Culture is really important to me in MMORPG gaming—I can sit and play a single player game alone, but it adds a twist to inject humans (and their quirks) into the mix. I’ve found that its almost impossible to play single player games now—I’m too used to the interaction component of gaming. Except solitaire, of course.
When I started playing FFXI back in 2003, the culture was unlike any other game I’d played before. Accepting multi-cultural groups and becoming proficient with the built-in translator was a requirement—at that time, and to a degree now, English speaking Americans were the minority.
In addition to that, raiding (large group efforts, etc) became a part of the culture. If something was about to appear, you dropped what you were doing and headed that way to help. Other forms of raiding, like Dynamis, were there for entertainment and, typically, large scale craziness. 64 players running around wildly trying to sleep, pick off, and beat a bazillion creatures rushing at you. Generally, the attitude was casual, but professional. Do your job, but have fun. There’s competition on HNMs, but, after that’s done, most everyone goes off, groups up with each other, and merits, farms, does BCNMs. Our shells define us, but typically (*cough* except for a few) don’t separate us.
I took a two year stint and played EQ2–-to get away from some of the level grind of FFXI and see what everyone was raving about (read: dragged kicking and screaming by coworkers). EQ2 was fun, had beautiful graphics, but an entirely different culture. “leetism” reigned supreme and raiding was only available to those who were in raiding guilds (this has changed a bit with the alliances and syndicate raiding groups). Unlike FFXI, however, raiding was “serious business” in EQ2. Over two years, I’ve seen friendships dissolve (or explode), entire server wars begin over “drama,” grown adults crying, and attitudes that certain groups shouldn’t even associate with others—the guilds create almost a heirarchy on each server.
So, now that I’m back to FFXI, I’m enjoying the ‘casual’ side to gaming again. I don’t have a calendar. I don’t manage pop timers, instance timers, or schedule where I should be every night. I know that when I log in, something will be going on and if I’m not busy or they need me, I’ll go help my friends out—and they’d do the same for me.
Well, that didn’t take long… 3.0.0 has come and gone with Ventrilo as the team released updates to both the server and client software early this week.
The client changes, as you can read below, seem mostly aestetic; however, I’m sure hosting companies are pleased to see some of the fault issues fixed in 3.0.2.
Here’s the changes:
Version 3.0.2 Server only:
Fixed exception fault when loading a damaged channel file.
Fixed private chat replicating problem. Pro server only.
Modified Account management so that it is harder to lock your self out of the server.
Server Admin->Login will now give complete rights like 2.3 did. With the exception of Edit Voice/Cmd targets which are user account specific anyway and Pro server only.
Upgrading a 2.3 to 3.0 server will automatically assign full admin rights to an old account that already had the server admin right.
Modified USR and TRG files to be automatically updated in 1 minute instead of 1 hour.
Fixed server name length to be a minimum of 2 characters instead of 4.
When upgrading a 2.3 server to 3.0, or creating a new 3.0 server from scratch, the server will assume Duplicate IP’s settings of “No Limit”.
Version 3.0.1 Client only:
User Editor: Made current user list window wider and added support for horizontal scroll bar when needed.
User Editor: Pressing new button will now default Duplicate IP’s to No Limit.
User Editor: Generic User and Generic admin profiles now default Duplicate IP’s to No Limit.
User Editor: Removed feature where clicking on an existing account name in the main window would cause a selection change in the UE Window. While useful in some cases it creates more problems that it solved. Might make this an option in a future version.
Main Window: Display of the (GUEST) tag is now off by default. Can be turned on via new menu option View -> Guest tags.
Guest MOTD: Now provides option to display only if it changes.
Chat: Time stamp option will now display correct month number.
Menu: When paired with 3.0.2 server, using the Server Admin -> Login will now allow certain menu items to be usable instead of grayed out.
You can download (and install over your existing installation) here. Looks like hosting companies, like NationVoice, are still at 3.0.0. Hopefully this will change in the next few days.
From my server logs:
20050325 01:43:50 Version = 3.0.0
Then again… why does it think it’s 2005. *boggle*
The latest EverQuest II expansion, Rise of Kunark, has been out for a few days now and seems, if nothing else, pretty. While I’m playing FFXI again, I had to load it up and see what the new zones, mobs, and such looked like.
After finding my way there (Thanks, Geoff…), I found the new zone I entered, Kylong Plains, is freaking huge. The new gnoll creatures, wyverns, and Iksar cousins litter the huge expanse of the plains.
I also wandered into Karnor’s Castle, home of the gnoll creatures (probably other things too, the level 74^^^ mobs wandering past as I entered motivated me for a quick escape). The castle is beautifully designed and the rain surrounding the castle is sweet.
Here’s a few more shots.
Will I be going back? Ehh, probably not. I’m very happy with Final Fantasy XI right now; it’s nice to be back among friends, to have the ability to raid when I want to and not when I’m absolutely exhausted and not have to worry about points and such (at least at the moment, I may join one of the schedules eventually). Most of all,
I like how FFXI is character-based, not job-based. In FFXI, I look forward to trying out the two new jobs (well, Scholar at least) without worrying about starting over from scratch–that drove me insane in EQ2, especially with three level 70 characters.
As far as performance, no real big changes–still works like a champ on Vista and ran pretty nice–even those large zones on Extreme Quality. I’m not sure if SOE has changed their engines at all, but it actually seemed a bit faster than I remember.
In spite of what the front page says, Ventrilo (excellent VoIP solution, I host through NationVoice, but you can host your own for free as well… very clear, good software, and runs flawlessly with DirectSound over every game I’ve ever played).
Here’s a few of the changes that stand out:
- Modified sound system to remove 99% of clicks at the start and stop of a voice stream. Carry over from 2.3.2.Beta.3
- Changes made in Setup or any of the SFX windows are applied immediately after pressing the OK button to any current voice streams. No longer need to Check/Uncheck “Mute Sound”.
- New and (and some existing) default sound event wave files have been updated and are more pleasing to the ear. Thanks to TJ Powell Publishing (www.tjpowell.com)
- No more freight train sound whenever someone connects! :D
- Ehh, I need to test this more; I didn’t have any troubles with Vista Ultimate x64.
Click here for the full 3.0 change log. If you use a hosted solution, like NationVoice, be sure that your host has upgraded to 3.0 before upgrading your client. You should have received an email from the provider informing you of the change.
Note: It still requires “Run as Administrator” in Vista for the PTT key to work inside games.
Mark Russinovich wrote up an excellent article (along with some pretty interesting comments and dialog) regarding the current prioritization “glitch” between the Multimedia Class Scheduler Service and network throughput. The gist is that when Windows Media Player begins playback, it’s being prioritized a bit too high—dragging network throughput almost down to nothing.
One commenter mentioned a partial fix—if you can live with it.
By default, the Windows Audio service (rather important) depends on the MMCSS. You can sever this relationship by modifying the dependencies in the registry.
If you go into the Windows registry, and look for the key:
HKLM > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Services > AudioSrv key
There’s a string value called DependOnService. By default, the value has three entries: AudioEndpointBuilder, RcpSs, and MMCSS. Remove MMCSS. You can close the registry editor now.
The final step is to go into the Services management console (Services.msc) and Disable the Multimedia Class Scheduler service. It’ll squak and close the Windows Audio service down; that’s fine.
When your computer comes back up, try moving some files around and see what the transfer speeds are. On my Gb network, there is an improvement, but it’s not _real_ substantial. The place I notice the most difference is while gaming. S/R speeds in FFXI seem to be dramatically higher—Lower Jeuno actually loads, rather than just studders around.
Audio sources that use Windows Media Player for playback do studder a bit if your computer is under heavy load; however, MP3/WMA formats seem pretty solid—even while gaming.
The big issue seems to be streaming music. Streaming music, tested from various sources, is almost unusable. That, however, is only limited to those directly invoking the WMP application—it doesn’t seem to affect embeded browser instances or non-WMP players.
As many have pointed out, I hope these issues are fixed in Service Pack 1.
Between theoretical time travel in FFXI to the rediscovery of a lost island in EQ2, November is shaping up to be an exciting month. It’s also proving difficult to decide what to do with my online gaming.
I’ve stepped away from EQ2 the past few months because the raiding situation was boring me to tears and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep the schedule up while in my final grad school months.
I went back to FFXI and have really enjoyed myself. I couldn’t get my original toon back so I started over and have been slowly and steadily leveling in my free time. One of my biggest hates against EQ2 is that you’re locked into a class—if you start out as a paladin (God help you), you’re stuck unless you start over from the beginning.
In FFXI, it’s REQUIRED that you level multiple jobs (because of subjobs) and if you get tired, you go home, change to something else, and go back out and kill stuff. It’s great and really adds variety to the gaming experience. If I get totally fed up with healing, I go home, change to a warrior or black mage, and resume the slaughter. Good times.
So, when November comes around, it looks like I have a choice to make. Keep with FFXI, level up, and get back into the mix of raiding (with Ultima, I hope) or head back to EQ2 and pick up where I left off (Kunark is upping max level to 80 and adding more raid zones, but focuses more on new content because of the new dragon race).
For those interested, here’s a link to the new Wings of the Goddess streaming trailer. The source is FAR faster than the original PlayOnline source. The story line looks good, the area around Atomos looks sweet, I want whatever weaponskill the Red Mage did (the rose one), but the dancer job.. that scares me.
Back on August 8th, Microsoft released KB 938194 and 938979 in anticipation of Vista Service Pack 1 (due out in January 2008).
NVidia has posted up two additional hotfixes, one targeting SLI users (KB 936710) and one targeting low FPS and other issues with GeForce games (KB 940105). You can find the full scoop from NVidia’s web site.
On top of all of this, they’ve also released the 163.44 beta drivers and updated the nForce drivers to 15.08 to resolve performance issues on the RAID and Network bus.
So far, everything’s installed and seems very stable. If you’re having odd performance issues, give these a shot for EQ2, FFXI, or any of the games mentioned there on the NVidia web site.
Having a bit of time this weekend, I opted to break out the PlayStation2 and game a bit. It’s been ages since I’ve done much gaming at all besides occassionally logged into EQ2 or FFXI to say hi to people and to chat while I did homework.
… and that lasted a good 10 minutes.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems natural that we’ve progressed to online, multi-player games. Even the most basic games, like Checkers, requires more than one person—and a computer NPC just doesn’t do it for
us me anymore. I, atleast, enjoy the interaction with people too much.
No matter how interesting the game, to just sit alone and play seems rather dull when most games and game systems today allow you to log in, interact or at least chat with other players, and such. Unfortunately, since I use my computer for most of my gaming, I don’t have an XBox or PS3 and don’t have the little online connect for my PS2. Since I play more RPG and strategy games (not into FPS games too much, I can walk through the streets of downtown if I desire that experience), there isn’t a lot out there for those platforms. At least my PS2 still serves a purpose to play music CDs and DVDs when I’m in the mood.
It’s been 3–4 months since I last blogged about my gaming complaints regarding SuperFetch and the potential fix found in adding my 4GB ReadyBoost USB drive. So far, so good, but only as long as I have the 4GB drive added in. EQ2 is mostly stable—only crashing if I run at Extreme Quality in a heavy raid zone, like Emerald Halls. I have to tone it down to High Performance for EH. FFXI runs like a dream, even with the quality cranked up—but it’s hard coded to 30fps due to the PS2 compatibility (I hope they change that soon).
So it seems Microsoft is right (I didn’t even whince saying that). Vista does perform pretty amazingly, but you MUST follow all of the prescribed instructions. Sheer hardware isn’t enough, you need the odd little accessories, like a ultra fast USB drive, to make it purr. Beyond gaming, with the USB drive, Orcas, Paint.NET, and most everything else I run purrs like a dream—and it should on a tripped out XPS 710 H2C.
So, as a comparison, I finally got around to picking up another copy and putting Vista on my older Dell XPS M170 laptop. It’s not like some of the new XPS laptops, it’s one of the first gens and runs well, but isn’t “uber”. Vista went on with a dream and rated a 3.8 out of the box. What dragged it down? Oddly enough, 3D/Aero Graphics. So, I tossed in my 2GB USB drive (same brand as the 4GB, just a spare I have sitting here)… and my score jumped from 3.8 to 4.2. Ehh?
Now… that’s fine, but… Microsoft, come on. Do you expect everyone to be carrying around EXTRA USB drives—extra accessories—while on the go with their laptops? I’m glad I can pump up the performance while sitting at my desk, but I want that performance everywhere! This isn’t like SpeedStep, it’s like carrying around the ignition key to my Modal T ford because the engine only cranks if I keep it plugged in (bad analogy, sorry).
Either MSFT needs to “fix” how SuperFetch works when a very high level of memory (4GB+) is present OR computer manufactures need to start adding “internal” flash drives that we can snap on inside the case and use as ReadyBoost memory. Ideas?