VuULF Dot Com Geek, Tweak and Game

6Dec/090

ATI Mobility – Upgrade Your Drivers

As stupid as it sounds, many laptop/notebook manufacturing companies don't want ATI to officially support their systems with drivers, therefore many laptops have been blacklisted against working with the official ATI Mobility drivers. The problem here is that idiot companies (pronounced HP, Dell, Gateway, etc.) feel that if hardware is older than 10 minutes, they don't need to support their hardware anymore (especially evil, in my opinion, is HP - not just for notebooks - pretty much ANYTHING; including printers, scanners, etc. If you intend on updating your OS, check your HP hardware for support FIRST!)

Now back to the topic. I recently purchased a decent laptop from a friend that required a few things to get it working. Most notably was the power supply, but it also needs a battery, a new keyboard (letters wearing off, again, thanks HP for cheap paint) and I will probably throw a bigger hard drive in it as well. All in all I am happy with the machine and was especially happy that it included a decent video card with 256MB dedicated. The problem? HP, in their infinite un-wisdom, has a driver that was created before the birth of Buddha and no further support. While many of the games I enjoy playing do support the particular card that is on the motherboard, they require updated drivers. UGH! What to do?!?!?!

Well, I found a perfect piece of software today to get some of my favorite games going, including Mass Effect and Fallout 3! If you have the same problem I do and want to get the latest driver patch from ATI/AMD running on your mobility, download the software available at the link below and follow the instructions.

http://www.driverheaven.net/modtool.php

Enjoy! I hope this helped you get new drivers on your notebook!

-=[V]=-

29May/090

Shadowbane: The slow, painful death – and rebirth?

Of course, it is no secret that the end is nigh for Shadowbane. In fact this time; it died twice!

The initial news of the demise of Shadowbane was posted on the Ubi news feed for Shadowbane on April 17, 2009, stating that the end of life for the game was slated for May 1, 2009. This caused a big stir in the community, but the guillotine had been set to chop the head off of possibly the best MMO in history. Rants, raves and pleadings started ensuing on the Ubi forums.

On April 30, 2009, in what has to be one of the funniest, least thought out plans Ubi has ever bungled; and believe me, they have had a great deal of bungling in their life - Ubi stayed the execution of Shadowbane and increased it's lifespan to July 1, 2009. I must admit - I laughed so hard when I saw that, knowing that everyone in the Shadowbane world had given away everything they owned, and Ubi, of course, did not think of this when publishing the extension. Enter the news posting on May 5, 2009 in which Ubi catered to the whining masses and reverted the servers back to April 17, 2009.

Of course, everyone and their dog, or, at least, those that played Shadowbane, knows that the end is coming July 1, 2009. There will be no extra time to play this time. It will be the end of life for the MMO that chugged along saying "I think I can".

For me, this is actually sad news. I enjoyed Shadowbane: a lot. The problem is, however, with the aging graphics and sound effects being destroyed by even free for life MMOs that sell items on the side and the popularity of World of Warcraft and other pay to play games, Shadowbane either needed a massive face lift or sequel or simply suffer the consequences and be thrown into the depth of gaming obscurity.

I will say, however, that at it's core, Shadowbane by any stretch of the imagination pales any MMO out there in head to head comparison. The game itself is not just Massively Multiplayer - it is simply massive. On the surface, Shadowbane was a mere grind and collect game of uber rock-paper-scissors where the characters with the best gear and the most planned characters won the day. Seasoned players, however, knew that it was much more than this. You had to be a skilled player; no matter how strong your character was and what gear you wore, if you sucked as a player, you died a quick death. So much for rock-paper-scissors. Now we have to add the political element in the game. This was no mere sign over your toons head saying "I am in this guild", each guild, or, at least, guild worth any merit, was stationed in a custom built city and each city was in a nation. Wars between nations would ensue and setting up a bane (war) between them, was a highly tactical event. The banes themselves were fantastic as we participated with hundreds of players in oft times expertly orchestrated fights against enemy cities and nations.

I will back track a bit to the cities themselves. You couldn't just plop down a city anywhere. There was a finite amount of space per province, and you needed resources to keep the cities alive. To do this you needed to mine and set up a taxation structure within the city and nation in order to survive; as well as rely on your population to turn in donations and the like. Every single building block takes time, money and resources to build. I think the best part of Shadowbane was the camaraderie that came from creating guilds, cities and nations where everyone had to pull their weight, at least a little bit, or your town simply would not work. What was even more impressive, save the guards in the cities and mines, and the NPC trainers, bankers and salesmen; ever single person belonging to a city was a living, breathing person. Without the players, the city and nation would not last a day.

So that, in a nutshell, is what Shadowbane is all about to the SB newbies or those that have never heard of Shadowbane before. It is a highly PvP centric game which features full on political structuring and is, or I should say was, the greatest MMO of all time - the only things really missing were instances and quests, but we made up our own on the way anyway.

Now that you know what Shadowbane was, let's take a look at the future of the game and the purpose of this article. While it may seem to most that Shadowbane itself is dead, there is some glimmer of hope for the engine.

How can a dead game be saved?

There are several options which I will discuss here. The first two options are the most promising, and the last one is probably the worst case scenario for Shadowbane's future, save an entire extinction.

Ubi has, in the past, taken extremely popular games - or, I should say, games with a cult-like following - and turned them over to the open source world. The prime example here would be Myst Online, incidentally another project I am highly anticipating to see released. This would be the best possible outcome for Shadowbane. It would allow people to create their own game servers and expand upon the game itself. If the client were also offered to the open source, we would probably see a face lift and countless feature improvements in the game. It has the potential to not only re-invent Shadowbane, but give the game a new lease on life. The naysayers in the world believe this may cripple the Shadowbane world since any yutz could create a server and the players would be spread all over different servers versus playing all in one place. I have to disagree with said pessimists. This is true, but only to an extent. The fact of the matter is that not any old yutz could create a server. It is not only an administrative nightmare to stave away the bad guys, but it is also expensive to make sure people can play without getting lag bombed every three seconds. An open source Shadowbane would be ideal. At first, we would see sporadic servers bouncing up and down every day, but only the true, dedicated people in the world of Shadowbane would deal with the expense and administration headaches and we would probably dwindle down to a handful or two of good servers. This is really no different than the original logic of Shadowbane which gave the player an option as to what world and game style they wanted to play. Instead of simply spread between worlds, we are spread between servers.

The next best bet comes from a place called ShadowbaneEmulator.com (henceforth SBE). This project proposes to create their own server side adapted to the existing client by reverse engineering sniffed packets. On May 8, 2009 SBE announced that the had decrypted the communication between the true Shadowbane servers and the client, giving the project a near two month window in order to discover the secrets lurking behind the scenes of Shadowbane, and create a workable database structure and serving mechanism between the client and a new server. Many projects of this nature exist, perhaps the most notable being MaNGOS, which allow the world to have access to games like World of Warcraft, without paying the hefty monthly fees. Again, naysayers believe this will result in a fractured community, but game communities such as NaxpServer (now NaxpGaming) which have their own base of thousands of players are proving the pessimists wrong. The problem I foresee on this side is that the SBE community has been around since 2006. They have had plenty of time to work on an emulated server architecture in that time. They have claimed that they did not want to harm the true Shadowbane community by creating an emulator, however I believe this was simply a statement that said: "We can't pull this off." No offense to you guys over at SBE; truly I do hope that you can and will prove me wrong, but I think that project may be destined for the "too little, too late" pile. In my opinion, SBE should have had a decrypted network hash before even spending money on the domain name, not waiting until the last few days to gather the vital information that is needed to create a copy of the database. I truly wish Shadowbane Emulator the best of luck, and with the demise of true Shadowbane, perhaps the coders in the game's community will step up to bat and start working frantically on an emulation server. I would have placed this as the first best savior to Shadowbane, were it that some sort of architecture had been privately developed at this stage, but considering network decryption has only been recently worked, my faith must remain fickle.

The third case, and worst case in my opinion (in fact I might prefer to see the game die completely over this option), is that AeriaGames is supposedly in discussion with UbiSoft to acquire the Shadowbane IP. This would essentially turn Shadowbane into yet another "free" game, where only those that pay for quality gear and the like survive. I am sorry, but I really hope it does not come to this. For me it would essentially be exactly the same as if Shadowbane died altogether. It simply would not be any fun anymore.

While Ubi did make a good effort at saving Shadowbane from the chronicles of strife by placing in game advertisements for Dell, the gamble, obviously, did not pay off. In a perfect world, Ubi would simply hand the game over to the community and say "Here you go guys! You've played, you've made the game what it is today, and you shall continue to do so by your own hand.". I don't foresee this happening. I remain doubtful, but optimistic on the emulated server front. Finally, unless Aeria Games simply uses Shadowbane as a vehicle to fuel it's other titles, Shadowbane is a lost cause in their hands.

My final words on this article will be to Ashen Temper and Wolf Pack Studios, and subsequently Stray Bullet Games - thanks for the years of fun ladies and gents! Your first born, or at least best child, may be dead, but it will not be forgotten any time soon!

-=[V]=-

Filed under: Game, Game Geeks No Comments
3Jan/090

NAXPServer Realmlist Switcher

This little app will automatically change your World of Warcraft realmlist.wtf from the official Blizzard servers to the private ones provided at NAXPServer.com and back to the originals provided from Blizzard. Cheap, generic and works!

Version 1.1.0.0 - Now supports both US and European Blizzard servers.

If you wish to support this program, consider donating at http://NAXPServer.com instead, it was written for them, after all.

DOWNLOAD

Cheers!

-=[V]=-

16Dec/080

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics (Atari)

Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics

Genre: Turn-based RPG/Tactical Simulation
Publisher: Atari Interactive, Inc.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Multiplayer: Yes (4 Player)
Extra Features: Tutorial, In Game Music Player, Art Gallery

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics

Game Overview

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - Title ScreenSet in a fantasy world with 3 different maps, 7 races and 13 classes to choose from; this turn based RPG is a wonderful adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 ruleset. The storyline is rich and lush, and features a multitude of adventures that you must take your companions on. I was impressed with the way things were set up, right from the start. Being a fan of Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2, also adaptations of the famous Wizards of the Coast D&D rulesets, I was hoping that Atari would not disappoint me with the way the game handled and played. From the moment I turned it on, to the moment I finished the game, I was wholly impressed.If you are not familiar with the D&D rulesets, you may find this game intimidating at first, however, you do have the option of allowing the game to chose your statistics and abilities for your, so if you are not at all familiar with D&D or character creation in an RPG, you may want to play using this feature the first time through.

Gameplay

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - MovementGameplay is well thought out and planned. Unlike some tactics games where you only play the main character, D&D:Tactics allows you to play all of the characters on the quest. Not only that, but if you are a die hard RPG fan, you will be able to create every character in your party of six. When it comes to turn handling, an intelligently laid out menu appears in the center of the screen, allowing you to chose from a number of actions and abilities unique to your class. Simply pick your action from the list and move your cursor to where you want to walk, what you want the action to affect, what you want to attack, and so on. Movement around the world maps is equally as efficient, and you can journey to and from places you have discovered freely.

Graphics

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - Actions OneThe graphics in this game are both smoothly rendered and lush with detail. The visuals are wonderful and you can tell from the moment you start the game that the artists were not going to allow this game to be released with a lack of attention to detail. From the vertex textures to the artwork of the characters themselves, this game shines without sacrificing any quality or performance. Detail is the main thing that I enjoyed about this game, especially in the visuals. From slight rises in the terrain to skulls littered about the environment to symbols on cavern walls, this game features some superb graphical work.

Music

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - Expanded View

The first thing you will hear when you turn this game on, is a lush and brilliant soundtrack that never gets old. The game even features a musical selection player which will allow you to enjoy the in game music without having to play. The soundtrack seems to have been designed along the same lines as that of Morrowind. Lyrical and expressive, yet not forced. While it does repeat, as did Morrowind, the way it repeats, and the way the music was composed, more as a subtle overtone, rather than something that grates on you; you will find that it adds a wonderful atmosphere to the game.

Sound Effects

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - Character ScreenAgain, the developers were going for realism and detail. The sound in this game is top notch, and it is not a composition of low quality samples, but of high fidelity samples that compliment the games fluidity. Unlike many games I have played that had me running to the options screen to turn off the effects altogether within the first few hours, the developers wanted to keep you switched on. As such, the game sounds are short, quick and reflect exactly what you would expect them to reflect; for example Spell A has sound effect A and Spell B has sound effect B so you have an audible cue as to what is going on. Nicely designed sound effects are not always a given, but the developers here hit the nail on the head.

Replayability

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - Actions TwoIf you are a fan of D&D or even of RPGs in general, you will probably find yourself playing this game over and over with different sets of characters. The range in which you can equip your characters or utilize different characters in different scenarios is endless. I have played the game to completion more than a few times, and every time I played the experience was different.

Wrapup

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics - Title ScreenWith the compelling, deep storyline, the fantastic graphics and soundtrack and the ease of handling this game, I would recommend this one to anyone who is a long time fan of RPG games in any form factor. For the D&D nuts out there, this is a perfect opportunity to take your experience with you on the road. This game is one of those which should be included in anyone's RPG arsenal, and I am sure you will find this game to be one that you will not want to put down until you have finished it at least once, and will return to it after playing something more mediocre prior to finding another game to occupy your time. It isn't an easy game, but it sure is a fantastic one. Atari and the collective developers created a brilliant combination when applying the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset to a portable system. Fantastic job gals and guys!

-=[V]=-

Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics

16Dec/08Off

Sony PSP Reviews – D

Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics

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