SWTOR: Nostalgia in a land of cannibals

enderOn Taris, the third planet in my Galactic Conquest Tour ’14, I stumble upon a few corridors of nostalgia: the remains of the Ender Spire, with functioning lights even after 300 years.  Hey, they build their stuff to last in the Old Republic.

It’s too bad that the return to the Ender Spire is limited to a single quest and a few rooms, but running around these weird curvy hallways really took me back to the opening bits of KOTOR.

redheadOh, did I mention that I got a new hairdo?  I bought a chunk of cartel coins to perform a few unlocks and had a few left over, so I poured it into one of the premium hairstyles that I’ve had my eye on.  So now Syp is a redhead with long, thick hair, and I’m really pleased with the end result.

I do wish that my heart was harder and I could pick some of these dark side choices with her, but I can’t bear to see her be mean to anyone.  It’s really silly, but I bask in the gratitude of these NPCs.  Maybe that’s a sad commentary on my need for validation.  Or perhaps I just don’t like to have even virtual people be upset with me.

Anyway, Corso and I have been plowing our way through Taris like the worst road trip ever.  You know the kind?  Where you’re lost in the middle of a war zone with mutated cannibals and your only companion is a yappity space hick?  Every time the game awards me with affection points from Corso, I want to demand an immediate refund.  I do not want him to like me.  I want to stand in front of him and rip up pictures of puppies until he breaks down crying.

But I’ll have to put up with him for now, since my next companion isn’t coming until Nar Shadda.  I am sorely tempted to splurge on Tweek, especially since I won’t be getting a healer until much, much later in the game.  A healing tank companion would be awesomesauce.  Hm.  Maybe in December.


WildStar: Party oasis

oasisOne of the benefits of switching back to my Medic full-time in WildStar is that I get to enjoy the benefits of the Settler path.  It may not be the free-form building that I envisioned from pre-launch, but there are fun touches such as building projects.

Last night I was toting bottles of water to a lumpy blue dude (I do not know that alien’s race) in Farside when the project reached completion and a party-hopping oasis sprung up.  Tiki bar, hot spring, lounging beach bunnies (of both genders), and a quest that had me using a device to read people’s minds.  And there were buff-happy drinks, so my character may have gotten a little tipsy.

I’ve been expending effort to figure out a better combat build and rotation for my Medic in my non-oasis hours.  It’s been taking me too long to kill things, and on top of that, what I had been using was far too, for lack of a better term, “fiddly.”  Instead of a smooth rotation, it was a lot of placing fields, looking for reactive skills to proc, and the like.  And as we’ve already established, I want combat to be more of a “point and die” kind of thing.

So a-tweaking I’ve gone with my build, and I think I may be on to something that works — at least for me.  I’m now killing most mobs (including packs of them) within a single quick rotation that involves the following:

  • Starting off by throwing up a pair of probes (HoT on me and DoT on all enemies within range).
  • Use my standard cone attack for some initial damage while I heard a group of mobs into a tight bunch in front of me.
  • I keep firing off that attack 1-3 times until I see the enemy start a telegraph, then I hit them with a stun.
  • The whole idea is that while they have that interrupt damage bonus going on (around six seconds) to cram in as much DPS as possible.  I have a trio of skills that I can fire off rapidly, and two of them proc one of my AMPs, which ends the HoT probe with a big burst of damage.
  • If they aren’t dead, I can refresh Quantum Cascade and use it for another AoE round of attacks.  Usually this isn’t an issue.

This build and rotation has brought time-to-kill way down and subsequently raised my enjoyment.  When combat isn’t a slog, MMOs are actually fun.  Who’da thought?

WildStar: Your doom has a name, and it is ZOLTAN

My kids have a near-obsession with wanting to see my house in any given MMO.  Hilariously enough, they all think that every game is the same and that I can access my “spaceship house” from RIFT.  What they really like is being able to suggest building projects and help their dad pick and choose between looks (pro tip: kids love choices).

So last night I asked what they wanted me to build, and they responded with “giant robot.”

z1Wish granted.

I am so dang pleased with how this guy turned out.  I named him Zoltan to give tribute to the best Ashton Kutcher/Sean William Scott movie in the world, and he is a fearsome sight.

The feet and legs gave me the most trouble as I spent over ten minutes trying to position them both so that the leg joints (really just oversized levers) would converge close enough to meet the torso.  The torso is a large Chua containment unit with two Chua loading arms, perfect for this sort of thing.  I made him waving “hi” in a jaunty way.

z2One of the key techniques that I’ve been discovering about housing (thanks to witnessing it plenty of places elsewhere) is that you have to be thinking of how to use objects in ways other than their intended purpose.  Zoltan’s head is all about this.  The head is an embiggened silver keg, which was perfect since the middle can double as the robot’s mouth.  Then I took a floating medical cot, flipped it, and mostly made it disappear into Zoltan’s head until only a glowing blue aura would come out of his “mouth.”

The final touches were a trio of moving parts: two spotlights for the eyes (that are constantly wagging up and down) and some sort of distillery-engine thing that looks perfect for exposed gears and antennae.

z3I invited people from the housing zone chat to come over and had a few impressed onlookers.  This guy hopped to the top of Zoltan and began to flex like there was no tomorrow.

z4I told everyone not to be afraid, for I controlled his programming.  Well, until he turns on me.

I would like to add a giant wheel to Zoltan’s butt, because he looks a little off-balance if you look at him from the side or back.  I’m lacking such a part right now (I made Zoltan with just stuff I had lying around in my crate).

I did build a viewing platform nearby that actually was there to help me get high enough to place stuff on his head.  I used three Granok fences to make a neat-looking roped off area.

See Blizzard torture Gnomes

I guess in the broad scheme of things, you’re either a Gnome lover or a Gnome hater.  Everyone I meet is firmly in one of these camps, with little indifference to be seen.  What is so polarizing about these wee wunderkind?  People who love them are really affectionate toward them and proud of pint-sized power.  And people who hate them are almost gleeful in stating it, feeling almost as strongly about it as I do Elves.

Personally, I’m a fan of Gnomes.  The original Syp was a World of Warcraft Gnome Warlock, and I never got bored of being two-feet-nothing and taking down dungeon bosses with dark magicks and a giant demonic bodyguard.

We Gnome lovers are quite aware of the fact that even though Blizzard created them for WoW, the devs over there are in the “hate ’em” camp, big-time.  This week we got even more proof with one of the most bizarre videos from the studio that is supposedly about the new character models but in reality is a dev straight-up torturing a gnome for two minutes.

I’m not even joking.  I took screenshots.

gnomeThe video starts with what I’ll admit is a kind of scary image of a Gnome creeping up on a flower as if that flower is about to be deflowered.  Plucked.  Uprooted.  Darn it, I mean it in a very non-sexual way, so just trust me on that.

gnome2Then the Gnome is kidnapped and strapped down on a table against his will while a bearded developer leers at him from beyond the screen.

screamThe Gnome screams in fright, also wondering why he’s nearly naked.  I want to point out that this is one of those videos where the choice of gender is obviously deliberate.  It’s uncomfortable enough with a boy Gnome here.  A girl Gnome put in this situation and played for laughs would probably earn Blizzard a social justice nerdstorm of epic proportions.

tortureThe dev uses his cursor to start stretching the Gnome’s arms as he screams in panic and/or pain.  I have to state here that I’m not exaggerating anything; it’s kind of as disturbing as it sounds.  The arm snaps back to form the new model, then same with the other arm and his legs.

All during this, the creepy dev is sitting there with this dead expression on his face, sipping coffee while he listens to the screams and whimpers.

faceThen for good measure, the dev starts slapping the Gnome back and forth until his brutalized face gets a few extra polygons.  Violence against Gnomes, ah ha ha.

Then the Gnome is happy, supposedly because of his new look but probably because he’s not being subjected to the Spanish Inquisition any longer.

Humor?  Uhh… no, not really.  Nightmare fuel, definitely.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis: Up and away in my beautiful balloon

(This is part of my journey playing through Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

f1Okay.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, I was a grown man with a doctorate who is on an archaeology expedition that included dressing up as a ghost and saying “Ooooo!” to scare a gullible man during a seance.

So as I get ready to leave, Indy does perhaps one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in an adventure game: He cleans up after himself.  Seriously, the game goes, “Nope, you gotta go put the flashlight back and make up the bed” as if it knew that both a bedsheet and a flashlight would be actual useful items later on and wanted to force me to jettison them now so that I would use a wacky substitute later.

With the Sunstone in hand, we return to Omar to prove that we’re genuine Atlantean groupies.  For the record, this is the second time that the game has forced us to find some artifact to wave in front of an NPC before he would talk about a fabled lost city with us.  I’m really starting to think that there is a club with strict rules.

f2Omar points us in the direction of an Atlantean dig site being worked on by Germans, although he’s not entirely sure where it’s at.  He does try to convince Indy to give up his quest, which the game actually allows you to agree with.  Of course, you’re left twiddling your thumbs until you abruptly change your mind and say, “I do NOT give up!”

Omar gives us a couple of camels for the expedition, although that ends in failure a few moments later when the camels die and Indy’s right back in town.  Another mode of transportation is needed, and in traditional adventure game design, getting it is convoluted.  Essentially, I trade back the mask I stole (!) to Omar for various items to trade with the grocier to get a squab-on-a-stick to give to a begger who gives me a balloon ride ticket.

f3Indy’s less interested in actual archaeology than he is in procuring fun theme-park rides.  Whee!

Unfortunately, the balloon stays tethered to the building for safety, which Indy cannot abide.  So he casually hacks away at the rope and balloonjacks his way to the desert.

f4This is an interesting puzzle to solve in order to find the Nazi dig site.  By dropping ballast and venting hydrogen, I can make the balloon go up and down as well as switch directions.  It’s a little awkward to control, although mastery is needed since I have to land at multiple nomad camps to ask them where the dig site is in relation to that camp.

f5I get lucky and find the dig site within two camps.  When I get near, a Nazi soldier opens fire on me, causing the balloon to crash land right on top of his head.  Good shooting there, Tex.  Ironic death achieved.

Well, since we’re now effectively stranded out in the middle of the desert with a busted hot air balloon and one ripening Nazi corpse, we might as well see this dig site before we die.

f6Eager to pull her weight with our dire situation, Sophia starts in on her psychic mumbo-jumbo again and then promptly falls down a hole.  But does the game let me leave her there?  No.  No it does not.

f7With little other choice, Indy heads into the incredibly dark dig site.  Golly, I’m sure glad the game made me put back that flashlight from earlier, otherwise this would have been too easy.  *cough*

f8Instead of a convenient, portable flashlight, Indy gets gas from the German truck and feels his way through the dark to fill up a generator and power up some lights.  Ah, that’s better.

Getting Sophia out (gee, do we HAVE to?) involves more grade-A archaeology — destroying crumbling murals until something interesting is revealed.  In this case, a map of the island of Crete and a spot for us to hang our sunstone on to unlock the door.

f9Sophia comes out of the now-unlocked room with two priceless treasures: a distributor cap and an amber fish on a string.  Well, one important piece of gear and a worthless souvenier of her trip to cuckoocloud land.

Using a spark plug from the generator and Sophia’s distributor cap, we fix up the truck and head off for Crete!  What wonderful holes will we find there to fall down in?