Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Time Slip

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Dec 08 2012

Whoa! How’d it get so late? I guess, technically, I missed my Friday update.

Still not much more to report of course, so here’s the short version for anyone interested.

My volunteer work is now back in full swing, I’ve been paired with a student for the Communities in Schools mentor program and have been reading to pre-schoolers through the Head Start and ECEAP. So those are good things to be doing, sometimes I don’t feel like I have the energy but it’s always great to see how excited those kids get to have someone listening to them and paying attention to them on a much closer to one-on-one ratio (though the reading groups have gotten a little large at times).

I have yet to resume writing the novel that I failed to complete for National Novel Writing Month–I really have no idea how time seems to be slipping away from me in such prodigious quantities, though I’m sure playing games on my iPhone is partially to blame.

Which of course brings us to the final point… I need some game time to maintain my sanity, though I’ll admit maybe not as much as I have been indulging in since the holiday season rolled around. Some of you may be aware of my Arel Wars strategy guide I wrote and posted to this site. That game badly needed a strategy guide, and I still find it a little sad I ended up being the one to write it–I’m sure other people are much better at strategy than I am.

Well, I’ve downloaded Arel Wars 2, and it doesn’t look like it has a good strategy guide available either–last I checked. So I’ve been putting off starting playing it, with the intention to actually take notes on my first play through this time and thus get the strategy guide done in half the time–theoretically. There’s a good chance that process will begin this month, and with the present goal of being done by February (though the timeline is subject to change once I actually play the game and see what I’m dealing with).

And, that’s about it for now. Have a good weekend!

Happy Holidays?

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Dec 05 2012

So, as some of you may already be aware, the holidays can be a bit of a busy time–and I don’t actually have anything ready for today’s blog entry–not so much as a topic.

There may be a few more entries like this throughout the holiday season, but I will try to stick to the 3 days a week update schedule just so you all know I’m here and good things will be coming again in time.

Tap Creepy Manor

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Dec 03 2012

Has anyone else noticed that my “My Phone Monday” entries are so dated as to be unlikely to be of use to anyone? I only seem to download apps after they’ve been out for a while, and then have to play them long enough to develop an informed opinion before reviewing them. So unless you also are in the market for older apps then my reviews are likely just for entertainment purposes.

With that said, on to my review of Pocket Gems’Tap Creepy Manor“.

When a developer goes to the trouble of making a product it’s only natural that they should like to be reimbursed for their effort–it makes sense and allows them to expand or improve the product, or provide additional products in the future. There’s no reason it can’t be a win/win situation for the developer and the consumer.

That does not appear to be Pocket Gems’ approach to getting the public’s money. I feel the best apps encourage the consumer to invest in the game, to actually want to spend money in support of the project and offers suitable return for the investment in the form of desirable in-game benefits and features–ideally proportionate to the investment of real world capital.

Creepy Manor on the other hand takes the approach of luring in its audience and then bleeding them for everything they’re worth–less interested in building a community or a fan base than in taking each sucker for as much as possible before they get wise. I can’t say for sure that Pocket Gems’ other games are also like this, because I did download Creepy Manor after Pocket Gems officially stopped supporting it. What I can say is I will neither download nor play any other games by this developer.

These tapping games are similar to the social networking games like Rage of Bahamut and Legend of the Cryptids, in that as I understand it they got their start on sites like Facebook and calling them games is a grave insult to the term “game”. One difference though, is that I feel that in the vein of Last Day of Work’s “Virtual Villagers”–which does actually qualify as a casual game–these sort of tapping games could in fact provide a degree of amusement worthy of small investments of time and possibly money if handled properly.

In the case of Tap Creepy Manor I find the game actually has a fun ambiance and self-described collection of kooky characters with stories and personalities that while unexceptional are note-worthy for the genre. The objective is to build up a haunted manor and attract residents in order to gain the funds to further expand, hire staff, decorate, and attract more residents.

There isn’t a whole lot to interact with, and long passages of time are frequently required to represent building time–but neither of these are inherently bad things. The app could actually be well positioned as a great way to kill a free minute here or there with the time passing between those minutes still counting toward game progress.

The problem is, like Arel Wars, the game has two currencies. The coins that can be earned and saved in game, and the gems that have to be purchased for real money. Altogether too many elements in the game require gems to obtain, so many so that even if they were all reasonably priced the game would still demand a far greater price to unlock everything than it could in any reasonable universe be considered to be worth.

This problem is only made worse by the fact that aside from building the library for Sandra, every single gem purchase in the game is obscenely over priced. Pocket Gems doesn’t even make an effort to make investing in Tap Creepy Manor look like a good idea, they just hope that the gut urge to get everything will get people to dump their finances into the game without actually paying attention to how much it’s costing.

A miniscule amount of gems are attainable in-game on a free play through, and having gotten some of those I can offer a little further insight into the price system for anyone actually interested. I earned enough gems in game to initiate building of a Library to attract the character Sandra to the manor. All character rooms are completed in 3 phases, with additional time and cost associated with each phase–and I am happy to report that if Sandra is any indication the characters who require an initial expenditure of gems still complete the other two phases for their room with coins–the prank rooms are completed in a single phase and so this wouldn’t apply to them anyway.

Unfortunately, again based on Sandra, it seems that getting pets for a character who cost gems to attract will cost gems to get the pet–and where I think the characters, prank rooms, staff and decorations that cost gems are horribly over priced, I don’t think pets should ever cost gems in the first place, since that’s a rather unkind double-whammy when their owner also cost gems to attract.

Surprisingly enough, I give the app 2 stars. It could have easily been three, maybe four, stars without the gem system and limiting in-app purchases to extra coins for those too impatient to build up on their own, but Pocket Gems’ parasitic avarice damaged the enjoyability of the application quite severely.

That said, my advice isn’t to avoid the application entirely, but rather to NOT SPEND ANY MONEY ON IT. I can’t stress that last point enough, it isn’t worth money. But it is entertaining and undemanding, and if the aesthetic appeals to you then there’s a chance you could find some amusement from it–if a different aesthetic would appeal to you more then you might even consider a different game by Pocket Gems, though I can’t speak to those.

There’s a decent chance I will actually keep this application and occasionally dump a few minutes here or there into it, because there is enough to do without spending money for me to stick around a little while at least–but I think an opportunity was missed by trying to bleed the consumers rather than engage them.

Novel Fails and Holidays

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Nov 30 2012

So this is mostly a quick check in to affirm that it is my intention to resume thrice weekly postings (Monday, Wednesday and Friday–which may admittedly mean you should check on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). A little recap of November, I tried and failed miserably at National Novel Writing Month. Not really a huge shock, I strongly suspected going in that the NaNo approach to writing was incompatible with my own.

For National Novel Writing Month the goal is 50,000 words in 30 days, not because any body I know or could even possibly relate to would be able to construct a publishable manuscript under those circumstances–but because it gets the story written. However rough and likely even nauseating at parts the product is, it is still a product. The theory from there, as I understand it, is that further time spent refining the product and getting it up to publishable quality is easier both to do and to find motivation for. So NaNo’s big push is just to get that initial word splurge out there, the task of shaping it would come later.

That approach just doesn’t work for me, I like to shape, polish and refine as I go. I like to work in several short strokes, writing and refining according to whether the stroke is presently passing over text or blank page. I get into a rhythm and the more the story and characters make sense to me the deeper into I get, and consequently the deeper I can take my audience. Rushing headlong into larger word counts I find it too easy to make missteps, possibly injuring my self or my work in the process (not generally in a literal sense of course) and sacrificing a lot of efficiency and direction in the process. Writing without stopping to edit for me is like drawing without picking up the pencil. Some parts have to be done that way to be done well, but many benefit from stopping to look at your work and maybe even correcting it before moving on.

For me if I bog down in a story the easiest way to regain momentum is to go back and edit. The process of editing re-immerses me in the story and I can carry that momentum forward into new words. It takes a while, but with everything but novels the work does eventually get done.

Who knows what the holidays are going to look like or bring, somehow I found even Thanksgiving to consume far more time and energy than anticipated–and I don’t even remember where those expenditures went. One way or another my goal is to actually finish this novel though, but at a pace that works for me and allows me to take pride in my work. With NaNo officially lost though, I do think I will go back and finish the short-story I began in the same setting first and maybe pursue some early publishing with that while I grind away at the main novel.

That’s the forecast (and reflection) for this Friday. Thanks for all the recent poll votes by the way! It’s great to get some interaction from the internet.

Pathfinder Online

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Nov 28 2012

This isn’t going to be my biggest “Other Web Wednesday” post, because I figure most of you already know what Kickstarter is and even for those who don’t it doesn’t take a lot of explanation. It’s a website where developers, creators and visionaries can request crowd funding for their projects, and the public, consumers and patrons can invest in things they value with limited risk and higher odds on reward.

But I’m not here to talk about Kickstarter. Instead I’m here to promote a specific project on it I value. Pathfinder Online.

For a little context, I like fantasy and role-playing and games–three separate things that go remarkably well together and have been highly successfully combined over the years in such forms as Dungeons & Dragons and an entire genre of video-games.

Now the presently small but incredibly awesome company Goblinworks is bringing their own special magic to that sweet combination. Pathfinder is another paper and pencil role-playing system similar to Dungeons & Dragons–in fact, when Dungeons & Dragons lost its way and a lot of fans (myself included) Paizo and Pathfinder picked up the pieces with their own glorious role-playing system.
In close cooperation with the people at Paizo, and exceptional deference to the fans of Pathfinder, Goblinworks has set out to bring the glory of Pathfinder to a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.

It doesn’t take long over on the Goblinworks blog to figure out their goal for Pathfinder Online is colossally ambitious–but with a successful Technology Demo under their belt the game has been green lit and will happen. Their Kickstarter drive is just to make it happen sooner and better–and of course get more fans/players involved in the game’s initial development.

More so than any other game I have personal experience with–and reminiscent of a sort of high fantasy Second Life if I understood what that game was correctly–Pathfinder Online seems set to be fundamentally defined by the players at every turn (which honestly I think is giving the lay public too much influence, but I was willing to put my money on being wrong about that).

I think it has a lot of potential, and if Goblinworks can meet the lofty objectives they have set for themselves–and their track record is already good–then this is definitely something any fantasy gamer should consider getting in on the ground floor of.

So get over to Pathfinder Online’s Kickstarter page and see how much you’d be willing to donate toward what could be the next big thing in fantasy gaming.

Legend of the Cryptids

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Nov 26 2012

I know I teased you about it before, but now I’m going to actually talk about Applibot’s “Legend of the Cryptids”. You can also refer back to my review of Mobage’s “Rage of Bahamut” because they are essentially the same game. The quick version, for those uninterested in the long version, is that there is a genre of casual game out there based around social networking that as I understand it began on Facebook. I managed to avoid the genre there, but have been suckered in no less than four times on my iPhone. The best of them are gorgeous art-collections burdened by unnecessary and uninspired “gameplay”, and this is the category the likes of Rage of Bahamut and the various of Applibot’s applications fall.

Now, the long version;

A quick note before I really dig into my review, as an actual gamer I am clearly not the target audience for these internet based social abominations. I try to divorce that from my review of the application as a matter of fairness–someone who is severely lactose intolerant isn’t the first place to go for a solid cheese review. So when it actually comes down to my star rating at the end of the article I will here–as I did with Rage of Bahamut–give the application an additional star beyond what I think it deserves as a way of compensating for my bias.

Conceptually, “Legend of the Cryptids” is brilliant. It has a lush fantasy world crafted for it, and a more than adequate storyline for any casual gamer moving through it. Like Rage of Bahamut, the name of the game is collecting cards and trying to build your ideal deck. All the mechanics are essentially the same, if you’ve played any game in the genre you can pick up any other one without difficulty. So rather than repeat my Rage of Bahamut review here (you can follow the link at the top of this article if you want to see that one) I’m going to just touch on the differences.

The first difference I noticed in Legend of the Cryptids is that it features decent music and sound effects–which really enhance the game experience. It’s nothing fancy, but still something I frequently found myself grateful for.

Now, it has been a little while since I’ve played now, but Legend of the Cryptids did have one major disadvantage as compared to Rage of Bahamut–though one I’d attribute to being a younger game. The user-interface and menu schemes were often clunky and lacking the smooth navigation afforded by RoB’s many links and buttons. This is something that could easily iron out over time, and maybe already has been–but I did waste a lot of time navigating between menus in LotC where I could have simply used the ‘back’ button in RoB.

In Legend of the Cryptids rather than the “Gods”, “Demons” and “Humans” classification of Rage of Bahamut, the factions are divided as “Water”, “Fire” and “Forest”–which in theory I believe still has a nice rocks-paper-scissors mechanic (and is still a legitimate, if incomplete, classification system based on the Chinese 5 Element approach). Though in practice I didn’t observe any strong tendencies when it came to interactions between the factions, or even necessarily what cards ended up in what faction.

As with RoB, LotC has absolutely gorgeous artwork and more than a little pin-up quality teasers. These are well distributed over the factions, so don’t worry that by picking one faction or another you’re missing out on cheesecake. This does, however, bring us to something I think LotC does better than RoB–and that is card evolution.

Duplicate cards can be combined into more powerful forms as in Rage of Bahamut–again carrying forward a percentage of the stats of the base cards that increases if those cards are at maximum level. However, unlike RoB, only one such combination is necessary to get a card to its ultimate form. This makes evolution a much easier process, and greatly decreases the risk of developing a suboptimal final card as the result of impatience or lack of resources.

One area that I’m afraid LotC loses out to the more developed RoB, however, is the in-game events. LotC seems to constantly have events going on, which gives new players no time to ease into the game through the regular campaign and regulars no chance to recuperate from the more intensive demands of a live event. Events are great for mixing things up, and will generally be a player’s best shot at getting really good cards, but I think LotC would benefit from some downtime between events. The actual quality of the events is actually quite good, merely their constant presence becomes exhausting and leaves no resources for pursuing the regular game.

Before giving my final review I’d like to highlight a couple points that apply to all of these collectible card online social networking games.

  1. They promote an abusive play environment in that deck quality is the primary determiner of victory in player versus player matches–so there’s no point fighting other players who might be able to beat you if you can get what you want from a player you know can’t beat you–and players need to attack and steal from each other to complete treasure collections.
  2. The value for money isn’t there, the return for In Application Purchases of additional cards and items isn’t worth what they cost–unless you put a high price on getting to be the abuser rather than the abusee in regards to the first point.

That said, Legend of the Cryptids is a glorious art collection with a little story and some nice touches that make it every bit as good as Rage of Bahamut. It isn’t my genre of game, and I intend to avoid the genre like the plague now that I’ve become more familiar with it than I could have ever wished, but if you’re the sort of person this game is meant for (interested in art, extremely simplified “gameplay” and somewhere to just burn an excess of time and money that perhaps can’t be collected for the larger investment of a real game) then Legend of the Cryptids is a good example of the genre.

I give it 4 stars, because as a free application that it is perfectly possible to get through without ever spending any money–if somewhat painful–it does deliver a lot of content for potentially no cost.

Now if games of this sort were $6 Art Collections (or maybe $0.99 per release collections) without the burden of sadistically abusive excuses for gameplay then I think I’d enjoy them and have actually put money toward them–something I’m thankful I’ve never done.

If you want a taste of the art and the game you can check out the excellent wiki for Legend of the Cryptids, a superb resource for anyone looking to get into the game. I’d also like to mention Monster Maestro–which will not be receiving its own review and has already been deleted from my phone–and the new Galaxy Saga both also from Applibot. The company knows its genre, and if unlike me you are not put off by the genre then you can expect a very similar experience from any of their products. And if you’re in it for the artwork, the only reason I can think of to be in it, then the variation between the three will allow you to find the art niche that works best for you–with Cryptids being fantasy, Monster Maestro being basically Pokemon/Digimon/whatever, and Galaxy Saga being science fiction.

I’d further like to mention that Applibot does a good job of cross-promoting their products, and give quite handy rewards in each game for progress made in the others–that’s how I wound up with Monster Maestro on my phone even though I didn’t want it, and actually don’t regret the time I spent on it.

NaNo News

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Nov 07 2012

Well… It would appear that taking on National Novel Writing Month was a mistake. Before starting NaNoWriMo my daily word average was around 500 words per day. Obviously for a writer that’s too low. So I do appreciate learning from NaNo that I can and should sustain 1,000 words per day. Unfortunately in order to “Win” NaNo I’d need to do 1667 words per day averaged over the entire month.

As Inigo would say, “At my best I could never defeat that many.” Only, in my case I could do that many at my best–I just can’t clear it by enough to compensate for all the days I weigh in at 1,300 some odd. So I’m not sure where to go from here. Seven days in I realize I’ve picked a fight I never had any chance to win. I still intend to finish the novel, but it’s become a much lower priority now that I don’t have any sort of meaningful deadline or benchmarks to work from. The month isn’t over yet, but I think I’ve already failed NaNo decisively enough it’s time to fail something else.

So that’s my sad news. Maybe I’ll be back with something else Friday.

Monday Mixer: November 5

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Nov 05 2012

Okay, with Menage Monday finished and Motivation Monday on hiatus, I have made my first foray into the Monday Mixer–partially to keep the creative juices fresh by writing something other than my National Novel Writing Month project which has yet to go well.

So without further ado, I bring you;

 

TIDINGS

Saint Nicholas’ skyscraper pierced the earth like a heaven sent spear, to the euphoric adulation of peoples far and near. From atop the imposing monolith, the holiday harbinger watched the world and judged. Few suspected perfunctory good deeds no longer sufficed to get off the Naughty List. The Saint’s mandate had changed.

The masses burned on their own sinful coals the first Christmas after the coming. People feared God again, recognized the inadequacy of maladroit attempts to live as He commanded. Offerings and sacrifice resurged; pilgrims crossed the icy tundra to the estuary where the North Pole had landed.

The greedy dealt in terms they understood, bringing gold and jewels. The poor appealed to the Saint’s jovial nature, offering holly, verbena, and other decorative plants. The desperate turned to sacrifice, foisting their sins on a goat, a piglet, lamb or even house pet.

All the while, Nicholas watched and judged.

 

 

[trying for Over-Achiever with the entry, since I saw no reason not to]

150 words excluding the title

National Novel Writing Month!

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Nov 02 2012

Okay, so National Novel Writing month is officially here AND I’m officially participating this year. Missed my word target for the first day, and am on track to miss again this second day–putting me further in the hole–but I see the weekend through Tuesday as my real opportunities to make up for scheduling conflicts Wednesday through Friday. With any luck that’ll be enough to get me through to the 50,000 words by the end of the month.

So no treats for you this week with me so far behind already–but my plan is by next Friday, maybe earlier, to have an excerpt from the novel to share with anyone who’s interested. Potentially following up with other excerpts as the month goes on. If I could get some discussion regarding what sort of excerpts you’d like to see from my work in progress, that’d be great information for me–right now I’m thinking character introductions for windows into the core cast.

Then, if anyone feels like helping develop the world of Niar, I’m realizing that having me come up with every single town and city in the world is unlikely to be ideal. So I’d like to open up the possibility for anyone who feels like flexing some creativity and then donating the effort to come up with town and city names for the World of Niar, so that when I’m referencing locations it doesn’t sound like the same individual came up with all of them–even if the story never goes to locations I didn’t come up with, having them in the world will still enhance it. Plus in the event that this novel, or Niar Saga from this site really take off it might be kind of cool to have your location on the official world map. Maybe? I’d like that sort of thing.

On the topic of reader interaction though, thank you everyone who has voted in the current poll! With all the spambots assailing the site and looking for a way in (there is NONE, they all have to go through ME) it’s hard to feel like the page-view counter is representing real traffic, but as of this posting I know there are four people who have looked at my site and cared enough to interact with me. That means a lot.

So thank you.

Artless Halloween

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 31 2012

So I’d like to open by saying that I’d intended to include art with this entry, but it appears that the bizarre failure of my laptop over a month ago now is going to plague me for the rest of the life of the computer. Had to get a new user profile because the old one will no longer log in, and apparently my tablet doesn’t work with the new profile. So no drawings from me anymore.

It’s probably fixable, but I’ve already exhausted the options I know how to do and have other things to spend my time on–which is where this update was going after the art anyway.

Two of my stories have been published in Super Flash Fiction, and I encourage you to head on over and check that out if you haven’t already. Subscribe for future issues or even submit your own dynamic stories or artwork.

The bigger news is that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month starting tomorrow (November 1)! I’m officially in this year, and I’m going to finally finish a novel! Sign up if it interests you, or just cheer me on/pester me about my progress! The goal is 50,000 words by the end of the month.

It’s likely to consume my free time in November, though I’ll try to keep updating this site–though you can expect most if not all of my posts to be NaNoWriMo related.

And that’s it from me for now! Happy Halloween, and sorry about the lack of artwork… Wait… Maybe I can fake something even without my tablet…

Haha! How’s that for drawing with a mouse in Paint?

 

Happy Halloween!