So I got my hands on a new MacBook Pro. It's seemed very fast, but you don't really know how good a computer is until you see how it runs a couple games, am I right? So I decided to test it out, espeicially after a guy over at the Vanguard forums asked about how good his Mac would be for Vanguard and he got all kinds of ign'ant guff from the regular brand of PC partisans who didn't understand his question (he was aksing if the MacBook running Windows would run Vanguard, not if there would be a "mac" version). So I typed this up:
Ok, first of all -- I'm no super star video game scientist, so don't start waving technical stuff in my face that I should have throttled the buffer overide and overclocked the stfpu in order to get "real" results.
How I did my "tests":
Stock MacBook Pro: Intel Core Duo at 2 GHz, 1GB ram, and a 7200 rpm hard drive, but could only afford to give Windows a 25gb partition (Apple really needs to get a 200-300 bg laptop HD from some vendor, do they even exist yet?). The video card is an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256 mb ram.
I used Bootcamp to make a partition, installed Windows XP Professional SP 2 and the Apple Windows Drivers. I did not install any updates (who has time for updates? I had video games to play).
I did no tweaking. I wanted to see what "Stock" performance was. The only other thing I installed was Firefox in hopes that I could go 24 hours without getting some sort of malware infection (sorry to make the jab, but it is perplexing to mac users how bad the malware situation is on the Windows platform).
I decided that in order to guage what a future game would be, it would make sense to install a game that pushed the limit of current computers. The MacBook just squeaks in under the minimum gigaherz requirements for Oblivion (2 GHz), but has twice the ram and video card ram. The X1600 chipset is a supported video card. But this install reminded me why a laptop is not a gamer's first choice for a rig.
Surprisingly, when Oblivion autodetected settings, it put the MacBook in high quality mode. I went with this, so keep in mind that better perfrmance could likely be squeezed out by lowering some settings (but what a shame since the engine is so beautiful). The resolution was set to 1024x 768 which I bumped up to the screen's native 1440x990. Lowering it back down didn't seem to enhance performance noticably.
Performance was basically acceptable. It hovered around 15-20 fps, both indoors and outdoors, although things could get a bit herky-jerky. I expected it to be worse in towns. If a number of NPC models were in view, fps could sometimes drop to 5-10 fps, but I'm not sure if that was the 3D engine or maybe the game engine loading & caching dialogue and sound effects. This seemed worst with humanoids, I'm guessing because of the complexity of the facial systems. Rats and Goblins didn't seem to chunk it up so bad, although in fights with 3-4 goblins fps was dropping to the 5-10 range, which was pretty jerky and hard to fight.
Oblivion verdict: Basically acceptable. To play the game through, you'd probalby want to explore a bit on high quality to get a sense for the beauty of the engine, but then you'd want to tone it down to medium or low quality for more fluid gameplay. I'm not sure how the end game fights would go (they had tons of actors on screen at once), but I'm not playing through the game again to find out.
World of Warcraft:
I didn't bother looking at the specs on Blizzards site, because I knew it would run. WoW is almost 2 years old now (goodness time flies), so a new machine will definitely run it. I was lazy and I just copied my WoW directory from my PC and ran it. No problem, of course.
Maybe this test is unfair since Blizzard tuned their engine and models to work on lower end computers, but this was smooth as silk. Well,maybe not in Ironforge (the Alliance Capital) where I was getting 15fps -- but they were a "smooth 15 fps), but I was getting an average of 30fps in the more normal "adventuring" areas. But unlike Oblivion, even when the fps dropped, the action on screen had a definite smoothness to it, so I guess I'm saying that there's 10fps and then there's 10fps that feels like a flip book. I had WoW running at 1440 x 990 with all options set to maximum. Again, you could probably get much better fps with some options turned down, but why? It played and looked great.
The wide screen is definitely nice in a MMORPG. It gives you a place to put all your gee-gaws and widgets and you still have a nice center area with a basic 3:2 ration (like a tv) for all the action.
World of Warcraft verdict: Excellent. This could be your main gaming machine for WoW. I'd still prefer a desktop (I usually play on a 2.21 GHz Athlon 3500 with dual SLI GeForce 6800s and 2gb of ram -- much preferable for games in general, but I wish I had money for a widescreen =P), but I can rationalize having a bunch of computers in the house since it's my profession and lifelong hobby. And my wife accepts that every 2-3 years I "need" to buy a new gaming computer.
Gut Feeling Summary
If you need this machine and want it but are afraid you won't be able to play games on it, don't worry. You should be able to play most of the current crop of games with no problem, all though the real gpu pushers might chunk you up a little bit (this is a curse of the latop, not due to the picture of the apple on the case). It's hard to know how Vanguard specifically will be since system requirements aren't public yet.
Maybe if I get into the beta I can let you know :D
Flyff: Fly For Fun is the cutest free mmorpg I've seen in a while. I think they may use in game RMT for funding, which is less cute.
Bum Lee > Deanimator is a very fun shoot all the zombies flash game by Bum Lee, who is a good illustrator and also happens to have a very cool name, which also evokes the phrase "Bum Knee."
Am I wrong in saying that there is something that differentiates asian MMO design from n-american/euro MMO design?
I'm not sure exactly what it is that's different, but I think it's best exemplified by ragnarok online's "cute pet system."
The na/euro counterpart to this system is of course the so-called pet class, creature handler, wizard. It sounds the same, just we don't make it as uh... cute, I guess.
Would I be wrong in guessing that "cute" is not emasculating in asia?
Something that really affects an online experience much more than any of the MMORPG companies like to talk about is how populous a particular game and each server/shard is.
The reason that no one likes to talk about it much is that it can be very difficult to predict exactly how a servers population will affect an individual's experience. Some people will have a better time if they are surrounded by generous veterans happy to dispense their time, advice and material goods--others enjoy appearing anonymously in a vast empty feeling new world, and slipping off into the wilderness to make their fortune one their own.
There's also the third common scenario... the new player that wants only some basic advice or help that is ignored or insulted by veterans who assume the n00b is be99in9 for l3wtz. My guess is that its this scenario that leads some companies (like SOE) to encourage players to begin life on a server with a lighter population.
An Analysis of MMOG Subscription Growth is an interesting chart both for people curious about the MMORPG industry and for people looking into renting a space in a specific online world.
There's a few out of date items... for example I think that his analysis of Star Wars Galaxies is flawed because it fails to take into account the positive previews and buzz that the Jump To Lightspeed expansion will undoubtedly bring to SWG (I think that the JTL expansion will significantly boost SWG's subscriber base, but we'll see). Otherwise and the game by game analysis are a good read.
He wole maken fule luden, He wole grennen, cocken and chiden. - a1275 Prov. Ælfred 687 in O.E. Misc. 138
As my interest turns from simply living in various virtual worlds to studying them, I came across Ludology.org, a website devoted to videogame theory. Unfortunately, the webserver that hosts the articles by the author (Gonzalo Frasca) is currently unavailable, so I'm having a hard time forming my opinion on ludology on it's own, let alone versus narratology.
Searching the oed (yay!), I find that the (what I assume to be) the root lude can mean either noise/clamour, a game, or is a variant of lede and oddly enough as an (obscure, past, scottish) form of "love."
My guess is that the coining of the word ludology was centered around the "game" meaning of the word.
Title:1694 MOTTEUX Rabelais v. (1737) 230. Yep, I got my access to the OED back!
What defines a healthy economy? Wait, don't answer... what defines a healthy economy in a world where no one ever really dies, needs to eat or really feels pain? That's right, the topic is the SWG Economic Data, and it's a lot more interesting than real economics, I'll tell you what.
Hokay. Let me qualify that. It's more interesting to someone who plays MMORPGs a lot, but who doesn't give a hoot about economics in real life.
Raph Koster (aka Holocron) posted some interesting tidbits
about the movement of Galactic Credits (cr) in Star Wars Galaxies the other day, and it's picked up a fair amount of interest even in places generally not about gaming in general, and not about SWG in particular.
Which I think speaks to how interesting and unique SWG is beyond the fact that it's Star Wars. Actually, what makes SWG interesting has nothing to do with Star Wars at all: it's the economy, stupid.
Well, to be clear, it's not really the economy but rather the amount of direct control and options that players have in shaping their own community and economy. I've been talking with a number of players who are or are planning to use the unskilled labor (and unused real estate allottment) of other players for offloading menial manufacturing tasks. The artisan in question (be it an architect, droid engineer, etc.) will design the schematic and gather the resources necessary (steel, petrochemicals, etc.) and deliver it to the unskilled (or not-necessarily-skilled) industrialist who completes the manufacturing for them.
"Ah, how much like real life," you sneer. But wait: SWG has a built in minimum wage (the mission system), so it's pretty difficult to exploit labor--at least to the degree that we're accustomed to in the service sector, to say nothing of sweatshop labor.
What SWG lacks of course is the ability to actually get off the credit wheel unless you wish to be completely homeless (which is not the hardship it is in real life, admittedly). After some conversations with Scott, I've begun to wish more and more that a player city could opt out of credits totally, and work things out in a socialist (or if that makes you uncomfortable, kibbutz) style. All of the tools are there... instead of paying building maintenance charges (hard wired into each structure), the player could have tools and resources and tasks that they used to keep a structure going.
Am I dreaming? Would this subvert the economy of SWG? Or would it make it more robust, as such a city would demand that all players were involved in their own economic system, contributing and building instead of just sitting around and paying taxes every week with mission payouts.
I can't tell. God damned late capitalism... it always clouds my vision.
Something has been bugging me about Star Wars Galaxies: The Entertainer Professions (Entertainer, Musician, Dancer). During the beta, I made an entertainer as one of my characters and was quickly impressed by how boring the profession was. At the time there were assurances (more from the players than from the devs) that by release the so called "social classes" (politician was still a glimmer in the dev plans eye) would be rich and compelling.
Not too long after, it was announced that the game would be released unfinished, everybody gasped and ranted, and on the penultimate character wipe I said "screw this" and went back to playing Everquest. But I digress.
Fast forward almost a year to when I actually bought the game. After getting my bearings a little bit, not to mention accumulating a few hundred points of battle fatigue, I remembered the "social" aspect of the game... that is, the part where part of playing was being "encouraged" to go to a cantina.
So to the cantina I went, to find pretty much what had existed through much of the beta: the AFK entertainer. Oh sure, they're called many things such macrotainers, holodancers, cantinaspammers, etc. Most of the names are nasty, and I'd rather not get into a discussion about the right or wrongness of this development.
What I am interested in is the availability of a class that can largely be played AFK, with only a few exceptions. We'll get to those in a minute, but first:
Meet "Twi'lek X" (not her real name), a pretty Twi'lek that lives on a server that is not Corbantis. I made her for experimental purposes, to prove to myself that it is possible to make a MASTER social class char with minimal time spent actually playing.
Why I care, I don't know. I think it's just the pride (if that's the right word) of being able to say "I have a Master Musician/Dancer/Entertainer on [server name] that I spent about 1 hour actually playing."
I made the char and she spawned automatically on Tatooine. Hmm, not really what I wanted. I got the helper droid as part of the new publish and did the quests (took about 20 minutes), netting a couple extra credits plus a free shuttle ticket. Mos Eisley (the new forced starting city) was dead, so I used the free shuttle coupon to get to Bestine.
For stat hounds, I migrated her HAM to 400/1250/1000 in order to slightly maximize the profession. Since I plan to never leave the cities, This should not be a problem.
In 24 hours of AFK time and about one hour of play, Twi'lek X is Entertainer 1/1/2/2 and has accumulated about 9k in tips. A master dancer also gave me a nice dress (Luxurious Gown with 3 sockets!!!), I hope she's not too mad if she ever figures out she gave the dress to a macrotainer.
Well, I've had to break the rules a few times, mainly in order to optimize experience for Twi'lek X. To be more exact, I had to spend money.
On what you say? Instruments.
Basically, you get more XP it turns out, for playing with higher level instruments as you gain access to them. I noticed when I had gotten to dancing IV but only a bit into music III. The way it works is that you get XP for the instrument level you play or the song you play, whichever is lower, so I realized that I would have to buy instruments in order to make m musician XP happen very fast at all.
At first I spent 500 to buy a generic crafting kit, but then I realized that crafting is a money nightmare... once I started crafting, there was no way I'd be able to keep track of how much I had made. So I backed off that idea and decided I would just buy instruments as I leveled.
Unfortunately, this has made me leave Bestine. As there was no instrument market there. I flew to Coronet, and I bought a Fanfar, Kloo Horn and a Mandivol. So this brings our money to:
Current money from tips: 37000
Generic Crafting Tool: 500
Kloo Horn: 800
Ticket to Coronet: 800
Total Money made so far: 40,100 credits.
Not so bad for a few hours work, plus several nights and days afk. I'm currently at Entertainer 1/3/4/4 and will "work" on either Music IV or Novice Dancer tonight.
Mo' Money Mo' money.
No, not really. Although moving to Coronet has been good XP and good for buying instruments, it's been pretty crappy for money.
I got enough XP for Novice Musician & Novice Dancer, and had to buy that from a trainer and a Traz. Total money out? 11k.
Total money out to date: 14,600k
Total money possessed: 27,720.
Total money made to date: 42320 cr
...which is only a influx of 2220 credits yesterday evening, and no credits at all last night. Destroy missions are definitely faster. My guess is that if I fly her to a more remote location, credits will start flowing again.
The late Dr. Anita Borg taught that technology isn't neutral; tools are shaped by the values and desires of the creators. Often the creators tend to be clueless to the values encoded in their tools, because to them, the tools are transparent - they reflect pure utilitarianism. But to those who are excluded, the tools are highly charged.I wonder what this can tell us about the move from joystick to gamepad?
Ahhh, FFTA. GBG, indeed!
Everquest geek alert: 54-65 Fast for the necromancer.
Didn't want to lose the article, so I blogged it.
Using Everquest's new Cartograpy System, I made maps of the Gulk of Gunthak and Dulak's Harbor. And now they are available to you, the reader. Or anyone who followed this link but never reads my website, and never will again.
No matter, I cherish you all. All your eyballs and page views.
Instructions are included in the .zips. you must have Legacy of Ykesha in order for these to be useful at all.
Now go play.
A post on the elder scrolls message board (racism in morrowind) got me thinking about a topic I haven't visited in a while, racism in roleplaying games-on both pen & paper and computers.
the original post by Stop Crashing:
Why does the "black" reguard race have higher strength, agility and speed while the "British" Breton race have higher willpower, intelligence and generally a greater mental capacity? Put more thought into this next time developers!
Actually, Stop Crashing has a point--although it's not necessarily something to make signs and picket Bethesda about. RPGs and racism are intimately intertwined... as a matter of fact, racism is often a core mechanic of RPGs.
The first question is what is racism? Racism, or racialism is "the theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race," (OED, 2nd Ed.) which should not be confused with bigotry ("a judgement formed before due examination or consideration; a premature or hasty judgement; a prejudgement." OED, 2nd Ed.).
If racism is defined as "the theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race," then many RPGs are demonstrably racist... especially ones that use multiple types of humans (e.g. Bretons, Imperials, Redguard, Nords). I argue that the proper term for elves, dwarves and other non-humans is species and not race, but I suppose that in a fantasy milieu with multiple tool-using bipedal species the definition of racism could be altered to "the theory that distinctive humanoid characteristics and abilities are determined by race."
Why is this important? An easy, if somewhat intellectually shallow reaction to the above would be "so what? it's just a game! it's not real!" has a certain amount of validity, except that these games are a part of the life of many people who also belong to a culture that has unfortunatly been so intertwined with racist theories and attitudes that it can be difficult to distinguish how pervasive they are.
It is my personal belief that every small and otherwise harmless bit of racism keeps the larger uglier fires of bigotry and hated burning. Everytime it's ok to assert that "blacks dance better than whites" allows the ideological space for that harmless thought's ugly brother "whites are smarter, better and more valuable than blacks" to continue. Therefore it is important, if one is inclined to rid the world of bigotry that they make the small and suprisingly easy decision not to buy in to any racist theory.
And getting back to Stop Crashing's point... there is a long history of European belief that it is the European that is the intellectual superior of the world, and that the lesser (non-Europeans) are brutes. So to write a world where Bretons (the Brits -- and to answer an earlier criticism, the word Breton is related to British) and Imerials (Romans) are in control (and the British are the smarties) over darker peoples and viking brutes does smack of racism...
My question to SC would be...isn't it valid to remake the world under a veil, so that you can draw attention to issues of the real world without raising the emotional ire of your players? As far as I could tell, there were many oportunities to see slavery and prejudice in action...just in an alien setting. I guess my point is, that although the use of a characters "race" is unfortunate, I think you can depict a terrible world or terrible things without being a terrible author.
I've gone on long enough, I think.
-- Originally posted at: Elder Scrolls Forums
The question in the final analysis is whether or not the racism in the game is assumptive (inherent in the game mechanic, and therefore a product of racist ideology) or descriptive (a part of the game's universe, presented either sub- or objectively). In the end, Morrowind has both types... a moral subplot regarding the evils of slavery while supporting racist ideas in terms of character development (e.g. in the Morrowind universe, black people (Redguards) are faster and stronger than the intellectually superior white people (Bretons).
It would be a mistake to think that there are hooded robes in the closets at Bethesda Softworks of course, since the racism we are talking abuot is a much more subtle, hidden racism. But it's an issue that I think needs to be addressed by the RPG industry, probably sooner than later.
I took a gander at a review of Everquest from Christian Spotlight which is a subzine of Christian Answers Network. The CAN is apparently a fundamentalist group, non-denominational and would like you to contribute $15/month to support their website.
I was suprised at how much they didn't mind about Everquest. The reviewer seemed pleased at the relative lack of graphic violence, and even the innate polytheism of the game didn't seem to bother him too much... although, it did lead him to make an interesting comment:
The dieties go from worshippers of life, tranquility and justice, to disease pestilence and chaos. One can also choose to remain agnostic, which from a Christian perspective would be the easiest choice.Personally I would choose to worship The Nameless, who I agree with others is clearly meant to be an EQ version of the monotheist Tri-God (YHWH/Jehovah, Christ, Allah).
The reviewer also said they played a monk, who are healers, because they don't use magic. It's true they don't have magical powers (spells, anyway), but they aren't healers either.
And then my favorite part:
On the plus side. "Everquest" is a great place to preach the gospel. A simple zone wide chat message will attract many to ask questions about Jesus, or about Christianity.ARRRGH! It's that guy who's always spamming then incoherent gospel crap in GFay! I respect the right to religion and all--but damn that gospel guy in GFay is annoying. In my experience he generally only seems to have read the Gospel of John--which annoys me because Mark is much better.
But back to Christian Spotlight. The review is much fairer than I would have expected from a fundamentalist publication what with the polytheism and violence and magic, but violence doesn't seem to bother the editorial staff at Christian Spotlight... of course their reviews are sort of weird too... take for example their review of Jedi Knight II: Outcast, which received ratings of [4/5, 4/5. 3/5 and 5/5] from them....pretty good scores, right? except the review concludes with
Overall "Jedi Knight 2: Outcast" will leave you feeling cheated and robbed of your money. But there are a few elements worth checking out, so it's your call. Don't say you haven't been warned.I'm not sure if I should /shrug or say "WTF?"
I finally got around to dinging 55 over the weekend. Woot.
Planes of Power seems ok, although there doesn't seem to be much loot flowing around like with Luclin (when Centi Longswords were dropping off every mob in ME for about a week or two). It seems like the biggest winners of this one might be tradeskillers and their patrons.
I also have doubts that I'll ever be able to get into the so-called "flagged" planes, since they require a 60+ group (just one though) to win a fight in order to get the flag...
So now the race of improbablities is: will I get my Epic or or get into the Plane of Storms first? The probable answer is: neither.
But at least I have boo boo.
Apparently, Verant came to their senses and removed the experience nerf for soloing. I'm assuming that if half the people on various message boards who claimed they had just cancelled their accounts were telling the truth, Verant had a couple thousand people cancel yesterday, which probably mad somebody in accounting say "um."
Oh yeah, I dinged 54 a few days ago.
54 is sort of more disappointing than 53, mainly because I can't afford any of my spells. It's sad. And now Verant nerfed soloing, or changed it, or something.
Weird. But yeah, I'm 1 level from boo boo. Not that I'll have it when I ding. I offered a guy 3k (all I have in the bank) for the scroll the other night and he all but laughed in my face.
By the way, I dinged 53 a few days ago. Besides winged death there's really no great new spells...and even WD isn't that exciting. I'm two bubbles in already, so I'm hoping to get 54 pretty fast, which is really just a veiled way of saying I hope to get to 55 soon, so I get my pet.
Boo-boo! I want boo-boo!
Business 2.0 has an article up on John Smedley, COO and founder of Sony Online which for now can pretty much just be referred to as Everquest. The article deals more with the currently exploding MMORPG market and Sony's upcoming broadband economy jump-starting Star Wars Galaxies, which will probably make more money thann the last two Star Wars movies.
What boggled my mind is that Sony has made a cool mil charging people $50 to change their character's names.
So apparently the preorder our unfinished game or you might not get it right away scam has reached a new low, with Shadowbane--the MMORPG that seems more and more likely to fail--now saying that if you don't preorder the game, not all races (or species, as scientists like to call them) will be available in game to you as a player.
I hate to curse in public but--fuck you, Ubisoft.
That is the biggest loser scheme I have ever heard, and I think the translation should be understood as "Um, we're kind of low on cash, and our backers have said they won't give us any more money unles preorders go up...so cough up NOW, fanboy."
Once again, I am playing everquest. Ahhhh....all the other games sucked anyway. The new Jagged Pine zone is pretty cool, and I hit 52 there quadding Poachers.
Some nice rare drops off them, including a +4 wis neck, which I replaced with a Chyrsolbyl (or whatever) Talisman that I paid too much for in the bazaar.
Some ueber neck apparently drops off the Timber Griffs, but I hate fighting griffons. At least they drop wings, which I think I needed for something else before.
So, I got Neverwinter Nights. Is it everything I hoped and dreamed while verbally deriding it? No.
Is it good? Yeah, it is. I don't think it's quite the revolution story that most people seem to be slavishly deluding themselves with, but it is good. You can make DnD adventures yourself and play online with friends, and all of the rolling crap and rules accounting is more or less taken care of by the computer.
Of course, this completely obliterates the social aspect of rpgs, plus gets rid of most of the reading, which I don't really approve of, especially when rpgs are viewed as an activity for children (hey, people can say rpgs are mindless, but I knew the basics of feudal government and the difference between an oligarchy and a patriarchy when I was 10, because it was covered in the Dungeon Master's Guide).
Anyway, I'm working on a campaign with Matt, and I'm sure Mike will get involved shortly.
I'm gonna try to sell them on my old Sumer campaign.