Saturday, 30 July 2011

Re-playing Gothic 3 - Again

The Gothic series of games are probably in the category of you "either hate them or love them" and not much in between.  I'm in the love it category.

One reason I keep replaying old games, especially ones with great replay value is because I get sick of the problems that come with new ones and I have several in various stages of play.  Even Oblivion pisses me off with it's many problems even after modders have fixed a lot of of them.   The hard coded ones remain though which is frustrating at times.

While Gothic 2 with Night of the Raven is my favourite I've played it to death and the only complaint I have about it is that playing a mage is severely hampered by the inability to find enough plants and potions to replenish mana, especially in the late stages.  You can sleep of course but that's not always feasible or convenient. The spells are awesome though and they are all one really needs as long as mana is plentiful.

This is about Gothic 3 though.  I know many Gothic fans didn't like it as much and it was buggy as hell at release, but that wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the frame rate and hitching problems on loading new areas...and even at times, just moving in a different direction.

BUT, I've never actually finished the complete game, but got close a few times as it's absolutely huge.   I gave up on it for awhile until the Community Patch team started "fixing" the game and now it's actually a pleasure to play.

Besides that, and a reason I've started over a few times, there are addon packs and quest packs that change the game to more of a Gothic 2 style.  Last night I downloaded the latest packs and had to start over again which isn't a problem as the game has so many different ways to play.

I've been going on about how I like Two Worlds a lot, but Gothic 3 (and 2 of course) is so much more the type of open world rpg I think is actually worthy of the title.  One day I might write something about the disaster that Arcania Gothic 4 is, but it will pain me to even think about it.

Since I never played past the so called tutorial stage or the first island in Arcania because I could see the writing on the wall even then, people may say I didn't give it a fair chance.   However, the fact you could steal anything and kill anyone in front of others with no consequences, as the NPC's are so unbelievably stupid, and it's completely linear with invisible walls to keep you from going to places before you obtained a quest to do so, was quite enough for me.  Then there were absolutely NO features that made it a real rpg in the Gothic style.  I wish I could sell my copy of the game and forget I ever bought it..  Heck, I'd even give it away if anyone actually wanted it.  It has Securom protection though which is a pain in itself.

Just a quick mention about Gothic - Forsaken Gods.  This mess has also been overhauled by the Community team and is now playable and stable, if not a great game.  It's worth at least one play through now.

Back to Gothic 3... I do tend to get offtrack...

I'm not going into the ins and outs of the things that make this a great game, post community patching and especially with the addons I'm going to talk about.   Fans will know what I mean and anyone else who may be interested can look it up.

I did find this excellent review of Gothic 3 though and it also mentions Arcania and I agree totally with the author.  I don't actually agree with his comments about the controls as I've customized mine to work much better.

The main addons for the game besides the Community Patch is the Content Mod 2.2.  It adds so much it's not possible to include it all here, but the whole game is retextured or most of it, including creatures, armour, landscape, buildings and NPC's and a there are also a few added locations. And Pirates!  They returned the Orcs from Gothic 2, added many new armours and weapons, new menus and HUD icons and much more.  Oh, and also returned many of the sounds from Gothic 2.

When installing you can choose to have everything, or just the textures and menus and HUD elements, so it's versatile, not all or nothing.

Read about it here.  Lots of screen shots as well.  It's in the English section of the forum.

The Community Patch 1.74 rebalances the whole game, has alternate AI and balancing choices, multiple bug fixes that read like a novel, added a version of HDR and a heap of other improvements.  It also removes the copy protection with permission from the developers and includes the previous Official patches.

Download and read about it here.  It's 914mb but worth every byte.

The Content Mod, 229mb, requires the Community Patch 1.74 and Questpacket 4.2 which is another very large addition at 654mb.  It adds new quests, NPC's and a lot more.   It only comes in the German language, however there are English subtitles so obviously subtitles for speech need to be on, but are unobtrusive.  However, you won't have German voices in the background, assuming you need the English version of course.

Download it here.   The text is German but is easily translated via Google.  This page says version 4.1 but the download is the correct one, or it was for me.

Both packs have support for other languages and are exe files so it's easy to install or remove if necessary.

I only started playing again last night and have been hooked all over again so I can see myself staying up until the very early hours, and in some cases as I've done before, see the sun come up because I've been so involved.

One screen shot so far, but more to follow.   This is a wolf and a scavenger fighting as creatures also have factions in the game and either get along or hate each other.   Both creatures are retextured from the originals.

I could only get this close because they were fighting.  Usually, potentially aggressive animals will give a warning if you get too close and they won't attack either just because you are in the same area.  Something which I find refreshing.  Boars are anti social though and hate everything and everybody.

The white dome in the background is the capital city which has been closed off behind a force field.  The only way in is via a hard to get teleport stone.

Click to enlarge is so desired.

Doing a screen shot tour of the animals...  If I can I'll get some screenshots of the creatures sleeping which they actually do at night with the correct animations as well.   It can be interesting when one runs into a Shadow Beast in the dark when it's asleep.  They are really grumpy when woken....and any other

Dairy Cows.  You can milk the cows and use the milk in recipes at cooking pots.

Pigs on the farm.  Orcs have taken it over...or at least they had until I came along and evicted them forcefully and permanently.

Bandit Vs Wolf.   The bandit lost as I pinged him with arrows for amusement after killing his friends.  They were offensive after all and just didn't want to talk.  I then used a taming spell on the wolf so it would be a companion and fight with me.

Around the campfire.   You can sit at the fire and cook meat from animals you've hunted.  There's nothing like a nice haunch of roast meat and a glass of red to boost the health just when you need it.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Alice the Spider Mod

I updated my Along Came A Spider mod for Oblivion today with a few minor changes. It's also now at Tesnexus.
NOTE: I do not use any other companions besides my own creatures so I will not be looking into compatibility with other companion mods. I mention this because of comments regarding a user's CM Partners fighting with Alice.

The problem is NOT with my mod, but either a faction or script issue with CM Partners and I am not going to look into it as I only make my mods compatible with the vanilla game. However, I do use overhaul mods and a number of others without any fighting issues, so I don't see it as my problem.

Edit: That's the reason for the screen shot in the IC Market.   Although it doesn't actually show other companions, it does show a peaceful existence with NPC's.

New Screen shots.  Click to enlarge if desired.

On the steps of the Chapel

Die Necromancer



Peace in the City

Music Videos - Alice Cooper

I wonder about myself sometimes. 

I sit here watching music videos on Youtube and at least as far as my favourite artists go I have the DVD's of their concerts, especially the Pink Floyd Pulse tour and Alice Cooper's Brutal Planet DVD which is another of my favourites.

One reason is I can't or prefer not to play them on my stand alone DVD player and TV because unless I can turn them up LOUD it doesn't sound as good.  I have very close neighbours and I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate Alice or Black Sabbath blaring through the walls.  I could play them on the computer with headphones, and do sometimes, but it gives me a headache after awhile.  Not the music, the headphones as I also use them when I play games to stop the neighbours, one in particular, complaining about gunshots and the sounds of battle cries. 

I like a peaceful life, but I think I compromise too much at times.

Alice Cooper's No More Mister Nice Guy - Brutally Live featuring his daughter Calico. I so wish I was at that concert, but the DVD makes up for it. He may be 63 and the son of a protestant preacher, but he's still got it.

Brutal Planet - Brutally Live. The first track on the DVD

Along Came A Spider from the album of the same name featuring Slash and other well known rockers. It's a concept album about a psycho serial killer and released after Brutal Planet.

I named my Oblivion spider companion mod after this.

Alice the ultimate shock rocker. Forget Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. I like some of their music but it doesn't come close to Alice.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

More Two Worlds Screen Shots

I'm still making my way through Two Worlds and enjoying it.   I'm at level 82 now and I'm finding since the last ten or so levels the game is quite unbalanced in some respects as I'm almost immortal and can dispatch even huge dragons albeit with the help of summoned creatures and overpowered weapons and a heavy reflect damage spell.  

I'm playing on medium which means being resurrected at shrines instead of dying which really takes the edge off and I'm thinking I really should have tried hard mode which I may just do when I finish this play through.  I'm close to the end except for mopping up a few small side quests and since there are are two endings I have to choose who to side with.

There is an old mod that does for Two Worlds what OOO does for Oblivion called Two Worlds Elite (I think) and I used it last time I played, but I didn't get as far into the game as I am now.  Plus it's for the 1.6 patched version and since I patched the game to the latest 1.7 I'm not sure if it will still work.  I can't find any info to say one way or the other, but I guess it won't hurt to try it.  As far as I see there are no easy to find working links, not that I looked very hard, but I do have it on a backup disc somewhere.

When I get through with this game I'll probably return to Oblivion and then again I might just try and finish Gothic 3....again.  I always seem to get to a point where I have to make a choice of endings and since I can't make myself side with slavers I'll probably never see at least one of them.  It's a pain because it locks me out of one of the best cities in the game, so I've read, but my conscience won't let me allow innocents to be enslaved by cruel masters even in a game.  But, that's a story for another game review.

Anyway, some more TW pics for the  Click to enlarge if desired.

This is part of the city of Cathelon, the capital, where some of the citizens and vendors gather to chat in the evening. 

Encounter with a stone dragon.  These dragons look like a pile of stones and boulders until you get close and then they reform into a monster that shoots fireballs.   Not that hard to kill if you stay close so it can't fire at you and you keep hitting hard with no letup.

Another stone dragon.

Sand dragon in the desert.  These are actually a bit harder in some ways as they don't have rocks or trees to block them and you can't hide behind cover.

Mummies.  And not the caring  Make sure to have poison antidotes otherwise if they get a hit in the poison is fast working even with very high hit points.

Ogre and Orcs.  This ogre is fighting for me as I resurrected it after initially dispatching it with the help of my summoned scorpions that are also in the melee.

Giant pentagram in the sky.   This happens at a point in the main quest and covers the entire sky so it's hard to get a complete image.  It can be destroyed, which I have since done.  The sky is green because I'm near the Dead Forest.

Taking the Element of Fire.  Main quest item and located in an Orc fortress.

A dilemma.  Which horse shall I take this time?

Comments Moderation Off

For the time being I've turned off comment moderation which I've been thinking about for awhile as I seem to have some anonymous regulars that I can see via a tracker.    At least there must be something of interest here I guess. 

I must admit I am curious to know who they are and why they keep coming back.  Not that that means they are likely to comment, but like me I feel it can be annoying to go through a few hoops just to comment on something you may or even may not like.

However, if I start getting spammers, abuse or other crap I'll just re-enable moderation and anything offensive will be deleted by me anyway.  

I have also deleted an early rant post and the one that caused me to start this blog in the first place.  It really serves no purpose here any more and I doubt anyone but myself really cares.   Most people follow rules like sheep even when these "Rules" are inconsistent and bent for certain people.   I also don't particularly like having my words twisted by someone who called themselves a friend because they were feeling defensive and put upon by the truth. 

It's all still relevant however and my feelings haven't changed, but every time I see it it just makes me angry and annoyed all over again which is counter productive to myself.  I have a copy of the text of course, but I've got over being angry at things I can't least in this case as it's pointless.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Completionist Gaming - My Style

 Sunset over Stico Bay - Two Worlds

Click to enlarge view if desired

When I play PC games, particularly open world rpg's or other games that have secret areas or hidden content I can't help but be a little obsessive and have to find every one of them.  It's not for points or achievements or whatever, but since the developers went to the trouble of adding the extra stuff to add interest I try my hardest to find it.

Maybe it is a kind of achievement thing.  Who knows, but when I wander the wilderness and find a spot unmarked on the map and guarded by more than one massive troll, I know I've found something good.   Or when I comb the landscape and find that ultra rare herb I needed for a particular potion.  Woohoo!

I've even gone as far as making sure I cover every piece of the map and clear the Fog of War so I don't miss anything.....yes I am an ultra completionist. 

Taking it to extremes maybe, but I'm playing Two Worlds as I mentioned elsewhere, and it's a huge game.   I'm 80 hours in and level 76 with a long way to go.  I'm finding items I can't use until I hit level 102 but I doubt I'll get to that level.   The higher you go the longer it takes to level up as XP for common mods lessens and the best rewards are quest related.

The Grove - quest related which led me to having a village to myself with lots of storage since every container in the game is safe to use and doesn't recycle your hard won goods.   Note my two dual wielding Exotic Axes.

Anyway, in this game corpses don't disappear unless they have been fully looted and I read that leaving dead bodies everywhere can have an impact on game performance because it has to keep track of everything, including the dead, which is to be expected.  Although it doesn't seem to be a problem for me.  I'm doing clean up now though, but for a different reason.

So, a couple of nights ago every time I came across dead bandits and wolves, boars etc, etc, I made sure to loot them which I do anyway, but inventory space is sometimes at a premium and I have to leave stuff behind for another visit.  Plus, I don't need 500 pieces of wolf meat, a pile of boar tusks, a ton of Reaper meat, a haystack of herbs and many other things as I don't bother too much with alchemy except for Permanent Effect potions.  I started taking items from the corpses and dropping them on the ground, so when I leave the cell the game does the cleaning.

BUT,  I forgot something...  I'm at the highest level in all schools of magic and one of the great spells is the Resurrection spell.  It's supposed to be used to resurrect the dead, obviously, so they will fight for you, but this is virtually useless as they don't follow you from their original location.   However, mobs don't respawn in Two Worlds and there's really no need as there are more than enough to level up on, although if there are spawn points close to uncovered parts of the map some creatures will respawn....I think.

Last night I spent a few hours dragging my loot back to the cities to sell, and thank goodness I have a horse parked at the most used teleports, plus my personal teleport stones as running huge distances gets tiring.  Then I thought, why not resurrect  the dead...  so every time I came across a dead bandit, wolf or even skeletons in a cave that I hadn't totally looted, I resurrected them after taking anything I wanted from their bodies.  The resurrected don't remain hostile so I can repopulate the land with friendly wildlife, passive bandits and friendly monsters like Ogres and Cyclops, or at least the ones that still remain after looting.

Resurrected Orcs at the camp fire enjoying a drink.

Besides that, without too many spoilers if anyone cares, there's a large city that due to a quest becomes victim to the wrath of the god who they believe protects them and everyone dies by the hands of the Orcs.  There's nothing you can do to stop it and it's to do with the main quest.  Besides the inhabitants aren't the most welcoming I've ever met even before the destruction, and they really hate me now for taking their totem.  Their threats and insults wash over me now like water off a duck's back as they are powerless to carry them out.  I guess their souls came back passive and unable to act...that's resurrection for

Anyway, I then go and kill the Orcs, loot everyone, liberate houses of their treasures, make a fortune (which doesn't last long) and then resurrect Orcs and citizens alike.  They all go about their business in peace thereafter and the city stays populated instead of empty.  AND, I get another massive storage area and my own city surrounded by attractive bamboo forests, but I don't really need it as such.

One thing to note...after resurrecting animals and humans keep their AI and script packages so you can still use vendors and talk to people normally.   In one case where I stuffed up a quest, I resurrected an NPC and he spawned an item in his inventory that I needed and couldn't get because I chose a different path and killed him too early.   Because of that he didn't have what I needed on his corpse.  I could complete the quest including dialogue this way. 

Also, once killed and resurrected animals or NPC's can't be killed again, so it's no use for power leveling which is boring anyway.   They are like ghosts if you try to "re-kill" them and weapons have no effect.  This is aside from the real ghosts of beasts that appear at night which can be sent on to their reward...after having previously given me my reward. 

My summoned scorpions.  The most useful summons in the game.

Another thing in the game are shoots of Taint, a corrupted substance or fungus that grows in graveyards.  The corruption of the Taint overshadows most of the theme of the game as far as the main quest goes.  There's also a minor quest related to them, but by the time I found them all, I already had the rewards from an alternate source.  The XP and gold was worth it though.

I have five Taint shoots left over at present after the quest.  There may be more to find, I don't know yet.  If one goes back to a graveyard and drops a shoot, around midnight undead will spawn and can be killed (again) for items and XP.   Ghoul brains are a good and very useful commodity. 

I read that you can use the Taint in towns and start mini wars, but I've tried it several times without result.   Maybe it's a random thing in towns or I didn't wait long enough.  I made the mistake of leaving one area with a Taint shoot on the ground.  Needless to say it was gone when I came back.  The shoots are reusable so it's worth a try.

The Taint raises the dead!  Midnight in the graveyard!

This is why I love games like this.  All the extra hidden stuff and entertaining things one can do to take a break from quests and the serious stuff.

I wish Oblivion had a fraction of this kind of thing.  The most I've found hidden in random areas are a few chests with a couple of gold coins and a rusty dagger and I've covered the map from one end to the other.  The same useless leveled loot as the rest of the game.  It would have been nice if some of the notes and letters actually led somewhere and well as the size of the world and potential was there but underused.

Anyway, back to it and another all night session.  I have a city of undead to conquer!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Patch for My Gypsy Moon Race (Oblivion)

In the remote event that anyone may be using my Gypsy Moon Race I have a patch that fixes the problem with the ears and earrings. I uploaded the wrong esp to Mods Reloaded, the only place my mod exists at the moment besides my storage host. However, I can't edit or add to it at the moment due to an issue at their end which I'm not entirely happy about.

EDIT:  Fixed but rather than re-upload the complete mod again I'm going to add this link to the entry at Mods Reloaded.

This is the current patch location.

Thank you to the one person at Tesnexus who did take the time to let me know there was a problem with the race so I could fix it.

Edit:  The complete mod and patch are also both available at TES Alliance.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Classic Oldies - Two

Classic Oldies - One

Sifting through Youtube today I decided to look for some old music that I still like and play occasionally. Usually it's songs with some kind of deeper meaning to them, but often it's a nonsense song or just something with a good beat.

Pink Floyd

Despite having a huge music collection and many artists whose music stays with me forever, none of them comes close to Pink Floyd. 

I remember when Dark Side of the Moon was released for the first time in 1973 it struck a chord with me and when I play music Pink Floyd is always on the play list.  In fact if I'm writing or modding Oblivion it's Pink Floyd I have playing as it seems to give me inspiration and a good level of concentration. 

As one person commented on Youtube:
"It's very easy to categorize rock bands; there's Pink Floyd and then there's everybody else..."

For those who remember and new listeners....Enjoy...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Two Worlds Vs Oblivion

I'm currently replaying Two Worlds since I never got to the end the first time and taking note of what I would have liked to see in vanilla Oblivion, and by extension, hope to see (and even more) in Skyrim.

Two Worlds 2 was a drama to get hold of here as the distributor went bankrupt and though I was finally able to get hold of a DVD copy purchased online, it doesn't hold the same appeal as the first game. In another post on this blog I speak about how I pre-ordered it and how it was delayed many times and finally became unavailable so I won't expand on it.  I have no idea if that's changed as it annoyed me so much I cancelled my order and haven't checked again since.

Yes, I know, I KNOW, Two Worlds and Oblivion are two different games, but my enjoyment of Oblivion unmodded would be better and more lasting if it had more actual role playing features that didn't have to be added by mods.  This will probably seem like Oblivion bashing to many, but it's not meant to be and I don't really care.  It's just comparisons between what I call real role playing and "lite" role playing casual style.

I'm going to use a word a few times here that seems to get some people unusually annoyed and uptight. "Realism."  There I've said it. Awful word isn't it?  One might ask how there can be realism in fantasy games with magic and monsters that have no basis, as far as we are aware, in our world?  Perhaps I should say plausibility or likelihood of particular things being possible, even within this fantasy world, especially in medieval style role playing games which are my preferred style.

Besides the fact this is a fantasy game, many things are based on realistic values....for example, I've seen a few people complain on Two Worlds own forums and probably elsewhere that they can't run fast or swim in certain armour. How far could anyone run or swim in full plate armour or run faster than the fastest horse?  In Oblivion and other games maybe, but not here.  Quest characters can die...also realistic, so don't go on killing sprees until you know who is who... you may need that peasant or rude city dweller at some point.  Even if you only do the main quest there are many characters that are tied to it and you would never level enough to complete the main story anyway without doing other things.

I don't need to explain further.  People who feel the same in small or larger ways, and have read anything I've written before on the subject of certain aspects of realistic features will probably know what I mean.

In case one wonders, and I can almost hear people scoff as I've seen, since this subject is brought up when "realism" is ever mentioned.  It's not about things like steel or chainmail bikini armour being impractical, since there is magic and the "armour" can be enchanted for protection in battle.  I do wonder if those enchantments would include rash relief and protection from the elements though and not just sword the cold and or heat and desert sand in delicate places.

Speaking about bikini armour mods...why is it that the legs and arms and often the head are fully covered, yet the most vulnerable parts of the body expose the wearer to being violently gutted at their first battle.  Those enchantments had better be good!  That was a rhetorical question really. It's mainly eye candy without the practicality. I quite like some skimpy armour if it's to enhance, looks good and isn't meant to ridicule or objectify as many of them are.  Light armour that doesn't impede movement, especially for agile characters which I generally play is pretty sensible really.  I never did like heavy gear, hoods or helms for that matter where the option is available, because I like to see my character's face and be able to move quickly when I need to.

Some of the things I do like to see in role playing games which Two Worlds doesn't have either, but the Gothic series does, are things like crafting and cooking, having to use an actual alchemy bench instead of mixing potions on the fly from the inventory, better and sensible interaction between not everything should want to rip you to pieces unless you get in it's face or it's an insane monster or bandits!!

I laugh every time I hear a guard in Oblivion say..."For your own safety, stay on the roads."  Or something close to that.  Right, so I stick to the roads and I'm chewed to pieces by a wolf or gored to death by a boar that was just wandering by and detected me from a kilometer away.  Not to mention the bandits conveniently camping out in the forts near the roads.

I'm a huge fan of the entire Gothic series and Risen (awaiting Risen 2), but NOT Arcania Gothic 4 which was just a tragic, sad mistake which I hope will never be repeated under the Gothic name.  As a basic adventure game Arcania possibly works, and I know many people liked it for that reason, but I'm sad that I purchased it only to be let down when it was supposed to be a true Gothic game.  It's my own fault as I did read the scathing reviews of the Demo before the actual game was released, but I was still hoping....
One of the most glaring things (among a long list of other things) is being able to kill NPC's in front of others, steal from them or commit any crime without anyone batting an eyelid and it has restricting invisible walls so there's no real free roaming.  If that was fixed at least I might have been able to force myself to play it further than the tutorial.  It is supposed to an RPG after all.

I love the open world, no barriers, discover by exploration type of game play with NO or very, very minor level scaling.  Like in real life, there are places you just don't go unprepared and many places one should never go. Fortunately, in games we can eventually breach those barriers and survive intact and victorious.  In my opinion the best thing that ever happened to Oblivion was Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul, but I'm mainly using Waalx Animals and Creatures now, but I do have it Bashed together and working well with at least one character with OOO.  I'm well past caring about balance issues and a few little inconsistencies as I've been playing the game on and off since the day it was released.

I also know there are many people who embrace the trend of what seems to be casual gaming where thinking and puzzle solving isn't required and quests almost solve themselves.  That's fine and a choice, but it's not and will never be for me which is one reason I replay games like Gothic and Two Worlds that have replay value with branching quests and different endings and I never get sick of them.  Replaying Oblivion on it's own unmodded after one play through has no appeal at all for me and it's only that it can be modded so well I still have it installed. Even when I had much less free time than I do now, I always enjoyed the challenge of using my brain to solve puzzles or track down quest items. As frustrating as that can be sometimes, it's a different kind of thinking than the daily grind of real life, job stress and other things, is fun and rewarding and takes my mind off it.  At least it works for me.
But..moving on to what this was supposed to be about which is a comparison of sorts between two games, but mainly about Two worlds which I feel is a very underrated game.  Two Worlds is a bit of a mix of Gothic and Oblivion in a way, but for playability reasons Two Worlds wins over Oblivion for me and Gothic II: NOTR (Night of the Raven) and Gothic 3 over both of them.  People can call vanilla Oblivion role playing as much as they like, but it's not a true rpg.  Now Morrowind...that's another story and I played that game to death.  It was actually my first foray into role playing games and got me hooked so much so that even new games I've bought of different genres are still waiting for me to get back and actually play them after an initial look.

One other point about Two Worlds:
I suppose you could call this something of a personal review, so here are the reasons I like Two Worlds and am currently replaying it.  The game needs to be patched to version 1.6 at least for the best experience, and 1.7 for other multi player fixes and extra MP quests as just mentioned above.

This is a hard game starting out, but after playing Gothic 2 (Night of the Raven) and Gothic 3 I had some idea of what to expect and I'm enjoying it immensely. I've chosen to play as a melee/archer and magic user which works very well. An all rounder basically, but character development is very versatile. A player could choose to be an assassin, thief, strictly melee or a mix of all of them, although melee only is harder especially at higher levels and some kind of projectile weaponry, either spells and or bows, is essential at times, whether it be magic or bows. Keeping some mobs at a distance is the only way to survive in some cases until you're seasoned and able to take them on. Even then, one good whack from a golem or cyclops can still be a death blow.

The screen shots don't do the game justice and it's hard to take an action shot and not die, but I managed to get some with careful use of summoned creatures to distract the bad guys. Some of the HUD elements can be removed via a key press, but I often forget to do it so some have them and others don't.

Click to enlarge if desired.

By the camp fire.  There are several different coloured horses besides this one.

 Two Worlds Pros in no particular order:

1.  Beautiful graphics.  I would go as far as to say much, much better than vanilla Oblivion.  They are quite detailed and varied and yet NOT dragging the computer to it's knees despite being released after Oblivion.  Looking closely at armour or even the horses or a summoned monster (since others will kill you) the details are very good, where in Oblivion they become a blur of low res textures. For me, Two Worlds loads and exits instantly and never crashes, EVER, even in the middle of huge fights and lots of hectic action.

2.  A huge number and variation of monsters, NPC's and general wildlife.  Many NPC's occupy the cities without affecting frame rates, and while they are mostly there to bring life to the cities they at least make it appear like a bustling alive place to be rather than a partly empty world.  When speaking with NPC's the world action continues in the background instead of stopping time.

OK, so the body and face models may not be up to some expectations, but at least there is a population.

Random Desert Dweller.

3.  Vendors.  Like a real city of the type of era, there are market places with many vendors selling their wares.  There are vendors for the magic user, stealth characters and warriors with all the relevant gear needed.  Alchemy ingedients aren't sold though, but there are multitudes freely available everywhere, so it's really not necessary.  Almost everything from body parts, gems and metals, plants and more can be found in abundance.  In fact, probably too easily in some cases although some are very rare like the ingredients to make Permanent Effect potions, traps and weapon upgrades.

4.  Horses are a pleasure in this game.  Walk, trot and gallop.  And also varying speeds for all gaits depending on how much your press the foward key. Horse combat works, albeit not perfectly, but it works.  However, unfortunately you are the only one to ride or fight from horseback.  A feature that sadly was never finished.

Horses in this game behave like real ones and I used to have real ones so I know how they behave.  The more training you have the better rider you become which helps more with combat situations.

Horses are NOT suicidal in this game. They won't just leap over cliffs and down mountain sides and will balk if you try. They have a wider turning circle which is something many people fail to realize when trying to control them, so a little practice is required to ride those winding trails through the mountains, but it gets to be very easy and actually pleasant.  Also, another big plus...unless you are actually riding the horse, mobs won't attack it if you dismount to fight.  You can cast spells, fight with swords, halberds and spears or use a bow from horseback.  If the horse takes damage while riding you can cast a healing spell which will heal him and you get that spell at the start of the game.

 Archery on horseback.  Attacking Wooden Golems with a bow...big mistake!   By the way the horse will move his head aside when using bows!

Horses have inventories like saddle bags so you can store gear and loot.  Every type of horse, and even between single types, has a different encumbrance limit, speed and behaviour, or at least it feels that way.

Nearly forgot to mention.  There are three different types of horses...normal, skeletal and Orc.  You can also whistle to your horse to call him as long as it's within hearing distance.  He will run away a short distance if there's fighting so it comes in handy if you don't feel like running back or he's hidden by trees or bushes.

Skeletal necromancer's horse.

Orc Horse

5.  Dead NPC's and creatures etc don't disappear from the game unless they have been completely looted and have no items left in their inventory and ALL containers, (chests, cupboards and even bodies) are safe, so can be used to store stuff indefinitely. There are no buyable houses as such, but there are several empty houses (abandoned or liberated) to set up in. You can even take over a whole town or village if you're careful about crime....fines are expensive and your reputation precedes you.

In earlier versions of the game it suffered from the "psychic guard syndrome" but this has been fixed.  I've looted whole villages and most cities without being caught, as long as an NPC isn't in a house with me or very close by, and having only one point in the sneak skill.

6.  Actual faction relationships.  If you upset the members of a particluar guild or clan you risk their vendors not dealing with you or depending on the "slight" charging much more for their goods.  You can also cut yourself out of questlines by being a smart ass via dialogue, and also don't go indiscriminantly thieving and killing until the NPC's etc have no more use.

You can however, play one faction  off against another to your advantage until a certain point though.

7.  Real consequences for your actions.  If you go on a killing spree, for example and kill a needed quest NPC don't blame the game.  If you steal or murder and are detected, expect to pay for it either with a LOT of gold, your life or permanent ban from a town or city.  Be careful with dialogue options as well, although often you can speak to the NPC again and choose another option, but not always.

Quest givers can die in this game by your hand or by mobs as I said.  There's that word realism popping up now.  Think before acting or at least keep a lot of saves.

8.  Very little hand holding with quests although there are markers on the map with notes.  If you listen to the quest givers, read your journal and explore your map, it's not that hard to find your objectives.  It also has the Fog of War so locations aren't uncovered until you venture there.  Certain locations are visible but not available until you've been there on foot or on horseback.

Overlooking Four Stones village.

9.  A very good Alchemy system with the ability to make Permanent Effect potions, weapon power ups and traps.  To make it really worthwhile though, one needs to put the skill points into it, but I don't bother too much with higher levels as potions are plentiful except for the permanent ones and probably a few others.

10.  I like the magic system, but I do feel the spells are underpowered in many cases and I'm mainly using the Necromancy spells as my main line of offence.  There are Booster and other enhancement cards like mana savers to find in loot, as quest rewards or to buy so it does actually work well with a bit of thought.

11. The music is OK but not the best I've heard in a game.  I like the theme song, and the other in game music is unobtrusive and suits the game. It can be turned off in the Game Options though unlike Oblivion where you need to make an ini change.   I turn the music off in Oblivion for a more immersive experience and a frame rate boost, but in Two Worlds I have it playing quietly in the background.  The other Ambient sounds are very good for the most part except for one thing I found that stands out.  Around villages and camps you can hear dogs barking and there are no dogs in the game.  However, there are chickens, ducks, snakes, rabbits and other small animals that give ingredients for alchemy if killed, but I can't bring myself to kill them and I haven't found a need for their parts except for Dodo feathers for a quest.  Some ingredients from the small animals are for permanent effect potions though, but I'm finding enough without them.  Besides alchemy isn't of great enough value to me to spend skill points to get it to the highest levels.

12.  Varied environmental regions from deserts, grassy forests much like Oblivion actually as it also uses SpeedTree, a bamboo forest near an Oriental city, seaside villages (one anyway) to dead lands inhabited only by the undead.  There are also volcanic regions blasted by lava and ash inhabited by dragons and various kinds of Orcs and monsters. There is even a glacier, but is unused for the most part except for a few camps and critters.  This world is huge, unlike Oblivion which is deceptive in size and is really quite small.

There are portals which need to be activated as part of an early quest and then you get your own personal droppable and reusable portals as well which is good considering the size of the world.

Varns attack in the desert.  My summoned scorpion attacks them from behind.

13.  Dual wielding that actually works well IMO.  I love my two Exotic Axes loaded with poison and spirit (soul and magic) damage which are the best enhancements.  The second weapon is in the shield slot, but does a lot of damage especially when skill points are put into it.  The animations for all weapons are excellent in fact.  I forgot to mention combat in all of the above now I look back, but although it seems to be point and click action there are combos and skills that enhance combat in all areas.  Even "dirty tricks" like kicking dirt in enemies faces to blind them and jabbing a torch in their faces to burn them.  And more.

Possible Cons or things I think could be better:
1.  A fairly generic rpg storyline, but then so are most rpg's.  However, the rest of the game makes up for it, and in it's way is woven together well.

2.  Dubious point IMO...There is only one gender to play...male. That's because the Main Quest is based around a bounty hunter/mercenary whose twin sister has been kidnapped and due to the story would make no sense the other way round.

However, there is a mod that allows playing as a female for the people who I've read feel put out about the choice, but the story is the same. The option to play as a female is also available in multi player as well as other quests added with the 1.7 patch for MP only.

It was wrongly pointed out to me elsewhere awhile ago that it's "politically incorrect" to only have one choice. What rubbish! That means all books, movies and other media are also not PC because of the hero or heroine they choose to portray. I'm female and have no issues playing a game as a male if that's how the story is written.

People should really get over the PC stuff. It's really getting out of hand in all aspects of life, not just games.  The "gender" challenged who feel they must at all costs be able to customize ad lib despite the storyline and type of game are out of luck.  I'm female and it doesn't bother me in the least that I'm playing as a male hero.  This isn't a SIMS game, which I think Oblivion has turned into, but that's another story.  Thankfully, because of the type of game Oblivion is and the moddability of it, one can play it to suit themselves.

3.  Another dubious one IMO depending on your outlook.  The spoken dialogue has been criticized for it's archaic style, but in it's way I think it's very fitting and actually reflects the medieval setting of the game.  After all, people did speak this way once upon a time in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The protagonist also has a sense of irony and at times humour.  Sometimes I feel the dialogue suffers in translation to English, but it's pretty minor.

At least there are varied voice actors and they don't have inane rumours and meaningless repetitive conversations that make me want to cringe and avoid populated areas as much as possible as I do more and more in Oblivion.

4.  Something I hate with a passion in all role playing games, not just this one.  Wolves and other wildlife that run to attack from kilometers away just because you've appeared on their radar.  Monsters, yes, but not wolves especially, as they are in reality (that concept many people seem to love to hate) wolves are shy creatures that will leave humans alone unless provoked. This is at least one thing, (among many others), that the Gothic series got absolutely correct.  As long as you stay out of a beasts "personal" space it will leave you alone, give a warning if you do get too close and of course attack if you ignore the warning or just want to fight them.  There are also faction relationships between different animals in Gothic games, so you will see them attack each other or peacefully co-existing.  Boars are exempt.  They just hate everyone.

5.  Summoned creatures, except for perhaps the giant scorpions and wyverns which have poison, are virtually useless much to my dismay since I play as a battlemage type character.  They are too slow, have bad AI and don't attack enemies unless you yourself are unseen by all enemies and you let them loose, and they don't seem to do much damage.  Even the high level ones don't help me much unless I get creative with other spells so the summons can actually do something.  It does help though when you get the high level multi summons spell so many creatures of different types can be summoned at once and believe me at times you need them.

Trachidis which are insect like and Barkogs which are tree creatures.  My summoned Scorpion is in there on the left back amongst the melee.

Unfriendly Steel and Adamantium Golems with my summoned Demon in hot pursuit....albeit it slowly.   Letting these things get close is a recipe for disaster.

6.  Unfortunately one can't sleep or advance time in this game which at times can be annoying, but you get used to it and day and night cycles pass quite quickly.
7.  Probably a few very small things that I can't think of at the moment, but are of little consequence.  Nearly all games have some small niggles anyway.

Minor dragons under a blood red sky.  The big and bad dragons are elsewhere.   I forgot to get screens of them and they are already dead.

Fighting a Sand Dragon.  These and the other big ones breathe fire!!!  They don't fly though which is a bit odd.

Of course I realize that the points I've made here may seem like Oblivion bashing in some cases, but I believe most are really valid points when it comes to the type of game I prefer to play.   I still like (not love) Oblivion even though I'm taking another needed break from it and it's frustrations at the moment.  Just when I get everything sorted and mods working great together, it starts crashing for no apparent reason.  It just pisses me off so much sometimes that I don't want to even play it and I get sick of the troubleshooting and micro management.  After a break I'll go back as I always do, and maybe the fairies will have solved the random CTD's the game loves to throw around at times despite all the fixes and solutions.

I most definitely think Oblivion would have been a much better game with the addition of at least some of the points I've made about Two Worlds and by extension the Gothic series.  In fact I've replayed Two Worlds several times so far but never finished due to to one reason or the other, BUT I would never replay vanilla Oblivion after one (and a half) play throughs.  Boring main quest that can be done at level one, little to no choices or consequences, no diverging storyline and quest branches, and THE worst of all is level scaling. And I absolutely HATE Oblivion Gates. I could go on but I won't as the list would be too long.

Random last thought:
Why is it horses in both of these games never have reins?  They have bits and bridles but no visual control method.  In Oblivion Alienslof was able to do it well so why the devs left something so obvious out...I wonder.  I can understand no stirrups as that would be pretty hard if not impossible I imagine, but reins at least look realistic.   There's that dreaded word again.....

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Sickness of the Human Condition

My faith in mankind as a species, if I really ever had real faith or hope, is being eroded bit by bit, day by day every time I see or hear the News from around the world or just locally in my area.  If it's not cruelty to animals, children and other adults, it's atrocities committed in the name of religion, or just because one race doesn't share the others belief in it's right to exist.   Then there's the incessant greed and destructiveness of mankind, overuse of resources that can never be replaced and many other things that will ensure human race never becomes truly evolved as a whole.  

The thing that prompted me to write this was something I saw on the News today about sadistic cruelty to a dog and the other day another article about a pony being driven into a river and beaten to death by teenagers.

 “The world is beautiful, but has a disease called man”
Friedrich Nietzsche

 I've had it said to me many years ago that I seem to care about animals before humans and back then it wasn't actually the case, but over the past ten or more years and probably longer it is an accurate description.  It's not that I care MORE about animals, but that I care about all helpless and vulnerable beings, human or otherwise.  This is a concept many people find hard to fathom or understand.  On a personal level I most often find giving is better than receiving, whether it's my time or material things where possible of course.

I do have to say though that I don't have time or effort for people who refuse to try and help themselves, or for fools, but for people in genuine need I have a lot of empathy.  Unfortunately, that can also lead to being taken advantage of as there's always someone who will exploit a situation and I'm not immune to this. 

What I ask is how can mankind ever care about and nurture itself in a mature and positive way if it's underlying sickness continues to spread unchecked like an insidious cancer, exploiting and abusing wherever it can and destroying anything it touches without fear of consequence.  Every human, no matter how kind or benevolent has a darkness inside whether one admits it or not.  It's my belief that the "good" for want of a better word, have either better mechanisms for controlling desires, fear of guilt and discovery, or their brains are just correctly wired. 

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” Albert Einstein

Sometimes I wish I'd never discovered or had access to the Internet as my own curiosity and willingness to communicate with people is often my worst enemy.   It's too late now though as the Net is my main means of communication and information gathering, by my own choice of course and I would be lost without it.  I don't read newspapers, or watch much TV and rarely listen to the radio except if I'm laying awake at night and can't sleep. 

In my earlier years I was naive about a lot of things.  I've come to believe in later years that it's not so much naivety as a safety mechanism.   Due to past circumstances going back to childhood I tend to blot out of my memory anything that I don't want to think about and I focus on things I do and ignore the rest as if it doesn't exist.  Not that it always works so well as memories have a way of surfacing and it has caused me problems with depression and extreme stress over the years, so I know it's faulty solution.

As far as I'm concerned mankind is heading for disaster at as rapid rate and the brakes are definitely off on a slippery slope.   I've said elsewhere on this blog I'm an Atheist and it's my opinion many of the world's problems stem from religious "blindness," but if I believed in hell this would be it.   It starts with lack of basic morality and more willingness to overstep the bounds of human and humane decency.   I'm not stupid.  I realize many of today's underlying problems in society have always existed in one form or another I don't think anyone can deny things are worsening in all spheres of society.

The following paragraphs are about a computer game that I play and enjoy called Oblivion and is only meant as an example to illustrate what I'm talking about.  It has added content in the way of many, many mods that enhance the game in lots of varied ways including sex simulation mods that are I believe are very realistically animated.   I personally have no use or necessity for SIM sex in a computer game.  I don't role play to that extent as my game style is more adventure and quest orientated.  Each to his or her own though.    Nudity is natural (see the history of art etc) and so is sex if tastefully portrayed.  I don't have anything against erotica. 

This is where the problems start though.  A couple of days ago I removed from this blog and elsewhere an Oblivion screen shot of mine that I had posted of my character wearing a particular outfit and I have also removed the mod from my game.   The reason I mention this is because I have issues with the author and others like him who create other mods that humiliate women in the most disturbing ways possible.   Having seen screen shots and references to these mods I imagine it doesn't stop at women being the subject of degradation.  I've also seen dubious references on forums about children, but that would be well hidden by the sick individuals concerned.

What disturbs me and is related to the top portion of this post is the rapidly growing trend towards sickening mods specifically featuring bestiality using dogs and horses and in many other cases monsters from the game like ogres and zombies etc.   Then there are the various rape mods, including pregnant women, extreme torture and other bizarre things like the Japanese Hentai mods.

Edit:  I'm not going to name or link the site concerned as in my opinion this gives it attention it doesn't deserve and it's not the only one.

However, those inclined towards bestiality, rape, and other sick fantasy mods can find them using key words.   I only came across it when I was looking for hair styles and found a 4Shared folder and then the site, where if one can stomach a lot of the content, many other hard to find mods, including game rips are linked. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I don't give a crap if it's only pixels on a screen.   When people use these mods and think it's fun for women to be shown being raped by monsters and tentacle creatures or sadistically tortured there's really something wrong.  It's a sad indictment on their humanity or lack of it.    Fantasies can spill over to the real world as we all know and  many of the real world equivalents of these mods already exist and have since the dawn of man or not long after.    And I don't mean the religious symbolism of Adam and Eve.

The point about a computer game and morality is considering the wider world this is a small gaming community and reflects the views of what I would say is not a small real world minority.    The line between fantasy and doing is a fine one and these mods and practices are wrong on so many levels.  It's not just this one game, but Oblivion can be made to look very realistic so is a perfect medium.   

DISCLAIMER:    This is not, and should not be used as a stepping stone or platform for soapboxes against video games in general which annoys me no end especially when the legislators or protestors have never even played one let alone know what they are talking about.  Just to be clear...The game Oblivion (and it's developers) is not at fault here either.    It is about morality in the general sense and I used this as an example.  After all movies, books music and other media are also mediums of entertainment.

I don't believe in censorship, but when it comes to what I've described above sometimes I have to wonder.  What should happen is self censorship and realizing within oneself what's right and what's just very wrong in peoples minds and with certain parts of society and being able to recognize when the lines are crossed.    Censorship should never be imposed by governing bodies.    Years ago I used to say people should be free to do as they want do as long as it doesn't hurt other people, children or animals by coercion or force and is not inflicted on an unwilling audience.   I still believe in that freedom, but the statement needs more definition as to who is being hurt and who isn't.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Unclickable Hyperlinks in Firefox

The last few days I've been having issues with Firefox and not being able to click hyperlinks random web pages as well not being able to log in here to my own blog and other forums. Clicking a link does nothing as though it's not a hyperlink at all.

Through a process of elimination and research I found out it's the latest update of NoScript causing it. I hope it gets sorted as I don't like browsing any site and even some of the popular game sites that have been known to have malware on occasion embedded in ads. Not to mention malicious scripts.

At least AdBlock still works so that's a plus.

Edit:  Fixed by the latest updates....thankfully.

Music I'm Listening to Today

Today I was listening to some of my favourite music with iTunes and particularly two of the female artists I really like.   The first is Shakespears Sister, a duo formed in 1988.

Their most know song would be Stay which is on the album Hormonally Yours.

I have this version of Jefferson Starships's White Rabbit and found a Youtube video of it surprisingly. I like the original, but this is more intense and "rocky" and I suppose you could say modernized. And yes, I know what it's

The song is appropriate considering I'm currently playing the game Alice: Madness Returns.

I like all of their music and in fact they released a new album earlier this year, but I haven't really listened to it properly to form an opinion yet.

The other artist I like a LOT is Lily Allen. At first listen one might say her music is strictly pop, but her lyrics say everything I would love to say to some people and they speak of life experience. Sadly, last year Lily experienced a tragedy in her life and I wish her well and hope one day she will continue her music career.

I chose to post this track because it says it all to the haters, racists, bigots and other small minded people I've had the unpleasant experience to come across, as well as the rest I haven't met and have no wish to.

If the lyrics offend, and you can see by the title, don't play it. Lily takes no prisoners and says what she thinks and I appreciate that. I wish I had the nerve, and more than that the opportunity to tell certain people, past and present, to do this.

So, I'm saying it here by proxy.