March 2007 Archives
My sister is working on a study right now with the Department of Health in New York to determine the eating habits of New Yorkers. As part of this project, they're giving away $2 Metro cards in exchange for restaurant receipts. This is part of a larger regulation to list calorie information on menus.
New Star Wars Stamps
Why you shouldn't trust your GPS when the sign says "unsuitable for road traffic".
Using WoW machinanima to illustrate the practices of exploitation in the real world:
Here's the explanation of the video for you non-WoW players.
A troll farmer gets a return of 90 copper pieces for the sale of 20 pieces of Runecloth.
The Runecloth is sold at the Silvermoon Auction House for 2 Gold and 20 Silver (the equivalent of 22,000 copper pieces). A caravan brings it over for 10 silver (1000 cp), after being sold to an orc corporation for 80 silver (8000 cp). Presumably, the orc corporation takes the 13,000 cp profit, and then sends out from that 90 cp to the famer.
The following clip is from G4TV, on their Attack of the Show segment. It's a satirical look at the pitch process for MMOs, though I have heard of worse ideas...
On Wednesday night, I finally hit level 70. My /played time was about 28 days. That's 28 days of real-time play -- 672 hours. At level 70, things become rather interesting, and the game dynamics change a little.
- At 70, experience points no longer matter. The experience bar disappears, which feels odd because something that was there from the beginning is missing.
- Quest experience is changed into gold -- making quests on average 8 to 20 gold a turn in.
- Instead of grinding for experience, the grinding is for faction. To be able to do a lot of the high end content, a key to the "heroic mode" dungeons is needed, and those only become available at the exalted faction level.
- The money grind is to get the flying mount, which opens up a few new areas (mainly for farming).
Wednesday night, I thought long and hard about my mage's choice of tradeskills -- she had enchanting and blacksmithing. The blacksmithing was great for building armor and items for my Paladin in the pre-60 part of the game, but for most of the levels, I relied on quest rewards to gear up my characters. This made the saving of money for mounts a little bit easier, as I would sell or disenchant the items when I was done. At 60, I switched to buying items from the auction house, particularly "of the Sorceror" for my characters just to get started in the Outland.
After arriving in Outland, the quests do a fairly good job of equipping the characters with decent equipment, and as you do the solo quests, the equipment rewards quickly outpace the items one receives in the dungeons. An item received in the Ramparts (the first dungeon of Outland) will likely not be used if the player skips the dungeon and does a few quests in Zangarmarsh. With the large variety of items available, my blacksmithing skill stagnated in the old world at around 245, and though I forced myself to get it up to 281, doing 36 points of thorium based equipment probably cost me on the order of 700+ gold pieces, and perhaps another 700 to get to 300 from there, and an ungodly sum to get from 300 to 375.
On Thursday, Blacksmithing was dropped in favor of Tailoring, which has some nice usable "Bind on Pickup" gear for my Mage. I spent the rest of the day shuttling pieces of cloth from my various other characters ("mules" in MMOG-speak) in order to level through to 350 tailoring quite quickly. At present the Tailoring skill is at 365 (10 points to go!), with much leftover cloth, and costing much less stress/money than Blacksmithing.
Friday I spent the day clearing some solo quests from the quest log, while gathering more Netherweave (Outland cloth).
Saturday I ran instance dungeons...
- Shattered Halls as AoE pally.
- Shattered Halls as main tank.
- Ring of Blood (quest) as heal pally
- Underbog as tank pally.
- Mana Tombs as tank pally.
- Underbog as tank pally/mage
Sunday, I didn't play as much, but I did manage to get in a few dungeons and a couple of quests.
- Shattered Halls as heal pally.
- Gorefiend quest as heal pally. (A fight involving a big ghostly dragon)
- Mana Tombs as dps Mage.
Our guild is terribly short of healers right now, so one of the things I am considering is respecializing in Holy (healing) rather than Protection (tanking). Respecing in Holy would give me faster heals, at the cost of some tanking ability. One of the interesting things about playing a Paladin is the versatility of the class, but as a hybrid class, one is also second-best at everything -- both second rate tank and second rate healer. With the ability to use plate mail, it makes them a much more resilient healer, but as a result their heals are much less powerful than other healers.
Not only are videogames responsible for violent behavior in children, but they are also responsible for creating bad drivers.
Each card pack comes with 4 cards, enough to build 2 Transformers (I assume this means that each Transformer has a robot and vehicle sculpture)
One of the examples they give in the article is about the Prius.
First time ever: 3-way tie in Jeopardy!
Handy and useful.
Also, while I looking to find my friend code, I updated and found that not only is the News Channel finally working, but that the Everybody Votes Channel is also available as free download. Some other notable titles available on the Virtual Console now is Zelda III - A Link to the Past, and Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as well as the classic NES game Ice Climber.
Will Wright, J.J. Abrams and social games
Campaigning politician has his site translated into Klingon.
A brief history, as told in the scale of human lifetimes.
The Top 10 Most Important Video Games.
Two weeks ago, I finally reached level 60 and entered the Outland. The Burning Crusade expansion pack's content mainly focuses on this new area (that exists beyond the Dark Portal) , and when I finally reached the Outland, it drops you onto Hellfire Peninsula, in the middle of a war zone with the main portal gate under siege by demons. The zone itself is a red rocky zone, filled with undead spirits, demonic birds and pigs, and red orcs. Hellfire Peninsula is filled with annoying creatures that I am more than happy to kill -- these include the demonic birds that sense that you've killed a monster and attack you, but the main problem with this area was that at Level 60, you felt like a newbie again, killing pigs and birds, and occasionally getting killed in 3 hits by a level 70 Elite Fel Reaper. So when I leveled to 63 and completed the quests in the zone, I was all too happy to leave the area for a new place to explore.
My explorations took me to Zangarmarsh, which I disliked almost immediately for a reason I could not figure out at first. The zone saps all desire to play, and I spent the next week avoiding the zone and playing the previous instance dungeon (Hellfire Citadel - Ramparts) nearly everyday. While I did wind up with some exceptional equipment, my level progression slowed down greatly, as quests in Zangarmarsh were not being done. Every time I entered the zone, I'd play for an hour and then quit. I didn't realize why this was happening until this past weekend, when I realized that the area wasn't entirely painted in a depression blue hue.
If I thought the monsters in Hellfire Peninsula were terrible, Zangarmarsh upped the ante in unexciting, unheroic monsters. In Zangarmarsh, you fight a couple different types of monsters.
- Hydra: 3 headed poison spitters. You'd think with three heads they'd attack three times as fast, but they don't.
- Fel Eels: Eels that AoE shock and have a large agro radius.
- Mirefin Frenzy: These are little piranha-like fishes that have flock AI. If one comes, the whole school comes. Low hitpoints, so they die fast, but I don't know what players without AoE do.
- Marshfangs -- these manta ray like things drain mana. Annoying, and the quest with them is equally annoying, due to the number of items one must pick up. Certain varieties do a knockback.
- Sporebats: non-agro manta ray things that buff you when you kill them. They also do an annoying mana drain thing similar to the Marshfangs.
- Fen Striders: 20 foot tall wandering Jellyfish.
- Daggerfen: De-Evolved Draenei. Humanoid, they come in five varieties -- Assasin, Druid, Hunter, Mystic and Muckdweller.
- Naga -- two sects here -- the Darkscale and the Bloodscale. The interesting thing about these guys are the slavedriver varieties which call for a slave to aid them. When the Slavedriver dies, the slave runs away. Their slaves also have a weird Tomax/Xamot relationship where if you hurt one, both take the damage.
- Ogres. Both the one headed variety and the the Two-Headed version.
- Fungal Giants. These are the huge monstrosities that terrorize the Sporeggar. They summon evil exploding mushrooms.
Fighting these things just doesn't feel heroic to me (not to mention the loot drops from these things are terrible, so I'm hoping the next zone (Terrokar Forest) is better. So far, I'm killing Wolves and Moths, and collecting pinecones. On the plus side, Shattarath City is here, and looks like it has some promising questlines, including some that include killing the Dark Crystal-inspired bird people.
It's apparent to me that much of time was spent on making the dungeons interesting (as these are areas that people will revisit again and again) rather than the non-dungeon areas (as people like me play them once and never go back).
This past week, I delved into Stratholme to finish the quest for my Blood Elf Paladin Mount, which involved going into a chapel in Stratholme and setting the place ablaze, while fighting off the paladins housed in the chapel.
As part of this year's Transformers marketing blitz, Hasbro is releasing toys of Transformers that change into Nike shoes. Not to be outdone by Nike, Reebok has tapped another source of nostalgia by releasing the Reebok Voltron Lion Force Pack, a series of 5 colored shoes that represent the 5 lions that form Voltron.
Voltron isn't a bad license... it could have been Go-Bots.
Joi Ito talks about WoW.
Miyamoto Keynote (wii.ign.com)
Some interesting stories out of Miyamoto, including his conversion of his non-gamer wife into a gamer. Gamespot has a pretty good writeup of the keynote, including a video recording of the entire keynote. (When I saw him at GDC '99, the room was packed, and I can't imagine what it must have been like today, with the popularity of the Wii at an all-time high). His keynote today focused on expanding the gamer market, and about Nintendo's devotion to entertainment. He starts by explaining that his wife was a non-gamer until she saw their daughter playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time and became a game watcher, but it wasn't until Animal Crossing, the Nintendo DS and Nintendogs that she started playing them.
Miyamoto on his wife's foray into the world of games:
"Now my wife comes up to me and says 'I can beat you at this game, any time! She's bragging -- to me! The thing is, looking at her scores, she's right.She turned into a hard core gamer much faster than I expected. The wife-o-meter jumped up dramatically. Now she's playing Wii Sports, and if our neighbors come over, she invites them to play Wii Sports.Plus, I don't know if she'll ever stop making Miis. She's made Miis for our family, for our relatives, she's even making them for everyone in the neighborhood, and she enjoys showing them to everybody. I think this is something very lucky for me, because now she's getting a taste of what it's like to create something, so I see this as her first step towards game design. Together we'll be competing with our own game designs going forward, and eventually she's going to come up with a very unique idea, and whe she does come up with that unique idea, I can retire."
He also presented Super Mario Galaxy:
What do you do when you've got 1,500 Pokemon cards and a Dodge Neon?
Not really sure why you'd want to do this to a car, but the listing is just as amusing as the picture above. (Pokemon Theme Music FTW).
Today at the Geneva Car Show, BMW unveiled the M3 Concept, which features a V8 engine and a carbon fiber roof. I don't like the design -- while it's taken me 3 years to warm up the design of the 3-series, and on the new M3 Concept, the rise on the hood, and the design of the front aero bumper leave me ice cold. It feels too much like a BMW imitating a 1990 era Mustang.
Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" now selling Ford F-150s in a TV commercial.
This week is the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, where the giants of the games industry gather to talk about their experiences building their latest games. It's also a good place to job hunt and network, which is why employers hate sending their employees to this somewhat costly conference (it's a $1000+ conference pass which has interesting lecture sections, but are likely not applicable to the project at hand). It's also a good place for casual and independent games to make an appearance and get some press for participating in contests like the Independent Games Festival.
One of the more amusing lectures to come out of the Casual Games Sessions is the Ricochet Xtreme Game Challenge, in which the creator of Ricochet Xtreme handed over all the assets of the game under a Creative Commons license to 5 game engine creators and gave them 8 hours to create a clone using the assets, but using their own engine.
The competitors were PlayFirst's PlayGround, Macromedia Flash, Sun Java, PopCap, and Garage Games' Torque Game Builder. PlayGround, Sun Java and PopCap are completely free to develop on, while Macromedia Flash and Torque Game Builder costs some licensing fees (which are low and quite reasonable compared to the licensing fees for iD's engine or for Unreal).
These game engines are known as middleware -- platforms that a third party has developed which makes it such that developers can focus on building the game, and not the tools or the engine, which in theory should help them produce a game that much quicker, as the cost of a free to $500 engine saves countless man-hours developing their own engine. Of course, the problem with middleware is that if a feature doesn't exist or is unsupported, you're coding it yourself anyway...
The results were amusing, and should give some ammo for companies to tout their own engine, but who can really say, seeing as no one really seems to know whether or not the companies kept to the eight hour rule. (PlayFirst, it seems had the chunkiest framerate, although they did manage to make web and Mac versions very quickly).
This morning driving to work, one of my tires blew out -- not quite sure why it happened, but I knew immediately I had a flat. You feel it in the steering wheel; the ride gets rougher immediately, as if you were driving on cobblestone rather than asphalt. I happened to be on Central Expressway when it happened, and thought maybe I could make it to work -- after all, I'm only a mile or two away. I stopped, smelt the burnt rubber, looked at the tire and decided that continuing on was probably not a bright idea.
I got the spare tire out of the trunk and tried removing the flat. It wouldn't budge. I struggled for a few minutes before giving up and called AAA, and they sent a truck over to switch the flat out for me, and I was back on my way.
Why put the blame on games? If anything, a healthy understanding of math and science is necessary in the construction of games -- and those who find games compelling to play are going to be those interested in building the next generation of games.
Anthony Bourdain blogs about the Food Network
Steven Johnson on the Wii
Is that fish you're eating really grouper?
Sartre as a 911 operator
How John Lasseter is turning Disney Animation Around
How to photograph an eclipse
"I don't think you can feed grass to cows"
PARC has been doing some interesting statistical analysis on WoW players and level curves and such, and with the new expansion pack, it has allowed them to revisit the average time that it takes to get to max level. Their research seems to indicate that on average, the player reaches level 70 in 15 days of played time.
This figure may be indicative of power levelers, but probably not the population on the whole.
My current progress is at 21 days, and level 62. While I did spend time doing things other than leveling, it means that my progress is well below average!
Nintendo Surgeon -- What Playing on the NES taught my generation.