Dwarf Fortress – The Ultimate Story Creator

The holidays have given me some extra time, and what better way to spend it than to play a game that takes a while to get the hang of … Dwarf Fortress. Maybe there’s a small part of me that derives pleasure from being able to say that I’ve started to conquer the mountain that is, in my opinion, close to the ultimate nerd game.

Playing Dwarf Fortress these days is a lot easier than it was a few years ago (when I unsuccessfully tried to get into it). Now there is the Lazy Newb Pack complete with more meaningful graphics, easy installation and super handy utilities such as Dwarf Therapist (no, it’s not counselling for Dwarves, but an easy way to track and change the professions of your ever growing Dwarf population). There are also a tonne of tutorials on YouTube and a great Wiki. This isn’t a game that I’d recommend you just dive into without some preparation.

As a brief explanation of the game, you are given 7 dwarves and some equipment and dumped on a spot on the map (of your choosing) with the goal being to create a great fortress capable of repelling all manner of enemies (including from within) and last as long as possible. You don’t control the dwarves directly, instead you assign jobs (such as mining) and the dwarves with appropriate matching professions will get to it after they’ve finished hauling, sleeping, eating etc. New dwarves (migrants) arrive every so often, seasons change, wild animals attack, enemies attack (but you get a grace period for this), dwarves need to be placated and nurtured and fed. To build the fortress you will need to grow food, chop trees, gather plants, fish, mine, build workshops, craft craft craft, make bedrooms, dining halls, build a military, set traps, etc etc etc. There is so much depth to the game it’s mind boggling. Having said that, within just a couple of short hours you know enough to survive the basics.

This isn’t a game you can ‘win’ per se, hence the game philosophy often mentioned on the Wiki, ‘Losing is fun!’, and it is! As my last fortress was rapidly flooding (water and other physics are very realistic and tricky when you don’t know what you’re doing!) I read the announcement screen and watched the fortress. Some of my dwarves had been missing for a week, other’s had gone insane, there were ghosts, miasma (a toxic cloud from rotting material) and all manner of hilarious things happening. Even though I was facing the end of this game, it was making me laugh. As it ended, I immediately started up a new fortress, armed with more knowledge of what NOT to do.

Pushing through the learning curve is well worth it, and it’s a free download so you won’t be left out of pocket if it doesn’t ‘twig’. Dwarf Fortress is coded and designed by Tarn Adams (Toady One) with the help of his brother Zac (ThreeToe) Adams.  Donations are encouraged if you enjoy the game, from what I can gather these represent Toady One’s sole income as this game is now his life’s work.  There is a really interesting New York Times article on the game and the brothers.

One of the levels of my new fortress - Zoom in for more detail

One of the levels of my new fortress – Zoom in for more detail

Farm, trading post etc

Farm, trading post etc


The entrance to my fortress, needs walls and lots more to be done yet

The entrance to my fortress, needs walls and lots more to be done yet


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Filed under Dwarf Fortress, Single Player

Rift – Preparing for Storm Legion and random thoughts

Although my blog has been awfully quiet of late, my gaming certainly hasn’t stopped.  I reached 80 in GW2 for a start.  Why didn’t I jump up and down and post about it? To be honest, reaching max level in GW2 didn’t feel like much of an achievement.

I was really looking forward to GW2, I spent many many hours in GW, striving to reach a whole ton of goals and earn myself some Hall of Monuments points.  GW was hard, it was strategic, getting anywhere in that game felt like an achievement.  In contrast I found it really hard to feel any sense of roleplay in GW2.  Despite the story quests I didn’t feel emotionally immersed in the world.  I actually missed the more standard quests and some quiet time doing things like fishing (I love in-game fishing for some reason).  I was (and presumably still am) in a great and active guild, but even having friends couldn’t make it feel more like home unfortunately. After the initial excitement wore off, bouncing from heart to heart and jumping into events got old quickly. I made it to 80, but that was simply from pushing myself to get there, not from wanting to get there.  That’s not to say I won’t continue to play occasionally but it will never be my main MMO.

So where to from there?  I had no compulsion to play Wow whatsoever, so I decided to sub to Rift for a month instead.  The upcoming (awesome!) housing in Rift was enough for me to want to jump in again and see if I felt any different this time around.  To my surprise I loved it!  I took my level 35 Rogue from ages ago and levelled her to 50.  Once I got to 50 I hunted around for a guild, found a really nice, helpful guild and am currently having a ball running some instances with them and listening to chat (learning a ton while I do so).  Unfortunately most of the members are in the US, but for weekend events it should work well and even in my evening there always seems to be some people on-line.  My main aim before next week and the release of Storm Legion is to get all my crafting skills to 300 so I can hit the ground running on at least one character.

What I’m liking about Rift ….

Rift feels a bit like returning home.  It’s that comfortable feeling.  Kind of reminds me of vanilla Wow a bit, the Wow that no longer exists (‘kind of’ mind you, there is a lot of cool stuff packed into Rift).  There are quests and crafting and fishing and everything you expect.  I die, fairly regularly, and that’s a good thing :).  I care about my character.  There’s so much to do and I want to see it all!

I love that my Rogue is able to change souls at the drop of a hat.  When I’m soloing I tend to go sneaky backstabbing, but in a Sanctum adventure or dungeon I switch to my mighty bow build and stay a bit safer at a distance.  It’s done in a couple of seconds.  And that’s just 2 souls, each character can have several.

Yes, combat is all hotkey based, and there’s no dodging like GW2, but personally I play MMO’s to relax.  I don’t necessarily want to be jumping around like a blue ass fly all the time.

In Rift you have it all, collectibles, fishing, crafting, rifts, questing, dailies, instant adventures, rep, dungeons, raids, gear to collect, mounts to collect, pets to collect, everything you could expect.  I enjoyed EQ2 because it had everything as well, but I like the atmosphere in Telara and Trion really are superb at regularly adding new content.  EQ2 has terrific housing and by the looks Rift housing (Dimensions) will be even better.  MMO Gamer Chick has a great blog on dimensions.

Not everything about Rift is great of course, they still have annoying quests hubs that you return to 3 or so times to hand in quests and get new ones.  Apparently Trion are working on changing that though, and by the high levels I was noticing a lot of quests being picked up from dropped items, or NPC’s with quests in the middle of nowhere so that was a relief.

Anyway, that’s this month! I’ve only subbed for a month at a time, don’t want to jinx my current enjoyment :P.  I have a new Cleric that needs to get to 50 too!

There’s a storm coming ….



Filed under Guild Wars 2, MMO, Rift

Guild Wars 2 – A leap of faith and family fun

I can’t remember having this much fun playing a game together with my family.  We tried a family guild in Wow at one stage, but the kids want to do different things and well, I find it a boring game after all these years.   Guild Wars 2 has something for everyone and being so new there are plenty of tips to be passed around between us.  I discovered today that my son had no idea about the ease of banking collectibles for instance, or that he could spend his gold on gems and buy fluff suits to make his character look all powerful.  It was liberating pointing out the gem purchases as they’re now entirely in his hands instead of my wallet 😛

One thing my son has been enjoying immensely is exploring.  Finding paths to Vistas, conquering jumping puzzles, and having a great time with costumes and weapons and all things cosmetic.  This afternoon he gave hubby and I a tour of some of the more interesting things he’d found.  For example, how to get to a difficult vista in Lion’s Arch that then led onto a jumping puzzle and finally a level 40 karma vendor.  No one does jumping puzzles better than a kid.

In full explore mode I then thought I’d grab the other vistas in the area.   I nearly split my sides laughing when, at the top of a high tower above water, I donned goggles only to find myself in one piece bathers and goggles, the scene egging me on to take a leap of faith off the diving board into the water far far below. What fun!

They were so tempting just lying there and sparkling so brightly

With a scream and a flailing of limbs, down I went!

Once again, it’s the little things 😀


Filed under MMO

Mixing and matching – the MMO juggler

Reading Syp’s post today about RIFT’s Storm Legion expansion made me a bit sad.  He seems to be the juggling king, while I bounce from MMO to MMO never completely satisfied, the life of a butterfly I guess.  I have played and enjoyed all the MMO’s that he mentions in his post, but there is no way known I could play them all (or even two) at once.   The trouble is, once I move onto a new (or old) MMO, the pull to play the original one gets exponentially less over the ensuing days.  My brain also knows full well that if I put my time into many different games, I’ll never hit max level in any of them (hence the fact that Wow and LotRO are the only MMO’s I’ve hit max level in), and so I convince myself that I’m better off sticking with the most recent one and then of course end up getting nowhere in any of them.

Over the last couple of weeks however things have been a little different.  My Asura Ranger in Guild Wars 2 is now around level 26 (well behind a lot of my guild – we have a level 80 already), but she’s having fun nevertheless.  She potters around the cooking station mixing mad concoctions in the effort to find a new recipe, follows some guildies to unexplored starting areas, then tries a bit of WvWvW (of which she is completely hopeless but enjoys anyway), and then heads to the bigger areas to explore and join in with the general crowd.

Taking a break from it all

I also have a Thrasher Ship in Eve, and have been playing Eve Online for around the same amount of time each week as GW2.  Finally! Two MMO’s at once.  I have less than 2 million skill points, so I’m only a baby, but I’m working my way towards a Cheetah; exploration and hacking are something I’d like to try.  Right around the time GW2 started, CCP invited me back to Eve with a 3 month subscription deal, and I accepted.

How am I managing it now when usually I can’t at all? I think it’s because they’re so very different.  One is your traditional fantasy MMO and the other is  a game where everything is completely different, where there is enough to learn to fill several books and then some.  That aspect alone makes Eve very appealing.

Maybe I jump from game to game to game because they’re generally pretty similar; theme-park MMO’s in a fantasy setting.  So far, combining GW2 (with the appeal of a group of players I enjoy spending time with in a familiar environment), with an MMO that makes me feel like a kid again is working out well.  Of course only time will tell but it’s looking good so far :).

Not quite as personal as a normal character, but fun nevertheless. Who doesn’t love the thought of exploring the Universe?


Filed under Eve Online, Guild Wars 2

My 30th Post – Neatly timed for Guild Wars 2

And what a wonderful game it is!  (Kind of makes Wow look like a stodgy old dinosaur).

One of my characters, pondering her new life

Reading other blogs, I see a few people complaining about the launch, servers full, crashing etc. Come live in Australia!  The servers crashed at about 10:30 last night, I waited for a while and then decided bed was the best place.  Up nice and early and everything was back running smoothly again.

I’ve been looking forward to GW2 for ages now, like 1/2 the other gamers on the planet.  At some stage (being a butterfly and all), it crosses your mind that perhaps it’s just another hyped up game and you’ll start playing and it won’t quite be right, won’t tick all the boxes.  So far, GW2 is everything I hoped it would be and more.  Well done ArenaNet! Let’s hope other companies follow in your lead in the future and release with a such a polished, well thought out, complete, utterly fun game.

So what’s so great so far?

Gorgeous graphics, everyone can rez everyone, no need for trinity, events!, discovery’s in crafting, big areas to explore, achievements!, Asura, individual crafting nodes, underwater combat (done well), bank available at crafting stations, crafting items have their own massive collectibles section, move your crafting collectibles to their section at any time – anywhere, salvaging, Asura, crafting gets faster the more you do at once, Vistas, daily – weekly – monthly rewards for all kinds of stuff, no subscription!, exploring, Asura, lots of friends playing, guild up and running :),  etc etc etc.

Edit: More that came to mind, groups are remembered between sessions and accounts (eg, hubby and I change characters and are still grouped :)), mail is instant send – instant receive – no hunting for a mailbox, share in other people’s story quests, don’t like your starting area (or done it too many times) – go to another one, characters are automatically down leveled when you go to or return to a lower leveled area, bank and crafting items are shared between all your characters – great for those of us that like to be self sufficient in crafting :).

Want your hard earned HoM goodies? Visit the ruins of the Hall of Monuments

All decked out in my Hall Of Monuments spoils

I even tried WvW (I’m not PvP player), and it was fun!

So far I’ve rolled (all Asura) an Engineer, Necromancer and Ranger.  Love all 3, hmmm, which one am I going to level first?!

Hubby and I out adventuring

I wish I could take a month off work right about now 😛


Filed under MMO

Waiting for GW2 – Endless Space et al.

Not long after the 30 quest weekend challenge I pretty much stopped playing The Secret World.  I will probably go back later, but for the moment I’m not feeling much of a pull to log in.  I am going through serious MMO withdrawal, but, with Guild Wars 2 only a week or so away there’s no point in getting into a different MMO.  A good time to play a few single player games.

I bought Endless Space on Steam last week, a pretty new turned-based 4X game.  Even on Newbie setting it’s giving me a run for my money.  I also bought a copy for hubby so we can play multiplayer (multiplayer games are done through Steam either with your Steam friends or open to the public).  Ganging up on the AI certainly helps!  If you want a great summary of the game, the Cynical Brit has a WTF is … Endless Space episode, well worth watching.  With the disastrous launch of Sword of the Stars II last year, and Legends of Pegasus this month, it’s nice to see a polished game on launch.  Sure, it could do with a few more bells and whistles, but in the last month there have been 4 or so updates, one of the them chock full of additions, so both the present and future look bright for the game.  The UI is so clean and well designed, everything is at your fingertips and the graphics in general are a pleasure to look at.  A first glance it seems pretty simplistic, but there’s plenty of depth to it, and I’m imagining more depth over time.  I’ve played about 20 hours so far, and I’m not feeling at all bored yet, quite the opposite, still figuring out strategies to nail the AI!

Galaxy View – yes I know it looks like I’m in a good position here, but I’m not, trust me. 

Pretty AND functional Solar System View

Part of the large tech tree

I’ve been a typical butterfly over the last few weeks, trying to find things to play while waiting for Guild Wars 2.  As well as Endless Space I’ve dabbled with a couple of Alpha Indie games, Gnomoria (kind of a better looking version of Dwarf Fortress) and Stardrive, another 4X space game (I was a contributor to the KickStarter for that, hence access to the Alpha).  Fieldrunners 2 is still keeping my ipad busy :).  What’s everyone else doing in the lead up to Guild Wars 2?!



Filed under Endless Space, Single Player

TSW – 30 quests in a weekend challenge

I like in-game events, what can I say, I’m a sucker for fluff; those new pets, or a title, or swanky clothes.

This weekend The Secret World is running a weekend long challenge (that coincidentally runs alongside a free weekend for those yet to purchase).  Complete 30 quests over the course of the weekend and get 1200 points for the in-game store (pets!), and a special in-game T-Shirt.  Clever.  Don’t just play free for the weekend, play free and make sure you do 30 quests so that you see a good portion of the game (and are therefore presumably sucked into their scary world) before the weekend is up.

30 quests is a lot, so I’m going to have to track them as I go, I wonder if I can use this post to do that, update it a few times over the course of the weekend and see if I can get to 30 🙂

I must say I need the extra ability and skill points … I die a lot in this game.  A lot meaning enough to have nearly given up a couple of times.  I’ve been mostly playing alone (hubby sprinted on ahead) but he’ll be joining me for this challenge and two is always better than one, so things should be infinitely easier :).  This is definitely a game better played with a friend.

My other aim is to reach the third area, Blue Mountains (no, I’m not even that far yet, it’s been a slow month moving house).

TSW Quests – need to get to 30!!!

1.For a fistful of zombies
2.Bullets for Andy (SQ)
3.Elm Street Blues
5.Missing perons list (SQ)
6.Supply run
7.Dirty Laundry (SQ)
8.Horror Show
9.The tentacle trail (SQ)
10.Neither Snow nor Rain nor Zombies (SQ)

Added 5 Skill Points and 13 Action Points with first 10 quests – not sure if side quests (marked as SQ) count, but they haven’t said otherwise anywhere.

11.The curious case of Joe Slater (SQ)
12.The Ravan
13.A sacred place
14.Dust to Dust
15.Idol of Nergal (SQ)
16.They never stop coming
17.Tomb Raider (SQ)
18.The slaying of Dixie Bull (SQ)
19.Message in a bottle (SQ)
20.Book of the Bokor (SQ)
21.That’ll leave a mark (SQ)
22.Death, and the instrument thereof
23.Journey’s End (SQ)
24.Appetite for destruction
25.The coming down (SQ)
26.Rolls Downhill
27.The pick-up
29.Trapped (SQ)
30.Full metal golem

Added altogether 15 Skill Points and 44 Action Points.

Checking the store a couple of hours later I have my 1200 bonus points :).  I think I’ll buy a couple of pets with that :).   My newly acquired points will certainly help buy a couple of new abilities too 🙂

Oh yes, we apparently all get free fireworks too.

TSW is one month old – lets celebrate says Funcom


Filed under MMO, The Secret World

GW2 – It’s the little things

Although I can’t play much at the moment (and really didn’t want to play too much before launch) I decided to update Guild Wars 2 and take a peek anyway.  I have known since way back when that I wanted to play Asura, I guess it goes with the territory of hobbits and gnomes and all things small and cute :P.

Now we’re talking!

Instant love! Bring on August 28 … now!


Filed under Guild Wars 2, MMO

Real life and gaming

Yes, real life gets in the way, and this was the subject of a couple of posts I read yesterday, namely The Decline of Hardcore, a guest post on BioBreak, and  On “The Decline of Hardcore” from I Have Touched the Sky.  Of course they were talking about hardcore gamers, but really it was about growing up, getting a life, and not having as much time to play games any more (even though there are plenty of versions of ‘us’ from 10 or more years ago filling in those slots I’m sure).

I’ve never been a hardcore gamer if you go by the majority definition, no 6 night a week raiding or anything like that, but I do consider myself a hardcore gamer in that I spend a ‘significant’ number of hours every week playing games.  Mostly MMO’s, but also plenty of Steam games and iPad games (and I’m about to lose many tens of hours in Fieldrunners 2!).

I love Fieldrunners, and now it’s even better!

Although gaming blogs are about gaming, it’s nice to get to know the people behind the posts, and Rakuno’s was great to read, inspired by Ambermist’s July challenge :).

So here’s a bit about me:

  • I’m an Aussie from way back, at least 4 generations that I know of.  Before then I think it’s mostly England, Scotland, France.
  • My husband and I are a mini Brady Bunch (without Alice unfortunately), 4 teenagers between us, all of them gamers … naturally 😀
  • We are busy packing to move :(, so gaming time is limited at the moment, one of the down sides to renting is that there’s no guarantee that you can stay in one house for more than a year or so.   Melbourne and Sydney houses are incredibly expensive to buy, and why buy a massive house when most of the kids will be out of home in a few short years … maybe 😛
  • Leelu comes from the movie The Fifth Element, I love Gary Oldman movies, Dracula from back in 1992 being my favourite.
  • I was very sad when, after pre-ordering The Secret World and being able to put a name aside, that Leelu was already taken.  My current character is Leeftea instead, after re-rolling to Templar from Dragon so that our little wandering guild could all get together in a Cabal. I will miss the butterflies.
  • I’ve been playing games since … well, a long time.  My first memory of playing games was on the Merlin, I thought it was ace, then came the Commodore 64 which meant more games, and coding :D.
  • My collection of Steam Games is down right embarrassing.  How dare they do such tempting sales.
  • I work in what little is left of the gaming industry here, and for that I am extremely grateful!


Filed under Single Player

The Eternal Butterfly

Whenever I log into The Secret World I have a good time.  So why do I have to stop myself from thinking about logging into LotRO or Aion or something altogether different instead? Why am I craving for GW2?  Is it simply me being my usual butterfly self, or a case of the Better the Devil You Know?  Maybe I’m limiting myself too much and should follow Syp’s Plan and juggle a few MMO’s.  I have trouble focusing on multiple MMO’s however, they’re big games that require a lot of attention and time is precious.

Of course I haven’t had any huge play sessions yet.  I haven’t managed to even finish the first area, Kingsmouth completely yet, unlike MMO Gamer Chick. While I’ve been under the weather I’ve been making use of my DS  and VITA, playing ChronoTrigger, FFIV, some timeless and terrific old RPG’s 😀 and then logging into Secret World for an hour or two here or there.

Maybe the best way to analyse my thoughts is to write down the tried and tested like / dislike list:


  • Variety of quests.  I love that they’re tiered and that most of them make you think at least a little.
  • Ambience.  This is one scary scary world.
  • Decks. They are a good guide for beginners as to where to put your Skill Points and Action Points.  I could write a whole post on this, maybe that’s next.
  • Grouping. Even when you separate to do solo instances for quests you remained grouped at the other end.
  • Cross-server grouping.  This is truly great, no more regretting what faction / server you rolled on.
  • Bags.  Wow, bags in TSW are awesome.   You start with 50 slots (pay in-game currency to add more), and these slots can be divided up into player named bags.  You can even have one or more of them allocated to show permanently on the screen.
  • Clothes, wear what looks good, create an entire wardrobe! No more fugly gear while you’re levelling.  There’s even a toolkit for changing how your weapon looks based on another weapon.

The inventory system is very flexible, it’s great!

  • Crafting.  Good and bad.  More tutorials please.  More toolkits dropping please.   For those after a tutorial, TenTonHammer has an excellent one up on their website, but with a crafting system so different to the norm you’d think that Funcom would put more effort into teaching you how it works.
  • No levels.  I know that we have Skill Points, Action Points, Decks etc but I miss my levels.  I guess I’m just so used to levels after ever RPG since time began has had them.  Maybe I’ll feel better about this after more time in-game.
  • Not many friends playing.  This is where GW2 will win win win!
  • Bugs.  This is good and bad.  There are a few horrendous quest bugs, but you can change instances (group with a player on another dimension / shard) and find one that works.
  • Missing features. No AH yet.  This would be good for more toolkits!
  • No ‘follow’.  C’mon, when we’re making each other cups of tea and running to a quest area, ‘follow’ is a nice thing to have.
  • No custom decks.

Hmmm, looks like TSW is worth at least the remaining 2 months until GW2 comes out 🙂

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Filed under MMO, RPG, Single Player, The Secret World