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Thoughts on: the future of Elder Scrolls Online

I may be a little bit behind, but I recently got around to watching the Quakecon presentation on Elder Scrolls Online and what they’re working on. First and foremost I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy the game, the universe and the world of Tamriel. I do have the map that came with the collector’s edition on the wall, next to my Middle Earth one, to give you an indication.
First of all, here’s the presentation I’m going to be writing about:

There’s summaries of the points mentioned in the video here and here, among many other places on the internet I’m sure.

The points that I’m most excited about are the Imperial City, new dungeons, veteran system improvements, spell crafting and new zones. These are very big changes which will add a lot of value to the game. One of the points which I haven’t noted is the fact that they’re adding good facial animations to all characters of all races. It’ll make all NPC’s much more emotive, which I think is a great feature. The voice-work is already really good, adding better facial animations to that will make the quests much more interesting. It’s truly impressive to behold.

They’re also going to re-balance veteran content and changing the way experience for that works, which from what I’ve heard seems like a good move. Currently as far as I’m aware (i’m not maximum level yet) there’s certain actions such as killing dungeon bosses which give you Veteran Points. But not everything you do will get you those, such as it worked while leveling up from level 1 to 50. This always sounded quite silly to me, why not continue gaining  experience the way you previously did? That’s exactly what they’re doing. I’m happy about that.

They’re also adding another veteran dungeon (City of Ash) which continues a story from a regular dungeon. I think this is a really cool concept. You do a dungeon with a story while leveling up, and at maximum level you go into the dungeon again to continue the story of that dungeon, which was previously left open. I love continuing stories such as these, and having played the dungeon in question; I’m genuinely curious how it continues.

Another huge point is spell crafting, you’ll be able to find components throughout the world from which you’ll be able to create spells, which you can morph in certain ways. This sounds like one of those systems which is going to be amazing. It also worries me a little bit on how they’re going to balance these options they’re handing players. I hope it’s going to be hard to acquire and properly balanced somehow. It would be very cool to summon a flame atronarch or create other awesome spells. The problem with this is going to be finding the balance between current skills and the new spells. you are still limited to the same amount of skills, so you’ll have to really think about what skills you’ll want to have ready.

PS: I really should share some of the art and pages of the lore book that came with the game, it’s truly fantastic!

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Thoughts on: The Grand Budapest Hotel & Fantastic Mr. Fox

I’d heard good things about The Grand Budapest Hotel, and as such we gave it a shot. First of all; it’s a movie that wants to stand out and it does this by using rich colors in it’s visuals, a pace which is out of the norm and really charming dialog. From the first minute you’re interested in what’s going to be happening next, or at the very least you’re curious about the coming visuals that’re going to get conjured up on your screen.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel

The story tells a story about a bell boy and a legendary concierge who form a bond, and go through some ludicrous moments together. It’s a simple but elegant story, which luckily isn’t the major focus of the movie. You’ll largely be enjoying the show of colors and happenings, while the plot is happening. Which brings me to another point; the movie’s got a tempo to it, things keep happening and it has a great flow, you simply won’t want to miss even a minute of it.
I really enjoyed watching the movie, it being at least one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years. Go check it out if you haven’t already!

After we watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, I looked into some other movies Wes Anderson directed and saw some interesting ones which I felt like watching. The first of those being Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Fantastic Mr Fox
Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox is a movie based on a novel by Roald Dahl, which I’ve personally not read. It’s also a stop-motion movie, which is a niche that I really appreciate if done well.
The movie tells a story of a fox and his family as he strives to do better for his family, but also he yearns for a challenge. He’s a great athlete and a bit of a fool, but an utterly charming character.

His plan is to movie to a better place in a tree, instead of a hole they’d been living in, and to pay for this bigger place he’d rob some farmers in the vicinity. These robberies are the main focus of the whole movie due to all the shenanigans that happen. But there’s also the part of his family life, with his son and a nephew. The thing about the family side of the story is that every subject touched upon will have a good reason and meaning behind it. It will touch upon kids feeling unwanted, a father’s favoritism for his nephew and the suspicions of his wife.

It’s a good movie, which will have you laugh and amused. It’s also kid-friendly and the look of it is adorable for all ages. Recommended viewing.

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Steam Summer Sale 2014

The Steam Summer Sale happened and I grabbed some games there. I didn’t get oo many, because I already own a lot of them and some I didn’t care for.
I also have to admit that I only briefly looked at the frontpage daily and didn’t look further than that.
These are the games I ended up picking up:

  • Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition
  • Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Game Dev Tycoon
  • Brutal Legend
  • Payday 2
  • State of Decay
  • Agarest: Generations of War
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch
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After many months the moment’s here!

I just got off the phone with IND (immigration) asking about the residence permit for my girlfriend; and it’s ready to be picked up. Finally, everything is pretty much done!
It has taken many months, nearly half a year in total and caused a lot of stress; but everything should be nearly done. There will still be some points that need to be done; but they’re really very small and not worth stressing over at all.

She’s been here for 2 weeks now, which have been absolutely great. There are no words that I can use to describe the joy of having her in my arms again after all that’s happened in Ukraine and with all the documents and paperwork and immigration nonsense in general.

This coming wednesday we’re going to pick up her residence permit. I’m already very excited about this!

 

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Little moments that make my day #4

I was out exercising, which for me means biking on my racing-bike, and I was some kilometers away from home and back in the city. I had to wait at a stoplight and was standing behind a man with a little girl on the backseat.  She was turning around and telling her dad to go go go and be faster! So I stayed behind him and made it look extra like I was struggling to keep up and could see the little girl cheering and feeling so proud of her father.

This lasted for about 2 kilometers or so when we headed separate ways, but the pride of the little girl was truly marvelous to behold. She thought her dad is the best dad in the world at that moment.

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Immigration: it’s stressful

As you may know I’m currently in an immigration project to get my girlfriend a residence permit so she can live with me in the Netherlands. This has been keeping us busy for several months now, with various sources saying different things and lots of phone calls to our immigration department later we got all the paperwork sorted. She also passed her  Dutch exam (very well, actually!) which was the major part which we still needed.

This was all happening during the rioting in Kyiv/Ukraine, which also caused my girlfriend to get stuck in the massive protest because the metro was no longer functioning, which was on the day when the most serious clashes happened, with many people dying. Of course this really worried me and I was amazingly glad that she got out of there unscathed.

After this we still needed 2 documents from her, which was really tough considering that many governmental buildings were being burnt down, looted and occupied. For instance we needed a document stating that she has a clean record and has not been arrested. Directly after we got that document, the building at her town got burnt down and all the records got destroyed in the fire. But we gave immigration what we could get and in the end managed to get the documents, including the apostilles which were required.

During this time as you know it’s really tense in Ukraine due to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. The region is on the brink of war, with both armies having mobilised at the borders. This is very stressful as I know people there and of course my girlfriend being there. I really don’t want her to be part of a war, it’s one of the last things I want of course. This means that I’ve been paying very close attention to the news and world-politics for this entire time, to maybe give us the opportunity to get them out of the situation as soon as possible. It really does lead to some scared, for example when there’s been shooting around the borders, seeing the tanks moving towards the border or when all the food is gone and the roads have all been blocked to prevent new shipments coming in.

After this it’s purely waiting for immigration to look at the dossier and give an approval or request more documentation, but from the employees who I spoke we had all the documents we needed. So for several weeks now I’ve been coming back from work and have been getting tense as I’m opening the mailbox, hoping that there’s a letter saying “approved”. There’s no indication of when the letter will come, the only thing they will say is “it can take up to 3 months, that’s all we can and are allowed to say”.

It thus far hasn’t come, the day on which it will we shall be celebrating. It’ll be a huge relief!

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I settled and got Profoundly Disconnected: A True confession by Mike Rowe

For those not in the know, Mike Rowe is the host of Dirty Jobs, a well known programme that ran for many years on Discovery. One which I adore, both because of it’s focus and Mike’s personality. I’ll gladly spend some of my time listening to this man, for his ambition and drive are inspiring. It also helps that he’s a skilled public speaker and charismatic.

I’ve read a couple of brief reviews which seem to boil down to a simple message: this book is an extension of Mike Rowe and his strivings. He also makes no claim that it’s a great book, but it’s an easy and enjoyable read which should shed some perspective on the economy and the kind of jobs that people are looking for currently. Furthermore the money goes to the mikeroweWORKS foundation, which is a good cause, so that’s not bad at all.

Listen to Mike reading the preface to the book, which is what started Dirty Jobs:

Link to the mikeroweWORKS foundation website: profoundlydisconnected.com

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Thoughts on: Metro 2033 & metro 2034

I just finished reading Metro 2034 last night, and I definitely went through phases while reading the book. I was also very excited about reading it as I had finished Metro 2033 not too long ago, which I hadn’t gotten around to writing down my thoughts about yet. So here we go!

First of all, I very much love the setting of Metro, it all takes place in a world where everybody attacked with nukes and the atmosphere become radiated and all civilization pretty much died out, except for ones who took shelter in Moscow’s metro. Furthermore  in the meantime because of the radiation some new species have developed quickly and rule the surface of the earth. Humanity is now stuck in their underground tunnels, only going up to the surface to scavenge.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

The first book is all-together excellent, it follows Artyom, a young man who meets a stalker named Hunter (who go up to the surface) and gets tasked with a mission of going to Polis and warn a certain person that the stalker had not returned. This whole journey is excellent as he learns more and more of the metro and the various groups of people that live in it, the monsters in it and many rumors and myths that go around. These stories and people he meets really deepen the lore and feel of the metro.

After Artyom meets a bunch of important people around the metro and has survived passage through some of the tunnels, which all have varying effects, he joins some stalkers and goes up the surface and this is also where the climax of the book is, which also happens to be it’s end.

The only and I mean only downside is a part towards the end which could’ve been really exciting but I frankly found rather strange, which is a part of a cult which dragged on too long to remain interesting. But it’s only a minor part of the story which frankly could be forgotten. For anybody who loves post-apocalyptic stories; Metro is an excellent book.

 

Metro 2034

Metro 2034

The sequel starts off following some characters who you don’t know and it takes an incredibly long time to get going and get interesting. I had some real trouble getting into the book and keeping on reading. It tells the stories of Sasha and her father, which actually get really touching on a very base level. It also follows an older man called Homer who reminisces about life and what it’s accomplished and the fate of humanity. Slowly the story develops and once things get set into motion after roughly a hundred pages or so, the characters eventually meet and things get much more interesting.

Once the story gets going though, it is going. It does seem to lack some of the mysteriousness of it, but this is probably due to Hunter reappearing and as a tough guy you’re much less afraid of the things that happen to the characters. This may also be a major downside for the story because I loved the mystery and the power of the metro itself, like a living and breathing entity.

But I have to say that the last 100 pages or so were really tough to put down as I was really curious what was going to happen. And towards the end it got really tense and surprised me by the way it ended, which I think finished the story perfectly. There also is quite a lesson in the ending, one of youth.

All in all then I would say that if you liked metro 2033, you’d very much enjoy the sequel. Just bare in mind that it’s a really slow starter!

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Retrospective: Helbreath

I’m not sure how many of you may have played this wonderful gem of a game, as I feel like it wasn’t very popular, but it is one of the games that has given me some of the most fun I’ve had, ever. I used to play on the official servers and it was a glorious time. The thing about the game is that maybe it did shine so much because it was a rather smallish community. People knew each other, this led to scenarios where if you knew someone was online, they’d normally be out hunting one of a few people, so you’d have to be careful.

At the heart of Helbreath lies a simple concept, there’s 2 towns which are at war with each other. They each have a couple of zones adjacent to their city which would mean that those’d be safe zones (nearly totally). But then there’s a bunch of contested lands in-between of the 2 cities, and rather quickly after you’d assembled your basic gear you’d be heading into this contested territory. And frankly, there’s very few games which force confrontation as much as Helbreath. This ensured that you’d always be on your guard, especially considering the maps were small. You could run from 1 town to the other in 10-15 minutes, easily.

Then there’s some key systems which I really like about Helbreath, such as that you have to level skills up (Long Sword, Fencing, Magic, Magic Resistance, Mining, etc), for most of these you get something if you get the skill up to 100%. For most weapons you’ve mastered it which meant that you could now charge (run and jump) at enemies and use critical attacks; This meant that you could use a range attack with a melee weapon, which is super important. These would slowly recharge over time so you’d always be managing them in case of enemy players. And even as a warrior you’d oftentimes have some intelligence so you could cast simple spells such as paralyze and Protection From Magic which meant that you could stand up to high-level mages easier, or give yourself a possibility of escape.

Another thing I really like is the equipment/loot system. All enemies can drop some wonderful items, they’re just exceptionally rare. This meant that every single rare item had value and you’d be cherishing them. This could range from a simple wooden shield which would have +18% stamina regeneration, or health/mana regeneration. Or a weapon with for example +hitting probability, or one of the variants such as Sharp, Ancient, Righteous and more which had different effects. Normally there’d only be several of these around and they made a huge difference.

Then there’s the way the damage works, which is simply being displayed over the target’s head, which would normally in the case melee weapons be going by really quickly, assuming you’re hitting them. What makes it interesting though is the fact that little damage is shown as really small numbers, whereas bigger hits, and especially crits/flying hits (where you would send your enemy flying, sending them backwards several tiles) would be shown in big numbers, which was always exciting to see and it made you feel really powerful. That small fact, I think made a huge impact on the game, as you’re always striving to become stronger.

Many of these things are probably the reason for there being a Helbreath community that’s still out there. I still play the game sometimes myself, there’s just something about it!

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Thoughts on: Catcher in the Rye

Catcher In The Rye

This book is considered a classic, it’s near-impossible to never have heard of it, and so I figured that I should read it. So I did, and my thoughts on it are potentially controversial, it seems. I know some people who’ve read this book and claim it’s among the best they’ve read and I absolutely cannot fathom why this’d be the case.

The only strong case I can make for the book is that I detest it, largely in a story there’s some characters or moments that will at least give you something to enjoy. In the case of Catcher in the Rye, I have found absolutely zero. At best there were some side-characters who didn’t frustrate or outright annoy me. But by far the worst is the main character himself, a teenage boy who hates everything, and boy does he show it.

Holden is always talking about people and things around him, in that way you learn about him. Saying that you learn that he’s a whiny bastard that complains about everything, everything is shitty and nothing is fun or good. Everything annoys him and often I just wanted to punch him in the jaw to not be a little whiny bitch. You are supposed to relate to him as a teenager, or looking back to your teenage years, but I can’t do anything but despise him. Every moment I wanted to just drop it and the only way I got through this book was because I was urged to by others.

I really can’t say that I’ve read a worse book in my life, every second I’ve spent with this book has been horrible and miserable, the only good about it is that it’s meaningless and super easy to read through, so your misery shall be shortlived.