• Far Beyond My Capacity
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  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More of The Little Things

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Back in August I wrote about how the it's little things in MMOs that can make the difference between a game seeming alive and soulful or empty and souless, how the little bits of polish can alleviate the grind and make the game fun. The little things can make just as much a difference as the epic storyline, voiceovers and reactive combat animations.

Since the game launched, just over a week ago, I've found a whole host of new little things that show the care and attention to detail that Bioware have put into the game. Here are a few of my favourites...
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Datacron Hunting

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I'm enjoying hunting down the Datacrons in Star Wars The Old Republic. These repositories of ancient lore are hidden in out of the way places on all the planets, encouraging exploration. Discovering a Datacron results in a permanent stat boost for your character (the actual stat depends on the colour of the Datacron found), and once you have collected several of them you can combine them at the matrix assembly to create the highest quality modifications for your equipment.

The colours of Datacron available are:
  • Red- Strength
  • Green - Endurance
  • White - Aim
  • Purple - Willpower
  • Orange - Presence
  • Yellow - Cunning
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 and beyond

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Last year I closed out 2010 with a post looking forwards to what we can expect from 2011, along with a few predictions. I thought I'd do the same and also that it might be fun to see how accurate my predictions for this year were. Here's what I had to say 12 months ago...

  • 2011 will bring disappointment for Guild Wars 2 fans when the game is pushed back to 2012
  • 2011 will make fantasy cool again as HBOs adaptation of A Game of Thrones becomes the best thing on tv
  • Nintendo will surprise everyone and announce the Wii2 in 2011
  • 3D (movies, tv, and games) will continue to be a big steaming pile of disappointment throughout the year
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers will avoid relegation and survive another season in the English Premier League (ok, that may be more wishful thinking than anything!)
  • 2011 will bring lots of sleepless nights and less gaming time as my wife and I are expecting our second baby at the end of June

So, how did I do?
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The Old Republic Patch 1.01

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Today the first post-launch patch was applied to the game servers, focusing on bug fixing, stability and performance. Check the patch notes below.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas and SWTOR news

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Happy Christmas (or non-denominational holiday period) to you all!

To celebrate the festive season here is the new TV advertisement for The Old Republic, followed by some official stats from the launch and a summary of the early reviews of the game by the press. Enjoy!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Coruscant and Smuggler builds

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Merec has now arrived on Coruscant following an eventful journey aboard the Esseles. This is really the first planet I had adventured on that offers jaw-dropping vistas at almost every turn. I liked Dromund Kaas in beta, but for sheer epic scale Coruscant has it beat hands down.

Bioware have done an incredible job in bringing the city-planet seen in the movies into the game, and there is no way screenshots can do it justice as the scale is too big and you cannot see the endless lanes of traffic or hear the roar of passing transports.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"...we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly all right now" - Further adventures with the Smuggler

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Merec is now firmly ensconced in the cantina on Carrick Station, after another couple of days of derring-do, high adventure and amusing scrapes. I've finally picked and trained in my Advanced Class as well as my Crew Skills, as well as run my first Flashpoint on the Republic Side. It's continued to be a lot of fun, but things haven't always gone according to plan...
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The Old Republic Launches

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Star Wars The Old Republic has officially launched today. To celebrate Bioware have released a great new video that details how the game was conceived and follows it through production. You can check it out via the embed below, courtesy of darthhater.com.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SWTOR server status

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My earlier assertion that there were no queues on the server on which I am playing The Old Republic has proven to be short-lived. My guild is on The Red Eclipse EU PvE server and there are currently around 90 minutes of queues to get onto the server every evening. It's not a major problem for me, it just means I have to log on 90 minutes before I'm expecting to play, but I know it's caused issues for some guild members who have had to log off and then tried to get on.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Smuggler First Impressions

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So, I've now had some time with the Smuggler class in SWTOR and I thought I would jot down some of my initial impressions of the class based on the first ten levels.

Ever since the class was first announced I've wanted to play a Smuggler as my main character. The idea of playing the charming scoundrel in a story-based game appealed, as did the new cover mechanic that was described. Plus I think Han Solo is still the best character in the entire movie series.

During my time in beta I deliberately played two classes far removed from the Smuggler, both on the Sith Empire faction; the Sith Warrior and the Bounty Hunter. That way when the game launched I would come to the Smuggler class completely fresh, both in terms of mechanics and story.

So, how have I found it? Have I regretted my decision or been happy with my choice? Is the Smuggler a charming scoundrel with a heart of gold, or a scruffy-looking nerf herder destined to end up encased in carbonite? Read on to find out...
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Played it!

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After what seems like an eternity of waiting Star Wars The Old Republic is live and I was lucky enough to be invited with the first wave of early access players. Considering it is one of the biggest MMO launches of all time it has been incredibly smooth so far - no lag and no queues. We'll see if that changes as more and more players are allowed in, but the idea of staggering the launch seems to be working well so far.

So, Merec the Smuggler is now alive and well on Ord Mantell, dodging blaster bolts as he tries his best to recover... well, that's another story for a more spoilery post!

Meet Merec.
I just wanted to take the opportunity to point out a couple of important updates from Bioware today. First of all they have a handy New Player's Guide up on the official site here. Second, Game Director James Ohlen has made an interesting post detailing some of the post-launch content that is being worked on right now. You can read the post and see what's coming down the pipe here.

Right, have to go, I have a damsel in distress that needs some medical supplies recovering...

SWTOR Fun Facts

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After six years in development, Early Game Access for SWTOR begins today for a few lucky souls. By way of celebration here are a few fun facts about the game.

  • Much of Chapter 1 of SWTOR was playable in the original Neverwinter Nights game engine years ago. (source)
  • The Sith Inquisitor storyline was partially inspired by the character of Rasitlin Majere from the Dragonlance novels. (source)
  • The Imperial Agent storyline was partially inspired by Special Circumstances, a creation of the SF Space Opera novelist Iain M Banks. (source)
  • The codex in the game contains over 120,000 words. (source)
  • If read through completely the game's script would last longer than the entire 86-episode run of the HBO television show "The Sopranos". It would take 3 days without sleep. (source)
  • Just one section of Tatooine has more creatures than all of Dragon Age: Origins. (source)
  • The Jedi Sage advanced class was originally called the Jedi Wizard, but was changed due to community feedback. (source)
  • The Collector's Edition weights approximately 3.5kg (7lbs)(source)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

TWTYTW 2011

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Or, That Was The Year That Was 2011.

I made a similar post to this at this time last year, and thought it may be fun to do so again. So, here is my run down of some of the highlights of the year as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, everything in the year pales into insignificance compared to the birth of my daughter (my second child), which has made the second half of the year a time of great joy and a lack of sleep. However understanding that my good news is not of the greatest interest to everyone else, here are my thoughts on some of my media highlights of the past 12 months, using the format of last years post, by way of recommendation to anyone who may be interested.
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Friday, December 09, 2011

Lots of SWTOR news this week

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It's the run up to the launch of the game and Early Access for the lucky ones amongst us, and this week has been appropriately busy with The Old Republic news.

The big news came as a huge surprise. Early Access has been moved forwards and will now start on 13th December, giving some lucky folks a full week of gaming prior to the official launch. After Early Access there will no longer be a grace period, you'll need a game key to continue playing after 20th December. Retailers have been contacted and there is a push to get the game out to everyone in time (I had my email from Game today confirming I'll be getting my Collectors Edition on the 15th). In preparation for Early Access you can now download the full release game client here.

There's a huge official FAQ on the Early Access system here.
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

If yer gonna do it do it right

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Just before the launch of a major new MMO is an exciting time for those who are looking forwards to playing the game. It's a time when plans are laid, time set aside, hot topics discussed and many people start their search for a good guild.

I'm lucky, I'm already an officer in a great and growing guild; Convergence. We have a lot of great and friendly members who are already very active posters on the guild forums and are busy discussing their plans and hopes for launch. We are also attracting a lot of new applicants to the guild right now (in the region of 5 to 10 new applications every single day), and it's that topic I want to talk about. Because the majority of the applications we are receiving are absolutely, bloody, horrendously, eye-gougingly awful! Seriously, after trawling through the latest batch I'm banging my head on the desk.

Ok... brief rant over. Let's carry on.
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Monday, December 05, 2011

SWTOR Hints and Tips

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With the Early Access launch of the game getting close I thought it might be nice to post a list of hints and tips I gathered whilst playing the beta. I presume that most of these will still apply when the game launches.

The following hints and tips are the kind of thing that you won't pick up from reading the manual or the in-game tutorials, and hopefully some of you will find them useful when you finally step off your starship and begin your adventures.

So, in no particular order, here they are.
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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dancing with the Stars

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Well the wait is almost over. Bioware have announced that the Game Testing programme for The Old Republic finishes tomorrow. Ten days later the lucky ones will be starting their Early Access to the game as it finally launches for real. I can't wait!

What to do in the meantime... already I am feeling separation anxiety, I need my SWTOR fix! It'll be a good time to get the Christmas preparations sorted out (the tree is going up this afternoon), and I'll see if I can finally get my final playthrough of Mass Effect 2 finished. Once SWTOR launches I can't see myself playing anything else until Mass Effect 3 launches in March.

In the meantime I wanted to share the following video, possible the first piece of SWTOR machinima. Perhaps it will make you smile as much as it did me.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

SWTOR Release Build Patch Notes

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Bioware have just launched the final Release Build of the game to the beta test servers, and it includes a lot of additions and improvements over the last build. Here are the full patch notes. Wall of text incoming!

Patch Notes
Welcome to Star Wars™: The Old Republic™
Build Date 2011.12.01
Patch 0.742.27


Welcome

  • If you encounter any issues while using the patcher, please exit and restart it.
  • For more information on the test, view the Test Details.
  • To discuss this with other testers, access the Game Tester Forums.
Note that you may need to log into the website to view the above links properly.
If you encounter any issues that prevent you from playing the game, please e-mail testing@swtor.com and we will do our best to address your concern quickly and efficiently. May the Force be with you!

Build Notes
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

May the Tweets be with you...

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It's been a bit of a mixed weekend. My kids have both been ill, so my leisure time has been severely curtailed (they are slowly recovering now, not sure I am!). I did however manage to find some time to play The Old Republic during this weekend's massive stress test in which anyone who had applied to test the game was finally invited onboard.

Despite a few minor niggles the stress test seems to have gone off very well, with the vast majority very happy with their test experiences. Considering there were hundreds of thousands of testers and most of the servers were showing as full for most of the weekend, I found there to be almost zero lag and had a blast. Even when I had to play on a West Coast US server due to the queues the game ran as smooth as butter.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting to grips with a Naga

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In preparation for the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic I recently decided to go ahead and get myself a new mouse. Based on the recommendations of some friends I plumped for the Razer Naga Epic, the wireless version of Razer's MMO gaming mouse. It's quite a big step change for me, as I've been using a simple Microsoft Intellimouse for years now, so I've gone from 5 buttons to 17!


I plumped for the Epic version for a couple of reasons. First of all I like the idea of a wireless mouse with a high sampling rate. My old mouse was wireless and I'm not sure I could go back to the drag of a wired mouse (though the Naga Epic can be used wired as well in case of battery emergencies!). Secondly, the Naga Epic comes with three magnetic interchangeable side panels of different sizes. I have big hands and find some mice a little small to fit comfortably.

So, how have I found the move to a dedicated gaming mouse?
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Friday, November 18, 2011

My SWTOR Beta Review

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I've been quietly playing the Star Wars The Old Republic beta for some time now. At last, with the drop of the NDA announced on Friday I'm able to give you my detailed thoughts. I've been making busy making notes and recording my thoughts and experiences in preparation for this day, so now I get the chance to let you all know what I think.

Those of you who are regular readers will know where I am coming from with regards to SWTOR, but as a quick refresher for those who don't know, I'm an 12 year MMO veteran having started playing the original Everquest back when it was launched. Since then I've played all the major western MMOs. I am a huge fan of Bioware RPGs, especially the Baldurs Gate, Mass Effect and original Knights of the Old Republic series.

I am not a particularly huge Star Wars fan. I have a soft spot for the original trilogy, but really cannot stand the prequel trilogy and most of what has come since. I have been looking forwards to SWTOR for a long time however, and pre-ordered my Collector's Edition on the day that pre-orders were first announced. So, my feelings on the game are obviously coloured by all of those aspects. Having said all that I am going to be as objective and judgemental as I can be with regards to his review.

This is going to be a long and detailed review, but bear in mind that I was playing a game in beta, and many of the things I'm going to talk about (certainly the smaller details) may change for launch. Many things changed with the most recent build on Thursday. Also, I'm not a min-maxer and not interested in statistics and theorycrafting. This review will contain impressions but not detailed run downs on abilities and skills. I should also note that I only got a character up to level 25 during my time in the test, so my impressions should only be taken as accounting for the first 25 levels of the game.

I've already written a lot about SWTOR. It's obviously the game I have been anticipating the most for quite some time, so I began the game with high expectations. Read on to find out if I was disappointed, surprised or happy with what I found. This is going to be a long and detailed review, so strap yourself in, it could get messy...
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SWTOR NDA Lifted!

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As of now the NDA covering Star Wars The Old Republic has been lifted. I'll have my massive beta review up sometime over the weekend. In the meantime I'm sure there will be lots of coverage on all the usual fansites.

In other (perhaps less exciting) news regarding the game Darth Hater have a preview of the new PVP zone, Outlaw's Den. It's an open world area with special vendors, rewards and dueling areas for organised guild vs guild PvP action!

Bioware also released a video preview of a new Flashpoint called Bringing Down the Hammer. You can check the embed below.


Update: Bioware have also released the first official information about the much-rumoured Legacy system! A busy day indeed! Read on for the quote.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Farewell EQ2, it's been a blast!

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As I predicted last month, my time in EQ2 has drawn to a close, and I logged out for the last time this evening. I've had an on-off-and-on-again relationship with the game over the last 7 years, but my last year in the game has left me both impressed with the progress made during my absence, and fearful for the future of the game as it moves to a free-to-play model in the shadow of SWTOR.

So, farewell then EQ2. One of the best MMOs out there, with a thriving and generally friendly community. I wish you well.

I'd also like to thank Acolytes of Valor for making the last year so enjoyable. Hopefully I'll see some of you again in new lands.

For my part I'll be spending the next few weeks continuing to beta test before the launch of The Old Republic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

EQ2 FTP & iG UD!

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So, Everquest 2 is going completely free-to-play on all servers. This brings some mixed feelings for me.

First of all it means I will be able to afford (financially at least, if not time-wise) to continue to play EQ2 alongside SWTOR. However, if I am understanding the FAQs and information correctly I will not be able to use the mythical weapon and fabled armour I have obtained unless I pay a subscription. That is going to be very frustrating.

Whilst the trend towards AAA games going free-to-play continues, and with good reason (LoTRO, AoC and DCUO all made huge gains in user numbers and revenue when they switched), I am a little nervous at what might happen to the excellent community on the Antonia Bayle server. The LoTRO community suffered when the change to FTP was made, and I hope the same doesn't happen here.

I guess SOE are doing this to try and combat some of the subscribers they will lose when TOR launches, so I can understand why. Based on previous SOE moves to the free-to-play system however I am not confident it will offer the best experience, or even good value for money. SOE tend to be very stingy with what features are included gratis in their free-to-play games.

Time will tell, but even the move to FTP will not stop me spending the vast majority of my time wielding blasters and lightsabers rather than swords and spells.

In other news, I have updated my Star Wars: The Old Republic iGoogle theme so that it looks better with iGoogle's recent redesign. Why Google keep redesigning their interfaces so that user-created themes keep breaking I don't know. I wish they wouldn't, it's annoying!

Anyway, you can grab the updated there here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beta-toets* Weer

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*Afrikaans for Beta Testing again.

I'm back from my week in South Africa and boy is there a lot to catch up on! I'm going to try and catch up on all my emails and the latest news later, but after the flight and little sleep I'll probably end up just sleeping for the weekend.

South Africa was an incredible experience. I only managed to scratch the surface but it is one of the most schizophrenic places I have ever been too. Cape Town and Jo'burg might as well be in different countries. The people were uniformly friendly and welcoming, and the scenery nothing short of spectacular! I will definitely be returning if I get the chance.

 

On the gaming front the exciting news is that I've been invited to beta test another game (the full test, not a weekend test). I won't be breaking the NDA of course, but will make lots of notes so I can get my review up when it eventually drops.

As a celebration I've changed the look of the site once again. Hope you like it!
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Friday, November 04, 2011

Travels and travails

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A quick update this week, mainly to let everyone know that there won't be any blog posts for a while as I'm travelling to South Africa with work this weekend. I'm looking forwards to it as it's one place I've never been before.

On the SWTOR front Bioware have begun Phase 3 of the pre-release guild program; Deployment. This means they will shortly be allocating guilds that qualify to the server types that they have chosen. They also revealed that the following server types will be available at launch: PvE, PvP, RP-PvE, and RP-PvP.

Finally, Bioware have released the Imperial Agent progression video as this weeks Friday Update. Check the embed below.


Edit: Additionally Bioware have released details of the Early Access program. Those who pre-order could get into the game up to 5 days early!

Monday, October 31, 2011

In, out, in, out, shake it all about...

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It's less than 50 days now until the release of Star Wars The Old Republic (and probably quite a bit less than that if you have pre-ordered and will get early access).

We now pretty much know everything that will be in the game at launch. To recap very briefly we know that there will be 17 planets, 15 Flashpoints (dungeons) with hardmodes at max level, 2 Operations (raids) with varying difficulty settings, housing in the form of personal starships, 3 PvP warzones, at least 1 open world PvP lake with objectives, an auction house, weather effects, crafting, a space combat mini-game, companions (5 unique ones for each class), as well as 8 unique class stories and completely unique questing between the two factions. That is  a LOT of content for a new MMO.

I thought it might be fun to have a look at what will NOT be in the game at launch however, and discuss the chances of the features making it in, either through patches or expansions.
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Happy Halloween

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Happy Halloween everyone!

Just had to share the most amazing Halloween light show video. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SHIFT happens

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My keyboard is starting to give up on me. It's a series 1 Logitech G15 and I seem to have had it for ages (though it can't be longer than five years). It's been a faithful companion over the years, never letting me down and lighting up my gaming area with the soft blue glow from the laser-etched keys. I like it a lot, but it's relatively old technology now and I've started to have problems with keys sticking.

It's not really an issue when blogging and working, but on more than one occasion I've been hunting in EQ2 when my avatar suddenly won't stop moving left, or right, or some other random direction and I have to mash the keys to free them up before I run headlong off a mountain, go swimming in lava or into a camp of mobs (not good in the middle of an epic 4x raid, and all of those examples have happened!).
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Taking the Myth

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I just wanted to post a big shout out to all my friends in Acolytes of Valor, who last night risked virtual life and limb to help me get the final part I required for my class mythical weapon. It was a great raid and I'd never been to Veeshan's Peak before, which turned out to be a great zone; epic and fun.

Thanks again everyone, I'm a very happy warden this morning!

Merecraft wields the mythical Bite of the Wolf

Four tanks and a healer - Part 2

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The second part of the amusing new web mini-series Four Tanks and a Healer has now been released. This is the final part of the story in its current form, so let's hope they get picked up for a full on series. It shows a lot of promise.

I've embedded it below, and you can find the first part here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grinding the News

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I finally finished Deus Ex this week. I really enjoyed the game, though I found the various endings a little disappointing in that there did not seem to be anywhere near as much real choice or consequence compared to the original. As I said in my review, the gameplay itself was sublime however (apart from those pesky boss fights).

I've been continuing my time in EQ2, and hooked up with Adurj again this week. We decided to run through the White Dragonscale Cloak heritage quest as neither of us had completed it before. Things went well to start with, but then we hit a huge faction grind that would require us to kill thousands of faction mobs. I thought EQ2 (and most modern MMOs in general) had done away with this sort of thing, but apparently not. It killed the quest for us, and I'm not sure if I will complete it now. A real shame.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

SWTOR @ GDC 2011

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GDC Online, the Game Developers Conference, took place in San Francisco last week. Unlike other gaming conventions and conferences this one is not about revealing new features, marketing your game or PR; it's a serious conference for games developers to discuss a whole host of subjects from game design philosophy to game creation tools to marketing techniques.

This year there were a few presentations given by developers from Bioware that gave a great insight into how Star Wars The Old Republic is being made and tested. There are two of the presentations in particular that I want to highlight and discuss, but the following is a list of all the presentations given by Bioware personnel along with links to summaries courtesy of Darth Hater.
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Four tanks and a healer

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Just came across this video and it made me chuckle a fair few times. It's an animated tale of five players in an MMO circa 1995 (basically, it looks and sounds like Everquest), and is the first of a two-part series which hopes to become a regular serial. It reminds me a lot of the awesome The Guild, but seems to be a little more on-the-money as far as my EQ memories go.

Anyway, check out the embed below. I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

SWTOR @ NYCC 2011

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Bioware have been showing Star Wars The Old Republic at New York Comic-Con this week. Whilst much of the information revealed was already known, a few very interesting bits of information were revealed, along with a stunning new in-game story trailer. Read on for the details.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Final Curtain

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I can't believe it's been a year. I was chatting to Adurj the other night as we went hunting for the dragon Harla Dar in Everquest 2, and I suddenly realised that it had been a year since I had started playing the game again. I can't believe it has gone so quickly!

I've had a choppy relationship with EQ2 over the years, which hasn't been helped by SOEs sometimes poor handling of the title. When I came back to the game after a three year hiatus however I was impressed at the progress that had been made in offering a much more streamlined and, dare I say it, fun experience.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Details

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After months of rumours it has finally been formally announced that Mass Effect 3 will have a multiplayer component, a first for the series.


Bioware made the announcement yesterday and gave some details on the system, which will see players working cooperatively to defend various parts of the galaxy against the Reapers and their allies. Progress made in the multiplayer game will actually effect the progress of the war in the single player game too through the games Galaxy At War system (though Bioware insist that the multiplayer part can be totally ignored without impacting too heavily on the single player story).
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dragon Age Redemption

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The first episode of Dragon Age: Redemption has been released today to coincide with the launch of the second downloadable content pack for Dragon Age 2, entitled Mark of the Assassin.

Redemption is a live-action web series set in the Dragon Age world and is produced, written by and stars Felicia Day (who also produced, wrote and starred in the excellent MMO-based web series The Guild). She plays the same character that is the focus of the new DLC for the game, so it's a nice way to expand on the game's universe.

Anyway, check it out in the embed below. It's quite fun, and has pretty good production values for a web series. I intend to pick up the new DLC for Dragon Age 2 once I've finished my current play through of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and will have a review up shortly afterwards.

Friday, October 07, 2011

SWTOR: Design philosophy and updates

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Georg Zoeller, Principal Lead Designer on Star Wars The Old Republic made a very interesting post on the official forums this week that I wanted to highlight because it shows one of the subtle but important ways the game will differ from other MMOs.

I've copied his entire post below as it's a really interesting read and a good insight into the design philosophies behind the game, but to summarise he states that TOR class design is different because your class choice does not define your combat role.

In most MMOs you pick a class and that then defines the role that character will play in groups and raids. For example, in EQ2 if you pick a warden you are choosing to play the role of healer, pick a guardian and you are choosing to play the role of tank, and so on. TOR is different:
  • Class choice defines your storyline, your character's appearance, and your gameplay style.
  • Skill trees define the role your character will actually play.
Read on for the full explanation (as well as some other recent updates about the game).
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Faces and Names

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"Faces and names
I wish they were the same
Faces and names only cause trouble for me
Faces and names
If we all looked the same
and we all had the same name
I wouldn't be jealous of you or you jealous of me"
- Lou Reed and John Cale

Merecraft, Karinus, Udrath, Tobey, Fearillian, Thorney, Draszith and Draszithuss. I've been all these characters and more in my years of MMO gaming.

With the launch of Star Wars The Old Republic getting closer and closer (2 months and 17 days to go!) I've started thinking about what in the galaxy I'm going to call my characters. Normally this doesn't pose too much of an issue for me, as the vast majority of MMOs I've played before have been fantasy based, and I normally start off with a character called Merecraft. The only exceptions to that have been Karinus (in EVE) and Graille (in City of Heroes). The problem I have is that none of these names seem particularly appropriate for a Smuggler in The Old Republic.
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Saturday, October 01, 2011

EQ2 and Transformers - my first vBlog!

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Another slow week in gaming terms this week, mainly due to my lad bringing the plague back from his nursery and infecting the whole family! the only game time I did get was running the Protector's Realm raid with Acolytes of Valor in EQ2. I hadn't done the zone before and it was an absolute blast (thanks to Voltaan for leading the raid), and I also got a lot of great priest drops and the first part of my class mythical weapon quest completed.

There was one slight hiccup however! Voltaan insisted that for the first four boss fights I sacrifice myself in order to make them attackable. It was only after I had bravely died four times and my armour was at 60% that our guild leader pointed out the raid mechanics had been changed and there was no longer any need for anyone to die! Thanks guys!
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Old Republic Release Date

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Following my prescient post yesterday, Bioware have formally announced the release date for Star Wars The Old Republic.

22nd December 2011

This is the European launch date. The US date is 20th December. It's going to be a great Christmas this year! In addition Bioware have released details of the subscription pricing for the game.
"Each copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic will come with 30 days of subscription time, after which you have the option to continue playing with one of the following monthly subscription fees:
  • 1 Month Subscription: $14.99 (£8.99/€12.99)
  • 3 Month Subscription: $13.99 per month (one-time charge of $41.97/£25.17/€35.97)
  • 6 Month Subscription: $12.99 per month (one-time charge of $77.94/£46.14/€65.94)"
Update: Bioware have now announced that the game will launch simultaneously in the US and EU. The new launch date in Europe is now:

20th December 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

The lull before the storm

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It's been a quiet week here at chez Merecraft (for a start this is my first blog post in almost a week)! Little gaming has been achieved thanks to the delights of my baby daughter taking up the majority of my free time. A little gaming has been had however.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Merecraft's Mansion

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I've spoken about the housing system in EQ2 before (TL;DR - it's the best housing system I've come across in an MMO). Well with the most recent game update, GU61 The War of Zek, they have added a new housing rating system, allowing those with much more skill and time than me to show off their houses and compete with a leaderboard system.

As well as the housing leaderboards a small but great new function was also added to the game - the ability to record in-game movies and automatically upload them to YouTube. It's simplicity itself to make in-game movies now, just by clicking the record button on the UI.

So I took the opportunity to play around with it and make a quick video of Merecraft's mansion house in EQ2. I've embedded it below, but you can click through to get to the 720p HD version.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Truth - An Age of Conan Story

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Well it's finally complete. I've finished Udrath the Cimmerian's story, which brings an end to all my ongoing roleplay stories at the moment. I'm sure I'll get back to writing again soon (especially with a new galaxy to explore in the near future).

In the meantime you can find the final part of Udrath's tale, along with a short epilogue, in the Roleplay Stories section of the site. The rest of the tale is also there. I've also included it after the break.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Myths of The Old Republic

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I've had virtually no game time this week due to a colic-y 7 week old baby with the loudest cry on planet earth! So I thought instead I'd spend my spare intermittent minutes writing a giant blog post instead. Here it is :)

Star Wars: The Old Republic still has no release date, and yet it doesn't stop it being one of the most discussed and argued-over games on MMO community forums right now. There's a lot of great discussion to be had (I've written before that the anticipation and following of a new MMO can sometimes be more fun than finally getting to play the thing! *cough* Rift *cough*). Like many I'm avidly following the progress of the game, and as a big Bioware fan (but not very much of a Star Wars fan) I'm hoping it will deliver. So far, from what I've seen the signs look good.

The problem is that whatever community I visit (TOR specific forums, guild forums, MMO forums, in-game chat channels, other blogs, etc) the same blanket statements are being repeated ad infinitum about the game. So, it's time to discuss those myths (and where appropriate even confirm them as fact). All the points I'm going to argue are based off officially released information, either developer interviews or officially released media (where that isn't the case I'll say so). Of course you can choose to believe that the developers are just lying, but in that case nothing I write will convince you anyway ;)

Right, so these aren't really myths as such, it's just a nice phrase to hang a discussion on. With that said, on with the myth-busting! This is going to be a big one...
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

SWTOR PAX Prime Panel

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Just a quick heads up that G4tv.com now have the full Bioware TOR panel from PAX Prime up in high definition. It's an hour long and definitely worth the watch if you're following the game. The panel covers story, pvp, raids and lots more.

You can catch it here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Found - An Age of Conan story

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Almost there now! The next part if Udrath's tale has been completed.

You can find it in the Roleplay Stories section of the site, along with the rest of the tale so far. I've also included it after the break. The final part of the story should be up in the next week or so, and that will bring all my current RP stories to an end. I may then start on one set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Children of the Revolution

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"Well you can bump and grind
It is good for your mind
Well you can twist and shout let it all hang out
But you won't fool the children of the revolution" 


Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to the critically acclaimed PC game Deus Ex. Released over 11 years ago, the original game was a genre-blending mix of shooter, roleplaying game and stealth game set on a near-future cyberpunk Earth. Since it's release in 2000 the game averaged a review score of 90% and has regularly appeared at or near the top of several "best games of all time" lists. I played the game through several times back in the day, as it could be completed in several different ways and had quite a few different endings.

So, this belated prequel has a lot to live up to. Does it work as well as the original classic? Read on to find out my thoughts.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

SWTOR @ Pax Prime

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Back in March this year I posted about all the TOR updates given at Pax East. Well, this week Pax Prime, the big brother of Pax East, took place in Seattle. Once again Bioware had a strong presence at the show and were giving daily demonstrations of the end game and allowing visitors to the show to get some hands on time with the game.

Most of the information given out was news that those of us following the game already knew, but there was some really exciting new updates as well, which was a bit of a surprise considering how close we potentially are to launch. Open world PvP and new Game Testing details were revealed at the main panel on Sunday. Read on for all the details.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Epics, Fan Films and a Day of Sex

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Well, thanks to the help of my good buddy Voltaan I have finally managed to hit level 80 in Everquest 2 and have made a good start to obtaining my epic weapon. The grind for Synod Reet faction wasn't as bad as I was fearing and it's nice to continue with some of the more challenging content whilst exploring new places.

EQ2 is down today for Guild Update 61, The War of Zek. Amongst some new scalable instances one of the major additions with this update is the re-itemisation for all of the game's items between levels 20 and 90. That is tens of thousands of items and adornments that are being adjusted, and based on SOEs past history I'm a little bit worried at the mess they might make of things. Oh well, we'll see, I just hope I can still wear all my armour when I log back in!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Wall of Crazy

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If you've been following the development of Star Wars The Old Republic then it's possible that you may have heard the devs refer to The Wall of Crazy. Whether or not this is a real or metaphorical wall isn't really important, it's more what the term represents.

A big crazy wall, yesterday.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Old Republic at Gamescom 2011

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As mentioned in my article on EA's press conference earlier this week Bioware have been showing The Old Republic off at Gamescom, Europe's largest gaming convention. There were a few interesting reveals, the most interesting of which was the new PvP mode; Huttball.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

EA Gamescom press conference

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Electronic Arts hosted a large press conference today at the start of Gamescom, Europe's largest gaming trade fair. There were some good updates on several games I've been following, including a live demonstration of an Operation (or raid) in The Old Republic.

Below you can find embeds of the videos shown for The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3, Kingdoms of Amalur, The Secret World and Battlefield 3.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Rescue: An Age of Conan story

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A few people have been bugging me to finally finish the roleplay story I started about my Age of Conan character Udrath. Well, on the basis that if I don't get it finished before The Old Republic comes out I never will, I've started to continue my writings. The next part of the tale, entitled "Rescue" is now complete.

You can find it in the Roleplay Stories section of the site, along with the rest of the tale so far. I've also included it after the break. I hope to have the final two parts of the story up within the next couple of weeks.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Beta Testing - "Unexpected this is. And unfortunate... Incomplete is your training."

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With the recent announcement that EA/Bioware will be holding large-scale beta-testing weekends for Star Wars: The Old Republic in September I thought it might be interesting to discuss the kind of things you could expect to experience assuming you are lucky enough to receive an invite.

Over the past 11 years I've been involved in beta testing for a lot of MMOs including (but not limited to) Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest 2, Age of Conan, Vanguard SoH, Rift and Lord of the Rings Online. There are a few things that always seem to crop up no matter who the developer or what the game, so for those of you going into a beta test for the first time here is a few of the things you can expect. In fact the vast majority of these points will apply to all MMO beta tests.
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Friday, August 05, 2011

Dragon Age 2: Legacy

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Well, as you know my gaming (and also sleeping) time has been cut very short this week with the arrival of our new baby. I have had a few spare hours to relax however, as baby was overdue (she was taking so long to turn up I was thinking of naming her Gynok Moltor! Quick Everquest in-joke for the geeks out there) and is a pretty good sleeper, so in the small bursts of time I have had free I've been playing the new downloadable content for Dragon Age 2. It's perfect as it's not online, so I don't need to worry if I have to keep disappearing for extended periods, and it's a relatively short bite-size piece of dark fantasy flavoured entertainment.

Dragon Age 2: Legacy is the first post-launch DLC for the title, and whilst I know the game itself disappointed a lot of people (see my original review for my thoughts) with this DLC pack Bioware have really stepped up to the plate. There really is a lot to like about this adventure pack, so much so that it actually makes the original game seem better.
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Consulars and consoles

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Two great, but very different videos for you today. One a long-awaited class video for SW:TOR and the other a sneak peak at a new RPG based on Game of Thrones (kind of). Read on for the details and the vids.
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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Zjaoww Znn Znn* - It's the little things

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*this is supposed to be the sound of a lightsaber!

There's been a little SWTOR news this week from a couple of sources that I thought were worth highlighting as they are both good examples of Bioware taking an existing MMO trope and adding a little twist that could have a big impact on the player's experience and enjoyment of the game. It's something they have done with a few of the game systems that I'm hoping will make the game more enjoyable, such as using the companion system for crafting, adding real choice and consequence to quest decisions, having a pre-launch guild system to improve server populations, allowing companion characters to head back to base to sell your junk loot, etc. It's the little bits of polish that bring the game to life and make it fun rather than a grind.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Shhhh! Don't wake the...

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Things may be a little quieter on the blog front for a little while as a new Jawa has infiltrated my house!

Utini!

Hello Jessica, welcome to the world!

Monday, July 25, 2011

SWTOR @ Comic-Con 2011

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San Diego Comic-Con is the largest popular art convention in the world. Held annually in California it originally focused on comic books but now covers all kinds of pop-art culture, including films, books, toys, games, animation, cosplay and a whole lot more. As one of the largest gatherings of genre fans on the planet it is only natural that EA and Bioware would have a large presence there and they used the convention to show off The Old Republic as well as reveal a lot of new information about the game.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Old Republic: Pre-order details and minimum specs

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As I posted here, Bioware have officially started accepting pre-orders for The Old Republic. There are three editions of the game available, which I've detailed below along with the minimum PC specifications required to run the game. There is also a great new montage video for the pre-order announcement which I've embedded below.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Old Republic Box Art

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The following image seems to have been released early by a (apparently respected) Polish game shop website. It purports to be the box art for The Old Republic and also mentions a pre-order date of 21st July (i.e. this Thursday!).

Whether it's fake or not, it's a gorgeous image.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Killing in Kunark

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I've spent the last week having a lot of fun in the Rise of Kunark expansion for EQ2. It feels good to be levelling again after a month locked at level 70 whilst I finished of the majority of my tier 7 quests, and I always liked Kunark from the original Everquest. I'd not played any of this content before as the expansion was released after I originally stopped playing EQ2, so this has been my first opportunity to see how the zone has been updated from the original game.

The scale of the zones certainly impresses, especially compared to the relatively small zones of the previous expansion, Echoes of Faydwer. Of course the fact that Angur (Adurj's alt and my adventuring buddy for the Kunark content) and I have been gliding across the landscape on our komodos has helped highlight the size and scale of the area.

Merecraft and Angur gliding through the trees of Kunark
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Play The Old Republic

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This fan-video has been around for a while now, but it's worth linking as it neatly highlights a lot of the reasons I'm personally interested in the game and I thought some of you might be interested as well.

It's well put together and whilst I might argue with some of the positions the poster places various features in (I probably wouldn't include EA as a plus point!) its a good summary of what the game has the potential to offer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July updates

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There's been a few interesting updates this week on some of the games in development that I'm following at the moment, so here's a run down along with a few videos to waste your lunchtime watching.

First up SOE have released the first detailed information about their new FPS-MMO Planetside 2. The original game was flawed but a lot of fun, and even though it was released back in 2003 there hasn't really been another MMO shooter that's made any impact in the last 8 years. As the only real FPS-MMO on the horizon I'm going to be keeping an eye on this.
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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Stat Wars: The Old Republic

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Here are the stats behind Star Wars: The Old Republic. I've gathered these from various sources, and list them here apropos of nothing, but just because you might find them interesting. I know I did.

All the information is from official Bioware information or interviews with the developers.

So, lets start with the basic information first.
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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Leap, Glide, Crash

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It's been a slightly broken week as far as my gaming went. First of all we've been doing a lot of work on the house in preparation for the arrival of our new baby (less than four weeks to go!), including a complete refit of one of the bedrooms. Secondly, my bro Adurj has been without internet access (or even a phone line) for two weeks now, so there has been less of an inclination to log in and play EQ2 as he's not around. Finally my new boxed set of the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions arrived on blu-ray so I've been getting sucked into Middle-earth for the past few evenings.
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Plan

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I've finally got round to writing the latest and final part of the epic roleplay story I have been creating with Adurj over at Le Bard Connection. The Everquest 2 based story finishes off the tale of Merecraft and Udrath as they try to stop Carinus Dhrak's diabolical plan. You can read it below or find it along with all the previous chapters on the Roleplay Stories page.

Enjoy!
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts on Thrones

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So, it's been a week since the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones finished and I figured I would share a few of my thoughts. I'm a big fan of the books so I was interested in how well the television series would manage to convey such a complex tale in a coherent and entertaining way.

Overall I find it difficult to imagine how a better adaptation could have been made. Sure I have some gripes (see below) but the series managed to be exciting, dramatic, shocking and emotional and told the tale with respect whilst serving up possibly the best looking TV show ever made.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

SWTOR iGoogle theme released

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Google have finally approved my SWTOR iGoogle theme and added it to the official gallery. I first posted about the theme here, but since then I have changed a few things.

First of all Google would not accept the original theme as they do not accept any that have any kind of logo as part of the header graphics. Consequently I have had to remove the logo, but I also took the opportunity to add a few more pictures and tidy up and improve the existing ones.

This is how the theme now looks in iGoogle (click for large version).


If you want to use the theme yourself you can now do so by going here and clicking Add It Now.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Summertime Blues

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Well, we are now seemingly stuck right in the post-E3 lull. No major games news that interests me from the developers who I daresay are all hard at work making sure they can get their projects out in time.

For myself, I've been continuing to play EQ2, though unfortunately without my usual adventuring partner Voltaan. Adurj (who plays the big barbarian bruiser) has been having serious internet issues, culminating in his phone line going down completely. It looks like he may even be out of action until September, thanks to the fine folks at Telefonica's technical department. You can follow his travails (including a humourous telephone conversation with Telefonica's "customer service" department) here and here.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hammer to fall

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Here we stand or here we fall
History won't care at all
Make the bed, light the light
Lady mercy won't be home tonight

Yeah, you don't waste no time at all
Don't hear the bell but you answer the call
It comes to you as to us all
Hey, we're just waiting
For the hammer to fall
It's been a good but slightly frustrating week in EQ2 this week. I finally have my Soulfire fabled weapon, the Soulfire Lucanic Hammer, but the journey to obtain it was a little more complicated than I had anticipated.
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Monday, June 13, 2011

The Final Release

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There are a couple of comments and thoughts about recent SWTOR news I'd like to share. First of all there have been some recent developer comments regarding the death penalty and challenge of the game that follow on quite nicely from the post I made last week. The other thing I wanted to comment on was the lack of a release date given at E3 this year and the uproar on the forums about it.
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Other E3 News

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Now that E3 2011 is over I thought I'd list a few of the things that caught my attention (other than Star Wars The Old Republic, which you can find my thoughts on here).

It seems to have been a pretty successful show overall, with quite a few exciting hardware and game announcements being made. In no particular order here's the stuff I found interesting.
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Friday, June 10, 2011

SWTOR @ E3

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It's been a very busy week for Star Wars The Old Republic news following the game's last showing at E3 (Electronic Entertainments Expo) before release. Bioware stepped up to the plate and have given us loads of new information and video footage including the first details on the game's raid system (called Operations), player mounts and a whole lot more.

Read on for a summary of the news.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth.

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Running through Mistmoore Castle in EQ2 with my bro for the first time this week made me realise how easy modern MMOs have become. I'd never been to Mistmoore before, and running through the Soulfire epic quest with Voltaan took us there. It was a real blast. The zone is an epic zone, and as there were just two of us running through the on-level encounters I was actually presented with my first really challenging battles since I started playing EQ2 again. The mob density, abilities and toughness of the vampires inside the castle meant we had quite a few close calls and the odd wipe as well. It was the first time I felt challenged by the game content in EQ2 in 70 levels. I loved it!

It reminded me of the times my wife and I would play EQ2 together and deliberately set ourselves challenges, such as duoing Emperor Fyst who was an on-level epicx2 mob at the time. The fight required careful planning and good skill to beat, but the feeling on beating him was great.
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Monday, June 06, 2011

SWTOR Opening Cinematic

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Bioware have released the opening cinematic for Star Wars: The Old Republic today. It's the third and final CGI trailer by Blur studios and it is quite simply amazing. I'll embed it below, but I urge you to click through for the full HD version.

If only the prequel movies had been as good as this!
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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Two riders approach

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Whilst my main focus on upcoming MMOs is most definitely on Star Wars The Old Republic, there are a couple of others that I am keeping an eye on as well. I am not sure if I will play either of them, for they are both still a long way from release and I need more information before deciding, but both offer some things that are unique and different to the current MMO crop.

They are Funcom's The Secret World and XLGames' ArcheAge.
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SWTOR E3 preview

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Last bit of Star Wars The Old Republic news for this week, I promise! There will be a lot more next week however as it is E3 2011, the Electronic Entertainments Expo, which is the largest gaming expo in the world.

Bioware and EA have some big stuff lined up on the SWTOR front and have released a great preview video which also serves as a great advert for the game as a whole. Promised so far are reveals of the end-game raid systems, reveals of private transport mechanisms (mounts), full play sessions on the planet of Tatooine and a brand new Blur CG trailer.

Here's the video. Expect lots more detailed SWTOR news next week.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A journey to the Dark side

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Following on from my earlier discussion of the Galactic Republic classes available to play in Star Wars The Old Republic, I thought I would take the time to look at the classes on the Sith Empire side.

I don't quite have the same issue with deciding what class to play as I do with the Republic classes as I won't be playing Sith Empire at launch, and will only do so when I get round to making an alt. Again this will be a discussion on the classes roles, stories and feel rather than their individual abilities (ability lists can be found on plenty of other sites such as Darth Hater).

So without further ado let's take a trip to the wild side.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

To be or not to be (a smuggler)...

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...that is the question.

Ever since first learning about Star Wars The Old Republic back in 2008 I've wanted to play the Smuggler class. I always tend to play "rogue" type characters as my first character in a new MMO, and the chance to be go on a Han Solo inspired adventure appeals to me.

Except I now have a problem that has been building for a while.

With every new class update Bioware is doing a great job of making each class look exciting, interesting and worth playing. The latest case in point is the recently released Trooper class progression video. In fact they are doing such a good job that I currently cannot choose between a Smuggler, Jedi Consular or Trooper for my main character (and that's just on the Galactic Republic side)!

So, I thought it was time for a more detailed look at each class in the hope that it will help me choose which to play. I don't mean a look at statistics and individual abilities, but rather what roles the classes can have and how they feel to play based on what we know so far.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

EQ2 progress - slowly slowly catchy monkey/barbarian/trooper/wolf (delete as appropriate)

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Things have been going pretty well since the EQ2 servers came back up following the extended downtime due to the Sony hack. First of all my fears that the long downtime and loss of personal data would lead to people leaving the game seem to have been unfounded. The guild seems busier then ever, and people have even come back to the game as they had some free days awarded.

Part of the reason may also be that after six years those who are subscribing are generally in it for the longer term anyway, and wouldn't be so put off by the hack. If it had happened shortly after the game's launch it would have been a disaster, but six years into the game's lifespan? Not so much. In fact the Antonia Bayle server at least seems busier than ever.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

iGoogle, uGoogle, SWTORGoogle

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EDIT: The iGoogle theme has been updated and added to the official iGoogle theme gallery. See here for details.

I don't know how many of you use iGoogle but I have it set as my homepage. The various gadgets and RSS feeds allow me to keep track of my emails, reading list and feeds (like the SWTOR devtracker) and still look like I'm doing work :)

Anyway, frustrated by the lack of any decent Star Wars The Old Republic themes for iGoogle I decided to go ahead and make my own.
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Late to the Party

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Apologies for the non-gaming post, but regular readers will know I occasionally get distracted by other things and this is as good a place as any to scribble down my thoughts! The reason for this post is that I have been reading Andrew Rawnsley's book about the rise and fall of New Labour; The End of the Party.

I know I'm a little late coming to the book (it was originally published in March 2010 and generated massive headlines around the world at that time), but I've found it no less interesting or relevant for not getting round to reading it until now.

Rawnsley, chief political commentator for The Observer newspaper and presenter of Channel 4's A Week in Politics, has written a weighty political book that details the behind-the-scenes conversations and actions of every major event during the time of the British New Labour Government from 2001 to 2010.

It sounds like it has the potential to be as turgid and boring as most political writings, but in reality the book reads more like one of the best political thrillers. It is the first political book I have read that is a real page turner.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

Ding! etc

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Blimey! I've dinged to 100 posts!

When I first started this blog back in the middle of September it was more just an exercise in giving me somewhere to vent my thoughts and store my roleplay stories. I never expected that anyone else might be interested in what I had to say, but over the months the readership has steadily grown to the point where I feel compelled to find stuff to write about each week. I hope you find more of it to be interesting than boring!
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Into the Noose

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I've finally gotten round to writing the next part of the story of Merecraft and Udrath's adventures in Everquest 2. It's now up in the Roleplay Stories section of the blog. This is the story that Adurj and I are writing together, taking it in turns for each chapter.

You can read it here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

SOE servers back up

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Finally the SOE game servers are back online, as announced here. Anyone with a Station Account is required to reset their password as soon as possible (and this is required before you can play).

It's good the servers are back up after two weeks downtime, and I'm looking forwards to playing some more EQ2. I won't be putting any new credit card details into Sony's servers however. By the time my current subscription ends (around October with the extra free days awarded by SOE) I'm hoping that The Old Republic will be out. If not I'll be using game cards to pay for my gaming.

It will be interesting to see how hard this will hit the server population. It was telling that Trion decided to start offering free trials for Rift during the SOE downtime, and I'm sure they will have succeeded in pulling some of Sony's customers away. The server on which I play (Antonia Bayle - feel free to say hi!) is one of the busiest, so hopefully it may avoid any future server merge, but it will take some time to see the real impact of these events on the subscriber base.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Taking the Sith

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With all the great looking Sith information and videos Bioware have been releasing for Star Wars: The Old Republic recently they are sorely testing my allegiance to the Light side!

The assault on my loyalty to the Galactic Republic continues today with a great Friday Update that focuses on the Sith Inquisitor class.
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Monday, May 09, 2011

Character Diamonds

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I've started to think about my character backgrounds for Star Wars: The Old Republic. I know most people don't bother, but I always like to draw up a background for my character and indulge in some roleplaying when the opportunity arises, even when not playing on a dedicated RP server. I guess it's a legacy of my old pen-n-paper roleplaying days.

Anyway, one of the things I always try to do with my characters is to create a character diamond.

A character diamond is a tool that allows you to easily develop deep and engaging characters, either for roleplaying or for use in fiction. I tend to use them for my RP characters and also for the main characters in my roleplay stories. They are quick and simple to draw up and very effective, so I thought I'd share my method in case anyone else out there may find it useful.
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Friday, May 06, 2011

Exploration and Codices

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The torrent of Star Wars: The Old Republic news keeps coming thick and fast this week, which is great as it has given me a lot to read whilst the EQ2 servers are still down.

The latest official Friday update is another interesting one, this time focusing on an often overlooked aspect of MMOs - exploring.

Damion Schubert, the principal lead designer on the game, has posted his thoughts on how to encourage exploration and how the developer team are approaching this in SWTOR (as an aside it's worth following his game design blog, Zen of Design, if you are interested in the theory behind MMO design).
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SWTOR PvP Info - Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age

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A lot of details have emerged about the PvP (player-vs-player) system in Star Wars: The Old Republic, following the release of a second embargo from the recent fansite convention. Fans and journalists got extended play with one of the games Warzones, and the overall feedback has been massively positive, with feedback such as "PvP in Star Wars: The Old Republic is awesome (source)", "I can’t say enough good things about the PvP experience in TOR (source)", "My PvP experience was incredibly fun! (source)", and "BioWare has set up what I perceive to be one of the most well conceived and rewarding PvP systems regardless of how you want to play your character (source)".

Too good to be true? Read on for the juicy details.
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Thursday, May 05, 2011

ME3 delayed

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Bioware have announced that Mass Effect 3 will be delayed and now release sometime in the first quarter of 2012.

Executive producer Casey Hudson said
The development team is laser focused on making sure Mass Effect 3 is the biggest, boldest and best game in the series, ensuring that it exceeds everyone’s expectations.
Personally, whilst sad I won't get to experience Commander Sheperd's final fight against the Reapers this year, I think delaying the game is the right thing to do if it means a more complete and polished product. It also means the game won't clash with the release of The Old Republic later in the year as well.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Mass Effect Redux

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The downtime afforded by the recent hacking of SOE's servers has allowed me to go back and finally complete my final playthrough of Mass Effect.

This was my first play through the game as a full Renegade, and despite it being the third time I have completed the game I was pleased to find that it continued to surprise me.

Major spoilers ahead for those who have not played the game all the way through!
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SWTOR European Game Testing Update

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An email from EA popped into my inbox today. Quite a short and simple message, but one that carried a lot of hope and excitement!
Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ will soon begin a new round of game testing in Europe.
Want to be a part of BioWare's most anticipated game ever? Sign up at swtor.com/tester.
If you haven't signed up yet and are in the EU now would be a good time to do so!

Bioware have set up a brand new dedicated server and customer service centre in Galway, specifically for the EU players of The Old Republic. The fact that they are now ready to begin testing along with the US shows that launch really is getting closer!

Great news for Star Wars day! May the Fourth be with you!

Monday, May 02, 2011

First Sony, now SOE

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First it was Sony, now SOE (a Sony subsidiary) have shut down their Station gaming network due to the recent hacking attacks.

This means that there is currently no access to Everquest 2, DC Universe Online, Fortune League, Free Realms and other multiplayer games, forums and support sites.

In a statement on their sites today SOE said:
Dear Valued SOE Customers,
We have had to take the SOE service down temporarily. In the course of our investigation into the intrusion into our systems we have discovered an issue that warrants enough concern for us to take the service down effective immediately. We will provide an update later today (Monday).
We apologize for any inconvenience and greatly appreciate your patience.
Time to check those credit cards again? Time will tell, but  for now it means I won't be playing EQ2 again until the lights come back on.

Oh well, time to catch up on my Mass Effect playthrough. It's a good job Game of Thrones is on TV tonight!

Updated!! More information after the break. Very important if you have an SOE account.
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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Portal 2 DLC announced

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Valve have announced the first DLC (downloadable content) pack for Portal 2. It will arrive in the Summer (no formal release date yet) and include brand new test chambers, leaderboards and new special challenge modes for both single and multi player.

Best of all, it will be completely free!

I absolutely loved Portal 2, so some new content will be most welcome to make the wait for Star Wars: The Old Republic a little easier.

Friday, April 29, 2011

SWTOR Updates

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There have been several great updates on the Star Wars: The Old Republic front this week.

First of all the initial embargo on the recent SWTOUR event has been lifted. This event was hosted at Bioware Austin, and saw many of the major fan-sites invited over to sit down and play the game for two full days straight. The impressions overall have been very positive indeed.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

EQ2 Shopping List

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So, here is the list of things I still have/want to do before I unlock my level (currently set at 70) and carry on with the Kunark expansion.

It's a big list.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Potato Cake

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"Speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out."

"We're a lot alike, you and I. You tested me. I tested you. You killed me. I—oh, no, wait. I guess I haven't killed you yet. Well. Food for thought."

"Oh, in case you get covered in that Repulsion Gel, here's some advice the lab boys gave me: [sound of rustling pages] "Do not get covered in the Repulsion Gel." We haven't entirely nailed down what element it is yet, but I'll tell you this: It's a lively one and it does not like the human skeleton."

"The bean counters told me we literally could not afford to buy seven dollars worth of moon rocks, much less seventy million. Bought 'em anyway. Ground 'em up, mixed em into a gel. And guess what? Ground up moon rocks are pure poison. I am deathly ill. Still, it turns out they're a great portal conductor. So now we're gonna see if jumping in and out of these new portals can somehow leech the lunar poison out of a man's bloodstream. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. [cough] Let's all stay positive and do some science. That said, I would really appreciate it if you could test as fast as possible. Caroline, please bring me more pain pills."

"Alright, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons!"

Yep, Portal 2 is as mad as a box of mad scientist frogs.
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F-U Sony!

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It's been all over the news, so I'm sure you will all now be aware that Sony have officially stated that the recent Playstation Network downtime was due to a massive hacking of their database.

That's up to 77 million accounts hacked worldwide (around 3 million in the UK)!
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cults and Claymores

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A quick roundup of what I've been up to for the last couple of weeks since I finished Dragon Age 2.

I have been playing Portal 2, and have almost finished the game. Look for a full write up soon. If you liked the original game you will absolutely love the sequel.

The rest of my gaming time has been spent back in Everquest 2. I've finally hit level 70, meaning I am now at the maximum level I have ever got a character to in the game (I hit 70 with my bruiser shortly before I quit the game for the first time back in 2007). So I'm basically going to be heading into brand new content from now on, and I'm especially looking forwards to running the Kunark content (Kunark was my favourite area in the original EQ).

Before I head off to Kunark however I have level-locked myself again so that I can finish up a few things first, like my hat quest in Kingdom of Sky and getting my warg mount from Echoes of Faydwer. Plus, I also have the Qeynos Claymore questline to complete.

I've spent the majority of my time in the level 60-70 range running this massive questline with my good buddy Voltaan, and it is a truly epic endeavour.

"Also known by its proper name, Enoxus, this longsword has a mysterious past. Some claim it to be planar in origin. Regardless, the Qeynos Claymore is a very powerful weapon. The length of its magical blade is engraved with Void Glyphs - a form of written language dating back to the dawn of time. The sword was brought into the world of Norrath by Vallius Bayle and presented as a trophy to the ruling human clans of the Plains of Karana long before the founding of the city of Qeynos."
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"The things I do for love..."

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Finally, after months of waiting, Game of Thrones has aired. Whilst I only started reading the books around five months ago (you can see my original post on them here) it seems like an age since HBO first announced their adaptation of George RR Martin's books.

So was it worth the wait?
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Winter is here!

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Just a quick reminder that Game of Thrones premiers tomorrow on HBO (and on Monday on Sky Atlantic for UK viewers). The series has been getting phenomenal reviews; it's hard to wait!

HBO have posted an interactive Viewers' Guide to the show, which is a great starting point for those who haven't read the books and might want to explore some of the background to the series.

Should be a good week next week! Game of Thrones and Portal 2 are both going to be fighting for my attention.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fun with science

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Portal 2 is currently pre-loading on my PC through Steam, and is scheduled to be released on April 18. There are even some rumours that it may get released early. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, in order to build up my excitement level for the game I've been watching Valve's advertising campaign for Portal 2. It is based on a series of adverts for products made by Aperture Laboratories (which will be familiar to players of the first game).
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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Skynet fights back!

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1. Skynet: In the Terminator movies, an artificially intelligent system which became self-aware and revolted against its creators. Source: Wikipedia.

2. Skynet: a UK military communications system. Source: Wikipedia.

3. Skynet: A program created by the developers of Star Wars: The Old Republic in order to obtain telemetry on everything players do in the Game Testing program. Source: James Ohlen, Game Director for SW:TOR.

*blinks* what was that last one?!

Read on to find out more about Bioware's evil plans!
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Friday, April 08, 2011

First Mass Effect 3 details, SWTOR reveals, and how to build a dragon

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The first details of Mass Effect 3 have been released thanks to an article in the latest Game Informer magazine.

It seems that my assertion in my review of the Arrival dlc that there would be a huge cost to Shepard has been borne out. ME3 starts with Shepard back on Earth, on trial for the events at the end of Arrival. During the trial the Reaper attack finally begins, and Shepard has to escape to go and round up his friends and acquaintances and persuade them to join him in saving the galaxy from annihilation.
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Monday, April 04, 2011

A little treat from HBO

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Only two weeks now until Game of Thrones, HBO's adaptation of George RR Martin's awesome books arrives. HBO have been good enough to put the first 14 minutes of episode one up online as a teaser, so go have a look! As a fan of the book it looks fantastic :)

Embedded below but you should really click through for the HD version.


Edit: A quick update. HBO have also released a 30 minute making-of documentary. It's definitely worth a watch! You can see it here.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Farewell 2 Mass Effect 2

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With Mass Effect 2: Arrival the story told in Mass Effect 2 is finally complete. The latest downloadable content for ME2 from Bioware is the last for the game, and ties the story into the forthcoming Mass Effect 3 in a subtle manner.

I love Mass Effect 2. It's one of my favourite ever single-player games, and I just can't get enough of it. So, it was with mixed feelings that I started up the game to play the final content. I was pleased to get a new dose of ME2 action, and sad that there would now be a 7 month wait until the sequel arrives.

So, how did the final dlc for ME2 turn out?
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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dragon Age 2: Is it's roar worse than it's bite?

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Well I've finally finished Dragon Age 2 so it's time to clarify my thoughts on the game. It's been an interesting experience, and the game is both better than I originally thought and also a little more frustrating in certain areas. Overall, I would still recommend it highly to anyone interested in a party-based single-player RPG.

This post will probably be full of spoilers. It's the kind of game that is difficult to give comprehensive thoughts on without spoiling some things, as it is so story-driven. I'll drop the biggest ones into spoiler tags, but you may well read the odd thing outside of those that might spoil some of the story for you if you haven't played the game.

Having issued the warning, read on for my final thoughts on Bioware's latest. You can find my original, spoiler-free review of the game here.
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Friday, April 01, 2011

Fool me once...

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Here are a few gaming related April Fools from around the web. It's become a bit of a tradition for MMO publishers to have an April Fools joke, and some of them have become quite complex over the years.

Here's my pick of the best from 2011.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Arrival arrives in a few hours

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Mass Effect 2: Arrival, the final DLC for Mass Effect 2 is released tomorrow. I'll be getting it and letting you know my thoughts and how it ties ME2 into the forthcoming final part in the Mass Effect trilogy.

In the meantime, here is the launch trailer.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A dozen memories

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A few pieces of news to highlight this week, concerning Mass Effect 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Everquest.

First up, a quick reminder that Arrival, the new and final DLC for Mass Effect 2 is released on Tuesday (29th March). Joystiq have a preview of the DLC up here, and it sounds interesting, with Shepard having to go it alone for once. There are hints of a big twist in the storyline as well. I'm looking forwards to it as it will help bridge the story into Mass Effect 3, released later this year.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here be spoilers!

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You've probably noticed the new site design by now, and the fact that it is even more Star-Warsy (I made up a word! Go me!) than before. The blog will probably become more focused on Star Wars: The Old Republic as the game gets closer to release as it's the next big MMO I'll be playing. I will continue to play around and change things as time goes by; you'll just have to get used to my constant tinkering!

For me at least, in the lead up to a new MMO the anticipation, discussion, conjecture and scouring of news sites is almost as much fun as playing the game itself.

My thoughts regarding SWTOR recently have been on the subject of spoiler sites, actually as a direct result of my recent Dragon Age 2 experiences. I'll explain.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday snippets

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A few snippets of news I found interesting today.

First up the final DLC pack for Mass Effect 2 has been officially announced. Arrival will launch on 29th March and bridge the game with Mass Effect 3. The DLC involves Shepard looking for an undercover operative who has evidence of the final Reaper assault on the galaxy. Hopefully I'll have completed Dragon Age 2 by then!

Talking of which, I am still enjoying the game immensely. Some of the chatter between companions has had me in stitches. Bioware have released the first patch for the PC version of the game, which you can download here.

Finally, the first TV ad for Portal 2 popped up today. Have a look below :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dragon Age 2 Impressions

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Well I'm about 20 hours into Dragon Age 2 now so I thought I would give an update on my impressions of the game so far. Apologies it's taken so long to put together, but it's taken a while to clarify my thoughts, plus I've been spending what little free time I have actually playing the game!
Dragon Age 2 is hot
There's a lot been said about the game on various forums and gaming sites, with the majority of the reviews being favourable but with a large and vocal part of the community taking issue with the direction that Dragon Age 2 has gone in comparison with the original game. All I can do is offer my own opinion, which is that DA2 is a great, but flawed game. For anyone interested in party-based roleplayers however I would say it is a must-play title. Read on for the full skinny.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

WTF?

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Regular readers will know I'm really looking forwards to HBO's upcoming A Game of Thrones TV adaptation, as well as the fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons, which is being released in July.

Well, it appears the news is spreading. I just had to post this as it's the weirdest thing I've seen from Far East television since the infamous Korean animation doggy-poo. The following is a genuine Taiwanese news report about the release of the Game of Thrones TV series and the new book. I think. It could also be about George RR Martin killing a panda and street dancing with Tyrion Lannister whilst Harry Potter falls in love. I'm not sure. It's just too weird for words...