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The Inane Ramblings of Devour

OR : How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Game!

Author: Devour

Bay12Games ( And Why I Consider It The Best Community On The Internet )

Posted by Devour Wednesday December 2 2009 at 5:34PM
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Introduction
To those of you that've never heard of Bay12Games ( which I can imagine is a sizeable majority ), it's a development studio that make roguelike games for free. An example of which is their "lead" game, Dwarf Fortress, which is considered - by those who can force themselves through the ASCII graphics and the learning curve equal to EvE Online in difficulty - to be one of the greatest roguelikes - if not games - ever made.
   Now, the community behind this ( on the forums and the IRC ) generally calls themselves B12Gers, for obvious reasons, and it truly is the best community you've ever seen. I probably shouldn't post it on here, as the community is polite ( for the most part, anyway ), educated and has a sort of elitism about it. I'll talk more about it later.

About Dwarf Fortress
Dwarf Fortress is a sort of roguelike ( which means you play with ASCII art, numbers and letters and punctuation etc, and implies a certain type of gaming style ), with a twist based on the fact you are looking after a ( as it suggests on the tin ) fortress of dwarves. You have to play it to get anywhere near understanding it, and I would REALLY suggest that even veteran gamers check out the wiki before they go anywhere near it, possibly picking up a tileset whilst there. ( Which allows you to play the game with graphics, instead of letters and numbers. )
   They have some other, minor, fairly unsupported ASCII / graphical games, which can be quite fun to try out, but they are not the main point of this blogpost.

Why I Consider It The Best Community On The Internet
"Losing is Fun" is the slogan of all B12G games and the community as a whole, because that is what ALWAYS eventually happens in the games - either from the player or the game putting odds up that the player can't face against ( hundreds of goblins, for example ). This really shows in the community, too, as people don't really take the games seriously, and deaths are just a reason to start a new game. The funniest deaths / most epic Fortress sagas are often immortalised in the community and spawn memetic variations to themselves. Example: SomethingAwful's Boatmurdered.
   The forums are next to unmoderated, except to clean up people that're just there purely to annoy people on the forums, such as adbots and spammers. And, yet, it works. Everyone on there is relatively polite ( much more so than on these forums ), and yet there are people that DISLIKE each other - they just get ignored by the community as they do their jibes. Maybe an unmoderated system works better? Who knows.
   And, eventually, it all comes down to the fact it FEELS like a community, people help each other out, there're community game sessions, there're discussions over which roguelikes have the most features etc etc. The discussions can be fairly niche, but there's such a wide variety of topics to be discussed it's got something for everyone.
   But, yes, you really do have to see it for yourself. Have a shot at Dwarf Fortress, listen in to the IRC and browse the forums / wiki for hilarious stories, and see what I've enjoyed for years. I'm Pathos on the forums, so feel free to contact me with anything you'd like to know. Oh, and being a pissant will probably get you banned, for various reasons.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes - Isle of Dawn Review

Posted by Devour Sunday May 31 2009 at 5:58AM
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Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Like it or hate it, there's a high chance that you've heard of it, and probably played it at launch. I heard of it, following it on and off for a couple of years, before it dropped off my radar until it came out. Of course, I avoided it like the plague after I was told it was a huge, buggy grindfest..
  However, recently I heard that they'd released a free 14-day trial, and decided to try it out, have a bash at it and see how the game rolled. After playing it until I completed the Isle of Dawn ( the trial area ) and after doing the Logical Fallacies blog post, I've decided upon doing a review-ish blog about the game itself, interspersed with some advice for people considering playing the game.

Character Creation
It's both daunting and enjoyable to open up the character creation screen and find nineteen races and fifteen classes ( although, unfortunately, not all races can be all classes, which was a bit of a disappointment ). Unlike quite a few other games, the bonuses you get from your race appear to be fairly notable in Vanguard, so I made sure to read the race bonuses to make sure I could min-max. I liked the sound of dreadknights, so I decided to roll one of them, and ended up selecting orc as my race, as they both looked semi-decent and had bonuses that seemed to complement my class choice.
  Then, we went onto server choice, and since I'm a bit of a roleplayer, I chose Seradon, as it is apparently the unofficial roleplaying server, being a merger from a roleplaying server. Next, name choice! I have to say, this was pretty bloody hard. EVERY decent name I thought of was taken ( or at least "Unavailable" ), so I settled on Ashkain, picking the delightful surname of Deathfeast to go with it.
I bet you're all thinking, "Huh, can't you customise your character or something? What the hell is going on?" but it turns out V:SoH decided to do character creation a strange way. You choose your character's appearance post class and race choice, on your first log in to the game. I suspect that you're able to edit your character's appearance whenever you feel like, although I'm not certain of this.
  Anyway, customising appearance is a bit of an awkward topic, it seems. It has an Oblivion-esque "bars" system, where you can change nose length etc, although this always seems to end up with me making an exceptionally ugly character, and just resetting and going with the starting face. However, fortunately for me and undoubtedly unfortunately for people who can actually make semi-decent looking characters, a combination of hood / helm and generic face textures pretty much renders your choices useless, as you end up looking close to the same as others of your race or your face is covered so it doesn't matter. Take heed of the fact that the sheer amount of races means you'll rarely see one of the same, unless you pick the really overplayed races ( generally humans ).

General
The first log in to the game was disgusting, mainly because of the sheer wave of lag and FPS drop I was hit with ( crappy laptop and EU player on a US server, it was really expected ). After a short time of playing with the settings, I was sitting at a reasonable FPS, and trodding off to do some quests.
  Questing is the usual affair, nothing really new to comment on, although the occasional having to actually trawl through conversations to find the information needed or to pick up a hidden quest was both annoying and made being immersed a bit easier. Also, having quests based around the three "spheres" ( crafting, diplomacy and combat ) was both necessary and good for those who enjoy those aspects, and their storylines combined nicely. Some aspects of questing annoyed me a bit, like having to find semi-hidden chests and not being able to go and pick up one at a spot you'd been at. Some of the quests felt like a bit of a grind, too, mainly the diplomacy / crafting ones as I could usually just steamroll them once and they got a bit old after that.
  From what I've heard, the gameworld outside of the Isle of Dawn is absolutely huge, three smaller continents and one absolutely huge one, but luckily you get a mount pretty much from the get go at level 10, so that should make any exploring fanatic feel at home. It seems you can enter pretty much any building, as all the ones on the Isle of Dawn had openable doors, and were fully furnished.
Speaking of homes, apparently there's player housing ( although apparently only in residential areas, unfortunately ) and it can be fairly customised. There is none on the Isle of Dawn, though, so I cannot comment.
  One of the things that struck a note with me was the little system messages you got when you performed an action or left / entered a zone. On occasion, they were a bit silly, but for the most part they added a little bit to the world.

Graphics
Graphically speaking, the game world is quite pretty, although most of it was green / brown-ish apart from the occasional tree ( strangely ). BUT, the characters are a bit poor. They've very, very wooden, and the animations seem like they've had only the minimum of effort put into them, as if attempting to please but not really being bothered if the end result fits completely. The animations aren't as bad as games like Warhammer Online, but they're still pretty damn poor.
  The gritty graphics suit the world a bit, giving it a fairly harsh semi-realistic setting, which is a nice contrast in a fantasy world, as it plays off against the whole magic thing.
Note: I played this game on an awful laptop, so my screenshot graphics will suck utterly. The game will probably be much more appreciated on a higher quality PC.

Combat
Honestly? Nothing new to really see here, except that some of my abilities seemed to give debuffs that I didn't know what they did, and apparently get better off certain debuffs. I had no idea what was going on, and it made me distance myself from the combat a small amount.

PvP
I doubt you're going to get much out of this game if you're a PvP fan. The only things I can see that're PvP are duels and it sounds like there's an arena when you get into the real game. There is a PvP server, but that's apparently highly underpopulated. The game is not balanced around PvP, so don't go into it expecting a fair fight.

Crafting
Ah, now, I have to say, this is where Vanguard shines. To be fair, it's not as good as SWG's was, but it's still different from the industry norm. You see, in Vanguard, you start crafting, and then - as you go through the crafting - you have to try and make sure that you don't run out of action points or utilities, whilst progressing through the crafting and achieving the best grade of item possible. This is not as easy as it sounds, as you come across problems, and have to solve them.
  There are three main crafting "classes" which further branch out into two each, and they offer a fairly wide variety of choice for any player who's interested in it. From what I've heard ( I went blacksmith, so I can't comment ) artificers and outfitters make "buff" items to help you along, and artificers can almost eventually build the majority of a player house by themselves.
Now, onto the crafting itself. For a blacksmith, it went in four "blocks". Harvesting, crafting the components of the items, crafting a secondary component and crafting the item itself. Along the way, I could infuse my items with "dust", which would allow me to give it special properties and make it worthy of being worn, instead of just being a white item.
The crafting, whilst nice and refreshing, did get a bit repetitive after awhile, and I noticed that - if I didn't skill up my individual "proficiencies" of skills ( ie. weaponsmithing ) the item would fail over and over again until I did because I did not get as good as quality work on the individual stages in one of the stages. This was unfortunate, and a bit annoying, but nothing that would REALLY put me off the game - it was just a bit of trouble for me.
Note: Anyone who's going to play the trial, I'd really advise you to pick up a deconstruction kit off one of the general goods vendors, as they give you dusts / resources from deconstructing magical items or occasionally an item that vendors for about two silver, which is a nice payback.

Diplomacy
Something that seems quite new in an MMO, diplomacy is basically a card game within the game, in which you attempt to control the conversation for an arbitrary amount of turns, in a tug of war-esque minigame.It's fairly hard to describe, you have to play it to get it properly.
  Sadly, it seems that Sigil / SOE let us down majorly here because, from what I've heard, diplomacy is little more than a means to another sphere's means. This leads to a diplomat being little more than a buffbot for other characters as he convinces NPCs of his cause, which leads them to buff all nearby players. It could've been a much better thing if a group of diplomats could've convinced a town to join their faction or whatever, but maybe we'll see a similar system in a game in the future.
  Note: If you're going to do diplomacy, make a strategy that limits one of the enemy's abilities, like flattery, as that'll stop the harder ones from using their best moves.

Lore
Something that annoyed me a bit about Vanguard was how utterly bland the lore is. For the most part, games developers aren't the best writers, and I think we can accept that ( and they could hire a professional writer, or something ), but when it's a really, REALLY typical setting like this, it's a bit annoying. Someone in the regional chat said something like, "Vanguard has the most lore out of any fantasy setting I've seen." Well, it might have, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's GOOD or CLEVER. I don't know, your mileage may vary.

Conclusion ( 7/10 )
I don't know what to make of Vanguard. It's got a large world, player housing, nice crafting and a decent "diplomacy" system, but I don't know if it's worth my £8.99 per month at the moment. It feels like something's missing, but I might end up finding that on the mainland. I also don't know if the game has a huge amount of longetivity, since it doesn't really seem to be supported much by Sony, which is a huge shame. I'll probably just try some more classes and professions and see how it rolls from there.
  I DO, however, advise you all to try the trial and see what you make of it. You may find the home you've been looking for for so long.

P.S. All of this was written post-playing the game, so I may have messed up somewhere and gotten something wrong, or just said something silly. Please, do correct me, and give lots of bumps! ( That button's at the top. ) Also, I'm quite willing to take any requests for future games to do the trials of, so make comments!

Logical Fallacies!

Posted by Devour Saturday May 30 2009 at 10:38AM
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The Law of Fives states simply that:
All things happen in fives,
Or are divisible by or are multiples of five,
Or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to five.
The Law of Fives is never wrong.

Forums are a place for discussion, and discussion can be something that can breed intelligent thinking and creative influence, flowering a special new creation or train of thought that wil eventually lead to us toppling our reptilian overlords and taking back the planet that is rightfully ours!
    Unfortunately, that's pretty much in the minority. And, I mean, like one thread in a hundred, maybe a thousand, maybe a google. I don't know, I'm just making these numbers up on the spot. But, yeah, it's really often that you'll see the chance of logical, intelligent discussion trampled under the boot of general stupidity.
   However, the absolute worst thing for an argument, and I mean the WORST, has to be someone using a logical fallacy. This is basically when someone makes a conclusion from a set of two statements that doesn't make sense. That's summing it up. Greatly.
   You can keep an eye for them, though, and either point out the fallacy, making yourself look clever and a bit of a git, or just ignore them, which is probably the best idea since most of the time whatever you're going to say is going to be wrong. Now, onto the show!

Ad Hominem Argument ( Argument against the Man )
Probably the most common thing used in discussion is an ad hominem attack, which is basically where a person attempts to get rid of another's points via a general attack on that target's ability to talk about a subject. It can be a logical fallacy for a variety of reasons, from things such as that person doesn't need to be qualified to discuss the subject at hand or that the person has got advice from another person.

Note: You also have reverse ad hominem attacks, such as an appeal to authority, which is where a person attempts to suggest that, since someone knows about a subject, they are correct on that subject. This almost certainly cannot be true, and therefore is a logical fallacy.

Example:
Timmy makes a complaint about Game X.
Jimbob suggests that Timmy cannot complain about Game X, because he is not a games developer.
Timmy does not need to be a developer to complain, and therefore Jimbob has done a logical fallacy ALL over the floor.
( This example is technically also a deductive fallacy. See below. )

There is one thing to remember about ad hominem attacks, though, and that is that they need to be in the same style as all other attacks, otherwise they are merely insults. For example, if someone calls you stupid without another statement behind it, that is just merely an insult, not an ad hominem attack. So, don't be stupid and say that someone calling you stupid is doing an ad hominem attack as you're then proving you're stupid. Okay? However, some ad hominem attacks may be insults, and should be treated as such.

Deductive Fallacies ( A + B = C )
That insults bit there has brought us on smoothly to deductive fallacies, which are where two - potentially true - statements add up to a conclusion that is not necessarily true. I'd guess these are probably the second most used fallacies in the entire world, although they're often hidden by verbal diarrhoea.

Example:
Most ad hominem attacks are insults.
Most insults are insulting.
Therefore, most ad hominem attacks are insulting.

Second Example:
All people who troll this game hate it.
Jimmy hates this game.
Therefore, Jimmy is a troll.

Non Sequitur ( False Cause )
Moving onto the next fallacy, we've got the non sequiturs, which is a fallacy based around the idea that one thing follows another, when it does not. Pretty often used, you'll probably hear them yourself.

Example:
I pray every night, so this game will be great.

Verbal Fallacy
My second to last fallacy, the verbal fallacy is obtained through improper or ambiguous use of wording or grammar, giving a false conclusion.

Example:
Game D is better than nothing.
Nothing is better than Game W.
Therefore, Game D is better than Game W.

Proof by Intimidation ( Proof by Verbosity )
The final fallacy ( for today, anyway ), proof through verbosity is something you'll see rarely used, although - when you do - the person will often have never been called out about it and therefore usually take up page sprawls with utter dogpoop. This fallacy comes from someone intimidating a forum / person through a great deal of writing, with little substance usually, and therefore claiming victory simply through the unwillingness from anyone to try and unravel their post to make sense of it or to find out if there is any substance in.

Fin

( By the way, if any of you are interested, I'll go into detail about the lesser fallacies within the larger groups, or just do more fallacies in general. It's nice to help out a little bit. )

Religion, Opium of the Masses

Posted by Devour Tuesday October 28 2008 at 5:34PM
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To diverse gods
Do mortals bow;
Holy Cow, and
Wholly Chao.

 

Welcome to the second of a long maybe not so much awaited but still definitely happening right now blog on the state of game designer's ability to distinguish between erotica, games and marching armies of fingers with little acorns for helmets.
   Religion is probably the largest, most influential thing in the world. It influences morals, law, mores, EVERYTHING. And, yet, it's probably the least looked at thing in MMOs, no doubt because developers are scared of pissing someone, somewhere, off. In a realistic, grim setting, we'd see very little from gods, prayers going unrewarded, day to day life trotting on with boredom and toil, no real point in praying.
   But, most MMOs aren't real life, are they? Gods could do wondrous deeds, change the world, punish their flock for not following the precepts of their faith, reward them with artifacts and magic to herald their religion.
   But, no. Instead we get a few quest descriptions that mention it, and some fluff in the manual. We have paladins grouping with practitioners of dark magic and stealing from the innocent, whereas they'd be excommunicated at the very least for these acts.
   Anyway, moving onto the point, instead of the shaft of the cucumber, developers are missing out on a major point of contention, which would really sway the roleplaying masses in their favour. The ability to found your own faith, to create sects and splits off. Anything, just give a few GMs the power to roleplay Gods, and you have a new, bright dawn for mortals.
   Now, onto how this fits into this blog. For the most part, religion has been a reason for war, conflict and conquest, and I envision it would be the same in an MMO that included the system. Your God orders you to go kill someone? Damn, you better do it, otherwise you might be stripped of your powers granted by him or her, OR IT DUN DUN DUNNNN. But, yes, the idea of divine mandates with appropriate rewards would mean players quickly factionalised into worshipping a god, maybe pantheons slowly emerging as they came together under a single banner.
   Religion is, in the end, just one of the many, many, MANY missing features from MMOs, due to developers instead focusing on a linear quest grind, rather than simple systems which would increase the enjoyability factor of each MMO tenfold.

FOR THE LAZY GITS

- Religion is a major driving force in real life, for pretty much everything, despite not having a major basis.
- Religion in fantasy has a major basis and should be a major driving force, but most game developers as a whole seem to ignore this.
- Introducing a cleverly designed religious system into an MMO would lead to an increase in complexity and enjoyability to roleplayers from this.

Conflict, Slave Mistress Of Politics

Posted by Devour Monday February 11 2008 at 9:49AM
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Greater Poop: Is Eris true?
Malaclypse the Younger: Everything is true.
Greater Poop: Even false things?
Malaclypse the Younger: Even false things are true.
Greater Poop: How can that be?
Malaclypse the Younger: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

Welcome to the first of quite possibly five or six or maybe even eight different blog articles on various things wrong with games, gamers, cucumbers and implements of the mildly erotic nature. I myself enjoy magické mosté darké, and I hope you do - too. So, enough dimtroductions, let's get on with the Greatest Show On MMORPG.com.
   To start, I'm a fan of roleplaying. I lament every foul blow I feel against our ancient brethren, the storyline, and I weep at the cold feel of mechanics before lore. I enjoy all kinds of roleplaying, high or small. Tavernkeep, soldier, dragonslayer, king? All of them are unique, all of them important. All of them interesting to someone. But, when you dig down to it, they - if correctly implemented in their role - all revolve around conflict, some more than others. All can see the soldier and dragonslayer's conflict, their plying their trade in slaughter and fighting. The King's conflict is in the Courts, convincing and bribing and all else, in the name of keeping his position for his children. But, where is the conflict for the Tavernkeep? Where is his business against others?
   In limited resources, of course! If there is not enough barley to go around, not enough adventurers to visit his pub, what does he do? Kills off his opponents? Maybe, but it will reflect badly on the Tavernkeep who did it. This, my friends and lovers, if the essence of politics. Being able to kill someone in order to get your goal done will cause others to fear you, but to despise you - too. You may be able to crush your enemies, only to turn around and your former allies are ganging up on you.
   He could, of course, have done it better another way. He could've made a few Tavernkeep friends, made a Union and driven out the ones he didn't like, consolidating a friendly reign for a short time. Again, conflict has driven this, player versus player has driven this. Without PvP, and the ability to seriously threaten someone, you'd have ended up with a load of whining c*nts complaining about how little barley they had and how no one was buying it.
   The best part of this is, you don't even need a huge amount of support with a complete PvP base, players can sort out their own troubles. A job system would have to be put in, and wages, but other than that it'd be good. Did that kind just cheat you out of your reward for disposing of the dragon? Regicide, me thinks.
   Nevermind the players policing it themselves. Some idiot being OOC and spamming /dance and /hug? Crush them beneath the iron gauntlet for being insane. A person abusing the powers of royalty to cause the guards to throw your friends in jail? Crush them. Your mother making you go to bed early because you're probably about ten and will cry in the morning? Find out if she plays the game, and crush her.
   I'm sure people'll point out flaws, but they're the kind of people who eat hot dog buns with hot dogs, so I'll ask myself, "Gee Devour, what do you want to do tonight?" and reply to myself in a slightly evil tone, "The same thing we do every night, Devour—Try to take over the world!"

IN CONCLUSION FOR LAZY GITS

- Conflict drives real life.
- PvP, direct or indirect, drives games.
- Both drive politics, and therefore roleplaying.

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