Star Wars Shocker: You Can Play A Jedi!

jediWait — that’s not so shocking?

Like, that was so obvious as to be a no-brainer?

As in, even TOR’s devs have referenced Republic Jedi in the past?

And there was the trailer, with numerous Jedi fighting Sith?

Ah well, you know the big “reveal” had to happen sooner or later, and several sites have dug up what they assume will be the major TOR news this Friday: the official word of the Jedi Knight class.

The rest of us may be dismissed.  Wake me up when they tell us what the other three classes are.

Positive Peer Pressure and Torchlight

No! You can't pressure me into playing the trumpet too!

I really wasn’t planning on getting Torchlight right away, but the constant and seemingly unceasing stream of comments and exaltations and gushings and general swooning in the blogosphere has convinced me otherwise.  So as of right now, a copy is downloading to my computer, which will probably finish five minutes before I have to go.

I’m just generally excited and proud of the Runic team.  They’ve had a really rough go of it, with the Flagship/Mythos going belly-up thing, and I was just a huge fan of Mythos last year, so I can’t imagine what it felt like for them to have to abandon their baby and essentially start all over.  I also like the fact that they brought on board the guy who did Fate, because some of his mechanics (namely the pet system) called for being used again in a future game.

I am going to take Arbitrary and Spinks’ advice, and do the game on hard instead of normal for something resembling a challenge.

Speaking of peer pressure and former Flagship employees, it seems as though even Bill Roper isn’t immune to the comments and skepticism romping around the internet about Cryptic’s C-Store, costumes and retcons.  He posted a pretty detailed State of the Game, in which you can clearly read the subtext of “Don’t freak out!  We’re giving you free stuff!  We do listen to you!” underlying everything.

NaNoWriMo: If James Patterson Can Write 500 Books A Year, I Can Do At Least One

2009_poster_smaller_0My wife is all kinds of nervous about doing NaNoWriMo with me, although bless her heart, she hasn’t shown a single sign of wanting to back out, even though she hasn’t a clue what she wants to write about.  It’s prompted us to get into a few serious conversations about writing, which is awesome for our relationship, as she’s always been a “closet writer” — she loves to write, but she’s painfully shy about ever sharing, even with me, what she’s written.

I was thinking of a few common-sense tips and helpful aids to surviving NaNoWriMo that I shared with her, and since it looks as though several BioBreak readers and friends are joining the push this year, I might as well pass these along:

  1. Recognize in advance whether you’re a planner (you prepare the story beforehand with an outline, plot arc, characters, details) or if you are a write-by-the-seat-of-your pants type of author.  Both are equally valid, but if you’re a planner, you better get cracking this week.
  2. In either case, have an “ideas” file that you’re adding to starting now and continuing through the month — characters, dialogue exchanges, events, even words.  Sometimes when you get writer’s block, it helps to thumb through this file for inspiration.
  3. Develop a support network for the month.  This can include friends who are doing NaNoWriMo with you (and can easily sympathize), and people who are on the outside, able to care for you and give you encouragement.  Also, check out local NaNoWriMo write-ins, where authors gather to write together.  It’s a lot of fun.
  4. To hit the 50,000 word goal, you have to write 1,667 words a day.  My advice?  Write an even 2,000 words a day — that gives you five days over the month that you don’t have to write squat.  You’ll need those five days, as emergencies and writer’s block emerge.
  5. Don’t fall behind on your personal writing goals.  There’s nothing worse than having to make up four days of missed writing.
  6. In general, the first week is exciting, the second daunting, the third grueling, and the fourth an all-out dash to the finish line.  Everyone hits “the wall” at some point in the month where they want to give up.  Don’t!
  7. Read the NaNoWriMo blog.  They have tons of great advice on there!  This recent article is a good read.
  8. Don’t write for me.  Don’t write for others.  Don’t write thinking how this is going to be a best-selling novel.  Write for YOURSELF, to make you happy.  That’s the only chance of success you have!

Here’s their win rates (the percentage of participants who make it across the 50K finish line) over the past eight years:

  • 2001: 14%
  • 2002: 15.6%
  • 2003: 13.7%
  • 2004: 14.3%
  • 2005: 16.6%
  • 2006: 16.2%
  • 2007: 15.1%
  • 2008: 18.2%

And again, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo as well, let me know or add “Sypster” to your buddy list!

Tuesday Jumblies

08I just feel like rambling about a few quick topics, if you don’t mind.

No, I’m not getting Torchlight today — I’m using the precious few remaining hours of gaming time I have this week to squeeze out all the Fallen Earth fun I can get.  I don’t think I’ll be in the game much next month, between NaNoWriMo and Dragon Age, and I will certainly miss it.

I did craft (train) a new racing horse the other day, a white stallion I like to call “Shotgun”, so I can truthfully claim that I’m always riding Shotgun in the game.  And speaking of which, I totally love my little sawed-off boomstick from the Halloween event — if only I could have gotten two!  Even though its DPS is substantially less than my pistols, it’s still more than powerful for whatever Sector 1 can throw at me, and I had about 800 shotgun shells to go through.  I’ve started to develop a new philosophy concerning ammunition — conserve, conserve, conserve.  Two 10-shot pistols can throw 20 bullets at a mob extremely quickly, to the point where bullets were just flowing out of my inventory for far less gained (in terms of dropped loot or chips).  So I’m forcing myself to just use one pistol right now, and to have a few different types of guns — a sawed-off shotgun for shells, a pistol that uses light ammo, and a revolver that uses medium ammo.  That way, I can rotate through whatever I find and extend my ammo reserves a bit more.

Massively just posted a Fallen Earth Q&A article with one of the devs that covers a lot of topics including the economy and housing.  And I totally agree with this quote:

“I think we all want giant chickens to ride.”

Fallen Earth also posted the results of their Halloween costume contest — some very cool entries indeed!

Moving on to Champions, it looks like they’re handing out their third free full retcon to all players this week, so save your $12 if you were going to drop that in the C-store.  It’s too bad people can’t stock up on retcons, but at least I know that when I return, all of my characters will have one waiting for me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is “poopy diaper” wafting through the air that demands my attention.

Planescape Reloaded

planescape-torment-boxIt’s great news to hear that Interplay is re-releasing the RPG classic Planescape: Torment, although it’s a little disheartening that it’s going for $20 or so.  I think that after 10 years, you should resign yourself to the fact that your game is now and forever more shalt be in the “budget” section.

Still, Planescape is one of my absolute favorite role-playing games on the PC.  In fact, a friend and I were gushing about it just the other night, and I was telling him of the cool Widescreen Mod that’s updated the game so that you can see full environments on modern PC monitors.  I’d be tempted to get PT again just to see it this way.

Planescape: Torment was such an odd release back in the day — it absolutely bowled over critics and players with its radically different approach to storytelling and setting, but it failed to gather a large enough playerbase to become the smash hit it deserved.  It didn’t help that the box art was hideously ugly, that most people couldn’t envision Dungeons & Dragons in a setting other than Forgotten Realms (something that plagues DDO to this day), and that it was more of a thinker’s RPG than a fighter’s.  You could actually complete the entire game and avoid combat except for two mandatory fights — I can’t think of another modern RPG that could make this claim.

It had deep themes, fantastic companions, and a truly spectacular and bizarre world, one that I wish would have gotten a followup instead of being relegated to the dusty shelves.  Hopefully, this re-release might garner a new generation of fans for this terrific title.

A Nice Niche To Call My Own

Um, not that kind of niche.
Um, not that kind of niche.

Now, don’t get me wrong — even though I find Syncaine’s speaking for everyone trying Fallen Earth these days to be a bit presumptuous (and according to some of the comments readers have left here, erroneous), it’s water off this post-apocalyptic duck’s back.  Not everything is for everyone, and I’m perfectly okay playing a game that might not have widespread appeal or millions of subs.  It’s fun for me, that’s the bottom line, ta da.

But I do have a bit of a quibble with his digging up the age-old “mainstream (mass market) vs. niche” examination, because if there’s anything that we bloggers have proved decisively, it’s that nobody can agree on what “niche” means in this genre, and what it applies to.  I mean, I will gladly label Fallen Earth as niche, but still be fuzzy on what that exactly means.

When it comes to categorizing games this way, are we talking about how the game is specifically designed, or  how many people are playing it, or what demographics are playing it?  Three different things, there.  If a game’s designed to fit a very specific, narrow role and gains widespread appeal and popularity, is it still niche?  If a game’s created to appeal to a mass market but only gathers a few hundred loyal subscribers, can we seriously, with a straight face, call it anything but niche?

I feel that these loose definitions stem from a matter of perspective — what’s niche to you might not be to me, and so on.  World of Warcraft might be 11+ million subscribers worldwide, but if I was to ask everyone at my wife’s work and at my own what WoW was, I’d bet dollars on pennies that only a small fraction would have an idea.  If I was to ask about Aion?  I’d be lucky if one of my teens even heard of it.  What’s a big fish in MMO circles is small fry in the larger ocean of video gaming as a whole, and teeny tiny when compared to all forms of pop culture and entertainment.

If the accepted definition of niche is “a specialized market”, then we could drive ourselves a little batty charting out all the ways our MMOs are specialized: PvP, fantasy, scifi, crafting, sandbox, free to play, browser based, minigames, economy model, etc.  Everything is a subset of a subset of a subset.  Maybe those add up and create a very popular subset, but still.

Not to mention that MMORPGs are still a baby of an entertainment genre, changing radically from year to year.  What was a mass market success in 2001 might be considered laughably small today — a shift of time and perspective.

Sometimes I wish we could just retire the word “niche” in our circles, because it’s often used as a way to slam or demean games we don’t like, even though pretty much all of our MMOs are niche in one form or another.  As Mark Jacobs entitled his blog, “Online Games Are A Niche Market”, and as Syncaine himself expressed, it’s all one big happy genre!

This Just In: Fallen Earth About To Get 75% More Awesome!

Gas Mask Girl says, "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine!"
Gas Mask Girl says, "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine!"

Pardon my excited drool — it’s the result of logging in to FE and hearing a clannie shrieking at me to go read/listen to Lagwar’s new dev interview, in which they spilled the beans on a lot of great stuff that’s in the works, including:

  • Fallen Earth iPhone app — check out the AH, crafting queues (read only), clan chat, gear, etc.
  • Two more potential servers just in case the first becomes far too overloaded
  • Construction tradeskill — leads to player housing
  • Player camps — including instanced housing and game world structures that could be destroyed in PvP
  • 40% more of the map is slated for additional storylines/quests
  • Pet System — cut before launch, they’re working hard to bring it back in
  • Stationary turrets you can spawn and use
  • Sector 4 is under construction

A lot of this sounds far off, but the fact that they have so much in the works is greatly encouraging.  They hit two of my biggest “wants” with player housing and pets, and the iPhone app, if it makes it to market, just bowls me over.  I’d love to be able to talk to clannies when not logged in, or to keep tabs on what I’m currently crafting.

Good job, Lagwar!