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Archive for March, 2010

Earth Eternal screenshotSo I’ve been following this one since the early development stages, but somehow I missed the open beta announcement a couple months ago. I guess they didn’t figure it was important enough to be the newsletter headline or something…

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to take a closer look ever since I surfed over there a couple of weeks ago and saw the new look of the website. The other day I took a break from my various projects to check it out.

Understand that my only real MMO experience is from from World of Warcraft (Air Rivals doesn’t count – it might as well be a single player) so all comparisons will be vs. WoW.

The first major difference is the preparation time. I’ve been loathe to reinstall WoW because of the 3-5 hours during which I’ll be unable to use my computer for any other purpose. Not only that but you have to check on it every five minutes in case it finishes early or has a question to ask you. Not Earth Eternal. Not by a long shot. I spent maybe ten minutes downloading and installing the plugin before I was ready to play. Probably closer to 5.

Earth Eternal runs in your browser. How cool is that?

So ten minutes in and we’re already building our first character. The race choices are pretty unique. I’ve been following the development, as I said, so there weren’t too many surprises, but if you’re unfamiliar with Earth Eternal, you should know that all the races are furries. There’s quite a wide variety, from rabbit to wolf to hawk, and there also seems to be a minotaur and some sort of cyclops.

Character customization is an interesting mix of varied and restrictive. There are only 3 faces and 3 body types to choose from, but you can color your eyes, fur, feathers, face, beak and highlights almost any color you wish. You can even change your height. Then you get to pick a first and last name, with a random generator full of ideas to help you out. (Not that I ever needed help picking a name – Lironah is almost always available).

The combat tutorial is brief but intuitive. The quest system is strangely familiar…as are all of the movement commands. One definite advantage over WoW is the quest tracking. Not only does it tell you where to go, complete with arrows, but when you get there it unobtrusively reminds you what you’re supposed to do there. Without having to open up your quest log in the middle of nowhere while trying to watch your back.

The combat and spells system are very familiar, though an explanation of how to use the points you get at each level wouldn’t be too far amiss. I like the extra toolbars; the one-click access to them saves me about the same amount of time as the quest tracker does. I also like the repeatable quests – they give you tokens which can be spent right there at the billboards, though the starting area chests all seem to contain the same 4 items.

Enough about the pros. Let’s hear some cons or things WoW does better. First off is the factions. I’m a big PVPer, and not having an enemy faction to fight just makes my heart cry. I do miss some of the NPC banter, though I could see how adding it back in would kind of kill the browser-based play idea. I haven’t seen any signs of professions, which might actually be a good thing for some people, and the only things akin to potions I’ve seen yet have to be bought with ability points and require purchased reagents.

That brings me to another big con – the imbalance between people who are willing to spend money on the game and people who aren’t. It’s one thing to be able to buy cool equipment without having to spend hours looking for rare drops, but buying ability points? That seems totally unfair to me. Sure, I know it’s just another way to recoup their production costs and pay back their investors, but it feels like…buying WoW gold, or something. Or hacking your account. Just feels too much like cheating for me’ to be able to spend money to become tougher than the other players.

Last big con is that while the game allegedly (I just overheard this and haven’t confirmed yet) has no level cap, the quests only go up to level 50. It’s not so much a game con as it is a playing in open beta con, but it still counts.

I’ll go back and take another peek next week, and see if it really balances out the 5 hours to install WoW.

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Well, that was fun. I wouldn’t say I’d mastered PHP yet, by far, but now I’ve got a fair idea of its capabilities and a good collection of stock code snippets to play with. Now that I’ve spent months crawling the web for some tips on building a website with PHP, I’ve decided to put together the PHP tutorial I wished I’d had at the beginning. I’ve skipped over the bare basics in favor of explaining each line of code one piece at a time, and tried to write with the assumption that the reader doesn’t have a background in programming beside html itself. (I think I might have to build an html and css tutorial later – it was fun).

The tutorial covers all the topics I thought were vital to my website project. I started out with a basic run-through of what PHP can do and what you have to know/have before you can use it. Then I went right in to the meat and potatoes, but in the order I wish I’d learned it, rather than in the order I did. I started with using includes – writing part of your page code in a separate file for ease of editing later – then moved on the the tough stuff – databases. Admittedly, I have no idea how any of the other databases might differ from MySQL, but since that’s not what the tutorial is about, anyone using a different one will have to debug things on their own (what better way to learn, after all!)

I focused a good bit of time on the part that took me the longest to get working – that is, generating dynamic URLs with a query string. I completely skipped the ‘try this example’ stuff – there’s plenty of those on w3schools, and they didn’t really help me. Instead I used an approach I learned in one of my textbooks – explaining lines of code one piece at a time with helpful examples and a personal style. I’ve also included real working examples of code and suggestions for what uses to put them to. The goal is to get the reader from knowing nothing to understanding PHP in 4,000 words or fewer. I’d appreciate any feedback, either here in the comments or on the lens itself (backlinks welcome – one per comment please) from anyone interested in PHP on how well it accomplishes this goal.

As a little extra tidbit, I’ve included some tips on converting dynamic URLs to static ones. There seem to be several different methods out there, many of them far too complicated for a beginner to try, so I snagged a pair of the better ones and did a little how-to for ‘dessert’. Enjoy!

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