Dragon Age: Origins — Great Game or GREATEST Game?

My in-laws bought me two games for Christmas, both of which were high on my little-kid-wish-list, and both of which I expected would keep me well occupied for the next year. In this expectation, I do not believe I will be disappointed, except that Dragon Age is so wonderful I can scarcely leave.

I’ve got over ninety hours into the game so far in about a month, which is flippin’ crazy. 52 of that was my first play through over winter break, so it’s not like I had work or anything, but in the 3-4 weeks since then my gaming has become no less focused. I’m very close to beating the game a second time, and I’m about 1/4 through on a third character already. The game demands at least five full play throughs to satisfy my role-playing desires.

Dragon Age appeals to me for a few different reasons, and they’re not ones that appeal to everyone. I know at least one person who hasn’t enjoyed it (though as far as I’m concerned, he never gave the game a fair shake–I don’t think he even made it past the introduction), and it’s certainly not for everyone. But there are two things that you may have loved when you were a bit younger, and if you loved them then I think Dragon Age will nestle comfortably into your arms. These two things are Baldur’s Gate and Choose-Your-Own Adventure books.

Baldur’s Gate was a role-playing game some 10-15 years ago where you could control one character and fight battles in real time or pause and control each character individually. Your party would range up to five members, each with unique voice acting (though full conversations weren’t generally recorded, but when you clicked on them or they did something they would vocalize that) and personalities. It was good sized world, and the expansions only made it better. I can’t recount how many hundreds of hours I played BG. Dragon Age has been touted as the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, and it is.

No one but me seemed to check out the Choose-Your-Own Adventure books from the library, but I always really enjoyed them. In particular, I enjoyed seeing the different paths available, flipping back and forth through the book to see what might have been if I’d made a decision differently. The multitude of possibilities fascinated me, and that’s what keeps me playing Dragon Age long after I know the overarching theme and plot. I know that at the end the good guys will win, but I don’t know how that will play out. Different alliances can be forged, different people can join or leave your party, and there are many different things to experience. I keep playing the game over to see what would change if I did something differently. Dragon Age doesn’t disappoint. Its art is beautiful, its voice acting is really good, and its decisions are myriad and challenging. It’s like reading a book and getting to interact with it at the same time.

The only problem with it is 1) I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed 2 as much as I would like to have, though I’m also really enjoying that game, 2) I haven’t written as much as I want, though I don’t regret this too much considering how stressful the last few weeks have been and how playing a game on the weekend has rejuvenated me, and 3) Mass Effect 2 is coming out in a couple of days, which is another life-consuming-OMG-let-me-replay-it-over-and-over game. ME2 and DA:O are by the same company, by the way.

Anyways, yeah… that’s what I’ve been up to. If you have been wondering whether to check out Dragon Age or not, this probably won’t convince you if none of the other nerds on the Internet frothing at the mouth over how great it is hasn’t already pushed you into trying it. But I wanted to express my continued appreciation, excitement, and joy over it. Good times.

Skewed Study Shows Gamers are Fat, Depressed, Possibly Homicidal

A friend of mine shared this through Google Reader and the headline (Video gamers ‘older than thought’) (( I originally read this title as something akin to “Video Gamers Older Than Time and Space.” )) caught my attention. The first three “paragraphs” ((As I copy and paste these “paragraphs,” I realize are really just sentences.)) just frustrated me.

The average age of an adult video game player is 35 – higher than previously thought, a US study suggests.

My goodness! 35 years old and obese, that is quite a concerning figure. I mean, I don’t mind if they’re older–I think it’s good that older people are gaming, as it has been shown to improve and help maintain brain function and hand-eye coordination. I’ve also read anecdotes of grandparents gaming with their grandkids, so that’s cool.

A team from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found gamers were less healthy, fatter, and more depressed than non-gamers.

Obesity is certainly a problem though, and for this to be nationwide is alarming.

OK, not terribly alarming, because the entire friggin’ USA is probably “overweight,” at least on average. But whatever, let’s focus on gamers.

Researchers from the government agency analysed data from 500 adults aged 19 to 90 in the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington state.

Wait… erm, I thought this was to show the average of the United States of America? Instead we’ve got 500 people from Seattle, ((That’s 0.086% of the population of Seattle, by the way, and ((1.64441378 × 10-6)*100)% of the population of the USA.)) a city known for being cloudy and rainy all the freaking time.

Maybe they’re indoors playing games because the weather sucks and they all suffer from SAD. (( Seasonal Anxiety Disorder, which I’m still not convinced is a real disorder.)) Maybe it’s just a poor study.

It’s been said before, but I’ll go ahead and reiterate: Correlation != Causation. This study doesn’t really prove anything. It’s not even worth the HTML it’s printed on.

To be honest, Liches make me a little queasy

I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for bananas.
I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for cuddly puppies and kittens.

I finally received my copy of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King last night and set about installing it on Linux. Even though I got home pretty late last night, I wanted to at least give it a try, and since the installation and patching only took about 30 minutes, I went ahead and created a Death Knight.

My first impressions were…. *drool*. The opening video is stunning, and I was anxious to get rolling. After configuring my appearance, I began my demented existance.

As I continued playing, however, my apprehension grew. I’m the sort of guy that, when I play Knights of the Old Republic, I’m invariably a light-sided Jedi. It makes me uncomfortable to slaughter people for no other reason than my own self-advancement, and I don’t delight in rampant carnage… unless they be Stormtroopers. Even the Horde on World of Warcraft are billed as misunderstood, noble, and generally decent people. They take care of their own, and if anything can be said about their actions, it’s that they had little choice but to fight for survival.

But the Death Knights… they’re just plain evil. You start out serving the Lich King, and one of your first tasks is to go into a town and slaughter the inhabitants. You’re specifically ordered, in fact, not to worry too much about the guards, but to focus on chasing and cutting down the civilians because that will strike greater terror into the hearts of the Lich King’s enemies.

I’m going to keep going with my Death Knight, because I’m assuming you eventually break away from the Lich King to join your respective faction (Alliance or Horde) and things return to normal after a while. But these opening quests so far have just made me just a little uncomfortable.

How to install Wrath of the Lich King on Linux

You have your shiny new expansion, but you (quite understandably) don’t want to shell out another $90 for a crappy operating system to play it. No problem, says I, because WotLK is Cedega Certified!

Unfortunately, while the game works pretty well, installation does not, and you’ll quickly encounter a bug in the Death Knight starting quests that will prevent you from advancing along that quest chain. No worries, though; just follow these simple instructions and you’ll be up and running in no time.

Installation

First, you need to mount the DVD properly. I use Ubuntu, which means I have Gnome, so I use Nautilus as my file manager. After inserting the DVD, you’ll need to open your file manager (Nautilus in my case) to unmount the DVD. You should see Lich listed in the left navigation bar: right click on it with your mouse and choose Unmount.

Now, open a terminal window and type in the following line. You’ll need to modify userid and insert your own userid (what you use to log in). You may also have to modify the cdrom0 point if you use something else; you can check this by browsing to /media in Nautilus or the terminal.

sudo mount -t udf -o ro,unhide,uid=userid /dev/scd0 /media/cdrom0/

Now you can open Cedega and install as you would normally, just using the Install button. However, when the Cedega installation window pops up, notice that it wants to put WotLK into its own folder. You need to change this so it installs into the folder in which you already have World of Warcraft. Edit this, then you’re ready to proceed with the install.

Installation and patching should proceed smoothly and normally from here. Now it’s time to play!

Setting the OpenGL flag

Personally, I don’t like playing with OpenGL. Maybe it’s just my system, but I get some bugs with it, most notably that WoW doesn’t close when I quit the game, it crashes. Despite this, there are a few quests that glitch out on Linux, and you need to use OpenGL to get through them.

When playing as a Death Knight, this is most notable when doing the quest involving the Eye of Archerus. Your screen will go all solid colours, though you can still see the UI, so you can’t very well proceed with the quest. This is due to the Death Effect and Full Screen Glow, but just disabling those options in WoW doesn’t resolve the problem.

There are two steps to setting the OpenGL flag.

  1. You need to add the following line to the config.wtf file. This file can be located at:/home/userid/.cedega/World of Warcraft/c_drive/Program Files/World of Warcraft/WTF
  2. SET gxApi “opengl”

  3. Set the -opengl flag in the Cedega shortcut, as pictured below:
  4. Click to enlarge

Conclusion

You should now be good to go. After the Eye of Archerus quest, I promptly disabled OpenGL and removed that line of code from my config.wtf. It’s good to know that there’s a solution for this Death Effect bug, and I may have to use it again (especially if it crops up when the Death Knight dies and becomes a zombie that can keep fighting), but if I can avoid OpenGL, I will. It just doesn’t seem as fast or as stable as D3D to me.

Happy gaming, and suffer well!

Haikai during Argos Training

Brenda discovered a new game during our training session. Three-line stanzas were written by me, and the two-line stanzas were written by her.

While sun sets on
hazy streets, chill clouds rise
over wearied monitors.

Fireflies wink softly
as faces reflect harsh light

of gridded sheets that cover
but provide no warmth
or comforting cells.

Numbers dance and blur
as I fall into daydreams of you.

Flying toasters
stream across my closed eyes
while a Harvest Moon takes flight.

Whales swim in a sea of tulips
and dance across the sky,
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