V is for Vindictus

V

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Vindictus is an action-dungeon-crawling hack & slash MMORPG, and a prequel to the popular MMORPG Mabinogi, so the game is known as Mabinogi: Heroes in Asia.

Release Date: KOR: 2010-01-21; NA: 2010-10-13; EU: 2011-10-05; JP: 2011-11-30; TW: 2011-12-23; AU: 2012-11-15; THA: 2015-12-02.

Developer: devCAT; Publisher: Nexon

Genre/gameplay mechanics: FTP with shop/paywall; fast-paced combat, cloth physics, and the ability to weaponize objects in the environment; players choose one of twelve gender-locked characters, each of which has different combat skills and abilities; crafting; customizable & enchantable gear; dungeon quests.

Setting: Vindictus takes place in the same Celtic-themed setting used in Mabinogi, but is placed chronologically several hundred years prior to the first game during a period of war and strife. Semi-anime fantasy world with a few historical references.

Storytelling: Straightforward. “A malevolent force shrouds the land and monsters terrorize the last bastions of humanity. All seems lost and yet one hope remains: you.” Loosely based on Celtic Mythology, the goddess Morrighan has promised that all who aid in the killing of the Formor (the enemies of the land) will go to the promised land, Erinn, the land of Paradise. The story uses a mix of traditional dialogue accompanied by still images of character portraits, along with fully animated cutscenes during certain quests and missions. Some of the quests, characters and the chapters/updates are influenced by other genres, like steampunk.

NOTE: Formoroi appear in several video games, including my K game, King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, where the Formorians appear as antagonists.

Formats: Microsoft Windows

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 2004 – Nexon released the fantasy-anime MMORPG Mabinogi. Although the name of the game is taken from the Mabinogion, a Welsh anthology of legend and some names are Welsh, the settings for the game are loosely based on Irish mythology.
  2. 12-13th centuries – The Mabinogion, compiled in Middle Welsh, covers a collection of eleven prose stories of widely different types. There is a classic hero quest, “Culhwch and Olwen“; the historic legend in “Lludd and Llefelys” glimpses a far-off age, and other tales portray a very different King Arthur from the later popular versions. The highly sophisticated complexity of the Four Branches of the Mabinogidefies categorisation.
  3. 11th century – Lebor Gabála Érenn(The Book of the Taking of Ireland) is a collection of poems and prose narratives that purports to be a history of Ireland and the Irish from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. It tells of a series of invasions or “takings” of Ireland by a succession of peoples, the fifth of whom was the people known as the Tuatha Dé Danann (“Peoples of the Goddess Danu”), who were believed to have inhabited the island before the arrival of the Gaels, or Milesians. They faced opposition from their enemies, the Fomorians, led by Balor of the Evil Eye. Balor was eventually slain by Lug Lámfada (Lug of the Long Arm) at the second battle of Magh Tuireadh. With the arrival of the Gaels, the Tuatha Dé Danann retired underground to become the fairy people of later myth and legend.
  4. 11th century – The Fomorians are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. They are often portrayed as hostile and monstrous beings who come from the sea or underground. Later, they were portrayed as giants and sea raiders. However, their relationship with the Tuatha Dé Danann is complex and some of their members intermarry and have children. It has also been suggested that the Fomorians derive from an older group of gods who were displaced by a newer group. The Fomorians have thus been likened to the jötnar of Norse mythology.
  5. 7th – 8th centuries – The Morrígan‘s earliest narrative appearances, in which she is depicted as an individual, are in stories of the Ulster Cycle, where she has an ambiguous relationship with the hero Cú Chulainn. The Morrígan was a tripartite battle goddess of the Celts of Ancient Ireland. She was known as the Morrígan, but the different sections she was divided into were also referred to as NemainMacha, and Badb, with each representing different aspects of combat.

Vindictus01

Recommendation: Vindictus was nominated for best MMO at E3 2010 that was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 14 to 17. IGN awarded Vindictus Best Free-to-Play MMO Game of 2010. Metacritic gave a score of 76 averaged from 6 critics. In their 2010 review, MMORPG.com gave it 8/10, while users gave it 7.8.

3.5 Stars: Vindictus is one of those games that failed to pull me in, although the combat with the ability to pick up and use ‘the environment’ was cool. However, the game felt repetitive and the storyline felt shallow compared with other games. The game controls were not intuitive, or clear, and the basic functional NPC interaction was dull. The game feels dated and, for me, lacks a reason to reach the end.

  1. Setting: 3.25*
  2. Storyline: 3.5*
  3. Gameplay: 3*
  4. Entertainment: 3*
  5. Genesis: 4.75*

Alternative ‘V’ thoughts:

V is also for Vikings as in the TV show and in the 1958 Richard Fleischer movie – and in other media. Yes, there is even a game, Viking: Battle for Asgard that I haven’t had the urge to play. Instead, I gave you a post on Hellblade that tangled with Norse Mythology, and another on LOTRO with its Northern European and Anglo-Saxon roots.

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

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U is for Ultima

U

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Ultima Online (UO) is an MMORPG set in the Ultima universe. A spin-off of the main series, it has become an unexpected hit, making it one of the earliest and longest-running successful MMORPGs of all time.

Ultima Online is the product of Richard Garriott‘s idea for a fantasy game involving several thousand people who can all play in a shared fantasy world. Prior games allowed hundreds of people to play at the same time, including Habitat (beta-tested in 1986), The Realm OnlineNeverwinter Nights (the AOL version) and Meridian 59; however, Ultima Online significantly outdid these games, both graphically and in-game mechanics.

Release Date: September 24, 1997

Developer: Origin Systems

Genre/gameplay mechanics: continued the tradition of previous Ultima games in many ways, but due to advancing technology and the simple fact that it was Origin’s first persistent online game, many new game mechanics appeared. Partially designed as a social and economic experiment, the game had to account for widespread player interaction as well as deal with the tradition of players feeling as if they were the centre of attention, as had been the case in single-player games. It is also known for its extensive PvP combat system.

Setting: Ultima Online began with a single world, with specific expansion packs adding additional territory and new worlds. Felucca, the original world, evolved to include dead trees and tombstones to distinguish. It has a harsher rule set where player killing is more common. The third world of Trammel did not allow player killing and was geared towards fighting monsters. Felucca adopted a darker, more foreboding look and kept its player vs player roots. The worlds were called Felucca and Trammel, after the two moons in Ultima’s Britannia world.

Storytelling: Its lore retconned the ending of Ultima I, stating that when the Stranger shattered the Gem of Immortality, he discovered that it was tied to the world itself, therefore its shards each contained a miniature version of Britannia. The player characters in Ultima Online exist on these “shards”.  From that moment of shattering, their histories diverged and each ‘shard’ became home to their own unique people, places, and traditions. There are different guilds and different player organizations on each.

Releases + Expansions:

Since its release, Ultima Online has added eight expansion packs, a booster pack and dozens of free content updates. The release of Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn in 2007 brought a new game engine with upgraded visuals.

Formats: Microsoft Windows, Linux

Origins (Chronological):

  1. June 1981 – the release of Ultima, later known as Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness or simply Ultima I, was created by Richard Garriott and first published in the United States by California Pacific Computer Company Since its release, the game has been completely re-coded and ported to many different platforms. The 1986 re-code of Ultima is the most commonly known and available version of the game.
  2. 1979 – Akalabeth is considered the first published Computer Role Playing Game. In the fall, Garriott entered the University of Texas at Austin, and later joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. He created Ultima I while at the university. It was published by California Pacific Computers and sold in Ziploc plastic bags, as was common in those days. While not explicitly stated, Akalabethis seen as the first game of the Ultima series, and was, therefore, included as part of the 1998 Ultima Collection where it officially picked up the nickname Ultima 0.
  3. In creating Akalabeth, Garriott was primarily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, for which he held weekly sessions in his parents’ house while in high school; and the works of J R. R. Tolkien, which he received from an in-law of his brother.
  4. The name derives from Tolkien’s Akallabêth, part of The Silmarillion; though the game is not based on Tolkien’s story. In the original game, the last monster on the need-to-kill list is called “Balrog”, like the demonic monsters from The Lord of the Rings, and unlike the later name for the monster in the Ultima games, Balron.

Ultima

Adaptations set in the ‘Ultima’ universe – beyond the extensive video game series:

  1. NOVELS – Several novels were released under the Ultima name, including: The Forge of Virtue (1991) by Lynn Abbey; The Temper of Wisdom (1992); Ultima: The Technocrat War by Austen Andrews; Machinations (2001); Masquerade (2002); Maelstrom (2002)
  2. JAPAN – Three manga comics, an Ultimasoundtrack CD, two kinds of wrist watches, a tape dispenser, a pencil holder, a board game, a jacket, and a beach towel were released. There was also an Ultima anime cartoon.

Recommendation: According to an Origin employee, Electronic Arts initially expected a maximum of 15,000 subscribers for Ultima Online. Between Ultima Online‘s launch on September 25 and November 13, the game sold 65,000 units. In Japan, its initial shipment of 5,000 units had sold out within 15 minutes. Origin announced that it was the company’s fastest-selling title ever, and the fastest-selling online-only computer game of all time. Ultima Online reached 150,000 simultaneously subscribers by February 2000.

Alternative ‘U’ thoughts:

U is also for the 1995 movie Usual Suspects

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

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E is for Elder Scrolls

E

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper. [Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: The Elder Scrolls is a series of action fantasy RPGs known for its elaborate and richly detailed open worlds and its focus on free-form gameplay.

Release Date: March 25, 1994

Developer/Publisher: Bethesda

Genre/gameplay mechanics: RPG; open world; fantasy; action-adventure; 3rd person; multi-player; “a game designed to encourage exploration and reward curiosity”; choices are crucial.

Setting: The Elder Scrolls games primarily take place on the fictional continent of Tamriel, located on the world of Nirn, but there are a few exceptions, although these exist in the same fictional universe. The high-fantasy setting is realistic with detailed, immersive graphics as series evolved.

Storytelling: Rich and extensive with a developed history, or as Wikipedia says, “In accordance with many literary high fantasy works, the world of The Elder Scrolls is known for its attention to detail, including well-developed lore and backstory. This includes a vast amount of information such as names, dates, and places that constitute its history and the interconnected structure of its various societies, cultures, and religions.”

Releases + Expansions: The Elder Scrolls has evolved through seven releases and ten expansions.

Current release: The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMORPG set in Tamriel, released in April 2014 to mixed reviews. The response improved significantly with the re-release in January 2015. It was renamed as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, with critics praising the changes.

Formats: MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, N-Gage, J2ME, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, macOS, Nintendo Switch

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 1890s – This depends on whether The Elder Scrolls is ‘high fantasy. As Wikipedia says, “The term “high fantasy” was coined by Lloyd Alexanderin a 1971 essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance” (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969).” And from there, “The romances of William Morris, such as The Well at the World’s End, set in an imaginary medieval world, are sometimes regarded as the first examples of high fantasy. The works of  R. R. Tolkien—especially The Lord of the Rings—are regarded as archetypal works of high fantasy.” Therefore, the logical thought is that all games that follow in role-playing campaign settings have their origins much further back. What then? Do I look to those writers’ roots?

Adaptations set in the ‘Elder Scrolls’ universe:

  1. Novels: In 2009, science-fiction author Gregory Keyes released The Elder Scrolls: The Infernal City. In 2011, Lord of Souls was released as Keyes’ second novel in his The Elder Scrolls book series.

Recommendation: Highly successful, the series has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and spawned a staunch community. The reviews have generally been very good. In 2012, Complex ranked The Elder Scrolls at number 20 on the list of the best video game franchises. In 2013, The Elder Scrolls was voted as the Greatest Game Series of the Decade on GameSpot, beating out 64 other competitors.

ElderScrolls01

4 Stars: Although aware of the series, I have only played The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and only recently. However, this MMORPG compares well to similar games that I’ve played extensively. The setting was amazing and the game enthralling, even if I took some time to adapt to the mechanic and the divergent storylines. A game that a player must devote time to appreciate.

  1. Setting: 4.5*
  2. Storyline: 4*
  3. Gameplay: 4*
  4. Entertainment: 4*
  5. Genesis: 3.5*

 

Alternative ‘E’ thoughts:

E is also for Excalibur but that’s a sword that has yet to slide from a stone. And a 1981 epic fantasy movie that I enjoyed for its unusual re-telling of the Arthur legend. There was even a game that I never played – Excalibur: Morgana’s Revenge.

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

 

Lord of the Lists

At the end of August, as part of the Indy Block Party, I posted my Top 5 Books – in fact Top 6 as the Infinite Improbability Drive was playing up as usual.  I had a feeling that another Blog was creeping up on me and here it is – Four more Top 5 or let’s stick with the Hitchhiking theme and go with Top 6 lists. Of course there is a common theme, if you notice.

A Matter of Life and Death (film)

Top 6 Movies: Should this be in order of favourite or chronological from when they were made or random? You tell me…

  1. A Matter of Life & Death or Stairway to Heaven in US (1946) – my favourite Powell & Pressburger movie.
  2. Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) – the books reimagined and echoing the world I was transported to by the Professor back in 1970.
  3. Cinema Paradiso (1988) – a moving tribute and evocation of the magic of cinema in Italian.
  4. Shawshank Redemption (1994) – full of wonderful moments and brilliant acting from Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
  5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2206) – Guillermo de Toro’s Spanish language amazing and captivating fantasy set during the Spanish Civil War.
  6. Blade Runner (1982) – maybe not a sci-fi classic but there are classic scenes and lines, including the speech by Rutger Hauer’s character at the end.

 ScreenShot00051

Top 6 MMORPGS: As video gaming has now been around for 40 odd years, I am probably missing out the early classics that got me hooked. So these are the Top 6 from recent years – ones that I’ve got engrossed in and got characters to respectable levels. Currently I’m even taking a course linking two key areas in my life fiction and gaming – Online Games: Literature, New Media,and Narrative.

  1. Perfect World – this will always be No 1 as my elf archer asked a beautiful warrior if he could fly with her. And now we’re happily married in real life.
  2. LOTRO or Lord of the Rings Online – where I got to visit Middle Earth and meet Elrond. What more can I say but I keep going back.
  3. SWTOR or Star Wars: The Old Republic – set before the Star Wars movies but still a chance to wield a light-sabre and follow a narrative which you can change through your actions. Currently on the run….
  4. Age of Conan Unchained – based in Hyboria, the world created by Robert E Howard. Adult themes mean semi-naked characters, blood everywhere and challenging gameplay.
  5. Cabal – a fantasy world with unique armour and weapons. And great dance routines. Wished I had stayed longer.
  6. Runes of Magic – called by some a clone of the most popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, but personally found it had better character creation and liked the dual class skill track using parallel areas. Great houses too.

Deutsch: Pjotr I. Tschaikowski

Top 6 Music: this will be far-ranging as music has been around since our distant ancestors expressed themselves on a piece of wood or by singing. Not going back that far but far enough.

  1. Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin – one of the first operas that I ever saw (at Glyndebourne) and which moved me and still continues too. Wonderful arias.
  2. Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor – very personal as well as moving music. One of the classic recordings being by Jacqueline du Pre, who tragically suffered and died from multiple sclerosis.
  3. Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – ballet music that evokes so many images from the primitive to those from Disney’s Fantasia.
  4. The Doors’ L.A Woman album – included the track Riders On The Storm which is my favourite Doors’ song as well as the name of my guild in LOTRO.
  5. Queen’s A Night at the Opera – favourite track is of course the classic Bohemian Rhapsody But there are other great hits on this album such as You’re My Best Friend and Love of My Life.
  6. Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings Symphony – last but not least has to be this symphony edited down from the soundtrack to the Peter Jackson movies. Full of familiar themes and leitmotifs that continue to send tingles up my spine. Essential element of movies that works on its own too.

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...

Top 6 Poems: probably as old as music so the choice is extensive. I have to admit that my interest in poetry has lagged behind other art forms, but there are ones that stand out either individually or as collections.

  1. Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Horatius at the Bridge – a part of my education that still lives with me as it had such a fundamental effect.
  2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – another classic poem that caught my imagination while growing up. The words are so powerful and often lines come to mind like:   Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where,Nor any drop to drink.
  3. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience – a collection of poems that I studied for English Literature and loved, especially as Blake even illustrated with richly illuminated plates.
  4. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven – a poem with dark images and wonderful use of words. Another classic.
  5. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias – far briefer than most of the other poems but in its few short lines as evocative and epic, stirring thoughts as endless as the sands.
  6. Beowulfthe longest and for many one of the greatest epic poems, but with no specific source for this Old English masterpiece. Yet so much derives from this amazing work including much of our great literature. I read it in English, not Old English, when I was 17 and it was and still is an emotional experience of unbelievable depth.

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written i...

There is a notable absence of Lord of the Rings from the last list. An oversight, perhaps? I could have cheated and included one of the many verses that J.R.R Tolkien included in his great work, many of which are fine works of poetry. In fact there is a crucial poem at 6 – Beowulf. The Professor wrote an essay “Beowulf and the Critics” – which I have incorrectly in the past inserted the word monster in with Grendel in mind. I read the essay before I had even heard of Lord of the Rings, but it was the turning point, the beginning of my journey down an unbelievable road… a road which goes ever on.

 

Inspirational Links that might lead to more lists being created:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse

http://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Muses/the_muses.html