Apples and Doges

By NONOBADKITTY! 2:27 am Friday January 10th, 2014

I spent the holidays and the first part of January learning some new stuff. First up, cryptocoins! I’d heard of Bitcoins years ago, but figured they were yet another lame attempt at digital currency and would fail like all the others (anyone remember Flooz?) So I really didn’t take it seriously. Of course, if I’d actually done so, I might be rich now. But I digress. Anyway, over the holidays I was reading about coffee on Reddit and somehow ended up finding this sub-reddit called Dogecoin. Apparently it’s based on Bitcoin and a rather annoying internet meme based on a Shiba Inu dog. But what sucked me in was the hilarious posts and doge-speak on the sub, and I thought it was really cute, so I decided to give a shot at “digging” for Dogecoins. Unfortunately, my computer has a very crappy and slow video card that’s the wrong brand, and CPU mining is useless, so I didn’t get very far. But I did learn a lot about cryptocurrency and how it works, and how to set it up and mine it and how easily web-based wallets can be hacked. I’m not sure that Doge coin will last more than a few more months, but it’s cute, and the community on Reddit is awesome. And if Bitcoin ever really becomes a “real” currency (it may actually be headed there, more and more legit retailers are accepting it) then maybe there is hope for the Doge, and maybe my paltry 375 Doge Coin will be worth more than ten cents someday. I do have to say though, there’s something magical about being able to create “money” out of thin air. Even if it’s only ten cents worth.

As for the other thing I learned, I learned how to do surgery on a Mac. Well, OK, not really surgery, but for the first time ever I turned Mac Geek and upgraded my parents’ ancient Mac Mini with more RAM and Snow Leopard. Yes, I know Snow Leopard is like 5 years old, but this Mac is going on eight years old. And we had to upgrade, because my parents’ old printer finally gave up the ghost, and what do you know, you can’t run a modern printer on Mac OS 10.4. So, in order to get the printer I got ‘em for Christmas to work, I had to delve into unknown territory (or pay an Apple Genius an arm and a leg to upgrade an anemic, outdated computer.) Anyway, thanks to cheap RAM, and the tutorial at IFIXIT, I managed to upgrade their computer for less than $100, including the price of the printer. And it only took about 10 hours haha. Well, I had to back everything up in case I screwed up. The take-apart took about an hour (half of which was spent trying to pry the case cover off, gotta hand it to Apple for their precise manufacturing tolerances.) And the operating system upgrade took about an hour and a half or so. Then I had to install the printer stuff, then update the operating system. And now I know how to “fix a Mac.” One thing I found shocking though was the almost complete lack of dust bunnies inside that thing. My PC, I gotta suck dust bunnies out about every three months. My parents’ Mac, in almost eight years, had barely a bunny to be found (there were some small ones hiding in the case fan, and a couple in one of the heat sinks.) A couple of quick puffs from the canned air and they ran away. And the beauty of the inside of that tiny little box is a sight to behold. Even though everything was teeny tiny, I really had very little trouble getting inside it, and doing what I needed to do (once the case cover was off that is) and it went back together almost perfectly. The only thing I had trouble with there was I couldn’t get one screw to seat properly in its “hole” because I didn’t have a magnetized screwdriver and it kept hopping around in the recessed hole. And I had a bit of trouble getting the sensor cable plug back in, that damn thing is tiny and the hole it goes into is tinier and it’s in a sort of awkward to get at spot. One thing I should mention though, is that the screwdriver size matters: I bought a nifty little screwdriver set with a built-in LED light that came in size 0 and size 000 Phillips heads (among other types) but neither would fit. I ended up using the small Phillips bit from a cheap eyeglass repair kit I’d bought years ago. And I used normal tweezers to grab the cables I needed to disconnect, it was a bit awkward but it worked. Prying the case off was a bitch though, I used a flexible palette knife (too bendy) and a thin screwdriver tip (just a normal screwdriver) and had to kinda bend the metal case just a teeny bit and wiggle it up about a millimeter at a time before it finally loosened enough for me to lift it off. I didn’t break anything, but one of the little gizmos that holds the RAM in got a bit bent because I’m stupid. It didn’t pull out like the plastic gizmos on a PC, it was a bit tricky because it was so tiny, and since it was metal it bent a bit. But the RAM seated in there OK, and I managed to bend it back enough to hold it in, so it should be OK. But be careful with those little RAM holder gizmos.

Down the Rabbit Hole …

By NONOBADKITTY! 12:15 am Friday November 22nd, 2013

Some of you might know of my on again off again addiction to Mountain Dew, and that I periodically give it up for awhile, well, I’m doing that again, only this time I’m trying something new in its place, COFFEE! Now, any of you who know me know I hate coffee. Well, I thought I hated coffee. You see, the only coffee I’d ever tried was either instant, or those flavored International Coffee things that come in a squarish canister, or, gods help me, hotel instant coffee. Now, I do love me some Starbucks Frappuccinos, but I’ve heard those aren’t real coffee either. Personally, while I’ve never actually tried Starbucks “real” coffee, I don’t really mind the “burnt” taste of whatever they use in their Frappuccinos. But all that milk and sugary syrup and whipped cream kind of covers up the taste of pretty much anything I’d think. (Speaking of Frappuccinos, try this: Tall Green Tea Frappuccino with 1 pump hazelnut syrup and 1 pump classic, whipped. You’ll thank me later. Or not. But if you like pistachio ice cream, you’ll probably like it. The hazelnut syrup cuts the weird “green earthy” taste of the stock Green Tea Frap. I got the recipe off the interwebz and altered it a bit. Oh, by the way, there is no secret menu, but Starbucks will make you pretty much whatever you want if you’re willing to pay for it. But please for the love of all that is good and holy, bring a recipe, baristas are only human.)

Anyway, in my quest to switch away from the Dew and towards a more grown-up drink (I did turn 50 this year,) I bought some Taster’s Choice instant in little packets because I had a coupon for it and figured what the hell. Yeah, yeah, I know. But mixed with about 1/4 cup of sugar and a lot of half & half it’s drinkable. Then I bought one of those Starbucks VIA instant coffees, and, no matter what you might say about how bad Starbucks coffee is, holy moly those things were quite a bit tastier than the Taster’s Choice stuff! In fact it tasted pretty damn much just like a Frappuccino once I got my milk and extra sugar in there. The fact it was caramel flavor probably helped. But uh oh, what happened is that tasting sort of real coffee made that Taster’s Choice stuff taste like watered down mud with fake vanilla.

So now I start thinking and Googling and what do I find but a subreddit called Coffee. And down the rabbit hole we go ….

I learned a lot about stuff I never even knew existed, like an Aeropress. And the difference between a blade and a burr grinder. Hell, the difference between a conical burr grinder and a flat plate burr grinder. Not that I care. Well, not yet anyway. Winter is coming. Erm Christmas is coming, so we’ll see how that goes. Haha.

Anyway, I tried to figure out an easy and relatively inexpensive way to make me some decent coffee at home (that Starbucks VIA crap is pretty expensive.) First I was thinkin’ hey, maybe I should get one of those dopey Keurig things that are on sale every Christmas and there’s 48,398 different flavors of pods for ‘em in every store I visit. But then I remembered a place I worked once had something like that (I think it was a Tassimo though, which is supposedly “better” than a Keurig, flavor-wise) and remembered how utterly underwhelmed I was by the taste (admittedly, I didn’t try the coffee, only teas and hot cocoa) and how insanely wasteful and expensive and gimmicky the damn thing was. I think I was the only one at work who didn’t go gaga over it though. And those pods are about a buck a pop for some brands. I could almost go to Starbucks every day for that much money. So, that was out. I kept pokin’ around and almost settled on getting an Aeropress, but then the other day I was at Target buying kitty litter, and decided to swing by the kitchen gadget department just to see what they had, maybe get a cheap filter cone and filters to hold me for a bit. But I saw they had a Bodum Chambord French Press on sale for less than $20, and I remembered reading in /r/Coffee about those and how some people had gotten ‘em cheap at JCP a week or so ago and they were pretty good if you could get ‘em cheap. So I splurged and bought it. It’s nicer than I had imagined it, all shiny, and the parts aren’t crappy plastic (well part of it is, but the “press” part is metal.) So, there ya go, now I had a way to make coffee. Only … I have no coffee except instant.  Unfortunately I had stuff goin’ on so I didn’t make it into Sprouts to get some coffee until today. They sell bulk coffee, Volcanic Red brand for one (never heard of ‘em, but whatever) and since I’m not a coffee expert by any means, I didn’t want to plunk down a bunch of money I don’t really have on a full pound of some random coffee. So I decided I should try a couple tablespoons of one or two coffees a week and see how it goes. So today, I got some English Toffee dark roast stuff (I only got one type, because I’d not yet tried out this fancy French Press thingamajig yet.) And I ground it course, just like /r/Coffee said to for French Press, and I brought it home and brewed some up.

And all I can say is, wow, I am not sure how to describe it, this stuff was different than anything I’ve ever had. It was strong, but not really all that bitter, just a tiny bit, even less I think than the stuff Starbucks puts in their Frappucinos. It wasn’t burnt. And it had this sort of uhm … body to it, it wasn’t watery and nasty. Now, I did still have to add sugar and some half & half to it, because it was just too strong for me, but if I had to I think I coulda drank it black, I just wouldn’t like it as much. But oh man it smelled so freakin’ good. I always thought people who ground their own coffee were a bit extreme (brother, I’m lookin’ at you haha) but it was really good. I’m not sure if it’s the freshly ground beans (I did wait a couple hours after I got home to brew, so yeah, I know it got “stale”) or if it was the French Press, but if this is how coffee really tastes, then sign me up! It’ll probably take me awhile before I can “drink it like a man” ie black, and before I give up the girly “flavored” coffees, but who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll be drinkin’ black espresso and have my own coffee bar.

I have enough ground for a few more days (I got about 1/4 lb) then I’ll try maybe a couple flavors next week, maybe even one that’s not flavored. This one was a dark roast, which I got partly because I figured it’d be the most bitter, and if I could stand this, I could stand anything. Plus I’m sort of used to Starbucks, and I think they do most of their coffees “dark” (or overdark, ie burnt.) The best part, the coffee cost $1.38. For about a week’s supply. That’s about half as much as I spend on ‘Dew. Even if I add in the cost of the sugar (on sale now, $1.99 for 4 lbs) and the half & half (also on sale, buy one get one free, cost me $1.59 for two pints of it) it’s still cheaper. And the French Press was only $20, which pro-rated over a year is about fifty cents a week. AND it works for tea too. I discovered the joys of loose teas years ago, so I’ve already been down THAT rabbit hole and survived hehe. The only complaint I have about the French Press is the coffee cooled down pretty fast (or maybe my water wasn’t quite hot enough, I didn’t want it to be boiling, so I waited a minute before pouring. I also only made one cup. Next time, I’ll take its temperature. And I had to heat my milk up, otherwise, it really would have cooled the coffee down. Oh, and the worst part is I can’t have a second cup because it’s after 11pm. At least I’ll have something to look forward to tomorrow morning.

Now, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with this box of Taster’s Choice instant stuff. The Starbucks VIA I can deal with, it’s good enough (and easier when the French Press is too much work.) Maybe I’ll give it to my dad. Or put it in gift baskets for Christmas. Sorry, that was mean.  ;)

 

 

 

 

Reborn Or Not?

By NONOBADKITTY! 6:36 pm Sunday September 29th, 2013

I’ve been playing the new Final Fantasy XIV for the last 3 months or so, and it’s almost the time when the game will start charging a subscription fee (it already has for those who played v1.0) and I’m at the point that I must decide whether or not to continue. So, I thought I’d give the good and the bad and the ugly of this game for ME and my largely solo/adventurer/crafter playstyle:

The Good:

  • Final Fantasy – the music, the old characters, the inside jokes, the moogles … erm scratch that last one.
  • Character creator has lots of options
  • FATEs
  • Lalafell cuteness
  • The world is gorgeous
  • Pirates (Sea Wolves)
  • Archers can run and shoot arrows at the same time
  • Super easy 1-50 level for first character
  • Crafting system that uses your brain if you want it to (or not if you don’t)
  • Monsters don’t respawn in dungeons
  • Gated dungeons (if you wipe on a boss battle, you start from there, not all the way from the beginning.)
  • Level Sync for FATEs
  • Multi-classing (you can play all classes on the same character, nice for some reasons.)
  • Fishing is actually fun and relaxing (although almost completely useless.)
  • Cheap, easy to get dyes to make your clothes match.

The Bad:

  • Forced grouping for story quests (this is the main reason I left LOTRO)
  • Forced party roles when using Dungeon Finder PUGs (and I think even when you choose your own group, can’t run with 4 tanks for example, that was fun in WOW.)
  • Level Sync for dungeons (I am not that good at dungeons, so normally I’ll level up to make it easier for me; in this game you can only level a little bit or it will force you down to a “synced” level. This would be OK if it were optional though, rather than forced.)
  • Lack of quests in higher levels, especially for alt classes
  • Quests don’t even show until you’ve hit the magic level they need to trigger, so you don’t even know they’re there until you’re at least that level or higher
  • No money/item loot drops from normal monsters (only loot for crafting/quests.)
  • Cool armor is not dyeable.
  • Vendors sell most crafted stuff for early levels, and don’t buy crafted goods for enough money to sustain a crafter.
  • $12.99/mo for one character per server, $14.99/mo for up to 8 (in a world of F2P MMOs.)
  • Having “Alts” is a pain in the ass because you have to do the story quests all over again to get access to key features of the game. This is bad for roleplayers like me who like having different characters for different roles.
  • No trading of money/items between characters on the same account. Yes, just kill my ability to have “easy” alts, thanks.
  • Gathering classes (botany/mining) are REALLY hideously boring and slow. Fishing not so much.
  • Crafting is pretty much only good for you or your Free Company, almost impossible to make good money long-term selling to others or repairing for others. And if you do, you get banned.  :D
  • Forum requires you to log in with game account, and is not a secured site, so if forum gets hacked, that might mean accounts get hacked too. I have a suspicion this is how most accounts are being “hacked.” I know LOTRO had a similar problem and fixed it by making their forums also https sites.

The Ugly:

  • RMT Spam Bots
  • Harvest Bots
  • Crafting Bots
  • Bots, bots, everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE (even underground and up in trees.)
  • If you are DPS you will wait forever to find a group for dungeons. Unless you have friends, then you’ll still wait for the server to pick up your pre-made party and create an instance.
  • Hacked accounts (seems there are WAY more than normal)
  • Poor communication/response time to support (like auto-deleting all support requests after 48 hours whether they’ve been resolved or not, WTF? Who does that?)
  • Ridiculously complicated registration process (at least three different websites with three different codes if you played Early Access, had a Pre-Order and bought the game and needed to register it.)
  • If you played 1.0 and wanted to buy the new game, say, Collector’s Edition Box for the physical goody items and ingame CE items, you cannot register said new game to your old account unless you bought the PS3 version (WTF?)
  • URLs linked off the main site that go to odd sites (is a link to sqex.to legit or not? I’m not going to risk it, sorry.)
  • 90000, 3102, disappearing queues, disappearing world lists, unannounced “maintenance” and other server problems
  • Fear of accounts being suspended or banned for apparently no reason, like having too much money, buying something from an RMT account on marketplace, having your account compromised by a “hacker”, etc.
  • No housing (yet, although, given the lack of gil-making later in-game, how will anyone afford a house anyway?)
  • Moogles. I never thought I would be irritated beyond belief by the moggles, but in this game, I am. How is that possible?

All in all, for me, I think the bad stuff outnumbers the good, as much as I love the “look” of this game, the gameplay for me is just kind of meh once I hit about level 20 or so with my first class. I do sort of like being able to use skills from other classes, but I love having different “characters” more, but this game makes having alts not much fun at all, but having one character who can,say, do all crafts, is a MAJOR hassle (not to mention expensive.)

Before the game officially opened, I created three characters: A Mage (Thaumaturge, with the intent of converting her to a Black Mage later,) a Pirate Fisherwoman (Marauder,) and an earthy Explorer/Hunter (Archer/Botanist.) My explorer still sits at the level 7 I played him up to in the beta, unused now. My pirate isn’t so much a pirate now as a miner/blacksmith with no way to sell or transfer the stuff she gathers/makes to my main character, and my main is now also an archer/botanist as well as a couple other crafts (weaver/alchemist) and I’ll probably make her a miner and leatherworker as well to produce stuff I need to craft the mid-level armor my character needs since I can’t get the stuff off my alt because she doesn’t have access to a vendor (Retainer) yet and I really don’t want to be forced to group as a tank for the story dungeons, or level up another class on that character to do story dungeons as DPS. I scraped by the first one only due to having gotten lucky with patient people who taught me how to tank. But I have yet to do any other ones because I really don’t want to be a tank. This is also the first game I’ve not played an Archer who is a hunter/explorer/adventurer type. In this game my “archer” is primarily a mage (due in part to the requirement for archer at lvl 15 in order to train Black Mage, and partly because quite frankly, archer is easy mode.) I don’t really want to train another archer, so my “Archer” sits unused. And botany is such a pain in the ass I don’t want to do it on TWO characters, it’s mind-numbing enough on one. Which is sad because Archer/Hunter is my favorite character class to play normally. This game killed my favorite character.  :(

So, on October 6th, subscriptions kick in and my characters will likely go into hibernation, possibly forever (or until my game account gets hacked, or until Square-Enix gets a clue and goes F2P. Or until I get a job.) I might pay for one month, just to see if the bots disappear.  ;)  But probably not. I haven’t even been playing every day lately. And I hear LOTRO has an expansion coming out soon, maybe they’ll add more “free” content and I won’t have to spend Turbine Points to buy those quest packs to level up my main character. They made Lone Lands free last time.  :D  Wait long enough, and everything old is new and free to me. Who cares if I’m about 5 years behind.  ;)

 

 

 

 

 

Brambleberry Reborn

By NONOBADKITTY! 1:32 pm Saturday June 29th, 2013

Wee little Brambleberry has been reborn! As a little uhm … gnome-like creature thing.

Honestly I forget what they’re called, but there’s this new, erm old, erm “reborn” version of Final Fantasy XIV that’s currently in beta, and wouldn’t ya know it, I get an invite (I’d completely forgotten I’d even signed up for the beta) and it’s on the hottest weekend of the year, and the only computer I have to play the game on overheats when the ambient temperature of the room hits about 80 degrees. ::sigh:: Oh, and the power was out for a couple hours yesterday evening too. ::sigh:: Oh, and the beta started at 2am my time. ::sigh:: But I did get to play a bit late last night once the heat dissipated and I have to say, wow, what a beautiful game. Now, admittedly, I have a “thing” for the Final Fantasy series, and although I’ve not played either of the online versions (XI and the first iteration of XIV) I have played almost all of the single player ones up through FF IX (I even bought Mystic Quest on my Wii,) and I started to play X, but never finished (gotta do that one of these days) and I own X-2 but never even opened it (gotta do that too hehe.) Anyway, hearing that old familiar theme music coupled with the beautiful (even on low rez) graphics almost made me weep with joy. The thing that makes the Final Fantasy series special though is the story. Now, I’ve only just barely begun to play the newly revamped XIV, but it plays much like a single-player game, with cutscenes after finishing different quests and whatnot. Battles are beautiful, up-close and personal (albeit pretty typical key-mashing, so far anyway.) And the world is HUGE. I got completely and utterly lost in the starting city, it’s so big.

Another thing I really liked is the character customization. SO many possibilities it’s almost overwhelming. Now, the character models are a bit anime and cutesy (especially the little gnome things) and the females are a bit uhm … well … but hey you can choose your bust size. And there’s even a “manly” female type if you wanna make a kick-ass she-pirate or something. There’s the usual “elf” type and the “human” type and the “cat like” too. Something for everyone, unless you like beastly monsters anyway.

So far I’ve had no trouble with the game, even though my video card/monitor don’t support the “good” settings (my system is actually at the low end of the spectrum, at least video-wise.) The game runs smooth as silk, even in the crowded newbie town, although my case fans are blowing full-bore trying to cool my system off hehe. If the damn video card didn’t overheat, I’d be able to play fine. But that’s a problem with my computer, not the game (it overheats even just web browsing if the room temperature is too warm.) The game looks good even on the low end graphics. The screenshots above are the low rez graphics. The high rez has all kinds of special effects and stuff that make the game look truly gorgeous.

All in all, this game looks really promising. I didn’t suffer through the disaster that was the first iteration of FF XIV, so I can’t compare it, but reviews I’ve read from people who had, say this version is way, way better. The only downside, is the game will be subscription based (not sure how much it will be though.) But if the game pans out as it starts, and has enough content to keep people happy, it’s probably going to be worth at least $15/month, at least in the beginning. It’s been a REALLY long time I’ve waited to play an online FF game too, so I’m thrilled I have a computer that can run it, and a game that will be out soon. Now I just need a job to pay for it. :D :D

There’s still time to sign up for the beta too, (it’s wrapping up phase 3, phase 4 will be open beta) so get in while you can, the game is supposed to be released in August (PC and PS3.)

NookDroid

By NONOBADKITTY! 9:38 pm Monday June 24th, 2013

I rooted my Nook today (well, sorta, I didn’t do a full root, I’m using the SD card method for now to make sure I like it and that it all works well.)

The only trouble I had was getting my network WiFi to work, but it turned out that was because I apparently have too many neighbors sucking up bandwidth off the same channel. I just switched channels and voila, it worked perfectly.

I got the AFN Android 4.2.2 version (Jelly Bean) even though I’d heard mixed reviews on how well it runs on the Nook Color (which is, admittedly, sort of old now in tech years.) But it looked so much prettier in the screenshots than CM7 that I had to get it. So far it actually seems faster than the stock Nook OS whatever that is (I believe it’s a customized Froyo, Android 2.x something.) We’ll see how it works once I fire up some apps, but I’m not really planning on heavy app use, I’ll still use my Nook mostly for reading, but now I’ll have access not only to the B&N content, but Amazon as well. Plus there’s an Overdrive app so I can read my library books. And the best part, since it’s a dual-boot SD card, I can go back to the Nook OS if I want to. But I have a feeling I’ll be doing a full-on root in the not too distant future. Did I mention Jelly Bean is gorgeous? Reminds me of Gnome in Linux … man how I loved Gnome ….

The one downside to Jelly Bean (all of ‘em) is that Flash is no longer supported, so any apps that use it will probably not work (although there is a workaround using an older version of Flash.) But I despise Flash for the taint it has unleashed on the interwebz the last decade or so, so I have no problem saying bye-bye to it forever. :D

WOW WOW

By NONOBADKITTY! 8:43 pm Friday June 14th, 2013

I re-activated my World of Warcraft account today, thanks to a nice “birthday” present from Blizzard (one of those “please come back we miss you” kinda trial dealies they do every now and then.)

It’s only good for 7 days, so I gotta hurry up and figure stuff out before it runs out. First up, logging in and seeing my old character Fidget, who IS still there, despite earlier confusion of her needing to change her name. Unfortunately, she’s in some town I don’t remember at all (well I sort of remember, but I don’t remember WHY I’m there, and there is apparently NO EXIT since when the Cataclysm expansion was introduced, they blew up the portals back to the main towns.) Uhm yeah. So, I ran around a bit, couldn’t figure out where I was, logged out and made a panda.

Now, I know I’d said some nasty things about pandas and WOW before, but I fired up the character creation dealie and made myself a mage panda. Only I didn’t mean to make a mage, I just forgot that you are supposed to choose a class when you first start up oops. Oh well, I’ll remake one later. I did a couple of the newbie panda quests, and then got stuck. Yes, I got stuck on an intro quest. Wow, do I suck or what? Well, I actually had to Google how to complete the quest, because, you know, snatching a flame from some Master Panda dude is really hard. And, well, apparently it is, because the quest is BUGGED and the place you think you’re clicking isn’t really where you’re clicking so when you fail 50 times in a row, it’s not you it’s the bugged quest. Thank goodness, because I thought wow I’ve really lost it, I can’t even finish a newbie quest without cheating.

Anyway, that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far, I had to log out, and get help with that quest, and how to get the heck outta Shittrah, erm Shittarath or uhm … whatever the hell it’s called and back to where ever I was before I ended up here. I think I might make my way up to Northrend, because that was where the Lich King lives, and I haven’t played that expansion yet because when it came out, my computer couldn’t handle the graphics. I did get to play it for like 10 minutes once at BlizzCon though, and it’s very Vikingesque. I dig Vikings. A lot. It’s in my blood haha. So, I’ll head there even though little Fidget is a wee bit low level for most of the quests there, and then maybe I’ll play the panda a bit, once I recreate her as the class I want. Dunno if I can make a panda shaman, but if so, I’ll do that. I like shamans, but I kinda hated the whole undead thing. Those two things should pretty much use up my 7 days of free time.

Revisiting Old Friends, Part Two

By NONOBADKITTY! 6:06 pm Wednesday June 5th, 2013

After getting all nostalgic the last couple months and visiting Ultima Online and Lord of the Rings Online, I decided to splurge and lay down a fat $12.99 and fire up one month of Asheron’s Call (which now includes free access to a new “beta” of Asheron’s Call 2.)

I first must say I haven’t played AC since I think about 2001 maybe? I’m not even sure, but sure enough my account is still there and sure enough my characters (gimped as they may be) were still there. But boy oh boy have things changed! You know how hard it used to be to gain a level? Well, ain’t so hard anymore. My highest level character was 37 (coulda sworn it was higher haha but I think the max level back when I played was 50 or maybe 60, and it took forever to gain.) Now, you can supposedly hit level 126 in about two weeks if you know how to work the system. In any case, just puttering around (not even really PLAYING) I managed to gain a couple levels on my various characters. And remember when loot really sucked? And money was hard to come by? Well that ain’t true anymore either. Especially if you’re an “old timer” … you see, there was apparently some problem several years ago with the servers and to compensate, Turbine gave everyone a free gift, and one of the things you can choose as your free gift is a keyring of 25 Gold Casino Keys. Each one of these marvelous keys opens a chest full of PHAT LEWTS, that, even if sold to vendors, will net you hundreds of thousands of pyreals per chest. So yep, you can be an instant millionaire if your account is old enough. And if your account isn’t old enough, then you can still benefit because loot drops are much higher now I guess because those keys totally screwed over the economy haha.

There’s also a free “quest” weapon you can get if your account is old enough too, because they totally revamped the skill system, so now instead of dagger skill or unarmed skill, you have “light weapons” or “missile weapons.” This is good, in that you can now use all the melee skills by training one thing, but you’re limited because to use all of one weapon type, you’d have to train three skills now. So if you REALLY wanted to be ONLY unarmed, before, you only had to train unarmed, now you gotta train light, heavy and finesse weapons to be able to use all the unarmed loot weapons. You could of course, just pick one or two. But, the good news is say you have really high quickness, you can now just train finesse weapons, and now you can use daggers, unarmed, sword, mace, etc as long as the weapon is a finesse weapon. So that’s kind of cool if you like the look of certain weapons. So, all in all it’s a tradeoff. For my main character it kind of sucks because she was a dagger/bow user before so now she only has missile and light weapons, which means she can no longer use some of her old daggers, some of which were quest weapons. But my former unarmed dude loves the new change, because now he can use unarmed and staff, without having to train more than one skill.

Anyway, I spent some time exploring the old world. Unfortunately I had a hell of a time getting the server to connect on Thistledown, so I got to play my “main” server very little, because it was either full or something, I couldn’t connect most of the time. So I mostly played on alt servers with mules and low level newbie alts, which pretty much sucked. I also forgot how death works in AC, and it’s not fun. Corpse runs, loss of items, my how I have been spoiled by games like WOW and LOTRO. But I do have to say the battle system is far more fun (and frustrating) to use, because of its complexity. I also had trouble figuring out the magic system because that has drastically changed since last I played. Apparently there is no more spell research, you just buy ‘em now or get ‘em as loot. And the old component system has been simplified (although apparently you CAN choose to carry gobs of pack-sucking components if you really want to.) Or you can just use simplified “tier” items.

As for the game itself, well, I felt seriously out of place and gimped beyond belief, and the world is still pretty damn ugly, but they have made it MUCH easier to get around, there are now town portals in every town instead of the old ring system. It’s like a Subway in every town now. I sort of liked the challenge of the old way, but this way does speed things up considerably when all you want to do is get from point A to point B. Oh, and one thing I found really infuriating was to sell items to vendors, you have to find the right type of vendor. Yes, it’s more realistic that you have to sell clothing to a tailor, and weapons to a weaponsmith, but man is it a pain to do, especially when some towns don’t seem to have the vendors for all the item types. Grrr! All in all though, my experience was pretty frustrating and really didn’t make me want to come back. At all. I think the only reason this game is still alive is because of the monthly (more or less) content updates. So now, on to Asheron’s Call 2!

Last I played AC2 was I think, in beta in 2001 or 2002 (I can’t remember for sure, but I don’t think I bought the game.) At that time, the graphics were cutting edge (translation: the game wouldn’t run very well on most computers of that time.) But wow, was it pretty! Unfortunately, the game itself pretty much sucked back then. And I have to say, going back, brought back old memories of sucking-ness. So far as I could tell it’s virtually identical to what it was back then: very limited avatar customization, confusing as hell, boring as hell (god help me if I have to do another incursion quest) and level gains were painfully slow after the first 5 levels. The interface/battle system/etc is not at all user friendly. The crafting system is a chore (resources are a bitch to seek out, you need a MAP to find them AND the maps are random, so you have to figure out how to GET to the area the map is for, before you can even play the “hot/cold” hunt game.) ::bangs head:: It’s like a treasure map, only the treasure is a mine. The only good thing about the game is you can sell stuff without having to visit a shop. All in all, the game made me want to scream. It’s that bad. I don’t know what Turbine/Warner Brothers’ plans are for this game, if it will stay in eternal “beta” or if they plan to update/enhance it, who knows. But I know it is NOT worth paying for without a LOT of overhaul. Even as a free bonus with Asheron’s Call it’s not worth playing.

So, this time around, old friends slapped me in the face like a wet fish. :(

The good news though, is Blizzard must have remembered I have a birthday coming up because I got an invite to come back to World of Warcraft free for 7 days! I’ve been waiting for one of those, so I can fire up my old WOW account and visit my little gnome Fidget, erm I think her name is Brambleberry now thanks to some glitch or something awhile back, I forget. Anyway, I’ll be firing that up in a week or so to go back and visit Azeroth. Although I’ve heard pandas have invaded, so I’m not too hopeful. :D

Revisiting Old Friends

By NONOBADKITTY! 2:48 pm Friday April 5th, 2013

What with all this talk of new games from Lord British, I decided to go back and play a couple games I haven’t played in awhile, namely Ultima Online and Lord of the Rings Online. Last time I played UO seriously was around the time they broke the world in two (the Trammel thing.) Last time I played LOTRO, according to posts on My LOTRO was back in December 2011. And yes, the lotto is still apparently broken LOL.

Anyway, UO first. I logged in and yes my house on Ocllo is still there (although I’ve heard they’ve re-instated house decay, but apparently it doesn’t start for 90 days of account inactivity. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve been logging in every now and then “just in case” all these years.) For those who don’t know, I still have a comped UO account thanks to my days in the trenches of being a Counselor in UO way back when. I think it’s comped to 2025 or something like that. That’s a very good thing, because that means I don’t have to pay a subscription fee if I want to play again. True, I didn’t get a big payout (snork) from joining that class action lawsuit years ago, but I think I probably ended up better in the long run, because I have a feeling had I joined that suit, my free account would have gone bye bye long ago.

OK, back to UO. After figuring out how to do stuff again (apparently things have changed a bit, I couldn’t, for instance, figure out how to repair my armor and weapons LOL.) I got back into hunting and playing around in UO again and boy oh boy it brought back memories. I’d forgotten how beautifully elegant and immersive UO is compared to modern MMORPG games. Yes, it’s horribly dated (and the “Enhanced Client” makes my avatar look ugly, but at least not quite as mutated as the old 3D client from years ago.) And it was quiet. At first I thought it was just in Felucca (the old PK-able half of the shard) but even in Trammel, I saw very few people. Sad, really, but at what they charge for a subscription fee, I can see why. If any game should go Free to Play it should be UO. (Yes, I know there are numerous “free” servers, but I still consider them illegal so I won’t go there.) UO isn’t quite as “cool” as in the old PK days, and the days when you could kill someone, chop up their body, and turn in their head for bounty, but it’s still pretty cool. No instanced housing, wide open world (for the most part, I think there are a few areas you need to buy an expansion pack to get into) and even the background music brought back a swell of nostalgia. Walking around my old hunting grounds in Yew made me want to move my grandfathered Ocllo house there. Lots of room now! :D

UO really is a role-players dream game though, there are no character levels, you can spec and re-spec as often as you want and there is no fee to do so (although there is time involved, but skill gains seemed to be quite a bit faster than in the old days.) I’m tempted to see how hard it is to get a Grandmaster beggar these days. I have one from the old days that took me literally YEARS of almost constant macroing, erm begging to get there. Unfortunately he’s not on the shard where I have a house. :( But he lives! Apparently there are also a lot more weapons and armor I don’t have right now, I’m still using my old apparently gimped crafted gear. But that’s OK.

Now, for LOTRO. This game has been completely dumbed down, probably due to the whole Free to Play thing (I haven’t really “played” since FTP went in, the last time I played was during the Winter festival in 2011, and I pretty much did only festival quests.) But after about a week of putzing around (it was admittedly a lot easier to get back into the game after an absence than UO was) I can see well, it’s still kind of “meh.” Easier, yes, by far; I gained almost a level just FARMING for a couple hours for cripes sake. And even though I am locked out of my house and owe almost 1000 silver just to unlock the door, money is far easier to come by these days. I made almost 700 silver in a couple hours just killing slayer mobs and turning in the parts for cash rather than rep. I haven’t unlocked my house yet, I’ll only do so if I decide to stay (apparently, the max amount you can owe is 90% of purchase price, no matter how overdue you are on the “rent” and I’m already at that point.)

I do have to say playing LOTRO on a better computer makes the game look better than it used to though (either that, or they’ve revised the world a bit.) The character models are still butt-ugly though, I don’t know if they just used generic models or if they really went to the trouble of building custom models that are rigged wrong and ugly, but anyway, at least the buggy roly-poly eyeballs are gone. Fortunately, I can adjust the camera so I don’t have to look at myself if I don’t want to. :D

As for the game itself, well, I still hate doing quests in LOTRO, I don’t know why, but they just seem so unbearably tedious. I totally gave up on the “book” quests last time I played, because most of them were too hard to solo. But even the normal ones, I’m just not all that inspired to do unless I just happen to complete them by accident. Right now, I’ve been just exploring, working on my crafting skills (I think my hunter may become my main character soon, hunters are fun and easy) and as much as I love roleplaying my little hobbit Brambleberry, she’s not all that much fun to play because she has NO gathering skills (well, farming, but who wants useless crops?) If she wasn’t maxed out on Farming and Cooking, I would re-spec her, but I spent a fortune getting her maxed (especially cooking, which, reportedly is pretty much worthless now oh well.) So, whenever I’m out putzing around, she doesn’t get to gather stuff for my other characters except maybe mob drops on occasion. All my other characters have a least one gathering skill my other characters need the resources from, so I help more than just one character when I play them. I also have to say I like playing my Loremaster, and that was before I remembered she could use pets. Can we say “easy mode?” Haha. Actually pretty much every character is easy mode now. I remember in the old days, I’d rarely attempt to kill a mob that was harder than green, but now I’m killing red mobs like they’re ants (well, except some of the hard ones, which, if you’re not paying attention to the fact they’re elite mobs, will kick your ass. They really need a different color for those.)

Anyway, I’m still not sold on LOTRO. And I STILL don’t have riding skill on any of my characters, because back when I had an account, horses were expensive (5 gold I think?) Now, they’re something like 995 silver, but now you have to buy the riding skill with Turbine Points, or you have to fire up a VIP subscription for at least a month to get it via the (reportedly hard to do) quest. So, I’ve been doing deeds to get enough TP to get riding skill on at least my two “main” characters. What a pain in the ass.

Oh, and for those wondering why I haven’t revisited my old beloved World of Warcraft, it’s because I CAN’T. Apparently “free to play” in WOW means you’re free to play on a gimped crap account, but if you want to play on your REAL, former subscribed account, you have to pay a subscription fee. This is one thing LOTRO gets right: I can play FREE on my regular account, I just won’t have access to all areas or quests unless I pay. WOW does it wrong, they don’t care that you subscribed for 4 years, nope, you gotta pay or go away or start completely over. So, I’m not going back to WOW unless/until they do another one of those “come back please” promos where they lure you back for a week hoping you’ll resubscribe. They usually do that when a new expansion pack comes out. Speaking of which, pandas? Really? That’s another reason not to play WOW. ::sigh::

All this nostalgia has been pointing out to me why I’m excited about Richard Garriott’s new game though. Even though he’s made some mistakes with his most recent games, his focus is on game play and immersive worlds, and being back in UO really pointed out the insane detail the design team went to in that game (and they had other stuff planned they had to take out too, like eco-chain spawn tables.) It also made me nostalgic for Asheron’s Call, another game that was immersive world and story driven, unfortunately there is no Free to Play there (yet) and I don’t want to go back enough to pay the whopping $14.95/mo subscription fee, even if it does include Asheron’s Call 2 (free to play, but you have to start all over.) But the monthly “events” AC had made the game pretty awesome at the time. Unfortunately, the low-rez graphics and interface got in the way, but it was a step in the right direction. Too bad Turbine didn’t learn and bring that kind of dynamism to LOTRO. But now Warner Brothers 0wnz0rz them so too late now.

I do hope RG and his team at Portalarium get it right with Shroud of the Avatar. If they do even half of what they have planned this will be the most awesome game ever. Not just the most awesome single-player RPG or the most awesome online multi-player RPG, but the most ground-breaking, amazing, immersive, freakin’ awesome game ever! Or it could be a huge flop that only hard-core former Ultima people will play. :D Either way, he’s taking a risk, and I admire that in this money-driven world. Sure, they could make a game with vampires and pandas and cater to the lowest denominator and maybe make lots of money, but thankfully, they’re not going that route. But they ARE listening to feedback from the players, so I can only hope they don’t give in and dumb it down like a lot of other games have done over the years when the money stopped rolling in and they got desperate. Time will tell, but this time I think RG is gonna have a hit.

There is still time (until April 7 afternoon) by the way, to pledge on Kickstarter for Shroud of the Avatar. I sucked it up and upped my pledge from the minimum $25 to a “I hope it’s worth it” $125. Spending my birthday money a couple months early. It’s a risk, but as long as they come through on the promise of 5 episodes, the money will be well spent, because the games themselves are worth at least $50 each, plus I get a lotta “loot” that I could sell on ebay, like a cloth map. Speaking of which, I think I still have an old cloth map from Ultima Online around here somewhere ….

Of Hen’s Teeth and Popes …

By NONOBADKITTY! 12:33 pm Tuesday March 12th, 2013

Yeah I know that’s an odd title, but I have a few disparate topics to talk about.

First, for those of you who haven’t heard, wacky Richard Garriott, I mean Richard Garriott de Cayeux, is workin’ on a new game. Now, for those ignorant amongst you (none that I know of) RG was one of those dudes who used to write cool games. Not the crap “eye candy”-heavy games like nowadays, but actual cool to play games. I admit that I haven’t played ALL of his games, but back about ten years ago, around the time Ultima: Ascension came out, I bought this thing called the Ultima Collection (which sells for about $500 new on Amazon nowadays.) It contains the original Ultima games from 1 through 8, plus a special bonus of Akalabeth, which only like 5 people bought when it came out.  Now, I tried to play these games, I really did, but given that when I bought them, I was running a computer with Windows ME on it, and these games were old DOS games, it took a “bit” of work to get ‘em goin’. I dunno how many of you tried to play DOS games back when DOS was the operating system of choice for PCs, but even then, it was hard to get games to run because of how DOS memory works. I won’t go into it because it’s mostly only vague foggy memories, but something about extended memory and system memory are stuck in my brain. And add to that the problems with sound cards (this was before Plug and Pray, I mean PLAY) and the fact some people actually had color monitors (LOL) and the fact there were different TYPES of color monitors (LOL) it complicated things. Anyway, I never got most of the games to run on Windows ME (or maybe I did, given the mysterious, unlabeled floppy disk stuck in the CD case with the games,) except I think Ultima 4 and 5. I know I played through most if not all of Ultima 4, I don’t think I made it through any of the others, and Ultima Ascension didn’t run on my computer very long without crashing, despite the fact Origin sent out a new CD to everyone who had registered the game (yep, it was THAT buggy.) So I don’t think I finished that one either.  I DID play a couple of the games back on the SNES though (or maybe NES, I forget) but I forget which ones. But, my point, long since lost, is that even though you can’t get these games to run on a modern system* they were still awesome games at the time. And if you have an old computer sitting in your closet, maybe you should hook it up, boot up some DOS and go at it. Or you can just head over to Kickback City, erm I mean Kickstarter to see what he’s up to.

One warning though: This new game is NOT a sequel to Ultima Online (which I played, and still have a working account for thanks to my time as a Counselor in the game before they fired them all.) It’s also not really an Ultima game, since Origin, which was Richard Garriott’s game company, sold its soul to EA, and RG lost rights to most (if not all) of the Ultima intellectual property (except Lord British, which RG still owns because he IS Lord British.) But RG is intimately involved in the design of the new game. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing, despite this recent failures (BIG failures) like Tabula Rasa. But I think this will be different because this game won’t be (I hope) in the clutches of an Evil Game Publisher. Time will tell though, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the game.

In other news, hey everybody, there’s a Pope Election going on! Yay! Erm yeah. OK, I must qualify this by saying that I am not Roman Catholic, and am as such pretty ignorant about the whole process. But thankfully, Wikipedia helped me out. While perusing the page of Pababili (gotta love that word) it looks like most of the news sites think some dude from the Philippines will “win.” I guess that makes sense since about 99% of the Philippines is Catholic. Plus everyone loves Filipinos.  :)  But my money (well, my pretend money) is on Angelo Bagnasco, from Italy, because he looks like a Pope (and Italian Popes are just cool, yannow?) But if I was to go for the one I think is most evil, I’d pick any American haha. I really, REALLY hope they don’t pick an American for pope, after all the nuttiness and scandals in recent years. But hey, if Cardinal Mahony from Los Angeles gets picked, then we all will know the Catholic Church is the Church of Satan.  ;)

As for teeth, I dunno if this is possible, but I’m beginning to think that one of my wisdom teeth is coming in. This wouldn’t be odd if I was 20. But I’ll be 50 this year. BUT back when I did have my wisdom teeth out, I only had three of them removed, because that’s all I had. Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly which three, because if I did that would help me know if this might be that pesky fourth tooth poppin’ in late, or something else. In any case, while it doesn’t technically hurt (yet,) I’ve got a little hard toothy-like “thing” back behind my lower left back molar that I’ll have to keep an eye on (and maybe have to get “checked out.”) I sure hope it’s not a wisdom tooth, because getting those puppies yanked was the most horrendous experience of my life (it was also the first time in my life I was “high” thanks to the painkillers they gave me which made me HALLUCINATE.)

Oh, and Rhoda is dying.  :(  Another one of my childhood role models (yep, the TV generation has fictional characters as role models) soon to be gone forever. Man I loved the 70s and all those awesome shows.  :( At least she has a good attitude about it all.  :)

* You can reportedly play some of the old games on modern operating systems, using a program called DOS Box. I haven’t tried it yet, but I did download it. More information later.
Also, there is a groovy cool company called GOG (for “Good Old Games”) that has many old awesome titles redone for modern operating systems, and pretty cheap (sometimes free) and you can get Ultima IV and a couple other Ultima games there for free!

 

Bubness

By NONOBADKITTY! 12:24 am Tuesday February 26th, 2013

On Saturday I went to meet internet sensation cat Lil Bub at the SPCALA shelter. Anyone who knows me knows I love kitties, and since internet kitties are a special kind of cool, I was very excited to find out a real live internet kitteh was going to be in town. So I went.

The event started at 11am but I got there an hour early thinking it would be easier to find parking if I was early, and also in case there was a line. If there was no line, I could hop over to the nearby nature center and talk a walk. Good thing I got there early because there was almost NO parking and there were already about 50 people in line! As I was walking towards the line, a car drove by and there was a Dude inside with is arm kinda hanging out the window, with some tattoos on it and I immediately recognized it as Lil Bub’s Dude with his Lil Bub tattoo! They drove over to a parking spot reserved for Lil Bub. Seriously, there was an orange cone with a sign on it that said Lil Bub saving the spot for them. :D

I went over and got in line and watched as Lil Bub and his Dude walked by the line, and almost NO ONE NOTICED IT WAS LIL BUB! o.O Now, Lil Bub was safely tucked away in a kitty carrier, but her Dude was right there, with his tattoos, walking right by the line.

Anyway, I waited in line about an hour and then they started letting people in about five at a time, into a little room inside the main shelter building. It was a bit cramped, with just a small table with Lil Bub lying on her fan-made afghan, just chillin’, and her Dude sitting behind her in front of an SPCALA logoed wall. There were also a couple other tables set up with Lil Bub stuff you could buy. I was a wee bit disappointed they weren’t letting us get kisses from Lil Bub, but you could get your picture taken, or just take your own pictures of her, and some people pet her. I was so focused on getting a decent picture in the small amount of time we had, that I forgot to pet her. :( So I shall never know how soft and silky her fur was. But I did get to see her scarf down some cat food. I should have gotten a video of it but I was so stunned at the awesome cuteness of her schlurping it up I forgot. :(

I did manage to get a couple pictures though. Also, ABC news was there filming a segment that aired on the 4pm (and I also heard the 5pm) news. It was pretty brief and mostly just showed a brief interview with the Dude and a closeup of Lil Bub and a bit of footage of the line. Speaking of which, I think there were about 200 people there when I was there, but I heard there were as many as 500 people! And the awesome Lil Bub stayed until everyone got a chance to meet her, how cool is that? I didn’t stick around, because once you left the tiny room, you couldn’t see anything anyway.

Here are a few pictures to make you jealous:

 

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