May 28, 2006

MacBook video game tests

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

Posted by illovich at 10:10 PM | Comments () | TrackBack (13)
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May 25, 2006

Fly for fun (or fee?)

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.

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November 17, 2005


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."

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July 19, 2004

pet class vs. cute pet system

cutepetsystem.gifAm 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?

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how big is each world?

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.

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May 18, 2004

ludes omniform are there invented

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, 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!

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May 4, 2004

A world with no poverty

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.

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April 29, 2004

The AFK Chronicles

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:

The Entertainer

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."

The rules

  • With the exception of macro tweaking and talking to people to get training, time spent at the keyboard should be minimal. If I'm really bored, chatting for a few is fine, but no extended play. The character will be played at night and while I'm at work.
  • An exception will be made to the above rule so that I can grind out the Image Design tree in order to master Entertainer. I will however grind on myself to avoid interacting with other players.
  • I will also probably have to spend a little time logged in to amass the 1860 AP I need to master 3 skill trees, but I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.
  • I will spend NO MONEY, so that I can get good numbers on how much an afk entertainer can expect to make. I will accept clothes as tips, if I happen to be watching when they are offered.
  • I will not ask for tips in my macros. At least not at first.
  • With the exception of getting training, I will not leave the Cantina where I began entertaining. I will definitely not leave the city.
  • When I master Dancer I will become a buff bot. At this point, I will write a macro that autojoins groups and asks for tips in group chat.

Continue reading "The AFK Chronicles"
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November 6, 2003

mmmm, boobies

From game girl advance: Genderplay: Successes and Failures in Character Designs for Videogames:

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?

Posted by illovich at 4:13 PM | Comments () | TrackBack (1)
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November 5, 2003

it's funny because it's true

Penny Arcade! plays Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

Ahhh, FFTA. GBG, indeed!

Posted by illovich at 1:02 PM | Comments () | TrackBack (0)
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Did you really read all of that? Sheesh.

Fortune: "You have a potential urge and the ability for accomplishment." I swear, I really got this fortune. I am not making this up.

spinning hampster -- I really love this hamster

Video Game Theory (external links)
specific games


I play/played Everquest for longer than I ever played any other video game. I never really made a fansite or anything, becasue there were so many, and there were a lot of good ones that I didn't have the energy to emulate (with hundreds of areas and thousands of quests, it's all a bit much.

I started writing a guide to making a monk on a pvp server, but sort of stopped playing before I finished it. There's not much left, maybe I'll finish it off someday.

Morrowind (Elder Scrolls)

Morrowind really rocks. It's too bad that it's a single player game, because if it was a MMORPG I probably would have quit everquest a year earlier. I ran a really poor quality fan site (with emphasis on modding) for a while, but then I finished the game.


Caesar III

I enjoy the so-called City Building series a lot, usually as a change of pace. Nothing like a little armchair imperialism and cultural hegemony to get my blood pressure down. I made one map:

Tarto-Londinum - Northern Provinces. Location: Valencia, Size: Enormous. Resources: Very Rich.

This is really just a modified version of Londinum, one of the City Construction Set maps that comes with C3. What's different? The Emperor will request stuff, there are invasions and distant battles (so you can score a few Triumphal Arches for your Palace Blocks) and I altered the landscape a bit. Oh yeah, no buildings disabled (like in Londinum), and I changed the province to Valentia so you can mine iron.

This map should be a cakewalk for anybody who got as far as Lugdinum, and pretty easy for everybody else too. Just get military stuff happening early, and you should be all set. Check out your production/trade stuff:


Next to Battlezone, my favorite RTS game ever.

(8) Bloody Achipelego
- Tileset: Badlands, by illovich. Suggested Players, 4-8. Watch your back.
Here are some maps, made by my friend Matt Palladinetti:

(8) Hoth - Tileset: Ice, by Matt. Suggested Players: 4-8. Blood freezes at quickly at 10 below.

- Tileset: Badlands, by Matt. Suggested Players: 4-6. Everybody single file.

(6) Partched Plains - Tileset Desert, by Matt. Suggested Players: 4-6. It's hard to quench your thirst with a mouthfull of tar.


I still think I have never played a real-time strategy game that was as perfectly designed and executed as Battlezone (not counting bugs). If you never played it, I recommend it. First-person RTS. Yow.

My old fansite: Outpost 1214. Includes two instant action maps for download, which are also available here:

Bridges - Strat Map. Size: Medium, World: Europa. Scrap: 300+ Geysers: 25.

An old alien base has been discovered on Europa. What makes it interesting beyond the value of the alien buildings is the odd terraforming in the area. Scientists think that the shape of the terrain indicates that this site was at some point a fairly large population center, given that there are large flat platforms connected by bridges, and the abundance of scap bio-metal.

You must establish a base so that we can send our scientists to study this area! Eliminate all enemy forces!

Hide Your Love Away - Strat Map World: Europa, Size: Medium. Scrap: 300+ Geysers: 23

In my opinion, a strategy map pregnant with possiblities. Set on Achilles, Earth's twin. There are many nooks and crannies where your Recycler can be hidden away, and plenty of scrap to be had by all.

A screenshot shows a heroic encampment of Soviet Forces, strategically hidden and ready to strike in a cavern on the northwest portion of the map.

Did I mention that I liked the russian side better?


email illovich with any questions about what this is all about.
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