Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lord of Ultima

Lord of Ultima is a free on-line real time strategy (RTS) game produced by Electronic Arts.  It's remotely related to the Ultima RPG series which EA had produced through its sister company Origin back in the day but really only shares the logo and some references to places in the Ultima RPG universe.

By going through a quick sign-up and email confirmation  your are thrown into a quick and dirty tutorial to the resource management game most RTS's are known for.  You are given a kingdom fenced in by two enclosing walls and a governing building which provides basic resource production and storage facilities.  Your domain is randomly located on a vast world map also shared by other real players in various stages of their own domain's development.

As mentioned before the game is about resource management and resource development.  There are 4 raw materials you must manage: wood, stone, iron, and wheat.  Each resource has a use in the propagation of your kingdom.  Wood serves as a basic building material and fuel and is pretty much required in every development you do in the game.  Stone is merely a building resource for buildings and walls.  Iron is required for more advanced buildings but is mainly required for weaponry used by your armies.  Wheat is required to feed your armies and determine the size of the armies you can safely support.

When you start your "town hall" provides you a basic production of wood.  To progress from this state of noobness you will have to build more buildings that will enhance the productivity of your kingdom.  Some buildings process one of the main game resources from its surroundings.  The player can enhance the production of these buildings if they build them close to certain geographical entities that respectively represent the raw resources.  Other buildings increase your city's storage facilities so that surpluses aren't loss into the void.  Eventually the buildings you will want to build are the ones that produce armies which you can send to pillage and plunder randomly generated dungeons or other player owned cities.  Of course not all the building plans are available when you start and can only be unlocked by upgrading your town hall which usually comes at a high cost of resources.

The game as previously mentioned is on-line so you will have to deal with other players who may pose as an ally, or as a trading partner, or as a raiding enemy.  Players can make formal friendships called alliances which adds more direct lines of communication between players.  Alliances usually also means that any player moving in on your territories will have to deal with you and your friends.  Alternatively, once you build market places you can generate gold which then can be traded for resources from neighbouring kingdoms with surplus on the market.

EA offers regular play for free but of course they have other means of making money.  A shop of virtual goodies to enhance your kingdoms is available.  To purchase such enhancements you will have to trade cold hard credit for their virtual currency, diamonds.  With diamonds in hand you can either purchase artifacts that can be used to instantly replenish resources, speed up production, or enhance the probability of success that one of your armies will come back with returns and minimal losses.  Players can also buy 'advisors' who will look after your kingdom while you are indisposed of IRL.

I don't normally go out of my way to play RTS's but I will confess to an hour or so every night of Lord of Ultima for the past week.  You can check it out yourself at, but be prepared to be somewhat distracted for a couple of upcoming nights.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Modx: Evolution

I have seen this CMS on the market for a couple of years now and was intrigued with its methods of providing users with a CMS that allowed people to designate different templates on different pages.  With previous CMS I have used most packages come with predefined sections designated where certain functionalities have to be accessed.  It can be quite frustrating when your clients want to be different than at least your other clients.

I have undertaken a new web project recently and decided to finally choose Modx as a back end platform.  Granted that I myself had to do a 10 part tutorial to understand what Modx has to offer and don't expect my clients to follow suite to manage their site.  Fortunately to simply add content I can break it down to my client in a 1 hour session.  As for designing web sites with a PHP backend Modx is a complete solution for developers looking for solutions for clients who want to do a periodical website with varying layouts.  Since Modx allows users to designate a template for a page that he is posting I can implement a selection of layouts for my client and allow my client to choose which lay out is appropriate for the particular content he wants to post.

Theme management is only the tip of the iceberg.  Modx is also into reusing code.  Users can create and store reused portions of HTML and PHP and easily designate an appropriate placeholder for them to be called from a template.  Modx furthers its flexibility by allowing designers to designate template specific variables so their clients can fill out fields when posting content to specify a parameter for a template.

Modx is also expandable.  The Modx support site posts a large selection of extension and plugins to add reusable code to implement everything from breadcrumb menus to gallery management to captcha form protecting.  People can find everything they need to get started from their site at .  They have a growing community with all kinds of helpful tutorials that can be found through their forums.  Oh, and yes, it is free.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rotting Apples

Apple has just recently released it's new IOS 4.0 for their i-phone line to coincide the release of the new i-phone.  With all I have been hearing on the whole bumper fiasco and how the new IOS releases are slowing down the performance of the older i-phones I have been thinking on and off on whether I should support Apple as a company.

I have a few Apple devices myself.  I still maintain that the Macbook White has been the best computer I have ever owned.  As for my i-pod touch, I have no complaints on its capabilities as a personal media player though I find myself thinking about jail breaking it to expand upon its use beyond that.  I have used my i-touch to check email and browse some social web sites and I have tried using it as a personal note taker and event planner but the virtual keyboard has made interacting with it in this function not as convenient as it should be.  I find myself entering data on my laptop and using the i-touch to review items of reference. 

The Apple devices I own are overall quality devices and should be since I have spent quite a bit of money to own them.  I find it, however, quite disturbing when I hear that these devices have planned obsolescence in their design.  Apparently after 2-3 year of use Apple expects me to toss a perfectly functioning device over for their new line of devices with minimal improvement in enhancing my experience.

When I bought these devices I had no problems investing money in a quality product but some how this is all moot when the device is suppose to be outdated in a couple of years.  When I spend $500+ on a gadget I expect it to use it for a little more than 2-3 years.  Doing less in my opinion would be no different than the mentality which started the trend of disposable consumerism that produces the products that line all our dollar stores, the only difference being that Steve Jobs makes a butt load of money doing it.  How about Apple be true to its eco-friendly claim and start a recycle program for older phones.  And how about Mac fan boys stop supporting Apple and make good use of your money by keeping that i-phone for another couple of years.