Feb 182005

The Boys Next Door is finally open. We’ve had two audiences now, and so far it’s been very well received. Critics from all three of the local papers were apparently in the house last night, so that’s out of the way and we can forget that particular little worry.

I’m very proud of the work we’ve done in this show, and the fact that the director of HARC came back to the dressing room to give us kudos last night was a nice indicator that we aren’t making a joke of our characters.

Now if only I could stop stepping on mollyq‘s feet.

In other news…

Tomorrow ought to be fun. I’ve got to get caught up in my college classes. In the last few weeks I’ve seriously slacked off, mainly because of the show. By the time I get home at night I’m seriously NOT in a mental state to study. In fact, about the only thing I am capable of is mindless video game violence and kinky sex (and sometimes I’m too tired for the former…never the latter…). And speaking of video games…

I’ve had occasion to try two new MMORPG’s in the last week. Neither one has really impressed me all that much.

The first is forgiveable at this point. The Matrix Online is still in Beta testing, so there are going to be bugs to work out. Much of my dissatisfaction with the game has nothing to do with bugs, though. It’s always good to say something nice before you rip something apart, though, and there are a few things I like. The game is beautiful. There is no doubt about that. The avatars are very realistic and the clothing is top notch. They went out of their way to capture the look and feel of the Matrix movies, and their efforts paid off (although the amount of time you spend with everything rendered in Matrix Code after you first log in is excessive). The storyline picks up where the Matrix trilogy left off, with a tense truce existing between the residents of Zion, the Machines, and The Exiles. You have to decide where your allegiance lies, and if you want you can end up working for the “bad guys.” I didn’t realize the truce was going to be in effect when I first saw an agent, though, and about crapped my virtual pants when I walked into the room and he was standing there. Turns out he was warning me about entering an overly dangerous area. Go figure.

Ok, so that’s about where the “I like this” stuff ends.

The biggest headache I’ve seen so far is combat. It sucks. They really tried to catch the feel of the combat in the movies, and while I agree that’s important and vital I think they went overboard. Combat, from what I can tell, is basically a very convoluted game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. You pick a move, your opponent picks a move, and whoever picked the better of the two is the one that lands damage. It’s not too terribly bad if you are only fighting one opponent, but once you add multiples in things get weird. Want to gang up on that high level bad guy with your friends? You basically take turns hitting them. The AI doesn’t seem to be able to comprehend what to do when more than one person tries to attack at once, so you basically stand there and wait your turn. The only way to really get around that is to stand back away from combat and shoot (which is, if they have guns, what gangs will do to you…if they don’t have guns, they pretty much just stand there and watch you fight their buddy). They integrated the complex martial arts and “bullet time” effects into combat, but in doing so they made it confusing, frustrating, and only exciting if you land a “special” move. You’re supposed to be able to develop tactics so that your moves are more effective, but every time I’ve fought I’ve felt like I was just pressing random buttons and hoping for results (very similar to the way I play fighting games like Soul Calibur).

I’m still in the “lowbie” game at this point, so I can’t say I’ve completely experienced the mission system, but as of yet it has been less than exciting as well. Every mission I’ve had so far has involved me going to a building, getting on an elevator, completing the objective (find someone or kill someone), and generally repeating the process once or twice before finishing. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. I’ve gotten one “mission” that wasn’t that way, but it reminded me of the OLD Everquest way of getting missions. Basically I stumbled into a guy that told me if I brought him 3 rings he’d give me a new coat. That “mission” wasn’t stored anywhere in my interface, so I had no way to check my progress or remind myself of the mission.

The whole leveling and skill system is a confused mess as well, but this could possibly be something that I am not understanding simply due to the fact that I don’t have a manual. That, however, is lame. These days the tutorial section of the MMO should teach you everything you need to know to play the game. There is no reason you should HAVE to pick up the manual. I briefly skimmed over the manuals in both Worlds of Warcraft and City of Heroes, but I was able to play and enjoy the game easily after running through the tutorial. Not so with The Matrix Online. Hell, I spent 20 or so frustrated minutes right after exiting the tutorial trying to figure out what to do next.

All in all, at this point I’d have to say that if the game doesn’t get a pretty major overhaul between now and the official release I will not be picking up the full version. It’s a shame. I was really excited about the prospect.

Now, on to Everquest II.

I paid for a 3 month subscription to IGN so that I could download the free “Trial of the Isle.” It gives you unilimited access to the tutorial section of the game until June 2006. I went through the first few stages of the tutorial and I was fairly impressed. The character creation process is much like the one that SOE created for Star Wars : Galaxies, which gives you much more flexibility than the old EQ system. I have yet to find a character creation system that comes anywhere near the one that was created for City of Heroes, though, and I don’t like the fact that the new trend seems to be “your character has to start in rags.” Bah.

The game is damned pretty, the mission system is pretty straightforward, and combat is easy and fun. It reminded me a lot of the old game, but with some changes that really needed to be made.

Then the ball dropped.

The third time I tried to log in I got an error message saying that my client didn’t match the one on the server and that I needed to re-run the patcher. I tried doing this several times through the log-in process to no avail, and then went to the support section to find out what was wrong. I had no luck there, so I went to the forums and found others who had the same problem. The solution, apparently, is to manually run the program “eq2patcher.exe” in the root directory.

And thus, we hit a snag.

The trial games doesn’t COME with the file “eq2patcher.exe,” and it doesn’t appear to be available to download anywhere on the SOE site. I suppose I can reinstall the game, but the mere fact that I might have to is a major burr in my saddle. If you’re trying to woo new players to your game you shouldn’t waste over an hour of their time on a technical issue, ya know?

Add to that the fact that SOE seems to have utterly and completely sold out to rampant commercialism and you can pretty well guarantee that I won’t be picking up the full version. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with SOE attempting to make a profit on their brand, and despite the fact that it’s pretty dorky I would probably end up using the service if I were playing the game on a regular basis. The fact that they are advertising it with a picture of the main bad guy holding a pizza out to the consumer is just over the top on the lame factor, though. “Behold, mortal! My pepperoni pizza of despair! Prepare to meet your piping hot, cheesy dooooom!” I mean, what’s next
? Is there going to be a Pizza vendor in Qeynos? Armor shopping at The Gap? More realistically, are they going to start giving you in game bonuses simply for purchasing pizza or other promotional products?

Lame. Lame, lame, lame. It totally breaks the fourth wall. I realize that not many people who play these games actually role play, and I can’t say I do it all the time, but this is just too much.

So yeah…it looks like, for now, I’m going to be sticking with my two current games. Which is really a shame. I’d like to have a good Sci-Fi MMORPG to cover my three favorite geek genre’s (Comic Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi). Maybe Star Trek Online will be worth something. God knows when that one is coming out, though.

A. has started baseball practice. He’s very excited about it, as he’s on a team with his cousin Josh that is being coached by his Uncle Norm. Because of Boys I haven’t been able to go to any of the practices yet, but it should be wrapping right around the time his actual games start, so hopefully I won’t miss too many of them. J. just hit the big 15 on Tuesday. Wow. Pretty soon he’s going to be hitting us up for driving lessons. He was at the paid preview on Wednesday, and apparently he was bragging to some of the people sitting next to him that he was the future step-son mentioned in my bio. Damn that felt good. It’s always a plus to find out your kids are proud to be associated with you.

K., while at times finding it overwhelming, seems very happy in school. In fact, I think she’s happier than I’ve seen her be in a long time. She’s in a good mood when she wakes up in the morning. She doesn’t seem to get depressed as easily, and when she does it goes away fairly quickly. I think she finally feels like she’s taken control of her future, and it fits her well. Seeing her happy is one of my greatest joys in life, so this has been like a perpetual Christmas for me. Not only that, but I was actually able to do some nice things for her for Valentine’s Day.

Life is damned good.

xanyboi has been a phenomenal guest, providing us with great conversation, company, and foodstuffs. He made a rib and risotto dish the other night that was out of this world, and I’ve still got residual Clam Chowder memories dancing on my taste buds. We took him out to dinner last night for his birthday, and a good time was had by all (but A. is going to be pissed when he finds out we went to Cody’s without him).

The diet has been fairly non-existant this week. Between Valentine’s Day and show stress I’ve been eating way too much and none of it has been good for me. The only saving grace I have is the fact that this role is very physical and I feel like I’ve been working out for several hours by the time I’m done. Hopefully it will help me keep some kind of even keel and not undo my losses the previous two weeks.

On the financial front, things are still going along swimmingly. I got my first statement for the second mortgage the other day, and even with taking the full line of credit my monthly payment is still 50 dollars a month less than my old debt consolidation payment. Whoo hoo! I’ve been able to go out and buy us some stuff that we’ve been needing for a while now (new clothes, curtains, things like that) and keeping us in food and entertainment has ceased being a stress. Taking out the second mortgage has really turned my financial life around.

But now I have to buy a new dining room set.


Ok, I’m out. Gotta finish my lunch and get back to setting up a new server. Have a good one, folks.

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