Update Yo Links Y’all!

•January 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Yup. It only took a few posts before I reached my breaking point with WordPress.com. No longer will I subject myself to the torture of limitation. With really no themes that I liked to chose from and very limiting media controls, I felt it was time to move on. The funny thing is that I will continue to use the WordPress publishing platform. Once one liberates it from the confinement of WordPress.com, it really has a lot to offer; an abundance of themes and customization options, a multitude of helpful plugins, and the ability to actually embed shit.

So, without further ado… I introduce to you, the one, the only… www.zeroonstuff.com!

You guessed it, this will be the last post on zeroonstuff.wordpress.com. Please head over to the new hotness, if you would like to continue our enthralling adventures together. Oh yeah, don’t forget to subscribe to the new RSS feed, if that’s how you are rolling (or whatever the kids are saying these days).

~ Zero Out

Paul Rudd… I Love You, Man

•January 29, 2009 • 2 Comments

At some point in the, hopefully, not so distant future, Paul Blart will discontinue his mall cop antics; at which point we will need a new source of hilarity with which to fill our lives.

In comes the comic genius that is… Paul Rudd. I know, maybe his Scarface impression from the Reno 911 movie didn’t exactly bring home any Oscars. But I’ll tell you what, there is no other guy I would rather get messed up on shrooms and run screaming from a Vegas show with than him.

Oh yeah, the following truncation of Mr. Rudd’s latest masterpiece may or may not be suitable for children or co-workers that don’t like a lot of profanity. Enjoy!

Disregard the paragraph above and watch the regular trailer for I Love You, Man, if you must. WordPress.com sucks and won’t let me embed the red band trailer from Trailer Addict. Here’s the good stuff if you are truly hardcore.

~ Zero Out

Warhammer Online Live Expansion or Live Content Patch?

•January 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Today, EA Mythic announced their first “live expansion” for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, entitled Call to Arms. My initial impression was something of disappointment and disbelief. I mean, how is that EA Mythic can be close enough to an expansion after just four months that they are making a formal announcement? Yet, Blizzard took nearly two years to deliver The Burning Crusade, their first expansion to World of Warcraft. Then I read the handy dandy newsletter a bit closer…

It goes on to talk about the addition of new Orc Choppa and Dwarf Slayer careers, new RvR content, a new desert-themed dungeon, new specialty items, and a smattering of live events. This all seems like normal expansion type stuff. But then I started to wonder; what about new levels or new zones? Then the light bulb goes off. This isn’t an expansion at all!

It becomes clear to me after reviewing this announcement that what we are really talking about here is a content patch – similar to the major content patches that WoW has issued over the years. If you recall, Battlegrounds, Arenas, the PvP Honor System, numerous dungeons and raids, not to mention a plethora of graphical and interface changes were all made by Blizzard as “free” updates. However, I can only ever remember Blizzard announcing two expansions. Does referring to the new Call to Arms content addition as a “live expansion,” instead of a regular “expansion,” really mean anything to anyone else? Frankly, it confused me initially, and I can’t tell if this distinction in nomenclature will inevitably hype up this new content or hype down any real future expansion Warhammer Online may have.

If I were a customer of EA Mythic, I might just be irritated. Instead, I will simply continue to not regret my choice of passing on their game.

~ Zero Out

If WoW Added Helper NPCs

•January 28, 2009 • 3 Comments

I have been playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, as of late. I’ll cover my experience with this gem of an RPG soon. In the meantime, there is a game mechanic here, which I felt like discussing – The Gambit System. With the Gambit System, Square Enix has, in my mind, come as close to perfecting the idea of helper non-playable characters as any game I have seen. The system works so well that I couldn’t help but have a, “OMG! What if they added this to WoW?” kind of reaction.

Helper NPCs can often times be a crutch for a game. Having more than one character represented on screen adds depth in combat variety, as well as a bit of realism. I think we have passed the days where it is acceptable for a party of adventurers to fold up into a single avatar with which to traverse an environment, as if the main character is giving them all a virtual piggy back ride. The problem lies in that it is either difficult, if not impossible, to truly have control over more than one character at a time. Which means, while you are controlling the sprightly, young protagonist, the software must be in charge of issuing commands to the scantily-clad, female healer, as well as the ill-tempered and overly protective soldier, through the use of some form of artificial intelligence. If the AI being used to control your NPCs is anything less than stellar (which it almost always is), then it can lead to frustration, as your adventuring troupe perform illogical actions on each other and their foes.

Essentially, Gambits are little snippets of logic that you can work into your NPC follower’s automatically performed actions. For each Gambit there is a target and an action, both of which have an incredibly varied number of choices. For instance, I can set a Gambit with something as simple as “nearest foe” for a target and “attack” for an action. I can also make it as complicated as having a target of “friendly with less that 30% health” and an action of “Cast Cure” or “Use Potion.” Sounds simple, right? It is.

The simplicity makes it ideal for almost any type of game play system. Which is why I immediately think of World of Warcraft. How many times have you wanted to get that 5-man group quest done or run a dungeon, but no one in your guild was on or available? Sure, you can always find a pickup group. But depending on what class you are, this can be easier said than done. Not to mention that once in a while, its just nice to play alone. I know, I can hear it now. “If you don’t want to play with people, don’t play an MMO.” Which is true to an extent. However, aren’t we all allowed to be a little anti-social sometimes? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to play our game of choice. After all, Guild Wars has been using Hero NPCs for a while now.

The Gambit System from FFXII is simple in its nature, but in practice offers its own set of challenges, which only make it that much more enticing. You set your followers up with all of the necessary Gambits to help with a typical fight (or maybe even a very customized fight – because the system does allow for that too), but maybe your healer is burning through mana too quickly, or your ranged DPS is popping pots like Bob Dole pops Viagra. So the Gambits, although they automate a lot of the tedious parts of combat and give a fail-safe for when you miss that small window of opportunity to cast that heal, it does require a healthy dose of manual work. Turning Gambits on and off on the fly for any given character can be the difference in success or failure.

What do you think? Have you used the Gambit System from Final Fantasy XII? Do you think it could bring something interesting or helpful to Blizzard’s opus?

Zero on World of Warcraft

•January 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

There could be no more fitting theme for my first real post than World of Warcraft. Being that the content of this blog will largely revolve around what games I am playing at the moment, it seems only right that I start off with a post related to the game I have been playing pretty steadily for more than the last 4 years.

I play WoW. My wife plays WoW. My 6 year old daughter, on occasion, has been known to rock the world of a kobold or two. Currently, I am on what many WoW players should be familiar with – the “down-swing.”

I started playing vanilla WoW on launch day and was hooked thereafter. My wife and I ran a guild up to and through the launch of The Burning Crusade. A few months after BC, we, like a good number of other players, went through our first “down-swing.” We had run all of the content that was possible for us and our little guild of friends and family. If we hadn’t done it yet, there was little chance we were ever going to. Remember, going back to just a few months post BC’s release, even running Karazhan was like slamming your face on a wall of sharpened pencils for those in anything less qualified than a full time raiding guild; but then came content patches…

I don’t remember release dates or version numbers, just that things got steadily easier and more fun. No longer were our options which regular 5-man dungeon we would run, which of our 34 alts we would level, or power leveling our tenth profession in as many days. No. Now, we had daily quests, heroic dungeons that weren’t impossibly hard, rewarding PvP. That’s what I call (you guessed it) the “up-swing.”

All was well in the World… of Warcraft. For a time.

Then came our second “down-swing.” Which, incidentally was caused by the same frustrations as the first. Been there, done it all –  except for what portion (most of it) of the end-game was reserved for the super elite; which my wife and I, with our parental responsibilities, could never be a part of – nor were we sure we wanted to be. Then came Wrath of the Lich King.

That solved the problem, right? Well, yes, for most people. WoW’s second expansion was a huge success. Selling more than 2.8 million copies in its first day, WotLK was well received by critics and fans alike. My wife and I installed on release day with most everyone else and played pretty steadily for a good week or so (where our schedules allowed). But then we both began to lose interest. We couldn’t really put our fingers on it. While the rest of Blizzard’s loyal followers were swimming eagerly through new content, we floundered about, trying to decipher why we weren’t enjoying the new content – or maybe the game itself – as much as everyone else seemed to.

So that pretty much brings you all up to speed. While, both my wife and I (more so her) are back into playing WoW after a month or so hiatus. It is sparingly. Which, I actually enjoy a great deal. I took some time away to read a few books, play some console games (I now want to have babies with Metal Gear Solid 4), and catch up on some much needed movie watching. I’ve been through times where all I did was play World of Warcraft. Where movies I wanted to see fell by the wayside, where games were bought and played through only early stages before WoW pulled me back in. Let’s not even talk about the number books I have actually finished since I started playing WoW. I feel like now I have the perfect balance. I can stay up late questing with my wife on Fridays, and then not think about it for at least a few days, while I pour through episodes of Entourage on DVD or revisit some of those games that I never did get to play.

While the sheer amount of time I have invested into WoW over the last fours years makes it difficult to let go, I feel like now is the perfect time for me to start writing about the things I enjoy doing, because I think I have a new found appreciation for everything that is WoW and everything that is not.

~ Zero

What is Zero on Stuff?

•January 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So there. I did it. I asked the question. What is this blog about? Well, I suppose at this point I don’t really know. Inevitably, given my unfocused nature, it will be about many things – mostly things that I enjoy doing and the random nonsense that usually finds its way into my consciousness.

With that being said (God, I hate that overused “I don’t know how else to continue a thought, because I never read a single summer reading book in my life, and I watch way too much reality television” phrase), it’s only fair that I give antecedence as to what kind of content one should expect from this log of my web antics.

One could, I suppose, expect interesting commentary on whatever video games I happen to be playing at the time. Yes, although I love video games, I have a terrible attention span for them and am never playing less than four at a time. One could also expect informative (and by ‘informative’ I mean completely biased and subjective) commentary on all things movie related. I am a huge movie freak and watch as many as possible. Every Saturday night, I make it a point to watch no fewer than 3 movies in a row. This weekly tradition will undoubtedly find regular representation on this soap box of mine.

One should not expect all movies, video games, books, music, etc., discussed here to be entirely current. My movie watching habits, especially, tend to be fairly ranging in not only release date, but genre. I will watch, and blog about, all movie archetypes – from sickeningly romantic comedies (I am married and am forced to watch them from time to time) to blood-drenched, terror-filled, rides to hell.

At any rate, that’s what the currently nonexistent readership of Zero On Stuff can expect. A whole lot of whatever the hell I feel like writing about. I hope all none of you enjoy!