Book Review: The Sword of Midras

Sword of Midras

Ever wonder what a book would be like if a bunch of NPCs stood around talking to each other? I give you The Sword of Midras by . Tracy Hickman, of the original DragonLance  fame, and Richard Garriott, the creator of Ultima and Shroud of the Avatar. Actually, looking at the games site, it looks like both of them are involved in Shroud of the Avatar

Our story starts a s a lot of fantasy stories do, in the middle of a battle.The Obsidian Army lay siege to the inferior city of Midras. We meet our main character, quippy Captain Aren Bennis and his equally quippy side kick Syenna. After the city is mostly defeated, the general sends Captain Bennis to find a good spot to hold his victory parade, sounds like a pretty standard MMO quest. While in the city Bennis and Syenna chase down one of the city’s priestesses. In the midst of their chase they fall into a large tomb where Aren finds a magic sword that only he can touch and is suspected to be the Blade of an Avatar. Now everyone wants the blade and to find out what power it holds.

First let’s talk about the characters. They sound like video game characters almost all of the time. All of them are either super witty and have a comeback for everything like Captain Bennis, overly dramatic and ominous, or very one dimensional only there to move the plot along. But they’re enjoyable enough and there is enough character development to make you kind of care about Captain Bennis at least.

Now when I started reading this I wondered why they got the book traditionally published besides the fact that they could. It was originally an e-book for backers of Shroud of the Avatar. But what was the appeal for mass market, maybe some more advertising? I wondered if it would hold up with other fantasy novels and I think it did. It’s a par for the course as far as fantasy writing and plot lines go. In the back drop, the Obsidian Army is trying to civilize the world through law and order while the rest of the countries form a coalition to oppose them. At its core its the story of Captain Bennis coming to terms with whether or not he still believes in the Obsidian Cause.

For a 300 page fantasy novel, it does a good job at introducing some of the world. Though it feels kind of like Destiny’s story. There’s just enough lore and information to move the plot along but the deeper stuff you have to go outside of the game/book to look for. They keep talking about the Fall and everyone in the book seems to know what it was but its never explained I thought it was interesting that elves, ogers, fauns and other fantasy creatures were actually ,magically shaped from living humans by the Obsidians.

It actually made me a little more interested in the game itself. It was fun reading about places and thinking if I could play the game and go to those same places. While I didn’t think this was a fantastic book I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.

No Man’s Sky: Two Weeks Later

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So it’s been a while. Blaugaust was going so well and then bam, I haven’t written in like a week.

I’m the kind of friend who gets super excited about a game, gets all of my friends to buy it and then plays it for a week and never picks it up again. I’m a bad friend…To remedy this, I’ve been playing games and waiting to see if my personal hype wears off too fast before I ask my friends to join me. It’s been working well so far and I actually have better reasons to ask friends to play other than “OMG IT”S SO GOOOOOOD!”

I’ve been loving no man’s sky for the past 2 weeks. It has it’s flaws, OK it has a lot of flaws, but the game still captures my interest. Though, 2 weeks in the enchantment is wearing off little by little. I’m not even very far into it yet. I’ve jumped to a total of three galaxy’s and have just been following the story way points around.

I thought No Man’s Sky would be this game where I would get lost in it for hours exploring alien planets and naming creatures. It was like that for the first two days but lately I’ve been playing it an hour here or there after work. It’s an incredibly slow way to play a game but I’m in no hurry. I actually find myself losing interest if I play it for more than an hour, for all it’s procedural generation, everything has started to feel the same. The animal combinations are still awesome though. It’s like a bunch of kids played the biggest game of Cootie ever.

I also thought naming things would never get boring. After the first planet where I realized just how many rocks and plants could be named I decided I’d only be naming planets, systems, and animals. Along the way I’ve named some interesting looking plants and rocks as well though. It’s still fun to scan things though just to put my marker on them, No Man’s Sky really puts me in the mind set of I found it first and you can’t have it.

Flight is a little disappointing. The auto pilot takes over if you get too low to the ground so you’re perpetually 20 feet in the air. Also all the ships feel the same when you fly them, apart from the number of inventory spaces and the cockpit screen there isn’t a difference in the ships.

The thing I find the most fun right now is collecting the bits of alien language. It’s satisfying when you slowly start to understand what npc’s are saying. It’s a mechanic that I really didn’t expect to be all that fun.

Overall, I’m still enjoying the game a little bit at a time. I’m looking forward to see what is implemented in the future if anything. No Man’s Sky in it’s current state is exactly what I thought it would be so updates are only icing on the cake. I may never get to the center of the galaxy but I’m sure there will be a lot of adventures and sight seeing along the way.

Creature Creator

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A few weeks ago my friend Jay decided that he wanted to play Perfect World International. He had heard from someone that it was actually not that bad and that he should get into it. I was surprised the thing was till running but I said I’d download it and check it out with him. All I really knew about Perfect World was how prevalent it’s micro transactions were throughout the game and that it was the epitaph of Pay to Win.What I didn’t know was how great it’s character creator was.

In general, character creators in games leave you with a bunch of options to make strikingly beautiful people with no flaws. Even if your character has a nasty scar running through his face it just looks badass instead of the remnants of a gaping wound. If it lets you choose a body type it’s usually a choice between Large  Musclebound Meathead, Medium I’m in Shirtless Movie Star Shape, or  I run 5 miles a day before breakfast skinny.In a lot of MMO’s I’ve played, even if there are sliders, it’s pretty hard to make something look ugly whether it’s because there are preset faces you choose from or the sliders don’t change anything drastically enough to make you look anything less than perfect.

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Of course there are exceptions. I’ve seen some horrifying things people have made in Bethesda games. I also really enjoy the character creator in Dark Souls 2 where I can be a green skinned mustachio’d bandit. And then there’s Perfect World International whose character Creator enables you to make very “unique” characters. After 10 hours of running through the game before we go bored, I never quite saw another character that looked like me. It was actually so much fun making characters that I put another couple of hours into my steam play time just fiddling around with it.

Elder Scrolls Online is another game with an interesting character creator. Unfortunately the face sliders don’t do as much damage as other Elder Scrolls titles but the body sliders are different. If you put them to the maximum or minimum, the character looks pretty unhealthy. I have an Argonian sorcerer with a beer belly who looks like he can hardly jog for more than a minute. I also have an elderly Nord Nightblade who looks like he hasn’t eaten in weeks.

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I’ve always played the weirder looking races in games if I can. I If I’m playing in a fantastic realm I don’t want to be a boring old human. I’d much rather play an Asura or a Charr in Guild wars 2, I’d rather be a pink thing with horns or half an orc in Neverwinter, and I’d rather be a sentient talking cow or a space alien in WoW.  But no matter how weird they look , I can’t bring myself to be a lalafell in Final Fantasy 14 so I’ll stick to my giant mountain of muscle.

 

MMO Events Stress Me Out

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I love events in MMO’s especially holiday events. It’s always fun to see the game’s spin on holidays and events within their world. Events also tend to be a little more light hearted than the rest of the game. But man, do they stress me out.

Whether it’s a stroll through a questline to get a special emote or grinding for hours to get some special items there are always seems to be limited time rewards attached to participating in the event. Limited time items are something I love to collect, at first when the event is on going or has just ended everyone and their mother has the item or emote. After a while though, it becomes less and less common and when you whip it out it’s like a badge, an “I was there” symbol. It’s especially fun when events are location based and you see so many players in one place.

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I have a love hate relationship with event rewards. The limited time nature of these events make it a little stressful. If you can’t grind all the things or can’t log in everyday to get your rewards you miss out. Then the item is either forever unattainable or some guy will sell it to you for way to much. At the same time because it’s a limited time event it makes it all that more special to have.

My favorite event items are ones that look really out of place in the game. For example Guild Wars had a Jack’o lantern head for a Halloween event that looked so silly and out of place. Or the Yo-kai’s in Final Fantasy 14 they’re from a completely different IP. Actually the Yo-Kai Watch event in Final Fantasy is the first time I’ve seen a cross promotional event in a game. Its really cool how they managed to sort of blend it in to their own lore. I’m going to be honest here, I want to collect the rest of the minions since I ran out of sub time.

Ready Player One is So Pay to Win

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I just finished this book/auidio book a few days ago. I’ve been hearing for years that its one of the best video game novels ever. It’s some of my friends favorite book of all time.

After the death of the creator of the Oasis the world’s most popular game, he leaves a video will. It announces a competition to find an egg in the Oasis, the first player to do this gets to own the company and inherits all of  it’s wealth. It follows Wade Watts in his quest to solve the riddles to find the egg.

It’s set in a distopian future where the real world is energy starved, most of it’s a barren wasteland, and outside of major cities people live in trailers stacked up like high rises. But it’s ok because no one has to worry about the planet when basically everyone is playing in the Oasis, a virtual reality Second Life with hundreds of planets. It started out as an MMO and then grew to replace the internet. It’s a platform to conduct business, children go to virtual public schools, and is also a game though most people don’t play it as such.

The Oasis is free to play and  it’s also totally pay to win. You can transfer real money to get credits that allow you to buy items, armor, transportation, anything you might actually need to play the game. In fact you can’t even get off the starter tutorial planet without paying a transport fee. For most people this isn’t a problem as they don’t  play the actual game. If you did you better pony up the dough so you can go to a planet where you might be able to kill things for experience and if your lucky some items you can sell for some credits to transport somewhere else. Everything has a money sink, ships need to be refueled and repaired, weapons and armor break, and let’s not forget the auction house where you can buy some of the rarest artifacts as long as you have the cash.

It’s a good book, and the audiobook  narration by Will Wheaton was fantastic. It was a little weird hearing Will Wheaton narrate the parts about Will Wheaton or the whole sector of the Oasis called the Wheatonverse. I wouldn’t say it’s blew me away but it was set in a very interesting world.

I have to give it credit, the book manages to talk about video games without being cringey. A lot of times books will try to incorporate video games and they just don’t come out well in print. I also learned a lot about video game history and the 80’s reading this book, I don’t know how much of it is true but it all sounded accurate enough.

My one big gripe with the story is that it took 5 years to solve the first clue to find the egg. Thousands of players trying to figure it out and it took 5 years. The next clues only take a couple months each to solve apparently and they’re more obscure than the first. The other problem I had with the book is that the love interest feels forced. It’s like the book was written and then someone said, you know this is a story about a teenage boy and teenage boys are always motivated by chasing teenage girls around. The whole time she’s not even that interested in him and he just obsesses over her.

If you have read Ready Player One and are looking for a similar book, I highly recommend Omnitopia by Diane Duane. It looks like the rest of the series never took off but the first book is a really good read and is also set in an MMO.

 

 

 

Dinging 50

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Last Sunday, right as my free time in Final Fantasy 14 was coming to a close, I hit 50 on my white mage. It was a weekend full of running Stone vigil more times than I care to count to hit 49. I wanted to be able to continue and maybe finish the Main Scenario and it’s a long gap between 46 and 49.

I’m actually glad it worked out so well, I didn’t think it would. When I logged back on Thursday my White Mage’s was level 44, a lot lower than I thought I left him. Every time I ran my daily roulette the bonus either leveled me up or nearly leveled me up. Running Stone Vigil so many times showed me the good and the bad of the Duty Finder. I ran into everything from helful chatty groups, to disconnecting tanks, to DPS’s pulling aggro, and of course the bickering between hot headed party members. But it was all good fun. I love healing in this game and didn’t run into too much trouble in the Duty Finder.

After hitting 49 I ran as many of the Main Scenario Quests as I could. The story was just getting good and building up to a climax when I got the dreaded red text saying I couldn’t complete the quest until I was level 50. It was late Sunday night, I was 3/4ths of the way to level 50 and I was tired of running dungeons. So I decided to check out the Yo-Kai Watch event and see how much  experience that would give me. 10 fates and Yo-Kai medals later I dinged 50 and could no longer gain experience.

After this weekend, I see rresubbing and purchasing Heavensward in m near future. I really want to see how the story will end for 2.0. Plus I just discovered the Golden Saucer and that seems like a whole game itself. There’s so much left to see aand do in the game and this weekend reminded me why I played it so much in the first place. But hey, I guess that’s the point of these free even’s right? I