Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “MMORPG”

Must. Read.

asleepLast night, I did something I never thought I would ever do: I asked my step-daughter to put the book down and go to sleep already!

Now, before you lynch me or put me in the same category of book burners and fundamentalist christians, let me explain.

She’s 8. Her bedtime is 8.30. She loves to read. And her imagination doesn’t have an off-switch. So if we let her read until she’s tired, she’ll still be reading at midnight. And then we have to deal with the consequences. So when I saw the light shining from  under the door (again) at 10pm, I had to do the unthinkable.

Normally, I’d be quite happy for her to read all night. Let the stories invade her mind and set fire to her imagination. She is a voracious reader and, at 8 years old, she’s reading well beyond her years. She had to beg us to let her read the second Harry Potter book, and I think we’ll probably relent on the third book as well before she hits ten.

But her mum and I just can’t handle the almost-teenager-like reading hangover that results from a late night. So we have to limit her, like a crack addict, to small doses per night.

Her reading list at the moment:

1. Bridge To Terabithia – I’m reading this to her. I don’t think you ever get too old to have someone read to you, and it helps me bone up on my American accents.

2. The Hobbit – I started reading this to her, but she started making very clever “guesses” about what was going to happen next, and I found that she’d read the whole thing over a couple of nights of subversive torchlight reading.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She quotes from Philosopher’s Stone all of the time, so it was only a matter of time.

4. Brer Rabbit Tales by Enid Blyton. She read 15 Secret Seven books in two weeks and was re-reading the Faraway Tree, so I figured she was up for something new.

On top of these, she still reads the grade-two level readers her school gives her, which I agree with educationally (I was able to teach her how to read comics properly, for example) but wish that the school could challenge her a bit with reading.

We were pretty dismissive when we gave her Esio Trot to read and she returned to me in an hour saying it was great and could she have another one. Almost half-heartedly, I’d ask her a question about what happened in the book. She answered promptly. Surprised, I tried something a little more analytical. She had it down pat. From then, I’ve just watched in amazement as she worked her way through dozens of books over the past couple of years, making incredible comments on genre and comparisons to other books. My year 10s can’t do it, that’s for sure.

But I didn’t start this to rave about my step-daughter, who you don’t know and doesn’t enter into Finding Damo in the slightest. I was going to use it as an introductory stepping stone and got carried away.

So… Hop! Next stone.

I used to read in bed as a child. I utilised the torch for my own illicit reading. But I was often found, fast asleep with a book on my face. I’m pretty sure it still happens sometimes.

This is the version I read and still own.

I read The Hobbit in Grade 3. I read the Wizard of Earthsea in Grade 2 – Mum was studying it for school and we were travelling through Queensland and it was there so I read it.

I read Bridge to Terabithia in Grade 5 or 6 – the teacher was giving me and a couple of others books to challenge us as the regular reading was way below us. In primary school I found Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigaters, Biggles, Blyton, Asterix and Tintin. As I got older, I devoured all of the Doctor Who novelisations, Judy Blume (Forever was an experience, I can tell you!), Victor Kelleher and Douglas Adams.

Scarily enough, I didn’t discover Terry Pratchet until university. Dave and I had been introduced to a MUD (multi-user dungeon) on the Internet, and we were having problems with some of the quests. “Oh,” said a helpful player, “that one’s straight from the books.”

“There are books?” I asked, to the general hilarity of the online world. Soon after, Dave and I were annoying the crap out of a busload of people as we read Reaper Man and Small Gods on the way to Queensland. And now I’m on the organising committee for Nullus Anxietas IV.

There are a few novels that completely changed my life.

The first, I just finished again, this time on audio. 47 hours of unexpurgated Stephen King. The Stand. A work of genius that draws me in, over and over. I think I’ve read it at least once every two years since it was published. And yes, the re-release was better.

IT, I’ll lump in with The Stand. It is King’s mind at work. But these two, above all of the others, make me come back and read them for the sheer depth of the worlds he created. I also read Christine and Pet Sematary on a regular basis.

Ben Elton’s Stark was the first book I’d read that didn’t have a happy ending. It shocked me, but also opened me to the possibilities. It was incredibly well written, great characters and then… what the hell?

Tad Williams’ Otherland series blew me away. It’s slow going in places, but again, the story had a scope that I hadn’t seen in a novel or series for a long time. That one’s due to my aunty Joan, who put me onto them.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time gave me a new insight into magic. It was a world that touched on hundreds of different mythologies and wove them into an incredibly complex world. And then Jordan wrote books 7-10 (which were unnecessary). And then he died. Brandon Sanderson has revitalised the series, and I’m really looking forward to the last book.

Clive Barker was another writer who pushed boundary after boundary. Imajica redefined horror and fantasy for me. He wrote about things that I would never have the courage to write about under my own name.  He’s not for the weak hearted, but he is an incredibly good writer.

I could go on. I might. But as a youngster, these books changed the way I looked at the world. I still like to get back to them on occasion to revisit writing that makes everyone else look bad. Don’t attack me for the people I’ve left out. I could add at least 20 more books that have also changed my life, but this was meant to be an off-the-top-of-my-head account and these are the ones that came to mind.

Oh, by the way: I’ve written ten more pages of Finding Damo. Word count to come when I’m home.

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Diary of a Beta Tester

I was absolutely stoked when I received the Beta Test invitation to Mists of Pandaria. I’ve always wanted to be a panda, and now I could be. More importantly, I could be a panda before a whole heap of other people!

I downloaded the test client, almost installed it, solved a number of installation issues through combination of Google searching and WoW forum posts. I created a character on a US server, which crashed and wouldn’t let me back in. I created a character on a Korean server which was full of spamming lunatics who were trying to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to get anything done. And then I created a character on an EU server which worked quite nicely. Not to crowded, not too crashy, just right, says Goldi-Panda.

It’s a weird experience, playing the Beta of a game. It’s obviously good enough for us to test, but it’s not quite there yet! For example, I can’t make Pandaimo tell jokes or dance. He doesn’t have a voice. There aren’t any cinematics. But it looks phenomenal.

What really impresses me with Mists is that the Pandarens aren’t aligned with the Horde or the Alliance. I’m only at level 5 at the moment, but I can see that this is going to be an extremely interesting change to the game.

So, Pandaria. Apparently, we’re floating around on the back of a giant turtle. I’m going to go for a swim soon, to see if I can confirm it. It might even be turtles all the way down…

Pandaren starting area
Where the curious pandaren lives.
Do the crane, Daniel-san!
Do the crane, Daniel-san!

Pandaren are cute, fluffy, round and apparently quite deadly. Even the little kiddies have beards. As in Pratchett’s Interesting Times, Pandaria is a mish-mash of a number of different asian cultures. I helped an old pandaren collect wood so that he could smash his head above it. I’ve balanced on one leg in the crane formation – and then been chased by a crane after I fell into a cursed pool and was changed into a frog.

The only thing ruining this experience, apart from the bugs, are the people. I’m not sure who’s giving out beta passes, but I think they need to use a little bit of discrimination. Quests are being run one at a time at the moment. I’m assuming we’ll eventually be able to complete a few quests at a time, but I’ve been stuck a couple of times with only one quest to complete and one major problem to overcome: idiots.

Yes, even pandas can be idiots. When I arrived in the world, I needed to talk to a wise old monk who would tell me what to do. Surrounding this wise old monk was a throng of bouncing, shuffling pandaren n00bs and trolls, yelling obscenities and coming up with the panda equivalent of Chuck Norris chat (“blizz really shouldn’t panda to these people!” “OMG, it’s panda-monium!”). To get a quest from the monk, I needed to find his wise old black-and-white form in amongst all of the dropkick black-and-white forms smothering him. It was like finding a needle… in a stack of needles. Black-and-white, furry, obscene, illiterate needles.

Pile-o-pandaren
Pile-o-pandaren

I did it. I found the monk, got the quest, completed a few others, and then: “Snatch this ball of flame from my hand. Climb to the top of the temple. Find the Edict of Temperance. Burn it.” Yeah, OK, old man. However, you didn’t mention the OTHER throng of stupid pandaren weirdos who, for some reason, found it incredibly amusing to stand in a pile around the edict, stopping anyone from clicking on the quest item and completing the quest. They’re still there. Every time I log in. Mountains of them on a tiny balcony not really designed for that many pandas.

What is amusing is the view of the inside of hundreds of pandas, as I tried to shift the camera view to a point where I could see the Edict to click on it:

Inside a massive pile of pandas
Inside a massive pile of pandas

It’s not impossible. I did it. I moved on, and got to see some wonderfully impressive examples of Pandaren architecture. The quests, for the most part, are basic WoW fare – collect this, kill that, return, repeat. There are a couple of exceptions, including playing games with a water spirit and learning to balance on a pole in the middle of a cursed lake surrounded by hungry cranes.

My God, it's full of Pink!
My God, it’s full of Pink!

The fun part of playing a Beta game is finding and reporting on bugs. It reminds me of good old Vanilla WoW when I’d play with Mel and Corey and every now and then would get trapped behind something or laugh at a monster who was walking around up to the waist in solid ground. Here, I’m discovering the aesthetic joy of pink blocks. Every now and then I’ll come into a new zone, or log in, to find the buildings or chunks of landscape replaced with huge pink blocks. It’s easy to force the game to re-render the area and fix the issue, but sometimes it’s fun to walk around, or through, these huge pink cubes.

Don't get too close!
What happens if I… oh.

One of the great joys of starting a character in a new race is running through the emote system to see what the developers have for us. /sleep, /lol, /dance, /flirt, /train, /chicken are only a few of the emotes that can be typed in for humorous effect. Most of these aren’t in place just yet. I’ve checked. But PanDaimo does love a good snooze.

zzzzz
zzzzz

I’m really looking forward to trying some of the high-level content as the beta test progresses. At the moment, I’m simply enjoying the view, the fuzziness and the crowds of inept, annoying teenagers with nothing better to do. More soon.

n00bs
n00bs

Gamification

Let the Wookie WinI am, I must admit, an incredibly competitive person. None of this “let the wookie win” nonsense for me! Chewie would be beating me around the head with my own arm and I’d still be laughing at my victory. My seven-year-old step-daughter knows (or will learn) that if she beats me, it is purely through skill. For safety’s sake, I’ll start her off on Scrabble, and then maybe arm wrestling.

So I was intrigued when, while reading Popular Science, I came across an article called Can Treating Your Life As a Game Make You a Better Person? The author, Matthew Shaerat, talks about Gamification: the use of video game mechanics such as levelling up and gaining achievements in non-gaming situations. He decided to try and “score” his life for a week using a number of different apps and websites to see whether he became a better person.

It’s an intriguing notion. Until I look at my life and think “Hmm. I already use EpicWin to score my tasks. I use FourSquare to diligently list my location, going out of my way to check in to a place that will give me a badge. Not to mention my actual game playing. Achievements on World of Warcraft kept me playing long past the game’s expiration date.

Side note: I only got onto FourSquare  after reading Least I Could Do. I’ll link to the comic, rather than insert it, because it involves inserting and I really don’t need that on my page. But the comic is hilarious and I realised there was a form of social media out there that I wasn’t a part of.

But I’m talking about Gamification. And then I’m going to talk about games. And then you can have your lives back for another week. I take you back a number of years, to when I was living in Dromana. Shay, Dave and I decided to Gamify our dealings with shop staff. It was social justice rather than social media. We wanted people to be happy and thought we could make a competition out of it.

The plan: to get shop staff to smile. The reward: points. Lots of lovely points. And the point of the points? Well, none, really. But we got to say we were winning. And it showed we were still involved in the game. True to my dedication to not researching anything, I’m going to make up the points system again.

The checkout – argh! I want to write “chick” but I know I’ll get into trouble…

Points are awarded if:

The checkout chick (stuff it, I don’t care)                                  smiles:                                    10 points.
Laughs:                                   50 points.
Genuinely laughs:                                  100 points.

We kept score religiously for a few months. We made a lot of people happy, actively trying to make conversation instead of it just happening. It made me more aware of these people and I still try harder to make conversation while I’m waiting for my purchases to be tallied up. A funny little lady at Woolworths yesterday told me she would buy each member of her family a house if she won the Tatts draw, and a car for each grandchild, the youngest being a baby. It was an entertaining conversation.

Your challenge, then, is to tally up your points for a week and get back to me in the comments section. Let’s see who wins this one! Game on! I can even award badges! For example, the LOL badge, for when you get someone to laugh out loud for the first time:

The LOL badge

LOL

Or the harder to achieve ROFL badge. Make sure they’re not holding your eggs at the time:

The ROFL badge

ROFL!

Give it a shot. See how you go, let us know. It’s a way of life as well as a game.

And speaking of games…

A long car ride can be a wonderful or a torturous thing. Add a small child into the mix and the needle tends to swing towards torturous. UNLESS you get into the car forewarned and forearmed. You’ve been warned. Here’s the armament.

First up, car cricket. Many have heard of car cricket. One colour car is 1 run, Another is 4, A truck, perhaps is a 6, and something else is out. We don’t like cricket, but we’re quite happy to count cars. Here’s our variation:

For the whole trip (this works better for shorter trips in the city):

Purple Car

Five points!

Blue car = 1 point.
Purple, orange and pink cars = 5 points.
Yellow cars = two points.
Pointing out a yellow car that is actually a taxi = -2 points.

I don’t tend to bother with the blue cars, as the driver, unless I’m close to winning or passing another player. Go for the big score, look down side streets, remember that there is traffic in front of you (as the driver). Don’t forget your score (or DO, if you’re behind).

Secondly, the alphabet game. Start at A and go through the alphabet, finding the letters on signs and number plates. You cannot use a sign or number plate that someone else has already used. J and Q are stopping points, where your competitors can catch up. So if you can use the N in a Just Jeans sign, you can have your opponent gnashing their teeth while you power ever onwards.

The third game I want to detail is Roger, Rupert and Roderick. But the explanation involved in that one is a post in itself. So, I shall leave you here, the hero leaping over the chasm on his mighty white steed. Will he make it? Find out next week.

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