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As Seen on TV

Simply want to talk about games, in a neutral light, the pros, the cons, and of course toss in my own personal opinion, right or wrong doesn't matter, because I don't see it as such.

Author: WolfClaws

ShadowRun... 'nuff said chummer.

Posted by WolfClaws Wednesday May 14 2008 at 2:37PM
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Symbol of Shadowrun in a Die

 

Ok, I am on a roll with this blog thing.  So I am going to continue with another entry.

This time, I want to talk about ShadowRun.  For those of you who do not know what SR is... Allow me the pleasure  to be the first to enlighten you.

Before I begin, it is NOT the game released last year for Xbox 360 and PC.  That is a great game in it's own right, but it isn't ShadowRun.  Not by a longshot.

SR takes place in the future, about 80 years from now.  Well it does now I think.  The world has been jacked up by natural disasters, Megacorperations forming and countries taking a backseat to politics of Megacorps and nations that were formed within their borders.  What nations?  Well, the Native-Americans finally got some land back, and hold a prominant amount south of Seatle, the Elves have their around near there as well and pretty much own Ireland.  Along with other natural inhabitants.

Elves?  Did I say elves?  Yes.  But never trust and elf.  There was a virus that broke out Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome or VITAS.  It rewrote the individual's DNA and changed them very painfully into something.  Most became Elves, Orks (yes that is spelled correctly), Dwarves, while some turned into Trolls, fewer into Gouls, and rarer yet Wendigos, and other humanoid monstrousities.  Animals turned into other creatures as well... along with the emergance of Dragons.  Dragons are rare, and few are actually recognized by society as a citizen.  Some are even heads of Corporations and have jobs within, but never deal with a dragon and never turn your eyes from one.

With this happening, there was a Ghost dance conducted by the Native Americans that is rumored and believed to have brought magic into the world and disrupted the non-redman enough for them to reclaim their lands.  With magic came about the mages who bent those forces to their will and those who lived in harmony with their land, be it a forest, swamp, sewer, city or whatever, and these shamans were equally as powerful and rare.  All mages are rare, and if you have a mage as a friend, you are in great shape.

Keep in mind, this is the future.  You have VTOL aircraft, complex weaponry to include hand held railguns, and cybernetics.  Yes, this is where the term Street Samurai came from.  These warriors have so much meat taken out of their body and replaced by the cyberware that they are faster, quicker, stronger and can see and shoot with deadly accuracy.

Cyberware didn't only enhance the physical attributes of the person, but it also enhanced their perception.  Have you ever loved your car so much that you wish you could talk with it?  Well in Shadowrun ,you can.  These people are known as Riggers.  They interface directly with their vehicles, be it an aircraft, unmanned drones, car, van, whatever.  And some powerful weaponry could be attached to these drones.

On the flip side, you had a computer internet like nothing you have ever seen before, where you could actually jack in and see what happens inside.  The Matrix.  And no, nothing to do with the movies, this came before the movies.  Enter the Decker.  The decker is a hacker extrordinaire who prides themselves in breaking into security systems within the Matrix by defeating ICE (Intrusion Countermeasures).  These can be deadly to the Decker, fry their brain, their cyberdeck, or trace the owners of the system to his meat and have a team terminate or capture him on the spot, defenseless while in the Matrix.

Wow, that is a lot of info isn't it?

Where is this coming from?  Well, I got a bug crawling up my butt and ordered a ShadowRun novel, started reading it and ate it up fast.  Then I started to look around for more ShadowRun.  Why?  Duh, because the world is so expansive, and so many different layers of things that could happen.  Deckers hacking through the Matrix, battling deadly computer programs or other Deckers.  Riggers fighting remotely alongside their comrades.  Street Samurai moving with an inhuman quickness and laying waste to anything they want dead or disabled.  Mages shifting their vision to enter the Astral plane highly vulnerable, but able to see what things truely are, and shift themselves back into their bodies and cast spells or conduct rituals of summoning or whatnot...

Oh , but you don't know what a ShadowRunner is do you?  Everyone is issued a System Identification Number or SIN in the future.  There are some individuals that do work that the MegaCorps don't want traced back to them.  Some want to steal information, others to kidnap another company's worker, or you are extracting a worker because they wish to defect, and all sorts of other things.  These Runners do not have a SIN, and live in the shadows waiting for a Mr Johnson (the guy who is paying to have them do the Run) to need some work done.

Anyhow, this tabletop game isn't really printing anything anymore.  Everything is virtual as far as sourcebooks and whatnot, and with MicroSoft trying to maintain a grip on the IP, only to have it slip through their fingers, it made things all that more difficult for this game to thrive like it should.

I have even gone as far as contacting the current owner of the IP about my thoughts on a MMO for ShadowRun.  Haven't heard anything at all back them... Not surprised.

 

Anyhow, what are your thoughts on ShadowRun?

 

Some novels you could read if you are interested.  Most are out of print but still good reads http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Shadowrun_books#Novels

Unfinished Games Gone Gold

Posted by WolfClaws Wednesday May 14 2008 at 1:27PM
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I have seen all too often the accepted industry standard of products being labled gold and released that are unfinished in the gaming world.

Well, not just the gaming world, but with Vista as well...

You have games being developed for years, tested, new content added, a whole lot of hype, and then it is labled gold, and BOOM! you have a beta version of the game that you paid $50 for and $15 a month.

This is true for City of Heroes/Villians, Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest II, World of Warcraft, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars Galaxies (all 5 versions of the game), Hellgate London and a number of games that are too expansive to list here.

Ultima Online did it right.  Was it buggy?  Yeah.  Did it have patches? Yup. Why did they release a MMO completed?  Because back then, if your product wasn't finished, it didn't get released. 

Now, don't get me wrong... there is no way that all bugs can get squashed before release... some you have to do a certain way, dance around like "an egyptian" naked near a campfire using pine wood on a full moon to experience it.  But obvious bugs that some manager goes up and says " I think it is cost effective to release this" screws up the experience for most everyone.

And it isn't just the bean counters causing problems too.  You have those stark raving fans that go absolutely nuts!  "What??!!! the game was delayed?? Again?!!!  WTF! "   Those people drive me insane.  You would think they were the Xbox Live kiddies that are notorious for cursing up a storm with their high pitched voices wondering where mommy is to wash their mouth out with soap... No, these are full grown adults, some are white-collared workers drawing in $50-70k a year.  Whining and crying that makes them indistinguishable from the kids I hear on Xbox Live.

So where do we draw the line?  What is the defining point from which one can safely say, "this game is good enough to release?"  Personally, I think that statement is skewed anyways.  "Good Enough".. That is what  the slacker says who wants to be done with something so they can do something else. He does a half-assed job and expects to be rewarded for it.

Pirates of the Burning Sea is a good example of Developers and Dreams clashing and hurting them more than helping.  Just when the game was finished, done and ready to roll.. They said, let's throw in Avatar combat... Then they said, well we have them running around on the ship fighting,,, let's allow them to walk around port now.  And they kept on adding things to the game, beyond the original design.  This caused them to be set back for a couple of years, but it wasn't yet finished, and they released it as "good enough".  Well it wasn't good enough, as there is only so much you can do in the game. 

Before the fanbois start hitting me... I like PotBS, but can only handle so much at a time.  And the developers already discussed as how they wish they released the game when it was originally done before adding avatar stuff to it.  I am just repeating what they said and agreeing.. It was a mistake.

There was one game that was released, and for the life of me, I cannot remember the name of it, but they basically had to freeze all paid accounts for two or three months because the bugs and server stability was so horrible AFTER it was sold in the stores, they couldn't take the money from the consumer.  Was that Anarchy Online?  Bah, I can't remember.

But speaking of which, AO was SO damn buggy it was horrible.  The promise of the first instanced home was never working, no place to store your goods, bugged AI for pets, and mobs... Funcom had great ideas, but they published a crap product because it was unplayable.  I remember going back though and my fixer being like 150 or something then.  The game had improved.  Now, the game (you can play free if you start a new account....) has improved in stability, playability, but the graphics are so outdated it is like playing Asheron's Call (this game was great but graphics are so horrible by today's standards).  I am told that Anarchy Online will be receiving a huge UI and graphics overhaul later this year.. If happens, I'll be revisiting Rubi-Ka again.

With the unfinished games, should the gamers be compensated for their being true to the game?  Even with all the bugs?  If they are, how should they be rewarded?  Reduced subscriptions?  Should the game even be sold before it is fixed?  Should publishers just allow free downloads of the game, and subscription fees at a reduced price until the game is fixed?  Then when the game is ready and true gold, then freeze the accounts until they get the game from a retailer?  But able to keep their account?

So many questions, and no answers, save one.  It is a sad fact, that even I would do this, if a gamer wants to play a game, they will go out, buy it, endure through the bugs and warping, they will.  Very sad fact and for this reason publishers will not alter how they do business.

AoC, Age of Crap or Age of Coolness?

Posted by WolfClaws Tuesday May 13 2008 at 10:03AM
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Well, the time is near and people are getting anxious.

 

Should I buy AoC?

Should I wait?

Is it crap?

I am here to help answer some questions...

First thing people need to understand.  A Beta is NOT a Demo. 

Funcom did screw the pooch on this game in reguards to the hardware requirements.  Yeah, I said it. 

It is like Vista.  Now I like Vista and no, I am not a fanboi.  I like it a lot, but Microsoft was devious in making the system requirements unrealistic for the current age of computers.  If your computer was not a really nice system, you would experience hiccups or slowdowns or just plain frustraition.

Age of Conan is much like that and more.

Now, all anyone has to call experience with Age of Conan is the beta. Keep in mind folks, that the beta is just that a beta.  Webster defines a beta as "a nearly complete prototype of a product (as software) <released in beta> <the beta version>".   Note the "nearly complete prototype".  And a prototype is "a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction" according to Webster.

Ok, so what does all that mean?  Well, if you were making a shelf to hang up on your wall, and you have a bunch of tools that are needed like a handsaw, a circular saw, sandpaper, some pencils, a drill, screws and nails all over the place... And as you are finishing this single shelf you decide to get a little fancy with it and instead of making it rectangle like everyone elses, you add some curves to it.  Now your neighbor comes in and sees you working on this single shelf and he sees a big mess of saw dust, tools everywhere, lines drawn on the wood, the wood not even cut right.  So he things immediately you don't have a clue what you are doing.

That is a beta.

So you try again.  You use your tools more effectively, there is an even bigger mess because you haven't clean up yet, but your fancy shelf is looking a lot better.  Unfortunately, you still have your old shelf laying around and all the tools, saw dust, and your new shelf looks better, but you haven't sanded it down or anything, so it still looks a little rough.  Your neighbor comes by again and thinks you are either incompetent, or that you have a pretty gnarly shelf.

Age of Conan beta, both the PvP Weekend and Open Beta had the debugging tools and files running at the same time as the client, and there was bloat code that may have been deemed unnecissary and yet remained for whatever reason.  That is expected with a beta.

Whatever bugs and irritations that come with a beta, AoC has HUGE system requirements.  And this is a good example of those with the bigger system will have an advantage over others.  I have helped hundreds of people on the AoC public boards with their systems and sadly a lot of people have computers that are old. I dont mean 2 years old I mean 5 or 6 years old and a DELL or HP... I won't get started on that right now, but I will say,,, Use a computer boutique, don't use the big companies... you will get more for your money if you do.

Was Funcom smart going that route with the heavy system requirements?  Only the future will know.  Is it a good time to upgrade or build a new computer now?  Hell yes.  Prices for parts that came out 2 years ago (what AoC was built around) is dirt cheap.  You could build your own system for $600 that will run AoC pretty well. 

Then comes the question "Why would anyone buy a computer to play a game?"  Ok, well that is something a non gamer would ask, but we all know the answer.  And that leads to a whole other debate.  I ain't going into that now, this is going to be long without it.

I mentioned that players with a better system will have an advantage over others with a lower end system.  It is true and here is why.  Older games you can adjust your viewing distance without taking a huge system hit.  AoC, you do it with a computer not good enough and you will have yourself frustraition beyond belief with the stuttering and video lag and crashes.  Same holds true for particle effects.

I know... "Dude what does that have to do with advantages?"  I will answer, but you PvPer's don't be flaming me for giving out the secrets, but on the Free For All servers (FFA) and border keeps, you can actually see someone running around before they can see you with those settings turned up.  Partical Effects distance?  Same thing.... that Demonologist being cool casting lightning on his mobs, well dude, that lights you up like a Christmas tree for those who have their settings up.

Right or Wrong, Funcom opened that door...

Button mashing people have called AoC.  I say, you haven't played the game.  Autoattacks ARE nice, when you are grinding.. but it is lame.  Especially for those who are killing things afk.  I like the attack sequence in AoC, and will the possible decapitation get old?  Maybe after the millionth time, but you know what? Who Cares.  I mean really, the melee is interesting, very very interesting and no one has done it, and the only one who came close to it was DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online) and City of Heroes/Villains.  And an even closer representation would be Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with the attack direction coming from your movement.  This makes it simpler and your combos are not impossible to get off, but you can mess up on em, especially in PvP.

PvP... it is fast.  Very very fast.  Faster than any I have ever seen. I think they need to slow things down a bit, as you tend to kill or die before you realize it.  Now this is group PvP... One on one PvP is a bit more definative, even though the Ranger is still very very powerful.  One on One PvP lasts about 30 seconds, tops, unless you run.

The visuals in this game are over the top, and aside from the beta graphical glitches, I say that this game has outdone itself in that department.  The shadows and lighting techniques really give the world a breath of life.

The "instancing" is one thing that has been in heated debate with AoC.  Let me explain how the "instancing" works.  You take one city, Tortage, and you make 10 exact copies and throw players in each of those copies, and that is instancing.  AoC does this for all their areas.  Now, the lands they explore are "instanced" but it is huge.  And when I say huge, I mean it will take you awhile to run around and explore it all kinda huge.  So yes you have load times, but it is large enough that it won't happen often.  And it is "instanced" and you are free to change to difference instances to meet up with your friends.  And the instance your friends are in are shown on the friends list for your conveinence.  Honestly, it isn't that bad, nor is it noticable.

The grouping of friends... AoC seemed to be pretty sharp on this.  Bascially, after you are shipwrecked, you are alone in a solo instance.  You are in it for about an hour, if that, and you get to level 5 where you enter Tortage and are with other people.  Cool beans, right?  Not exactly.

You now have your Destiny Quest line to follow and this can only be done Solo... Yeah, solo.  And you have to do this quest line which scales to your level, by the way, and depending on your base class can be pretty rough.  But it takes you away from your friends in groupage.

On top of this, but after Tortage is no longer available you are transported to your Race's home city.  So if your guild or friends are not of the same race, you have a small problem.  Oh, I forgot to mention, if you are on a FFA server, you will be alone if no other guildmate is near you, so you are easy pickings for the packs of PKer's out there. 

I do not know if you can go to the other racial cities right off the bat, so to give AoC a fair shake, I cannot answer that.

 

I think I am going to be done for now, but that is a lot of reading and good luck to you if you do choose to play.  I will be in game.

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