13 January 2008

All Roads Lead To Rome

-me watching one of the later romancing Liara conversation scenes-

Girlfriend walks into room, looks at the TV

-pause in conversation for a [dialouge] choice-

I unconciously make a "hmmm" noise that probably sounded like, "mmmm"

-detects a disturbance in the Force-

Girlfriend asks:
(in DANGER, DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON! quiet, "offhand question" voice)

"Is she prettier than me?"


I (of course) answered her, "No."

Then, distracted as I continued to play the game, followed it up with,

"She's a fictional character in a video game."

(in what I thought was my "talking to myself" voice)

"Next thing you're gonna do is ask me if she makes you look fat..."

The very bad kind of quiet follows, my brain slowly catching up to what I had just said a bit louder than I had intended.

"She doesn't...make you look...she's not real, honey..."

I hear the gf go back to the bedroom, the sense of being in the proverbial doghouse thick in the air.

Thank goodness I still had more Mass Effect to play.

By KeeperOTD. From Mass Effect Forums.

10 January 2008

The Death of Dark Samus

This takes place at the end of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.

After the final, angry cry of anguish from the thing, she knows it is over.

The creature descends from its magnetic suspension. The energy fluctuations around it have ceased. Now it limps across the floor, a broken beast, a sundered copulation of her blood and the Phazon.And what other dichotomy could have been interpreted within that copulation? Light and darkness? Life and death? Right and wrong?

Chozo, Luminoth, Metroid, Ing--who is to evaluate their righteousness? Who is to determine the predominance of one nature over another?

Now the creature is upon her, but she far from fears it now. No; she
fears that faint reflection in her helmet, that woman who never found a moral visor, who overlooked a map to her opponent’s soul.

Light pours forth from her suit. The creature’s hand gropes for it, gropes for redemption.

She stands, a statue for the moment. This was the same evil, she reminds herself, that tried to kill her on Tallon, that, transcending death itself, f
ollowed her to Aether to sabotage her every move.

It is a beast, she reminds herself. It knows only hunger. It is only a series of chemical reactions giving the appearance of the soul. It is just like all the other organisms she destroyed in order to achieve her goals.

But how, she wonders with a chill, is she any different?The last particles of Phazon extricate themselves from the creature’s body. With that, it is gone. Silence. There is nothing to mark its actions but her memory. And even there they will not survive; there they will be distorted into crimes.The room oozes with Phazon. She knows she has to leave. The last, maddened survivors of the Ing are approaching. Do they seek revenge upon her, their angel of doom? Or are they simply trying to preserve what tenebrous life fate assigned them, even if it means burning in the realm of light?

They are headed to her now, but she remains a statue, gazing into the enraged Phazon that coats the walls. It beckons her to join an existence she does not understand, to become part of a nature that had, through the random scheme of fate, been cheated.

She looks at her flesh and sees Phazon. She looks at the Phazon and sees flesh. Could it have been this way?

But this is not reality, she knows. And reality will allow only one nature to survive. So she turns, springs, leaps through the portal. The light is welcoming.

Behind her, the portal closes; and with it, the wronged and embittered Phazon collapses into unreality.

By the morrow. From The Young Writers Society.
Images from RedSnake and IGN.

06 January 2008

After a week of Halo

". . . you have to wield it like a weapon to your advantage, otherwise she'll dump you!"

Image and Quotation by Helveck. From Bungie Forums.

This is but one of many, many, awesome stories about Halo relationships. Check out the thread "Love is in the Air" for plenty more good ones. Originially found at Kotaku. Expect to see a few more stories culled from this thread in the near-future.

05 January 2008

A Story of Sex, Love, Creativity, Money and Power...

Second Life is a virtual reality game from Linden Labs.

For a while it became such a part of my life that I was on it more than I was living my real life, which in those times became known simply as 'RL', as apposed to the game, 'SL'.

Early on it was difficult to play. There wasn't much help available on how to do anything, and for a while I just mucked about, going to places where you could get free clothes and hairstyles and things. Pretty much how most people start.

Slowly I began to get a handle on what I was doing. I started earning small amounts of cash by leaving my character sat on a 'camping chair'. It really wasn't worth it! Eventually I decided to just take the plunge and use my RL money to buy some SL money.

From then on, I didn't look back!

I bought myself so many cool things, like photo-realistic skin and hair, brightly coloured contact lenses, shoes, all sorts. After a while my character looked great, and I thought, 'now what do I do?!'

I decided to buy myself a small plot of land and set up a shop. I learned to use the game's built-in programming language, LSL, and the 3D creation tools, and started making ornate doors. It sounds like an odd choice for something to do in a virtual world! But they were easy to make, and sold for a few hundred a piece. People would take them and use them on their own building projects, but I retained the copy rights, so they had to buy more if they wanted more.

My RL partner at the time started playing too, and very quickly discovered there was a thriving sex industry within the game. She played for a while as an escort, having virtual sex with other virtual characters. That probably seems crazy too, but it's big money in SL. Didn't do much for our RL relationship though!

Eventually she decided to open up her own escort house, and I began creating scripted objects for use in her business. I made a teleportation device that took your payment for the hire of a room, and would teleport you to a 'skybox' - a room high in the sky that was usually filled with various sex apparatus! You'd get what time you payed for, and then it would throw you out once your time was up! I actually created everything you could need to run your own escorting business, and then started selling that too.

I tried using a girl a couple of times, which my partner encouraged me to do... but there was nothing in it for me - it was like Simpsons ****! I even had to make my own penis!

My partner and I spent about a year playing SL, in seperate rooms, and in truth it finished off our marriage. SL saved me!

Any way, not content with the money I had coming in already, I decided to buy more land and start another project. I built sky-scrapers! I programmed an elevator, and windows that could be tinted by voice command, and charged people a weekly fee to rent my apartments. It was great!

But still, it was all very material.Then one day I was flying along over some land without paying much attention to anything, when suddenly my flight-mode switched off and I fell to the ground. When I... my character... got up, I found I had fallen into someone's garden, and was among a group of people who knew each other. We all greeted and ending up talking for hours.

Suddenly, unnexpectedly, I had found the -true- reason SL is something special - these people became my best friends, and we would go everywhere together. We visited castles, flew around in model Star Trek ships, went shopping, went for walks, relaxed on the beach. And slowly one of them started to stand out from the rest, a girl named Echo, with a very beautiful avatar.

In time we fell absolutely madly in love with each other. We tried to fight it, but it was bizarre how much we had in common, how we would always say the same things as the same time. How even when we were offline we would be thinking the same thoughts!

I even proposed to her, because you can get married in SL. It was the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done, completely virtual, but I was shaking like crazy in RL! I had a speech, I read her a poem, I was wearing a smart suit, and my character got down on one knee and held out a ring for her - a ring that was engraved with a line from a song that meant a lot to us. It was perfect, everything was perfect... except she said NO!!
Ha! That wasn't a good day in SL! But we were still fine, she just had issues with marriage, even virtual marriage it seemed! In the end we found out we had a 25-year gap in our RL ages, and it wasn't meant to be.

I took up photography in SL next, and became really good at it. I built a studio with changeable backdrops and lighting. I rented a beautiful expensive apartment in the side of a mountain behind a waterfall in the beautiful Bliss Falls Gardens.

Then one day, when my marriage had long ago died, I was speaking to a childhood friend who worked in the local pharmacy. She was lovely, always had been. I decided to ask her to come on SL, because I knew she was into gaming and the net and stuff - she was a kind of female equivalent of me!

SL somehow removes your inhibitions, probably better than alcohol, and she very quickly confessed that she had always liked me, by which I was very pleasantly surprised! We actually set up a date in RL, which went well and ended with a kiss. A few days later my mother died, of cancer.

I built a memorial for her in SL, a large marble column with some text about my mother and how she lived and died. The response was amazing - people started leaving candles and flowers all around it, and sending me messages of sympathy. SL really isn't anything special - the people playing it are.

Within a month, the shock of my mother's departure finally gave me the strength to get the hell out of my wife's house and out on my own. The RL girl and I started from scratch, and a year later we are actually very happily living together. We have a cat named Mal, after our mutual favourite TV show character, Malcom Reynolds! (Firefly) We even now have a baby on the way!

My SL character still exists, and I sometimes pop on and greet my old friends, but right now, my RL is so much more fun! Second Life changed my life, kept me sane when times were extremely tough, and released me back into the world as a happy person. I would recommend it to anyone.

By davidstone78, from the Experience Project.
Images from Gamespot.

04 January 2008

How I Spent My Vacation: Elfing

It is incredibly poor form for an MMO developer to make negative statements about an MMO.

Some of this may sound as though I am doing that.

However, just to be clear: I am enjoying this game as I have enjoyed few others.

As it is meant to be a humorous game, pointing-out funny things about it is not intended to be criticism.

There’s no way of saying anything about the game without illuminating one fact in particular. So rather than appearing to be sarcastic, or blind, I’ll just be direct: The English translation is completely terrible.

For me, that is a great deal of the game’s charm, and personally I hope they don’t ever fix it.

Ok? Ok!

I’ve been playing since the previous beta period. To get into that, I had to post an email address to a public forum, requesting a beta-key be emailed to it. On the one hand, that’s weird. On the other hand, it erased a sense of obligation to provide beta-tester feedback.

Now it’s in open beta, which means you can play without sacrificing an email address to the spam gods.

Since it’s a free-to-play, buy-stuff-if-you-want-to game, this makes the beta pretty much the same as just playing it.

Apart from the localization-issue (i.e. that whomever did it doesn’t know much English, nor that very well), I really haven’t encountered any bugs or incomplete content (er… to level 11, which means the newbie training area seems complete).

They even did in-game holiday events and such, so I haven’t a clue what the beta is testing at this point.

Like any other MMO, after creating a character and strating the game, I was plopped into a town with a quest to talk to the nearest NPC.
Unlike any other MMO, the NPC was completely unrecognizable to me as such, even despite holding a massive GUIDE flag, playing a horn and being twice the size of all other NPCs.

I suppose the developers might read that and think, “Geez! What do we have to do to make it more obvious which NPC you should talk to?!” (if they knew English I mean, which they don’t).

Oh man, nothing at all. My bad, there! (I’d reply if they did, in flawless Mandarin).

The first order of business for any newbie in any MMO is to go kill 5 rats, dogs, or the like.

Here it’s Flame Red Lip Monsters.
One of the coolest features is the local map, and auto-pathing to whatever you right-click. It essentially provides a menu-view of the town, without replacing the town with a menu.

I right-clicked on the exit there, it drew the dotted-red path and my little guy began walking. After closing this map-window, my little guy continued walking.
The specific exit-point is a little glowing teleporter doodad, which zoned me to Setting sun prarie, home of the dreaded Flame Red Lip Monsters.

I was greeted by a nurse.

A wet nurse.
Feel free to lookup the term wet nurse, if you aren’t laughing hysterically at this point.

As I was in no need of… her… yet… I wandered on to find my Lip Monsters.

Suddenly - swoosh-swish - I was in combat. Unfortunately, not with a Lip Monster, but with something far more frightening.

It was a Fart Drillmaster.
In that first fight, I learned how to attack, how to order my pet to attack, that I had a pet, that combat occurred in an off-map combat-screen, and that monster encounters happened the way they do in a lot of console RPGs, rather than the way they happen in a lot of MMOs.

I think my character also gained a level of experience, as did my pet Fluffy Mouse.

It wasn’t long before also learning that a lot of monsters have pets, too.
They were no match for me and my Fluffy Mouse.

With every victory, we gained xp. I also gained potential, and Fluffy Mouse gained discipline.

Sometimes we also found a trophy.
I know you’re wondering what a trophy is, because you don’t know, right? All you need to do is to read the description:
Other times, the only trophy we really needed was a thanks.
Per the norm, quest loot was considerably more appealing. I hope I never need to use my Imperial plus-calcium potato!
All the quests that I completed were all of the kill 5 of this, kill 10 of that, collect 4 of these by killing 4 or more of those sorts, excluding quests sending me from one NPC to another. Stock MMO quests.

One other quest some might consider an exception, was the become-a-soldier-quest itself, after killing 7 of something, being required to swear that my little guy would fight to the death for the Imaginary Goddess.

But most people wouldn’t consider that an exception, and would instead say, “What now? I didn’t really read it.” Stock MMO players.

Radically not stock-MMO, there’s an in-game quest database, organized by zone under each of the tabs, listing every quest by title and level, along with the location, text task, reward, and - if part of a series - the prior and following quest.
I find myself wondering if they are genius enough to have intended it to be available in the live game, smart enough to leave it accessible in the live game, or if it’s strictly a beta-test tool.

If it’s not just for beta… well then, daaaaaaaamn…

I went from a mere level one newbie, with a speed of 5,540…
… to a level 11 soldier with the slightly lower speed of 5262.
Keep in mind, I accomplished this without figuring out what Speed meant.

If that’s some kind of +5k bug, you’d think it’d have an obvious impact on, for example, anything being able to kill me. Not so!
At level 10, there were four professions to choose from, but I already had my mind made-up. Mis-remembering a conversation with an NPC earlier, I thought he’d said soldiers instead of guards, and I was determined to be an Elf of quality and courage.
Screenshots don’t lie though, do they? Guards, he’d said. Oh. Well, I wanted to pick soldier anyway.

My best friend, Fluffy Mouse, was a soldier, after all.
I found the career tutor of the soldier, Chief of 790,000 Imperial Armies, to see if I could become a soldier myself.

At the time, this is what he told me about soldiers.
I love that.

As of today, he says something else.
I can only hope that he actually says both, and that one was not a replacement for the other… That is comedy genius, right there.

Another side to all that comedy is discovered in reading the Lone Wanderer’s description of the Rover class.
Maybe I am an idiot, but when I read that, then the description of soldier made sense to me… whereas before it had not. Though I don’t think of soldiers in the real world this way, in game-terms I have the term fastened to mercenary, thoughtless, uniformed followers - typically up to no good.

But no, man… soldiers. I hope Elf Online doesn’t localize the original idea away.

Another impressive feature I’ll mention is this button.
With just a click…
Bam! Baby mode. I know, right? Why hasn’t anyone else thought of that?

And finally, you have to be impressed with this ingenious anti-cheat system (that is, anti-bot or anti-macro).

About once an hour, a window like this pops-up, assumes focus, and demands you address prior to doing anything else in the game:
‘Anything apart from typing in world-chat, that is, asking what in the hell that means. Depending on the time of day, you might receive numerous answers. All of them will be different, and all will be wrong.

Finally, you’ll just pick something.

Then the next window will open:
You’ll see four icons, none of which were in the first window, except sometimes. Inquiring in world-chat won’t give you as many choices for how to handle it this time, but any you do get will be completely different than the previous explanations, and will also all be wrong.

You’ll have to pick one sooner or later!

You might see this:
Rock on!

Otherwise, you’ll get a system message informing you that you will be logged out in 60 seconds, and that you should just logout right now.

For informational purposes, I will say that I chose the third icon both times in the above test, without knowing why I did, nor having so much as a hypothesis to put to the test.

Does this mean if you pick a shirt the first time then you should pick the shirt the second time? Does it mean you play ‘one of these things is not like the other’, and select ‘the one which does not belong’ (as they used to say on Sesame Street to teach kids that differences democratically determine deportation designations)?

Is the second window is merely a second chance, which I have a 75% chance of seeing, while overall there’s a [insert math] chance of passing the challenge frequently enough that everyone imagines their solution to be working?

I have no freaking idea. I suspect there are three things for one slot, one thing for another, and you should choose the one thing… and likewise suspect you won’t know which slot some of the things you see might belong in.

Bottom line is, humans are much closer to solving this puzzle than any computer a cheater would use against it. Maybe IBM’s research division could build a bigger, bluer computer, or NASA could convince their alien spacecraft SI to work on it. Maybe Google could figure out a way to get more cranial rats within a 10-foot ’server cube’. One of those could potentially solve it more quickly than the average Human.

But I just know there’s got to be some severely specially-abled mental giant out there, so incredibly more brilliant than anyone else, we declared him mentally disabled at a very young age and locked him away. A modern-day Kim Peek, if you will, whom we could impose upon long enough to provide us with the answer.

Sure, to ask for an explanation as well would be much too ostentatious, but with the what, we could work on the why at our leisure, and from both ends of the problem. We could even utilize idle CPU time with distributed computing to crack it, if we weren’t all gamers.

Wait. Isn’t Kim Peek the modern-day Kim Peek? Let’s just ask him.

Wait again. While typing the above brilliant bit of prose, I responded to two more challenges… and yeah, you just pick the one thing that is not like the other things.

200 golden coins, two clicks.

I wonder if that could be automated…

By on Jeff Freeman on Mythical Blog.

Phantasy Star II: A Pictorial History

Recently my parents cleaned out their attic and brought to my place a huge box of crap from my childhood they'd been keeping and thought I would want. As a kid, I fancied myself a little author-artiste, and was always drawing pictures and making illustrated books. Thus I unearthed this little artifact, done when I was about eight or nine years old, a monument to my fandom of Phantasy Star II on the Genesis. I guess I loved the game so much I decided to make a book about its story. Here are some highlights -- I've scanned my original artwork with my luminous prose transcribed for your benefit. You'll have to forgive my somewhat tenuous grasp on the basic story concepts.When Rolf returned home, his sister Nei saw him pick up his sack and start to leave. Nei cried out, "please Rolf, wherever you're going, take me with you!" "Nei, you're much too young!" stated Rolf. But Nei barred the doorway. Rolf had no choice. He decided to take her with him.
Rolf and Nei laughed for awhile, but their laughter did not last long. A huge fire ant barred their path. "What's THAT?" asked Nei. "It's a biomonster!" Yelled Rolf above the angry roar of the fire ant. Mother Brain was the huge computer that "watched over" the home planet Mota. Due to it's wreckage, small creatures have mutated into gross, vile creatures like the fire ant, called biomonsters. Fire ant spit an array of poison. Nei put up her shield, but too late. She was struck by a ray of poisonous fumes emitted from the fire ant's pincers. Rolf shouted in rage. He ran up and slashed the fire ant.
As they passed through the small, town of Arima, they knew something was wrong. "What happened here?" Rolf asked a passing old man. "Scoundrels from the dungeon Shure blew up all the homes with dynamite, killed all the men and kidnapped all the women," the old man replied. "Shure..." thought Rolf. "Come on, Nei!" But a tall, solid man barred his path. "allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rudolf Steiner, Rudo for short. I don't have any special talents only I am good with a gun, and for that reason, I am a proffesional biomonster hunter. Would it be all right if I joined you on your journey?" Asked the man. "By all means, join us! We need all the help we can get!" Said Rolf. "I hear you are headed for Shure?" Said Rudo. "You heard correct," said Nei. "TO SHURE!!!!!!!!!!"Darum's at Northbridge," said Rudo. "We could rescue his daughter," added Rolf. Slowly the doors of Nido swung open, revealing a drifting damp mist. Nei shivered, and Rolf offered his cloak and Nei took it gratefully. The three pulled themselves up a bar and no sooner were they up on the second level than they heard wailing noise. They noticed a door. They heard the noise again. They burst through the door. A beautiful girl with pure blonde hair was in shackles against the wall. Rolf, in one sweeping motion, freed the girl. "Teim?" Nei was tentative. the girl nodded. "Please take me back to my father." They returned to the door and exited. Rolf put a veil over Teim to hide her identity.

As the party approached Northbridge, a man with a mask on rushed up. "Darum," said Nei under her breath. Darum didn't recognize his daughter. He marched right up to her and said "Hey girl! give me all your money or I'll kill you!" Teim resisted and tried to explain her identity, but Darum wouldn't listen. He drove his sword into the chest of Teim. Nei shut her eyes and Rolf took her hand. Nei opened her eyes. Teim had fallen, and Darum was busy emptying her pockets.

Rolf walked timidly up: "Excuse me, sir, allow me to show your mistake." Rolf gently lifted the veil, revealing what used to be Teim. "Teim!" cried Darum. "Oh what have I done? You won't die alone!" And before Rolf, Nei and Rudo could stop him, Darum stabbed himself and fell by his daughter. "Well," said Nei. Rudo cleared his throat, but said nothing. Rolf covered Darum and Teim in the flowered veil. Then they passed on to the next town.

There was an unpleasant aura about the biosystems lab as they approached. "Well Nei, we're here," said Rudo. Nei nodded. They entered. "You can wait outside, Nei, if you're afraid." "No." "O.K." Rudo got badly hurt on the third floor. Amy helped to heal his wound and they left him there. A container was on the topmost floor. Nei held her nose. "Biomonsters," she said. Rolf opened the container. "The Recorder!" "Hooray!" Called Nei and Amy.

There were four people tied to the wall. They were Kain, Shir, Anna and Hugh. Kain said he would like to join. Shir was a thief. She could steal any weapon, so she joined too. Anna and Hugh became part of the party as well. Rolf picked up the recorder. But two Biomonsters sprang out! Rolf and Co. put up a big fight, but the evil creatures bound the heroes in plasma ring and PRSN CLTHS and sent them to a satellite called Gaira.

On Gaira, they found Rudo tied up in plasmaring and PRSN CLTHS. Although they would have liked to untie him, they couldn't for they were in the same predicament. Suddenly, an alarm sounded and the Gaira sattelite was shifting off its orbit toward Palm! Just as the two things were about to collide, Rolf and party were rescued by a space pirate named Tyler. Rolf, Nei, Rudo, Anna, Amy, Kain, Hugh and Shir were unconscious.
When they awoke they were safely in Tyler's space-ship.Out the window, they saw Gaira crashing into Palm. Palm exploded. Tyler sent the party to Climatrol, where they could look for clues pertaining to the crook who disordered Mother Brain. But on the 7th floor....... "Neifirst!" Cried Nei. "O, sister!" But Neifirst merely responded with a hideous grimace. Puzzled, Nei looked at the masculine weapons and armor that Neifirst was using. "Neifirst, you can't have those male things!" "Fool! You say such things but you're powerless to stop me!" "No, we're NOT!" cried Rolf. "Yeah!" Cried everyone else. "I will slay my sister, and that is all," said Neifirst. "So be it," said Nei, brandishing her LASR. SLSHR. Neifirst threw her Foi pouch at Nei. When the powder cleared, Nei was dead.

By Leigh Alexander (at the age of eight). From Sexy Videogameland.