Isobel's Armor

I downloaded a free tutorial model to use as a sizing guide, had to modify it alot to make it muscular enough. Still, here is what I have so far of Isobel's armor. Still missing the boots and bracers.


The Arkenath Lordling stood, shaking the dust from his long coat. That last lash of Soul Energy had almost connected, forcing him into the dust like a dog. His mind was already assessing the situation, the dark figure behind the Disciple that was probably that pathetic witch, hiding in the skirts of the better fighter.

"You can't guard your friend forever, Uthorin dog." He didn't expect the taunt to work, but her response may provide more information.

"But I'm not." The Disciple's belt of skulls shook soundlessly as she withdrew the sword holding up the dead guard behind her. The sight barely registered though, before a pair of daggers erupted from his chest.


Levels or Levels?

(Reposted from VWTheory's themepark section.)

I was thinking about this tonight, why do we create systems of "levels" in MMOs, then restrict those levels to "zones" in the meager hope that people will play through our content in the correct order? Why not just make Levels in the traditional sense, and as players progress through levels they get additional gear(think Zelda's Boomerang, not Shaman's boots) and so forth. Players then have to complete a level to move on, but would be rewarded for coming back to old levels with stuff that might be either universally useful, or useful on whatever level they were currently on.

Granted there are problems with replayability, but since we are already talking about themeparks, why not focus on making better rides? You would need to focus on your social elements, avatar customization, houses and leaderboards for example, but if you can get them to feel some meaning in the their persistence it could very well take off.


A room at the center

I stumble into the room, some scorching on my left arm and a deep gash in my left thigh, but otherwise okay. The room would be dark except for the light of a hundred monitors, all locked into a blue error screen. They don't cover the walls, they cluster together into kiosks while the wall space between is simply white, but a dark white hovering on the edge of gray.

Directly in the center sits a woman. Raven hair, slender build, pear shaped figure and completely nude. Recognition was instant, she had taunted me all my life, everything I had wanted to be, and yet always outside me. A familiar smile graces her lips, and I hear her thoughts, applying it correctly to the face, finally understanding what had called me here.

I replied in kind, greeting easily, not needing to question who. Our conversation was like so many I'd had before. While the world had observed my silence, these had been droning on undetected.

You've built me. You made all this happen. I understand. So it's the back of my mind, my subconscious. Yes, it's the only thing that makes sense. It fits all the criteria, the creatures were so familiar, I had wondered why.

So what are you going to do? All I have to do is think it so, and it's fixed. It's not that simple. But it's still simpler even than that. Yes. You need more certainty than that. I understand, but you already know it doesn't matter. I know.

So you aren't going to fix it. I'm not. Even knowing you would save thousands of lives? And undo the most important moments of their lives for others. Time is immutable, what has happened shapes what will happen, who am I to say that the absence of these events will help people in the long run. So you'll abandon the world to it's plight? No, this won't spread anymore. It doesn't need to.

I sit, opposite her, and wait. Wait for the eventuality, the other to affirm our existence, to hear our story. And to write it's ending.

B C,3.


Failure, the Sacred Cow of the games industry.

There was an article I found some time ago, and greatly enjoyed at the time. Slaughtering Sacred Cows (Amen!) over at Virtual Cultures. I read the article, and the comments, walking away with interesting ideas about ways to express death and failure. However, like most subjects of thought, it was eventually relegated to the "important but not fully understood" section at the back of my mind, where the node has been building information and thesis.

When I was largely dealing with only single player games, I hadn't really had a chance to see the "sacred cow" of failure put under truest duress. But after some time logged in World of Warcraft, Tabula Rasa, EVE and WAR, it rather makes itself the elephant in the room. When all is said and done, the professional games industry does not, at any point, allow there to be true failure in games.

Before we go any further let me explain what I mean by true failure. First off, death is not failure, and failure is not death. Death is an end, a finite state, a point at which some character ceases to play a role, it can be a bad thing, but it can also be a good thing. Failure, true failure, is an action with lasting negative consequences for both yourself and, in one way or another, the world around you. In a system of true failure, not defeating the boss would mean that the world really is destroyed, or the uncouth host they promised really does set about ravaging the world. As you may have noticed, any number of popular MMOs are dead as way of insulating the world from failure.

Right now the vast majority of supposed "failure states" in games are built around a single guiding principle, "make the gamer physically uncomfortable". Save/loads, level replays, unskippable cut scenes, corpse reclaiming and debuffs are all designed to make you sink in more time, many of them also provide a sudden break in the action just as the player is probably at the height of an adrenaline high. Note, I'm not saying these things are bad, just that they aren't failure, they are punishment. They tell people we think they did something bad, and that they should learn not to do it again.

So what would be a failure state? The destruction of a world, the permanent death of a storyline character they have grown close to, all the apple pies they were baking going bad, there really isn't a limit to the variety and types of failure states. What they do have in common though is that they cannot be undone and have at least the opportunity to effect the game the player is playing as they move forward.

I'm sure some of you laughed at the idea of a game trying to make you physically uncomfortable, since it's probably something that games never will be able to do. Why then do we try and make that the baseline for dealing with a player's failures? Part of it has to do with content, as the internet expands and the reach of gifted amateurs increases, the value of content is dropping like a stone towards nothing. As we become more and more used to having amateur and semi-pro level content available for free at the touch of a button, the amount a player is willing to pay for sub-phenomenal content decreases to match.

While prices of games may be going up, the cost of content generation is increasing far in advance. Where someone once may have payed $20 for 8-bit graphics, limited synth chips and short disposable stories, they now pay $70 for fully rendered high definition 3d, surround sound stereo music with full voice over, at least decent writing and 30 hours of game play. The cost of creation being an exponential increase, hundred thousands to tens of millions, while the price difference to the end user is only 350%. Worst of all, the time needed to create a set amount of content has vacillated only a little, meaning that the human costs of content generation have remained basically the same, if not slightly increasing.

All of this works together to create a sort of underlying fear that people won't actually see or appreciate your content. A certain amount of driving force is created to make certain all components of your game can be viewed by even the worst players, and that even the best players be forced onto a certain set of rails from which anything more than minor deviation is caustically punished.

On the other hand, it's commonly cited that as a form of entertainment the players themselves don't want to fail. To which I call bullshit. Maybe they aren't the world's largest segment of gamers, but apparently there are more than a few out there who seem to be fed up with the lack. And let's be honest here, how are we to know if they aren't a commercially viable group when the only thing even hinting at that is "common wisdom", or was it only in my dreams that Wing Commander was a financially successful title.

Perhaps user generated content, in the Second Life or Saga of Ryzom sense, will be our great savior from these ails, but somehow I doubt it. I would put my money more on the creation of user colonized spaces, where the game's own item set and crafting capacity allows the users to create their own lands. EVE comes close in this regard, but certainly isn't a purist ideal, perhaps Neveron would be a closer example with almost purely player owned landmass.

I'm not saying that the industry must change now, but rather I'm wondering why the industry is so happy hiding it's head in the sand. The Sims is actually commonly maligned for being a casual game, yet in further examination it's one of the few to have actual failure, and by extension actual success, built into the core of the game. Spore is continuing that tradition, though right now it's a little mired in the brick-a-brack of DRM issues, and also seems to be financially successful. Is it possible that in our headlong rush to define the importance of a game as whether or not the game contains enough bad asses, we may well have missed something both artistically and financially important?


Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

The steam was overwhelming, clinging to her skin and making her sweat. Sweat seeped slowly into the cuts and bullet wounds, creating a steady stream of biting pain. Her hair was matted to the back of her neck, making some vain part of her glad there weren't any mirrors around.

Her grip was still tight, to her surprise, as she placed the gun firmly against the spine of the woman laying in front of her. The hammer cocked easily, and her finger rested lightly on the hair trigger. She took a half breath, and faltered, removing her finger.

"You shouldn't pull a gun if you don't intend to kill someone." The woman opened the eye facing upwards and examined her without moving.

"I could still do it, one shot to the spine is all it takes."

"You'd be dead before the bullet left the barrel, but you already knew that. So what sort of pathetic nonsense brought you here in this sorry state? Outlive your usefulness to them, maybe?"

"I need you to... my wife has cancer, it's inoperable."

"Mmmm, I see. Why not have your little pet do it? Too ethical? Maybe she just wants to save your poor wife from having cravings for a little human every now and then. Oh let me guess, she went and tattled on your little favor. Not so fun being on the receiving end of those nasty little shards of lead, eh."

She dropped a slip of paper, "she'll be... here."

* * *

It was a long moment before Maxine moved. First she carefully slid the gun away from her spine, then slid off the small cot away from the woman. Her skin crawled a bit as she stretched out her shoulder muscles and craned her neck around to examine the weapon's holder.

Maybe it's rigor mortis, she thought to herself, examining the stiff woman's clouded eyes. She hadn't ever heard of anyone remaining standing when they died, but there was a first time for everything she guessed. Perhaps, she thought with a hint of respect, this was just her bodies way of honoring the iron resolve that had brought it here in the first place.

She picked up the paper and flipped it over a couple times in her hand. The steam had bled out all the ink except for the last name Cruise. Perhaps she would simply wait at the funeral, or just not do it at all. One eye flicked over the still standing corpse, definitely wait at the funeral.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You came of the Earth, and now you go back to whatever god may be." She intoned, "and may she be as loving and forgiving as they say, because you're going to need it."


MB for Mature Blog

Let me tie my hair back, here... that's better.

Contrary to most of my other writings about maturity on this blog, I'm not looking to be combative or put a challenge to the games industry in total. I've hardly given up on the quiet crusade, it's just that right here today my attention is much closer to home than an entire theoretical industry. Indeed, my primary focus at the moment is this very blog.

As I'm sure all... okay, so to be perfectly honest, I know the numbers I get well enough to know that perhaps a couple people reading this will have even read my earlier blog posts. So to sum it up, I'm not generally inclined to pull my punches. I've written about lesbians, violent death, what can be learned from porn, depression, and terrible moral choices, but more recently this issue has rather become the elephant in the background of every page.

Yes, I'm referring to the mascots decorating the fringe, and even to some extent the image of that chaos inspired girl that is still probably on the front page. I've kept it all rather tasteful in my opinion, no sex scenes or vaginal closeups, but still the fact remains that nude silhouettes now populate every page of my blog. This creates problems, both for people hoping to read from work, and for people with young children (or very jealous spouses) around at all hours.

I'm not taking them down. The layout of the blog is moving in much the direction I want it to move, even if the current color selection is a bit weird. Despite my small readership, I don't mind at all if people choose to only read through google reader or a similar aggregater, or even simply stop reading all together. It doesn't hurt my feelings or my pocketbook. Not everything is for everybody, and perhaps this just isn't for you, or isn't compatible with your current stage in life, that is all perfectly okay.

However, for the sake of everybody else's right to choose what content does and does not cross their screen, I'm going to put up a certain amount of fair warning. I'm going to turn on the adult content flag in Blogger, so it should give warning prior to my blog that it does contain content that has been socially declared fit only for adults. I can only hope I don't break a couple feed readers in the process.



Last Night's Wanderings.

The journey begins in Shadowlands.

A final look back into the Shadowlands before continuing onward to Ellyrion.

A Brave New World.

Full of new Camps.

With a dash of flowers.

And some serendipity.

Appreciating the nearby enemy camps.

And going for a swim.

But not forgetting to say hi to the neighbors.


Some WAR Photojournalism

From the first preview weekend: Enjoying the view of a waterfall in a tier 1 high elf area in my renown armor. Good news, only one archmage lost their life in my exploration that day.

Preview Weekend+: Queuing up for some Eckrund tier 1 jollies. I'm sure any number of players, playing many different races, can relate to this one. I'm pretty sure that I'm in mostly renown pieces, though I don't think the chest is.

Open Beta: Wandering around in my brand new Level 14 renown gear brought me out to the edge of keep looking off into the bay. I rather wish I could have moved the camera off center for this, but I still think they turned out all right.

Open Beta: Moments after taking the keep in tonight's rather epic battle in Ostland, I found some solace on the less crowded crafter level of the keep. Tonight's battle is the first time WAR actually impressed me with the sheer fun. Of course, the Casualties leadership and I are going to have to have a chat about the standard tactics if I'm actually going to be given that title. (I rather want the title and quite happily pay for my own standards.)


I feel soo...

Well... I'm bored.

I don't know why.

I have so much to do.

So many things to enjoy.

But I'm bored.


A new screenshot

The WAR servers are down giving me some much needed time for personal projects.

This is a lamp post... without it's textures or it's light sadly enough. But hey, progress!

Small Changes

Some of you may have noticed the addition of the mascot (probably NSFW) in the last couple of days. Between it and some scale issues I've noticed some problems in terms of readability and ease of use. Today I expanded the image, exacerbating the problem, so I decided to make a few modifications.

- Colors have been adjusted to retain readability even when overlapping the mascots.
- Fonts have changed.
- Sidebar now scales.

Hopefully this will also be helpful for people attempting to view from iPhone as the title is now the only part that doesn't scale.

The colors look fine for me, but I know monitors differ drastically. I'd appreciate any feedback you would care to give on the color scheme.

While I'm dealing with site stuff...

For the month of Aug 6-Sep 5, I'd like to thank these sites for directing some traffic my way.
GAX Online - Where this blog was initially established.
Stylish Corpse - Ysharros writes about MMOs and other things...
Dragon Chasers - Pete.
The Ancient Gaming Noob - Wilhelm was actually one of the first blog authors to actually drum me up some hits. I greatly appreciate that.

Anyways, just thought I'd drag them all into the limelight, as it were.


Your first steps.

The loading bar inches across the bottom of your screen. A muted news report plays on the screen, the lower ticker bar reporting rising tensions in the inner worlds. The video of a battleship in low orbit over Luna. After a few seconds a commercial starts playing, espousing the wonders of one of the more recent colonies, Eiro. "Beautiful vistas dominating a fully terraformed world, where a settler can peacefully carve out their own path or enjoy the luxuries of one of our five great cities! Home to one of the galaxies greatest engineering marvels, the flying city Balseri!"

The loading screen disappears and the scene opens, you are seated on a space shuttle that has just landed. You walk out into the Eiro space port, a relatively busy place where on the other side of a glass wall cattle and sheep are being herded either onto or off of freighter shuttles. An AI tour assistant, next to a rack of brochures, directs people to their destinations. As you walk into the chaos your PDA beeps.

You've just been given directions to the Eiro Corporation recruitment office, as well as the Travel Union's local branch office. At the bottom of the mail are also a few links, one to Rennington University, one to the Union Directory, and one to the government's New Resident Adjustment material.

* * *

My latest idea on how to introduce players to a non-combat world in such a way that they understand what sort of play is likely to be encouraged. (Namely economics, construction, crafting, social and exploration.)



The project I've been spending the majority of my time on recently has had a significant bent towards slowing things down. The irony is, I'm pushing myself harder and harder to try and get more done on it.

I have been watching through an anime named Aria lately. I know anime isn't everyone's cup of tea, but at this point it is my major inspiration. I'll go ahead and embed an episode, probably not the best example of what I'm looking for, but the one I really wanted I can't seem to find.

Online Videos by Veoh.com

I don't think working hard and appreciating life are diametrically opposed. Still it feels like I'm trying to walk a fine balance that I don't have much experience with. Having to balance how hard I'm working with how much I'm taking the time to appreciate the world around me. I'm thinking there is something else I should be doing, just can't really decide what.

Part of it could be the wanderer in me, rearing it's head again. Part of me really would like to just start walking and see where I wind up.