Browsing the blog archives for March, 2007


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Recently one of the guys in my group has gone ahead and converted one of the rooms in his house into a full-fledged gaming room. He’s got a nice big table, lots of scenery, bookshelves for rulebooks, seating, a basic sound system … In other words, everything you need to game without distractions.

Lately the guys in the group seem to have been getting interested in the Warmachine / Hordes tabletop miniatures game by Privateer Press. I’m the only person in the group who doesn’t play Warhammer, but since everyone seems to be going through an exodus from Warhammer to Warmachine, I figure I may as well join in. I’m not usually one to get into these tabletop miniatures games, but a couple of things appeal to me…

1. Warmachine/Hordes are playable with a minimum of investment. Buy a starter box for $30 and you can play the game. You’re probably looking at $100 for a flexible army list, but that’s really nothing compared to the thousands of dollars it can cost to purchase a Warhammer army.
2. Warmachine/Hordes are focused, generally, on low-unit-count confrontations. Since I like to customize my miniatures and develop stories for them, it really appeals to have every unit be meaningful for more than cannon-fodder purposes.
3. The Privateer Press miniatures lines are really nice. Not every unit appeals to me, but the ones that do are typically excellent. All the models are pewter which is great for painting and durability.


I went ahead and bought a starter box for The Circle Orboros, a faction in the “Hordes” line of Warmachine/Hordes miniatures. The Circle’s aesthetic is probably the most consistently appealing to me and probably the most potentially useful for future D&D campaigns as well. Wolves and dogs and mysterious cloaked, druidic looking figures are pretty good staples for any D&D campaign. I also really like a lot of the Skorne units (From Hordes) for their heavily-armored aesthetic, or the majority of the pirate-themed Mercenaries (from Warmachine), but Circle overall wins out for me.

One of the things that doesn’t appeal to me about the Circle is the Woldwarden and Woldwatcher units… These are basically giant constructs made from stone. I’m not, generally speaking, big on constructs or robots (otherwise I would’ve run a Warmachine army instead of a Hordes one), so that aspect of the Circle doesn’t appeal to me. On the other hand, I’m thinking that perhaps I can purchase some Treant units from another miniatures line and field the treants as Woldwarden/watcher units — That’d be pretty neat. I know I’m already going to be making some customized Standing Stone units from quartz crystal…

Battlestar Galactica Season Finale


Why am I still watching this show?


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More Unreal Tournament 3

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In stark contrast to the example set in my previous post, here’s a bunch of scans I found on the Epic games forums. The scans are from the latest issue of PCZone featuring a look at Unreal Tournament 3. It’s a pretty decent article and goes into a bit of new information concerning the singleplayer campaign, the gameworld and some of the new gameplay features Epic is looking to introduce.

PCZone UT3 Scan

PCZone UT3 Scan

PCZone UT3 Scan

PCZone UT3 Scan

PCZone UT3 Scan

PCZone UT3 Scan

Since I’m on the subject of UT3, I figure I may as well post this video, an interview with Mike Capps on UT3:

Lastly, here’s another low-resolution gameplay footage video taken from the GDC.

Guild Wars News


I feel like I’m on a bit of a Guild Wars streak lately, but, well, actual news is hard to let pass without comment.

The latest issue of PC Gamer reveals some interesting news: Guild Wars will not be coming out with any further “campaigns” (but they will be coming out with “expansions”). This is pretty good news, in my opinion. Basically it means a couple of things:

1. That ArenaNet is now catering to their existing customer base with further releases rather than attempting to draw in new customers. Less focus on making “headlines” with fancy new attention-grabbing features and more focus on refining existing gameplay for a better experience overall is definitely good in my book.
2. That there won’t be any new professions in any upcoming expansion. Adding two new professions per “campaign” was getting ridiculous; It upset game balance on the PvP side a lot and a plethora of classes erodes the “role” any particular class might play in PvE as well.
3. The expansion will be less expensive than a full-fledged campaign would be. To be frank, paying $50 for an expansion (whether it’s called a campaign or not) is not something I am eager to do. I am much more willing to purchase a $30-40 product than a $50 one, especially given that I rarely have time to play games lately.

The summary of the article, cribbed from Guild Wars Guru:

General Intro Summary:

They are abandoning the Campaign format because it required them to reinvent GW completely for every chapter, and it began to feel ‘bloated’ to them. It’s also increased the tutorials and has created a barrier to new players entering the chapters. The Expansion increases the timeframe but allows them to do what they want to with the game, without worrying about new professions, or pre-lvl20 content. This is a new blueprint for a completely new game.

Eye of the north is a HOLIDAY 2007 RELEASE and is catered to exisiting players. It will required that you own at least one of the previous campaigns and is not considered a standalone. The developers listened to the community that 2 campaigns a year isn’t necessarily what people wanted, that many hadn’t finished a chapter before the new one was released.

A team will be assigned to support the current games with live contet still expected.

Guild Wars Expansion: Eye of the North Summary

Will cost less then other chapters with no new professions. 40 new armor sets, 150 new skills (including 50 pve only), 10 new heroes.

“Extend character development beyond level 20” ~James Phinney~

Underground complex of tunnels through all three ‘continents’ present thus far is revealed.

Three acts:

* Act 1 takes you through 18 underground dungeons to help the dwarves defend against ‘the fiery Destroyer’, eventually taking you to the Asura and Norns (races)
* Act 2 has three story arcs ranging from exploring the Norns, to the Charr homeland, to an Asura resistance of the Destroyer
* Act 3 pits you against the Great Destroyer

Far Shiverpeaks are Norn Lands, Charr homeland is north of ascalon, Asurans are near Maguuma, Tyrian catacombs stretch across the entire continent presumably


This is all well and good, but the big news is that ArenaNet is currently in development with Guild Wars 2. Intriguing. I’ll probably post more thoroughly on it later, but for now I’ll just repost the information from Guild Wars Guru that is known from the PC Gamer article.*

Guild Wars 2 Summary

There will be no option to migrate characters from Guild Wars 1 to Guild Wars 2. But you will be able to carry achievements forward through a Hall of Monuments. These are built via quests in Eye of the North and is only available in this chapter.

4 new Playable races:

* Sylvari
* Asuras
* Charr
* Norn

Hundreds of years later, in Tyria… sounds more of a race-reliant struggle.

Radical changes – overhauled environment and character control system, redefined PvP play and retooled NPC companion system.

Predominately open worlds, with instancing as a secondary feature in some areas (not positive on the interpretation). Hundreds of people in the same area, and choices that the population as a whole change the quest structure. PCG gave an example of choosing to rally against a dragon or not. Those that help, gain loot and xp. If the dragon isnt driven away, another ‘quest’ may trigger, leaving more options for the population. Very cool idea IMO.

I’ll just take the level cap stuff directly – “Events will also offer a way for players of different levels to keep interacting in the persistent world – which is crucial, since right now, ArenaNet is planning a very high [100-plus], or possibly no level cap”

Sidekicks simlar to CoH, allowing powers to seep from a high level character to a friendly lower level char.

‘Click to move’ will be abandoned in favor of a more freedom-rich control scheme, including ‘jumping, swimming, and sliding’

Destroyable environments?

Redefined PvP Summary

No real world limitations to servers. You pick a ‘world’, but can switch between the realms.

PvP World vs World combat sounds to be a massive scale capture the flag (AB style?) with no minimum or maximum party size. Big-ass raids that can supposedly take place for weeks on end. At the end, the ‘world’ will be reset, and it will start again it seems. More a casual version of PvP where you can pop in and out to perform various smaller tasks. Developers will reshuffle the teams into well-balanced match-ups every week or so.

GvG will still be present, as a more balanced form where everyone is on a level playing field.

Companions Summary

NPC like heros can join you (like a pet it sounds), and dont count towards your party. Not using this feature lets you be mroe powerful. Every player can bring a single companion on his adventure and won’t take up a slot.

I think I read somewhere in here that it will be mission-based, but I didn’t see it in my quick second-look.

Conclusion Summary

As of now, there will be no monthly fees, and no ‘campaigns’ for Guild Wars 2… mini-expansions, and expansions are hinted at.

Seems like a lot is still up in the air at this point, but it also seems like they’ve been listening to major criticisms of Guild Wars over the past couple of years and are looking to remedy them in the next iteration.

* Side Note: If you’re wondering why I’m not reposting the article itself in full, well, chalk it up to copyright paranoia and creeping tyranny. I don’t subscribe to PC Gamer, but you’d expect any self-respecting game fansite to scan the magazine and have it available within hours of becoming available, no? Someone asked on Guild Wars Guru why scans were not being hosted and ArenaNet’s community relations lady Gaile Gray chimed in:

The contents of the article is copyright. That means it is illegal for fansites to house scans of any part of the article.

We will release shots soon enough, but it would be inappropriate to, essentially, “steal” PC Gamer’s exclusive content by posting it on a fansite forum. Please don’t do that.

Which of course is absurd. I find it kind of sad that the major fansites are complying with this asinine request.

Elonian Explorations, Istani Interludes, Part 2

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As I think I established in my previous post, the island of Istan in Nightfall is pretty darn big. As such, I’m not going to bother posting all the screenshots I have of each area, just some of the better ones. One good thing about Nightfall that I’ve been noticing is that edge-running, the time-honored tactic of Cartographers and aspiring-Cartographers everywhere, seems to be less necessary. Basically this means I’m only going to provide the most gorgeous scenes from my travels, not every random cranny that might reveal a section of the map.

Stepping outside of Kamadan onto the Plains of Jarin, to be met with the impressive facade of the Sunspear great hall.

Outside the first city, with some nice greenery and so on.

Inside Fahranur, the first city…

In the heart of the city lurks a great horror that has been petrified…

Screenshots from the Mehtani Keys, your next vacation spot…

Screenshots from Zehlon Reach. I really love the green tones in this area, very lush and damp looking.

Last but not least, Lahtenda Bog, showing off some of the nice water reflection effects in the first shot and the Sunspear mausoleum in the second.

Elonian Explorations: Istani Interludes, Part 1

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It’s been awhile since I’ve done any Guild Wars mapping-slash-screenshots. Aside from just generally being really busy since about December, I’ve been trying to take my time going through Guild Wars: Nightfall. I’ve also been being pretty systematic in how I approach the game, an approach that is probably better for my completionist impulses but less conducive to blogging.

One of the frustrations of map exploration in the Prophecies campaign is simply that I’ve already explored most of the areas. I enjoy going through the areas and seeing all the beautiful surprises, but I don’t really like forcing myself to return, to wade through tons of enemies and attempt (and attempt is key, because it can quickly become difficult to progress if your build is geared towards running around exploring instead of fighting) to explore every nook and cranny. For the Nightfall (Elonian) campaign I decided that I was going to make every attempt to thoroughly explore each area as I entered it, and to have every area completely explored before entering a new one.

This isn’t always possible due to missions that may push you into a new area but block off access routes or give you a time limit or other potential restriction, but to the extent that it is possible I wanted to follow this guideline.

This first post deals with my progress through the so-called “Starter Island” of Nightfall. I’m going to be posting my map completion screenshots first for Guild Wars people who might be interested, and will follow up sometime later with the eyecandy and a bit of commentary.

Above: The Plains of Jarin, showing map completion percentage (includes all previous starter island areas, except the initial area inaccessible to characters from other continents)

Above: The Cliffs of Dohjok (map completion percentage also includes outposts accessible via the Plains of Jarin)

Above: Explorable area, Fahranur, the First City (percentage also includes Blacktide Den)

Above: Issnur Isles (includes Beknur Harbor)

Above: Mehtani Keys (includes Kodlonu Hamlet)

Above: Zehlon Reach (includes Jokanur Diggings)

Above: Lahtenda Bog

So my sum total for all of the areas of Istan was 21.5%.

After I had completed all of the quests and such available for me in Istan, I moved on to the final quest, the attack on Varesh’s forces with the rest of the Sunspears.

After fully exploring Varesh’s stronghold and Yohlon Haven I ended up with 23% total. That’s some starter island.

If I find myself inspired I may fiddle with some numbers and figure out the exact percentages for each explorable area.

Game Starters

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Been a bit busy lately, but the other night when I was heading off to sleep ideas kept popping into my head that just wouldn’t go away until I wrote them down.

The stereotypical D&D campaign has all the players meeting in a bar, where they become best buddies and decide to “adventure” together for fame and fortune. The contrivedness of this scenario has always bothered me. In most games it doesn’t matter all that much, you deal with the formalities of getting acquainted and then move on to more interesting things in the game. Basically trusting that by the time your group has gone through its first dungeon crawl that each character will have saved the others’ necks enough times that it’s credible that these guys want to stick together.

Starting off with something different isn’t necessary, but it can give your campaign a little bit of extra flavor to “grab” the players. This is probably more important in a Con situation where you’re running a one-shot campaign with a bunch of people you don’t even know, but hey, why should your regular game be a trough of mediocrity?

Cutting to the chase,

Concept: All of the player characters are denizens of a local area that’s come under the rule of a band of mercenaries. The players have been captured and put in a makeshift jail in one of the minor forts that the mercenaries have in their territory. The idea here circumvents the idea of introductions by putting the players in a shared plight for which they must formulate a plan and then escape. I envisioned this as a combat heavy one-shot adventure mainly to introduce the players to Iron Heroes mechanics and a more cinematic combat style than D&D normally allows, but there’s potential to use it in many other ways.

Drawbacks: You’re going to have to be a little bit restrictive when it comes to allowing character classes and races in this scenario. Under normal D&D rules spellcasters don’t have the endurance to handle what would end up being one really long encounter (the escape) with a substantial number of subencounters. It also doesn’t really make sense to have wildly varying races if all the people the mercenaries have captured live in the region. (And the concept of a mercenary band taking over a region of land doesn’t map nicely onto an urban setting.)

Concept: All of the players are patrons of a local bar when the local constable bursts in with a cadre of guards and arrests everyone on the spot. The players are all taken to the jailhouse and interrogated: Naturally they will have very flimsy alibis and will have some trouble explaining the arsenal or occult materials they are no doubt carrying around.

This is sort of an urban twist on the first idea and a bit of a mix-up with the generic D&D intro. You can pretty much take this idea where-ever you want. My initial idea is that the constable in charge of the arrests is corrupt and in the pocket of an underlord crime boss. The players might go through a short crime-room drama and then set about to clearing their names by exposing the constable’s involvement with the crime lord (and possibly taking down the crime lord).

Another twist that would be feasible is to have the arrests be part of a genuine attempt to clean up crime in the area. Perhaps there is a Jack-the-Ripper figure who is known by his only surviving victim to haunt local taverns, and the constable was tipped off to the particular establishment the PCs had been in. In this case, the PCs may be recruited as undercover agents by the constable once he realizes their innocence. You can probably add a bit of emotional drama into the mix if you make the killer’s surviving victim an attractive young lady, which will give the PCs a bit more motivation to follow through on the job. Alternatively (or complementary) you can make the victim a noble, and thus have the PCs earn the noble’s trust (and thus receive his patronage and future “jobs”) once they take care of the villain.

There are a ton of ways to mix this up. Maybe the entire government is corrupt and the injustice of being wrongfully arrested is just a way to get the PCs riled up to overthrow the government. Maybe the PCs aren’t even in a bar, perhaps they’re in a market square when the Montagues and the Capulets start a squabble and the guardsmen simply block off the entire square and arrest everyone inside?

Drawbacks: Not conducive to hack-and-slash play. Might start off a little slow from the players perspective because they will be entirely reactive to the circumstances you throw them in, rather than active.

Concept: The PCs are all summoned to meet with a powerful oracle. The oracle is seeking people who have all been born under a specific sign, and as it turns out all of the PCs have been born under this sign. The PCs undertake a ritual or are the subjects of a spell that binds them all together.

This is a pretty decent idea, as it brings the PCs together and establishes them as a group. However, what it doesn’t do is give them any motivation to perform any particular task. The previous two examples take advantage of the fact that the players are generally going to want to be “in control” and will oppose things that interfere with that. It’s entirely possible to incorporate some sort of motivation into the general concept here but not without making it pretty specific.

A variant idea would be to have the PCs bound by a curse. For example, a curse that means that each will feel each others’ pain. Placing the PCs under a curse gives them a really strong motivation to go out of their way to break the curse, and ideally by the time they get around to breaking it they will have forged strong enough bonds that it seems natural for them to stick together.

Drawbacks: Player turnover and player death become tricky issues when you go this route.

Wizards of the Downtime

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I noticed a new D&D podcast the other day and it got me thinking about something I mentioned earlier — One of the guys in my D&D group and I have a minor dispute over a minor rule with major consequences. Consequences that differ by about two orders of magnitude.

The last time we got into the dispute I mentioned to him that I’d ask the rules lawyers on the for their opinions on the matter so that we could come to a resolution. However, last time I tried to access the forums they were down for maintenance. Since it came to my mind I decided to browse on over to the Wizards forums and set about resolving the dispute…


Of course.

I have never seen a website that needs as much maintenance, especially hard downtime, as the forums. Ridiculous.

Unreal Tournament 3 at GDC

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A quick video update for those who may be interested in Unreal Tournament 3. This footage comes from the GDC and shows off CTF in UT3 on the PS3 (talk about acronym hell?).

I notice the darkness and video compression at YouTube doesn’t really do this video any favors. It is, at this point, probably the best actual gameplay footage I’ve seen yet. If you’re interested, do yourself a favor and download the copy I’ve uploaded here. It’s about 35MB, so it’s pretty reasonable, although it is in .mov format…

Update: A little video comparison of Console FPS play vs. Computer FPS play…

Unreal Tournament 3 sur PS3
Uploaded by drloser333