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I broked Steam

January 4, 2010

So, apparently, Steam says that I’m still playing EverQuest II.  According to it, I have been playing EverQuest II for 110 straight hours.  This includes all of the time the game has not been running, the time I spent playing Burnout Paradise and Shattered Horizon, the time I spent eating, the time I spent sleeping, the time I spent writing, and the time I spent socializing.

I’m apparently so awesome, I can play EQII while it’s not running and I’m not at my computer.

Yet, for all of this playing, I haven’t gained a single level past 19.  Damn.  I need to work on my psionic video game playing skills more.  My training is not yet complete.

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Why I chose Champions over Aion for the graphics award

January 2, 2010

A few people over at Massively have been confused as to why we gave Champions Online the award for “Best Graphics of 2009.” Most are saying that we should have chosen Aion, as it clearly has the better graphics engine.  CO is too four color, too “comic-booky” and too cartoony to truly get the award, right?

Well, let me lay out why I chose Champions, because I actually have clear evidence as to why I thought it deserved the award.

In the screenshots below, I’m running both games on full graphics power.  They’re both running at 1600×900, so the resolution quality is the same.  Let me point out some very clear differences in how the two engines handle objects and the world environment.  If you want to see the full 1600×900 version of these photos, you can click any one of them to view the comparison.

Aion on left, Champions on right. Lighting test.

In this first screenshot, we see Aion and Champions both running in indoor settings.  However, the Champions engine does a few things differently.  One, it’s rendering dynamic lighting while Aion only renders global lighting.  No matter where you stand in Aion, your shadow will always stay the same height and direction, regardless of light source.  Even while I’m standing next to a burning spirit, there’s no change.

Champions will correctly display the shadows according to the dynamic lighting of the scene, and will render all technical features of the character.  Even with a horribly complex character creator, my shadow displays properly with wings and outline, and all lights in the scene are causing a shadow from their correct directions.  As I move around the scene, the shadows will get larger or smaller, depending on my distance from light sources.  Also, powers will cause their own local lighting effects while Aion’s powers will not.

Aion on Left, Champions on right. Texture test.

Example number two is how the two games handle surface quality.  Aion’s texuring, outside of the characters, is very bland.  Polygons become very blocky and the art work, while awesome, does not have any qualities outside of the texture itself.

Champions, on the other hand, does a double layer on all objects — one for the texture, and one for the bump map.  Metallic surfaces will appear to be raised and metallic, reflecting the objects around them accordingly.  While Aion’s metal stove doesn’t appear metallic, the powerhouse logo in Champions does.  Once again, another feature to the engine that Aion just doesn’t possess.

Champions on left, Aion on right. Environment construction test.

Lastly, Aion’s environments can become very polygonal, as I mentioned above.  Play this against Champions environments, which are much more detailed, utilize all the other aspects of the engine that I showed above, and appear more dimensional because of it.  While Aion is undoubtedly beautiful (as you can see from the above artwork) it lacks some subtle features that the Champions Online engine possesses.  Therefore, because of those differences, I gave the win to Champions for going the extra mile with lighting, shadows, and textures.

Two final photos for you, however, that do show an advantage to Aion’s engine:

Champions Online -- Note the dynamic lighting and bloom. The shadow will move as she turns.

Aion -- Note how more details are put into the characters and not the environment. Here, the CryEngine struts its stuff.

As stated in the photos above, Champions seems to lose resolution on the characters while it keeps it everywhere else.  Aion, on the other hand, steps it up when it comes to character design.  If they put as much emphasis on world design as they did on character design, they would have totally got the win in spades.  However…

Kyle Horner's "Tesla Six" -- Holy crap reflection quality and details!

Champions has that.  How can I deny a graphics award to that?

~Sera

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I’m glad I’m not Syncaine or Tobold

December 22, 2009

That’s allReallyI just wanted to put that out there.

Moving along.

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Character Profile: Xavier Guldstein

December 18, 2009

So, in leaving The Border House and thinking about my own writings, I’ve been really stumped on one of my own characters, Black Clover’s Xavier Guldstein.  Xavier has the odd honor of being the only handicapped man to appear in any of my personal writings to date, although in working on Black Clover I certainly have more ideas to add in more characters featuring types of common disabilities.

In working with The Border House, I was exposed to the concept of characters that offer false or derogatory representations of their minority groups.  While I clearly understand that no one would like a character that makes a mockery of any less fortunate person, I don’t think we should suddenly just stop making characters that may not be the best examples of their minority groups.

I say this because I believe that a person is more than the sum of their parts.  I’m a transgendered individual, sure, but I’m also a gamer, a writer, a designer, a graphical artist (sometimes), a programmer (sometimes), a scientist, a researcher, partially religious, white, etc… All of these things interact with one another to make me into me and I don’t see a need to ever define myself by one trait.

The point of all of this, however, is Xavier and the perception people may have of him.  I worry that he may look offensive to some, but I want to be sure.  So, below, you’ll find the profile I wrote for Xavier before using him in one of my short stories to help define the gothic steampunk world of Black Clover.  I want to let you, my readers, be the judges of his character.  Is he offensive to a handicapped person, or is he simply just another antagonist?

Character Profile: Harbinger Xavier Guldstein

Xavier Guldstein is a 40 year old veteran of The Plague War and a former Clockwork Soldier from the Silver Consortium’s “Ashes” division.  During the war, his unit was assigned to decontaminate areas of land deemed to be unfit for human survival by burning them to the ground through the use of forest and grassland fires.  The only way to ensure the plague’s ultimate demise was to “cleanse” the world with fire, as the priest of the division use to say.

While the Ashes Division normally operated behind Consortium lines in an effort to stem and prevent resurgences of the plague, it doesn’t mean they never saw action.  On the contrary, in fact.  When dealing with pockets of plague contaminated ground, the unit regularly came under attack from the plague-twisted beasts as well as plague spawn.

Near the tail end of the war, shortly before the invention of the Black Clover rifle, Xavier’s unit was under vicious attack as they tried to level the small town of Brackenridge.  While fighting in the village streets, Xavier was attacked and overwhelmed by a pack of drachenshund (plague-twisted dogs with fur resembling dripping ink, eyes of cold blue fire, and unhingeable jaws.)  His unit was able to slice and kill the dogs on top of him, but not before one was able to rip off his left leg at the knee.

Xavier was transferred back to St. Angela’s Hospital in the city of Arque Rizon, where he was pulled out by the Consortium and subjected to “experimental treatments” in the Grand Clock Tower.  The pain was intense, but Xavier survived the “purifications” administered to him by the Consortium scientists.  The Consortium used their breakthrough patient to be subjected to one more treatment at his request — the addition of a clockwork prosthesis.

Xavier’s leg from the knee down is now a complicated mess of silver plating, brass gears, electrical wires, and a firecore wired to a internal steam engine.  A silver pin has now been shoved through his knee, the framework running down the sides of his leg to allow him to move the prosthesis with ease.  His foot has been elegantly handcrafted into a metal military boot, a design perfectly fit to his new position — a Consortium Harbinger, a high-ranking member of the Consortium police.

Harbingers are the personal messengers of the Consortium — nicknamed “The Angels of Repentance.”  Most convey a very simple message to their recipients: “Fall in line, or die.”  Xavier’s fighting spirit and years of faithful service made him into one of the best Harbingers the Consortium keeps on staff.

While he was once a war hero, Xavier sees himself in that way no more.  Since his return to Arque Rizon and the end of the war, he is disgusted with how people treat the city he fought so hard to protect.  Crime is through the roof, the Starlight District is full of prostitutes and drug houses, the sewers are overrun with the homeless, the Market District is filled with beggars and con-men.  And, above all, more people attempt to defame the Consortium with their toxic slander.  He did so much to protect these useless fuckers, and all they want to do is spit in his face.

Xavier’s method of correcting the city is a swift, silent death to those who oppose the Consortium.  He will play by the City’s laws when it suits him, and he will twist the scales of justice to make sure the Consortium always prevails.  He owes them his life and he knows these pathetic souls in the city streets owe the Consortium their lives too.  Without them, Arque Rizon would have been run-over and destroyed.

It pains him to destroy so many, but he knows they cannot be fixed.  They cannot be saved.  they are beyond redemption.  They are the new plague, and they must be cut out of the wound to ensure the city’s survival.

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On leaving The Border House

December 18, 2009

Today was my last post on The Border House, for those of you who have read my few posts over there.  I know it’s a sudden departure, but I think it’s for the best for both The Border House and for myself.

I want to take the time to thank Cuppycake, Alex, Brinstar, and the rest of the staff for taking me on the site and explaining feminist ideals to me.  They’ve been really good and nice in dealing with my non-existent knowledge on the feminist perspective, and I’ve learned a lot from my short time on the site.  It’s really important that we have a site that looks at things from another perspective different from our own, and I wish them all the best of luck with the blog.  It has the potential to do a lot of good for many people.

I don’t want to dwell on my reasons for leaving.  To put it simply: I’m just not a feminist.  I’m a female transgendered person who identifies with pretty much everyone out there in one way or another, but I’m just not a feminist.

But, as I want to reiterate, I’m very thankful for the time I got to write there, I’m thankful for what I’ve learned and read, and I hope they continue to kick ass and do good.

~Sera

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Coca-Cola: My Drug of Choice?

December 6, 2009

Want cooooke!!! Want Coooke naaaoooooo!!

I ❤ Coca-Cola.  I don’t think anyone really understands how much I love Coke.  It’s both an addiction and a passion of mine that includes collecting bottles, participating in the Coke rewards program, and drinking it pretty much everywhere I go.  One of my friends once joked with me that he couldn’t recognize me without a can or bottle of Coke in my hands.  Yeah, that’s just how bad it is.

Lately though, I’ve been away from my drink of choice.  Let’s just say that my bank account isn’t overflowing with gaming industry bribe money (unlike the commenters tell you) and my house is still full of Sprite from Thanksgiving, when one of our friends brought over 8 2-liters of the stuff.  With both of those under my consideration, it seemed like a bad choice to go out and buy Coke.  Why waste money when I already have copious amounts of soda I like, right?

So, for the past few weeks I’ve been slowly killing our Sprite supply.  Simultaneously, my productivity has dropped significantly.   It’s not that I’ve lost my will to work — it’s that I’ve been hit by these disgustingly large writer’s blocks.  When I can’t write, it hurts.  Like, it really is painful to sit in front of my computer and stare at a blank page.  It’s intimidating.

I’ve tried lots of stuff.  I’ve tried walking away from the PC, I’ve tried playing a game for a half-an-hour before trying to write again, I’ve tried taking a short nap, I’ve tried free writing (only to find that even my free writing is failing, which is pretty much extremely bad news), and I’ve tried word association where you just start writing words on the paper.

I’ve also gotten tired, I’ve started to hold bad hours of sleep again, I’m hungry more, I have more headaches, and I’ve begun to lose a passion for doing what I love.  Yes, that’s right, video games weren’t even fun.  Of course, my first instincts are to deny that it’s a depression.  I know depression all too well, and it’s certainly a place I’d rather not be again.  So, whenever I feel kinda depressed, I just start telling myself that I’m really not depressed, I’m just having a mood swing.  I actually have the drive to attempt to combat those depressed feelings.

But, sadly, it wasn’t going away.  And what does all of this have to do with Coke?  Well, that’s exactly it.  Today, while considering my depression, I realize that I’m productive.  I’m doing things, I feel active, I feel happy, I’m enjoying writing… and I have a Mt. Dew sitting next to me from a party yesterday.  Yes, that’s right, I’ve been going through caffeine withdrawal without really putting two and two together.

Coke isn’t riddled with caffeine, but it certainly does have enough when you’re like me and drink lots of it each day.  It’s not that I’m addicted to Coke, it’s just that I drink alot.  If you want evidence of that, you should see how I killed off the Sprite stock, or how I can destroy a gallon of orange juice.  I like to drink things while sitting down and writing — it’s all part of my work habits.

But finally figuring out that my mood was shit because I wasn’t getting any caffeine is… well… interesting.  I really never noticed it before, but it’s become glaringly apparent now.  Of course, it’s all going to come down to me sitting here and getting back on my caffeine track and seeing if that improves my general mood and writing abilities back to where they usually are, which is going to take about a week, but my initial guess is that I’m going to be feeling a whole lot better when I crack into a brand new case of my drug of choice.

~Sera

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An Announcement About My Facebook Account

December 6, 2009

Hey everyone!

Just a heads up for those of you who read my blog: I’ve been getting many friend requests on Facebook recently from readers.  While I’m glad to see so many of you like my work and want to friend me on Facebook, I will be keeping my Facebook account separate from my activities on this blog, Border House, and Massively.com.

I use Facebook to keep in contact with my close friends and co-workers and it’s for that reason that I’d rather not open friend requests with you guys.  So, if you send me a Facebook friend invite, you’re pretty much going to get a nice note from me and a “request declined” response.  Besides, you’re not missing much anyway.  I’m far more active on Twitter than I am on Facebook.  Even more active on this blog than I am on Facebook.

So, if you really want to follow my updates, my best recommendation to you is to jump on over and follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sera_brennan.  It’s much more interesting than my Facebook account.  Trust me. 🙂

All the best,

~Sera