Thursday, April 29, 2010

News Filter: The GW2 Hype Machine Revs Up

    Warning: There are going to be an inappropriate number of exclamation points in this post. If you find the abuse of punctuation offensive or disturbing, please turn away now.

  • Sorry about that. All of this Guild Wars 2 news has awakened my inner fanboy. Like the leviathan rising from the depths, you'd better get out of the way when the fanboy emerges. Guild Wars was the game that got me into online gaming, so I can't help but be excited. There is just so much to take in!

  • ArenaNet has turned on the information fire hose and we're received four articles on just the last three days. Mike O'Brien's Design Manifesto gives a great overview of their goals for GW2. From writing a great storyline to better social tools to improved combat, they have really set their expectations high.

  • Speaking of combat, lead designer Eric Flannum has a two part article about covering the subject. The first talks about changes to the skill system. When it was first announced that GW2 would look more like an MMO, I was worried that they might ditch the limited skill selection for a screen full of icons. I shouldn't have doubted. ArenaNet has a skill bar, but now with ten skills! Awesome, right? But then they say that the first five skills are based on what weapons you are wielding! Wait, what? How crazy is that?!?

  • Calm down, Anjin. There's no need to stop trusting them now.

  • Then the second article goes into more detail about how weapon, profession, and race choices effect your skill options. Ah, much better. Eight starting professions sounds cool: three scholars, three adventurers, and two soldiers. We already know about the elementalist (more on that in the next bullet) and they use warriors in their examples, but who does that leave? Mesmer has to be the other scholars. But what about the monk? If they leave in necromancers, they have to be scholars. Does that make the monk and adventurer? One of the adventurers has to be a ranger. But who else does that leave? Paragon as the other soldier? Assassin or dervish as an adventurer? Something entirely else? I'm not too sad to see secondary professions go. They were a fun concept, but it sounds like they're leaning more toward multiplayer skill interactions instead of personal skills.

  • The most interesting update (at least to me) was the first profession confirmed for the game (if you don't count warriors /smile) was the elementalist. I actually find it fascinating that talking about the professions/classes is my favorite part. I guess that's why everyone went crazy about Bioware stringing that information along. It's not surprising the people are so interested is news about classes. Choosing a profession is the single most important decision you make when playing a class-based MMO.

  • Wow, I didn't actually say anything elementalists in that bullet. Looks like I won't in this one either. Moving on...

  • Actually, what is there to say about elementalists. They look really cool. And they look and feel like GW elementalists, so that's a good thing. Focusing on Area-of-Effect attacks and glyphs is exactly what I want from the profession. I was so excited that I have the new elementalist wallpaper up on my desktop right now. I was positive before that I was going to play a ranger, but this makes me want to start with an ellie. Of course, I'll probably say that about every preview I read. I hope they give us enough character slots. Better start saving for the eventual character slot microtransactions.

  • Of course, one can't discuss GW2 coverage without mentioning Ravious from Kill Ten Rats. I don't know where he gets all of his insight, but it's damn scary. Plus, you can find a couple of great interviews over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

  • SQUEE!!!!

  • Sorry. That's just came out.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Random Shots: Beware Your Heroes

  • I had a nice long weekend and it's hard for me to go back to work. It wasn't games that kept me occupied (Torchlight, of all things, has started crashing my computer; the poor thing isn't holding up well.) Instead, my darling wife and I took in a musical Saturday (Hairspray, it was good fun) and went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Sunday.

  • One of the reasons I was looking forward to the LATFOB this year was because a favorite author of mine was going to be in attendance. I've really enjoyed this author's work, so I wanted to hear him talk a little bit and get a book signed. And I wanted to tell him how much I enjoy his work.

  • When my wife and I got to the signing line, we saw that this author has been paired with a second author from the same panel. Only, just about everyone in the signing line was there to see the same author I was. I So the other author was just sitting there, waiting in case someone, anyone, wanted to talk to him. My wife, the kind hearted person she is, ran over to the sales tent and bought one of his books so that he would have something to sign.

  • As I got to the front of the line, I saw that the pair were chatting. I handed over my books to be signed, but didn't say anything other than to tell him which names the inscription should be made out to. I wanted to say everything that I planned, but I didn't because I didn't want to interrupt.

  • While a small, selfish part of me was disappointed that I didn't get past "Hi," the rational part reminds me the he was doing the right thing. You don't just ignore that other author. Trying to divide your attention isn't easy, but it would not be nice to just let the other author sit there and twirl his Sharpie.

  • What I have realized is that my expectations were way out of whack. We build up these heroes in our minds until we're holding them to a standard they could never meet. They're just people. People that do something pretty cool, but people nonetheless. I suspect that society would be better off if we remember that we are all just people.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unexplored Worlds: Ruined Shrine In The Wood

  • On a small hill in the midst of the woods sits the ruins of an ancient shrine. Flat, weather-beaten stones form an irregular base upon which crumbled walls and columns rest. At the center of this circular foundation stands a pedestal topped by a basin filled with clear, clean water. Two statues stand at opposite sides of the shrine. One depicts a shapely woman clad in a long toga clasped over her left shoulder, bearing her right shoulder and breast. The second statue is of a long, granite fish stood vertically on its tail.

  • A player passing a difficult skill check in the knowledge of stonework will discover that the stones are of differing compositions, some of which are not native to the area. Passing a moderate skill check in the knowledge of art or sculpture will determine that two statues and the basin a carved in three separate styles. Players with religious training will be unable to determine any significance to the shrine.

  • While investigating the nearby settlement, player will learn any number of rumors (1d8 for random rumors):

    1. A woman and her lover were murdered in the shrine by her jealous husband. The spirits of the couple still haunt the hillside.

    2. No one in the village knows who built that shrine or knows how long it has been there. No one even remembers what god the shrine is sacred to.

    3. The shrine is not falling apart. It's actually growing from the earth one stone at a time!

    4. Children are warned to stay away from the hill or risk disappearing. One girl playing in the shrine vanished during a game of hide-and-seek and has not been seen since.

    5. Anyone who drinks from the basin in the shrine can breath like a fish for seven days.

    6. A priestess of the unknown religion still stand vigil in the shrine even after death. Her song calling people to worship will entrance any man who hears it.

    7. Even while the shrine is watched so that no one may enter unseen, any offering of food or precious metals will disappear.

    8. Rubbing the scales of the stone fish is good luck. Touching the stone maiden with cause blindness.

  • The truth of the shrine is that it is an elaborate prank by two fairy spirits. The pair have scavenged all the piece of the shrine over the course of several years. Whenever they find something to add to their construction, they steal it and put it up at the shrine. This is the reason everything is so mismatched.

  • Beyond just building it, the fairies attempt to lure the unwary into their shrine so as to scare them senseless. One or both of the them will moan or wail to attract the attention of anyone nearby. The fairies can also glow in the darkness, so they will dance and caper around the shrine after dusk if they think anyone is watching. One recent addition to their repertoire is to carry on a conversation as if between two ghosts. (This is actually in response to rumor one, above. Not the cause of it.) Finally, the fairies like to flit around anyone who enters the shrine, allowing themselves to be seen just out of the corner of one's eye.

  • They have no malevolent intent. They just want to laugh at all the scared people.

  • Unexplored Worlds is my attempt to design an RPG campaign in the open. Since I have not rolled a d20 in anger in many years, this is my way to keep playing without actually playing. All posts are written to be system-agnostic, so please use whatever keeps your interest in your own games. Just let me know how it goes!

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Random Shots: A Tale Of Dwarves And Ancient Evils

  • The accepted wisdom is that EVE Online is more fun to read about than to play. Well, it's not the only one. There is a little game out there called Dwarf Fortress. (That's actually the subtitle, but they call it that anyway.) I love reading people's stories about their adventures in the game, even if DF is completely impenetrable to me.

  • I first learned about Dwarf Fortress through a link to Something Awful's Let's Play transcript of their Boatmurdered fortress. It may start off slow, but you have to hang on until Update 11 wherein one of the player's starts to channel Deadwood's Al Swearengen. It's one of the funniest things I've ever read.

  • Well, DF has spawned another great story. Found via Rock, Paper, Shotgun, nomad(tim) from the NZF Forums brings us a story of his own fortress, Bronzemurder. (Those dwarves pick some effed up names, don't they?) Told over the course of ten illustrations, we see how hubris brought this great fortress low. nomad(tim)'s design and artistic choices are impeccable. If I could buy bound copy of this story, I would.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Played Lately: Bully

  • I'm assuming you've all heard the term "Retail Therapy." It's a phrase my wife taught me a few years back. I cringe every time I hear it. However, I cannot deny it was the reason I picked up a twenty dollar copy of Bully a few weeks ago.

  • Bully was the game that Rockstar put out between GTA: San Andreas and GTA IV. It is, by far, my favorite game that they have released. Not because I don't like the GTA games. It's just that Bully has a more forgiving difficulty curve. There are none of the GTA-style road blocks that leave me perilously close to controller-throwing rage.

  • The game starts with Jimmy arriving at Bullworth Academy, the boarding school of last resort. Jimmy has been proudly kicked out of several schools before. But with his mother and most recent step-father embarking on a year long honeymoon, there is no where for him to go if he is kicked out of Bullworth. He quickly falls in with Gary (the sociopath) and Petey (the school runt). Under Gary's master plan, Jimmy goes about winning the respect of the various cliques in the school.

  • Like any good Rockstar game, there is plenty to do. The story missions are all interesting and well varied. There are a number of side missions to accomplish to earn money or just have fun with the mechanics in the game. The bike races were a lot of fun. (I really appreciated that each checkpoint actually tells you which direction the next checkpoint will be. More games need to copy that idea. Yes, I'm looking at you, Brutal Legend.) And then there are the classes.

  • As if I needed any more proof that I was a nerd, I have to admit that I loved going to all of the classes. I could try to say that I'm doing it for all of the bonuses you can earn, but that's not true. I just enjoy playing all in the minigames to pass the classes. Obviously, I'm pretty lame for a bully.

  • I completed the game after several days of play. It was the first time I have ever completed a Rockstar game. Maybe it's because Bully was easier the the GTA games. (There's a reason that Red Dead Redemption is getting a difficulty setting.) Maybe it is because it's a better game. All I know is I had a blast with Bully and I'm glad I was bargain bin diving that day.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Random Shots: Starting To Miss My Mage

  • Since canceling all of my MMO subscriptions (well, except Champions, but that doesn't count as a sub), I have focused exclusively on single player games. It has been a lot of fun catching up on a bunch of games I did not have the time to play before because I was too busy justifying my subscription fees. However after completing several games, I have discovered something odd.

  • I'm starting to miss my mage. I miss my paladins. All three of them. I miss the lowbie night elf priest I was leveling. In short, I'm starting to miss World of Warcraft.

  • I have to blame all the talk about class changes and Algalon-styled horses and Cataclysm in general. How could you not be excited about WoW with all that going on? (Actually, I know how. But, work with me here.)

  • I've done everything I can think of to avoid resubscribing. I tried EVE Online (fun, but not sticky), reinstalled Age of Conan (but didn't actually resubscribe), even moved my Xbox onto my computer desk. So far none of that has distracted me.

  • What has worked, though, is that none of this is real. (Okay, the astral pony is real, but I'm not about to drop $25 to manifest it.) If I start playing now, it's still the same game I left before. Not like that's a bad thing. WoW still wows. (There's your box quote, Blizzard.) But I've already had my fill and I'm not ready for more just yet.

  • Soon, but not yet.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Random Shots: My X-Com Story

  • 1993 was a huge year in my life for video games. While everyone else was either playing Doom or Myst, I was treated to two of the finest strategy games every released: Master of Orion and X-Com: Enemy Unknown. While MoO is one of my formative gaming experiences, that is a story for another day. This story is about X-Com. Or more specifically, it's a story about the X-Com demo.

  • The demo arrived on a three-and-a-half inch floppy disk packed in a gaming magazine. I would guess Computer Gaming World because that was my favorite source of game news at the time, but it's been too long to remember. When the disk arrived, I wasn't even sure what it was going to be. All I knew was that I was curious. So equipped with my Packard Bell 386-20 with four megabytes of RAM and a Sound Blaster Pro (installed personally because of Wing Commander), I got ready to face the aliens.

  • Where the main game lets you choose your battles and stack the odds in your favor, the demo set you with a team of six soldiers: two equipped in no armor and light arms, two with light armor and medium weapons, and two in heavy armor and heavy weapons. Arrayed against is a full unit of Snakemen (I think) and the reviled Chryssalids.

  • What followed over the next several turns was a maddening search of the area by my outmatched forces to hunt down all the aliens. I had to learn tactics as I played because there was not tutorial. If I messed up, someone died. Several someones. It was terrifying.

  • It was exhilarating.

  • Finally completing that mission was one of my favorite gaming moments. And it was only the demo. I got more fun out of it than some full games I've played.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

News Filter: X-Com Returns As XCom

  • One of the best games of all time, X-Com, is making a comeback as XCom. 2K Marin, the studio that recently developed Bioshock 2, has announced that they are taking over the franchise. And, of course, it'll be a first person shooter.

  • . . .

  • Deep breaths, Anjin. You can do this.

  • Okay, let's just get this out of the way. I know that first person shooters are popular. Modern Warfare and Halo sell eleventy billlion copies because people really like to shoot one another. But there are other first person shooters that aren't all about shooting, like the afore mentioned Bioshock and Mirror's Edge. Bethesda even did what they do by first person shootering Fallout 3, a game I wanted to love, but can't.

  • This is not me worrying that 2K Marin is going to break the franchise. That happened years ago starting with Terror From The Deep and only getting worse from there. It's just that I don't have much faith in most ability for games to be modernized into anything resembling the original.

  • But come on, FBI agent? /sigh

  • Here is the paragraph where I try to be positive. These guys know how to make a good game. If XCom can tell a Bioshock quality story, but about an alien invasion, I'll be happy to give it a try. Don't disappoint me, guys.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Played Lately: Assassin's Creed

  • After I finished Brutal Legend, I had a couple options for what game to start next. I'm still not read to try Fable II again. So I decided instead to try Assassin's Creed, that game by Jade Raymond, assuming you believe the internet.

  • Assassin's Creed put you in the role of Altair, an assassin working in the 12th Century Holy Land during the Third Crusade. His job is to assassinate nine men working with the Templars to prevent their schemes. The twist (and I hope this is not still a spoiler for anyone) is that the assassin's actions are actually a replay of the genetic memory of Desmond Miles, Altair's modern day descendant. You might not have expected any sci-fi in your historical murder simulator, but it works surprisingly well. At a minimum, it gives an excuse for giving you a HUD and tutorials.

  • The game is a series of information gathering missions that lead you to your assassination target. What is cool about that is that it all takes place in three fully explorable cities. You can blend into crowds, climb buildings, and run across rooftops as you hunt your quarry and evade the authorities. I had so much fun climbing towers and exploring the city that I ended up completing almost every mission in the game.

  • What I did not complete was the flag hunt. As soon as I saw the numbers required, I made the decision to not even bother. From what I've heard, this is the place where the game ran aground for the completionist set. Do yourself a favor and follow my lead. You'll only spoil the game for yourself if you push it to that extreme.

  • I would be remiss if I did not single out the story. The tale of Desmond and Altair was good enough that even my wife was interested to see how it turned out. High praise, indeed, for Ubisoft Montreal. On the other hand, the final battle in the game were complete bullshit. I obviously never mastered the combat system in the game because I found the last three fights against hordes of enemies to be highly frustrating. I feel like I won in each case through luck alone. In particular, the fight against a ring of Templars was in such a confined arena that I could not even use Altair's primary ability to run away and stage the battle to my advantage.

  • It was unfortunate to end the game on such a sour note but the other 98% of the game was really good. In fact, I look forward to trying Assassin's Creed II even more. I just have to make time with my wife so she can follow with me.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

News Filter: Cataclysm Class Changes

  • If you are at all interested in World of Warcraft, chances are that you've been eagerly following the class preview for Cataclysm. If you somehow missed them, you can find them all over at MMO-Champion. Of course, my two main classes are mage and paladin. The mage was the last class announced and the paladin will have to wait until next week when Blizzard is done messing around with it. Since my main character is a mage, I was most eager to see what changes would be made to her.

  • The coolest thing about leveling a mage is the variety of new spells you can access. I remember the excitement of leveling my first mage (a blood elf) so that I could get Invisibility and Spellsteal. Then in Wrath, Frostfire Bolt and Mirror Image gave me fun new things to do. I could only imagine what Cataclysm would bring.

  • For new spells, mages are getting Flame Orb, Time Warp, and Wall of Fog. My quick impression is something along the lines of "Oh, that's cool."

    • Flame Orb is a missile spell the does AoE damage to enemies that it passes. It's kind of hard to get too excited about this without seeing it in action. If you could time this to hit when Living Bomb goes off, that would be something to get excited about.

    • Time Warp is (most likely) the mage's version of Bloodlust and Heroism. (There are shamen contemplating pixelated suicide as I type this.) It also looks like it will cause Exhaustion so you can't use them together. And it even gives the mage a personal movement boost. Of the three spells, this is the one I'm most interested to get my hands on. (The word passive is making people wonder if this is a haste aura of some sort. There isn't anyone on the Blizzard forum dishing up the blue text yet to confirm one way of the other.)

    • Wall of Fog places a thirty foot line of frost on the ground that will snare and damage all enemies that cross it. I'm kind of fascinated to see it in use. Putting a battlefield control ability like this could be interesting. Or it could be just another mage AoE. We shall see.

  • There were a number of proposed spell changes as well:

    • Arcane Missiles becoming a proc-based spell might make it something I'd be interested in casting. I haven't cast one since level 15.

    • They're pulling a lot of boring spells like Amplify Magic, Dampen Magic, Fire Ward, and Frost Ward. They're each highly situational and rarely worth the space on the toolbar. I won't miss them.

    • They are bumping the minimum level for Conjure Food and Water to level 40 and combining them at all levels. If that clears things up, sure. No arguments.

    • Scorch will grant a personal fire damage buff. Blizzard wants you to weave it into your rotation even if you don't need the Improved Scorch buff. Anything that keeps me from spamming my main nuke has to be a good thing.

  • They also announced some talent changes, but there wasn't much there. The only interesting change was for Burnout. That spell let you cast spells with your health if you run out of mana. For some reason a bunch of warlocks are annoyed that mages get a Life Tap-like ability. My feeling is that if you are cannibalizing health to keep casting, something has gone terribly wrong.

  • The mastery bonuses (Mana Adept, Ignite, and Deathfrost) are nicely thematic, but nothing to get excited about.

  • Like any of the previews, there is too little information available to know what all of this means. Bringing a version of Bloodlust to instances will be nice, but we don't know if a level 85 mage will be all the different from a level 80 mage. At the same time, it is cool to get a peak behind the curtain. That will be enough at least for the next month or two.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

News Filter: Champions Online Adventure Pack Poll

  • Are you at all still interested in Champions Online? If so, Cryptic has a new poll up that you might want to participate in. (Okay, those two sentences were awful, but work with me here.)

  • The new poll gives six options for future adventure packs. They already have one adventure pack ready to launch: The Serpent Lantern. So they are looking to the community to determine which one they do next. For those of you wondering, the six options are:

    • Superteam Showdown - Face a team of supervillains led by the powerful Firewing!

    • Shadow of the Destroyer - Discover an alternate Earth where Shadow Destroyer rules!

    • Lemuria Attacks - Fight back against Stingray and her Lemurian allies as they attack the surface world!

    • Foxbat Unhinged - Experience the unbridled insanity of Foxbat!

    • Alien Infestation - Stop an alien parasite infecting a Qularr mothership!

    • Takofanes Rising - Face down Takofanes and his Turakian Deathlords in their deadly dimension!

  • All of those sound like something I'd like to see. But how can they expect people to vote for anything other than Foxbat. I know I had to.

  • Hopefully this poll has more influence than the last one about future expansion zone. Maybe they're waiting on an outer space zone until they can do it just right.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Admin: Post Three Hundred

  • It's that time again. Welcome to the three hundredth post here at Bullet Points. Just like last time, this feels like the perfect time to reflect on where the blog has gone over the last hundred posts.

  • Just like the run from 100 to 200, reaching three hundred took me about seven months. I can't see my posting frequency change much for the foreseeable future. I still enjoy writing for the four of you still reading, so I'm not going anywhere. At the same time, I don't have enough interesting things to post about to do any more than I am. Whether what I already post about is all that interesting is open for debate.

  • I started collecting site metrics about a year ago because I am a little bit of a freak. The cool thing about it is that I get find out about readers that are either passing through or lurking quietly without drawing attention to themselves. Please don't think that just because you don't comment that I don't love you. I lurk on too many blogs and never comment to ever pass judgment.

  • One of the benefits of watching all these numbers is to see the readership grow. Comparing the last seven months to the prior seven shows an approximately eighty percent increase in page views. I attribute most of that increase to the attention I got for blogging about Champions Online. The fervor around the game has passed, but some people have been nice enough to stick around anyway. For those of you looking to improve your blog's profile, I suggest waiting for the next bandwagon to come along and jump on. It really works.

  • From the top five posts on the site, two are old Free Realms favorites, both of which are almost a year old now. Three other posts have climbed up, though. The top post is my Top Five Things To Do Before Cataclysm. Cataclysm continues to be a big topic, so I'm not surprised people are feeling nostalgic about the old world. My Q&A about Champions Online pulled quite a few hits, mostly on the strength of the words "Kevin Poe" in that article. That guy is such a pain. Rounding out the top five was the news about Turbine adding a solo option for the epic quests in LotRO. An amazing update which I would love to try out if LotRO wasn't still crashing my computer.

  • Where in my last anniversary post I could identify definite gaming focuses, this cycle shows an almost gleeful bouncing around from game to game. If anything, the theme has been my triumphant return to single player gaming. Games like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and Grand Theft Auto IV kept me quiet busy. I enjoyed the solo options in primarily cooperative games like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands. And in the last month I've rediscovered why I bought an Xbox 360 with Assassin's Creed and Brutal Legend. Not that I'm giving up on MMOs just yet. That lifetime sub for Champions Online has lived up to its promise, so I'll be in and around Millennium City whenever the mood strikes me.

  • One of the side effects of all my gaming is that I've done a lot less reading. And thus there's been a lot less blogging about books. I also cut way back on my comic buying, but I wasn't blogging about that so much anyway. Heck, I haven't even killed time with a random Top Five post for a while. Hmm.

  • On the creative side, my Microfiction stories have been few and far between. That's the kind of thing where something pops out only when the mood strike. On the other hand, I just started my Unexplored Worlds series. Focusing on encounters for the pen-and-paper roleplaying games gives my creativity the kind of structure it needs to produce regular work. I'm not sure how many of you still roll a d20 with any regularity, but feel free to use this stuff as inspiration for your own games.

  • With any luck, we'll see post four hundred before the end of the year. I look forward to seeing where the journey takes us.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Played Lately: Champions Online

  • Over the weekend, thanks to urging from Blue Kae, I finally overcame my hesitation and jumped back into Champions Online. The Apocalypse waits for no man or pixeliated superheroine. So off we went to save the world. Again. I've saved the world in CO before, right? I'm pretty sure I have. Anyway, each time is like your first.

  • The Vibora Bay crisis zone is, without a doubt, the best in the game currently. The design is much closer to the crisis zones for the Southwestern Desert and Canadian Wilderness than Monster Island and Lemuria, but taking the best of both approaches. If you're reading this but never delved into CO's leveling game, the MI and Lemuria crises both play like extended public quests while the earlier are miniature questing zones. Vibora Bay is also a focused questing zone, but with a stronger storyline that carries you through.

  • The storyline was strong enough to carry me through the zone in only two gaming sessions. That is quite the feat considering that, as a level 40, I'm no longer gaining any experience points. My sole reason to continue playing is to see what happens next. If Cryptic doesn't get that right, they don't have the crutch of advancement to fall back on. I secretly hope that the upcoming Adventure Packs play just like crisis zones without following explorable zones.

  • And it all looks incredible, too. That screenshot above is Arcfire flying in front of Therakiel's stronghold. I've always enjoyed the graphics in CO, but Cryptic outdid themselves with Vibora Bay. Again, if this is the kind of work they are planning for the Adventure Packs, they are going to be amazing experiences.

  • Once you finish the final mission, you end up in Vibora Bay proper. This is part where I have to take back what I said about Adventure Packs above. The Vibora Bay explorable zone is an awesome sight to behold. Even though that didn't go the direction I was hoping for with their first expansion, Cryptic definitely made the right decision by adding a second urban zone to the game. The contrast with Millennium City is perfect. I've only spend a little time in the zone, but I'm looking forward to exploring every corner.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Unexplored Worlds: Professor Nayli's Apothecary Shop

  • Professor Nayli opened his apothecary shop in a narrow two-story building that was once home to squatters and assorted vermin. After the local guardsmen drove the occupants out, Nayli moved in and started selling his wares. He has never taken an interest in maintenance, though previous apprentices preformed what upkeep they could with varying degrees of success. As such, the building is not much to look at from the outside. But for the professor and his shoppers, what is inside is much more important.

  • He earned the title of professor working as a tutor to the children of noble parents. But after a falling out with the local baron over his teaching methods, Nayli turned his attention toward alchemical pursuits. His passion is for discovering new recipes, so he sells a number of potions to pay for his research. He primarily deals in curatives and offers the best prices for those. He also produces some exotic potions for high prices, though only in one or two each at a time and never more than six in the store in total. Even finding the potions can be a chore as the shelves are stocked haphazardly.

  • Over the last year, the professor has become more and more convinced that everything he is doing is wrong. From the concoction of his potions to the running of his business, his fear of causing some grievous mistake grows daily. This paranoia was exacerbated by the hanging of his most recent assistant who, for unknown reasons, murdered his family and defiled their corpses. Nayli has been unwilling to take on another apprentice since the arrest.

  • In truth, Nayli's age has been catching up with him. His poor eyesight and shaky hands make him a dangerous alchemist. Because of his years of practice, most of his most of his potions still work competently. However, 8% of his minor potions and 15% of all major potions fail in some way, either acting as cursed potions or poisons. Through various accidents, a number of failed potions have seeped through the floor boards into a basement that the professor forgot that he owns. What effect this may have on the people and the environment has not been discovered.

  • The people in the neighborhood think of the professor as a kindly old man and will look out for his best interests. A few people, however, are fearful that he will one day blow up his store and the surrounding buildings. Their suspicions may not be unfounded.

  • Unexplored Worlds is my attempt to design an RPG campaign in the open. Since I have not rolled a d20 in anger in many years, this is my way to keep playing without actually playing. All posts are written to be system-agnostic, so please use whatever keeps your interest in your own games. Just let me know how it goes!

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Random Shots: Have You Ever Noticed

  • I just discovered recently that one of my coworker's laughs exactly like the female gnomes from World of Warcraft. It's a little eerie, but it works for her. I would never mention it, though, because then I'd be the crazy one.

  • I have a World of Warcraft page-a-day calendar on my desk at work. For April Fool's Day, the image was the Crazy Cat Lady's Cottage in Elwynn Forest. Very fitting, I think.

  • I've been reading a lot of Old School Gaming blogs recently. A lot. It's all made me nostalgic for my pen-and-paper gaming days. Since I'm not likely to be rolling dice in anger any time soon, I'm thinking about writing a campaign setting just for the heck of it. And if I'm going to do all that work, I might as well put it here so you can enjoy it. Or heckle it, I'm not picky.

  • Some workdays when I just have to get out of the office, I drive over to the local Best Buy so that I can surround myself with games and DVD and electronics. Most of the time I'm just window shopping. I don't feel like dropping $60 on a game that I'm not entire sure of. This last week, though, after already talking myself out of The Saboteur at $40, I saw the sale bin. You know what I'm talking about: a cardboard filled with My Pretty Pony DS and Bass Fishing PS2 games. This time, though, they had Bully for Xbox 360 in there for $20. That's about what it goes for used, I'm sure. I've been interested in that game since Rebel FM did a Game Club series on it a year ago. So it looks like I'll be playing Bully soon.

  • Just finished listening to the Three Red Lights Podcast #140. What a bunch of fucking amateurs. Now I remember why I don't read IGN.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Played Lately: Champions Online

  • After finishing all of the warm-up quests, I stand on the heli-pad next to the transport to Vibora Bay. Arcfire has just learned that she has been duped into collecting a number of mystical artifacts that will bring about an apocalypse. Her only choice is to travel to Vibora Bay and put right the mess she has made. And yet, I find myself unable to click the button that would allow me to travel to this great new zone.

  • This is a common occurance for me. I find a good break point, tell myself that I'm perfectly placed to pick up from here, and then I stop playing the game completely. Some of that is the game failing to give me a reason to continue. If I found such a good stopping point, that's because the game has come to a screeching halt. That's one of the main reasons I've stopped playing so many console games in the past.

  • The other reason this happens for me, though much less rarely, is that sometimes I don't want the game to end. I know that once I finish all the content, the game will be over for me and I can't go back any more. As long as there is unfinished content, I still have a tie to that virtual world.

  • And that is the reason I haven't gone back to Champions. Once I enter Vibora Bay, the end of the game is in sight. As long as I deny myself access, there is something for me to look forward to. Strange, I know, but I'm a strange person.

  • I won't be able to stay away forever, though. I'm really curious about what's on the other side of that "Travel To..." button.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.