Thursday, 28 April 2011

Going "Off Grid" for a While

Hey all,

Myself and the Girl are moving house tomorrow and so will be without internet for a while - probably a week or so! *Gasp*

I know what you're thinking:

"But Will, how will we survive without your wit, your banter and endlessly charming prose? More to the point, how will you survive without online games?"

The fact is, I probably won't. This move might actually be the death of me.

On the off chance that I somehow pull through (through a combination of Fifa 11 career mode, endlessly playing Portal 2 over and over and furious masturbation to the point of medical illness) I will be back on form this time next week!

ps. I apologise for the royal wedding stuff - its infected my brain.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

PSN Outage Reaches a Week - Sony Releases Info

After a week of relatively little news (probably owing to the fact that Sony themselves had little idea what was going on) we have finally managed to squeeze a bit of info out of the Japanese conglomerate regarding the PSN outage.

On the Playstation Blog, Patrick Seybold - Senior Director of Corporate Communications and Social Media, released the following statement:

Thank you for your patience while we work to resolve the current outage of PlayStation Network & Qriocity services. We are currently working to send a similar message to the one below via email to all of our registered account holders regarding a compromise of personal information as a result of an illegal intrusion on our systems. These malicious actions have also had an impact on your ability to enjoy the services provided by PlayStation Network and Qriocity including online gaming and online access to music, movies, sports and TV shows. We have a clear path to have PlayStation Network and Qriocity systems back online, and expect to restore some services within a week.
We’re working day and night to ensure it is done as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience and feedback.

Then, printed below was a lengthy message to all PSN users. It advised them that certain pieces of information had been leaked: "name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID" and that they couldn't be sure that further information hadn't also been snatched (ie, financial information, credit card details and data on purchases). For the large part that email warns users to err on the side of caution; checking with their banks to ensure there are no suspicious packages of funds being released from their accounts, changing their PSN/Qriocity password as soon as the system is back up and running etc.

It is frank and honest and I suppose thats what we need. Sony have, at least, admitted that this isn't going to be easy, that some vital information is at risk and that they are aware that a lapse in their security may affect their 70 million or so customers who interact with the PSN on a regular basis. Even so; there is a notable air of tension in the PSN community - people recognise that this is a serious breach of security and needs addressing fully before Sony can think about rereleasing the network - but it couldn't have come at a worse time; with Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat having just been released, British bank holidays, Easter Holidays etc etc - people are itching to get back online and start playing.

As I'd said on Twitter, there had been rumours that the network would be back up and running by tomorrow evening. With this new information being released, I really can't see the system being back before the weekend - no Portal 2 multiplayer for me!

ps. Thanks to Tasha Darke for pointing me in the direction of this blog post! I'll stop moaning on Twitter now.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Charr Week Summary

*Staggers into room*


*Deep breath*

Don't worry! I'm here! Am I late?! Damn.
Well, I'm going to write a post on the charr anyway. Sit down. Oi. Get that mouse away from the address bar.

So, Charr week slinks off into the darkness. The charr have made a decent impression on me - not quite the whirlwind of joy that Norn week was - but a good impression nonetheless.

Monday brought us a textual tour of the village of Smokestead. We've heard a lot about the iterative approach that ANet take in their production, I think for someone who might not have encountered this idea before this post might have been a nice introduction to how they create their environments/events (although, I think Jeffrey Vaughan's post during Norn week was a little more interesting). Other than the focus on the iterative process - Devon Carter also attempted to walk us through the village - I found this a little odd as we couldn't actually see any screenshots of the village itself - but the description was pretty interesting:

The first thing you’ll notice when you get to the Village of Smokestead is the sheer amount of metal. It went from a small village with a few metal buildings to a village so full of metal it would make Mötley Crüe blush. You’ll then see metal structures and a metal highway taking you out into the world.
  I have to say this was probably the weakest article of the week - thats not to say I didn't enjoy it anyway - but it was let down by the lack of screenshots of the area he was talking about.

Tuesday was audio-day. Just like the other race weeks, we heard a few snippets of conversation from the Black Citadel and beyond. Out of the voice packs we've been introduced to so far, this was the most encouraging (if you've read my other posts for Human/Norn week you would know I've been rather disappointed by the middle of the road American accents that most of the voice actors seem to be sporting).

In the audio snippets in Scott McGough's article each of the actors seems to have taken a leaf out of Steve Blum's book and gone for the deep and gruff style of kitty-purr. I liked them. Particularly: "Beer is for cubs... I want whisky!"

Awwww... widdle kitty want a dwink?

There has been a niggling worry at the back of my brain however, throughout each of these audio blog posts. I'm hoping once these faceless convo snippets are attached to an NPC that they will begin to look and sound more natural (at the moment it's kinda easy to tell that they are separate lines recorded, probably, on seperate days and then mashed together). I have every faith that ANet can make it work - but I know they have to be very careful with audio as you are constantly walking the line between too cheesy and too casual. Many an MMO dialogue has been lost in uncanny valley.

Wednesday's blog post was a sort of Q&A with ANet artists and designers - Katy Hargrove, Kristen Perry, and Kekai Kotaki. It was interesting to hear about how they negotiated the original design of the charr (even narrowly dodging the pitfall of "cuteness") and how the final concept was forumulised.

A lot of the article was dominated with a discussion on the design of the female charr. Female charr didn't really feature in Guild Wars 1, so it was always going to be a bit of a rocky road trying to feminise such a masculine race without pandering to the WoW-style "big-boobs and pointy ears" crowd:

...initial designs explored the tension between an acceptable human notion of beauty and an animalistic design that is cool, but just too “creature” for the average player to find engaging. This exploratory process brought about one model design that was indeed more humanoid and catgirl in appearance. It had the back leg joint articulation of the charr, but stood much more upright, had a human neck, slender arms and almost hand-like paws—and, yes, breasts. The problem with this design, though, was we were trying to find a solution between both goals, which meant we didn’t really satisfy either. The human part of our charr catgirl wasn’t human enough to be cute, and the charr part of her wasn’t charr enough to be fierce, let alone look like a female of the same race. So while this experiment was very important for visualization, in the end it didn’t give us the result we wanted.

I think they've done a decent job of striking the balance between beauty and practicality. Although, I have to admit, if I'm going to play a charr its going to be a 8ft tall man-beast! The article was topped off with Kekai being awesome:

Q: Kekai, how did you approach the charr design for Guild Wars 2?
Kekai: My approach was simple: make the charr badass. And then make them even more badass.

 Thursday saw the charr page at get updated with lots of juicy info, including:

Finally, Friday saw Ree Soesby (*Swoon* - I should stop doing that, right? WRONG) post on the legions of the charr. Ree released some interesting information about the structure of the charr - the Imperetors at the top of each cohort of charr  (Ash, Blood, Iron etc) - below them, the tribunes, then below them the centurions (each commanding a number of warbands - a company) then commanding each warband a legionnaire. Charr without a warband are called Gladiums and have next to no support - to charr, their warband is everything; a family, friendship group, fellow soldiers etc.

I think the most interesting little snippet we recieved during the article was:

Some say that Smodur demands the return of the legendary weapon so that he can use it to bolster his authority and claim rulership of the charr. Other rumors imply that the unconventional imperator wishes to melt down the Claw and destroy the legacy of the Khan-Ur, in hopes that his people will continue moving forward and never look back.

Ree is referring to the Claw of the Khan-Ur - the weapon retrieved from Ascalon city during the Ghosts of Ascalon book. Each race, so far, has had an internal conflict which (I think) is likely to define the personal story of a character of that race. The humans had the internal politics between the Vigil, the Ministerial Guard and the Shining Blade. The Norn had the conflict between the Sons of Sanvir and the Norn themselves. The Charr may have the battle over the role of Primus - the overall leader of the charr.

So - Asura week next. (oh, come on - you know it won't be Sylvari week... right?)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

GLaDOS brings down PSN

In a freak turn of events; GLaDOS has turned Tulpa (Slenderman stylee) and has borked the PSNetwork (not the PSN network, people. The N stands for network).

I, for one, am sitting here doing this:

 and this:

Please, someone tell me its back online!

So, what are you doing with your giant black doorstop tonight? I'm going to tape it to a wall and use its pointy corners to scratch the lower part of my arse cheeks.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Alice: Madness Returns comes with free Alice 1 game

[Title extension] "...on the console version"

Video Games Blogger tells me that the console version of Alice: Madness Returns will come with the first Alice game to play through as well. Shweeeeeet. All the more knife-weilding blood fueled card-person frenzies for me then!

This was revealed by American McGee himself in an interview with CVG in which he spoke about the developer’s plans for DLC content (the game will include downloadable dresses with special abilities that you can purchase).
He followed that up by mentioning the Alice 1 deal.

To quote:

“There will be DLC in the form of dresses that the player can download and Alice can wear. Those dresses come with special abilities and enhance how you play through the game. There’s also going to be a pretty significant release which is the original Alice brought over to the consoles so that a person who’s purchased Madness Returns gets a download code and is able to bring Alice 1 onto their console and play through the entire original game alongside playing Madness Returns.”
The game hits the stores (and my PS3) in June.
Here's the article at Video Games Blogger.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Charr - From Enemy to Ally

Ok, picture this. You spend the entirety of your first game telling your players:

"Watch out for those Shark-People over there! They're total douchebags and they will eat your children and delete your Mario saved games."

and you're all:

"Hey, well, that sounds fine. I'll avoid them. CURSE YOU SHARK PEOPLE!"

And then, when you come to releasing your next game you're all:

"Hello, remember when I said to avoid the Shark-People? Well, forget that. They're your friends now. Go frolic!"

That's what ANet have done with the Charr. It's a pretty brave move. In Guild Wars: Prophecies the charr are the voracious marauders who destroyed your homeland, killed half of the human population of Ascalon and essentially f'ed everything up for you.

That's me, dead.
The charr are a bipedal race of feline-like people. They have large teeth, four large horns and two sets of ears (all the better to hear you with) and are slightly hunched over with a hairy hump on their back (it is interesting to note that the "upright" charr type which you found in Guild Wars 1 - often as casters; monks and elementalists - seems to have disappeared from the race). They tend to stand taller than humans, but slightly shorter than the gigantic Norn. In-game, when you run with your weapon sheathed your charr will fall to all fours and gallop like a lion.

Oooh look at me, I'm a badass.

Following the events of Guild Wars: Prophecies; where the players successfully exposed the charr's gods as nothing more than the evil "titans", and Eye of the North - where Pyre Fierceshot staged a rebellion against the Shaman caste and their new gods The Destroyers the charr have changed dramatically. Having once again been burned by their zealous dedication to false gods, the charr once and for all denounced their religion and have since turned much more to technology to guide their way, casting out the Flame Legion and their Shamans.

Meanwhile, the charr continued to flood into Ascalon until only the capitol city remained. In his desperation, King Adelbern enacted the Foefire - an ancient magic which killed every charr and human in the surrounding area, but brought the human's back as ghosts to protect the city even after death. The charr were unable to retake the city from the ghosts and so turned their attention to the final human settlement in Ascalon - Ebonhawke (founded by Gwen the "Goremonger" and Keiran Thackery). The charr sieged Ebonhawke for many years, but the human's held out.

When the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik awoke and flew over Ascalon, burning the dragonbrand across the land, the charr army quickly became overwhelmed by the twisted creatures it created. In an insane move, Logan Thackery released the charr prisoners from the Ebonhawke prisons in order to fight alongside the charr and humans against the dragonspawn. Having defeated the dragonspawn, the charr and human's agreed to a tentative truce.

The charr are interesting because, unlike a lot of the other races, the have totally rejected their spirituality. They rely on the strength of steel and fire - and from what I can tell, their homeland will reflect this.

A lot has happened since you fought the charr at the Northern wall, but old wounds heal slow. I'd like to say that ANet are going to have to work hard to win over those of us who have played through Prophecies and Eye of the North. Those of us who have killed (and been killed by) countless charr over the years and have learned to fear their roving warbands might have been reluctant to accept them as a viable ally. However, it seems, the fervor for the charr almost eclipses all other races - people are so happy with how they have come out in game that they can't wait to get their hands on them.

I'm hoping that, much like Norn week, Charr week will win me over to them.

They do have super-sweet rocket launchers.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Top 4 H'Amusing Blogs

Being a superhero isn't always easy. There's a lot of paperwork involved. Can you imagine the number of expense claim forms I've had to fill out due to having parked my invisible motorbike in Iraqi airspace?

Consequently, I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk doing paperwork. It melts your brain, reduces sperm count and causes shingles. In order to stave off the onset of brain meltage, I sometimes spend a couple of minutes (read: hours) browsing blogs which tickle my funny bone. These be the best:

Number 4: Kurt @ Roaring Dork

Kurt is a feline loving movie critic. If you want an honest review of a film, one not tainted by corporate dick-sucking and swayed by public opinion, reasonable assumptions or fact - this is your guy.

Number 3: David @ 27b/6

David Thorne is the author of the infamous "spider picture" bill payment thing. You know, the one where they guy tries to pay his bills with a picture of a spider, and the ladies all "yo, you can't pay for stuff with pictures of spiders" and he's all "ok, send me my spider picture back" and she's all "ok" and he's all... etc.
Anyway, he winds ignorant people up like a freaking pro. I would not like to come up against him in an Internet argument. His stuff regularly makes me laugh like a freaking horse.

Number 2: Becky @ Steam me up, Kid!

There is nothing quite like a twisted sense of humour to tickle my funny bone (or any other humorously named part of my body for that matter). Becky blogs monthly about her warped mind and the things it creates.

Number 1: Allie @ Hyperbole and a Half

In my eyes Allie Brosh is the undisputed queen of blog-comedy. Whenever I see another Hyperbole and a Half post pop into my subscription list I have to drop whatever I'm doing (brain surgery, rocket science, curing cancer etc) in order to read it. The topics discussed range from whether Kenny Loggins can regrow limbs, the despicable evil of the common bicycle and the biological origins of pure hate. If you haven't read it before - go there now and read it. ALL OF IT.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Know thine Enemy: The Minor Races

"See that tree over there? The one with the kind, old face; the one tending it saplings - yeah, that one."

"Uh huh"

"Kill it."

"What?! Why?"

"Just cus, man. Just, like, kill it and stuff. Go on...!"



That's what every MMO is like. You go out into the world and every single moving creature is hungry and angry and is out there to kill you. Oddly enough, these bloodthirsty creatures of destruction are more often than not just wandering about a field, minding their own business. There is often little back story to who they are, why they are there or what they are up to.

Aion is a prime culprit of this sloppy world-creation. Take, for example, the Shugo:

When I first started playing that game, I was enjoying gliding everywhere and being all anime and shizz and then I came across one of these adorable little bastards.

I stood and looked at him and and thought: "what are you?"  Everyone else seemed to be jogging past totally unawares. I had to educate them: "WHAT IS THIS?! Can anyone else see this?!"

Was no one bothered that there was a ferret-man standing in the middle of town? Through the entirety of the game there was very little explanation as to who they were and where they had come from (there's even a high level dungeon where they are dressed as pirates, for christ sakes!).

So far, the Guild Wars 2 speculation train has been throwing off great boxes of lore regarding not only the races and professions of the upcoming game, but also the other creatures you might encounter.

A while back I posted about the Kodan - a spiritual race of gigantic polar bears. Since then we've heard about the Hylek (a race of tribal frog-people) and the Skritt (sneaky rat-people whose intelligence increases as they gather larger groups). Each article has told us about why the race has come to the forefront (rather than just being another mindless mob to slaughter), we've heard a little about their society, their spirituality and their allegiances with other races.
The reason that this kind of information is so vital is that it is all little tidbits which go towards enriching the game world.
Furthermore, If you were actually a world renowned hunter, or a feared Norn warrior, you would know your enemy. You wouldn't just charge out blindly and smash random creatures across the noggin with your hammer. You'd know why your foe was there, their strengths and weaknesses. Sun Tsu would be proud of ANet.

If ANet continue to provide us with a world rich with lore then the dynamic events will seem all the more compelling. Who cares if random toad-men set up a camp near your home town? No one, thats who. But if a new aggressive Hylek tribe start making forays into your territory, then you might start to get worried - maybe consult with the local friendly Hylek cheiftain to endeavor to drive them out (or, indeed, ally with the new tribe - depending upon who appears to be the most poisonous!).

We are able to make these judgements for ourselves because the lore base is already there. If ANet can continue to translate the lore after the game has launched (to those who might not have looked it up beforehand on the blog) then you can see how the whole game world will become much more compelling.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Distilling March: A belated review

I know, I know - it's been 10 days since March ended! I can't help it, I've just started a new clinical study and the clinic hours are a bitch, so this is the first chance I've had to really sit down and whack out some hot spicy info onto my blog. So: March.

This month has been a big month in the Guild Wars 2 bandwagon. We've had PAX East, the Thief reveal, speculation over PvP, Mesmers, Attributes and the Sylvari. Also, there's been some juicy new gaming info outside of the Guild Wars bubble in which I live: From Dust came to my attention, whilst we also got some new nuggets of stuff on Alice: Madness Returns. 'citing stuff!

Most popular posts for March 2011 (and the first 10 days of April) were as follows:
  1. The Sylvari Redesign: Taking a Leaf out of Guru's ...
  2. Marble Hornets Entry #38
  3. Top 5 Black Ops Commentators 
  4. The Mesmer's "Hook" 
  5. Norn Week: To the Mead Hall!

Considering it's only been out 5 days, the post on MH #38 has done well to shoot to the top of my monthly views - it's even at #4 in my all time viewed list (although, that isn't surprising, I've had significantly higher traffic this month - thanks everyone!!).  

Top 10 Search Terms for March 2011 (and bit of April blah blah) were:
  1. Sylvari redesign
  2. Best Black Ops commentators
  3. marble hornets entry 38
  4. marble hornets 38
  5. Black ops commentators
  6. top black ops commentators
  7. guild wars 2 sylvari redesign
  8. sonic 
  9. edward yeo thomas
  10. from dust
Lots of MH in there again, but my top Black Ops commentators is consistently one of my highest viewed posts... which is odd because it was so long ago (February!). This is the first month were my search terms haven't been dominated by people looking for naked pictures of Katy Perry.

In terms of gaming my time has been split up pretty similarly to before:

Guild Wars 49%
Black Ops 49%
Portal 1%
Fifa 10 1%

Played through Portal once, but I know the routes so well that I can usually get it done in under an hour. I also tried playing Fifa again after a looooooong time and it turns out that it's not like riding a bike and you can forget how to play it. In Guild Wars, I almost for Legendary Survivor and then lost it, but I have got a lot more money and bought a lot of stuff which I've been craving. Should get Survivor and Drunkard done this month, with any luck. Black Opswise I'm at about 8th prestige, been trying to only use a sniper this prestige and I am totally sick of it - can't wait to move back to assault rifles.

ARGwise it's been the month of Marble Hornets. We've had Entry #38, lots of speculation and the release of the Season 1 DvD and it's taken up a lot of my mental brain-time. I kinda backed out of a couple of games in which I was participating heavily - I really just haven't had the time or the energy to properly commit.

Interesting Blogs I've come across this month:

Gankalicious - amusing MMO banter.
Hatred - this guy hates a lot. But is funny in the meantime, so I shall forgive him. Plus he comments on my blog, so he's alright in my books.

This month (or whats left of it) I'll be taking a look at the new MH DvD, hopefully getting some new Guild Wars 2 information, and also hopefully not be being strangled by angry patients who are tired of me asking stupid questions during clinic.


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Portal 2 ARG

Interesting stuff from Valve being released in the run up to the Portal 2 release. Supposedly, a number of media outlets received a particular image of what appeared to be a bathysphere with faint text over the top (at least, InsideGaming said it looked like a bathysphere - I think it looks like the bot played by Stephen Merchant). In addition Valve's "Potato Sack" Steam deal from April 1st seemed to contain a number of hidden messages.

The Portal 2 blog also has some really interesting info on it, including a page from the turret manual - which suggests that we might be dealing with a book code (whereby you are given directions to a specific page/line in a specific book to crack a code).

The Half Life/Portal/Apeture Science world is very rich and detailed, so really lends itself to an ARG. With so much lore behind it there is a lot to draw on for intrigue and to spur on curiosity. The UnFiction thread is already going, jump in to join the f'ed up fun!

EDIT: Also! Theres a graphic comic available which bridges the gap between the two games - first issue can be found here! 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

MLAndersen0 and his Slender "Friend"

I'd been avoiding MLAndersen0 for a while because I'd assumed it was just another "WHY HE MAKE MOVE NOW!?" type Slenderman story. However, last night I bit the bullet and sat down and watched the videos. It was well worth the effort. The story is kinda different from the other Slendervlogs out there as it pits the protagonist as a sort of Anti-Hero (as Michael is essentially batshit bonkers) and his relationship with Slenderman is fatherly at best, homoerotic at worst.

Plus they made a sweet ass April Fools video:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Marble Hornets Entry #38

 It's a good'un.

It feels like we might be finally getting a grip on where the Slenderman has come from. I suppose the implication is that he is one of the unfortunate criminals to have been stretched out by the trees. It's a real and concrete move by Marble Hornets to explain their storyline; a lot of these YouTube series go for a long time surviving on scares and freaky imagery without providing any answers - it's brave of Troy and the guys to lay some of their cards on the table.

Plus, Troy has told us that the DVD is just around the corner (Warning: don't follow the link if you don't want to see OOG MH stuff). He released it with a pretty nifty jigsaw puzzle for us to solve and decipher - smart move, the guy knows his audience. The DVD will include (quoted directly from Troy Wagner's Blog Machine):

-Two discs!
-Includes Introduction, Entries 1-26 and their respective totheark responses.
-Commentary by me, Joseph (Alex), and Tim.
-Behind the scenes funstuff like bloopers and Tim being a constant, hilarious distraction.
-The tweets/twitpics
-Festival trailer

I'll be looking into getting a copy for myself as soon as poss. Should be good! I'm looking forward to seeing how they tie in all the Entries and convey all the stuff that went on between the YouTube videos (the Twitter trail to the Red Tower, for example).

Monday, 4 April 2011

I'm a Survivor, I ain't gon' give up!

All that work. So many innocent worms murdered... so many dead Dwarves. Oh god. What have I done? And all for nothing!

As you can see, I've gained a bit of experience since my demise. That is mainly because this morning I took out my frustrations on the inhabitants of the Fissure of Woe. 

But Will, I hear you cry, it's Monday morning! Why aren't you at work, posting entries filled with pictures stolen from other websites justified by your questionable interpretation of copyright law? I booked a day off! Booyah! Gaming day. To be honest, when you are packing 7 heroes, FoW is a bit of a joke. Nothing really stood in my way, my heroes barely went below 75% health and my energy was absolutely fine.

So - it was a cool 150k or so experience points for 2 hours work. Not bad. Plus I got my hands on 4 obsidian shards, 4 gold items and about 8k worth of gear. All in all - good clean fun.

Also - because the heroes were so good at tearing through mobs, I had a chance to skip through my newly delivered "The Art of Guild Wars 2" (which Amazon is listing for $100 in hardback... odd). There is some really impressive shizno in here; I really hope it all makes it into the game. I'm particularly fond of the Sylvari/Norn stuff. Scrumptious.

So - the rest of my day will be split between browsing some blogs, preparing dinner for myself and the Girl, and generally not getting dressed/bumming around.

Oh, speaking of which... must dash, got fish fingers in the oven!

ps. fish finger sandwiches are best done on wholemeal bread with tartare sauce of plain old ketchup.

EDIT: You jelly?


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