4th Annual Pumpkin Preview: XCOM; Enemy Unknown

Thursday, October 18, 2012
 Before we really get into this, I need to make one thing clear. XCOM is a series very near and dear to me. I cut my gaming teeth on UFO Defense and Terror from the Deep and I've been waiting for another proper XCOM game for about 15 years.

Firaxis has managed to take the original 1994 game and tweak it and polish it into a game accessible to any level of player. Where UFO Defense was brutally difficult, even on it's easiest setting, Enemy Unknown has properly scaled the difficulty to the appropriate levels. Easy is still a challenge, but it's unlikely you'll see the kind of losses we veterans are used to. If you're new to the series and want a taste of what the older games were like, go ahead and start a game on "classic" mode. Just don't get too attached to your squads.

When 2k games first announced that they had acquired the XCOM licence  I was skeptical, if not optimistic. The FPS XCOM has been mired in delays and lack of detail and exposure and may not even actually exist at this point. Whatever the case for the other title, Enemy Unknown is everything I could have ever asked for in an XCOM game. 

Firaxis has distilled everything that made the originals great and added in their own personality to the title. Gone are the long hours spent shooting down UFO after UFO without any idea of what it was that would advance the plot. Now you always have a goal displayed for you, though when you choose to complete that goal is up to you. 

Your squads are also improved greatly. Each member of your squad starts as a rookie, and as soon as they are promoted, they are given a class that will define their role in all the missions moving forward. This helps streamline the gameplay and keep each mission from getting too confusing. 

There really isn't enough time for me to go over everything that XCOM gets right in this preview. All I can really say is that you owe it to yourself to at least play it once. It's not just a great strategy game, it's easily the best game I've played this year, if not these past 15 years. 

PS:  Stay tuned for a larger review of Enemy Unknown.


4th Annual Pumpkin Preview: Dishonored

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It’s that time of the year again, folks. The leaves are changing, the air has a slight chill, retail stores across the country are selling various themed harlot costumes. Yes, it’s fall and that means it’s time for the fourth annual Pumpkin Preview. Yes, fourth annual. What happened to the second and third annual pumpkin previews? Well, they were so awesome, they could not be viewed by mortals without dramatic consequences.

First up and released today is Dishonored. Bethesda’s latest title puts you in the role of a legendary bodyguard turned assassin, seeking revenge for the death of the empress.


Equal parts stealth game, FPS, puzzle game and RPG, Dishonored promises open gameplay in a rich, steampunk/arcanum world in the grips of plague and depression.

There are multiple paths through any mission in the game, but not in the way that many games lay out their branching paths. Dishonored doesn't go the simple route of a stealthy path and a shooty path. Rather, each area in the game is explorable in a myriad different ways. Adding in the host of arcane abilities at your characters disposal your options multiply even further. Need to get into a private party? Sneak past the guard, shoot the guards and walk in, possess a passing guest and use their body to get inside, possess a fish in the waterway and sneak in through the basement, etc.

Dishonored is one of the first in a coming host of games that seem to have taken to heart a great lesson offered to us by Warren Spector. The role of the designer is not to present you with a path to follow, but rather to present a situation you are free to explore and to narrate and explain what happens as a result of your actions in that situation. This is why you'll see so many reviews liken Dishonored to Thief.

I highly recommend Dishonored. The almost innumerable possibilities in each mission promise great replayability and challenges which will help keep the game fresh for a long time. The developers promise that the game can be completed without killing anyone. We’ll see how long it takes to make it happen. I’m always up for a challenge.

Butt Stallion

Sunday, September 30, 2012
This is a few weeks late, and for that I apologize and renounce my belief that education is more important than video games, right next to breathing.  No really guys, I am sorry!  Over the past couple of weeks I've been making tortoise pace progress through Borderlands 2 (Thank you Nvidia!) while watching the reviews come out left and right, even Wall Street Journal had a few things to say (The affront to the gaming community, the attempt at redemption).  My take might sound slightly different from theirs, but I assure you that's not a gameboner, this is more like an OMGGRAPHICSboner.  In a cell shaded game, this is definitely a take that seems to be rare, but I also had the privilege to play this on the PC with a graphics card that can support PhysX (Nvidia GTX 560 (vanilla)).  Let me just say, the little things that are present when running PhysX make Borderlands 2 an entirely new game (OK maybe it's more of a remaining PhysXboner I've had for the past month, I should really get that checked out >.>)!  Simple things, for example, in the cargo holders that are oftentimes used as cover, and probably shelter for the bad guys, there's usually cloth covering the entrance and waving in the wind, and now, my personal favorite particle control:  When a giant, furry four-armed snow ape (to be referred to as bullymong from here on) throws a giant snowball/rock at you, the pieces of the snowball/rock formed from bouncing off of your apparently adamantine skull don't just disappear into the ground, the stay there, as well as the bullymong and its vital fluids which leave the ground an absolute mess from the recent melee!  It's beautiful!  Here have what is probably the same comparison video I posted last.
In my opinion, despite the cartoon-y graphics, the PhysX makes these graphics absolutely revolutionary and adds a surprising bit of permanence and realism to an otherwise otherworldly (both in and out of game) experience.

Next I have to note the dialogue.  Some find it annoying, I find it to be so awful that it is hilarious!  I actually eagerly await Handsome Jack's (the villain) *le sigh* phone calls.  I mean, he calls you, while you're fighting through an enemy encampment, to tell you about his diamond pony named Butt Stallion while simultaneously eating stale pretzels, tell ya what folks, he's a keeper!
("Butt Stallion is best pony!")

Next up, gameplay.  So, I've been playing through as Salvador the Gunzerker, which is actually pretty excellent once you get the Gunzerking skill.  I'm not complaining about regaining 50% health and the ability to use two guns at once for a moment, in fact it's pretty awesome (when I remember to activate it!).  Single player is nice because you can pause at will and take your time.  Multiplayer is great, too!  It works on the same mechanic as the first game so it's quite convenient if you need to help your buddy with something on their game or they need to help you on yours.  Having the characters say reassuring things while patching each other up in battle is an excellent touch as well.

The story?  Well, the story's pretty straightforward, kill the jerk who tried to kill you, and find the new vault.  But really amidst everything else the smaller goals along the way and the way that things are laid out actually make the game feel quite casual, and I really do love that aspect.  I'm not in it to kill some dudes, I'm in it to kill some dudes and have fun doing it, preferably with the help of friends!


World of Warplanes is a Finely Tuned Machine

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
While meeting with the folks from Wargaming.net, I got a little face time with World of Warplanes. Still in closed beta, World of Warplanes takes the concept of world of Tanks and applies it to classic warplanes, from biplanes to early jets. The game looks to become as diverse as World of Tanks, with German, US and Russian planes available now and Japanese planes available at the game's launch.

World of Warplanes isn't a flight simulator, but trying out different planes, I could feel distinct differences even between planes in the same class. Flight games are constantly fighting to find a balance between arcade play and realistic flight. Often, in search of a specific demographic, a flight game will sacrifice one for the other and end up missing out on a larger potential audience.

World of Warplanes has seemingly struck the perfect balance. The gameplay feels authentic without needing a pilot's licence, and accessible without being dumbed down. This balance is furthered by the new "module" system for upgrading your planes.

The modules represent historically accurate configurations of weapons, armor and engines on each of the planes. Each module structures the plane towards specific play styles. This makes it easier for players to upgrade their planes for the roles that best suit them, either focusing or ground or air targets, heavy armor and weapons or speed and maneuverability. Players can also research individual components, as in World of Tanks, and even create their own custom modules should they desire a deeper customization experience.

The planes themselves are divided into various classes, from interceptors to dedicated ground attack planes. Each nation will also have their own specific class of plane. The only ones revealed so far are the Carrier based planes for the US and Japan.

The gameplay is similar to World of Tanks in that two groups of up to 15 players fight across a map to destroy each other or complete specified objectives. Rather than holding and capturing the opposing teams base, players can choose to destroy ground targets such as tanks and airbases to gain points towards victory. Many of these targets are not static and will fight back. Buildings are often defended by AA batteries, making them dangerous but tempting targets. Friendly fire is a reality in World of Warplanes, so luring enemy planes into your AA guns can be a very dangerous tactic.

World of Warplanes promises to be an exciting and fast paced game with all of the strategic elements and customization that made World of Tanks unique. Flight enthusiasts, aviation buffs, action fans and even more casual players should find the game accessible and fun to play. In this way, World of Warplanes is what every online game should be.


Nvidia and the Kepler Architecture

Thursday, September 13, 2012
At PAX, I had the most excellent privilege to view the Kepler architecture (600 series) in action.  It is BEAUTIFUL!  Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain a copy I could unpack and take my own comparison videos of, but the next best thing is words, simple words, no engineering gobbledy-gook this time.  You're right, I'm lying (at least about words being the next best thing), so here you have it, this was my favorite demo to be viewed as it includes all aspects (PhysX, tesselation, and adaptive Vsync) in comparison to not having these things:

See, this is beautiful.  They didn't reveal what the machine without PhysX was running with, but I'd have to assume another 600 card.  I'd imagine it looks just a little bit better than had they run it on a Fermi (500 series) card.

To break down the aspects included, here is what they are.  PhysX is Nvidia's improved physics engine, tesselation which is the process by which a polygonal patch is broken down into higher resolution sub patches, dividing a low polygon count mesh into a higher detail mesh on demand (usually based on distance and angle to the camera)  which means that it's feasible now to, say, round out a character's ears to make them look more realistic.  And adaptive vsync allows for less stuttering on screen during a game.  As I said, I am not going to break this down further, otherwise this article would be difficult to manage!

Overall, the major improvements from the Fermi architecture are the aspects listed above, which are made possible by twice the amount of CUDA cores being present in any derivative of the Kepler architecture, this allows for more threads to be processed at a time, and therefore faster calculations!

Today Nvidia officially announces the 660 and 650 cards.  This is a fantastic opportunity for those more sensitive to price changes in video cards to update, as compared to the 670+ cards the price points are rather low.  You do suffer some functionality from these cards as compared to the higher priced versions, the 650 is not SLI compatible, and the 660 has only slightly fewer CUDA cores than the 660ti.  These seem like they will be good for about a year or more depending on the usage on them, but as a personal opinion I think that for price and functionality the 680 is superior and will at least time proof your machine for a considerably longer time than the 660.

Because I am being a lazy person today, following this text will be a list of the cards' attributes.

GeForce GTX 660ti
GeForce GTX 670
GeForce GTX 680 <-- My personal favorite!
GeForce GTX 690

If you look at these, you should notice that the amount of CUDA cores has deeply impacted the price point on the various models (660 and 650 not listed, but they do have 900+ cores, except 650).  If you look back at Fermi's specs, you'll also see that there will be (as a direct result of ~50% more cores plus the other awesome aspects) approximately a 50% performance increase should you decide to upgrade to Kepler, even if you decide to go for the 650 card.

Happy gaming!



World of Tanks; now with Better Graphics, Realistic Physics, and 100% More Cliff Kills

Thursday, September 6, 2012
I sat down with Wargaming.net at PAX to talk about their lineup of online military action games. I left that room 45 minutes later wiping drool from my mouth, more eager than ever to play the whole suite of Wargaming.net's offerings.

I was treated to a look at the latest update for World of Tanks. Update 8.0 adds a slough of new graphic elements to the game. Realistic lighting, dynamic weather and gorgeous water effects are just a few of the more noticeable effects they've added. Those of you who have been playing World of Tanks for a while now will agree that this looks like a whole new game. The uninitiated should watch the 7.5 update trailer as well as the new 8.0 trailer.

Update 8.0 is more than a just a face lift. The addition of a realistic physics engine aims to do away with a number of exploitative strategies that have been frustrating players for a long time. No more balancing on cliffs to shoot down at players. Try that in 8.0 and you'll find yourself plummeting to your death. Larger tanks can also use their girth to push other tanks and wreckage out of the way, adding whole new strategic elements to the game. You'll also notice the suspension of the tanks move and shift as they cross the terrain. Gather enough speed going over a hill and you can end up airborne briefly. All in all, 8.0 aims to deepen the fidelity and authenticity of the already incredibly detailed game.

If that isn't enough to get you excited, Wargaming.net is also working on World of Tanks: Generals. Generals is a free-to-play, browser based CCG. There will be multiple game modes available when the game launches, but I was shown a mode that closely resembles the basic gameplay mode from World of Tanks. Each player has a headquarters, a number of tank cards as well as events and powerups to tip the balance in your favor. The object is the same; destroy your opponent's forces and/or capture their headquarters.

Most CCG's have you buy booster packs with a random selection of cards that may or may not contain something you can use in your deck. Generals is importing the research system from World of Tanks to let players build a deck specifically tuned to their play style.

Because Generals is an HTML5 based game, it will be compatible on almost any device, be it PC, MAC, or Tablet. You will also be able to start a game on one device and finish it on another.

It was also confirmed that Generals players will share their account with World of Tanks. How exactly the shared accounts and cross over content will be expressed has yet to be revealed.

Wargaming.net is growing by leaps and bounds. The company is growing quickly, as is the player base for World of Tanks. The continued attention to the game and impressive quality of the updates released so far show that Wargaming.net cares a great deal about their community. Update 8.0 is the biggest so far, but I doubt it will be the last. Generals promises to add more to the player experience, something you can pick up and play without having to leave the familiar confines of World of Tanks. If their attention to detail and depth is any indication, I'd say it's fair to expect big things from Wargaming.net in the very near future.

Blindsided

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Let me take moment to introduce a very interesting game that actually had its roots in the Kickstarter program, BlindSide.  Created by Michael Astolfi and Aaron Rasmussen, BlindSide is an incredibly immersive and innovative game for anyone that has an iPhone 4, iPad 2 or any later portable Apple technology.  While my opinion of Apple is typically non-flattering to the company and its hardware, I will say this, I have always had a secret love for the iPod and iPhone technologies, shh...  Don't tell anyone!  Since that confession is out of the way, I believe that it is safe to say that BlindSide is more than worth getting your hands on an iPhone 4 for.

While I've made the game's platform requirements clear, I haven't really given you a reason to want to play it yet.  I suppose the best comparison I can come up with is the Silent Hill games.  Now take Silent Hill (namely Silent Hill 2), make it so that you are always in the areas with monsters, and play it blind with you as the controller.  The gist of the game is that you wake up blind, the end of the world is happening, there are critters (of the want-to-eat-you variety) everywhere.  From the get-go, the game is immersive!  The main character Case has a wonderfully dry sense of humor and calm through every event, which I find hilarious, when you encounter a creature, the only thing you want to do is GTFO like a mad fool, and the characters you meet in the game are pretty fantastically ridiculous.  It does indeed take a crazy person to survive an apocalypse.

The element that makes BlindSide most immersive is definitely the audio.  What makes this so incredible is that to date there is no such thing as "true" surround sound audio (for example if you get shot at in a game, you simply hear the shot, not the direction from which the shot is coming from) although some games such as Battlefield 3 have introduced simulatd surround sound for these effects.  However this game, while hardware is still not built to handle surround sound, the software manages to create the effect of true surround sound.  As an in-game example, if you hear a creature breathing, you know exactly where it is in relation to the direction in which you are facing.  This in itself is an incredible development from only being able to ascertain distance from sounds.

Now, I'm going to jump back two paragraphs into why the game's platforms are so specific.  iPhone 4 and later, as well as iPad 2 and later, both have something that their predecessor models do not, a gyroscope. Earlier models of these technologies only have something called an accelerometer which allows the device to use sensors to determine if where most force of gravity is coming from, which allows the switching between portrait and landscape orientations.  On the models with on an accelerometer, you could not, however, play something along the lines of spin the bottle with the phone, because all the accelerometer does is measure gravity along the X, Y, and Z axes, not necessarily the directional orientation of the phone.  The newer models have something awesome called a gyroscope.  This gyroscope communicates with surrounding sensors to tell the device which direction it is facing.  For example, the game of spin the bottle I mentioned earlier is made possible by this technology, when you spin the device, the gyroscope moves, the sensors communicate where the gyroscope has moved, and this tells the device which direction that it is moving and facingm.  This makes the gyroscope the heart of navigation for BlindSide, allowing you to change the character's direction by changing your own!

We were also quite lucky to get an interview with the creators of BlindSide, Some of their insights into the creation of this game and environment were very interesting!

> What gave you the idea for Blindside?
The initial idea for BlindSide came from a short period of time in
high school when I was blind as a result of a chemistry accident. Mike
and I met up while I was visiting New York last May and we decided to
make that experience into a video game.  We successfully Kickstarted
the project, and have spent the last year developing it into the
game’s current iOS form.


> How did you program the game to react to the gyro movement within the device?
The gyros are surprisingly good in the iPhone with very little done to
them. We just added a little bit of debounce, and also compensated for
gyro drift with various fixed directions in cut scenes. Using the
gyros to control the character helps to ground the player and really
draw them into our game world.



> What were the greatest challenges for the creation of Blindside?
Aaron: One of the biggest challenges we faced, was striking a balance
between realistic audio, and useful audio. For example, we found that
we needed to exaggerate the effect of your ears blocking sounds that
are behind you, so the effect is more useful for navigation. The more
useful we made it, the less realistic it became.

Mike: It can also be a little tricky to develop the game from opposite
coasts. I live in Astoria, Queens, and Aaron out in Santa Monica, CA.
We’ve relied heavily on services like Google Drive and Dropbox to help
us sync up our work and stay on the same page. All it all, the process
has actually gone quite smoothly.



> What do you believe made Blindside stand out to the Kickstarter program?
Aaron: I think the concept of a fresh game experience resonated with
Kickstarters. They like to back endeavors with significant artistic
merit, and BlindSide is just strange enough to warrant their
attention.

Mike: We were excited to tackle the challenge of designing a
full-fledged adventure game using only sound, and I think many of our
backers wanted to see where our exploration of the field of audio-only
games might lead.



> What was your favorite part of Blindside (both creation and gameplay)?
>
Aaron: My favorite part of the creation of BlindSide was working with
Mike to make a game we're proud of. Frankly, it was a blast. There
were some trying parts, whether annoying bugs, long sleep-deprived
work binges for deadlines, or just overwhelming amounts of work to get
done, but the collaboration created something better than could be
achieved alone. Recording the sound effects for the game was great fun
as well. My favorite part of gameplay is the very end, which I can say
absolutely nothing about, but you'll see why.

Mike: I had been wanting to work with Aaron on a project since
college, but we’d never really found the right opportunity.
Collaborating through the ups and downs of BlindSide has been a real
treat, in which I’ve learned a lot. You’d be surprised how much you
can accomplish if you just cut sleeping out of your schedule. I’m
really excited about the game that Aaron and I have developed, and
proud of the experience we’ve been able to create for our players.  As
far as my favorite part of the gameplay, I think that the monsters’
audio came out spectacularly. Whenever I play and end up near one,
they just make me want to get the heck out of there.



The iOS version is available for $2.99 here: http://itunes.com/apps/blindside

All that is left to say about this game is, "Close your eyes, you don't need them anymore."

My New Favorite Forum Rant

Friday, June 22, 2012
This little jewel has really made the rounds already, but I couldn't leave well enough alone.

An astute and vigilant Diablo III player noticed a few things out of place after the most recent patch and did the right thing by letting the community know. Let's hope these issues get fixed quickly.

In related news, Blizzard has released a statement regarding their recently implemented 72 hour ban for new players.  My initial reaction to this was the standard whatinthefuck, but after reading this explanation from Blizzard, released to Kotaku, it all makes sense..

*            *             *
For security reasons and to help ensure the integrity of the game and auction house service, players who purchase the digital version of Diablo III may have to wait until payment verification is complete before they can access certain game features. (See below for a full list of restrictions associated with digital purchases.) While most payments are approved and restrictions are lifted within a day, in some cases it can take up to 72 hours to complete this process. 
Similar to World of Warcraft, these restrictions were put in place to deter credit card fraud, which in turn helps reduce gold spam and other harmful activities that can have a negative impact on the game experience for everyone.However, as an unintended consequence of these security measures, players who purchase the game digitally after patch 1.0.3 are temporarily being capped at level 13 and not able to proceed beyond Act I. We are working to correct this as soon as possible and will provide another update when we have more details to share.Aside from the two unintended restrictions noted above, below are the standard security-related restrictions that will be in place for digital purchases until payment verification is complete: 

  • · No public game access for unverified digital purchasers
  • · No auction house access (real-money or gold) for unverified digital purchasers
  • · Unverified digital purchasers cannot trade items or drop items for other players to receive
  • · Unverified digital purchasers are not able to chat in any public or game channels
  • · Unverified digital purchasers cannot attach a custom message to friend requests, but they can  send/accept friend requests, and play with their friends
  • · Global Play is not available for unverified digital purchasers 
Again, we want to be perfectly clear that these are temporary restrictions (often lifted within a day and at most 72 hours) associated with digital purchases for the protection of players. We appreciate player feedback and will continue to evaluate the best methods for ensuring a positive game experience for everyone.
*            *             *
Did you catch that bit about the "unintentional consequences?"  If you ask me, it stinks of backpedaling. These were not unintended at all; they are simply the restrictions they can remove and do the least harm to the game's economy. This is all about gold, after all.
Blizzard seems to be running it's PR in reverse. Diablo III is actually becoming less appealing to play as time goes on. Bravo. 

The Act is a Simply Stunning Mobile Game

The Act is a very complex game. My experience with mobile games is admittedly limited, but I can say definitively that I have not seen anything quite like it.

Its beautifully hand-drawn animation is eye-catching enough, but the gameplay is what really grabbed me. This is a game about social interaction, about perceiving non-verbal queues and acting appropriately on them. Observe!



The trailer gives you a sense of the story, but not the way the game is played. For a little more on that, I suggest you check out the article on Kotaku from Tina Amini.

The Act is built around using our own social intuition to navigate Edgar, our hero, through a number of situations. It's well executed, classy, and funny. You can pick it up from iTunes for a measly $2.99. For more info, head over the game's website.

A Brief History of Video Games

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I am a nostalgic sap and this abridged montage, "A Brief History of Video Games" by Reverse Enginears, is a sweet single serving that certainly made me smile.

Among the Sleep(ing?)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Something right up our somnambulant alley.

While the name "Among the Sleep" might not inspire you right off the bat (the name is a little silly) the premise might catch your interest. Krillbite Studios is currently developing a new first person horror game where you explore the world as a toddler. From Krillbite:

Among The Sleep invites you into the mind and body of a two year old child. After being put to bed one evening, mysterious things start to happen. 
Being played in first person, the game let its players immerse themselves in a child's limitless imagination. This is a perspective we all have a distant familiarity with, but few can clearly remember what it felt like 
In the borderland between dream and reality, surreal creatures and diverse environments will present you with both physical and mental obstacles that challenge your creativity.

The possibilities are interesting and the newly released game play video (though bare as it is still in development) did provide a good amount of suspense. I am curious to see how they choose to portray the creatures and the toddler's interaction with them.



If you care to take a gander at Krillbite's blog you can look at some of the concept art for Among the Sleep. The images set a wondrous and dark tone that I can't wait to see applied in the game environment. My interest is peaked and I will definitely be watching for more updates as this game continues on to it's anticipated release in 2013.

Ooops, BBC accidentally airs Halo UNSC Emblem as United Nations Security Counsel Logo.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Someone at the BBC goofed in a rather amusing manner (or they were totally awesome, either or). 

After a what was surely one of the most careless Google Image searches ever, Sophie Raworth (on Thursday's One O'clock News) ended up reporting about the real UNSC (United Nations Security Counsel) with the Halo's United Nations Space Command  emblem displayed obliviously behind her.


The idea of the United Nations Space Command being criticized by Amnesty International for being ineffective in preventing crimes against humanity tickles me a bit. Perhaps the UN Security Counsel should take a hint and hit up Master Chief for some help in Siria, I think they would be hard pressed to find a fictitious character better at protecting humanity.

(via Eurogamer)

Why I worry about the Elder Scrolls Online: Part 1 - Player Behavior

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Recently, Bethesda announced the Elder Scrolls Online, an MMO based in the expansive world of Tamriel. The game takes place 1000 years before the events in Skyrim, largely concerning the Daedric Prince, Molag Bal. All this may sound very exciting to most, but I fear what this may mean.

The Elder Scrolls titles have always been single player games. Call me a purist, elitist, hater of MMOs; I have serious concerns about a multiplayer model for the series. There are certain unavoidable truths in online gaming. These truths are related to (among other things) player behavior, gameplay, and story dynamic. Every MMO fresh out of the gate strives to keep these issues from surfacing, but the best anyone can do is delay them.

Let's start with player behavior. Surely, many of you are familiar with John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory. Essentially every MMO is rife with ridiculous, over dramatic madness from players who take themselves far too seriously. Example time! Let's start with some WoW.


Now we've gotten a taste for what's out there, let's move on to EVE Online. You might want to turn down your speakers for this one, it's a bit loud in places.


Let's serve some more of this scrumptious insanity. We'll sample from Darkfall for this course.


The point is, this is an all too common occurrence in MMO's. People emboldened by the anonymity of the intertrones, intentionally escalating arguments and goading already enraged players into full blown meltdowns. Nevermind the asses with names like "FuZZZ3bllz" you find in every town, dancing in their underwear or stalking and killing new players just to piss them off. The Elder Scrolls has a very valuable peace. The solitude of Oblivion or Skyrim enriches the game by creating a world free of the bullshit and baggage that comes with these players. I don't see why that should change.

So, Kickstarter and Pathfinder, right?

Thursday, May 10, 2012
   

   By this point in time some, by which I mean all, of you have probably at least heard of Kickstarter. If for some strange reason you haven't, perhaps due to your home being located under a large igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic formation, go Google it and then get back to me. If you get a picture of some kind of motorized bicycle, keep going, you haven't hit the right link yet.

   Back to whatever I actually planned on talking about... So I'm a big fan of some of the ideas behind Kickstarter. I like the idea behind the community, and not just some random corporate exec, getting a say in what games do and do not get developed. While there are certainly some opportunities for exploitation inherent in the system, I think it's a great step in the right direction for an artistically free and independent gaming community where new and existing artists can really stretch their talents and create games that might otherwise fester and eventually discorporate completely within the depths of their subconcious. And I really love that it gives people a chance to make their voices heard through their monetary contributions and take a certain ownership in the process. Which is why I am doubly thrilled that Goblinworks has taken to Kickstarter as the launching point for the Pathfinder MMORPG they've currently undertaken to create.

   For those unfamiliar with Pathfinder, it is the unholy of spawn of Dungeon and Dragons v3.5 open gaming license and thousands of hours of community playtesting and development all helmed by the incredibly capable staff at Paizo. When D&D 4E released, many people were unhappy with it (a discussion I won't touch on at this time and place) and Paizo stepped in to the void these players found themselves in, refining and enhancing the still warm corpse of D&D 3.5 and bringing it back as some kind of awesome steampunk cyborg, ready to go toe to toe with the next generation beast that slew him. I may have gotten a little carried away there, but my point is, Pathfinder is all the awesome of a well-loved (and well hated depending on who you ask) edition of D&D with a little bit of steampunk thrown in for good measure.

   Now Goblinworks is hoping to take PF to the next level and a produce a new MMORPG based on Pathfinder's primary world setting Golarion, and I couldn't be more excited. They're also throwing up some fantastic prizes for contributors, including a 9 course dinner and a game DM'd by your Paizo DM of choice. One of those DM's happens to be the illustrious Rich Baker, whose novels and game supplements all hold special places in my heart. What I'm gettin at here, is first, check this stuff out if you haven't already. Then browse around in Kickstarter and Paizo, and pay special attention to the contributions of people who wouldn't have gotten their work and ideas out there without these companies and programs. Finally, send your money to the wonderful people at Somnambulant Gamer so we can contribute to the Pathfinder MMORPG and get a delicious dinner and a chance to play a game DM'd by Rich Baker.

Link - Pathfinder Online Technology Demo

CHARGE!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
It's a fact that the gaming community runs on batteries.  Laptop batteries, game controller batteries, cell phone batteries, tablet batteries, and cartridge batteries.  An overwhelming menagerie of portable power exists in nearly every place you go.  When something runs out of batteries that aren't easily replaceable such as AA, then typically it is time to go and get a new one of whatever's battery just died.  However, what if you're really attached to that electrical mechanism with no electricity?  The answer comes naturally, send it to the company to replace!  And see, this is where the company makes their long-term maintenance profit.  To put it bluntly I recently upgraded my phone from an iPhone 3g to an iPhone 4s and gave the 3g to a friend of mine who was in need of a new phone.  Suffice it to say after 4 years of use, the 3g can only hold a day and half's worth of charge.  Being concerned about the phone's lack of ability to hold a charge, my friend called Apple and asked about the cost of replacement for the battery.  $80 they told her, an unreasonable amount.

So, we looked up the prices of batteries for the 3g, on average they sold for $15.  The best part is that the replacement of an iPhone battery is extremely simple.  For those too sleepy to do the math, that is $65 for approximately 5 minutes of labor and shipping!  Outrageous!  Back to the simplicity of the repair *ahem* here's what needs to happen, and this applies to any iPhone version I believe, and oldschool iPods (although the seond instruction is a little different.
1.  Turn off the device and switch it to silent, if applicable.
2.  Unscrew the bottom two screws on the iPhone (on the iPod, pry the cover with an exacto knife once everything is unscrewed).
3.  remove the front cover.
4.  Admire shinies, gently remove the battery connector and pry the old battery loose.
5.  Place new battery, close her up!

Another interesting thing you wouldn't think that you could replace the battery in, but can, are PlayStation 3 controllers.  PS3 controllers get very heavy use in my home, and I'm happy know that I can replace the battery in them to make the fun last rather than spending $50 for a new controller or playing while it is plugged in on the short charging cord.  The process for this one is simple, unscrew, unplug the battery, plug in the new battery, rescrew.
Now, there are also some items that you would not initially think needed batteries to function properly that display different symptoms than an inability to hold a charge.  Computers for example, whether they are a desktop, laptop, or netbook, they all require batteries (aside from their main source of power) to allow the system to boot up and save new data.  If your computer has issues booting up (everything is running, but the screen remains black), and if it actually boots up the clock is wrong and files are missing, this is typically the result of the battery I have been alluding to, the CMOS battery.  What this battery does is save your settings in BIOS (basically what controls your operating system whether it be OS X, Windows, or Linux) and controls the real time clock on your computer.  Thankfully, like those previous issues above, this is a simple fix.  Locate where the CMOS battery is located on your motherboard, remove the old battery, replace with a new battery (of the same type, information is on the battery), and again call the surgery a success!  I do not have a video showing the process for this, every computer's anatomy, particularly when it comes to laptops and their various brands, is different.  This means that the process to get to any given CMOS battery is different.

So, I'm going to end this with 3 videos (I am aware of how abusive I am being with the YouTube embedding feature right now) about how to save your Pokemon, and maybe some of your N64 and SNES games if you still have the actual systems around to play.  From the dawn of video games and into the mid 1990s, video games in most cases came in the form of cartridges.  These cartridges all have motherboards and chips inside of them, and how you would save your data to these cartridges was in these chips.  However, without power, these saves are forgotten in the volatile memory of the chips.  To actually have the game remember where you were these game cartridges had little SRAM batteries (the same as the CMOS ones in computers, just smaller)  to provide power to the chips at all times so that your memory would be saved (for 15-20 years) forever, hoorah!

In other words, as our games are sitting in our closet, or wherever they may be, the little batteries that are keeping your saved games alive are slowly discharging.  It doesn't have to be this way, you can continue to play these games AND save if you replace the battery.  Again, the trick is to simply open the cartridge, replace, and close.  The first video is of replacing a GameBoy game before the battery has died and successfully saving the data.  The second and third are parts 1&2 of a more detailed replacement on slightly more new GameBoy Color cartridges.  I assume the same principle works on other cartridges, but I will not be covering anything specific about them.
Now that YouTube will probably not let me embed another video on this article, I believe my point has been delivered.  Batteries are amazing!

Botanicula is Beautiful

Friday, April 27, 2012
I first stepped into the world of Amanita Design when I played Machinarium at PAX '09. I was intrigued by the art design, the intricacy of the puzzles and the imaginative story it portrayed. Like something stolen from my childhood brain I wandered from scene to scene, becoming more ensconced by the world I found myself in.

When I got word that Amanita's latest work, Botanicula, was debuting in a Humble Indie Bundle, I snapped it up at my first opportunity.

Botanicula is something a little different from Machinarium. The setting -rather than a tin-toy, industrial steampunk world- is a rather idyllic tree. You play as a group of tiny critters trying to protect a seed from an evil, Cyclopean spider and his minions. This all makes total sense if you've seen/played anything from Amanita before.

Never go drinking with Mr. Poppyhead
Throughout the game you are confronted with puzzles that play to a certain creatures talents. The trick becomes selecting the correct member of the group to solve each puzzle. Sometimes though, it's worth it to pick the wrong one as it often results in some of the funniest moments in the game.

If at all possible, play Botanicula with family; as good a game as Botanicula is, it begs to be played with other people watching over your shoulder or taking turns at the puzzles. I played it with my oldest daughter and she spent the rest of the day drawing the characters and creatures we saw. The game became an interactive storybook, a choose your own adventure of puzzles and strange insects.We giggled and laughed at the bizarre events of the game, worked through puzzles and wandered the branches of the tree for a good two hours before we brought Botanicula to it's conclusion.

 Botanicula is adorable, inventive and entertaining. I highly recommend it to anyone with a taste for puzzle games. I think you'll find it to be an engaging and uplifting experience. If you're really smart and want a bigger sampling of Amanita Design's work, you'll grab your own copy of the Humble Botanicula Debut while it's still available. You'll get Botanicula along with Samorost 2, Machinarium, an awesome movie called Kooky, with art direction by the founder of Amanita Design, Jakub Dvorsk√Ĺ and a ton of other little extras.

Why Metasploit is So Darn Nifty!

Thursday, April 26, 2012
Ever since this past March, I have begun to take a much more intense fascination with virtual machines running Linux operating systems on them.  Two flavors of Linux in particular, an Ubuntu server and BackTrack 5 R2 have caught my interest.  I've been working mainly on the Ubuntu server at this point fishing around for ways to secure it and the Apache server it will be running in order to create a comprehensive and simple to follow guide. (I'll post my secret plans for world domination using the server once they are done).  However, how can I tell if my server is really secure once I've completed my initial tasks?  How do I know what works, and what I need to try a different tactic on?

The answer is a little something known as BackTrack, or known jokingly within certain circles as Evil Linux. In truth, it is not really evil, it is a Linux distribution that centers around  penetration testing and digital forensics.  Being as such, BackTrack hosts a wide variety of tools to allow you to test systems, for which you have explicit permission to test, to your heart's content.  So far, my favorite tool from observation has been the Metasploit framework tool for its sheer versatility.  Metasploit was originally conceived and developed by HD Moore in 2003 to make penetration and vulnerability testing less tedious.  Imagine trying to pick a lock without the proper tools, breaking in to a computer system is the same concept.  While most penetration testers would build their own tools, it is far more simple to have the proper tools at hand and still allow for the testers to build more specialized tools.  This was exactly what the Metasploit framework has allowed them to do.

I have been wanting to learn more about how to properly use Metasploit for a while now, and this project (the Ubuntu server guide) has provided me with a cornucopia of opportunities to play with numerous functionalities of the framework.  Again I was left with the question of where to start.  I tried Googling with few results on websites I would like to visit (you know, the ones where you don't automatically get put on the CIA watch list) until I came across a book Metasploit:  The Pentration Tester's Guide by Kennedy, O'Gorman, Kearns, and Aharoni.

Suffice it to say, I tracked down a copy of the text immediately and began reading!  I was extremely impressed with the book, the information was easy to understand, it showed how to utilize many of the tools in the framework and provided what you should see when you give certain commands, and most importantly they provided a very thorough tutorial in one place rather than me taking hours gathering little bits and pieces of information in a process that mostly resembles trying to make ill-fitting puzzle pieces come together.

What does any of this have to do with gaming?  Everything!  Particularly for server hosted games, penetration testing is of the utmost importance.   It is even important for gamers who play often on their PC gaming rigs.  Penetration and vulnerability testing on computer systems allows you to be aware of your weaknesses and gives you an opportunity to patch up these weaknesses before a hacker gets in and steals your MMORPG account information.  On a larger scale (as with the games hosted on servers) the damage could effect several people, such as in the hack on Sony last year which caused the Playstation Network to be inaccessible for over a month.

Now that that rant is over with, what I am trying to convey is that it is important to test your computer and make sure that it is secure.  Granted you can install an anti-malware program (and I highly recommend that you do!), but think of this additional security precaution as the moat of a castle (codename: your computer) , and worth learning how to implement.  Adding this layer of protection is simple, I suggest downloading a virtual machine hosting program such as VMware or Virtual Box, and installing a BackTrack operating system on the virtual machine.  After that you can test away on your host (the operating system running the virtual machine) system and fix what needs to be fixed.  So far, everything but the book (which I believe is the best guide for beginners, please comment below if you find a better open-source online tutorial) is open-source software, so it will cost you nothing but a few gigabytes to ensure that you have a secure system.  Just remember, like it says in the book, "don't be stupid."  Only use the powers of BackTrack and Metasploit for good.  Meaning, please only use them on your own system or someone else's who has given you explicit permission!

Nerds, Assemble!


 

   Superheroes rock. I feel like it's okay for me to be fairly unambiguous in my support of them. You know what else rocks? The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, that's what. I stumbled across this little gem while I was working at home on my own free time, and, knowing that I had just the occasion coming up, preordered it. The game showed up two days before my good friend's birthday, and a couple pre-release posts I had read had worked me into a certain state of anxiety. You see, I had agreed to introduce this game and allow my friend and our significant others the opportunity to be directly involved in a skrull invasion of Earth, and not all of the early reviews were entirely complementary. However, I had chosen my course and was determined to see it through, so when the game arrived on my doorstep I tore through the packaging with trembling hands and began to read.

   The first thing I had get over was the fact that the game uses the Cortex system, something altogether alien and unfamiliar to my D20 programmed brain. The system revolves around this idea that you have a range of dice from a 4-sided (d4) up to a 12-sided (d12). Each die represents one of your abilities or talents and you can select some of them from a given roll to represent accuracy, effectiveness, etc. Suffice it to say that while this system is a little daunting to try and convey to another human being without specific hand gestures and physical dice present to illustrate the function you're trying to convey, in practice the Cortex system is acutally very simple and intuitive, and lends itself to the comic book feel of the game very nicely.

   The other thing I discovered was that the posters leaving negative commentary were missing some very important toolsets not included in the game. Wander on over to margaretweis.com and you'll discover a Random Datafile Generator and a blank datafile spreadsheet. You need these. You want these. The core book itself is great for covering the functions of the game, and gives you everything you need to spend a night as Storm or Captain America, or putting the moves on Mary-Jane in your best blue and red spandex, but the rules are a little fuzzier when it comes to creating your very own super-hero. That's where the Random Datafile Generator comes into play. This fills in all the blanks on character creation and allows you to create your very own hero, ready to throw down with the Hulk, out-angst Cyclops, or whatever your preference may be.

   Saturday evening rolled around and we all jumped in for the real test, playing an actual game. I was the Watcher, in charge of game mediation, storytelling, and controlling the doom dice, a dice pool representing the forces of fate arrayed against my intrepid heroes. Ready to charge into the fray were: The Occultist (trademark pending), wielder of dark mystical forces and wearer of the accursed Nephilim Armor; Roulette (trademark pending), a genetically augmented human trained by the military and occasionally possessed by the ghost of a child killed in the same military program; and Gremlin, a compueter programmer empowered by experimental nanites allowing her to control almost any technology she comes in contact with. We had a blast. The party was arrested, fought and befriended super-powered convicts, and ultimately slew a gravity controlling super-villain in order to prevent him from crashing an aerial prison colony into the Whitehouse. Just reading that last sentence makes goosebumps tingle over my skin as I remember the encounter.

   To sum up here, you want to play this. At $19.99 for the core book, this is a more than worthwhile investment for any interested gaming group. The biggest problem we had was realizing that there just isn't enough time in our normal gaming schedule to work in a regular occurrence of this game and still pretend to have a real life. If you need a quick switch from your usual tabletop game, this is for you. And for all the True Believers out there who know deep down inside that every nerd deserves his own smokin' hot redhead girlfriend to patch him back together when the world gets too rough (or if you happen to be that smokin' hot girlfriend, redhead or not), this is totally for you.

A Moment to Reflect

   Hello all! I'd like to officially welcome myself to Somnambulant Gamer. You may refer to me as Ssalarn, and hopefully that will be both mysterious enough and sibilant enough to match the mood our wallpaper tries to engender. I've done a little behind the scenes work with Somnambulant Gamer, but this will be my first acutal post, and it seemed appropriate to me that this post cover transitions.

   Specifically, I'm referring to Monte Cook leaving the design team for the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons currently being developed by Wizards of the Coast. This announcement was released earlier today on the DnDinsider site and it accentuated for me a certain reality of the dark underbelly of gamer society. Now, hold on, I get what you're thinking. "Ssalarn, gamers already ARE the dark underbelly of society!"
Well, those of us reading this know that that's not accurate BUT- and here's where I start to get to the point- it wasn't so long ago that people thought that way.

   Monte was a major design contributor for the 3.whatever versions of D&D, and I was personally excited to see him on the board for this new project. D&DNext purports to be the edition that will bring the best parts of all previous editions into one new, comprehensive game system, a project that was almost doomed to bring out the worst in RPG gamers right from the start. After all, everyone has their favorite edition (if they play) and has doubtless spent months or years trying to convince people who don't share their particular view of why their edition is the best. Anyone following the boards over at dndinsider.com for the last few months would have had the opportunity to see a host of posters spewing the most violent rhetoric imaginable at every opportunity whenever a discussion of what may or may not appear in the new edition came up. Monte, as the poster-child (get it? no? not funny? sigh...) for the 3.x editions of D&D, an edition that has been loved and hated by many with equal passion and is currently being championed through Paizo via their acquisition of the 3.5 OGL (that's open gaming license for those not in the know), was a particular target for much of this. Don't get me wrong, I understand that older editions had their chance and their time has passed. But, isn't it jumping the gun just a little to call for public crucifixions when they haven't even released the game for open playtest?

  And now I finally get to the point I just rambled through three paragraphs to make. Monte is gone from the D&DNext project, and his experience and talent go with him. The behavior by posters that helped contribute to this is not the kind of behavior we as gamers, and we as human beings, should stoop to. Objective questioning and amicable disagreement are fine, but hate has no place with us. Many can still remember being judged for playing roleplaying games by churches and various and sundry other community "leaders", or being bullied for being the scrawny pale kid who read too much or played video games instead of football. Just because we grew up to be masters of this strangely fundamental force known as the internet doesn't absolve us of the responsibilty to be better than the bullies who tormented nerdy kids in their youth (or beyond). The basic nature of tabletop rpg gaming revolves around the idea that creative people can gather together and pool their imaginations into an immersive experience that allows them to be whatever or whomever they can imagine. This spirit of sharing is inimicable to exclusionary attitudes, is open and accepting by its very nature. Let us try to emulate that openness and acceptance, and be the enlightened and better people we believe ourselves to be.

For anyone who thought that got WAY to preachy, I have good news. In my next post I talk about superheroes!!!

Why Bioware Matters

Monday, April 2, 2012
Bioware has been enjoying some well deserved success recently. I’ve  been impressed by their work from the first time Imoen and I ventured across Faerun. Since then I have crashed on Coruscant, retrieved Monsters for Lady Aribeth, studied the ways of the Spirit Monks, fought against the Darkspawn, become a trusted agent for the resurgent Sith Empire and most recently defended the galaxy from the Reapers.

What sets Bioware apart from other RPG developers is the way they manipulate the play space. Take any other RPG developer, Bethesda, for example. A game like Skyrim is enormous, deep open and beautiful. But the way it simply exists around your character can be problematic for story-telling. The standard Dovakhiim has almost no restrictions on their behavior. This often leads to outlandish and absurd occurrences that, while entertaining, detract from the main story. I’ve put well over 40 hours into Skyrim and still haven’t completed the main quest line.

The narrative threads are woven a little tighter in most Bioware games. In Mass Effect 3 you can wander the galaxy completing side quests, but even those contribute to the same ultimate goal. The universe in Mass Effect feels meatier as a result and that dissonant chord the absurdities of Skyrim can strike isn’t so easily plucked. You can more easily slip into the confines of this universe because it fits more contours of the world you actually live in.

The unfettered freedom in Skyrim is wonderful. However, allowing a player to be fast and loose with the principle story leads to a fragile narrative. Observe:
    1.  “Dovakhiim, now that you have mastered the Voice, go and bring death to Alduin.” Well first I’m going to see what’s over there, and probably get distracted by ten different shiny things and caves and cairns on the way. Oh, and I should look into the whole dark brotherhood thing, see what that’s about. Then I’ll make a ton of awesome weapons and armor that I’ll probably sell or store in the bottomless trunks and end tables in my house. I might get married too.
      2. “Shepard, the Crucible is nearing completion. Get out there and stop the Reapers.” Okay, well I’ll check out these Cerberus bases because there’s something going on there, oh, and I should see what’s going on with the Rachni, because they could be really helpful at the end. And then I should see about retrieving some other items for assorted people to raise morale and gather the scattered forces around the galaxy. I’ll probably have sex with some of the crew too.
Really the point is this. Many RPG’s want you to be free. Be that to pickpocket entire villages, eat baby chickens, or wander vast wildernesses. These games have stories in them, but it becomes secondary to your experience. Bioware wants to make you a part of the stories they create. Like any good sci-fi or fantasy novel, Bioware’s games mold you into the universe they create. That’s something special.

Dear Assassin's Creed III; The American Revolution was no Sausage-fest

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Who Is Assassin’s Creed III’s New Hero? is a Kotaku interview piece by Stephen Totilo with Alex Hutchinson, Assassin's Creed 3's creative director, a nice "Getting to know you" for the game's new lead Connor Ratohnhak√©:ton. While reading I came across a side bar portion that made me go SheHulk SMASH!!


Still no lady assassin... Assassin's Creed lore is full of female assassins, but we've yet to be able to play one in the game (though we have played as female Templars in the game's multiplayer. Why not feature a heroine as the lead in AC III? 
"It's always up in the air," the new game's creative director, Alex Hutchinson, said, "I think lots of people want it, [but] in this period it's been a bit of a pain. The history of the American Revolution is the history of men. … There are a few people, like John Adams' wife, [Abigail]—they tried very hard in the TV series to not make it look like a bunch of dudes, but it really is a bunch of dudes. It felt like, if you had all these men in every scene and you're secretly, stealthily in crowds of dudes [as a female assassin], it starts to feel kind of wrong. People would stop believing it."
As a (unofficial-genological-paperwork-pending) Daughter of the American Revolution I take whole-hearted offence to this statement. Alex Hutchinson name drops Abigail Adams as a singular nod to woman-kind's influence in the Revolutionary War, concluding that the war was run by just "a bunch of dudes". It would seem that though he has seen the John Adams mini-series (I highly recommend it) he isn't aware of any other female figures in the war aside from Mrs. Adams.

The constraints of portraying women in the Revolutionary era are hardly as restrictive as Hutchinson would make it seem in his comment. Women were not cloistered during this time and while political influence was admittedly exercised mostly by men, there were many women who were in the thick of battle. Women tended the wounded, acted as guides, some took up arms, and few enacted their own assassinations of British soldiers. There is fodder galore for a female lead in AC III. The historical revisionist style, now a trademark of the series, gives the writers the freedom to weave the stories they tell into the lives of real historical figures, the same way they did with Caterina Sforza in AC II.

For the unaware here is a Whitman's Sampler of women who could easily have been included in  AC III or used to inspire a female lead.

Molly Pitcher

While commonly attributed to be Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, the tale of Molly Pitcher has become folklore and is likely a combination of  several different women's stories. The common tale is that at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, Molly's husband (a matross or cannon loader) became injured or ill and was carried away from the battlefield. She took up her husband's position and manned the cannon through out the rest of the battle. Her presence supposedly caught the attention of General Washington himself, who gave her the warrant of a non-commissioned officer. Afterwards she was often referred to as "Sergeant Molly".


Margaret Corbin
Margaret Corbin followed her soldier husband John to war (as many women did at the time). Her husband died manning a cannon while defending Fort Washington and Margaret was severely wounded. The battle was lost and Margaret was gravely disabled by the injuries she suffered. Later she became the first American woman to receive a soldier's pension for being wounded in battle, though it was only 1/2 of what any other soldier would have received. Her remains were relocated in 1928 by the Daughter's of the American Revolution to West Point Cemetery were a monument was also erected in her honor.  Her story is likely one of the primary inspirations for the "Molly Pitcher" legend.



Nancy Ward, Nanyehi ("One Who Goes About")
Nanyehi in Cherokee or Nancy Ward as she was know to the English was born to a Cherokee woman of the Wolf Clan, daughter of  Francis Ward "Fivekiller", a white man living among the Cherokee. She acted as a diplomat between the Cherokee nation and English settlers. A proponent of peace, she was a pioneer of women's influence in diplomatic relations.
During the Revolutionary War the Cherokee nation was divided on who they should support (if anyone at all). Ward spoke out in favor of Colonist support. Her cousin, Dragging Canoe, led regular raids on Colonist camp settlements and she offered warning to settlers about an impending attack. She also tried to mediate between the two sides to prevent retribution attacks from escalating.

She continued as a defacto ambassador of the Cherokee nation for years, before eventually opening a small inn in Tennessee. She passed away in 1822 before the Cherokee were removed from their remaining lands during the Trail of Tears. She was nearly a hundred years old when she died.




Margaret Bratton
Margaret Bratton  and her husband were in charge of a Colonial gunpowder storehouse during the war. When British soldiers attempted to take control of the storehouse, Margaret set fire to it. She sacrificed the resources rather than see them in enemy hands and took out some enemy soldiers to boot. It is said that afterwards she was taken prisoner where she was questioned by the British and confessed to the arson. She was later released and continued serving the war effort as a nurse, tending both British and American soldiers.


Nancy Hart
Many women couldn't leave their  family's to serve with their husbands as camp followers and had to defend their homes alone. Often times they were taken over by enemy soldiers looking for headquarters and defensible positions. As the story goes, one evening a small group of British soldiers traveling through the area stopped at Hart's home demanding she feed them.  She acquiesced and sent her daughter to fetch some well water (and secretly warn the other town's folk of the soldier's presence). Not suspecting any foul play from the lone woman they left their guns unattended by the door as the filed in for dinner. Nancy managed to gain control of the muskets, tried to take the soldiers prisoner, and when they resisted she shot two of them.

There are also tales of Nancy disguising herself as a crazy man, wandering though British camps to gather information for American forces.




Sybil Ludington
While Paul Revere is better known, Sybil Ludington had a much more impressive ride. While less than half Revere's age, Sybil rode more than twice the distance (40 miles) on April 26, 1777. From 9 o'clock till dawn, she rode in an effort to rouse men to aid her father Col. Henry Ludington to defend Danbury, Conneticut from British troops. When she ended her ride nearly 400 men were raised to meet the invading forces. While the regiment was too late to save the town they did manage to drive the British back to Long Island Sound.


Deborah Sampson, aka Robert Shurtlift Sampson
Deborah Sampson at age 18 disguised herself as a man and used her brother's name to enlist as a Continental Soldier. She was assigned to the Light Infantry Company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment. She fought in several skirmishes, and was wounded in her first battle outside of Tarrytown, New York. She suffered a head wound and took two musket balls to the thigh. After having her head wound treated she slipped away from the hospital fearing further examination by doctors would expose her identity. She later managed to dig one of the shots out of her leg with a pen knife, while the other was too deep for her to retrieve. A year later while sick with a fever she was treated by Doctor Barnabas Binney, who discovered her gender. Rather than expose her he sent her to his home to be nursed by his own family. Deborah was later honorably discharged after a year and a half of active service. She is one of the few women that has a documented service record from the Revolutionary War.


~~~~~~~

These biographies are hardly comprehensive and largely incomplete. Even so, as you can see from the few examples given above, women were not non-existent during the Revolutionary War and had widespread influence. I am very disappointed that Hutchinson so casually labeled the Revolution as a "history of men". It was the birth of a nation, composed of many different men, women, and children. Not a series of battles and political negotiations committed by a single gender.