NaNoWriMo: On The Verge Of Madness

sheep_off_cliffYou know that thing when you are dreading something — a doctor’s visit, final exams, the last day of vacation — and then suddenly time starts pushing you with all gusto toward that event while you dig your heels in and scream for it to slow down?  That’s exactly how this week has felt for me.

Ever since deciding to jump back into NaNoWriMo, I’ve wanted to spend a good amount of time plotting out a book, coming up with character backstories, and creating an ideas list.  And all I’ve had time to do is to create a brief outline and brainstorm the (boring) names of six main characters.  That’s it.  Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up bright and early, go to church, and then spend the afternoon writing the first 2,000 words of my novel — and I’m convinced it’ll be horrible.  I know that some people are naturally good storytellers, but I am not.  I’m not half bad at describing a story and having fun with quirky characters, but I have difficulty harnessing my overactive imagination to do my bidding when it comes to a story.  I’ve even changed ideas for my book three times in the past week.

My wife and I are planning on attending a NaNoWriMo kickoff party today in the Detroit area, and I hope that will be a major source of encouragement and motivation for the next four weeks.  It’s already a huge boost to see a lot of my friends and fellow bloggers join up to do this, and I wish them well as they grunt and sweat over a keyboard for 50,000 words.

For those doing this event, check out this recent post by Patrick Rothfuss (a bit NSFW).  He’s one of my new favorite authors, having absolutely crushed the scene with his debut novel The Name of the Wind, and I love how he opens up to the frustration and pain of writing, as well as being misunderstood as a writer.  Not all of this applies to me or you, but it’s good reading nonetheless.

P.S. – Professor Beej also pointed out this great article about 7 bad writing habits we learn in school.

Jedi Knights: Evenings of Passion

jediYup, well, it’s out of the bag now, officially at least.  Jedi Knights are in TOR, and they’re pretty much what you expected.  More finesse than the Sith Warrior, and more wimpy for it.  As you can tell, this news doesn’t get my heart pumping any faster — I’m just not that excited about Force-users in Star Wars.  I feel they’re overplayed, over-worshiped, and over-emphasized in any product in which they appear.  Plus, I’m envisioning the headache I’m going to get playing in a crowd of 90% lightsaber wielders, who are all jumping around and waving their big rave sticks like Jedi whack-a-moles.

I find it not just a bit hilarious that BioWare is referencing Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu as the primary inspiration for this iconic role.  Not Obi Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn, Luke or Yoda, hm?  Nope, you had to go with the guy who sat on his butt more than he ever fought?  I wonder if that’ll be a skill: “Jedi Meditation – Sit still and meditate in the Force, completely oblivious to the fact that the Emperor and the Sith are going to topple the republic right out from under your nose.”  What I think is going on here is that they want to throw a bone to the prequel fans, since thus far all of the iconic roles have referenced the original trilogy characters.

I just want to see them try to justify Padme as an iconic character, since a list of her top 40 accomplishments include losing control of her entire planet without much of a fight, elevating the evil Emperor to rule, exposing her midriff, tolerating Darth Vader’s hammy romantic come-ons, getting pregnant, and then dying because she’s really, like, sad or something.  That’s hotkeys 1-6 right there.

Relevant linkage:

Aion: Fallen Angel

Fallen_Angel_by_DiegoUnspireIt’s been a running joke/competition in our Casualties of War ventrillo community to see how many players would be logged on to vent between the Fallen Earth clan and the Aion guild.  There were a few days where the Aion crew would outmug us, especially last month, but lately the FE team giggles a bit to see just one or two lone souls holding down the Aion fort while we continue to grow in numbers.  It’s clear to us, at least, that Aion is having difficulty holding onto players.

Okay, I promised way back when that I’d let my growing antagonism toward Aion drop, mostly because there really wasn’t a reason for it other than a kneejerk reflex against something everyone was crowing about being awesome, even when I could clearly see it as the emperor parading down main street in the buff.  At least he was rendered beautifully and with a great framerate. Polished more of the same is, guess what?  More of the same.  It’s not destined for anything greater than what preceded it.

So I’m not here to pile on Aion’s faults (feel free to head over to Screaming Monkey if you want that, or to Massively to read Snafzg’s balanced analysis), but just to note that we’ve gotten past the one month honeymoon period, and it seems excitement and die-hard affection toward this game has just about dropped to nil.  We’ve seen it happen before, and it will again, and Aion isn’t even the only September customer to be abandoned by a large core of its verbal supporters — Champions is also headed toward mediocrity, if posts concerning it are any indication.  Both games will survive and even thrive, as content is added and bugs fixed, but they aren’t the revolution — or even long-lasting diversions — that some hoped.

Bullets and You: A Love Story

rolandIn Stephen King’s seven-part opus The Dark Tower, his main character Roland is a “gunslinger” who is traveling through a post-apocalyptic world on a singular quest.  One of the challenges he runs into in the first few books is the shortage of bullets for his twin six-shooters, which is of particular concern seeing as how it’s hard to be a gunslinger without, ya know, working guns.

I’ve thought a lot about The  Dark Tower as I’ve tromped through Fallen Earth, as I imagine quite a few other King fans have as well.  My character is a gunslinger of sorts, relying almost exclusively  on a pair of sidearms (as well as a sawed-off shotgun and a revolver) for defense and attack.  And as Roland struggled with finding enough ammunition, so the acquisition of bullets is a constant struggle in FE.

As a result, my character has honed ammo-making down to a science.  Light ammo is not too difficult to make, although you do need to be diligent in gathering the mats and producing large batches of it, since it’s easy to go through bullets like crazy in even a single play session.  There are four mats to get or buy:

  • Weak Biologic Material – drops off critters, particularly if you harvest them after looting them
  • Weak Geological Material – can come from scavenging nodes or geologic nodes
  • Scrap Lead – geologic nodes, as well as various drops from creatures/people
  • Scrap Copper – ditto

Two of these are pretty cheap if you want to buy them (copper/geologic material), but the biologic and lead will certainly cost you,  especially when you start buying them in large bulk.  Therefore, as always, it’s a good idea to scavenge all the mats for free.

It’s important to time your bullet crafting well.  Making gunpowder is quick — a minute or less for each.  I usually focus on doing a lot of gunpowder while I’m playing, making as many batches as I can.  Crafting the actual bullets is considerably longer (10-13 minutes each, resulting in 80 bullets), so I queue those up at the end of a play session to build while I’m offline.

So I just wanted to drop a tip — the town of Coppermine has a (guess what?) mine nearby that holds all four of these resources.  Geology nodes and ants abound, and if you spend a lot of time in there, you’ll come away with full bags and a happy heart.  The great thing is that the nodes respawn quickly, and an even greater thing is that there’s a quest chain that sends you into an instanced version of the mine that you can harvest to your heart’s content.

The Fate of Torchlight

fateLike many of you, I’ve been gorging a bit on Torchlight, and feel absurdly pleased as to what it accomplishes — it looks great, runs even better, and is a delightful mindless Dialbo-esque experience.  Since several of my peers have jawed about this at length, I’m going to leave my review as “great game, can’t go wrong buying it”.

But there is something that bothers me while playing it, and although it might seem petty to bring it up, up it shall come.  I knew that Travis Baldree was head of Torchlight’s dev team, a guy who also headed up Mythos and Fate.  This being his third action-RPG, it’d be logical to assume that he’s going to stick with what works and not throw everything out the window just because it’s a new game.

However, I didn’t realize before playing Torchlight just how much Baldree and company borrowed from Fate.  It doesn’t just use some of Fate’s same concepts, it is Fate.  As in, the same exact game from 2005, ported to 2009 and updated with new artwork and new skill trees.

I really thought I was going mad, because the Torchlight experience is, beat for beat, the same that I had back when I paid $20 for Fate.  Now, don’t get me wrong — Fate was a great game.  A terrific game, even.  But I didn’t really want to buy the same exact game twice.

Running down Torchlight’s features and then cross-comparing them to Fate’s, it’s like a severe case of déjà vu:

  • Randomized dungeon levels
  • A pet — dog or cat — that holds an inventory, fights with you, and runs back to town to sell your stuff
  • Your pet can be transformed via feeding it fish
  • Fishing
  • A Fame meter
  • The death penalty — you can choose between a hefty penalty to be rezzed on the spot, a lighter penalty to be rezzed at the start of the level, or no penalty to be rezzed in town
  • You can retire your character and pass down perks, bonuses and an item to your next character
  • Standard Diablo concepts – isometric, socketed items, level up grats you attribute and skill points, fetch/kill quests given by the town you start in

Again, it doesn’t make this a bad game.  Just a carbon copy.  And that, to me, is disappointing; I was really hoping that Torchlight was going to advance the Fate/Mythos formula, but instead it remains firmly rooted in the past, albeit with enough polish to envy any brass maker.