Playing with Friends

Zynga I’m a Facebook convert. It took me a while to get into the full swing of things, but I find that I like to check Facebook periodically throughout the day. It’s a low-intensity way to keep track of people I know. It makes me feel like I am still connected to them without all the overhead of, you know, actually connecting with them.

About a month ago I discovered Facebook games. I admit I went a bit nuts there at first. Once I developed a pattern, though, I found it pretty easy to keep up with five or six games in short spurts a couple times a day without affecting my productivity. Much.

Facebook Game Design

There’s a genre of Facebook games that are heavily RPG-inspired and designed to be played for a couple of minutes a day. Indeed, they have mechanisms built in to achieve a few specific behaviors:

  • Encourage you to return at least once a day.
  • Encourage long-term involvement by restricting how much you can accomplish on each visit.
  • Have competing uses for game resources.
  • Optional elite items available mainly by mechanisms that send the game company cash.
  • Encourage you to sign your friends up.

I’m pretty sure that we’re a couple of iterations in because it looks like variations on a very few core designs have pretty much taken over the player space, most of them by a company called Zynga.

Most of those elements together make up what I found so intriguing in these games. Resource management, building up over time, being able to play for very short periods of time. These are all wins.

Gang vs. Gang

Unfortunately, the main mechanism to encourage you to sign your friends up is to enable unrestricted player vs. player (PvP) activity and make your PvP power dependent on how many players are in your “group”. A player who can only recruit 15 of his friends to play will be trounced by someone who can amass a group of, say, 50.

The effects of PvP vary, but are all annoying when you’re the loser. Generally something along the lines of health, wealth, and eventual XP loss. Logging in to find that you’ve been attacked a couple of times by other players is a minor annoyance. Logging in to find that an individual attacked you a half-dozen times is more of a major annoyance. Having someone attack you just before you make a major purchase (thus stealing a large amount of your cash and reducing your carefully precise change below the applicable cost) is downright infuriating.

And the real problem is that your options here are few. You can develop a thick hide and simply not care—chalk it up to the cost of playing. You can look for people who play the game and invite them to be your friend so that they’ll be part of your group. You can brow-beat your existing friends to play so that you’ll have a bigger group. That’s pretty much it.

Anger Management

Well, I don’t like losing, and I like pimping my friends even less. And the kinds of people who will accept random friend invites in order to increase their game group size aren’t really all that friendly. Which leaves me a little option-less here.

In the last week or two, I find that I dread checking on my games because of the chance that I’ll have been hit by some jerk with inadequate socialization. The anger on finding that some moron went to town on my character like a dog with a particularly tasty bone has become too big a weight to carry. It’s certainly not a weight I’ll carry voluntarily.

It’s too bad that the experience of playing these games is ruined so thoroughly for me by a small contingency of jerks. That said, all the jerks in is abortion pill safe the world wouldn’t matter if the games weren’t built to encourage, even privilege, jerk behavior.

Well, I don’t like being angry and my personality is such that it isn’t something I’m going to learn to just accept. Which is my way of working up to saying that I won’t play games with unrestricted PvP any longer.

Reporting Abusive Behavior

A word about the palliative offered in some Zynga games in the form of a link on player profiles to report “abuse”. Zynga support is a marvel of incompetence in and of itself (which you’d discover if you ever tried to report a bug or error). This goes double for their “solution” for abuse reporting. Once you dig out the place where you can actually report abuse, an endeavor fraught with peril and misdirection, the report process places a huge burden on the player to “document” (aka clear unnecessary hurdles) the event. Even then, the first two responses you’ll get are quotes from their faq that have no bearing on your actual report. If you press, and you do have to press, their eventual response will be that they can’t tell you anything more due to “privacy issues”. Which is double-speak for “take your palliative and go away.”

My experiences with Zynga were so bad that I’ll be avoiding them and their products in future just on the principle of limiting the impact of incompetence in the universe.

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30. June 2009 10:50 by admin | Comments (2) | Permalink

Fake Plastic Rock

We’ve been rocking out with Rock Band for over a year, now. It’s fun for the whole family, or at least, those of the family who manage to secure a fake plastic instrument. There are advantages to being the largest member of the family, and one of those advantages is that I can generally snag the drums.

Old Kit

Well, our drum kit has been showing its age. The pads are all scuffed and puffy in places and I’m afraid I’m going to do permanent damage eventually. Playing on expert means moving with enough speed that it’s kind of hard to tap lightly. You can see in the picture above that we’ve already modified the pedal with an after-market metal overlay to help it withstand the stompin’.

Anyway, I wanted a new drum kit for Christmas, but Santa refused to pony up. The jerk. So I waited. On my birthday last week, I asked for a new drum kit. I told myself no, but I just couldn’t resist that sad look I was using to persuade myself that I really need one now. And hey, it’s the big 4-0 so as midlife crises go, this one is… recoverable.

New Kit

Isn’t it cute?!? We’ll get those unsightly wires tucked away shortly with the little plastic ties Ion included in the packaging. Long story short, my fake plastic rock is now just a smidge less fake now. Initial experimentation turned out well. It’s a ton quieter and the rebound action makes a bigger difference than abortion pill reviews I even thought it would. I’m still getting used to the changes in position. I’m trying to play the cymbal lines on the actual cymbals, but the game itself doesn’t detect the difference. And I can tell you right now that the optional third cymbal is going to be a rather urgent addition soon (hitting that blue rhythm cymbal line just feels unnatural on the pad, particularly when all the other lines have been cymbals, too).

New Drum Set

Here’s an action shot for your enjoyment with Teleri and Aerin accompanying (Melissa is off camera singing). I assure you that we’re all smiling on the inside. Rhys served as photographer.

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15. April 2009 11:04 by admin | Comments (4) | Permalink

Rogue Impressions

Rogue Impressions

Melissa has been grooving on the jewelry thing for a couple of years now. It’s an activity she enjoys, both the design/layout/planning and the actual act of putting it all together. Which is a good thing, even though it removes an entire category of things I can safely buy for her.

Well, she now has more than any single non-rap “singer” can reasonably wear in a lifetime so instead of despair and waste, she has begun offering her skill to the masses. Or to discerning individuals at any rate. You can view her after morning pill shop at Etsy, Rogue Impressions, if you want to see what she has made available.

riJadis My personal favorite are the crystal-form d8 sets. I don’t see the earrings listed, but she’s done those as well. She has a whole section dedicated to her designs using gaming dice—each named after a character from our roleplaying games (uh, I hope that wasn’t a secret. I guess I’ll find out...)

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31. July 2008 20:36 by admin | Comments (4) | Permalink

Violent Video Games and Kids

 This post is the result of a school assignment Teleri had. The original assignment was to write a "letter to the editor". She modified the assignment to be a blog post. The topic, position, and composition are her own.


Playing Video Games

I really hate it when I hear someone argue that certain video games should be banned because they are EEEEVIL. Okay, they don’t use that word, but that’s what it comes down to. They might say “kids who play video games are more violent” or “video games make kids more likely to shoot someone.” Or they might say “video games encourage kids to be loners” or “gamers have no friends in real life.” They seem to think that video games only have negative effects on the people who play them.

With all the school shootings and violence going on these days, it makes sense that some people—especially parents—are concerned about how kids are behaving. Video games, especially violent video games, didn’t exist when they were kids, and neither did all this violence. So it makes sense for them to make a connection between the two. And because they think video games are the cause of the problem, it also makes sense that they want to ban them.

The thing is, I myself am a gamer girl. I’m almost fourteen years old and I have yet to shoot someone, let alone go on a shooting spree at the mall. I’m not any more violent than I was before I started playing video games. I have many friends and have no trouble making more friends. So either I am unique among all young gamers, or the assumptions people make about games are wrong. Based on the research done on video games and the people who play them, it turns out that the latter is true.

There have been studies that seem to prove that video games make people more violent. However, much of the research that abortion help says this has been proven inconclusive, or in some cases is actually flawed. The studies that are scientifically accurate and peer-reviewed tell a different story. A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study examined the effects of playing a violent video game and compared the results to a control group that did not play. They found that the players weren’t any more likely to argue with their friends and partners than the non-players, and they weren’t any more aggressive in general. This is the same result most studies are getting: there’s no causal relationship between violence and video games. MIT professor Henry Jenkins says “No research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.”

But what about all those shootings? Well, according to Jenkins, violent crime is actually lower than it used to be—even though 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls are playing video games. The reason we think there is so much violence is that we only find out about shootings because they’re covered in the news, and we hear about those relatively rare incidents a lot more than we used to. The kids who commit these crimes probably have personal or psychological issues that don’t come from playing video games; if video games didn’t exist, they might still have committed those crimes. And Jenkins also says that “researchers find that those serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population” (emphasis added). So video games aren’t to be blamed for crime. (Personally, I think gamers are just too busy to commit violence; it would cut into their game-play time.)

Another claim made by video game opponents is that children can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality. In other words, a video game might teach them that it’s okay to shoot someone, so they might believe that shooting a person in real life is just a game and doesn’t really hurt them. But when you ask kids about this, they all say they know what the difference is. Game designer and play theorist Eric Zimmerman says that when people play, they enter what he calls the “magic circle,” which is how they distinguish between the game and reality. What happens while they are in the “magic circle” is always just a game, with only the smallest bit of reality to make it believable. Kids who would never hurt another person in real life have no trouble shooting bad guys in a video game, because they know it’s not real—it’s just a way of keeping score in the game.

But even people who don’t believe video games make kids more violent may still think video games have a bad influence on them. They might think that video games take up too much time and energy, or that they make kids isolated and unable to make friends or have a normal social life. If you’ve ever seen a kid staring bug-eyed at the screen while he shoots aliens, these arguments might seem valid. And it’s true that kids can spend a lot of time on the computer or the console with a favorite game. But that’s something that can be controlled by parents who are aware of their kids’ activities and work with their kids to figure out how much play time is appropriate. Just because there are games in the house, doesn’t mean that they have to play them all the time.

The other point—about gamers having a lack of social skills or being isolated—is so far from being true it’s almost funny. More than half of all gamers play their games with another real live person—often a family member. When you’re playing with another person, it’s usually as a team, and you both have to work together and strategize in order to succeed. This is the opposite of being isolated. Additionally, the hugely popular massively multiplayer online games encourage you to make friends and work with other people in order to have fun. Non-gamers often think that because you never meet these people in real life, it’s not a real friendship. But the hundreds of thousands of people who have participated in online guilds and other organizations would disagree.

What many people don’t realize as they’re focusing on these negative points is that video games can have very positive effects on players. One of these is how games encourage you to strategize and solve problems. These are skills that often come into use in real life. James Gee, author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, says that gamers are “active problem solvers who see mistakes as opportunities to learn and are encouraged to test new ideas.” Instead of thinking of mistakes as personal flaws, gamers often think of them as something to learn from. Another positive thing about video games is that they let children express feelings and impulses they wouldn’t be able to act on in real life. It’s better for them to work out anger by beating up a computer opponent than if they just went out and beat up a classmate who made them mad.

If you’re one of those people who think that video games are dangerous, I think you’re probably just worried about the safety of children. That’s a good thing to care about. But banning video games isn’t the way to keep kids safe. What I suggest is that you spend some time playing your kids’ favorite games. Get to know what games they like and why they like them. Your kids will think you are pretty cool if you do. You may find that there are some games that aren’t as awful as you thought just from the title or the box art. You’ll be much better informed about video games than if you just jump to conclusions. Who knows—maybe you’ll discover some games you like playing!

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29. January 2008 01:35 by admin | Comments (17) | Permalink

Look Ma, I'm Famous

Two developments in two different life aspects both went live today. On a personal level, an article by a friend of mine in an online gaming magazine mentions me by name. Also, I’m the one with the post-digested d6, though I think it was my sister and not daughter who did the not-quite-digesting. I say "I think" because my memory is truly terrible and I’m never sure about anything that happened that long ago (even the interesting stuff).

Second, on a professional level, I recently joined a jolly band of rogue developers on a relatively new group blog called The Runtime. I’ve liked some of the current authors there for a while, so I’m pleased as punch (to steal a phrase from days long gone by) about being there. I’ll likely cross-post abortion pill atlanta to my lone development blog, but it’s nice to be accepted into the club, join the discussions there, and maybe gain some readers.

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8. January 2008 19:16 by admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

The City of Heroes Wentworth's Cash Machine

I don't know why I'm sharing this, except that I like talking about cool things I've discovered. I risk shutting down a pretty consistent influence generator here by doing so, though. Although it's true that very few people read this blog, it is also true that a dozen or so of those who do will be on Champion server where I play—so spreading this information risks killing ye ole cash cow.

Still, for what it's worth, here's how I pull down around a million influence in roughly an hour every now and then in City of Heroes by purchasing enhancements at Wentworth's.

The Mechanics
  1. First, pick an origin (it doesn't matter which, really) and filter for enhancements of that origin between levels 30 and 35. I also like to select "For Sale Only" as I'm only interested in buying.SelectOrigin
  2. Next, find Single Origin enhancements from that origin that have a) zero bidders and b) more than 1 seller. If you pay attention, it doesn't take long to identify the unique graphics used for an origin's SOs. It won't kill you if it is Dual Origin instead, but the eventual sell price will be under half what it is for the SOs. You'll still make a profit, but not near as much.IdentifyEnh
  3. Next, place a bid at some ridiculous price point. I generally clear out any I can buy for 250 and then try again at 750 until I don't get any takers.EnhPurchased
  4. This is important: find the store for that origin and sell your ten enhancements. Going to the store for that origin increases the price the store will pay by about 50%. Even the lowliest SO enhancement sells for at least 9,000 influence at its origin store. That's a minimum 10x profit so each trip pulls down more than 100k influence.SellingEnh
Some Reasoning and Speculation

Why level 30-35 SO enhancements?

Because you don't get a big price boost for higher levels and the demand is much greater for higher level SOs. A level 50 SO enhancement sells for around 20k influence and it's harder to find the bargains because more "legitimate" purchasers are looking for them.

What if recent purchase prices are really high?

In my experience it doesn't matter how high the latest prices have been. For some reason, about a third of the people putting these things up for sale decide to go cheap. I'm guessing that is in order to lose as little as possible to the 5% placement fee.

Why 250 and 750?

Two reasons. First, 750 is high enough to clear inconsequential minimums and low enough to guarantee a 10x return. Second, I start with 250 to catch the really, really boneheaded minimums. Any more than two price levels is more time than I want to waste and I just can't convince myself to do just one price (though it'd probably be more efficient to just do 750 all the time. In fact, if there are only two or three for sale, I'll just bid once at 750 and move on).

How fast does the supply replenish?

I typically do all the SOs for a single origin per night and come away with a bit over 1 million influence. I notice that I can often see my purchases in the history if I revisit the same origin in consecutive days so it takes a bit for the supply of stupid minimums to replenish. For that reason, I tend to spread it out. Also, for this reason I'm probably shooting my profit margin in the foot posting this entry...

Are some origins better than others?

I'm not entirely sure as I've only been doing this a couple weeks (and not every night at that). Technology and science have been very rich veins. Magic has been noticeably poorer. Natural and mutation have been in the middle. I'm not sure what causes the difference abortion pills cost or if it persists over time or across servers.

Wouldn't it be better to use something you have more slots for, like recipes or salvage?

No. While you can come away with more stuff, they don't sell for nearly as much to the store vendors. Thus, not only are your profits per item smaller, your net gain per trip is lower as well.

Isn't this a lot of thought to be putting into a stupid game?

Yes. It is.

26. July 2007 15:39 by admin | Comments (3) | Permalink

Noticing Subtle Effects

I've played City of Heroes for a good long time now, so it is always interesting when I notice some "new" effect or subtlety. Today's example is the occasional death mask that appears in the smoke from a Circle of Thorns sacrifice ritual. You can just barely make it out in the screen capture below.

CoT Face

23. July 2007 11:18 by admin | Comments (1) | Permalink

A Useful Macro for City of Heroes

You'll often find two powers in City of Heroes to be mutually exclusive such that turning one of them on will turn the other off. My favorite example of this is Super Jump and Combat Jumping in the Jumping travel power set. Since Combat Jumping is a useful defensive power, my characters that use jumping to travel pretty much always have one or the other active at all times.

As useful as they are, however, it is a pain to have both of them in your action bar at the same time. You only have ten assignable "hotkeys" active at a time and once you reach your high teens or so, each slot becomes precious. It'd be nice if you could have a single button that switches between two powers seamlessly. Well, with macros you can do just that.

Macros allow you to put a group of commands together into a single button press but have the significant limitation that they can only activate a single power in a given macro (this is an anti-bot limitation that prevents players from creating bot that they can leave running all the time for XP or influence peddling or what have you). You can, however, have a macro turn off as many powers as you like and you can have as many chat commands or emotes as you like as well.

The cool bit is that you can leverage this limitation to create a simple toggle really easily.

To create a simple toggle between two powers you use the "powexec_name" command twice. Here's the command to create my jumping macro:

/macro Jump "powexec_name Combat Jumping$$powexec_name Super Jump"

This macro creates a button on your action bar labeled "Jump". I'll break down the active bits. The /macro command takes two arguments, the first is your macro name and the second is the text. Since the second argument is likely to have spaces, you have to wrap it in quotes so that it treats the whole macro text as a cytotec and abortion single argument. "powexec_name" executes one of your powers just as if you pressed that power's button on your action bar. "$$" is used to separate two commands (note that no "/" is needed to indicate that these are commands in a macro. The "/" is assumed in each case).

Here's what happens when you hit this macro:

  • If neither power is currently active, it attempts to activate two powers simultaneously. Since this is illegal, it actually only activates the last power in the macro. In this case, Super Jump. Since the first thing I want to do when logging in is  travel somewhere, I put Super Jump deliberately last in the macro so that it is the first power turned on when I hit the macro button.
  • If Super Jump is already active, it toggles Super Jump off (just as if you had hit the button) and toggles Combat Jumping on (again, just as if you hit the button).
  • If Combat Jumping is already active, it toggles Combat Jumping off and toggles Super Jump on.
  • If both were on (this is impossible for Super Jump and Combat Jumping, but you could use this macro with any two powers you wanted to alternate between), it would toggle both powers off.

I love this macro. It's simple, but combines two powers into a single button.

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22. July 2007 16:48 by admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

First Impressions

L337 Gamer My last couple of posts have been pretty City of Heroes centric and I'm afraid that this one isn't going to be any different. I'm going to pick on some poor schmuck this time, though, so at least I'm trying to give you some variety.

The group I usually play with are all semi-casual players. We do have a Ventrilo voice chat server and we all have microphones, so we're well setup relatively speaking. We typically have a full team (8 people) on Tuesday nights (our regular night), but we also have a minor team going on other nights of the week as well. The interesting thing is that most nights, I get a request from some random person asking if they can join our team.

i iz 1li73rat

These requests vary in quality, but here's a tip for anyone looking for a good team to join: try, please try, to give the impression that you're someone a rational person would want to team up with. Here's the schmuck I heard from last night:

InviteRequest

This tell practically screams post-literate kid sneaking onto mom and dad's computer after they've gone to bed. Seriously. Has someone removed the shift keys? How about punctuation—did they stop teaching that in schools? And is it really that much harder to tap out the "yo" in "your"?

You Can Call Me "l337 ki11ah"

And I don't know what these people are thinking when they select names. Actually, I question the act of thinking when they select names. Here's something to think on: the one piece of information that accompanies every action you take in the game abortion pill stories is your character's name. I don't care how hard it is for you to find the shift key, take the trouble for your freaking name. Also, I happen to know for a fact that City of Heroes allows apostrophes in names. If you don't know the rules for possessives, take a moment and ask mom, m'kay?

I don't mind misspellings in a character name. There are a lot of people on any given server and names have to be unique. I've made something of a practice of naming my characters with a slight misspelling myself. But names are always case-insensitive so if you can get a lease on "earths core" then you can get one on "Earths Core" and it's even more likely that "Earth's Core" is available. Try it, you'll like it. Plus, 100% less dorky!

Reloading

Part of the unique nature of MMOGs is that there are no redoes. Add that, as in life, you don't get a second chance at a first impression and you have people setting themselves up for a bad experience from the start. For all I know, Mr. core is a bright, cheerful person with wisdom, humor and insight. Based on this first impression, though, it's 10 to 1 I'm not going to even bother responding.

14. June 2007 15:24 by admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

City of Heroes Mission Maps

This is simple tip for City of Heroes. This one is pretty trivial and more in lines of "stuff I think about that nobody else would."

In City of Heroes, your mission map can do more than just tell you where you've been. The way things are set up, it can also tell you how much further you have to go and in what general direction. This is most useful abortion pill after on those map types that don't have elevators (caves and warehouses etc.). Those missions with elevators breaking the map up only really give away information for the current "floor". 

The key thing you need to understand with your mission map is that it defaults to full zoom-out, fully visible, and exactly centered on your map display such that one dimension is fully extended.

I'll give an example. Here's a map at the beginning of a mission.EarlyMissionMap

You can see from this map that it is going to be relatively narrow and from the scale, you can see that it's not going to be that big. Most exploration will be to the West and North.

Here's the finished map that bears this out.LateMissionMap

Sure enough, a jag West then North.

The main use I have for this kind of information is that when I come to a junction, I can tell which end will likely be longest and I can start on the short side (if I'm going for a complete exploration of the map) or start with the one likely to be longer (if I just want the end goal and don't care about being thorough).

So what this tip comes down to is saving me some back-tracking through empty hallways.

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12. June 2007 07:20 by admin | Comments (0) | Permalink

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