Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pimp my ride, WoW style

Got a couple product reviews awaiting approval on Those might go up Monday; if not, should be on Friday. Either way, they'll also go up on EN World and here as well, this week.

In the meantime, some news from the Warcraft… world. First, the Brewfest festival has begun. You can buy your own invisible Wolpertinger pet, get smashed and race rams. Used to be, you could build up tickets to buy a Swift Brewfest Ram, regardless of your faction. This year, that's been scrapped. Instead, there's a level 70 boss that (sometimes) drops the Ram, or a new Brewfest Kodo. He can also drop a teleporter remote. Or, you could just buy yourself a non-virtual beer stein.

Second, coming in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Engineers will be able to make motorcycles. They're able to hold the rider and one passenger, and are Bind on Equip, so they can be sold or given away.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Today was a Warcraft day. Not much else to accomplish, but I did get a lot of gaming done. Among them:
  • Finished Uldaman, finally. And it was a surprisingly cool PUG too.
  • Hit 275 Engineering
  • Became Friendly with Ratchet, Gadgetzan and Booty Bay.
  • Hit level 50
  • Made a new gun: Thorium Rifle
  • Started exploring Un'Goro Crater. Awesome place. Got eaten by a dinosaur.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Magic Smoke

Well, that was fun. My current laptop, an old 12" aluminum Powerbook G4, has been a workhorse for about 6 years now. I briefly tried replacing it with an Asus eee, but the Xandros linux on the eee was so locked down it wasn't worth my time.

So, of course, right after I return the eee, my Powerbook decides to get revenge on me. The power adapter, which has seen better days, began to smoke near the actual plug at the laptop. A couple of the wires had finally frayed their insulation and shorted, melting the plastic housing them. One quick unplug-and-shutdown later, and I was offline until I could get a new power adapter.

I've now got a new MacAlly power adapter, which is a sight cheaper than the official Apple one and seems to work just as well.

I'll work up a review of the Asus eee shortly, long with several game book reviews that will likely go up on

Saturday, September 6, 2008

GenCon: Cosplay

As the final post in my GenCon report (finally), I thought I'd leave you with a few more pictures. Several folks were dressed up as their favorite characters (aka cosplay), and a few were really just outstanding.

Cosplay - Blood Elf

This is a really nicely done Blood Elf from World of Warcraft. There's a lot of detail in this one, and it must've taken quite some time to put together.

Cosplay - Drow

The elves were well represented this year. Here, we have an absolutely awesome Drow. The lighting in the hotel was bad, so it's a bit hard to make out, but she did a fantastic job with the makeup and costuming.

Cosplay - Medieval Figures

A medieval troupe. The lady in the white dress must've had a time with it, because the train was extremely long. Looked great, though.

Cosplay - Captain Jack Sparrow

The best Captain Jack Sparrow of the con. And yes, there were a few.

Banana & Monkey

A monkey and his banana. Be sure to look at the sign on the monkey's chest. And, who is that to the side?

Cosplay - Vash the Stampede

Why, it's Vash the Stampede! Complete with his friend, Kuroneko.


I'm not sure if this counts as cosplay, but this was a fully featured R2-D2 rolling around the con floor.

That does it for GenCon. Hope you enjoyed reading my blogposts! Later this week, I'm going to do reviews of a couple books I picked up at the con, as well as some new computer hardware I recently purchased.

Gencon: Days 3 & 4

Saturday at GenCon started out early. The "Haunted and Historical" tour kept us up late, so we almost overslept and missed...

Killer Breakfast

The "Killer Breakfast" does not serve breakfast. :) Basically, it's a silly thing that authors Tracy & Laura Hickman put together. Everyone piles into the room and a group of about a dozen people get pulled up onto the stage and given "character sheets." Tracy then gives a scenario and starts asking the people "How did you get here," and "What do you do?"

If people's answers are too boring or just lame, they get "killed" and taken off the stage, to make room for the next person. Of course, the trick is that everyone will get killed by the end of it, so it's no big deal. The people who are the most entertaining "live" the longest onstage. A couple of my favorites:

Killer Breakfast - Pirate Wench

The Pirate gal actually lasted a couple rounds, if I remember right, because she played it to the hilt. And besides, everything's better with pirates!

Killer Breakfast - Service

As I mentioned before, there is no breakfast served at Killer Breakfast. When Tracy Hickman asked this guy "what do you do?" he got up and pulled out a table, then proceeded to serve Tracy & Laura a light breakfast. He lived a couple more rounds. :)

Killer Breakfast - Yoda

Yes, this guy dressed up as Yoda, complete with little arms on sticks. And he really stole the show. He also was sitting next to a kid who was doing a Harry Potter-ish thing to play, and they really had fun playing off each other.

Killer Breakfast - Monster in Darkness

I really wish I could've got a better picture of this. Someone dressed up as the "Monster in Darkness" from the comic The Order of the Stick. Did a great job of it, too.

Of course, in the end, the entire audience died. :)

We managed to double-book several events on Saturday, so we didn't get to do everything we had planned. After the Killer Breakfast, we got some real breakfast, and did more shopping in the dealer's room. Then, it was time for "Tracy Hickman's X-Treme Dungeon Mastering!"

X-Treme Dungeon Mastering!

This was a seminar where he talked about the various ways to play games, and how to avoid many of the pitfalls gamemasters make when running their games. He had a lot of great insight, including...

XDM and Joseph Campbell

... using Joseph Campbell's monomyth to help build your stories.

DNA Winner

At the end of the seminar, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis held a contest. Apparently, a batch of human DNA samples are going to be sent up to the ISS as a kind of "back up" for the human race. They drew out a name and the guy pictured in the middle won.

Again, the seminar kept us from attending a couple other events, so we just spent some time walking around getting pictures and such. I stopped by the miniatures painting area, and they had a bunch of their contest winners out for show.

Mini - Red Dragon Minis - Sculped Giant Frog
Minis - Beholder Minis - Sewer
Minis - Mecha Minis - DDR

Then, the big event of the con...

Charity Die

Gary Gygax, one of the co-creators of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, died this past year. In tribute, the con had this huge styrofoam d20 die out on the floor. The die was hollow, and people were encouraged to drop some of their spare dice into it.

On Saturday evening, a charity auction was held. All purchases made at the charity auction went to help soldiers who had been badly injured in combat. Several artists and writers donated unique pieces of their work, along with lots of other gaming related items. But the big event of the night was auctioning off the huge foam d20 and all its contents.

Charity Auction

The auction started off kinda anemic, without a whole lot of bids going in. It was a bit disappointing, but some of the presenters gave impassioned speeches that seemed to get people more in the giving mood. The die ended up going for $1500.

That brought an end do our Saturday. Sunday, the final day of the con, started out after a good night's sleep. We only had a single event to attend, the "Worst Mistakes in Game Writing" seminar. Several writers talked about the typical mistakes people make when trying to get into game writing, and took questions people had about the subject. It was really informative, and I hope they do it again next year.

After that, it was just a matter of getting home. GenCon was fabulous fun, and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.

I have one more follow-up post to make. There was a bunch of good cosplay at the con, and I'm going to show off some of the highlights in another post later today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nice chrome.

Google has unveiled their own web browser, Chromium.

The concept was to strip off all the "chrome," aka unnecesary menus and visual effects that most apps have. The second concept was to revolved around the "web app," such as Gmail, Google Docs and other web applications. It will use Google Gears to actually "save" the webapp to your computer so you can run it offline.

So far, it looks really cool, and I hear its quick. It has a few really neat features, such as: each tab is its own process, so if one tab crashes it doesn't take the whole browser down with it; inline search, like Safari; Firefox's spell check; "private browsing" mode; and a thumbnail view of your sites, similar to Opera's "Speed Dial" function. The developers describe the browser as drawing on the best features of today's web browsers, and they hope their open-source code will be used to improve other browsers.

The downside is that it's beta. From what I've read, having each tab really takes up way too much memory; and there's no real bookmark manager in place. Plus, they're still working on MacOS X and Linux versions.

Now is the appropriate time to headbang.

I've had a few bands that I've loved a long time. Many were because my dad listened to them quite a bit: Pink Floyd, the Doors, Dire Straits, etc. Once I got to college, I got exposed to something new: "alternative" music, which turned me on to bands like Alice In Chains, Tool and others.

One of my favorites from this time period was Nine Inch Nails. The sound was raw, the lyrics were full of emotion, and there was a wonderfully layered effect to the sound. Trent Reznor, the heart of the band, takes advantage of live instruments, synthesizers and his own powerful voice to create music that builds on itself, adding rhythms to each other, often building up the complexity of the song as it goes along. It's really evident in their big hit "Closer" as it approaches the end.

So, when my partner told me he got a notice from Rupp Arena that NIN was coming to Lexington, and were offering special $20 preorder tickets, I snapped them up. The seats weren't the best, but for $20 who was I to argue?

I have never seen so many people wearing black in my life. n.n

The venue didn't sell out, but it was pretty well packed. The folks next to us were cool, and we chatted with them a bit before the show. The opening act was a band out of Ohio called White William. Three college guys, one on guitar, one on a very small drum set and one on synth/vocals.

These guys sucked. I hate to say it, but good lord this sounded like a self-absorbed college band. They used reverb and echo effects for their entire set. The guy on vocals and synth was the worst offender, as there wasn't a single song where he wasn't using both effects on his singing. Plus, they apparently used every damn effects key on the synth. The guitarist kept to the really high notes and was headbanging. My partner commented that "this is not the appropriate time to headbang," because the music really wasn't heavy; rather, I can best describe it as pop-synth-crap. The drummer didn't get to do anything interesting for most of the set. The worst part is, the band didn't seem to have any enthusiasm. When the singer talked to the audience between songs, he was flat and emotionless. I'm guessing he wrote the lyrics to their song because the words were just as flat and trite. Well, what I could hear of them. Did I mention the whole set was badly over-amplified?

It's telling when the lead singer says, "This is going to be our last song," and the crowd starts cheering. o.o

That said, their last song almost didn't suck. If the lead singer had turned off his damn echo & reverb, used a few less effects, and the outro hadn't been three times too long, it would've been a decent electronica piece.

Following that disappointment, the lights came back up and we sat for about 45 mins while roadies set up equipment for the headlining act. We chatted with folks about the opener, and they all agreed it wasn't good. My partner thinks that NIN must be picking up local acts for their openers, rather than bringing an opener on tour. After the concert, I thought it would've been much more appropriate to track down the guys from Days of the New, as they were a Louisville band originally, had talent, and were at least an alternative band that would've fit the sound of an opener for NIN somewhat.

Finally, we got to the main act. And, damn, Trent Reznor knows how to put on a show! This is billed as the "Lights in the Sky" tour, and the name shows. There was a fantastic amount of lighting effects, and several curtain effects that were just dazzling. For one song, a curtain came down in front of the stage showing TV static. And at certain points during the song, Reznor would step up close to the curtain and the static would clear just around him for a few moments. He'd step back and the static would fill in, he'd come close to the curtain and it'd clear, he'd run across the stage and the static would clear as he moved across, filling in behind him again.

At one point after a song, a block of 64 hollow squares appeared on the screen, stacked in a pair of 16x2 grids. Reznor walked up in front of the curtain screen and a pair of white squares started tracking across the grid. He'd touch one of the hollow squares, which would fill in red and, when the white trackers crossed the red square, a snare hit was played. He started filling in the squares in the right pattern to begin the song "Echoplex" off the album The Slip. Once the main pattern was started the band began playing and he started singing the song. It was a great bit to watch, if kinda hard to explain. (You can download The Slip for free on the official site, linked.)

Edit: Found a YouTube video that shows it off well!

Most of the music was off The Slip, but he also played the band's most popular songs, plus some stuff off Ghosts I-IV. (You can download Ghosts I for free on the official site, linked.)

I really hope they put out a concert DVD of this performance, as some of it needs to be seen to be believed. It was just a fantastic show. The band was really into it, Reznor knew just how to play the crowd, and the crowd was singing along to most of the songs. Overall, it was a fantastic show to attend.