Thursday, October 30, 2008

Improving WSG

It occurs to me that by posting these ideas, I'm actually screwing Blizzard (and WoW players) out of possible improvements. Blizzard probably can't implement my ideas even if they did like them and wanted to, without actually buying them from me. Yes, I've put them out here in the public domain, but the ideas remain mine, and if I don't post "Blizzard, you've got carte blanche to use my ideas" then they can't use them for fear of me suing them. And if Blizzard can't use my ideas, it means the players lose out, too (assuming my ideas really are that good ;)

So how do we fix WSG? Well, what's the biggest problem with WSG?

It takes too long, right? Your team gets 2 Flag Caps and what happens? Everyone on the other team falls back to their base and now you've got a turtle. How can we fix this?

We could implement a Timer...but a Timer can actually negatively affect two evenly matched teams who are fighting an ebb & flow battle. Where Flags are constantly being picked up, huge fights are being fought mid-field, Flags are being dropped and returned, or dropped & picked up again, or returned and...someone hiding in your Base picks it up again! These are the fun WSGs where players are trying to support each other, they're actively PvPing, nobody is trying to Turtle or just let the other team lose, and everyone is having a blast. Then 15 minutes later...Bam! Everyone finds themself dumped back in front of their Battlemaster. Talk about Coitus Interruptus!

So while a Timer might be a good idea when you're up 2 & 0 and the other team is Turtling and try as you might you can't get their Flag out of their Base, but for a game where that's not happening? Where it's just two evenly matched teams thrusting, repelling, counter thrusting. Then a Timer literally is Couitus Interruptus.

If we look at the other BGs they all have Timers of a sort. Okay, it's actually a Counter.

AB - every few seconds the two Teams get points based on how many Bases they hold. First Team to 2000 points wins.
EOTS - every second the two Teams get points based on how many Bases they hold, with Flag Caps awarding more Points the more Bases you hold. First to 2000 wins.
AV - Both Teams start with 600 points. You win by reducing your opponent's Points to zero, by defeating their General (instant win), taking enemy-held Keeps & Towers, killing their Captain, or just killing opposing players (1 pt each).

WSG is (currently) the only BG that does not use a Counter/Timer. Get three Flag Caps and you win. That's it. If that takes you 10 minutes, or an hour, or half a day, it ain't over 'til one of the teams has scored 3 points.

But what if the game was played to 150 points, and a Flag Cap was worth 50 points?

That doesn't sound much different than it's current scoring system, right? But if we incorporate part of the AV Counter system, and for every HK your team gets you score 1 point, now it becomes a little more interesting.

Now if two teams are evenly matched, and they're fighting mid-field tooth & nail but neither team is giving up any ground. Flags are getting picked up, dropped, returned, then picked up again. Players are fighting and dying, then rezzing and running back in, but neither team's Flag Runner can break through. With each death the counter slowly ticks up. Now you need to win by attrition, and if one Team turtles, the team on the outside can either send players to the roof to rain death down upon those below with AOE attacks, DOTs, etc, and slowly kill them one by one. Now you don't need to get their Flag, it's enough to know that with every death they incur, your Team moves one step closer to Victory.

Would this work? Would you like to see a counter like this incorporated into WSG? Are Blizzard likely to do anything like this?

Not now, at least not unless I write: If there is anyone out there who could use this idea to compliment one of their games, you are more than welcome to it. Now it might get incorporated, assuming anyone from Blizzard reads the ramblings of the Famous Wizard 101 Blogger ;)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fucking brilliant!!!

So I've been reading a few Yahoo! Answers lately, and I ran across this one, which asked "Can you tell me why your[sic] voting for the candidate that you are?"

One of the respondents wrote (IMHO) this Fucking Brilliant Gem of a response.

* * * * *
Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read: 'Vote Obama, I need the money.' I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on an 'Obama '08' tie. Again I laughed--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came, I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama 'Redistribution of Wealth' concept. He stood there in disbelief as I told him I was going to redistribute his tip to someone I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $5 and told him to thank the server inside. He looked at me questioningly, so I explained that even though the server did the work and had earned the money, I decided that he, the homeless guy, was more in need of the money. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment, it had been clearly proven that while the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, the waiter was very angry that I gave away the money he did earn, even though the actual recipient deserved the money more.

It seems redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept, than in practical application.........

You want me to give your hard earned money to someone else. This is what I will continue to do daily until the day Obama is out of Office, that is if he makes it.

Vote for the closet Democrat over the flaming Socialist any day.
* * * * *

Monday, October 27, 2008

The lesser of two evils?

It doesn't have to be this way, so don't be a sheep and don't allow the media to brainwash you. A vote for someone other than one of the two evils is not a wasted vote.

When it's not compulsory to vote you should be free to vote for the candidate of your choice, in fact you should be commended for taking an interest in the running of your country, not made to feel guilty for doing so.

The truth is if everyone who could legally vote did so, and if everyone voted for the candidate of their choice, not just for one of the two evils, then both evils would probably be more than a little shocked at the result.

Although I am the famous Wizard 101 Blogger, I don't claim to have a huge readership, but perhaps the following will inspire others to get the message out and together we can educate the masses.

You have a choice, and it's your own choice to make. Don't make a choice out of fear, don't feel you have to vote for one of the two evils. Vote for the candidate you think actually has the knowledge and experience to run the country.

Because they already get enough air time I'm not going to name either of the two evils here (or even link to their pages), instead, here are the people the two evils would probably much rather you didn't know about.

The Libertarian Party candidate, Congressman Bob Barr.

The Constitution Party candidate, Pastor Chuck Baldwin.

The Green Party candidate, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader.

Of particular note is that Cynthia McKinney is not just a woman, but an African-American woman! Now why the hell isn't she getting more press time?

Because the media want you to vote for one of the two evils, so they promote them and forsake everyone else.

Don't let the wolf lead you astray, or the shepherd pull the wool over your eyes.

Vote (or don't vote) for the candidate of your choice. Now if your choice is one of the two evils, good for you, but be true to yourself, make sure it's your choice, not that of the media.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What WAR could have been...

but would it have been better?

Mythic could have made WAR a squad-based (sort of) game, not unlike the real, table-top Warhammer game. I know, I know. GW's stable of table-top games are almost all Army-based games (as opposed to squads), but that would make you a General and WAR an RTS and that's already been done, in countless incarnations (some good, some bad). Being an MMO, WAR needed to be a little more personal, but to capture that true GW feeling while also making WAR stand out as an MMO, WAR could have been a squad-based game, instead of the individual-based MMO it currently is.

Like all MMOs, to start with you'd create your Avatar, but then you'd get to create your squad, based on the avatar you chose.

If you played as a Black Orc, Orc Shaman, etc, your squad could consist of 4 Orc grunts, or up to 9 Goblins. Your choice.

Want to join Chaos? Then you'll have several Servants of Chaos at your command, maybe Northmen or Cultists.

Join the Empire, and depending on your Class you'd get several Knights or a squad of soldiers at your disposal.

And so on.

You wouldn't be able to customize too much about your squad, because units would die and get replaced when you get back to town and "repair". So it wouldn't be like creating 10 different characters to serve under you. Changing "hair color", for example, would change everyone's hair to within a shade or two of the selected color. Choosing a Gaulish-style mustache would give everyone a long, flowing mustache. Hired reinforcements would automatically (magic, perhaps? ;) resemble your current troops, in order to maintain uniformity. The character over whose appearance you'd have the most control, would naturally be your own Avatar.

Game play would still be remarkably similar to current WAR, where you go out, get Quests, do Scenarios, etc, but instead of fighting by yourself, or grouping up with others, you'd have a Squad at your command, led by your Avatar, and now you'd do battle with more than just one Mob at a time.

A typical battle, in this example with you as a Black Orc leading a squad of Goblins, could feasibly go like this:

You approach your opponents, half a dozen Grudgebringers, and you slowly move up until you're within bow range. Then you give the order to Open Fire.

Your Goblins draw their Bows and 8 arrows soar through the air before arcing gracefully down towards the squad of Dwarves. One of your Goblins looks a little embarrassed as he holds up a bow with a broken string.

A couple of the arrows strike the ground around the Dwarves but most find their mark and the stunned Dwarves yelp in pain. Then they turn towards your squad and begin charging your position.

Your Goblins draw their Bows and loose another flight of arrows. The thud and grunt as arrows embed themselves in Dwarven flesh is particularly satisfying to you, but even more so is seeing two of the Stunties fall to the ground with several red & black-fletched arrows sticking out of their bodies. (Red & Black being the predominant colors in the heraldry you've chosen for your troops.)

Not only undeterred but spurred on by the death of the comrades, the four remaining Dwarves roar a battle cry and charge onwards.

With no time left for another volley of arrows you pick a target and hit your own Charge hotkey, which by default orders your goblin troops to Attack!

With a gutteral roar and much high pitched squealing (not unlike finger nails being drawn down a blackboard or wet fingers across a pane of glass) you and your squad of goblins rush forward, meeting the Stunties charge head on.

And now the game more closely resembles combat in a traditional MMO, with, perhaps, one big exception. You're not going to be jumping and spinning around like you see Rogues and Elves doing WoW's PvP. And you'll learn very quickly not to do this. Oh, yes. You will learn.

You see when you walk around the land, you're not just in control of your Avatar; you're the leader of your squad, they echo your own movements. You move forward, they move forward. You back up, they retreat. And so on.

So if you're fighting, and you try to run through your opponent or leap around them like a hyperactive flea on Red Bull, your squad is going to try to follow your lead. Inspiring Chaos among your troops is good if you worship Khorne, it's not so good when you're leading easily confused goblins.

"'ere! What's da boss up to?"

"I dunno! He's leapin' about like he's a flamin' Elf!"

"Ya fink 'e wants us ta do that, too?"

"We'd better! Ya 'member what 'appened last time we didn't do what 'e said?"

"Oi, yer right! Come on, lads! Make wif da jumpin'!"

Suddenly your squad of Goblins break combat, stop attacking, and start leaping around like they're also flamin' Elves. Because that's, essentially, the command you've just given them.

The Dwarves, however, do no such thing. They quickly carve up your leaping Goblins, who make no attempt to parry, block or defend themselves (Sorry, Boss! Too busy jumpin'!"), and now it's you versus four very angry Dwarves. You were not a good role model for your troops, you just got them killed. If it's any consolation, you've probably just gotten yourself killed, too.

However, if you don't leap all over the place, and instead use your combat skills to fight strategically and successfully, you'll find your goblins are buoyed by the prowess of their fearsome Black Orc Leader. Their morale will increase, and they'll hit a little harder, doing a little more damage. Perhaps they'll parry or block more often, and when one or two of their mates fall to the flashing hammers & axes wielded by the Stunties, they won't mind so much, because you're such a great leader they're more than happy to die for you. Well, maybe "happy to die" is not entirely accurate, but it serves its purpose.

Now had you not been fighting so well, but instead were losing combat to your own Dwarven opponent, your Goblins would be dismayed at the pathetic skills displayed by their leader. As the Dwarves proved themselves to be more than worthy opponents, your Goblins' morale would have dropped. They might parry less often, their attacks would do less damage, and perhaps the Stunties would step it up and start hitting harder themselves. If you think that means you're losing the battle, you're right.

A Rallying cry might help here, or a Challenging Roar to demoralize, even Stun your opponents. If you're losing, there would be ways to rally your troops and perhaps turn the tide of battle back in your favor. While this is squad based combat, the success of your squad depends on you being a successful, inspiring leader, doing the right thing at the right time, and not jumping all over the place like you're a flamin' Elf.

Now picture you teaming up with several other players, each in control of their own squad, in pitched battles consisting of, quite possibly, hundreds of units. Hmm, that's probably why Mythic didn't go this route. We're talking Lag Central. If we wanted a game that played like this to look as good as it should, you'd probably need cutting edge machines just to play it, unless you want the graphics to take a huge hit.

Ahh well, I guess it'll just have to remain a pipe dream...unless, of course, someone thinks they can really do this. So if you can and you want to, go for it. You don't have my funding, but you do have my blessing to turn my dreams into your reality :)

*EDIT* to respond to Joseph's comment, because this was becoming a FHUGE comment of my own ;)

Joseph, it seems like what you're saying is your squad members' AI needs to actually be IAI, as in Intuitively Artificially Intelligent, instead of today's standard AI, being (usually) Atrociously Incompetent.

I would agree with you. If controlling the squad requires too much micro-management, this theoretical game would fall flat on its face (or needs to be developed as a Turn-based game, which can be fun but is not quite what we're looking for here), however, if your squad could coordinate their actions a little better, based on what you're trying to do with your own Avatar...

I'd like to use WoW's Hunter class as an example here, expanding the Pet from a single entity into several entities, which all obey the same command from you...except WoW's Hunter is notoriously known as the Huntard and for very good reason. Part of the problem is the Player, but part of the problem is also the horribly scripted AI of the Pet.

* * *

PET: "You want me to attack the Mob in front of us? Okay! I'll just run down these stairs behind us, out this door, then circle back around through three rooms to come up behind the Mob. As a bonus, I'll even aggro every Mob I find on the way."

Hunter . o O (Where'd my Pet go?)

30 seconds later.

Hunter . o O (Aah, there he is.)

Party: "WTF? Where'd the Adds come from?"

Hunter . o O (Uh oh.)

* * *

That's why I say the Squad would need to take orders from you in a more intuitive fashion (with intelligent pathing and AI).

When you attack from ranged (with a Bow, Fireball spell, etc), your squad would likewise use any Ranged Attacks they may have against the same target (or units of the same squad you're targeting). Of course if you're a Shaman in Melee using what could be considered a Ranged attack, such as a Chain Lightning spell, your squad would need to intuitively know, "I'm in Melee. I shouldn't try to use my Ranged attack just because Da Boss is."

So when you Charge into Melee, your Squad should intuitively recognize you're closing with your enemy and likewise attempt to do the same, to the same enemy/squad, without anyone peeling off to dry hump a nearby cargo ship. (Thanks to Joseph for that line ;)

The less micromanaging of your squad, the better their IAI, and the more it controls like a single-player MMO-RPG where you can almost forget about your squad because they'll intuitively do what you're wanting them to, the better this game would be.

*Last Edit* I just reminded myself of one of (IMO) the best wrestling video games, to date. Oddly enough, from yesteryear on the N64, it's WCW/nWo Revenge.

I could play this game for hours on end, and often had, and one day even after logging hundreds of in-game hours playing it, something happened which totally blew my mind.

My opponent had gained the upper hand, slammed me to the mat, then climbed up on the top turnbuckle. But just as he got to the top and was getting ready to launch himself through the air to come crashing down on me, my wrestler recovered and got to his feet.

Without thinking, literally acting on instinct, I ran to the corner and hit the grapple button...and my wrestler did exactly what I wanted him to.

He reached up, grabbed his opponent, and body slammed him off the top turnbuckle.

Just to make this clear, in all the time I'd played Revenge, and I'm literally talking hundreds of hours, possibly thousands (don't scoff, just check your /played time in WoW...not you, Tesh :P) in all that time I'd never once seen this move before. I'd never done it to anyone, never had it done to me; I didn't even know it existed.

Up until this point turnbuckle moves had always involved beat downs on a wrestler slammed into the corner, or a high risk, high flying move from the top rope that could help you win or cost you the match.

Running to the corner and pressing the grapple button was a purely intuitive move on my part.

I knew what I wanted my wrestler to do. I'd never seen him do it before, I didn't know if he'd do it or not, in fact whether or not he would do what I was asking never entered my mind. But he did. He did exactly what I was expecting him to do.

That's how much work went into the AI and script of a game written over 10 years ago. If they were able to program so much into a 64-bit cartridge-based game 10 years ago, there's absolutely no excuse for poor AI coding these days, other than laziness, and that's not an acceptable excuse.

$100 Starbucks Card

For quite a few months now the folks at my local Starbucks have been after my Starbucks Card. When I make the purchase which brings its balance down to $0, I have to ask for it back.

"Oh, you want it back?" they say, as if people frequently burn them down then just reload a new one.

I do get a new card when they come out with them, but they all go in The Drawer at home, this particular card I've been using for a couple of years now.

Then today, the cashier asked if he could have it when I'm finished with it.

I told him when it's empty I just reload it.

He then offered me $100 for it.

I looked at him. "I might take you up on that," I said to him, "if I thought you were serious."

"I am serious," he replied. "I spend more than that on shoes."

"$100 for my card," I repeated. "I guess it would give you bragging rights. I know you all have been after my card for months."

He laughed and mimed flashing my card around at the other 'Bucks employees. Apparently it's the same style card that you get from Seattle, which you can no longer get down here in California.

"When I get paid," he said, "in two weeks time. Think about it."

I am thinking about it. One hundred dollars for my Starbucks card. And he'll be getting it empty, of course, or at least with a very low balance.

I guess it's time to look through The Drawer, and find my new Starbucks Card :P

Monday, October 13, 2008

Griddle Cafe

With Monday being Columbus Day and a Public Holiday, at least for me, Liz decided we would have breakfast at The Griddle Cafe. After dropping the kids at school (JE wasn't too happy that he had to go to school when Dad wasn't going to work) we jumped on the Freeway and headed for West Hollywood. We had an interesting conversation on the way about if North Hollywood has been dubbed NoHo, does that mean West Hollywood should be called WeeHo? Liz disagreed, and also said she thought NoHo sounds silly, too. I asked "What about Soho?", which totally confused her.

We found The Griddle Cafe fairly easily (south side of Sunset, just west of Fairfax) and pulled into Hayworth Ave. where we found street parking at 25c/hour. Not bad for that part of town. The Griddle Cafe has tables on the sidewalk out front but even at 9:30am on a warmish Fall morning nobody was sitting outside. All the customers were inside, where just a couple of tables were free.

The greeter waved us further inside with a "sit anywhere, I could care less" attitude. Almost as an afterthought he handed me two menus. We sat ourselves down at a cozy (small) table-for-two and I handed Liz her menu. I thought Liz wanted pancakes so I chose the "Addicted to Noiselle" Stuffed French Toast, then Liz said she wanted Eggs and was going to order a Manhattan Frittata, so I switched my order to the BLUESBerry Pancakes. They came with Blueberry-laced Sour Cream and weren't too bad, but the portion was so large (and doughy) that as hungry as I was, I barely ate half of the three very large blueberry-stuffed pancakes.

Liz's Manhattan Frittata wasn't too bad but she couldn't finish it either. I needed protein, not just empty carbs, so I polished off the last of her ham steak and we took the rest of the pancakes home.

The coffee comes served in a 6-cup French Press and was pretty good, although the waitress was slow bringing out the cream. When it arrived I was glad she brought two little jugs because one of them had little black bits of something floating in it. I don't mind little black bits of something floating in my coffee, but I'm not too keen on little black bits of something floating in my creamer.

Although the triple-stack serving of pancakes is huge, I'm not quite sure they were worth the $10 price tag. Liz's Manhattan was also $10 though, so that's not too bad. We got out of there for $30+tip, which is a little more than I like to spend on breakfast, even for two, especially at what amounts to (in my opinion) nothing more than a rather pretentious diner.

Overall, given the neighborhood in which it's located, I'd give The Griddle Cafe 2 stars out of 5.

Now given my druthers, I'd rather eat at Le Roy's on Huntington in Monrovia, where a very hearty breakfast for two is more likely to weigh in under $25, including tip, and where I can get some of the tastiest and crunchiest Tater Tots this side of the Pecos.

Le Roy's has their own parking lot (which they share with a neighboring mechanic) so parking is free but limited; it fills up quickly when they're busy, which they usually are as it's a popular spot with the locals. Besides being small, the parking lot is also hard to navigate in anything much larger than a sedan, but street parking is also available, sometimes right out front if you get lucky. That said, if you get there early, or don't mind a wait, or don't mind rubbing shoulders with your neighbor at the counter or a communal table, Le Roy's is a good place to go to get a hearty, home-style breakfast at a reasonable price.

The warm welcome from the staff at Le Roy's is also more convincing than the display put on by the lack luster greeter at The Griddle Cafe. If you go during the week and you can wait until after 8:30 to 9am, you should be able to just walk in and sit down. Go during prime breakfast time, or on a weekend, or just turn up without your full party, and you can expect a wait, but it's a wait worth bearing.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Harvest Moon: Online

If you're not familiar with the Harvest Moon video game series and want to know more, click here. Basically, the game is an RPG Farming Sim, and it's a lot more fun than you'd expect.

Harvest Moon: Online does not exist. If it did, I'd have a link to it...and I'd probably be playing it :D The following is how I'd like to see Harvest Moon done, if it was ever made into an MMO game.

Like all MMOs, at the start of HM:O you create your avatar. But before you begin playing you're presented with a choice: Do you want to play HM:O as an MMO Farming Sim? Or do you want to play it in the more traditional MMO vein, a la WoW, EQ, WAR, LOTRO, etc?

Cast your mind back to the first Dungeon Siege game. You began life as a farmer, and when you entered the game your farm was being attacked by the Krug. So you grabedb a nearby pitchfork and drove them off. You then set out into the world to become a mighty hero.

But imagine if you'd been able to choose to stay on the farm, remain a simple farmer, and just work the land.

That's HM:O in a nutshell.

Some people want to be the Hero, others are more the stay-at-home type. HM:O would give you that choice.

So your first choice is whether you want to be a Hero or a Farmer (unlike typical MMOs, in HM:O a Farmer is not necessarily a bad thing ;)

If you choose to be a Hero, you're plopped down into the world where you can join up with other like-minded souls, go out, slay monsters, obtain shiny armor and powerful weapons, become a Hero, etc.

If you choose to be a Farmer you'll be presented with a second choice.

Where do you want to "build" your Farm?

You'll be shown a map of the game world. That's a real map, where you'll see existing farms being managed by other players, etc, along with all possible locations in each zone. Naturally most of the prime locations will already be taken if you're coming in late, but, HM:O will have a tax/upkeep system in place so if you stop playing for a while you'll lose your farm, thus making your plot of land available for other players.

If you're a regular Farmer, logging in just a couple of times a month would be sufficient to keep your farm running and your taxes paid. If you do lose your farm, HM:O will "sell" off your assets, deduct any outstanding taxes, and deposit any remaining gold into your toon's bank account. So if you come back to the game after losing your Farm, you can choose a new plot of land (or maybe your old plot is still available) and you'll be able to rebuild.

We don't need to talk too much about the Hero side of HM:O because most people know how traditional RPG MMOs work. However, there will be no open world PvP, otherwise Heroes could just gear up then come into town and slaughter/grief the Farmers. Heroes can still choose to Duel each other, and perhaps there'd be a BG system similar to WoW, but unlike WoW the BGs would just be for fun. If it turns out that one or two classes are the strongest when it comes to PvP, and everyone else gets slaughtered by them, then that's just the way it goes. The designers would not try to balance PvP by nerfing those classes because PvP is just a side game in HM:O, and if everyone rolls a Mage or Priest, or whatever the two OP PvP classes are, then that's fine. Personally, I think a BG would be a lot more fun if every player was the same class, or one of two classes, and everybody was fairly evenly matched. But that's just me.

Back to the Farming side of HM:O.

Players could grow crops, raise livestock, etc, and sell them on the in-game Auction House. Now I say Farmer, but in HM:O a Farmer could be one of many different types. A Farmer in HM:O would actually be a dedicated Crafter in another MMO. For example, you might have a Farmer who's chosen to settle down on a very rocky, barren plot of land.


Because he's not so much a Farmer as a Miner, Stonecutter, or Stonemason. Unlike WoW and other MMOs, Players cannot just wander the land and mine random lodes. A Player needs to become a Miner and work their own Rock Quarry in order to gather Stone. And in case you're wondering, two neighboring Miners could not Ninja each other's stone. Now as the Player improves his Farmer/Miner within the game, his Farm/Rock Quarry will likewise improve. The Quarry will initially produce the most basic rock, but as the player levels his Miner and Rock Quarry with new Buildings, learns new Techniques, etc, his Rock Quarry will produce better grade stone, perhaps even ore or gems at higher levels.

The Farmer/Miner can then take his finished goods and sell them on the in-game Auction House where another Player will buy them to advance his own Blacksmith, Armorsmith, or Weaponsmith. If nobody chooses to be a Miner, the game itself will seed the Auction House with Stone & Ore of various grades, but it will be expensive to buy, thus players will be encouraged to create Miners to take advantage of this seemingly profitable profession.

Another Farmer may choose to raise Cattle for slaughter, to provide other players with Meat and Leather which they turn into Pies or Sausages (the Meat, not the Leather), which provide Food Buffs to Hero players. The Leather is naturally bought by Armorsmiths, for quite obvious reasons.

Hero classes cannot be Gatherers or Crafters, which only makes sense.

A Blacksmith may leave his hearth & anvil to become a mighty Warrior, but in doing so he is no longer a Blacksmith. He still knows how to wield a hammer and beat out a sword, but he's no longer a Blacksmith.

The Farmer who leaves his land to become a Soldier and fight for his King will still know how to till the land and raise crops, but he's a Soldier now, not a Farmer. He's not going to do those things even if he still knows how.

Essentially the Hero players will be relying on the Farmers to outfit them, which is how the Real World works. Yes, the Heroes can still do quests, kill 10 rats, and pick up weapons and armor (& vendor trash) but in most cases armor & weapons dropped by Mobs will be inferior to what the Farmers/Crafters can make, with Epic Items from Instance Bosses being the exception.

*Edit* - Just had a thought, that with this being a Harvest Moon game versus your more traditional hack & slash RPG, that Instance Bosses and Raid Bosses should not provide better items than what can be manufactured by the best in-game Crafters. But rather, they should drop Recipes or Patterns which would be used by those Crafters to manufacture the desired item.

PROBLEM? - How can the Hero trade his Pattern for an Uber Hammer of Thumpiness to a Weaponsmith and not get ripped off?

SOLUTION! - A Weaponsmith or Armorsmith's "Farm" could have an RFP Ledger where Hero-types could deposit their Pattern and...Ooh! The Hero providing the Pattern must purchase and provide the Mats along with the Pattern. As said Mats are purchased The Game will check if they have a Pattern in their inventory, and if so, will ask the Hero if they want their newly purchased Mats linked to said Pattern (assuming, that is, said Mats are a requirement of said Pattern). The Hero can also Examine/Read the Pattern at any time and when they do, the game will again check their inventory (& bank) and if it finds required, unlinked Mats, will ask if they want them linked to a particular Pattern.

Once the Hero acquires all the Mats and has them linked to the Pattern it can then be deposited in an RFP Ledger. The Hero will be prompted to pay a fee for the service (yes, on top of acquiring the Mats) which the Weaponsmith can accept, reject, or counter with a higher offer (or a lower offer if they're feeling benevolent). On accepting the RFP the Smith will immediately and automatically begin crafting the desired item, which will be automatically mailed to the Hero on completion. At any time, prior to acceptance by the Smith, the Hero can choose to cancel their RFP, and the Recipe, linked Mats, & fee will all be returned to him/her.

Unlike traditional MMOs, the Blacksmith will not need to make lots of super expensive Items for those last few Skills points, because a Blacksmith doesn't level his profession by making countless weapons. Instead he gains the ability to build better Weapons & Items by upgrading his Smithy, perhaps with an improved Forge, a better Anvil, higher quality hammers & tools, etc. He's also not reliant on selling weapons to the Hero players; the Blacksmith can also build superior Tools that other Farmers can use to improve their own lot in life.

A Farmer could just buy a Hoe from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, but if he wants to increase his yield and make more Gold and improve his Farm, he'll till his land with a Superior Hoe made by a Blacksmith. And if nobody is buying the Blacksmith's Tools, or perhaps there's a glut of Tools on the Auction House? The Blacksmith can just vendor them rather than sell them at a loss. Remember I mentioned the game will seed the Auction House with Mats? The Tools the Blacksmith makes will always vendor for more than the combined price of the Mats at the inflated AH price. So he can still make a profit and still, slowly, improve his Smithy.

Just as in traditional MMOs where players acquire more and more powerful weapons and armor and their Avatars become more and more visually impressive, as the HM:O Farmer/Blacksmith upgrades his Farm/Smithy so too would its appearance change and improve.

I could go on, but that's what I'd like to see in Harvest Moon: Online. A vibrant, living community where towns and even cities are built, quite literally, by the players.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Nintendo DSi - Now with less portability

Joseph alerted me to one of Nintendo's latest products, the DSi.

It's a revamped DS with bigger screens and TWO built-in cameras, and yet it's somehow lighter than its predecessor. Pretty fricking awesome, right?

But wait, there's more! It also comes with Regional Locking, just like your Gaming Console and DVD player!

Yeah! Regional Locking!

Wait a minute? Regional Locking? As in...I visit a games store in another country, like Japan, and find an awesome RPG that hasn't been released in my country...and there's no point buying it because it won't play in my DSi? That kind of Regional Locking?

Yes. That kind of Regional Locking.

You know the chip to incorporate Regional Locking had to increase the base cost of the DSi, even if only by a small margin. And once word gets out of the Regional Locking, other gamers like Joseph and myself, who may have bought a bigger, lighter DS with TWO Built-In Cameras, won't buy it now.

For some reason Nintendo increased the production cost of the DSi while also decreasing customer demand. The decision to incorporate Regional Locking will increase expenses while decreasing revenue. How on earth could that be perceived as a financially sound business decision?

Nintendo did issue a statement re: the DSi and Regional Locking, claiming: "DSi software (ie, DSi games/cartridges) is region locked, eg: European DSi software can only be played on European DSi consoles.

Nintendo DS software however is region free so you can play any DS software on DSi from any region. You can also browse the Internet on your DSi wherever you are in the world and exchange your photos with friends from around the world."

However, Nintendo did confirm that download-able games and future DSi-only cartridge-based games would be region locked.

So yes, you can play your old DS games on your new DSi, regardless of which country you bought those DS Carts...but your DSi Carts? You'll only be able to play them on a compatible DSi.

How can Nintendo ensure customers will buy the technically flawed DSi? By releasing DSi-only cartridges. How many new GBA-SP games do you see now? I don't mean units that have been sitting on the shelf for a year or more and haven't sold, I mean new releases? You don't see any, they're all DS, and by the time the DSi comes out Nintendo will have already begun phasing out the DS carts. After all, what better way to sell the DSi than by having some awesome new titles already available for it at release.

I wonder if Nintendo and the DSi will receive similar treatment from the gaming community as did EA & Spore? I feel that as a Gamer who vehemently objects to Regional Locking on a portable gaming unit, it's my duty to give the DSi a negative, 1-star review on Amazon, once they have a page up for it, that is.

The Nintendo DSi. Now with even less portability.

Monday, October 06, 2008

President Harry

Hmmm...would you vote for this man?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A heroic weekend

Not much to report. Thursday at our Cub Scout Den Meeting I had the boys do Paper Mache, with the plan to make masks for the Pack Meeting later this month. Friday morning the DISH Guy turned up and took a little over 2 hours to install our Dish. He did a pretty good job so I tipped him $10. After lunch we picked up the Paper Mache (I'd left them in the Teacher's Lounge at the school where we meet), then dropped off our old DVR Cable Box. When we got home I discovered The Blood of Heroes DVD had arrived from Netflix so I popped it in and watched it. The final match between Hauer's "challengers" and the League team was just as intense as I remembered.

Afterwards I popped in the first Disc from Heroes season 1, in spite of Liz's protests that she was already over it even though she hadn't really started watching it.

2 1/2 DVDs and several hours later, we crawled into bed at 2am after watching the first 7 episodes. Saturday we got up, and while Liz took the bunny to Ballet class I cleaned the house. Liz bought home In 'n' Out for lunch and after we'd scarfed down our Double-Doubles (Animal-style, of course) we resumed watching Disc 3 of Heroes...then put in Disc 4, and so on :D

This morning JE and I sold Popcorn outside the local Trader Joe's for 3 hours to raise money for the Cub Scouts. After we got home we had lunch...and then it was Heroes time. We've just eaten dinner, and now it's time for the season finale. We watched 23 episodes of Heroes this weekend! :P

Thursday, October 02, 2008

AT&T DISH Customer Disservice

About a month or so ago, shortly after we switched to AT&T DSL, Liz tried to order DISH through AT&T as well. She went online because that was their best price, except when she got to their website and entered our Zip/Area Code, she was informed we couldn't order online, that we'd need to call an 800 number, so we did.

When we called we were informed the only way we could get the same online package & price was if we signed a 24-month contract. No contract is required if you order online, which pissed off Liz no end, so she hung up.

Tuesday afternoon she'd finally calmed down enough to go online and try again, and this time she was able to place the order online, except the order could not actually be completed online. A Service Rep would need to call us to complete the transaction and schedule the installation, so Liz left my Cell Phone number as the one to call and specified a time between 8am & 12pm.

Yesterday morning, around 9:30am, they called home. We missed their call because we weren't home which is why Liz had specifically requested they call my Cell Phone.

I'm a considerably patient person (most of the time) which is why I've just spent almost two hours on the phone, getting bounced around between AT&T and DISH, then AT&T again, then DISH again, and again, and again. Nobody could help me, nobody could find my order. They did confirm a note in my account left by "somebody" who logged that they'd called us at 9:30 yesterday, but nobody could actually determine which department or person had left the note.

Just like last time, the Reps who tried to help me could not honor the Online price until I was finally able to talk to somebody at the Online Order Dept., who even though they are the Online Order Dept. were still unable to find the order we'd placed ONLINE less than 48 hours ago.

Finally, after spending an hour & a half on the phone, I dealt with a woman who helped me place the order, and lo & behold, she got me a cheaper price than ordering online.

This Rant and seriously o_O moment brought to you by AT&T DISH Network.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Last Chance, allegedly ;)

This just in, from the W101 News Page in the Launcher:

I know, I know. I've been raving about Wizard 101, and I've even become known as the Famous Wizard101 Blogger ;)

$60 for a 12-month subscription. That's just $5 per month.
$60 is about the price of one, new release video game (@ $50+tax).

Now, there's no guarantees KingsIsle won't extend this offer, and maybe they'll even introduce a cheaper offer in the future, but if they do. Well, when they introduced the Family Plan (still not as cheap as two 12-month Subs at $60 each) anyone who'd bought several regular subscriptions and upgraded to the Family Plan got an in-game Crown allowance. Apparently enough Crowns to buy a couple of items, per account. And if you've seen what Crowns get you in W101, you'd realize that's not a bad deal.

At the very least, I encourage you to head over to the Wizard101 site, download the program for free and play it for a bit for free. Check it out, see if it's to your liking, and if you like what you see then now (and the next few days) is a good time to consider subscribing.