Month of DDO: There is a dungeon inside of this cart

An occasional problem that I run into with LOTRO is that the game will spend way, way too long loading my character into the game… and eventually quit to desktop as a result.  I’m finding even more problems with DDO.  Not only do I get the same load problem, but when my character does pop into the world, everything’s frozen for a good minute or three before finally allowing me to move and interact.  This time around I got both issues, which was followed by another one: I could turn and use my weapon, but moving in any direction?  Not so much, no.

Generally, if I have to keep logging in and out of a game to try to get it to work, I start asking myself, “Is this really worth the hassle?”  Hint: It almost never is.

Anyway, let’s get going with our adventure of the day!  Can you believe that there’s a dungeon inside of this innocent hand cart?

cart1There totes is.  The quest is “Thorn and Paw,” and we’re heading out into the forest to help some dumb Druid who got corrupted with, I dunno, poison ivy +1 or something.

cart2The cart drops me off at a photogenic if eerily terrifying part of the forest and then leaves without so much as a how-do-you-do.  I’m hearing a lot of “bear” talk on the loading screen, which bodes poorly for my 27% armored fleshy pre-carcass.  Hey, let’s head into that terrifying cave!

cart3No bars yet, although I do meet up with a pair of thorny horrors.  Good thing you have a “T” on the front of your name, man!

So a lot of you have been begging me for my patented fighting strategy in DDO, and so I’ll relent and tell you just to get some peace and quiet.  When I encounter a mob, I:

1. Click and hold down on the left mouse button.

2. Wait until monster dies.

3. Repeat with new monster.

If I really feel fancy, I’ll activate one of my long-cooldown special abilities, but I don’t feel fancy a lot.  Sometimes fighting in DDO is so simple in contrast to its enormously complex stats.

cart4Oh hey, there’s a bear, first name Dire.  I stand in the middle of his stomach and whip him to death, which is a completely normal thing for a 38-year-old man to be doing on a Tuesday evening.  Behind Dire Bear is the corrupted druid, who throws a lot of ice at me but dies nonetheless.  In the middle of this fight I get a blind guild invite, which I accept if just to get that prompt off of my screen.  HI NEW FRIENDS MEET MY DIRE BEAR.

I thought that he was the boss, but I guess he’s just the start — I need to kill a few more druids to unlock the chamber of the ultra-druid.  Woe is me.

I head down the side passages to defeat the additional druid mini-bosses and the large corrupted seeds, because nature is in imbalance and only by thrashing it with a big stick can order be restored.  Killing the seeds is a stupid move, as it removes all of the large roots that were blocking the bears from coming out to maul me.

cart5You know what would feel really great right now?  To be surrounded by thorns.  While on fire.  As a pack of wolves eat me.  Thank you, DDO, for fueling my nightmares.

cart6After fighting my way through a cavern of bears and druids, I am shocked beyond belief that the final boss is a bear and a druid.  As I’m fighting the bear, more bears surround me in a freaking country bear jamboree.  That’s when I break out my 20-second whip maneuver that I learned at cheer camp.

cart7This is DDO’s version of “Sorry, but your princess is in another castle.”  I love how this druid is deliberately screwing with me even as she dies.  “Be a whole zoo!  That’s how you win the game!  Also, smack yourself in the face with a pie!”

Thanks, druid.  Now don’t mind me as I step over your corpse to retrieve my treasure.  A bear will be by presently to gnaw on your bones.

Quest for Glory: Raking horse poop

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

I mentioned this a couple of times back in my Space Quest and King’s Quest playthroughs, but the Sierra games are a dream to use today.  They start up quick, have no qualms about letting you tab out (which some older games really do), and they save/load swiftly.  All of these make Quest for Glory an enjoyable gaming experience.

da1After three sessions (!) in town, I’m finally heading out into the wilderness.  About time, huh?  The road goes north, south, and east, so I pick east and walk down a quiet path until I hit a snowy avalanche and can progress no further.

da2AHH!  TALKING FOX!  BURN IT!  BURN IT!

da3Nah, I set it loose from the trap and the fox tells me the most random piece of quest information ever.  How would a fox know any of this?  And why is that “amusing?”

da4I turn and go up north, this time ending at the healer’s hut with her pet pteradactyl.  What century is this?  She not only makes potions, but has a quest for me: to find her gold ring.  Fair enough, healer.  I’ll be back with it in a jiffy.

da5As I understand it, you increase your skill points in this game the more you use them (so there’s no traditional XP > leveling system).  So climbing this tree with my 0 skill requires me trying again and again and again.  This is the problem with skill-based systems, since you end up stopping your gameplay to do one action a million times in a row to level it up.  I remember the same crap in Morrowind.  Sigh.  Let’s get to this.

At 29 climbing skill, I finally make it all of the way up.  And what do I get for my efforts?

da6Well.  THAT was an easy quest, all things considered.

I head back in the hut and give the ring to the healer.  She’s so overjoyed that she not only gives me six gold and two healing potions, but she french kisses me on the spot.  It’s kind of hilarious how my character freaks out at this: “You leave to avoid being kissed again.”  Because fat people kissing you is torture, am I right?  But if it’s a hot little filly of a centaur, we can’t get a date fast enough.  Thanks, game.

da7Speaking of that centaur girl, her father is nearby doing farm work.  I’m pretty amused by this elaborate strap system that he’s got going on here.

I ask Heinrich the centaur about the brigand attack that nearly killed him a while back.  He said that they broke his leg and were about to kill him when their helmeted leader stopped them and carried Heinrich to the healer’s hut.  That is… odd, to say the least.  Who is this leader?

da8A little to the north is the Baron’s castle.  The big story behind the Baron is this: He used to have two kids and a wife.  But he got into a tiff with the Baba Yaga, who placed a curse on him and then arranged to have his daughter kidnapped by some sort of flying creature.  The Baroness died, the Baron’s son died, and the jester and several guards went out to try to rescue the girl.  But now it’s been many years and the girl — who should be 18 and well within dating range — is still missing, the Baron is holed up in his castle, there are few guards to keep the peace, and the land is going to muck.  What we need… is a hero.

Of course, this hero is a money-grubbing thief, so my primary concern is to increase my finances.  I am offered a job to clean the stables for a whopping five silver, but hey, I’ll take it.  Money is money.

fightWhile wandering in the forest, I get into my first fight with a goblin… orc thing.  Let me tell you, I have NO idea what I’m doing here.  I just keep clicking the sword icon to attack and easily kill the creature.  Seven more silver for me, woohoo!

deathA second fight goes much more poorly.  Not only can you die from your hit points reaching zero, but you do the same when your SP (stamina points? skill points?) deplete.  Since attacks cost SP, I have enough for about one fight in me per rest.  Awesome.

havenAt least I find this little haven nestled in the woods: Erana’s Peace.  It says it’s a safe place, and it has both free food and a free bed for the night.  Sold!

What WildStar should be doing with paths

pathsOne of WildStar’s big talking points prior to launch was its path system.  This was supposed to be a “second class” that you could level up independantly by pursuing a specific type of content tailored to your playstyle (fighting, exploring, lore, building), and would add to the replayability/customization factor quite a bit.

From what I’ve heard, the original plans for paths got toned way down, although that’s hearsay on my part because I’m too tired to do actual research into that.  In any case, what we have in the game is a neat system that shows promise yet underdelivers.  I’ve enjoyed leveling up my settler and scientist paths, but as I’m doing so I keep making a mental list of how Carbine could improve these paths to be more like they were advertised in the first place.  After all, paths SHOULD be a major topic when players share thoughts on the game, but it seems as though most of the discussion has drifted into either housing or raiding.

So what should be done about paths?  Here are five ideas.

1. One of the coolest parts of paths is how it lets you interact with the game world in different and sometimes surprising ways.  Once in a while, I’ll get an option to activate a scientist object that can benefit me in ways other than adding to my path XP, such as opening up a locked door or exploding a barrel so that enemies take more damage.  Those make you feel as though your path has a purpose, and we need a LOT more of them.  WildStar isn’t very consistent with placing these, so they really are a rare occurence.

2. The devs should be adding new types of path missions into future updates.  Scientists need to be doing things other than endlessly scanning the environment (why not let us perform experiments?) and settlers should be able to creatively build things instead of merely activate buff stations.  I’m less familiar with soldier and explorer paths, although I’ll bet that soldiers are probably tired of the constant holdouts.

3. We need more and better path skills.  Paths are worth pursuing for the additional utility skills, such as creating portals or summoning vending machines.  But there are only four or so per path, and you get three of those relatively early on.  New path skills trump pretty much every other reward on the path reward track.  Some paths have better utility skills, period — soldiers get the short end of the stick here.

4. Scientists aren’t explorers, so help us find these things.  From what I hear, explorers get helpful arrows pointing them the way while scientists are often left wandering around hoping that they find all of the datacubes and scannables.  It’s so frustrating to finish up a zone and realize that there are two more datacubes you haven’t found, requiring a trip to a wiki to cross-check with your in-game list so that you can locate those remaining objects.  It’s not what this path is about and it needs to change.

5. There’s a pretty common refrain on the path forums: Let us be able to change and swap paths.  Maybe that would cut down on alts, but not everyone wants to alt anyway, and allowing players to pursue multiple paths would extend the available content for a character.  It would be neat to max out a path and then retain those benefits while starting over on a new path — which would also give me a good reason to revisit old zones.

Quest for Glory: Robbing little old ladies

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

After doing a little bit of reading up on this game, I decided that I don’t want the alleged annoyance of playing a magic user, and so I rerolled as a thief and went through all of the same steps that I just did.  The only difference is that this time I was able to get into the thieves guild via the robber in the alley.  Of course, you can only do that at nighttime, and since there’s no way to speed up the game (that I can tell, at least), you’re left to wander around waiting for time to advance.

I tried to do some research as to how long the day/night cycle lasts in Quest for Glory but found surprisingly little on the subject.  According to one FAQ, there are eight time periods in a day:

  • Day is Dawning
  • Mid-morning
  • Midday
  • Mid-afternoon
  • Sunset Approaches
  • Night is still young
  • Middle of the Night
  • Not yet Dawn

But how often they switch, I dunno.  It also seems as though that time only will progress to the next period when you switch locations (leave/enter a building or leave/enter an area).  If anyone knows, tell me!

th1Anyway, the thieves guild is pretty entertaining.  Not only does it look awesome, but the head thief is all grumpy that “beginners” keep getting sent to him in this po-dunk town.  He spends the moments throwing daggers at the board.

th2There’s even a dagger/dartboard mini-game, although I’m not going to spend money playing it.

th3Instead, I use my rapidly diminishing funds to pay for a thieving license.  Yay, now I can go rip people off!  Well, what about that old lady who lived down the street?  She seems like an easy mark.

Yes, it is disturbing how a pastor will quickly resort to underhanded thievery of the elderly in video games.  Try not to think too much on it.

th4Getting into her house is pretty easy — my lockpicking skill is high enough to handle this door, no problem.

th5I’m guessing that this house is the game’s litmus test to see if you’re truly cut out for robbery, as it’s trying to guilt you so hard about robbing a sweet old lady.  Man, all I can think about is how I’m out 25 silvers for that thieves guild fee and how I need to make it back.  So I yoink pearls, silver, and other knick-nacks while avoiding the roaming cat.

th6I know what you’re thinking, and no, the game won’t let me kill the kitty.  I’m not sorry I tried, however.  The street life taught me to be ruthless.

th7If I try to go upstairs, however, the creaking boards wake the lady and she yells at the kitty until it (why not) transforms into a massive jaguar.  Game over, man!  Game over!  At least I died doing what I loved.

My 10 favorite SNES games

Izlain’s rundown of his favorite Sega Genesis games and a recent delve into nostalgia gaming videos have left me thinking, once again, about my beloved SNES console.  I played the heck out of the PlayStation in the 90s, but the SNES got my full love.  While I reminisced about my history with the console a few years ago, I never did list my all-time favorites from that system.  So here are my top 10 picks in no particular order:

mario1. Super Mario World

As I recall, this was the pack-in game that came with our SNES, and since my brothers and I were flat broke after shelling out $50 each to buy the system, this was the game we played exclusively for a month or two.  Fortunately, it was a terrific game with lots of replay value (and a save game feature!).  Plus, it looked gorgeous, especially with the new water effects and the vivid, cartoony art style.

chrono2. Chrono Trigger

Simply put, I had never played such an amazing RPG before in my life.  This game had it all: time travel, cool characters, a fun battle system, combos, and a storyline with multiple endings.  Ugh, just thinking about it makes me want to load it back up on my iphone.  I played so much of this one summer that I almost never came out of my parents’ basement.

castlevania3. Super Castlevania IV

It’s a toss-up between this and Symphony of the Night as the best Castlevania game in my book.  Either way, Castlevania IV was perfect in almost every way.  The whip was responsive and flexible in a fashion that it had never been before, there were loads of different auxiliary weapons, and the setting was awesome to explore.  Lots of the new SNES tech made an appearance, such as the rotating room and the swinging chandolier.

zombies4. Zombies Ate My Neighbors

This game was ridiculously enjoyable, mostly because it embraced a goofy horror b-movie vibe and went full-out with it.  You got to control kids trying to rescue innocents from zombies, mummies, psycho dolls, chainsaw-wielding murderers, aliens, and monsters, while collecting and using a wide variety of inventory items.  The weedwacker was my favorite.  It was always a great title to play with another person, and still is.

starfox5. Starfox

By today’s standards, Starfox probably looks like a low-polygon on-rails shooter… and it is.  But back in the mid-90s, this was a mind-blowing ride.  It was the first time we had seen 3D on a console and it felt like we really were going around in the third dimension.  Plus, Starfox had kickbutt music, branching stages, wingmen, and the birth of “do a barrel roll!”

mariorpg6. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Oddly enough, I don’t remember a lot of specifics about this game, probably because I played and beat it once and then haven’t returned to it since.  However, it was surprisingly fun and used the Mario universe to great effect in making a cool RPG.  The combat, combos, and animation were the standout features.

contra7. Contra III: The Alien Wars

This was one of the titles that was used to great effect to sell the SNES to people.  It looked — and played — amazing for the era.  The bosses were huge, the special effects all over the place (did that plane just swoop at the camera, fire bomb the ground, and leave me hanging on for dear life?), and the weapons a blast to use.  It excels in two-player, although the top-down stages are crud.

mariokart8. Super Mario Kart

Despite throwing three Mario titles on this list, I’ve never been a huge Mario fan — but these were all excellent games on the SNES.  Everyone I knew had Mario Kart because it was a perfect game to play with friends.  There were tons of unlockables and ways to mess with your opponents.  Oh battle mode, how I’ve missed you!

turtles9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

I played a lot of Turtles IV in the arcade and was really pleased to see that the SNES adaptation was spot-on.  It was a great side-scrolling brawler, with each of the four turtles boasting their own attack style.  Plus, wacky time travel stages!

street10. Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II, both in the arcade and on home consoles, was a massive, massive pop culture phenomenon at the time.  I loved both Chun-Li and E. Honda, mostly because they both had a rapid-fire attack sequence (kicks and punches, respectively).  I never knew most of the combos, but I mastered a few of them and really enjoyed smacking my friends around.

Of course, there were plenty of other great games on the SNES, some that I played and others that I didn’t.  But these 10 were the ones that come to mind when I look back at the best gaming moments with the system.

Quest for Glory: Packing for adventure!

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

merchantIt’s getting late and so I trundle on back to the inn, putting my plans to fully explore this town on hold until the morrow.  While the game informs me that I’m getting tired, I see that the recently robbed merchant is now sitting at the table and so I sit down to ask him about the details of the incident.  Thieves, minotaurs, magic… the usual.  Sounds like a delight.

sleepI thank him and then buy a room for the night.  I try not to think about how I have very limited funds — this doesn’t seem like the type of game that will let you grind on mobs to get enough cash to survive.  I hope I don’t go broke with room service!

zaraNear the inn is the magic shop, where a stunning fairy/human hybrid named Zara is willing to sell me a few spells.  They’re pretty expensive and all I have funds for is a simple fetch spell.  You can never go wrong with a fetch spell in an adventure game, right?

almsNow that it’s day again, the thieves are gone from the alleyway and a poor beggar is sitting there asking for alms.  I spare a few coins because I’m a wellspring of generosity, and the begger advises me not to drink “Dragon’s Breath,” whatever that is.  I don’t think I’d quaff something called that in the firstplace, but good advice.

tavernThe only place left in this one-stoplight town is the local tavern.  The game informs me that it’s not my scene, but oh well, I’m not leaving until my curiosity is satisfied.

crusherTrying to talk to the ogre bouncer merely ticks him off.  After trying three different topics, he throws me out of the place.  Ha!

noteThe tavern does reward me with some quest-related information.  The card-playing butcher and baker talk about fishing and a large trout in mirror lake, and a nearby crumpled note certainly hints at something interesting.

breathBecause I couldn’t resist, I did order a mug of Dragon’s Breath.  It tasted great, or so I was told, but it also burned me up from the inside-out.  Ouch!  Time to reload and order a safe mug of ale.  Ah.

guildhallMan I wish our city had a guild hall that you could go into, sign up to become an adventurer, and get all sorts of wild and crazy tasks.  Maybe in Minnesota, but not here.  The guild hall has a board up with several of the game’s quests on it, including finding a lost ring and returning the Baron’s kidnapped daughter.  Tough times going about here, I gather.

The guild leader talks about the various monsters, the curse on the valley, and makes an Andromeda tourist reference for those who are familiar with the Space Quest games.  OK, enough poking around, it’s time to head out on grand adventure ‘n stuff!

rocksQuest for Glory sure does love its puns.  They’re not great puns, mind you, just kind of “HAR HAR HAR GET IT?” stuff.

I fear that rocks won’t be the worst of my enemies as I forge ahead…