BlogSea v1.0

Age Of Conan: Focus on the fun parts - My personal experienceGames

Posted by owner Jul 18, 2008 03:03:24

Age Of Conan is the new MMORPG(Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) from Funcom. Allthough it has recieved generally favorable critics(Metacritics: 80 AoC) there has been some decrease of players because of bugs, missing content that was said to be promised, not enough class tuning of characters and more. But as this was really my first MMORPG I didn't lay so much weight on problems with tuning of classes and content missing for higher levels. Allthough It sometimes got frustating with all the memory leak crashes and "grey map" issues.

Blog image My Character, Dragonshield , with Castle Conan above

My first impression was very good infact. I love the graphics, the quests and the sound/music. After leaving Tortage when I reached level 19 I was a little dissapointed it was not any spoken dialog apart from the destiny quest. But I soon realized how much dialogs it actually was in all the quests, and that changing quests would be more difficult if they had to change the spoken dialog also.

Blog image Cimmerian Guardian

I choose my first character to be a Cimmerian and soldier class of type guardian. Not a bad choice if I think of it now, as it is one of the most wanted class types for groupquests, because of its underrepresentation and "tanking" abillities. Tanking means that it is you that have to take the "aggro", meaning the hits, from the "mobs" but also give them damage. Mobs is a word for the non-friendly Non-Player-Characters(NPCs).

For each two levels you get feat points which you can place in a feat tree with desired effects and sometimes you also get new fighting combinations(combos). I choosed the Juggernaut as my primory tree, discarding the Tempest(polearm). In the start I focused on Iron skin and Toughness and so on, but I soon learned that defencive stance was an important abillity along with counterstrike combos of a guardian and therefore invested some there also.

Blog image Killing a Ymirish Sorcerer named Jorgrimm,
is one of many groupquests in Cimmeria

The Guardian is all about health and one-handed damage when it comes to armour, shield and weapon(as a juggernaut the sword is my main weapon) specification. But also stamina is important as you have to endure long battles with multiple mobs. After level 30 I focused mainly on gear wich got "Max Health", "Health Re-generation", "Max Stamina", "Stamina Re-generation" and one-handed-edge damage. The combos (fighting combination) I use the most as a lvl49 guardian is opening with "Counterstrike III" then "Brutal Enraging Strike"/"Dulling Blow III" or some other hard-hitting combo that depends on where the mob is focusing its shield. If it is a long battle I also use "Plexus strike" to get more stamina as it drains it from the enemy. Also hitting the mobs from the left ("1" on the keyboard) is the fastest direction when you have no more stamina, and have to just use directional attacks. It is really fun to do combos on multiple mobs and see that the guardian can defeat three or more mobs on same or higher level.

Blog image Fighting multiple mobs

Blog image Doing a quest that involves killing a Yeti Boss

The quests are well-written and sometimes have surprises and take a bad turn in form of the man you was seeking is not alive anymore, but you have to bring his head from a cannibal camp back to his son. It is more than just walk there, pick up that and so on like some MMOs is said to have too much of.

The group quests can be very challenging and sometimes they can take up to four hours to complete. As a tank you are depending on a healer to heal you as you looses health. I also use some potions that increase stamina regeneration or "Battle Cry" abillty to endure longer in battles.

(More to come...)

Blog image

Text dialogs in Cimmeria

Blog image Beautiful Graphics in Conall's Valley

Blog image New armour (level24)

Blog image Doing a quest in Aqualonia, Tesso, Wild lands of Zelata

Blog image

My first mount, a mahogany colored horse.

The Search For The Best MP3 Player on PCMusic

Posted by owner Feb 18, 2008 03:52:38

The difference between music players when it comes to sound quality is somewhat subjective, and some may say it does not matter. But the fact is that the different players uses different decoders for MP3 and have different default equalizers settings, DSP plugins enabled and dithering options.

One of the most popular players, Nullsoft's Winamp, is also considered one of the best sounding players when it comes to MP3 files. The MP3 files is decoded with FhG(Fraunhaufer) and is considered one of the best when it comes to "low-bitrate" files around 128kbps.

The most mathematical correct decoder and player is said to be Apollo, but is somewhat outdated.

Foobar2000(2K) is a music player based on the mpg123 MP3 decoder.
I wanted to test it because it could use the realtime upsampling plugin from Secret Rabbit Code. My first impression was that the sound was clearer and more defined than Winamp. It was also better than the more, in my opinion, muffled ITunes player from Apple.

Secret Rabbit Code upsampler is said to be one of the best upsampler after maybe Audiomove and r8brain PRO wich cost money. For best sound quality I've used the default and said to be best upsampling algorithm "Best Sinc Interpolator" with a sample rate of 96Khz. It is also possible to go even higher with 192Khz, but I don't think it is doing much unless you got a really highend stereo system. I've notice difference between 44,1Khz and 96Khz though. It may be a Placebo effect but it sounds and feels like it is more "air" in the music, exspecially in songs with bitrate over 192kbps. It also sounds more dynamic and have the possibility to set a bit depth of 24bit or 32bit.

Foobar2000 is also a very fast and lightweight player with many advanced configuration features, and is therefore my "numero uno" music player for now.

Soon I will test MAD(Mpeg Audio Decoder) plugin for Winamp, and Neutrino for UltraPlayer.

EDIT March 2008:

I'm now using my Delta 44 soundcard as output instead of the internal soundcard, and the internal codec sample rate is set to 96Khz. It is connected to my new Cambridge 640A v.2 amp and then to my headphones. With this setup I can't hear any big difference between Foobar2000 and Winamp.


Looking Forward To Half-Life 2: Episode 3Games

Posted by owner Feb 11, 2008 15:42:19

Blog Image Image source:

I think many are waiting for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 to see how it all ends.

What is the long lost research vessel Borealis that Mossman discovered in the arctic ice, what secrets does it hide about how aliens could open portals to our world, and has it something to do with advanced Aperture Science?
I believe that Episode 3 will have something to do with the game Portal, wich the maker of the Half-Life games Valve released as a part of The Orange Box.
I think that it is a way to introduce the concept of portals so that players can familiar themselves with it, before it is being used as a part of the new gameplay in Episode 3. In the same way the Zero-Point Field Manipulator was used in Episode 1 and the Magnusson device plus the Hotrod vehicle in Episode 2.

I am very excited of what will happen in the storyline with Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman, after one Advisor extracted all Eli Vance knows and killing him as the result.
Before being killed, he was warned by the Gman as he relayed a message through Alyx when she was being brought back to life by the Vortigaunts. He got the same message just before all went wrong in Half-Life 1 at the Black Mesa facility.
"Prepare for unforeseen consequences"
"Unforeseen Consquences" were also the second chapter after the portal to Xen was opened.

Questions I am looking foreward to get some more answers on in Episode 3 is:
Who is Gman really? What is he after? And what will he be in the end?
There is one theory that he employed and is helping Gordon because he has seen the future, and does not like the people of earth being enslaved by the Combines. And that he is working for "some kind of" or the goverment and that Gman just means Goverment Man.

He puts Gordon Freeman in and out of a "stasis" in time when he needs him for an assignment. But he is brought out of that stasis in Episode 1 with the help of the Vortigounts and their distracting of Gman.
The Vortigaunts was one of Freemans main enemy in Half-Life 1 because Nihilith, the mind enslaving leader of Xen, controlled them. There is also something not answered about them I think and their connection to Gman. There is also something more to be revealed about the scientists from Black Mesa: Dr. Magnusson, Kleiner, Eli and Mossman.

In Episode 2 it was revealed that Gman saved the main heroine and Gordon Freemans companion Alyx for "his own purposes" back at the Black Mesa facility.

There is also clearly something more than just friendship between Alyx and Gordon, which maybe will evolve even more in Episode 3.

A recent interview with one of Valve's main guy Doug Lombardi by opens however for that the story does not end with Episode 3:

"TS-SWL: Are there any current plans after Episode 3 to have a Half Life 3?

DL: We haven’t announced anything specific, but Half-Life won’t end at Episode Three – hang on to your crowbars!"

I definitely like that answer because I am a big fan of the games, but at the same time it would be great to see a exciting end after 10-11 years since Half-Life 1 first was released :)

Sources: Wikipedia, and from playing the games.

HDR photographyPhotography

Posted by owner Jan 17, 2008 13:25:41

You all have at sometime seen a photo where the sky is overexposed and the rest of the image is well exposed, or opposite. And you may have experienced the difficulty of taking a well exposed photo without overexposing the sky and light areas, or underexposing dark areas.

The solution to this is HDR photography.

Paulus Church Oslo HDR

HDR means High Dynamic Range and consists of two or more different exposed images. The result is a image with more information in the light and dark areas.
The file can become very large because of this (32 bit image vs. 8 bit standard image) but tonemapping or blending, teqhniques I am going to blog about later, let you "compress" the image to the way you want it to look on the monitor and paper.

You can also make HDR looking images with one standard exposed photo or a RAW file, but it is not true HDR as it only simulates the look. There is a ongoing discussion about RAW though.

HDR is most interesting when there is sunlight and/or big contrasts.

The trick is to use different shutter speeds and exposure value (EV) on your digital camera to create a HDR image. The easiest method is to use auto bracketing where you can choose the EV interval. A interval of -2EV, 0 and 2EV will get a good result for making a HDR image, but more exposures with shorter intervals will get more presise results. Typically HDR images consists of 3, 5 and more images. For the image above I used auto bracketing with three exposures and 2EV interval on my Canon EOS 400D/Rebel XTi.

Blog Image

Make sure you are holding the camera steady or use a tripod or monopod, as u have to take the pictures at the exact same place for all exposures. It is easier the higher shutter speed you can get in the lightning condition. Turn up the ISO rate if necessary and if your camera can shoot and process images with low noise at higher rates.

When you got two or more pictures with different exposures so that you can see the clouds on the sky clearly in some and dark areas well exposed in other you are ready to do image editing.

Photoshop is one choice. Here you can blend the pictures together using layers and masks. The output can be a very good natural looking HDR image.

But the choice that gives the most instant satisfaction is Photomatix and tonemapping, which I am going to blog about soon in the image editing catagory.

(to be continued soon..)