Friday, July 17, 2009

Killswitch: The Elder Scrolls 4

So the first game that I'm going to talk about in this column is The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. I will refer to the game as Oblivion from here on out. As a brief introduction I'm just going to explain the game and who makes it.

Oblivion is a game from way back in 2006 made by Bethesda studios. It is the fifth or sixth game in the Elder Scrolls series that Bethesda has been making for many years, perhaps longer than I have been alive. It is an RPG with a huge amount of customization in a sandbox world. There is magic and there are swords. It is set in a fictional world in the fictional kingdom of Tamriel. It is the mark of what a fantasy western RPG should be in many ways, and there aren't many surprises about that.

What attracted me to this game?

There were a lot of things that attracted me to this game: Open world, magic, swords, killing shit and savin' people. I was intrigued heavily by the idea that I could roam around in a huge open world and do pretty much anything I felt like. I could even be a cat-like creature! or a lizard! I had never played Morrowind (Elder Scrolls 3) because I wasn't into gaming that much when it came out. I also didn't own an Xbox. I wasn't really old enough to experience the Elder Scrolls games before Morrowind, so I had no idea what to expect or how things worked.

Why did I play it and what kept me from stopping?

I kept playing because I enjoyed it. I loved doing the quests and I loved just walking around. I had never played a game where I could just go anywhere and do anything at anytime I wanted to. There was also a lot of very interesting lore that was fun to read and listen to. There were cults and churches and all sorts of religious crap everywhere and it all felt real. The game looked beautifully and controlled like a dream as well.

There just wasn't anything wrong with it at all. I would walk around everywhere: I would walk around cities when I got there and I seldom used the quick travel so I walked the roads. Everywhere I went there was something new and exciting to do, I was never bored. Monsters were scattered throughout the dense forests and every so often you could spot a deer. There were plants to collect so that you could make potions. You could haggle with merchants, or be adventurous and steal. You could become part of a guild and gain benefits from that. In the end, I did everything I wanted in the order I wanted to and utterly forgot about the storyline. I loved it.

How long did I play and why did I stop?

I played for a LONG time. Probably months and I played for many hours every day. I loved Oblivion and I wanted to have it's children. I use Xfire (trazac is my name on Xfire) to record my gaming hours, but if I really had logged all of the hours that I have played in Oblivion, I would probably have more in that than I do in my current total. It became my life and I have a lot of knowledge about the game and it's story because of it and I will never give that up.

So, why did I stop? I'm not entirely sure. The NPCs are terrible, some of the quests are really bothersome and many of the mechanics aren't always on your side. None of this bothered me too much. I mean, like any gamer, I would stop playing after the tenth attempt to sneak past one guard and he seemed to have x-ray vision of some sort, but nothing ever stopped me from playing again and trying again. I think eventually I would start to feel that the world was too static for my taste: Nothing I did changed anyone else, and many things would always be the same. It wasn't as bad as an MMO, because once a quest was done, no one could step in and do it again. I just felt that I could never change things more than once. I couldn't make things better forever, or once I did, they would never change.

The city of Kvatch is always on fire and they never rebuild (mods fix that though), even years after it's destruction. There are many things like that, but I won't ruin them. I only talk about Kvatch because that is, quite literally, the second thing you have to do in the main quest (once you leave the sewers anyway). This turned me off a lot. I just didn't know what to think and eventually I just put the game down. Also, I had the best of the best everything and so the challenge of finding cool new things or being stronger no longer exist (mods also fixed that, but more on that later).

Did I ever play again?

Yeah, I did. For many of the same reasons I played it in the first place. I would normally play for a few days or a week, maybe two here and there, but I would always fall out again, for the same reasons as before. I never permanently played it like I had before... until I discovered something way more epic than the game itself: Mods.

I LOVE mods. I love the modding community, not just for Oblivion, for any game. They're always so inventive and creative, and they're the first thing I look for when I stop playing a game that I really liked. For Oblivion (as well as for Morrowwind) there is a huge modding community. There are always new things to look at, as well as thousands of already existing mods. To talk about the amount and what they do would be hard, but I'll give a description of the ones that brought me back:

  1. A mod that retextured the game
  2. Many, many mods that add new items, weapons and armour
  3. Mods that change/add shaders and effects to the game
  4. Mods that Overhaul the entire combat system
  5. Numerous other mods that do tiny things that I love
I currently have around 50 installed right now, excluding the official mods made by Bethesda(which I also have all of). The screen at the top of the post shows a few mods in action: The Lich King's Armour and The Frostmourne, a weapon effects mod that shows the enchantment(probably one of the most minor mods, but easily the coolest), and QTP3 Redimized.

What about now?

I still fall in and out of Oblivion like a yo-yo, and sometimes I do drop the yo-yo and don't pick it up for a month or two. With the amount of mods and the pure amount of awesome they give, I'm not sure if I'll ever really stop playing Oblivion forever. I'm sure that ten years from now, I'll still be playing Oblivion and hopefully it's sequels.

Post Script: I know I said 24 hours, but I lied. At least I STARTED this within 24 hours. I'm sorry, butt at least it's pretty long.

Post Script Script: If anyone ever wants any help with Oblivion and/or it's mods, I'll be more than willing to help you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A word about kill switches...

Today I read a post on firstpersonshouter.com, which everyone should read religiously, and it reminded me of a lot of things I used to do and the games that I've played over the years. If you read Chris' blog, then you'll realize what I'm talking about.

I don't really want to copy him, but I feel like he's inspired me to write something: I want to start a second column, even though I haven't really started the first. This column will be about how I fell out with a game, or about how I fell back in or both, every post will be different. I just want this post to be about my rubric and shit, and here it is.

  1. How I became interested in the game and why I was interested in it
  2. What I liked about it and how I stayed interested
  3. How long I played it for
  4. How I fell out
  5. (If Applicable) How I fell back in
  6. (If Applicable or needed) How I fell out again
So yeah, I think I'm going to call this column Killswitch, and I hope to have one up within 24 hours.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Colemak


Ergonomics is possibly one of the biggest markets in the computer industry. Many ergonomic keyboards are generally more expensive than standard keyboards and some are more expensive than the very useless "gaming" keyboards and other game board type things. There are even ergonomic mice on the market, which range from strange vertical mice to trackballs. In the end, however, not everyone can afford this stuff and heavy computer users or people who have carriers based in computers end up with arthritis or RSI, and normally the first solution is ergonomics.

I'm all for ergonomics because I use computer's pretty much wherever I go and I use them all day long. I am in the market for an ergonomic keyboard and I recently received my first trackball mouse. I wasn't sure how I would handle the trackball, or if it would be a significant change, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit and am excited to continue using it, even though I still need a little more getting used to and I have yet to play any games whatsoever with it.

For about a year, I suffered from mild tendinitis which I solved by swearing off games and computers for a day or two at a time. However, this is only temporary and so my problems would return rather quickly and other times I would just ignore them. This got pretty bad but ultimately it just became a constant in my life that I would feel minor wrist pain for most of the day.

About six months I started to use a keyboard layout called Colemak. It is a keyboard created just for ergonomics, but for computers. You may be confused about that last bit that I said, but that would mean that you don't know much about layouts. I'm referring to Dvorak when I say that.

This is Dvorak. As you may notice, it is very difficult to understand but it has proven to be one of the best layouts ever made. This layout, however, was made for typewriters and not for computers. If you take a look at Colemak, you'll notice that it is very similar to QWERTY (which is the standard layout in the US and other countries). This similarity makes it easier to learn as well as good for computer shortcuts. ZXCV are in the same place for Undo, Cut, Copy and Paste. There is actually a chart for the similarities on Colemak.com.

However, I digress. In the last six months I have felt no wrist pain at all and I am very happy about this. There is an estimated 3000 users for Colemak right now and the crowd is only growing. I, myself, am trying to get others to notice it and it's advantages. Try it today if you can. It's not too difficult to learn, but learning anything that is anything like a keyboard layout is going to be difficult if you have used the same one for many many years, so just give it time. It took me one day to memorize the keys but it's taken me months to get my WPM up to where it was. I, of course, didn't really try that hard to do so since I didn't mind a slow WPM, but it eventually worked itself up with time.

Colemak is easy to learn and much better than QWERTY and you'll always be able to get Colemak in some way on most any computer, but you won't unlearn QWERTY if you know it well enough, but your hands will feel better while using Colemak.

Also, caps lock is switched with backspace (well, replaced), but the change isn't as bad as it sounds. Caps lock is a useless key to me anyway and having backspace at my pinky has made typing easier on most any keyboard; some keyboards have tiny backspace key, but no keyboard moves the caps lock key.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Never use this device.

So, I, like many others, own an Xbox 360 and, not dissimilar to others Xbox 360 owners, have a Gold Membership with Xbox live (Referred to as XBL from here on in). There are many ins and outs to XBL, but I won't discuss that now as it is neither here nor there. I don't, however, have my TV anywhere close to my home internet router, and this becomes a problem in many ways, and I shall discuss how I've attempted to solve those problems.

As many should know, Microsoft sells their own wireless device for the Xbox 360 (Referred to as 360 from here on in). This device is very expensive and, although it is very useful and functional, I don't really have $100 to throw away for a little tiny plastic wireless adapter for my 360. This becomes a problem because I want to play online and take advantage of my Gold Account, which I received as a gift, but I don't have the capital needed.

Ah-Ha, I take to the internet for something similar and much less expensive. Sadly I found nothing at first and so, for months, I searched for an easy way. Alas I found a wireless adapter made for the 360 by one of my favorite manufactures: Pelican. I was happy and amazed at it, since the price was an easy $40-$50 off of the Microsoft adapter. I was saved, or so I thought.

For a while this device worked very well and I was happy. A few notes for what I didn't like at that moment and time. The UI isn't user friendly. Not that it isn't easy to use, but the instructions on how to get to it and then modifying it was complicated. Not for a geek or someone highly computer literate such as myself, but for the average Joe, it wasn't an everyday task or an easy one at that. The process involves changing several settings for your LAN connection, after replacing the connection with Pelican's Adapter (because it used an Ethernet cord to connect to the 360), and then connecting to it with a browser window. This isn't new for anyone who has ever set up a router, but not everyone knows what they're doing and, before you know it, changing one number means a world of confusion. That was my only real vexation with it, and I wasn't even directly affected by it.

Now, I used the Pelican Wireless Adapter for a few months, or an month I don't remember, and it was good. Ever now and again a connection would go weak or drop, but that's not too distant from what I expected from any wireless connection, especially one that was so far away from the access point. However, not too long after that, the adapter stopped working on me. I did nothing to it, it hadn't moved from the time I first configured the settings and I hadn't touched it at all, but it ceased to work.

My first thought were "It's fine, nothing a power cycle couldn't fix" and so I powered it down, waited about a minute and then powered it up. After around four or five minuter, more than the suggested boot time, I tried to connect to XBL. Nothing. I couldn't even connect to my network and nothing was happening. I waited a little more in case there was a bizarre case of it booting incorrectly and then rebooting on its own. Unlikely, but I waited for a very large amount of time (I was washing dishes) and tried again. Nothing once more.

My second though was "Perhaps the configuration was lost in the power cycle" and so I moved the adapter to my computer and opened the settings. Nothing had changed. Every setting was the same from when it had been first set. The device had obviously booted as well since I had opened the settings and could change the configuration. I was boggled and annoyed.

My third though was "Okay, so maybe it fixed itself just now" and, without testing it from my computer first, I moved it back to my 360. I booted it and waited a few minutes before trying. Upon my soul this device then took a shit. I still could not connect. I didn't know what was wrong and all of my immediately useful remedies didn't work and so I consulted the internet again. I came up empty for any answers and there have never been any updates to the firmware, at least none that I found.

My final thought was "Fuck this shit" and so I restored to factory defaults and reconfigured the device for my home network once again. I even tried it from my computer this time. I got nothing, but for shits and giggles (By this time I had had zero giggles left in me) I hooked it up to my 360.

So, in the end, after having and using this adapter for quite some time and spending a good amount of time trying to fix it (I left out the two or three other power cycles, the three or so times I went back and forth from 360 to computer trying to get the settings right, and restoring it two more times), I can say that you should not buy it. I don't know what I got wrong or what I did (or didn't do) to break it, but in the end it was a waste of money. I suggest that if you own a laptop to bridge connections from its wireless to its LAN for your 360 and you can find out how to do that elsewhere on the internet.

P.S.: I still am not going to waste my money on Microsoft's adapter.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Guitar Hero Help.


So, I like to think myself somewhat of a good Guitar Hero player. I'm not a top player like those on Score Hero, but I have done a few things that others may see as impossible in their life times. I don't really want to brag, since I'm really not THAT good in comparison to thousands upon thousands upon thousands of other people, but I'm better than tens of millions of others in the world.

My meaning for this is to (as the name states rather obviously) help people with Guitar Hero. I have found it difficult to gain simple help from anywhere and I would like to be the first to do something of the like dedicated to just helping people. I like help in any game that tests skills, so I hope others will find this useful.

What I can't stress enough is that before ever looking for help, you should go through the tutorial. I'll be referencing everything that is explained in the game and I won't be explaining simple things like that in any post for Guitar Hero Help. I also don't want to see questions that pertain to the most basics concepts of the game and I'm not going to explain the controls or the like unless I must, which is very unlikely. Besides that, all my jargon that isn't used in the game will be explained in every post.

I'd like to take this time to explain my tentative format:
  1. I will explain the challenges of the song that you should understand before playing and the challenge of the song as a whole.
  2. I will then go into each section and try to link a video/chart to each individual section to give a visual example of what you should see in the section
  3. In each section I will explain the techniques used and challenges had within the section.
  4. I will then give tips and hints on how to overcome and practice the section and the difficulty and priority and over all how to prepare for it.
I will not explain every section of every song. If I don't talk about it, then it's either so easy that you should never miss it (Aftermath in Raining Blood) or it has no notes in it (Wahhhh in the Halo Remix DLC). If you do find a section difficult and I left it out, then I will have no problem helping you with it if you do ask, unless you're just being dumb and asking why I didn't put in a section that has four notes in it.

Before any questions, I only plan to help out with expert guitar. I have no skill when it comes to singing or drums, but I will suffice to helping with difficult bass/rhythem guitar(where applicable) if it's a lot diffirent from guitar. I'm not limiting my help to Guitar Hero alone... but I don't own Rock Band or Rock Band 2, so, if requested, you'll have to allow me some time to get the game and play the song and gain experience with it before making a post about it.

Um, I'm back?

I haven't updated this blog in ages, but I hope to change that as of... soon. I don't know when, but I'm going to try to do more things with this blog, maybe even get famous. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing, or if I'll be doing it, but what I might do will be relevant to video games, as well as whatever I damn well please to talk about.

Each post will have a title that announces the feature that I'll be exploiting. Hopefully I'll be able to become popular and I'll try to update fairly often, but I fear that some of my ideas may take too long for me to update as regularly as I wish, and I may run out of ideas or subject matter. I 'll do the best I can to become something, but what I will become will be decided by future me.

However, what I don't want to become is a news site, so I hope that I don't sink that low that I'll start to post news on my blog just to gain traffic... even though I don't really think that will gain me traffic. But yes, hopefully I'll update again soon, maybe even tonight. I'll certainly be making another post, however I might not finish it tonight.