/Wave.

11/28/2009

I’m sure most of you have head of Google’s latest product Google Wave by now. Though still in the beta phase (and invite only), the concept behind it is the next step in connectivity. That’s not to say that it is without its glaring flaws: it has plenty. If it manages to reach what it aims to be though, it will be quite the feat.

I’m not going to go into the various ways you can have newsfeeds, Facebook updates, Twitter uploads, or any of that other crap integrated into Wave because, frankly, I don’t want to have anything to do with those. What I immediately saw as an application for Google Wave was RPGs. This looks like it could be the latest and greatest way to get the “Pen and Paper” experience since the advent of MUDs.

As it currently stands, Wave is basically a giant, fancy IM service. Yes, you can watch text editing in real time and embed video and images, but that’s nothing dozens of other IM services were not already doing. However, it is open source, and fully supports plug-ins, making it ripe for nerds to run rampant.

In the basic setup, you possess the ability to create a wave: basically just a channel which is viewable and editable by only the people invited. In function, there is very little difference between this and IRC chatrooms, private channels in WoW, or a GDoc. In a RPG, you’ll likely have two such waves: one for gameplay/roleplay, and the other for OOC chatter. You’ll also have to have (depending on the size of your group), a half dozen private message windows open, and well as character sheets, maps, records of previous sessions, and maybe even a dice roller. All of that can get quite messy, and this is where Google Wave really starts to shine.

You could open a private wave for every member of your party and your GM. Or you could use the “Private” reply in the main wave itself, and have relevant comments be viewable only to those you wanted to. Not only does this cut down on the clutter of one-on-one chat, but the headache of trying to keep up conversations that involve two or three other party members, but not all.

Because Google Wave allows posting text and images directly into waves, this makes tracking, updating, and sharing things like character sheets a snap. Your GM won’t have to keep asking for this stat or that, you won’t have eraser marks all over your sheet and have to wonder if you remembered to add in your XP from last session, and you can choose if your sheet is viewable to other party members or not (to vary your level of immurshunz).

Where Wave stumbles is in combat. Ideally your third main wave, alongside OOC and RP would be a Combat wave.  For a dice based game (and possibly a combat grid as well), Google Wave has zero built in support. No mutual image editing (which is surprising given that some IM services already do this), no random number generator, nothing.

Never fear, I’m not the only one that thought this would be great for gaming, and the nerd community is already hard at work creating addons and bots to deliver this functionality. While there’s nothing like an addon that allows me to go “Okay, so, I have this image, and I want to scale it and overlay a grid onto it, and them be able to move these character/monster designators from grid location to grid location with possible annotations attached and can it also do the dishes please?”, the machine has already churned out some results.

To start, there’s a dice bot. While it might be nice to eventually have an integrated RNG, the dice bot is a longstanding tradition in online P&P. To use it, you add the bot (in this case, randomleetwenty@appspot.com) to the list of users. After that, it will preform the usual function of transforming XdY+Z into some numeric result. Other potentially useful bots include a quote bot (multi-wave@appspot.com), and a bot to directly link hosted images instead of uploading them (imbeddable@appspot.com).

Then there’s the image editor. These come in form of “gadgets” (addons), and have to actually be added into the blip (Google’s attempt to make a new word to mean “individual entry”) of a wave. I’ve found two: the Ajex Animator Gadget and Vector Editor, both of which are basically MSPaint with multiple users. To add them, use the “Add Gadget” option on your blip, and put in the URL from above hyperlinks. Hopefully more robust gadgets are in the works, but these are serviceable enough.

So, while Google Wave may still be in beta, and filled with all the bugs and lack of functionality, it looks to have a bright future ahead. Imagine an application where you can have video and sound streaming from each of your friends, a digital playboard complete with miniatures, and no need to foot the bill for pizza. Pretty sweet, huh?


You Recieve Loot: Orange Text.

11/21/2009

After a long six-ish month, I finally got my Val’anyr! Huge thanks to everyone in TRI who helped (and stuck with Ulduar this long). Even better, we twoshot the required Yogg+3 kill for the crafting. So very happy right now.

Shiny

In less self-congratulating news, Icecrown. I’ve been spending a bit of time on the PTR testing out the new dungeons, and I am more excited than ever. As someone who has been disappointed with how soon each content patch thus far has come out, I’m pleased to finally be really looking forward to this final one. Yes, it’s partially because I’m sick of the current content – Ulduar is only fun for so long and Trial of the Crusader can eat a dick – but it’s also just as much that what’s in store looks amazing.

The new 5 mans are quite fun: a good mix of interesting and succinct. With a good group, it takes all of 45 minutes or so to run all three. The new LFG is also quite good (Yes, the LFG. Good.) at finding groups, locating more or less competent (remember it matches iLevel now) groups in very short order. With the added ability to teleport directly into the dungeon, and a way to deal with DCs/drops without leaving, it’s impressively robust.


Kick the Tires.

11/14/2009

Well, two weeks with Windows 7 and so far no major complaints. In fact, apart from some frustration with folder View settings, the only thing I’ve found that’s had a hiccup is Ventrilo. Apparently it is quite common for Windows 7 users to experience static over Ventrilo, suffer from severely laggy connections, or in my case, emit a constant high-pitched whine whenever they transmit.

It was originally possible to fix the problem by using the i386 version instead of the x64 (which many users would have picked up upgrading from 32 bit XP to 64 bit 7). Now however, it appears that Ventrilo has solved the problem themselves; you can download the latest version of the x64 and it will work just fine. Obviously not an issue if you’re doing a clean install, but if you upgrade from Vista and are wondering what is wrong, there’s your problem.


Two For the Price of One.

11/13/2009

My 10-man downed the Twin Val’kyr hard this week which, while something that’s already been achieved by about five billion other people, was still a pretty big deal to us. After some rather troublesome roster issues over the past month, it was nice to get back into the swing of things. The victory was all the sweeter because it was on what was to be our last attempt of the evening (some people have these things called “lives” which apparently obligates them to spend time away from a computer).

We used what I suppose is commonly referred to the “Door Strat”. Basically, the entire raid compresses into the doorway to minimize the area over which orbs can strike your raid, while two of your raid members are dedicated to the catching of same colored orbs to prevent them from striking their opposite-colored friends. The Val’kyr are tanked together, while the DPS and healer of each color form a very tight arc behind their opposite-colored boss. I don’t have a nice picture to link, so you will have to suffer my mad MSPaint skills for a visual.

There are two immediately noticeable changes from “tank them where they are” or “tank them in the middle” strats from normal mode we were using before. First, the healing load drastically decreases. While still heavily mana consumptive (I was running on fumes for the last 5% or so), it decreases the throughput required to a level manageable by two healers. In this case, myself and a Paladin, which I should note was not ideal for healing this. Still, with more practice all around it should become significantly more manageable.

Second, your DPS begins to whine. Two of them spend the entire time doing nothing (and I really do mean nothing) but running around catching orbs. They were not terribly thrilled about this. Also, obviously, this makes the already-increased difficulty of getting shields down even more bothersome, and it took a couple of wipes before properly switching and bursting got sorted. In the end however, we were all having an excellent time of it (and to be fair no one really complained that much), and it was one of those situations where every attempt you can see marked improvement.

Quite exciting for all of us, and we were rewarded with loot that people even wanted! Unlike Faction Champions, which dropped Victor’s Call and Helm of the Silver Ranger for the umpteenth time, the fuckers. We’re all looking forward to going back in next week and taking a crack at Anub’arak.