Kalamari Kastle

Lord of the Rings: Riders of Rohan Coverage from E3 2012!

While at E3 this past weekend I had the honor of yet again getting a behind the scenes look at Turbines new expansion to their popular MMO Lord of the Rings Online! This year I had the unique opportunity of receiving a walkthrough of Rohan by none other than the Executive Producer, Community Manager and Digital Communications Manager of Lord of the Rings Online. Not only did I receive the traditional media overview of Rohan but I was also able to take this unique opportunity to also ask the creators of the game a number of preselected questions taken directly from the LOTRO community, the world’s largest collection of Tolkien fans.

The Lord of the Rings: Riders of Rohan is the forth expansion for LOTRO and will be providing players the opportunity to explore and adventure into Eastern Rohan an all new region of Tolkien’s world. Although this expansion is only providing one new region this region is by far the largest region to date. Although there is only one major region there will be multiple mini zones within this region bringing a variety of vibrant environments to the users including areas of Fangorn Forest and Amon Hen. While exploring these new and treacherous lands players will be able to meet and interact with members of the fellowship including Treebeard, Gandalf the White, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas as well as numerous members of the Rohirrim.

Even since its initial launch LOTRO has been on the cutting edge of MMO’s constantly bringing their players fresh new content while utilizing state of the art technological capabilities and this expansion is no exception. By utilizing Direct X 11 players will be able to experience upgrades to the graphics of the game including all new tree and lighting systems. In addition LOTRO is introducing frill upgrades to grass and water so that every movement that the character makes will have an effect on the environment around them. With that being said for all the users who have older computers and graphics cards, don’t fret because you may choose to opt out of these advanced graphics options and use the current specs that you run the game at today.

One of the most highly anticipated aspects of this expansion is the new mounted combat system. Mounted combat is an all new system where the player will be granted their very own mearas who they can both dress up and level up. Turbine has built out an all new skill system where players can choose how they want to build out their steed. Players will be able to choose a steed type, heavy, medium and light, as well as be able to choose which skills to level up. Players will be able to save each character build and skill distribution so that they can switch between skill sets depending on their situation. If the player is in a group fighting packs of wargs they may want a steed who is faster and more agile so they can keep up with their fellowship but if playing solo they may want a steed with more endurance and health to survive a battle against a group of wargs.

To help account for this new form of combat players will be learning new skills to be used in mounted combat as well as have edits to their old skills with tweaks for mounted combat. To account for these new skills Turbine has made some cool edits so that each time you mount up on your war steed your skill bars and quick slots switch to a different set of skill bars and quick slots. With this edit players can easily choose which skills they want on their quick slot bars when mounted and which you want when on foot so as to not confuse players of which skills they can use when on foot and which they can use in combat.

A few other pieces of information of note regarding mounted combat is the speed of your horse and where you can and can’t use your war horse. On release mounted combat will only be available in Eastern Rohan. With that being said you will be able to ride your warhorse in many other maps which are large and open but not every map will have this option especially regions that are small or dense with trees or other environmental factors that aren’t ideal for a war horse. Regarding speed the war mounts will be the fastest mounts in the game with 300 times the run speed of a normal character.

At the end of this eye opening walkthrough of Riders of Rohan I had the unique opportunity to ask the Turbine representatives a number of different questions which I have been collecting directly from the community over the last few weeks. Although not all of my questions were answered here is a list of these questions along with the associated response that were given. Although many of the questions received the traditional “I can’t talk about that now.” Many of the questions had a very different response which can be read into however you wish.

Q: Will Edoras be in this expansion!
A: No but it will be coming in the future with Western Rohan!

Q: Will there be any instances available in ROR?
A: There will be solo instances available at launch and an instance cluster closely following in 2012!

Q: Will there be any other new Regions available in 2012?
A: Not in 2012!

Q: Will there be new non mounted skills available for those of us who want to play non mounted content?
A: Yes!

Q: Will there be a new housing instance for Rohan?
A: We are talking about this and the team is really excited about the idea but not at this time!

Q: Are you hiring more developers to help work on the game?
A: Yes we have a number of open positions and Turbine is currently in a growth stage so please apply!

Q: Are you working on any updates on the player avatar?
A: We are working on an avatar upgrade for the future!

Q: Will there be more skirmishes with the release of ROR?
A: There will be No skirmishes with this update!

Q: Server Lag is a big issue on larger servers like Brandywine and it’s getting worse. What are you doing about this issue.
A: We are constantly working on the server lag and issues. We have fixes going our monthly and are aware of the issue. We are currently working with the community on this and are doing tons of investigation so please visit the forums to see how you can help us on this investigation.

Q: Will Moors access for freeps be available for purchase for FTP players?
A: We aren’t the right people to ask about that, not the business team, but it’s an interesting idea!

Q: Will there be in game marriage in the future?
A: We have no plans for in game marriage!

Q: Will there be Hobbit themed Regions and Updates with the movie coming out?
A: Not on the Road Map!

Q: Will there be new hobbies?
A: Not on the Road Map!

Q: Will the 6th bag, Crystal and Quests available in the pre purchase bundle be available for purchase in the store?
A: You can visit the Q&A forum for more information about this and the price of these features etc!

Q: Will there be a new PVMP zone?
A: Not on the Road Map!

Q: Will there be new crafting and recipes with the new level cap?
A: Yes

Q: Will there be new Creep Levels with the upcoming Freep level cap?
A: Yes

Q: Will more currency types like festival currency be account shareable with the wallet?
A: We’re not the right person for this question.

Q: Will there be Virtue level cap increases with this expansion?
A: We don’t know yet. We’re still in Alpha and once we go to Beta and get players feedback then we will determine things like this.

Q: Will there be more classes in the future?
A: Not on the Road Map!

Q: Will there be more races in the future? (Ents)
A: No

Q: Will there be more legacy points be available for LI’s with the addition of the new Crystal? If the Crystal adds a legacy we need points for it. Or will we be able to increase the level of the legacy’s to reduce the cost?
A: No comment We’re still in Alpha and once we go to Beta and get players feedback then we will determine things like this.

Q: Will there be more quick slot bars?
A: No we decided to switch out quick slot bars for mounted and non mounted instead.

Q: Is there planned level cap increase for skirmish soldiers?
A: Don’t remember

Q: What does the Horseshoe do?
A: No Comment BUT we will let the community know at some point!

Q: Are you planning another 24 man raid?
A: Not on the Road Map but the feedback from the community is that they want raids more accessible.

Q: Will the rift be scaled?
A: Over time most instances will be scaled!

Q: Will there be revamping of PVMP Creep classes?
A: In time

If you have never played LOTRO I would highly recommend it especially now with all this new content on its way. LOTRO is by far one of the best MMO’s available and is still standing strong with yearly game of the year awards as well as monthly updates and expansions keeping the content fresh and fun.

Lots of Love

DJ Helsing

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The Hunger Games (book and movie)

The one thing I really enjoy about The Hunger Games, not only the movie but the book as well, is how it forces introspection on a culture currently enduring so much shift. The Hunger Games takes place in a future America, now called Panem. Within Panem are 12 districts that all serve the Capitol in some way since their rebellion. Because of their uprising and rebellion against injustices they saw of the capitol they now must all participate in an event called "The Hunger Games". The games draw the name over one girl and one boy beyween the ages of 12 to 18 to compete in a televised fight to the death.

This event seems to be entirely for the pleasure and enjoyment of the capitol, however when you read and watch deeper into the story you start to realize it's not only for their amusement but control over the districts to prevent further uprising. The novel's main character is a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in the poorest district, district number 12. That district is responsible for mining coal for the Capitol and many of its residents are impoverished and starving. I don't think the movie portrayed Katniss amongst her district very well considering her outfit of choice while wandering through the district was relatively clean and almost new whereas in the book her family is just as impoverished as most of them. The only difference being her aptitude with a bow and ability to hunt animals for the sake of her family.

One of the key messages I like in the story is that it's not a story about kids killing other kids as much as it's a story of the tragedy of their situation at the hands of the Capitol. The Capitol could be a reflection for the modern world, callous, unfeeling, watching the lives of others at the cost of entertainment. I recommend to anyone who is considering seeing the movies to please, if you haven't already, read the book first. Analyze its messages and understand the comparisons it makes in human nature between the fictional world of Panem and the real one we currently live in.

It's a remarkable book, and yes, a remarkable movie, that appeals to a vast audience who all can find multiple aspects to enjoy.


Jigoku Shoujo


Have you ever hated someone so much that you seriously wished they would die? How far would you go to get revenge on or get rid of someone? Would you trade your soul just to send a person to hell?

There's a website called Hell Correspondence. You can access it only at the stroke of midnight. It's pretty straightforward. You write the name of someone you hate, and they get sent to hell. In return, when you die, your soul goes to hell as well.

Such is the premise of Jigoku Shoujo, or Hell Girl, a 9-volume series by Miyuki Eto that was based off an anime. You'd think that not many people will want to avail of Hell Correspondence's services, but there's definitely enough of them to fill about 9 manga volumes. And the concept is well-liked enough for Jigoku Shoujo to get a sequel.

Ai Enma is Hell Girl, and her job is to escort souls to hell. Shortly after you use the Hell Correspondence website, Ai appears before you to dispassionately verify that you indeed want to send your chosen person to hell. One of her trademark lines is "To curse someone is to dig a double grave," which emphasizes that the price for her service is to damn your soul to hell also. If you agree to the deal, Ai will appear before your chosen person. She expressionlessly utters another one of her trademark lines, "Do you want to see what death looks like?" and then carts the person to hell.

Hell appears to be unique to each individual. For the people whose names were entered in Hell Correspondence, hell consists of creatures who exact revenge for the terrible things that the people did when they were alive. For example, if you were a horrible vet who charged exorbitant amounts of money for your services and then left the animals in your care to suffer and die, your hell will look like a hospital overseen by animals who let you experience excruciating and unnecessary pain.

Hell Girl has a variety of clients. Most of the chapters--indeed, most of the series--are about the clients.

Some clients are good people who are backed in a corner, like Mari. Mari is framed by her classmate, Satsuki, for theft. Satsuki proceeds to blackmail Mari. Over time, the blackmails become more and more demanding, and Mari realizes with terror that Satsuki will never stop.

Some clients are witnesses to pain and suffering inflicted on others, and they take action on behalf of the victims. Yuka works as an assistant to Hiromi, a baker. And she has to watch with anger and frustration as Hiromi's former mentor, Morisaki, ruins Hiromi's career.

Some clients' lives have been irrevocably damaged. Maybe they can no longer live normal lives. Maybe they can no longer achieve the dreams that they have been working so hard for. Sakura is finally making it as an actress. But scandals and harassments begin to plague her, and she eventually gets into an accident that severs the ligaments in her legs and prevents her from walking again. She discovers that the scandals, harassments, and accident were orchestrated by another actress who wants her career for herself.

And some clients just want a good old eye for an eye. If a loved one has been killed, then the killer's payment is a one-way trip to hell.

The later chapters in the series are about Ai and her henchmen. They show Ai's past life and how she and her henchmen got involved in the business of carting off souls to hell. They depict Ai as someone more than an emotionless avatar who abides by the rules that were handed to her.

The chapters do get formulaic after a while. The good people win (until they die, long after the chapter has ended), the bad people go to hell, and Ai shows up somewhere in-between. Ms. Eto did get creative with the later chapters. What if the bad people use Hell Correspondence? What if a targeted person doesn't deserve to go to hell? Can you manipulate the rules of the Hell Correspondence website so that you can send someone to hell but not pay the price? What if you put in a request and then get cold feet? What if you put in a request based on wrong information? Does Ai ever decline a request? Am I asking too many questions? Why am I asking you all these questions?

Jigoku Shoujo's artwork is very cutesy, which is an interesting contrast with the whole business of sending people to hell. The characters look like they belong in a purehearted mahou shoujo manga. Well, it is a mahou shoujo manga series, I suppose, but it's definitely not about unicorns that fart rainbows. You'll probably like this series if you enjoy seeing people get their just desserts. Personally, I can't stand series where the protagonist experiences a great injustice that never gets remedied. So I found Jigoku Shoujo comforting: I know that the bad guys will get punished in the end, and the good guys will breathe a sigh of relief. I guess predictability can be good for a story.

Image courtesy of http://www.amazon.com.

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After School Nightmare


Once upon a time, there was a boarding school. In this boarding school there attended a young man named Ichijou Mashiro. Well, at least, he identified himself as male with a deep, dark secret. You see, while his top half was physically male, his bottom half was physically female.

After School Nightmare is a 10-volume manga series by renowned mangaka Setona Mizushiro. Ms. Mizushiro writes particularly distinctive and very interesting storylines, and After School Nightmare is not an exception.

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“Japan. Endless Discovery:” Fashion & Cultural Event

This Sunday, March 11, 2012, marks the 1 year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. On Saturday, The Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles is hosting a “Japan. Endless Discovery:” Fashion and Cultural event at The Grove in Los Angeles.


Vita Hill Social Club – Boston, MA


I recently had the chance to visit Sony's Vita Hill Social Club before they shuttered their doors forever. Unfortunately you can no longer visit this magical piece of video game history, but luckily I am here to give you the rundown of how everything went down.


International CES Convention


For four days, 34,000 international attendees came to Las Vegas to the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES.) Running from January 10 – 13, CES had with 1.861 million net square feet of exhibit space showcasing more than 20,000 new products from around the world. CES brings together companies and allow them to show and sell the latest in electronics in computers, automobiles, home, and much more.


KK At The Movies: The Woman In Black

The Woman in Black has received many mixed reviews, some positive praising the horror of the film, some not so positive wondering where the twisted plot was really headed. The movie heads Danielle Radcliffe in a breakaway roll from Harry Potter. Radcliffe plays a widowed father and lawyer who, though not much description is given, is sent to take care of a woman's estate. Once in the town he's met with very little help from the townspeople, most of whom just want him to leave. Insistent on completing his job he sets off to the woman's estate where, no surprise seeing as its a horror film, spooky things happen.

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The Fight for Earth Draws Closer: Anticipating Mass Effect 3

You've tried to stop them...
You've tried to warn everyone about them...
Now... They're here and it's time to fight!


Gabriel Iglesias Stand-Up Revolution Tour

Gabriel Iglesias launched his "Stand-Up Revolution" tour this winter, eventually coming around to Santa Cruz's Civic Auditorium on January 20th. Gabriel Iglesias is very well-known for his clean and family friendly stand-up comedy. A lot of his jokes revolve around his large stature and real-life scenarios. Gabriel Iglesias was given his own show on Comedy Special entitled "Stand-Up Revolution" where he, and other of his comedic buddies, team up to give an all-around great comedy show.