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The Generalist - A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

I Want to Build Characters Not Levels

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I think the reason I don't like most MMOs is because I like to build unique characters. I'm interested in coming up with unique skill combinations. I don't like the idea of being a slight variation on one of a handful of possible builds. I'm not generally trying to make the most powerful character, just something a bit different and fun. For instance, my primary PvP character in Ultima Online was a swordsman with tracking, hiding, and stealth. This was definitely not a common PvP build. In fact, I don't think I ever met anyone who did PvE or PvP and had stealth. Anyone who didn't know me and caught me stealthing would assume I was a thief and attack me. The element of surprise would work greatly in my favor as they would expect me to run as soon as they attacked (I generally charged).

Most of the level based systems now focus you into a couple possible roles for each class. When you come across someone you can tell what their class is based on their equipment, or because it's displayed over their head. You then know what their capabilities are. I find it boring. Star Wars: The Old Republic is a good game. They've decided what to build, and they've built it well. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep interested in it though. Quest wise a single player RPG can always be deeper since the game can be designed to change based on your actions. Most single player RPGs also give more diverse character options. I prefer the community aspect of the MMO, but being just another Jedi or smuggler like all the others doesn't draw me in.

I realize a more open character design system makes balance more difficult, but it's not impossible. I also realize that most people must prefer a more focused class system since games like Everquest, Asheron's Call, and World of Warcraft seem to attract the most players.

Last Updated on Friday, 02 December 2011 04:46

Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) NDA Lifted

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The Star Wars: The Old Republic NDA has been partially lifted. We're now allowed to share our experiences with the game and post screen shots and videos. I'll be posting some tidbits here and there. For now I'm just going to leave a couple impressions from the game. This game feels very polished. This weekend I haven't had any crashes and have only seen minor bugs. While many of the quests actually follow the same patterns as other MMOs (delivery, kill x creatures, etc.), the descriptions feel more compelling. I feel like effort has been put in to make each quest feel important. Almost all of them seem to involve combat or take you through a battlefield, so you're not just running back and forth. You usually have to fight your way through.


Enabling Remote Desktop Remotely

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Ever set up a system and later try to Remote Desktop into it just to realize you forgot to enable Remote Desktop? Well, there's a solution that doesn't require walking or driving to the server. You'll need PSTools installed to do this.

Open a cmd prompt as an admin that has access to the remote system. Usually this will be a domain admin account. Run the following commands. Replace ComputerName with the name of the system you're trying to remote into. Replace DOMAIN\UserName with the information for the account you want to be able to log in with (assuming it isn't an admin account, admins should have access automatically).

psexec \\ComputerName reg add "hklm\system\currentcontrolset\control\terminal server" /f /v fDenyTSConnections /t REG_DWORD /d 0

psexec \\ ComputerName netsh firewall set service remoteadmin enable

psexec \\ ComputerName netsh firewall set service remotedesktop enable

psexec \\ ComputerName net localgroup "Remote Desktop Users" DOMAIN\UserName /add


Computerized DnD Table (2004)

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This is my D&D table. What you see here represents two weeks physically building the table and two weeks programming the table and the editor. Maps are created and NPCs are placed using the editor on the laptop. The editor also controls the table wirelessly to load maps, control rotation and zoom, and move NPCs. I used Direct3D to render across the six monitors. Each player has their own mouse and cursor to control their character.

This was built before everyone had an iPhone or Android phone. Nowadays I would probably replace the mice with smartphone and tablet clients. Back then LCDs were still pretty expensive. That is why there are six 17" monitors here. A newer version would probably use one large LCD TV or a Microsoft Surface type touch screen. The software was written to work with an arbitrary number and layout of monitors and mice.

I intentionally didn't program dice rolling or any rules into the table because I didn't want to detract from the pen and paper experience. There's something about flipping through rule books and rolling dice that is important to the experience. This was really meant to replace the battle mat and miniatures we used during our games.


Don’t Get Stuck on One Solution

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It seems to be in our nature to find one solution to a technical problem and then assume it's the only good solution. Frequently, there are multiple options that are perfectly reasonable. Here are some hardware and software examples:

Maya vs 3DS Max

Each package has advantages. I find that in most cases people prefer the one they used in school or the first one they did any serious work in. This is understandable. People prefer the familiar. The reality is both are solid software packages. You will end up using whatever the lead on your project chooses or what the company already has. There is no point whining that one is better than the other in this situation, just take the opportunity to really learn the second software package. You'll have one more tool in your toolbox. I prefer Maya just because the script listener gives better information and the integration of Python.

Windows vs Linux vs MacOS X

This seems to be more of a lifestyle choice at this point than a software choice. All three are now friendly enough that you can set up a computer for grandma to get her email and browse the web without any trouble. All three also have plenty of advanced tools. You can fit most work environments with any of these OSs. I mostly end up using Windows because I play games and I make games. I'm much more likely to be able to install any given game on a Windows PC and just have it work.


I currently use IE, Firefox, and Chrome. Once again, most browsers are completely functional for browsing the web. Choose the one you like. I've been finding myself using Firefox less and less as its reaction to spotty internet is to annoy me. Between Chrome and Internet Explorer I'm undecided. Certain sites I use only function fully using Internet Explorer so I find myself needing to use it more than expected.

iPhone vs Android

Windows Phone is interesting to me, but isn't really on most people's radars. Both iPhone and Android offer great user experiences and tons of apps. I tend to use Android phones because it's easier for me to tinker around with the development on them. There is also a larger variety of Android devices so you can choose the features you want. That's also the downside. If I want an iPhone, I know the latest iPhone is the best one.

Office365 vs Google Apps for Business

I use these both, just for different domains. Google wins when you have small needs thanks to the free version. Both are reliable, robust solutions to email hosting and collaboration. I tend to prefer Office365 due to the variety of plans and the SharePoint access. My customers are an even split however depending on their particular needs.

Being familiar with different options improves your ability to recommend the right solution for a given scenario. If you think Java is the solution to every programming problem, your opinion has less value because I already know your answer every time. I can just write "Use Java" on a piece of paper and tape it to your chair. If you know multiple possible solutions to a problem, you can recommend the one that fits the current challenge best.


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