Books

WBN 2014

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Yay World book night is almost here again. This is my 3rd year as a giver and the number of books to given out has shrunk to 18, which to be honest isn’t a bad thing as I’d had trouble giving away the last few of each box so hopefully this year I’ll run out completely.

This year I’m giving away After the Funeral by Agatha Christie which is a great book that typifies Christies in-depth characters and fantastic plot twists.

Plot summary: With no heir to the family fortune, descendants of Richard Abernethie have gathered to hear the reading of the will. When his sister suggests that his death wasn’t natural and she ends up dead, the original death is examined a little more closely when the family solicitor calls on Hercule Poirot to help solve the mystery.

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An interesting fact about this story is that the role of Poirot was replaced with Miss Marple by MGM in the 1963 film starring Margaret Rutherford, the name was also changed to Murder at the Gallop.

I struggled with this years book choices as on previous lists there have been more than one I would have been happy with. This time around the Agatha Christie novel was the only one I would be happy recommending to people who don’t read much. I believe that the format of selection was changed for this years book shortlist so many that’s why I felt it lacking in choice.

Gaming/Consoles

H1Z1 another zombie clone

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As SoE close the door on some of their titles such as Vanguard and Free Realms their efforts are being refocused on the newer MMO games on the horizon, one of which is H1Z1. I’m a little dissapointed that Free Realms is going, as Little Troll gets older I was hoping to introduce him to that MMO environment, I guess KingsIsle are still leading the charge with the 101 games in that domain.

But back to the Zombie survival horror, I’m unsure why SoE decided to reuse a name from a 2009 Hoax from the height of H1N1 outbreaks but that’s a whole different blog post I guess.

As far as I can see this game is targeting the same market that Dayz and Rust are aiming for but combining it with the new engine that SoE are rolling out across the board. The ironic thing this that Facepunch Studios has recently removed zombies from Rust focusing more on people versus people and/or wildlife and stating that the zombie genre is very much overdone.

image The game is “offering” a post outbreak survival game, SoE have said the world is persistent yet there is permadeath which doesn’t seem to be offering much beyond what the other titles in the space are bringing to the table.

So can the MMO setting make much of a difference?

Multiple servers, map locking or a clever use of phasing, whatever system SoE decide to use to present struggling in a wasteland of a collapsed society, could lack that sense of isolation that they want to generate. I’m keen to see how SoE plan to balance the populations at peak and off-peak, does player created content need to be guarded 24/7? If population is capped could a organised gang flood a server blocking all others from accessing their content?

I suppose we shall learn this and more over the next few months, along with how SoE aim to monetise the game as Smedley hints that they are turning to the players help design the micro-transaction side of things. Of course where to find out all the information not the official site but over at reddit http://www.reddit.com/r/h1z1/.

And there was me thinking they would just be throwing in some player studio crafting and heavy cash shopping to make it feel like other SoE(xploitation) cash cow game.

Gaming/Consoles

Exemplar Performance

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It’s been 16 months since NCSoft pulled the plug on the first and IMO best SuperHero/Villain themed MMO, there is barely a week that passes without me hearing a small reference to that game in one shape or another.
Admittedly it’s more often than not @FlyinPinkMunki or myself lamenting users on mumble about the fun we had or the bizarre costumes and builds that would spring from your imagination. But excluding us lifetime fans of the game, the recent TESO launch has fling City Of Heroes into people’s minds again as the age old MMO problem of out levelling creeps into the forefront.

The mentoring system in City Of Hereos/Villains is often held up as the gold standard in how to do this correctly. The earlier system was configured so that in a team someone could be sidekicked/lackeyed to a level 1 below or equal to the player who was the exemplar/malefactor.

Best of both worlds

This worked both ways, so a level 42 character could team with a level 16 character, the sidekick would have their level raised to 1 lower than the person exemplaring, so in this case level 41. But if the lower character needed help the higher character could be the sidekick and their level lowered to match the lower level player, loosing any powers selected beyond that level so that balanced was maintained.

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This system worked very well, but had some limitations, for example if you had one high levelled character but 2 lower levelled characters, an uneven number of exemplar to sidekicks the system broke unless another player of a similar level was found or the higher levelled character became the sidekick to one of the lower characters.

Evolved

In the later days of the game the system was altered, so that any mentoring was performed to the level of the group leader, thus you could have a high levelled leader at say 32 and up to 7 sidekicks that would be raised to fight at level 31 (or lowered down to 32 for higher levelled characters).

This allowed for more flexible team combinations as you didn’t need to worry about an odd number of players or having staggered levels. Although some power-leveling folks were annoyed as in the previous version you could trick the system into paying out huge benefits if you had a player 3 levels below the leader, and that player sidekicked another player who would get a hard fight but high XP.

Gaming/Consoles

No substitute for a good skill system

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TESO has avoided the traditional/historical MMO pit of 30 powers on your character toolbars, leaving you bewildered if you have been away for more than 3 days.
Infact much of the skill system centres around passive skills that are unlockable against armour, race, weapon or class. This allows you to gain bonus such as benefits from armour sets or increasing your max health.

There are 5 skill slots on the toolbar which initially reminded me of the action bar from the Chronicles of Spellborn, the limited number of slots means you have to plan your load-out for the tasks ahead.
For example those familiar with the Elder Scrolls game will be aware of Soul Gems and how you how the come empty and you have to fill them, well in TESO these are used to resurrect yourself or someone else, everyone has the ability to capture souls but to use the power you have to slot in, this takes up one of your 5 slots.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a 6th slot but it is restricted to Ultimate Abilities, these can be class or race based and build up during combat to then allow a buff to the player character either in the form of summoning pets, increased regen or harder hitting attacks.

Ok so the fact that you aren’t juggling 30 different skills that you have to remember the exact conditions for use is a big bonus, for me the next neat trick is that once you have used an active ability enough it levels up to a point that it can be transformed/morphed in some way.

Morphing an ability

When you Morph an ability it splits into 2 options, each has a new bonus that is highlighted in green when you mouse over.

This process takes the existing functionality and offers 2 advancement options of which you can only pick one, for example

  • Power A may do damage x to an enemy
    • Morph option 1 adds 7 meter to the existing 7 meter range
    • Morph option 2 add a stun to the power

FlyinPinkMunki and I have been playing sorcerers and I have found the way the same ability is altered depending on the type of staff used, for example:

  • Destructive Touch – Deals Magic Damage to target enemy
    • Fire Touch causes knockback
    • Frost Touch causes deep freeze
    • Shock Touch causes disorient

The passives are configured in a similar manner:

  • Tri Focus
    • Frost attack snares enemy 30% for 3.5 seconds
    • Shock attack deals 5% splash damage to 2 nearby foes
    • Fire attack increases critical strike rating with destruction spells against target by 5%

This is a nice touch as it allows the sorcerers to modify their attack strategy dependant on the enemy or the group composition.

I’m now way near maxing out on the skill side of things, however each choice hasn’t left me leaving underpowered or at a disadvantage as I mentioned in my last post.

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