Wednesday, June 02, 2004

City of Headaches

Before I begin, I want everyone to know that this past weekend I hit the art museum and library (as previously noted), played Dos Rios, a European board game, and met with my semi-regular Call of Cthulhu group for a game that ran past midnight, visited the Mima Mounds with Shelly and the Monkey King (yes, I'll fix the Links sometime in the next week) cooked some, and mowed the lawn (long overdue) The only thing from the previous weekend I had thought of doing and did not do was make it out to Folklife at the Seattle Center, so I missed the monorail fire. And on top of that I've put in two long days at work dealing with minor crisis and just got back from Tai Chi.

I say all this because I want everyone to know that I have a real life when I say this: I also started playing City of Heroes seriously. Maybe a little too seriously.

Those who have followed the story so far know that I missed on a job opportunity because of lack of direct experience with MMORPGs (Massively- Multiplayer- Online - Role- Playing- Games, a phrase just made for Zippy the Pinhead to wander around saying). For that reason (among others), I got Groucho the wheezy laptop PC, with state of the art graphics card. This was followed by a two-month period where Groucho was in the shop because the screen died immediately. But I got it back, and picked up City of Heroes as my first big experiment in MMORPGS.

And then spent a week trying to update all the internal software so I could run the danged thing. There was a brief period where a friend-of-a-friend suggested a hack to make my laptop think it was a desktop, but that resulted only in the old graphics driver being balled up and shrinking my screen to half its side. Bringing in another friend (who does IT and plays in Kate's Star Wars campaign (Thanks Chuck!)), I found out that I could get it working.

Now, City of Heroes is a super-hero RPG - you are a hero in the overly-metagened metropolis of Paragon City. Your job is defeat the forces of evil, ranging from gangbangers like Hellions and Blood Brothers up to the minions of mechanical Clockwork King and the nasty Nazi 5th Column and beyond. You do this by finding them on the street (usually robbing little old ladies) and by taking missions that involve indoor encounters. The outside world has a huge horde of other heroes, but the indoor missions are for you (and any members of your superteam you bring along).

So I've been playing for little more than a week. I have a 6th level Tank named Celtron 2000, a 5th level Blaster named Pyrotic, and a 1st level Scrapper named The Crimson Moonbat. I've never done MMORPGs before for any length of time, so I've been growing used to the interface - I've gotten the movement and most of the attacks down, though I use the keyboard for determining what superattacks I use instead of mouse-clicks (it works faster for me). I've mastered the art of jumping, discovered that you can take fire escapes up to the top of local buildings to get a great view and find bigger bad guys, and know that while the Clockwork attack in mass, the 5th Column are poor losers, and will dispatch a hit team if you foil their plans. I've made a few mistakes (and spent an amount of time in the local hospitals) but the learning curve has been enough to keep me engaged.

Maybe a little too engaged. I've been having "architecture dreams" about Paragon City (those dreams where you know the layout of your dreamscape almost exactly). And I work up this morning with a dull, localized headache right between my eyes, a bit of disorientation at the edge of my periferal vision, and sluggish feeling. Its either the flu or perhaps a bit too too much City of Heroes. I'm betting on the latter.

This shouldn't suprise me too much. When the early first-person shooters came out, I made myself motion sick pacing the activity of Doom and Quake. So now need I break from City for a day or three. Now, I am very impressed both by the game's eye-candy (your hero is almost custom-built - I have seen very few other strongman midgets in yellow and brown with celtic designs) and the gameplay. The game designer in me has made more than a few guesses about how the game plays out based on how I would pull it off, and I've been right about half the time (One place I was wrong - I never thought of running around on telephone lines, which you can do in the game).

Its very enjoyable, and despite my activity in the real world, is a major time-suck. Now I have to back away from it and see if the ache in my brows ebbs. So I have to activate my Rest power and regain my Health and Enduance, but not too close to where the Clockwork spawn. . .