Or cancer, if Burgerr has his way. The little freak.

Verdict on day 2: The same shortcomings I've already noticed on MMORPGs are still apparent. You need to really care about levelling up your character and going through the quests to get the most out of the game. It's obvious you're not going to get the experiencefrom the other players, who are all either screaming about noobs or dueling. I still don't understand why I should pay for this monthly when I can get Guild Wars without monthly payments or offline RPGs like Fallout which are much more engrossing. I never thought about asking about getting bizay in Fallout...

Next: Burgerr drops an R, gains a G, andrejoins Azeroth as an Undead. Plenty of zombies, crypts, dark magicks, corpses, and, err, Refreshing Spring Water(tm)?

World of WarCraft Trial pt 2

Unfortunately, it wasn't as simple as I thought. Nope, after completing the 500MB download, there was some problem with patching an xml file, so I had to repair something, then repatch, and basically a bunch of other boring updating activities followed by yet more downloaded updates. A 50 MB and some smaller patches later, I was finally ready to launch my game.

I prepared a character. Uncertain what to go with, I just picked up a Dwarf, shaved his head, and put an odd look in his eyes. Looking good!

Shame I couldn't do much with the actual body of the dwarf, I have to say Galaxies is better in these customization options, enabling you to go as far as giving your character a potbelly, which I would have much liked, considering how seriously I'm taking this character creation.

And then I was in!

Whee, how exciting! I was in WoW! There were a bunch of NPCs standing around with punctuation marks over their heads - this looked very similar to all other RPGs I tried. I wondered if I'd have to go deliver something somewhere or go kill a certain number of something? Success! First quest, go kill wolves. Unsure where to find said wolves, I followed a trail up a small hill, only to come upon a female gnome who suddenly stripped off and ran past me down the hill in her underwear. Hop! She lept over a small obstacle and disappeared somewhere.

I had no time to follow her, as I understood I had just been challenged. Whatever Female Gnome Person could do, Burgerr the Dwarf could do better. Unsure of how to properly strip off, I proceeded to destroy my clothing instead. At least I proved I meant it. Looking suitably silly (and feeling a bit unprotected), I was nowreadyto continue in my adventure. The fact that Idecided to become nekkid in the middle of a graveyard wasn't apparent to me at the time.

Perhaps the spirits of my elders would strike me down for this. I found a wolf and attacked it, trading blows until it died. XP! Oooh, the magic was starting! Was I succumbing to the MMORPG's lure? Would I now think only of levelling up and skillz? No, it was still just a bunch of numbers popping up on screen. Levelling up is fun, but not THAT fun... yet? I ran up a hill and discovered"Coldridge Pass", giving me some XP for exploration. I also discovered a dead nekkid dwarf next to a wolf carcass, which sort of drove the point home that I probably wasn't all that well equipped for adventuring,only wearing underpants and all.

Stubborn as always, I continued my Adventuring in Undergarments. My in-game chat told me that someone had killed someone else in a duel. I had been challenged earlier by a level-5 player when I was level 1, which I figured would not be the best use of my time and declined. Suddenly, a silly-looking gnome rushed past me, followed by a somewhat larger dwarf. Apparently this was the player that had lost a duel a few seconds ago. Sensing an interesting show, I gave chase as well, only to be disappointed by both of them stopping in the middle of a path a few seconds later. "wate ehre," said the defeated gnome, which I could only assume was dwarfish for "your mother was a hamster." Nothing more came of the duel, soI wandered off in search of more adventures. "Burger!" exclaimed a small female gnome called Tigurlily, obviously noticing my cleverly hidden double-entendre. Before I knew what was happening I was in a party. Oddly enough this party was scattered all over the place, kind of contradicting the definition of "party". I went in search of Tigurlily, who proceeded to demonstrate the "chat actions" your character could do in-game. We proceeded to spend the next few minutes dancing, laughing, crying and burping. And taking a nap next to a dead wolf. As you do.

After tigurlily had to leave I decided to quit the party I was in, as nothing was happening, and returned to a dwarf camp. A new player had arrived, much to the admiration of others. He was taller than all of us dwarves and one player correctly pointed out that he was from the expansion. I had apparently met my first WoW Nerd, this was exciting. One of the players "pointed" at him, giving me a new "chat action" to do and sending me on a furious pointing spree. I pointed at rabbits, I pointed at wolves, I pointed at NPCs.I found a lone dwarf standing alone and pointed at him. Heaven knows what he must have thought, seeing an bald almost-naked dwarf standing in front of him, pointing, but it must have sent him slightly catatonic, for he refused to budge and I left in search of the Big Expansion Guy. I found him still surrounded by a couple of players and proceeded to point at him. He waved at me, and I waved back. Satisfied, I moved on to other quests.

I hadn't really found anyone to chat with, the countryside apparently full of dwarf rushing after some quest or another, which is why I was all the more surprised when someone suddenly spit on me. As I couldn't find the person to target them properly, I proceeded to do what any bully would do, and found someone weaker to spit on. I then killed the poor boar as my self-esteem had been shattered and someone had to pay. Satisfied I had somewhat redeemed myself and feeling more macho, I quested on, until I noticed the Spitter in the distance. Bwaha, revenge.

Cuthon then disappeared, no doubt humiliated by my relentless assault. I was starting to feel more like an MMORPG Nerd already, what with all the bullying and better-than-thou attitude, but I know I still have awhile to go. I'm going to focus on the dwarven language first, I believe, although I have a sneaking feeling that it's something like English without vowels, although I'll need to check up on this more. It's been hard to discern as I haven't heard my speech, just dwarves running through the snowy forests slaughtering things in silence.

Verdict on Day One? I had fun. I wasn't really taking it all that seriously, but then again anyone who plays online with me probably knows that I don't game online for the feeling of competition, but rather the enjoyment. I did find myself stumbling on to finish a quest before going to bed, raising suspicions that this could, in fact, be an entertaining game when played in the right company. It's not difficult to understand why this game is popular - it's simple enough and allows people to get together and dance and fart to their heart's desire, but I still haven't really come upon why it's this game that's the most popular MMORPG, and not countless others. It's odd, but I really don't see many differences between this and Star Wars Galaxies, save the setting and that For Idiots arrow that constantly points you towards your quest in Galaxies.

Next: more collecting of numbers and pressing buttons!

World of WarCraft Trial pt 1

I've never understood the MMORPG world. I've dabbled in it a little but probably didn't choose my games well (Galaxies) so it left me a little cold. The idea that I'd have to pay monthly doesn't motivate me either, but I'll give them a chance.
I finally caved in and clicked on that WoW trial button that Xfire constantly peddles. I had tried the trial a few months back but at that time I was stopped short with a demand for a credit card number. Now I have worked for some companies that do the same thing and I knew to stay away from those kinds of things - they like to get a few extra bucks through "accidental" subscriptions where the user forgets to cancel and they just (kindly) renew his subscription using the handy card info he gave on signup. Not to say Blizzard are in any way crooked, but I just don't trust companies that have to rely on those types of practices.
Here I am a few months later trying again and lo and behold, credit card no longer needed. Whee, looks like the trials aren't bringing in enough warcrackheads, so I happily signed up.
I create my nickname and am then hit with a gigalicious trial download. I sort of expected as much, and proceed to leave it on whenever I remember to, usually having better gaming-related things on my mind like that B-17 level in Call of Duty United Offensive. Or pillaging in Sid Meier's Pirates. You gotta do them pillagings, man.

blizzard downloader status window
Finally, about three days of on-off downloading later, I am ready to start my questing. The excitement is about average as I click play and am rewarded with an action-packed intro movie. Blizzard does one thing quite well, and that's video sequences in their game universes which only marginally tie-in to any storyline. WarCraft 2 showed how excellently it could be done, StarCraft continued the work (except for a few clips) and WarCraft 3 undid all this work by having videos that actually had something to do with the story. Fortunately WoW doesn't have any story (I'd call it a "situation") and therefore Blizzard are free to show us various druids and elves pummeling each other while dramatic choir voices soundtrack their beatinz.
I'm sold, it looks like fun. Worth monthly payments? Well not to watch that, no. I login, handshake, and download a small update. I'm used to this from other battle.net titles and don't give it another thought, until I realize I just downloaded the updater, which is now downloading another 530MB. Ohnoes! That's right, I still can't play.

yet more status bars
Seems like most of my WoW experience has dealt with watching status bars fill up - an allegory to experience levels, perhaps? I quickly dismiss such heresy until the thought hits me: has my trial period now started, since I logged in? I go check my account status. Good news! Logging in didn't start my trial period, creating my username did! So I really have been "experiencing" WoW by downloading the trial and now the update. There are 6 days [out of 10] of my free trial now left. I'm not blaming Blizzard for this, but someone messed up in this trial planning. On the other hand, it does sound suspiciously like the WoW way of taking over people's lives completely. To make use of this trial, the only download you should be attempting is the Trial, and it should be monitored so that the update can be started as soon as possible so you don't lose any valuable trial time. Basically, every waking moment should be devoted to WoW and the non-waking ones should be reduced. I'm starting to feel like an MMORPG gamer already.
Next: I create a character and virtually join Azeroth (unless I need more updates)