January 27, 2008

Board Games!

Posted in Board Games, Games at 3:18 pm by Transmuter

Today I think I’ll write about board games. I love board games – unfortunately I usually don’t have friends or family interested in playing. Fortunately now that my brother Brett is living in the same apartment complex as I, I will hopefully have more opportunity to play some games, at least some two-player ones.

One board game I actually got to play recently was Settlers of Catan, one of my favorite board games. This is one of the few board games that my wife Chiemi is willing to play. We got together with Brett and his wife Kellie one night and played. We didn’t have enough time to finish the game, but I had the most points by the time we stopped. I’m not going to explain the game in this post, but I might later.

Update: This just in! As I was working on this post, Chiemi mentioned an idea she had about a theme for the family gift exchange for next Christmas – board games! Great minds think alike. That’s going to be exciting. Now back to your not-so-regularly scheduled posting.

Some board games I enjoyed when I was younger include RoboRally, HeroQuest, Dungeon, and Master Labyrinth. Some games I like nowadays include the aforementioned Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and HeroScape. Board games I am interested in include Attika, the World of Warcraft Board Game, Cathedral, and Dungeon Twister.

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January 23, 2008

Pally Power!

Posted in Games, Role-Playing Games, Video/Computer Games at 2:54 pm by Transmuter

I gotta say, I love my paladin in World of Wacraft. My main character is a level 70 gnome rogue, and he’s good at what he does (sneaking around and killing things), but there’s no rule that you can only have one character in WoW. My first alt was a dwarf hunter, but I quickly got annoyed with all the upkeep of feeding and training my pets and constantly having to buy ammo for my gun. My second alt was a warrior who happened to be a little gnome girl with pink hair. I had this image in my head of this tiny, cute person going toe-to-toe with gigantic monsters (i.e. tanking dungeon bosses), which I thought would be amusing. However, playing a warrior didn’t excite me, I think because it was so similar to playing my rogue – all melee combat. My third alt was a Blood Elf mage. Playing a mage was fun, but my friends are all Alliance, so I haven’t bothered leveling him much. The next alt I made was a Draenei shaman. Playing a shaman was average for me; the enhancement part was more of the same as my rogue and warrior, the elemental part was like the mage, and the restoration part I didn’t get much chance to use besides self-healing. Then I made my paladin.

I had never been interested in playing a paladin, but then I saw a video of a level 70 paladin soloing the Scarlet Monastery Cathedral. This doesn’t sound that impressive since many classes can solo SM at level 70, but the difference was that the pally gathered up all the mobs in the whole instance and took them all on at once! After seeing that video, I wanted to do the same, so I rolled myself a paladin. Playing a paladin was like a breath of fresh air; everything was completely different from my rogue. Fighting on my rogue was a race against time – I had to kill the enemy before they killed me. The benefit was that either result happened quickly. As a paladin (protection specialization) I’m nearly invulnerable with my plate armor, shield, damage reduction abilities, and healing spells, but it takes forever to kill monsters. The up side is that paladins rock at taking on multiple mobs at once, with several abilities that cause the monsters to take damage when they hit the paladin, so they essentially kill themselves by hitting me. Another benefit is that I can start fighting something and go do something else while I wait for the monster to die, like look something up online or get something to eat. I also found that I love tanking! I really like having tons of monsters beating ineffectually on me. DPS classes like my rogue are a dime a dozen, but tanks are always in demand for groups. It’s often difficult to find a group to run a dungeon with my rogue, but I just need to find a healer for my paladin and the rest tends to fall into place. My rogue is best at killing casters, while my paladin is great against melee mobs. All in all I really enjoy playing a paladin.

Laeral

This is not what she really looks like; it’s just the default image.

January 22, 2008

My Birthday 2008

Posted in General, Video/Computer Games at 10:14 am by Transmuter

Well, I’m 26 now, but that’s not why I feel old. I feel old because I have 2 kids, one of whom is kind enough to give me sleep deprivation.

My birthday party was fun. The day before, Friday, Chiemi and I went to a hotel while my brother and sister-in-law took care of the kids. It was heavenly to sleep for 10 uninterrupted hours! Now if only I could get that kind of sleep for a week straight I might be able to recover from this chronic sleep loss. Anyway, on Saturday we held a party at my parents’ house. Chiemi made all sorts of Mario Bros. themed decorations, and you can see them on her blog. I played Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii while we waited for the pizza to arrive, and afterward we played Apples to Apples. If you’re looking for a fun party game, give Apples to Apples a try. All in all it was a very enjoyable day.

Oh, I forgot to mention my presents! I mostly got money, with which I plan to purchase a new computer chair, but I also got Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Latin. I asked for it so I could have a goal to work toward in my Latin studies. Unfortunately I’ve been way too sleep deprived in the last few months to retain anything I study. Good thing I’m not in school anymore!

I also got a couple of PC games: Heroes of Might and Magic V and Battle for Middle Earth 2. I like the HoMM series, and I’d played the demo of 5, so I knew it would be a good game. I’m on the 4th level of the first campaign, and so far the game doesn’t disappoint. The game is a couple years old, so the graphics aren’t the best, but it’s not bad enough to actually detract. The music, as in previous games, is beautiful and epic. I find myself getting annoyed by the music changing when I enter battle or a town because I’ve gotten into listening to a particular piece. If the collector’s edition of this game had been available I would have bought it long ago. Things I like about HoMM5 include the following:

  • Hero development – I like leveling up and picking skills to get.
  • Power progression – It’s satisfying to get access and funds for the more powerful units in the game.
  • Replayablility – Because you can choose different heroes and skills, the same level could be played in two different ways.
  • Low learning curve – HoMM is a pretty simple game to learn, but fun to play.
  • Music – The music in the HoMM games is always amazing and a joy to listen to.

I haven’t played Battle for Middle Earth 2 yet, but my brother has his own copy, so I’m sure I’ll play it eventually.

January 21, 2008

Lord of the Rings Online

Posted in Games, Role-Playing Games, Video/Computer Games at 10:15 am by Transmuter

A couple weeks ago I was at the mall and stopped by EB Games as I always do. That store is my only refuge in a world full of clothing stores. My wife, of course, feels the opposite, but she lets me browse the store’s (admittedly scanty, especially for PC games) selection whenever we go shopping at the mall. I walked over to the PC section, if it can be called a whole section, and noticed that the Lord of the Rings Online Collector’s Edition was on sale for $20! I made sure that the price was not a typo or the price for the regular edition, but all was as it seemed. Being a Tolkien fan, I had been interested in trying out LotRO, but I just couldn’t see paying a large amount of money for it when I’m already paying for and playing World of Warcraft. However, I just couldn’t pass up this deal, so I purchased it and took it home. I figured even if the game sucked I’d have the collector’s edition stuff and a free month to make up the cost. The soundtrack for the game is quite good; I was impressed and will add it to my music collection. The “map of Middle-Earth” was a junky piece of paper with a generic map printed on it. This is neither new information nor useful for the game. An interesting-seeming “making of LotRO” DVD was included, but I haven’t taken the time to watch it yet. I didn’t realize it until I looked it up just now, but the full-color manual seems to only be in the collector’s edition. The manual is nice, and I read through it, but it wasn’t anything special. The special in-game items are something that I have no judgment on, because I’m not experienced in the game to know the difference.

Ok, as far as the game itself goes, it spectacularly fails to impress. Even at maximum settings, the graphics are lackluster. Everything seems to be colored in various earthtones, and the environment lacks distinctiveness. The game has a generic fantasy style that seems bland to me. I suppose the Lord of the Rings started the fantasy genre, and therefore has the rights to this sort of style, but the fact remains that it is unimpressive in this day and age. The books might have been first, but LotRO is far from the first MMORPG. I wish that interactable objects would “pop out” more from the environment; players, NPCs, mobs, and so on should be visually distinctive. The controls seem clumsy compared to my reference MMO, World of Warcraft. Simple movement is a chore, with inertia-like forces preventing me from stopping and starting easily. This attempt at realism seems to be part of a larger collection of “realistic” touches that hinder the gameplay rather than making the world more immersive. Jumping looks painful (though I admit that players in WoW can be bouncier than springs sometimes), and turning is not as smooth an experience as it should be.

My character is a Man Guardian, the “tanking” class of LotRO. I fully expected this class to kill mobs slowly, and the guardian does not disappoint. Fortunately the class has little downtime; I’ve only had to stop to eat once so far. I like the ability to queue up special moves, but unlike in WoW, missed special attacks don’t trigger the ability’s cooldown. This is not a bad feature, but there are not any obvious cues given when an attack misses, so I often find myself not requeueing that attack again until I notice it’s available. Something a bit more obvious would be nice, like a message or brightly flashing icon. The combat is similar enough to WoW, but doesn’t go beyond it much, at least while soloing. Unfortunately moving around is such a chore that it drags the rest of the game down, since you won’t get much accomplished without moving.

I played this game for about a week and got up to level 8 or so, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it again unless I can force myself to give it one last shot. I just like World of Warcraft so much more that there’s no real reason to even play LotRO. And now I have a few offline games to play when I’m “WoWed out” or my server is down, so I think LotRO is out of luck as far as I’m concerned.

January 6, 2008

I need a new chair.

Posted in General at 9:45 pm by Transmuter

This is not a new development; my current chair, which is a hand-me-down, no longer has any arms and will not raise itself. The recline lock randomly goes out, giving whoever is in it a mini heart attack as the chair suddenly and unexpectedly tilts backward.

There are several things I’m looking for in my new chair:

  • Price: $300-500. I’ll mostly be financing this chair through money gifts received from Christmas and my birthday, giving me about $400 to work with.
  • Mesh fabric. During the summer, my current chair has the tendency to reflect heat, which is not comfortable. A mesh chair allows airflow, preventing heat buildup.
  • Comfortable for extended use. I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer, so I want a chair that is ergonomically designed to be comfortable to sit in for hours at a time. I would prefer if it was comfortable in both the upright and reclining positions.
  • Durable. If I’m going to be spending hundreds of dollars on a chair, it’d better last for many years! The base should be a strong material – no cheap plastic allowed. A lifetime warranty from a company that has good customer service is preferred.

So far I’ve checked out the chairs at my local Office Depot and found one chair that I really love – the Ergohuman E8ERGLO Mesh Chair. It was so amazingly comfortable when I sat in it that I started falling asleep almost immediately! (That’s also due to NBSD – New Baby Sleep Deprivation) It was priced at around $500. Unfortunately I just read a couple of reviews that bring into doubt the chair’s durability and the manufacturer’s customer service, so I’m not going to rush out and buy it until I’ve done some more shopping and research.