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Sorry about the unexpected hiatus.  Just so freaking busy… too many projects going at once, and a lot of prep work to get done if I’m going to be able to enjoy myself next week.  There’s also the small matter of not having much I really feel the need to post about, but that is secondary… I could always do a linkage post, after all (but even that takes time to pull together.)

Instead of sitting in traffic or hovering over a rebooting system feeling guilty about it, I’m just going to announce another 2 days of hiatus, and resume posting this weekend.  Think of it as the calm before the storm of AGDC…

Since I seem unable to string 2 minutes together to do anything substantial… look, over there, random links!

A nice one-stop shop for downloadable pen-and-paper RPG resources.  Some interesting ideas over there…

I assume everyone has heard of the copy-protection and widescreen concerns with Bioshock by now?  (Kotaku-Bioshock link)  If not, there you go.

Prairie Games (creators of Minions of Mirth) has made their MMO engine available under open source licensing, and is working to make it compatible with Torque Game Engine 1.5 (it was 1.35 compatible, I believe).  The options for small-budget experimentation are growing, rapidly…

AGDC: got a sofa sleeper available in my suite if anyone needs a place to crash during the conference.  I’m there from Tuesday night (late… supposed to land at 9:35p, and we all know how precise those airline schedules usually are) through Saturday morning (early, 7:30a departure).

More later…

Amongst a host of other things that occurred/popped up last week, my parents, brother, and sisters had arranged a while back for all of us to get together for a week’s vacation in Door County, WI., essentially a resort area in the northeast portion of Wisconsin, along the shore of Lake Michigan.  As usual, I wasn’t able to fully partake due to various tasks/demands at the office, but I did sneak out there for a couple days over the weekend.

More after the jump…

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A minor bit of serious AFK there.  Regular postings will resume tomorrow: just some brief snippets for the moment…

The big news of the week appears to have been the announcement of D+D 4.0 at GenCon.  As a long-time pen-and-paper gamer, I was interested in the details, of course.  I like some of what I’m seeing, but the devil will be in the details.  In essence, a lot of what they are talking about has, until now, been handled by secondary markets: character portraits and art, mapmaking software, discussion forums, online RPG play, and so on.  The game system itself doesn’t appear, from first impressions, to be changing much (and it really doesn’t need to, IMO.)

It will be interesting to see how it goes.  Bundling all of this, game materials, information resources, periodicals, and other software/services into a unifed package seems a new way of marketing the basic product… it will be interesting to see how well it does.

By the way, do you guys prefer links that open new windows, or remain in the same window?  I just automatically right click these days to open in new window… but I thought it would be polite to ask if there is any preference amongst my readers.

A little more linkage…

SUWT #7 is up… Darren and Adele always do a great job.  (Now to find time to listen to it myself…)  While you’re at it, support VirginWorlds and feed your gaming habit simultaneously by ordering the games and gear you know you’re going to buy anyway via the new VW store

A good post at MMOment of Zen on MMO combat paradigms that I just noticed.  Echoes my own feelings on the subject exactly.

Well, I guess I’d better get to the office… 13 voicemails, 20 separate (non-spam) email requests… and counting… 🙂

… and Avenging Pixie (43 blaster, energy/devices, +invis and flight) finally gets her wings.  (Only 3 million influence and change… what a deal!)

Avenging Pixie gets her wings!

By way of comparison, this was her look a few issues back… (best I could do for the “plant lady” look at the time…)

Pixie old style

When they added a few plant-based options around the release of CoV, she got a little better…

Pixie with feather cape

But replacing the feather cape with the fairy wings… I’ve been wanting that since I created that character back in the second week of CoH release (my second character, as I recall, right after my emp/psi healer, Sapphire Knight.)  Now if I could just get them to let her “devices” be magical, instead of tech…

Sorry, just had to celebrate a bit.

Cuppycake posts an interesting challenge in this post, asking how one might go about “justifying” MMO subscription fees to a console player.  My own tactics would be along these lines…

1) Ever gotten to the end of a game (a book, a movie), and wished you could see what was going to happen next?  That’s one reason I pay a subscription fee… so I can explore what’s “next”.

2) If the question is money, my subscription runs me the equivalent of buying 1 new title every 3-4 months.  Do each and every one of your purchases entertain you for that long?

There used to be a third argument, but consoles finally got with the program (online functionality).

3) How many people (real people) have you met _inside_ your games?  Yes, yes, I meet people _outside_ my games, too.  The subscription is so we can all play together, from all over the world.

None of those is unassailable, but taken together they largely explain the whys and wherefores of my own willingness to pay for MMOs.  To each their own, of course.

All of that said, I’m no big fan of the current subscription model.  I’d personally prefer a pay-to-play option, buying a block of hours to “spend”, that kind of thing.  Of course, coming from someone who flits back and forth between games like a mayfly on speed, that’s probably not too surprising…

Kinda tied up on various things at the moment, so my posting will be sporadic over the next couple weeks, I imagine.  I am actually working on some stuff that might be of interest to a few of you, behind the scenes, but none of it is even close to ready to display for comment.  My guess is that my trip to Austin GDC will signal the next explosion of new posts…

A few things I’ve run across that I’ve wanted to highlight…

The art and setting of this Bioshock game really grabs me, for some reason.  I’m not big on FPS games, but I’ll probably end up getting this one.  (First encountered at Penny-Arcade.)

Kendricke has a great post reflecting on the imminent closing of a Twin Cities gaming icon, Phoenix Games.  I was making 80-mile pilgrimages to this place in the early/mid 80s to buy my RPG rulebooks: it was The Place To Go.  

I remember a bunch of us got together in the mid 90s and had a good laugh at the looks we got after walking in during a CCG tournament, the “who are these old &%$#&s?” stare.  It was just so much like we used to stare at the old grognards (wargamers) when our pastime was the gaming-hobby-du-jour, freaking hilarious…

A lot of good memories tied into that business/building.  It will be missed.

Psychochild’s Weekend Challenge is another good one (as usual)… online RPG innovations, anyone?  I will submit my Detective/Mystery MMO idea as an idea for consideration…

If you’re feeling a little retro, the Rampant Coyote has come across a new, free 3D RPG maker/engine called, appropriately enough, Dungeon Maker.  Think Dungeon Master and/or Wizardry style displays.  Details in this post.

That all for the moment, I guess…

I’ve spent the past couple of days (sandwiched between a host of other chores and duties) doing a brief “survey” of a bunch of different MMOs.  Actually, it was more related to my previous post than this topic, but this struck me as I was quickly going through the various games, one after another.

Briefly, I am beginning to wonder if perhaps another of the issues with Vanguard, why it didn’t resonate with a bunch of people, is that the combat at low levels is, not to put to fine a point on it, rather boring to watch.  Even the spells and special abilities are fairly muted, and the attacks are very repetitive. 

Compared to games like Guild Wars and CoX, with loud, flashy attacks even for the noobs; DDO with all the turning and tumbling and jumping that it generally involves (esp the kobolds); even WoW, LOTRO, and EQ2 feel more “lively” when run side-by-side.

I’ll admit, I really didn’t notice it before, due to the other issues early on and limited time to play, but it really stood out for me this time around.  Anyone else notice the same thing?  Think it may have had some impact?

The discussion thread from SUWT #6 has quite a few interesting comments re: the XP/level segment.  One of the tangents that has come to my mind as a result has been an attempt to review the various ways that games limit your options as a player at each/any specific conflict during play.

This was prompted by comments mentioning Guild Wars, to be specific, which I have actually tried several times (most recently during a bout with insomnia last night) but never been able to really get comfortable with.  The reasons vary, and are mainly questions of personal comfort zone: some of the character movement and camera control specifics are just different enough from what I’m used to that I find them disruptive, etc. 

One of the big ones for me, however, is the restriction to having just 8 skills/techniques available at any one time.  For some reason, it just shatters my sense of immersion to know that I have 15-20 and more such skills learned, but I can’t use the majority of them because I didn’t happen to slot it.  I had the same problem with Vanguard’s diplomacy system… if I have this skill/ability, why can’t I use it?  And yet, I am more forgiving of D+D’s original Wizard spell memorization system than many, presumably because I’ve bought into the “memorization” rationale.  Amazing how the mind works sometimes, eh?

Contemplating all that led me to cataloguing the various methods that games use (or could use) to restrict the range of options a character has at any specific moment in time.  And since I’d already spent a fair amount of time contemplating it, I figured I’d record the musings for posterity’s sake.  For the purposes of this post, I’m largely avoiding what I would term “vertical” limitations, limitations based on level/amount-of-activity/time-in-play, and concentrating more on “horizontal” limitations, those that would essentially limit options at nearly all levels of play, from newbie to expert.

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Got a weird schedule over the next day or so, not much from me on the old blog here over until that’s over.  (I just love getting up at 1 am to do a few hours of manual db maintenance… no, really! (sigh) )

However, if you want to _hear_ some intelligent people talking about MMO news (plus me ranting away in the background), SUWT #6 is up and on the air for your listening pleasure.

Oh, come on.  You know you want to hear us talk about the chickens

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Live in or near Mpls/St. Paul? Interested in talking MMOs with other like-minded people? Join us on either June 30th or July 14th at MMMOGIGs #1.9 or #2.1 (or both!), details coming soon. You can also join us in Google Groups or meetup.com to discuss the when/where of the next meeting, provide feedback, etc.
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