In a Secret Holding Pattern #TSW   6 comments

The Secret World, Polaris

Funcom, you can drop the act now. Those countdown tentacles? Yeah, you’re not fooling anyone.

Last night I logged in to our weekly meeting of The Secret World, and only two others had shown up, Syp and TenTentacles. We briefly discussed what we could do between the three of us. We could run a scenario since the Flappy fight wasn’t going to start for a few hours or we could just farm some AP. Each suggestion was met with a huge wave of “meh”. We’ve done the Flappy fight to death by this point, we’ve done so many scenarios that we could do them in our sleep, and grinding AP doesn’t really sound appetizing either as we’d just be doing content we’ve already done over and over again. The low turnout to begin with also shows that we’re all feeling generally the same way.

In other words, until The Secret World’s Tokyo expansion is released, interest in playing the game at all is very low.

The Secret World, Bugs

We seem to be encountering technical difficulties. Please stand by.

Between all of us, our best guess consensus is that the first Tokyo zone is going to be dropping sometime in April, which disagrees with the tentacles. To release any later, though, would be crazy. Last time we checked Funcom still needs to make money and outfits and accessories (although some of them are pretty nice) just aren’t going to cut it. Unless they are just going to sit idly by on the sidelines and watch as The Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar leech away all of their players, Funcom needs to start the hype train for Tokyo sooner rather than later, and start doling out information.

I mean, a more adult, gritty world where magic is real and you’re fighting demonic hellspawn are a few things that Elder Scrolls Online and The Secret World have in common. There are differences, sure, but the feel is similar enough to draw from the same pool of players. There’s a chance Funcom might be banking on TESO’s failure, which is a bad thing to do for such a huge IP. Even if TESO does the stereotypical boom at launch and 3-month dropoff, releasing Tokyo 3 months from now to compensate you wouldn’t find too many players left that were willing to wait. TSW is not World of Warcraft! Players aren’t simply content to grind for months waiting on the new expansion! Why am I even subbing? Give us some more info already!

And those tentacles above the Flappy portal meant to show how much longer until the portal is cleansed? Yeah, we know they don’t mean anything. You can drop the illusion now. I haven’t checked recently, but in the beginning when the Flappy fight was in full swing, based on the rate that the counters were dropping, it was estimated that the portal wouldn’t be cleansed until around October.

So unless Funcom steps in and alters the countdowns, like they did with the last portal, or finally give a release date for Tokyo, we’re going to be waiting in this holding pattern for quite a while.


Posted March 25, 2014 by Ocho in The Secret World

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Unintentionally, I Just Bought My First Collector’s Edition #SotA   Leave a comment

Shroud of the Avatar

I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. In a way, I feel tricked but I don’t. I’m still working out my feelings on this one.

First and foremost let me just say that I’m not of the same mind as (it seems) some of my fellow bloggers, that we should treat our favorite game companies as charities. I fully believe in the process of natural selection, even for businesses,  and simply put, if a company’s product isn’t worth the value, I’m not going to shell out more money to them just to help keep them afloat. No, my money needs to be earned by these companies. If I drop money on a subscription price and box fee, then that product better be heads and shoulders above the same entertainment I could get for a similar price elsewhere.

But one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. We don’t all have the same perception of value. To one person, having four concurrent subscriptions is a great value as they can drop into a game at any time, and the world will be waiting for them. For me, having any more than one time-based subscription is a waste of money that could be much better spent elsewhere. My time is valuable to me, a lot more than any subscription price, and if that one game doesn’t give me enough value to justify a time-based price, I’ll leave to another game that justifies my time & money more. Economics, in a nutshell.

But yet, I have now pledged up to the “Explorer” tier in backing Shroud of the Avatar, and it’s because of a very slippery slope.

I won’t lie, I’m a big fan of the Ultima series and Richard Garriott. So, an Ultima successor in feel (not in actuality due to copyright), without intervention from Electronic Arts, where the creators have a very open development? This makes me very happy, and I was more than happy to open my wallet to see this come to pass. But I didn’t want to open it too far… after all, I have a high perceived value of the finished product but the finished product doesn’t exist. So at first I kept myself in check.

Shroud of the Avatar

The Slippery Slope

My first purchase was for the $33 “Pioneer” tier, as I had missed the 1st and 2nd Responder tiers. This would get me a digital copy of the game. I could access the alphas and betas, too, but I wasn’t so interested in them. I’m only interested in betas to get a taste of what the game is, and not to help them test. I’m a bit selfish like that, but realistically I’m not their employee, I’m a consumer. Betas have turned me off quite a few games, too, so I tend to avoid them if I can help it. Total Spent: $33.

But wait. This is just for Episode 1! There are more episodes! I did not realize this at first. Well, what tier has THOSE, too? It ended up being the “Royal Artisan” tier, with Episode 2 & 3. Now, if I’m reading this correctly, each episode of the overall game will use the same engine, but be entirely separate. Similar to Guild Wars. Cool. I like that. And having all of them put together is like having a Transformers of Ultima. Even cooler. I could see myself playing all of them and adding another $47 for the next 2 episodes ($23.50/episode), when the first was $33, seems like a good deal. Total Spent: $80.

That’s where I stopped for a long time until I found this page, which noted a promotion from Alienware to upgrade your pledge by $20. Sweet! Using the coupon (as easy as clicking the link and signing into Shroud’s page), suddenly I was bumped up to $100, which was now the “Virtual Collector” tier. Total Spent: still $80.

Shroud of the Avatar is going to come in *FIVE* episodes, though. So far, I’ve only pledged for the first three. So, looking once more at the tiers, to get all five would be the “Explorer- All Digital” tier, for only $20 more. So, two more at $10/episode is a much better deal than before, so I jump on it. Total Spent: $100

Just for giggles, and I’m already so well vested like a poker player deep into a hand, I check out the next tier. The “Explorer” tier, and see that it’s only $5 more, and I get quite a few nice tangible physical items, like a *cloth map*, a collector’s box, the soundtrack, a game manual, and physical media. I don’t really care about most of them, but those cloth maps play my nostalgia strings like a lute, and for only $5? I have to. I have no choice. Total Spent: $105.

Now the next tier is at $150, and that’s where I draw the line. A collector’s coin and a “mysterious trinket” are included, which starts playing at my curiosity, but I’m not an extra $45 curious.

Shroud of the Avatar

Is It Worth It?

I don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, I’m getting quite a bit. Every episode, a cloth map, and so many digital goodies I won’t know what to do with myself (no, really, the list is ridiculous… I added it in the postscript). On the other, Episode 1 hasn’t even come out yet! Let alone episodes two through five! Have some control, man! You just spent $105 on a game that you’ve only seen a very rough part of (and boy, was it rough)!

What a slide, too, from $33 to $105. As a previous salesman, I use to do this to customers all the time. “Oh, hey, you’re already spending $50 on books, how about a $5 bookmark?” It wasn’t even that difficult. As long as you kept the additions logical and less than 20% of the total, you could double a sale pretty easily. It plays off a lot of psychological tactics: overestimated future use, fear of a wasted purchase, the increase of the perception of value based on the more you spend, sunk time and costs, etc. and I feel I just had all of that psychology, that I am well aware of, used against me.

I guess time will tell if I am really happy about my purchase or if it was a waste.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

// Ocho

P.S. – If you want to get in on the Shroud of the Avatar Pre-order, that $20 Alienware coupon is good for new purchases, too, as well as current pledges. $25 for the first game isn’t bad at all if you’re an Ultima fan, story fan, or sandbox fan and are on the fence.

P.P.S. – By the way, here is the list of what the “Explorer” tier gets you (if you pledged during the Kickstarter itself)…

  • Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 (Alpha and Beta Access, Developer Blog Access)
  • Blade of the Avatar Novel by Tracy Hickman, “The Story of Mondain in the World of Sosaria” by Richard Garriott, Akallabeth Dungeons and Dragons Campaign
  • Physical: Cloth Map, Collector’s Box, Media, Soundtrack, Manual
  • Digital: Runic Translation Print, PDF Artbook, Soundtrack
  • In-Game: Creature Taming Call Ability, Early Skill Access
  • Teachable Emotes: Darkstarr Salute, Adventurer, Pilgrim, Immortal Adventurer, Founder, Royal Artisan, Virtual Collector, Explorer
  • Titles: Benefactor, Pioneer, Adventurer, Immortal Adventurer, Founder, Artisan, Royal Artisan, Archivist, Royal Archivist, Cartographer, Royal Cartographer
  • Items: Replenishing Snowball Box, Founder Shield, Immortality Fruit, Ankh of Virtue Necklace, Founder Cloak, Royal Elderberry Plant, Last Name, Star Citizen Cross-Promotion Item, Non-Combat Pets, Benefactor Tunic, Darkstarr Cloak, 1-use Crystal Sword, Founder Tunic, Starter Melee Weapons, Indestructable Artisan Tool, Starter Ranged Weapons, Iolo’s Lute, Darkstarr Metronome, Indestructable Crafting Tool, Starter Founder Armor, Family Crest (of your own design), Framed Cover Art, Framed Map.

… Wow.

Pi Day Shenanigans #π   7 comments


It’s Pi Day, Pi Day, Gotta Get Round on Pi Day! Everybody’s looking forward to diameters! Diameters!

Alright, so this post isn’t so much about gaming. So sue me. However, it *IS* about Pi! And really, who doesn’t appreciate Pi? I’m a big fan of promoting the maths and sciences, and Pi Day is a great day to do so. So here are a few tricks, a few facts, a few nonsensicles, etc. all about our favorite irrational constant. (Sorry e, they haven’t made an e day yet)

A History of Pi


Pi (π) is, simply put, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. Pi is considered an irrational and transcendental number that never ends and never repeats. The exact person or date the ratio was discovered is lost to the ages. There are those that suggest that since the Great Pyramid of Giza has a ratio of the perimeter of the base to the pyramid’s height that comes close to 2π, that the Egyptians have known of pi since the pyramid’s building between 2589 to 2566 B.C. However, this may also just be a coincidence of the efficient design the Egyptians used.

However, a Babylonian tablet from around 1900 to 1680 B.C. *does* calculate pi to 3.125. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus of 1650 B.C. calculates pi to 3.1605. Pi is even roughly approximated in the King James Bible, in 1 Kings 7:23 in which is being described the construction of a temple by King Solomon:

And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

30 cubits (an ancient unit of length, the distance from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger) circumference / 10 cubit diameter = 3. Not bad.

It wasn’t until Archimedes, around 250 B.C. started using multi-sided polygons that it changed from being an educated guess to what we know it as today. Using geometry it became more and more refined starting with Archimedes, then mathematicians Ptolemy, Hui, Chongzhi, Aryabhata, Fibonacci, al-Kashi, Viete, Roomen, Ceulen, and Snellius. Pi was refined more and more until Christoph Greinberger, using the same polygonal method, came to 38 digits of Pi in 1630 A.D., which remains the most accurate approximation manually achieved using polygonal algorithms.

Then came the era of infinite series, or using the sums of terms of an infinite sequence, and more refinement by mathematicians such as Somayaji, Madhava, Gregory, Leibniz, and Wallis. Isaac Newton and Leibniz’s discovery of calculus in the 1660′s led to even more refinement.  Abraham Sharp using infinite series calculated pi to 71 digits, finally surpassing Greinberger’s 38. Machin came around in 1708 with a new method that reached 100 digits, and his method culminated in Ferguson’s 1946 620 digits.

Then came the computer era. Around 1949, Wrench and Smith using a desk calculator, reached 1120 digits. Technology kept progressing and the number snowballed finally reaching 1 million digits in 1973. As of 2011, the number of found digits, as I’m sure has been beaten by now, is up to 10 trillion digits.

The funny thing is that as far as functional computations go, no more than 39 digits are necessary, as that is the amount needed to accurately calculate the volume of the known universe to a precision of one atom. We had that in the 1600′s.

So What Use Is Pi To Me?!!!!

That’s all well and good, sure, but what use does the average person need Pi for?!! Well, math is essential to all of our lives. Sure, you may not need it on a daily basis, but you know of it and so probably use it unknowingly. For example, here’s a favorite bar bet on mine:

A height of ~ 3.75 in.

Which is Taller, The Height of My Cup, or it’s Circumference?

Say you’re in a bar. Take your pint glass, or any cup, really, turn to the person next to you and say: “Hey, for the next drink, I bet you are terrible with distance.” If you don’t get punched, take your glass and ask which is longer, the circumference of the top of the cup, or the height. A person who isn’t fluent in math will generally say the height… and they are incorrect. A person who is fluent in math will say the circumference. And they’d be right. “Cool”, you say. And then start stacking. Put under the glass your cell phone, a pad of post-its, etc. and keep asking. Eventually, they’ll say “Okay. The height is bigger.”

The height of the stack finally matches the circumference of the mug, at ~10.5 in.

… and most likely, unless you really put a ton of stuff under it, they’d still be wrong. It’s funny like that, our brains tend to overestimate vertical height, and underestimate horizontal length. The circumference of my mug? ~10.5 in. (Forgive the inadvertent advertising, this is just some of the stuff I have around me… I like tea.)

Get More Pizza For Your Buck

So, pizza, right? Who doesn’t like pizza? Hot sauce and melted cheese over a thin, crispy crust is the thing of gods. So simple, and yet, so complex. But should you get a medium? Should you get a large? How much MORE pizza does an extra 4″ really giving you?

As it turns out, a lot.

I took the menu to a local pizza place and compared some prices, all inches listed are for the diameter of the pizza:

10″ Personal Cheese Pizza – $7.75

14″ Medium Cheese Pizza – $9.75

16″ Large Cheese Pizza – $10.99

Using the simple formula for the area of a circle:  Area = π * (radius)^2, we can calculate the total area of the pizzas. And really area is what we’re going for, as that is a true determination of the quantity of pizza you’re getting.

10″ Personal Cheese Pizza – $7.75 – A = 78.5 sq. in. = 10.13 sq. in. / $

14″ Medium Cheese Pizza – $9.75 – A = 153.86 sq. in. = 15.78 sq. in. / $

16″ Large Cheese Pizza – $10.99 – A = 200.96 sq. in. = 18.29 sq. in. / $

Well damn. Look at that. If we use the Personal Pizza as a baseline, we see that the Medium pizza is almost twice the size! The large is not as big of a difference, and is only 2.5 times the size of the personal and only ~30% larger than the medium. However, even if you get the large, you’re still getting the most pizza for your dollar.

Your results may vary, depending on what your local places charge, but most likely the results will end up about the same. Also it depends on how hungry you are. If you’re only hungry for 78 sq in of pizza, by all means don’t pay more for wasted food.

Speaking of Pizza…

I’ve definitely seen this make the rounds, but to figure out the Total Area of a Pizza, you use…. PIZZA! Crazy!

We aren’t talking about the area of a circle, though, but the area of a cylinder. Afterall, pizzas have height, too.

The formula for the area of a cylinder is thus:

Area = π * (radius)^2 * height

If the radius = z, and the height = (just roll with us here, these are totally legit substitutions) then:

The Area of a Pizza becomes: Pi * z * z * a


Test the Speed of Your Computer’s Processor

Occasionally I build computers. So far, I’ve built them for myself, for friends, and for family, but I definitely know my way around the interior of a PC box. Not too long ago, I upgraded my system to a nice, probably overkill, but wicked Core i7-3770 Quad Core processor. It is a thing of beauty. I had upgraded from a much older AMD Dual Core, and wanted to know exactly what kind of upgrade I had received. Sadly, the exact figures have been lost to time, but let’s just say it was a very healthy difference.

I found out, though, using a very simple benchmark program that involves, you probably have guessed it by now, calculating Pi! It’s called Super Pi, and it simply calculates how long it takes your processor to calculate to 1 million digits of Pi. In fact, you could even tell it to keep going, but most time 1 million is enough to get a decent benchmark, and with today’s computers it’ll be done in seconds. Go ahead and put your system through it’s paces, too. A medium-end system generally takes about 15 minutes to calculate 32 million digits.


Other Fun Pi Facts

π – The Alt-Code for the greek symbol representing Pi is Alt-227. Just hold down Alt and type ’227′, and Pi will appear on your screen.

π – All in a bid to improve math and science in our country, in 2009 the United States House of Representatives designated March 14th as “Pi Day”. July 22nd is even designated as “Pi Approximation Day”, as sometimes 22/7 is used to approximate it, but we don’t really want to celebrate an approximation, right?! (Oh wait… since Pi can never be fully calculated, we use an approximate, huh? Ah well.)

π – Pi Day is also Albert Einstein’s Birthday! The man, the myth, the legend.

π – My wife and I celebrate the day we started dating on February 7th. If we were to give other transcendental irrational numbers days, then February 7th would be “e Day”! How awesome is that?! (e ≈ 2.71…)

π – Salvadore Dali was a big fan of the irrational Pi and used a lot of mathematical principals in his art. The Dali Museum in Flordia even celebrates Pi Day in his honor with all kinds of events!


Longest post ever? Yeah, but so it goes. If you made it here to the end, please have some pie! Compliments of CSTM.

So go out, my awesome readers, and see the wonder and the majesty that is Pi. Appreciate the history, the search for knowledge, get more pizza than you can eat, check out a Dali painting or two, build a computer, and win a bet.

Happy Pi Day all!

// Ocho

P.S. – Pi Day Shenanigans has also been brought to you by Math Happens. Follow it on Twitter at @YouGotMathed. Why? Because You Just Got Mathed!


Happy Pi Day: Fun Facts About Our Favorite Irrational Number

Bible Gateway: 1 Kings 7

Wikipedia: Pi

Wikipedia: e

Wikipedia: Cubit

The roles of altitude and fear in the perception of height

Today I Found Out: The Mathematical Volume of a Pizza is Pizza 

The Dali Museum, Calendar 

CNET: National Pi Day? Congress Makes it Official

Wikipedia: Pi Day

Turning Back to Tyria #GW2   1 comment

Guild Wars 2

The other day I had a really rough day at work. I needed to unwind a bit but I was so mentally exhausted that I needed an easy game. A game that wasn’t a huge challenge, that I could play mindlessly but still get those nice, reassuring pings of accomplishment.

So I started playing Guild Wars 2 again.

I know, not exactly a glowing compliment but then this is the design they chose, they made their bed and now they have to lie in it.

I returned with the intent of exploration and gaining experience. Also, the complete avoidance of the living story. I still don’t have a  character at level cap, and I feel I can’t really participate in the living story without one. Last time I tried, lets just say it didn’t go that well. So my goal this time around is to take my highest level character, a Charr Elementalist named Mabsy Mabs, and get her through the rest of the storyline and up to the level cap so as to be in prime position for when the story for Season 2 starts. Plus, it was one of my gaming resolutions.

Guild Wars 2

So far the game has been very accommodating about gaining levels. I’ve only been back for a week, and I’ve gone from level 60 to level 75 in no time. Has it always been this fast or did they make it faster? I know leveling isn’t at exponential rates like in other games, and you do get experience for practically everything. But then it also doesn’t mean much either. In one zone, I went from level 65 to 70, and was still down-leveled to 60 the entire time. Nothing wrong with that, though, I still like the whole concept of capping the level of different zones, but it does just turn your level into only a number, and then I again wonder why there are levels in the first place.

I also take back some of my previous sentiments about down-leveling. Going from higher level to higher level zone following the story, I’ve found that the zones themselves are what are bringing the difficulty and not your overall level. Sure, I could go back to Plains of Ashford and roflstomp my way through it, but that’s a starting zone. I roflstomped my way through it at level 10, too. In what I initially felt was a very flat difficulty curve, I’m finding the higher level zones to be trickier than the ones before it so the curve does have an upward trend. This is good. Up-leveling, though, still leaves a lot to be desired.

Guild Wars 2

Still, though, I’m really enjoying Guild Wars 2 again. The overall storyline of following mister big-time plant Trahearn around not so much, but it’s the little storylines and the small details that GW2 does so remarkably well that make the world feel very much alive. For example: the jumping puzzle for the Timberline Falls zone is in a quaggan nursery (so damn cute), so one would expect tiny quaggans running around. However, there was one adult quaggan singing cute songs to the kids. So adorable I *had* to stop and listen to them for a while.


That’s what I’ve heard about the living story, too. Sure, beating up on leafy Ms. Scarlet is the main point, but overall the consensus of her character is a resounding “meh”. The real gold of the living story is found in all of the supporting characters and all of their interactions with each other.

Scarlet was just the vessel for creating all of these side stories, for adding more depth to characters that were already there, and now I’m a little disappointed I didn’t figure that out sooner.

// Ocho

P.S. – Hey ArenaNet, I was thrilled when I saw a lockbox key fall as loot, but why can’t I sell it on the auction house? I can sell the boxes just fine, but not the keys? What gives? And what is up with new builds every hour? Bug fixes I’m sure, which maybe a little QA might help, but it’s a little disjointed to see that I need to restart my client every 5 minutes.

Ultima VII is One Giant Reference to How Terrible Electronic Arts Is   4 comments

Ultima 7

I’ve been following Syp’s playthrough of Ultima VII very closely, as it is by far one of my favorite games of all time, and remembered that Richard Garriott placed TONS of easter eggs in the game. Every party member of the Avatar’s group is some reference to someone Garriott knows, for example. Iolo is a reference to bowyer and composer David R. Watson, Iolo’s wife Gwenno is a reference to Watson’s wife Kathleen, Chuckles the Jester is a reference to one of the founders of Origin, Chuck Bueche, and Shamino and Lord British are references to Garriott himself. In fact, Sherry the Mouse is based off of one of his former girlfriends and the actress portraying Sherry at the Royal Theatre in Britain is dating Garriott’s alter-ego Shamino!

And all of these references are just the icing on the cake for us Ultima fans. They give nods to previous Ultimas played, to the developers themselves, and really added to the enjoyment of the game. However, it never occurred to me until recently to dig a little deeper. The deeper you go, though, the more you start to see something disturbing. Namely, Garriott did not like EA from the start, and he made that clear in Ultima VII.

Warning: I know this game came out in 1992, but SPOILERS AHEAD. Ye have been warned.

Ultima 7, Guardian, EA

– The Guardian Represents Electronic Arts –

The big bad menace of Ultima VII is called “The Guardian”. He is a huge red dude who wants nothing more than to enter the world of U7, Britannia, and destroy it. He accomplishes this by getting into the minds of the people, and pushing them to help the Guardian enter the world. Many worlds have already fallen to his evil. He is referred to by the wisps as “vain, greedy, egocentric, and malevolent”.

So how is the Guardian the representation of EA? The Guardian is called “The Destroyer of Worlds”. Origin’s motto: “We Create Worlds”. Also, Origin saw EA’s way of doing business as immoral. According to Origin, EA’s method was not only to make games, but also to interfere in others ability to do so. EA suing Origin probably didn’t help.

Ultima 7, Elizabeth and Abraham

– The Murderers Elizabeth and Abraham… E & A –

Elizabeth and Abraham are two figures that figure prominently in the storyline of Ultima VII. Elizabeth and Abraham are two of the founding members of the Fellowship, the pseudo religion the Guardian has a hand in, similar to Scientology, and travel from city to city collecting funds and convincing the important people to build Fellowship branches.

E & A seem well intentioned on the outside. Big surprise, though, the Fellowship turns out to not be on the level, and E & A help out in assassinations of those who speak out against them. E & A? Killers.

– “Create Love” is Slaughtered by E & A –

Inamo, Ultima 7, EAOne of the very first scenes of the game, the Avatar is tasked with finding the killer of a murder that has just occurred. The blacksmith Christopher has been ritually murdered. At the time, this was ridiculously graphic. He had been tied down, had his extremities severed, decapitated, and his blood filled in buckets. His assistant, the Gargoyle Inamo, was also run-through with a pitchfork.

What does Inamo’s name mean in his own language? “Create Love“. Who killed him? E & A. Yup.

– The Destroyer’s Power Over the People Comes From The Cube, The Sphere, and The Tetrahedron… EA’s Logo –

Might as well save the best for last. In the Avatar’s travels across Britannia he finds out that he needs to destroy three structures, “generators”, which give the Guardian his power. The Cube helps broadcast the Destroyer’s voice to his followers, the Sphere helps disrupt the moongates and trap the Time Lord in his prison, and the Tetrahedron helps to disrupt magic through the land.

The Cube, The Sphere, and the Tetrahedron are symbols of the Guardian’s evil. Remind you of anything?

EA, Cube, Sphere, Tetrahedron

// Ocho

P.S. In case you were wondering, here’s a  history between Origin and EA:

– The History of EA and Origin –

Origin Systems was created in 1983 as a way for Richard Garriott to capitalize on his game-making talents. Up until then, Akalabeth, Ultima I, and Ultima II had all been published by other publishers who took advantage of Garriott’s work.  The California Pacific Computer Company bought the rights for Akalabeth and Ultima I, and Sierra On-Line bought up Ultima II. It was issues with Sierra that caused Garriott to finally form his own company. Origin’s first game was the next in the series, Ultima III, which helped them to get through the great video game crash of 1983. From there, Origin produced further Ultimas IV, V, and VI, Wing Commander 1 and 2 and many other games. By 1988, Origin had about 50 employees under it’s umbrella.

Ultima VII: The Black Gate was released in April of 1992 and is greatly considered the pinnacle of the Ultima series. At the time, Electronic Arts was a big competitor of Origin. At one point, the bigger EA took Origin to court, which ended in a costly out-of-court settlement for Origin. Origin believed the games they made were works of love, and saw EA as trying to get ahead any way they can. In September of 1992, though, Origin was acquired by Electronic Arts.

Under EA’s banner, Origin went on to release a lot of great games like the rest of the Wing Commander series. However, the quality of the Ultima series started to drastically suffer. The last game, Ultima IX was, well, it was stunningly terrible. The storyline had been scrapped multiple times due to EA’s interference, the systems had been pared down to almost nothing, the majority of the team was pulled away to work on Ultima Online, and Electronic Arts would not waver on the release date. Ultima IX was not received well by the community, to say the least. Not long after, all games being worked on by Origin, like Ultima Online 2 and Ultima X, were canceled and Origin was shuttered by EA.

EA still owns the name of the Ultima franchise, as shown in their Free-to-Play, Pay-to-Win, iOS title Ultima Forever, which is a reimagining of Ultima IV. In my opinion, reimagining one of the greatest RPG’s of all time as an iOS P2W App is a huge slap in the face to the original and the series.

However, Richard Garriott has a new offering in Shroud of the Avatar, the “spiritual successor” to the Ultima series which features just enough similarity to not trigger any copyright issues. As far as can be concerned it currently looks like a successful endeavor having raised over $3.3 Million in funds, is extremely open about it’s production (as it should be), and has been having periodic Alpha weekends for it’s supporters. I have personally played in the first Alpha, and I must say they look to be on the right track. More than graphics and features, the Ultima games had a specific “feel” to them.

In one of the best compliments I can give to the game, Shroud of the Avatar has that feel.

P.P.S. – According to Mr. Garriott, the plans to include all the “EA is the root of all evil” plots had already been so ingrained within Ultima VII that EA gave them their blessings to continue with them in place. I couldn’t imagine if U7 had turned out any other way, really, so I’m certainly glad they let them proceed.

Richard Garriott, EA, Origin

Twitch Plays Pokemon: A Social Experiment   2 comments

Pokemon, Twitch Plays Pokemon

Do you want to look into the eye of madness? See the inextricable fabric of humanity’s desires mashed together into a never ending stream of consciousness? If so, then you need to head on over to Twitch and start watching Twitch Plays Pokemon right now.

Twitch Plays Pokemon is a social experiment that has absolutely fascinated me over the past couple days. In a nutshell, it’s a stream of an emulation of the Gameboy version of Pokemon Red that is being played by the entire viewing community. According to the page’s FAQ, an IRC bot translates the community’s chat into keyboard commands, and performs them in real time to the best of the emulator’s ability. Watching right now there are currently ~85000 viewers, and many of them are participating simultaneously in a glorious cacophony of text .

As my Twitter compatriot @Dunny0 so aptly pointed out, the concept of this experiment seems to be based on the infinite monkey theorum. An infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters with infinite time will eventually create the complete works of William Shakespeare… or something like that. Out of chaos, order. This seems to be rooted in a similar theory but Pokemon is, at it’s core, a very linear game. So there is a path that the community must tread in order to make progress.

Well, against all common sense and odds, progress is definitely being made.

Twitch Plays Pokemon, Pokemon

Red was trapped in the corner by the NPC girl talking about Revives for about 7 minutes. To attempt making the situation less awkward, Red ended up buying 2 Great Balls.

Even though the times I have played Pokemon I can’t get past the second or third badge without getting bored, the Twitch community has already progressed farther than I ever have and have achieved, at the time of this writing, FOUR BADGES!! FOUR!!!

What is this… I can’t even… FOUR?!!!

How” is the immediate question that comes to mind, and the only answer I can really give is “guided chaos“. Every entry, if the emulator acknowledges it, is completed. Menus open and close instantly, items are moved around at random. Pokemons have names like “CCC” (sadly, CCC, the Hitmonlee received from the Saffron City Fighting Dojo, was accidentally released into the wild the first time Red stepped up to get it out of PC storage), other names like “AAJST (????”, or my personal favorite, a Zubat named “JJSSSSS-”. Small menus, the community is just not skilled enough to navigate easily. Every time the menu opens, there’s the chance of deleting items or sending caught pokemon into the wild.

Twitch Plays Pokemon, Pokemon

But yet the game has very specific goals. Get to the next trainer, earn the next badge, get a key, an item, teach a move to a Pokemon, etc. If you know the game, then you know where and what to do next, which the community obviously does. The hard part, then, is simply in getting the community to do it. I do wonder if there will come a time when an in-game obstacle is simply insurmountable with the chaotic nature of this experiment, and what will happen then? And if not, CAN 85000 people Really beat the game, all working in a maelstrom of digital noise?

Twitch Plays Pokemon, Pokemon

Of course, aside from the anarchy there is also a “democracy” setting, where only the most popular option in a brief timespan is the accepted entry. This would help in menus and the PC where more adroit keypresses are needed, but that still ends up being a slow process. And even when democracy mode is achieved, just like our own US government, efforts are made to block all progress during the democracy until anarchy is once again established. Instead of filibusters and refusals to pass funding measures, though, the dreaded “start9″ is used, which tells the emulator to press the ‘start’ button 9 times in a row, hindering progress. As you can see from the screenshot above and the multiple people saying “democracy”, the way to get to that mode is by a majority vote from the community.

To be fair, though, as a spectator “anarchy” is a lot more entertaining to watch.


P.S. – If you want a recap of what is going on, or want to get caught up on what you missed, the Reddit community has a Twitch Plays Pokemon page up that gives a play-by-play in real time. I highly suggest watching that as well, as watching the actual feed can drive you mad if you watch it too long. You know the saying: “If you gaze into the Twitch Plays Pokemon, the Twitch Plays Pokemon gazes also into you.”

Comic of the Day: Grinding, in a Nutshell   2 comments


Grind is as grind does.

I’m a big Zach Weiner fan. I’m not sure if he’s a big gamer or not, his comics don’t usually contain references to video games, but then he posts something like this and I love his work even more.

// Ocho

P.S. – I have a lot of respect for those that can create posts every day. Belghast, Rowan, and Scary are three bloggers that come to mind that are doing just that. I have no idea how they do it, I think they have magically found more time in the day. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up, I just need to find those hours. :)

Posted February 5, 2014 by Ocho in Other Gaming

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