May 31, 2011

The Nerd Couple, Episode Four

Due to Moving and Technical Issues, we're a bit late, but we haven't given up!

Every other week, hear the discussions of The Nerd Couple, starring d20 Sapphire and Mystic.  They discuss geeky news and topics, and approach it from our unique nerd upbringings.

This week: LARP experiences and sci-fi actor careers aside, we have a beef with Multiplayer in the videogame industry.  See how we think it's failed, and how it can be improved.  Awesome: Water on the Moon.  Not so awesome: Study linking agression and violent video games.  Biweekly B.S.: Review of the new Warhammer Space Marine. (Picture that annoyed d20 Sapphire forthcoming)

Special thanks to EsTeeKay of Binary Protege Productions for supplying the intro music, and for promising us video game remixes in the future. (He's off for the summer, he should have more time.)

Also thanks to Saki Kaska for making the song at the end of our podcast, Callista, which many have heard from the the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack.  Saki Kaska, if you see this, please link me to your site so more people can appreciate your awesome from the direct source.

Email for topic suggestions and feedback!  The Nerd Couple would love to hear from you.  

May 25, 2011

Redeeming Borderlands over a year later

Over a year ago I tried Borderlands and concluded that it stunk.  You can read the original article for clarification as to why, but I think there were a lot of factors that lead to me thinking the targeting system sucked and missions were lame.  And a lot of it is because I didn't have the patience to try it again later.

The Boyfriend, or I guess I should call him Mystic now due to the podcast, urged me and a friend to give  it another try.  So we did, and we did it with a friend who did all 4 co-op before.  And it definitely got better.

This is definitely a game where you're not going to get a good taste of the experience in the first 30 minutes or so.  You have to level up decently and be sure to avoid over-challenging missions for your group.  Don't attempt anything too many levels above unless you're all superb tacticians knowing what you're up against.  Also, make sure everyone has a different job.  It does make the game a lot more fun.

Why did I change my mind?  Well to be honest this time I think the file I had was less buggy, so I felt I had actual control over my character.  Not like I was suddenly a hundred times better, but I felt that my (lethargic) reaction time was accurately portrayed.  Also, the special powers you get when you are finally at level 5 are definitely worth the wait.  With the people I'm playing, we have 2 hunters, me and another friend.  I focus more on my attack bird's bonuses and stick to my sniper rifle.  My friend is becoming a bit of a Jack of all trades, but focusing on revolvers.  We will never be doing the same exact thing at once.  And it makes for a better game and better teamwork.

I like how you can have your teammates save you but you can also save yourself when you're pinned down in case your team is on the other edge of the area you're fighting on.  The vehicle travel is pretty sweet considering the scope of the maps.  The music is pretty good.  And over time you do notice a difference as you level up, it's not just meaningless numbers.

I'll be playing it, hopefully finishing the game with my friends.  I'm glad I decided to revisit this one there was a lot more potential fun than I had anticipated.

May 19, 2011

Ellen Peters: married to the Carthian Movement

I know some of you are aware of my LARP goodness.  But something big happened in the Chicago Domain in general, and in turn something big happened to Ellen Peters, my former boston socialite turned prim and proper Mehket Carthian.

To be honest, Ellen Peters was somewhat of a laid back Carthian.  She was more invested in the heroine trade she became a part of when she first found harbor in the South Shore.  With that in mind, she invested most of her time into her business, building up her gang and expanding her territory.  She gained some respect in the city, making strange allegiances and gaining the South Shore as her domain.  She participated in Carthian affairs around Chicago, but usually stayed back.  She was named Prefect by accident.

Throughout all of it, she looked up to one of the most prominent Carthian in the city, Marten Flagg.  When Prince Grace Hartford was named, Marten was named first Harpy, then Seneschal.  However, Ellen was most impressed by his vast influences in the mortal world, keeping himself informed about news that would affect vampires, and how vampires were influencing the world around.  This helped keep these worlds separate.  In many ways, even though Flagg did not rule Chicago, he owned Chicago.  That was something he admitted to Ellen once as he tried to take her under his wing, teaching her about ways to invest in mortal projects.

He was the Carthian with the connections, and no one ever stopped to think how far behind the Carthians would be without him.

During the Midwest Prince meeting (the non-con Chikalb), Marten Flagg, along with Prince Hartford and Lady Cassey Twain, was murdered, receiving final death in a mysterious set of circumstances.  Ellen did not receive the news until the next night, having been distracted in the South Shore with business (I was moving that weekend).

Almost instantly Ellen felt lost and adrift.  She had never been close to anyone who had experienced final death.  Politically not only had she lost a Prince that she knew to be egalitarian regardless of political beliefs, which is very important for a Carthian in an Invictus ruled city, she lost one of the strongest members of her convenant.  Personally, she felt guilty that she had not been there to be observant during the Midwest Prince meeting.  Maybe she could've seen something and prevented all of it.  Particularly to save Marten, who she knew she wasn't particularly close with, but had always looked up to.

And then came the overwhelming guilt.  She knew she had the power before to make the Carthian Movement stronger so that if something had happened, they wouldn't have lost the one vampire with the best resources.  She should've seen that weakness, and as Prefect she had sat idly by while her heroine empire continued to grow.  Never had Ellen thought she would've felt so mortal after turning, or so weak after leaving the Invictus in Boston.

On saturday was the memorial service.  Ellen dressed appropriately but wasn't as particular about her look as she had previously been.  She wore sunglasses to hide her eyes.  She tried not to cry and through most of the service was able to hold back, especially when a kindred decided to set himself on fire in the middle of the service.  She followed he instincts and ran to the Cradle where the ceremonies were.  She thought about was Marten would've said about the whole dramatic event.  She got teary.

She tried to keep a level head after a while, knowing that this was the perfect time for a Carthian meeting.  She now had to rally the troops, build up what they lost.  They had to make up for everything Marten had done for them.  She went around to every Carthian she could find, which wasn't many during the meeting.  Meanwhile keeping up banter, though she was more curt than usual.

Then Evengii called for her for the new Prince Donovan McQuin.  She had not expected anything from the Prince.  Maybe she's finally be officially recognized as Prefect.  Maybe he would promise to let her keep the South Shore as her domain.  Maybe he would take it away.  Ellen thought she was prepared for anything.

Prince McQuin merely held out a ring with a single diamond on it and said "Marten Flagg."

Ellen gingerly took it, almost sobbed, and with more gratitude than her voice conveyed, spat out a shaken "Thank you," before rushing out of the Cradle to cry.  It wasn't a long cry, it wasn't a loud cry.  She never though she would cry again after she turned, and there she was, feeling grief and in mourning.

She couldn't replace Marten Flagg now.  She let herself becoming a selfish black market dealer instead of a good Carthian.

After a moment, Ellen put the ring on her right hand and went back.  After thinking about it, she felt more appropriate to put it on her left hand.  She was still upset, but now was not the time to dwell.  She had to get the covenant together, she wasn't sure of the speech she would make.  But now was the time to sink in their connections, to move forward.  Now was the time to regain anything and everything they had lost with Marten, and then some.

It was time to be a better Carthian.

May 18, 2011

Over 100 followers!

Oh man I am so honored guys.  When I started this blog I never imagined I would have so many awesome people reading and even enjoying this blog.  And now I notice I have OVER 100 FOLLOWERS!

With that, I'm glad to see how things have expanded.  We have the podcast with The Boyfriend, I have gotten more into the gender issues realm, and now I'm keeping up with more nerd news than ever.

With that, I promise more nerding on a consistent basis.

That is, if we survive May 21st.  Haven't you heard?  It's the coming of the Rapture.

So if we survive, I promise more consistent geek goodness.  If not... I'll provide it in the hereafter.  I'd feel bad breaking my promise.

May 11, 2011

Why Can't My Video Games Be Movies?

Before anyone get's scared, I'm not suggesting we make a movie about any video game.  I'm talking about replay value.

I'm trying to go through another play through of Dragon Age II, with a good hearted warrior, and I'm finally at the point where I'm finding things to be repetitive.  Now it takes me longer than the average gamer to care about things repeating.  I played the original Dark Cloud over and over and that is nothing but repetitive hack and slash dungeon crawl.

How is that tunic enough protection?

But then again, I didn't feel the desire to replay this game.  Dragon Age II has some of the same pitfalls the original Dark Cloud did: dungeons that look the same, enemies you fought 2 minutes ago showing up again, not too much variation in fighting tactics as you level up or progression in party fighting style is slow.  Or at least that's how I feel now.  

Part of it may be that I played a mage the first time in DA2, which means there's a lot of variation in my battle decisions.  Choosing to be a warrior straight from that isn't as interesting.  It's less about the flash and more about the smack down.  Not that I don't like the smack down, but I think I've always been one to be a little more attracted to spectacle when it comes to fantasy fights.

However, that's not the problem.  The problem is I want to go through the game for the story and the characters and the choices I have to make, and the fighting feels like it's in the way!  Screw you coterie thug, I want to get to the dialog!  

I don't know if it's just me.  It's not like I want all the fighting gone.  Maybe if I had a fast forward version I could do when I beat the game the first time I'd be more satisfied with my experience now.  Then again, I'm not one to play Heavy Rain either.  I want a real video game.  Scratch that, I want a video game with violence.  We can debate the definition of "real video game" later.  I still want to kick ass though.  

And thus the title of this post.  Unfortunately I can't end with a solution, which I would prefer to do, but I'm afraid this is just me being a weird nerd.

May 8, 2011

Bad Surprises for the GM.

First of all Happy Mother's day!  I hope you all are giving your mother or special women in your life candy and flowers and hugs.

Second, I was hoping to do a proper recap of my DnD campaign yesterday, but things apparently exploded on me.  I'm not going to get into details, because it's not necessary,  but unbeknownst to me the group of players in my game we're fizzling away due to personal problems with each other, and it came to a head last night in what would've been the beginning of a dungeon crawl.  Well, cave crawl, but the specifics aren't necessary.  It ended with me flabbergasted with a maker in my hand still trying to draw the entrance area of the first level of the cave as people left because they were mad at other people.

I'm not going to blame anyone for it, sometimes things just happen, and I'm not going to rant about upset I was, because I'm sure many of you have been in similar situations and have been similarly frustrated.  But I figured I can use this to make some sort of plea towards some... I'm not sure if game etiquette is the right word for it, but I will go with that for now.

If you have a good GM, one who listens and is genuinely making a game for you to enjoy, let them know if you're not enjoying it for any reason.  Good GM's want to give you a fun challenge.  Good GMs want to have a fun time with everyone.  If that's not happening for some reason on a consistent basis, let them know so the GM can try to rectify it.  Sometimes he can't, or he can't immediately, but  a good GM will try to make sure the game is fun for the players.

I know this isn't always an option, but there a lot of GMs out there, like myself, who put in the work they do to make a fun, enjoyable world who want to know if what he or she is doing isn't working.  It's really disappointing to try to make a fun game and realize no one is having fun out of the blue.

I've seen situations like this that would be rectified by a good conversation with the GM before, mostly in other games though where I wasn't running anything.  This, to be honest, was the first time something had to break up completely mid-game over any kind of issue when I was participating.  And now part of me is kicking myself for not seeing it and trying to fix it sooner, or wishing someone could've told me so I could've helped.

I need to see what to ret-con and where to go from here, and I'm really hoping to get back to the campaign, especially with characters that are engaging in the world I gave them and want to find out more.  I'm hoping to work around my recent move, because I would hate to start out with a new group again.  After a while you get attached to the PCs, no matter how ridiculous they are or how much they may annoy you with finding the chink in your GM plans.  It's actually kind of more fun when that happens.

In the hopes of ending this post on a lighter note, I'm going to share a video that Dan Eastwood was nice enough to share with me earlier this week.  Enjoy!

May 6, 2011

Managing Battle

With any RPG, you're going to have to manage battle.  I'm running D&D two Saturdays in a row, and considering last week was uber investigation time (part of the reason why I'm recapping after tomorrow night) I'm going to do battle.

Oh battle.

The thing is, in any RPG, it gets complicated.  D&D has a lot of rules to manage, but in games with less rules you have to figure out how certain things work together.  Even if everyone knows exactly what they're doing in battle, it can get confusing.  So how do you keep all of it together?

I'll offer a few of my tips, but I know some of you who've played longer probably have you're own to share.  Please do so in the comments!  I think anyone can benefit from them.

1) Grids for Initiative.  Using them not only to establish turn order but knowing when certain sustained effects go way are great.  Graph paper is your best friend.

2) Maps are also great.  Even if you don't have a battle map with miniatures, use graph paper to draw out where everything is as the DM.  That way, it's easy to say how far something is when a PC asks.

3) No distractions during battle, especially laptops.  This is one I'm recently deciding on, but computers are multitasking machines that can delay battle if you're looking up your email.

4) Clarity is something that the DM must convey.  Be clear about what is going on, who is hitting whom, and why certain things happen.

5) Planning the next move is something every PC playing should do.  Have a good idea what you're going to do when the DM comes to you, don't look up spells and effects at the last minute.

May 2, 2011

The Nerd Couple, Episode Three

Please excuse our lateness, but we appreciate you listening!  We're back with another episode.

Every other week, hear the discussions of The Nerd Couple, starring d20 Sapphire and Mystic.  They discuss geeky news and topics, and approach it from our unique nerd upbringings.

This week: When not discussing Enya and alien abductions, the nerd couple discusses how they approach RPGs.  How different are the roleplaying goals of d20sapphire and Mystic?  The answers and discussions may surprise you.  Awesome: Project Cafe.  Not so awesome: SETI array closing.  Biweekly B.S.: The recent failures of the Playstation Network incident.

Special thanks to EsTeeKay of Binary Protege Productions for supplying the intro music, and for promising us video game remixes in the future.

Also thanks to Saki Kaska for making the song at the end of our podcast, Callista, which many have heard from the the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack.  Saki Kaska, if you see this, please link me to your site so more people can appreciate your awesome from the direct source.

Email for topic suggestions and feedback!  The Nerd Couple would love to hear from you.