24 October 2009

Zombie Verrukt revisited and other stuff

We've been playing Shi no Numa and a bit of Der Riese for quite some time now. No dazzling records were made, particularly for the latter. The 'war of movement' is the primary strategy with perks and certain choice guns the tactical considerations. Feeling contented with the others, I revisited the ZV map and was pleasantly surprised by two things.

1. All of the perks are there!I must have forgotten them, as Quick Revive is within easy access and so too is Speed Cola. This map gained new life!

2. The random box comes BACK!!! This is the main one. Myself and Andrew had grown found of saying 'the game was over' whenever the box broke. Now though, it reappears - without any prompts. Cheers Rory!

In addition, we reached Round 23 in Shi No Numa. James had the Ray Gun and MG42, Andrew had the Ray Gun and MG42 and I had the Ray Gun and Wunderwaffe. I got it in Round 8 or so, and kept it for the whole time! Gotta go play Dungeons & Dragons...

08 October 2009

On Geofiction & Scenarios

Enter 'geofiction' into a Google search and you may well get many small sites but nothing too impressive. If you're me, multiply that feeling by a hundred! Geofiction is a hobby where people create fictitious worlds and populate them, develop their histories, cultures, languages... There are no great geofiction sites; no one big place to discuss the hobby. I hope to learn coding languages by the time I'm 25, so maybe I'll be the one who makes the website! Also, by then, perhaps there'll be several million people who will click my ads and donate spare cash to the site... sigh...

~~~

Now I need to make a one-off Dungeons and Dragons scenario for FanSci next week or in the following weeks. Nobody down there has run any D & D, largely due to the RP staff not liking it. A good number of the newbies there have heard of it/came to play it/have played it, suggesting that a game would be a hit (in demand, at least).

My niche is provided, as I have DM'd a single game with two others for the last 1 and a half years (after a 6-month hiatus is taken off). I feel ready for it. How so? I've only Dm'd one game! I have also played in another game for three years come this Christmas. Not enough? It doesn't matter. I am a RP-heavy rule-waiving DM who likes to see his players do well, but will drop bombs on them from time to time. I feel ready - I've got story, characters, setting, lots of dice... I think it'll be a hit.

05 October 2009

CoD5: Zombie - 3 Players' Tales

Myself and my two good friends, 'Jamdrew', have been walking into town almost every Saturday for the last 5 years or so. We only miss town for the odd family-related event (usually me, actually!). It has been good, but the one of the best things we do and have done since it came to Galway has been dropping into squareyes on Forster Street for a game or two. Lately, the game has been CoD:WaW, playing Zombies.

It all started out so humbly. I don't remember our first game, but it must have been good to keep us going for the last year or so. Playing in the old Nacht der Untoten was the place to be. Starting out in the big room, I would take the two windows on the left, James would hold the two windows front and back in the centre while Andrew would hold up the far right window. I would buy an M1 Carbine and it would last me for 8 rounds. I didn't need the random box - simpler times.

After 8 rounds, things got hectic. Andrew would be holding the room with the random box, while James would be cycling between his three windows. Not me though, I somehow got the job of holding the same two left windows. Andrew would often get overrun and James would learn the valuable skills of window management over open-room fighting, while I would do what I could. After round 8 I usually bought from the box until I got the Ray Gun. I could afford it - not buying anything but ammo and always aiming for the headshot gave me a lot of points!

Over time, we refined our ways and eventually adopted the 'corner strategy' so popular on the internet in this level. We got a load of points, held out by the Steelhandgrenaden and let loose all the grenades, Ray Gun munitions and Browning/MG rounds we could until literally shanked. That became the prime strategy for a time, until the game got progessively stale. We still enjoyed it, but it became almost formulaic. A shame, but it still all feels nostalgic. Picking up and insta-kill was usually met with grins and many pot-shots, but the bomb was usually the crucial drop. Someone would shout 'bomb!' and race for it at the complete risk to said person's health - y'know, jumping straight into a horde of zombies for the chance to kill them all in one go. Suffice to say, there was much reviving after the very satisfying "booom!" The highest we ever reached was Round 21.

Zombie Verrukt came along as the new level. Being self-declared zombie slayers we jumped at the chance to pick up our Colt .45s and fell some undead. We were immediately shocked by the 'seperate room' deal, with myself and James ending up on one side and Andrew on the other. This got disastrous after a few rounds. Having to activate the power to get good stuff was quite annoying too, but we got over that - when the power went on, Andrew was able to link up with us! ZV lasted a short while; our strategy became a 'funneling' sort of purchase system, with the lone person not buying any new rooms while the pair would unlock one half of the level and activate the power, thus releasing the trapped person to the rest of us. Zombies would then come from one-way only, not two. The two perks largely zipped over our heads, even Jugger-Nog was ignored. When the random box broke the first time, we were so disillusioned we went back to NdU and eventually let Zombies fade once again.

We discovered the new level months later by accident, having picked up Zombies again for some classic fun times. Shi no Numa became an instant hit, with the be-voic├ęd characters very well-received by all. I was very surprised when I was holding a Wunderwaffe for the first time. It seemed poor but really it became a firm favourite. Also, I had a habit of being Player #2, so I started my first game as Nikolai. Not really objecting to this, but I was Takeo by accident once and I have never went back. I love Japanese and Russian Imperial history, but I couldn't pass up the chance to be the honourable warrior. Perks became the backbone of our matches, with two legendary games back to back being experienced one day in squareyes that had us playing SnN for weeks.

Our first game ever started off poorly in SnN. We opened the door rather than the stairs, were oblivious to the music change and the increase in fog. The dogs. Those... hellhounds attacked and butchered us. We had no idea what happened. An immediate restart was called and we played on from there. In the early days, just hold out in the room, then fight the dogs while all on the corner. Unlock the stairs, with myself in the first room, James downstairs and Andrew in the room next to me next to the Zipline - with the door unbought, naturally. Classic funnel. We started off just holding like that and retreating to the 'Arisaka corner' when the hounds attacked. They were still tough. We didn't venture out to the perks just yet. Slowly we started checkin them out but found it all too risky. Subject to change...

The legendary game occurred. Just like any other visit to squareyes. For this game, we decided to venture out extensively. 'Buy all the Perks' was our battle cry. I got them all - Jugger-Nog, Double Tap, Speed Cola and Quick Revive. Due to our unfamiliarity with the various corners of the map, we found ourselves downed quite a lot. This is where I proved myself with a QR, rapidly picking up the fallen before they passed on (for the rest of the round). JN kept me alive under fire while SC was incredibly useful with any gun. DT did not distinguish itself. The gist of the game was us running from one place to another, 'following the light' to find the random box whenever it broke and buying perks when we reached the new corner of the map. Andrew and myself guarded the main doors of the corner buildings, while James held up the windows behind us (the aforementioned window-management). It worked and when it didn't, we retreated and bought the electrical barrier. After that adrenalin-filled match ended at Round 18, we were so pumped we played a second game that got to Round 16. As we walked home, we excitedly regailed our tales and I declared myself the party 'cleric' and 'solid right flank'.

We kept playing on with Zombies in SnN exclusively, never quite getting as pumped but there were many times where we came close to beating the old Round 21 record from NdU. Round 20, the Hounds struck. Whitewash on our side. Shame. Perks are now the crux of any match, and a 'war of movement' is the main strategy. Not letting the position of the random box dictate where we go, we just buy the Comm Room and move on to Storage, then the Fishing Hut/Doctor's Quarters. Getting JN is crucial, while SC is a firm favourite. QR and DT are ignored but if I have the cash I buy them first opportunity, particularly QR. I want to be a team player! We aren't too picky with guns; generally the Ray Gun alludes us while the WW, Panzerschrek and PTRS favour us (in the random box). Attacking with Pistol and Knife is essential to early point-gathering.

I have played Der Riese and intend to blog about it individually soon. Too tired to squeeze it here. I type too much. KKbai.

02 October 2009

James Barclay's Ravensoul Review - ~~ spoilers ~~

OK. I have been penting this up inside me for a long time now. I bought the book as soon as it came out, and loyally read the book cover to cover in order to complete the series I thought had ended at Book 6, Demonstorm. It was atrocious. The ending of 6 was dismal, not in its execution, but in its content. Terrible things just... happened. I suppose James did have a reputation of killing off main characters and I appreciated that - it was new to me at the time.

Ravensoul, Book7, returned to the Raven universe centred on the continent of Balaia. People were rebuilding, with The Unknown Warrior now as King of Balaia. This was probably the one thing that made the ending of Demonstorm less bitter. It was a humourous occasion, despite the grief over all the lost Raven members. As King, he has little power, he merely acts as a symbol for the people. He does all this while working in his bar in Xetesk. Fair play to him - its really funny to see a King throwing drunken patrons out!

The book takes its first nose dive when Hirad starts talking to the Unknown from beyond the grave. The dead are losing their world to something else, so there are restless spirits returning to Balaia. Hirad takes the corpse of a dead merchant but some horrific injuries, but he bears it up well. The aforementioned dive occurs when the Unknown refuses to recognise his friend, despite all the facts he knew. This may sound really nit-picky of me, but I didn't buy it. Sol/The Unknown Warrior had largely moved on, but he always hoped - somehow, he lived. He denounced Hirad as someone who had just read up on the Raven legend, throwing him out after nearly killing him. Another crazy patron, I suppose. Another thing was the way Hirad talked. It has been a while since Barclay wrote Demonstorm and the rest - 5 years or so - with the Raven sounding different. I identified with Hirad. He was my guy on the stage, so to speak. His old character didn't emerge much in this book, instead reduced to swearing at Ilkar and Denser and being rough. A general take of Hirad's character that I couldn't understand.

That wasn't too bad. It was just the execution. Then the biggest of the three terrible things occurs. 'Densyr'. Denser was a mage from Xetesk who was first viewed with suspicion with the others over where his loyalties stood, having originally hired them for Xetesk. Over time, he came to understand them and admire them, eventually casting aside his college's colours in a test of faith and joining the Raven. Since that event in Book 1, Denser was one of the most faithful member of the Raven. He sometimes held information vital to the mission to himself, often jeopardising the lives of the other Raven, but he meant well and Hirad often beat him around the head, providing some great moments.

Unfortunately for the Raven's unity, Denser is now the Lord of the Mount of Xetesk. Succeeding the anti-hero Styliann and imperious Dystran, he may well be the future of Xeteskian goodwill to the war-torn continents. It also immerses him in Xeteskian loyalties, superceding the old Raven loyalties, perhaps? The question is answered when he interacts with the Unknown. He pities the big man's life, spent mourning the Raven. He stands by the position of King strongly, however. His dismissal of the Hirad story is just as surprising as the Unknown's. They know something fishy is going on, and when something fishy happens in Balaia it usually calls for the Raven to rally up and fight something. This time, Denser will have none of that. He has the Unknown subdued. He imprisons the returning Raven spirits that inhabit recent corpses. He condemns his past as a Raven mage and embraces his destiny as a Lord of the Mount. He even goes so far as to change his name to suit the favoured 'y' of Xeteskians, becoming Densyr. Nothing seems to have mattered at all to him in the past, even dismissing his dead wife's spirit out of hand. He becomes a real fat git, as Hirad would say.

Awful. Denser just cast aside his entire past of noble causes and the like and all the friendships he ever made - even when they're smiling at him to his face. It felt so flippant I put the book down for the night. Not forever, just the night. I couldn't believe it to be happening, but it did and I was strongly hoping for a repentance. It didn't come until the very, very end!

Third and final major point. The ending and indeed the general plot. The world of Balaia, Wes and Calaius has been rebuilding from the Wesman Invasions, the Nightchild storms, the Elfsorrow, the College Wars and the Demon Invasion. Instead of getting a break, the Garonin invaded. They were an alien species adept at absorbing life energy to meet their avaracious needs. Balaia is teeming with verdant countryside, so they attacked it. Using great machines, they set to work. They also had guns that are never called guns. Resistance to magic. No telling weaknesses. Basically, Balaia is fudged from the outset. Usually the Raven would find a way bit nothing is spared. The world shrivels and dies while everyone escapes through some magical tunnel to another world. Defended from attacks on all sides, moving a long distance to a new world, it all looks like the classic beleaguered Raven defenders scenario. In a very Dream Warriors-style move, the Unknown harnesses the power of imagination to destroy some Garonin. In addition to all this, the Raven got their old bodies back, in their prime. It all sums up as the total destruction of everything the Raven ever fought for. After 6 books, Balaia doesn't matter anymore and this undefeatable force emerges to destroy it. For real, this time. Lame.

So that is pretty much it. The Raven are left on an uninhabited world with a few hundred survivors from their old world. An apologetic Densyr is brushed over without much chastisement. Jonas, the Unknown's son, has all the qualities to lead them. In the end, everything has been totally destroyed. Everything that happened in the first six books is rendered null and void.

Why bother reading the original six? Why not read Ravensoul on its own? No. Read the original six and experience the camaraderie, the sorrow, the laughs and the pain. They are the epitome of the Raven series. Dawnthief and Noonshade were the excellent knockout duo to start; Nightchild was the taming experience that displayed Barclay's range; Elfsorrow had a great setting and a fantastic feel to every Act; Shadowheart had some of the most memorable scenes with the individual colleges and Demonstorm. Demonstorm had all the lessons of the previous books built in. The people of Balaia had learned resistance to things greater than themselves. The Raven were crucial to their success but in the end it was the effort of a continent's worth of allies (and enemies!) built up from the previous books that defeated the Demons.

So what if so many of the Raven died at the end of Book 6. It was an ending that had a good note to it, a handful of redeeming factors. They had fought and died for what they always believed in - "the one things greater than the Raven" - Balaia. To see it so casually wasted is beyond me.