• 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
  • Far Beyond My Capacity
  • Far Beyond My Capacity

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 20 - Gang Aft Agley

Sometimes it doesn't matter what the investigators do. They can spend hours planning their move, as they did last session. They can hone their plan. They can execute perfectly, carefully, aware for any impending disaster. In Call of Cthulhu, sometimes, none of that matters. As Robert Burns said, "the best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, gang aft agley..."

And so it was. This session can be summarised in the following manner:
  1. Quietly Approach
  2. Carefully Locate the Enemy
  3. Problem: Guards!
  4. Effectively and Carefully Dispatch Guards
  5. Stealthily Discover the Enemy Base
But, let's not ahead of ourselves. It was a cold and stormy night when the time for the attack on Grey Dragon Island finally arrived...


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Egg on Face

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A short while ago I wrote about my frustrations with current and forthcoming MMOs. As part of the discussion I mentioned that "some friends have started playing EQ2 again recently, but I just don't feel any urge to play". Well now don't I feel stupid.

I caved in and reinstalled Everquest 2, fully expecting that I would be uninstalling it again shortly afterwards. Yet somehow the damn game has got it's hooks into me once more.

Back once again, with the ill behavior
This is now my third time playing the game. I first played at launch, some ten years ago, quitting after a couple of years. My return to the game came three-and-a-half years later, and I wrote extensively about my experiences at the time. I lasted just over a year that time, and now, two years to the day since I last quit, I found myself back once again.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 19 - The Plan

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Now the talking's over, plans are laid and the hour is set
Glances round the table, eyes all shining, dark and bright
We meet again at daybreak for the day that will be ours
We're tomorrow's history
So just check your weapons, say your prayers.

- The Attack, New Model Army

We had an odd change of pace this session, as most of the playtime this week was spent planning the next session. Apart from one brief diversion for one character, the entire play session took place in one location, and consisted mainly of discussions between the players and little action. Still, a lot of fun was had and the anticipation for the next session has now reached fever pitch!

Time to make some plans
The end of the last session saw the investigators stumble onto some potential allies in the form of New China, some kind of militia based in a secret warehouse. Though the hour was early Jack Brady marched the investigators into an office, plied them with hot green tea, and then began to explain what was going on.

Mr Mu, the elderly scholar from the museum took up the story. He told the investigators some of what they already knew; that the Order of the Bloated Woman, an ancient cult that worshipped a dark deity, was still active in China, and indeed had become more so in recent years. He then proceeded to tell them of the cult's history, and that his research had lead him to believe that they want their goddess to return to Earth.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


A recent post by J3W3L over at Healing the Masses sums up much of my current issue with the MMOs that are around right now. I'm still dabbling in The Old Republic and The Secret World, but the vast majority of my gaming time recently has been spent with other types of game (such as Dragon Age Origins, The Stanley Parable, DiRT2 or tabletop RPGs).

Is it just me that is making a sad face at the current crop of new MMOs?
It seems that the current crop of MMO games just don't appeal to me any longer. Some friends have started playing EQ2 again recently, but I just don't feel any urge to play. Rift, Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, Final Fantasy XIV - none of them appeal to me (I've played most of them before anyway). Perhaps my fourteen year love of the genre is finally dying out.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 18 - New Friends, New Hope

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Things are starting to move forwards in Shanghai as our intrepid adventurers managed to find some new allies in the fight against world-threatening evil this session! Reaching that point wasn't easy however and required a mixture of madcap chases, luck and some ultra-violence.
Annoying the Old Ones and their servants can lead to trouble
We continued on directly from the end of the last session, with a rather battered group heading to meet Captain Isoge Taro following their earlier encounter with some of Ho Fong's cultists. The constant attacks by Ho Fong were starting to take a toll, with Willard and Sebastian in particular suffering.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Everquest Next is drifting off my radar

Over the past few weeks I've really started to develop a sense of disinterest in Everquest Next. I'll still play the game for sure and give it a fair shout, mainly because it's free and many of my friends will be playing it. However the more I read and hear about the game the more I'm starting to realise it probably isn't for me.

There's no reason why it should be a game for me of course, other than the Everquest name, but I can't help feeling disappointed in just about every announcement that is made about the game at the moment, and from the look of things the direction that the game is moving in is one that I'm not particularly excited by to say the least. My initial excitement after the first announcement has slowly been whittled away to a sense of mild disinterest.

Is anyone else getting annoyed by recent developer comments and the lack of real info?
But why? Everquest Next is certainly trying some new things in terms of emergent AI and destructible landscapes, and it's those things that are still keeping me slightly interested. It may be that it can yet get me excited. If it is to do so however the developers need to actually start showing us something. Absolutely everything we have seen and heard so far amounts to short tech demos (which look quite heavily scripted) and design document wish lists. We have seen absolutely nothing of substance whatsoever (since the initial reveal at least), and the cynic in me that has seen a myriad of broken MMO promises fears the worst.

It's more than that however. Whilst nothing is locked in stone it's the design decisions that the developers seem to be taking that have me worried as well. A game that seemed to be offering something truly different now seems to be devolving into a copy-cat, vanilla experience with no challenge and designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

I'm now going to make up for my relatively slow rate of blog updates recently. Cue long, stream-of-consciousness rant!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 17 - Band on the Run

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Well, the undertaker drew a heavy sigh seeing no one else had come,
And a bell was ringing in the village square for the rabbits on the run.
Band on the run, band on the run.
And the jailer man and sailor Sam, were searching every one
For the band on the run...

Last session saw our investigators in something of a hole. Trapped in an anarchic city, on the run from powerful forces, unable to speak the language, and with limited resources, things were looking grim. Then their only contact with the outside world had disappeared.

It was time to open the door to the outside world
It was time to stop hiding and take action.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

NBI2 - The Return of the Son of Newbie Blogger Initiative

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I missed out on the Newbie Blogger Initiative first time round. I'd actually started my blog a bit too early to qualify for it, and it passed me by before I knew what was really going on. After discovering the NBI however I went back to it and explored the blogs it had fostered and the advice that had been written by it's contributors.

The NBI is a time-limited project designed to encourage and help new bloggers to write about their experiences with games online. It tries to foster a fun and engaging community in which experienced bloggers can help those new to the hobby, with advice, guest articles and promotion for new gaming blogs. NBI2 is running through the month of October.

I found some of my favourite blogs as a result of the NBI, and the advice and support that I found made a huge difference to my own somewhat humble efforts. Many of the blogs created back during the first NBI are still going strong today, over a year later. So, if you are interested in starting up a gaming blog, or just want to find out more, head on over to the Newbie Blogger Initiative website and consider signing up. There is also a fantastic archive of material on the site for those of us who have been at this for a while.

I'll be updating my blogroll in the coming days with some of my favourite new blogs that have signed up for NBI2.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Back to the begining

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I've been playing through Dragon Age Origins again recently, having had my appetite for the franchise reignited following the latest videos for Inquisition from PAX. I have to say, I'm loving it.

As I started this blog after playing Origins I never really got around to writing about it. I liked Dragon Age 2 a lot, but playing Origins again has really highlighted the areas where it fell down compared to the original game.

The first thing that struck me was the scale and breadth of both the world and the story. The world of Origins feels huge compared to the world of DA2, and despite the relatively small, funnelled maps, it feels more open and expansive. The whole story is more epic in scale whilst retaining it's focus on the characters, with some truly memorable NPCs. There is also an absolute tonne of lore to find and read, much of it very entertaining and well written, with some items such as the love letters you find lying around simply there to make you laugh.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 16 - The Rescuers

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What would become an action packed session started out with a relatively quiet moment.

Willard was dreaming, his imagination fuelled by whatever concoction of drugs Ho Fong had injected him with. He saw himself flying through the stars astride a skeletal winged beast before swooping low over an alien landscape of strange gardens and waterworks.

In the distance a hollow voice was calling out to him in a cursed tongue, but as he flew it got clearer and clearer.

"Wake up! Please!"
Willard's dream
Willard came round, still chained to the wall of the marble chamber. In the glass box in the centre of the room Miss Choi still lay, trapped. She was awake and pleading with him, tears streaming down her face.

"Please, you have to get free... he won't be gone for long. Someone came in and told him about an attack on some warehouse... he looked furious... please, I don't want to be here when he returns... you have to get out.... you have to make it stop, you have to kill me..."

Willard struggled ineffectively, before the darkness rose to take him again. As he drifted back into unconsciousness his eyes were drawn to a strange pattern on the ceiling, which seemed to swim and dance before his eyes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 15 - Torture Tanks

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After a five month hiatus due to one of our group having their hands full with a newborn son, it was finally time to return to the horrors of Shanghai in 1925. I was a little concerned with how things would go after such a long break, but after a quick review of the story so far we soon got back into things, with an action-packed session that saw the investigators through a series of successes and saw me scratching my head at the things they came up with!

Cthulhu is back!
We opened with the reveal of what had happened to Willard, who had been captured by a mystery assailant at the end of the last session. As Willard awoke he found that he was tied up against the wall of a small, marble-lined chamber. A familiar voice mocked him, Ho Fong promising him that his turn would be next, along with the rest of his foolish companions once they had been located. As Ho Fong stood aside the meaning of his words started to sink in.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Hooded Claw

I may have been quiet on the blog front recently but I've been pretty busy in gaming terms. Most of my time has been spent playing The Old Republic with my usual group, though unfortunately one of the group has had to drop out, meaning we are currently a threesome (hopefully only temporarily). So, we've been terrorising the galaxy without Hawkwyn, who seems to have found gainful employment running a small base on Belsavis...

Hawkwyn appears to have found a new job...
I'm getting towards the end of the Sith storyline now and it is really picking up into an epic tale. Some spoilers ahead...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Raiding Time

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Tomb Raider is a great game. I really enjoyed playing it and parts of it are breathtaking. However it has a range of serious flaws that stop it from being a classic and at times even made me shake my head in despair. The annoying thing is that many of these flaws seem to be down to the developers trying too hard.

I've never really been able to relate to the character of Lara Croft. A stunningly beautiful English toff who has had everything handed to her on a plate and with a skill set that MacGyver would be proud of, as a character she does little to engender a sense of sympathy. That didn't really matter much back in the old days, when she was a collection of low resolution polygons being chased by dinosaurs in a lost valley amongst South American tombs. Back then you may as well have tried to relate to Mario or Sonic as a character.

Of course things are different nowadays. Tomb Raider is a serious, grown up game, full of extremely realistic violence, murder, sacrifice, Big Questions, and emotions. As a result the game falls a little between two stools - it's lost the sense of fun and silliness that made the early games so enjoyable, and traded it in for a serious story, with serious characters and a serious plot (and absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever). The problem is that the story, characters and plot are not that great.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is Everquest Next really the Next Everquest?

So, third Everquest Next post in a row. Not bad for a game I still have many doubts about. Still I can't help but be excited by the potential that Storybricks and Voxel Farm bring to the table (it also helps I don't have much else to write about at the moment).

Still, the more I read about the game the more I find myself cooling on the idea of it. Not because of the tech or the systems, which so far sound interesting at the least and mind blowing at best, but because it doesn't really sound like an Everquest game. At all.

Is that a gun in your pocket or...
My concerns have really solidified over the last day or so with the release of the latest EQNext Roundtable question. The EQNext Roundtable is a series of polls where the developers are gauging opinion on features and mechanics. Here's the question:

"How do you feel about modern concepts like guns and Ninjas in EverQuest Next?"


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Standing on the shoulders of minnows

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Or, how SOE are using indie-game developers to build Everquest Next.

Now that the initial excitement over the announcement and reveal of EQ Next has died down a little I've already discussed some of the concerns I have about the game. However, there are a couple of areas that have me really interested and offer the greatest potential to offer something new.

In his reveal speech for EQ Next, Director of Development Dave Georgeson said that the game philosophy was about delivering three holy grails of MMO game design. Grail number one was the core game mechanics, and this is an area where SOE have plenty of experience. It's the last two "grails" that I want to discuss now however.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A few thoughts on EQ Next

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Well, it's been a few days since the big reveal and everyone and their froglok has had their say. Now it's my turn, a little delayed because I was away all weekend. I'm not going to cover what was actually revealed here, that's been done in plenty of other places.

Before the reveal I'd been hearing some worrying things about the game. I'd been told that the only sandbox element was user-created content in the same way as EQII's Player Studio. What we were actually shown is potentially much, much more interesting than that, but there remain so many unanswered questions that I'm still unsure about how sandboxy the game actually will be.

My initial reaction after seeing the reveal was very positive, but since then I've calmed down and realised that SOE didn't actually tell us very much. In fact, they didn't really show any content at all, just a glorified tech demo. So, it's going to be very interesting to see how the game develops over the next year or two.


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So, you've probably noticed the new blog design and layout by now. I hope you like it!

I decided to redesign the blog as I wanted a cleaner look that was less focused on a specific game or genre. I also took the opportunity to add a little more functionality as well.

If you find any bugs or compatibility issues please let me know.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Force Code

I may have been a little quiet on the updates recently, but it's not for any lack of gaming. A short trip to hospital for some minor surgery gave me a little more playtime than normal as I recovered. So as well as finishing up the sublime The Last of Us, I've also been playing through the new Issue 7 content in The Secret World, discovering the delights of Cube World (more on that in a future post) and continuing my adventures in The Old Republic.

Hawkwyn, Brinneth, Dom'ino and Carinus get their Sith together

Lord Carinus is now level 40 and battling pirates and republic forces on the ice planet of Hoth. I've been exclusively playing with a full, regular group of friends, which makes a huge difference to the amount of fun I've been having. When the full group hasn't been around I've been messing round on my Jedi Knight instead.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Through the Square Window - a look at Cube World

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Cube World is a new, exploration-based multiplayer RPG by Picroma, a two-person development team, and it's currently in alpha testing. Inspired by the likes of Minecraft, Zelda, Diablo, World of Warcraft and more, it uses voxels to create infinite procedurally-generated worlds to explore. I've been messing round with it, and even at this very early stage the game is fun and full of potential, whilst obviously still missing a lot of the final features and mechanics.

The worlds created are the engine are things of simple beauty. Obviously inspired by Minecraft in appearance they have a smoother, more pleasing appearance, and are full of life and bright colours. They really are worlds that are fun to explore. The fact that you can climb vertical surfaces encourages you to try and reach the tops of the highest peaks in order to see what lies beyond, and once you get a hang-glider it is impossible to resist climbing as high as you can in order to jump off.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You Only Die Twice

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Issue 7 of The Secret World doesn't really do what it says on the tin. It has been heavily marketed as a James Bond-esque action adventure, and whilst parts of it do indeed pay homage to the adventures of Britain's favourite misogynist spy, it is so dark, twisted, and horrific that it would give Daniel Craig nightmares for years to come. Pretty much like most TSW story lines then!

It is also one of the most imaginative, absorbing and fun quest lines in any MMO, continuing the trend of solid, entertaining and high quality content that the TSW team are pumping out. It's probably my favourite issue so far.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Some thoughts on the end of The Last of Us

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And so it seems that murder's not so hard - I've eaten flesh and blood each day
And if I believe the things I write through the passing season
Then with a rifle in my hand and with a thousand reasons
I'll wait, far above the crowd in the summer sunshine
And history changes now, forever

That the things we love may remain here still

There is time to wait and there's a time to kill
From the barren land come the seeds of war
So it's a far better thing that I do than I've done before
- Far Better Thing, New Model Army

It's been a couple of days now since I finished The Last of Us, and my thoughts on the ending have changed somewhat as I thought more about it. Here's why. Oh, massive bloody spoilers obviously!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Last of Us

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The Last of Us, a third-person action adventure game, has been called "one of the finest games ever made",  "one of the best games of this generation", "gaming’s Citizen Kane moment – a masterpiece that will be looked back upon favourably for decades" and "a beacon of hope for its genre". It's received over 50 perfect review scores.

How the hell could The Last of Us possibly live up to all the hype?

Well, here's my take to add to the hundreds already out there...

Monday, July 08, 2013

War in Wimbledon

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This weekend saw an epic battle between two mighty foes take place in Wimbledon.

It didn't involve tennis in any way, shape or form however. Rather it was my first ever game of Bolt Action, Warlord Games' table-top wargame set during the years of the World War II.

The field of battle - we deployed along the right hand table edge

I've played Warhammer 40K before a few times, but never tried Bolt Action. Despite the epic nature of the game (6000 points per side on a massive 10' x 6' table, and almost 12 hours of play) I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed myself, and found the game rules simple to pick up.

I took control of the forces of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and my team-mate took on the role of the US Army. Arrayed against us were three friends controlling various factions of the Russian Armed Forces. Over the 6 turns of the game we battled for control of three victory points and finally emerged victorious.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's been a while

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Almost three weeks without an update. I think that's probably the longest period I've gone without posting since I started the blog almost three years ago!

The thing is, there's not really any particular reason for it, other than I am really busy with other stuff, and haven't felt the inclination to post about something. I need to have something to say, and right now there isn't much worth talking about. Sure, I could ramble on about the PS4 and XBox One reveals, have my say on The Red Wedding, or bemoan the ending to Man of Steel, but there are plenty of places you can go to read all that.

Despite my lack of blog updates I have been pretty busy, so you can expect a few updates soon on such diverse subjects as Camelot Unchained (I have a fledgling guild ready to go and have been active on the Founders Forum), my further adventures in The Old Republic, my thoughts on flawed masterpiece The Last of Us and hopefully the restart of my Call of Cthulhu campaign.

So basically this post constitutes my way of telling you I'm not dead! Hurrah!

In the meantime here's a fun little video of me and my friends being horribly murdered by a homicidal robot.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Update

Just a quick update, as I know I have several readers who follow my Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign write-ups, and I wanted to let you know why there haven't been any lately.

The reason is that one of my players has just had their first baby, so they are obviously more concerned with the nightmare horrors of dirty nappies, odd-coloured vomit and delirum induced by lack of sleep, than they are with the relatively mundane horrors of the Cthulhu mythos.

So, we hope to start the campaign up again soon, but in the meantime congrats to Hubert and his new baby investigator!

Friday, May 31, 2013

The name's Hawksmoor, Nathaniel Vinculus Hawksmoor...

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Funcom have revealed the cover for the new issue for the Secret World with this month's game directors letter. It's another brilliant piece of artwork that perfectly evokes what the issue storyline is all about. I also think it would make a brilliant poster (hint hint Funcom!). Check the new cover issue out below.

I've written about Issue 7 before and can't wait to get my Bond on.

In other news Funk Soul Brothers [FSB] live again, though in a slightly different form. My recent return to The Old Republic has seen the formation of Force Soul Brothers, my new guild. It's a small affair right now basically comprising my friends, and will probably stay that way for now. If you see us on The Red Eclipse server make sure to say hi!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Becoming a Sith

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I'd forgotten what a fun and solid MMO The Old Republic really is. I've really been enjoying my walk on the Dark Side, and Carinus, my Sith Warrior, has now completed all of the quest lines on Dromund Kass.

My enjoyment is, I'm sure, increased by the fact I'm playing with a regular group of friends, and also down to me re-subscribing to the game. The horrible free-to-play model is still an issue (yes, I know I keep banging on about it but it really annoys me). My wife recently reinstalled the game with the intention of joining our merry band, but all I heard for the first ten minutes were comments along the lines of "what, I can't even use that title I earned?", "they are seriously limiting me to that many hotbars?" and "how much! what a rip off!"....

Anyway, back to the good stuff...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Something, Something, Something, Dark Side

My thoughts on Star Wars The Old Republic have been pretty much completely logged via this blog. For the period of a year I was following the development of the game closely, and then continued to play after launch for around eight months. I loved the game and had a blast, then got distracted by The Secret World which totally blew me away.

Recently I've got back into The Old Republic, lured to the dark side by a couple of mates, one of whom is playing the game for the first time. Quite a bit has changed since I last played in anger, most notably the move to a free-to-play funding model. When the details of the new pricing model were originally revealed I was quite adamant that it would stop me returning to the game.

Still, the opportunity to finally play through the Empire storyline with a couple of friends was too good to resist, so I patched up and headed back into the galaxy, this time as a Sith Warrior.

Friday, May 10, 2013

This is madness. This is Neverwinter.

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Neverwinter hasn't launched yet. Oh no siree. It's in "open beta", meaning anyone can play it for free and there will be no more character wipes. But it hasn't launched yet. People in global chat keep saying so if anyone points out anything negative. Which is a good job, because the servers have been down a lot, the game has seen major exploits (one of which saw people gaining a level every two minutes), and there are plenty of bugs and rough edges.

That's one ugly dwarf...

Just like every MMO launch then. Except Neverwinter hasn't launched yet. So that's ok. Here are some thoughts about the game anyway.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Camelot Funded

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There were a few nervous moments towards the end (such as Amazon's Kickstarter payment servers going down for several hours just as Camelot Unchained was seeing its strongest funding period), but in the end Camelot Unchained reached its funding with ease.

Together with Mark Jacobs own cash injection that means CSE now have well over $5 million dollars to make their dream MMO. That might not sound like much, but Jacobs managed to make Dark Age of Camelot for only $2.5 million (and that included renting all the game servers after their publisher dropped out). As they don't need to create tons of PvE content they should have more than enough to deliver the game we all want to see.

So, for the first time in what seems like ages I'm now going to be spending a couple of years looking forwards to a new MMO. I think the last time was for EQ2.

I already have a few plans in place, and after talking it through with the old guild leaders I can reveal that my old Dark Age of Camelot guild will be rising from the ashes to begin anew.

More news on the new Artisans of Willow soon, but in the meantime a huge congratulations to Mark and the whole team at CSE. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I made Camelot Unchained my first ever Kickstarter pledge

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Just recently I backed my first Kickstarter project, City State Entertainment's RvR sandbox MMO Camelot Unchained. What was it about this particular project on the crowd funding site that persuaded me it was worth backing? Read on to find out.

For UK readers of a certain age...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Six years and counting

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I can't believe it's been six years already. The Lord of the Rings Online is in the middle of its sixth anniversary celebrations this week. It's a game I played at release for three years before taking an extended break and then recently returning.

Party time in Middle-earth

During that time it's seen Turbine taken over by WB Games, a move from a subscription model to a free to play one, and the EU servers move from Codemasters back to Turbine. Despite all those ups and downs it remains one of the very best old-school MMOs on the market as I detailed in my recent blog post.

Against the odds Turbine have succeeded and the servers seem busier than ever, even in the lowbie zones. They have managed to create an excellent game that feels like a real living world (something most modern MMOs fail to do) and have done so without breaking the integrity of Tolkien's lore.

I first played the game in beta, and was immediately struck by how "right" it felt. It may have helped that my character was a Hobbit, but I was amazed at the interpretation of The Shire in the game. It felt and looked just like I had imagined.

Since then there have been plenty of great memories. The social ones really stand out, like performing in a band, taking part in a community horse race, and attending many roleplay sessions in various taverns across Eriador. The game itself delivered plenty of memorable experiences too. The first time I journeyed through Moria was stunning, and I still think it's the best virtual dungeon I've ever seen.

I'm certainly still really enjoying my time in the game (just joined a great kinship) and I'm looking forward to the next six years. Who knows by then we might even have reached Mordor!

If you're looking for a fun old-school MMO with a thriving community, loads of content and some unique systems and social tools you should try LotRO.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A few thoughts on a few games - Batman, XCOM and DayZ

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Most of my gaming time recently has been spent playing Lord of the Rings Online, Portal 2 (again) and a little TSW thrown in for good measure. However I have also been spreading the love around a bit and have found time to play a few other games that I wanted to talk about. They have all been out for a while, are all very different, but as usual I've only recently found the time to play them.

First up is XCOM Enemy Unknown, the new version of the classic X-COM. I was a fan of the original all those years ago, and picked up the game on the recommendation of some friends. It certainly manages to evoke the same feeling as the original, and the battles can be tense and nervy, especially when a character you have spent some time building up faces danger.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 14 - Shanghai Surprise

This session saw a major change of scenery for the investigators as they decided to flee the UK following their most recent exploits. A discussion held in the light of the most recent headline in The Scoop, which identified Harry as a murderer, made their decision to leave the country a relatively easy one. Cassandra was more than a little worried about what she had gotten herself into, but was persuaded to continue her help.

The investigators decided to head to Shanghai. They had come across several leads to the city, and suspected that Jack Brady may be hiding there.

Would the investigators end up in big trouble? The answer will come as no surprise...
So it was that with the help of Cassandra's butler, Farnsworth, the group booked passage on a merchant vessel that would take them from nearby Lowestoft round the coast to Southampton. From there they boarded a passenger steamship called The Ineluctable, after managing to sneak Harry past a suspicious guard at the port.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

It's new PC time!

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Here are the specs for the new PC I've just ordered. I haven't bothered getting a new GPU as I only recently got myself an nVidia GTX 660 Ti. I'll just be swapping that and the hard drives from my current PC into it.

CPU: Intel Core i5 3570K
CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight Nighthawk SD1283
Operating System: Windows 8 (64-bit)
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77-D3H
Memory: 16GB Corsair 1600mhz Vengeance (4x4GB)
Hard Drive: Sandisk 128GB SSD S-ATAIII 6.0Gb/s
Optical Drive: 22x DVD±RW DL S-ATA
Graphics card: Onboard Video
Sound card: Onboard 7.1 Audio
Accessories: USB Card Reader
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 Black Pearl
PSU: 650W Corsair VS

The total price came to £704.70 including VAT. I decided to go with a pre-built PC this time, rather than building one myself. I priced the components up separately on a few sites and it was only £20-30 cheaper. This way I get a three year warranty into the bargain.

I ordered the PC from DinoPC. Let's hope it all goes smoothly and I'll report back on how the order proceeded.

Ordering a new PC is always exciting. Hopefully it will all be up and running by the end of next week.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

"Melancholia Enshrines All Triumph"* - A tribute to Iain Banks and Iain M Banks

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Iain Banks is my two favourite authors. I have every book he has written, whether as Iain Banks or with the additional "M" (short for Menzies), and have read many of them multiple times. So I am upset to read his personal statement today that reveals he is suffering from late-stage gall bladder cancer and is now only expected to live for "several months".

Iain Banks

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Twenty years ago... a brief history of my social gaming

One of my friends recently posted the following picture on his Facebook timeline, in honour of our first gaming clan which started twenty years ago. It got me thinking back to the fun times we had, and really what was the start of  two decades of online social gaming (I'm the one being Mr White for those wondering...)

Things have changed a lot since then, obviously, but stumbling across some old forum caches recently was a real nostalgia trip into my gaming history.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A bee, a mummy and a freedom fighter walked into a bar...

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I've just finished my play-through of the latest storyline content for The Secret World (Issue 6: The Last Train to Cairo) and I'm still buzzing from the experience. Funcom have really kept up the stunning quality they delivered in Issue 5, giving a new storyline that sees you involved with environments and mechanics I've not seen in an MMO before along with a fun and involving story. There will necessarily be some spoilers in the following discussion.

The new storyline took about four hours to play through and introduced some fun new mechanics into the game. Highlights included a section where my character was captured and had all their equipment taken, necessitating a daring escape that required both sneaking and hand-to-hand fist fights. It was really fun having to dodge and block my opponent, catching them with quick jabs and powering up left or right hooks when the opportunity arose.

The final fight against a huge, burly wrestler was amusing and very reminiscent of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy took on the boxer under the taxiing airplane. In fact much of the content was full of subtle allusions to the Indiana Jones films, but in a way that homaged rather than parodied and never came across as too cheesy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Two weeks until winter

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Just going to leave this here. Can't wait for the new season to start!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Last Train to Cairo is now departing...

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Time to get your Indy on! Issue 6 for The Secret World is now live. The new issue includes a new auxiliary weapon (the bullwhip), a brand new quest chain, 12 new missions, a new veterans reward system, and new pvp systems and rewards. You can find the full patch notes here.

Funcom have released a fun new video that previews the new Issue, which I've embeded below.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 13 - War in Essex

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The best laid plans... sometimes work out.

This session of the campaign saw a more thoughtful and planned approach from the Investigators, and they got safely through an encounter that I had expected to cause them a lot of difficulty and several deaths. Their success was probably down to this new approach, along with a little luck as they decided to strike at exactly the right time...

How most plans to face the Cthulhu mythos end up...

Convinced that Edward Gavigan, manager of the Penhew Foundation, was behind the murder of Cutter last time round, the group had enlisted the aid of young socialite Casandra Fox and were determined to bring vengeance to Gavigan's Essex estate, Misr House.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Corkboard/Mural

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Masks of Nyarlathotep is a big and difficult Call of Cthulhu campaign. My group is slowly but surely working their way through it as you'll know if you read the regular campaign journals. However even I as Keeper am losing track of some of the clues that the investigators have uncovered.

So, to help them out a little and to keep things clear in my own head I made them a corkboard/mural that contains all the clues they have found so far, all linked up so that they can track where they all lead. From now on the investigators themselves will be maintaining it, and hopefully they'll find it a useful tool.

You can have a look at the corkboard by clicking the embed below.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Game of Thrones Season 3 Trailer

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It's now only a few short weeks until Game of Thrones returns to our screens. I've been re-watching season 2 as a refresher, and I'm particularly looking forwards to season 3 because it's based on my favourite of the books. HBO have just released the trailer for the new season and it's looking good. The end of the month can't come quick enough!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Assassins Creed 3 - The Very Good and the Very Bad

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About one-third of the way through my playthrough of Assassins Creed 3 I threw my hands in the air and shouted at my PC in frustration. The game had yet again forced me out of what I had been doing (playing an absolutely brilliant historical action RPG) and made me do something much less fun (play a boring, nonsensical action SF game) instead.

Assassins Creed 3 is a game of two halves. Luckily the brilliant half accounts for the vast majority of the game, but the poor, frustrating, boring half is so bad it detracts from the experience every time rears its ill-judged head.

Let's deal with the good stuff first. There's a lot of it, and it really is quite superb at times.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Something Wicked - The Tweeted World

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The Secret World is a game that has always blurred the line between the game world and the real world. Many of its quests require you to search the real world for solutions, and the recent alternate reality game had tens of thousands of community members working together outside the game in a common cause. Now it appears that Funcom may be at it again...

Characters from the game have started talking in the real world, through their Twitter accounts, both to each other and to community members who get involved in the discussions. Those of you who follow @The_Buzzing will have seen the recent #hivehum hashtag, and the various inputs from other mysterious characters such as @CorporateBlues and @PrunePrince.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 12 - Man Down and Pants Down

Another short but action-packed session saw the investigators getting in deep over their heads, with terrible consequences. It also saw their Keeper (i.e. yours truly) in such a state of laughter that I couldn't talk for five minutes and there were real tears rolling down my face - not the kind of behaviour that encourages an atmosphere of quiet dread, but it was the only sane reaction to what happened...

My state of mind during this session

So, after the ultimatum delivered by Mickey Mahoney at the end of the last session Harry Crum returned to the hotel. I have to admit his response to the threat of being handed over to the police for the murder of Benjamin Jones surprised me a little - he didn't mention it to the others at all! Oh well, there was still time for Harry to come up with a solution.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"No time to argue! Throw me idol, I'll throw you the whip!" The Secret World takes The Last Train to Cairo.

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You and I are very much alike. Archaeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light. 

Looks like The Secret World is going all Indiana Jones for the next Issue, The Last Train to Cairo, due in March. There's a great new update on the official site, including the brilliant new Issue cover. If that doesn't get you all excited for a rip-roaring desert action adventure I don't know what will!

I love the TSW Issue covers. The art is always fantastic, and always in a different style. Finally I'm going to be able to fulfil all those Indiana Jones fantasies with the addition of the bullwhip auxiliary weapon. Add to that the new storyline, a new lair raid boss, veteran rewards and new PvP ranking systems and uniforms, and Issue 6 is looking good.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


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It's been two weeks without any real gaming (or blogging) at all. Still, it's not been all bad. I've had an extended trip to South Africa, where I managed to go on Safari, and I'm off to Berlin next week (all work involved, but nice to meet up with colleagues from around the world again).

A local I met in Pilanesberg
Due to my extended absence what time I have had back in the UK has been spent catching up on work, and the little time I have had to play games has been with my son, who is already developing a worrying affinity for PC games. Of course that's meant no MMOs (especially TSW, which really isn't appropriate for a four-year old).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ups and Downs

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Things are still pretty hectic with the home life so my gaming time has been a little limited recently. Things aren't set to improve for a couple of weeks as I have to go to South Africa with work next week, then I have a few days at home before heading off to Berlin.

What time I have had to spend gaming has been split between The Secret World, Skyrim and a couple of new games that I obtained thanks to some vouchers with my new graphics card (a nice upgrade from a Radeon HD5850 to an nVidia GTX 660Ti).

Vinculus joins the Monster Hunter club

In TSW I finally managed to finish the achievement for finding and killing all the rare mobs in the game so I am now proudly sporting my monster hunter jacket. The latest Game Director Letter has been released and details the restructuring of the team along with a few hints of what to expect in Issue #6 (time travel, bullwhips and new cabal features).

I've been continuing to explore Skyrim. It's the first Elder Scrolls game to really grab me (see my mini-review) and consequently I've signed up for the beta for The Elder Scrolls Online. I hope my fears that it will be another generic fantasy MMO are unfounded. This video by someone who got to play an alpha version of the game gives some hope at least.

The rest of my time has been spent playing Assassin's Creed 3, which I got free with my new GPU. It's both brilliant (gameplay, graphics, historical storylines and world are all superb) and frustratingly bad at the same time (some flunky controls and an absolutely awful and incomprehensible overarching story). I'll have some detailed thoughts up soon. It's fun despite the problems I have with it, and the good parts are so good they really make up for the bad parts. I intend to try and finish the game.

The other new game I obtained was Borderlands 2, a stylish first person shooter. So far it really hasn't made much of an impression and I can't see myself spending much time with it for a while at least.

I'm not sure when my next update will be due to traveling through most of February, but I'll try to get my AC3 review up sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 11 - Short and Sweet

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After an extended break due to the holiday season it was back into the saddle with a shorter-than-usual session (partly due to availability and partly due to my stupidity in trying to get Fantasy Grounds to work with my new Windows 8 setup). Despite the relatively short time we had available the group still managed to drop itself into a lot of trouble (or more specifically, Harry Crum did)!

Last time saw the investigators end up standing over a dead body (again). It was the guard at the Penhew Foundation they were busy "investigating" (read: breaking into), but a search had uncovered evidence the guard was probably a cultist. So that's alright then.

A stone wall. What horrors lie beyond?

The group was determined to get to the bottom of what was behind the wall in the basement through which the odd pipes ran. A long discussion about which walls were supporting walls began (always a risk when you bring an architect with you), but eventually they figured out that they were not easily going to break through the wall.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kiss the Sky

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I've always had a love-hate relationship with the Elder Scrolls games. They promise so much, but I am always left disappointed by their execution. The graphics always look amazing but the engines run like lame dogs, the open world is often boring to traverse, the lore is uninspiring, character models are often ugly, the main plots too cliched and the quests repetitive and lacking in direction, the user interface is often horrible, the "action" combat is uncomfortable, and the games are usually full of bugs. Consequently I didn't bother picking up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim when it first launched at the end of 2011, despite the excellent reviews.

Having been gifted the game over Steam at Christmas I thought it was time to delve in. Waiting a year means that the vast majority of bugs have been fixed, and the modding community has addressed many of the other launch issues. The result is an Elder Scrolls game that finally gets almost everything right.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Year, New OS

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So, it's been a little longer than normal since my last post, for a few reasons. I've still been recovering from my illness over Christmas, and being back at work has taken up a lot of time. I've been playing a little TSW and quite a bit of Skyrim too (my full thoughts on the game will be coming soon). There is another reason though, and that is I have taken the plunge and installed Windows 8 on my PC.

It wasn't something I was planning to do, but my wife decided to give it a go as the upgrade version is available from the Microsoft store at half price until the end of the month.  After seeing the ease with which she upgraded I thought for £25 it would be worth a go, especially as the upgrade version allows you to make a boot disk and do a full, clean install (something I was planning on doing with Windows 7 at some point anyway).

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Bad Santa

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Well, Christmas was a bit of a bust. Santa gave the entire family a present of the flu on Christmas morning, and I'm only just coming out the other side of it now. The last week has been pretty awful, trying to deal with two very sick kids, whilst feeling like absolute crap. Consequently my week was not spent eating, drinking, watching TV and making merry, but rather sleeping, puking, coughing and cleaning up.

Oh well, at least it's the new year now, so a good time for a few thoughts on the last twelve months. Due to the illness I haven't had the time or inclination to write one of my annual TWTYTW ("That Was The Year That Was") posts, or post my predictions for the coming year (though considering my predictions last year were all universally rubbish, that's probably a good thing!). So instead here's a more rambling post about my highs and lows of the year.