Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Portal 2, what wut!?

Ok, I finally got the monkey off my shoulder and finished Portal 2

Now the entire time that I was playing the game I thought "Well it's good, hell some parts are better than Portal, but there is just no way it could ever be better." And then I got to the end. And all I could say is ". . .", and then my brain decided that it would work again and it was "Ok I take it back it was amazing"

It is rather hard to describe how Portal 2 surpasses the original without spoilers. So to keep it short. The puzzle mechanics have increased tremendously it differs very much now, and eliminates most of those reflex orientated puzzles.

The area where Portal 2 truly shines is story. Portal never had much in terms of a story -although I enjoyed it greatly- Portal 2 explores areas that we never knew existed, and wondering how it factors into the Half-Life universe as a whole is puzzling. But that just leaves me wanting more from Valve.

Oh yes the ending of Portal 2 is far better than the original, except the theme song. I don't believe there can be a better song than Still Alive.

PS: In retrospect I realise that I could sum everything up by simply saying. Portal 2 is a most worthy sequel to Portal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

UPCON 2011, awesome here we come.

So the long adventure is drawing to a close. And by that I mean we're about to hit the longest stretch. With just under 2 weeks to go I'm starting to become a hermit, and by that I mean running around and yelling, actually politely speaking, to many many people.

The fact that UPCON is happening this year is actually close to a miracle, since there have been a substantial list of problems Old blog post on UPCON problems but in the end we managed to sort most of the problems out. Keeping in mind that post was back from January, so would be correct in assuming that at least a few more bugs came around for squashing.

So now all that is left to do is pull off an awesome con, and some stuff along the way.

Now I'll blather about some people who deserve more praise than can ever be said.

Firstly Herman and Shaun, our MTG and Wargaming reps respectively. These guys have been organising some massive stuff. We are hosting the Magic pre-lease at UPCON so that adds a lot to the Magic organisation. And this year we have had the largest registration for WH40K, ever! So big that we will in all likelihood have to find a larger venue for next years UPCON.

Marie for her continual tracking of module writers for the con, oh ye module blurbs here.

Grant for his continual support of gaming, UPCON, and general geek culture in South Africa. Ashley our treasurer for running around and pricing everything, as well as doing our shopping and making sure we have what we need.

Gordon and Mellisa, for their continual help and support of crazy ideas and help in keeping the TKV running.

Last but not least is Dina, she is very much the life blood of UPCON, if we renamed it to DinaCON I don't think anyone who has worked with the con for the past decade or so would mind. She has always come through and helped pulling us out of the dark and making sure the con happens, and happens correctly. This is especially so this year with the bugs that we have encountered.

And those who I surely have not forgotten, our dedicated and new UPCON goers. They, and very potentially YOU, are the reason we run around like loons, go prematurely grey, and various other weird and horrid things that happen to us. It is all for them and we think they rock.

To those who have and do contribute to UPCON, but have been omitted, from this post I offer my sincere apologies. But if you get in contact with me I shall make sure you are included when I do my next post about the con.

Thank You :)

UPCON 2011 RP Blurbs

Ok so here are the Blurbs for UPCON 2011. Please excuse them being on my blog, UPCON has kept me substantially busy to set up a proper website for the TKV. Also these are not all the blurbs, module writers are fickle, and untimely, creatures. But we love them :3


The Reef City:
By DD Mullany

Sometimes fools rush in where Angels fear to tread. This is perhaps more true than you would like to admit, adrift in time, thousands of years in the Past. The one benefit of this whole situation is that you now know why it is that you have never been able to detect any sign of your comrade Math Cuchen, these last five years. Somehow, he has been stranded in aeons past for all this time.

Still, his existence all these thousands of years before your present day is sending out ripples in the time/space realm and all of you must return before these very ripples become disastrous for the future that is your own. As it is, all of the warnings from the Agents of the Veil of Time that has sent you on this journey have been dire indeed.

But your Bard is a slippery customer and someone that falls foul of all manner of chance. Finding him is one thing, getting all of you back safely might be another thing entirely… Still, all of you are inventive, successful and experienced adventurers, what could possibly go wrong? A Greyhawk Module written for 3.x D&D Fantasy rules, using a modified D20 lite system for ease of play, for 4 or 5 experienced players of TPL 80.


The Veil of Time:
By DD Mullany

It has been a slow year in Dullstrand, the stark dusty hills and valleys soaking in the light rains that now seems something to depend on. The winds have dropped their relentless year-round onslaught and people are busy being… people.

Into this season of pleasant surprises, It seems nothing could spoil it for anyone… except something has. An old friend of yours, one Arlan Verba has come forth with a fairly remarkable tale, one so impossible as to be unbelievable. While you have often suspected Arlan Verba of being someone’s spy, all you have known up until now about this delicate subject is that Alan has never denied this.

So, not only does Arlan Verba drop a bombshell on you by finally revealing who he does report to, he also asks for assistance on a very private diplomatic matter, one which affects all of you and the whole of Dullstrand. After hearing what it is, never mind the Dullstrand Diplomats… this is personal!

The 4 or 5 experienced level PC’s will play in the Greyhawk World using a modified T20 system for D&D V3.x with a TPL of 70.


Ses van die Bestes 3 – Slag van Kuduvlei
System: Pokethulhu (D12)
Players: 5 - 6
Author: Jacques “Gork” de Jager

Thanks to the heroic actions of the Ses van die Bestes the world is safe once more! Now three years have passed since the end of the EGO wars. Mega corporations and governments have joined forces to battle the effects of the nuclear fallout that is ravaging the planet. Also new superheroes are being trained to thwart any new super villains and to prevent all out war from happening again!

But deep beneath the surface of the world slumbers a great evil and a mysterious group of people are moving in the shadows to awaken it. Only one man has discovered the truth of what is going to happen... And how to use the Ses van die Bestes for his own diabolical schemes. Will the Ses van die Bestes prevail once more? Find out in this exciting episode of Ses van die Bestes!


Complex 8472

By Gregg

System: Gamaworld 4E


Life’s been hard enough since the great disaster. No one knows exactly how or why it happened, but reality fractured, suddenly overlapping thousands of parallel universes all onto one. The result was “messy” to say the least, but you’ve been eking a living off what little talents you have had since the change. Now, to make matters worse, some nutcase in a giantrobot showed up and scooped you into his servo claw, cackling manically whilst ranting about some grand master design. Oh well, it could be worse. At least he hasn’t shoved you in some bizarre underground facility with five other mutants…


 A sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises

By Leslie Longman

“Blessed Celestial Hierophant, the power of Kiamast has swept away the shroud of Kasdual over the Valley of Narguz and the Eye of our Divine Master Surastrid can and has now revealed to us what transpired there.”
“Yes, Watcher?”
“Narguz perverted the usual Midsummer ritual and virtually all the people of the Valley died to fuel his ascent to godhood. Narguz has been removed from this plane by Kiamast and adventurers have slain Kasdual’s servant, the lich Lirgan, whose phylactery seems to have been destroyed. But there are some survivors who are being held by other worshippers of Kasdual for some fell purpose.”

“They must be rescued! It is only the second night after Midsummer and all six moons have waned little from their fullness. Alert the temple’s Brethren of the Moons and send them to Hadruun immediately.”
“As you command, Celestial Hierophant.”

A D&D 4ed module for six player characters (paragon tier).


It Takes One to Gnoll One.

by Rodney Sloan

It just takes one bad element to move into the village and the whole vale goes to the gnolls!

The sleepy town of Willowton never gets visitors, and they like it that way. So when a family move in from out of town and livestock starts disappearing, it doesn't take much of Mrs Lottie's rumor mongering to raise suspicions that the new comers are in fact gnolls. That begs the question... what the dark is a gnoll?

Play the part of would-be-heroes in a town where nothing ever happens, and then suddenly decides to. A slightly quirkier Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition game for one GM and 6 not so serious players.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not here . . .

I normally don't do the personal blog post. While I post my opinion, I don't do the introspective post. But this is different.

I just found out that a friend of mine has passed on. He was one of the few people who earned my complete respect and more. He seemed to know everything yet never was arrogant about it. He was kind and gentle and gave an ear and comfort. His death is truly one I mourn. And it would be at this time that I find the right words are not to be found.

Humanity has lost one of its greats, and it never even knew he was there.

So much has been lost with his passing. And nothing gained.

A tear spilled is too many
Men weep as nations
The light has ceased
They cannot see

Forget not time
No name in sands
Nor whisper of winds

Eternal are your rights
Moment our existence
But yours a moment
Too soon

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Magicka Review

Magicka is one of those satirical RPG games. Or something. Well in short it is awesome and I have never had so much fun and laughter from dying.

Magicka is as you could guess about the magical spell that one has at their disposal, these are earth, fire, water, ice, lightning, arcane, healing, and shield. These spells can be combined to give you other spells. So I could shoot a boulder at someone by using earth or I can shoot a molten piece of rock that explodes.

The controls are simply complex. And by that I mean they are simple but have a lot of depth to them. You cast a spell by clicking a corresponding key, fire is f, then you can use your right mouse button to cast it. But. You can hold shift and right click to do and aoe around you, you can shift and left click to charge it into your sword, or if your character has learnt a spell of awesome™ you can press spacebar to unleash it.

The audio provides a rather pleasant listening experience, and all the characters speak in a sort of simlish language leaving you to read speech bubbles.

Graphically the game looks great and the spells make you smile when they go of, and you feel the sheen of polish to the appearance to the game that just makes enjoyable.

The best part of the game, second to throwing "balls of magick™" is the story. And in case you didn't read the first line, it's satirical. The opening line of Magicka makes light of two of more of the most popular and influential RPGs to have existed, this continues with the meme reffence throughout the game and makes the inner nerd most happy

My only gripe is the saving, which would be the lack their of. When you reach a check point it doesn't save you there, so if you leave the game you start at the beginning of the chapter.

Oh and it's only $10 on Steam and a 700mb download. So have fun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Moving Forward. Why do we need money? And some more patent bashing.

I believe money is only a tool. Those who seek to increase their financial wealth gain nothing of value. Since money is only a man made concept. We could use shiny pebbles instead. In time your possessions will be outdate, your art collections fallen into utter obscurity, and your memory forgotten once your patent has died out. Information should be open.

I firmly believe that information should be open. Although everyone is entitled to their secret, and I like my privacy, as should you.  But why should the latest scientific discoveries only be available to those with millions of dollars to spend, when it can help so many.

I pose the question what if information was like open-source software? In a world where people band together communally and work to bring about an advancement of humanity. Perhaps this is just my inner Marxist speaking again. But money and material objects are not all there is. What remains once we are dead is our legacy. Perhaps only in some obscure manner but most people find inspiration in such manner. Find me a mathematician who does not know the names Euler, Gauss, Descartes. Or a game designer who doesn’t know about McGonigal, Carmack , Shigeru, Roper, or Newell. They are all nieces, but then so do we all exist in such.

We are a macrocosm of microcosms. All of which link in various ways to form new microcosm which are part of greater macrocosms, and all of them add up to the megacosm which is humanity. For instance, Indie Game Designer -> Game Designer -> IT People -> People. Or within your community that you live you find people that fall into varying professions, and lives. Now you have a microcosm that is your community, but the members of the community each belong to another microcosm. 

Ok now what is the point of my boiling into social structures. Simple. People have hobbies things they really like doing. Take for instance someone who likes gardening. What if instead of a boring secretary job they planted crops to feed their community. Now someone comes up with a great idea of how to increase productivity amongst these people, shares the information and everyone benefits.

Thus by an advance of a microcosm of gardeners have helped various microcosm communities. Now this eventually spreads. And your children learn of the Kempner farming method of increased productivity. But if Kempner patented the farming method, and only he got rich off it what happened to him in the end?

As much as we value money it is essentially worthless due to it constantly changing. What was a dollar 10 years ago are now 20. Imagine Hitler had conquered the planet. And it had been fixed since then that a loaf of bread was one frank. That means you could perfectly plan for retirement and made sure you had enough money. 

I’m not saying let’s all go commi - and also not saying go Hitler, - but let’s start being less douche about how we live. Draw inspiration from your fellow man, and say “How can I make it better, and how can I make it better for everyone” 

Oh and one more thing against patents. “The idea that I can be presented with a problem, set out to logically solve it with the tools at hand and wind up with a program that could not be legally used because someone else followed the same logical steps some years ago and filed a patent on it is horrifying” –John Carmack.

And just for fun, if Einstein patented E=MC^2 we might not have nuclear reactors. Or if Newton patented his 3 laws of physics, we might have . . . well anything we have today. Just think about the number of scientific equations that if were allowed to be patented would have caused many of the things we love not to exist. Now think of what patents are currently denying existence.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Game Cloning.

When it comes to cloning video games I am firmly against it, just as I think that censorship and piracy are bad things that we can do without. But bad things do exist, such is a basic premise of life.

But why is cloning a video game wrong? Here is the fun part, legally it isn’t, morally I’m aligning a cloner somewhere between a thief and a rapist. First it isn’t legally wrong due to the fact that cloners steal the idea behind a game, and replicate it in a format using different code. If they ripped off the code then you would have a legal case. Or if you patented some software technique in it and they used it you could sue. But I’m against software patenting, but that’s for another day.

Secondly, why I equate them to somewhere between a thief and a rapist. Some might say being a thief isn’t so bad. I disagree. If I were to rob the largest bank in America, they would have to call in their loans, and when people can’t pay then there is an economic collapse, and I don’t need to paint the rest of the picture. The rapist equation is due to the forceful fucking someone over, in a painful and traumatic way. Say there are some indie devs working their asses off on an awesome game. They have a free public alpha, and are working on a final product. Now if someone were to clone their alpha and distribute it on a platform that the devs were targeting then what? Months of hard work lost. Any reasonable person would seek a way to right this situation. You would go to the police if a thief had entered your house and stole your possessions.

And while I may equate cloning a video game to certain things, cloning is certainly different. It is something so unique that most legal minds can’t quantify it. But game developers can. A can developer can look at a game and say: “Hey I see the influence of minesweeper in this game but I really like how they progressed on the idea.” At the same time a game dev can look at a game and say: “Wait that’s just solitaire with a different skin.”

See drawing inspiration or improving on a concept isn’t cloning since it progresses the concept or genre. For instance Half Life and Quake were built in the same engine, yet they are completely different games. And if someone made a game for xbox called kaloh, about a guy who wears a blue power suit and fights on a doughnut world, Microsoft would have a) never let them publish the game, and b) sued their asses off.

So how do we stop game cloning? Unfortunately we can’t. Douches will be douches; it’s like trying to stop crime. But when a criminal act is committed there is action taken against the aggressor and recompense for the victim. What we need is legislature that protects the creative rights of the creator that they may lodge a complaint, which is examined by notable and respectable game developers who can say “Yes this is a clone”.  Just because we currently lack the legal system to deal with clones people may condone them.

So now we just hope that people shall start to realise that clones are bad. That we need legislature against it, and while they are tinkering with the laws can they please get rid of software patents.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Google Chrome just won my heart.

I will admit it I love Google. And well that's for good reason, they do things right, and now their lovely little browser has done something I have always wanted.

My chrome browsers now sync up. Now you have you have to wonder what the big deal about this is? Well simply put I like bookmarking things. Now when you run multiple computers that becomes a problem. See when I am out and browsing the web on my netbook and I bookmark something to read later, then come home I cant just use my desktop. And vice-versa.

Now there has been some solutions to this before. Like emailing yourself what you wanted to read, or Opera's Link, and Firefox's SyncUp extension. But I wanted something cloud based, and tied into something I regularly use. Now I'll be honest I don't use Opera much so I can't give a full view on how good it is. But I have used Firefox, and since it first came out at that, and the sync extension was just lacking.

But with Chrome I have a sync that ties into my Google account, I do believe I have just discovered the holy grail, the only thing better would be a ghost-in-the-shell-esque internet directly into my brain.

Admittedly I'll still be using Firefox and Chrome as I have for the past while, but Chrome is now my favorite of the two.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Booking the venue for UPCON, the story so far

The story of booking the venue for UPCON 2011 began last year when I went to tukkiewerf and asked, I was informed that I had to come back next year, so in this time the TKV, and GGC began plotting on how to make UPCON as awesome as we can.

So on the first day that the university was open –January 3rd- I made the arduous journey from JHB to PTA –only done that for an entire year prior- and began scouting around for people to speak to since half the 75% of the university staff aren’t there. I spoke to the person in charge of managing the bookings for the venue (and no I’m not publicly announcing the date until I can confirm the venue).

So I come back to the university a week later to get the form now that the people responsible for them are back from holiday. So I fill the form out. And the land in charge of managing the bookings wonders why someone from tukkiewerf can’t just send her the form to book with, when the people at tukkiewerf says that a lady who is only coming back in a week needs to sign it off, but the lady in charge of managing the bookings, and blah blah blah blah the administrative procedures make no sense to me, and most of the staff.

So today I get the call from the lady that was away on holiday, aaaaand. Oh sorry your student society doesn’t exist. See last year's TKV council forgot to file some rather important paperwork, and ye we technically don’t exist, though we did host UPCON, and have out AGM.

Now the university won’t let us book the venue since we don’t have a society. And I asked if I can book it privately and pay full price, that’s not allowed either. So I was then told that I should go speak to the dean of students. He was out so I spoke to a senior assistant, I was told to email someone else since it was rather likely that the dean of students would refuse us the request.

So here we are. And we’re not done. We’ve not even started. We will get the venue, there will be an UPCON, and it will be awesome. We might just need some help from our beloved CON goers, and exhibitors.

PS, I do not wish to blame anyone. Blaming people will do nothing to help UPCON be a success. People banding together and showing support is what will help us. If we can show the university "Hey we are THIS AWESOME" then they will have to give us the venue. And hopefully forgive the past mishaps of the society.