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Archive for April, 2012

Articles

First Impressions of Guild Wars 2 Beta and TERA Online

So I’ve played a couple of hours of both the Guild Wars 2 beta and TERA Online. These games in particular should be compared to eachother instead of other (mmo)rpg’s due to the combat system. These games both aim for the action-rpg feeling in an mmorpg setting. This means that you have to actually dodge enemies and attacks that are coming your way instead of mitigating it with numbers (Though those still play a big part as well).

Guild Wars 2

Let’s start with the game I played first: Guild Wars 2. First of all, the servers were having some real login issues as I tried to play, resulting in mostly just not being able to get into the game. But eventually I managed to get in and create a character. Figured I’d play a Norn Engineer as that sounded like an interesting class judging from it’s description. The character creator is what you’d expect from one these days in (mmo)rpg’s, but it makes for a real good first impression due to the style and look of the menus.

I got in-game and played a couple of hours and did a bunch of quests. The quests are told in a separate dialog which I think works out well, but it may get old rather quick. Other than that; there were a bunch of ‘dynamic quests’ to do and one that stood out to me was where you had to talk to statues to solve riddles, followed by picking up eggs to bring to nests.. This shows both the good and bad of the quests, the riddles were fun and made me think of Lord of the Rings Online which uses those too, but much more elaborately. The bad obviously being mindlessly running to an item on the ground, pressing “f” and running back to press f again at the nest, rinse and repeat 20 times.

Then let’s get to the meat of it and the part that really matters: the combat. The combat didn’t really do that much for me, I was mostly pressing the auto attack button (1) and sitting there, occasionally hitting 2  and 3 for skills. There was hardly any real dodging or any signs of active combat. Neither did the enemies really do anything different from all the other mmo’s out there; they ran up to you and started wailing on you, even resulting in you getting mobbed by a group and quickly dying.

There’s 2 more things I want to mention in this and that is that the servers didn’t seem in great condition and that there was definitely lag and that may have affected that first impression for me. The other point being that the performance of the game was.. really quite horrible for what it looks like on my machine. I was getting 20-25 fps most of the time  on low settings (only textures high) and that simply won’t do. It’s still a beta, I know this, but performance needs to be a lot better. My friend had no performance issues at all though, so maybe it’s an nvidia/ati optimization thing.

TERA Online

Tera is one of those games that I heard about ages ago and that looked really promising, the combat looked really dynamic and action-oriented. But the game was only in Korean and there was hardly any news on it coming to the west at that time. But it’s here now and some friends recommended it to me saying that it’s really good and we talked about it and I decided I’d trust their judgement and gave it a shot too.

First thing I noticed is that it runs smooth as could be, the client download was at my maximum speed (GW2’s was slow) and I could log in without issue. So I picked a server and created my characters, the character creation again was pretty standard with it’s options, but compared to GW2, it’s definitely less polished. But I created a couple of characters of various races to reserve the names and set off my journey. It starts you off in a separate tutorial section in which you have a higher level character and it explains you how to do everything.

The movement is definitely not standard as you use your mouse to look around and you actually have a crosshair on screen. When you press one of the button to bring up part of the UI, it’ll switch over to another mode so you can use your mouse to click/use things on the UI such as items, etc. I really like how the minimap works in this, you can easily toggle it off/on and you can make it show the NPC/monsters you need on it. It’s a great idea to make it that easy as you can click it directly from the questlog that’s displayed on screen by default. No need to go through several menus as in other games!

Right right… enough, let’s talk combat. The combat in this actually feels great, I played both a melee and a ranged class and both are a ton of fun to play. The combat feels incredibly dynamic as you have to actually dodge out of the way of the enemy’s attacks and every enemy has their own “charge” attack which is more powerful. I have to say that thus far the enemies haven’t been that tough, but you can already tell that it’s going to be great at later levels and dungeons.

That said, TERA is a lot more traditional in it’s approach to quests and the world design and a lot more….asian. Basically there’s been paths leading to settlements with monsters on/around them which are for killquests. But the thing is; That’s totally okay as it’s fun to kill and strafe around enemies and there even is a bunch of PvP going on already which keeps you on your toes, even in low-level areas.

 

So in short I would say that GW2 has a lot more polish to it, but TERA beats it in the fun-factor. But we’ll have to see how TERA fares the test of time, but it’s looking awfully sunny with the servers already being incredibly full and there being queues.

 

Post

Buying my first sword

As you may know about me, one of my interests has always been swords and the cultures in which they used. As such my movie collection contains a large amount of movie set in the past in which swordplay forms a large part.

Lately I’ve been really thinking about getting a sword (that’s actually not a new thing at all) and getting taught medieval fencing based on the surviving manuscripts from masters such as Talhoffer. I’m about to take the first time at least by buying a sword.

The sword I’ve picked was not my first pick, but that one’s not available right now and the blacksmith will inform me when he’s making more so I can order them.  One of my criteria for a sword is that it has to be ‘real’, there are so many swords that are poorly smithed and are not designed for real (or any) use. They’ll simply break and that’s outright dangerous. So I picked a sword which is known to be very durable and this one is said to be for sure.

There’s some examples of weak swords in the following video:

It’s pretty funny that if you want a decent sword, you seemingly really have to look into the manufacturers to see who makes decent blades, and all the manufacturers have quite different reputations. Some are really good in certain fittings, sharpening etc. They’ll also respond to criticism from the customers and will actively improve, you can find examples of this around the web, several on sword buyers guide.

So what sword did I end up picking? It’s Darksword Armory’s 11th century-based viking sword.

And here’s a video of this sword in comparison:

Articles

Poll regarding Let’s Introduces

I’ve not done any Let’s Introduces in a while and I have a bunch of games that I find cool, but not LP-worthy or.. that simply wouldn’t be good as LP’s. So I’m wondering if I should make Let’s Introduces more often. Let me know what you guys think, and I’ll take that into consideration. :)

For those wondering what Let’s Introduces are; You can see examples such as Super Meat Boy, Civilization 5 and Dwarf Fortress. Essentially they are introductions to a game where I’ll record a set to show the basics of it, but where I won’t complete the game. Good to show off indie games for example, or games that a LP just wouldn’t suit.

[poll id="9"]

Quotes

What ingredients make the strongest leash in existence?

The sound a cat makes when it moves; a woman's beard; the roots of a mountain; the sinews of a bear; the breath of a fish; and a bird's spittle.

Snorri Sturluson

I loved to find this line in one of the old Norse myths I’m reading about. Most of it is quite serious and clearly shines through what qualities people should aspire to attain. However, there are funny moments and this was one of them thus far.

Post

It’s getting to that point again…

Too many games to play, not enough time. Even when I boil my list down to games I absolutely ‘must’ play. It’s quite frustrating that I’m not getting around to playing those games. The same goes for the let’s plays, I’ve not recorded anything in 2-3 weeks now due to festivals and concerts and other things keeping me busy. It’s also not helped by some recent releases on GOG, such as Legend of Grimrock and Theme Hospital which I totally adore.

Currently I’ve played an hour and a half or so of Legend of Grimrock and just reached the third floor, which means I’m at a crossroads now pretty much. I can choose to not continue and record the game, but considering how that’s been going I’m not sure how realistic that currently is. I’ll probably be busy with Mass Effect 3 for a good while still, I’ve recorded 6.5 hours currently split over 3 sets. That should also start going up sometime soon probably.

I’ve also spent a little more time with To The Moon, that delightful indie game that simply grabs you with it’s story and humor. If you like a good story-based game, then you should give it a shot. You can download the game for free and play for an hour(trial). That should give you a good idea of the game, it’s also one I wish I would’ve loved to record, but I simply feel I’m too far in to do it justice at this point. I cannot stress you enough to go give this game a shot though!

Some of the other games that I really want to (let’s) play are among the following: Baldur’s Gate 1-2, Little Big Adventure 1-2, Mount & Blade Warband – Brytenwalda, Shogun 2 Total War and Hard Reset. Other than those I want to play more Red Orchestra 2 and Skyrim too, but those don’t have a real ‘campaign’ for me to go through at this point so I could mark them as ‘complete’ in my book.

Articles

Powerwolf concert and Paaspop 2012 Festival

Friday

This friday I had a concert planned for a band I really enjoy. They’re great live and as such I figured I’d drive the 1.5 hours to and from to see them live at The Rock Temple in Kerkrade. The band that I’m talking about is Powerwolf, a powermetal band which sing about them being werewolves who fight in the army of Christ. As you can probably guess by the band’s name, they’re all about fun and they’re one of those bands who thrive on stage. That’s not to say that their albums aren’t (as) good, because they’re excellent too!

The evening started off with Lonewolf opening, they played a pretty good set and as the first opener it’s really hard to get things going. They played well and “Viktoria” was really good to hear live. Then it was time for Stormwarrior, who certainly sped things up. Their songs are a lot faster and were really nice to get you in the right mood. At the end of their set they actually had the crowd going a fair amount and they ended on “Heading Northe” which is an amazing song.

After a quick break it was time for Mystic Prophecy who I was very much looking forward to see as they have some really good songs. From the moment they entered the stage until the very last moment the crowd was entirely theirs. They were better known than I expected, lots of people singing along to the songs. The thing I have to stress though is that the singer is one hell of a frontman who can single-handedly make a crowd do anything. He’s funny, interacts with the crowd and makes you have a great time. If Mystic Prophecy tours near you: check them out, you won’t regret it!

Then it was time for the “second headliner” as that’s how it felt after the previous band. Powerwolf however was not going to let themselves be upstaged by them at all. Their show was equally as good or even better. They played all their classics and the crowd went nuts, singing and headbanging along. The atmospheric music in some of Powerwolf’s songs is really special and gave me goosebumps once or twice. At the end of the evening I had one hell of a headache and a sore throat, following by a neckache the following morning. All-in-all, a great evening.

Saturday

I woke up with a fierce neck-ache from the night before, then I had some breakfast and headed over to Paaspop, a dutch festival which 51.000 people visited this year. It’s one of the few festivals where there’s a real mix between all sorts of genres/cultures and it creates an interesting crowd because of it. I joined a friend there who had gone there the day before. As such we set up and headed for the festival grounds and saw Death Before Dishonor, which wasn’t really our thing so we quickly walked out and just had a drink and headed for the main stage where BZB (Band Zonder Banaan) were going to play.

Band zonder banaan played a good show, they basically are a folkrock group with dutch lyrics. There was a big crowd to see them and as such there was a great atmosphere in the tent. Especially at the final song “Echte Vrienden” it was simply rocking with everyone jumping and singing. After that we went back to the rock tent to see Terror, a hardcore band that we didn’t know that well. They played a good gig and it was energetic for sure. I also have to point out that I really like the band’s attitude, such as the singer saying that people should just have fun, no matter how they do that.

Then it was time for Triggerfinger, a rock group that was playing on the main stage, which I thought would maybe be too much for them as I didn’t think they were that well known. Turns out as I was wrong as 45min before they started the stage was insanely crowded already. We managed to walk up to the front of the stage (admittedly on the side) where we could see well and were in the thick of it. The show was a surprisingly good one, solid rock and roll songs and I would’ve been happy with that performance. Instead, they played 1 more song, “I Follow Rivers“, that is the song which has pretty much taken over the entire festival, as there was literally no way to escape from it. It’s a darn good song and hearing it live was magical, so I don’t mind at all. But you would hear that song getting whistled, sung or hummed no matter what time or where you went. Even while writing this I’m getting goosebumps thinking back to it.

After that show we went to see TrollfesT and caught some of Blaudzum’s set as we got there quite early. Blaudzum seemed to be kind of dull from what I heard, the crowd also didn’t seem into them. So we waited that out and then did more waiting while just talking and having some drinks. Then TrollFest came on and there really weren’t a lot of people there. It felt crazy empty to be honest and it started off kind of weird due to that, not helped by the extremely poor sound quality. In the end though the venue filled up and the band won over the crowd and it was a good time for sure, despite the sound being sub-par.

After Trollfest it was time to head back to the big rock stage to hear a band I much anticipated; In Flames. I’ve seen them rather recently, and as such I knew what to expect here. They didn’t even change up their setlist at all I think. But they played some classics which was great. I have to say that I am disappointed with the lack of response when they started the intro for Cloud Connected. Though I think a lot of people don’t remember/don’t know older In Flames anymore. I quite like how they didn’t cut their set short due to starting late, they played the same length extra at the end, which I think is rather fair. Anders is still a great frontman, tons of respect for that guy.

After that we decided we’d wait for the next band and we certainly weren’t the only ones with that plan as the next band was Korpiklaani. When they started it was pretty full and they played a good set. It was an active show with a moshpit going at all times almost, which I joined in a fair bit. It was a good show and felt a lot better than the show I recently saw at Paganfest, it was more vicious and rougher which is how I like my folkmetal. After the show I was pretty much knackered.

The evening only had 1 band left which was Within Temptation, we had planned to see them and I hadn’t seen them live yet. Though I only really like their older songs, and only some of them. But the group decided that we weren’t going to go see them and I didn’t have a huge issue with that, so we hung around the festival area a little as some people wanted food. We then decided we’d walk to the camping and have a drink, when we were doing so I noticed someone who stood out.

It was Trollfest’s singer, with a beard like his.. he’s hard to miss. So I walked up and ended up talking to him and some of the other bandmembers. They’re really nice guys and they’d have joined us for some drinks if their bus wasn’t leaving soon to go to their next show. So we hung out a little longer and said our goodbyes and they gave me some stickers.. one of which he simply threw onto my hoodie. I also ended up getting a picture or two taken with them.

Shaky overlit photo... fitted the night and our state. ;)

So we ended up going to the camping, dragging a bunch of beer out from our tents and ended up drinking until we got kicked out of the cafetaria bit at 5am. Then we walked towards our tents and decided we’d crash in the middle of the pathway and continue drinking for another hour or so. Then security told us to shut up basically and we decided that was probably for the best. There’d been enough Sabaton singing already, as we were all fans.

So that night I didn’t manage to get a lot of sleep as I kept having to get up to take a piss every 30min is what it felt like. Funnily enough, whenever I did, I always heard at least 2 or 3  people singing/whistling “I Follow Rivers”. Just to show you how catchy that darn song is. :)

Sunday

The next morning we got up at 9:30’ish as we couldn’t sleep anymore either way, so we decided a slow wake up with some breakfast would be for the best. So we slowly dragged our asses out of the tent and I kid you not, I swear I’ve never had my hair as stuck and tangled as then. My hairbrush could hardly even get in, nevermind actually brush. That’s been a lot of beer/wine/whatever-else and headbanging for you. So we visited our friends to wake them up too and they were pretty much destroyed and the only way to get them to wake up was to play Sabaton at which point they both awoke and got up quickly. Heh.

So we had a lengthy breakfast to humanize a little again and check our bruises and hangover, which were pretty bad. Then we headed over to the festival again to see Textures. Textures is one of those bands that I don’t care much for on album, but that puts on one hell of a show on stage. And so they did this time again, these guys never cease to amaze and whenever they’re around, I’ll go see them. It’s always a good time, these guys deserve to be bigger.

After that we decided that we’d go see some theater as we were still suffering from our hangovers and there was a pretty good guy on. So we ended up watching some stand-up comedy by Leon van der Zanden. He was very amusing and another benefit of going to the theater was that we could sit and it was warm there. Totally don’t regret going to see him either, it was well worth it.

Time for some more metal, namely Enslaved. Enslaved’s a pretty good band but this show they put on wasn’t. They were having technical difficulties as the sound was really poor. Neither was there much energy or anything in their playing. But that’s kind of typical for black metal from my experience. We stayed for a while still but eventually it was just hurting our ears and we waited outside the stage where we could still hear it and it sounded a little better then actually.

So after that we grouped up as some people had stayed there and we decided we really ought to see the umbilical brothers. So we queued up and managed to get front-row seats. They are genuinely funny, and it really left me wondering how much of the show is improvised and what is set. It felt really organic as they saw what the crowd laughed at most. They even went for some “Oh really, that joke got you all to laugh? Strange.. but okay.”. These guys are simply genuinely funny and they definitely brightened the day.

After those laughs it was time for more music again. So we headed over to the rock stage again where Accept was going to perform. There was actually some real good music being played meanwhile and it had us singing along collectively and messing about, even that was a good time. Then Accept hit the stage and we were up for some real heavy metal. It’s always good to hear some proper heavy metal, it always rocks nicely as it tends to have a certain rhythm to the songs which is excellent for headbanging.  I have to give credit to Wolf Hoffmann (Guitar) as he felt to be the main stage presence who really got the crowd going as well. I also got a pick thrown at me directly by him halfway the show, thanks duder!

After that show we stayed in the rock tent as Finntroll was going to hit it in 50 minutes’ish, the wait seemed really short as there was a lot of good music and a good atmosphere. The tent was also rather crowded as more people had the same plan of waiting it seemed.  Then the wait was over and Finntroll started, they said they’d mainly be playing older songs. From the get-go the sound wasn’t entirely great, they were having some technical difficulties it seemed. They did play Solsagan from the new album, (maybe because me and some others yelled for it) but it didn’t sound too great. They did play Jaktens Tid, but that suffered the same fate sadly. The only real oversight was that they didn’t play Trollhammaren or Rivfader, which left the crowd bewildered as they left the stage. Nonetheless; it was a good show, but it could’ve been a lot better if it were not for the technical difficulties.

Then it was past midnight on the last day of the festival and there was 1 more metalband playing which I hadn’t really listened to or heard of before admittedly. That band was Hell, who played on the smaller rock stage which seemed to fit well. They played an enjoyable show, despite nobody seeming to know them. They were a nice relaxed way to end the (musical) weekend and they sure managed to create a good atmosphere among the crowd. I also got a pick from the guitarist after the show.

 

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Thoughts on Swords and Swordsmen

I’ve finally finished reading Swords and Swordsmen, a book by Mike Loades. I’ve mentioned him before on this blog as he’s made some documentaries that are interesting, informative and that he supplements with his own experience. As such, I ended up buying and reading his book. Judging by the name of the book, it is about (famous) people and their swords. But it’s not only that, it tells the stories about parts of their lives, the culture and happenings of that age. As such it’s not nearly as focused as it may initially seem.

The book starts off in the early ages of the Celts and then gradually moves on through time to the Egyptians, Romans/Greeks, Vikings and eventually ends up at the start of world war 1. At all points he focuses on important people and the lives they lived. What kind of relationship they had with the sword themselves and how it was looked upon by the culture at the time. Due to this approach you learn a decent deal about the cultures and I very much like this as it’s of interest to me.

The books go into a pretty good amount of detail to tell you about swordfighting techniques, mostly by referring to fencing manuals written by certain masters. There is also a focus on how the swords transformed and changed over time and why certain types of swords were preferred at that time. This of course has everything to do with the advancements of armor as it was a never-ending arms race between offense and defense.

If you’re interested in swords at all, I can very much advise this book as it’s a very good read (coming from someone who normally doesn’t read a lot!). The passion and (hands-on) knowledge of the author comes through well. The book will teach you about how swords were handled and what part they served, you’ll probably learn a lot of new terms, I know I did.

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Paganfest 2012 – Gießen – 03-30-2012

Another Paganfest show? Well, yes! It’s part of the same tour but there is actually quite some variation in the bands due to the Special Guests of each show. I had originally planned to go with 2 other friends, but both ended up cancelling. I decided fuck it, I’ll go alone and simply have fun, and so I did, I set out at just before 10 am as it was a rather lengthy ride to Gießen, roughly 325 km. I had thought that such a drive would take it out of me quite a bit but it was actually just fine. Though at one point there was a bottleneck which meant that there was a speed limit of 80 km/h and there was basically 1.5 lanes of width. Considering there were only trucks on the right side, I had to drive on the smaller left lane and during one of the curves, the truck next to me kept going straight and pushed me into the railing which scared the living shit out of me. Despite that I managed to arrive just before 2 pm. There were a bunch of people standing around and so I asked some people where I could best get some food. I ended up walking to a small supermarket and grabbed some food and a drink on the cheap and walked back to see a much bigger crowd already as it was about time for the doors of the venue to open. But I instead saw the 2 guys I had asked before and ended up talking with them for a while.. which led to me getting introduced to a bunch of friends of theirs who had just arrived and I spent the following hours hanging out and drinking some beers in the parking lot with those people which was a lot of fun. Because of this I missed Aktarum and Solstafir but they all decided to go see Heidevolk (I think I persuaded some of them as they didn’t seem too willing).

Heidevolk

Heidevolk played the same setlist as on the previous Paganfest show which I thought was quite alright, apart from Krijgsvolk, which never really seems to do well with the crowd. Instead they could’ve played Ostara or another really good song. The opening of the show kind of had me worried as it was a smaller venue and the lyrics are in Dutch, that the crowd might not react at all, which seemed a little lackluster at first. But they quickly warmed up and headbanged and moshed to their heart’s content. Especially when they played Saksenland, Nehalennia and Vulgaris Magistralis I could hear quite some people yell along. After that I found some of the guys again and they were quite impressed with the band and were going to listen to them more now. Signs of a good show I’d say. :)

Negura Bunget

For Negura Bunget I didn’t properly see them as  frankly I nor the guys cared much for them and ended up talking next to the stage where the sound wasn’t so deafening. It was rather sad to see the actual area in front of the stage be so empty while they were playing though. I have to say that it’s an alright band to listen to, but I wouldn’t go see them if they performed around here.

Equilibrium

Then after the wait it was time for another band I was looking forward to and that a lot of people seemed to be really into, probably helped by the fact that they’re german and they sing in german. There was a big crowd and from the moment they started playing the crowd went mad and tons of people were singing along and in general just rocking out. This felt like a big difference from the previous show, but again that’s due to the language. They played a really good set with the highlights of course being Blut Im Auge, Unbesiegt, the skyrim theme and Mana. I have to say that the reaction to the skyrim theme was really lackluster, there was some weak clapping going on which made it seem like nobody realized what the hell they just heard. Especially when you compare the response to the Dutch show where the crowd went mental and started chanting.

Primordial

Then it was once again time for Primordial… and by that I mean that we regrouped in the parking lot and hung out there. I have to say that it was around 8 pm then and I was starting to feel the drain a little, especially my legs were tired and my feet were starting to hurt a little. But we talked for another hour and a half or so with some music going in the background and random shenanigans going on. I know a bunch of people there were major Korpiklaani fans as they were wearing tunics and had face paint on with some other pagan jewelry. As such, we quickly went to see Korpiklaani and made sure we got there early.

Korpiklaani

So it was time for Korpiklaani to play which I was also really looking forward to as they didn’t play in the previous show. The crowd was rather thick and it had become really hot in the hall, but that sure didn’t stop people from dancing around and having a blast. It was a really entertaining show they put on, the classic songs had the entire hall go nuts and it was simply impossible to not dance and/or headbang. It’s one of those moments where you can close your eyes and just lose yourself in the music.

I ended up being at the front at the edge of the moshpit, though I can hardly call it a moshpit. It was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to see Korpiklaani at Heidenfest 2012 which is in roughly half a year!

Eluveitie

Then right after Korpiklaani it was time for  Eluveitie, who have been quickly becoming one of my favorite bands. Their music is such a bland of mellow folk and deathmetal and they manage to combine both sides very nicely. It makes for a very entertaining show which has you chill out and go nuts at the same time, oftentimes multiple times within the same song even. This show was a really good one, despite the temperature being roughly unbearable and sweat was simply dripping down everywhere, it was incredibly good.

They played all the songs you’d expect them to though they seemed to stop a little bit early. They were also having technical problems with their gear, causing them to re-tune them often and them just talking to the crowd until they were ready again. Especially the Hurdygurdy was having troubles, but that couldn’t kill the show. It was simply a spectacle and the most fun I had that day.

There’s moments where you will scream your lungs out to the lyrics, moments where you go mosh/headbang and moments where you can just close your eyes and lose yourself in the music. I love this band, I really do. Their albums are good, but they really are a live band.