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Established October, 1999

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  Merry Ramadan
12.26.2002 10:40am, Nok
 

Happy Holidays to anyone who finds their way to this page! I hope everyone found some nice games under your Chanukah Tree on Kwanza morning!

I didn't get any game-related presents this year, but that's okay. The games I already own have actually managed to keep my attention for months now... a very rare thing for me.

So I wanted to share something that really made me laugh. I'm not sure why... but it tickled my funny bone in just the right way. It's just the following line:

"Warcraft III: Another sort of art-house game that saw limited commercial success, independent shop Blizzard Entertainment came out of nowhere with the sequel to an earlier shareware project, the unsung Warcraft II."

This was, of course, said in complete jest in a news post by the boys who write the web comic Penny Arcade. Maybe I'm just easy to amuse, but the PA guys always seem to come up with little witicism's like that which crack me up. And the comic they produce... well, occasionally they miss their mark... but when they are on target they are the funniest web-comic I'm aware of.

Here is my all-time favorite strip. It's one for the FPS folks.

And speaking of Blizzard (which we almost were), a new holiday .mp3 has been released by the fine folks who brought you Diablo. It is certainly good for a chuckle. Indeed, you can find all of their holiday goodies both new and old on this page here. I'm not sure if the page will stay up all year or just for the holidays... but there you go.


  Just Plain Wrong
9.19.2002 11:27am, Nok
 

Here are some things that simply should not exist:

These are all clear indicators that perhaps humanity needs to be destroyed. If there are any warmongering alien species reading this page, please make a note of it.


  Sorry I'm Late
9.5.2002 4:23pm, Nok
 

I guess I missed my yearly anniversary to update this site. What can I say? Thanks for reminding me go to former Soviet head of state, Gorbachev. This page has not been much of a priority for some time now. But hey, I just got laid-off recently! So who knows what exactly will happen here. I'm not promising anything (as usual), but there's always hope.

I guess I should talk about games or something. I've certainly still been playing tons of them. I just never find myself with anything compelling or interesting to say. But I suppose that's a good thing. When I have something to say about games, it's usually bad. When I don't, it usually means that the designers have managed to reach my very high expectations. No small feat.

Warcraft III. Neverwinter Nights. Dungeon Siege. Morrowind. NetHack 3.4. That should be enough of a Swordplay fix for any gamer. All released within the last few months. This is a good time to be a lover of simulated medieval carnage. It's wonderful to see that more and more game companies are devoting the time and resources to games in the late stages of development. It is this final layer of polish that really make a game shine.

So I've been playing a little UO again recently. Not sure why. I don't know if it will become a habit again, but I have been impressed nonetheless. UO is not the same game was five years ago. It's not the same game it was three years ago. It's not even the same game it was a year ago. Many players lament all the changes, but I have to admit that the UO Team finally has a clue what's it's doing. The atmosphere of the game is totally different. It is no longer a bizzare Kafkaesque trek through a harsh world populated by players acting out their deeply repressed emotions. Back in the day, it was a challenge to merely stay alive, let alone eke out a living. And there was the everpresent, looming temptation to succumb to evil, making your fortune spilling the digital blood of the weak. I know it was never the intent of the designers, but the real game was the moral conflict which played out daily on a thousand battlegrounds. The sad part is that 99% of the players never even realized it. People would cry out in despair and wonder what happened to the Virtues, an integral part of Ultima lore. The irony is that the power to make Virtue a part of the game was in their hands all along. Or maybe I just have a warped view of how people are supposed to play games.

But that's all in the past. The new UO looks better, sounds better, and downright plays better than ever. It doesn't slow you to a snail's pace or crash out of spite every 15 minutes. The world may seem a touch more bland, but I can accept that if it means the world can actually be enjoyed. And the world is still a thousand times more richly detailed than any of the current selection of 3D MMORPG's out there.

I guess that's all I want to say right now. If anyone actually still checks this site and cares whether or not it continues to exist, feel free to let me know!


  Scurrilous lies...
6.28.2001 2:23pm, Nok
 

They said Swordplay.net was dead. They said we'd never hear Nok ramble on about games again. They said that any website not updated in a year was doomed. They were wrong! Here we are, exactly one year after my last update. And guess what? I'm updating!

Well, at least I'm halfheartedly updating. A lot has happened in the world of gaming in the past year. But frankly, very little of it has been positive. A whole lot of continued corporatization* of gaming companies, tons of layoffs, game cancellations, rushed and buggy products, etc. All very depressing. I'm not going to go into it. I don't have enough free time to invest what little I do have in bumming myself out.

So instead I think I'll go play some more of the new Diablo II Expansion Pack. It's a lot of fun. It has cute little bunnies in it. Here is a webpage which shows you random pictures of bunnies.

* I know it's not a word... but it should be because it describes the current paradigm our whole freakin' society is succumbing to.


  The games of summer
6.28.2000 9:02pm, Nok
 

I suppose enough time has elapsed since I last updated Swordplay.net that no one will accuse me of making "regular updates". (Heaven forfend!) This is the first chance I've had in a while to just sit down and gather my thoughts, so here goes:

Diablo II. It's coming. Soon. For real, this time. And it's gonna be huge. I played the Stress Test Beta pretty consistently since it came out on May 24th until it ended on Monday, and I'll tell you right now that I'm hooked. If you liked the original Diablo at all, you'll love this one. There's more of everything you liked, plus a whole lot more. And 'more' is the key word here. More monsters, more dungeons, more weapons, more characters, more skills... you get the idea. If you were one of those people that didn't care for Diablo's ability to degenerate into a click-fest, then you probably will have the same gripes with the second one. But if you're like the majority of gamers, you won't be able to get enough.

Another game which has been causing a lot of sleepless nights among gamers around the world is Vampire - The Masquerade: Redemption from Nihilistic Software. (I can just picture a whole bunch of game designers sitting around a table arguing over what to name this game and then deciding to just please everyone... however it's not as bad as Electronic Arts Presents the Game Formerly Known as Ultima Online 2 - Ultima Worlds Online: Origin.) Vampire takes you on a gothic journey from a demon-ridden medieval Eastern Europe up through the present day in a beautiful 3D world with little creepy things jumping out at you left and right. This game has gotten a ton of great reviews, and Rao and his buddies are hooked. However, in all honesty, I can't seem to get too excited by this game. I'm not sure what it is, but this game just doesn't grab me as it has most other gamers. Guess it's just personal taste. One thing about this game that does pique my interest, though, is it's "Story Teller" mode. This feature allows would-be DM's to do more than just create new maps and mods for the game, but also lets them design whole new quests, items, and NPC's etc., and then interact in the game world with players, changing scripted events to fit the story. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for creative Stories from the Vampire community.

Since I'm a Nox junkie, I have to mention this. The biggest criticism leveled against Nox has been it's lack of cooperative play. You can play the singleplayer story 3 different ways, and you can fry your friends online in various deathmatch and team modes... but you can't get together and fight monsters side by side. Yet. Westwood Studios recently announced that they are working on a new mode of play called Nox Quest. This will allow you to hop on a server, team up with other players, and travel through an unending loop of progressively harder levels, reaping treasure and bashing beasties. There's a FAQ on Nox's main page detailing the details if you're interested. It promises to be a lot of fun... however I can't help but wonder if this comes too little too late. See, I fear that the vocal segment of the community which begged and pleaded for a cooperative mode are the same people who were basically just playing Nox to hold them over until Diablo 2 arrived. Sure, diehard fans will still play, but I have this feeling that most of those who would have appreciated Nox Quest will be long gone. Only time will tell.

Those are the biggies. There's more news, but frankly, none of it really gets my mojo risin'. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that I will attempt to do more regular updates here, but no promises. Especially not in the next month since I will have my hands full getting everything ready for QuakeCon 2000, but I WILL try.

Oh, and I must print a retraction now, too. In my last update I said that my girlfriend lived on RPG's alone. Well, in a move from completely out of left field, she has picked up StarCraft...... with a vengeance. She plays it far more than I ever did in my brief infatuation with that game. And she's frighteningly good at it too. Well, with the Zerg at least. Yup... my babe is a Zerg queen. (I can feel all of you gamers turning green with envy... hands off, she's mine!)

Finally, I gotta throw this link up... if for no other reason than I can't believe no one has thought of this before. It's gonna revolutionize the Internet and change the world forever. The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite (IMPS)!

  The other mistress...
4.20.2000 6:38pm, Nok
 

Okay. So like... I haven't updated in a while because I've been exceedingly busy with other projects. I know, I know... webmasters always use that excuse when they are just too lazy to work on their pages... but I swear it's true! The secret project I mentioned some time ago that Rao and I have been working on is one major time sink... but an enjoyable one at least. Oh and it's not secret anymore, so I'll let you in on it: www.quakecon.org. Yup, that's right. I'm the new webmaster and Rao is the new art guy for the venerable QuakeCon organization. In case you have never heard of it, QuakeCon is the name of the world's largest annual LAN party which is held every summer down in Texas. This year we expect nearly 3000 sweaty gamers to descend upon the ol' Mesquite Convention Center to have fun, listen to kinda-famous people talk, compete in a massive and high-profile tournament, and generally just to blow each other to little pieces at 3 in the morning.

Ya, I know it's off topic, but hey, man cannot live by RPG's alone. (Woman can, though... my girlfriend is proof).

  The truth behind most gaming sites
3.23.2000 10:22pm, Nok
 

This explains a whole lot:

  Surprise!
3.13.2000 9:29pm, Nok
 

It's an update! Well, the bad news is that I obviously haven't updated Swordplay in a while... but the good news is that I've had a pretty good reason. Rao and I have been ridiculously hard at work on another fairly major web project. At this point we are still forbidden to mention what it is, but we can tell you that it is gaming related, and something you might have heard of. I won't tease you any more, but I will tell you that we are scheduled to go live three weeks from tonight, so stay tuned!

Now I know your mind can't stop wondering what it is we're working on, so here's something else to keep you distracted: the rumor currently floating around they net is that the Diablo II Beta may open for registration very soon. There, I'm sure that is more interesting to you than my vague promises. ;þ

So what's been going on in the wide and multifaceted world of RPG's? Well, for me, the major news is that Nox was released and I've been playing the hell out of it. The single and multiplayer are vastly different, but both offer a great deal of depth and replayability. But most of all, it's just a lot of fun to play. You are always just a screen away from some frenzied combat, or a quirky strategic situation you've never encountered before. With countless spell combinations, attacks, and counter moves, it keeps you guessing and it keep you thinking.

I think the long-term test for Nox will be whether its community takes on a life of its own. Right now, what I believe would help it most would be if Westwood released a map editor for the game. This would remove any kind of limit to what this game could achieve with thousands of active minds devising fiendish new levels.

Anyway... if are really just looking for a Diablo clone to tide you over until D2 comes out, you probably won't enjoy Nox unless you keep an open mind. It is not just a clone, although it is often hard to miss it's uniqueness under its familiar isometric perspective and medieval setting. There is a real gem here if you are looking for a new flavor of RPG's which mixes furious tactical combat with the classic sword-swinging, spell-flinging theme.

But just so you don't think I'm receiving any kind of kickback for these stellar endorsements, I must say, the framework for multiplayer games is really sad. Oh, games run smoothly enough, and there is an overabundance of gameplay options to keep things lively... but to play on the Internet, you are forced to use the Hindenburg of an online gaming service, Westwood Online. You gotta give them a ton of personal info before they mail you a login... and then you can only connect using their master servers. It seems pretty archaic to me, in this day and age, that I can't just fire up a game and tell my friend Bob my IP and have him connect. But to WWO's credit, their ladder services and player finding features do almost make up for the hassle.

All in all, I say Nox is worth a look. It's not for everyone, but if you like it a little, you'll probably like it a lot, if you catch my drift. Give the multiplayer-only demo a try here, but keep in mind you'll only be playing with 1 of the 3 character classes, and you'll be further limited to only about 1/6 of the total spells available.

  Nox for Nok
2.8.2000 1:40pm, Nok
 

Welp, that was a nice little break. Throughout the past month, I've kept meaning to come back and update the page, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it. See, recently I've been growing very disenchanted with the whole Gaming industry and have had little desire to be a part of it in any way, shape, or form. Now please don't just write me off as an idealist malcontent. I know this industry works because of money... the companies make games to sell them for money, the programmers are employed to put food on their tables, and the reviewers are there to make a name and some bucks for themselves. This, in and of itself, is not what bothers me since it is possible to promote consumerism and show a little integrity at the same time. What is bothering me is the fact that more and more often, such is not the case. I don't really wanna get into the details -- my bitching about specifics on this fairly unknown site won't accomplish anything, nor would it be very professional. But if anyone is really curious, feel free to write to me and we'll chat.

Now don't get me wrong. I still have a great love for the art of computer games and I will never stop playing them. (Well, at least not until I'm fired for updating this site while at work, and then can't afford any more games.) And what has me most excited at the moment is the imminent release of Nox from Westwood Studios which should be hitting store shelves in about a week. There are several reasons why this has me all giddy. First, the game refuses to be easily classified in a genre. While it's easy to dismiss the game by its looks as yet another Diablo clone, upon closer inspection it's clear that the medieval theme and the isometric perspective are about all they have in common. (Although, the isometric perspective is actually different than Diablo's where the view was at about 30. In Nox the view is set at a strict 45 angle which means that the image doesn't need to be distorted any in order to look right. But I digress.) Nox is hard to classify because although it looks like an story-driven RPG (with stats to gain, items to quest for, and a big ol' Foozle to defeat), it plays like an action game. Almost everyone who has had a chance to play multiplayer Nox has said the experience was much like playing Quake where the action is fast, furious, and bloody. In fact, the multiplayer modes for Nox emphasize this with the standard Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill type variants, among others. In my eyes, blurring genres is what leads to innovation which, in turn, leads to growth of the medium as an artform.

The other reason this game excites me is its history. Michael Booth, the Lead Designer, originally created the prototype for Nox in his garage and worked for years balancing the character classes and making sure everything just felt right. He was later noticed by the suits at Westwood who bought the game, hired him, and gave him a full team of artists to bring Nox to life. Now that's the kind of grassroots success story I wish would be more common in this ever more commercialized industry.

Now, I'm sure a few of you are doubtful of Nox's quality based on Westwood's recent track record of rushed and uninspired games. Well, consider this. Westwood has consistently shown that they know how to make a great first installment of a game, only to be followed up by countless lackluster sequels and derivations. Following this logic, we should all be very excited for Nox, but very wary of Nox II. ;)

Anyway, that's all I got for now. I don't think I'll be returning to a schedule of daily updates, but expect occasional ramblings and editorials about the state of gaming. Remember, we're all in this together. With a little luck, this industry could turn into something humanity is proud of... and not just another Hollywood.

 

 

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