Posted in General

The Great Bio Break Break Quest!

pointQuest Text

It’s time once again for my yearly mission trip, which means that for this week, Bio Break will be running silent.  Oh, it’ll be running, but just silent.  Waiting for the right opportunity to leap up and bite you on the tuckus.

So what will you do with Bio Break’s gaping absence in your life?  Why, go on a Bio Break quest, of course!  I’m Syp-2, your friendly quest-giver, and I’ve got several tasks for you to accomplish this week.  Complete all of them an earn a special reward (keep reading to find out what)!

Quest Objectives

  • Visit three (3) blogs from my blogroll — over on the right-hand side there — that you’ve never visited before.  Leave an encouraging comment on each of them.
  • Listen to one (1) of my recent podcasts from either Too Long; Didn’t Listen or Battle Bards.
  • Check out my columns on Massively this week (I pre-wrote a few that will be published as the week goes on) and leave “Syp Dimas High School football rules!” in at least one of them.
  • Try one new MMO this week and let me know in the comments section how it went!

Quest Rewards

If you’ve completed all of the objectives (you’re on the honor system here!), say so in the comments and which one of the following rewards you want:

  • An exclusive Bio Break title that I will hand-craft for you and can be used in any MMO, forum, or comment section for life
  • A 50-word post responding on the topic of your choice
  • I’ll use your name as a verb in one of my upcoming podcasts (“That developer sure Sypped up badly!”)
Posted in Podcast

Too Long; Didn’t Listen episode 65

tldlsquareDodge and Syp are actually playing the same game these days, and thusly wish to talk about it.  That game is RIFT, and these podcasters have  plenty to say about all of the changes.  They also chat about the best year for MMOs overall.  I think they disagree on that point.

Two topics in 30 minutes or your next podcast is free. You know you would listen to all this if it just wasn’t so… long!

Listen to episode 65 here!

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Planescape Torment: Playing from McDonald’s

mumble(This is a continuing series detailing my playthrough of Planescape Torment.  You can check out the whole run on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

As I wait for my car to finish up at the auto shop, I find myself stranded at McDonald’s.  So why not a little Planescape Torment while I dally?  Weird thought: Might I be the only person in the world playing Planescape Torment in a McDonald’s at this very moment?  I think that the odds are good.

Inside the festhall I listen to a lecture on the Blood War.  This is a background conflict that hasn’t been seen in the game so much as its presence has been felt, if you can understand that.  Basically, the Blood War is this epic, non-stop conflict between two factions of fiends that’s taking place on many of the planes.  The fiends try to recruit people to fight, but it’s a losing prospect to do so.  A couple more things: If the Blood War stops, the planes might well collapse; and the Lady of Pain keeps the Blood War from fighting in and for Sigil.  It’s sort of neutral ground, but not perfectly so.

I also have a memory of fighting in said Blood War before encountering a certain night hag.  Hm, wonder who that could’ve been?

Further into the festhall I encounter Jumble Murdersense, a nasty little fellow responsible for Reekwind’s curse.  In trying to save Reekwind, I get cursed by this guy for my troubles — I can’t stop hiccupping.  What to do but fight fire with fire?  I run outside, talk to the wanna-be-head-mage, and he teaches me an even better curse.  I sling it on Jumble, who finds that he can’t speak.  So he agrees to remove both curses and I remove his.  Quest complete!

The mage training room in the festhall is somewhat chaotic, as it’s lacking a teacher and the students just don’t know what to do.  The trainer is apparently addicted to sensory stones and hasn’t emerged from the sensorium in a while.  I go there and talk to her about it — she’s really out of it and completely self-centered — then I go tell the head-mage-wannabe guy about her addiction.  Then, because it’s fun running back and forth like a hulking scarred errand boy, I return to the lady and tell her that I told the other guy what she told me.  Planescape Torment: It’s a scarier version of junior high school!  Anyway, she gets mad about it and starts being a teacher again.

On a side note, it feels like it’s been a long, long time since I’ve had to kill anyone or go through a dungeon.  That’s fine by me!

Another quest that I need to accomplish here is to retrieve the keys to Dolora’s heart from Merriman.  These are literal keys, of course, since Dolora is a construct.  Merriman’s a jerk and doesn’t want to give the keys up unless I can find a way to make him forget his troubles.  This kicks off a chain of events that has me talking to Unfulfilled-Desire in the dormitories, who is able to take the desire to drink from that drunken mage I met way back when, who in turn gives me his enchanted mug, which I take to the art gallery and retrieve a shard of ice from the River Styx, which I then give to Merriman, who drinks it and gives me the key.  Whew.  That was a mouthful.

roomThe dorms have my old room still waiting, and not for the first time am I amazed at just what a large footprint I’ve left all over this city (not to mention all of my junk).  Some nice items here including a dodecahedron.  As a bonus, it’s a good place to rest and heal up!

Next up is a trip to the private sensorium.  It’s here that three memory balls are waiting for me.  The first is a long encounter with myself through the eyes of a past love (the ghost lady I first met in the mortuary, I think).  It’s horribly tragic and shows how cruel I became while manipulating her.  The second is a trap that a previous incarnation left for myself, but it’s easy to escape.  And the third is a message from Ravel the night hag, who tells me that I need to find three things to reach her: the door, the key, and the knowledge to unlock the key.

Quell, a candy-eating mage, is willing to give me a hint about Ravel’s key in exchange for some chocolate.  Fortunately, I’ve got some in my bag (why not?) and he lets slip that the key is a piece of Ravel herself.

I head back to the brothel, give Dolora the key to her heart (yay I made her happy), and fix up the silent prostitute Ecco with a new tongue.  It’s not on the up-and-up, since it’s a fiend’s tongue and keeps cursing on her, so some special liquid (which I also have) is needed to tame the potty mouth.  Finally able to speak, Ecco tells me that Ravel has children and that one of them is a fellow co-worker, Kessai-Serris.

It takes a bit of convincing to get Kessai-Serris to admit/realize that she’s Ravel’s daughter, but when she does she’s mortified.  She also agrees to give me some of her blood, although I’m lacking a handkerchief.  Annah to the rescue!  She pilfers a few locked drawers and finds one for me.  Kessai bleeds on it, and voila, I have my key.  Ravel, you’re going down!  To Funkytown!

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Planescape Torment: Skin of stone

fortune(This is a continuing series detailing my playthrough of Planescape Torment.  You can check out the whole run on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

Leaving the brothel, I continue my exploration of the Clerk’s Ward.  A creepy fortune teller, plying her trade at night for some reason, gives me a scroll that she’d been holding onto since her mother was charged to hold onto it for me.  It’s a nasty note that says something about slowing me down, and I take a bit of magic damage.  But I’m tough and pull through just fine.

Not too far away is an art gallery, where an old blind lady, er, watches over the place.  She’s blind by choice, so I don’t feel bad about the pun.  Anyway, she does give me some backstory on Ravel, especially how the night hag was fascinated by a singular question: “What can change the nature of a man?”  That right there is the core of Planescape Torment and my character — a nameless man who changes from iteration to iteration and cannot remember his past self.

A little further south of the art gallery are a few wanna-be street thugs.  I smack ’em down and loot a box off the leader.  A box with a head inside.  A box with a talking head inside.  It wants me to return it to its body, and because that comes with the sweet promise of XP, how can I say no?

Outside the civic festhall is a mage who wants to be in charge of training all of the mages.  He apparently used to be quite the curser, and I’m not talking bad words.  In a memorable line, he says that he once cursed a man to talk out of his butt and poop out of his mouth.  Planescape Torment, ladies and gentlemen.  It’s for kids!

festhallThe festhall is a pretty large building, brightly lit and definitely posh.  Much nicer than many of the locations I’ve been to so far.  Right inside the door, a woman says that she’ll pay me to let her kill me.  I’m strapped for cash at this point, so 2,000 coppers and one knife wound later, I’m in a better place.  And also still not-dead.

Near her is the leader of the place, Splinter.  No, he’s not a rat and is not in the immediate vicinity of any mutated reptiles, but I still think of him talking in that voice from the TMNT cartoons.  I tell him that I joined his faction, the Sensates, a long time ago, and get some XP for that little truth.  What faction haven’t I joined, really?

I complete two other quick quests in the main hall.  I return the head to its body, although we never do get to see what’s inside the box.  Gweneth Paltrow?  Darn.  I also pick a pretend fight with one of the brothel’s prostitute’s boyfriend, just to make him jealous.  He’s way too much of a nice guy and decides to bow out of the relationship, so I have to convince him to stick around and get her back by being aloof.  Somehow I feel that this is wrong.  It’s amusing though.

Before I finished up for the day, I encountered a guy pretending to be a statue in one of the rooms.  He has the ability to make his skin like stone, which would be kind of useful in my situation.  Happily, my combination of high charisma, intelligence, and wisdom means that these sorts of social encounters are a breeze now, and he gladly teaches me.  This gives me -1 to my AC, which in ye olde D&D terms, is a good thing.  No, I never understood AC or THAC0 fully.

Posted in General

Engorged on gaming deals

saleWhile some folks revolve their summer paychecks around the Steam sale, this year my heart — and my money — are belong to  The site-formerly-known-as-Good-Old-Games is in the second week of its #NoDRM summer sale, and my library of titles has grown considerably.  I’ve mentioned my fondness for here on Bio Break in the past, but I have to say that this sale has ratcheted up my excitement for the site and for classic PC gaming.

I’ve also spent just about my entire allowance this month on many of the bundled deals that have come through the sale.  Right now, over 500 titles are half-off (and we’re talking many being just $3 or so), but there are daily specials and bundles as well.  Today you can get the entire classic Ultima series (1-9) plus Ultima Underworld 1&2 for less than  $9.  That’s crazy.  It’s also awesome.

It also causes that dreaded disease of the digital games collector, where you keep snapping up tons of games that you’ll probably never play.  But it’s in a bundle!  You gotta have it!  I’m quite aware of this, and I’ve laid out plans (that you’ll see soon enough) to actually go through most of these games and not let them linger.

Apart from the current sale going on, I recommend this site for a few reasons:

  1. None of the titles use DRM, so you don’t have to fret about that.  Install ’em on as many of your computers as you like.
  2. The site has bent over backwards to making installation and game running as smooth as possible, especially with older games.  In some cases, they have lists of recommended mods to make the game more enjoyable to modern sensibilities.
  3. There are about ten or so free games (go to the catalogue and sort price by “free”).  Free is free, can’t complain about that!
  4. GOG bundles games with plenty of extras, including manuals, maps, reference cards, artwork, interviews, and (my favorite) soundtracks.  With the D&D bundle that I purchased early in the sale, I got at least two Jeremy Soule soundtracks (Neverwinter Nights and Icewind Dale) included.  That made my day.
  5. I’ve discovered a passionate community there that loves classic PC gaming — and especially players who are trying these titles for the first time.  It’s pretty fun to see the forums light up with questions over quest help and discussions over plot twists.
  6. GOG has set up a community wishlist where players can vote on their most-requested titles and site features — and GOG does try to fulfill those.

The other day Dodge and I were perusing the catalogue while talking on Skype, recommending different titles to each other and getting greedy with the sale.  Good times.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Planescape Torment: Morte comes clean at last

nenny(This is a continuing series detailing my playthrough of Planescape Torment.  You can check out the whole run on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

I didn’t have enough time to finish up the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts last time around, so it’s back into this mental red light district for me!

This is actually a pretty cool place in the game.  It’s just jam-packed full of quests and fascinating people, and the whole emphasis on conversation and intellectual interaction makes this probably the least tawdry place in the whole game.  Hey, at least it’s not wall-to-wall corpses like 90% of the other locations I’ve visited so far.  Plus, the music is actually peaceful and there’s a tree or two (come to think of it, I barely recall any other trees in the game).

Moving along, I talk to Nenny Nine-Eyes, who is hilariously air-headed and naive.  It’s still amazing to me how much personality comes out of a few lines of text description and dialogue, especially since I can’t really zoom in and see anyone’s face or (usually) hear their voice.  Kind of like a really excellent book, come to think of it.

Other prostitutes include a mute lady who apparently knows a lot about Ravel, a medusa chick, and a tiefling who spends a good part of the conversation throwing wonderfully rude insults at you (at least Morte was able to gain a few new taunts from that).  Another one of the ladies is a story-trader, and between her, you, and your companions, there are quite a few good short stories told (I liked Annah’s best of them all, it’s a classic little horror tale).

I also find a cellar with the ladies’ diaries (in crystal stone form).  I can’t read any of them, but one has a name scrubbed off of its base.

healTwo of the prostitutes say that they have had personal effects stolen — a scent and a veil.  Hm… who around this place has a weird fetish for girlie things?  Yup, it’s our good friend Luis the armoire, who gives up the goods after I whine at him for a while.  Again, it’s a shame that there wasn’t an option to burn the thing down, but you use what you got, I guess.  The good news is that one of the ladies is so happy that she gives me a +1 to charisma (yay, 18 points!) and the combined XP levels up half of my party.

The best part about doing all of this is that now Fall-From-Grace joins my party, making it a nice even six.  She’s got healing skills, too, which will come in most useful.  She tells me that she chose her name to signify that she’s fallen (or risen, actually) from the nasty habits of her people.

Fall-From-Grace’s addition to the party also provides the key I need to unlock the truth about Morte.  She recognizes a particular scent on him that means he used to be in hell (or hells, as the game puts it).  I have a long, long heart-to-heart with the skull and find out the full story.

Morte can’t remember exactly who he used to be, but he knew that he was a less-than-scrupulous fellow who’s actions ended up getting people killed — including me.  His skull was put into a pillar in the hells, which is where he encountered me again.  He begged to be taken with me, and I released him upon getting his word that he would serve me.  He’s done so ever since, mostly because he feels tremendously guilty about his part in making me what I am.

He also sheds some light on his past history traveling with me and why he’s been closed-mouthed in telling his story:

morteIt kind of makes sense, really.  Apart from learning the truth, the upside of this is that Morte gets a boost to his stats across the board, making him a better fighter.  I think I’m going to need all the advantages I can get soon enough…

Posted in General

My MMO journal

quest logA few days ago I started up an MMO journal — a spreadsheet, really, to keep track of what I’m doing and playing on any given day.  It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while now, and after a few days of using it, I’m glad I created it (I’m also kicking myself for not doing it a while ago).

It’s pretty basic, really.  The idea is that every day I’ll log what games I played and what I achieved or worked on in that title.  This isn’t going to be for Bio Break posting or anything, but just for personal use.  I think it’s going to help me stay more balanced between the games I’m playing, be able to see at a glance what I was doing last time, and have a visual record of my characters’ progress through MMOs.

I can see this being particularly helpful over a long period of time.  Say I leave a game for several months and then return — the journal will show me what I was doing last and help with that reentry process.  It’ll also be interesting to see what my MMO habits look like over the span of a year or two.

Do any of you keep a similar play journal?

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Planescape Torment: The best little brothel in Sigil

rpgsthen(This is a continuing series detailing my playthrough of Planescape Torment.  You can check out the whole run on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

One thing I’ve always loved about the Baldur’s Gate/Planescape titles are the ambient noises that come with each map.  It’s a small detail, a background detail, but it adds a lot of atmosphere to these games that were far from in-your-face graphical powerhouses.  I think that the noises — the people shouting in the streets, the clanking of blacksmith hammers, animals barking — subconsciously help me get immersed into the setting and light my imagination on fire.

So my motley crew has finished up with the Lower Ward and is moving on to the Clerk Ward of Sigil.  I’m starting to feel as though things are moving along, yes sirree!

Time to rub shoulders with the locals.  We chat with a drunken mage who can’t seem to stop drinking.  It’s kind of clear from speaking to him that an enchanted mug that he won from a game is responsible for this, but there’s no option to help him out.  Another guy near the open-air tavern is a lot more talkable and provides me with the first laugh of the day:

skullAnd it gets better:

skull2Okay, well, it amused ME at least.

Able is a useful fellow.  He offers to do some research on both the night hag and my past incarnations, and he’s a wonderful repository of information on the Lady of Pain, Sigil’s ruler.  The Lady is such an interesting character, especially considering that we haven’t met her yet but the game has built her up quite a lot.  Able says that she deposed a former deity who ruled the city and decreed that no powers or teleportation was allowed in Sigil.  She also hates to be worshipped, mazes anyone who threatens her or the city, doesn’t talk to anyone, and hasn’t been seen.  She’s peachy.

I do a quick mission for a local snobby noble who wants me to go pick him up a costume from the tailor.  While there, I find a fabulous outfit for Annah that beefs up her stats (and makes her look all razzle-dazzle).

Speaking of shopping, I head down to a curiosity shop where scads of exotic items are waiting to be purchased.  I snapped up several of them, despite their vague-sounding descriptions, and used a monster jug to summon a nasty critter that gave me 14K experience upon its death.

What now?  Hm.  A little antsy.  Might as well… go to a brothel?

fallfromgraceHey, don’t look at me that way.  This is Planescape Torment, and a brothel is not what you think it is.  This is the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts, where the mind — not the body — is satiated.  In short, it’s a place where people go to be mentally stimulated via conversations, debates, riddles, and the like.

It’s also the home of an angelic being (succubus, actually) known as Fall-From-Grace, and since she’s a potential party member, I’ve got to play nice and see if I can get her to join Team Nameless One.  She’s intrigued with who I am and my quest to discover myself (what, am I a college freshman reading On The Road or something?), but she wants me to chat up 10 of her co-workers before she’ll go with me.  Only ten?  What happened to the rule-of-three thing?

In a room near Fall-From-Grace, I encounter a (why not?) talking armoire.  Its name is Luis, and I guess he was a normal guy who figured he could perve out on the brothel’s workers by transforming into a piece of furniture to hold their unmentionables and spy on them.  For once I am speechless.  I consider putting my spare loincloth in his drawers as punishment, however.

Exploring the rest of the brothel will have to wait until tomorrow, alas.  I’m too mentally exhausted to continue.

Posted in Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 6: WildStar with Jeff Kurtenacker

bardssquaresmallThis week on Battle Bards, we’re going to the future!  That’s right, we’re covering our first MMO that hasn’t been released yet: WildStar.  We’ve got Composer Jeff Kurtenacker with us to share his insights as we talk about our favorite tracks that have been released so far.  If that’s not exciting enough for you, we’ve got two new exclusive music tracks in the show as well!

Episode 6 show notes

Check out Composer Jeff Kurtenacker’s website!

Special thanks to Tesh for the Battle Bards logo!