All These Things I've Done

while waiting for Optus to restore my internet

Wednesday 27 April 2011
11:29am

It’s been two whole hours since the internet originally went down. Only an hour and a half of this have I been awake for, however, having stayed up until 4am playing Final Fantasy XIV. If I had known that a catastrophe of this sort was going to hit this morning, I would have stayed up for a lot longer.

But I suppose we all think things like that. And I suppose we all think them a little too late.

You hear on the TV all the time about these things happening to people. Well, in movies, anyway. But the movies make you think that if you have a shotgun and a slightly rough-cut but very good looking main character you’re going to be fine. Pretty people with shotguns can achieve anything, says Hollywood. But what about pretty people armed with nothing? All I have here is my keyboard. My trusty keyboard, connected to my PC. But a lot of good that does me without an internet connection doesn’t it?

I just keep staring at that blinking modem light, waiting for it to stay solid. With solidity comes sanity. With solidity comes sociality. With sociality comes connection. And oh how I long to be connected once again.

I wonder if anyone has missed me yet? I wonder if my twitter buddies are wondering why it’s been over 15 minutes since my last tweet. I wonder if anyone on Facebook has noticed my absence amidst their frantic ‘liking’ of random groups that have seemingly funny titles at the beginning but then later turn out to just be stupid.

Know what the worst part is? I just know that there are people out there with internet. There are people out there blogging right now. It’s only a matter of time until they realise mine has gone down and come to rub it in my face. I don’t know what I’ll do then. I just don’t know.

2:32pm

Managed to catch a few hours of sleep, which is a wonder for me under any circumstances, but especially today. Forced myself out of bed with the hope of solidity behind me only to be met with blinking. Always blinking. I’ve always had a fear of blinking lights. Not just because they’re creepy, but because it seems as though they can never make up their mind. And the unexpected is never stable. It is never solid. Just like my modem.

I never thought he would turn on me too.

2:45pm

Ravenous. Need to eat. My last meal was yesterday, before the horror started. Searching the house the only thing I could find was a bunny. I told myself that I would never eat a poor defenceless animal, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Caressing it’s foily skin and ringing the little bow around it’s neck I stare lovingly at the animal I am about to slaughter for my own selfish hunger. It never did anything to me. All it did was sit there, but today I was going to kill it. Nay, I was going to give it a greater purpose in life. I was going to give this bunny meaning. But not before one final goodbye.

Farewell Lindt Chocolate Bunny. I hope you find a better place in my stomach than you did in my cupboard.

4:30pm

Received   a phone call from a friend saying that she still had internet. It wouldn’t last long, knowing the state of things, so I had to make a snap decision; race over there in the hopes the internet would still be there when I got there or remain in the safety of my own home waiting for the insanity of the blinking light to get to me. Easy decision I thought, so I grabbed my stuff and left as quick as I could.

7pm

Received a call from my brother who’d finally awoken from his deep slumber. It’s funny how some people do that. The technological world around him had ended, and he slept straight through it, oblivious to it all.

“Jenn, our internet seems to be back up,” he said.

For a moment I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. All these hours without internet and suddenly, it was back. Just like that?

“Oi did you hear me? Our internet is back up!”

“I heard you Daniel, geez. Thanks for telling me”

“Now can you come home and set up our network again? I wanna play TF2 on my laptop”

9:30pm

Everything was quiet at my friend’s place; an oddity since everything is usually chaotic like a circus. We were all happily sitting watching television, grateful to have survived the technical apocalypse. My friend got off the couch and made her way to the computer to look something up, but before she could get there, a strangled cry came from the other room.

“OUR INTERNET IS DOWN!”

With fear in our eyes we all lurched towards the modem and sure enough, the light was blinking.

Blinking.

Always blinking.

Perhaps we had survived nothing at all. Perhaps this was only the beginning.

For them, anyway. I still had the internet over at my place.

End

   
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My Travels Through Eorzea- Day One

Everybody I know ragged on FF14 from the very start. Everybody had high hopes, but nobody’s were fulfilled. Being the massive Final Fantasy fan that I am, I decided to pick it up and give it a go. Because who knows, I might just love it.

Day 1, Gridania City, Eorzea

Who am I? I am nobody. Well, I guess I’m somebody. Everybody has to be somebody. So I guess, in saying that, I am Lionheart, a simple Pugilist (fist fighter) from the local lands. And today I am having a simple day that is unlike any other I have had before. Except, suddenly it’s going to be unlike any other, because that’s how it always goes in Final Fantasy games isn’t it?

My first day in Eorzea was a mighty confusing one. As I was walking through the forest a meteor…ship…thing came crashing through the forests surrounding Gridania. Being the adventurous little Miqo’te (yeah, I don’t know what that is either, but I look like a cat) I am, I ran straight towards the sound and found two lifeless bodies, who of course, woke up as soon as I got there (great timing guys).

After fighting off some rather scrawny looking wolves (who were obviously attracted by my cat-like appearance) we made our way to the city of Gridania, where our adventures really began. Well, where my adventure began. Those other two got accused of wood-sin or green-stain or something. They’re wood defilers, basically (haha…oh come onyou know you giggled too).

Apparently I was afflicted with this wood-sin-thing too, though I’m not sure how, since all I did was stroll through the forest, but a woman in the Adventurers Guild (who calls herself “Mother”) is a constant source of quests. The more quests I do to help out the forest, the more pure I can get my soul. These sorts of quests are called Guild Leve quests, and you do them to appease the guardians, who in turn, buff you and make you awesome (I think. They better, anyway).

After doing some of those quests for a while, I decided to proceed along with the main quest. (Yes, there’s a main quest in this MMO. Think of it, not as an MMO, but as a Final Fantasy game with some online elements). The main quest Is still all about absolving my sin from the wood, and who better to help me than a couple of kids. Kids who bribe me with candy and ask favours of me before helping me do anything. Damn children.

p.s sorry about picture quality. Had to reduce it to fit into stupid blog

So tra la la la off we travel into the forest so the kids can put some mask on some stump (evidently I’m really in tune with the storyline). Suddenly I hear a familiar “kupo” from behind me and squeal a little as a Moogle approaches me. What the moogle said to me, I have no idea, as the stupid game glitched, but from what I gather, a girl called Fae has gone missing and it’s up to me to save her. Not the five other people who bought the game, just me. Oh well. Here we go.

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QWOP made my brain go GIRP

So way back when I first started this writing shindig I used to take requests from people, and one of these requests was “please play ‘Robot Unicorns Attack’”. So I did. I played the game, I suffered through the somewhat fantastic, mostly brain destroying theme song, and managed to churn out about 500 words on it.

Since I’m running out of ideas for my blog, I’ve decided to start taking review requests once more. Of course, because my friends are total douchebags, the first games that were suggested were QWOP and GIRP. Not being one to go back on my word, I decided to undertake this challenge, but do myself the favour of including them in a double feature. So here goes. Get ready to read the biggest load of crap ever written.

QWOP



What is it?
That’s a really bloody good question. In QWOP you’re a runner in the Olympics. Your aim is to run 100m, but because your team was severely under funded you’re going to be lucky if you get over the starting line. The Q and W keys control the runner’s thighs whilst O and P control his calves. Get the idea? If you don’t, then your brain is dented because it can’t be any simpler than how I’ve put it.

What I “liked”:

  • The only thing I liked about this game is when you fail abysmally (which you do, constantly, because this game is pixel hell) the runner falls on his head with a satisfying crack. Or he splits his groin in half. Or falls backwards. No matter how you fail, it looks damn painful and bloody hell it feels good to know he shares the pain we go through by playing this goddamn game.

What I didn’t like:

  • Everything. I didn’t achieve more than 2.4 metres and it shitted me right off. It got to the point where I hoped if I held down Q and W hard enough he’d split in half. But he didn’t. And that annoys me.

Final thoughts:

This game is annoying. So annoying I want to rip it out of my computer screen, light it on fire and throw it out a window. I hate the stupid runner and his shitty retarded legs. I hate his under funded Olympics team and everybody else on it. And I hope someone sets him alight with the Olympic torch.

GIRP



What is it?

You are some guy. Your aim is to climb up a mountain before the water level rises and you die. End of story. The handholds have letters on them. Press the letter and your little dude will try and grab onto them. If you get to the end you apparently get some sort of prize however I wouldn’t know, as I don’t have the patience to do such a thing.

What I “liked”:

  • This game has an ending. It is apparently possible to finish this game.  I haven’t had such luck (if you can call it that) but it’s nice to know that you can achieve something by playing this game (apart from wanting to put a bullet through your skull).

What I didn’t like:

  • I feel like if I say ‘everything’ again, it’s sort of a rip off. And, I suppose, I didn’t hate everything in this game. However what particularly annoyed me was when the handhold is clearly within the dude’s reach, and he just refuses to grab it. THE LETTER T IS RIGHT THERE DUDE. GRAB IT. FRICKIN GRAB IT NOW.

Final thoughts:

Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve heard that not even the guy who created this game can finish it. However he seems like the sort of person who licks the windows on buses, so that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

To sum up:

As much as I wish I could destroy these games, they’re strangely addictive. I feel like I simply must reach over a metre in QWOP, and knowing that there’s an end to GIRP makes it more frustrating that I can’t get to it. If I had to sum up these two games in a sentence, it would be this: At least Robot Unicorns Attack had a theme song.


Please Note: The title of this entry was what these games did to my brain.
Also: If you have a game you would like me to review, just let me know. I'm open to anything I can get my hands on (evidently, if I just spent my night writing about this crap)

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Goodnight, travel well

If anyone has ever had the, er...pleasure of listening to me bitch about stuff, then you probably know that I have some trouble with sleep. I don’t know what it is, really. I guess I must have said something to piss it off, or cheated on it with a nap. Either way, whatever I did has guaranteed I don’t get a good night’s sleep all that often anymore.

One of my big problems is that once I hit the sack, my brain suddenly decides it’s time to make me crave foods I can’t have. Bacon, cupcakes, kebabs, thai food, you name it; if it’s tasty I’ll have a hankering for it at 4am. Thanks brain.

I’ve tried many different remedies to fix my sleep deprivation (though nothing short of stuffing myself senseless before bed will cure my cravings) but nothing seemed to do much good. Until one night one of my helpful twitter buddies suggested I try an ipod/iphone app called Pzizz. At first I was skeptical, but I figured, hey,  technology has never steered me wrong before! Plus it was recommended to me by the wonderful Nathan Cocks (as seen in Aussie gaming magazines Hyper and PC Powerplay, for my American readers), and when Cocksy says to try something, it usually either works, or is hilarious. And that was all I needed to give it a go.

There are two versions of Pzizz. One is used as a rejuvenation tool to give you an energy boost, and the other is used for deep sleep. I purchased the latter and used it that night. I cleared my head the best I could, put my mobile somewhere it couldn’t distract me and let the app do its thing.

In a nutshell:

The app starts with soothing sounds to set the mood; waves crashing, wind blowing, chimes ringing. Then a man’s voice starts talking to you, telling you that we’re going to work together to make the transition into restful sleeping. That’s all well and dandy, but as soon as he says “you might decide to let my voice wash over you”  he immediately stops being the lovely helpful narrator and turns into a Wolf Creek-esque backpacker murdering creep. But hey, there’s nothing like the water from the top end, so let’s just keep going shall we?

What I liked:

  • When this app wasn’t scaring the pants off me (keep reading) I actually found it quite relaxing. Even though the narrator (if you can really call him that) had a voice like a seasoned paedophile, I have to admit that if I tuned him out and focused solely on the background noise, I became quite relaxed. In fact I found myself in such a calm, relaxed state of mind I had to continually fight off the urge to pee. To some people, this might sound like a bad thing, but really, if an app can make me need to pee, then I’m impressed. Who wouldn’t be!?
  • The app put me to sleep, there’s no doubt about that, however the dreams it gave me were quite...odd. Because Cocks was the person that recommended this to me, I found my dreams often included him in some bizarre culmination of the app and my over-active imagination. For example, one of the ones I remember included Cocks surfing in the ocean...riding a dinosaur. Another one included him being caught in a belltower with the creepy narrator while Pyramid Head from Silent Hill tracked them down. Though these dreams were incredibly weird and somewhat disturbing, they beat the dreams I normally have (which are either frightening beyond all reason or just plain boring). So if nothing else, this app does provide some slumber entertainment.

What I didn’t like:

  • The app uses a bell throughout the duration of the session; however it isn’t a lovely tinkly bell like you’d expect. Oh no, this bell sounds like something to symbolise that all hell is about to break loose. It reminded me strongly of the bell used in the Silent Hill movie, and that meant “get the fuck to safety otherwise your face is gonna get torn off by monsters.” Needless to say, every time I heard this noise I immediately thought that Pyramid Head was going to emerge from under my bed, and I became insanely afraid.
  • Though Pzizz did succeed in putting me to sleep, it didn’t succeed inkeeping me asleep, which the Pierce Brosnan meets John Wayne Gacy Jnr narrator said it would. Before the app begins, you set a time for how long you would like it to go for. I always pick an hour, because I figure if I’m awake for any longer I might as well get back up and start gaming again. That being said, I have never been able to listen to the app in full; always falling asleep before it is finished. However, once the app is over and everything becomes silent once more, I am jolted awake by the loss of noise. Now maybe that’s just me being spaztastic, but suddenly waking up because the noise has stopped seems like the opposite of what a sleeping app should achieve.

Sooo...

If you answer ‘No’ to any or all of these questions, then this could be the app to cure your insomnia once and for all.

Do you mind being lulled to sleep by a man with a voice that sounds like he’ll gut you once your eyes are closed?

Do you have an overactive imagination that creates insane dreams on a regular basis?

Do you have a severe hatred towards iPods and iPhones?

Do you mind spending 8 aussie dollars on an app like this?

Do you often have night terrors, even without the use of a fear inducing app such as this?

Do you have a weak bladder?

If you answered nothing but ‘No’, then I’d recommend downloading Pzizz. If you had a few ‘yes’s’ in there, then hell, do it anyway for the lols. If you answered all of the questions with ‘yes’ then, well..Um. Nope. Thought I had a witty little quip there but I don’t.

Goodnight everybody. Pleasant dreams!

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The Gaming Hangover

In the few weeks since the release of Dragon Age 2 and Pokemon Black and White I’ve found myself faced with incredibly tough decisions every day. The most pressing is of course, “Do I play Pokemon or Dragon Age?” but then there are the lesser questions like “Should I put down my DS so I can eat?” and “Should I attempt to sleep because it’s 6am, or just keep playing through the night?”

Most of the time video games will win over everything else (except for the few hours of sleep and food I need to remain alive) and though that means I spend most of my hours having the greatest time ever, it also means that when I eventually get up the next morning, I feel bloody awful. This state of being is something I have named the “gaming hangover”, and now that I’ve looked into it, I’ve found it much more threatening than any normal hangover could possibly be.

Everybody over the age of 18 (or 21 if you’re living in America) knows what it’s like to be hung-over (well, almost everyone. I can think of a few people that don’t, but naming them really wrecks my analogy). We’re well aware of how happy we are while we’re drinking, and how much fun losing our inhibitions can be. We’ve all felt the cold hard concrete against our cheek when we fall over and decide being on the ground is more fun than standing up. We’ve all become familiar with the rolling waves of nausea that tell us we drank far too much and we’ve all suffered through the pounding headache and voluntary vampirism the next morning.

Once the hangover passes we don’t tend to get on the drink again until at least the next weekend, as the very mention of alcohol can cause you to gag, but with video games it’s different. We want to see games the next day. We want to see them every day for as long as we live because they’re so damn entertaining. And that’s what makes the gaming hangover so much more deadly than anything alcohol related; we’ll keep going back every single day. Though our heads may be pounding and our stomach's churning, we will not stop!

Almost every morning since the release of DA2 and Pokémon I have woken up feeling like someone has put me through the wringer. I crawl out of bed with stiff limbs while I nurse a pounding headache and stare absently through blurry, bloodshot eyes. Often I’ll find myself sitting on the couch with my playstation controller in my lap, but be too sick and sore to even press the button to turn it on. I’d have thought that after keeping this routine up for a few weeks I’d be over it, but it seems that my body simply isn’t built for so many gaming hours a day.

The scary part of gaming hangovers is that falling asleep grants no release from the symptoms. Not only does it take hours before you’re tired enough to sleep anyway, but once you do your mind is so alive with images it just doesn’t rest. I have spent more nights than I can count watching flashes of colour sweep past my eyelids while squiggles of light dart around like fireflies. And that’s before the dreams start. Ever seen Pikachu rip off Morrigan’s face and eat it? Or seen a sim spin-jump and turn into a dragon? Because you don’t bloody want to.

Luckily for me not every game I play has the ability to do this to me. Just the ones I really enjoy (ain’t that a bitch). Main contenders in the “Lets give Jenn a gaming hangover” competition are the Dragon Age games, the Pokémon series, The Sims 2 (and to a lesser extent for the first month it came out, 3) and of course, the Final Fantasy series.

As of yet I haven’t been able to find a cure for gaming hangovers, except to pump myself full of Panadol and then do it all over again. But I figure if drinking through a hangover can stop alcoholics from getting them, then certainly the same thing has to apply to gamers.

Surely if we invest enough of our time, energy, body and soul into a game, we’ll be much too distracted to lament over the symptoms that are steadily taking over.  Either that or we could just take a break...but who the hell wants to do that?

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Pokemon: the cementer of friendship, the bringer of joy

Michael Jackson told us for years that “it don’t matter if you’re black or white”, and though this was sound advice, it really didn’t help the scores of people who had to make the life changing choice between Pokemon Black and White last Thursday. However, no matter which one you chose one thing was guaranteed: you’re going to walk away smiling (not that you’re going to be walking away any time soon).



I’ve been a fan of Pokemon since the original games came out. One of my earliest memories is my brother getting the old school Red version and a Game Boy for his birthday. So of course I had to nab it as quickly as I could; slipping it inconspicuously into my purse so I could play it while I followed my mother around the super market. (So I wasn’t a very good sister. If you have a little brother you’re meant to be annoying. It’s the rule.)

For longer than I’d like to remember, I have always had to share my Pokemon games with someone. My childhood years were plagued by the words “is it my turn yet?” and even in my late teens I had to share my Nintendo DS with my boyfriend. Those fuzzy little pocket monsters did nothing except fuel arguments and harbour tension while I was growing up, but now that I’m an adult (technically anyway) I’ve found the game to have quite the opposite effect.



My best friend isn’t a gamer like myself. Sure she gets addicted to facebook games and suffers through the odd Wii adventure every now and then, but start saying words like “dps” “MMORPG” or “online multiplayer” and you can watch as her eyes glaze over and she disappears to her happy place. Recently however, she bought Pokemon Black for the child in her family, and while she watched the kid play the game silently, entranced, the want to raise her own Pokemon consumed her. So after numerous negative answers to “Can I have a turn?” she decided to purchase Pokemon White for herself. And she and I have never been closer.

Last Saturday night we stayed in, because that’s what the cool kids do. But what makes us even cooler is that we stayed in, and played Pokemon for hours on end. The TV was on in the background but neither of us cared; our eyes weren’t looking anywhere except at our DS screens. For hours we sat in silence, not saying anything except throwing the odd curse word around or occasionally screaming “WEASEL BITCH, I’LL KILL YOU!” or “Oh my god it ate my berry. FAT SHIT GIVE IT BACK”. Communication with each other was minimal, but while very few words were spoken, we were bonding, both with each other, and our Pokemon.



Of course, the first thing I did after leaving her house was gush to anyone who would listen about how awesome it was to finally be able to share my love of video games with my best friend. It opened up a whole new channel of conversation topics I’ve never had before! And now it’s got me thinking, maybe Pokemon is just the first step. Maybe I can get her to battle her way through an RPG, or even throw herself into an MMO!

I used to think that people our age couldn’t be turned into gamers. I believed that if you were in your 20’s and you’d never heard the call of a video game console then the chances are you probably never would. But Pokemon has given me hope; it’s given me a shiny ray of sunshine to hold on to. Not only is the new instalment of this series fun to play, but it brings people together. It changes lives. And its reasons like this that I say ‘shutup and jump in a lake’ to all those who call it a repetitive money grubbing rehash of an old game. Sure that might be the case, but if you can diss Pokemon knowing that it’s a fun, enjoyable experience that can unite people and potentially stop wars (it could happen) then shame on you. FOR SHAME!

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Rift: The WoW Killer?

When Trion Worlds chose to use the slogan“We’re not in Azeroth anymore” to market their new MMO Rift, they knew what they were doing. You don’t throw down for a battle with the world’s most popular MMO unless you have a few tricks up your sleeve. And boy, does Rift know how to do some fancy tricks.

People are calling it “the WoW killer”, and the general consensus around the community is that it's shovelling dirt onto WoW’s grave as we speak. With Cataclysm driving many casual players away from the World of Warcraft franchise, Trion Worlds couldn’t have picked a better time to release this game. I’ve sunk 45 blissful hours into it so far, and now I get to tell you guys what I’ve thought of it.

My Story

My first experience with an MMO was almost four years ago now. I’d bought a season of South Park that included a free trial of World of Warcraft. To silence the inner nerd within, I installed it on my laptop, spent about eight hours patching it and then started playing. And I fell in love.

The game was so easily addictive and so easy to get into. Though I had pretty much no idea what I was doing until about a month later, I was having the time of my life. Before my ten days were up I purchased the full game along with Burning Crusade and set off on my journey through Azeroth.

I remained loyal to WoW through the Burning Crusade, though I was too low of a level to enjoy any of the end game content. By the time I was of level, Wrath of the Lich King had come out, and I moved straight onto that.


My level 80 mage and I had some very fond memories over the years. Like the time I got lost in Undercity, my raid on the alliance cities and of course; the devastating realisation that Mankrik’s wife was, in fact, dead. (I’m not joking. The first time I did that quest I honestly thought I’d find her alive, and when she wasn’t I was actually quite sad for poor old Mankrik).

Because I have such fond memories of Azeroth, when I found out that the whole point of Cataclysm was to destroy it, I found myself quite turned off. Sure, I had the odd urge to resubscribe every now and again (who doesn’t?) but the thought of seeing my little world torn to pieces wasn’t appealing. And so I didn’t go back when it came out, I haven’t gone back yet, and I don’t think I ever will. Especially now that I have Rift.

The Story

In Rift, you are an Ascended, sent to save the world of Telara from rifts, evil dragon kings, enemy invasions and a plethora of other things. In the opening of the game you are transported to a world in the middle of a war. Everything is hectic, and the very earth is blowing up around you. The future is beyond hope, and thus you are sent into the past to save Telara from the devastating rifts that seek to destroy everything we know.

What I Like

Character Creation

The character creation screen is surprisingly in depth for an MMO. Finally, my characters won’t all look the same! Firstly you are asked to choose a faction; Guardian or Defiant, and then choose a race. Each faction has three different races; the Guardians have High Elves, Dwarves, and Mathosians (the “humans” of the faction) and Defiants have the Eth (the “humans”) the Kelari (the dark elves) and the Bahmi (the huge, funny coloured humans).



Classes

Classes in Rift use the ‘soul system’. During character creation you pick whether you’re going to be a Warrior, Rogue, Mage or Cleric, and then in game you get to customise these roles even more. Within each class are eight different ‘souls’. For example, if you decide to pick Rogue as your class, you have the soul options of bard, assassin, ranger, saboteur etc. Being able to choose three different builds means variety. It means having three mages in your party is no longer a bad thing, because chances are they all have very different strengths and weaknesses.

Another plus about the soul system is that each class now has the option to heal themselves. The beauty of this is that if you’re questing alone you no longer need to worry about having your ass kicked. Bards can play tunes to bring their health back up, warriors have the option of being paladins, clerics have pretty much every option under the sun, and even mages have a healing soul they can choose if they so wish.

Playability

This game is quite graphics heavy, but if you have a PC that can run it with everything on full, it’s worth it, because the world is gorgeous. I upgraded my graphics card simply so I could see Telara in all its splendour, and I’m not regretting it. However, even before upgrading my card the game ran quite smoothly if I had everything on low. Also, playing with everything on the lowest settings doesn’t make the game look awful either. Sure the details aren’t as crisp, but it’s not like you’re running around in a blurred blob of a world.



Rifts

I can’t write anything about Rift and not mention the rifts. Rifts are tears in the plane that randomly occur in the world. When you enter one you are given criteria to meet before you can advance to the next stage of the rift. Criteria is simple, and often consists of ‘kill x amount of these creatures’ or ‘defeat this boss’. When you fulfil the criteria for the last stage of the rift it becomes sealed, and you get to reap your rewards. Commonly rifts reward players in planarite, which is traded to vendors for gear or items; however they can also award artefacts and other random goodies.

If you have a decent group of people, rifts are a fun way to gather planarite and experience points. However, that being said, rifts can also be incredibly annoying. When they open on top of you and you get ganked, it sucks. When a quest item you need is right in the middle of one, it sucks. When you log in to find your camp overrun by monsters, it sucks. Still, they’re something new in an MMO, and you get used to avoiding them when you need to.

What I Don’t Like

So.Much.Undead

In this game I play a character on both factions; Guardian and Defiant. In the Guardian world I have fought fawns, faeries, treants and humanoids, and loved it. The world is beautiful and green and the accompanying soundtrack is peaceful and relaxing. It’s the kind of world I love to quest in, as even when I’m getting my ass kicked, I can still appreciate how lovely the thing killing me looks.

The Defiants on the other hand, have their stories closely tied to the undead. So you end up fighting skeletons, ghosts, zombies and the like constantly. Just when you think you’ve moved on to a different sort of enemy they drag you straight bag down to a crypt. I’m not a fan of the undead, but even if I was I think I’d be sick of killing them by now anyway. However there are brief periods where they aren’t seen, and this is a welcome change. Plus the Defiants half of the map is still an interesting place to be in, even if it is surrounded by dead people.



Constant server maintenance

Every single night that I have played this game the servers have gone down for “brief updates”. Now I understand that this is a brand new MMO, and the fact that Trion Worlds is going to the effort to fix issues daily is a good thing. However it’s still annoying when you just start an epic story quest and get told that the servers are going down. The longest period of downtime I’ve seen has been 2 hours, whilst the shortest has been 15 minutes. Fortunately this seems to happen late at night, between the hours of 1-3am Aussie time and 5-8am server time, so it could be worse. And everybody seems to love the sound that chimes every time the server makes an announcement. There’s something just so happy about that dinging sound. I can’t explain it, but I really like it.

Invasions

Every so often Telara will be invaded by someone. Depending on who and where you are, the invading forces differ. Sometimes it’ll be trolls, sometimes it’ll be undead (surprise surprise), sometimes it’ll be fire elementals or even the opposing faction. When invasions occur it is up to everybody to band together and defeat the invaders, lest they overrun the area. Unfortunately, this doesn't always go to plan. Sometimes people just can’t be bothered protecting Telara, instead opting to quest or run instances. Of course, this means the invaders win, and take over everything. Camps get wiped out, NPC’s die and merchants and quest givers disappear completely. Today I spent 15 minutes watching an invading mob kill the person I needed to turn a quest into over and over again. And there was nothing I could do, because five elites versus one little rogue equals death in any circumstances. If everybody had put as much effort intodefeating the invasions as they were avoiding them, they would have been beaten in a jiffy. But I guess you can’t have everything.

The Little Things...

  • Currency: 100 silvers make a gold, 100 gold make a platinum, 100 platinim makes you rich.
  • When my character runs she breathes heavy. When she’s close to dying I can hear her heartbeat. When it’s raining, her clothes darken to show me that she’s wet. When she’s stunned, she sees double and everything slows down. It’s a nice touch.
  • Artefacts are collectible items around the world. Find all the artefacts in a set and get a lucky coin. Get enough lucky coins and trade them in for companions and pets.
  • Guilds have quests to complete now, and each successfully completed guild quest raises the guild a level, entitling it to cool perks.
  • Communication channels include the regular Area, Guild, Trade etc, but Level channels have also been introduced, which is especially handy when recruiting for instances or asking for help with a quest.

Is it worth it?

I told a friend of mine the other night “If you played WoW and hated it, you’ll play Rift and bear it. If you played WoW and loved it, you’ll enjoy Rift even more. If you’ve never played WoW, I’d suggest waiting for a free trial before spending any money on it.” And that’s how my opinion stands. I never thought anything would replace WoW, but Rift has definitely done that for me. Even without comparing it to something else it is a brilliant game by its own merits. It brings unique gameplay aspects into a creative, living world, providing us with interesting quests and places to see along the way. Rift is definitely marked on my list of successes for 2011

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My Time With The 3DS

Last Thursday I was one of the 200 and something lucky people who had the opportunity to haul ass to the city and try out the spanking new 3DS. To be honest, I went into the event pretty disinterested. I mean sure, it was exciting because it’s brand new and 3D, but then again, so is everything these days. While I stood in line I was handed a pre-order slip and put it straight into my wallet without giving it a second thought. The 3DS is retailing at $349 and that’s money I just don’t want to spend on a handheld console.

But that was until I had the opportunity to try it out for myself.

The first thing I noticed was how impressive the 3D effects actually were. The second thing was that I was staring at Solid Snake who was literally bursting out of the screen, so that if I had moved my thumb the tiniest bit, we’d be touching. And it was from that moment that I decided the 3DS was definitely, very, very cool.



First Impressions

-  The 3D on the console is surprisingly effective, considering you don’t have to wear 3D glasses. It is not just the menu, or interface that bursts out of the screen, but the characters and their movements as well.

-  The console is a lot larger than the DS Lite (roughly the same size as the DSXL) but was comfortable to hold in my hands. I found this especially positive, as my hands have been compared to those of a very small child. The addition of the analogue stick is welcomed, and though swapping between it and the D-Pad was awkward at first, it became much easier the more I did it. Like with most other controllers, my gamers hand soon found its way, and the button mashing becomes instinctual.

-  3D was most effective when you were staring at the console face on, and holding it approximately 30cm from your face.

-  The graphics look cleaner and much crisper, but there hasn’t been much of an upgrade from what we saw on the DS. To me that seems a little lazy, like Nintendo knew they could put minimal effort into some areas, simply because they were aware of the selling power of 3D.

What did I play

The first game I actually got to play on the console was Zelda. Now I know I’m probably going to be exiled from the community after saying this, but I haven’t really ever playedZelda titles before. I had a brief stint with one of the Game Boy Advance, but it never really drew me in. However I enjoyed the moments I had with the game on the 3DS.

I button mashed through the storyline, the conversation and the tutorials then ran around like a mad thing chopping everything in my path and whacking things with my stick. If you were there that night and heard a strange girl yelling things like “Take that flowers, feel the force of my stick!” or “come here and let me hit you with my nuts!” and then giggling profusely at the word ‘nuts,’ then that was most definitely me, and just about sums up my experience with the game.

After being deemed a “very odd girl” by the Nintendo guy I moved eagerly to the next game I could play and this one was called Augmented Reality. And it was amazing. This was the game that changed my concept of the 3DS, and ensured that on release date I’d be picking one up for myself.

Augmented Reality goes like this. There was a table in front of me with a card on it. The card looked like this:



I aimed the 3DS camera at the card and a little box popped up on my screen. It was cool, bouncing around on top of the card, just chilling, and then I spotted a target inside it. The Nintendo girl told me to shoot it, and I did. Proud of myself for getting it on my first go, I whooped in delight and looked around to see if anyone was watching. They weren’t, and in this moment of self love a bunch of other boxes had popped up on my screen. These all had targets inside as well, but some were hidden deeper in the boxes than others, meaning I had to crouch down to position myself in front of the box, rather than on top of it before I could aim properly.

Just when I thought I’d completed the level, a bunch more boxes popped up, these ones flying all over the place and making it damn near impossible to shoot what I needed to. But after a brief period of time where I closed my eyes, mashed A and hoped for the best, I’d completed that objective too.

But then came the big guy.

A surprisingly cool looking dragon popped his head out of the card and glared at me with angry eyes. Deciding that he wasn’t going to be my newest best friend, I began shooting him for all I was worth. This dragon was the boss, the be all and end all of my stint with Augmented Reality and I wanted to go out with a bang. I dodged fireballs, I shot bullets, I called that dragon every name under the sun. I turned into a worm; wiggling this way and that to shoot him from every angle I could so that I would be victorious. And though I’m sure I made a fool of myself, I was the winner of the battle, and damn it felt good.

Drawbacks

The 3DS is extremely cool, but it does have its setbacks. For example, if you view the screen from the wrong angle all you’ll see is a picture of blurred images that all seem to bleed together in that reddy green haze 3D images get. It’s very similar to the picture you’d see at the movies if you take off your glasses midway through. This means the console isn’t one you’re going to be playing in bed before you sleep, or even while you lounge on the couch. Considering that these two places were almost the only locations I ever played the old DS, this would probably present a problem for me.

If you’re one of those people that can’t handle 3D for long due to the strain it puts on your eyes or the inevitable headache that forms, the console does have a slider to adjust the intensity of the effects. Though this is a good idea, it almost defeats the purpose of playing the console in the first place. Without the 3D effects the handheld is nothing more than a slightly larger, much more expensive DS.

Final Thoughts

The 3DS is new, exciting and innovative. Whenever Nintendo do something, they tend to do it right, and this new edition to the handheld family is no exception. Though it has its setbacks, I’ve no doubt that when the 3DS Lite is eventually released (because we all know it will be) they will be addressed. Until then, these faults won’t stop me from buying the device. With release titles such as Zelda, Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil, not to mention the incredible Augmented Reality, the 3DS definitely has more positives than negatives.

I haven’t yet preordered my very own, but I’ve no doubt that upon release day the hype that it gets will be enough to send me down to my local game retailer and hand over my money. For those who can afford it, it’s definitely a purchase I would recommend. For those who can’t (and at $349 I imagine there’d be quite a few) I’d advise you make a rich friend. It’ll be worth it.

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Where The Cool Kids Go

For those of you that aren’t aware, earlier this summer I escaped my city and whisked myself away to Queensland with some friends of mine. For my readers who don’t live in Aus, Queensland is the state directly above the one I call home (New South Wales). Queensland is a notable state of my country for a lot of reasons, but the main ones are as follows:

For some reason they always win the state of origin

It’s the home of Australia’s coolest theme parks

It’s where the Great Barrier Reef is

It’s the only place you’re going to find Yahtzee Croshaw’s Mana Bar.

It also recently got devastated by floods and an epic cyclone, which some NSW residents believe is pay back for whooping our ass at Origin every year. But mostly it’s just tragic and my heart goes out to all affected. (I can’t call myself an Aussie and talk about QLD without mentioning the tragedy that has befallen this lovely state. I just can’t)

Patriotism and devastation aside though, this article is about the wonderful Mana Bar.Yes I know I’ve already reviewed it for Kotaku (which you can find here) but I wrote that almost immediately after I got back. And it’s only recently that I’ve found myself realising just how awesome The Mana Bar truly is, so I thought I’d do another write up on it, this time one where my opinion isn’t restricted by the 500 word limit.

Prior to my Queensland trip I was kind of boring. I spent the majority of my time playing games or working, forever favouring a quiet night in instead of a wild night out. Since I got home however, I have become a whole new person. I cut off all my hair, dyed it purple, got my tattoo done and haven’t spent a Saturday night at home since (because it’s all aesthetics that define a person, right?) But since I’ve been spending all my nights out I’ve found myself really wishing I could transport myself back to The Mana Bar, because that is my perfect idea of fun.



The Mana Bar combined alcohol with video games in a perfect social surrounding. To be honest I expected to walk in there and get jumped by a bunch of neckbeards  but to my surprise everybody there was perfectly friendly and lovely and not the slightest bit creepy. There were couples, there were singles, there were men and women, and there were two hilarious drunk girls that stumbled around the bar going “Oh my god, it’s that guy from those video games! And oh my GOD, THERE ARE THOSE VIDEO GAMES? Can I play these? For real? OHMYGOD!”. They were definitely a fantastic part of my night. However, they didn’t wash their hands after leaving the bathroom and that just plain creeped me out. Bad drunk girls, bad bad drunk girls.



In Sydney we have x-box lounges, pubs and trivia nights. Why nobody in this city has thought to combine them all together is entirely beyond me. I suppose we come close with the inclusion of pokies, but just because they’re made by Konami doesn’t mean they classify as a video game. It really doesn’t.

The Mana Bar was a place I felt comfortable. Comfortable enough that I could drink and not care that I’d eventually start looking like a fool as I played the Wii. It was a place where I could spend hours in the bathroom staring at Duke Nukem and not be thought of as weird. It was a place where I could play Tetris against people who are actually good at that game and not feel like a tool when I lost.  But more than that, The Mana Bar is just really frickin’ awesome and fun, and whether you like games or not, you won’t leave there without a smile on your face.

My first impression of the bar was that it was kind of small, but after I wrote my Kotaku article it was brought to my attention that I had chosen one of their Chiptunes nights (which was fairly interesting in itself), meaning that the giant DJ table in the middle of the bar took up a lot of room. I have been assured that this isn’t always there, meaning that they can easily fit upwards of 50 people into the bar on a busy night.

This is good, because the bar is amazing, and really, more than 20 people should be able to enjoy it at a time.


Final Thoughts (because I know my readers have short attention spans)

  • The Mana Bar is a fun, social, friendly place
  • Game choice is changed often, keeping things fresh, new and exciting
  • There is so much cool stuff written/drawn in the bathroom stalls you’ll be there for hours
  • They have awesome cocktail names, which, to me, is enough reason to spend eternity there
  • If, for some reason, you don’t feel like playing games, they also have trivia night (but you probably wanna get yourself looked at first)
  • It’s a bar
  • That has video games
  • WHY AREN’T YOU THERE YET?

The Mana Bar can be found in Brisbane, but I’m not going to tell you where because I’m a writer. Not google maps.

Enjoy.

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iHave opinions

  It’s no secret that I generally dislike Apple and everything they do. I’m not one of those “if you own a Mac then we can’t be friends” types of people (well, I have been to a few, but that was just because they were mega lame anyway) but I do dislike the smug look on people’s faces when they walk around with an iPad under one arm and a Mac under the other. It makes me want to punch them in the jaw and rip out their ovaries (real men use PC’s).

However, as much as I despise Apple and their stupid annoying ads with their even more annoying music, there’s one thing I can’t deny them; they made a hell of an mp3 player.

My first ever purchase from my first ever job was an iPod mini. It was silver, it held about 1000 songs and it was my most favourite possession. I became enthralled with the EQ settings, wondering how the heck it could do that, and the fact that I could play games on it absolutely astounded me. From the ages of 14-17 my iPod and I were inseparable (as you should be when you spend every night for three years in bed together.)



This relationship came to an end on my 17 birthday however, as I finally had enough money to go out and buy me a kickass iPod classic. At 80GB it had a harddrive as big as my computer at the time. It could play videos, it could store photos, it could double as an external and it was in colour. Sure it was kinda bulky but as they say “love is blind.”

Well, love is blind until the thing you love really begins to piss you off. And my iPod classic began to do this in the start of our third year together. It would freeze on me randomly, the tracks began to skip and the battery gauge would jump all over the place. For a girl as shallow as me, this was more than enough for me to begin to hate the bloody thing and want a new one.



Thankfully I didn’t have to wait very long, as a very special person was very kind to me this Christmas, and now I am the proud owner of a sexy little iPod touch.



To me, the iPod touch is just amazing. It’s crazy that in a matter of a few years iPods went from being black and white to colourful touch screen gadgets that could play games, stream videos, surf the internet and (of course) play music. If I could put my first iPod and my current one next to each other (which, unfortunately I can’t do since I gave it to my rat of an ex-boyfriend) I think it would blow my mind just to look at the differences.

I used to despise touch screens with a passion, and I couldn’t understand why they were becoming all the rage. To protest this growth in popularity I went out and bought a phone with the most buttons I could find, and persuaded a lot of my friends to do the same thing. Anybody that voiced an opinion along the lines of “touch screens are cool” was immediately abused until they changed their mind. However, now that I’ve actually had an opportunity to use a touch screen at my own leisure, I’ve decided that maybe, possibly, on a very slight level not even worth bringing up, I was mistaken. A little.

The iPod touch is not a gaming device, no matter how many times the bloody Game Centre app pops up in front of my face, or how many cool little games people create for it. Anybody who buys one of these simply so they can call themselves a gamer is a tool.

What the iPod is, is entertaining. It’s handy, it’s useful, it’s easy to use. It’s portable, it’s fun, it’s social. Thought there are a few more features I’d like to see included, I’m extremely happy with this little product. And as someone who abhors everything Apple is, says and does, consider this a ringing shout of approval.

The iPod touch isn’t the cheapest mp3 player out there, but if you’re looking for something that can play you music, keep you entertained and secure your place within the social loop, it’s definitely worth the money you’ll pay.

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