30 March, 2006

MMO Blogs

I read Tobold's MMORPG Blog fairly often, even though it usually makes me pretty angry. Part of the inspiration for this page was a fairly nasty comment I wrote, but never posted, in response to one of his (in his defense, he admits it) thin-skinned posts about PVP. (Actually the post was about ninja looting or dice rolling or some other ridiculous modern-day endgame concern, but my response had more to do with the general attitude he and others have about PVP.)

I like being angry, though, as It helps me be a better griefer - know your enemy, right?. So I've got his feed on my Google page and everything, and sometimes it pays off. Tonight I discovered Play to Crush, and I'm in love. I'll even steal their link to the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.

I've got nothing of my own to contribute this morning so I'll end it there.

28 March, 2006

A delightful contest!

Now that you all know about my new blog I have devised a chickenshit tactic to inspire your participation via the comments. Each month, whoever's comments I like best gets a game I bought but didn't like. This month's winner can have either Lineage II or Hegemonia. I'm not sure you can give someone your copy of Lineage II, but I certainly mean to try.


I am rapidly losing respect for Oblivion.

A fellow on the street tells me about a happening tavern, so I stop in. No one's there but the proprieter, so I gossip with him a little.

It's when I sit down at the bar that things get weird. First off, there's already food there, a place setting at each barstool with food on each plate. But the owner doesn't come over to serve me; he just stands there by the door, appearing to ignore me. Have I caused him insult? I don't know.

A cafe up my street usually serves you bread when you sit down whether you want it or not. Most of us have been to Mexican restaurants where they bring you chips and salsa... but something here tells me I'm not allowed to eat any of the food that's already out. So I get up and walk back over to him. He has food for a sale, but only ingredients; no meals. A head of lettuce, a loaf of bread, some cheese. I buy some bread and cheese then walk over to a table where there's an empty plate.

Did I ever have a hell of a time putting my food down on that plate! I ate the cheese by accident, so decided to sit down and have the bread I'd bought with some raw, spoiled sewer-crab I'd picked out from a pool of feces and urine the evening before. Well to get them on that plate I first had to drop them on the floor. The bread rolled partway across the room, but the crab landed on the table, knocking some blackberries on the floor.

Again, some instinct told me to leave those blackberries alone. A fleeting memory from a past life, perhaps.

Well I pick up my bread and the crab and put them on the plate. In Oblivion you have a gravity gun just like the one in Half-Life 2, except there's no gravity and it's not a gun. The process falls somewhere between telekinesis and carrying a cat with your elbows. Eventually, though, I had the plate bautifully arranged and I sat down to eat.

Earlier I'd been out on the street shooting the shit with some of the townspeople, and I was impressed at the control they had over their necks. They could look up and they could look down, just like normal people without pancake makeup and Welsh accents. But to my dismay I learned that I, as a dark elf, have no such control of my neck. Unable to look directly at my food from a seated position, I was forced to stand back up and eat.

There was a newspaper on the table. Have you ever been to a cafe and there was already a newspaper on your table? Even though it was last week's issue, I thought perhaps I'd pick it up and have a look.

But again, I worried this might offend the owner. The owners of the cafe up the street are mean. One even called a friend of mine fat and said she looked like she had been using heroin. Perhaps the owner of such a place in a computer game can be similarly mean, especially if he has no customers.

But several people had wandered in by this time, and a conversation was underway. I didn't think he'd notice, much less mind, were I to look at someone else's week-old issue of the paper - but just in case I didn't take it. In Oblivion you can take an item like you can in good roleplaying games, or if you'd rather you can just push it around with your invisible elbows.

Well I figured I'd test the fellow's temperament by just shifting it over a bit, and if he raised an eyebrow I'd make as though I just didn't want to get crumbs on the thing. That wasn't a very good idea, because he flew into a panic. "Stop!" he yelled. "Thief!" And a guard rushed in. So I ran out.

The guard followed me out, and then to my further surprise four more guards came out of the same door. Where were they hiding? Had they been under the newspaper? Maybe that food at the bar was for them, and they had all gone into the restroom together. I hadn't noticed a bathroom, but I bet the lady I stole ten hammers from earlier that day didn't know there was an entrance to the crab-infested city sewers in her basement either. Cyrodil is a land brimming with secrets.

Outnumbered, I surrendered. To be more specific, I went to the bar and sat down. I dropped my weapons and I took off my pants. The message was not clear. One of the guards stood on the barstool next to me and chopped repeatedly at my neck with his sword.

I'm not too clear on what happened next, but I must have survived because I found myself in prison. In prison, you can lie down and sleep through your entire sentence, but that sounded boring to me so I went to the bars of my cell and chatted up the guard.

This fellow wasn't too friendly either. He informed me that talking is not allowed. Then he talked to me for twenty minutes. He didn't like jokes, and didn't believe me when I mentioned what a swell chap he was, how big his muscles were and how shiny his suit of armor. But he enjoyed my boasting and confessed to envying my way of life - and he loved being threatened. After we'd been talking for a while he even began to stutter. Now that I think of it, he might have had a crush on me. I wonder if he still works there.

25 March, 2006

Game of the Year 2005

I should note this about the Urban Dead post below: All that stuff actually happened. It's not fanfic. It's mildly embellished and roleplayed, but except for a few slips of my memory it's an entirely truthful account of my last two sessions in the game.

If that sounds boring to you, cool, but it's this sort of chaos and freedom that wom me over to a game in a genre I generally cannot stand.

Best game I've played since World of Warcraft, seriously.

Well, Shadow of the Colossus - but that's not really fair, like comparing apples to galactic superclusters.

Urban Dead

I had a harrowing experience last night. Revived from zombification by a helpful player, I found myself dear death and infected by a bite that took my health down with each move.

I hurried to the nearest hospital, and thanked the heavens it wasn't barricaded so heavily I couldn't get in. Entering, I found a small group of survivors and two dead bodies. Those bodies would become zombies sooner or later, so I dumped them outside. I then warned those present that I'd seen several zombies waiting outside the barricades on my way in, and asked if someone would heal me.

Instead, one of the survivors present attacked me. I don't know if these guys claimed ownership of the building, or if he was what they call a zombie spy, or a member of a death cult, or was hejust a jackass? But I made sure the others present knew what he was trying, then searched frantically until I found a first aid kit to cure my infection, and I got the hell out.

Dangerously low now on both health and moves, I fled up the street, desperately looking for another building that hadn't been heavily barricaded. I found one. This time the building was empty.

So the ethical dilemma. Do I leave the place undefended against the few zombies outside, who might have seen me enter, and hope they don't tear down the weak barricading? Or do I barricade the place up as well as I can and worry I might get another survivor killed, or worse: pissed.

You bet your ass I barricaded that fucker until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

I woke pleasantly surprised to find myself alive. Refreshed and ready to move, I set out for the infamous Caiger Mall, site of the five greatest battles in the history of Malton. I'd helped to defend its entry points, but now I could get into the mall itself.

Raising my experience ever so slightly as I went, I acquired the skill of Free Running, which I like to call Pole Vaulting - the ability to move from roof to roof, thus bypassing the extremely heavy barricading used on important buildings. I found one of those entrances - a lightly barricaded library which had been my home earlier in this fifth siege. And from there I entered the mall.

There are over 2300 people in here with me. And there is a spirit of jubilation, because as of today it appears we have one. The zombie horde known as Mall Tour '06 has moved on to the southwest, and we are relatively safe here.

But I don't feel right staying. Waking after a nap, I noticed someone had spraypainted on a wall. Dunell Hills neads your help!! 13 blocks SW. Come if you can. Mall Tour '06 ravages the next neighborhood over even as I write this. So tomorrow I strike out for Dunell Hills. This time I intend to be carrying a whole bag full of first aid kits, and whatever I manage to find in the gun shop.

Lag Hell

I guess it's time to stop surfing random wifi and get a real connection again.

I live in a young and densely populated area of NYC, next door to a hotel, so there's a lot of random wifi floating around. For a long time I could play pretty much anything on this connection. I was playing a lot of Unreal Tournament during the fall. Half-Life 2, Diablo II.

When I found out Asheron's Call 2 would be closing at the end of the year, I got back into that, then in my mourning turned to Guild Wars and Eve and World of Warcraft. More recently Urban Dead. I noticed a couple times that I couldn't play action games so well, but I didn't much want to so I only tried a few times and didn't think much of it.

Sometime over the last few months my packetloss went through the roof. I'm teleporting all over the place in Guild Wars, can't even spectate in Subspace without the server disconnecting me. All this wireless saved me about $900, I can be happy with that. Time to move on and shell out for cable again.


Three of the Subspace 10th anniversary events were today and I couldn't even watch them, much less participate. I'm dreading all the phone calls and stupid conversations to get the cable turned back on, and the day spent waiting around for a guy to come and hook it up. No matter how ready to go you are a guy still has to come and hook it up.

Back to Oblivion for me. And World of Warcraft, I hope. I have new admiration for that game now that I know how well it deals with packetloss.

24 March, 2006

I can't believe it's not multiplayer!

It's been a while since I impulse-bought a game, and longer since I impulse-bought a game and actually liked it. So I was surprised at myself - if not at the game, based on its reputation - to find myself playing Oblivion for 12 hours out of the past 24.

My poor Night Elf has been sitting alone in Ashenvale all day long, listening to that terrible music, her poor vulture's stomach growling away. Both my Urban Dead characters were killed despite one of them already being dead. The legions of people who won't admit I talked them into playing Eve have probably forgotten I have an account. Subspace could well have died its fourth death for all I know.

Needless to say, I can't remember the last movie I saw, and I've been reading the same book for three weeks.

One reason I level so slowly in roleplaying games is I wander off and explore constantly. Oblivion is the biggest and most open-ended in the series that single-handedly invented that sort of behavior, yet I find myself not doing this at all. The story has an urgency to it that has kept me on target without my even noticing. The movement and control have little of the awkwardness that made Morrowind such a chore at times. The combat is fun. My eyes don't glaze over when someone tries to give me a quest. Usually I even accept the quest.

Pretty much everything about this game is right.

I'd tell you more but I'm itching to go back and play some more. (Also I don't think I have any readers yet.)

In other news, I hate kittens.

19 March, 2006

Bio-readouts are all in the green, looks like she's alive.

Over 1700 people are playing Subspace as I write this. There are even a few full matches underway using the once-extinct classic settings.

After reading what happened to the servers a couple weeks ago I was worried that this was the beginning of the end, but I went in last night to check things out and found it doing quite well. I saw some old friends who told me there was a tournament scheduled this afternoon for the old style War Zone game.

When I went on today the game was full of people, two full matches of a gametype I'd thought long-dead, complete with the original ship settings and classic style bases. Another of the classic zones was up at 250 people. More people are playing this game than I have seen in years. There's a post somewhere on Slashdot from 2002 where I boast that, though the game was 6 years old it was still doing well. Now here it is just past the ten year mark, and it's actually doing better.

This makes me a very happy person. If you haven't played Subspace I wish you would try it. See the various links to your right for downloads and guides.

18 March, 2006

Subspace: The Lost Levels

I moved to New York in a hurry two and a half years ago. A panic, almost. I didn't quite finish packing up the house and my mom was nice enough to finish the job for me. My desktop wound up in a very large family storage unit. It's an old piece of shit and I haven't much faith it'll work when when I find it.

I think I'm going back for a visit in May, but this last October I was pretty sure I'd be visiting in February. It's pretty hard for some of us to leave NYC unless we absolutely have to.

I made 51 maps for Subspace. They're all on that computer, and on a few CDs out of the hundreds I boxed up. I'm not sure I'll find them when I go back, and I'm itching to get a look at them sooner than May. If anyone out there's got them, I'd love to have a copy.

This isn't as unrealistic a hope as it may seem. They were archived on my old website as a single zip file for a couple of years, and quite a few of the old Subspace crowd were incorrigible packrats.

I don't like Subspace much anymore, and I can't really play it on my connection, but I feel like I'd better get involved in it again or I might regret it pretty badly in the future. So this is my first step.

The next step would be sifting through the hundreds, maybe thousands, of maps in unnamed archives on the Subspace Server Help site. Probably I should do that anyway. I was always the map guy. I wish I'd taken on an apprentice before I left, but I never did formally leave, just kind of sputtered out.

17 March, 2006

An update.

I talked with gerb on IRC and he informed me that the SSCX subspace zones taken down a week and a half ago are now safely hosted elsewhere. Apparently Xalimar isn't in any trouble as he had cleared the hosting with his boss quite some time ago.

I couldn't read the forums anymore. It made me angry and sad, and there was a lot to read. But plenty of people want to hurt this guy who got the game servers taken down, and that doesn't make me sad. This may sound a little extreme, but I think that's appropriate. I'll explain later, for anyone reading who doesn't yet know much about Subspace and its history.

I stayed up all through the night before last for fear of waking my girlfriend, who had just started a new job on two hours of sleep and seemed headed for a second day of that, up and wired and miserable at 3am. I had the luxury of being able to sleep through the afternoon and early evening, but now here I am at 10am with something not unlike insomnia.

So I took in an hour of World of Warcraft and discovered something interesting: I actually enjoy the game when i'm playing it alone, taking my time and under no pressure to barrel through some infinitely repeating quest as though it were an amusement park ride. I have one real quest, self-assigned: to get rid of all the fucking quests assigned in my journal and never do another again unless I honestly feel like it. Quest logs are great, but cluttering mine with 18 tasks collected in haste while on various ill-fated group outings has loaded me down with a weird anxiety that ruins the game for me. I come from a more innocent era when games like Anarchy Online and Asheron's Call let the journey sometimes be the destination and you made a lot of your own fun. World of Warcraft doesn't give you that sort of freedom, but there's no reason I can't take it.

And there's always Eve. We'll talk about Eve soon.

Did I mention I started this blog in large part as therapy?


I just realized Subspace is now ten years old.

Editing my links here, I bopped around the websites for a moment to see which ones were still going, and was pleasantly surprised to note that two of them had been updated recently. Then I read the posts.

Some sack of shit reported our main server group to the company which had been hosting it since 1999, apparently describing it as a security threat, and the servers were shut down. New hosting has been found for the game zones affected, but one of the game's patron saints and elder statesmen has probably found himself in a bit of trouble for donating the clock cycles and bandwidth.

Bear in mind that this is arguably the first game of its kind, the game that coined the term MMO. A game hundreds - maybe thousands - of people still play seven years after its developer disbanded, its publisher went belly-up, and its final source code was lost. Maintained almost bloodlessly by a grassroots effort all this time, and one self-centered, fucked up person finds the necessary darkness somewhere in him to deal it this manner of a blow.

You've made yourself some enemies, buddy. Pray we aren't as dangerous as we hope we are.

I do this every now and then.

Some years ago I kept a news page for a game called Subspace. It became a sort of blog. I've been thinking lately I should probably get back to doing this. Not for Subspace, which I can't really play anymore, but for things in general. Mostly games.

In case you stumble upon this page in a search: I used the name einexile in Subspace and Tribes and on the old 4AD & ambient listservs, and I still use it in most action games and in Urban Dead. I also use the name Vacuos in Urban Dead, plus I go by that name in Anarchy Online and Eve. I use the name Winterlong in World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.

I play a lot of games. Because of this I'm not very good at any of them, but I kind of enjoy being lousy at computer games, so it evens out.

I mainly play Urban Dead now. I love it to death. It's a shame I was banned from the forums which I never even posted to. Go figure. Even without me on the forums it's the best game I know of to come out last year. It's a web game. I don't play web games, can't stand them, but Urban Dead is something special. Have a look.

I'm already tired of this. Maybe I'll let it rot for a few years then start another new one.

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