Monthly Archives: March 2009

And The Children Shall Lead…

My daughter likes to play on my account in World of Warcraft.

Specifically, she likes to fly around in the Outlands with one of my characters who has a flying mount.

She had not done that for a while, so when she wanted to fly around again the other day, I decided to give her a quick refresher on the controls.

I started off with, “The space bar makes you go up and the X key makes you go down…”

She replied in that voice that children adopt when they are suffering through their parents ignorance, “I know dad, it is the same as swimming!”

And I said, “It is?”

I’d been using the mouse to control all directional movement for swimming.

You learn something every day.

Good-bye Felix, We Miss You

Felix the cat came to live with us in the Fall of 2000.  We had just moved into a new house and decided it was time to add a cat or two.

Felix was a rescue cat, already an adult when we picked him out, or he picked us out.  Before he came to live with us he had been a feral cat living in the parking lot of one of the IBM facilities off of Cottle Road in San Jose.  There he has been fed by people who worked at the facility.  When it was shut down in 2000, one of the women who worked there picked up Felix and brought him in to be adopted.  She is the one who gave him the name Felix, which seemed appropriate for a happy black and white cat.

At the same time my wife and I had bought a new house and had settled in enough that we thought it was time to add a cat to the mix.  And so we went to the pet adoption fair that was being held at the pet store near us.  There we met Felix, who was warm and friendly and crawled into my lap.  We were happy and the adoption people were happy, as they often have problems placing adult cats.

Once at our house, a strange new environment, he immediately hid under our bed.

Not coming out

Not coming out

We set stuff up around our bedroom for him, since he did not seem inclined to come out.  However, once WE got into bed, he decided that it was better to be in the bed than beneath it.

Let the cuddling begin!

Let the cuddling begin!

A week later we added a kitten to the mix, who we named Oscar, which also turned out to be an appropriate name, as he and Felix were an odd couple.  While Felix was quiet, friendly, and happy to meet everybody, Oscar was aloof, afraid of almost everybody, and loud.

Still, they became the best of friends.

Comfy on my clean shirts

Comfy on my clean shirts

Most of the time, anyway.  Oscar could be a bit pushy.

Not quite enough room for two

Not quite enough room for two

Life went on.  Our daughter was born.  Felix found somebody new to cuddle with while Oscar… hid under the bed.  The Felix fan club grew.  Life was good.

A cat in his pime

A cat in his prime

But time passes quickly.  Last summer, Felix started having health problems.  We never knew how old Felix was.  His early years as a feral cat were undocumented.  But we estimated that he was at least 12 and perhaps as old as 15.

His teeth were bothering him and, while at the vet for that, they found a tumor in his abdomen.    Tests said that the tumor was not malignant… maybe.  Operating did not seem likely to extend his life expectancy, so we decided to make him as comfortable as we could.

He had lost some weight and kept getting smaller and more frail.  In an effort to get him to eat my wife ended up cooking for him.  He would nibble some, but never really seemed hungry enough.

Then last weekend Felix’s health took quite a noticeable dive.  He began to seem quite frail.  He was having trouble getting around.  Food no longer interested him.  The time had come to say good-bye.

We cried a lot.

Even after the first big outpouring of grief, the tears kept sneaking up on us at unexpected moments.

They still sneak up on us now and again.  Even Oscar has been looking for his pal, walking from room to room meowing softly.

My daughter's rememberence

My daughter’s rememberence

Felix was a part of our family.  We miss him a lot.

Time for GDC San Francisco

The Game Developers Conference is coming to San Francisco again next week, March 23 through 27.

One of my birthday presents this year was an Expo Pass for the event, so I will be taking a day off of work and heading up to the show on Thursday the 26th.

My wife says I need to come back with better booth swag this year.  Pencils and Post-it notes just aren’t cutting it for her.  So if you’re working the show, hook me up!  Thanks!

I know I’ll see Darren up at the show, and I have to imagine that Brent will be up there somewhere.  But who else who reads this blog and doesn’t… you know… hate me or anything… will be at the show and have some free time to say “Hi?”

Last year we ended up having a nice dinner after the show before some people went off to the CCP party.  This year, with tough economic times upon us, I wonder how crowded the whole even will be?

Runes of Magic – Let Me Start Complaining

Today is the launch day for Runes of Magic, a free to play fantasy MMORPG.  The open beta, which has been going on for some time, is over and the game is officially live.  Time to gripe about it!

I first really took note of the game Runes of Magic when Darren complained that it was a complete rip-off of World of Warcraft.

Like Tobold, I found that to be a hearty endorsement of the game rather than a negative.  If you are going to remake WoW you have to have some competitive advantage, and what bigger edge is there than free to play?

However, Darren was simplifying things a bit when writing about the game.  His observation was based on the basic look and feel of the user interface.  It bothered him that everything was very WoW-like in that regard.  For me, UI that works is fine. The fact that the elements have been used before isn’t such a big deal.

So I was a bit disappointed after I downloaded the game and found that it was not, in fact, just like WoW.  It is its own game, with its own flavor and more than a few rough edges. (Those rough edges are, oddly enough, often things they probably should have copied from WoW, but did not.)

After a couple of hours of play I let it go dormant on my desktop.  It wasn’t that I did not like the game, but that I really did not have time to start a new game.

Still, I have been reading Saylah’s coverage of the game over on Mystic Worlds, and there are things about the game that look interesting.  I will no doubt find some time to give it a more thorough try at some point.

In furtherance of that, I have run the game’s patcher every so often to keep it up to date.  I don’t want to spend five hours waiting for the  game to update when the time comes when I actually want to play.

I find the patcher quite annoying.  There is something they might have copied from WoW!

But no, it is actually annoying in its own way.

The downloading is fine, and the client reflects progress of the current download, if not the total downloads, in an accurate manner. (Total progress seems to be either 10% or 100%, but nothing in between.)  When it actually patches the client, the updater puts up a progress bar with the “on top” flag set so it is always on top of whatever you are doing.

It will jump in front of whatever you are doing, including looking at the task manager.

How much more on top?

Patcher set to “Annoy!”

I feel the need to paraphrase the Nigel Tunfel quote I used the other day.

How much more on top could it be?  None more on top!

So I run the download in the background and find myself interrupted when it actually begins to patch.  I was trying to take a screen shot in EVE the other night and managed to get the patcher progress bar right in the middle of a picture.

So Frogster, fix that would you?  Look into something like LOTRO does and maybe put up a little alert in the system tray on the task bar or some such.  I don’t think I am alone in doing other things while I wait for a game to patch.

Other than that… well… I really don’t have much in the way of complaints.

I don’t like the way they mapped the movement keys in the WASD grid, with A and D being strafe and Q and E being turn.  But I can at least remap that.  In fact, that was one of the first things I did.

Also, regardless of how much I loved Diablo/Diablo II, I’m not fond of click-to-move.  But I don’t have to use that.

And that is about it really.

I just don’t like the patcher.

It is still better than WoW’s patcher.

But not as good as some others.

I guess I’ll just have to play the game some more.

The Wheel of Time – 3,430,682 Words Later…

I wrapped up the last available book in Robert Jordan‘s “The Wheel of Time” saga, “The Knife of Dreams,” this past weekend.  I am now all ready for the last entry in the series, “The Memory of Light” which is due out this fall and which might end up so long that it may need to be broken into two books to accommodate the estimated 700,000 additional words that have gone into this partly posthumous work.

I did cheat a bit to get to this point.

You will note I did not say I read the series.  I listened to the whole thing in audio book form.  Audible.com has the entire series available in unabridged format. (I insist on unabridged.)

The series adds up to nearly 350  hours of audio, or about 14 and a half days to listen to all 11 books plus the prequel.

Most of that listening was done in the car during my commute to and from work, a 60-90 minute round trip.  I started listening in mid-January 2008 and just finish in mid-March 2009.  I am afraid that MMO related podcasts suffered a downturn in listening on my part as a result.

One of the nice things about listening to the whole series is that I know how to pronounce everything!  I compare this to my attempt to read The Silmarillion for the first time; I could not pronounce anything correctly!  Too many umlauts, for a start!

At least I sort of know how to pronounce every thing.  The book was read by two people, a man for all the parts that were from a male perspective and a woman for all the parts that were from a female perspective.  Unfortunately, for the first few books they appeared to be working with different pronunciation guides, so a change of narrator would change how some things were said, sometimes dramatically.  For a while I thought there were two different characters, one with a name that sounded like “Moe-gah-dean” and one with a name that sounded like “Muh-gid-ee-en.”  After a while they seem to have had a meeting of the minds and settled on a single pronunciation of Moghedien.

On the other hand, I couldn’t spell very many names of people of places.  Rand and Lan I could handle, but Egwene and Nynaeve, and frankly many of the female names, were not so easy for me to sound out into written form.  I had to go look them up, even to write that last sentence.  Robert Jordan seemed to relish coming up with names that were spelled in unexpected ways, at least when compared to how they were pronounced.

Another nice thing about going through the whole series as audio books is that I have a good deal more tolerance for… well… the tedious or boring bits.  One of the issues with the series is that it follows the paths of so many different people that it makes the works of James Michener read like The Bobbsey Twins.  And amongst all those threads (yes, I get it, they all weave together on the wheel of time) there are a few that I just didn’t give a damn about or that I felt could have gotten the point across in a couple hundred less pages.

Having gone through the whole series almost one after another, I started to notice patterns as well.  Repeated phrases began to grate, rather like the constant reference to cigarettes, their availability, price, and quality, by nearly every character in the Harry Turtledove Timeline 191 series.  Some that come to mind:

Must we hear about the ageless quality (or lack there of) of the face of every Aes Sedai that shows up?

Smiles that do not reach the eyes – can we come up with another description?

Tugging on braids; it was bad enough when just Nynaeve was doing it, but later other female characters show the same mannerism, at least when they aren’t needlessly/nervously smoothing their skirts, or stopping short of doing so.

And speaking of skirts, do skirts with multiple colors ever have a second color that isn’t a “slash.”  Blue skirts slashed with red, brown slashed with green.  Had they not discovered stripes?  Was plaid beyond them?  Maybe I am just unclear on the concept.

And, finally, can we dispense with the stock descriptions of some characters after the first couple of usages per book? Do I need to hear how Vanin, Mat‘s best scout in the Band of the Red Hand, sits in the saddle like a bag of suet every time he rides up?  Must I hear about Julin Sandar‘s red, flat topped conical cap (read: fez) or Thom Merrilin‘s mustaches every time they show up?  Every second tier character seemed to have some stock phrase associated with him or her that had to be used every time they showed up and it began to get on my nerves.

I know, who am I to nit pick?  I write a blog post and then I have to go back and remove my own excessively used turns of phrase, like starting sentences with, “So,” “Of course,” “On the other hand,” and the others that I over use out of habit.  And Robert Jordan has passed away, so it isn’t like he’s going to do a re-write for me in any case.

Still, maybe some author will take this to heart.  When you compare this with Patrick O’Brian‘s Aubrey/Machurin series, a 20 book epic of its own (also available on Audible.com) you will find that Mr. O’Brian never fell into this sort of repeated usage of the same phrases until they became tired cliches within his own work.  I have read interviews with him where he went on about the craft of writing and keeping just that sort of thing from happening.

Enough of that though.

I made it through the whole thing, listened to every word, never skipped ahead, and do not regret the effort.  I enjoyed most of the books and I do plan to read or listen to the final book(s) when available.  I have to find out how things end up for the five people who started off from the Two Rivers all those books ago, even if I am not so concerned about some of the people who they have met along the way.

But a company out there, Red Eagle Entertainment, says they are going to make movies and an MMO out of the series.  Is that viable?

For an MMO, there certainly is enough background material there.  There is a large and reasonably well described world.  There are key cities with lots of sparsely settled or empty space in between.  There are enough factions to go around and then some.  There is a set group of bad guys with their own army of slavering minions, plus a whole evil infrastructure in the dark friends to root out.  There is a wide range of potential classes.  The right company could make a Lord of the Rings Online level of game out of it.

I think the right company is the key, of course.  I know nothing about Red Eagle, so my confidence in there ever being such a game is pretty low.  And since they made their initial announcement, EA has loomed into the picture, adding not a whit of confidence on my part.  The wheel weaves as the wheel wills. (There was an oft repeated phrase that disappeared around book 7 or so.  I wonder why?)

As for movies… I rather picture the whole thing done as a low budget BBC 100 part series with old “Dr. Who” or “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” level of props but excellent writing for the screen play adaptation.

But that just might be me.

Adam and EVE, the True Hollywood Story!

The rush into space is on!  Interest in EVE Online in our little community has hit a new height.  Our wee corporation has nearly a dozen active accounts.  Not bad considering that for months at a stretch, the corp was just me.

So it was about time for some EVE corporate drama.

Among those coming along for fun times in space was Adam of the Witty Ranter podcast.

Adam, feeling a bit behind in the skill points department, had a “buddy” with an EVE account he was not using with a character on it with 13 million or so skill points.  Adam cut a deal with him, and logged in to say hello with his new character.  Then he went off to transfer it to his account.

The next day I got an IM from Gaff about goings on in space.

It seems that Adam’s “buddy” failed to mention that the character in question had been used to loot the coffers of the corporation to which it once belonged.  He had some contracts to move stuff for his corp and apparently decided just to keep the stuff, moving some of the items off to another character while leaving other pieces just sitting about.

Adam admits that this was just some guy he met in WoW… see what kind of people play WoW!

And the people in this characters old corp… they remember him.  Adam received an in-game mail from one of the aggrieved former corp mates of his buddy who wanted their stuff back.

Being the rock-solid, stand-by-your-friends corp that we are, we put Adam’s application to join the corp on hold… at least with that character… and practiced denying we knew him.  Visions of war declarations swam in our heads.

Of course, I suspect that these guys might not be the war declaration types.  Their big lever, the threat they laid on Adam, was to go to CCP with this issue!

Seriously!  Stop laughing!  They meant it!

Well, they wrote it in any case.

I have to hope that was an empty statement on their part, a goad to get Adam to cough up the goods, because otherwise it was threat without value.  If CCP let an alliance get wiped by one corporate director, then a little contract theft is hardly going to move them to action.  We’ll see if these guys have anything else in the plan.

While much of the “good stuff” was moved off to the other account, some interesting items remained.

There was a stockpile out in 0.0 space where the character also happened to have a jump clone stationed.  Adam jumped out there, but was in a different station.  Forgetting, or not realizing, that he was persona non-grata out there, he left the station only to discover he couldn’t get into the station where the stuff was stowed.  Nor could he get back in to the original station.

We were pondering how he was going to get back when Adam said that wasn’t going to be a problem as somebody was targeting him already.

One podding later, Adam was back in empire space again.  There is some equipment out in 0.0 that will never be claimed I guess.

Tallying up the items left where he could get them there was still substantial value in his grasp.  Adam should not have to worry to much about money for the short term.  At least I hope not.  Found money has a habit of being spent foolishly.

In a moment of unselfish generosity, or perhaps filling a need to find and implicate co-conspirators, Adam donated a good chunk of stuff to the corporation.  It is stuff that none of us can use yet, but which might guide the direction of future training plans.

Of course all that stuff it 20 jumps away and needs a freighter to haul back to our HQ.  I guess that would be me.

Adam has decided to “retire” the new character for now and go back to training up his own guy.  He has a ways to go to fly some of the ships at his disposal, but at least he isn’t a wanted man.

Adam also knows the name of his “buddy’s” other character, the transactions all appearing in the character logs.  We will have to see if that tidbit comes into play.  More if anything develops.

Thanks to Jonathan of the Through the Aftermath podcast for suggesting the title of this post in corp chat.  He should be required to register his wit as a deadly weapon.  More than once I’ve nearly died laughing.