Just another busy Friday

Hello! Here we are at another busy Friday. This week has been a rather good one, over all, even if there was a crap load of stress in my work life. Out side of that, it was a good week. Our City of Heroes games went well on Monday and Wednesday, and Mhari had her birthday yesterday and I took her to Benihana for her birthday dinner. Then when I got home, I crashed out and slept fairly well. Not sure what Mhari did with her evening. I -needed- that sleep. I feel the better for it, today.

Our plans for the weekend involve a Further Confusion 2009 Staff meeting at the convention hotel Saturday at 1pm, after which I will take Mhari home and then head out for a PnP Champions game at Patriot’s place. Hopefully I will get to say hi to War Witch, but she might be too busy with Issue 13 stuff to come greet us game players in her breakfast nook/dining room.

My Sunday is firmly filled with doing nearly next to nothing. I look forward to a relaxing day of it.

City of Heroes: As mentioned above we had good sessions Monday and Wednesday with the whole of the group hitting level 22 on Wednesday. We plan to do some work playing our high-level characters tonight in an effort to get Avenging Flame and BronzeBlade closer to 50.

The other thing of note in The City was the release of ‘Booster Packs’ for the City. As some folks know, the parent of City of Heroes, NCSoft, is one of those pushing for the ‘micro transaction’ model of MMO play. In this sort of Model there are little extras for MMOs beyond that which one can get from your monthly fee for the game. In face, some MMOs make the there be ZERO monthly fee and just depend on the micro transactions for income.

These Boosters that City of Heroes released this week come in two forms. The first is a 30-day Flight Pack for $4.99 (plus taxes). This particular item is more properly a ‘perk’ that comes with buying one of the new timecard/game packs that NCSoft has put in Walmart, Target and other locations. For $20 the purchaser gets to download the game client, and play the game for one month. The perk is the Flight Pack. Since the game is normally around $15 a month, that means the flight pack is $5 of the cost. And players started to ask if they could somehow get the flight pack, despite it being limited to 30 real days of use, without getting the time card. So that’s why this Booster was born.

The second Booster is called the Cyborg Pack. And it’s a LOT more bang for it’s $9.99 (plus taxes) price. You get a full set of additional costume parts that you can put on your character even in character creation, 3 new emotes (/em powerdown, /em powerup, and /em robotdance) and a set of what they call ‘combat auras’. These last are the first in a new concept for auras in the game, as these auras only appear when you are in ‘combat mode’. One of them is a Holographic HUD. I have yet to see these.

Lastly with this Cyborg Booster Pack, there is a new Power called Self Destruct. It has a good 10-second countdown with full animation and then you blow up, dealing damage in a 40′ radius. At the end you are ready to go to the hospital and there is no body for anyone to target to use rez or other ‘defeated ally’ powers on. You CAN, however, if you have one, self-rez. And you incur NO Debt from this ‘death’. There are some little bugs in the code for this new power, some of which can mean that you can’t go to the hospital (for example, don’t use it in the tutorial zone… I did, and couldn’t go to the hospital) and all you can do to correct the problem is log out and back in. And the power doesn’t save you from debt if you take your ‘death blow’ from a enemy before you deal the final damage to yourself.

Lastly, the new power and the emotes and auras are NOT tied in to only being used for a character using some or all of the new costume pieces. So your existing characters can get use of them. So there’s a LOT of value from this second Booster Pack. Lots of bang for the bucks.

Perfect World International: Life goes on. My Barbarian character, Rogar, is doing well in the game. He’s level 20 and soon to be 21. But the game, itself, doesn’t look like it is going to last for me very much longer. This game is very, very full of Grind, Grind, Grind. Every single quest is of the ‘Kill X’ sort. Be it killing X for the purpose of killing them because they killed and ate the Blacksmith’s piggy, or to collect 20 saltpeter from killing 20 giant spiders or hedgehogs. Most of the time you are killing the 20 whatevers because the evil wraiths have corrupted them and they are attacking peaceful farmers. But just as much of the time it is for no good reason. How in the world is killing 30 wolves in the next county going to teach me how to meditate better?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there ARE collection quests. But those usually also involve killing enough of various different critters to get the items from them as drops, or because those same critters are swarming around the only locations where that particular harvestable resource can be found.

There ARE the VERY RARE ‘fed ex’ quests, but often they lead into more ‘Kill X’ ones. Or the item you have to deliver seems to have been stolen by those damned Charming Stalkers over in the north fields. And it take killing somewhere like 5-30 of those before one drops that item. And there DO appear to be some ‘Instances’ or ‘Dungeons’, but I have only been near the entrance to ONE of those in my 20 levels, and have yet to step inside.

As a solo hunter I have gotten rather good in watching the way critters move about the field and waiting for just the right time to dash in there and engage the one I wanted without agro’ing the one(s) I didn’t want. Except when, just as I am about to engage, someone with a RANGED attack, or even another Melee person, shoots my long-stalked target and takes them away from me. And often I will admit to chuckling as those same kill-stealers find themselves in over their head because they were only paying attention to that one critter and not taking care about who else is going to get upset when they do so. Alas, often they have taken out my target before they get taken down themselves by the three other critters that swarmed them.

The game has a different feel, however, the moment you form a ‘squad’. Mobs are a LOT easier to take down when more than one person is beating on them. And the ‘adds’ are a lot more manageable. Even a group of 3 can have a hugely better survival rate without having to be as picky about their targets and the area around them. I’ve met a couple folks that really have a good game-head on their shoulders, and are not berserker players that dive into things uncaringly. It made for some good game play in an otherwise never-ending grind. Maybe if I had others to play with, I might enjoy this game for longer.

Well, it’s not my last word or post about this game. Just I suspect that I’m going to be playing a LOT less of it now. Sort of like Lord of the Rings Online, it’s a joy to see the graphics, and it’s a half-way decent game, but there’s nothing there to hold me to it, especially as it’s ‘free’ for me.

Books of the week:
Cry Wolf by Patrica Briggs.
Cry Wolf is the story of Anna, a Omega WereWolf, and her new mate, Charles, an Alpha Werewolf and one of the sons of the leader of all of the nation’s werewolves. This novel spins off of Patrica Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series of books. The character of Charles first appeared in Moon Called, he’s a really old wolf, as in a couple of hundred years, who’s mother was an American Indian. He’s a good rich character and is his father’s ‘enforcer’ within the werewolf ‘families’.

The first Alpha and Omega Wolf story was Alpha and Omega in the story collection On the Prowl. In that story Charles goes to Chicago to deal with an out-of-control alpha and discovers Anna there being abused and used under direction of the crazy alpha. It’s love at first sight between Charles’ and Anna’s wolves, but that doesn’t mean their human sides are compatible, but it sure helps.

Cry Wolf starts where Alpha and Omega left off, moving Anna to Montana to live with Charles, taking her away from everything and everyone she knows. She was a severely abused woman and wolf for 3 years with her old pack, and that’s a heavy thing to come out from under. Charles, for his part, has never dealt with a Omega before, and while he is thoroughly in love with her, protecting her triggers troublesome reactions in Anna. So it’s a story of a abused woman and a man that loves her, almost more than he can understand. And on top of that there is the effect that Omega wolves can have upon others. They bring out the protective streak in an Alpha, yet they are ANYTHING but submissive. It makes for some really good characterization. Especially when another Alpha Wolf’s long-dead mate (who happened to be an Omega wolf, too) starts haunting his dreams causing him to go more and more crazy.

All in all, Cry Wolf was a very good book, just not -quite- as good as Patricia’s Mercy Thompson books. But it does promise to be the start of a series, and the character growth started in this book could lead to really, really good stories down the line in this series.

Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner and David Fisher.
Well, what can I really say. This is William Shatner’s Autobiography. And believe it or not, I am really enjoying it. I’ve only just gotten past Chapter 5, so far, which is where he talked about his time doing the role of Captain Kirk on Star Trek. Yes. I am reading this book because I am a Trekkie. So much of my own life was shaped by the show that Bill Shatner played Captain Kirk in. Those original 79 episodes inspired me as a child to become even more interested in space, and from that, in computers, than any single other thing in my life. So, that is where my interest in reading this book comes from.

The book starts out telling of his early life, how he got into acting, and where acting took him and all the little things that have lead out of that. It’s told in a sort of rambling style that is not too inflated with ego. In fact, any time it seems that he’s praising himself, he will switch gears and show how very much the words "It seemed like a good idea at the time" apply. There are also times in the interesting narrative when he will suddenly interrupt himself and refer to his website at www.williamshatner.com and promote things or give some divergent comments on something only loosely related to what he was talking about, before going back to the main narrative right where he left off. This may seem annoying some of the time, but it actually breaks up things in a manner that makes it more readable.

Like I said above, I’m not even half way through this book, but I am pleasantly surprised by it. And finding myself thoroughly interested in all the non-Star Trek things I am learning. And I am looking forward to the rest of the book.

That’s all for me, this week. See you here next week… same bat-time, same Bat-URL.