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Chryses's articles and reviews

A gamer for over 25 years. I play cards, boardgames, table top games, PC stand alone but more than anything I am a huge MMO fan. I go by the name Chryses, I have been Guild leader, trooper and crafter. I am an avid writer and I welcome you to my blog.

Author: chryses

The Hunger Within Chapter 5

Posted by chryses Thursday October 7 2010 at 9:10AM
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For first 4 chapters read below.  Chpt 5 is my favourite so far.
 
Chapter 5
 
For the first time in two weeks, the clone was able to stare down from the platform where she was held each night.  Today, for some reason, they had removed the black linen bag from her head.  There may be an alternative motive but she was grateful for being able to breathe in the cool desert air at least.  Below and directly in front of her vantage point, a few dozen Survivalists mingled in the main open area, whilst others ran from one place or another on some important errand.  Her instincts told her something was about to happen and it was no coincidence that she was allowed to watch. 
 
Not knowing if or how long she had before the sack was replaced, she took the opportunity to register her surroundings as much as possible.  The fortress was roughly an oval shape with walls climbing up to twenty feet or more.  The main staging area was approximately two hundred metre’s in circumference, and approximately thirty metres apart, galvanised ramps stretched awkwardly up to the fortifications which provided access to the four corner towers.  Two guards armed with ranged weapons manned each tower with another eight patrolling the walls.  She tugged at her restraints but it was no use, her ankles and wrists were clamped with three inch wide iron braces, which were connected to a steel pin bolted to the natural stone face that rose up behind her.  Blind folded each night, she was guided up one of the twisted ramps and secured in the same position, arms outstretched with legs pinned together.  She wondered if there was a religious motive to keep her in a crucifixion position, or maybe it was just pure sadism, she guessed the latter.  Whatever the reason, it pained her greatly, by morning the cramps in her arms, back and legs was almost unbearable, but she refused to show any signs of suffering to her tormentors.
 
Down to the right of the main area, she saw most of the captured children. Penned into small cages, roughly five feet wide and three feet high, the prisoners were rammed into a tiny space with barely enough room to sit, some of the older, taller children, had to rest with their heads bent forward or to one side.  For some unobvious reason two prisoners were separated and had ample room to themselves.  I wonder if they hit me more than the others, she thought.  To the left of their cages an underground den housed several large dogs that looked like a cross between a blight wolf and coyote.  It was hard to judge how many there were as their shaggy bodies were obscured by a metal grille that lay across the top of their enclosure.  Just at that moment, a piece of grating bounced up and a large snout baring long fangs pushed through, two handlers armed with spiked whips quickly pounced on the creature, lashing its muzzle until it succumbed and eventually retreated with a whimper. 
 
She noticed the numbers below had swelled past sixty or so and it was if the Survivalists were suddenly appearing out of the walls.  She didn’t see it the first time but the fortifications also made up most of the housing for the raiders.   Wrecked cars and other large scrap heaps not only made up part of the fortification but acted as sleeping quarters for the residence that lived here.  The monstrosity reminded her of a bee hive with a metal comb like structure, which was used to house most of its workers.  Her sharp eye counted enough accommodation for approximately half of the population below, so she surmised that additional quarters were concealed somewhere.  Her thoughts were cut short as the crowd below started to holler and bang random objects against the metal walls, the thunderous ding reverberated against the ramparts and roared out into the desert sky.
 
From her restricted position on the wall she heard the shouts from the prisoner before she saw him.  Eventually coming into her line of view, two stocky guards ordered the crowd to part as they dragged a shackled man between them, most moved out of the way but a few defiant raiders lashed out with a kick or knee.  One of the participants was rewarded with savage hook from the right escort; with a thud he hit the ground unmoving, those closest to him, laughed and immediately used their fellow Survivalist for kicking practice, one whooped with delight as he continued to stamp on his head.  The clone shook her head in shock; even throwbacks had a rudimentary level of kinship and loyalty to each other.  What she witnessed made her question if she was more human than those below her. 
 
Eventually the guards made it to the centre of the crowd.  It was the first time she had a good look at him, immediately her heart sank to the pit of her stomach.  “Bullet!” She screamed out, but the man had his back to her and her broken voice failed to reach his ears.  Dejected, she hung her head and let the tears stream down her chin.  Perhaps I’m wrong she thought, but she was sure it was her beloved.  Incapable of brushing the tears from her eyes, she blinked furiously and shook her head so she could focus once more.  One guard was busy fending off the rabid crowd whilst the other quickly clamped the prisoner to a metal pole in the centre of the main clearing.  She assumed it was the very same one she was tied to each day for her, so called, training sessions.  The prisoner’s voice was hoarse from screaming, and what was left of it was drowned out from the deafening ding, but it was obvious the man begged for mercy. 
 
Almost as quickly as the noise had erupted, a hush settled over the crowd.  The only sound came from the hounds in their underground enclosure, the handlers now armed with wooden stakes, jabbed at the beasts in what seemed to be an attempt to infuriate them.   Enraged by the Survivalists above them, they slammed their backs into the roof of their enclosure, with each blow she could see their matted hair poking through the grilles.  She watched the unfolding scene in disgust, such raw hatred and brutality could only be found in humans, and most humans have the nerve to call us clones an abomination, she thought.  Strangely no one else seemed to notice the display, the crowd now numbering well over a hundred were too transfixed on something directly below her.  Then, as one, they began to chant.
 
SANDMAN! SANDMAN! SANDMAN!  The crowd stomped their feet in time with each other, before long, clouds of dust swirled around the interior of the fortress, fine grit flung up by the human stampede blended with the gusty desert winds.  Turning her head, she tried to shield her eyes as she was suddenly struck with a blast of fine sand.  By now the crowd had reached fever pitch, some had even climbed the walls in pursuit of an optimum spot. Holding on with one arm, they leaned out attempting to gain a better view, hardly surprised, the clone watched with morbid fascination, as so called comrades and friends resorted to atrocious violence as they tried to compete over the same piece of real estate..
 
Like a celebrity greeting his fanatical fans, a tall, straight backed man with his arms raised above his head, stepped into her view.  He was unusually dressed for a Survivalist, unlike the others who wore trash as much as clothing, he was adorned in what looked like military fatigues right down to his matching cap.  In his right hand he carried a long blade, judging from the glint that ran up and down the edge it was obviously well kept and could be an indication that the man was of military training.  What the hell is he doing here?  Following in roughly two lines, six guards followed to the left and right of him, they also wore fatigues but judging from the cut and the way they fitted, she quickly surmised, that unlike their leader, the uniforms were not specifically tailored for them. 
  
The crowd were reaching fever pitch and for a brief moment, she thought they would turn on each other, already a handful of shoving matches had developed into full fist fights, each accompanied by their own small rabid crowd.  The leader, now in the middle of the clearing, motioned for quiet and the frenzy below slowed and finally came to a stand still, combatants dragged themselves off the floor and surprisingly, helped to dust each other off.  Their prophet like leader stood there, his arms in the air like some messiah blessing his devoted followers.  An uneasy silence was maintained for what felt like minutes, the crowd watched, waiting in anticipation for what was to come.
 
Then it erupted, with a rhythmic thunderous boom a noise vibrated throughout the fortifications.  The beat pulsated up through the railing, across the metal floor and into her legs.  The leader roared out and as one the crowd joined with manic fervour.  The sound continued and she froze in awe.  This was pre fallout music!  Although the quality was poor the words started to materialise above the howling guitar and furious drumming.  “….DON’T FORGET MY SON...TO...INCLUDE EVERYONE” 
 
The leader started to shuffle his feet in time with the beat, with each rhythmic thump, he moved ever closer towards the prisoner and the pole.  “I…TUCK YOU IN…WALKWITHIN” It wasn’t the first time the crowd had heard this song, most had caught up with the words and were happily bellowing them out with insane delight.  The prisoner, who had remained strangely quiet until now, lifted his head and twisted his neck to see what was happening behind him.  Catching sight of the military style leader and his razor sharp blade, he began throwing his body forward trying to break the shackles that bound him.  Their voices swelled up once more in time with the music.  “KEEP YOU… FREEFROM SIN.”  
 
The leader now stood in front of the prisoner, his vigilant bodyguards fanned out in a semi circle, watching the crowd for any zealous fan or possible contract killer.  As he rocked back and forth to the beat, he raised his sword above the prisoners head.  The clone screamed, the man cried and the blade fell.  Yet, the prisoner remained unscathed.  The Survivalists roared in approval as their chief missed on purpose and pretended to be embarrassed. He put his unarmed hand up to his mouth and looked out to his yelping fans with an exaggerated look of shock.  Those closest to him applauded feverishly, the music continued.  “SLEEP… WITH ONEEYEOPEN…” The sword fell again and again, each time edging closer to the prisoner.  With each failed stroke the crowd laughed, clapped more and sang louder. “GRIPPING YOUR… PILLOW TIGHT!”  With small satisfaction she watched the horrified children huddled together in their pens.  Even though they are forced to beat me, at least they are not fully corrupted…yet.
 
“EXIT LIGHT!”  This time the blade didn’t miss.  The prisoner screamed in pain as the blade dug deep into his thigh.  The clone still unsure if the man tied to the post was Bullet dropped her head in despair and this time she didn’t try to blink her tears away. “ENTER NIGHT!” Another roar and she heard him scream once more, unable to watch, she knew he had been cut again.  “TAKE MY HAND!” There were two more screams, the second substantially weaker than the first.  Raising her head, she forced herself to watch, she must know if it was her adored Bullet or not.  Her swollen red eyes widened in disbelief.  Unshackled, the man very much alive but severely hamstrung, was being dragged by two handlers towards an open hole above the enraged hounds.
 
Venom pumped through her veins, the raw hatred that swelled in her chest, actually surprised her.  She could only think of murder, although it really wasn’t, what she wanted was a cure.  The only option left for these cursed creatures was complete and utter extermination.  Their presence, even in the wastelands, was a virus that needed to be eradicated, forever. Even if one was left, it would be a like a cancer untreated and it would eventually spread, suffocating the land and those on it.  Steeled by her resolve, she forced herself to watch, she welcomed the hatred now and the scene unfolding in front of her only fuelled her loathing.  “WE'RE…OFF TO NEVER NEVER-LAND!”
 
The man finally succumbed and ceased struggling.  She watched as they dragged him by the heels towards the raised grate, his boots had only reached the edge, when three large jaws locked on to his feet. Like a loaded spring suddenly released, the rest of him flew down into the hole. Savage sounds erupted from the enclosure, grilles bounced up and down as the creatures underneath fought over, what must be a rare meal…or not.   Survivalist not wanting to miss the entertainment leapt off walls and rushed to the pits edge.  The clone watched, numb to the core she kept her eyes on the sickening spectacle, remember this, she told herself. Remember…
 
The sounds of the death had stopped along with the pre fallout music.  The leader had the crowd under control once more.  Addressing them she could hear his voice but they were too far away to understand their meaning.  On a few occasions the crowd would whistle and cheer in response to something he had said.  Then she noticed something, the odd one or two survivalists were staring at her.  More turned around and it wasn’t long before the one hundred strong crowd, all pointed at her position.  The leader still facing the crowd started to turn slowly around, just as he came face on, he slowly raised his left arm and pointed straight at her, shouting to the heavens he punched the air with his right fist, and then the crowd went wild with euphoria.

The Hunger Within Chapter 4

Posted by chryses Wednesday October 6 2010 at 11:05AM
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(Please read Chapter 1-3 below first)
Note: It seems I can not post all 4 chapters on the same blog.  If I can, please let me know how.  Otherwise I will probably keep it to 2-3 chapters per blog. 
 
 
Chapter 4
 
“Tch tch tch…what to do, what to do.” muttered Bullet to himself.  Standing alongside his ATV, he stared down the crumbling freeway, his destination lay approximately five miles straight ahead and then he would need to turn east and travel across open plains for another two.   He had concerns over the left side of the road, which ascended steeply into a rocky face that continued for about a mile before levelling out with the highway again.  No more than fifteen feet high at any point.  The visage was peppered with knotted, hardy shrubs, an obvious spot for a raider or throwback ambush.  Using his cracked lens he tried to spot even the faintest of movements, but like the last dozen times, he spotted nothing out of the ordinary. 
 
Bullet tried to put his paranoia and concerns to one side.  The sun was on its daily descent and in the past hour the unusual pains in his stomach had returned.  His only option was to make haste and drive through as quickly as possible.  Resting his tenderizer and axe across his lap, he jammed his foot down and kicked his ATV into gear.  The familiar hacking sound of the ATV’s engine grinding pistons together, reverberated across the rock-strewn surface.  Bullet didn’t know if anyone was watching but he was sure of one thing.  Every living creature within a two mile radius knew he was coming. 
  
As the setting sun filtered through the rustling scrub on the ridge, it cast twisted shadows across the freeway.  The spidery shapes jumped sharply, as the swirling desert air flowed through the thorny vegetation, bending them to its will.  Bullet heart quickened with each sudden movement and all his childhood fears begun to emerge once more.  He tried to reassure himself that his ATV was fast enough to out run any attempted ambush but his imagination was in overdrive…in his mind, Throwbacks came crashing down across his path, striking him with their enormous clubs, Survivalists threw nets out from the top of the ridge whilst hooded Judges took aim with their crude rifles, each had their own agenda, and ultimately wanted his life.  Bullet willed himself to remain focused.  He tried to stabilise his fears by thinking of the people he had ever loved in his, mostly, secluded life.   
 
A knowing smile broke across his face as his thoughts fell on Tucker.  A hardened Traveller, Tucker knew all of the abandoned tracks from Embry Crossroads all the way down to the southern settlements.  About every twelve weeks he would turn up and barter metal or rubber scrap that he had found in the wastelands.  In return, Bullet traded dried vegetables or toilet tank gin, something he had become proficient at making.  He let out a happy, ‘Ha’, as he recalled the times him and Tucker sat on his roof, admiring the setting sun, all the while, looking out for raiders who might dare to approach his fortified home. 
 
He always poked fun at Tucker telling him that, not only was he the best Scavenger he had ever met, he was also the worst trader.  After their business was concluded, Tucker insisted that they finished the gin he had just bought, and Bullet would insist on matching it with one of his finest.  Sitting on the roof, sharing their bottles of gin, Tucker would retell his famous stories of near death experiences and strange happenings from his travels in the wastelands.  His tales becoming increasingly funnier as the bottles were drained.  As usual, he always held back his best story to the very end and even though Bullet had heard it a hundred times, it always brought tears to his eyes.    
 
Pangs of guilt struck him as he thought of his old friend and what his companionship meant to him.  Tucker couldn’t travel anymore and had retired in a shanty town, unfortunately known for its squalor it lay just west of Embry.  He desperately wanted to visit his friend, but failing to secure work up north he had very little funds and even less fuel, so he was forced to head home.
 
Then there was his closest friend, Bella.  She would visit roughly each month to swap dried meat and sometimes, if he was lucky, some untainted milk.  Although she was at least ten years older than he was, they had become best of friends and even companions in the latter years.  The loss of her still pained him incredibly, in spite of everything, he retained a mental note to hunt down and kill the group that ambushed her.  Tucker was the one that broke the news to him all those years ago.  That week, they drowned their sorrows on his best gin, and even after Tucker left, Bullet lost the next six months in an intoxicated haze.  Yet, the memories, cruelly, remained.  The thought of his friends steeled his nerves, he needed to continue on, without him, Jessie will remain in brutal captivity and Bella’s soul will never rest in peace. 
 
The pains in his abdomen worsened, what used to feel like a bag of sand worms squirming in his stomach, now felt like a sack of wild cats shredding the inside of his belly.  The end of the rise was now within two hundred metres, he wondered if could make it.  Cursing his luck, he pulled back on the accelerator trying to maintain maximum throttle, his ATV responded with a loud backfire.  “Come on AC, get me out of here.” he said slumping over the handlebars.
 
Something inside him murmured, words not from his own thoughts resonated up through his chest and he found himself whispering incoherently, his lips twitched and a tingling sensation struck the right side of his face, the possessed babble continued, and the unknown words started to roll off his lips.  The rise eventually descended, levelling out on to the flat plains, but he barely noticed.  Clutching his stomach in agony he wanted to scream but his lips continued to move on their own volition.  He could almost hear the words now, but their meaning was cruelly snatched away as his body slammed into the dirt.
 
***
 
Blinking to clear the blood that had seeped into his eyes from the slash on his forehead, Bullet tried to orientate himself.  The impact had briefly stopped the pain in his stomach, but already the worms had returned and now he feared the tearing pains would soon follow.  As he tried to raise himself, the world spun madly about him, staggering in a circle he tried to find his balance but his legs betrayed him.  Like a mortally wounded animal, unwilling to surrender, he pushed himself up with his right knee but only managed to stagger forward a few steps before landing in the dirt once more.  He couldn’t be sure, but he was convinced he spotted a hooded figure watching him from the road.  Hope it’s not a faking Judge, he thought, and then his lights went out.

The Hunger Within - Fiction inspired by Fallen Earth

Posted by chryses Wednesday October 6 2010 at 10:25AM
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Note: I like to write fiction when I get a chance.  I wrote a short story based on a character called 'Bullet' set in the Fallen Earth world.  After completing the short story I wanted to continue the character and I have completed 4 full chapters with the 5th being finished now.  Have approximately 12 chapters in the pipeline.  It does contain gore and some unpleasant scenes so if you don't like that stuff, then this may offend. Thanks for taking the time to read.

 
The Hunger Within
 
Bullet buried his head under the rotting armpit of the swollen male corpse. The female survivalist paused on her patrol and moved her flashlight around his spot, but for the fifth time tonight she continued on her dawdling walk.  He let out his breath slowly and turned his head away from the maggots and swarm of insects that had slowly opened up a gaping hole in the corpses’ chest.  For three days Bullet lay in this spot planning his attack on the small survivalist band.  For three days he laid in his own piss and shit.  For three days he cursed the decision for leaving Jessie in Mumford, and getting himself into this freaking mess.  
 
He felt under the corpse and dragged out his crossbow and meat tenderizer.  The moment had come for him to act.  With no food, no water, no cash and an empty gas tank, he knew he was truly screwed.  If it wasn’t for Tommy the bartender back in Embry, giving him a few bolts, he would be running into this fight throwing sticks and stones.  He ran his fingers up the side of his crossbow and felt out the letters etched there, J.E.S.S.I.E.
 
His thoughts went back to his clone companion back on his farm in Mumford.  He would never forget how he met her.  On a blistering hot day, three raiders were busy stringing him up on his farmhouse porch, when three successive shots rang out across the landscape. Two raiders fell to the ground and lay motionless, the third and largest member, clutched his stomach and stumbled off the porch and fell to the dirt convulsing. A fourth shot made him still.
 
A few minutes later a female clone casually strolled down to his front porch, scoped rifle hanging by her side; with the back of her hand, she pushed her deep auburn hair away from her face revealing a dimpled smile.  She waved and shouted, “Howdy Farmer!”  Nodding towards his chest she chuckled, “Sorry about your shirt.”  With his hands still tied behind his back, Bullet looked down at the arterial spray covering his grey cotton top.  He looked back to his saviour and said, “How about we call it even then?”         
 
Five years on, Jessie and him became more than friends.  She wasn’t just his partner but his mentor, confidant and idol.  She was the first to recognise a mutant gene that he had inherited from his parents, a gene best left alone.  It ruined his parents, it overcame them, destroyed their minds, they were still out there somewhere, human in body, throwback in mind.  Jessie stopped his inevitable digression into a crazed mutant by teaching him how to understand and master his emotions.  That had worked well for a time, until now. 
 
***
 
The female survivalist was heading back to his location, this time he wanted to make it her last round.  He closed his eyes and pictured Jessie’s face for the last time; he doubted he would ever see her again.  He should have listened to her pleads not to head out for Embry to find work, but he dreamt of a better future for the both of them.  What he realised now was that their quiet life on the farm was more than any man could hope for. 
 
For the first time in three days he had a good look at the roaming guard.  Judging from her dishevelled look and crude weapon, the young survivalist was being used as a human tripwire.  It was evident that her companions considered her expendable to the group as the petite girl was hardly equipped to take on a coyote cub.  Shame he had to take her down first, she had a pleasant face, in a different place and life she could have been pretty.
 
Her flashlight moved across the ground in a rhythmic pattern, left to right, right to left, she was so close now, the crunch of the dirt under her boots was rapidly approaching.  In a prone position, he pressed his cheek tightly against the crossbow handle and lined her up slowly, thwack!
 
The poor girl hit the ground with a thud.  His bolt struck her just above the lip and it was if she had sprouted a second nose, this one bristling with dirty feathers.  Penetration was deep, cerebral damage instant and extensive.  No alarm was raised.  His first objective was complete.
 
Bullet rummaged through her clothing but found nothing of value.  Right now he needed sustenance.  Control over his altered genes was waning and he pushed back blasphemous thoughts of cannibalism.  Staring at the survivalist’s bloodied corpse he could only see a source of protein, another meal he desperately needed, after all, she was just a different type of meat.  For a moment he almost succumbed, but then something caught his eye.
 
Wrapped around her sticky throat hung a pendant, nothing of real value to the average Wastelander, but to him it meant everything.  He carefully undid the small clasp and held the trinket up to the moonlight.  A handmade figurine carved out from a small chunk of salvaged wood dangled in front of him.  Even in his disbelief he could not deny what he already knew.  This small, ordinary, inexpensive trinket was lovingly carved by him, for the only person worth dying for, Jessie!
 
The carotid artery on the side of his neck bulged as a rippling wave of blood forced it to widen, he howled out at the excruciating pain.  His inherited genes, for the moment, finally overcame his humanity, now he understood why his parents lost their minds.  Blood streamed down his nose and red tears fell from his eyes, he was blinded for a moment and then everything stopped…
 
The world slowed to a stand still.  He could see and hear so much more now.  He wondered how he could have not sensed everything before.  He unbuckled his scrap armour and let it drop to the dirt, it was cumbersome, constrictive and it was not needed.  Bullet stared down at the crossbow held in his red right hand.  His feral mind tried to comprehend what type of club this could be; it was unwieldy, unbalanced and awkward.  He threw it to one side.  A ding erupted no more than hundred metres away.  A human was banging his weapon against a sheet of metal screaming for his brethren to wake.  Bullet remembered why he was here.  Picking up the meat tenderizer he sprinted towards their camp.
 
***
 
Vix the all mighty Survivalist leader of the Embry Crossroad’s clan woke to an uproar in his camp.  Motorhead was sounding the alarm and screeching hysterically.  Their new recruit, Sweet Kira, would almost certainly be dead, that left six and him.  Unless this was a full scale attack from a rival faction, they would be fine. As long as he survived, he didn’t care if the whole freaking lot got killed.  He snatched up his favourite hatchet, Widowmaker, and stormed out of his tent.
 
***
 
Bullet had butchered his third prey in as many minutes.  They were undernourished creatures with little skill.  Using his tenderizer was almost unfair but it helped to dispatch them quickly.  He stood in the middle of the camp, arms hanging by his side, tenderizer in one hand, and a bloodied chunk of matted hair in the other.  His enhanced senses picked up four more life forms.  He could taste their scent on his tongue, adrenalin, sweat and fear.  Bullet rocked forward and roared in a guttural voice, “WHERE IS SHEEEE!!!”
 
***
 
Vix peered through a gap in a makeshift wall.  The camp fire reflected off the fresh gore that saturated the screaming man from head to toe.  He already knew that the stranger had killed Motorhead, Potface and Captain Kim.  Unanswered, their shrieking appeals for help and mercy ended abruptly in the night, one continued to whimper for a little while until a dull thump rang out like a hammer striking a melon, Thock! Thock! The moaning stopped on the second strike.
 
For just a moment, his thoughts lingered on Motorhead, it was a shame he ended up dead.  Vix recalled the day he murdered the kid’s parents on a farm outside Oilville.  Scavenging their property he found a child hiding next to the engine of a rusted out interceptor.  He named him Motorhead and from that day on he raised the little bastard to be an all out nasty piece of work.  He got some good mileage out of that boy and now he would have to kidnap another kid to make up for his loss.  
 
He wondered where the good for nothing chicken arses, Grunter, Jack and Lady J were all hiding out. No one got old in the wastelands for being a freaking hero and he knew that better than anyone.  Vix needed decoys and that meant regrouping with the others. Once he managed to spoon feed them to the human freak he could get the hell out of there. 
 
***
 
Bullet stood motionless.  His quarry decided to fight back, slowly they circled him, their breathing laboured and stressed.  His prey realised they had no chance individually, yet even now, they did not know their odds of survival had only increased slightly.  He marked his first victim, a tallish blonde male… chest exposed…grunting breath… right ankle dragging… he was their weakest member.  He spotted the alpha male in the group, a large human carrying a shiny sharp thing…he must have caution around this one.
 
The grunting blonde man finally fell out of his defensive position and he was now exposed, vulnerable, a runt waiting to be culled, his next feed.  Pupils dilated, muscles recoiled, breathing slowed, the predator launched himself at his prey.
 
***
 
Bullet used a frayed cotton thread to slide out the stringy tendon stuck between his incisor and canine teeth.  He never knew a human bite could cause so much damage.  Gingerly he dragged himself up to his feet and surveyed the carnage around him.  The rising sun revealed a scene that would make a Chota warrior recoil in horror, not him.  He was the architect of this bloody artwork and he had received what he came for, answers, equipment and sustenance.
 
Humanity returned with the sunrise.  His face welcomed the warmth from the tickling sun and his thoughts became sane, normal, and more human like.  He focused on his mental exercises and gradually the beast that was always part of him, slowly crept back into the darkness of his psyche.  Watching, waiting, it had become a living hunger he would now wrestle to control.  He tied up the fourth and final, laden pack to the rear of his ATV.  The suspension creaked and strained under the heavy load.  He was thankful that the Survivalists he slaughtered in the night had ample supplies, the majority of which was found inside their leaders’ tent. 
 
Gazing southwest he saw the tall pylons that he used as a landmark to direct him homeward.  Turning away from the towers and the ever brightening sun, he marked his new direction on the compass. Today he was driving northeast.
 
He knew the leader could have only told the truth.  Tied up like a dog, Vix resisted for a little while, but by the time Bullet had chewed off his fourth finger, the Survivalist answered every question willingly.  After discovering Jessie’s fate, Bullet realised he was still, even now, human.  His heart was heavy, guilt ridden, he felt foolish, ashamed, all emotions a human would feel.  Jessie had come in search for him.  He had been gone for over one month and she knew his supplies were limited.  Although she swore he was on his own, Jessie had still come for him, and now he knew she had been ambushed by a large raiding party on the southern road heading into Embry.  A smaller band led by Vix broke off to scavenge and raid smaller farms in the south, whilst the larger group headed back to their base in the northeast, with his beloved Jessie in tow.
 
Between his hacking sobs, Vix explained that clones were a precious commodity for their clan.  They made excellent live targets for their new recruits and guard dogs. He continued to reveal that the children they had recently kidnapped from the southern farms would be forced and encouraged to punch, kick and stone Jessie until she succumbed.  If they were going to be any use to the clan, all traces of love and affection needed to be crushed from their spirits.  Failure to participate meant they were weak, useless and expendable.  Following a night of torture and abuse, they would be strung up at dawn between the camps two sentry towers.  This would directly increase the fervour with which the surviving children undertook their next training session.  Writhing in agony he was forced to tell Bullet that their favourite entertainment was to chain a clone to a stump in the middle of a field and set their rabid dogs upon them.  Whooping at the maddening spectacle they would place bets on the amount of time it took for a clone, like Jessie, to be brought down by the frenzied beasts.
 
Bullet felt truly sick and it wasn’t the bloody gore he was currently digesting either.  Jessie would know that death would be her freedom and would yearn for it to overcome and embrace her.  Her mauled body would be shed like a cocoon and miles away in an underground life chamber, she would be reborn away from danger, pain and humiliation.  Yet the Survivalist also knew this.
 
Merely seconds away from her cold freedom, the raiders would drag her mangled, broken body away from the ravenous beasts.  All clones had the gift of rapid regeneration but now this would become her cruel curse.  Within hours, her body would heal itself and Jessie would face another dawn of torture, beatings and misery.
 
***
 
Bullet reached inside his leather jacket and withdrew a bright red apple he found in one of the tents.  Normally he would save such a rare fruit, but today may be his last.  Wolfing down the remains of the juicy flesh he imitated a baseball pitcher and launched the apple core at Vix's gawking head that was now jammed crudely on top of a blunt tent pole.  Thwock! The half eaten core shattered on his contorted face.  At least the southern farms would be safe for a while now, thought Bullet.  Out of curiosity he searched around for the rest of Vix’s remains, his memory of the night was dreamlike with only a few pockets of sanity.  Images of hacking away using the leaders’ hatchet and the endless screaming were vivid enough though.
 
He washed his hands using a little amount of tainted water and threw his leg over his ATV seat.  A coyote pack had cautiously approached the camp.  The remains of the slaughter began to reek under the morning sun and the wasteland beasts were always hungry.  A huge mutant dog led the pack and they had wandered dangerously close to his position and Bullet was in no mood to fend off the beasts.  He looked over his shoulder and gave Vix a respectful nod, the man had survived a long time in the wastelands and that had to be respected.
 
Now full of fuel, he jammed the throttle back on his ATV and it instantly roared into life.  Pushing his vehicle up to full speed he steered towards the sloping hills on the northeast horizon. He knew there were only two ways to free his beloved and he didn’t care which one he used.  Tonight he would free Jessie …dead or alive.
 
 
Chapter 2, the Hunger Within
 
“Get YA face down dog!”  To stress his point the Enforcer forced his metal heel into the back of Bullet’s head and gave it a sharp twist.  Bullet had a moment to reflect on his current situation.  Eight Enforcers had circled him on their dirt bikes and forced him off the road.  It was no surprise that they were on top of him before he noticed them.  His ATV had given him years of good service but the bastard sounded like a chainsaw going off in a toilet bowl.
 
            “Sir, I have ordered Ben to secure his ATV.  If you ask me, this one looks like a raider… permission to put two in his head SIR!"  The soldier respectively requested.  Footsteps approached their location and he heard a gun being cocked.  
“Joseph, Paul! Get him up!” Two pairs of hands grabbed him and hauled him roughly to his feet.
 
“Right now, things aren’t looking too good for you stranger.” The leader said in a matter of fact tone.  Taller than most, the officer had a relaxed pose, almost friendly like.  Bullet didn’t buy it; he could easily end up dead here.  He felt a knot turn in his stomach as his thoughts flickered back to Jessie.
 
     “You better start explaining what you are doing out here.” He waved towards to the open road and desert. “Otherwise…well, lets just say, Joseph over here will be the last person you will see.”
 
Just like that, Bullet thought, wasteland justice in its simplest form, a mere business transaction, a negotiation that required your life if it went wrong. 
“I’m a farmer.”  That’s’ all he could say.  He wanted to continue but unknown to the Enforcers, all of Bullets strength was, barely, holding a shadow at bay.  A primal instinct taunted him, it highlighted his weakness as a warrior; you should be killing them, killing them all, it hissed. 
 
Impatiently the Enforcer scratched his brow under his tilting helmet.  “Ok, ok.” The Captain glanced at Joseph and raised his right hand.  Bullet waited for the order to fire but it didn’t come.  “Why don’t you tell us where you are from then?”  The Enforcer asked almost politely.  Yet, his hand remained raised.
            “Just south of Mumford” replied Bullet. 
“Bullshit!” yelled an old Enforcer standing to the right of Bullet.  He was armed with a wicked looking shotgun, which he now prodded into the side of Bullet’s head.  The leader clenched his fist, a clear sign for order. 
            “Problem we have here stranger is that you are two days drive from Mumford and heading in the wrong direction.”  He nodded towards Bullets’ vehicle, “And I haven’t even started to ask about all that blood soaked equipment on your ATV yet.” 
 
            One of the platoon members who had been searching through his packs approached and handed a gleaming hatchet to the Captain.  He flipped the weapon and made a few shadow strokes in the air. 
            “Nice weapon well put together, expensive steel and fine balance.”  He glanced sideways at Bullet and continued, “Something I doubt a farmer could afford to buy or have the skills to make.” He turned it over a few more times, paused, and dug his nail into the crusted blood that had covered the joint between the handle and head of the axe.  “With a few strokes it could even be good enough to take a person’s head clean off… wouldn’t you say farmer?”  
 
            Bullet breathed in deep and exhaled slowly.  Enforcers unlike most factions could be reasoned with.  They preached law and order but, for the most part, if you were not an Enforcer or pay for their protection, then you were expendable to the good of their cause.  Primal instincts bubbled beneath the surface, like a salivating dog waiting for his master to give him the order to feed, his other self, aroused by the potential for bloody chaos, waited impatiently to be unleashed.  Bullet knew, even in his other form, he would be no match for the heavily armoured soldiers who held him at gunpoint.  Head down, he shrugged his shoulders and focused on his breathing.
 
***
 
            Never thought I would see you again, Bullet thought.  At first he did not recognise Vix’s head lying in front of him.  Fang marks peppered his face and most of the soft flesh had been stripped away.  The coyotes had gnawed his skull like a child chews on a toffee apple.  Knotted sandy coloured hair with the high brow and sharp nose were distinct features of the Survivalist leader, besides thought Bullet, how many other chewed up heads could the Enforcers have found out there.  Becoming increasingly annoyed, the platoon leader had moments ago, reached into a canvas sack, and threw a head into the dirt in front of him.  “Hey Farmer, ever seen him before?!”
 
Bullet stared at the ground.  Enforcers hunted Survivalists frequently and the two factions were constantly at war with one another.  They wouldn’t care if he had killed one or one hundred, but the truth about last night would unlock too many questions. 
 
            “You don’t seem too bothered by it.” Stated the Captain sharply.  Pacing behind his leader, Joseph looked a little too keen to move the discussion to what, he probably thought, was another inevitable road side execution. 
            “I have seen enough heads without bodies before.” Replied Bullet solemnly.
            “Ok, now you have my interest, where was that?” The leader removed his helmet and wiped the sweat off his brow with the back of his finger.  He was layered head to toe in full Kevlar and his combat belt carried enough ammo for a small war.  This was no scouting party, thought Bullet.  These boys were the assault force and something out there was going to be hit really hard and will most likely have a very bad day.     
            “Back near Mumford when I was a child.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Dunno, around twenty years ago I guess.” 
            “I knew it!” A voice yelled out to his right.  Lowering his shotgun, the old soldier grabbed him by the shoulders, swung him around and waved his finger in his face.  “I facking know you!”
 
            Now it was Bullet’s turn to be interested.  During his roadside trial he caught the old warhorse staring intently at him, there was a strange, distant familiarity about him.  Like a creature coming out of winter’s hibernation, a memory buried deep within his psyche, stirred and raised its drowsy head, a trigger had been activated and the pain of his childhood started to return once more. 
 
            The old Enforcer scrutinized Bullet up close.  There faces were so close now.  Bullet could even smell the canned meat on his breath.  Eyes widened, the old soldier shook his head in disbelief. 
            Turning to his confused leader he said, “Captain, I swear this is the Hammond’s kid I saved way back on Red Tuesday! “ 
 
            Bullet staggered back, his suppressed memories spilled out, and leapt over each other trying to slap his awakened consciousness first.  Forgotten images flashed through his mind like a photo album on speed dial.  He remembered back all those years ago, how his parents tried to shield his eyes and turn him away from the danger that approached.  Memories were a curse in the wastelands.  Sorrow, anger and hunger were all too common, joy, happiness and love were feelings seldom felt or experienced.  Life in this world was just one long road of hurt.   Like maggots, thriving at the bottom of a shit can, the last remnants of humanity struggled within the shelter, in what their ancestors used to call the Grand Canyon.  Unfortunately for humanity, so did all the shit. 
 
***
 
            “What are those lights mum?” Bullet asked nervously.  Like fireflies that fluttered on the farm porch at night, a dozen lights flickered across the road.  It seemed, for each second that passed, they drew closer to their location.  
 
            He could hear his mother screaming, “Get him out of here!”  His father forced him into the back seat of a rusted out wreck, threw his winter coat over him and told him to lay still.  If only he had listened to his father…
 
            Huddled behind the driver’s seat, ten year old Bullet trembled with fear, his teeth felt like they would shatter as they clattered from his uncontrollable shuddering.  He had to look but his father told him not to.  He could hear screams followed by howls of anguish and pain, then a moment of quiet before more shrieks echoed across the night.  He listened and strained to hear any sign of his parents, but he never knew, the last words he would hear, from either of them, came from his protective father…“Sshhh, lay still son.”
 
            Eyes closed, he lifted his head just high enough to see over the edge of the rusted car door. He couldn’t, wouldn’t open his eyes.  He kept telling himself, as long as they were shut, he was safe.  It had been quiet now for what seemed like an eternity.  Surely his parents would return shortly, his father was a massive man and he used to joke that he could take on a pack of Blight Wolves all by himself.  His heavy coat was big enough to fit Bullet five times over and he dreamt of growing up to be as strong as him, but now his father was gone…
 
            Squinting, Bullet tried to focus in the moonlight.  He desperately hoped to see any sign of his parents.  He didn’t know what they tried to hide him from but he knew it must be close by.  They were returning from a long trade with the friendly people in Mumford and he remembered his parents were in good spirits from the profits they had made.  His mum even teased that they were going to buy him his first crossbow and he could finally go hunting Blight Wolves with his father next month. 
 
            As always, his dad scouted ahead whenever they travelled.  He would never forget the look on his fathers face as he came running down the road towards them.  His mum must have known something bad had happened, she clutched him tight and whispered in his ear not too worry. 
 
            “They have hit us!” His father had yelled.  His parents embraced and whispered something to each other.  His father looked away but his mum had gazed down at him with such affection, but even at his young age he could see regret and sorrow in her eyes.  Later in life, it was apparent, that at that moment they were saying their goodbyes to him.   He just wished he knew what they had said to each other. 
 
***
 
Now open, Bullet’s eyes finally adjusted to the moonlit landscape, he couldn’t see his parents but there was something else lying all over the road. With a squeal he dived under seat. Bullet had seen a dead body before but he had never seen so many…in so many pieces. 
 
***
 
            Just like Harvest festival they were all gathered in the town square.  Ted Cole, the armour smith and his funny apprentice John.  Jack Taylor the baker who managed to make any ingredient taste like real bread.  Simone the First Aid trainer and her pretty teenage daughter who always had a smile for Bullet, the devoted Mayor was also there but he was further down the back.  His wife was positioned near the front with the entire Smith clan and some of the newer traders who had recently settled in their budding outpost.  Everyone was there except for his mum and dad.  Lined up like desert poppies, all the heads of the people he had ever known and loved in his life were now jammed awkwardly on top of wooden fence posts.  Eyes that once were full of hope and dreams of a better life, now stared blankly into the nights sky. 
 
***
 
Chapter 3
 
The Survivalist fortress stood out in the desert like a large metal tumour. If the desert was a womb and the Survivalist raiders its blood line, the monstrosity was its mutated metal child. It had grown organically over the years and had seemingly taken a life on all by itself.  Wrecked cars, fridges and any other object that could repel live rounds were mounted on top of each other and looked like a monster block game a child would play.  A network of metal veins covered the exterior interlinking each object at several points for stability, but it seemed if one was cut, the whole structure would collapse.  What looked like a metal hernia ready to explode, the midsection on the east side, bulged out precariously, but it somehow defied gravity and still managed to rise twenty feet into the air.
 
            “One…two…three…no, wait… four guards are out front.  Two have some sort of ballistics and the other two are using hockey sticks.” reported reconnaissance to the Officer. 
            “Roger that.”  Harry pulled down his visor to block out the glare from the sun but still needed to shield his eyes with his right hand as he strained to pick out any additional guards roaming the perimeter.  This was his fifth year leading the special tactics unit for the Enforcers and they had a perfect record, so why did he feel so uneasy this time.  He sensed his unit felt the same and, as always, wanted to show a resolute front.    “Give me eyes on the four watch towers. I want to know if we are dealing with crossbows, automatics or something more.”
            “Yes sir.” responded Aiko.  He signalled with his two fingers informing Niko that they were moving out, Niko responded with a thumb up. 
 
With a bemused smile, Harry watched his two snipers filter into the underbrush, they hardly signalled to each other anymore, two of them were inseparable and worked as one unit, but that hadn't always been the case. Both excelled at the Academy and frequently came to blows during the skirmish challenges and other graded competitions. Their determination and unwillingness to relinquish to one another, ended with both spending time in the hole.  It didn't work.  Harry was given the task of moulding them into a tight unit, but he didn't have to, war had done the job for him.  Just over two years ago, up in the northwest of Sector one, the Judge’s incident had almost cost them both their lives.  They were fiercely loyal to each other and shared a common bond, something, only blood and death can forge.  His heart swelled with pride at the thought of Niko standing over the crippled Aiko, refusing to retreat, even though, he found out later, Aiko had begged him to.  It was a routine mission involving the scouting of a large raider force, known as the Judges, which had set up camp within two miles of Trailer Park.  Aiko, most likely spurred on by Niko, had ignored strict orders to observe only, and tried to take down their leader, he only succeeded in killing one of the bodyguards and bringing the fury of more than twenty raiders down on their position.  It was over ten minutes before he and the others had reached their location.  Taking cover in a shallow ditch, it was obvious Niko had just run out of ammo.  With his right foot planted firmly on Aiko’s chest, he was swinging his rifle like a crude club trying to crush the arms of a raider, with whom he was playing a game of human tug-of-war over his comrade’s still body.  Harry quickly ended the game by unloading his GA-8 sidearm into the cloaked raider.  Incredibly, he didn’t lose anyone on that rescue mission, but three more took semi serious wounds, before they all managed to make a tactical retreat.
 
Since that eventful day, both Aiko and Niko became close like brothers. He had lost count of the times they had saved each others life.  Their reputation preceded them and the Enforcer’s used them as an example for their new recruits.  However, their enemy’s hatred for the pair spread far in equal measure and the bounty on both their heads reflected this.  Together, they were a deadly weapon that could be wielded by Harry, and he did, frequently.
 
Before long the Captain lost sight of both scouts, they were exceptional at making themselves invisible, even to his trained eye.  Flipping back his visor he lifted his binoculars, which hung around his neck and tweaked the dial until he had a clear view of their target.  It was the fourth time he had studied the front of the fortress and even now he still didn’t have an answer for what he saw. 
            “Jack, take a look at this.” He pointed at the entrance to the Survivalist fortress and handed the binoculars to his second in command.  “That gate must weigh about what, three or four ton? How the hell do they move that thing?” he said quietly so only Jack could hear. 
            Jack passed back the binoculars.  “Not sure Captain, I can’t see any chain or pulley system.  Possibly an underground rail but I don’t see any wheels.”  The old enforcer cupped his face, with his right hand, and scratched his five day growth.  “Even with vehicles that would take about six interceptors to pull it over and this sort of scum don’t drive.” 
            “True, true…I bet Kazumi will enjoy bringing it down though.” muttered Harry.  He looked over his shoulder and he could see Joseph, Paul, Kazumi and Jane had stripped off all of their non essential equipment and were now in their full combat kit.  With Niko and Aiko scouting deep into enemy territory, they had to be ready to roll in if, in the unlikely scenario, they were spotted by the Survivalists.  Most squads would gladly leave a stranded sniper to their fate but Harry was of a different breed.  Even against severe resistance, if you fought under his command then you better be prepared to rescue a comrade under fire, no one, dead or alive, gets left behind under his watch.
 
He gave Jack a light rap to his Kevlar breastplate and gave a quick nod to walk with him.  Once out of earshot from the rest of the squad, Harry put his hand up to stop the old soldier.  Looking out towards the Survivalist fortress and the setting sun, he asked his second in command and long time friend. 
            “Jack what’s up?  Something isn’t right here and you are not taking control of the squad.  The team suited up because they couldn’t wait any longer for you to give the order.”  There was an uneasy pause before he continued.  “I have to say Jack…something isn’t right with this mission.  My gut is telling me something and I can’t seem to put my finger on it.”  He turned away from the fortress and looked at his friend.  “I really need you at your best on this one Jack.  Shit... I would take you at your worst if I have to, that would still be better than most.”
            “Sorry Captain.”  Harry flinched at the official title.  He went through the academy with Jack and he was always the lesser soldier.  He could even say, on occasion, Jack helped him pass some of the core modules in training.  The qualities that made Jack an exceptional soldier, Harry had as an officer and strategist.  Even so, he never felt quite right about the older and stronger soldier calling him Captain. 
            Jack continued.  “Its just…seeing Hammond’s kid really shook me up.”
            “I guess you didn’t think he would survive.”  Harry glanced over to where he thought his Snipers would be by now.  Even from a mile away he could see no alarm had been raised from the fortress, he turned back to Jack.  “It must have been a surprise to see him right?”
            “Yea sure…”  Jack looked down at the ground his face twisted with concentration.  “It’s just…I don’t think throwbacks wiped out Vix and his gang last night.”
            “Who did then?”  Harry focused on Jack for an answer but the enormity of what he was suggesting had already hit him.  “You can’t be serious?”
            Jack nodded, eyes fixed on his leader he spoke slowly and quietly.  “It has been bugging me since we came across Vix’s body and what was left of his group.”  He shook his head and continued.  “The randomness of it all, remember we thought it was a grenade attack?  Such fury even surpasses the worst Throwback.  Then I remembered…”
            “The executions of all the townsfolk on Red Tuesday?” interjected Harry.
            “Not the townsfolk Captain…I am talking about all the dead raiders.”  His captain remained stone silent, so he continued.  “We must have spent three years working out what happened.  Remember the rumours about a new weapon or combat enhancing drug the CHOTA had supposedly created? And the endless campaigns to retrieve the schematics or possible sample?  How many soldiers did we waste on that?  After all those years of fighting the worst thing we found, were faking sharp axes and a load of rancid booze.  The thing is…I always knew the truth…”
            “Jack, you know I was a front line officer in those campaigns…“  For a split second Harry’s mind flickered back to his past conflicts.  “Shit, I lost a lot of good men…why are you telling me this now?”
            “Sorry Harry.  I thought it was all over.”  The captain quietly surprised at Jack’s drop in protocol, pressed him to continue. 
            “What was?”
            “That’s the thing.  I know the truth but I still don’t know the answer.  All I can say is that we thought the blood line, or whatever the bloody hell they were, had died off with that kid.  Who would have thought a ten year old could have survived out here.”
            Harry’s authoritative nature kicked in. “Describe ‘we’.”
Jack looked back at his soldier brothers and sister, they didn’t seem to notice the intense talks between him and their captain, or they were polite enough to pretend not to. 
            “Myself and three members from some special unit, these boys were hard, I mean the kind that really fakin scare ya. They would eat newborn if they were ordered to.  Jack read Harry’s mind and answered his question.  “I don’t know their real names or what group they were from Captain.  That is the truth.” Harry nodded in understanding.
            “Our mission was to find answers.  What we came across was hard to believe and I still didn’t believe it until now.  We tracked his parents.”  Jack looked over Harry’s shoulder.  Jane walked slowly towards them and was careful to make enough noise so as to alert command of her presence. 
            “Sir, Niko has reported in.  The towers have two sentries each, all but one, have crossbows.  He also believes one has a Rimfire rifle.”
            “Thanks Jane, tell them to continue their surveillance.”
Jane saluted and walked back to the others promptly, but tried to make it not so obvious that she wanted to get away from the two men as quickly as possible.
            “She is a good recruit that one.” remarked Jack.
            “We always lacked a specialist close combat fighter… I hope she is up to it.”  Harry replied looking back at his new recruit.  “I watched her take down three seasoned fighters in an unarmed contest.  But let’s see if she can slice open a neck or hand a man his guts, using that fancy knife of hers and not think twice about it.  Sport is one thing but…” his thoughts returned back to their conversation.
            Jack didn’t have to be asked to continue.  “Besides the kid, the only two people who didn’t get killed were his parents.  So you can understand we spent a lot of time tracking them down…”  The old soldier’s voice drifted off as he stared into the distance.  For just a moment Harry thought he could see a tear in Jack’s eye, he had never seen his friend like this before. 
            “Jack?”
            “Yea…some um…some travellers told us they had heard some shrieking like noises echoing up from the valley near Mumford.  It was a well known spot where all sorts of scum like to camp out.  I don’t want to tell you all the details Captain but...”
Damn, thought Harry, this really has affected Jack.
            “…I was guarding the bikes when one of the Special Forces spotted them.  I didn’t see them, they wouldn’t let me.  I figured it was Command’s business and they wanted to capture one of them or something, who knows.”  Jack paused for a moment and raised his face towards the setting sun.  “…strange isn’t it…just before any battle the setting sun looks so much nicer…”
Harry nodded in agreement. 
            Jack continued.  “I am not sure how long I stood by those bikes Captain but something went wrong, seriously wrong.” He let out another small whistle between his teeth.  “I…um…I heard them Harry...”  Still staring into the sunset Jack rubbed his temple nervously.  “You know…I have lost count on how many people I have killed and I have never heard anyone scream like that before.”
            “What did you do?” 
             Jack looked down at his feet and shook his head. “…Once the screaming stopped…I thought I could hear them approach my location… I panicked and ran.”
            Harry couldn’t help but frown, he didn’t want to judge but he had never heard of Jack ever running away from a fight, especially when his comrades were under fire. 
            “I ran so hard Captain.  I think I would have broken all sorts of records.” He glanced up and both men managed a thin smile.  “I ran down into the valley and I only stopped when I came across the bodies.  I have never seen such a faking mess.  I hate raiders more than anyone I know, but not even these ones deserved what they got.  I don’t know what his parents had become, but seriously Captain, I even saw facking teeth marks on the bodies.  They were like some old vampire shit you hear about in those ancient novels.”  Jack screwed up his face.  “I don’t think they were just sucking blood Cap. I think they were living off the flesh…”  He glanced up at the desert sky.  “I am not even sure God could forgive them for what they had become.”
            “What did you do?”  Harry instinctively reached out to grab his friends shoulder but stopped short. 
            The old soldier breathed in deeply and exhaled through his teeth letting out his trade mark whistle. 
            “I knew the kid must be the same, so I headed back to their farm.”  He shuffled his feet, embarrassed with what he was about to say.  “I headed back to kill the kid.” shaking his head with guilt he continued.  “I knew I wasn’t strong enough to kill his parents.  So I thought I would kill the boy and stop him becoming the same.”
            “Holy shit Jack.”  Harry scratched his face, a nervous habit he had unfortunately acquired over the years.  “You’re saying that we just left one of those things back on the road, just an hour’s drive behind us?  He seemed normal to me.”
            “Sorry Captain.  I wasn’t sure until now.  I don’t know why he hasn’t flipped like his folks.  I did some digging around in Mumford and all the traders who knew them, said they were a good family, albeit physically bigger than most, especially the dad.  What is strange is that no one knew where they came from.  Seems they just took over an abandon farm and became part of the community...”
            Jack paused when Harry raised his hand, signalling for silence.  The Captain had just spotted Kazumi talking into his headset and was looking decidedly agitated. 
            “I don’t think we have much more time.  I just hope this kid, or whatever he is, doesn’t end up being a problem for us.”  Still keeping an eye on Kazumi he asked.  “Why didn’t you kill him?”
            “I scouted his parent’s farm for three days and there was no sign of him.  I was about to leave on the fourth but then he appeared out of no where and proudly told me it worked.”
            “What did?”
            “His new hiding spot.”  Smiling, Jack shook his head. “Since I saved him, he obviously thought I was no threat.  The cheeky rat was watching me the whole time.  He insisted on staying on the farm at all costs, because in his words, ’I want to keep the place tidy for mum and look after dad’s garden.’  It broke my heart Captain…he showed me his hiding spot.  Right under his mum and dad’s bed he had lifted the boards and dug a hole, it was barely deep enough for him to lay flat in.  I spent two more days on the farm, I even helped him board up the windows and front door.  Before I left, he gave me some dried rations his parents had kept hidden, I asked him why.  He told me that his parents taught him, that in the wastelands, you always gave shelter and food to those you call a true friend.  I still remember him handing me the rations and telling me, that I was now, hisonly true friend in the world.”
            “Damn, they actually sounded like a nice family.”
            “Agree…I left soon after but before I went, I gave him an old meat tenderizer and crude crossbow, which I kept from the clean up of Red Tuesday…There was no way I could harm that kid Captain.”  Jack shrugged.  “Besides, I thought the Wastelands would consume him within a month.”  His voice trailed off in thought.  “He was only ten years old Harry…I didn’t want the last memory of his young life to be of his only ‘true’ friend trying to kill him…shit, imagine that?”
  
Harry could only nod.  He tried to imagine his comrade’s excitement at seeing the boy, now a man, alive but also carrying the burden of knowing what he will, most likely, become.     
            “We need to discuss this later.  Come on, Kazumi is signalling us.”
 
The four crack troops snapped to attention as Jack and Harry approached.  The Captain noticed a few fleeting sideways glances between them and he knew the content of his conversation between himself and Jack would be speculated on, for weeks to come.
            “Kazumi you have something to report?”
            Kazumi slightly red faced took a moment to breath before proceeding. “Captain, Niko has reported something of great interest.”  
            “Why don’t you just tell me what he has reported and I will decide if it’s interesting.” The Captain couldn’t help but reveal his frustration of Kazumi.  The soldier excelled in explosives and was proficient at keeping their signal equipment working, but he really needed to get to the point, especially in the field.
            Kazumi cleared his throat with a nervous cough. “It’s not what they have seen Captain…it’s what they have heard.”
 
 
           
Chapter 4  - on separate blog
 
 

Fallen Earth - Chryses final verdict (screenshots included)

Posted by chryses Wednesday October 14 2009 at 9:41AM
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"Heaven for some, hell for others"

I have played FE for quite a few hours now and even though I have just hit level eight (takes ages to level) I feel I have experienced a great deal in the game already. A good sign from the outset is that I am always looking forward to logging in and exploring the barren world, which is FE.
FE in my opinion falls in between a main stream MMO and an indy game. It dares to be different in some key parts in the game but it still maintains enough mainstream elements to make it feel familiar and comfortable.


The most refreshing factor of the game is the skills system. In itself it’s not unique or original but it’s well thought out and even at this early stage of the game it comes across as being balanced without any obvious exploits. In short you earn Action Points that you can allocate throughout your attributes or skills directly. Attributes cost 5 points each whilst skills can be upgraded 1 point at a time. The skills have a direct affect on the access you have to weapons, armour, combat etc. The use of AP’s doesn’t finish there. Depending on your skill level you can gain access to purchasable skills that can be very useful. What this means is that you have complete control over how your character develops and having a hybrid is perfectly good option.


Moving on to an area always close to my heart is crafting. I don’t judge a game solely on this but if crafting is under par then I expect a great deal more from the rest of the game play. In FE the crafting is a core component to the game and I would be surprised if a player could manage without it. Once again I am not going to stand on the rafters and scream joy to the world due to a new and exciting system, because it’s not. However it is an in-depth varied system that incorporates another large element of the game, which is scavenging and salvaging. I have played too many MMO’s that have a similar crafting system but it feels bolted on as an afterthought and thus suffers from lack of resources or direction. FE has several categories and dozens of ingredients a player can collect. On the face of it I would be groaning but to support crafting a player can salvage and scavenge for ingredients. These are generally quite common and one of my favourite features of this game is the one seamless world with a massive exploration element. It can be a viable option to log into FE and just scoot or ride around looking for piles of wreckage ranging from garbage bags to forklift trucks.

By scavenging these wreckages and other mobs you will find more than enough ingredients. Unlike a lot of games where crafting is only useful once you hit upper skill limits or have access to rare minerals, FE has made it useful to craft right from the outset. First you need to craft to increase your skill in that area and of course once you reach a certain level you can craft more effective items. However I personally have found it quite useful to craft food items for buffs, weapon and ballistic repair kits and I have also made my first two melee weapons, a golf club, yes I used a golf club to beat the living hell out of my enemies and more recently a crude sword. To support this, the auction system seems robust enough to make it a generous money spinner, but I have to admit I have not spent a great deal of time on there but judging from the 20+ players standing around the auctioneer all the time I guess it’s working.


The more familiar part of FE is the mission system. You grab your missions from various NPC’s and they are generally kill, go to location, courier or another abstract version. The saving grace is that you have access to vehicles and or horses from the start of the game. I can’t believe how much better a game is when they give you mobility at the start because no matter how many pretty waterfalls I run by, after the first one or two times I start cursing the damn elf that has asked me to go to the same spot three freaking times, its beyond me why they can’t give me the whole story up front! Anyway in short I have not noticed mission fatigue setting in yet but then again I try and pace myself these days. It’s just a nice feeling when you can jump on your quad bike and drag off into the desert to knock of some job. Not to mention the substantial inventory and weight allowance they give you.


On to the big selling piece of the game...combat. I have to admit I really haven’t been following FE that much over the years because my attention has been on Jumpgate Evolution and a couple of other potential sci-fi gems. One of the key reasons for trying FE is the ability to have true FPS combat. Thankfully the game is true to its word and you really need to aim manually and hitting the head will generate a critical hit and do maximum damage. Shoot slightly off target and you will deal a glancing blow. This has given a different feel to the MMO genre because after so many auto aim, auto lock attack options in other MMO’s this combat system feels fresh. For the gamers who prefer to get up close and personal to see their victims face before drilling their golf club into their skull, melee combat is a viable option and will not put you at a disadvantage; both range and melee are used widely in this game.
 

On to the environment and social aspect of the game...The game is called Fallen Earth for a reason. Its post nuclear war and mankind as we know it, exists solely in the Grand Canyon. So when I see people moan in general chat about the landscape I wonder if they knew what game they were purchasing. FE is barren filled with desert shrubs and run down shanty towns. If you need a lot of colour in a game and thick lush forest then don’t buy FE. The game has a similar feel to the Fallout series and I am glad they didn’t shy away from this.

On a social level people are still getting to grips with the game and grouping is minimal as I can see. However when I post a question I have numerous responses and yesterday when I asked for help to kill a boss someone popped by and help me clobber him. I can see grouping being easier than most MMO’s due to travelling at high speeds and being able to drive through mobs without any real issue, no more dying on the way to a group impatiently waiting for you to join. The good news is that there is only one server so no more trying to work out which server you should pick out of the 200 available, only to then find out that all your mates have joined another. I believe another server is on the way for the EU, especially because the population is bursting when its EU and USA peak time on the weekend. When the towns fill up with a few dozen horses and quad bikes the lag sets in, which now brings me on to performance and customer service.


Performance on a whole is quite good for a new release. There will always be the odd person for whatever reason getting hammered with lag and they will generally become a constant troll on the forums or in game channels. What has been a big surprise is the FPS I am receiving when the game is on max settings. Outside of towns the FPS is hitting 60-150 FPS which is outstanding but it will drop down to 10-25 FPS in the main towns but it’s still possible to get around and do what I need to do. Based on the fact that there can easily be up to 100+ people jammed in a small area then this is still pretty decent. I may drop a few settings and see how go but for now max settings is quite feasible.

Another nice surprise is the customer support in-game. Most new launches the GM’s are rarely found and never heard from in the channels. FE has regular GM’s in the help channel answering questions whilst spanking the odd prat who decides using CAPS is a good idea. On a more serious note I lost 30 cogs, which took a while to save up and after writing a ticket the very next day the items and mission were corrected for me. So in general my experience has been a positive one. Known issues are picked up quickly and it’s nice to see a GM confirm that it was being addressed immediately and I have seen firsthand bugs being fixed in a minor patch the very next day. In general I feel this company really wants to remain hands on and keep on top of issues that pop up and the GM’s actively sought out the location and exact issue when players start complaining in channel. I for one will renew my sub and will continue to play until I can really experience the PvP element of the game and for once I don’t have a sour taste in my mouth after purchasing, yet another MMO.


In summary:


Buy this game if you:
• Loved the Fallout Series or Mad max films (excluding no 3 because it was lame)
• Enjoy FPS in a Sci-Fi setting
• Enjoy open world with exploration and a deep crafting system.
• Inclined to sandbox games with a semi steep learning curve
• Prefer a classes system without pre-determined character types


Don’t buy this game if you:
• Only like fantasy
• Prefer colourful setting with a multitude of mobs to kill
• Prefer auto aim / auto hit in a familiar MMO setting
• Dislike a barren, cowboy like setting.
• Need a class system with titles and like to have lots of race options

Screenshots taken with pretty much max settings.  Look a lot better in game but these hopefully give a good feel for it.  I will take some more of me in combat later today.  Also keep an eye on the FPS middle left of the screen.  Mostly around 60-80 FPS.

 Travelling between towns at night

Always enjoyed driving with the sun on my back

Unfortunately my vehicle is the one on the right.

 Wrecked station in the wild.  Reminded me of London Underground

 Outside the armour merchants. 

  An example of the FPS view in the game.  I use it a lot.

 Another shot of me exploring the wild.

 END of review


 

PREVIOUS ONGOING NOTES

After a 6 months break from MMO's I decided to jump into Fallen Earth yesterday based on the fact it sounded interesting on paper and with the lack of Sci-fi MMO's in the marketplace I wanted to see what the title had to offer. Since the patch takes about 10-15hours to install I didnt get a lot of game time in so I will continue to add updates as I go along.
 

The beginning

Character generation is interesting as it has set profiles but there are so many options you pretty much be one of a kind in the game. Better than most but not as advanced as AoC or similar. Much better than WAR or even LotRO in my opinion.

Graphics - I have to say that I was slightly concerned about the graphics after watching youtube footage and checking out the screenshots. But for those of you who are like me and a bit of a pixel whore, don't worry, the graphics are definitely modern, it aims for realism and carry the feel of a single player title like Fallout 3. However as in all MMO's the scenery has reduced detail to cope with the bandwidth.

Combat - This is an area I am quite impressed with so far. I bought Tabula Rasa and even though I enjoyed the game to a certain degree the combat auto aim did bother me slightly. If you are a sci-fi fan like myself and a FPS fan then Fallen Earth will be of interest. The aiming is totally manual and has a real FPS feel to it so even though I have not participated in PvP, I can finally see some PvP enjoyment in a Sci-fi MMO with. Better still, it has realism for drops, no more killing 10 creatures who are using shotguns and only looting a bowl of lettuce. Maybe it will change but so far killing humanoids will result in them mostly dropping the weapons they used and their ammo as well.

Skill system - This may be a good sign but I haven't worked it out yet but then again I have only started the game and not really tried working it out. However the openness it shows is exciting and it means I won't be pigeon holed into a class system.

General feel - The game looks polished for a brand new release. I know we shouldn’t be surprised because normally when I buy a new product it works well but hey, it’s an MMO. I have had one CTD but other than that blip, the FPS for me is very fast, smooth and without lag. The movement of the character is ok but not as fluid as Tabula Rasa, which is a shame but then again Fallen Earth finally looks like a Sci-fi game with depth and I will take that over a nice jump emote any day. A nice surprise is the voice overs and sound quality. I still need to get out of the starter mission, which is quite substantial, but it’s nice to see the extra touch and have voice overs for all NPC’s with dialogue.

So far with my limited experience of the game I quite excited about what the game may deliver down the track. For gamers seeking a different genre to fantasy and enjoyed Fallout 3, then Fallen Earth may be an MMO of interest but for now I will restrain from giving it a score. More in a few days...

After thought...To set up the account it was relatively simple. However the patching will take a good 7+ hours. Continue to check it as it will occasionally hang. Don’t panic, if you close and restart it will continue patching files where it finished. The bar will show 1% but it hasn’t returned to the beginning, so don’t freak like I did!

5 DAYS LATER
 

5 days on I have managed to leave the tutorial, complete missions in the first town and end up in a much larger town called Oilville. My opinion of the game has varied from ok to liking it, possibly not a lot at this stage but definitely liking it. Amendment to the above. I mentioned that once you kill a creature its common for it to drop a weapon its using. Well post tutorial its a lot more random and pretty much standard for an MMO.

 

Some of the big plus's to date:

POSITIVES

•Open world with no loading screens and I mean none. I drove for ages and its quite refreshing to feel like the world is one whole location. Something AoC desperately needed


•True FPS and aiming. I have been trying to judge the damage based on where the hit landed. The damage is quite realistic and you will get a 'glance' hit if your aim is bad. There is no auto aim or auto hit. So 'yes' you need to use both hands and do some work.


•Vehicles at the start. More games need to do this because it allows a player to explore freely and not get tied down with walking everywhere. There are plenty of incentives to acquire more vehicles but having a little quad bike at the start has been a great addition. (Horse is an option also)


•General crafting. Crafting in this game may not be ground breaking but its certainly in-depth. You can acquire new recipes from missions or vendors etc. There are literally dozens and dozens so you can pretty much get involved in anything you want. Also the balance is there at the start. At just level 2 I was crafting basic food items to use out in the field.


•Stable launch. Now this is up for debate but I cant believe I have this game on max settings and I still get a range between 50-150 FPS! Ok I have seen it dip as low as 15 FPS but that was standing in front of the Auction vendor with another 25 people. However a game with no loading screens and no zones performing at this level just a few days after launch its pretty special. I see he occassional moan about lag but its certainly not a common issue for the majority. I think they were smart by making such a big world then providing personal fast transport at the start, it has certainly spread the load a fair bit.


•Support. Once again open for debate but there are GMs in the chat channel answering questions and keeping an eye on the comms traffic. I have not seen this before and its nice to see some GMs offering help and advice after launch in a public environment. I did see some people moan when none where about but it was about 3am in the morning!!


•Exploration. I love an MMO that allows exploration and the chance of stumbling across something. Unfortunatley most MMO's don't cater for this. FE actually has quite a lot. If you kill a critter and have a skill to skin it then you can loot it and rummage through its guts to get another item or two. Running, driving or riding through the wilderness you come across scraps or plants that, if you possess the skill, you can salvage or harvest for random items. It brings variety to the game and it also means a player could almost build everything free if they wanted to spend the time searching for it. Oh, you also get real XP for salvaging, skinning and harvesting etc. Plus the skill you use increases allowing more options.
 

CONCERNS

•This may not bother everyone but the landscape could be an issue for people who want a lot of greenery and forests etc. Its very...barren and post apocolyptic..funny that. There are some really nice structures that are detailed but the open land can be a little plain but then again I personally would buy that any day over loading screens and lag everywhere. There is always a trade off.


update- Combat and non combat swap over. When you enter free mode or combat mode you push the 'tab' key. No big deal right. However once you kill the mob and want to loot it, you need to push the 'tab' key again to enter non combat mode to loot. Still doesn't sound like a big deal right? Well after a while it becomes tiresome pushing the 'tab' key for every single loot. Basically now I take a few mobs down then loot but I do feel they need a much easier option to loot in both modes. correction - prompted by the comment below I needed to correct the above concern.  It is possible to scavenge in combat mode and its actually quite easy by pushing 'y'.  So not a concern at all but I will leave it here as a point of reference.


•Learning curve. I don't have a problem with this but the game does have enough differences that make you ask loads of questions or spend time to work out the gameplay. I actually enjoy this learning process but if you are a player that wants to jump in and understand the game in 5 minutes then you may get frustrated.


•Not a concern but it will be if you don't like this genre of game. I can see Fallen Earth having a long term following but quite a selective group who like this genre. Its very close to Fallout 3 gameplay feel so if you hate or love that game then I would suggest basing your assumptions of Fallen Earth on that game if you are trying to decide to play or not.


Overall I am pretty happy right now with the game and looking forward to what has to come, especially PvP and factions. I wouldn't say the game is that niche but if you are into hunting trolls and goblins whilst running through pretty forests then this may be a rude shock. Something else of interest is that I have played for several hours and I am still level 5. No problem really but its quite slow compared to other MMO titles.

More to come once I level up some more...until then I may see you in Oilville
 

THE CHRONCILES OF SPELLBORN - Simple review

Posted by chryses Friday April 24 2009 at 6:29AM
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THE CHRONICLES OF SPELLBORN – Initial thoughts

In light of the fact I am becoming increasingly tired with my current list of games (still enjoying LotRO but I need some PvP in my life). I decided to download the trial for The Chronicles of Spellborn. I never expected to do this as I am not a fan of the artwork in the screenshots and I read that the EU server would be separate from the UK one (however this is not the case) but for those who are interested here are my thoughts after 2 hours of game time.


September 13th - FINAL SUMMARY (high teens, several hours)

I felt like I have left this blog hanging a bit and I wanted to wrap it up, even if nobody reads this, at least its closure for me.  I played Spellborn to high teens and my thoughts had not dramatically changed from my initial views.  However I did stop my sub after approxmiately 2 months.  Mostly due to real life and not having the time to learn another game.  Spellborn may not be for everyone but it has brought in a lot of new concepts and ideas, this however may be its downfall.  Have they stretched the boundaries too far from the typical model?  Who knows but I feel with the lack of publicity and mass marketing (unfortunately not everyone has a budget the size of AoC or WAR) the game may end up becoming a very niche game or fall over like TR did.  Either way it would be unfortunate as I saw some real potential in the game and it seems that indy titles either need mass viral marketing like Darkfall or get picked up by SoE for a buck after they completely crash.  In all honesty I have been offline for 3 months so I should check if the game is still running or not but if its still downloadable and gives 10+ day trial period then its a no brainer, try the game and at the very least you had a chance to experience a new combat system and view some pretty freaked out worlds...that somehow grow on you. 

April 26th - UPDATE

First of all thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on this game and making comments.  I have decided to give another update on my experiences in the past 2 days and focus on community, combat and performance.

COMMUNITY UPDATE

It's hard to comment on a community in any game as it's so subjective and on most occasions it comes down to pure luck who you bump into on your MMO travels.  However if you see a constant level of maturity in the channels with people willing to discuss the game and help others, then I believe it's fair to make judgement.  In TCOS I have been pleasantly surprised with the community as a whole.  Taking into account I am playing on a PvP server I was expecting to see the usual slanging matches on global chat and the usual, 'STFU!', 'F.....g NOOB!' etc.  Although amusing it reduces the RPG and the overall lore feel of the game and unfortunately this is something I have just come to accept in other titles such as AoC and EVE.  Yesterday I was invited to a guild, which I accepted and on a purely functional level the interface is completely intuitive just like the chat channels.  I still can't believe how many companies get this wrong when it really should be this easy, so well done to them for getting this right at least.  Yesterday I took the time to interview a few high level guild members about the game and their overall thoughts are:

Major areas they liked

  • Loving the game and the PvP especially at later stages is incredible
  • The lore and storyline is excellent but does require a lot of reading
  • Unique features are excellent (especially PeP and combat style) and there are several others
  • Community is mature and they all thought it was due to the game having manual combat, different lore and not the usual WOW clone
  • Combat is by far the best feature and they all raved on about this. 
  • Patches are small but punchy (their words).  Fix a lot of issues
  • Art style

Major areas they didn't like:

  • Travel can be cumbersome and there is too much running around for missions.  This has been offset by PeP buffs but apparently they are bringing in changes to help this
  • Game needs more people to really make it a rich experience, although it's far from empty.  However I have played on US and EU servers and the US server was very full when I was on. 
  • Some balancing still needed and a few exploits such as killing creatures from an untouchable location, e.g. rock ledge etc.

I still need to play this game a lot more to really gauge the culture but if I was asked to make a comparison then I would say it is like LotRO. 

COMBAT UPDATE

 After two days I am now starting to understand how the combat in this game shines.  They have managed to pull off a system that requires skill but is not cumbersome or takes a PhD to understand.  It really is like Oblivion where it's all about positioning and timing.  Before you start thinking this is a hack and slash game let me add that you also learn skills and can arrange them how you want.  What this means is that you could face off against another player and you really have no clue what they are using or how they fight.  I am holding myself back from saying this is one of the most exciting combat engines I have seen, but it's certainly looking that way.  I have enjoyed AoC a fair bit but the combat does require a lot of button pushing and sometimes I feel like I am losing the experience of combat because I am concentrating too much on hitting 10 keys at once.  TCOS feels like I still have the same amount of freedom during combat but the awkward key pushing has been removed.  I still stand by my initial thoughts that this game feels like Tabula Rasa in movement and fluidity, yet it requires a lot of skill.  Unfortunately I have only had 30 minutes in a group so its hard to judge group combat but I have to say I am almost tempted to sign up jus so I can experience this later on.  Large PvP combat must be insane.

PERFORMANCE

This is where I now have an issue.  I accidentally downloaded the US client and played on that for the first day and even though the morning was very stable I started to have disconnects every two minutes in the afternoon.  I decided to install the EU client since I am based in the EU and the issue has remained and even worsened.  In fact I could only manage 2 minutes of game time in a sitting last night.  Before this turns you off I have spoken at length with players in game and on a whole most have had very few discos.  There were a few others that had the same problem as me but this morning I logged on for about 1-2 hours and had no issues.  I believe it may have something to do with the security or my firewall but you can imagine my frustration when I am starting to enjoy the game and I crash mid combat. 

SUMMARY UPDATE

I am seriously considering signing up to this game because there are features I have not found in any other MMO.  The unique feature PeP is in my opinion one of the best thought out bonus / death penalty mechanics.  Basically you have two XP levels.  One is the standard level 1,2,3,4 and so on but for each kill you also gain PeP XP, which then gives buffs like speed etc.  Once you die you lose a whole PeP level.  It is slightly left field but its a fabulous idea and although harsh in some ways, it works.  From talking with high level players in my guild about the lore and the different houses you can join it seems there is a lot of potential for end content as there is mention of house vs house PvP over land etc.  Yes I miss some of the finer elements in other MMO's such as voice overs on missions etc.  But I have found myself missing these less or not at all since the game brings something new and fresh to the MMO genre.  I will still reserve judgment until I have played to level 20 or so, which does imply I will be subbing but this unfortunately will be determined based on the disco issue. 


APRIL 24TH - INITIAL THOUGHTS

TRIAL DOWNLOAD
• Amazingly it was so simple to download. Took around 2 hours, created account in 1 minute and boom I was in the game. Just a side note to those major companies out there who make this process so difficult, “Why can’t you make it this easy!”
• No credit details either


CHARACTER CREATION:

I am not sure if it’s the trial but there are only 2 races you can pick from and male or female. So that gives you a whopping 4 choices. Thereafter it’s the usual pick armour, face, body type etc. It’s extremely limited compared to other games but funny enough not everyone looks alike. If you are the type of player that loves to tweak eyebrows and ears etc, you will be disappointed as its all set options.

START MISSION
There is a handy little tutorial that runs you through the movements and basic combat. You get to fight very early on and to give you a taster for the games lore; you defend a flying ship against a massive looking puff fish creature that spews little puff like creatures that fly around attacking you. Strange hey!? Well yes…but stick with me.

ENTERING YOUR FIRST ZONE

Once you defend against the horde of flying puff fish you enter a land where you can pick up missions and gather your bearings. It seems the land is floating with flying ships moving around in the distance. I am not sure if I am more concerned about this or my complete acceptance of it! Either way I venture off and I am pleasantly surprised to see a multitude of players running around and global chat being very active, a good start. Better still chat is intuitive and quite easy to use, I can never understand how companies get this part so wrong but luckily it’s not the case here.

MISSIONS
Within 10 minutes I am killing bears and picking turnips off the ground. The missions are the standard, kill this, pick that up, find that person or get to that place. However they have thankfully avoided the trap of making each poor gamer kill 20 bears and then get asked to collect 20 claws from 20 new bears! *sigh* the most I was asked to do is kill 5 creatures. I could sense a couple of digs at other MMO’s when upon completion of one mission the NPC stated that he could still hear creatures but then proceeded to tell me, “Don’t worry! I am not going to ask you to go and kill more for me!” Very funny indeed… I gather from the game they are focused on combat lasting longer than normal so it makes sense to reduce the number of kills. Jumping on to combat now…

COMBAT
I don’t want to turn this into a tutorial so I won’t go into specifics here. However I was quite surprised by the combat. It felt a lot like Tabula Rasa in movement and feel as in it was fluid and very easy to move about. To kill 1 bear it took about 1-2 minutes and this is quite a long time considering the time it takes to kill a bear in say, LotRO or even AoC. Combat was more like Oblivion since you swing to hit and you can move, jump out of the way and circle. At this point I started to notice the graphics less and began to enjoy the game. I know MMO’s can not compete with single player games but at least in this MMO they give the player the ability to win a fight based on how they actually fight, crazy idea I know! The other area that seems unique is how the skills are used. You get to select which ones you want to use on a bar that rotates on the bottom and for each kill you get something called PEP that increases and starts to give buffs. You lose this once you die.

PERFORMANCE
I am sure people will have different experiences with this but I was slightly shocked at how stable it was. I played on 1680x1050, all settings on high and AA x2 to start with. I figure the FPS was around 30-40 and in a 2 hour game period I had 2 crashes to login screen but I was right back in 1 minute later. Take into account I am in a noob area with every other player and the game has just launched, this is pretty impressive. There was a tiny delay after hitting a key or attacking but it was hardly noticeable. Above all it didn’t feel like a Beta.

COMMUNITY
From the limited time I had in the game I was impressed with people I came across. As mentioned global chat was very chatty and a good sign is the lack of complaints. Someone jumped in and asked how the game was and a few responses came back, “amazing!” “Awesome!” “Best MMO ever!” now that may be taking it a little far but what was interesting is that no one jumped in to disagree. I was pleasantly surprised to see guilds already advertising for players and see groups forming and even a few jokes being thrown around. Thankfully there was a lack of foul language for the sake of it or juveniles trying to get noticed by screaming pointless crap. So thumbs up for the community.

Summary
I am still not a fan of the graphics or design of the game but then again I am not a fan of the style in WAR or WOW either. My initial reaction was to uninstall the game after the first 5 minutes but now it really has grabbed my attention enough to see it through the 10 day trial and I would like to level up to around 10th level to see how the game unravels, especially in the PvP area. I can actually see some great PvP moments and enough options in combat style to make things very interesting. I don’t know how the game evolves past the noob area but from the initial signs I think we have a dark horse here that could become a strong contender in its own right. Will it pull in 1 million subs? No…but then again WAR and AoC have proven that even with mass marketing and hype the subs are barely past 250k. What the Chronicles of Spellborn will do is give another option for gamers like me who are getting a little tired of the usual big 2-3 MMO’s and it could become a solid title.

VERDICT


Impressed with:

• Combat
• Community
• Stability / Polish
• Learning curve

Not impressed with:
• Overall art style

For me:
• I will be finishing the 10 day trial and after my limited time in-game I am 60% certain of trying it out past one month. The trial is up so every MMO fan should check it out, even for curiosity.  
 

I WILL NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN

Posted by chryses Tuesday March 31 2009 at 6:11AM
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Sitting comfortably in my mid 30’s I would like to think that I have grown into a mature adult that has a pretty good grip on, who I am, what I like and especially what I don’t like. So imagine the frustration when I find myself enjoying an MMO, which on closer inspection should be struck off my list of potential games. I am not even sure why I am writing this blog but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a way for me to explore the reasons why I am enjoying a game that on paper shouldn’t even be allowed near my rig.

The game I am talking about is Lord of the Rings Online. Before all the fanbois begin battering down my door screaming for my heathen blood, just bear with me!

Over the past 25 years I have come to the realisation that I prefer Sci-Fi over Fantasy, love PvP and steer clear of PvE, I need a complex combat and crafting system, much prefer Sandbox over the traditional model, hate cartoon graphics and yes I admit, I attend pixel whores anonymous. If a game doesn’t have pixels to die for then I am ashamed to admit that I pretty much click ‘start menu’, ‘my computer’, ‘add / remove’ programs and kill the mother where it stands. I even run the antivirus to make sure the bastard is gone. Consider me a snob but I don’t spend thousands of pounds on a PC that can run 3 small countries just to play a crappy graphic engine fast. If I feel like retro then I can always fire up the Wii.

Looking at LotRO it’s a PvE centric game with virtually zero sandbox elements, has no PvP (yes I know there is monster combat… but seriously?), has very nice graphics but it is borderline cartoonish with bold coloured scenery. To top it all off the combat is clunky and I can play the whole game using one hand. So why would a game with the exact opposite of everything I want, grab my attention so much? I wish I had the answer…

What I do like about the game is the deed and trait engine with the epic storyline running in the background. I feel that most games suffer the long dry barren wasteland known as levelling and all of us have been there way too much. Codemasters has been clever with this game by adding in little wins along the way. For those that are not aware of the deed system, in short you can complete deeds throughout middle earth and once finished you are awarded a new title and trait, this can be equipped to give you bonus’s in different categories. The epic storyline idea is not unique as I have also seen it in Age of Conan. However in LotRO you can participate in the epic storyline a lot as opposed to AoC where you can only interact at certain levels. So I admit, there has been some clever programming going on and even though LotRO suffers from fatigue like all games, it does have enough routes that a gamer can follow to keep things lively. The next big win for me is the grouping. I would consider myself a hardcore gamer who plays casually…a demanding real life will do that to a guy, sadly gaming comes under the ‘non essential’ activities when organising a family and career. Unfortunately some great games have fallen victim to this (EVE Online I am looking at you) and I find myself measuring my gaming time in 30 minute slots. Shed a tear for a fallen gamer…

I am sure a lot of people can relate to my biggest issue with MMO’s, which is completing the group missions. Most firms develop group missions that need a freaking camp over and intravenous drip pumping coffee into your veins just so you can make it through. Not to mention the hours standing around screaming, “lvl 50 Cleric LFG, you know you want me!!” You then have to deal with players asking idiotic questions like, “do you have a healer? I’m a tank but don’t want to tank is that ok? Can I just do the first part? Is 30 min enough to do it? About to have dinner can you wait?” etc… you kidding?  Why don’t you just come here so I can stick my epic + 40 morale sword through your skull!

In almost every MMO I feel that I am missing out on the best parts since I don’t have a time pit that I can sink half a day into. It bugs me and I am not suggesting companies change their entire methodology to suit me but Codemasters has almost cracked it. When I first started LotRO I ignored group missions as I expected them to be epic with multiple levels. However over the past week or so I noticed that nearly all group missions can be done within 10-20 minutes, even the epic storyline ones. What this means is that players are more willing to quickly join up and even jump in for the ride.

To top it all off the game still has a very healthy population with crafting and trade being an integral part of the community. However a friend of mine did leave after his trial because he didn’t like the idea of trading for components to finish an item, I think he misunderstood the word ‘community’. *smacks forehead*

LotRO probably won’t live with me for years to come but it has certainly taught me a very valuable lesson. No matter how much you think you know the gamer within you, there are always exceptions. So I for one will now hesitate before saying I will never play a game purely based on its features. If you are reading this and are currently stuck in gaming limbo, maybe trial an older game or two and you might just find an unlikely MMO grabbing your attention. If you do let us know!

 

Tabula Rasa - starter review

Posted by chryses Saturday November 3 2007 at 10:16AM
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Tabula Rasa is a game that only receives hate or love postings on these forums.  I have been a gamer for over 20 years and I decided to purchase Tabula Rasa today to find out first hand what this game has to offer and tell it how it is...

PC specs: 2 gig Corsair ram, SB FX-i Audio 5.1, AMD 4400 dual, 2x7600GT Nvidia, old hdd.  Game runs at 30-40 fps on 1024x960 and everything on high.  At very high it drops to 20fps but this only adds some lighting effects. 

** Please note: I have not played Beta.  My only exposure to this game is reading threads, official postings and looking at screenshots and small clips.  My expectations right now are average to below average.  

Day 1

I purchased the box at my local game shop.  Instructions very simple and even though I had to set the account up it was a straight forward process.  Installation is around 4-5 gig and prepare to wait approximately 1 hour for patching if its downloading around 133KBs.

Box contains instructions (probably wont use as its not that extensive, pure fundamentals) a quick reference card and map that will be very helpful.  The standard 1 month free still applies and I decided to purchase a 3 month sub so all in all it will cost around 53 pounds for 4 months. 

Day 1 review score - 70/100 (Pretty much what I expected but slightly impressed it was so easy)

 

Day 2

(Playing time approximately 4-5 hours / level 5)

Please note this is a longer post as its the first day and I want to give a quick snapshot.  I will talk about gameplay tomorrow...

Last night I finally jumped into TR and I am glad to say installation was very straight forward and it was only about 1.5 hours for the initial patch.  Creating a character was relatively fast since you can not fully customise your avatar.  Don't worry though there are plenty of options but if you insist on changing the size of your nostrils or eyebrows then you will be dissapointed. 

Your rookie avatar starts in a drop zone where you receive some basic training and your first mission is to defend a base.  My first reaction was of dismay due to the graghics looking slightly dated and colours rather neutral but this was sorted quickly after tweaking graghic options.  Then the fun started...

Heading towards the base I really felt like I was in a war zone.  The Bane land from drop ships and this created a sense of panic on the battlefield so I opened fire along with the other 5 NPC's who were supporting me.  About 30 minutes later and after some training missions I am standing on the ramparts blowing away bane with a big smile on my face.

SNAPSHOT

Graghics - If you love flowing fields of flowers and sandy beaches with red crabs then this may not be for you.   Its gritty, futuristic, lots of battlements and very war torn.  Avatar's look great and my system runs the game at a pretty high spec so no complaints at all. 

Sound - Normally I don't even mention sound but I just have to on this occassion.  Its the best sound I have heard in an MMO.  You don't have elvish ghosts wailing on in the background or some orc grunting while he is thumping a head against a wall.  This is sound on the immersion level.  As you play TR you will hear gun fire in the distance with troops yelling for backup, drop ships flying over head and the Bane yelling that they smell human etc.  Also the mission givers actually do talk which helps with the overall RPG element.  Picture yourself  and several allies crouching behind sandbags firing multiple rounds into an invasion force with NPC's yelling out orders etc.   Enough said...

Gameplay - I want to talk about this in more detail on my  3rd day.  However I want to get some things straight here.  I read too many posts about people saying combat is boring since its 'auto lock', fire and that there is no difference in cover etc.  For the record cover does makes a big difference to the damage you inflict and take.  If you crouch and fire you will do maximum damage as opposed to running and firing where you do a lot less.  They state this in the game and several NPC's tell you this and if you flick over to the damage log you can see it in black and white.  So that is the official line so don't listen to idiots who say otherwise.   

Crafting - I thought I would touch on crafting even though I have not tried it.  I am a hardcore crafter at heart and in almost every MMO I am the one making items for myself, friends and clan members.  I have recently seen some threads on how bad crafting is in TR.  Personally I don't care either way.  The game is too fast paced and full of action and the idea of having to craft for hours on end like Vanguard doesn't make sense.  I have found recipes from kills so I will discuss this more later. 

Community - I have not spoken to anyone in-game yet however TR is setup so you don't feel bad when attacking the same creature.  In fact the game is about jumping in and helping others out and it seems the XP is split depending on damage done so I can't see any issues over stealing kills.  I personally loved crouching behind ramparts and using my rifle to assist other players.  Unfortunately there are the usual fools in chat spamming about lag and how nothing works.  Today when they announced downtime (also advertised on their website) you had people mouthing off.  Shame really as I know this game will slowly develop into a niche game for a mature gamers so hopefully this will dissapear.  

Day 2 review score - 80/100 (Game delivered more than I expected, no obvious bugs or performance issues and above all I had a load of fun)

 

 

Day 3

(Playing time approximately 9-10 hours / level 9)

 
Today I really feel I got my teeth into this game and I am only level 9 still. Highlight today was helping to defend a Launch Zone in Concordia Wilderness and for me this is where TR really shines. Last night I and several other players found ourselves swarmed with Bane. Along with our NPC’s soldiers and a Mech Warrior we mowed down dozens of the enemy. Sounds great? It is but that wasn’t the end. This morning I logged on thinking I could find my cosy spot on the rampart and collect my mission tokens by sniping the odd invader.   No chance! Upon logging in I found the base overran with Bane and when I say overran I mean swarms! The NPC’s were trying their best but the last thing I remember was an alien the size of a tank eating me for breakfast. So I decided it wasn’t the best place to hang out and after checking the map the once human held landing zone is now showing up as owned by the Bane. So the game shows it is fluid and with no ‘real’ defence humans will lose their positions. How does that affect players? Well for starters I have 4 missions to cash in there and of course you lose access to the shops etc. On top of all that, if players don’t keep the invasion at bay it becomes increasingly difficult to get around as you find yourself cornered by patrols.
 
GAMEPLAY MECHANICS
 
 
PERFORMANCE: I thought I would get this out of the way right at the start.   Performance on my rig (spec above) runs smoothly 100% of the time and the lowest I have seen the FPS (Frames per second) is at 30 and I still don’t see any lag or stutter. Rather amazing considering that for most of the gameplay there are multiple NPC’s, Avatars and enemy in your area and this was also tested when the server was at ‘very high’ pop. Big well done on the performance guys!
 
AVATAR:  At first I found the Avatar slightly confusing to move around but as always I became use to the controls soon enough. You have several emotes that are done quite tastefully and there is the normal jump and crouch etc. What I really like is the option to zoom so you can look over your shoulder that is very handy for sniping and having a better view in bunkers etc. Importantly all the avatars look excellent and are the best I have seen in an mmo.    
 
INTERFACE:  I really like the interface in TR. Push ‘ctrl’ and you get a radial menu that gives instant access to all areas. Inventory automatically separates your items into categories (no more shuffling your arrows into one bag and ore into another!). Better still you can access a merchant screen, character screen and inventory screen at the same time. This means you are able to see what you are using, what you have in your inventory and also what you want to buy. They make it easy to compare as it shows your equipped item and the item you are considering at the same time. With the amount of games and MMO’s out there today a sloppy interface is not acceptable and I am happy to say TR comes up trumps on this as well.
 
COMBAT:  What can I say? TR is the definition of combat and I feel that the designers put all their hard work into ensuring this core component of the game is exceptional and they are not too far off. Combat in TR flows smoothly and easily. You find yourself worrying about the next alien trying to rip your head off and not the controls. It is easy to swap between weapons, abilities and still control your avatar while under heavy fire. A lot of people complain that combat is too easy as you can autolock. I disagree. I never use autolock unless I have a specific target in a middle of a large group. The game is much better played by actually aiming. As stated yesterday there are big bonuses for crouching and gaining cover. Notably if you are getting hit and you run behind a tree you tend to get minimal or no damage so you won’t see any bullets doing a Kennedy and turning corners!
 
In summary the performance, interface and general gameplay is excellent. So far I have not found myself shaking my head at some illogical design and that is always a good sign. In all honesty I really can’t pick up one negative area of TR as far as the mechanics of the game go. It really is jump in and begin firing…Its as easy as that. 

Tomorrow I am going to talk about the environment, missions and playability of TR. I really wanted to give it a good go before doing so.

Day 3 review score - 84/100 (Game continues to deliver more than I expected.  The battles to defend or reclaim human bases have really made this game stand out for me and I hope there will be additonal content I have not seen or is coming that will keep me playing for many months.)

 

 

DAY 4 

(Playing time approximately 11-13 hours / level 11)

In danger of sounding like a fanboy I really want to put down what I love about the gameplay and what I don't like about it.  Here goes...

WHAT I LOVE AND HATE ABOUT TR

LOVE - Tabula Rasa has 'in my view' the potential to really be a massive success and although not challenging some of the giants such as WOW (sorry for using that word in this blog) it will definitely capture a mass audience that will remain for a considerable amount of time. Why? Because its different and there is no other game out there that really competes with it and for SCI-FI boys like me its our only release from Pippin and Frodo etc.  The game does not try and be everything to everyone (Vanguard anyone?) instead it focuses all its raw potential at combat and the battle environment you and your fellow players are raging in. Grinding, we all hate it and generally it stinks so much it can drive you to insanity.  In TR combat is so much fun you don't even realise you are completing missions.  Today I actually spent 2 hours smashing the hell out of the Bane while crouched behind sandbags on a hill side.  If you want to get up close and personal you can and with level 3 hand-2-hand you can do some serious damage.  Not to mention the very cool animation showing you kicking the guts out of a bane, seriously you do!  So there you have it in a nutshell, TR does what it says on the tin.  Want a SCI-FI that is gritty, fast paced and with multiple enemies dropping all around?  Fancy fighting off a horde of Bane on top of a rampart all the while sniping at long distances and then jumping off the wall to rifle butt a critter in the face. BOOM! TR is your game.

HATE - Ok hate is a pretty strong word but hey I am trying to be fair here.  As I don't really 'hate' anything about TR I am going to try and look at the game from a different view.  The game does not have a crafting system to speak of.  In fact its almost exactly the same as EVE Online.  Find or buy a Blue Print and you can make that item at any station for a cost as long as you have the parts.  Personally it fits into the fast paced side of the game but for the hard core crafters out there it just may not be enough.  Environment can also be an issue for players that... well...just want to be left alone sometimes.  I remember my days in Vanguard exploring rolling hills and deep forests and not really having too many issues.  Outside the 'small' bases you are literally a stone throw from a Bane wanting to share your liver with his kids.  Will this game have enough for the non SCI-FI fan?  Not sure...I can see a lot of people enjoying the combat for a week or two then hating the fact that there are no downtime moments with other players such as taverns, Crafting Station, merchants etc.   The game is a FPS with a great RPG element therefore I personally will continue to play EVE Online and possibly WAR when it comes out as I will utilise TR for my 'I want to shoot the s$%^ out of everything' mood. 

Day 4 review score - 85/100 (Today I managed to semi-complete an instance that gained me additional Logos.  Unfortunately the Mortar and a huge spider managed to make my life miserable.  This is important because the game does not fall over just so you can level.  I really had to work my butt off for it and you can definitely gain a sense of achievement.  Either way that Spider has my name written on its forehead...Enough writing now, back to TR.

 DAY 5-6?

Unfortunately a quite large disturbance known as work has finally beaten every minute of game time out of me and I could not log on to TR for a couple of nights.  I have however in that time convinced 2 colleagues to purchase the game and hopefully I will be able to experience some grouping which I will then discuss here over the weekend.    

Day 5-6 review score - 86/100 (So why have I added another point to my review score since I just stated that I haven't played since Day 4?  TR gets an additional point because all I want to do is log on and play the damn game.  So in my book that is worth at least 1 point!

 

 

DAY 7

For the past couple of days I have really focused on grouping with fellow players and completing every Instance on the starting map.  So far I can say the experience has been good.

INSTANCES AND GROUPING

 

INSTANCES

 

I for one never liked Instances as most other MMO’s I have played that contained them tended to have very little public space and personally I like to roam.  Fortunately TR does not have this problem and for those that are concerned don’t be.  TR has a huge public space where you complete most of your missions and defend or attack ‘Landing Zones’.  In the starter map there are approximately 3 instances and instead of them being a necessary burden they are immersive, roughly 45 minutes long, continue to develop the storyline and above all very different from each other.  It is obvious a lot of time and effort has been put into each Instance and it shows.  I have managed to almost complete one solo but I would suggest having at least one additional squadie.  One of my favourite Instances so far is when you have been given the task to find out why your allies have been turned into human killing zombies.  Upon entering an ‘Aliens’ like base you see the poor bastards being churned out on a production line.  Obviously you only do the right thing which is to blow most of them away and the machine that is creating them.  May they rest in peace…

 

GROUPING

 

Grouping is the main reason why I gave up on Vanguard since the game is too group heavy and when you mix that with a small population it allows two options, grinding skeletons or crafting and neither is that exciting after any amount of time.  That’s why for all upcoming games like TR, grouping has been my only real concern.   Thankfully the developers at TR have found a nice balance and created a game that by its very nature encourages players to group up at certain locations and work as a team even if your are not officially part of one (A key point I have suggested for Vanguard  in previous threads).  When I decided to embark on my first Instance I put a call out in the LFG channel and I found myself fighting alongside fellow players within a few minutes.  The population obviously has something to do with it but I believe there are some key points why it’s not a burden to find a group:

 

  • With only 3-4 instances in the 'current' map players are always seeking a group for similar missions.
  • Instances can take as little as 30-45 minutes so you will find more people willing to jump in and help out at short notice.  No planning in advance needed.
  • LFG channel is well used and easy to access.
  • No need for level barriers when grouping so you won’t find yourself kicked when a better Tank turns up.
  • With teleportation between Landing Zones all party members can get to the Instance within 5 minutes. 

For the healers out there TR does need you!  In 2 of the Instances our group would have taken heavy casualties if it wasn’t for the specialist repairing our shields and health. 

Day 7 review score - 86/100 (The developers at TR have really made an effort to make instances enjoyable and immersive.  Coupled with easy grouping and relatively short completion time TR has continued to draw me in and as a casual gamer (these days)it suits me perfectly.  Is TR big enough (yet) to be the 'only' game for a serious gamer?  I am not sure but as a big EVE Online fan it has turned out to be the perfect companion.

Tell us the CRAP and it will set you free!

Posted by chryses Wednesday June 20 2007 at 4:32PM
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(* CRAP = Current realistic actual playability *)
 
Picture this…
 
Three months ago on a Friday night after work a middle age professional marches into a store and purchases one of the biggest releases in the history of MMORPG’s. He shreds the plastic wrapper before he reaches the station and has already absorbed half the manual before struggling onto a crowded London tube. 
 
As he enters his flat he ignores the post on the floor, ravenous dog, even his own dinner in the fridge and heads straight for the PC. 
 
“This has to be good, it just has to!” he mutters anxiously. 
 
He had read all the forums, reviews, previews, developer posts and upgraded his already powerful rig to fully appreciate this masterpiece.
 
Several hours later I wonder how I could be so naïve.
 
It’s just after midnight and I am infuriated as I realize my research was pure folly. My avatar stutters across open landscape occasionally letting me take control.   The FPS (Frame rates per second) barely breaks into the teens. My gorgeous level ten High Elf has been on a perilous, inspirational journey that involved thumping dozens of skeletons and so many scorpions I have enough poison to wipe my server of all existence. I pick another mission and the exhilarating adventure starts all over again like some RPG ritual.
 
Target stationary NPC, click, hit, hit, hit…rinse and repeat.  
 
The sudden realization that there is nothing more to this world but development bugs, cute dancing toons and lovely trees is too hard to swallow. “They can’t do this to me, not again!” I shriek sending my starving Yorkshire terrier into a yapping frenzy.   
 
Is the lack of game play, community involvement and development the real issue here? I think not. It is the lack of respect the gaming community receives from publishers when we try and make an educated decision on where to spend our money. I remember when I first started playing games back in the mid 1980’s. It was almost a criminal offence to admit you did and may God help you if any girls in your class found out. Thankfully those days of closet D&D are now over and the world of gaming rejoices. 
 
So why treat us like we don’t know any better?
 
When publishers release a new yet incomplete MMORPG do they chink champagne glasses, serve the canapés and give each other virtual slaps on the back for a job well done? Subsequently lounge back and watch the thousands of players flock to the gift they bestowed on the RPG world? Reality suggests they tiptoe off into the server room never to be seen again while some unfortunate IT graduate on their summer break gets conscripted to deal with a lynch mob full of fantasy toons.
 
The gaming community has developed into a mature, global, unisex mass population responsible for a multi-billion dollar industry. I struggle to think of any other business with such a vocal fan base who will give up so much of their time to discuss what they want to see in upcoming releases. So I ask, “Why all the lies?”      
 
Publishers should tell us the truth prior to launch.  Trust the community; put your faith in their wisdom to see beyond the bugs and actually embrace a game full of immense promise and potential. Developers are guaranteeing a high tech gismo present for Christmas then delivering pajamas and underwear that sends their gaming children screaming into the night. It’s not a pretty sight and one we can all do without. If higher powers are pushing for an early release date then establish communication with your fans and inform them that the game is playable albeit with bugs.  However, mesmerizing improvements are forthcoming in the near future.  For their undying loyalty all players that subscribe within the first three months receive a substantial virtual gift or title. Sure you need to deliver in the long run but this will avoid the hype bubble imploding along with its subscribers leaving a husk of a game that had so much potential. 
 
Without us, the paying fans, that gorgeous world full of beautiful dancing elves with their pretty trees will be nothing more than a cute screen saver. So tell us the CRAP, it may not set you free but it will make sure you earn a lot of cash in the long run and isn’t that what gaming is all about?