Friday, August 30, 2013

Into the Sunset: MMOs and Mounts

News:

PAX Prime is in full swing! Stay tuned to see what juicy tidbits we receive and be sure to support the Devs and our awesome community members helping them out!

The first Tales of the Fringe came out today as well, be sure to check it out here!

If you missed out on all the Gamescom excitement, check out this recap of the event for WildStar here.

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Mounts have been a part of our culture since mankind first tamed the beasts of the wild and again when he bent metal to his whims. They lent us their strength in the fields and made it easier to move our homes and tools. They brought us to town, delivered our written word, bolstered our communication lines and carried us to war.

It is no wonder that we romanticize the concept of our faithful steeds to this day. From being the core of our livelihood to our hobbies and art, these helpers of flesh and machine have become a symbol of our ingenuity and our freedom. Who has not heard the phrase "and they rode off into the sunset"? Pictures of rugged cowboys riding off into the dusty unknown or knights in shining armor on their trusty warhorse, carrying their loved one to a new tomorrow. Nothing feels quite so free as the wind through your hair on the back of a galloping horse or a speeding car. So, why would our characters feel any different?

This image invokes a sense of wonder and freedom for most. A sense of a new tomorrow with limitless potential. (image found here)


As such, it only makes sense then, that mounts are a very popular aspect of not only MMORPG gaming, but just gaming in general. From the more traditional horses, to giant cats or even starships, the variety in mounts in the gaming world is limited only by the imagination.

I think my very first experience with mounts in video games was Golden Axe for the Sega Genesis. There was a short, tubby chicken beaked monster that your enemies would ride into combat on, swinging its odd scorpion tail to try to knock you down for the kill. Beat them up enough and the enemy would be dismounted and their mount would flop on the ground for a bit. Running across one, imagine my surprise when I noticed "OMG DID I JUST GET ON THAT AWESOME CHICKEN MOUNT!?" Forget the fact it was a ridiculous pink and yellow and its tail swing was only mildly effective, this was the COOLEST thing I could do! The amusing part was that your own partners could attack you in this game, so competitions for mounts could get pretty fierce between my sister and I. And if you got knocked off one to many times, the mount would simply get irritated and run off. Then you could simply stare in sadness and yell at your partner through the next few stages until you came across another. And there certainly were more! In fact the next two were dragons! One pink that shot fireballs and a blue one that spat out a stream of fire. This entire design of combative mounts was not just amazing, it was also very unique, helping pave the way for other games in the future.

These mounts really gave Golden Axe a whole new and exciting aspect of the gameplay. You have no idea how many hours my sister and I fought over these <,<


With the Sega Saturn, came Panzer Dragoon, a rail shooter in which you spent then entire game on the back of your dragon, hunting an evil dragon monster from destroying the world. Keeping with the dragon theme, Lair, for the Playstation 3 featured a whole story about a rider and his dragon, featuring some interesting aerial and ground combat. Breaking away from beasts and dragons, tons of impressive vehicles have been featured in games as well! Consider the Burnout series or other racing games, allowing you to choose a variety of vehicles to race, crash and explode your way to victory! Or how about the Battlefield series or Halo, which had a variety of ground and air vehicles that could not only help carry you around the maps, but could also be taken into combat, or help carry your allies to the fight as well.

I may not have been able to shoot worth crap in Battlefield 2142, but I did get REALLY good at moving our team around with the UD-12 Shepherd VTOL!


So not only were mounts fun, they could also be very useful, especially for one of the primary reasons we still use them in real life today:  transportation. Thus it is no surprise that mounts became a fairly common part of MMORPGS which featured large, expansive worlds and a LOT of footwork.

I remember when I first joined World of Warcraft and watched as great Tauren warriors rode by on their war Kodos and Orc Shaman galloped by on the back of huge armored wolves. I thought they were pretty much the coolest thing ever. I remember the first time my Draenei paladin recieved her noble Warhorse, complete with gilded trappings and some impressive armor. Mounts not only looked cool, they were so much fun! There were so many different kinds in all shapes and sizes from the chocobo-like Hawkstriders to skeletal horses. Oh! And there were rare ones too! Some bosses would have a rare chance to drop special mounts, my very favorite being Anzu the Raven Lord, a glorious giant black and cobalt armored land bird mount with a unique model that was very coveted at the time.

Anzu still remains my favorite ground mount of all time. He is absolutely gorgeous! I also spent a ridiculous amount of time farming my very first one XD  (image found here)


Mounts were a really big deal when I started. They were a milestone in the progress of your leveling. At the time I began, you got your first mount at level 40, arriving at the seller with just barely enough gold to afford one of the first tiers. At a 60% bonus speed on top of your normal run speed, you felt like the fastest hero in all of Azeroth...until a level 60 rode by on their impressive epic level land mount going a whole whopping 100% faster! Since then, levels have been adjusted, as did the cost of the mounts, but even so, they have remained a landmark for leveling. Your first mount is now at 20, the epic, at 40. 60 means you can take flight on your first flying mount and 70 for your epic flight. And there is still one tier further of flight, letting you cross whole zones in a matter of minutes. Which was one of the downfalls of mounts in MMOs. With the run speed of your character, developers can envision and create zones that can feel huge and spacious by taking time to navigate and traverse. Cliffs, mountains, ravines and valleys will all feel very substantial as you have to take the time to slowly make your way across their surfaces. With the inclusion of ground mounts, you can cross these distances much faster, although you are still limited by your ties to the earth. The introduction of flight however, while totally awesome, had a heavy impact on the zones. Now even cliffs and pits could be bypassed with ridiculous ease, allowing you to easily navigate the zones. The downfall? Zones felt much smaller when you could simply fly over them or see them all at once. However the convenience of the flight always far outweighed this for me. In fact, I never felt they were shrunk that much in my eyes. I personally really loved flying over the zones. To me it was very therapeutic. Something about sailing on the back of a griffin, or even becoming a dragon and winging through the skies was so peaceful and serene. And it offered a fantastic view of the land below. I could trace the path of the rivers to the ocean, or dance through the spires of alien mountaintops in the Outlands. Sometimes, just flying alone, brought with it that sense of wonder and excitement. Just a tiny taste of the real thing. I was also one of those people who enjoyed circling zones and farming crafting materials when I just needed a night to relax. With the ability to chat with my friends and helping both myself and my guild with the collected materials, I rather enjoyed tracing through the zones and gliding in to mine ore or gather herbs that I needed for hours on end.

The only thing cooler then the Raven Lord, to me, was the ability to BECOME my own mount by transforming into the amazing Sandstone Drake. I spend many hours coasting around as a dragon. (image found here)


Mounts were not just used for transportation either. They could be trophies from difficult raid bosses, or based on completing achievements in dungeons or other events. In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft, mounted combat became a new idea put to the test. With the traditional or "hotkey" style of combat, these specialized mounts became basically a new UI that you used with a new set of abilities. A few quests involved story based mounts here and there and an entire jousting tournament was set up with a neat combat system and plenty of cool mounts for rewards. I know that some people really enjoyed the new vehicle system (like me) and some just really hated it. They could range from ridiculously easy (as soon as you learned the mechanics) like the Flame Leviathain boss in Ulduar to a stupidly difficult sudden mount change in the third phase of the Malygos raid fight. And this wasn't just for raids. There were many cannons and turrets you could hop on in the open world that made the game feel just that little bit more immersive and interesting. And as with much of World of Warcraft, it had the money, reputation and time to try out new and interesting ideas that would not only help them, but teach the entire MMO community.

Take for instance, Lord of the Rings Online which recently introduced a brand new mounted combat system that allows you to ride a warsteed into battle. Though I have not had the opportunity to try it out for myself, from what I have read, it functions similar to WoW, in that it replaces your UI with a new one for your mounted combat, though it goes much deeper then that. Your warsteeds will have their own talent trees of sorts, allowing you to spend points on traits that improve your steed or even give them access to new abilities. Momentum and speed are even given thought, translating into a resource called "fury" which can increase the effectiveness of their skills. In EVE online, almost every single thing you do involves your starship or what is essentially your "mount." You work to afford bigger and better ships, specializing and customizing them into tough cargo runners or fierce battleships, putting all the freedoms and hazards of space at your fingertips.

There are many kinds of ships in Eve, in all shapes, sizes and specializations. (image found here)


Now some games retain mounts as a simple convenience, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic. Though they have gotten significantly better designs and options with the introduction of the Cartel Coin Shop (even including beast mounts such as the Tauntaun and the Veractyl) the original sets were...kind of lackluster and most of them were pretty ugly, in my opinion. Then again, games such as Guild Wars 2, completely tossed out the concept of a mount in favor of fast travel teleportation around their zones and the idea of making you run and explore. Though this very much favored their leveling and zone design, I was slightly disappointed. Riding a Charr siege engine would have been amazing!

This all brings us back to WildStar. In a recent interview with Jeremy Gaffney on ZAM, there was an amazing announcement made: combat mounts will be in WildStar! They have already announced that there will be both beast and machine mounts with a preview so far of the really sexy looking gravity bike like the one Buck rides in the Blur trailer.

That is one sexy bike!

Gaffney went on to explain that Carbine wants mounts to be something worth more then just gathering up and stuffing in some virtual stables like World of Warcraft. Different mounts will have different abilities that you can use when riding into combat. He goes on to say:

“When you hop on a mount inside of WildStar, you don’t get knocked off it by random damage. For us, your mount has a shield bar. When you work the shield bar down to zero you get knocked off the mount, and you can’t hop back on it for a period of time. The mounts have abilities that you can use in combat so, depending on the mount, depending on how you customized it, you can get ones that are buffer, that are harder for you to get knocked off, or ones that have more useful powers for you to use in combat. It usually has temporary powers such as super-jump, or super-speed or something that you can use infrequently.

“The goal is to make a kind of mount economy, where you don’t want just one mount that’s the best at your level, but there’s actually some utility to having multiple mounts. It’s still kind of a baby system for the ones we’ve already added into the game, and we also intent to add more variety and ability to the mounts over time too.”

This just sounds super cool. I love it. As if WildStar hadn't sold me to it already I would heavily consider it based on this idea alone. To me, mounts are fun and exciting. They always have been. Now imagine riding on one of those sweet grav bikes or maybe even a Stemdragon (*puppy eyes at Carbine*) or perhaps those cool bird monsters we saw in the Aiming Devspeak video into combat. I am /especially/ curious to see how this will work in an action styled combat system! I imagine it will be face paced and wild and all sorts of exciting!

Pweeeeeeaaase? <3

Beyond just transportation or combat, mounts can also be a very important roleplaying tool as well. Perhaps your character is a mechanic, working on bikes or starships. Or perhaps they are a rancher, taking care of a variety of steeds and seeing them to good owners. Or maybe your character's steed is simply their trusty companion, the pal who has been there at their side through thick and thin. It's one part storytelling and one part dreaming, to me. I would love to ride through the rolling plains of some alien world on the back of a giant bird beast, so why shouldn't my character also enjoy that? Or perhaps he might enjoy the feeling of speeding down a dusty road in his souped up machine, leaving the world far behind as he pushes his bike to the limits!

I would never do something so wild and reckless as---

Oh can it Hawkens. That is a lie and both of us know this.

Hmph...

This brings me to one last topic on mounts that I would like to talk about: customization. Especially if you will be able to ride your steeds into combat, they are only going to be that much more important to you. But you aren't going to want to be riding the exact same model or fur color on your mount as every other person out there, that would get really boring. In WoW you could get the same model in many different colors, with rares usually having a unique colorset or even model of their own. What if, however, you could pick your own? Rather then choose from gray bike, blue bike, green bike or red bike, what if you could choose your primary, secondary and tertiary color upon purchasing the bike? Or maybe the bikes are bought with just a few basic palettes, but you can then turn around and customize them later?

I would love to see something similar to the Hair Saloon in WoW, only even better, for both styles of mounts. Something like a machine shop/ ranch that could give your rides sweet new paint jobs or some dyed fur. I know it might be stretching the concept a little for beast mounts, but seriously, WildStar is full of silliness and humor anyway. It would be really neat if you could bring your mounts in and change their looks to fit your tastes. Perhaps dyes could cost gold depending on single colors or sets, as another money sink to move the economy, or maybe you could even add decals or trappings on vehicles while customizing trappings and saddles on beasts.

So instead of having a green and tan bike, I could simply buy that base color (in case I liked it well enough or simply didn't care to customize further) and then if I felt like it, I could bring it to a shop to color how I wished. Maybe I dye it deep cobalt blue with orange trim and gunmetal details. Now my bike is unique for me and suits my own personal tastes. I went through all the hard work to earn the gold to buy it and proudly added it to my roleplaying experience when my character picked it up from the shop. To top that off, his very own customized and well loved vehicle can also be ridden into combat and will feature skills and talents unique just to its model.

So what was once a simple concept is now just so much more. Mounts have so much potential from transportation to just that simple feeling of freedom. WildStar promises to add even more, making your mounts feel special and unique both in the field and in the thick of battle.

I cannot wait to revisit this topic in the future as we learn more!

Huzzah!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Devspeak: Crowd Control

News:

Gamescom is currently in full swing and from the sounds of it, everyone is having a fun time. If you're out there, don't forget to take part in the Dev scavenger hunt and pick up some awesome swag.

While you are waiting on more news from Gamescom, be sure to stop by mmorpg and check out their most recent articles.

Today is the closing day of the WSRP story challenge "Once Upon a Contest"  Be sure to check out or submit these adorable WildStar themed children's stories and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for future contests!

And let's not forget the announcements of both the Payment Plan and the new release projection for Spring 2014!
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Another excellent Devspeak this week which displays a very interesting take on an old MMO staple: Crowd Control.



First of all, here's the video:





The Disclaimer for this Devspeak was a short story with a potential cliffhanger ending that we will most likely need to wait until the next Devspeak to finish. Since it is quite lengthy, I won't be posting all the screenshots here. Instead, here is a link to a thread on WSC where someone has compiled the story thus far! If you haven't read it yet, I'll give you a hint: It has to do with one of my most favorite topics in WildStar. (And no, not stemdragons this time)


Hmph. Well, at least it portrays the ICI in the proper light and shows the extensive and undeniably awe-inspiring power of our network.


Yes, I am certain any Exiles who read that are now trembling in fear, Hawkens.


As they should be.


Right...so where were we? Ah yes. Crowd Control. As stated on Wikipedia:
Crowd control (also called CC) is a term used in MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games to refer to the ability to limit the number of mobs actively fighting during an encounter.[1] It can also refer to abilities that influence or prevent the abilities or actions of other character(s).


As described, Crowd Control can be an aspect of both PVE (player versus environment) and PVP (player versus player) gameplay. By either limiting or nullifying your enemies, an entirely new dynamic is added to the combat system.


Nothing looks quite as satisfying as the awesome power of the Warrior's kick!

If you have played other MMORPGs or MOBAs, you have probably already encountered the concept of crowd control and have an idea of how it works. Stuns, fears, snares, knockbacks, pulls and polymorphs are some of the most commonly seen and are fairly self-explainable. Having crowd controls is nothing quite that exciting, rather, it is mostly an expected part of these types of games. What is really unique with WildStar's system is /how/ these are implemented.

A variety of CCs for any situation

Already, we have seen that WildStar has a very mobile combat system. As I discussed in my blog on the Devspeak: Aiming video, we saw that Carbine has implemented a freeform targeting system. Just like many popular action games, WildStar lets you really get behind the wheel of your character. Utilizing enemy and ally telegraphs in the world as well as a mouse-over targeting display, this combat system allows you to dodge, sprint and double jump your way around your enemies, letting you pull off some sick moves.


Keeping in the spirit of such fluidity, the WildStar Crowd Control system takes this concept to a whole new level while simultaneously addressing one of the most frustrating aspects of CC : losing control of one's character.


See, using CC on an enemy creature or player can be fun. Maybe your paladin in WoW cracks down with their hammer, stunning their foe in place. or your Anivia in LoL chills and slows her enemies or summons jutting spires of ice to force her enemies on a particular path to reach her. Yanking a spellcaster within your range as a Death Knight can be just as fun as polymorphing an annoying mob into a tiny sheep on your mage. These unique abilities lend something a little different from the usual arsenal of damage and healing abilities, forcing players to think on their feet and plan ahead. They can be very rewarding to use, even empowering when you yank that Huttball player back just inches from their goal, only to hack them to pieces and run off with the prize.


Any good agent worth their salt always has a trick up their sleeve and the knowhow to manipulate each fight in favor of himself.


And then, the CC happens to you. Very few things are more frustrating than suddenly losing complete control of your character, watching them getting mauled while you are helpless to stop them. And let's not forget how irritating it felt to be "Stunlocked" or caught up in a chained series of crowd control effects that kept your character completely unable to do anything until their inevitable demise. I know, I personally have said plenty of choice words at my monitor over such things before.


Taking all of these things into consideration, WildStar has created what they call "breakout gameplay." Keeping in the style of their actioned packed combat system, each form of crowd control has a means to break free or at least allow you limited control of your character while giving each one a very unique and immersive feel. Going in order with the video, I will be giving a brief description and solution for each of the thus far mentioned Crowd Controls.






Disarm:

When disarmed, your weapon physically appears on the field (left). Run through the image to retrieve it and get back into the fray (right)

I remember the first time I was disarmed in WoW. I was really confused why my weapon had disappeared and I was suddenly punching the monster I was fighting. After a while I understood it a bit better, but I don't think I ever really came to appreciate it as more than something that occasionally happened to me and was really irritating.


In WildStar, disarming is a bit more intense. You still lose your weapon and start punching the enemy, but there is a whole new aspect added that fits the very freeform combat system. Your weapon actually "flies out onto the field" and you can physically go pick it up. From what I understand here, there is still a time set on the disarm, so eventually you will get your weapon back. But thanks to the "Breakout gameplay" you can 'break out' of the disarm by physically chasing down your weapon to get back into the fray. Of course, as they mentioned in the video, this also adds another level of risk and reward. With potential enemy telegraphs all over, it could also just simply be more prudent to make a run for it, or simply punch away and let your weapon come back over time.

Ack!




Stun: (ing good looks)
...Hawkens...did you just try to make a joke?


...Now why would I go and do that?

By mashing your "F" prompt key, you can break free of your stun and get back into the action!

Right. Stuns. Fun to use on others, absolutely horrendous when it is used on you. A well executed stun makes you feel like a tactical genius while those precious few seconds used against you are nothing more than hair-pulling aggravation as you stare helplessly at the screen. In WildStar, stuns are more interactive. Rather than being forced to stand and howl in rage, a prompt will appear. By rapidly pressing the 'F' key, you can build up a small bar and...wait for it..."Break out" of your stun ;) Do nothing and you will remain locked as normal. Rapidly mash your key and gain the chance for some revenge!


You don't have to end up like this!

Knockdown:


Don't just sit around waiting for him to crush you! Get back on your feet!
Throwing down your enemy is always satisfying. That'll teach them to mess with you, right? But being tossed on your own backside is hardly dignified. Come back in style by double tapping or CTRL-WASD to roll to your feet and leave the competition behind.


Nuuuuu poor stemdragon! D:
Disorient:


Disorient and ledges do not work well together!
Being smashed by a giant hammer alongside the head can leave a person reeling, so what better way to show this then by changing up the very core of the movement system. Whether the directions of WASD always change the same way, or randomize on each disorient, even this simple switch up could be extremely deadly. A swift retreat would be recommended...that is, if you can figure out which way to stumble.


Oh Sh----!
Blind:


Yeah...good luck!
I remember the first time I saw the blind effect while playing Final Fantasy. It drastically lowered the accuracy rating of my characters while appearing as a dark cloud over their face. Now, no longer just a graphical image, WildStar puts you right in the thick of it, with an entire screen effect. While you still remain in full control of your character, good luck trying to pull anything off when you cannot see!


Well done tree healer...those Dominion soldiers are /really/ impressed

Hawkens...stop cackling...I can hear you from here!

Perish the thought...
Tether:


Just when you think you are about to escape...
A new type of CC that utilizes a stationary anchor which leashes or "tethers" another target to itself. Use it to keep an enemy from running or tear it apart quickly before the owner reaches you and exacts their fury!


Ruuun!!!
CC and bosses:


Teamwork and Synergy can help take down even the biggest of the badies!

Few things are more frustrating than having a cool ability that is completely and utterly useless against an enemy because it is considered a "boss". In WoW, it was irritating, but not the end of the world as there were many other skills at one's disposal that you could use for a fight. Here in WildStar you have a limited action set that you create from a pool of abilities. Mind you, you can change the abilities on the fly, but it is really nice to have abilities that are useful at all times, if not necessarily the most efficient to use. Here WildStar introduces interrupt armor to their boss mobs. If I understood the implication correctly, I imagine this being an armor that needs to be "broken" so perhaps each CC interrupt or stun acts as a partial CC, and multiple CC attempts stacked together will successfully break through the barrier and stun the boss.


I personally love these interesting and fresh new takes on an old MMO staple. They will probably take a bit of getting used to, but I really like the idea that you can actually DO something about Crowd Control. To me, this really fits the fluidity of their combat style. In a game where I can dash across a field, double jump over a rock and land in a whirlwind of claws amongst my enemies, it only fits the style to roll to my feet from a knockdown, rather than writhe pathetically on the ground QQing.

If you would like to listen to a bit more on these topics, check out Stephen Frost's commentary version here! Also hmmm....wonder what this "secret sauce" of the action based combat will be...


???
It just wouldn't be a Devspeak without some form of humor. Wonder what this means? Check it out here.


Soon...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Many Paths: RP Mediums

News:



This weeks WildStar Wednesday discussed a bit about the two big upcoming conventions that WildStar will be attending: Gamescom and PAX Prime!

The next Meet the Devs is out:
Part Eleven: Global Brand Manager: Mike Geldard

Also. I just got back from watching Pacific Rim and it was just as amazing as I had been told. Sure it could have used a lot more time to flesh out the story and side characters a bit. But I enjoyed every moment of all my childhood (oh who am I kidding? 'and adult') delights being thrown around in full glory on the giant theatre screen. Of course this has led to all sorts of fun crossover for our characters, because you know what? ITS FUN! :D

Hawkens and Gaius as Jaeger pilots!


(I recommend you check out this Jaeger creator! It's fun!!!)

A quick sketch and color I did of their Jaeger: The Relentless Talon (can you tell I loved the movie?)


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There are many ways and mediums to enjoy roleplaying. The important thing is to find what suits you best.

There are many ways to roleplay, spanning many mediums, from traditional pen and paper to forum chat and mmos and everything in between. Each one of these methods has their own advantages and disadvantages that can lend them to being useful at certain times, or if you wish certain aspects of your rp over others.

The two biggest methods for the online community tend to fall under in-game (or "live") roleplay and forum chat. Especially as we grow a bit nearer to a potential release date for WildStar, I figured this might be a good time to talk about these two. However, before I start with these, I do want to touch on a few other points first.

To start with, never be ashamed to roleplay, or of enjoying your characters or your friends. What I mean by this is have fun! When I have found a good group I really enjoy roleplaying with, we often have spontaneous roleplay with our characters amongst many different mediums. We might type out a few silly lines on Skype or our Enjin walls, or perhaps we act out their lines over our voicechat for the lulz. Usually this ends in much laughter, though this can also lead to some very insightful roleplay scenarios as well.

We also enjoy plugging our characters into others games and situations as well! When you flesh out your characters, you find they fit into certain roles and tropes that can usually be translated elsewhere fairly decently. For instance, Agent Hawkens made a great Sniper in my partner's XCOM run, while his rival/friend Gaius made an excellent Heavy. I also got a kick out of naming different characters after our team in Wizardry 8, Shadowrun, Might and Magic and lots of other games. Hell, we get a kick out of finding pictures or actors for each other that might share the same attitude or look of their character or our own.  Maybe it sounds silly, but it is personally a lot of fun. For one, it's enjoyable bonding time with my friends. You know how I said awhile back that one of the best ways to get to know someone, was to ask them about their character? That never stops being true, nor does it stop being flattering or enjoyable. Spending time chatting characters with my friends is extremely enjoyable to me. It is a wonderful exercise of creativity!

Just remember, roleplaying is about fun. As The Doctor said : "There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes."

Okay, now onto the main topic. Forum RP vs in-game or "live" RP. Both of these mediums are equally as powerful in their own way, though they certainly have their strengths and weaknesses. I know I often hear people say how they prefer one over the other for various reasons so I thought I would throw out my thoughts of the subject and why I use which one, and when.


FORUM ROLEPLAY:

Forum roleplay allows for freedom of the imagination!

- One of the greatest strengths of forum roleplay is the freedom of control. YOU control the setting, the characters and the actions. The only constraints are the words you use to paint the picture for yourself and others. Action sequences, such as combat, tend to do much better here as you are able to have a far better reign on the movements, actions and weapons involved. For example: my agent in TOR could use blaster pistols in his cutscenes...and as an Imperial Agent, I figured firearms training was just par for the course. But unfortunately, unless I played a sniper, there were no blaster moves amongst my abilities. Forum roleplay, however, allowed for me to do what I wanted. I could not only point out that he had firearms training, but I could fine tune his vibroblade knifework to be much more graceful or useful then just simply using in-game moves. In-game, there is also zero control over any non-player characters from enemies to allies, as well as little control with the rest of your surroundings. This makes it difficult to physically interact with the environment. Forum roleplay lets your imagination run wild!


On the other hand, forum rp can be limiting in many other ways. One of them is timing. Although forum roleplay allows people to rp together, even if their times do not synch up well, it also means you are usually spending your time waiting on another person's post. By their very nature, forum threads tend to go rather slowly. This can make it very difficult to do a number of things. Want to meet up with a person on the opposite end of the ship? Might take awhile. Heck, events might shape that postpone it even further on the way. Have something really epic to say to someone? Evens may line up to make your statement or action an irrelevant piece of the past. So the aspects that allow people to meet up and RP whenever and wherever, can also lead to some issues.


In summary:
PROS: freedom of control, easily manipulated world and characters, freedom for imagination!
CONS:slow posting speeds, potential to lose focus on previous statements, actions, or ideas.


LIVE ROLEPLAY:

Live roleplay is great for social interactions!

-One of the greatest strengths of live roleplay is the ability to convey emotions, thoughts and ideas through timing and body language. Though you do not have as much freedom to manipulate the environment, you do have the freedom to move about it as you wish. Whether your character sits, stands, turns their back on or reaches out to another can be a very important part of roleplay. Whether your character pauses before an answer, or shifts awkwardly can change the words and actions of those around you. Plus, you /usually/ are interacting with someone as they are also at their computers and you are least likely to have to wait around forever for them to respond. There is also the visual aspect! Though the game may not be perfect, getting to run around behind the wheel for your character is very exciting and rewarding. You have space, and a world in which to play and friends that you can also see physical representations of. These help make interactions easier and flow in a much more natural way. It is really amazing how far games have come along in physical representations of real life. We better understand and can portray subtle movements and body language that we really rely a lot on in our day to day interactions. From WALL-E where almost no words are ever spoken in the entire story, to games such as Uncharted, where humor is given through well-timed pauses and "looks", live RP allows one to facilitate such natural tendencies in their own interactions!


On the other hand, with these reasons, live RP suits social interactions more so than any other kind of RP. Action scenes and combat are limited by action sets and the world around one’s self. Characters and their looks are limited to the character creator and clothing/weapons found in the game. Conversations and meetings do really well, while planned missions or events often require a significant amount of the suspension of disbelief to be pulled off. I know with my agent in TOR, he ended up mostly doing paper/desk work and talking to people, as he was not able to do much of his fieldwork in-game. So instead, I saved most of his "badass adventures" for the forums instead!


In short
PROS: subtlety in social cues, body language, timing as a communicative tool, faster RP, good social environment, visual representations of the adventure
CONS: limited to the visuals of the game, difficulty interacting with the environment/nps, action limited to the confines of the game


So ultimately, I enjoy more often than not the live action roleplay within the game. But when I really want to do some specific missions or heavy action based character development, I will turn to forums and story writing! That's my two cents. Until next time!

Just take the time and enjoy what you do! That's what it is all about!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Power to Move You

News:

A thanks for this wonderful "feel better" art that I got all over my wall this past week.

Thank you Kit for this wonderful piece of Agent Hawkens!

And thank you Pyra for this cute set of chibis of Agent Hawkens and Shade

And thank you to both Hob and SteelKnight from WSRP for your funny pics on my wall too! These made me lol!


This WildStar Wednesday highlighted a bunch of serious changes coming to beta and announced that beta will be shut down soon for a little bit while they are implimented.

A vine by Troy here hinted at something called “WildStar Adventures” Perhaps we might hear more on this soon?

The next two Vines in the “Meet the Devs” series are out!

Part Nine: Associate Producer Roger Turrietta

Part Ten: Econ System Designer: Phillip Chan

And check out this excellent blog by ZAM's Gazimoff about connecting through our similarities and celebrating our differences! (It fit very well with this blog topic today)

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I do not have the power to make you think a certain way, or believe what I do. Instead, I have the power to move you.

I have the power to reach out to you in a time of need. I have the power to “like” your post or favorite your tweet. I have the power to tell you your character is amusing or that your story left me waiting to see what happens next. I have the power to confide in you when times are down for me, to let you know that your words have meaning to me. I have the power to see that you can have bad days too and you just need some space or a hug. I have the power to know that I am only human and to fight dwelling in frustration and fear. I have the power to share this strength with others and remind them how important they are.

Maybe they seem like small things, but they can make a big change. Maybe it is because they are small, that they are so important.

I have the power to support your ideas and feelings, even if I don't feel the same. I have the power to be kind even if I feel like growling. I have the powerful to be thoughtful of others. I have the power to be a positive influence on others because like begets like and kindness spreads.


I remember the day I had a revelation while playing World of Warcraft. The day I realized just how amazing the people behind the characters I was playing with truly were. We were so very /different/! We had teenagers graduating from high school, college students, doctors and technicians. We had a first responder and a grocery clerk. We had programmers and teachers, camp counselors and those who served in the military. I was actually very surprised when I found out one of my favorite people to hang out in the guild was an eighty year old retired woman. People from all over the world, from all walks of life were all gathered together for something very simple: the love of the game.

World of Warcraft was our icebreaker. It gave us something in common to open that chance for a dialogue. Some of us were shy, some of us were loud and boisterous, but for some reason, it just was not that hard to talk to each other as it can be with strangers. I learned a lot talking to these people, including how nice it was for us when we helped each other out. We all had rough times in our lives in one way, shape or form and having someone to listen, or send us a hug really meant a lot. Watching these people who may have never even stopped to talk had they met any other way, step up and support each other was very inspiring.

And so I shared with my coworkers and my friends and family, the story of the generosity and kindness of the WildStar community. Because of the people here, it makes going through a day easier. Because of people here, I feel appreciated and valued. Because of the people here, I KNOW my words mean SOMETHING to SOMEONE and that they appreciate them even if they don't always stop to tell me every single time. I told them the story of “The Computer Miracle” and you know what the most common thing I heard was?

“Oh right. That's why I haven't lost faith in humanity.”

Because they were happy for the people around them receiving help and kindness when it was needed. They were happy to hear a story with a happy ending. Because they saw how overwhelmed I was and how happy I was and they smiled.

Because one fantastic thing about smiles?

They are the same in every language.


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Thank you to everyone who helped to keep my smile here. Never stop being awesome!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Smiling Cassian



I just...just wow guys. Thank you. To all of you.

In less than 24 hours, the community has shown me ( and the Cassian I suppose) an overwhelming amount of support. Between enough hugs and well wishings to drown in and lots of good advice, you have all also helped me to raise enough to not only pay for the failed HD and OS but the last of what I needed to repair on my computer as well.

You see, my computer is a hand-me-down hackjob from a gracious college friend. Each year I have tried to save up to upgrade bits and pieces, but often I have found it just barely making specs for games and many of the five-six year old parts have been beginning to fail. I was very worried that parts of it would not make it to the end of this year in time for the WildStar launch. But thanks to you all, I was able to replace my RAM and my graphics card as well as the HD and OS.

More then just the respectable machine, I appreciated the support more than anything. I have never felt this much appreciated and I think I'm still stunned by it all.

I would like to throw out an extra special thanks to Pyra (Himmel) of WSRP who has offered a piece of their fantastic art for whoever could show proof of helping. And to everyone who tweeted, posted on their wall or spread the word out for me.

I've said it once and I'll say it a thousand times over, the WildStar community is certainly the #BestCommunityEver! When I joined, I never dreamed it would turn out like this! I hope that I can continue to give to the community and be that guy you all believed in enough to help like this <3

Much love to you all!
-Brenner

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hard Drive Havoc



Soooo...yeah, just this morning I got a windows message telling me my hard drive had a myriad of corrupt files on it and I would need to back it up immediately or risk loosing data. Unfortunately without funds to replace it and nothing to back it up around the house, there was nothing I could do. Then, when I returned home from spending time with some friends I found the hard drive was completely fried. :(

The sad thing is I just simply won't have the funds to repair this for awhile. And not only do I need to replace my terrabyte hard drive, I also need to get a new disc for my operative system since I gave my last install to a friend in need awhile back. For now, my partner is letting me use his computer so I can at least try to keep up my blog and other online commitments.

If there is anyway you guys might be able to help, I would greatly appreciate and have my paypal account set up for any gracious donations that might be possible to AgentWolf13@gmail.com (Edit, vaildation pending still. Please use londrieved@gmail.com )

However at this time, what I could use most of all is some moral support and definitely some hugs. I had a LOT of special stuff on that drive and am very sad to see it potentially gone forever...

Thanks for your time and support guys. <3

-Brenner

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Edit: I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone for their support and encouragement. You guys have really been wonderful and I have never felt so appreciated. I know this wasn't the end of the universe itself, but it was really hard for me. Every hug and pat on the back has meant so much. Thank you for being the most wonderful community ever!!! <3

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Roleplaying and Add-ons! : Q&A with Packetdancer

News:

Over on WSRP we have just finished our first round of the Nexus Free Art Trade Agreement, in which community artists volunteered to take part and then received a random person to draw their character for. We had one month to come up with something for the trade and today the results that came back were AMAZING!

Here was my gift from Kit of WSRP. I really love the atmosphere of this piece! It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite gaming series: Thief. If you want to see more of their awesome art, check out their sketch thread here!
Nowhere is safe...



The next three Vines in the “Meet the Devs” series are out!

Part Six: Crunch Food Thief and Lead Scripter Doug Koup

Part Seven: (Anti) Social Systems Lead Joe Piepora

Part Eight: (Shirtless) Animator Long Nguyen

And if you haven't read them, check out the new racial interviews with Dr. Lazarin and Mondo Zax.

Also! Just today Carbine announced that they will be having a panel at Pax Prime and will be livestreaming the event!

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Today I have a nice treat: my Q&A with the illustrious WildStar community addon designer: Packetdancer about her work with roleplaying addons. Before I get started, though I want to talk just a little bit about addons in general and some of my thoughts and past experiences with them.

Pax and YoGrT, a basic friends list and the first user-created Add-on for WildStar!
First off, for those of you who do not know, an add-on is “One thing added as a supplement to another.” In the case of gaming, it is a modification made to an existing program that allows different functionalities on top of or in place of previous functions. For example, the user interface (actions bars, health display, etc) in World of Warcraft has very few customization options. Numerous add-on modifications (also known as “mods”) have been designed that, when installed, allow a user to more freely modify their UI. This includes adding more action bars, freedom in placing them anywhere on your screen and a whole slew of other convenient features.

Add-ons are primarily built for the convenience of the user. They allow us more control in customizing our UI, they might help run a visual indicator on our screen to help us keep track of cooldowns and other time-sensitive actions, or they might provide us with an easy-to-use visual display of the loot tables in specific dungeons of items we might like to obtain. Not all add-ons need to be used specifically for game functions either. They can also be used for social conveniences, such as roleplaying!

The Dominos Add-on allows for a lot of UI customization ( Image found here )


When I first started playing World of Warcraft with my friends in college I remember, with some amusement, that we were adamantly opposed to addons. We were under the impression that add-ons made the game “easier” and that we were too skilled to need anything like that. We didn't really understand that, despite what some say, add-ons can't really play for you, they just help make things a bit more convenient. I am guilty of loving just about every skill I have in WoW on my screen all at once so I can access anything I need at the touch of a button. And as much as many have rolled their eyes at HealBot, I really enjoyed how it made healing not so frightening for me when I tried it for the first time.

HealBot allows for a very simple and clutter free UI that lets you use mouse clicks on their display to set of your heals on the targets. A complete life-saver to a brand new healer <,< (Image found here)


Needless to say, we wisened up a bit and found out that add-ons were actually pretty awesome. I wasn't nearly so opposed to the idea of these when I joined the online roleplaying community for the first time. I did not use a lot of them and never got very involved with these add-ons but I did really appreciate what they could do for the community. There was Tongues, which allowed people using that same add-on to understand or even speak languages in the game that were normally blocked off from your race or faction. This added a nice bit of “realism” of characters who might have learned these languages in their travels. MRP or “My Roleplay” was the other big add-on I used. This allowed the player to fill in a “character sheet” of sorts with a field for their full name, height, weight and spaces to write about the character's physical description and back story. Now I will admit that I read these mostly while I was bored and standing around (some of them could be quite amusing) but it was nice since character models themselves were not super unique. I think my favorite part was that when you filled out your name field, it would display on your nameplate in the world for anyone using MRP.


An example of the nameplate shown with the use of RocketPig, Pax's RP add-on. This shows first and last name as well as a short description of the character and RP availability

There was one last add-on I attempted to use called Gryphonheart Items that provided a very detailed tool for making custom, non-game affecting items. These could do anything from giving custom buffs to secret messages. The only problem was that it was so difficult to use that I ended up having to give up on it. There may be some better guides or walkthroughs to using it now, however.

I am very excited to see what roleplaying add-ons will do for WildStar. Carbine alone has shown such an appreciation for the roleplaying community, but I never quite expected such awesome support so early from the community. Packetdancer has been a real pleasure to hang out with on WSRP and it is even more exciting to have a sneak peek into all the amazing work she has put in for WildStar with her add-ons in beta. If you would like to read a little more into it, check out this WildStar Wednesday posted a few weeks back.

And without further ado, the words of Packetdancer:

> What made you want to create an RP add-on?

I am a roleplayer, so I want to see there be RP tools available for WildStar at launch. I am a developer, so I can make those tools. The decision seemed pretty straightforward. :)

> Did you use any other RP addons as inspiration? (i.e. MRP for WoW )

Yes and no. I actually haven't played WoW since vanilla, so I wasn't familiar with MyRP and similar tools from a player standpoint. However, I went through the code to see what sort of problems and needs had cropped up, as well as trying to build a decent library that meshed with WildStar's own toolset. I also have made a point thus far to speak to a lot of players in the beta about what they need/want from a baseline RP toolset, and take that into account.

> What is your addon and what does it do?

Well, there are two parts to the project right now: RPCore, and an add-on currently called "RocketPig" (it's a long story). I'll try to walk you through both. RPCore is a standardized library for RP tools to be built atop. It provides a datastore for RP addons to use, both locally and client-to-client, as well as a method for discovering what extended RP protocols are supported. RocketPig is a very simplistic addon built atop RPCore.

Let's take my character Pax, for instance.

RPCore defines a public 'full name' trait, so we'll say I open up some RPCore-enabled addon and set Pax's full name to "Paksara Phillips". Any other RPCore enabled addon I am running shares that trait, so if I were to open another RPCore-enabled addon, I would see the full name had changed accordingly.

Similarly, RPCore allows me to query "what is <X>'s full name trait?" Behind the scenes, if RPCore does not know—or it has been too long since it asked—then RPCore just goes out and fetches that trait from the other player (if they are running RPCore and have the trait set).

RPCore defines a set of baseline standard traits, but add ons can define their own to use as well; if I wanted to create, for instance, an addon built around the Dominion Military which added a 'military codename' field, I could define a new RPCore trait for that addon, and it would continue to Just Work.

So for the simple cases of getting and setting traits, an addon built atop RPCore does not need to care about how to talk to other clients; an addon author can just worry about writing the addon, and let RPCore handle the data storage and communication between clients.

For more complex cases, RPCore allows you to set up "RPCore extension protocols". For instance, maybe I create a 'bartender' tool that lets me share a list of the drinks I can mix, and lets people pick a drink they'd like. That's harder to do with simple RPCore traits, so the bartender addon could define a 'drink ordering protocol' and register it with RPCore. Then, the addon can ask RPCore, "Does <X> support the <Y> protocol?" and RPCore will go and check. If they are, RPCore allows you to bundle up Lua objects and say, "Give <X> a <Y> protocol packet," and let RPCore still handle all the communication.

So, that's RPCore. RocketPig is just a super-simple addon built atop RPCore which gives you a simple UI for setting full name, title, a short blurb (limited to 250 characters) and your current RP state (a series of toggles as to whether you're in-character or out-of-character, in a scene or not, or available for public RP or not), and which replaces the stock Carbine tooltip routines to show that RP data, for those running RPCore.

> What features would you ultimately like your RP addon to end up with?

For RPCore, I'd really like to see it become an effort maintained by the community; I hope that RPCore will be adopted as a standard so that all RP addons can just talk to each other. I'd like to see things like RPCore get, effectively, standards groups within NASA (the Nexus Addon Standards Association), so that there's a genuine community effort to define future versions of it and standardize extension protocols.

For RocketPig, my goals are a lot simpler: I'd like to clean up the trait UI and make it also replace stock nameplates, so you can optionally show RP names on the nameplates as well. (Unfortunately, there's a client issue in this particular beta phase that makes RocketPig less usable than I'd like, but that's the nature of betas.)

I also have several other add ons I intend to build atop RPCore. Notably, I want to expand on Journalism—my existing travel-journal/map notes addon—into an RP tool called 'Dossiers', which will let you assemble records about places you've been, people you've met, and so on. And it would integrate into RPCore to let you have Dossiers for yourself defining 'identities' you could switch between. Very useful for ICI agents who might have to maintain cover identities, ICly!

> Gryphonheart Items was a very impressive addon, but was extremely difficult to figure out. What steps are you taking to help make your addon user friendly (if you are)?

In the beta, I'm slightly less concerned with usability than I am with functionality; like Carbine themselves with the beta, the focus right now is iterating on features (and understanding that sometimes Bitwise is going to change the API out from under me).

But even in the beta, with each addon, I try to find a few people of differing technical prowess and let them loose on it. And if more than one person stumbles over the same issue repeatedly or has to ask me the same questions, I know that's an area that could use improvement.

For instance, right now there's no Curse-like tool for installing or managing add ons in the beta, and that became one of the most frequent stumbling blocks; people were having trouble even installing the addon to try it out. As a result, I wrote a super-basic addon installation and management tool called MissionControl (which works for any of the addons currently put out in beta, not just my own), to streamline that part of the process.

That said, the main part of this effort is RPCore, and that's targeted more at developers than end-users. If RocketPig proves not to be too user-friendly UI-wise, someone else will build a better addon using RPCore… and due to the design of RPCore, that should just work seamlessly for the changeover.

> Tell us a bit about your history in creating add ons

In all honestly, though I am an experienced developer (hey, it's how I make a paycheck), WildStar's the first game I've actively done any sort of modding for that I bothered to distribute.

Sure, I've used addons in other games—I can't play LotRO without Palantir!—but generally I never felt the itch to make my own, save for minor tweaks for personal preference/taste in addons I used. And lord knows I spent more time modding Skyrim than actually playing it, even if I never distributed any of those mods.

If you give me a modding toolkit or a scripting language, I will probably spend more time in there than I do actually playing the game. I love tweaking things, tinkering, changing them and otherwise exploring possibilities. But generally I do so for my own amusement and never bother to distribute them.

However...

> What made you want to build this for WildStar?

…something about WildStar was a perfect storm of interest for me. I love the lore and humor of the game, and I love how responsive the developers are to their testers (and their modders).

When I first installed the beta and saw that there was an addon tool, well, of course I had to play with it. And since I was curious to see what other people were doing, I decided to post my first little addon (the now-infamous YoGrT) a few hours later. Bitwise's enthusiasm and excitement upon seeing someone had posted an addon was infectious, and somewhere along the line it changed from "I want to write things to experiment with the API and provide bug reports" to "I am actually writing things I intend to maintain after launch."

So, I blame Bitwise. After all, if there's someone named John or Jon, it's probably their fault anyway, right? No offense, Hawkens. ;)

> What advice to you have for people looking to start creating addons? Any sources you would recommend, etc?

If you know basic programming, Lua's pretty easy to pick up. It has some weird grammar quirks—using ~= for inequality tests instead of !=, and so on—but overall it's a pretty straightforward language. You can find plenty of Lua tutorials out there.

But really, since Lua is so flexible, every game has a different API to use. So the best thing to do, once you have access to the game, is simply to find other addons and look through the source. WildStar, this is particularly easy with, because Carbine wrote all of the game's UI using the exact same API we have access to, and Houston is built to allow you to view the source to any built-into-the-game addon.

Reading Carbine addons is how I learned the API in the first place, and since we still don't have documentation—since Bitwise is still iterating on the API (and, hopefully, feature requests from addon devs!)—I still learn new bits of WildStar API each new milestone build by looking at the source to Carbine's addons.

> Anything else you would like to share?

I'd like to take a moment to explain NASA, the Nexus Addon Standards Association, which I touched on briefly several questions ago.

As background, "Lua" means "Moon" in Portuguese, so WildStar's addon system is all named after things around the moon landing program. The addon API is "Apollo", the addon development environment is "Houston", and the client/UI team at Carbine is the "Bit Propulsion Laboratory". As such, the community addon effort is "NASA".

My hope for NASA is that it becomes something which can actually set some addon standards, such as defining new extension protocols for RPCore as standards, or maintaining standard reusable libraries. But another goal would be to generate user-provided tutorials and tips-and-tricks for those interested in addon development, as well as a detailed set of documentation. Another might be that, since many people cannot read Lua well enough to know what they're downloading, a group of trustworthy/reputable addon authors could be available to review an addon and give it a "NASA Verified" badge to show that it wasn't malicious or harmful.

I've registered a domain for the effort, though there's nothing there yet; I've gotten a few people together who will help build up the NASA site, but I dearly hope that those who are interested in addon development in WildStar will keep an eye on the site—and the NASA effort as a whole—once that's ready.

> Are your addons Cassian friendly? Do they adhere to Dominion Protocol?

I'll just turn this over to Pax and Minerva, my in-character alter-egos, to answer that.

Dominion protocol? Why in tarnation would she want anything to adhere t' that? Ain't like th' Dominion're th' only characters out there. Ah'm pretty sure we Exiles outnumber y'all like two-t'-one on WSRP. Even Hawkens there has had t' bite th' bullet an' RP with us.

Quantity does not mean quality. After all, we Cassians are capable of talking in coherent sentences, a feat which is clearly beyond some of you Exiles. Why hasn't that apostrophe key broken yet?

Ah buy 'em in bulk.

…all right, then. To answer your question, yes, the addons do interact quite properly with Dominion standard systems. I use them myself. Of course, as they're a civilian product—and, unfortunately, the Exiles have access to them too…

Hey! Ah got two pistols right here, y'know.

…as I was saying, due to those circumstances they're obviously not approved for transmission of secure Dominion military or intelligence materials. As they are extensible, however, I fully expect someone to produce Dominion-specific protocols that will not be shared with our… ah, 'regrettable' neighbors on this world.



Oh, yes. Stick your tongue out at me, very mature. If you'll excuse me, I'm afraid I should get back to my own duties. Now, where did my scanbot get to, anywa… oh, Scions grant me patience. TINKER, stop trying to crack the blog passwords, or I'll turn you into a coffee-maker. The Exile has been a bad influence on you, hasn't she?

Ah think y'mean a good influence. Seems t'me that hackin' an ICI blog ain't 'xactly a bad thing. What'd y'all call it… 'propaganda an' misinf'rmation?'

I'm just going to pretend I heard none of that. Since my counterpart here is not likely to say anything—having, apparently, been raised in a barn—I'd like to thank you for having us on, Agent.


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A pleasure Pax and Minerva, thank you both for your time. I am certain Hawkens here agrees.

Of course Lady Minerva. Always good to have another Imperial---Pax you put that back THIS INSTANT! Oh you best run alright...Emperor help you when I catch up with you...!



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A hearty thanks to Packetdancer for your time and contribution! Always a pleasure to spend time with you! (Even if you do enjoy messing with unstable Eldan tech...)

The Scowling Aurin: Or why Pax should never be allowed near mysterious Eldan Tech... (Art by Evion) (Hey not everything has to be serious, yes? ) 


And a thanks to all of you, my dear readers, for your continued support and encouragement. You guys are certainly #BestCommunityEver ;)  As always please feel free to shoot me a line at AgentWolf13@gmail.com with any topics or ideas that you would like to see on the Scowling Cassian! (Or if you have questions for Hawkens)