Hindsight: The Sword Coast Pt. 2

Last time I was delving into the depths of retro games rereleased I came to these conclusions:

  • Models look alright for a game by today’s standards if zoomed out. The textures though are just awful.
  • Things get too small, doors are easy to miss.
  • It is unforgiving like not many a game is today.

I mentioned, not so much in passing, my problems with choosing the people that I spend my journeys with.
Starting from the top, I could never leave my sister Imoen. The look on her face when I tell her to go, and stay away. I wouldn’t be able to bear that. Also, knowing beforehand that our fates are intertwined why would I let her go, playing lawful good that is. Otherwise I should’ve thought to kill her in the crib.
Khalid and Jaheira promised to stay with me as a favor to Gorion. Jaheira is really good with that druid stuff, and it’s too bad that she comes with the baggage of Khalid.
Finally, Minsc, which I have already spoken lengths about. It just wouldn’t be Baldur’s Gate without him.

This leaves but one slot for any other character. Realizing that this might be one of those things of nostalgia hindering me from looking at the game with new eyes I made the retro-emotion equivalent of hara kiri and dropped Khalid and Jaheira. Picked up Branwen, the lady in stone, and Rasaad, the monk. First time I ever had a monk in my party, and having no clue how they work I let him roam around, getting killed a lot.
Changing the characters made me realize that all of the characters lack serious depth. I get the reason why Branwen joined me, but that is the end. The new character Rasaad has more to give, as he is a new addition to the game and surmounts the standards of yesterday. But apart from the few quests that are personal like Minsc or Edwin there really is nothing to get from the characters. Having played Shadows of Amn, I know that it is improved there, but I guess I have to submit defeat to Mass Effect on that point. The characters there always seem to have something to say. Never liked the way you have to run around camp or ship talking to your crew though, seems too much like a cheap way of extending a game.

Leaving the trouble of fellowship we venture deeper into the plot. The Iron Throne that seems to lurk behind every band of mercenaries there are. On the way though the terrain I notice that almost every quest is a bit tacky. There’s the strange quest where you fetch a little girls cat from the waterfall, or the boy who lost his dog and turns out to be a demon. The dialogue is more of a joke at times, only really being serious in the main quest line. It is as expected though, being a game so thoroughly grounded within nerd culture.

////;::::;\\\\   ß This is as much of a picture of a spider as you will ever get from me.

I hate spiders. They are just a big mess of legs and eyes. Disgusting. And they are everywhere, in every fantasy game ever. The Sword Coast isn’t spared their presence. Following the main plot, I find myself in the spider infested forest, with the sick abomination that is phase spiders. They’re spiders that can walk between the Planes as they wish! If you were afraid of spiders before, just wait till they pop out of thin air and start munching on your back.

The fat man in the hut was cursed by Jon Irenicus! I’ve never picked up on that before. So apparently, there’s more connection to the sequel than I remembered. Rasaad has more since he’s from Athakatla and added later. But that doesn’t count.

Speaking of Rasaad, the Monk class is pretty much rubbish, balanced for the sequel none of the good abilities are within any xp reach. The extra speed often puts him in awkward situations. He’s an interesting bloke though, we’ll see if he stays around.

And speaking awkward speeds. The Boots of Speed are awesome. But only one character can wear them, so I have Minsc running around like crazy everywhere. Thought that I’d use haste for the party to keep up. But apparently they stack creating something very similar to a hamster.

I did rethink my actions and didn’t flush the mines with the workers still inside. And now – to Baldur’s Gate!

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Tales from Tibia

Korak was new in town, a newly graduated sorcerer from Rookgaard who’d chosen to move to the mainland and start his career as an adventurer. Rookgaard had been his home for a while now, it was a small island away from the dangers of the Mainland where a soon-to-be adventurer could hone his skills. Korak had proven himself worthy in battles against the Orcs and as an outstanding cheese and pelt-trader. The interest in the noble practice of a Sorcerer was something he and his friends all had in common. Being able to shoot fireballs and deal death from a far spoke to them more than any arrow or sword ever did. His friends who’d left their training before all live in the northern city of Carlin where they made their living by rune-crafting or taking the ferry over to the cold ice-covered island Folda seeking items to trade.

He’d spoken to his friends Aqualizer, Jaggan and Wolfoz before hand and they were all highly awaiting his arrival. Having heard stories of the rampant crime and mischief that went on in the bigger cities he couldn’t help to feel a bit nervous before his permanent move away from his safe training-grounds. As he went to speak to the teleportation-statue he made sure that everything went as planed, he’d been planing his speech before hand going over it again and again in his head. Even-though he’d gone here before as his friends moved away this time was different. The echo from the statue might have been louder in this empty hall this time, and Korak had his friends in mind as he resisted his well-practiced speech.

The transport went fast and within seconds he was greeted by his friend Wolfoz on the other side of the teleport. His new home Carlin was bigger than he could have imagined. People were running up and down the cobblestone roads and treasure could be seen on display from the many apartment balconies. This was without a doubt the big city.

Wolfoz took Korak on a tour through the city showing of the sorcerer quarters where he could learn his new spells which he needed to survive and thrive in his new environment. The ability to light up his surroundings was something he liked, but he couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as he was promised greater magic tricks. They moved on and Korak was shown the sewer-system underneath the city where Korak would have to face of against multiple bugs before going north to Folda or east to the Goblin controlled Femor Hills. The tour ended outside of the city center, the depot where all your equipment, items and money was could be stored safely. The area was filled with people of all classes and with a variety of different languages. Droids were standing around eat fish, chatting with one an other as they were crafting runes of magical healing. Traders were screaming out prices for special loot they’d gathered or whole bags filled with magical runes. Criminals were trying to scam people for money or causing general mischief kicking bags of junk around the city crossing.

Aqualizer appeared as the tour had ended and the friends went for a drink of wine on the roof of a nearby apartment building. Jaggan would not be able to join the group as he was away adventuring, but the three friends managed to have a nice time out in the open anyway. Being as excited as he was Korak drank plentiful of the red beverage and would fill several flasks with the alcoholic drink. The three friends would talk about the new world they had found themselves in and of parts of it that for them was still left unseen. They talked of the city of the Elves to the east and the mines of the Dwarfs south of there. And beyond that was the capital, Thais, even bigger than Carlin.

Even though Korak was fresh to Carlin, and had not seen as much of it as his other friends he also wanted to go explore these places. The move to the big mainlands and the city of Carlin was exciting but he wanted to know what else was beyond the horizon, not just go and visit the hunting areas surrounding his new home. It might have been the wine talking but he wanted freedom to explore and journey through the land after all that time spent in Rookgaard fighting orcs and trading cheese. He stood up and felt his legs weak after all the alcohol he had consumed shouting. “Let us visit with them elves, raid the dwarfs of their precious beer and have a grand feast in the city of Thais.” Wolfoz and Aqualizer stared at the drunk buffoon on the end of the table who’d until now had stayed rather quite with his wine in hand. The two wiser more experienced magicians exchanged eye-contact and then stood up, a lot more controllable than Korak and agreed to journey south.

The party of adventurers left the roof to pick up what ever equipment they needed for their new-found quest. Aqualizer search through his packed chest full of useful items, backpacks of runes to sell and food. It was well-organized through a system of chests and easily maneuverable if you knew how the storage system worked. Wolfoz took Korak to the pond in the park and using a newly purchased fishing rod Korak started to learn the valuable art of fishing. It wasn’t easy though he quickly learned the basics, as Wolfoz caught fish after fish on his fishing-hook. Aqualizer meet them at the pond and now, with his equipment and Wolfoz’s fish they were ready to leave the safety of the city and journey out into the wilderness. Korak took a flask of wine to his mouth as he waved good-bye to the guards on the wall surrounding his newly found home.

Under their feet the mud road run long, it stretched from Carlin away beyond the Femour Hills to the Elven City of Ab’Dendriel, their first destination. In the forests on the side of the road deer could be spotted running among the overgrown trees and bushes. If you go of the main road to far you’ll also encounter the Amazon warriors which roam the uncivilized parts in the northern regions of Tibia. The band of sorcerers heavily consumed the wine and fish as they traveled and soon found all the food had been eaten, and they hadn’t even reached their first goal on the journey yet.

As they got further east the Fumour Hills started to rise up from the ground. This was the place of Goblins, Orcs and worse, Cyclopes. This was place for novice sorcerers to hunt. Ill-minded adventurers could easily trick them onto the wrong path, lead them into the grips of a giant palm just to be able to steal from their dead corpses.

Eventually they reached Ab’Dendriel. This was a city built by nature with green walls covered in tree branches and vegetation. Korak’s first impression of the city was how bad it looked. It looked like an unattended garden left uncontrolled for years. The grass was uncut, the trees reached too far and took too much space. There was no structure to the city and he didn’t want to spend anymore time walking along its grassy trail. There were even tree roots growing across it and he had to make sure not to fall on them in his slightly altered state of mind.

Some meat was bought from the elves and then the party went on to down south towards the great mountain of Kazordoon wherein the city of the Dwarfs can be found. On one side of the road they still had the Femour Hills and on the other the Ocean. Korak blurred out hatred towards the Elves and said that Wolfoz probably could have caught some fish here straight out of the ocean.

The mountain started to take form and in the distance the three friends could see its giant wall rising up, the peak covered in the clouds. The road lead them into a narrow pass through the mountains, the pass was so narrow that on some places you would have problems going through if there were other groups of people coming from the opposite direction. The air was cool in here and not much sunlight got through. From the top of the mountain melting snow ran down the mountain walls and drops fell onto their heads.

There were many different path to take as they moved south through the pass some so narrow that they wouldn’t be able to pass through or paths made shut due to cave-ins. They walked for a long while and read yet saw no sign of any civilization or a Dwarven city. Tales of dragons occupying curtain caves in the mountains sent chills up the sorcerers spine. The wine was now gone and not much food remained from Ab’Dendriel and their feet ached after all the steps onto the hard mountain underneath. After awhile they noticed that the mountain over their heads started to descend again down. The pass began to open up and they realized that they’d walked through Kazordoon yet not seen any sign of the city.

Up ahead was a bridge, this was near the center of the mainland which separated the southern parts including Thais and Venore from the northern areas which they had traveled from. They cursed themselves and questioned whether they’d seen any leads of civilization as they walked through the pass. The question came up whether to continue towards Thais and skip the raid for the Dwarven ale or if they should go back into the mountain pass and maybe from this direction they would see it. A vote was cast, Aqualizer voted to leave the Dwarfs behind and get down to Thais before it got late. Wolfoz was interested in the dwarfs and wanted the chance to meet with this strange beings who choose to spend their lives underground. Korak wanting to stick to his plan and get some alcohol into his sobering body adjusted his backpack and started to walk back the way they’d came.

It all looked pretty much the same from this angle as well when the came so deep into it that the sunlight couldn’t break through. They were all a bit grumpy now and the long journey had turned out to be a lot more tiring than they had hoped. Walking for a while not finding any entrance they decided to try the next opening of the pass they could find. Weaning of the road they’d stayed on since the journey started they found themselves in a narrow crack in the mountain wall which lead them to a hole in the ground. Aqualizer had his doubts about this being the way to the dwarf city underneath. Korak, being too bored of the journey not living up to his expectations went down to explore the lower levels of the mountain and then signaled up to the others to come down.

They went deeper and deeper into the mountain until they reached a large cave. There didn’t seem to be any dangerous creatures down here and the group continued until they come upon an opening in the cave wall. Surprisingly the sunlight hit the adventurers faces. There were a small patch of grass with trees and bushes surrounded by water outside of the cave. Unaware of where they’d ended up the group went out of the cave to have a look around the area.

A strange man approach them after a while speaking in a strange tongue unknown to the group. It was a hunter equipped with a bow wearing rare and expensive looking armor. He was angrily motioning for the group to leave him alone, from the look of it he’d been here alone for a long time. Korak, Wolfoz and Aqualizer didn’t care much for the incomprehensible man and started discussing where they were suppose to move on from here. After some arguing they decided to trace their steps back into the mountain and try again from there.

Walking back towards the cave entrance a deafeningly high sound hit them together with a smell of ash and death. The cave was bright and colored with a red blaze in-front of them. A thick black smoke towered towards the sky from the hole in the mountain and out of it came a huge beast at high-speed running towards them. Green scales covering its body from the tip of its large tail, across its stomach and over its face. Two piercing eyes fixed on the three friends and large fangs made to hunt and kill bigger victims than these tiny humans. It was a dragons cave they’d gone through, and to have passed through it once unscathed had made them three of the luckiest men in all of Tibia but this time they wouldn’t have the same luck.

Gripped with panic the adventurers started to flee for their lives. Aqualizer and Korak away from the cave towards the hunter, and Wolfoz down away from the group. The dragon took a turn and started accelerating towards the lonely sorcerer. Filling its lungs with air the beast aimed for the soon to be dead body and sent out a wave of fire towards him. Korak couldn’t just stand still watching his friend burn to a crisp and clenched his swords, running towards the beast. Swinging his swords towards its thick scale didn’t have any effect upon the creature. The dragon took his sights away from the burning Wolfoz and streached its long neck. A small sigh like sound was the last thing Korak would hear before getting his body bitten into two halves between the dragons giant razor-sharp fangs.

Aqualizer would be the lone survivor from this unsuccessful quest to reach Thais. He had stood safely by the hunters side and as the dragon was done with his friends the stranger stretched his bow-string with a magical arrow and went into battle with the hellish creature.

THE END

Hindsight: The Sword Coast Pt. 1

As it happened, I was doing a favor for my grandmother restoring her laptop. They had created a recovery disc set which, to my knowledge, is a normal procedure. What I did not expect however is that it consisted of 15 CDs! And while I was sitting there, swapping discs I came to think of Baldur’s Gate. I wished that I hadn’t lost it somewhere, or scratched up all of the discs. However, later that day the Enhanced Edition was on sale on Steam. €4 for a great chunk of my childhood. Soon I decided to rediscover the Sword Coast and the Bhaal spawn. The main question being, does it still stand?

bg

The Enhanced Edition has had a face-lift in the menus, and I realize when I create my new character that all of the features in Shadows of Amn is in place. The character creation process is a fragile process, and I have to start over several times. I remember always picking a mage back then, and a paladin for Shadows of Amn due to the number of vampires you have to face. This time, I wanted to try out something I never tried before. It turned out as an Elf Archer. I’ve never had a character using bows for some reason. As I am to find out, it is highly beneficial.

I hurry through Candlekeep. I’ve been there so many times trying out so many of the classes. As I am playing a Lawful Good Character this time, I won’t kill any guards for their plate mails. Thorondil is bugged and won’t speak to me. Imoen and Gorions voices are so familiar. English not being my native language, some of the sounds didn’t make sense at all to the younger version of me. “Nestled atop the cliffs.”  For example, the first sound that you hear as you start the game didn’t make any sense to me. But still it brings back those feelings now that I understand what it was all about. An thinking about it just makes me want to reroll a new character. But then there would be no revisit.

Using all of the original textures and enabling scrolling was good enough of a compromise. The zooming creates two problems. The first being that the ground looks awful zoomed out, every texture minimized separately creating a weird pattern. The second is the much smaller areas that you have to hit.

I meet Khalid and Jaheira at the Friendly Arm Inn, and I know that it is to help new players finding characters to make up the fellowship, but most good characters are stuck with baggage. Like Khalid, he’s useless, and I guess that the game jokes about that fact. You keep him, and Jaheria since they were with you from the beginning. Making my way down south to Nashkel I meet Neera, one of the new characters, a wild mage femme fatale. And Minsc! Oh, there is nothing to hate about the ranger turned berserk with his giant miniature space hamster. Minsc, and Boo bring life to the game. It must be one of the greatest characters ever written. “Butt-kicking for goodness” and “Magic is impressive, but now Minsc leads! Swords for everyone!” and “Ahh… We are all heroes; you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!” are a few of the great quotes that they gives us.

minsc

Adding Minsc to my party posed a problem though. He comes with baggage. He desires to save Dynaheir whom he is supposed to be a body guard for, part of the Dejemma thingy. Nobody really cares, there is greater glory in the copany of Alorin. Trying to push away these thoughts I pursue the strange events of the Nashkel mine. Killing Mulahey is a lot easier than I remember it. And I don’t care about Xan, even though he has a cool flaming sword.

Down in the mine I am also struck by the unforgiving nature of the game. The first trap that most people walk into will kill you instantly. I recognize that there is a tutorial section now, but the game is generally unforgiving. Which is good really, I feel like we are in a time where the game has to teach you as it goes or have a tutorial. It kind of makes you stupid, or makes you feel that way. The tricks are so obvious if you know what to look for. Perched birds that fly away if the game is progressing as it should, tall ledges that you fall from so you know you can’t go back, the list goes on and it makes you sick playing a game where you see all these signs. GO THIS WAY –> (This is not a hint). That’s something to make a game about, go ahead steal the idea.

Using the Dungeon and Dragons rules makes you level up every now and then, as opposed to the games today where leveling up is all you ever do. If a character dies, you have to carry them back to a temple and pay for a resurrection. And your characters need to be at least level 9 to learn it, if they know priest spells.

Back to Dynaheir, I go to save her. Killing all the gnolls are easy as Minsc has them as his racial enemy. When we get up to save her she asks to join us, and I tell her no. Minsc leaves. This is a dilemma, I thought that I would play this game differently than usual. I still want to have this Wild Mage, never played one. A thought creeps up on me. From somewhere deep down. It might be from the part of me that is spawn of the God of Murder. What if, she did not exist. Surely that would solve things. I select my character and aim an arrow at her.

The arrow sings through the air and burrows deep in her flesh. Dynaheirs body falls lifeless to the floor. The silence and anticipation is thick.

Nothing. No reputation loss, not much loot. I talk to Minsc, who stood by her side as she fell. He is willing to join us again. I guess that hit to his head did more than I thought to his mind.

And I was that much closer to becoming what I was destined to become.

Now back to the ADVENTURE! Bobo, go get your own toilet paper, or send Gabe. I won’t be back for a while, I have a great work to do.

-Ken

The real future of gaming?

In the wake of E3 we find ourselves fed the industry’s vision of the future, the big reveals of the PS4 and the XBONE  Although some argue the number of actual consoles this generation. Some people think that this is the last console generation as such. Through Kickstarter we’ve received several new vistas for our gaming needs.

ouya01

The OUYA bringing back classics through an emulator in your living room. And some other Android-based games. With the much smaller price-tag (read one-fourth) of the PS4 and it’s vast library of games that are substantially cheaper. It shows that indie games are the next step in gaming.

Oculus-Rift-ps4

Many have awaited the arrival of the VR-headset, which has been a dream for many years. The Oculus Rift finally made it happen through kickstarter, and maybe with help of the resurrection of 3D film. While it is not a console in itself, and all console support is very speculative. It brings up the question on whether we need consoles. I think that we do, but that it depends very much on Sony and Microsoft not to make themselves a thing of yesterday. Living in the tablet age, nobody has a computer anymore, and a console is much cheaper if one desires gaming. I see huge potential in tablet and console removing the desktop from many homes.

sixense-wireless-dev-kit-hydra-2-2

Diving into VR, we really need to use our hands inside this new reality of ours. Using the controller or mouse and keyboard, just feels dull with the new-found dimension. Sixense might have just the thing to couple with our Rift. Maybe we will also see the rise of gun-controllers as the FPS is a very natural platform for VR.

Thalmic-MYO

The thing that I would want more than these controllers, though, is MYO. There’s no need for controllers, use your hands. There would be more opportunity to reshape the experience with a completely new interface. Just imagine skyrim with it, swapping spells by changing hand gesture just like in-game.

omni

This is one thing that excites me alot. I have had many ideas for different contraptions like this one in the past. The Omni is a little bit more clever than my sketches ever were. Translating your running, crouching, jumping into the game has always been a bit of a dream on my part. And now it is soon to be real, even though I probably won’t fit it in my living room or any other room for quite some time.

Imagine now that we had full PS4 support for these items, and that it was possible to play PC titles available today on it. No matter how unlikely that is. There wouldn’t even have to be any games designed for it, at least to begin with. Oculus Rift already has alot of support in Unity and Source. The Omni translates into keystrokes and could be plugged into any game out today. The MYO would be able to translate the gestures similarily. You could probably play at least HL2 after some tweaking, straight out of the box.

That would mean that in early 2014 you could get the whole VR dream package:

PS4 $399 + 2x MYO $298 + Oculus Rift $300 + Omni $448 = VR $1445 = £954 = €1113 = 9781 SEK

Which is quite a sum. But not considerably more than buying a “Real Gaming Computer”. And with some tweaking and modding, it would be available to anyone.

The future is at the gates.

-Ken