Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Woodbury in Kitely Grid


By Bixyl Shuftan

Several years ago, there was a place and a group in Second Life known as "Woodbury." Based on a real-life University of the same name, the location and group soon became highly controversial, gaining a reputation for harboring griefers. Nonhuman avatars were reportedly a target of some of the griefers. Eventually, Linden Lab would shut down the sims and ban many of it's members.

Recently Woodbury would come in the spotlight again after it was revealed JP Laszlo/JPizzers, the former leader of the Trump Organization in Second Life, was now calling himself part of the group, I received a tip that the group had a sim in the Kitely Grid, an OpenSim-based virtual world. So I got onto the world, and found a place with the name on the map. And teleporting over, what I saw confirmed that it was the place.

Sims on Kitely are a bit different than on Second Life as they can be one to sixteen "regions" in size, but still count as a single sim. The Woodbury sim was a full-sized sixteen region sim with a mountain in the northeast, and urban building, much of it Soviet-themed. There was a formation of Russian bombers in the air. There was a sign with the logo that had been on JP's Twitter for several days before she took it down, "Make Woodbury Great Again." There were occasional animeish-looking builds of a girl wearing a Russian-military style cap carrying a bag of chips labeled in Japanese and a bottle of soda. In a couple places were towering space rockets. And there were the occasional statues.

I ran into one man while there. He was friendly enough to show me around, asking only that I not throw insults at anyone or otherwise grief the place. In Voice, he explained that they were in the middle of setting up several years worth of Woodbury builds from Second Life, and it would be at least a few more weeks until the place was finished. He called the mountain an "Indiana Jones" style place with plans for dorms inside. Of the various symbols inside, many were "inside jokes," some he had yet to figure out saying he was somewhat new. In one place was one building he called a representation of the real-life Woodbury University.

Because the place was in the middle of being built, many of what was there was in temporary locations, such as one submarine that was in the air. But he did say once it was finished, it would be a mix of themes with no real restrictions on what could be placed by it's members.

So it seems that the group that had been banned by Second Life has found a new home on another Grid. The one who spoke to me stated they've more or less left Second Life behind, not wanting trouble. But considering Woodbury's reputation, many would be skeptical.

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Gaming Goings-On: Rust, Star Trek Online, And Tree of Life


By Bixyl Shuftan

With all that's been going on in Second Life, there have been a few developments in computer gaming. Pokemon Go has been in the news a lot, but that's not so much a computer game as a mobile ap game. But yours truly has been made aware of a couple developments in games we've wrote about in the past, Rust and Star Trek Online. There's also a new one my friends and I have been playing: Tree of Life.

Star Trek Online recently got a new expansion: "Agents of Yesterday." Fans of the Original Series, which was first aired 50 years ago. will cheer as they can now play characters and missions of the story universe that started the franchise. Three new character slots have been opened, as well as a 23rd Century Federation faction, and missions and areas set in the time period of USS Enterprise's first five year mission, taking place in 2270 the year after the TV series. 23rdCF characters can be one of four races: human, Vulcan, Tellarite, and Andorian. The uniforms are from the style of the Original Series, including the infamous mini skirts for female characters and the red shirt for those specializing in Security.

The first mission for a 23rd Century Federation character starts with them at rank Lt. jg., with the ship in orbit around Taurus II (the planet in which Spock, Scott, and five other crewmen had to make an emergency landing in "The Galileo Seven"). The player is assigned as part of an away team to look for survivors of a shipwreck and investigate while dealing with the planet's hostile natives. As it turns out, the crash was no simple accident. At the end, the ship's captain is promoted to admiral and the player character promoted to Lieutenant and given command of the ship.

After a couple missions, one of the more recent crewmen comes forward saying he's a "Temporal Agent" from the Federation in the distant future, which has been involved in a "Temporal Cold War" by powers trying to manipulate the timeline for their own benefit while it seeks to preserve it. Trekkers whom have watched the "Enterprise" prequel series will recognize the conflict from the TV show.

Fans of the Original Series will enjoy the chance to interact with some of the characters there, such as Chekov whom is voiced by the actor who played him, Walter Koenig (whom at 79 is much older than the young man he was in the TV show) and Chief Engineer Scott, whom is voiced by his son Christopher Doohan (James Doohan died in 2015). Not every Trekker however is a fan of time travel, a number feeling it's been overused for plot material. Still, "Agents of Yesterday" is an expansion which fans of the classic sci-fi TV show, old and young, will enjoy.

Sources: Memory Alpha, Star Trek Online, Trek Today, Trek Core, Cosmic Book News  


The survival MMO "Rust" is back in the news. After over a year of development, it's Experience System has finally been unloaded into the game. Gone are the blueprints that players had to collect in order to learn how to make objects. Instead, players accumulate experience points, or XP, which can be used to gain the skills to make new objects. Which objects are available depends on the players level, which is raised by gaining a number of experience points. It takes just a few XP to rise to Level 2, but the number to rise increases as the levels do.Unlike games such as Ark, leveling up does not mean an increase in hitpoints or strength.

Players gain XP though various actions such as gathering wood from trees and stone and ore from mineable rocks, picking up resources from the ground, smashing drums and looting crates and boxes, making items, and more. I have read that if someone else makes items from resources you gathered, you get some of the XP, though I have yet to see this in person.

Level One characters are limited to several basic skills.They can make paper and the map and blueprint, sleeping bag, campfire, map, blueprint,tool cabinet, wooden door, wood lock, wood window bars, bandage. The only weapon they can make is a bone club. The only clothes they can make are the leather gloves, burlap shoes, baseball cap, and boonie hat. So beginning players will have to remain nearly naked unless they make a lucky find in a drum or crate. Beginning players can make structures and could reinforce them up to armored if they somehow had the materials. But they would not be able to make doors stronger than wood or a lock better than wooden. One noticeable change is players can now make the basic rock if they happen to loose theirs, made from ten stone which can be gathered up around the island.

As one levels up, skills become available to purchase, Level Two allowing the wooden spear, burlap trousers, skirt, and fish trap. The latter is a relatively new item to catch fish to help stave off hunger, which has become more challenging in more recent updates of the game. The stone hatchet and pickaxe are available at Level Three. At Level Four, you can get the ability to make basic storage boxes. At Level Five, the burlap shirt is available (and female characters need no longer be topless), as well as the furnace. At level six, one can learn how to make the much desired code lock. Level Seven allows for the repair bench, wood shutters, and bow and wood arrows. At Level Eight, the sheet metal door and metal window bars are available. T-shirts and gunpowder, once available at the start, don't appear until Level 12.

Going up to Level Eight took me about an hour, and dying twice from the patrol helicopter. So some of the old problems are still there. And this time, the small but real possibility of a beginning player to find a rocket launcher and rocket blueprints are gone. Some places such as the Airport have been overhauled, such as some parts of the place now destructable, such as boards covering some doors. And radiation, which was a factor in places in the early Rust, is back, at least at the power plant area, so the radiation pills one occasionally finds now come in handy.

Currently the XP system is still under development, so it may experience some changes soon. One unknown is how will the XP system change the Player vs Player aspect of the game. If you still get some XP if a raider swipes and uses your stuff, it's not a *complete* loss (though still damn irritating). If you gain XP if someone else eats your food, being generous to the newbies has at least that guaranteed reward. My fellow Rust player Brandi Streusel thought the update would somewhat ease the ruthless nature the game can sometimes take in more active servers ... somewhat. Old habits are hard to break, and some players just love to grief for the sole purpose of making others miserable. In the meantime, core Rust fans and those who keep going back to the land of naked men (and women) with a single rock can see for themselves how this major update affects their own play. 

Sources: Rust Devblog 

One game that me and my Second Life friends have been into lately is "Tree of Life." Designed by OddOneGames, a Korean Indie game company, Tree of Life was first released about a year ago in late May 2015. It is sold as "early access," so it may change a little over time. Like Rust, it's considered a survival game. But the graphics are a little more "cartoony" than it's more edgy counterpart. Starting off with only a simple shirt and pants, players need to gather resources in order to build tools, and then build buildings, plant and harvest crops, make clothes, build weapons, etc.

Players have a number of skills, or masteries, which can be leveled up though experience points. They also have four stats, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence. Constitution determines the number of hitpoints a player has. Strength determines how hard a player can hitwith melee weapons and what armor they can wear. Leveling a mastery increases a certain stat bya level. For example, raising your mining mastery raises your strength stat by one. Players start out with 100 Strength and 100 Constitution, but they will soon increase as the player goes about in the game.

At the very beginning, survival can be an issue as they player has to deal with hungry wolves, and at night zombies and skeletons, which will attack players on sight. Begining players are advised to stay clear of them, and run when attacked. Hunger can be an issue as when a character's stomach is completely empty, speed will slow to a crawl. Hitpoints are lost only due to hostile attacks, but are restored only when the stomach is at least two-thirds, or 400 of 600 points, full. Players can hit trees to get branches and apples, the latter of which can be eaten for food, and hit rocks on the ground for stones. Stones and rocks can be used to make logging axes to chop down trees into firewood and mining pickaxes to break down rocks into stone and coal and copper nodes into coal, copper, and rocks. When one's Carpentry level is two, one can make a bonfire and cook food. At Carpentry Level 2, one can make a workbench, which is necessary to make a number of items. At Carpentry level five, one can make survival tents and store them.

Unlike some survival games such as Rust, the character does not sleep when the player logs off, but temporarily vanishes. And should a character be killed by NPCs, all that might be lost is whatever item was active in the players hand at the time, so the personal inventory is safe. So the only things that are at risk from other players are one's builds and whatever are stored in them. So players will eventually want to build rusty locks, available at Tinkering Level Four, to secure buildings, and crude watchtowers, available at Carpentry Level Seven, armed with stone arrows, available at Carpentry Level Six, to protect anyone who tries vandalizing your builds.

Safety isn't quite guaranteed as it's possible to pick locks with lockpicks, so eventually as a player levels up in masteries, they will want to eventually build better towers, better arrows, and walls and gates to protect what's theirs. Players can also form and join guilds to both protection and help in common goals. Players have to log in every day at their base, or the builds will soon start to decay. Eventually, an abandoned build will fall apart and the land returning to it's natural state. There's also the ghostly "Mr. Bobo" who wanders around. You can trade goblin coins, which you find on monsters, with him for a few items.

My personal experience with the game is that the Player vs Player aspect is less vicious than Rust, but it does happen. My friend Jasmine/Jazmare joined a guild, but soon saw it was one that pushed around other players, and soon got the attention of other guilds whom eventually harassed it into abandoning their base and moving. But they left her alone when hearing she wanted no further part of them, and later formed another with me and Kryxia. But the base has had a few people try to vandalize and pick it's locks, and once going in and swiping things when somehow a section of wall either decayed or was completely vandalized. On the other hand, there have been a number of helpful players whom are either motivated by finding allies, especially ones with one or more skills higher than they or guildmates, or just want to be helpful to neighbors.

So if Rust is a bit too graphic and ruthless for you, or you just want a break from it and still have a survival game itch, Tree of Life might be the game for you.

More information on the game is available at Tree of Life Wiki .

That's all for now from PC games. As my friend Nydia would say, "good gaming to you."

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rust Misdventures in Angel Island and Free Wood


By Bixyl Shuftan

Since writing about the game last time, me and a few of my Second Life friends have continued to play Rust for a while. We've gone through our share of misadventures, in both public and our private server, struggling with decay, bears, wolves, the helicopter, other players, and game reboots from updates.

As expected, my friend Nydia Tungsten did get a private server. She, and others were a bit wary of the "PvP kiddies" from last time, as well as hearing from me and Brandi we were having a little trouble with people breaking in to steal our stuff. One slight problem, making the server "whitelisted" so only we could get in. This would take several minutes, and somehow others found out particular server right away and jumped in before the process was completed. Fortunately, we could look up the map on our computer browser, which was a good thing as that became our first line of defense, or rather of hiding, against the helicopter, which we were learning to fear as a few bursts from it's machine guns or a single volley of it's rockets would send us back to respawning. Someone shouting "CHOPPER!" meant us staying in our bases, heading to an area with buildings or tunnels if nearby, or making a stick shelter to hide if out in the middle of nowhere. Ducking into a small shelter while it was in hot pursuit didn't always help as if you were next to a wall when rockets hit, you were gone. But the long bridges we made across water seemed to do the trick.

Despite Nydia's efforts, she could never fully turn off the decay rate. While it only affected foundations, it didn't take long for a basic stick foundation to crumble into dust, taking anything above with it, unless the floor unit was upgraded into wood, stone or metal. A friend who came with us, Hesh, found out the hard way when he made a basic stick structure a few stories high, and when it decayed away, his sleeping body was found floating in the air high over the ground. We sent him a message in G-chat not to pop in yet, and rebuilt a structure underneath him so he wouldn't be hurt from falling.

Hesh however was slow to learn the lesson. After a server reboot, we had to start over, and he build a barn-like structure around a large furnace. When I came to the server, I visited him, and used the wood I had collected on the way to reinforce the floor in the front part of the barn before I had to leave, parking my body upstairs. When I logged on next time, I found most of the barn gone, only the front up the place, which was over the floor I reinforced, and the large furnace, was left. Hesh had to leave for deployment, as he was in the military, so he left his building to me. So I began rebuilding "Hesh's Barn" as I called it, and maintained it for the next few weeks.

Jasmine also had some bad luck with foundation decay. Not simply rebuilding, she decided to experiment with builds that were a mix of triangular and square bases. She would show us pictures of her design, and I looked at them. Later on, I would put some of them to use.

During this time, we were finding bears were a persistent problem as when we would go into the wilderness to get wood, stone, and ores, they would find us. And once they spotted you, they'd catch up to you and tear you apart. And they seemed to come out from nowhere most of the time, getting them the label "ninja bears" on a public server I would later come across. If you turned to fight them, even a submachine gun was insufficient as the bear would stay up even after a dozen bullets and eat you. Running away, the more natural reaction, almost never worked either. Once or twice after jumping over obstacles, the bear gave up the chase. But other than that, the result was the same, the screen going red, and the speakers filled with the screams of your character dying as the bear tore into him, eating him alive.

If a death happened close enough to one's base, your stuff could usually be recovered. But it didn't take long for a dead body to fade away, and the stuff it carried with it. This had a way of happening after making a great find on a supply plane drop or returning back to our bases with our inventories full after forging into the wilderness. Brandi was trying out places with bear traps around with a clear path through them, so she could pass through while any bears chasing would get caught. I don't know how successful it went. It may be once she was prepared, luck arranged for them to stop coming. The best way to fight the bears I found was when spotting one running around was to set up a foundation and ladder not to far away, and shoot at it with a gun. It would always run up to me, but couldn't reach me if I was on the top of the ladder. It took about twenty pistol or rifle rounds, give or take, to bring down a bear. While the result was lots of leather, animal fat for fuel, and meat, the big reward was a sense of payback for the times one had been "ninja beared" in the woods.

Then there was the helicopter. Our friend Pagan Sunburn soon joined us, and came across a rumor that if one was still naked, the helicopter would ignore them as this was a protection for players just entering the server or recently respawning. We joked he just wanted an excuse to run around naked, myself commenting when those female skins that were being talked about by the developers came out, (s)he'd never put on a scrap of clothing.

The game itself was also updating. We were soon finding occasional 50-unit bits of wood, stone, iron ore and sulfur ore on the ground, which was a help, especially in one's start in a game, or if one got raided and lost everything, in which they could built basic tools faster then making a trek to a nearby permanent structure to search for crates for them. Later on, the wood chunks were reshaped into stumps, and the stone and ore peices given more natural rocklike looks.

We found out the place wasn't truly whitelisted as someone broke in and raided Hesh's barn, and added insult to injury by setting up on the wall a huge sign of a penis with "LOL" underneath. Nydia found the joker, clobbered him, and with him gone blocked him from the server for good. We took down the offensive sign with incendiary bullets. Nydia then set off a mess of flare pistols at Hesh's barn, making it a pile of drops. the most in one location I'd ever seen. I finished rebuilding the barn soon after. I had the idea of making a tower, which went up a bit higher than the barn. But eventually the server would be rebooted by a game update, Nydia called a "world killer," taking down all the builds, including Hesh's barn.

Nydia's server wasn't always up, so I continued to make a few rounds into the "Bunga Bunga" server where Brandi Streussel and I cut our proverbial teeth into the game. Then the server stopped coming up. I then began checking the list of other servers in the game. It's been my experience that public servers that you have to share with a not too large number of others (I've never been on those that have about fifty people at once), you're a little more likely to make it back to base with what you've gathered as settlements seem to cut down on the bear and wolf population. But one can still get unlucky and run into one, as well as hostile players. But keeping hold of your stuff can be a problem as not only would some players steal from others than gather on their own, some seem to make it their mission in life to hit your place again and again.

Among the other Rust servers, I found one called "Free Wood," which gave it's players a full stack of wood, 1000 units every twenty minutes. It also boasted it's helicopter was 80% less accurate. There weren't too many people when I first came across it, and looking around I saw lots of structures, but no people and very little chatter. I also found resources were more plentiful, more wood and stone chunks on the ground that could be picked up, more barrels and boxes one could get stuff from, notably blueprints for which I learned new things to build rapidly. This seemed to be the place for me.

Then I heard a possible reason from what chatter there was why "Free Wood" was relatively quiet. People were talking about a server wipe in a few days. And one day, I returned to see many more people on, and I found myself having to respawn. It turned out I hadn't been clobbered, but the server had restarted after all. Fortunately I still had my skills. But unfortunately with the reboot came some aggressive players, or as I put it, "the freaks came out." Going about collecting wood and stone, I was fired at, "I'm gonna kill ya!" And when I finally had enough animal fat to make the fuel needed for a furnace and began setting up a small base, before I could so much as finish the walls the place was attacked and a burst of submachinegun fire ended, or "wrekt" as was the gamers lingo, my first attempt to make a base in Free Wood rebooted.

Coming back, I had a little more luck as I appeared near the airport. After refining some fuel, I made a large furnace and began building a base. But every day, the place would end up raided. So after getting more fuel, I had to move further away, making a place not to far away from the satellite dish area. People were still trying to break in, but it wasn't as bad, and I began to build the place upward.

In the meantime, Brandi found another public server to try things out, "Garden of Eden." While it was supposed to be Player versus Environment, someone broke into her place activated permissions for himself on the "tool cabinet" that prevents those not on it's list from building around a certain area, and after looting Brandi of everything set up walls around her, trapping her in. She couldn't respawn elsewhere, so could only sit there. I had to log onto the server and find the place. Along the way, I found a revolver in a barrel, and found enough animal fat to make a small furnace to smelt metal for bullets. Getting to her place, I shot up the walls and once again she was free.

Back in Free Wood, the attempts to raid my place were mostly a nuisance. Someone did get to my bedroom area, and tried on me what they tried on Brandi. But with the "free wood" coming in every twenty minutes, I kept making spears and soon punched through the stick walls. Fortunately most of my stuff was in a hardened "vault" room with metal walls and an armored door, so they got little. I eventually built the place up to where it was passing the wires on the power line tower it was built next to. Then the "squirrels" as I called the raiders began to get serious, finding the weak spot in the building permissions area, setting up a makeshift scaffold of basic stick ladder units, and blowing their way through. I logged on to catch one in the act, and seeing him through a hole he had made as he was whacking away with a hatchet, he didn't hear me as I got closer, aimed a weapon, and put his raid to an end, helping to make up for the damage I had to repair.

I noticed others were setting up one square structures around their bases, which obviously had tool cabinets inside. I decided to try that, and made two "nodes" as I called them, planning on making two more the next day. But I was a day too late. When I logged on, I found the "building blocked" tag on my display as I went around. Going to the lower levels, I found to my sorrow that the "squirrels" had gone in through the stone floor by blowing up a section and used the metal still in the furnace to reinforce their hatchets as they chopped their way to where the tool cabinet was, wrecking that then making their own. They managed to break through my designated vault room's metal wall, and used the items there to cause further damage, building all kinds of walls and making the place not truly my own.

Dispirited, I sneaked over to the airport to get more fuel, and headed away to make a new base. Jasmine Dawn had showed me a design for making a base around a large furnace using a mix of square and triangular bases. Finding a spot on a hill overlooking the water treatment plant area, I laid the foundation, a first floor, and part of a second. No raids that night. I continued building, having enough stone from the rocks around me, and if the helicopter showed up while I was out, the plant's tunnels were close by to duck into. It would be a few days until I noticed a stick tower outside: almost certainly someone's idea of trying to raid me by dropping in my place from above. I chopped it down, then quickly built four tool cabinet "nodes" around the place. There were no further raiding attempts after that. Eventually, I began returning to my old tower and eventually chopped down the walls, and took down the raider's tool cabinet and set up my own. It was mine once more.

But victory was short-lived as it was about time for the server to update again. There was also talk about the game itself updating. After the update turned out to be a "world killer," Nydia, Brandi, Jasmine, and I started up the Angel's server once more. We had heard among the changes were the female skins that had been talked about by developers and players in the forums alike for months. But we found instead of being given a choice of whether to be male or female, the game randomized it like it did one's skin color.

Taking a look at my avatar, I found that the familiar "sausage" was gone, and the shape was more slender. Nydia grumbled she was still male, and Jasmine and Brandi were now dark-skinned females. Jasmine had a laugh at me and Nydia, joking we could hold a "genderbender party." But the laughs were short lived as we were soon dealing with the bears again, who loved chasing down and eating female humans just as much as the males. And once the avatars were dressed, one couldn't tell as easily. Nydia took a look at the forums for some comments. Some male players were furious. One took it in stride, cracking a somewhat sexist joke, "I've bled plenty in this game already. It might as well also be from down there." Pagan would come on a time or two, but we never did find out whether our prediction of him/her running around in a nude female avatar all the time came true.

Back in Free Wood, I found not only were the player built buildings gone, but also all our skills except those we entered the server with when we first logged in. Nevertheless, I went ahead, getting fuel from the airport and oil dome, which were in the north, making a temporary base just south of them, then heading south across some rough terrain to near the water treatment plant. After this reboot, activity wasn't as much as it had been the month before. Were players turned off by the skill reboot and rough terrain? I went ahead and began building a base around a large furnace. But I hadn't quite made the foundations high enough around the furnace, and so I couldn't get them all away around. I had to make another furnace at the other end so I could built all away around that. There was nothing else to do with the first furnace but keep it empty when not in use. During the few days I was building the base, there was a raid. I had to place nodes around the "figure 8" as I was calling it, and after that felt secure.

It was about this time events in Nydia's real life were keeping her occupied, so her server stayed down. Brandi took a peek at Free Wood, then Jasmine came in. They also made places near the water treatment plant. Then Jasmine had something she wanted to try, a "roundhouse" design built around a large furnace using square and triangular foundation units. She picked a spot close to my "figure eight" and we both went to work. It didn't take long for the two of us to finish it, then our friend Kryxia came in. All seemed well. There was soon an update in which water buckets and barrels were introduced, which led to a few trips to a nearby stream. One had to keep a bucket in the action bar for the water to stay. We kept a barrel of water in case some joker came by with one of those flamethrowers we'd been hearing about.

Then one day I checked in to find my persona naked and the room full of holes. looking around, the place was a mess. Even the armored vault room had been busted into. Once again, the "squirrels" had probed around until they found a weakness, then hit it with demo charges and jumped in, wrecking the place. The good news, they hadn't touched the tool cabinet. Checking the roundhouse, the damage was worse. They had somehow gotten to the tool cabinet there, smashed down  the door to the way up, and replaced that. The building was no longer truly ours.

With that, the enthusiasm of my friends for Rust had taken a hit, those not occupied by matters in real life no longer coming on. But I had one idea. With talk of a "skill tree," I had logged into an almost empty server to see if anything was different. I didn't notice anything different with skills, but the only sign of other players was when returning, I found a hatchet on me I didn't recall finding the day before. Maybe I could build the roundhouse here, and persuade my friends to come here. I was further encouraged that I finally found the highly coveted rocket launcher blueprint, and so early on too.

Unfortunately, just because there weren't other players, there were still hostiles. I got chopped up by the chopper, and was getting mauled by bears. But somehow, I found a spot, laid down the foundations of a roundhouse, basic walls, and just enough of a second floor to stay hidden from the chopper. The next day, I had enough time to reinforce a quarter of the roundhouse to the point anyone coming across it would have a hard time getting in. It seemed all was well. Then the next day, I found the server had rebooted. The roundhouse was gone. The skills I had learned, including the rocket launcher, gone. And before five minutes had passed, I ran into a bear, and once again died screaming.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll be playing Rust as even my patience has it's limits. But it seems as far as most of my Second Life friends are concerned, they've moved on to other pastures, at least for now. One stated she was tired of the raiders, tired of the "world killer" updates erasing all her work, and would be taking a break for a while, at least until Nydia could get her server running again. And there's no telling when that will be as right now, the game is the least of her worries.

So perhaps it's about time to move on to another game. As soon as there's one me and my circle of Second Life friends like, we'll let you know.

On a final note, I've heard stories about players and teams accomplishing great builds with Rust, such as "Paradise Island" in which a place resembling an inviting looking resort was crafted. Then there was "The Great Wall of Rust" in which a team braved glitches, bears, and saboteurs in order to build a wall across the width of their server's island, and came close to succeeding (WARNING: video contains male nudity). Then someone made a game in the game, a maze in which players had to navigate, braving traps, in order to get the prize at the end. Then there was the "City Council Arena" of which it was stated took teams seven days to farm materials and build. There are also fanworks in which players have made Rust items in real life.

So yes, the game does attract people who would rather build than wreck other peoples' stuff. It's just that they never seem to be around your particular public server. In the meantime, avoid windows on the first floor, use metal bars on windows on the first few floors, and don't be afraid to use some of the metal you're saving up on the first and second floor's walls and the foundation under them: raiders can't steal what's been used.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, February 12, 2016

Second Life vs. Entropia


By Wesley Regenbogen

Introduction
Second Life and Entropia Universe are both virtual worlds, but they are not similar to each other. In this article I will review both of these worlds and explain what the differences are and which similarities they have and what makes them special.
Second Life ( SL )
Introduction to Second Life
Second Life is a virtual world where avatars can walk around and teleport to different places in-world. You can download the client software at http://www.secondlife.com, but there are alternative viewers available as well.
Your first steps into Second Life
When you first sign up with Second Life you can choose from different types of default avatars and choose a name for your avatar. After your avatar has been created, you download the viewer of your choice and then login with your username and password.
You will first arrive at Learning Island, where the basics of Second Life are explained. This is the place where all new avatars arrive in the Second Life environment. After finishing the tutorial is a teleport to Social Island, though I suggest instead heading to  NCI ( New Citizens Inc ) at Kuula.
There is a real life cash economy in Second Life, where you can buy Linden Dollars ( L$ ) and you can also convert your L$ into USD or any other currency. You can also earn L$ by doing a virtual job in Second Life ( I’ll explain this later on in the article, so keep on reading, please ).
In Second Life you don’t really have game elements that are placed within the virtual world, at least not in most places. You can find games to play in Second Life.
The places you visit in Second Life are known as “sims” (short for simulations)
Account types in Second Life :
There are two account types in Second Life, Basic, or free accounts, and Premium, or accounts of which one pays a fee on a regular basis to Second Life's owner Linden Lab.
    Earning L$ in Second Life or getting a Premium account for real life money
    To earn L$ in Second Life, you can do a virtual job, like me as a virtual journalist for Second Life Newser. Or you can find another virtual job that suits you, of course, such as DJ or content creator. It all depends on your real life skills or interests. To own or buy land you need a Premium account, which costs real life money, such as buying L$ as well. What makes Second Life unique is that it has numerous shops and stores and also many clubs and live concerts in Second Life.

    Second Life Marketplace website

    The Second Life Marketplace ( http://marketplace.secondlife.com ) is a website designed to buy items from when you are not in-world. You have to login with your username and password to fully access this website and buy items from the website for your avatar.

    Entropia Universe ( EU )

    Introduction to Entropia Universe

    Entropia Universe is a virtual world/game, which takes place in the future and you are being dropped as a colonist on the planet that you choose to start on. There are six different planets and space in Entropia Universe. Each planet has its own properties and creatures. When you first sign up for an Entropia account, you need to choose on which planet you want to start. I chose Planet Calypso, and I did the tutorial there in Thule, the starting place. From there, I went to Port Atlantis where my adventure started.

    Graphical details in Entropia Universe vs Second Life

    The company behind Entropia Universe, MindArk, was behind all of Entropia's creation. The graphics are amazingly detailed and when you run into bushes, the bushes move when you run through them. Very high detail graphics are everywhere. 

    With Second Life on the other hand, the graphics are not that detailed. That is because Entropia Universe uses the CryTek gaming engine, which is used in the Crysis game series and a few other games as well. In Second Life, the Havoc physics engine is used.

    Teleporting in Entropia Universe vs teleporting in Second Life

    Teleporting is also done in another fashion then in Second Life. In Second Life you have “landmarks” that you can use to teleport to another place. Or you can be invited to teleport to a friend’s place in Second Life. In Entropia Universe you need to go to a “teleporter” machine to be able to teleport to another place. Unless you find a vehicle or an helicopter that can take you there, for PED of course.
    Another difference between Second Life and Entropia Universe, is that your avatar makes a moving motion when you walk around in Entropia Universe. In Second Life your avatar seems to”float” above the surface. In Entropia Universe you can push the “R” key on your keyboard and your avatar will auto-run.

    Another difference between Second Life and Entropia Universe is that your avatar can get “killed” by creatures that attack you when you shoot them. You are automatically teleported to the nearest so-called “revival point.” It’s basically a terminal where you are teleported to. Your health bar will slowly fill back up after a long while.

    Terminals in Entropia Universe

    Speaking of terminals, here are some types of terminals you will encounter :
    • Revival Point ( see above )
    • Trade terminals ( to trade your goods for PED and also buying items from someone )
    • Society terminals ( “societies” are almost the same as “groups” in Second Life )
    • Manufacturing terminals ( these terminals are used to construct items, when you have the blueprint of it, of course and the needed items to make it )
    • Storage terminals ( these are terminals where every Entropian can store their personal items. Basically it’s your personal locker to store your personal items )
    • Auction terminals ( these terminals are like the word says to buy or sell items )
    • Repair Terminal ( to repair your items if they are damaged during an attack )
    Hunting and Mining in Entropia Universe
    You can hunt down the alien creatures that you encounter in-world in Entropia Universe and you can loot them and get items from them and sell them if you wish. After the tutorial, at least on Calypso, you should have some guns and ammo available to you.
    Mining I've read is much more difficult to do, because it involves many more skills than hunting does. I haven’t been into mining yet, so I can’t tell you more about it.
    Missions you can do and get rewards for doing them
    At some camps you encounter, you can choose to do missions, like in a normal game, if you succeed in them, then you get rewards, like guns, ammo or something else.

    Conclusion :
    Although Second Life and Entropia Universe are virtual worlds, they take on a different approach and a different experience. This is due to the different graphical engines, and also the “game play” is different. Don’t let that scare you off, though, because it’s a worthy experience in both places.
    For a Second Life resident, Entropia takes some getting used to, so keep calm and relax. But in the end you should get used to the differences and enjoy it, trust me.

    images from planetarkadia.com

    By Wesley Regenbogen

    Editor's note: In the past, Entropia has made real-life news by players buying up virtual real estate for thousands of dollars, such as the sale of the Crystal Palace Space Station, for almost a third of a million US dollars in 2010. So there is potential for a few devoted players to make some cash. However, there's no shortage of ways to make dollars in Second Life, as real estate barons such as Anshe Chung have demonstrated in the past, as well as clothing, virtual pets, and other businesses. 

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

    Return to Rust


    By Bixyl Shuftan

    It was about two years ago when my gaming friend Nydia Tungsten and I found out about "Rust." For those whom haven't read our previous articles on the game, it is a survival game developed by Facepunch Studios in early 2014 that at the time was loosely compared to "Minecraft," and "Day Z." The game had no "score," rather the player woke up naked with nothing but a rock and a torch in the middle of a wilderness marked by a road with occasional abandoned buildings along the way. Standing in the player's immediate goal of survival were bears, wolves, zombies, and other players. The players could use the rock they started out with to gather wood, stone, metal, and sulphur to make tools, harvest meat and skins from animals to build up health, get food, weapons, and blueprints to make things from containers in buildings. On occasion, there would be an airdrop that potentially had valuable goods, such as metal building parts and automatic weapons. To help them stay alive and preserve their stuff, players built bases, either their own or a few getting together to make one. People had to log in at least every couple days or their buildings would slowly decay, or "rust," away.

    The biggest obstacle of the game were hostile gamers. While many, perhaps most, were content to just go about their way, there were some whom seemed inclined to shoot anyone on sight and raid any place they could rather than work and harvest stuff on their own, whom Nydia named the "PvP kiddies."

    Still in open alpha development, Nydia and I and our friends gave it a try. We had fun for a while, building up our combined base. There were a few changes over time. Early on, the zombies were dropped, replaced with mutant red bears and wolves. Some players complained, but the developers stated they didn't want their game to be just another "zombie MMO." Over time, we saw some creative builds by other players. But unfortunately, we were having to spend more and more time rebuilding from our bases being broken into and finding resources to replace what was stolen. Eventually, Nydia and her friends got tired of dealing with the "PvP kiddies" and left Rust behind for other games.

    A few months later, I heard the game was updating. So I gave it another look. On the plus side, there was less of a danger of starving if you couldn't find food on the first day. There were also rivers and streams introduced. But the roads were gone, and there weren't much structures around (so I noticed), so finding one's way about was pretty hard. I couldn't find any crates or other containers, so I couldn't find any cloth to make even a pair of pants for my naked character. One also couldn't make building parts at the start. So it was time to abandon the game and go with the games my friends had taken up. Rust did make gaming news some months later when they introduced black skins to some of the players. But there was some controversy as the choice was taken away from the players, "just like in real life, you are who you are - you can't change your skin color or your face." While there was "a definite uptick in overly racist language," the big issue seemed to be that some people "have a strange need to play someone similar to themselves in games." While female skins were eventually made, so far they are limited to members of the development team.

    It was in the tail end of December 2015 when Nydia's friend Brandi Streussel decided to take a peek at the game. So I decided to check things out. The first thing I noticed was it was taking much longer to load than last time. Once in, I began looking around for resources, and it wasn't long before I found there had been further changes to the game. The roads were back, and not only were the containers back, there were a greater variety of them, sometimes appearing as metal drums, trash cans, and half-torn boxes, but they could appear away from buildings. There were "hemp plants," which could be harvested for cloth. It was a welcome addition as there had been times in the old Rust it took a while before I found a container or critter to clobber.

    Going about, there was more marking the terrain than just roads. There were power lines and towers dotting the landscape, which were a help in finding my way around. The smaller ones by the road had an occasional "Lost dog" ad, and the roads had signs by them, ones that were a bit weathered and sometimes spray painted. Like in the early Rust, there were groups of abandoned structures. They were not always buildings, one group being a pair of no longer active huge radio reception receivers. They are a little more detailed than before. Some with electric lights that provide illumination at night. There are also sewers residents can go down into and look around for supplies. Radioactive areas are less of a problem as I have yet to come across any, though as I have come across anti-radiation pills that presumably suggests there's one or more around somewhere. With rivers and rain now a feature, one  can now get wet, showing up as a percentage on the HUD. It doesn't usually affect you, aside from making it more likely to get cold.

    Building your own structures has changed. You use some wood to make piece of paper, then use the paper to make a floorplan. Once you have the floorplan, just put it in your inventory bar at the bottom, activate it, and move it to the spot where you want to build. If it's red, move to another spot. if it's blue, just click and you have a foundation, which you can add to by moving it to adjacent sides and as long as the marker's still blue and you have the wood, you can build. To get walls, doorways, stairs, ceilings, and other sections, just press the Shift button while the marker is up, and you get a menu of which kind of section you want next. Doors, window bars, and shutters are not part of this system, but are created like other items and placed by putting them in your action bar, activating it, and placing it where you want the part to go.

    When first set up though, building parts are rather flimsy and won't take much punishment from other players before they collapse. To strengthen them, build a wooden hammer. And when it's active in your action bar, the building part it's near will be highlighted green and can be upgraded. There are five levels for building structures: wood, stone, metal, and armored. At the beginning, stone is the strongest you can make the walls of a sizable structure, but it should keep out raiders whom have yet to get explosives. Judging from the abandoned buildings I saw while exploring, players need to keep logging in, or their structures will decay, or "Rust" back into the wilderness.

    There's a greater variety of tools, clothes, and other items one can make. As before, you'll need blueprints to learn to make some, such as machetes, helmets, and metal hatchets. Also as before, to make use of the metal and sulfur you get from harvestable boulders, in addition to the high quality metal that's been added to the game, you'll need a furnace. Getting the low grade fuel to make one, you'll either need animal fat from clobbered critters, or refine crude oil found at certain containers at certain buildings and refined in furnaces. So now one can get fuel without "killing Bambi." As before, items wear out over time from use. To fix them, one needs a workbench and certain materials, such as wood and metal fragments in the case of repairing wooden hatchets. Once one gets the blueprints, one can build larger furnaces to smelt more metal at once. Once you get the blueprints, one can also build mining quarries to harvest ores and rock directly from a piece of land instead of looking around for harvestable boulders. But the ratio of what can be harvested varies from place to place. So it's best to use a survey charge first and examine the chunks of rock that result.

    As in the old Rust, there are things out there that want to eat you, the bears and wolves. Gone are the red critters, so no special goodies beyond meat and leather if you clobber one. Instead, it's one less thing that's out to get you. One difference in the game is in the old Rust, you could outrun a bear, and keep away from a wolf if you kept running. This time, they run faster than you do. if you run into one going through a bush and are armed with only a bow and arrow, it's goodbye as they catch up to you and chow down on your screaming body. There's also a NPC helicopter that flies from place to place. If it sees you, it will fire it's machine guns, and possibly rockets, at you. So far with the chopper, I have yet to find a weapon that offers an alternative to running and hiding. Like the old Rust, there is still the plane occasionally flying overhead and doing a drop. And there are still the pigs you can hunt down on foot with just an axe. After all this time, it's still satisfying to chase and take down a piggy (at least for me). Besides the deer, there are now horses trotting about. If one can harvest things different things from them from deer, I don't know as I didn't have the heart to take one down, preferring to wait longer for a stag or pig.

    It should also be noted as a "Survival MMO," some servers are listed as PvP active or "Player versus Player." So far, my experience with the game has been with one server marked PvE or "Player versus Environment." Unlike Ark, in which players can't directly hurt anyone in a server where PvP combat is disallowed, a server's PvE status is supposed to be enforced by administrators. In the old Rust, we had trouble when some players ignored that and kept going after us. In this one, we've had a little trouble with people breaking in and stealing things. It hasn't quite reached the level we had in the old Rust yet. But it does leave me, and others, to wonder a little if there's truly such a thing as a true public PvE server in Rust.

    It should be noted the game is still in development and still changing, officially described as in "early access." When Brandi and I first started, besides the harvestable boulders, there were smaller rocks and chunks of iron and sulfur on the ground one could simply pick up. But after the update in early January, they were gone. At Christmastime, there was a treat for the players in the form of presents that would occasional appear, "Ho ho ho!"

    In developer Gary Newman's 2015 review, he's described himself as learning some lessons over time. Among them, "Don’t be afraid of the reaction of people on the Internet. The first reaction is always outrage, and is usually from people who haven’t played the game for months." He also has a few plans for further developments, such as Experience, Blueprint, and Skills systems, things to add variety to experiences, such as the occasional apple or birds nest with eggs when chopping trees, and being able to throw meat to distract bears and wolves.

    So two years later, Rust is still around and has life in it.

    As I was finishing up this article, Nydia told me she was getting a private server for her friends. So there may be some more "Return to Rust" tales in the future.

    Sources: playrust.com, kotaku, wiki.facepunch.com

    Bixyl Shuftan

    Friday, January 8, 2016

    Game Review: Fallout 4


    By Nydia Tungsten (and Brandi Streusel)

     We have all heard the hype on the game Fallout 4, when it was finally released. Everyone called in sick to work just to play this game. Hell, even Pornhub.com released a chart showing a major dip in their site traffic for THREE straight days, so I was starting to think just maybe there was something to this game. 

       I received this game as a gift. I had received “Fallout New Vegas” from my brother when he thought it was a multiplayer game, and I wasn’t that impressed with it. So, I wasn’t sure how I would like this one also, but since Freewilly187 gifted a sixty dollars game to me, I felt obligated to try it out.

      When I started to play, I remembered that this is from the same people who made Skyrim and I loved that game. I loved it even more when my dear friend Lomgren bought me the DLC’s for it. “They game so much better with them,” he told me. Well Lom, you were right. Then I found http://www.nexusmods.com  and I was in heaven.

      So, it was with this kind of hope that I went into Fallout 4 and I was not disappointed. I went in knowing very little about the story line or game play. I will not spoil it for you by going into too many game spoiling details and ruining it for you (I hate it when people do that) so I will just give you my general opinion about the game play and story.

      The story starts with a dark turn as expected, and then takes another dark turn that hits you in the gut like a heavy weight prize fighter. From there, it is an emotional rollercoaster ride that you would expect from an award winning movie writer. You actually connect with your character and most of the NPC’s around you as you journey through the Commonwealth. I beat the main story in less than 4 days because I wanted to see how the main story played out. And again, I was not disappointed. I grabbed hold of it like I would a well written book and I had to know what happens next.

      As of the time of this game I had achieved over eight days of game play, that’s over 192 hours into this game. So yeah… a LOT of time in it and to me, it was worth every second. Personally, I can’t recommend this game enough, but there is a down side to this game that some have found out the hard way. It is a graphics intensive game and a lot of older systems just can’t handle it.

       But don’t despair. I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel for you with older systems. The game hasn’t been out very long and there is already over 5000 mods for it at (http://www.nexusmods.com). There are a few that turn down the 4K graphics to something more useful for those with older systems, so if you don’t mind lowered graphics, you can still enjoy the game thoroughly.

        The next hurdle is the price. $60USD is a lot of money to pay for a game for most people. I was lucky that someone got it for me, but the game is worth saving every penny in the penny jar for it. I cannot recommend this game enough.

      So, if you haven’t played it yet and enjoy a good book or movie, make sure to avoid this game until you can get it for yourself, and just dive in. If you have Fallout 4, let me know what your thoughts are on it. Or, if you’re planning on getting it, let me know if this was helpful in your decision. Until then, you can find me in the waste land when not in Second Life.

      We’re starting a new year and some great games are coming out. What new games would you like to see me play and write about in the upcoming year? Let me know and I will do my best to get it done for you.
    And as always… GOOD GAMING TO YOU!!

    Nydia Tungsten

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Game Review: World of Warships


    By Nydia (and Brandi) Tungsten

    I started playing World of Warships when it came out of closed Beta to open Beta and I cannot say I was disappointed. It shared a few things with its predecessor , World of Tanks (WoT), and yet they are “worlds” apart.

    I think the best part about the game for me is the PvE game play. They introduced it where it is you and a few other people against the AI.  Just because it is you against the computer, don’t think the game will be easy.  I have been on a few human teams that have been absolutely waffle-stomped.  The AI is good, not as unpredictable as a real player, but it can still get the job done.  And in this mode, you don’t really run into the “uber players” that always blame their deaths on their own teammates rather than the foolish things they did.  So, before any of you start telling me I won’t get the XP or money rewards there, I already know.  That is how I tend to play now, but to me, the tradeoff is worth it.  Every now and then, I will pop in to a PvP match and quickly remember why I prefer PvE.

        But, I will say this about the ship captains; they are nowhere near as bad as the players are in WoT. That is one of the reasons why I don’t play WoT that much anymore.  I really hope they do this with WoT and introduce a PvE game mode, but we’ll see.

          Like using the natural terrain of hills in WoT as defenses, there are islands in the ocean you can get behind. There are a few other similarities between the two games of tanks and ships, but only to the extent of their roles. Battle ships are the heavies, aircraft carriers are the artillery units, cruisers are the mediums, but with the destroyers, you combine two of the tank classes: the light tank and tank destroyers.  The gaming developers are still filling out the tech trees for all the countries by adding more ships.  New countries are in the works as well.

    And last, but not least, like WoT, this game is free to play, which is amazing for the graphics and details it has in it.  The developers worked overtime on this one.

       So personally, I will be giving this game a BIG thumbs up and recommend it.  It is bit of a download so make sure you read the requirements for it. Some of the specs are 19.5 GB free hard drive space and 2 GB RAM with at least a dual core CPU.  So, it isn’t really that heavy of a load for a system to run, you just need to have the space for it.

      In closing, give it a try, play a few rounds, and let me know what you think.  Give me your opinion because I want to know what you all like, so I can bring you what you want to read about, but most of all, as with any game, there is one secret, HAVE FUN!

    Screenshots from Bixyl Shuftan

    Nydia Tungsten