Archive for March, 2010

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Starfleet Report: “Federation News Service” Fleet Formed

March 31, 2010

Yesterday, Adventurer Historian made a post on his blog about joining a new Star Trek Online fleet. He and I were in the same one, so I understood his reasons for wanting a change. First of all, our fleet, Citrus Task Force was not a large one to begin with. On top of that, over the weeks its active members have dwindled to the point where every time I log in I would find that I’m the only one online. It does indeed get lonely, and I decided then to start looking for a new home for T’Andy as well.

Anyway, it’s creepy sometimes how things work out. I sit down to my computer during lunch today, and find an email in my inbox from Blue Kae, asking if I would be interested in joining a fleet that he and Tipa from West Karana are putting together. Ooh, it’s a sign! So of course I said yes. Since this afternoon, a few other bloggers and tweeters have come on board with this. Thus, the Federation News Service fleet was born (OMG, I JUST got that…’cause you know, we’re all bloggers and tweeters and stuff and–wow, boy, am I slow.)

Celebrating the formation of the FNS fleet on Tipa's colossal bridge.

FNS will be a casual, modest fleet, and that as of now there are no specific plans besides having a chat channel and a second uniform slot. Still, it’ll be fun and relaxing, not to mention it’s a great opportunity to get to know the community. Future events like missions and taskforces are a possibility too.

If you’re interested in joining us, feel free to leave a comment below or look any of us up in-game. My handle is T’Androma@Caylinn.

Update: I want to add, you don’t have to have a blog or tweet to join us! It so happened this was the way the fleet was formed, but we will accept anyone who plays the game and are interested in joining a friendly and fun community.

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Hyborian Survival Guide – Part I

March 31, 2010

Lessons learned from journeying through the treacherous lands of Age of Conan.

1. Do NOT piss off the women.

You do so at your peril. Hyboria is home to the most ruthless, blood-thirsty women I have ever met. And I’m not just talking about the warriors either. Take Mr. Fabio in the above screenshot, for example. I found his wife standing at an Old Tarantia street corner, fuming because he ran off with a skanky tavern wench.  “Well, I can go and try to convince him to come back,” I offered. “Yes, please do so,” she said, “but that’s not all, I also want you to kill his little whore of a mistress.”  Me: “Wow, isn’t that a little extreme? I mean, I could rough him up a bit for you, or maim him if you really want him to pay, but really, there’s no need to take someone’s li–” Wife: “NO DAMMIT KILL HIS WHORE!!!” Me: “Okay, okay, chillax, I’m on it.”

2. It’s everyone for themselves.

You would think after rescuing someone from a life of slavery or worse, they’d show a little gratitude, maybe help you fight a little. Not these prisoners. No sirree, you let them out of their cage and they’ll just run off, letting you take care of the ambushers by yourself. Also, the guards posted around villages and cities? Purely for show. Picture this: a hoard of raving lunatics are chasing after you, itching to tear you limb from limb. You run as fast as you can towards the closest village and make it through the wooden gates. Think you’re safe now? Guess again. The guards will stand around and watch as the enemies beat the living snot out of you, right there in the village center.

3. A career as an undertaker is as recession-proof as you can get.

I have three words for you: Dead bodies everywhere. One thing I really want to do is go up to Conan and tell him, “I love what you have done with your kingdom, your majesty! There’s just something so…cadaverous about it!” I swear, you can’t walk three feet without tripping over a half-decomposed, fly-ridden corpse. Beautiful as Hyboria is, it must reek to high heaven. I’ve seen bodies piled in a corner, hanging from rafters, chained to walls, tied to tree trunks, skewered on pikes, cooking in cauldrons, drowned in fountains, rotting in gibbets…everywhere but buried in the ground where they’re supposed to be! No wonder the crows are so fat in these parts.

4. If you’re going to die, for the love of Crom, try and have the presence of mind to kick it somewhere more convenient.

Dying is always a pain in the ass, and it’s especially true in Hyboria. While you’ll always resurrect at the nearest spawn point, there’s no guarantee that the spawn point in question won’t be high on a cliff with no direct way back down, or right smack in the middle of a fortress crawling with enemies. Sometimes, it’s better just to eat the half-hour death penalty and not bother running back to your tombstone, because it’s just not worth it.

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Yet Another Crew Addition

March 30, 2010

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a diverse crew in Star Trek Online so I was quite happy when I received the opportunity to add a Trill into my lineup…but it meant yet another foray into the depths of Memory-Alpha.org to learn more about a new species. After reading about Trills, a part of me is thinking, “Wow, the Star Trek universe is so involved and deep!” while another part of me is going “@#$%!, why does everything have to be so complicated?” A host, a symbiont, the joining, and–ahh, hell diddly ding dong crap!

After much thought, I’ve decided to roleplay my new bridge officer as an un-joined Trill for simplicity’s sake and decrease the chances I’ll accidentally butcher some part of Star Trek lore. The story I had in mind for him also better suits the way I made him look. This is also my first attempt at writing a more detailed biography for a BO, so for the love of God, please be gentle!

Azdan Dorim

In 2390, Starfleet responded to a distress call from a civilian ship on the edges of the Kalandra Sector. The ship had just been a victim of a brutal raid by Nausicaan pirates. Having had little to no defense against the enemy, the vessel suffered huge casualties, and only a handful of passengers were found alive when the rescue ship made it to the scene. Among them was a very young Trill child named Azdan Dorim, whose parents had both been killed in the attack. Starfleet brought the orphan along with the other survivors to Deep Space 9, where attempts were made to track down any of the boy’s surviving relatives. Finding none, a Starfleet human couple stationed at DS9 decided to adopt him instead.

Azdan led a troubled childhood, a consequence of the emotional trauma suffered from witnessing the attack. His adoptive parents, however, helped him overcome his problems with plenty of love and support, and sought to enrich his environment whenever they could. As an adolescent, Azdan became fascinated with his adoptive father’s work in Starfleet as an engineer and decided right then and there to follow in his footsteps. Highly motivated and intelligent, he graduated from the academy with degrees in Warp Theory, Subspace Physics and Starship Technologies. Growing up outside of Trill society, Azdan never gave much thought to being a host to a symbiont. Because of his distinctions, however, many have encouraged him to apply to the Trill Symbiosis Commission. Though he hasn’t ruled out the prospect, Starfleet was Azdan’s main focus for now.

Despite (or perhaps because of) his highly motivated nature and intelligence, Azdan often found himself restless and agitated. This trait got him involved in more than a few altercations around the DS9 engineering facilities, but no one could deny they needed his brilliant mind. Finally, Azdan disturbed the peace one time too many, and Starfleet officials determined that what this Trill male needed was work in a more stimulating , fast-paced environment to satiate his intellectual appetite and utilize his skills.

Around this time, Captain T’Androma and her crew had already established a reputation for themselves for never having a shortage on adventure and excitement. When they eventually made a request for another engineering officer, Azdan was promptly re-assigned to the U.S.S. Taiga, where he was eagerly welcomed with joy and open arms.

The rest of my STO crew can be viewed here, here and here.

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Bazaar Schmazaar

March 29, 2010

“Like millions of mouse clicks sending data to the central servers, and were suddenly silenced.”

That quote from Elanthanis on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums made me chuckle, and I thought I would share it here, seeing as it was quite appropriate as thousands of Bioware fans including myself sat in front of their computers waiting to see what was going to be revealed today. You see, about a week ago, a mysterious countdown timer suddenly appeared on the Dragon Age and Mass Effect sites, timed to hit zero at 12:00pm EST today. Well, as was typical, when the big moment finally came, all Bioware web pages save the SWTOR one went down, due to the massive number of views on their sites. Yay for us nerds breaking the internet!

To

Anyway, when the Bioware servers were up and running again, it was unveiled that the much hyped “epic community event” was the launch of their new social networking site and their Bioware Bazaar contest. To enter, fans obtain tokens by participating in activities ranging from registering their games and completing quizzes to competing in Bioware challenges via Twitter.

For once, Bioware gets a “meh” from me, and not because I was expecting anything earth-shattering. I can’t say I care much for using social tools like Facebook and Twitter for marketing purposes, so it’s doubtful I would have participated in the contest anyway. But that’s a moot point, isn’t it, as the contest is only open to residents of the United States. Being from Canada, I’m excluded. I find this a little ironic, seeing as the purpose to this whole event is to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Bioware, from when the company was founded back in 1995 in the then modest city of Edmonton, Alberta in…um, what was that country again? Oh right, bloody friggin’ CANADA! Now, I’m sure they had their reasons to make this a US exclusive thing, but come on, they couldn’t have made the effort to give their fellow Canadians some love? It kinda makes this gamer chick a sad panda.

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Return To Age of Conan – A Month In Review

March 29, 2010

No doubt about it, with its existing tweaks and a new expansion on the horizon, Age of Conan is on the rise. It seems like every day, I am seeing more players in-game who are either starting out for the first time, or like myself are just now jumping back into the game. Seriously, I’ve lost track of how many “LF guild, I just resubbed” comments I’ve seen in Global Chat in the last month.

Adventure Historian’s post on Conan the Barbarian as well as his comments reminded me of my plans to talk about my experiences since returning to AoC. In order for me to write this post, I’m trying to remember why I quit in the first place. Well, there was the client instability, for one thing, not to mention the memory leaks. I can still remember the way whole environments would crumble before my very eyes. Gee, weren’t those happy fun times? On top of that, the game had the distinct feel of being incomplete. Only the first 20 levels in Tortage Island felt truly polished. After that, you had content becoming more sparse, NPC losing their voice-overs, quest lines going nowhere, and many mission objectives broken and/or bugged. The game play felt increasingly more grindy, and I made it to level 47 on my Priest of Mitra before I called it quits and canceled my subscription.

My Priest of Mitra, abandoned once, but claimed again.

More than a year later, I’m back in AoC and having the time of my life. Over the last month, I’ve been able to take my PoM from level 47 to just shy of 70. Game improvements are numerous and remarkable.

Client stability, to name one thing, is a lot smoother now. The graphics are certainly running a lot better and I’m getting higher performance, though the system resources required to play this game are still going to be very taxing on older computers. Even I prefer to run AoC on lowered settings on my higher end gaming rig, just to avoid the technological hiccups that sometimes occur when I’m playing it on the highest quality.

One such hiccup, a moment in which my character has suddenly become a blonde. And no, your eyes do not deceive you -- those bonedancers are wearing nothing but blue paint.

Overall, there is a more polished look and feel to the game. The immersion I felt back when I was playing the first 20 levels in Tortage, I’m getting that warm fuzzy feeling back again now. AoC had felt grindy to me before because the content had failed to engage me, but that is no longer the case. There’s a ton of things to do now, from helping your guild build up your city through gaining valor, to breaking out the old professional tools to partake in some crafting. And speaking of crafting, there’s actually stuff worth making now!

A lot more “savage, brutal, and sexy” content has been added since launch, and you’re immediately drawn into this gritty world of the Hyborian Age. The world around you is breathtaking and finely-detailed, from the harrowing snow-lined cliffs to the lush, green hillsides. Finding your way around in a particular zone can be a little annoying, as not all paths are clearly marked and you may need to poke around a little to figure out where you’re going. Not ideal for me, but those who are into that kinda thing will cream themselves. The game music is also phenomenal, and fits the setting perfectly.

"Grr, mountain climbing was NOT in the job description!"

Everything has context, from the many ancient and dilapidated ruins you get to explore to the shining majestic cities crawling with all manner of citizenry. You get a real sense of the history behind the land when you talk to the NPCs, receive their quests and hear the emotion in their voices when they tell you their stories. I’ve always liked the way you interacted with the characters in this game, through dramatic camera angles and dialogue options. Your character will also have his or her own story line, which begins when you start off in Tortage and continues well into the higher levels.

No wall of text when receiving quests from NPCs makes for deeper game immersion.

Moving on to combat, it’s as hectic and fast-paced as I remember. I play a priest class, which requires the casting of a lot of well-timed spells. I’ve also had some experience with melee on my Bear Shaman, which involves more real-time options in combat (and better fatality animations, which include 100% more blood splatter). The system is reactive and at times will require a great deal of dexterity on the player’s behalf. I wouldn’t say the game is overly difficult, but it’s no cakewalk either. AoC will have its fair share of challenges, especially in areas with high densities of mobs, or in later instances where you and your team will need to work closely together to come up with strategies to take down bosses. There will be moments when you’ll find yourself fighting your way through unending waves of enemies, eyes flickering nervously to your health/stamina/mana bar, wondering at your chances of making it out alive.

"Drat, I must have taken a wrong turn onto the set of Hostel."

One thing I haven’t done at all is PvP. I’m not into that style of play, and I rolled my characters on a PvE server. There are areas where you can duke it out with other players though, but what I’ve heard about the PvP isn’t all that great. It doesn’t sound like a lot of people are participating in it, and it also seems like combat between the classes is still a little unbalanced. That’s an area where Funcom is still hard at work, I guess. However, I won’t deny I am intrigued by the siege warfare system, and hope to one day experience it for myself.

The community is also very good, which I was initially surprised to find. You can always tell who the veterans are; they know people are checking out AoC and they’re always willing to help a newcomer out, and share their love for the game. I wouldn’t have made it this far in a month if it wasn’t for the kind assistance offered to me by guildmates and others. Server populations still seem rather healthy, most likely due to the merges that have occurred since launch, but I still have trouble finding other people to do group quests or instances sometimes. There seems to be a lot of level 80s as well as a ton of lowbies, leaving a perceivable void in between.

My character gets to meet King Conan himself.

Another clear sign that the developers are still working hard on this game — veteran rewards. They’re saying, we haven’t given up on AoC and neither should you! The longer you stick with the game, the more Veteran Points you’ll get, which will allow you to buy stuff from special NPCs in-game. Rewards that you can purchase range from convenience items like Riding Training to social items like vanity pets. You can even buy experience-boosting potions, which I likey very much! Also, once you get to level 50 with your first character, you’ll automatically get access to a one-time opportunity to create another new character instantly at level 50. That’s how I was able to create Breawyn, my Bear Shaman, to play with my husband’s lower level Dark Templar, now that he’s resubbed to the game as well.

My free instant level 50 Bear Shaman and my husband's creepy looking Dark Templar.

To sum up my AoC experience, I have to say I’m quite impressed. My month with this game has given me enough information to make the decision to stick around a little while longer. Oh, who am I kidding, I’m enjoying myself so much at the moment, I’ll probably stay with this up to the release of the Rise of the Godslayer expansion and beyond. My goal now is to reach level 80 before it comes out, and seeing as it has yet to have a release date, I would say the chances of that happening are pretty good.

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Toronto Comic Con

March 27, 2010

I used to have this really cool job at a comic book store that was also an internet lounge, of sorts (I was the token female on staff). On light days I would sit behind the counter reading comics or watch people play World of Warcraft on the computers. The other awesome thing was the conventions. When I wasn’t behind the booth, I was running around getting my books signed or sketches from the artists. But all that was a while ago; I haven’t been back to a convention with a vendor or as a guest in years.

But well, spring is around the corner and that means the beginning of the convention circuit, and I thought it would be nice to go back to one again. Arguably, all the best comic cons are south of the border, but Toronto’s no slouch either. This weekend was the Wizard World Toronto Comic Con 2010, and seeing as it was such a nice day today, my husband and I decided to go out for lunch and hit the convention on the way.

It wasn’t a bad show, but I was only a fan of a few artists and writers on the guest list, though that might have something to do with me not being able to afford collecting that many comics anymore. The only other comic-related event that got my attention was the Q&A panel for the upcoming film Kick Ass (which was a great graphic novel by the way, I do love Mark Millar).

Of course, there were other things that piqued my interest. It is a comic con, after all, which by its nature attracts all manner of geek life. The main focus was comics, but there was also a small video-gaming presence, as well as a few guests from the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres. I checked out a couple actors from Battlestar Galactica as well as a handful of people from the Saw movies between browsing for good prices on back issues and trade paperbacks.

And I wasn’t the only one who had fun. I was making my way down this aisle, maneuvering through the crowds of people dressed as superheroes, stormtroopers, and ghostbusters, when I got stopped in front of this one booth. The man behind it said hi and started up a friendly chat. He was really nice, but his name on the wall behind him didn’t ring a bell, nor did I recognize any of the promo pictures of him on the table in front of him. What I did know was that the pics looked like they were from a sci-fi show from before my time around the late 70’s or early 80’s, so I quickly waved my husband over to rescue me from a potentially awkward situation. My husband takes one look at the guy and his mouth drops open. He goes, “Holy crap, Gil Gerard? I can remember watching you in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century when I was a kid!” “Well,” I said, “there you go.” My husband got to take a picture with him and also walked away with an autographed print.

And then there was the merch! This really is the best part of any convention, in my opinion — the trinkets and collectibles you aren’t likely to find anywhere else. My husband and I decided to buy each other little gifts for the hell of it, something that is likely to become a tradition at any future cons we go to. So I started looking around for something nice to get him, while he set out to find something he knows I’ve always wanted: a Boba Fett bobblehead.

Finding something for him turned out to be easier than I expected. My husband is a huge fan of Star Trek: The Original Series, and lucky for me there was A LOT of Star Trek merch around, thanks to the movie that came out last year. I ended up getting him a bottle opener because I knew he needed one of those for the kitchen. The special thing about this particular bottle opener, is that it’s shaped like the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Unfortunately for me, he couldn’t find me a Boba Head, and the closest thing he saw to that was a Holiday Special Darth Vader bobblehead (or pretty much Darth Vader with a Santa hat). I told him it was okay, this was just for fun anyway, he didn’t have to get me anything. But he insisted on getting me a convention gift. Out of nowhere, he goes, “I want to buy you a Tribble.” The ensuing conversation went something like this:

Me: “A Tribble? Why?”
Him: “Because it’s fun, and it’s cute.”
Me: “But it’s useless. It won’t even look good sitting on a dashboard!”
Him: “Oh come on, admit it. I know you think it’s a little cute.”
Me: “I guess. But seriously, don’t buy it. It’ll have like, no purpose.”
Him: “So? Since when did everything in life need to have a purpose? What was it that Uhura said in the show? ‘They do give us something, they give us love! A Tribble is the only love that money can buy!'”

Oh dear, now that he’s gone and dragged love and Star Trek quotes into the picture, how could I say no? So here’s a picture of my Tribble:

It quivers and either screams agitatedly or makes a happy purring sound when I pet it. I guess it’ll be going on my stuffed animal collection shelf, beside my Pikachu and my Super Mario Goomba.

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It’s Either A Cross Between A Dog And A Toaster…

March 27, 2010

…Or it’s my new Assimilated Tribble!

"Aww, aren't you adorable? I think I'll call you Blinky."

If you participated in the Tribble Weekend Event on the Star Trek Online test server last week, remember to check the C-store for your free Assimilated Tribble and your special in-game title.

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