Last week was a week with no gaming and for the most part disconnected from the normal world – I was on a one week holiday in Scotland to do some hill walking/hiking. This was my first time in Scotland ever and also the first time doing some serious highland walking, rather than somewhat flat lowlands.
It was a fantastic week! We started off in West Highlands of Scotland with some day trips near Ballachulish – first day was said to be the warmest day in Scotland so far this year. This was said for some of the other days the same week as well; instead of cloudy and rainy weather that seems to be somewhat common in Scotland we had great weather all week, sunny and hot. Actually, even a bit too hot for doing hill walking all day…
We had a great time and our local guide, Tom, was fantastic. Very good about tuning the experience for the group and with lots of knowledge about the local area, history, flora & fauna. Really nice!
We contimued later further east in Scotland, via Loch Ness to Cairngorms national park, where we did some more walks there. The slopes were a bit more gentle here and the setting a bit different from West Highlands, but great nonetheless. Temperature dropped a bit towards the end of the week, which made the walking a bit nicer.
All in all, a great week and I definiately do this again sometime! And perhaps get some use for my rain poncho that time…
It was created by Luis von Ahn, creator of reCAPTCHA, and a couple of other people. While one important part of the service is translation of text, I find it also interesting because they have gamified the learning process.
Each lesson gives you points after completion, similar to gaining XP. After you have received a certain amount of points you gain a level. As you level, more skill/learning options open up for you. After receiving a certain proficiency in an area, one can continue to move on to other areas, or continue with mastering that area. In is in the latter option that the crowdsourced translation seems to be taking place.
Each lesson also give each student/player 4 lives (hearts) – if an answer is wrong, you lose one heart. If you lose all hearts, you fail the lesson and have to redo it to progress. The more hearts you have after a lesson, the more “xp” you get.
Each lesson is fairly short and the time can be counted in minutes. I found it quite fun and enjoyable to play/learn through DuoLingo. To try it out I started with German, a language I studied for only 3-4 weeks long ago in my youth in high school before switching to French and Russian.
So far I have reached level 4 and judging from the skill tree, there is a lot of ground to cover.
The site offers language training in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English – the latter for speakers of some of the Latin languages, the others for those who speak English.
So what will your proficiency in a language be after completing the DuoLingo training? There is a Reddit discussion on this topic, which relates what is learned to CEFR level definitions. In some areas abilities/skills may be at B1 level, other areas DuoLingo is weaker. Considering the number of hours CEFR estimates for reaching certain proficiency levels compared to the number of hours people seem to need in general to complete a DuoLingo training, it seems DuoLingo is fairly efficient.
I do recommend reading the comments that are attached to each exercise, in particular if you do not quite understand the correct answer – DuoLingo does not go out of its way to explain the grammar. There are grammar descriptions, but not everything is explained in detail. Here comments from native/knowledgable people can be quite helpful.
Try it out – it is F2P and there is no item shop, lockboxes or pay-to-win features….
Today I ran a 10km race here in the Stockholm area, Kistaloppet. This worked out quite well and I managed to beat my old personal record, running the 10km in 48:51. This means that after 26 years I fixed something that annoyed me back in my first 10km race, where I missed beating the 50 minute limit by just a few seconds. Since then, I have not ran any races until this year. The past 1 – 1 1/2 year has been a slow but steady work to improve my general health and well-being.
This has been a great day so far. Yay me
Saturday this last weekend was a special day. I went up at 05:50 and got to bed past midnight. Parts of the day was cloudy and rainy. In between I drove my car for about 9 hours, spent 2-3 hours waiting far out in the countryside and ran through the forest for a bit less than 24 minutes. And I loved this day and would do it again, in a heartbeat!
Warning - this blog post has nothing to do with MMOs, but rather one of the things I do when I am not playing MMOs – running.
Saturday was the day for Vasastafetten, which translates to Vasa Relay Race, for those whose Swedish is a bit rusty. Some people may be familiar with Vasaloppet, which is a well-known long-distance ski race in Sweden – 90 km long. The ski race is obviously in the winter time, but in the summer time some other races are also arranged, with pretty much the same distance and path as the ski race. This includes Cykelvasan (mountain bike race for 90km) and thus also Vasastafetten. The latter is a bit over 90 km and a competition between teams of 10 people.
This year I and 9 colleagues of mine participated for the first time in Vasastafetten. The participants in the team comes from three different cities in Sweden, so there was a bit of planning to do who would pick up who and with what car. The different relay points of the race are a different points out in the country-side, typically somewhere in the forest near some small village. It is up to the different teams how they handle transport arrangements. However, the organizers of the race did a tremendous job of handling all the cars driving and parking at the different relay point – it worked quite well. This with 458 different teams with 10 persons in each time, plus some supporters, friends and family etc that was around just cheering for the runners.
The ten distances in the race are divided up into different lengths, with the longest one being a bit more than 15 km and the shortest ones slightly less than 5 km. Thus there is opportunity for a mix of running experience levels to participate in the same team.
My own distance was a short one and one I was not worried at all about completing – I run longer than that pretty much every time I train running. But it had been a while since I tried to to run fast, plus when I checked the path on Google Earth I got the impression there could be a fair amount of uphill running in some areas.
Once it was my turn to run I started off in a fairly high speed, for me anyway, and I did the first kilometer in 04:50 – with less strain than I expected. I was still worried that there might be some uphill paths coming up and slowed down a bit to conserve energy. However it turned out that the path did not have as much uphill as I had expected, I had misjudged or misread the info on the Google Earth map. The path was mostly forest trail with some muddy parts and a bit of gravel road. Towards the end I increased speed again and ran to hand over to my next team member. The overall pace for my distance ended up at 5:09 minutes/km, which I am pretty happy with.
The total time for the team ended up roughly at 8 hours and 18 minutes, which included some mishaps on the way that effectively increased the time by a number of minutes that was not running-time. After the race and some showers and sauna we headed off to have some dinner and celebrate a bit in the evening. Then after dinner we all headed back home (a few hours of driving).
Since it was our first time doing this we learned a few things that can make this an even better experience next time. Everyone also agreed that we should do this again and try to get more colleagues to participate – at least two teams next time, which would be about 25% of the employees.
Running the race was a great experience, very fun and enjoyable, great surroundings (it is a very beautiful area) and lots of friendly people. This kind of experience is part of what makes running so much fun.
I have three more races on my schedule in September and October, all 10 km races and all local, or at least quite close to where I live. So there will be 3 more Saturdays of sharing fun with 1000s of other runners this year.
This week I have not really played any MMOs at all, not even TSW. This is primarily due to that I have endulged in another interest of mine, that of magic and mentalism.
This week the 25th FISM world championship in magic took place in Blackpool in UK, which I attended – as a visitor, not a competitor. This is only a hobby of mine.
It has been a fantastic and inspiring week overall, even though had both its ups and downs. Earlier today we got a couple of new world champions in various areas of magic performance, with two Grand Prix champions for stage and close-up magic:
Yu Ho-Jin from South Korea in Stage Magic and Yann Frisch from France. While there are no video clips for their actual performances in Blackpool, I did find some video clips from performances which were similar to what they showed at FISM.
My contratulations to both of them!
FISM is done for now and next will be in 3 years in Italy. Now it is back to the normal stuff at home.
The year 2011 has ended and we have started with 2012. The past year has been interesting in a few ways for me, but perhaps more in areas outside of MMO gaming. While I have been writing a couple of blog posts the past year (123 according to WordPress) I must say that I have felt less inspired when writing posts for large chunks of time.
I used to hop around quite a bit in different MMOs, but this year it has settled down a bit – the past few months I have been pretty much exclusively playing City of Heroes. The year started out with a few other titles though:
This game in theory had a lot of promise, or at least there was a picture painted that this could be an interesting and fun sandbox-style SciFi MMO. Closer to launch it showed many signs that this was a potential train wreck to be launched. I bought the game knowing that very well though, mainly because I wanted to support a non-mainstream developer, in case they had some good ideas.
The launch was indeed a train wreck and I was a bit disappointed looking more into detail of some actual gameplay elements – not as inspired as I had hoped it would be, not in areas I liked anyway. Even if the performance and bugs were sorted out I do not think I would have enjoyed the game anyway, so that was it for me.
The current state of the game seems to be that the game still has some quality issues and that they have started a transition to a “free-to-play” model – no new accounts can be created from December 1st and this will be in effect until the “F2P” revamp is completed some time in 2012.
Played this in the early parts of 2011. The open sandbox world was quite fascinating, but also consumed a lot of time. In the end I decided I did not have the desire to invest enough time in this game/world for it to feel worthwhile. Not sure if I will fo back to this particular game, but would definitely want to try something in the same sandbox spirit as Wurm.
Not a big fan of the Star Trek Universe, but I did enjoy creating my own races to play and making up some background and story for my characters. I played STO primarily a bit in the first couple of months of the year and also ended up playing on the Klingon side mainly – very much enjoyed playing my Klingon-sided engineer type (but my own race). I was very enthusiastic about creating missions with the Foundry also initially, but ended up now being anything completed. My inspiration for creating soemthign for the Star Trek universe ended up a bit lacking, although I did look into Klingon material (including the language) a bit as part of the research.
I will probably revisit the game when it changes its payment model.
Visited the geme a couple of times, mainly playing one character. I am a life-time subscriber, so the cryptic points keep piling up in the game. It has been ok to visit a few times, but for my spandex fix City of Heroes works so much better. At some point I should try out the content I have not treied out yet, but I have had difficulty building up enthusiasm to do so. Which is a shame perhaps.
A very hyped game in the early part of the year, which also is a well executed and polished game. I did avoid reading about the game consciously precisely because of all the hype and in late April/early May jumped in and tried the game. I liked many things with it, although I found the combat a bit annoying with the global cooldown timer and the skill trees which quickly cluttered up multiple hotbars. The soul system was nice, but I would have liked a different skill progression model within these souls.
Unfortunately for me, I signed up with a 6 month subscription. In June, after around 1 1/2 month of playing the game I quite quickly lost all interest in logging in and playing the game anymore. I had a brief attempt later in July to get back into the game, but could not muster up enough interest to keep playing. This was very similar to my play experience with LOTRO, which played out quite similar – although in that case I had pre-ordered and played in beta also. Lesson learned – do not sign up for a long payment period initially with a subscription-based fantasy game.
My only major visit into mobile MMO gaming and this on my Eee Pad – the screen is too small for my taste on a phone for these games. Was very fun to play for short periods of time, but after a while I lost interest. Still have the game installed, but rarely visit it any longer.
Bought this game for PS3 shortly after launch, primarily to see if there could finally be something MMOish to play on the household PS3 – which primarily is used to watch blu-ray movies. Dropped it quite quickly – not a DC fan and it felt like you had to be that to appreciate the content. The controls were really awkward to use also.
Reinstalled the game again on the PS3 after the “F2P” revamp and I thought the game was better now from a UI/control perspective – but could not find that much enthusiasm for the DC content. Maybe I will play it more – maybe.
My very first MMO. I jumped back into the game just prior to its 10th anniversary and I have had a pretty good time in the game, with some nice people. Still, the combat mechanics are quite different from what I appreciate nowadays, being too much auto-attack dependent. Funcom does not seem to spend much resources on the game currently, but have indicated that when the conversion to new engine for the game (same one that Age of Conan and The Secret World uses) is done _and_ they have done a profession revamp, they will do a relaunch effort for the game.
The graphics engine revamp is what mainly has been talked about, but I think the profession/combat revamp is just as important for the game, if they get it right. A new graphics engine can get people to come back or to try the game, but it is a profession gameplay revamp that may potentially keep them in the game. I have not played AO since I decided to focus on City of Heroes, but I hope to get back into the game at some point – hopefully Funcom gets to the point where the new engine and the revamp will be done during 2012.
A quite polished fantasy/steampunk title from big Chinese MMO maker Perfect World. Same as Rift, this game is very well executed – just not something I could muster up continued interest for.
A SciFi space shooter kind of MMO. The initial PvE storyline part of the game had me hooked and the space combat is very well executed and fun. But the story part ended abruptly and then it was mission grinding and/or PvP. While some mission were quite enjoyable it became a bit too repetitive for my taste, so lost some interest here. Should get back into the game again at some point – if they have more of the story-oriented content that the game started with I would love to play that.
Signed up for SWG again when I heard the announcement that they were going to shut down the game. Manged to play a bit in the game, primarily with some new characters I created. Really loved some parts which I remembered from the old days when i played the game, but also remembered why I ended up playing my particular combination of professions originally (ranger/creature handler) – that was one combination that did not feel grindy to me and which also supported scratching my exploration itch back then. It was not quite now.
I would have played the game longer, but a credit card related issue stopped my access to the game prematurely. I do not like the way SOE handled the shut down of my access; but at least my memory of the game is less coloured by what its current state was.
Bought this when it was on sale from Steam, after a brief visit in beta. Looking at what Heatwave had eleased before Gods & Heroes I am not quite sure why they decided to with a traditional MMO route, perhaps someone thought they might be able to make some easy money on a game that was in beta when the original game company went belly-up. This was another of those game where I really could not muster up enough interest to keep playing (and paying).
This is my main game and in the past few months my only game, pretty much. This part will be very brief here; most posts end up being about this game anyway. For good and bad, City of Heroes has evolved quite a bit over the years and at the same time been the same as well. The community aspect is important here, it is a game that feels like “home” to me more than any other MMO. It is the one game that I can be fairly sure to get a happy greeting from someone else when I log in and where most people I end up interacting with (friends or strangers) are for the most part friendly and nice to each other.
Other stuff, not gaming
A lot of other things has happened in this year, but not related to MMOs. In August I changed employer, after working for more than 12 years for an American software company. I really liked my actual job there and the collegues I worked with, but it was also a position that required a lot of travelling to other parts of Europe, and a few times to Middle East. During very long periods I only saw my home area/town/country on weekends and impacted how I my non-work life was handled.
With my new employer I can do a similar job to what did before and enjoyed, but also pretty much work so I can get home every day, instead of staying in a hotel room. It is a great company and a great group of new collegues.
My general fitness have had its ups and downs in recent years, but not stayed at a good level. In the past 11 months I have done a better job though with continued improvement and am in better shape now than a year ago, and also lost perhaps 17-18 kg. Still more to be done, but feels quite good.
Today I switched my home network set-up to use 4G mobile broadband instead of my old ADSL modem set-up. So far it seems to be working quite well, so if there are no issues with it in the near future I will likely dump my old ADSL solution.
The ADSL modem has been an old faithful and for the most part worked quite well. However, the point of connection for the modem have had an unfortunate location, above a kitchen bench and away from any computer location. There has been a few different workarounds/solutions to this, the latest being using power line network adapters to route the ADSL connection to a different room, where the router is located. One computer and the NAS is connected by cables to the router, while other equipment connects through wireless to the router.
The power line network adapters broke down recently, which led to a temporary workaround with long cables being used. Pretty much at the same time I did see a good offer for the 4G mobile broadband, so I picked that one up. I do not have to pay anything for the 4G modem and the monthly fee is for the initial 12 months about half of what I pay for the ADSL connection, then it goes up to almost as much.
But I also only pay for the phone line connection in order to have the ADSL modem connected – only mobiles phones are used to call. So if I can drop that it will save some money as well. The only potential downside here is that the 4G connection has a limit of 100GB for a 30 day period, after that they will throttle down the speed – with my ADSL there is no limit. However, I do not expect to run into that limit. Even if they did I could certainly live witha slower speed for a bit.
For a 4G connection the actual tested speed was sort of ok (roughly 30 Mbit/s download speed and 15Mbit/s upload speed), but still better than the theoretical limit of my ASDL modem, which is 24Mbit/s download and 1 Mbit/s upload.
Watching streamed TV/video on my Asus Transformer also worked better and smoother now also through the wireless connection, which was a bit so-and-so before.
Remains to be seen if it continues to work well, but I hope so – it will simplify the casa Sente home network set-up.
This is not game stuff, but if you are a techie you might find this fun. Otherwise just skip it until next post
Apparently the company Groupon, which use Ruby on Rails, were looking for more talents to work with that. A recruiter from the company, most likely without knowing much about Ruby on Rails, contacted Mr Hansson for an opportunity.
I found that quite hilarious.
Through a post in Anarchy Online forums I found this wonderful site: Bad Translator. The site allows you to enter a limited amount of English text and then runs that text back and forth between English and some other languages a couple of times – you can select the number of iterations to run.
I ran a couple of sentences through the translator to see what happened:
- I got a level 58 Bureaucrat in Anarchy Online -> (30 iterations) -> I have 58 pages of fantasy
- Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please -> (30 iterations) -> They distort what you want
- Is that game just another WoW clone? -> (30 iterations) -> F This is how simple awareness of the game?
- I’ll be back. -> (30 iterations) -> Show
- Our village has been plagued by nasty rodents for a while now. Would you help us kill ten rats, glorious adventurer? -> (30 iterations) -> In mice, long-term illness. We’ll help guide you need?
- I am not young enough to know everything. -> (30 iterations) -> I know your children.
With all the debacle about the Sony security breach and concern about their perhaps less than stellar security handling, it may be a good time to think about our own handling of personal data.
Sony is not the first and will not be the last where customer information may be compromised. It has become big news because it is a high profile company, but our personal information may still be just as much at risk with low profile entities with less than stellar security policies or policies that are not enforced.
A concern for outselves is how useful is that information at any single location? Do we have the same account name in multiple locations? Do we have the same password? Do we have the same account name and password and email address in multiple places? Is any of that information used in gaming context also used elsewhere in other parts of your life?
If a place has a not totally crap security handling they will never have your actual password stored, but instead a hash of it – essentially an long number calculated from the password which would be different for different words and one cannot revert the calculation to deduce the word from it.
Check what happens if you click on the “forgot the password” option most places have. If they will email or send you the actual password, then definitely think twice about using their services. Anyone that does actually store vital information in clear text that have no need whatsoever to be stored that way is a big potential disaster.
Places with better-than-crap security will always require you to create a new password in those cases and through a secure link. They should also send emails to notify that the password has been changed afterwards and send a notification that for other important information that have been changed as well.
In gaming context account identities should really also be different from anything that is shown in public; character names, in-game IDs, forum names etc. I think Cryptic screwed up a bit when they by default had account names and global in-game IDs to be the same. Using email addresses as account names are not ideal either IMHO, at least not when other vital information may be stored in the account information.
It is good to see that two-factor authentication is being used in some places (e.g. the Rift authenticator). It will not help if someone manages to break through to a company’s servers, but at least someone will not be able to use information from some other place, or simply get in through brute force if you have a bad password. I really hope more places start to use this, at the very least as an option.
In a market where we have an increase of online games, F2P games to try out etc we tend to increasingly leave digital footprints in many places we should think about what kind of prints we leave behind in various places.