Blog Stats and the ‘Search Engine Terms’ (AKA, Aunt Lio Answers…?)

I check my stats often. For this blog, I mean. I check a lot of stats normally, but they’re usually in whatever games I’m playing; my levels in Destruction, Restoration, Mercantile and Stealth, for instance.
Wordpress blog stats, anyway. How many people visited; usually an increase of some kind after writing a long, essay-length piece, like my last post (18 ‘today’, or yesterday by my clock, when I write this). Masses of people searching for impressions of Portal: Prelude on the 11th, most hitting my review/rant.
There’s also more constant traffic, rather than traffic depending on what’s currently popular, to play or talk about; usually at least one person daily looking for something about Blaze & Blade, who may or may not be someone I know. Likewise Etrian Odyssey, but no one’s commented on those posts, sadly. I love chattering about those games.
I’ll post more soon, promise. Etrian Odyssey 2 is on the top of my ‘must plaaaay’ list, and shall be returned to after I beat Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations. Which is much, much easier, but I don’t play that game for the difficulty.

I like it when something I’ve written gets seen; I think everyone feels at least a mild sense of achievement when they do something they like, other people witness, and no one disapproves without reason. Mostly, though, I check that page to see how people found this lair. Whether it’s something I wrote that they’ll be interested in, or they found it by mistake because some of my tags matched their terms.
Quite a few search terms seem to be more active queries, and I always get the urge to answer those. Which is really why I’m making this post. The five I got today range from random things to some of those actively questioning queries, and one recurring query – the one about Etrian Odyssey and its password – so you’ll see a nice selection.

To the adventurer who asked about ‘blaze and blade canyon path’…
I think it’s a bit of a tedious area, but that’s partially highlighted by that collapsing bridge right at the start. It looks like, for once, you’re going to get a quick path – you know they might take it away after the boss – but, no, you have to walk the long way both times. I wouldn’t mind it if, say, the long path led to something interesting, like an optional cave or somewhere with history, or… well… anything. But it doesn’t, and there opportunities have been lost.
What do you think of the place?

To the guildmaster pondering the mystery of the ‘etrian odyssey password’ – and, uh, everyone else turning up here since I first posted about the game…
I had the same problem, I think. Hit select when on the menu, after loading a save, and you’ll get the option screen with the password available. The one from the game’s main menu is a nasty red herring, and I’m surprised it was left in on that particular screen, considering how many people it’s confused.
I abstractly knew I should have checked the manual, but I didn’t, either. I thought I had to beat EVERYTHING to get the password, and thus all my headaches over fighting Primevil. Then again, it gave me something to do while my foot healed, so anyone finding this post from now on should know they’re not alone, and that I probably went through more thanks to my own idiocy anyway.

To the possible member of the Hunter’s Guild, Pioneer 2 Chapter, wondering about ‘the ruins 2’:
Ahh, sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for, if my guess on the above line is correct. Completely coincidentally… or not, as that game really does share a lot of qualities I love with Blaze & Blade, including a whole boss in Ep. 2… I’m rather fond of PSO, and I’m disappointed that PSU wasn’t quite as good, in my opinion, trading the whole ‘item collection’ thing for a ‘make your own’ mechanic that’s implemented in a worse manner than Monster Hunter’s.
Ahem. PSO, Ruins 2. Where enemies come in nigh-neverending waves, and a humble FOnewearl on her tod has to inhale most of her ‘fluids to deal with each room. Which is all well and good, since the value of the loot by that point tends to exceed the cost of the ‘fluids, but it does get a little ridiculous, thinking about it. Still, it’s a beautiful, if deeply frightening place.
‘Revolution to the origin PART 2’ is one of my favourite musical pieces in that Episode, discounting the boss themes, thanks to the strings right at the beginning. Manic strings. Glee.
This probably didn’t help you at all, whatever you were looking for, but if you did play Phantasy Star Online, I hope this provokes fond thoughts of Ruins 2, rather than nightmares.

To the gamer… um… hmm. I’m running out of synonyms for ‘aski-‘ okay, I’ve got it.
To the gamer seeking a ‘rpg fantasy first person’… which technically was what I was writing about in my last post, but probably wasn’t quite what you were interested in…
Oblivion’s good, seriously, even though I can find enough things to poke about it to write an article like that. Morrowind is also good if you don’t mind older graphics, and is available in a single box with both of its official expansions from, well, anywhere that sells games. Even Tesco.
I also mentioned the Ultima Underworld pair of games, spinoffs from the successful Ultima line of PC RPGs, which were good enough to keep me playing even though I sucked horribly at them. They’re proto-Oblivions, if you think Oblivion is a good game.
On the consoles, you might want to try finding the King’s Field series of games on the PSX and PS2; I never played them, aside from Eternal Ring, a sidestory. Which I never got far in, but was enjoyable like Ultima Underworld 2.
Um. Other than that, I tend to go for anything that isn’t first-person, I’m afraid. You’re asking the wrong person. Do you know of any good games I might want to try?

To the hunter wondering ‘how to kill a cephadrome with a bow’… and this was the second query in the list, but it’s long enough and detailed enough that it might be a bit much for someone not playing MHF(2) to skip past, so it’s here at the bottom.
Exactly how you kill a Cephalos with a bow, really. But just stopping there is a bit cheap. Cephadromes, like their smaller kin, are weak against Ice, so take your trusty Blango Fur Bow * for this trip, along with two less than as many Sonic Bombs as you can pack; Cephadrome really aren’t any trouble to take down with one or two Bombs, once you get the hang of it, but it’s always worth taking as many as you can the first time, whilst you learn when you can safely fire or not.
Presumably you know the range of your bows. If you don’t, take a trip to the Snowy Mountains and snipe some Popos; knowing how far you can stand from ANY Wyvern or Primatius boss is essential, and it’s even better when you know just how far away to stand and fire from to hit, say, a Yian Kut-ku’s ears. Knowledge of your weapons is essential; take some stones and practice throwing those if you’re not sure about Sonic Bombs, either.
That out of the way, actually taking down the Cephadrome. I recommend taking the Sonic Bombs from the supply box every time, as if you use only one of them, you’ve gotten a free Bomb in addition to saving the ones you made yourself. Take the rest of the stuff as you feel necessary, down a Cool or Hot Drink, whichever’s needed, and head out to the desert. Virtually every time I’ve taken this mission, the Cephadrome’s been on this screen; its fin is larger than those of the Cephalos, and if it IS there it tends to start trying to knock your feet out from under you almost immediately. Run to the centre, wait a little, and go search for it elsewhere if you don’t hear the ‘something big’s watching me’ piece.
Once you’ve found it… it’ll still be underground. What you’re aiming for when you toss each Sonic Bomb is its fin, and that usually means timing a throw to coincide with the fin missing you as it rushes past. The range of the soundburst a Sonic Bomb produces is about the size of a hunter, but if you get  it right on the fin the Cephadrome will react without fail. If you hang around long enough without doing that, whether because you keep missing or because you’re out of bombs, the Cephadrome’s fin will dip beneath the sand, and shortly afterwards it’ll arch its head out and spray sand at you. When the fin disappears, just make sure you’re moving, and this shouldn’t hit you; it’s a good opportunity to spike it in the head with a few arrows, or a better opportunity to throw a Sonic Bomb at it than as it goes past, as there’s less chance it’ll move out of the range before it goes off.
Having convinced the Cephadrome to please surface, it’ll flop around for a bit, just like Cephalos. Make sure you’re not standing in front of it, and throw off charged bowshots at it. Always fully charged shots unless you’re almost out of stamina, or have to dodge NOW, as uncharged shots do much less damage than fully charged ones.
Eventually it’ll stop thrashing, and get to its feet. This is very important; do not stay in front of the Wyvern. Never stand in front of any Wyvern without being in the middle of going to stand elsewhere; it may make hitting the head, or head and then straight through the body to the tail with a Piercing bow that much easier, but almost all Wyverns’ most devastating attacks can only be applied to a Hunter standing right in front of them. Hunters who stand still in front of Wyverns get spat, burnt, poisoned, bitten, stepped on, jumped on and shocked to failure. Not simultaneously unless there are some REALLY unfair missions out there, though. At this point in the game, you’re still able to easily heal the damage you’ll take there with Potions and other restorative items, but by the time you reach Red Khezu, you can get KO’d from full health instantly that way. Get out of that habit now and you won’t do stupid stuff like simultaneously wear Lightning-weak armour AND stand in front of Red Khezu later on.
Ahem. Ranting about my own stupidity aside, you can rather safely stand at a nice range from Cephadrome just slightly away from dead ahead; directly facing you is bad, facing 10 degrees away is pretty safe, as its sand breath, though it possesses a very long range ahead of the Wyvern, is much more a line than a cone or quarter. Work out what’s safe; it’s nasty, but it shouldn’t be deadly if you’ve picked decent armour. Bows are probably one of the best weapons to use against Cephadrome, as its weakness is its neck, and all its attacks save spitting sand fall much shorter than the comfortable range. Take your time aiming, try to make most of your shots fall against the Cephadrome’s long neck – preferrably whilst its spitting, as it should know better than to  leave itself open like that – and practice using rolling rather than running to dodge, if you feel like it. If you’re using any form of the Blango Fur Bow, the Cephadrome shouldn’t take long to fall, but just use a Sonic Bomb to convince it to surface properly again, or practice quickly aiming with the bow as it pops out of the sand; you’ll want to be good at that for a certain later Piscine Wyvern or two…
Oh, and remember to watch out for the Cephalos that may be lurking, depending on the area. They’re easy to dodge if you move every so often, but they’re an irritation, nethertheless.
I know that was long, but I don’t believe in knowingly being vague; Cephadrome was the first Wyvern I ever managed to take down, and I never managed it without a bow, so I never got further than the piscine livers quests in the original game.
As a very happy bow-using hunter, I hope this advice helps you… if you ever return here. Not likely, I know, but if you ever come by in future, tell me how it went!

That was fun. And I really don’t mind comments, even if it’s about how my opinions differ from yours. I don’t know everything, and I enjoy rambling and listening to people ramble about this stuff, so TALK, darnit. And post if these help!

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Hypothetical Ideal Game: First-Person RPG Edition

I’ve been playing a bunch of different games recently, like Oblivion, Two Worlds, Dwarf Fortress and Mother 3.
Well, for a given value of ‘recently’, I suppose.
Oh, and Atmosphir. I got into the beta. It’s great, though since I’ve been playing Oblivion lately, there’s one thing about the controls that I keep tripping over. That’s more because I’ve been playing Oblivion recently than any kind of fault in Atmosphir, though.

ANYWAY, whilst playing Oblivion, I remembered when I was writing about Two Worlds and how it’s not as good as that game in certain areas. I mentioned that Two Worlds was actually superior to Oblivion in one area; its weather, specifically the mist and fog effects. I don’t remember if I saw it raining in Two Worlds, but Oblivion‘s rain is pretty close to how depressing rain is where I live, at any rate. I was thinking, ‘Oblivion would be better if it had Two Worlds‘ weather…’

The logical extension of that thought is, ‘what would my ideal first-person RPG be?’ This is one part praising certain mechanics or elements of specific games that I happen to like, and another part game design, as I try to explain WHY I like them, and why they fit in.
Currently, my idea of the ideal first-person RPG sorta goes like this:

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (base game) + Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul (yay, difficulty!) + Two Worlds (weather effects) + Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (the soundtrack) + The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (general character of the region)

Oblivion because… well… it’s Oblivion. It’s the best (read: only) first-person game, RPG or no, I’ve actually played and done well at, aside from Morrowind. I played the Ultima Underworld games years ago, but didn’t do anywhere near as well with them. It’s a great game that allows a number of different ways to be played, even without modding it, which is another brilliant feature, that really extends the playability of ‘Oblivion’… even if it’s not quite Oblivion any more, afterwards.
So Oblivion is the base game, here, but that doesn’t mean all things listed after it simply modify as detailed. Oblivion‘s good enough to play by itself, and if there were a mod to, say, quietly filch Two Worlds‘ weather, I’d jump on it and probably never let go, but I’d (probably) really like an entirely new game that took all the good features of Oblivion, then added the stuff from the other listed games. Oblivion‘s just the game I think has the most great features of the lot; requiring a small amount of skill from the player even IF the character’s skills are all at 100 – Speechcraft (not much skill, admittedly – I should seek out one of those mods sometime…) or Lockpicking (the ability to recognise when a tumbler will ‘stick’, either by sound or sight – try guessing which is easier for me, huh? – if you don’t just have the game autoattempt it for you) – for example.
This isn’t an exhaustive list; games that illustrate what I’d love to replace a given element with don’t always come to mind, if I’ve even experienced anything like what I’d like to see in the first place.

One ever-so-slight ‘problem’ I had with normal Oblivion was that it wasn’t much of a challenge; I invariably play a mage, and Destruction is a very efficient school of magic for exploding stuff, even if you never find the (celebrated) Enemies Explode spell. Without changing anything, it’s pretty easy to get far into the game and still only be using Weak Fireball, Shocking Touch and Cold Touch, two of which you start with if you pick Destruction for a major skill. Normally, like Morrowind, most enemies you encounter are based on your level, so unless you really neglect your offensive skills, you can always (easily, in my experience as a mage) beat anything you encounter, except bosses. It makes the game a little more… I don’t know. ‘Swashbuckling’. ‘Movie-style dramatic’, rather than dramatic because it really was a close fight between that Bandit and me.
Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul drastically changes things; I routinely find myself running away from things like Minotaurs, Trolls, Bandits and Mystical Imps at level 1 – stuff you either shouldn’t be seeing for a long time, or weren’t a challenge originally. Highwaymen are still rather wimpy, though.
Probably doesn’t help lighten difficulty any that I pick the Atronach birthsign for both of the mage characters I’ve played with this mod, which adds something else to difficulty with not being able to rest to recover magicka between fights, but triumphing against a Troll because you fought intelligently rather than just tanking it and poking it with Flare, thanks to the health even a mage has after enough levels, results in a sense of achievement I otherwise just don’t get from the game. Oblivion’s natural difficulty – or lack thereof – isn’t something I noticed as a problem in the first place, but I really don’t want to go back to that now that I’m playing with OOO.

Two Worlds‘ weather effects. The game’s fog and mist effects just look that real. I’m really not sure how they got that so right, and yet a lot of other things in the game, like… well, character models… look so odd.
Then again, years ago I was impressed about how realistic Final Fantasy VIII‘s graphics looked compared to FFVII‘s. Graphics aren’t that major a thing to me; I honestly prefer sprite-based or ASCII graphics to 3D stuff, and wish more games followed the examples of Breath of Fire III and BoFIV. They’re just… part of the game, and I don’t understand how graphics can be anything from a major concern to everything, as some people on Guild Wars seem to me to think, from what they say about World of Warcraft’s visuals. Part of me still suspects they just don’t want to admit they don’t want to pay continually for a game after they bought it. ’cause I’ll happily admit I don’t enjoy that model.
Graphics will rarely turn me away from a game. Far more important is whether I like the plot and gameplay mechanics. All the same, having Two Worlds‘ weather effects in a game like Oblivion would be nice.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. This is just a really nice game in general, and it’s what I was playing when everyone else was playing Diablo II, I think. Even with really strange graphical problems due to using the same graphics card as came with the ancient computer that was mine at the time, I loved it. Still do.
So, the music. Arcanum gave us a decidedly-fantasy world in the throes of an industrial revolution. Steampunk with magic. Well, magic-punk with steam power? Not magitek-punk, as magic and technology do not get along. Well, to get to my point, the world in Arcanum was decidedly Victorian, or just teetering on the edge of a Belle Époque if some of the problems in the world ever cleared up, and Arcanum‘s soundtrack, similarly, was in the style of the era, or close enough to my ears. Go ahead, download and listen to it, as Sierra and Troika Games put it up for download years ago. It’s the kind of music you can see (hear?) being composed by people living in a world like Arcanum‘s.
Oblivion, whilst it has orchestral music, doesn’t have anything that stands out; for want of a better way of explaining it, it’s modern orchestral, of the typical kind of pieces composed nowadays… for videogames, as I admit I haven’t listened to many other new orchestral pieces composed for different reasons and audiences.
I like it, but it’s the same as so much else that I have no reason to listen to Oblivion‘s music in particular; Arcanum‘s soundtrack I still keep going back to, and that music’s getting close to a decade in age. There are good modern-orchestral pieces that stand out – anything by Masashi Hamauzu, or Hitoshi Sakimoto, but they both compose pieces so different that they probably wouldn’t be considered the same genre, anyway – and then there are pieces that simply stick to the conventions and do nothing new.
Both Arcanum and Oblivion have large and pretty-detailed worlds, but Arcanum has music that matches its world, or what we’d expect from that world, from history. Oblivion‘s music is pretty generic. Though I admit that also matches Oblivion; see my next, and final, point for today.

Morrowind. This one’s a doozy, the most difficult one to explain in the current not-short-when-explained list. It’s also the one that takes the award for ‘most impossible to add to Oblivion without it not being Oblivion any more’.
The region of Tamriel Oblivion takes place in – Cyrodiil – is… well…
It’s pretty typical. Plainsland. Forest. Swamp. Mountain. Snowy mountain. A typical checklist of terrain. Ancient Ruins dotted around the place. A city, a bunch of towns, and many small assorted villages and hamlets – actually, the city, towns and villages aren’t a problem; they’re great. They seem just the right distance apart. It’s just everything else.
Don’t get me wrong; Oblivion has a great world, but there’s still something about it that just seems ‘typical’ or ‘generic’ to me. It probably comes from living somewhere that’s actually quite like it; the UK and other pretty-closely-associated land. We have plains (most of the countryside, or at least most near the roads), we have rather boggy areas (anywhere it rains, it seems, but we have proper wetlands, too; look at Ireland), we have mountains (Scotland), and we have woods and forests, too (though not as many as there used to be). It’s too familiar, even if I’ve never been to a proper wetland, just live in a land where it’s usually more or less wet, or normally only go past a lot of the countryside in bus.
Morrowind‘s ‘world’, Vvardenfell, is swamp and ashen wasteland, and not all that much else. I never really got a feel for Cyrodiil whilst ambling around trying to save the world; even in the midst of an invasion, it still looks like idyllic rolling plains, quiet forests, cold mountains and altogether-too-damp swamps, all drawn from a UK template. I don’t know. It just never clicked as more than a place, somewhere that could be real, for all the similarity to the UK-and-company I listed above.
Vvardenfell always seemed hostile. Partially because it was; I’m reasonably certain Morrowind is tougher than Oblivion for more reason than only my lack of experience at first-person stuffs when I first picked up Morrowind. But also because that part of Tamriel was always dark and overcast, in my memory, with storms of ash. It wasn’t just hostile to you, it didn’t like the NPCs either, and they knew it too. It had things like Cliff Racers, and whilst not exactly liked by any player, they did add to the overall atmosphere of hostility Vvardenfell always had. And though Vvardenfell was actually bigger than Cyrodiil, it didn’t have a great amount of variation in the terrain; some people see this as dull, others (me, at least) as a bit more realistic – the UK doesn’t have a lot of swamp, I think. Is Cyrodiil where a lot of different terrains meet? I think so, and it’s not helping Cyrodiil grow an identity for itself.
Vvardenfell also had ancient ruins, but they didn’t stick out so much; Ayleid ruins in Cyrodiil look like they’re self-cleaning, for all the wear they’re supposed to have gone through since the Ayleids were forced from their throne, and it’s really difficult travelling far without tripping over one or another, but the Chimer ruins in Vvardenfell were actually pretty difficult to find, due to Vvardenfell being huge and Morrowind not giving us a map like Oblivion did, but also because they were covered in ash. I’d at least expect Ayleid ruins to be heavily overgrown or buried by now, but… only the one, and that’s in the latter case.
In short, Vvardenfell has a personality. And Cyrodiil, though it has a personality, has a much weaker one. I liked how the Oblivion Gates altered the landscale in a very localised area; maybe if older ones affected a larger area? Maybe if the area affected was more than just a few metres from the gate, but spread out – effects getting thinner – for a much further distance? Cyrodiil just doesn’t hang together as well as Vvardenfell does, and it’d be difficult to change Cyrodiil that way, as part of the problem is Cyrodiil itself.

That’s all that comes to mind, at the moment; for this hypothetical maybe-ideal first-person RPG, I mean. I have ideas for more articles on this theme, and I’ll hopefully get around to writing them at some point. And continuing with the Blaze & Blade articles, miniviews-in-many-formats, and anything else of which I made a short series.