In the meantime

I’m not writing much recently, at least not here.

I spent the last few days reading books, comics/manga, watching the whole Evangelion saga and getting caught in a retrogaming burst. I became a fanboy of japanese console RPG after I discovered the ZSNES emulator and Squaresoft games years ago (see, piracy builds audience), then I bought the Playstation and started to buy every RPG I could find and my collection grew rather big. But then the RGB Amiga monitor I was using to play broke and I got caught into MUDs and then mmorpgs, and most of those lovely pixelated games I collected remained in a corner.

In the last days I started to mess with the PSX emulator and tried to make work properly all the games I own. It wasn’t so easy because every game has its own quirks to investigate and solve. There’s a number of emulators, plugins and configuration guides on the internet but I found rather hard to collect the informations I needed. So I got the idea of putting up a page with my own notes and compatibility list, so that it could be easier to track what works, what doesn’t and remember the correct settings. I’m rather satisfied of the emulator and plugins I used. My goal is to just have the video/sound/controls as close to the PSX as possible so I used the “software” plugin with dithering. Without filters or high resolution textures. To play I use a Logitech USB gamepad similar to the PSX. It works even if it has its own quirks.

In the next days I should put up a page and I’ll link it to the sidebar, probably near the link to WoW’s patches. I’ll add the emulator I use, the plugins and the PSX rom (hoping noone will chase me) in one simple .zip then I’ll list the settings I use for each game with notes to explain if there are problems of some sort. It won’t be a complete guide, just a functional one, to explain how I presonally play and without the settings for the more advanced graphic modes.

Beside this I wanted to write a review of Ryzom but my trial is nealy over and I just spent only a couple of hours into it. I think I’ll wait the 3rd October when they’ll change the pricing policy so that I could decide to convert my trial into a monthly subscription just at the price of the subscription itself (coincidentally my trial is over exactly the 3 October) and write the review I was planning. For now I can say that most of the time I spent in the game was about fighting against the UI to have it behave properly. It is rather advanced but not well designed and often it gets annoying. The game is interesting but it suffers similar problems, it’s not easy to figure out and it doesn’t do much to motivate you, teach how it works and point you to what you are supposed to do next. So I ended just wandering around with my masked doll (that’s my face, I cannot remove it) and dying randomly without a clue about what I was doing (which doesn’t help to encourage me to log back in since I don’t feel compelled to do anything). Oh, and the newbie zone has also these savage bunnies zooming around, aggroing and one-shotting my warrior. There are some interesting ideas, though. The technology, the graphic and the general production value seem not bad, the problems are in how all the parts are put together and the game seriously needs more tweaking to behave smoothly, give the players a clue and make the UI and the game world behave in a way that is understandable and usable. Beside this, I couldn’t even find a way to hide the UI to take some screenshots if not through messing with some really original and odd features. See, the problems of this game are exactly from this perspective. It has some fancy stuff like switchable UI “desktops” but then it misses all those simpler but fundamental features that you *expect*, like a way to quickly unclutter the screen or controls that behave properly instead of letting you regret point&click movement. I guess there’s a lot more to dig but the presentation does very little to valorize what the game has to offer (beside the graphic). I felt like being an ant in a little zoo filled with every sort of odd creatures, some just moving around or staring at me, while others aggroing and oneshotting my poor adventurer with no chance. But then? Should I start the endless grind by killing the little rat, then the bigger rat, then the little dog etc..? Or there’s something else beside walking around this crazed aquarium? I also have a personal problem with the textures, they look too much like noisy stereograms. I have to say that the game also reminded me “Outcast”, that fancy voxel game with its own particular charm. Ryzom also has similar mounts, but I don’t think they are accessible without being filthy rich.

If you enjoy safaris it’s probably the game for you :)

My interest in the game is mostly because I found it oddly interesting during beta (but left when they expected me to redownload the whole client), because Jessica Mulligan moved there and because they are going to release an expansion that will let the players to “play designer”, which is something I enjoy and look forward to fiddle with.

I’m also looking forward to DAoC’s next expansion, but since I’m not in beta there’s not much I can say despite my interest to discuss what comes *after*, in the form of the “Evolution servers” and the other issues that Mythic should start to consider to pour some more life in its game. Some screenshots (and more here) from the expansion were posted on the european website and they show wonderful art and the confirmation that the capital cities are finally being reskinned. In particular you can notice some before/after versions that show how much DAoC art has improved along these years. Which is also not a justification for the decline of the game. I’m the only one left of the earth, but I still believe that this game (and the company behind) has an endless potential. Don’t let it die. To see better screenshots you’ll have to wait me getting the exp.

A quote from a thread: “Many people have reported DR running smoother than Catacombs.” Yes, it systematically happens with each expansion and it’s also systematically false. In particular I think that DR doesn’t even include an engine revision, so more heavy art assets will have an impact and they surely won’t make the game run faster than how it is now.

Finally I enjoyed one of those hot discussions (which now subsided) about the relationship between devs and the community on Lum’s blog (I hope I made a point) and another on Babylona’s to explain better my point of view on the classes/skill system that I started to examine here.

On Ethic’s blog there are very nice screenshots from the upcoming Final Fantasy XI expansion I vaguely commented here.

What else? There’s lot of stuff, but I forgot. I bought the Neverwinter Nights box with the original game and the two expansions in a bundle. I’m looking forward to mess with that as well. Lots of stuff to play with.

Oh there’s also a long article from Dave that I still need to read.

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