Contagious Prankster…

I’ve always been a bit of a prankster. Always. I enjoy a good laugh and I enjoy company of people that can laugh at themselves as much as I can.

They make good targets.

Last night I had the Hunters of our allied raid team (unfortunately, we only have three hunters) join a secret channel. In this channel we take turns picking who will be our targets for Misdirection.

That’s right, three high DPS Hunters misdirecting their opening and continued threat to a target that is not the tank.

Before anyone gets upset, we only do this on trash and only until that person dies. We don’t change targets victims mid-fight and we don’t do it while fighting bosses. We also won’t target tanks (that’d be dumb) and likely will not target healers unless we have a good number to spare.

Some fun quotes we heard last night?

“OMG, I’m pulling so much threat!”
“I don’t know what happened there, the mobs just turned on me.”

I could be wrong but I think I heard someone exclaim that they didn’t even start attacking and they got agro.

I checked the logs posted today, it doesn’t imply who was the target of our Misdirections so I’ll spoil it but chances are, if they died to trash, Team Hunter made it happen.

If Dennis or Tim read this (I know Tim will) please don’t spoil it.

Target 1: Delnor on the Deathspeaker High Priest. (Click on Deaths tab to see where he’s taking some DoTs then suddenly BOOM! 14k because he has agro)

Target 2: Triumphforks who we got during the clearing of the main hub in Upper Spire. I’m not sure what the other two were doing, but I was MDing Volley threat to him so he’d take beating from multiple sources. (Click Deaths, Severed Essences)

Target 3: Shall remain unnamed because we were not successful in bringing this one down. Unfortunately, this target was more difficult due to the complexity of the encounters and… well, he’s OP dammit!

We were ambitious, going after Plate DPS types which are hard to get killed especially given how well our healers were doing and given their survival mechanisms. I debated getting the healers onboard but I think that wouldn’t be as much fun or as much of a challenge.

I’m also debating bringing the rogues in line with this, but I’m not sure. I suspect they’ll be our next targets.

A Little More Mass Effect 2…

I played a little more of Mass Effect 2, not a lot but some more. It’s pretty damn good.

I won’t spoil anything but it’s really cool to have Joker and the Normandy back after the original Normandy was blown up by – I’m assuming – the Collectors who are working for the Reapers.

Oops, did I spoil it?

I am a little disappointed you don’t get the band back together, but hey, you do get some new folks which keeps things interesting.

Does Miranda look familiar to anyone else? It was bothering me a bit while I was playing and then I realized… I’ve seen her on Chuck. It seems she also does the voice acting. I also recognized the voice of the Illusive Man. Here’s a list of voice actors in the game (wikipedia):

Actors Martin Sheen, Michael Dorn, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Tricia Helfer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Adam Baldwin, Simon Templeman and Michael Hogan voice characters in the game. Keith David and Seth Green continue their roles in the series as David Anderson and Jeff “Joker” Moreau respectively.

Yvonne Strahovski and Tricia Helfer… rawr…

More info about changes:

1. Skill/Talent tree point assignment changes – they’ve streamlined it and I’m not sure I like it. I don’t hate it, but I liked having more choices that you had in Mass Effect.

All the abilities available seem more like active abilities with one passive ability that grants more health and damage or what ever benefit the class would use. Training into armor seems to be gone as is training into weapons, which is sort of disappointing (to me). From the sounds of it, a lot of people didn’t like having a lot of choice and worried too much about building bad characters.

Dumbasses.

2. Inventory and gearing systems – I’m still iffy about this. You can’t seem to equip your gear on the fly, instead you have to set up a casual look and then your ‘business attire’ – and by business, I mean armor.

On the positive, it looks like you will be able to mix and match armor parts instead of having a single complete suit that is sort of the same just different colors (exception seems to be the Blood Dragon armor which is a complete armor set, no customization).

Speaking of colors, you can customize your armor colors. I went with the Cerberus colors of black, white and yellow. I probably should be using the Blood Dragon armor because the stats are better, but I’m not sure I like how it looks. It meshes okay with what I feel is Mass Effect look, but not as well as the starting armor.

3. Normandy layout is a little different, but also sort of the same. You have a kitchen on board, separate quarters from what you used to have (those quarters are Miranda’s now), engineering and the hold are different looking and you have an administrative assistant who I’ve already busted several moves on with apparent success.

The load up for your team members is handled here in like in the previous Normandy, only the UI is different. I haven’t really figured it out yet, but I suspect that it will make more sense when I actually have other weapons or armor to switch squad members into. I’m not sure if you can customize their armor or colors, they might be stuck with what ever the stock look of the armor is.

4. You’re a hero working for what seems like a terrorist organization (operate in cells, few people know what the other cells are doing, you have one big mastermind behind it all that know one meets or knows) that isn’t well liked by alien races because this organization (Cerberus which is mentioned a little in the previous ME) is pro-Humanity. The distrust by alien races seems to be the main reason Shepperd is picked up by Cerberus (okay, he wasn’t really picked up so much as rebuilt) and I’m already starting to mend fences and build new bridges.

Talking to a lot of the crew members, you get a feel for what the organization is about and why people join it. The main one is that Cerberus takes action rather than debates over things like the Alliance/Council does.

This is an interesting twist on a hero role.

Overall, I’m loving it… more so than McDonald’s.

Grumpy…

A few grumpy things I thought I’d share:

Good grumpy music in my iPod playlist.

.. The Exies
.. Filter
.. Alice in Chains
.. Nine Inch Nails

Dwarves

Oh, my son had an urge to create a Dwarf named “Grumpy” in WoW the other day. Unfortunately, that name was taken as were the variations of it so we settled on, “Grumpers”.

Me

Yes, I am grumpy. Now fuck off.

UPDATE 3:45pm: I’m not feeling as grumpy now so…. fuck on.

Mass Effect 2 – First Impression

This really is a quick first impression. I think I had all of 30 minutes in game, I spent about 30 minutes prior to that downloading and installing the extra downloadable content.

Just a note, I’m a PC gamer so this is on the PC and I purchased the game via Steam which is also where I purchased Mass Effect from.

On start up there were some news in the main menu of the game explaining you could import your Mass Effect saves from the Configuration link in the ME2 Launcher. So I exited and fired that up.

The joy of Steam is that I don’t appear to have a typical install where everything gets dumped into ‘Program Files’. Instead it’s tucked away so my adventure in finding where my ME saved games were located began.

Apparently I picked incorrectly because when I started the game up again, it didn’t show any saved games for importing and I know I have at least two. One where I played the nice guy (I completed the game with this one) and the other where I was playing the asshole (which didn’t complete the game). UPDATE: I checked the local file system and discovered I only had the save games from the asshole character… which didn’t complete the game. That explains why the import didn’t work.

I’ll have to look into that some more another time.

Downloadable content cannot be installed while the game is going so I had to stop so I could install this items. For me, that was the Dragon Blood armor (thanks to Dragon Age: Origins pre-order) and two other things, one of which was about 400mb.

With it being about 12:40am, I decided I wouldn’t wait on the 400mb download or sort out the save game thing and I would just pop in and use the default instead.

Nifty starting cinematic (in-game stuff), some directed play (you effectively have to go from point A to B) and then some more waiting to actually shoot stuff. I’ll admit they incorporated building your character and setting his appearance in an interesting fashion. Once that was done, you jump right into things with the tutorial giving you some simple starting pointers as you work your way into and through some action.

So far the gameplay is very much the same. Your party works in a similar fashion. Guns shoot in much the same manner. You have biotics as in the previous game. The good stuff stayed good.

The addition I think they made is including ammo outside of upgrading weapon damage – which I don’t seem to remember in the previous version? I seem to remember the guns would overheat and having mods for the weapons to reduce the overheating issues. I could be wrong.

The clear changes they made were the addition of more resolution settings (1900×1200, thank you!) and tweaks to some of the mini-games for hacking. They also increased the quality of the graphics, leveraging a number of newer technologies – it looks a lot better than ME did.

I experienced two forms of hacking so far; one was hacking data pads and the other was overriding a lock. The two mini-games I played were a memory game (unlocking) and sort of running matching game (hacking systems).

In the previous version, both of these involved playing a mini-game where you had to move this pointer to the middle of a series of concentric circles, only there were barriers that did not make this so direct. Additionally there were moving barriers that would send you back to the outer ring if you bumped them. That was the min-game for hacking computers or opening locks.

In ME2 unlocking you have a number of circuits you have to override. Each circuit has two nodes with identical icons on them. You only see this icons when you mouse over them so you have to move the mouse over the nodes until you find a match, then pick the two nodes that match. You have to do that once per circuit and much like most memory games, the nodes you match get removed making things a little easier. Sort of cool and I have to admit I like how it reflects tearing a faceplate off a lock-pad and screwing around with the wires underneath.

For hacking, you’re presented with table that has three columns and several rows. The cells contain code snippets which you have to match to one given above. When you find a code snippet you hit enter and the next code snippet you need to find is shown so you have to find that one. You do that three times. The catch is that there are some blocked out nodes which prevent you from navigating through the code so you have to use your movement keys to get around those and pick off the code you want. There is an attempt counter and a timer, but I’m not sure how it works. I think you might have a number of attempts to get it within a given time, but I’m not sure on that. (i.e. if you run out of time, you lose an attempt and have to start over). Again, nifty and seems a little more like you’re actually involved in hacking code.

My only beef so far is that some parts of the game seem to be a little too focused on console controllers which is a little annoying, but not game breaking. The main thing that stood out was the Option menus. They seemed to have a mix of clickable items and items you needed to use the keyboard for – which is weird. List of resolutions? You could use the mouse. Inverting the Y Axis? You couldn’t use the mouse to flip this on or off. Like I said, not game breaking, just a little annoying.

That’s about all I have for now.

Divinity II and Single Player Games…

I picked this up almost a month ago and I’ve barely had any time to play it. So far I think I sunk maybe four hours into it, five at the most. And I lost almost two of those hours.

How?

Save games.

MMOs really spoil you as far as the whole “Save Game” thing goes. That’s right, I played for almost two hours without saving the game, then died only to discover the last autosave was about 1.5 hours ago.

The Ogre took over and I stopped there for a week or two. Come to think of it, I believe that was a bit of a turn off for me in DA:O. I lost some progress because I forgot to save the game – that might have taken the wind out of my sails.

I came back to it on the weekend where I managed to squeeze in about an hour or two, replaying some of the content I had done, but also deviating a bit and focusing on a different direction.

Single player game Devs listen up – make autosave options more obvious and allow for timed autosaves that don’t overwrite.

Overall, the game is fun. It plays like a console game for sure. Very click to attack, make chains (though it doesn’t really track these), use potions much like you did in Diablo, can dodge spells and other twitch base combat mechanics. The controls are quite simple and not overly complicated. If you’ve played a FPS type game it should be easy for you.

The combat animations seem decent and somewhat cumulative or at least there seems to be some build up or randomness to them – it’s not just Fred and Barney taking turns beating each other over the head. The graphics are quite decent too and it doesn’t seem to make a lot of use of bloom effects.

It feels like an Elder Scrolls game only with less loading and hitching. In fact, there weren’t a lot of loading screens outside of the cinematics and dialogs – where I can’t help but feel there are too many loads.

At one point you load on hitting a map point to see an in-game cinematic of a bloodied female wearing armor stagger over and collapse in front of you. You load again to get the dialog, which is really short. Load again as you get into another game mode, then shift again for a real cinematic, then load again for more cinematics (in-game) and then load again for a dialog. I might be exaggerating a little, but it certainly seemed somewhat painful.

The voice acting is decent though the animations to the voices seem a little overly active. Sound is good, I don’t pay a lot of attention to sound unless it is really annoying so the fact that I say it is ‘good’ means it fit with the game and didn’t stand out.

I find the dialogs somewhat typical, you get choices but it seems they would lead to the same sort of result, just presenting you with different reactions. I haven’t progressed far enough to find out if any of the tones you set carry forward. One complaint is that they don’t seem to lump more of the NPC dialog text into a panel. You typically get one line of text or sentence then need to click ‘continue’ for the next short bit. In some cases you do this a couple of times. Maybe this is due to translations or something, but it seems out of place to me.

The story so far is decent, laid out in a good manner and you get right into things. They tuck away some of the lore into books which you can find in game and read if you want; they seem pretty short with the largest one I found so far being two pages.

It has a level based mechanic with no real class system, instead it is more skill based so you could pick ‘warrior’ to start and shift it towards a caster type. The skills are categorized like you’d see classes, but you’re not limited to a given branch. Tooltips for attributes give you a sense of what they do while for the skills you can click on them and it will explain what they do in one panel while playing a video of what the ability does in the other panel which is neat. The game seems to have a decent amount of polish like that.

I’d recommend it if you like console-like single player RPG games.

Just be sure to map something to the Quicksave, by default no key is mapped to that.

36 Hour Days Please…

Of course, if we ever moved to a 36 hour day (aside from being odd for the day/night cycle) the expectation would be to spend more of that time working.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have 8 hours sleep, 8 hours of work and 20 hours of other stuff instead of just 8 hours of other stuff?

I’m thinking of this because I’m running out of ‘other’ time to squeeze in game time.

On my gaming plate I have:

1. WoW
2. Divinity II
3. Dragon Age: Origins
4. Mass Effect 2

The “WoW” listing isn’t as simple as just “WoW”, I have a lot of things I feel I need to do in that game. The main thing? Random Heroics every day for my two Emblems of Frost… on two characters. Aside from that I raid somewhere between two and four nights a week. Oh and my son plays. And my sister and brother-in-law are playing. And a long time gaming friend (Frank) is back in the game so I’ve been playing with him as well.

That’s the main thing, WoW is eating a lot of my “game time”.

Don’t mistake me for spending the remaining waking hours of the day playing WoW, no. I spend time with the family, watch TV with the wife, watch cartoons with the boys, do the odd chores, play games with them, etc. Hence my use of “game time”.

I was lucky to have more game time that usual this weekend because my oldest went to visit a friend for most of Saturday and my youngest was helping his mom with stuff. I ended up playing a couple of hours of Divinity II (which I haven’t posted about yet) which was fun.

I’ve all but stalled on Dragon Age: Origins simply because I played through the various beginnings so many times. I got back to it for about one hour, finished Redcliffe and was off to Denerim to find the Ashes but stopped there.

And now Mass Effect 2! I don’t have it yet, but I will order it on Steam when I get home and I’ll be dying to play it as I raid Icecrown Citadel later tonight. I’ll do my best to avoid playing it once I’m done raiding (midnight) because it’ll be downloaded by then.

So, I need more time in a day. Get work done, get more sleep, spend good quality time with the family and still have some time left over for “game time”.

The obvious thing would be to reduce my WoW time and not ‘need’ to run the Random Heroic Daily well, every day possible. The other alternative is to see if I can function off two hours of sleep every night…

Any guesses as to which one I’ll try?

Just One Last Try…

Sometimes “just one last try” really does mean just one last try. Gamers everywhere should know the whole, “just one last {whatever}” – it’s the cry of the addict.

Last night we tackled the Blood Princes. We previously only took one shot at them just to see what happens and it was a complete mess. This time, we went in prepared and ready to give it a real go. We dedicated roughly two hours to it – people were late, we had some trash to clear.

It’s one big circus act.

I’m not kidding.

Here’s a break down:

1. Three Princes who share a HP pool (nearly 6 million) but you can only really damage one of them at a time.
     a. One does a load of shadow damage to a tank (in our case, we used a mage to range tank this guy) which can be mitigated by picking up these purple orbs (which our mage referred to as “blue balls”). You tag the purple orbs and they stick to you but they take damage over time so eventually they pop – kind of reminds me of someone walking around with a bunch of balloons attached to them.
     b. Another does a bunch of damage to a tank (we used a real one), does some sort of AOE that acts like Grumus (does more damage the more players you have in close range). I think he also tossed out some white balls that would pulse every now and then (I think this might have been the source of the damage). If you run into these you get punted backwards.
     c. The last one has a big damage frontal cone so you have to keep him facing away from the raid. We had another real tank on this one. He also occasionally targets a random raid member and launches an orb of fire at them. That orb does more damage the shorter distance it has to travel which means if you are targeted you have to run away from it and only get hit when you’ve gotten far enough from the point of origin.

2. At a given point the Princes will toss a red orb to each other which makes the one with orb empowered so they do more damage at what ever they do. This also means they get the HP pool and are they only one you can actually attack and do damage to that pool. The other two sit at 1 HP and cannot be killed but the do appear to take damage which helps for keeping agro on them.

3. After a short time into the fight, yellow balls (not nearly as bad as blue balls) appear and start dropping from the ceiling at random points. These are called Kinetic Bombs and if they touch the ground they explode and do hefty raid-wide damage (okay, they are worse than blue balls). You keep these up by attacking them, when they take damage they go back up. If you do too much damage to them or push them too far up they seem to pop and are replaced by a ball in another location. This isn’t a fun job because sometimes the balls will appear on very opposite sides of the REALLY large room. You’re effectively juggling those two yellow balls the whole raid, slipping in damage on the boss that has the red orb when possible.

We took several cracks at this and had some better shots than others. A lot of it seemed based on luck and in some cases issues with the pull. We got right down to the line and started doing better consistently and once our esteemed leader said the ominous words, “Okay guys, last try,” we settled in and got it done.

Guess which job I had?

As the only ranged DPS with lots of instant cast damage abilities that could be fired on the run… I got to juggle the yellow balls. Oh, and I helped the Mage tank get agro on Kelseth (Shadow damage boss).

Good times.

Here’s how many ways I failed:
   1. I ran into the white balls and got tossed back out of range of a Kinetic Bomb that was about to hit the ground.
   2. I ran too close to a number of people then got hit with that effect that does more damage the more people in range of you.
   3. I turned around to discover the flaming orb that one boss tosses was aimed at me – instant death because I was really close to the point of origin.
   4. I ate too much damage and died from a Kinetic Bomb that dropped.
   5. I ran out of mana so I could keep the Kinetic Bombs up.

I think I pretty much did it all. I’m not mentioning the times the tanks died for various reasons and so it was just a matter of time before I died two. I did manage to survive via Feign Death and Readiness twice.

Man was it nice to finally get that encounter done.

In the end, it came down to communicating and working as a team. For the times I couldn’t get to a Kinetic Bomb in time, someone else did – I won’t lie, several times it was really damn close! (I managed to slip some DPS in on the various bosses too) We had one of the tanks and DPS (paladins) helping the Mage tank by eating some of the damage for him. We had the healers coordinating well.

On the previous attempt I ran into some problems with mana so for the last one, I made a conscious effort of being in Aspect of the Viper and using Steady Shot as much as possible – that really seemed to help too.

Like I said, it was a circus. Clowns, juggling, balloons and a bearded lady. Several of those actually… darn manginas!

The Gathering Storm…

I’m referring to book number 12 of the Wheel of Time series. I just finished reading it last night or this morning if you want to be precise – it was around 1 am.

Good book, definitely much like the others but a lot more loose ends getting tied up and more information being revealed. There was one thing that was sort of thrown out there for consumption which was a little bit of a surprise – effectively another loose end to be tied up or explained later. Maybe I’m just forgetting what was said in previous books but I don’t think so.

Anyway, back to the book. It doesn’t end the series, there will definitely be one more book, if not two. I have to admit, I do really look forward to the upcoming books.

SPOILER.

It seems to be going the route of The 5th Element. That’s just my guess.

You have the Shadow which is this big evil force bent on consuming everything and you have the Light, a concept of goodness, love and life that the ‘good guys’ are trying to preserve. In the middle you have this fellow who is going to confront this evil and defeat it.

It looks to be going in this direction where it’s going to come down to this one guy’s choice of wanting everything to end over wanting things to continue. I’m not sure there will really be a significant battle as suggested. There are hints that the previous incarnation of this fellow failed, though if he failed you’d think the ‘world’ would have ended so I think he failed to make a final choice, instead, he killed himself which meant no actual choice was made either way. Things remained as they were until he was reborn and would then be required to make the final choice.

At least that’s my take.

As I said, it all comes down to this fellow making the choice of saving the world or letting it die, much like in The 5th Element where they had to make the ‘perfect weapon’ want to save everything.

Smile More…

People really should smile more. It makes an average person look good because of the confidence and happiness it exudes.

Avoid smiling if you have bad teeth though. Or if you’re a freaky kind of ugly because then you just look creepy.

Silver Necklace…

I was driving to the mall after taking the Little Big Ogre to see Planet 51 (movie he wanted to see) when he says to me, “Daddy, I have a silver necklace!”

He sits right behind me in the van so I couldn’t quite see what he was talking about so I asked. “What? Where’d you get a necklace from?”

“I made it with my gum!”

5… 4… 3… 2…

“OW! It’s stuck in my hair! OW! OW! OW! I can’t get it out!”

I get to the mall and take a look at it in the parking lot. He had a big clump of gum stuck at the base of his skull. So I pulled some of it out (the part not stuck to any hair) and more and a little more. He’s screaming that it hurts the whole time, and I can see that – it’s cold out and the gum is now freezing.

I ask him if he wants to go home but he says no he will just over it with his hat. We were going to Gamestop to pick up Batman: Arkham Asylum for the PS3, he’s been wanting it for weeks now.

Fast forward to getting home where his mother and grandmother give their ways of getting it out of his hair – none of which work (freezing it with ice and using butter). The wife decides she’ll cut the remaining bit out.

That doesn’t work, it hurts too much and he’s panicking. I offer to use my trimmer and cut it out that way. He’s freaked out about that and thinks it’ll cut him so I show him on my hand that it doesn’t hurt, then on his hand but he still doesn’t trust it – he thinks it will pull the hair and hurt. So I shave a bit of hair off my arm and that convinces him.

Until I trim a bit off.

He panics and freaks out again.

So we go back to the scissors and I explain to him what it looks like and how I won’t cut the gum – which would pull his hair – instead I’ll cut the hair under the gum.

“Will it hurt?”

“I have no idea, I never had gum stuck in my hair before, but if it does, you tell me and I’ll stop.”

He was still nervous but I managed to get the gum out without hurting him any. I have a feeling he’ll be more careful with his gum in the future.

But I also have a feeling that the Little Little Ogre won’t be careful with his gum because he was quite excited about it all and wanted me to cut his hair too.

Which was sort of amazing of him; he was going to let me cut his hair to show his older brother it wasn’t going to hurt. That kid blows me away with how sweet and nice he can be even though his big brother can be quite mean to him.