Archive for July, 2013

30/07/2013

Am I old now?

This morning while listening to the 80’s radio station on Spotify I actually came out and said the following to my Partner in Crime.

“80’s music was just better.”

Then I was called old.

I’m 35 years old.

Strictly speaking Amanda, is still less than a decade old.

But if I am totally honest I do feel old. Some days very, very old.

As any of my readers by now knows, I have a lot of physical problems. And one of the more troublesome aspects of those problems is that most mornings I wake up feeling as though I’d been beaten in my sleep. Hard. With a cricket bat. This manifests in my barely being able to walk the 15 feet to the toilet, and usually having to collapse back on to my bed for a little while afterwards.

Even 5 years ago I used to jump out of bed, and immediately be able to move gracefully. Now, I sort of half stumble everywhere for the first ten minutes out of bed.

Emotionally, I don’t fall for people like I used to. In fact in the past 12 months I’ve only had one crush. And even there I find myself not having any hope in my heart at all. It kind of feels like I found wisdom in loving, and that wisdom sucked the joy of adventure from my heart.

I can’t stay up late anymore. I want to be in bed with a mug of hot milk by 10pm every, single, night. And if I do stay up late it takes me days to stop feeling tired.

I can’t drink anymore. It just makes me feel, yuck.

I find myself watching old movies, and preferring them to modern remakes. I actually realized last week that I prefer The Thing From Another World (1951) to The Thing (1982).

I find myself wishing that gaming companies would stop making new games, and start updating the graphics on old games. I’d love to play a version of the Breath Of Fire series, where nothing has been changed aside from the music and graphics.

Do all of these mean that I am now old?

I’d rather sit in with a DVD than go out to a bar.

Actually I’d rather sit in with a parasitic worm infection than go out to a bar.

Am I setting in my ways.

Are carpet slippers, and 30 cats my next port of call?

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29/07/2013

Pacific Rim: The Story of the Irish Jaeger

This is just about the funniest thing I’ve ever read. It is entirely accurate aside from one essential piece of information. Cork would have one the Shamrock League, because those Kilkenny wimps are no match for a full blooded Cork team in their prime. 😉

Luke Writes What You Read

The movie doesn’t tell the story of the monster portal which opened in the Atlantic, because Ireland dealt with it single-handedly. It turns out that “being invaded from other lands” is pretty much our entire history, cultural legacy, and best way to get us to kick your arse if you try it now we have a tech sector. On the grounds that it was how we defeat all our existing demons, we built our jaeger out of a distillery.

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40% fuel ensured the pilots didn’t feel any pain, fatigue, or need to ask pointed questions about the feasibility of a 100 meter tall bipedal robot. But the real breakthrough was when it turned out that the best way to check advanced psychological compatibility for direct neural linkage was “fighting with sticks.”

We immediately drafted the Kilkenny hurling team.

Fifteen championship trained violencies of pure speed. Hurling is one of the fastest…

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20/07/2013

Antibiotics suck. But Ulysses 31 is awesome.

They really do, I feel like someone’s beaten me within an inch of my life. So instead of boring you with a long rambling moany post, I have decided today to share with you one of my favourite childhood memories. The first two full episodes of Ulysses 31. Prepare yourself for the awesome.

How frikkin great is the theme tune?

Have a great weekend.

16/07/2013

Acidgirl, making reference images for the purely imaginary.

As you all know I own a webcomic, Acidgirl. But for the past few months I’ve been letting it sit idle simply because I have been permanently emotionally, and physically exhausted. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working on it.

Some of that work has been based around tightening up the storyline, improving the characters, and above everything else improving my artwork. And yup, you guessed it, the latter is what we will be discussing today.

One of the hardest parts of improving my artwork has been getting reference images which will not only stretch my abilities to their limits, and beyond, but also make me want to draw. This is made doubly difficult by the fact that most of the characters in, and planned, for Acidgirl are, sort of, based on my close friends.

What do I mean by sort of?

Obviously ignore the clothing, but very much how I see him in my head.

Knower how he really looks, ignore the clothing, but very much how I see him in my head.

Well unless you’re sitting right in front of me, I don’t really remember what you look like. I’ll have a very vague sense of how you should look, but the image in my head is virtually always a world away from the reality. In a way, my mental images of the people I love, are very much idealised and more reflect how they make me feel, rather than how they actually look.

Now just try finding a Goddess damned reference image for that!

Well I did. Sort of.

There’s a game called Perfect World. It’s a pretty standard, though very fun, Korean grinding based MMORPG. But it’s character modeling system is quite simply ridiculously flexible. You can, with pretty limited skills and just a touch of patience, take a photo of anyone and recreate how they look before taking them out to hunt giant spiders. Or you could just take the way you see someone you love in your own mind, and make that a visible reality. And that’s what I decided to do. Better yet, because you have limited character slots inside the game, you can save a characters look as a template, that way minor characters can be easily stored, while leaving space for more detailed work on major characters.

The end result, as you can see above, is a somewhat cartoonish image, which can be rotated, and even posed in-game if you wish. Way above of course is Carl “Knower” Orten, based of course on my favorite boylesquer. His character model was created in under 20 minutes, and can be viewed from basically any direction.

And below is a potential image of a future character. (Yes is has catgirls, which is kind of just as well.) And while it is only a potential character model, it does show how much flexibility there is in the Perfect World system.

This one is really only potential.

This one is really only potential.

So with many of these, and a lot more practice my artwork should some day reach where I want it to be.

And yes, this does mean that my comic will be returning sooner, rather than later. I’m currently working on a few new pages, which will be uploaded as they are finished, for now I’m not going to put more pressure on myself than I can cope with. But I do fully intend to continue the story, taking webcomics to new heights of insanity.

13/07/2013

Okay, really, my last Skyrim post for the time being. Smithing revisited.

Last week I wrote a piece on easily leveling up smithing, enchanting, a weapon skill, and your speech skill in Skryim. Uh sorry, but I found a better way. I’m certain I am not the first person to have figured this out, but it may be a help to someone out there. So, very quickly (because it’s frikkin roasting here and it’s more effort than I can handle to even type right now) here it is.

1: Find or buy the Alteration spell Transmute Mineral Ore, and read it.

2: Find, mine, beg, borrow, or steal iron ore. If you find iron ingots you can still use them for the iron dagger approach, but when you have ore, leave it as ore.

3: Using the Transmute Metal Ore spell to convert all your iron ore into first silver, and finally gold ore.

4: Now smelt the gold ore to ingots.

5: Forge 2 Golden Rings worth 75 gold from each ingot.

6: Enchant and sell as before.

This will make you more money at sale, raise your smithing skill faster, and add the Alteration school of magic to the skills you’re raising.

And now I’m going to find a dark corner and die. Man I hate this heat. See you Tuesday, if I’m still alive I promise it won’t be Skyrim post.

09/07/2013

I love a challenge. The Skyrim Edition Part 2 – Bored of the Ring.

Yeah I know, I’m posting a lot about Skyrim at the moment. But right now while my body and mind are doing their very best to shred what’s left of my sanity, I’ve found SKyrim to be a surprisingly healing experience. So much to see, so much to do, so many creatures to hunt down and kill. It’s just so relaxing. And as I play it suddenly hit me that you can play a version of basically every major character from the Lord of the Rings if you really want to.

So if you really want to, here is how you can play what I think of as The Fellowship of The “By Talos! Is that a dragon?!” (For the record, because all of the Fellowship let loose a decent war-cry at one stage or another over the course of the three movies, they can all use shouts.)

1: “They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”

Yes, you too can play a character named Legolas. He won’t be as pretty. But he can be just as bad-ass. For this character you are limited to two bows over the course of the game, an a pair of elven daggers. You can only wear cloth (or if you’re some sort of wimpy girlie-elf leather) armor. Oh and no magic that affects other creatures, self buffing only thank you!

2: “I don’t want to be king…but sure why not.”

Who doesn’t want to Aragorn? So bad-ass he can kill orcs with just his scruffy boy beard. Aragorn gets a long-bow, any one or two handed sword (since in the movies he’s seen using both swords with whatever number of hands he feels like), an elven dagger, and leather armor. Oh, and a horse too. Has to marry an elf-maiden. But can not own a house. The last one is a huge handicap in playing Skyrim. Can use no magic of any kind, smithing, or enchanting, but feel free to use all the sneaking, and alchemy you can get your hands on.

3: “Do you think my beard is flowing enough?”

Everyone who doesn’t want to be Aragorn, wants to be Gandalf. And who can blame you when as Gandalf you get any staff, any one handed or two handed sword (for the same reason as Aragorn.) But Gandalf can only wear cloth armor…so you know, clothes. Nor can he own a house. That said he can use any magic, alchemy, and enchanting. And he gets an awesome black horse to emote at.

4: “Never mind me, I die at the end of the first movie, and you’ve never read the book…” *gasp, thud*

Would anyone really want to play Boromir? Well actually, yes. Of all the Fellowship characters he is one of only two who actually fits the Nord of Skyrim template. Give him a one handed sword, a good one. Give him a shield, and the best frikkin armor you can find; any heavy armor for pre-Fellowship days, any light armor for Rivendale up to riddled with arrows. No bows though, and definitely no magic. But perhaps, seeing as he was the student of Gandalf in brighter days, a good grounding in alchemy. But not too much sneaking about, it is after all an act beneath the contempt of this Son of Go…Whiterun. But he can have a horse, and even have as many houses as he likes.

5: “No-one tosses a Dwarf, the armor weighs way to fuckin’ much laddie.”

Gimli would be the other character who fits in to the inhabitant of Skyrim template particularly well. He can obviously wear any heavy armor, and wield any axe. Hell he can even ride a horse, badly; no charging at all for you mister Dwarf. He can also smith absolutely anything, while proudly owning a house. But that’s pretty much it. No bows, no magic, not even any alchemy. Better brush up on those cooking skills.

6-9: “They’re taking us all to Isengard…well two of us anyway.”

Make your character look short. No swords, daggers only. No magic at all. No missile weapons, no horses, no shoes. But, let’s face it, since you’re probably going to play Pretty-Boy…I mean Frodo anyway, your Hobbit can wear enchanted armor. Just no shoes. Oh and he can definitely own a house. One house. But to make up for all the suckage why not max out that sneaky, lock-picking, and pickpocketing type stuff? And you better carry lots of food, seeing as they’re too naive to bother to learn alchemy that doesn’t involve getting high.

And that is probably it for my Skyrim posts for a while. You know, unless I want to write another. But in the mean time I will leave you with possibly the cruelest earwig of the present age. After all they really are…

06/07/2013

Things I’ve learned while wandering Skyrim.

As a quick follow up to my recent Skyrim article, I’ve decided to share a couple of the things I’ve learn about playing Skyrim. Little tips to make life easier, and sometimes more entertaining.

1: Neigh, neigh, snuffle, snuffle, neigh! (Man you’ve put on weight!)

In Skyrim your horse is your (temperamental see below.) best friend. She carries you in to danger, bearing up under the insane weight of you, your armor and all of your loot. And all this without complaining. Even if say you’ve just cleared out the Forsaken Cave and Crypt, meaning that you’re inventory now weighs in at a respectable 900 pounds. And better yet, you can still fast travel while you’re riding your horse, even if you now weight about the same as Jabba the Hutt. A great time saver when you consider all the tooing and froing you’d have to do otherwise to get all your stuff to any vender.

2: You like it? I made it.

There is very little more satisfying in Skyrim than to cut down a dragon with a weapon you forged yourself. Or survive a hail of arrows due to armor you made for yourself. But training the Smithing skill can be kinda time consuming, right? Not so young Dragonborn. First of all don’t make any steel, it’s a waste of iron ore. Instead make, loot, mine and buy as many iron ingots as you can. Iron ores and ingots can be bought from blacksmith NPC’s and sometimes in smaller amounts from general stores. While you’re at it buy, or loot every last petty soul gem you can find. Again general stores and mage vendors. Now move on to the next step.

3: Charge the bastards down!

Filling soul gems is a pain in the arse at lower levels. Cast the spell, kill the bugger in under the timespan of the spell, all the while hoping nothing blindsides you. Well I’m here to tell you that it need not be that way. Find yourself a sword, axe, or mace (one or two handed based on what you want to train up) that comes pre-enchanted with the “of binding” suffix. Fill your inventory with all the petty soul gems. Climb up on your horse, and start practicing those cavalry charges on Mudcrabs. I’m not joking, not even a little. Hold down the trigger, and powerstrike as you charge past. Boom “Soul Gem Filled”. This works great on deer of different types, wolves, foxes, even rabbits. It’s also faster for gathering leather than hunting them down with a bow…but if you just have to use a bow get your Mongol on and do it from horseback. So you’re not only filling soul gems, gathering Alchemy, Enchantment, Cooking, and Smithing materials. But you’re also leveling up your weapon, or even magic skills.

4: Bang, bang, bang went the hammer.

Head home, and forge a lot of iron daggers. Hundreds of them. They each cost one Iron Ingot, and one Leather Strip. Making them a cheap way to level up your Smithing. Then head to the nearest enchantment table, disenchant any weapon (not your soul binding one) and just enchant dagger after dagger. This will let you sell them for a profit, thus making you filthy rich, but it will also quickly level your Enchantment skills. I would advise however against using any perks you gain until you decide what type of Enchantment and Armor you want to wear end game. Also keep the higher level Soul Gems for when you have a piece that is really worth enchanting in a serious way, because leveling these skills is based on the number of uses of the skill, not on the effectiveness of the product.

And finally.

5: Lydia, you may look all delicious in your armor, but please stay away from me in combat. (That goes for you too horse!)

Companions in Skyrim can be useful. But if you’re like me and tend to sneak constantly, taking pot-shots with your bow to wear down targets before charging in with your sword, they can be a liability too. Lydia, the first companion you gain, is a perfect example. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve ended up with my brains clubbed out because she refused to stay hidden. I’ve also lost track of how many times she’s gotten me killed by charging in and engaging ever enemy in a room, instead of taking them out, one by one. Personally I think she’s just trying to get me killed so she can go back to serving in Dragonsreach.

My horse is even worse. I think she’s waiting safely for me behind a boulder, and the next thing I know she’s attacking someone who wandered too close to me, and oh, oh, oh…yes she’s now dead. I’m overburdened, and now I have to walk the whole way home with my bow fully drawn so I can move at a speed slightly faster than a crawl. Or even worse than that, she’s decided “No fuck you human, I’m gonna walk back to the stables…on the other side of that mountain range.”

The companions can be so random in what they decide to do, that generally I just adventure alone. Using my horse only when I’m hunting, or I know I’ll be going underground, or into a building immediately. It’s just less hassle. Besides, Lydia looks so much better lying on my bed back in Breezehome.

02/07/2013

The Hellgate has returned to London. Templars assemble!

The sky is eternally bruised, ash floats on every breeze. The streets no longer ring to the sounds of human voices, or the laughter of children. The scents of smoke, and sulphur fill the air. In the distance you hear shuffling feet, low moans, skittering noises come at you from around every corner. Your sword feels heavy in your hand. Sweat runs down your face inside your helmet. And far ahead you see a flicker of movement as cadavers in various states of decay shuffle aimlessly.

This is the London of the future. Stripped of virtually all life by the demons which poured out of a Hellgate years before. And you are one of the last defenders of the human race, a Templar. And now it’s time to shred zombie flesh to get to the heart of the infestation. Well that or die trying.

Hellgate:London was originally released in 2007. I was lucky enough to receive the gift of a copy a year later. And it quickly became one of my favourite games of all time. It was exciting, sometimes scary, always action packed. In structure it was a little odd.

You had the 3rd party/1st person display modes available in World of Warcraft, and other similar role playing games.

The item gathering, and inventory management of the Diablo series.

The ability to be melee, ranged or a reasonably balanced mixture of the two.

So far, so normal, so how was it odd?

Well first of all, it also felt rather like a 3D environment take on an old school Hack’n’Slash game. Think Golden Axe, with zombies, demons, and demonic beasts all set in a post apocalyptic London. A rather different take on the role playing game, for that the time at least.

And secondly, the maps were largely very, very, linear. You’d have a series of tunnels, or a street level map. It would have an entrance, and sometimes an exit. Fight to the exit/target. Hand in quest.

In truth it’s very hard to describe Hellgate: London in any way that makes sense. But I can describe it in three words, for myself.

Fun.

Addictive.

Infuriating.

Fun because, well you’re wandering London’s streets, underground, and sewers hunting demons with swords, guns, and magic. And parts of the game are very recognisable places. Even some of the tube stations are recognisable, even if the scale is really, really off. It meant for me that the first time I ever went to London, I was fascinated to see the real world places I’d hunted down imps in on my PC. The fun followed me in to reality. And experience I have yet to have repeat itself with any other game.

Addictive, there’s so much to see. Yes, many maps are randomly generated, but some are always the same. The mix means you’re never totally sure what you’re going to see next. The sheer volume of items is mind boggling. You can spend hours just hunting, looking for that perfect sword, or gun, or focus to drop, to round out your equipment.

Infuriating, you can spend hours looking for that one piece of equipment, and never see it.

Well Hellgate: London has been re-released as a Free to Play, micro-transaction based online game. And after playing five hours of it so far I can share with you the follow feeling. It’s Hellgate: London. It plays, and feels almost identical to the original. The missions/quests all seem to be the same, though some are now repeatable so you can raise faction friendliness. The items are the same. It’s the same.

But it’s also a little different. As I said there are now micro-transactions in place with in the game. These vary from inventory size boosts, to the ability to unlock, locked mod slots on your equipment. New, but so far as I can see, not in any way intrusive. It certainly does not feel like you HAVE to spend money to get further.

In addition, it is now online only. That’s not to say it’s mandatory multi-player, though you do have the option to play with others if you wish to. More that the single-player campaign has to be played while logged in. Which can be a slight drag now and then if you end up on a laggy channel, or if your connection has gone down.

Also there are now daily quests, for various items. A nice, and unobtrusive addition to the game. And finally the, sometimes, terminal graphics overload when too many creatures, and special effects were going off on screen seem to have been ironed out.

Apparently this new release also includes the two expansions from the original as later stage content. As well as the Hellgate: Tokyo areas. I can’t confirm the latter as I am still crawling through Covent Garden at the moment.

It’s a pretty enough game. With reasonably good character creation options, certainly on a par with World of Warcraft prior to the Cataclysm expansion. Though the colouring of the game is rather more muted than most gamers might like. That said, I do think that the graphics may have had something of an overhaul, as I don’t remember there being quite this level of model detail on the creatures and NPC’s. Though that may just be my failing memory.

(Image via www.Islabit.com)

The sound quality is pretty average. The music is, nice. There’s not much more to say about it. But the voice acting is fairly okay, if a little annoying at times. Seriously, I wonder did the original developers actually bother listening to real Londoners, or just watch Mary Poppins a few times.

So about now you’re asking yourself is this worth my playing it?

And I have to answer, maybe.

If you were a fan of the original then I would have to say, absolutely yes. This is, again from my perspective, the Hellgate: London we all remember, with a few tweaks that actually make it better. And if you liked it back then, but if like me you missed the expansions then definitely go for it. After all, it’s free to play. And as it comes in a relatively small, 5 Gigabyte download it won’t have you waiting days to play it either.

Otherwise, well I don’t think you have anything to lose by trying it out. The storyline is good fun, and has an interesting ending for the “single-player” campaign unless it’s been changed. And as I said it is free. But this is not WoW. There’s not a lot of carefully thought out attack rotations. Though it does have 3 characters classes with 2 sub-classes each, and each class has a wildly different play style, so that combined with the many randomly generated maps does make for some replay value.

All said I truly believe this game matches up reasonably well against Star Wars: The Old Republic, Aion, and most definitely Rappelz or the other Korean grindfest games. So maybe give it a try, and let me know what you think of it yourself.

Graphics: 8/10

Sound: 7/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

It may only compare as okay to more modern titles, but I feel it wipes the floor with most other free to play games, with the possible exception of Star Trek Online.

(But personally 10/10 because I am a Hellgate addict. I even read the comic, and the novels after all.)

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