Saturday, December 29, 2012

Just a heads-up

I know I haven't been posting a lot. Heck I haven't even played Lotro in a while.
The reason is I've been engrossed in my studies and some other stuff that came along.

Anyway, I hope to be able to get back to posting regularly after exams are done (end of january).

First thing I'm going to try and get done will be the images thread at the lotro forums:
http://forums.lotro.com/showthread.php?487913-Visages-from-the-Lord-of-the-Rings-Online

Running the new instances is also on schedule, as well as something about the other changes (open-tapping being spread is notable).
As new content comes out, I'll still try to form an opinion about it and write a review.

Aside from that, I'm not a 100% sure about other stuff. I might go and complete my dungeon, talk a bit about different kinds of monsters or even something about coding. And of course the occasional neat thing I find.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mathemagics

Before you turn away because of the title, wait!

I know many of you hate maths with a passion, but that's mostly because it's taught to you without passion.

In a lot of real life situations, maths can actually be helpful. Architecture, computer sciences, finances,... loads of stuff. For most people, maths only start shining in high school. It becomes interesting when it's applied to your field of expertise.

But there's the second reason maths doesn't get all the praise it deserves. It's hard to make it look attractive with all the weird symbols and such.
I could plaster an image here as an example, but I don't want to give you all a headache.

Anyway, one neat website I "discovered" is:

http://www.khanacademy.org/

The great galaxy of Maths
I may seem a little too enthusiastic here (and no I'm not paid by them), but this site has been a great resource for formula's (with very decent explanations) or as a practising tool to keep my skills sharp.

Here's some of the features I like
-Badges: Gamification is all the rage. It serves as a system to track your progress as well as giving you an incentive to keep going.
-Videos: Almost each of the subjects has a guiding video attached to it. Having it explained a different way helps to learn new stuff.
-Applied: There's not just the base theory. There's several applied courses available as well. Ranging from biology to art history.
-Free: It's free to use the site. It's also not necessary to make an account, though then your progress won't be saved.


This website looks like it might save many people from sacking for maths.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Riders of Rohan

Turbine's long-awaited expansion which finally takes us into the Mark. Flamed at, cursed at, loved and cherished. The Riders of Rohan expansion caused a lot of emotions to stir up. Forth Eorlingas!





As I've already said in my pre-review, there're 2 ways to approach Rohan. The epic has you go to the East Wall region first, then to the Wold. The intro quest does it the other way around. Either way is fine so do it as you see fit.







Mounted combat won't play a role in this review as it is free (only one trait-line though, I'd recommend people to unlock the others). I'll just say that I love mounted combat on my cappy (light steed) but it seems this depends from class to class. It also plays a pivotal role in some content, though it can be done without.

Quests in Rohan are varied. You'll get the usual kill and collect quests, but these are broken up by a lot of instances and some good old dungeon crawls. Phasing is used extensively and you'll see the world change around you because of the things you (or the Enemy) do.

One thing I can advise you is to complete each exploration deed before you leave an area, as some dungeons are hidden and never pointed to by quests.

The storyline is great. This is epic story (quest type) material here and some stories overlap the entirety of the Eastemnet. Be prepared to curse the enemy and be part of some of the most awesome moments in lotro (The 4 riders chain comes to mind). Nice is that (unlike some epic quests) you're almost never taking forced stupid choices or walking into obvious traps.

Thanks to the graphical update to the game, the game looks better than ever. Riders of Rohan uses all of Turbine's new technology in this department and it's noticeable. The grass waves in the wind and storms come rolling over the plains more realistically.






The areas are varied. Instead of the boring fields of grass you'd expect, the landscape is broken up by ridges, swift currents and mountains. To the north you have Fangorn with all its oldness and eeriness. Thanks to the new excellent soundtrack, the world comes alive like never before.

Warbands (solo->raid)

Roving bands of enemies roam the plains of the Eastemnet. These warbands offer additional challenges to those who wish to take a break from the usual questing. These quests range from solo all the way to the raid warband Bugud.
While the warbands are a cool feature, they suffer from 2 problems:
-Mounted characters are overpowered. This means you'll most likely be able to solo small fellowship and fellowship encounters. Either the mounted mobs should be stronger or the characters should be nerfed.
-Too much people do the raid warband at the same time. Which means you'll maybe get in a hit or 2 and then he'll be dead. Maybe this isn't the case in low population servers.

Aside from those flaws, it's a system that is well implemented and could be a very good addition to the game.

Hytbold (solo)

Once you reach lvl 84, you'll get a mail directing you to the destroyed town of Hytbold. This is the current endgame content until the instance pack is released. Hytbold is a way for solo characters to get raid-ready armour.

Each day (once you accept the Aiding the Eastemnet quest in Hytbold), you'll be able to do 5 quests all over East-Rohan which grant tokens that allow you to rebuild parts and barter for the armour parts. There are  4 quests per city available at a time, but these are taken from a pool of several quests. There's always 1 mounted combat instance, 2 quests that happen in another instance and 1 quest that's (usually) different from the rest (eg: fishing, playing with kids, races,...).

Seeing Hytbold getting revitalized is nice and the armour is decent, but as the only endgame it is somewhat meagre. But combined with the Instance pack from later this year, it could be a nice pastime for in between raids and other group runs.

Price/Value: 3/5 (No instances hurts. It's still a must-have.)
Storyline: 4/5 (Epic storylines. Love, treason, courage,... it's all there.)
Quest Progression: 4/5 (Loads of phasing, less linearity than some other packs. Sometimes you'll need to explore to find some missed quests.)
Atmosphere: 4.5/5 (Variation, awesome locations and some of the best music in the game.)

Overall: 15.5/20
A must-have. East-Rohan has a lot speaking for it. The lack of an instance pack and new stuff to do at endgame hurts the content but it won't be included in the quest pack anyway. (It is included in the expansion.) The content is too easy so far and could use some (optional) difficult content.
Still, Riders of Rohan is one of the best quest packs out there, and the only reason to deter from buying it would be the fact that it's only for those at a high level.

(In hindsight it seems my Isengard quests review was slightly optimistic and I'd give it a 14.5. I'm not gonna go back and change that though.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Halls of Night review

The second of the separate instances you can buy. The halls of night is a 3-man for lvls 40-75.


The hillmen of Angmar have found a mysterious cave where it is rumoured great riches lie waiting.
Once you go inside and touch the remains lying there, a surprise awaits you!

First thing you'll notice is that you got a color. These are used mainly in one of the boss-fights but otherwise just make you look fancy.

There's a few different trash mobs here, namely one that saps your strength/speed, one normal mob and one spirit-spawning tomb.
Once you get past the initial mobs, you'll get to the arena for the final boss, though you don't have to fight him yet. First you have to kill the other 2 bosses and you get to choose which one to take down first.

Bosses

Both bosses, unlike being named quite fear-like don't really use fear at all so no pots are really needed.
The first boss is tank-and-spank, he'll make some weird damaging puddles, so try to keep him out of those.
The other one is more interesting, calling out a color that can damage him. The others who can't get to pound on spirits at the edge to get a damage bonus buff for the boss (once it's their turn to beat on him).

The final boss (back in the throne room) gets a rather large amount of adds so if you have trouble you'll want  to get rid of those tombs (mob-spawners) first.

On tier 2, he's just a bit stronger and you get the challenge not to kill some mobs, which is easy since they dont' aggro unless you go to them.


Price/Value: 1/5 (395 is quite a lot for a single instance. Again i'd wait until I had a way to cap.)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (A fun storyline though it feels a little disjointed at times.)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (Quite unlike other areas in the game. The downside is that there don't seem to be stars under you.)
Tactical: 3.5/5 (Not much in the way of tactics, it seems more could've been done with the colors.)

Overall score: 12/20

Again get this after you got everything else you want and at the least try and get a way to lvl cap first.
The biggest downside to these instances is they're rarely being run.



Friday, November 2, 2012

Inn of the Forsaken instance review

(You'll find that instead of quest progression, I'm using the tactical score which measures how interesting the instance is.)
Recently, I managed to get my hands on the 2 instances that are to be purchased separately and got to run them a few times. First up is the Inn of the Forsaken, a 3-man for lvls 20-75.



Inn of the Forsaken (20-75)

This lvl 20-75 scaling instance takes place in, but mostly under, the Forsaken Inn. The inn is the perfect lodging for anyone travelling east, but lately those sleeping there have been plagued with strange noises coming from the basement. It features an (imo) interesting story which can be pieced together by finding journal pieces.

This instance is quite different from the others, featuring more puzzle-like gameplay than normal combats.
There's a lot of different objects you'll find here, some of which can only be used by certain classes.


Gimmicks

The single non-boss mob is spawned by destroyable bone-piles, so be sure to go after those first.
There are 2 types of traps in this instance as well. Spike-traps that trigger when you (or any other creature) walk over them and the spinning blade-traps use tile-triggers on the ground.
It's time to use your emotes when you want to get past the riddle-doors, which can have one of over to 80 different riddles!
There are also (as mentioned earlier) some objects that can only be used by some classes (they're divided in different groups: lore, aware and brawn). There're trap mechanisms (temporarily stop traps), incantation stones (a magical effect happens) and runetablets (which give info) and suspicious walls (can be broken).

One other fun thing to mention is the water slide which leads to an awesome arena for the end fights.

The bosses

The tier 1 boss requires a bit of strategy as you'll need to use the traps to your advantage as they can break his shield and stop his skills.

If you're running tier 2, you'll get to fight an additional boss, who turns the tables and uses the traps against you!

Price/Value: 1/5 (395 is quite a lot for a single instance. I'd wait on getting this until you have at the least a way of getting to cap.)
Storyline: 4/5 (Quite a nice storyline. A good amount of details and interesting bosses. Only downside is that it doesn't really tie in to the lore or any other story.)
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 (Going down you'll notice the gradual change from masonry and tomb-like structure to natural caverns. The riddle-doors look awesome as does the end-area. Downside is that you've seen tombs a lot already.)
Tactical: 5/5 (Though you don't need it, there's a lot of stuff that'll make you want a varied group. The traps are unique and the bosses are interesting.)

Overall score: 13.5/20

Get this after you got everything else you want and at the least try and get a way to lvl cap first.
The biggest downside to these instances is they're rarely being run.




Monday, October 22, 2012

Riders of Rohan pre-review

The 15th was the release of Riders of Rohan, Turbine's newest expansion to Lotro. While it is a bit early for a review, it might be interesting to give some first thoughts for those still doubting on whether or not the expansion is worth it. Once I've done all of the content and experienced endgame, I'll be writing a big review.


After waiting for the patch to complete and then a long time at Examine Data in the patcher, I finally found myself logged into my lvl75 captain and ready to explore the new content.

The first new thing I noticed not even being in Rohan yet (not even being in the game yet!) is the new character selection music. It's not bad at all, but I'd have preferred it to be slightly less "epic" and like every other mmo out there. Anyway, that's not why I'm here, I gotta check out Rohan.

mandatory picture of the Argonath
There's 2 ways to get into Rohan (through the epic and through the intro quest) and on this character, I decided I'd follow the epic. Ported to my milestone in Stangard (new icon) and rode north to lothlorien.
One thing I noted during the new epic is that phasing seems to be used more than ever. There are also quite a few interesting session plays, having you witness key points in the story.

Now Rohan isn't all about the epic, that's free anyway. The biggest changes are open tapping, mounted combat and the location of Rohan itself.

Open tapping
Immediately when you enter Rohan and select a mob, you'll be informed that it uses the open tapping system. This boils down to that if you even damage the enemy in the slightest form, you'll get rewarded for it. No need to form a party or wait turns for killing a mob.
While travelling the lands of Rohan, I've seen (and had benefit) from this system quite a lot. Waiting together for a boss to respawn and then just attack him both instead of queueing, killing mobs together on the fly,...
Overall, it seems like a good system (in the short while I played), though I can see why it could be abused.

Mounted combat

Once you get your mount (you'll reach the location from either of the starting points) after doing the rather big    questline for it, you'll notice that it's different than normal mounts. A warsteed handles kinda differently from normal steeds. A good comparison is that of a car. You have acceleration rate, max speed and have speed affecting your turns. You can even drift if you want.

The warsteed tutorial does a good job explaining stuff. First thing I did though was toggling the slowdown upon release option. That really makes a big difference. Fighting enemies on your horse is unlike anything in the game and is great.

The only downside is that it feels a little easy and needs getting used to.

Warbands

Warbands are a group of mobs and a boss riding through the fields of Rohan. They'll be noted with a red arrow on your minimap. Some can be soloed, others are for raid groups. The quests are daily and give boxes (like presents) that contain some random reward. Got a few marks and 5 ore myself but I've heard someone got a horse skin from one.

Rohan

The main attraction may seem like it is mounted combat, but Rohan itself certainly deserves the spotlight. It is open, yet not so open as you may expect. There's forests, open plains, ridges and fast currents. The villages and settlement might seem like they come straight out of Skyrim, but that's just how the style is in the books as well. (And there could be worse comparisons than Skyrim.)

Quests

There are a lot of awesome quest lines in Rohan (at least those I have done). Playing games with kids has to be one of my favorites. The pop-up quests (where you locally accept/complete the quest) are nice as well, offering some quick rewards. Some of the storylines get as awesome as the epic story.

Inventory

-autoloot:
This may not seem like much, but autoloot has to be one of the best things in Rohan. If you ever needed to get to a corpse (as ranged or with one of those fleeing mobs) you'll know it's sometimes impossible to do so without getting agro. This feature also saves a lot of time, especially for ranged classes.

-overflow bag:
This combined with the above is heaven. It's like 50 extra bag slots for free. What it does is this: Every item you pick up after filling your inventory gets put here, where it'll disappear after a 1h timer. This means you can save a lot of space with trophies, crafting ingredients and li's getting stored here until you can make your way to a vault/store/taskboard.

Music

The music by Chance Thomas is great. There're some earwurms among the pieces and thanks to the music change (music won't just get cut off anymore) you get to listen to larger parts of them. The only (personal) gripe I have is the reuse of Tom Bombadil's theme, which I'd rather keep with Tom just so he can have his own track.

Concluding

What I've seen of Rohan entices me to explore more of it. The new systems are definitely a nice addition though they might need a bit tweaking here and there.
Of course, there's still a large part of Rohan I need to explore (in particular Hytbold, the endgame content) and later we'll also get the instances included in the expansion. Rohan will probably get a high score.

Forth Eorlingas!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to get past Examining data (since RoR)

The Rohan launch hasn't been the smoothest in history (and not the worst).
A lot of people had trouble getting in game, since the launcher would get stuck at examining programs.

Some people suggested it was the update servers getting overloaded and while this seems plausible it isn't what was really wrong!

Finally, some attentive users found out that one of the .dat files was the cause and removing it would get it to update and get past the dreadful message.

Here's what to do:

1) Go to wherever you installed lotro (c:\program files\Turbine\The lord of the rings online for most) look at the files and try to find a .jnrl file

2) Create a temp folder and put in the jnrl file and the .dat file of slightly the same name.

3) Open the launcher and check if it gets past Examining data and start updating!
If this isn't the case, try removing every .dat file to the temp folder and put them back one by one (checking the launcher in between) until you find the offending file.

4) If you have a previous install somewhere, you can copy the old version of the .dat file to the main folder. This'll cut down on the download size.

5) If you get done, grats and have fun in rohan!


(On a sidenote, my offending file was client_highres_aux_1.dat)


Added part

It seems this doesn't fix it for all people, so here are some more things you can try. I know it gets annyoing if you're on limited connection/dl cap (I am as well). This might also work for people getting the 102 error.

-Move the Forward folder away
-Rename the Highres dat files
-Make sure all the .dat files are in your folder. They are:

  • client_anim
  • client_cell_1
  • client_cell_2
  • client_gamelogic
  • client_general
  • client_highres (optional)
  • client_highres_aux_1 (optional)
  • client_map_1
  • client_map_2
  • client_mesh
  • client_sound
  • client_surface
Now I'm not sure about this but I think that if they're gone lotro will just download a new file for you. If it doesn't, making an empty version using notepad might help. (haven't tested this.)


-If all else fails uninstall en install :(

Friday, October 12, 2012

Alteil Resurrection


Few people might actually know this game, but I've always been kinda intrigued by Alteil. An online card game where you have actual control over your cards is rare and ones with art as good as Alteil's are even rarer. That's why I was delighted to hear that it's risen from the dead.



This is actually old news as it's been in pre-release from 7/10 (which means only people who already have an account can play right now) with the actual release coming in just less than 2 weeks.

What is Alteil?

Alteil is, as it describes itself, a story-driven online browser-base ccg. You choose a starter, play a few matches, get new cards and slightly get better and better at it.

Spheres


Alteil has 4 spheres or factions, each has a level that can be raised during a match (using sp). All have a certain specialty though they can always go outside of their usual style.
These are:
-Refess (Yellow): Buffs, self-heals and sturdy units, some benefit from dawn or noon time of day.
-Lawtia (Purple): Sp-draining, graveyard manipulation, a lot of them benefit from night time.
-Gowen (Red): Straight-forward damage and rank-up (buffs that activate once you have a certain sphere lvl)
-Falkow (Blue): Crowd control, return and high speed.

Game-field

Each player has access to a 3*3 field where he can place units. Using the units you summon, you have to defeat the opponent's army and take down his life points. Beware though, as doing so activates soul skills which can turn the tide of battle.

Art

One of the biggest draws of Alteil is the art, which is drawn by a number of well-known artists of Gundam, Code Geass and other fame. While this means the style varies from card to card, it also means that each card is an artwork in its own right.

homepage: http://www.alteil.com/


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Challenging yourself: When the game is not enough

As I said in my dwarf fortress post, sometimes players have to challenge themselves. Maybe there was no clear goal from the start, or the intended goal isn't the only thing that can be achieved.
Finding additional challenges that were or weren't intended by game developers is as old as gaming itself. Even in the earliest days, people were seeing how big of a streak, speedrun or extra difficulty they could put into a game.



Game developers often provide ways to challenge a player with difficult content or a difficult boss. Sometimes though, that's not enough. You mastered every aspect of the game but feel like you want even more. Some people eventually find something else to occupy themselves with, contend themselves to waiting for the next release or just start again from scratch.
Others though, feel they should try and test their true skills at a game and seek out challenge to do that.
Often these challenges deviate from the original purpose of the game and come up with interesting strategies not even the developers could predict.

Types of challenges

There are several types of challenges you or the developer can impose upon you. I'll put them in different categories:

-Limiting: limiting challenges are challenges that (as the name says) have the player put certain limits on what features they use. For example: not using items, magic, party members, only 1 gun type (usually the weakest or most interesting),...

-No advancement: Several genres (especially rpgs, but also shooters or rts'es) have one way of advancement. Challenges like these involve the act of abstaining from any progression of the sort. This usually means your character is ridiculously weak compared to the difficulty of the content. Resulting is the player needing to devise several complicated strategies to finish (or get past) the more difficult fights.

-Speedrun: Exactly what it says on the tin. A player will rush through the game's main story as fast as possible. This usually involves skipping as much of the content as possible. In games with a big level ramp, this is almost always combined with a low-level run.

-Permadeath:  The act of removing your character/save once you die once. Done a lot in online games but also possible in offline games. A lot of people find this hard because they get attached to a character they've put a lot of time in, but others find this one of the draws. Your playstyle will evolve to be more careful, the tension is a lot bigger as the stakes are higher and the sense of achievement upon completing this challenge is immense.

-Soloing group content/superbosses: Most games have a few hidden superbosses or (in the case of online play) content that is designed for more than one player. These are usually intended by the developer.

-Physical limitations: An out-of-game challenge. You limit yourself to using a limited set of your motoric skills. Playing blind, using one hand, keyboard/mouse-only,... are examples of these challenges.

-Combination: Not really a challenge type, but you can combine any of the above types (or anything else you can think of) to form some kind of superchallenge.

Lotro tie-in

As an example, here are some ways to challenge yourself in lotro:
-reach cap while playing permadeath (highly challenging for some classes, for others not so much)
-reach cap in as fast a time as possible
-play your class while only using a limited set of your skills
-solo combat elites, masters,... (easier for some classes than other)
-solo an instance (again easier for some classes)
-only do orange or higher quests (within reason of course)
-only use mediocre or bad equipment, while not playing to the strength of your class (e.g. cappy, using sword and board, wearing no barter armour)
-only use what you find/make yourself (no trading)
-any combination of the above

Turbine has (afaik) only put 2 challenges in the game:
-Permadeath: the undying titles, reaching lvl 20 without dying (which isn't that hard).
-No advancement/Limiting: chicken play: where you get to face all the dangers of the world ... but as a lvl 1 chicken.

Also: (Warning! TvTropes link!) Tvtropes has a bunch of pages on the subject: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SelfImposedChallenge.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dwarf Fortress: Big amounts of Fun

Unless you never bother with this type of stuff, chances are you've heard of Dwarf Fortress before.
In this post, I'm going to give a short overview of the game/simulator and available addons.


What?
The first thing I ought to do is try to define what Dwarf Fortress is. It's a game, yeah sure. But it's also a simulator and a pretty powerful one at that. Most people start out generating a world. At this early point already, the program outdoes others by not simply generating a random map, but generating an entire history, mythology and applying things like continental drift, disasters, ... all by following the rules of physics.


Once you properly embark, you'll notice that each of your dwarves not only has basic behaviour, but deep psychological profiles which are critical to the succes of your endeavour.
To provide an example of the kind of depth it goes to: each limb and part of a creature (up to fingers and toes) has its own separate status and health bar.
I could go on and on but there's so much ridiculous detail that you should just experiment and find out yourself.

2 modes
Dwarf fortress provides 2 game modes:
Fortress mode
Adventure mode

In fortress mode, you start with a few dwarves and you try to establish a colony (or not) that survives for as long as possible (or not) until Fun comes along.

Adventure mode places only a single dwarf under your control and has you travel around, kill monsters (or anything else) and other stuff.

The goal
Stonesense
Any goal in dwarf fortress is imposed by yourself. While not technically having goals, there are some things that players will want to try:
-Set up a small working colony of dwarves
-Expand that colony until you're producing less basic stuff
-Challenge yourself by making intricate constructions or doing self-imposed challenges
-Have Fun

Add-ons
Any player starting out (and playing) will acknowledge that dwarf fortress has a steep learning curve. There is not tutorial to speak of and many first fortresses have gone under before even getting started.
Other players will get turned away because of the ascii graphics.

Don't despair however as the game has been open for modding a long time and has a lot of useful add-ons that'll make life easier. Some add graphics to the game, others help monitoring your dwarves.

Lazy Newb Pack UI
One useful pack for those who don't want to bother is the Lazy Newb Pack which incorporates a lot of useful utilities and graphic sets.

Final Words

All in all, dwarf fortress is a highly interesting game, featuring a lot of awesome and Fun stuff. The amount of depth is incredible and you can definitely have hours of fun trying to get your dwarves not to die (or the opposite).
It can be difficult your first time through, but by following a (couple) of tutorials, trying stuff and having all kinds of hilarious disasters, you'll slowly get better and discover all sorts of awesome stuff to do.

homepage: http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/
wiki tutorials page: http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/Tutorials





Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Drawing for fun - part 2: the other 2 drawings


The other 2 drawings have be finished. Using the same techniques as described in the previous post to weld them together and clean them up.


The dragoon's spear:


I started out with a basic spear design and added the dragonhead and ribbons to make things more interesting.

The dark blade:


For this one, I started from the idea of a corrupted sword. This means that while the basic shapes of the sword are still visible, the darkness (in the form of roots/tentacles and an aura) is overcoming the once knightly sword.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Who wants to go to Egypt?

Inspired by Heksen, Duivels En Andere Geesten. Verhalen Uit Seppes Kelder (witches, devils and other spirits. Stories from Seppe's basement. Dutch only), I decided to get a bit into the name of this blog and warn you all against going to Egypt. Here're 3 reasons:



1) The devil holds court in Egypt

While the devil is usually not bound to a location or to an extra-planar hell, in some old tales, the devil - and his cohorts - holds court, meetings or festivities under the desert in Egypt. They dine upon the flesh of humans and have "wine" while doing all kind of nasty stuff.

2) Mummies will curse you

It is common knowledge that any trespassers and graverobbers not only get arrested but also become afflicted with the mummy's curse. Bad luck, ill omen and even death awaits those who anger the guardians of the ancient tombs!

3) There are nameless things beneath the sands

As with other weird tales, Lovecraft often wrote about the mysteries surrounding the desert and ancient graves of the pharaoh's.
In 'Under the pyramids', the main character (Harry Houdini) is trapped in a temple under the sphinx and witnesses the hybrid mummies (half man, half animal) under the rule of a great necrotic queen, worshiping the beast whose great yellow paw is only briefly seen.
In several other works, Nyarlathotep is featured, who is often described as having features akin to a pharaoh as well as sporting the hotep suffix, which is Egyptian. In the eponymous story, he even  explicitly comes from Egypt.


Let it thus be known to all that Egypt is a dangerous place and one should take care of their soul and well-being when travelling these forsaken lands!

(Note that I don't really want to discourage people going to Egypt. It's a nice country and you shouldn't take any of this too seriously.)



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Drawing for fun - part 1


Lately, I've been trying to get myself into drawing, using a combination of hand (with pencil) and computer (photoshop with a drawing tablet).

The idea is that I'll make 3 drawings of weapons and turn them into some kind of wallpaper. All 3 will have a different color theme. These weapons are kinda staples of the generic fantasy realm, namely:
-The holy axe (green)
-The dragoon spear (red)
-The dark sword (blue)

For each weapon, I also devised a (small) background story.
-The axe isn't just a generic holy axe, but is closely tied to the forces of nature.
-The spear has a high ceremonial nature but is usable as a weapon
-The sword used to be a generic (knightly) twohander, but has been taken over by dark forces.

I started with the holy axe, for no other reason than that I wanted to.
On paper, I usually try a rough sketch of what it looks like, as I can always change many things once going digital. I used A3 paper because it's sufficiently large and I still had some lying around.



Now, the problem with A3 paper is that most people, including me, don't have an A3 scanner at home and while I could go to a copy center to get it done there, it's usually cheaper if you just scan it at home.

First off, I scanned the 2 halves separately, making sure to have a tiny bit of overlap as that'll make it easier to merge them.
In photoshop, open the 2 files and drag them into a big enough file where you have sufficient space to move them around. Putting the half on the upper layer slightly opaque helps with positioning.

Now, using careful gumming at the edges and slightly repositioning the halves using the arrow keys, you should be able to make a nice seamless file. I ended up with this:



As a closing, some hints:

  • Try having more than one pencil hardness available. Switching these up can help with depth.
  • Try having a definite outer line that's slightly thicker all around and around parts of the drawing that stand upon themselves. (For example, the entire axe has an outline, but the different parts - shaft, blade and point - as well.)
  • Draw big. It allows for better detail as you can downsize it later.
  • Scan in a high resolution (about 300 dpi is good). 
  • If your drawing comes out too light, try balancing the levels with ctrl+l (when using photoshop).
  • You can either shade with your pencil or on pc, either works.

In the next issue, I'll go over the first coloring of the axe, just adding basic color and some minor lighting.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Saruman the many-coloured

Lotro is a nice game for many reasons, but one that is mentioned the most is the lore. While some breaks from lore happen and others can't be avoided, there are times when you encounter something that makes you think "Turbine really did a good job on this one".

One such encounter (imo) is your meeting with the Wizard Saruman. While not strictly lore-friendly (though it isn't mentioned that others haven't fought him), his appearance and clothes are what really show that Turbine looks at their source material.

Saruman delivers us this characteristic line:
"White! It serves as a beginning. The white page can be overwritten. The white cloth can be dyed, and the white light may be broken."
He wears a white robe when seen from afar, but on closer inspection, you'll find him wearing something of many colours. It represents his downfall from chief of the order to his own (and partly Mordor's) team. Quite a literal interpretation of showing your true colours.

This is how he looks from a distance in game:

Looks white to me, though a bit dirty


Taking a closer look, we see:

Subtle rainbows
I like it when Turbine does stuff like this, they could have just made his robe white or plain many-colored, but instead they made this. (Yet of course there are always complainers. Can't please them, can we?)

Have you encountered situations like this where you found yourself surprised about the details in Lotro? Let me know in a comment.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Learning to code with CodeAcademy

Aside from playing Lotro, being a moderator for Pandimus and generally mucking about, I'm also a bit of a coder. Now if there's one thing I like to do it's learning more about it! That's how websites like this Code Academy fit in.



'Now why would anyone want to learn to code?' I hear you ask. Well, aside from the fact that you're learning something new, you learn (partly) how your computer works under the hood, or you get to mod stuff in your favorite game, or you can see it as brain training.
Either way, you can always get a book on the subject, but in the end, there's that having a a site like this is handy is good for a different amount of reasons.
Let's look at some of the features that make this site nice and fun to use.




As you can see from the picture, CodeAcademy features an editor with  interpreter, because nothing teaches better than actually seeing the things you learn in practice. It has an active error-checker, which marks most common mistakes as you make them. You can always ask for hints or check the QA or Glossary.




As of writing, you can learn basic Javascript, Python, Web-based coding (Html and css), the JQuery library and website creation. All of these courses are constantly under revision to improve them.




With each completed exercise, you gain points to increase your score, earn badges to show off and build up a streak that can go on for days. You can log in using your google , facebook or twitter (or a local account), or just try it out without one.


Even if you find coding dull (keep telling yourself that), it's hard to pass up on learning something you normally wouldn't.