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Fae Yule is Coming!

With Fae Yule coming up soon in Rift, this weekend was time to start getting into the spirit.  With the addition of player dimensions (housing) this year, that means just like in RL, decorating for the season.  For this year’s Fae Yule celebration, Rift has a number of pre-celebration gifts available.  All the details here.

For the price of a Facebook like, this year Rift gave away a Fae Yule Gift Pile, literally.  The Gift Pile is a dimension items that is, you guessed, a pile of gifts.  As I found out, once the code is applied to your account, each of your alts will receive the item which is not soulbound, so I used two piles in decorating my Fae Yule tree in my newbie Warden’s Point basic Defiant dimension

Charlie Brown, eat your heart out.

Charlie Brown, eat your heart out.

Rather pleased with my Charlie Brown-esque attempts at seasonality, I invited Mrs. P to come check it out.  Hence our first opportunity for a Rift Fae Yule family screenshot, companion pets included (a bit too much of art imitating life).

Happy Fae Yule from the Potshots

Happy Fae Yule from the Potshots

Of course, with the wife visiting the man-cave came decorating suggestions.  I had left off with a fairly austere series of floating platforms connected by ramps before I sort of drifted away.  I had managed to create something of a brazier effect in the sole building the dimension has using a torch and the blue vase that comes with completing the newbie dimensions quest.

Of course to her, it looked like a sauna in the making.  So, with the winter weather and Fae Yule imminent we set out to build the sauna.  Taking a lesson from EQ2 where often the backside of something is more useful that the front, a set of bookcases quickly became wood paneling for the sauna (with the added value of the parts protruding outside adding some much needed architectural features to the stone building).  Bear rug, water bucket, birch leaves and voila!  One instant sauna.

Cozy.  Too cozy.

Cozy. Too cozy.

Once complete, I of course had to inaugurate it which immediately reminded Mrs. P of why we don’t (and wont) have a sauna in our home…

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Ahh, winter, yes, winter.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Rift

 

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RIP: Sir Patrick Moore

News comes of the passing of Sir Patrick Moore, the great British amateur astronomer and author at age 89.  The Independent article linked here and the wiki give a general overview of the remarkable man’s extraordinary accomplishments.

As the article states, “Moore was perhaps the last in the great British tradition of significant contributions to science by distinguished amateurs, and was fiercely proud of his amateur status. ”  Indeed, astronomy remains one of the few areas where even today, amateurs (e.g., Herschel and Lowell) routinely make significant contributions to the field even beyond the discovery of new comets that bear their name.  All that is required is curiosity to wonder what’s out there and a desire to go looking for it.

The ultimate expression of an explorer’s heart and science nerd’s passion, I came to space exploration and amateur astronomy in the mid seventies with the waning of the Apollo program, the Viking and Voyager missions and in part, as a result of the passion of Sir Patrick Moore.

In our adolescent, pre-vehicular days, my friend and I became immersed in the wonderful world of backyard astronomy.  I’d strap my budget refractor telescope (think Gallileo) on my bicycle and pedal up the hill to my friend’s house where we set up for the night.

We’d spend the night dutifully searching the mostly summer sky in an attempt to find objects across the universe that we’d only seen in pictures or read about in books, all under the not yet too bright glare of suburban mercury and sodium haze light pollution.  Here in the northern hemisphere with a limited field of vision, modest equipment and a suburban sky we were able to locate exotic and far away objects like M31 (aka the Andromeda galaxy, 2.2 million light years away), M13 (the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules) and M57 (the Ring Nebula).  Intergalatic time travel on a teenagers budget.

A big part of that effort was a wee tome that proved again and again indispensible:  Patrick Moore’s “The Pocket Guide to Astronomy” ISBN 0-671-25309-3.  All of 144 pages bound in the finest vinyl.  Time and time again, Moore’s book was the go-to source because it was easy to carry with you, clear and concise.  Perfect for the occasional backyard stargazing party or to throw in a backpack.  It still is.  Also perfect for kindling the passion for scientific exploration in a nerdy adolescent.

The Pocket Guide to Astronomy, Patrick Moore

The Pocket Guide to Astronomy, Patrick Moore

Far more than a mere collection of handy star charts, Moore’s book was a concise overview of the physics of astronomy, astrophysics, then modern cosmology, the solar system and planetary exploration and a history of modern astronomy.  Not bad for under 150 pages that you could fit in a breast pocket.  Even with far greater resources today, I often go back to this small book when looking for reference information (like when a particular meteor shower will occur) simply because in Moore’s book, I know where it is and it will take me all of 30 seconds to locate it.

Useful and concise.

Useful and concise.

One of a kind, he will be missed.  Thanks, Sir Patrick, RIP.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2012 in General

 

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The Storm Arrives…and Off Come My Pants

No posts for months and then two in two days? I know…

So, Rift’s first expansion, Storm Legion, launched this evening.  I managed to hop on after dinner and got patched in about an hour, more or less.  With the streaming patcher, the game was “playable” in probably 5-10 minutes, but with two accounts in the house, I decided to preserve bandwidth and let it finish before I hopped in.

Mrs. P couldn’t wait and experienced some laggish issues.  Whether that was the client chugging with the patch on-going or just catching the tail end of U.S. primetime by logging on about 8pm west coast time, who knows.  By the time I got in about 45 minutes later, everything seemed fine with no issues.

With cape installed, I headed off for Iron Pine Peaks and the portal to explore the new lands in the Kingdom of Pelladane, on one of the two new continents.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Pelladane!

Mrs. P and I were only level 47, so we were really just poking around to see what we could see and more or less could manage +3 level mobs together with her tanking pet and me doing the healing support with my cleric.  With no intention of actually focusing on quests, we just explored and managed to knock off a few world event related quests along the way.

We also managed to find and finish off one of the first gear reward quests, so I got a new set of legs.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Pelladane!

Yup, its an expansion.  On the left is the first set of green quest reward pants compared with my lowbie transplanar pants which were purchased with planarite and sourcestones.  For level 45 in the old country, they were pretty darned good for easily accessible gear, and better than most nonexpert dungeon drops.  Well, at least I had the satisfaction of completing the set before it was completely obsoleted.  Same as it ever was.

Still I got to see enough to whet my appetite for more.  Two complete continents each as large or larger than the original game is an explorer’s dream.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Rift

 

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King for a Day

Well, I managed to actually get a character to the level cap in Rift scarcely 24 hours before the Storm Legion expansion releases tomorrow. Like Wilhelm, I went with the full year subscription option which gave you the expansion “free” with some goodies like the “Landslide” mount.

After the great pre-expansion patch soul reset, I was a bit daunted about relearning how to play my main and my stable of alts. After a few weekends with my instance group character, I think I’ve gotten the hang of my support/dps cleric but State, my warrior, had languished in the high 30s.

Kudos to Trion for solving a number of challenges with one solution–the main city Storm Legion instant Adventure. If you were checking back in to the game before the expansion, the constantly running event in town begged you to join the action. Likewise if you were relearning to play due to the patch changes to souls, here was a great, quick and painless way to do it. And, if you were looking to catch up to the level cap, the raid experience and planarite rewards rained down fast and furious.

Suffice it to say, three days later and voila, ten levels under my belt. I must have known this but forgotten it–once you hit 50, there is an instanced ceremony event to celebrate your, ahem, ascendancy. I’m sure countless thousands have described it, so if you haven’t read about it or experienced it, I wont give spoilers, but I must say its a cool way to recognize the accomplishment. Much better than a mere ding or broadcast achievement. Nicely done.

Level 50 Fireworks in my own private Meridian

So after wondering whether Rift would survive for me after the fall onslaught of releases, I’ve doubled down for the expansion. Bring on the storm.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Rift

 

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A Brief Revisit to Middle Earth

It’s been quite sometime since I’ve spent any appreciable time in LotRO for any number of reasons.  I tend to keep it patched so I can hop in whenever the spirit moves me, but the last few times I’ve logged in I’ve sat paralyzed and logged out five minutes later.  Re-immersing oneself into a game can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel like you’re likely to stay a while.

I haven’t really be a regular festival goer in LotRO’s past events and really hadn’t planned on taking part in this year’s 5th Anniversary Event.  It had all but passed me by when I saw that it had been extended, so for no particular reason, I decided to drop on in, so drop in I did.

The festival was in full swing this weekend with lots of player activity in the main hubs.  This time, however, rather than attempting to pick up where I’d last left off, I ventured into Bree to see what all fun was to be had with the festival.  Thanks to Casual Stroll to Mordor’s festival guide, I quickly had things sussed out and to my surprise, it appeared that both festival mounts could be earned in relatively short order with little grind.

Quite cleverly, several of the quests send you hither and yon across Eriador conveying gifts to NPCs, retrieving lost invitations, setting off fireworks and talking with our old friend Gandalf, participating in horse races in Bree and the Shire and getting into the odd drunken beer brawl at Thorin’s halls.  With just a little forethought, several nice loops can be done taking you to many familiar and iconic landmarks.  Deliciously insidious.

For those of us prone to nostalgia (and LotRO is in many ways nostalgia squared– reminiscences of the game reminiscent of the experience of the books), this is almost dirty pool.  In many ways, LotRO to me has been more of a world in search of a game, but a wonderful and beautiful world and always a visual feast to visit.

Shire Race Grounds Bridge

So after a few of the quests and traipsing over familiar territory, the nostalgia gene kicked in.  So much so, that at least for this weekend, I managed to earn enough anniversary tokens to obtain the Fireworks Laden Steed on my Captain and nearly so on my Runekeeper.  An altogether silly mount that, as the name suggests, is laden with fireworks (which feature prominently in the festival and are quite nicely done), and from time to time lets one loose while riding along.

Two race tokens, 1 mount ownership document (purchasable from an NPC) and 40 Anniversary Tokens later, goal attained.

LotRO 5th Anniversary Festival Fireworks Laden Steed

For me LotRO is one of those games where its just satisfying to be in the world.  Toggling off floating names and just running around enjoying the world isn’t such a bad way to spend a few hours of the weekend.  Yes, I think I’ll be back sooner than later next time.

A trot across the Northern Bree Fields

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Free to Play, LotRO

 

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Pictures on Radio

So, I was sitting there Saturday morning catching up on game blogs and what not while patching Everquest which has now gone free to play.  Part of me felt excited as if it were the next highly anticipated new release and the snarky part of me thought “how exciting, a new ‘release’ of a thirteen year old game”.  I can only imagine how disappointed the uninitiated might be when they finally log in and see how much the old girl lacks by way of modern conveniences and shiny graphics.

That, coupled with reading through Wilhelm’s long but delicious dive through the nostalgia of Air Warrior, got me thinking about why those games held/hold such sway.  In the mindset of the time, it was certainly the excitement of the possible embodied in a new medium.  The fact that you could do anything on through 1200 baud modem was exciting enough.

Immediately the old quote that “the pictures are better on radio” came to mind.  Limitations of the available medium meant that developers of yore were limited in what they could put into the game.  Indeed, in the earliest computer games, barely anything more than the core elements of the game could be represented, let alone a fully rendered three dimensional world.  Sometimes all you got were a few pixels and a line of text.

Of course that left the rest of the game space to be depicted in the mind of the player or at least to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.  Not that this is any shocking discovery or revelation.  Checkers and Chess are just abstracted turn-based military strategy games after all.  D&D begat MUDS which begat 3D RPGS which begat MMORPGs as we know them today (and all the myriad branches of that tree along the way).  With each step of evolution, a bit more of the player’s imagination was no longer required as the world was more fully rendered.

But having revisted some of the early games this last year (TorilMUD, EQ, etc.), I found myself having quite a bit of fun with them and not simply because of the nostalgia factor.  Indeed, living vicariously through Tobold’s and Tipa’s recent pen and paper adventures even has me considering rediscovering D&D.

So I’m left with the question of how much (developer created) environment is needed or desirable to make a game enjoyable?  How much immersion do you gain or lose by rendering more and more of the game environment for the player?  At what point does more become less?  If you make the player do too much work, they’ll disengage, but if you do everything for them, they’ll have no “ownership” of the game environment and they’ll just change channels.

How much is too much?

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Everquest, Free to Play, TorilMUD

 

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Electoral Nostalgia Redux

Put all beverages down and move them away from your monitor.

Enjoy (in its entirety, or most relevantly, from 6:20 onward for the setup, or jump to the money shot at 7:22).

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in World of Warcraft

 

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