Well, I finally decided to bite the bullet and bought myself a new computer. The laptop is still “all I need”, but it was beginning to not be “all I want”. On the up side, the laptop is portable, though I never take it anywhere for it is merely life support for a dozen USB and FireWire peripherals because of it’s down side; it’s not very expandable.
What started as a $2000 Celeron 800 with 128megs of PC-100 and a 5Gig HD when I bought it has, over the years, become a 1.4 GHz PIII with a gig of PC-133 and a 20Gig HD. This is still a perfectly acceptable utility computer and I’ve done everything from PhotoShopping illos to serve web sites on it. Now I’ll have a chance to actually take with me on road trips and do actual “laptop” things with it.
All of this “computer upgrade mania” started because of a video game believe it or not. Someone brought a copy of “Shadowbane” into the store and I’ve been itching to try it out ever since. But the video chipset in the laptop, one thing I can’t change, is far too basic for it.
Shadowbane is very similar to “Dark Ages of Camelot”, in which you take an active role in the political landscape of the world by beating the crap out of other player controlled characters. DAoC was a lot of fun, but it quickly got boring for there just wasn’t much to do but hang around outside other realm’s pre-allocated castles and lay siege to them, or hang around inside one of your pre-allocated castles and break sieges. It was fun in that the other army out there was real human beings rather than moron MOBs (Mobile Objects) run by the game server. This, of course, is infinitely preferable to “EverQuest” where you cannot alter the world in any way and are locked into wandering the landscape looking for some MOB that isn’t getting beat up by someone else. EQ is a lot of fun for the first 50th level character, and then it becomes a treadmill of killing MOBs, getting experience, training your skills, buying better gear… There is very little, if any, Roleplay in EQ.
Enter Shadowbane. Much like DAoC you get together with a lot of other folks and try to take over the world, but unlike DAoC, you have to build your own “kingdom” rather than just defend the one that was there when you arrived…
Now I’ve only played this for an evening so far, but it’s been the best 5 hours in a MMORPG I’ve had yet, and I’ve played a lot of them. First off, there are more than the typical Elf, Dwarf, Human races to play; I’ve got a Minotaur warrior and a Centaur cleric right now and am pondering playing an “Aracoix” which is an avian species who can actually fly in the game. Secondly you can actually build your own settlements and cities; anyone can build anything just about anywhere… Unfortunately other folks don’t like to build (it’s expensive) and would rather just take yours, so you also have to defend it which is where guilds come in.
Guilds work almost exactly as they did in feudal Europe where you swear fealty to your guild and, if accepted, get to wear that guild’s coat of arms, which is also player created, and have the backing of several (or many) other folks. Now your guild can swear allegiance to another guild or vice versa and soon you have an entire kingdom. Players can also get involved in trade skills, learning to make something really cool and guarding that secret with their lives… Once you’re into the trade game, you can build your own store and put computer controlled merchants in there that you “employ” and control.
In a kingdom you’ll find everything from building planners, players who oversee the layout of cities to ensure things don’t get too chaotic, to spy masters who oversee groups of rogues and supply vital information to the king in regards to his enemies.
Ok, so Shadowbane is pretty neat and this, along with needing to get on top of the computer technology bell curve, is why I went out and used a little credit muscle to procure my new computer:
The new machine was a Compaq S5000T for about 30 minutes after getting it home. The first thing to go was the “ok” video card which was replaced by an Nvidia 5600 with 256Megs of ram on it, next was the stock “ok” CDRW which was replaced with a new 52x, then I added a new HP dvd300i DVD+RW drive to it. There is an extra 80Gig HD bringing the total to 160Gigs and an extra 512Megs of PC2600 ram which brings the total to 1Gig. Windows XP Home was pretty much instantly removed and the drive repartitioned to get rid of the silly “Compaq” partition, then a fresh load of XP Professional was installed.
So far I’m pretty impressed with the machine. The nice thing about new Compaq computers is that the only thing Compaq about them is the logos on the case. Internally they’re entirely “off the shelf” PC parts including the ATX MB and 300 watt power supply… Compaq computers used to be the epitome of “proprietary”.
Well, I have to get to work. Maybe if I get time tonight between writing and drawing I’ll explore the world of Shadowbane a little more. One thing I don’t do is let these games become a big priority… I learned that lesson from EverQuest. When it first came out I spent the vast majority of my free time playing it for about six months. It’s real easy to become antisocial with these things because they are so social. You just click an icon and have access to dozens of “friends” who you can turn off just as easy.