Age of Wushu, first peek

Screenshot game Age of Wushu

This game is a nice break from many recent MMORPGs in that everyone is decently (and usually prettily) dressed.

In a couple days I plan to start writing a quick novel based on an imaginary Wuxia game. (Wuxia is the Chinese martial arts heroic fantasy, a genre going back over 2000 years!) So I guess I ought to have at least a passing knowledge of the premier Wuxia game in our own world, right? I have already written about a Wuxia game called Swordsman Online, but Age of Wushu is  still the gold standard in this genre from what I hear. After watching a number of YouTube videos and installing the game myself, I can see why.

Extremely complex and detailed: I won’t ask you to watch this Wedding Guide video (about in-game weddings) unless you are already bored, or the follow-up Guide to Married Life, but they are long and elaborate for good reason. You can not only get married in-game with some degree of ceremony. No, you can choose between a wide price range of wedding rituals, each with more optional accessories than the last. Then there are various activities, more of them for the more expensive weddings, which give various gifts and blessings to the happy couple and their attending friends. Notice that if you have made enemies in the game world, they may hire a ruffian or two to vandalize your wedding banquet, so it may be smart to hire a professional guard for the occasion… Apart from the cool wedding dresses and other mementos, particularly successful weddings will bestow a new cooperative combat skill on the couple, which can be leveled up with practice and make the two of them a particularly devastating duo. ^_^

And that’s just one obscure aspect of the game. (And one I am never going to experience, not there either.) The game has no levels, and I am not sure there is any limit to the number of skills you can learn, except that you can only join 1 out of the 8 schools and legally learn their combat skills beyond the basics. You can however spy on other schools and also steal scripts, if you don’t mind the risk involved. Learning a skill is not the same as mastering it, though. You have to practice it and you have to improve the stats (physical abilities like strength or speed etc) that the skill is based on. And you have to put “cultivation points” into abilities to make them grow.  And on that note…

Strengthening body and soul: In western Sword & Sorcery fantasy, the swordsman and the sorcerer are sharply divided, often being enemies (like in Conan the Barbarian and similar works, where the magic-users are generally seen as evil and treacherous) or teamed up for a common cause (like in most modern massive online games, from EverQuest to World of Warcraft). But the Eastern ideal is a man who strives for perfection of body and soul alike. The ideal of Chinese mysticism, the Immortal, is a person (originally almost always a man) who has mastered his body and soul to such a degree that that even time can not overcome him.

In Age of Wushu, the player is constantly improving his abilities through “cultivation”. Unlike Tales of Demons and Gods, where cultivation was a separate practice undertaken while sitting down (similar to traditional meditation), in the game Age of Wushu it is something that happens continually, kind of like mindfulness I guess? You start with a fairly basic internal skill, Self Recollection, but even this increases many of your abilities day by day and increase your attack and defense. You will need to do special quests to increase the maximum level after a while, and you will later learn other internal skills that also make you stronger. Even when you are logged off, your character remains in the game, doing various useful things and improving herself, especially if you have a VIP account that is bought (indirectly) for real money. “Pay to win”, but actually it just speeds up things that would otherwise take more time. The maximum values are not moved, but they are pretty far off when you start. This game is definitely designed for the long run, although not the 10 years per character I estimated for my imaginary Wuxia game, luckily.


I downloaded the game from supplier, which took some hours. Unlike World of Warcraft for instance, you don’t just download a small installer which then fetches the game with the most important parts first, so you can start making your character while the download continues. That would be the sane thing to do, but no, quite the opposite. By default you download a .RAR file, a format of file compression that is mostly used in Linux and not supported by Windows without downloading a third-party archive handler like 7zip or WinRAR. The file is over 18 GB, so yeah, that took a few hours over ADSL. Even backing it up to my NAT (home server) takes hours! This file must then be unpacked to a separate folder, where you start one of the files which will then do the actual installation to yet a third place where the actual game will reside on your hard disk. So you better make sure you have plenty of disk space before you start. Oh, and you register your account at their website first, although you can log in with Google or Facebook if you want to give them that much access to your life.

This may be just me, but when I had created my first character and started on the tutorial, the keys that should turn the character sideways did not work. I could walk forward and backward, and move sideways like a crab, but not turn. I changed to the mouse controls, but could still not turn. When I exited the game, my character disappeared forever, only the game was still reserved.

I ran a repair on the game files and tried again. I still could not turn my character in any way. Changing the keys had not worked either. In a flash of inspiration (similar to the flash of inspiration when rodents claw on the wall of their cage until they hit the latch, I guess) I opened the main (Esc) menu and chose “Select character”. At this point my character was still there, and I soon returned to the scene where I had pressed the key, but now the controls worked. The interface is still clunky (the turn-button turns you 90 degrees for instance so you may have to sidestep to get in a combat position) but at least it worked.

The tutorial seems otherwise quite forgiving, showing you some basic skills and pitting you against some bloodthirsty but very weak bandits. That’s as far as I have come with the actual game myself, but from the (many) YouTube videos it seems to be a very deep and complex game. Unfortunately long-time players complain that the game is going downhill due to excessive Play To Win features. The game is free to play but as seen in the wedding videos, the more money you spend, the more benefits you get. This upsets people who want to buy things with their free time instead. I am pretty relaxed about such things. I already exchanged free time for money at work, where I can help real people (occasionally – the competition is fierce on our team). So I don’t mind. Plus I am Norwegian, very few things from other countries are expensive by our standards, due to our high salaries and high cost of living.

Well, that is more than enough for now. Oh, one thing. “Wushu” is the fonetik spelling of Wuxia, supposedly. In my mind however, Wuxia will always rhyme with fuchsia.

(This entry is backdated because I wanted to play the game a bit to make sure I did not mislead too much. So it’s been lying as a draft for a while.)

Age of Conan 1 year


Sunset or sunrise for Age of Conan?

The Norwegian-made MMORPG Age of Conan is celebrating its first anniversary in Europe today.  For some reason it was released 3 days earlier in the USA.  Perhaps the Americans were used as guinea pigs…  Anyway, the game had one of the smoothest launches in the history of the genre (possibly less than City of Heroes, but better than the current top dog, World of Warcraft.) And then a  few days later, it all went down the drain.

Unfortunately only the first part of the game had been fully implemented and thoroughly tested.  The island where you play the first 20 levels is indeed an amazing masterpiece of storytelling and technology. After that, things started to fall apart, and the high-level areas were buggy and unfinished.  Lots of customers – most of them, I believe – did not renew their subscription after the first month that comes with the game.  The share value of Funcom fell, and the game was more or less written off by many gamers.

Be very careful about leaving a Cimmerian for dead…

Today, the game is earning a nice little surplus for Funcom, and there are new players trickling in by the day. It would seem that many of those who left, simply did not have the computers that could pull such a high-end game. Every month, a number of them get new computers for unrelated reasons. And thanks to Moore’s Law, the capacity of new computers double every 18 months.  If you had a three and a half year old computers last May – and that is not uncommon for casual gamers, especially if they are married – then by now a computer in the same price range is 8 times as powerful.  That makes a big difference with cutting-edge games.

In addition, Funcom has tweaked the game to run more smoothly.  And they have added content at the higher levels and fixed bugs left and right.  This is not exactly unique:  We say that the first year of any massive online game is “paid beta”.  Experienced gamers don’t expect it to be perfect right out of the box.

The game is still evil, though.  Vile sorcery, necromancy, demon summoning, even breasts. And it still splatters blood on the inside of your computer screen occasionally. Rumors have it that the game is less bloody in the German version, I am not sure if that is true.  But you can at least avoid fighting against other players if you want to (and not only in Germany).

In celebration of their anniversary, I opened my account again (it had expired along with my previous credit card when that was renewed for a few more years).  There were, as expected, hours of patches to download, since it is quite a number of months since last I set foot in Hyboria.

Once the patches were installed, I started the game.  I recognized the problem from last time, that my character was almost entirely transparent, only this time so was the terrain, except water.  I don’t remember it being quite that bad the first time.  I did remember however that back then, I had to pretend to change the video settings, even if I changed them back to the original. When I then returned to the game, the picture was fine.  Well, not this time.

I upgraded the DirectX to the March version, probably the last ever for Windows XP.  Still no luck.  I downloaded the latest drivers for my video card.  Still no difference.  I used Google and browsed a few forums, until I saw someone mention that you had to completely erase any trace of earlier video drivers before you installed a new one.  So I did, first uninstalling the last driver and then deleting all the nvidia folders on my hard disk.  I restarted the machine. Amazingly, it has a pretty good screen resolution even without the drivers, and without knowing what video card it has.  I installed the latest driver again, and restarted the machine.  This time the screen remained black. I waited for some minutes, but it did not change.  Then I checked the back of my computer, and yes: For some reason, the video output now went to the port that no monitor was attached to.  Before, it had gone to the other.  (The card has two, although I don’t use more than one.  It can display different pictures to different screens actually, but I prefer to have two computers for my two monitors, thank you.)

Anyway, the problem was now solved.  And the game does run more smoothly on higher resolution than before. Probably because of tweaks to the software, although I suppose the new video driver could be better too.

Right now I have finished playing, and am listening to a Cimmerian dirge that the game plays when not logged in to any of my characters.  It is awesome.  I believe I heard the same song in a valley in the game.  Anyway, I love dirges and lamentations. They rarely fail to cheer me up.  Perhaps there is still a drop of barbarian blood in me?   (Looking back at my younger days, I think that is not a maybe either, but maybe it is still influencing my taste in music, I mean.)  I know the melodies can be bought on iTunes.  (Or perhaps I should pirate it, given that I already bought the game.)  I wonder how my coworkers would react. I have a feeling that perhaps they don’t like wailing as much as I do… It really is beautiful.

I don’t miss the rest of the game much though.  City of Heroes is more my style, not to mention The Sims 2.  And in less than two weeks Sims 3 is upon us.  Believe it or not, I also have other things than games I want to have done while still alive, so… You probably won’t be seeing a lot of this.  I did secure some nifty screenshots though.

Those wacky Asian games…


Would I marry this cute elf girl and raise a happy family with pets? Read on to find out.

I came across another cute computer game today. “Luna Online” is one of the new Asian MMORPGs that are free to play but typically sell extra features to do dedicated players. The graphics are less realistic than in western MMORPGs, more similar to anime and usually excessively cute. The games can usually run on older and cheaper hardware than recent western games.

Luna Online looked interesting enough that I almost wanted to try it. Except for the Match Making. Evidently romance is an integral part of the game, with the game matching compatible characters and setting off a “Heart Alarm” when a match shows up, signifying “love at first sight”. This opens the possibility of a “date instance”, a separate area which the dating couple can explore together, with unique loot. (The voices in my head believe the instances are also decorated differently. I hope I shall never find out from experience.) Dates can be rated, and great dates can lead to establishing a family. Other family relations are also possible, like parents and children. Families can get a farm and grow various magical crops, including pets.

I can only assume that in the game’s homeland, this is considered attractive. I doubt it will have the same appeal here. I try to imagine City of Heroes trying to match random heroes, and my mental picture comes up with just static. It is just not done. (Romance certainly happens, particularly on the unofficial roleplaying server, but it is not aided and abetted by the game.) Even Dark Age of Camelot, which had a semi-automatic cleric performing marriages in the Camelot cathedral, left the actual courtship entirely to the roleplayers. I guess (from my anime viewing not least) that people in the Far East are more accepting of arranged relationships still than we are here. It is not like some places in the Middle East where you can basically sell your daughter, of course: You still have to decide in the end. But for those who don’t feel like hunting down a mate for themselves, it is perfectly normal and honorable to leave it either to the families or to highly trained professionals.

It creeps me out, though. Of course, romance creeps me out in Real Life as well, but even so. I rather not have my games try to marry me off, thank you. At least there ought to be romance-free zones or a no-romance flag…