VR and Latency: Carmack\’s Thoughts

\"OhThis post originally appeared over at our sister site Metaverse Health.

John Carmack is a bit of an icon in gaming circles, and he\’s also one of the people that\’s supporting the Oculus VR consumer headset that\’s on the near horizon. I\’d very stupidly assumed (having not read any biographical details on him until today) that he wasn\’t that deep into the coding / science of things like this.

He\’s just posted a nice piece of work on the challenges of latency in virtual reality. If you\’re from a computer science background you\’ll get a lot more out of it than I did, and even I could appreciate just how critical latency is in this sphere.

Latency is of course an important consideration anywhere but Carmack shows just how far we probably have to go to make VR headsets that give an accurate perception of real-time movement in physical space. It\’ll happen of course – and I still want an Oculus now.

Mini Diablo 3 Help Guide

\"\"Like the odd few hundred thousand others, I jumped into Diablo 3 at launch. It\’s quite a bit of fun, but it\’s also very challenging in parts. I thought as I went through I document some key strategies / tips to get you past particular hurdles.

So read on below if you\’re stuck! This post will grow as I progress through: apologies to non-players for this short interruption to normal programming.

The Weeping Hollow: how do I defeat the group of Grotesque?

This took a couple of goes but basically you just need to down one of them and when it explodes into corpse worms, the others die as well. So just target one and you should be fine.

The Weeping Hollow: where is the Cemetery of the Forsaken?

Head north-east of the initial checkpoint – there is a path, follow that for quite a while and you\’ll eventually hit the entrance.

Defiled Crypt: how do I defeat the monsters that appear out of the funerary urn?

It depends on your class but any AoE option you have might work. I had to change my Wizard\’s primary mouse skill over to an AoE one to win out.

Cathedral: how do I defeat the Skeleton King??

This is the not surprisingly the most challenging fight of Act I. As a Wizard I died a good 15 times before I got the winning strategy, which was: constantly spamming Diamond Skin as soon it was off cool down. In between I used Magic Missile on the Skeleton King until the extra skeleton mobs spawn, then I used Arcane Orb to kill them all as quickly as possible as they drop healing orbs that you\’ll need to keep going. Once you get that routine down, it\’s just rinse and repeat. For all classes, just ensure you kill the extra mobs asap, and of course have your Templar with you.

 Alcarnus: how do I defeat Maghda? 

Ok there\’s a few things you need to do to keep yourself alive. First, avoid the swarms of insects she sends out by running away / dodging them. Second, when she summons the Thralls, concentrate on them as they drop health globes. Then it\’s pretty much rinse and repeat.

The Vestibule of Light: how do I defeat Iskatu?

Thanks to a hint from this video, I worked out that changing my skills over to Archon form as a Wizard allowed me to easily defeat him but focusing my Disintegration Wave on him. For other classes you basically need to find the best skill combo you have that minimises damage while you pound away.

Eve Online FanFest panel accused of mocking suicidal player

\"\"CCP has launched an investigation after an Eve Online panel at its FanFest convention was accused of mocking a suicidal player.

Eve Online player Kestrel wrote to CCP and Eurogamer today to complain about Thursday\’s Alliance Panel presentation.
The presentation, delivered by one of the CSM council members and moderated by a CCP employee, featured an in-game communication between two Eve Online players where, according to Kestrel, one of the players clearly indicated suicidal thoughts and showed \”obvious\” signs of severe depression.

\”When this communication was shown to the audience the presenter, along with part of the audience of players and CCP representatives present all had a good laugh,\” Kestrel said. \”The presenter went on to encourage other players of Eve Online to harass this player in the hope that he would eventually be compelled to act on his suicidal thoughts.
\”This player\’s in-game contact information was provided. I found this section of the presentation to be in extremely poor taste.\”
The panel was broadcast online as part of the streaming of the popular FanFest event, which showcased Eve Online, Dust 514 and World of Darkness.

In response, CCP issued a statement criticising the \”abhorrent behaviour\” that occurred.

Via www.eurogamer.net

The Power and the Passion: Star Wars gamers

\"\"As a gamer of 30 years standing, I still manage to get very excited by an upcoming game release. If that game is related to an iconic childhood brand like Star Wars, then that excitement grows even more. That\’s why, for the past couple of years I\’ve been running a website devoted to covering the upcoming Star Wars MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic(SWTOR) . For those unaware, game developer Bioware has licensed the LucasArts behemoth in what is one of the largest game development tasks ever undertaken: the voice scripts alone run to over 40 novels in length

The stakes are very high overall: Star Wars fans are a picky lot and demand a product faithful to the lore of the Star Wars universe. The hardcore Star Wars fan is another beast altogether. They create fan fiction, read all the books and comics, and have played most if not all of the games that have gone before. I should know, as I interact with them on a daily basis – I\’m more of a casual fan who loves the movies and has played Lego Star Wars.

The challenge of course with any MMO is creating a great product that builds a big enough base of players to make it viable. World of Warcraft is the leader in the space, with most others in a distant catch-up game as far as subscriber numbers. SWTOR is well-placed to make a big splash in that regard. The story is there, the history is there and there\’s no shortage of MMO players looking for a new thing. The power of the franchise is also likely to be strong enough to attract a new audience to MMO gaming.

SWTOR has been in active development for well over three years, and one of the biggest obsessions of those following the game is when it will be released. Bioware are stating a 2011 release is still on the cards and the game demonstrations to date show a game that\’s looking pretty polished. The hard part observing from the outside is determining whether those snippets of game demonstration indicate a game close to completion. This is where the passion issue comes into it. The fans of the game are desperate to get their hands on SWTOR and the lack of a firm release date drives some of those fans to distraction. SWTOR\’s official forums are riddled with speculation on release date and that\’s likely to intensify with each week that passes. Others tend to caution against a rushed release, happy to wait a little longer to increase the chances of a great game.

For Australian fans there\’s another source of friction: rumours of a delayed release for our region. ABC TV Australia\’s Good Game set off that little firestorm with some tweets from the E3 games expo in the United States. It was backed up by a Fairfax gaming journalist http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/games/blogs/screenplay/e3-diary-day-4-20110613-1fzn6.html – in both cases it appears the information came from a PR person at Bioware\’s parent company Electronic Arts and in both instances the information was far from definitive.

I\’m here to tell you that those mentions have set off one hell of a reaction amongst what we call the Oceanic community of SWTOR fans. Bioware have refused to comment on rumours (and I bet they get a lot of them) and because the story broke over a weekend there\’s not been a lot of response at all. You can imagine how that has gone down with some fans. I\’ve seen forum posts arguing for picket lines at the Electronic Arts offices in Brisbane to coincide with an upcoming games expo. Petitions have been created, phone campaigns are being discussed (again to Electronic Arts offices in Australia) and there\’s generally a lot of agitation. All of the angst is over some unverified information from a PR person. For what it\’s worth, I\’ve done some research and spoken off the record to some other journalists who attended E3: the information appears not to be set in stone but there\’s certainly some active consideration occurring of a staggered launch. The SWTOR FAQ addresses the issue by stating that:

Star Wars: The Old Republic will be released simultaneously in various countries of the world and the service will be localized in several languages. More details on this will be released at a later date.

Some are taking that as confirmation of a worldwide simultaneous release – others like me aren’t so sure.

The issue places Bioware in an interesting conundrum. If a delayed release in Australia is intended, then their management of the issue has been shown wanting – or at least their parent company\’s PR people have let them down. If a simultaneous worldwide release is still the plan, then they have some work to do in getting the PR messages right with their parent company. Either way – it\’s just another example of the passion of the fans of a game and the pressure that places on a developer to deliver the goods. Nothing gets people riled up more than perceived discrimination and if a staggered release does occur, it\’s easy to argue that that\’s exactly what it is: favouring the larger markets.

That said, I\’ll stake my collection of Star Wars figurines on the fact that even if a local delay does eventuate, most people will still sign-up and use workarounds to be up and running as soon as possible. That\’s what passionate fans do. I\’ll still be on the picket line with all the hardcore fans though.

(This is a slightly altered piece that was written for ABC Technology)

A detailed map of Orgrimmar vendors and trainers


How to use this map: find your trainer in the table and match the number or letter listed in that cell to find it on the map. Enjoy ;)

(full size version here)

Virtual worlds and social good: a striking example

\"\"Over the years of covering the virtual worlds industry, one of the highlights has been seeing grass-roots fundraising efforts. Using my own country of Australia as an example, significant amounts of money have been raised for the 2009 Bushfires and this year\’s series of calamities in Queensland. There\’s already planning under way for events to support those affected by the horrendous events in Japan over the past week and Linden Lab are doing their bit as well.

Add to that ongoing initiatives such as Relay for Life and you have a well-established means of making a difference. All of these examples come from Second Life, but at a wider level some serious initiatives are starting to see the light of day.

One such initiative is being driven by a leader in the social gaming sphere, Zynga. Creators of the (in)famous game Farmville amongst others, Zynga.org is devoted to raising money for worthy causes, using Zynga\’s worlds as the vehicle. It marries two very powerful forces: virtual goods and a desire to help others. Using the current Haiti disaster as an example, 1.5 million dollars was raised and significant amounts are expected for the current tragedy in Japan:

Twelve hours after the earthquake struck, on Friday, March 11th, 8pm pst, Zynga launched in-game initiatives that made donations possible across a number of our most popular games, including: CityVille, FarmVille, Zynga Poker, FrontierVille and Words with Friends. Vampire Wars is now live with a campaign, as well, and YoVille and FishVille will soon launch theirs.

The impetus for doing non-profit work is always multi-faceted. Aside from the obvious aspect of being community-minded, most companies also know the good PR such activities draw. The huge number of social virtual world users is an obvious area where demonstrating good corporate citizenship is increasingly important. Zynga because of its size has drawn some substantial criticism over some aspects of its games / worlds, and initiatives like this help balance the equation a little.

Hard to find places in World of Warcraft Cataclysm

Now that Cataclysm has launched, I thought I might document key parts of the new content that have got me stuck, and the solutions. Apologies to regular readers who are non-WoW players – nothing to see here ;) For everyone else, I\’ve divided the issues by each region and am assuming you have at least followed your map to the rough location.


The Ruins of Lar\’Donir (location of Alysra): at the very top centre of the Hyjal map – WoW shows the location south-west of it for some reason, which threw me for quite a while.

The Barrow Dens location: immediately to the right of the Lar\’Donir Ruins.

Darkflame Ember: it\’s in the brazier with the purple flame – I just had to adjust my camera view to see it.

Dark Iron Laborer: These are found within the portal on Lightning Ledge. It\’s obvious unless you log out and come back the next day in which case you may do what I did and run around outside the portal wondering where they are.

Cindermaul the Portal Master and the Tome of Openings: he\’s also found in the portal on Lightning Ledge (the topmost portal on the map). There\’s been reports that the chest he drops can\’t be accessed – I got the Tome of Openings from his corpse.

Spawn of Smolderos: This one was a little embarrassing – I had taken the quest then logged out. I then couldn\’t work out where on the map the Spawn of Smolderos was until I finally realised it\’s a summons from the quest item provided to you.


Bottle of Whisky: this is found on the airship itself, just go down the flight of stairs on the middle of the ship\’s deck then keep walking straight ahead to the northernmost room and the bottle is there.


Scepter of Orsis: I felt really silly on this one – all you need to do is click on the same spot you handed the previous quest in to.

High Priest Amet: don\’t be thrown by the quest question mark – the entrance is via stairs on the side of the dam wall walkway along the top.

Piece of Rope: Just kill the skeletons for the pieces

Harrison Jones \’See You On The Other Side\’: lots of reports of glitches. I needed to relog once and turn around and Harrison appeared. Some people have had to abandon the quest and pick it up again.

107 quests – need one more: Most likely one you\’ve missed is in the Cradle of Ancients – kill a Diseased Vulture and you\’ll pick up a final quest.

Twilight Highlands

The Only Homes We Have Quest: You receive a bucket in your inventory – I\’d just missed receiving it.