Archive for October, 2010

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Old Art – Bye Bye Banner

October 21, 2010

I’ve replaced the old header on my site because I was getting tired of looking at it. That and it was old. Now that I’ve retired the image, I thought I’d post the original full version. You can see the Burning Crusade era gear the warlock’s wearing — the old Frozen Shadoweave Robes and the PVP staff — which just looks weird to me now. But it still holds a special place in my heart because it served the blog well, and because it was also probably one of the first World of Warcraft comic board pieces I ever did.

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Minecraft: 12 Things To See Before You Die In Bluekaedia (If Dying Were Possible)

October 20, 2010

Upon my return from vacation, I learned that a week in Minecraft can mean a world of change. A flurry of construction projects both big and small have sprung up on Blue Kae’s server since the last time I peeked my head in, most of which have completely altered the face of the map. Resolving to familiarize myself with the place once more, last night I took a torch in hand and decided to tour the land. What I ended up with is a collection of interesting sights to see in beautiful Bluekaedia, some of which I’d like to showcase here. Narrowing it down to just 12 was a challenge, as it’s possible in some areas to find a dozen points of interest my peers and I have created simply by standing still. So much to see, so little time. And if you’re on the server and haven’t checked these out already, you really should!

By the way, Bluekaedia isn’t the server’s real name, simply a personal nickname I’ve been using for a while now. As far as I know, the world has yet to have an official name, but frankly, I’m tired of typing out “Blue Kae’s Minecraft Server” every time and I think Bluekaedia sounds pretty.

Nature can thrive in the strangest of places

From the torchlit giant of a tree, growing in a gloomy basement...

To the floating woods out past the bay...

Not your typical hedge maze…

Cactus maze on Cutthroat Island, try not to prick yourself on the way out.

Portals into the past 

Giza meets Peggy's Cove.

A mysterious great wall.

Floating castles of the rich and famous

Who is this "Scary" and where can I get his autograph?

Scale new heights…

Walk the Skywalk.

Hit new lows…

The aptly named "Trail of Tears" leads to this mineshaft. No, seriously, where's the way out of this hellhole?

Triumphs of Vision

 

Earth, wind and fire (really obsidian, water and gold).

The skull mountain lords are most displeased with your insolence.

The explorers stumbled upon this glass house beneath the ocean waves.

In the presence of monsters

Kick back and relax in one of Bluekaedia's many delightful zombie pits!

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STO: Skirmish And Shivers

October 18, 2010

Note: Mild spoilers.

Star Trek Online weekly Feature Episodes are back with a new story arc featuring the Devidians! The first episode “Skirmish” debuted Saturday, and I’m just going to come right out and say it:

It scared the crap out of me.

Now, I’m no squeamish gamer, but there’s something to be said about letting down your guard and allowing yourself to get completely drawn into a scary story. Like, just for little while, forget to be brave and just shamelessly feed your fears; it makes things like horror movies and campfire ghost stories that much more enjoyable. And apparently, the same goes for STO weeklies as well.

Not that I had to try very hard to let myself get creeped out by the latest episode. Of course, playing it in the silence and darkness of a late night helped too. I knew as soon as I beamed into the burnt out hull of that Cardassian ship that something bad was going to happen. The loose steam jets and flickering lights of the dying ship threw all kinds of strange shadows on the wall, and for a second, scenes from the Alien movies flashed before my eyes, I kid you not.

And at this point, I want to clarify that STO is a family game and not supposed to be scary at all, which makes this episode even more impressive. The developers have set the mood perfectly, and the writing has been much improved. I felt jittery when I saw the dead Cardassians in their cells and read about the manner of their deaths. A blanket of dread descended upon me when all of a sudden, the pallid face of my tactical officer popped up on my screen with the question, “Did you see that?!” And when the first bluish wisp of a Devidian floated by in the doorway in front of me, I got shivers down my spine.

Excellent, Cryptic. Just excellent.

As for the Devidians, I can’t say I’m too familiar with them. Which made the episode even better, to be honest. But more importantly, I discovered that they’re quite fun to fight, especially the Phantasm “boss” at the end, which I was surprised to see. Strong heals will get you through that fight no problem, and I just plugged away at him until he died.

What’s neat is that the Devidians have this really nasty hold that incapacitates you and lifts you clear off the ground, so you hang there like some grisly victim of an exorcism film. The first time I saw that happen to my character, I didn’t know whether to be excited or frustrated.

Though I'm sure the novelty will wear off after the first few dozen times.

Clearly, I enjoyed this episode. The only complaint I have is that the game crashed several times during this mission, which I thought was just me but apparently other people have been having these issues as well. As for the gameplay though, everything was just fantastic. I hope the next few installments will be in this same vein (something tells me it would, to coincide with the Halloween season) because I enjoy the feeling of being creeped out. I was just pleasantly surprised to find it in a STO mission…but then again, STO has been very good at delivering many pleasant surprises lately.

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Picture Points: What’d I Miss?

October 17, 2010

Well, I’m back from my vacation/honeymoon, which was spent cruising on the Oasis of the Seas in the Eastern Caribbean. My right shoulder is a little sunburned and I feel about a hundred pounds heavier (man, they really feed you on those things) but otherwise my time away from the real world and the virtual world has left me feeling quite rested.

As honeymooners are wont to do, my better half and I closed ourselves off from the outside world and shunned our cellphones, internet, and all other means of communication with the world at large. As such, I came back to hundreds of unread emails and messages, and a mountain of blog articles in Google Reader. Looks like a lot has happened in the last week, but how nice it is that none of my favorite games seem to have imploded or went under while I was gone. Hey, with this industry, you never know.

Gee, where do I start? More and more, I’m starting to appreciate the wisdom behind Anjin’s use of bullet points, especially when you’re tackling multiple topics in the same post that are all completely irrelevant of each other. How’s about some picture points?

This topic really doesn’t deserve to be tackled first, but I’ll do it anyway because if anything, I felt it was the most entertaining tidbit of my day. Yet another long, whiny rant to add to the ever-growing pile of other long, whiny rants. The more I read about it, the more it seems the only reason this one caught fire was because the author alleges himself to be a soon-to-be Ex-Mythic employee. Even if he could prove his claim, I could care less why he thinks Warhammer failed, but along with Syp, what amuses me most (because such drivel is hardly worth getting angry or even annoyed over) is the way the guy tries to smear Star Wars: The Old Republic by dragging it into his bitchfest born of a feeble grudge. Shoo, louse, I had to deal with a flea infestation on my dog earlier this month that commanded more attention. I’m not worried; SWTOR has survived the storm of naysayers for years, no doubt it can weather another angry little gust of hot air.

Something else that a lot of the blogs I read covered this week was the World of Warcraft Patch 4.0.1. I haven’t updated the game yet or even looked at the notes, but just based on some of the opinions I’ve read, I am prepared for some big changes. You mean I have to relearn the game agaaaaaiiin? /whine. I have so many characters, many of them at level 80, I just can’t be bothered to go through all of them and give their abilities and gear their makeovers, not even my feral druid that has been my main for years. The more I hear about Cataclysm, the more I think I just want to dabble lightly in WoW until it comes out, then pour my full attention into a new Worgen or Goblin character. To hell with the rest of ’em. I mean, with a fresh expansion, a fresh Azeroth, fresh game systems and mechanics, why not a fresh main? My husband probably won’t be too happy to hear that, but the idea appeals to me more and more each day.

SWTOR released a new timeline video about Exar Kun for their new Friday update. To be honest, I was never really interested in that particular storyline, but I enjoyed the video, nonetheless (and things are so much more exciting when they’re narrated by Lance Henriksen, aren’t they?) As such, my leaky memory has shed most of the details about the fall of Exar Kun, so the timeline was a nice refresher even if it didn’t reveal much of anything new. In any case, it’s worth a look if you haven’t read the books, comics, or played the Knights of the Old Republic games that deal with Exar Kun, to get acquainted with one of the more relevant storylines of this era. One thing of note (that I’m surprised Hunter hasn’t mentioned since he has as much at stake in planet reveals as I do) is I wonder if we’ll be seeing the moon Yavin IV unveiled some time soon in a future update? It seems almost a certainty, given this timeline video.

So much to do! I can hardly wait to visit the Minecraft multiplayer server to see what new construction projects have popped up in the last week, but first I have business with the Devidians to attend to in Star Trek Online. The new arc debuted yesterday and I have plans to savor it tonight with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea and a bowl of chips. Until then, I’m staying far far far away from West Karana and Tipa’s spoilers.

Well, vacation’s over and it’s back to the drawing board (or should I say, the Wacom tablet, now that I’ve started my adventures into digital art?) but I’m not sure how much work I’ll be able to get done for the rest of this month. It’s the attack of the single-player games! Oct 19th — Fallout: New Vegas. Oct 26th — Fable III. Oh, and don’t forget, on the same day we have Force Unleashed 2, as Blue Kae reminded me on Twitter earlier today. Gee, thanks. Thanks a lot. It’s going to take incredible willpower to get anything productive done in the next couple of weeks. Gotta love it when the release dates for highly anticipated games just sneak up on you like that, but it’s a whole other conflict when they all descend upon you at once like an avalanche.

Finally, on a non-gaming-related note, I’ve recently become completely obsessed with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. My interest in epic fantasy has been rekindled after reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and I brought the first novel A Game of Thrones with me on my vacation. I’d originally wanted to start another novel or series after finishing it, just to spread out the titles in my to-read list a little bit, but who was I kidding? I began devouring the second book A Clash of Kings the moment I finished the final page of the first. I’m surprised I hadn’t picked this series up sooner, and even more surprised that my husband never recommended it to me, since I just found out he had read it years before. Dammit, he knows I like my epic fantasy dark and gritty. What’s even stranger is that a certain promo on HBO featuring snowy landscapes, ravens and scruffy men with swords and beards has caught my eye for weeks and weeks now, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that I realized it was the television adaptation, around the same time I started debating whether or not to start reading the series. Funny how these things work out, and funnier how unobservant my mind can be sometimes.

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To Ilum, We Must Go

October 8, 2010

Note: This will be my last post for the next little while, as I am sailing out tomorrow. Even a year after our wedding, Mr. MMOGC and I never really had our honeymoon because of all the hassle of living apart while we waited for me to join him in the US, but that’s going to be rectified now that we’re together! Have a good week everyone, and I’ll be brief.

The Friday Star Wars: The Old Republic Update is Ilum!

[YouTube= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5_OMJqhiyI&sns%5D

MMOGC’s bright and sunny side says: “Nice, the SWTOR fans finally get the real ice planet they always wanted, one that doesn’t look like a chunk of month-old moldy cheese! Huzzah!”

MMOGC’s grouchy, cantankerous side says: “NooOOoooOOooOOoo! Hunter is one step closer to winning our bet that there will be at least 24 planets at launch! At this rate he’ll be takin’ all my credits, I tells ya!”

I was a bit surprised we had a new planet update today, but it’s a new month so I guess we’re due for one. That it turned out to be Ilum was not so much of a shocker. It’s inclusion is definitely a good choice, given that it’s most famous for being home to the green and blue Adegan crystals used as a component in Jedi lightsabers. I smelled that Jedi class quest coming from a mile away.

They’ve written an interesting description for Ilum that indicates that there will be more to the planet, however, so that both factions and all the classes get to have some fun. History has shown that Bioware fares amazingly well at adding their own creative flares to the Star Wars universe to make it a better and more intriguing place, and I am wondering how they are going manage that with Ilum in SWTOR. What could these resources “of far greater value than anyone ever imagined” possibly be? The way they describe the Sith Empire wresting control and the Jedi’s determination to get down to the bottom of things, why, that makes it sound like there may even be some PvP…

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My 3 Joys In Minecraft

October 7, 2010

As Minecraft has become my latest preoccupation, I figure I might as well embrace it.

1. Creating

Every time I log in to our multiplayer server I’m just overcome with this urge to build. Even before I’m putting the final finishing touches on a current project, I’m already thinking about my next. Everywhere I look is inspiration for another construction waiting to happen. One day it’s, “Hmm, that island looks lonely, it needs a lighthouse!” Another day it’s, “I need something tall so I think I’ll build the CN Tower!”  Tomorrow, it might be “Maybe I’ll find myself another dungeon and make myself another zombie enclosure!”

It’s an addiction, I can’t help it.

Complete with glass floor.

2. Exploring

Just be careful not to get lost. Personally, I am just as directionally challenged in-game as I am in real life, so it’s no surprise that on our server, the “/home” command has become by bestest friend.

Forest fires can be an indication of the map expanding. Oh crap, did I just make the server laggier?

But sometimes getting lost is worth it. Something about Minecraft makes wandering off feel so rewarding. I for one never imagined that landscapes composed of blocky graphics could look so beautiful. I can never resist checking out any dark caves in the sides of mountains either, all the better if they lead to deep, extensive underground tunnels that might hold rare ores. Needless to say, I always keep my inventory stocked with torches.

3. Sharing

It’s not just about finding the “natural” formations that makes it so fun to explore. Often I’ll stumble across points of interest simply by checking in on my neighbors when I need a break from digging or building. It’s always interesting to see how someone’s area has completely transformed after a few days, and you think to yourself, “Wow, so-and-so has sure been busy!” A floating fortress or towering skywalk might blow me away, or sometimes it’s the little things like a sign left by someone off the coast that says “Merman Island” that will bring a smile to my face.

And of course, there are those lava spewing skull mountains that make you think "Holy shit, that is seriously cool."

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Read Lately: The Way Of Kings

October 5, 2010

Note: No spoilers.

Let me just preface this by saying I don’t read a lot fantasy, and I certainly do not consider myself an enthusiast of the genre as I get through only about a handful of fantasy-themed books every year. I find my preferences gravitate towards historical fantasy, but I’ve pretty much given up on the magical, heroic, or epic sub-genres. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck choosing titles on my own, but most of what I’ve read have either made me sick or bored me to tears.

Not so with The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. In fact, I was overcome with a sense of contentment soon after I turned the last page. It’s the sort of feeling you get after finishing a satisfying read, complete with just the hint of sadness at the fact the book has finally come to an end. That’s saying something, seeing as the hardcover version of the book is a whopping 1008 pages. And this is just the first of what is planned to be a 10-novel series! Considering the author has other projects to work on, including finishing the Wheel of Time series, I’ll probably be in my early 40s by the time the last book comes out. Ah well, I’ve always known that committing myself to an epic fantasy series often means a whole lot of waiting.

The Way of Kings takes place in Roshar, a land affected by powerful weather phenomenons called Highstorms, which are pretty much hurricanes on steroids. The flora and fauna have all adapted to these conditions, resulting in bizarre creatures like heavily-shelled animals or plants that can suck themselves back into the ground when disturbed. All around the world are also these spirit-like things called spren, which are either caused by or attracted to emotions or particular circumstances. It is a fantastical setting, but one that is still very believable at the same time. Sanderson spends the time to craft an in-depth environment with his writing, and it’s clear the ideas for this world weren’t just thrown together overnight.

The book has four main characters who are all connected in some way — Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar and Adolin, though there’s a rather large cast of other background characters to get acquainted with. Kaladin is the most prominent protagonist, and his story almost feels like a comic book hero’s journey. Indeed, he reminds me of Peter Parker/Spider-man in many ways — a young man in bad times who has had to deal with the deaths of people close to him, who’s constantly struggling to save everyone around him with his big heart that cares way too much for others when it should be caring for himself. That said, at times the characters in the book can feel a bit one-dimensional, but this is made up for by some interesting plot turns and the great lead-up to the novel’s climax. Towards the end I could scarcely put the book down, when all the story groundwork that has been laid down finally comes to fruition.

I also appreciate the author for his efforts to constantly keep the reader in the characters’ heads. I felt that this aspect was a huge improvement over his Mistborn series that I couldn’t get into, even though I tried. In those novels, it got too tedious to read pages upon pages of description about the gravity-defying stunts, which would have been much more captivating if I was watching it happen on-screen in a movie or video game. But the nice thing about books — and their greatest strength — should be the way they allow you to peer inside a character’s head to see what they are feeling or experiencing. Without that emotional aspect for me, reading about the combat or action-filled scenes simply feels bland. However, I never once felt this way while reading through The Way of Kings‘ many battle scenes, and I realized it was because Sanderson has managed to keep me sufficiently in touch with the characters this time around.

And while we’re on the subject of Sanderson’s writing, I have to say I enjoy his style. He’s a good storyteller, and his writing, while not too terribly elegant, is straightforward and undisguised without being too simplistic. I mean all that as a compliment; sometimes you just want to get to the meat of the story without poring over a page multiple times to contemplate all its artsy-ness or symbolic meanings. That stuff is for another time, another book. But when all I want to do is sit back and relax to enjoy an epic fantasy with a good story, The Way of Kings delivers.