Out of Order week…

Due to the four day weekend I am guessing that Friday I will forget to do a update of my blogs, so I am doing it now.

Mhari and I are doing okay. Her meds hit her a little strangely this week, but that might be due to her shifting it one day earlier to try and have a better apatite for Thursday when we plan to go out to Claim Jumper for a big meal.

I’m doing okay with work-stress this week, but more due to the shortness of the workweek and the length of the ‘weekend’ with the holiday. All hasn’t been good, but it hasn’t been that bad, either. Work is… busy, busy, busy with no real end in sight. So all the more reason to enjoy a long weekend.

Tabula Rasa: Yup, all it took to get me to actually activate my account is for them to announce that they are going to shut the whole thing down come Feb 28, 2009. And NCSoft announced a real, real nice ‘severance package’ for the players that had paid accounts prior to the closure announcement. PLUS the game is going to be free to play starting Jan 10, 2009.

So, I activated my account and played it for the first time since the close of Beta. It looks a LOT better, graphically… the starting missions are a LOT better defined and refined. But in playing the ‘tank’ side of the character advancement tree, I encountered EXACTLY the things that I disliked about the game in beta.

Mostly what I don’t like is that this game takes a very, very military and squad-based angle on the game play. To progress in the second set of 5-10 levels you almost NEED to have at least one ‘buddy’ or a full squad to deal with some of the areas and instances that you are sent to.

Now, understand that I KNOW that almost any MMO takes this path, after all, they ARE -multiplayer- games. MMO’s expect you to be able to find at least one other person doing the same missions as you are and for you to team up. Or go back out and grind levels a while before turning back and tackling that same mission. This is a GIVEN of MMOs.

So more this is running into one of my pet peeves with almost any MMO that forces people into the multiplayer behavior early. Hell, Everquest Online Adventures did that starting with the 5th level quest everyone had to take in the newbie areas. You’d always find someone asking for help with the mission. It just can NOT be done solo without being 3 levels beyond the level it’s given to you at. And you can’t really progress properly, equipment-wise and story-wise without completing that one ‘group’ mission.

So, this pointed out to me why I had not activated the game when it went live…

So, I put it down for a couple of days and came back to it. This time, using the ‘Clone’ feature, where I had saved a copy of my character prior to making the ‘tankish’ path decision, and chose the OTHER path you can take, taking the first step over to the Support classes.

This made a BIG difference. So far the missions are the same, but as my skills allow me to be constantly buffing myself and healing myself and my armor just as a part of taking out the enemy, it’s a LOT less frustrating. Those ‘team’ requiring missions are still out there, but doing the ‘grinding’ to be able to do them solo doesn’t FEEL as grindy. And knowing what’s coming up next some helps me not make the ‘mistakes’ I made the first time figuring out things. I’m taking it slower, doing a single mission at a time and not clustering the missions, and generally doing better. Also ‘feels’ like a better fit for my play-style, too.

I plan to play this game until it shuts down if it doesn’t start to frustrate me TOO much. I just feel it does deserve it’s due. But I am NOT keen on the Military structure of the game, so even if it was going to be going onwards rather than shutting down at the end of Feb, I would likely not stick with it long-term. But it is a change from other things.

City of Heroes: Still there. Still playing. Still having fun. Just not playing it as hard. Not focusing on it above all else. But I’m looking forward for when Issue 13 goes live. But more because my group are going to use it as an excuse to start a villain team on Protector on Fridays. We’ll use Leveling Pacts so that those that can’t play as often are in a pact with someone that can. And everyone will be paired in this manner with SOMEONE, so that we all progress at basically the same speed. I expect the group to be made up of a lot of Pain Domination Masterminds or Dominators and a lot of Shield Brutes. But we will see. We might try to make it a ‘Theme Team’. We’ll see.

I did finish that book I was reading… but I am going to save my review for Friday if I write a blog. Or for next week’s blog. As I wrote before, I’m playing Final Fantasy III (also known as Final Fantasy SIX in Japan) on my Nintendo DS. Almost done with 26 hours played according to the save game data.

That’s if for me. Might write more on Friday… might not. Thanks for reading!

Okay, it’s Friday… So what.

Yeah, I’m not in the best of moods this morning. I am tired and work is being annoying. I want my weekend and really don’t want to fight through work to get there. I am also having to do work item monitoring over the weekend. Grrrr.

Mhari’s back has been bothering her, as have some technical issues with some hardware involving phoneline stuff at home, that’s got her frustrated. My back has calmed down, for the most part, despite the work stress I am experiencing.

City of Heroes: Enjoying ourselves on the game still. No big changes. It’s been a Rikti invasion week until last night, so that was just a tiny bit ‘annoying’. Rikti Invasions are a nice steam blow-off, but it does get sort of ‘old’ after a while. Of course, it is a sign of the on-going ‘war’ between the world and the Rikti in the storyline… and I know war gets ‘old’ long before it gets ‘won’ or ‘lost’ or ‘dealt with’. My current tired mood is affecting my otherwise positive view of the game. Sorry.

Perfect World International: Dropped into the game and played a little while. I still like this game, but it IS something of a grind solo’ing in it. But that’s also part of the nature of ANY MMO out there. I’d feel the same way in City of Heroes if my wife and friends didn’t play there, too. So I don’t really blame the game here. And it is such an attractive game world, and the NPCs in the world treat the PCs well, with honor. And that is a real plus in my book. (For a comparison, you can wade back into my blog history and you will find that I feel that one of the things I did NOT like in World of Warcraft was that many of the NPCs treat the PCs poorly, with little respect and no feel of honesty that they really need the help of the PCs… it left a bad taste in my mouth.)

Other: I am looking for an ‘other’ again. I’d like to try something new. I have played Ultima Online, EverQuest, EverQuest OnLine Adventures, EverQuest 2, Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online, PlanetSide, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Earth and Beyond (which I miss deeply), Eve Online, World of Warcraft, Mabongi, Linage, Neverwinter Nights, Gemstone, Guild Wars, Second Life, Final Fantasy IX, Meridian 59, Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault, Loard of the Rings Online, Dark Ages of Camelot, Anarchy Onlone, Asheron’s Call, Asheron’s Call 2, Exteel, Dungeon Runners… and many text based MUDs, MUCKs, MUs and MUSHes. I am NOT interested in Warhammer Online or Conan. I don’t do First Person Shooters like Halo or Crysis. I’m not very interested in Hellgate: London. Most of the Nexon games don’t interest me. I will look at Aion when it can be played in North America.

Games I -am- looking forward to playing are Champions Online, DC Universe Online and Star Trek Online. See something in common here? Yes, I prefer superheros, Klingons and space to Elves, Dwarves and Sorcerery. I like my games to have a good amount of story. I like the game to treat the player character as something special. Or at least as having Potential to be something special. If I am treated like ‘dirt’ initially, I will put up with it if I earn their respect after a few ‘missions/quests’.

I also like things to look good on the screen. I’ll put up with low rez in direct counterpart to incredibly good story. But the reverse is NOT true. I will NOT put up with awful story if the graphics are good. Though it might win be over for a while if I am always coming across new beautiful/amazing sights.

Am I damned picky? You bet! But at the same time the new ‘shiny’ will still catch my eye and hold it for a while until I realize that it’s all fake and plastic and not worth anything.

Shew… getting those words out helped some. Thanks for reading them.

I don’t have any book reviews for people this week. I -am- reading Gale Force by Rachel Caine, which is the seventh Weather Warden novel. I’m enjoying it but I’ve only gotten about 60% of it read at the moment. I’ve sort of needed to let my brain rest this week, mostly, and am playing Final Fantasy III on my Nintendo DS rather than reading. Typical FF game. A good balance of story, graphics, game mechanic and combat. Character advancement is good.

I’m going to stop now. Thanks for reading!

Mirrors, Games and Darkness…

Hello out there, world. It is I, the fox/lion/skunk/human that writes semi-pointless blogs once a week. Mhari and I are doing well this week, and while my work-stress continues to be thick… I’ve made it to Friday without to much further loss of hair.

City of Heroes: Yup. I’m playing it. Did it Monday and Wednesday as usual. Dabbled with it last weekend, will play it some more tonight and this weekend. I can’t really say I am doing anything different or have anything new to report. Characters progress in experience, the Open Beta of Issue 13 continues with more improvements and refinements that seem to help decrease the amount of whining happening on the forums… of course, part of THAT perception might be from my not reading them as much as I was in past weeks or something. And the reason for that is I was getting -sick- of said whining and didn’t want to deal with it any more. Which might also have something to do with my not spending as much time on the beta.

I just thought about it for a minute there… and I think I am starting to agree with one of my CoH buddies that doesn’t want to touch the beta… Going over there and playing characters who’s progress is mostly pointless is not really all that fun. I’d rather wait until all of that new stuff goes live and be able to play it ‘for real’ and have the progress and play ‘mean something’. I -do- think I understand… but it does bring up a point: Just what -is- the point of it all… Not something I am going to write about here at this time… but something to think about. Feel free to write your feelings on the subject in the comments to this blog if you like.

Other Things
Last night Mhari and I sat down and finally watched some more Heroes. We’re not yet caught up to this past Monday’s episode… but we are down to wondering… has the show ‘jumped the shark’? (For those that don’t understand the term, go to the Wikipedia Article here.) I really think it may have. Heroes are turning into Villains, people we wanted to save are heading out and trying to save people, and they are pulling things out of their back pocket to make twists and turns into the plot. Of the things I am ENJOYING about this is that they are turning ‘The Face of Evil’, Syler, into a hero this season. And that is enjoyable as it is fun to see the actor play good as well as he did bad.

But this season seems all about twisting things around in upon itself. Is Peter’s father really a worse villain than Syler ever was? Has Mohinder really been corrupted by the powers he’s researched and found? I think, in many ways the only character that has kept ‘true’ is Hiro (thought for a little there in the first couple of episodes, I wasn’t so sure). I’ll say this for the show… it’s deep… it’s wild… and I do keep coming back for more. It’s just that rather than feeling that I ‘Just have to see the next episode’, it’s more of the feeling that makes one look at the things that man was not meant to know about. You go by the accident and you just HAVE to look to see what happened, even if you are afraid you are going to see something grisly and awful that will hurt your mind. You just HAVE to look.

Has Heroes jumped the shark??

Books of the Week
I am sort of working to catch up here. The first book I read last week, and the other two are from this week.

Moon in the Mirror by P.R. Frost

This is book 2 in this series about Tess Noncoire, a fantasy author who is also a guardian for the forces of light. She has an imp for a sidekick and weapon, fights windigos and lawn knomes from another dimension and loves to listen to filk music. It’s a very enjoyable little series with a very likable main character who really, really just wants a vacation!

P.R. Frost is also known as Irene Radford or C.F. Bentley and writes a wide range of fantasy and science fiction in a very readable manner. For Moon in the Mirror and the first book, Hounding the Moon she has created Tess Noncoire who seems very much similar to the author… with extra powers.

I’m going to be looking into her other books and see what I think…

Omega Games by S.L. Viehl (also known as Jessica Hall, Lynn Viehl, Gena Hale and more.) For those interested, her blog is at paperback writer and she talks about all her work there.

Omega Games is the 8th book in the Stardoc series, and is, what I consider to be the 3rd book in the 2nd story arc in this series. Two books ago in Rebel Ice seemed to start off with a completely NEW character in a new situation and didn’t seem to be the Cherijo that we had expected. As it turned out, it was Cherijo, but after a major nearly life-ending event. The character almost completely changed, and the author made it work, but it was Very jarring for me the reader.

Well, in this book, the author has me really appreciating the change, as this new Cherijo is all that the original was without a lot of pointless resistance and arrogance. She’s still somewhat arrogant, but I spend less time wishing I could slap her and get her to see what’s right in front of her face in her relationship with her soul mate. This book finds Cherijo and Duncan leaving their daughter back at ‘home’ and heading off to find out who just put a HUGE bounty on Cherijo’s head… and they end up crash landing on a planet and hunting down a killer.

It was a good mix of character development, displays that Cherijo is still an amazing doctor and surgeon and that the author is good at writing adventure mysteries and making them pleasant to read. While it is not a fantastic book, it was enjoyable to read and makes me very interested in reading the next one, Crystal Healer coming next year.

Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K Hamilton

This is the seventh book in the Meredith Gentry series and just might be the final book. It is, at the least, the last in the ‘current’ story arc that was begun in the first book, A Kiss of Shadows that came out in 2000.

This book follows Meredith in her continuing battle with the rest of the political powers in Faerie as she tries to protect herself, her bodyguards/consorts and further the cause of the God and Goddess in bringing the lands of Faerie back to ‘health’. It’s a wild ride from her hospital room she ended in after the prior book, back into the lands of Faerie and out again. And this time, unlike a few books back, sex does NOT take center stage. This book is about furthering the plot(s) and making things really happen. And as I said at the beginning of this review, it could easily be the end of the series, or at least the end of the current plot line. That’s not to say that there are not loose ends left dangling. It’s just that you could easily see things ending at the end of this one and it wouldn’t hurt things in the least.

But I strongly doubt that Hamilton is going to leave it here, and I am more than sure that her publisher and her fans won’t let her.

The book was fun to read, I love the strength of Princess Meredith’s love for the men in her life and her growth as a person and a power. For anyone that enjoys Laurell Hamilton’s writing, you really won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t.

Thanks for reading… I’ll be right over there… around the corner…. A week or a few minutes from now… I keep getting those two mixed up.

Nothing to see here… Move along…

Honest… I’m Fine. Mhari’s fine. Nothing much has changeded.

We played some City of Heroes. We watched movies (Iron Man), we watched TV.

We read some books. I will review the one I finished this week another time.

This is mostly short because I worked from home for part of the day and had a normal, ordinary checkup appointment with my primary care doctor. Nothing special happened. And I don’t feel like taking the time to do more than this sort of cursory entry. I’ll go back to ‘normal’ next week.

I take that back… One VERY important thing happened. We elected a new president of the United States. Very historical. Very Important and amazing a thing. I sure hope to high heaven that he will be better than the one we still have to put up with until January 20th, 2009. And thank you ALL for voting, even if you voted different than I did (and the fact that 8 passed in California means a lot of people voted different than I did), I still thank you for voting!

Have a great week!