Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Updates and Milestones: May 1, 2019

Troy Stories set another record this month for views with 818 in April, just edging out March's record of 811 views. Overall, the site has now had 6,593 "all time" views, of which 2,079 are of the Numenera 2 Character Creator. Which reminds me, the two-thousand view milestone for the character generator was passed just over a week ago. (And to put that into perspective, the second-most viewed page on this site has only 156 views all-time.)

The generic Cypher System Character Creator seems to be getting a little bit more use as well, as of this moment tied with A Ruinman's Villanelle for fourth most-viewed page on the site with 121 views apiece, but I think people just don't play generic Cypher System nearly as much as they do Numenera, so there's less demand for this sort of thing. I could be totally wrong about that though.

This month also saw the addition of another Numenera-related utility, the Printer-Friendly Numenera Character Sheet index. Within a matter of hours of being posted it had already passed the Scrabble Guide index in total number of views haha (not that that's a particularly high bar).

I can understand though. With the Scrabble Guides, my guides are competing with well-established sites that have had extensive online guides since OSPD 3rd Edition. Whereas with Numenera and the Cypher System, there are not many alternatives to what's offered here.

And speaking of Scrabble Guides, the R-Z Two-Make-Three list is coming, but time got away from me, so I didn't get it finished before the end of the month like I'd planned. Should have it ready in a few days though, I think.

Regarding the Tears of the Gods, may have to take a break from it with plans to revisit it in the future.

That's all for now...

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Quick Tip: City of Heroes Monitor Window

CoH Tip of the Day: There is a way to make City of Heroes expose the "real numbers" for you in terms of your character's Defense, Resistance, Hit Chance and other stats, taking all buffs, debuffs, etc., into account (instead of having to rely solely on vague descriptives such as, "adds a moderate amount of to-hit chance", etc.), but it is not at all obvious/intuitive how to do this. Seeing these numbers is critically important for monitoring your performance in end-game content (at least for tanks-- maybe other classes don't depend on it as much, though they could probably benefit from it). At low levels it's not that big of a deal, but if you're doing Incarnate content, you may want to have the monitor window going.

And so, ever since CoH came back into my life last week I've been struggling to find/remember how I got the monitor window to show up before. Was it a custom UI mod? A window that had to be opened with the typed-out /window_show command? Something else? My first thought (after my googling proved unequal to the task) was to check my old Windows XP box that still has CoH installed on it and see if it had any kind of custom UI files, or if there was a user settings file that might say what the window was called. I checked and couldn't find anything.

Most of the old online CoH player guides have disappeared over the years-- so much for the theory that nothing ever disappears from the internet-- so what I ended up having to refer to was a complete list of all slash commands from one of the old CoH wikis, and trying out different commands that seemed like plausible candidates to be the monitor window. Eventually, I found it. It is /monitor_attribute

Type commands such as this...
/monitor_attribute Current Hit Points
/monitor_attribute Last Hit Chance
/monitor_attribute Smashing Resistance

You should get something that looks a little like this (attribute monitor moved to the upper right)...

Just for fun, here's a screenshot of the monitor window in action from the live servers, circa 2011...

Friday, April 26, 2019

City of Heroes is Back. (Maybe.)

A confession: I used to play MMORPGs back in the day. (If you don't know what that is, it stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. If you've heard of World of Warcraft-- still probably the best-known game of that genre-- then games that are like that.)

I played a pretty decent number of MMOs with varying degrees of dedication. The original EverQuest was my first and probably the one I put the most hours into, but I also played Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, WoW, Wildstar, Horizons, The Secret World, Champions Online, and probably a couple of others I'm forgetting in my old age.

But one MMORPG stands above all the others in my memory, and that is a superhero-themed MMO named City of Heroes, which I played off-and-on from its beta in 2004 until it was announced that it was being shut down due to nonsensical corporate politics in late 2012. It was not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but it was by far the most fun MMORPG I ever played. Perhaps even the most fun video game of any kind I ever played. CoH also had a great community, which made playing it that much more enjoyable, something that was-- and is-- very unusual for an MMO (and which has made getting into other MMOs harder, when I inevitably discover they have unbearably toxic communities *cough*WoW*cough*Wildstar*cough*). 

(To be fair, some other MMORPGs did have good communities also. The Secret World had a good community. But that may be partly because TSW went free-to-play the same month CoH shut down, and a huge chunk of Secret World players were CoH refugees for that reason.)

Anyway, at this point, City of Heroes has been shut down for longer than it was live, but it still has a large, nostalgic fan-base holding out hope for bringing it back nonetheless.

And that brings me to my reason for posting about all this today. It's back. The dream is alive! Yes, I am serious.

But how? Well, from what I understand, shortly after the shutdown in 2012, an unknown CoH dev secretly (and very illegally) turned over the game's server-side binaries to some guy who then secretly worked on reverse engineering them these past seven years. And now the cat's out of the bag-- the stolen and reverse-engineered server-side code has been leaked, "out there" in the wild. All this time, it was said that without the server-side code there would never be any way to reverse engineer CoH since so much of that game was handled server-side (at least, compared to MMOs of the same era, e.g. WoW, which tended to rely more than CoH did on client-side code, making reverse engineering it easier.) That is the reason people stated for why it was possible to have rogue "community servers" of games like WoW and EQ1, but that such would never be the case for CoH. With the leak of CoH's server-side code though, everything has changed.

And indeed, now there is a playable CoH community server up. Its legal status, etc, is still up in the air (as one might expect), but who cares? Additionally, there's been an embarrassing amount of publicly aired personal drama surrounding the people involved the effort, but again: what difference does that make to me? City of Heroes was my favorite video game, and I truly thought I'd never get to play it again. But now I can. I'm not going to sweat the legal niceties, nor the petty drama. I'm going to log into City of Heroes and "arrest" bad guys by blasting them with my super-powers, and I ain't even sorry.

Note: I do realize that very likely no one among this blog's usual visitors cares anything whatsoever about City of Heroes. It is definitely dated-- it did not boast top-of-the-line graphics even by the standards of 2004, let alone 2019. But it was-- and still is-- a lot of fun to play. It is hard to point to any one thing that makes it so, but in general, you just feel really powerful in CoH even from the beginning, compared to other MMOs, where you typically feel very weak and afraid haha. Despite that, I just can't remain silent about the return of CoH-- to me, this is huge. And needless to say, anyone reading this is, of course, welcome to check it out, even if they never played it back in the day. *Insert caveat here that doing so may or may not be entirely legal, so do so at your own risk, etc*

Monday, April 22, 2019

PSA: "Po" and "Te" Are Now Real Words

At some point recently, the words "po" and "te" were made into official Words With Friends words, in case there was any doubt as to whether WWF has been cribbing from the Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary (which added both of those with the publication of the OSPD5 back in 2014). Guess I will need to go back and edit my Scrabble/WWF guides.

I only found this out by accident when the computer allowed "te" in one of my Solo Challenge games. (So far as I know, WWF does not maintain an official, publicly searchable word list anywhere. Their initial stock is said to have came from the ENABLE list, but they long ago split off onto their own proprietary list). When I realized "te" was now legal, I immediately tried "po" and found it to be legal as well. These two words were, until recently, the only two two-letter words recognized by Scrabble that were not recognized by Words With Friends. When this change was made exactly is hard to say, but I would guess probably some time this year (I periodically check words that I think might be possible candidates for being made legal, but don't keep a log of this. Po and te have been near the top of my list for a long time, but I don't know when exactly I checked them last.)

If you are wondering what they mean, "po" is slang for "chamber-pot" in some benighted English dialect or other, and I believe "te" is an alternate spelling of "ti" (as in, do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do).

Edited to add: in regards to plurals, "pos" is now a word also-- it was not before-- a rare instance of Words With Friends actually remembering to include the plural inflection when adding a new word. "Tes", however, is still not a word. I guess they forgot on that one.

Edited again to add further: as of this writing, PO and TE work only on the desktop version of Words With Friends, not mobile. (The fact that WWF has different word lists for desktop and mobile is a well-known bug that has existed for years. It seems to me that they tend to update the desktop word list first, and the mobile word list is updated weeks or months later, whenever they get around to it. That's just my own observation, of course; it might not work exactly that way. If you are playing a game on mobile and would like to play Po or Te but it won't let you, you can log into that game via Facebook and play it there. Yes, that is seriously messed up, but it does work.)

Edited again again to add even more: "Ja" is now accepted by Words With Friends as a word also. This word does not appear in OSPD6, TWL, or any other word-game word authority. I assume it is from German (where "ja" means "yes"), but is "ja" really used commonly enough in English to be considered an English word? It would seem so, according to some...

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Numenera Character Sheets Revisited

Based on feedback and discussion on the Cypher System Gaming Facebook group, I have updated my "Plain" Character Sheet. It now has columns for Assets in the Skills and Inabilities section, allowing that to be tracked more easily. I also added a checkbox for Other Options (under character advancement).

In addition, I decided to make a page to be a handy-dandy repository for printer-friendly Numenera character sheets. It includes links to my own character sheets and a few others I like.

Monday, April 15, 2019

R.i.P. Gene Wolfe, 1931-2019

Award-winning SF and fantasy author Gene Wolfe passed away yesterday (April 14, 2019). Here is a sort of obituary for Wolfe posted on Tor's web site.

I mention this here because the majority of the content on this site pertains to Numenera. Even though he did not contribute directly to the Numenera project, Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series was very likely the single biggest inspiration/influence on Numenera. If you love the Numenera setting but have never read the Book of the New Sun, you should definitely do yourself a favor and check it out. Fair warning: it is a challenging read, but in my opinion, well worth it. (I expect that people familiar with Numenera will be able to grok many of the core concepts of BotNS more readily. Be warned, it will be a challenging read even so; have a good dictionary to hand before you start.)

Even if you don't know about Numenera, I still highly recommend that you check out the Book of the New Sun. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, science-fantasy books of all time. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Updates and Milestones: April 1, 2019

Happy April Fools' Day. Be sure not to believe anything you read online today.

(I actually don't care much for April Fools' Day, myself. Most of the jokes and pranks people come up with for AFD fall a little flat for me. Hey! Here's a webpage that says the exact opposite of what our site says on the other 364 days of the year! Isn't that comedy gold!? Meh.)

On to the updates and whatnot...

March was another huge month for the blog with-- are you ready?-- 811 views. That's such a big number relative to what this blog has gotten in the past, I feel obligated to say that that is in fact real, and not an April Fools' joke. (February, if you'll recall, was the first month the blog broke 600 views, with 603. March blew that short-lived record away by more than a third. Woot woot!). As usual, the lion's share of this traffic was to the Numenera 2 Character Creator. Awareness of that page seems to be spreading among the broader Numenera community, which I think is fantastic. Lately I have been seeing a few referrals to that page from Facebook and Meetup, which, if I had to guess, is GMs sending links to the character creator to players of their face-to-face games. Again, I am thrilled that people are actually using this tool.

And speaking of, I do plan to make a Numenera 1st Edition Character Creator available also, for those people who want to play Glints or Seekers, or who otherwise want a first-edition experience. I am hoping to have it ready in April some time.

Tears of the Gods

You may have noticed that I finally got another installment of Tears up there. You may have also noticed that I changed Thecla's name to Tlecha. About that... As you may know, this story is based on a play-by-forum campaign of Numenera. Thecla, of course, was a player character in that game. I took the liberty of changing the name because it was bothering me that the name came from an important character in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, which is said to be one of the primary inspirations for the Numenera setting itself. The line between an homage and simple copying is not always clear, but I prefer to err on the side of being original. The altered spelling of the name keeps the homage, I feel, but is "original enough", at least for me. Since I'm now the only person writing this story, I feel like I have leeway to make such changes. The new spelling also meshes better with the implied phonological rules I created for the Eighth World's language.

And speaking of Tlecha (or Thecla if you prefer), it's clear that I will need to go back and revise a previous chapter to flesh out Tlecha meeting the group, and explain why she chose to travel with the Broken Cage Company. This meeting up was not played out in-game; the GM just had us jump forward a few months with additional players now in the group to replace people who had dropped out with little more than a vague handwave as to why we were all together. But, for the story, it's becoming clear that Tlecha needs more of a formal introduction than what she has hitherto received. Think of it as making up for changing her name.

I don't know if I will have chapter 12 ready in April, but I have high hopes that, at the very least, the revised chapter 9 (I think it's chapter 9), introducing Tlecha, will be done shortly, like in a week or two.

Scrabble Guides

I didn't get to the R-Z Two-Make-Three guide this month like I had planned. Allergies have been hitting me really hard in the last couple of weeks, which has sapped my will to write. But I hope to have it up this month.


I think the schedule of four posts a month is doable. I enjoy writing, but I don't want to burn myself out cranking out more than what seems fun to me, and four posts a month seems to be working out for the time being.

That's all for now; see y'all next time, and thanks for the support!