Archive for August, 2010

Reviews By Kids, For Kids: Maplestory

MapleStory is a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) where you kill monsters, hang out with friends, and play some games such as Omok, which is like tic tac toe except it has a much bigger board, and you need to connect 5 in a row horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.  There are two kinds of pieces in each set.  Some are mushrooms, pigs, octopi, and slimes.

In MapleStory, you can also gain summoning sacks from doing quests or this kind of gambling thing called gachapon.  With a summoning sack, you can summon monsters, and some people like to kill new players, by summoning them in secret (like me).

In MapleStory, there is also NX cash or Nexon cash.  With NX, you can outfit your character, buy gachapon tickets, buy facial expressions (you start out with 7 facial expressions on F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, and F7), or sometimes you can buy meso sacks from events.  NX cash comes in bundles of 10,000 or 25,000 from a store such as GameSpot.  If you are buying NX cash online, you can buy a 5,000 card also.  NX costs $1 for 1,000.

Also, MapleStory is very addicting, so keep an eye on the clock.  Gachapon tickets are used for running the gachapon, which gives you scrolls for upgrading equipment or equipment, including very rare equipment such as the Frozen Tuna.

In MapleStory, I noticed a thing that kept happening:  people quit MapleStory usually at levels 20-28.  I found out a way that gets you to level through those levels very fast.  There are dungeons in MapleStory such as the Ant Tunnel and the Dead Mines.  In the And Tunnel, there are these critters called Zombie Mushrooms which are very good to train on and can also drop chaos scrolls, which are worth about 70-100 million mesoes.  Chaos scrolls are good because they have a 60% chance of working, and if they do work, they can make a item very good, or very bad. I have gotten lucky, and gained 3 chaos scrolls so far. I only have one left, but I got 3 from the mushrooms, just showing you how much chance you have of getting them.  I also got one more from gachapon.

Dark scrolls are scrolls that have different % chances than normal scrolls. Here comes the “Dark” part – if the scroll fails, your item could be destroyed at a 50% chance.  Normal scrolls have 10%, 60%, or 100% chance, and each chance changes the amount of status changed on the weapon.  The 2nd best is 60% chance because with 10%, you fail a lot, with 100%, it barely does anything, and with 60%, it’s about average.  There are also scrolls called GM scrolls (Game Master Scrolls) that make it so that it is a 100% chance scroll with the status change like a 10% scroll, therefore being the best scroll in the game.

There are 5 Classes so far in Maplestory:  Explorer, Cygnus knights, Arans, Evans, and Dual Blades.  Explorers have 5 Classes with different weapons, such as Pirate, where you can wield either guns or knuckles (Brawlers, people with knuckles, are my favorite).  Bowmen can use either bows or crossbows. Mages can wield either wands or staffs, but have 3 classes that wield the same things:  Fire/Poison Mage, Cleric, or Ice/Lightning Mage.  Warriors have 3 different classes they turn into:  Fighter, using swords and axes, Spearman (which I suggest) that wield spears and pole arms, and Pages which use swords and maces.  Then there are Thieves, with can wield daggers and claws – claws using throwing stars.  Cygnus Knights are like Explorers but only use the following:  knuckles, swords, wands, bows, and claws.  Arans use pole arms, and Evans use wands.  Dual Blades use kataras (not katanas) and daggers.

I say MapleStory  is for ages 10+ and I highly recommend it because it is fun, you can almost do anything, and it is accessible throughout the U.S.

Review by John (age 13)

A little bit more information about Maplestory:

Maplestory is a popular 2D, side scrolling mmorpg with over 100 million subscribers worldwide, and over 10 million players in North America.  Originally released in 2003, Maplestory is a Windows based PC game developed by Wizet and published by Nexon America.  It’s free to play, but you can customize your character and enhance your gameplay by purchasing Nexon cash with real life money.

Gameplay

To play Maplestory, you log into Nexon.net and set up an account.  Then go to Maplestory, log in, and click Start Game.  You’ll need to download the client, then create your character and PIC (personal information code).  Hint:  get a small spiral notebook and be sure you write down all Nexon sign up information (name, birthday, email), and Maplestory account information (username, password, PIC).  You will not be able to remember it, and you will need it, or risk losing your account.  You’ll start out a “noob” on Maple Island, and work through a basic tutorial that shows you how things work.  Soon you’ll be on your way, traveling the Maple World, battling monsters, leveling up, and meeting people.

Maplestory has several different servers (Scania, Bera, Mardia, Broa, Yellonde, and more), so make sure if you’re going to play with someone, you’re both on the same server.  All servers are identical, but separate.  The Maple World is huge, and continually expanded by the game developers.  Each area of the map has its own unique look and monsters, along with its own storyline – Victoria Island, Ludibrium, Magatia, Orbis, Aquarium, El Nath, Omega Sector, and much more.

Battling monsters and completing quests are the main ways you level up and get EXP (experience) equips, mesos (in game currency), and items like monster drops, potions, and scrolls.

There are many classes of jobs – Explorers, Cygnus Knights, Arans, Legendary Heros/Evans, Dual Blades – and within each class are various different skill builds.  There is strategy involved in allocating a characters AP and SP points, including job, skills, and what weapons you choose.  Mess up your character’s stats, and you could ruin your character by making it weak and ineffective.  If you’re going to be playing Maplestory seriously, I recommend you check out some of the many guides available, to make life easier for yourself in the long run.

One of the best things about Maplestory is the social aspect – you can join parties for party quests or to battle monsters together, join guilds, chat with other players, trade, play minigames, hang out in Henysys with friends, take part in huge KS battles, or just log in and use it as an instant messenger with real life friends and family.

Guides, and more information, are available at:

Basilmarket

Hidden Street

Sleepywood

Strategy wiki

Orange Mushroom’s Blog

Shakar96’s Blog – KMS and GMS

Ayumilove’s Blogs are here and here

Spadow’s Blog – (Spadow “retired” from his blog June 2011, but still lots of great info)

NX cash

Maplestory has the in game Free Market, where players can buy and sell using mesos, and MTS (Maple Trading System), where players can buy and sell using NX cash points.  But to access many items in the Cash Shop you’ll need NX cash.  Go to CVS or GameStop, pick up a $10 or $25 nx cash card, log on to Nexon.net, redeem the code on the back of the card, and you’ll have NX cash for MapleStory, Mabinogi, Combat and Arms, and other Nexon games.  Just remember – while a little NX cash can be fun, you’re paying real life money for pixels (virtual items).


Good things

Maplestory is enjoyable because there are so many ways to play it.  You can focus on leveling up, and grind away.  Or hang out in channel 1 in Henesys or Ludi and meet up with old friends, or make new friends.  Or go online with friends and explore new places together.  Maybe you want to be a rich tycoon – browse the free market for deals, or scroll some equips; set up your own shop or trade in the MTS, and be RICH.  Or maybe you just want to be the most powerful player, with the best equips – so you work on finding equips and scrolling them, and strategize about skill build and AP and SP points.  Or maybe you just want to change your character’s look and hang out, so you get some NX and change up your hair, eyes, clothes, equips.

The art in Maplestory is cute, colorful, and fun.  They frequently have in game events, which are fun but can cause some serious lag.

Cautions and considerations / bad things

Maplestory is rating: ESRB: E10+.  I feel it’s definitely a late middle school / high school / college age game.  Of course, I play occasionally, too, and I’m way out of college.  There are also a number of adult players on Maplestory, even adult-only guilds, and there are a number of family Maplestory players.  My 8 year old only plays online when I’m online training or questing with her.  And she is not allowed to talk with anyone in game.  Ever.

Before you let your kids play ANY mmorpg, it’s a good idea to have a talk with your kids about online safety and lay out the ground rules:  no telling people your real name, age, where you live (can say state, that’s all), or contact information (email, IM, phone #, street address).  Break the rules, and you’re off the game.  Also, it’s a good idea to set a time limit on how much they can play, and a dollar limit on how much they can spend on NX cash.

Like most interactive online games, Maplestory has its share of flirting, offensive language, trash talking, racism, and sexually inappropriate dialogue.  There can be rude behavior, including defaming, getting kicked from parties for no reason, KSing (kill stealing), and harassment.  Some actions you can take to avoid these things:  minimizing chat box; blocking whispers, chat, and trade.  There is an in game mechanism to report people.  Be sure to supervise your kids playing; watch for them getting upset, angry, or sad.

Grinding is boring, but Nexon has worked on making leveling up easier, including changing the exp rate, and adding quests, and party quests, to make leveling faster.

Maplestory has had hacking epidemics in the past, so make sure you have up to date virus protection.

Lastly, Maple can be addictive.  If your kid’s grades are falling, or you feel they’re spending more time online than with real life friends, have a talk with them and cut back.

Overall

Maplestory is fun to play, free, a way to connect socially, and enjoyable if you’re just looking for something to do.  It’s versatile, challenging, aesthetically pleasing, and as hard or easy as you want it to be.  Although, I will say, the jump quests are maddening.  It’s great to be able to play with friends, and there’s a sense of accomplishment when you reach a goal (be it a high level, or a billion mesos).  However, there are a few things you need to watch out for and be aware of.

We are a Maplestory family – everyone, except Dad, has multiple characters.  My highest level character is a level 85 Priest (which is kinda pathetic after 4 years of playing), while my kids’ characters are higher than mine.  We can get up to 5 PCs/laptops going at once – sometimes the kids have friends over and they can all play together online, and sometime they play with their online friends from all over the world (including the U.S., the Netherlands, the Middle East, and South America).

We haven’t had time to play much lately, with the beautiful summer weather – only playing on rainy days or those hot, steamy muggy days where we wilt, and need the air conditioning.  The other day we had a sleepover party, and 1 of the boys we invited showed up with a laptop.  That’s it.  No sleeping bag, pjs, or toothbrush.  Just a laptop.  I guess that’s how it is, in 2010.

UPDATE:  Just released, MapleStory Thief Edition on the iPhone and iPod touch:

2 of the kids bought it for their iPod touch.  It’s the basic Maplestory game, but you can only play as a thief.  The kids say it’s:

Awesome, fun!
The graphics are not as good quality as online.
Not online; no way to play with friends – wish had wifi connection!
Boring – can only battle monsters and do quests to level up.

There you have it.  In a nutshell.

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Cooking With Kids: Chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

chocolatechipcookies

I’ve searched for a long time for a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that taste great right after baking and still taste great the next day.  Most recipes are great when eaten warm, straight out of the oven, but the next day they’re dry and crumbly.  Bleah.

This recipe makes cookies that taste unbelievable when warm, and are still yummy and in one piece the next day.  And, they have oatmeal in them, so they’re good for you, right?

Of course, in our house, chocolate chip cookies have a very short life.  But sometimes we like to bake big batches so the kids have some for school lunches.  That’s the goal anyway.

Note: Don’t let the kids eat any of the raw cookie dough.  This is a good time to remind them of the dangers of eating uncooked eggs and salmonella.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (that’s 2 sticks), softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet or milk chocolate)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.
Add eggs.
Add vanilla.
Mixing on low, add 1 cup of flour, then baking soda and salt, then the rest of the flour.
Using a large spoon, stir in quick oats, then chocolate chips.

Place heaping spoonfuls on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 12 minutes at 325 degrees.
Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes, then move them over to a wire rack.

This is where the kids will all come, and want to sample them.  Beware – these babies go fast.

Photo: by BackToTheCuttingBoard.

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16 things you should always have in your car if you have kids

 

 

When traveling with kids, expect the unexpected.  A bloody knee in the mall parking lot.  A desperate plea to pee 30 miles from any rest area.  An impromptu picnic because the doctor’s appointment ran late, and the kids need to eat.  Now.

I always keep the van prepped and ready to go.  That way, we’re always ready for an adventure.  It makes it easier for me, too, as there’s no packing or prep when we have to go anywhere.  My list of things I keep stashed in my van:

  1. Kleenex
  2. Wipes
  3. Paper towels
  4. Full first aid kit with bandaids and a cold pack
  5. Water bottles – for emergency drinking or cleaning of wounds
  6. Umbrella
  7. Blanket – good for impromptu picnics, or snuggling if cold
  8. Small MagnaDoodle
  9. Extra jackets for each kid – we stash both a windbreaker and a fleece for each kid, and a windbreaker for each grownup
  10. Snacks: granola bars (non melty – not chocolate coated); almonds; fruit chews
  11. Potty gear: extra diapers/pull-ups (diaper cream, changing pad); pee jar (for small boys) – Peter Pan peanut butter works well (make sure it’s leak proof)
  12. Picnic pack – plates, spoons, cups, tablecloth (we use a twin sheet – can also use as an extra blanket)
  13. Pen
  14. Lipgloss
  15. Purell
  16. Plastic grocery bags to use as trash bags

Everything is stored in a specific place, so it’s out of sight, but accessible.  We use a low, flat, open cardboard box (from buying a case of Snapple) stashed under the middle seat for the wipes, Kleenex, and paper towels.  First aid kit is tucked in compartment under front passenger seat.  In the back of the van:  jackets packed in a large fabric bag that zips shut; blankets; umbrella; 24 pack of water bottles; a small bag for snacks, picnic gear, and diapers/pee jar.  MagnaDoodle goes in a seat pocket.  Pen and lipgloss go in a front dash compartment, and Purell goes in a front cupholder – so it’s easy for me to grab and pass around to the kids.   Also, my van is not a trash can – we do a quick clean out every time we go anywhere, as a rule.

What do you stash in your car to make your life easier?

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Review: What To Buy Me – Facebook wishlist

How many times have you wanted to get someone a gift, and wished you knew what they would like?  I’ve been beta testing What To Buy Me – a new Facebook app that allows you to create a wishlist, share it with your friends, and see your friends wishlists.

 
It was fun thinking about things I would like, and creating my wishlist.  The app is very simple to use – just a description and priority ranking is required for each wish.  There are also 2 levels of privacy: a default list setting, and an individual wish setting.  A Facebook account is required to use this app.

According to What To Buy Me, most wishlists are tied to product links – you find something you like, click on it, and it’s dropped into a wishlist.  (That’s the way my Amazon wishlist works.)  I like the fact that I can just freeform enter things I like, whether they have links or not.  I also like the way you can find out interesting things about a person by looking a their list.  The app is free, and it’ll be interesting to see if this helps me with my holiday shopping and crafting. 

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By Kids, For Kids: TEDxRedmond

 

If you’re fortunate enough to live near Redmond, Washington, you won’t want to miss TEDxRedmond.  Organized by kids, for kids, TEDxRedmond will be held on Saturday, September 18th, at the Microsoft Conference Center with the theme: Power to the Students!  If you don’t live near Redmond, you can still participate by watching a live, online stream at home, or by watching recorded videos, after the event, at home.

Check out the amazing and inspiring group of young speakers here, including lead organizer Adora Svitak.

After speaking at the annual TED conference in Long Beach, California, twelve-year-old teacher, speaker, and author Adora Svitak wanted to bring a TED-like experience home to Redmond, Washington. “I had such a great experience during my first time at TED, but I realized that not everyone had such an opportunity,” she explained. “Through TEDxRedmond, I’m hoping to share the magic of TED in an independently organized event.”

“I’d heard about the TEDx program and I was intrigued,” said Svitak. “I started thinking about how I could get kids my age thinking about learning and leadership — particularly from speakers their own age.”

Created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading”,  TEDxRedmond is for students in grades six through ten.  If you’d like to participate, either as an on-site attendee, as a speaker, or by watching a live stream or recorded videos post event, be sure to check out the attend page here.

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How to connect your Nintendo DSi to your wireless network

To fully take advantage of Dragonquest IX’s online features, we had to connect each boy’s DSi to our wireless network, which turned out to be a little tricky.

First a little info about wireless protocols:

WPA is the newest, strongest, and most widely accepted protocol for wireless connections.  Everything between the wireless piece and the computer (wireless access point) is encrypted using WPA.  There are 3 – 4 different types of WPA (pro, home, etc.), but most importantly, WPA hasn’t been hacked yet.

WEP is the original encryption protocol.  It’s much weaker and has been cracked, so it’s not used as often.   You wouldn’t want your household network/laptop using WEP, as it’s been hacked, and your data could be intercepted and maliciously used.

The Nintendo DSi used only WEP.  Most computers and routers can be set up for WPA or WEP, but you must choose only 1, because a single router can’t use both at the same time.

The way we solved this problem was we installed a separate router that supported WEP, and turned it into an access point, by disabling all of its router functions.  This enabled us to use WEP to connect the DSi’s to an access point, so they’re on the network and have Internet access.  All without endangering the security of the other computers in our house, which still wirelessly connect using WPA on our original router. 

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Reviews By Kids, For Kids: Dragon Quest IX DS: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Dragon Quest IX Sentinels of the Starry Skies is your basic medieval fantasy role playing game, with Magicians and Warriors and Martial Artists.

The game’s story is that you are an angel apprentice learning to protect mortals from monsters.  After a while, you become an actual angel and protect a town called Angel Falls.  When you go back to the Angels HQ, you find your old master and the chief angel talking, then head up to the ancient tree, Yggdrasil.  You decide to follow them.  When they are up there, they notice you tell you “You must see this, Yggdrasil is bearing fruit!”  While that is happening, the Starlight Express, a magical flying golden train, is circling the tree.  Suddenly, a dark beam shoots out from above and hits the Starlight Express and Yggdrasil, and the glowing fruit, you, and the Starlight Express all fall to the mortal world and you are stripped of most of your angel powers.  Then, you land in Angel Falls and begin your journey to get your powers back.

In the game there are 6 classes that can you start with, and 6 hidden classes.  The regular ones are Warrior, Priest, Magician, Martial Artist, Rogue, and Minstrel.  The only hidden class I have unlocked is Gladiator.  To get Gladiator, you have to use dragon slash at highest tension to a slime and kill it.  You must do that three times. Anyway, a Warrior can use a sword only.  A Gladiator can use an axe, hammer or sword – I recommend the sword.  A Martial Artist can use a pole, claw, fisticuffs, or fan – I recommend claw.  Magicians can use a staff or a wand, and Priests can use staffs or poles.  Minstrels can use fans or swords.

I like Dragon Quest IX because you can also, if you have a brother or sister, link to other people’s worlds.  Example: I can link to my brother’s world and help him do his story.  The link range is about 30 feet.  I also like that the game is very long, and if you beat the game there are many side stories.

I recommend Dragon Quest IX for ages 8 and up.

Reviewed by Peter, age 11

 

A little more information about Dragon Quest IX

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is a Nintendo DSi game, released on 7/11/10, and rated E 10+.  Because it was one of the top rated games, all of my boys decided to buy it and have played it consistently.

DQ IX is an RPG (role playing game) with an epic storyline, and 3rd person oriented turn-based battles, including a combo/multiplier system.  The more monsters your character defeats, the stronger they become.  One of the features my kids love is that DQ IX allows you to customize your character’s gender, hair, face, body style, and equips.  You also get to choose your job – each with its own unique strengths, weaknesses, spells, and skills.  They also love that they can all play together using multiplayer, which allows up to 4 players to play together in cooperative gameplay mode using a local wireless connection.

Unlike some RPGs where you follow a set path each time to beat the game, with DQ IX gameplay can be different for each player, each time through.  Players encounter different stories based on their choices in game – which NPCs they interact with and which quests they choose.  Essential to the storyline and game progression, quests unlock rare items and hidden occupations and are either earned through gameplay, or can be downloaded.

DQ IX was designed with online functionality, and has a wireless feature that allows you to download new items and quests every day.  Using wireless broadband Internet access, players can visit an online shop to buy new items (using in-game money) or download (for free) additional quests.  Quests vary between continuing the main storyline, side quests, standalone missions, or seasonal themes.  As a parent, I appreciate that the online shop was designed to use in-game currency, and not real cash.

One feature my kids haven’t used yet is Tag Mode, which allows you to passively share content with other players.  Tag Mode allows players to keep the game active, even with their DSi stored in their pocket, or backpack.  “When two players come within range of one another, Tag Mode enables them to wirelessly–and automatically–exchange character information, customized greetings and treasure maps. These treasure maps allow players to find otherwise inaccessible dungeons called grottoes featuring special boss monsters and even rare items“.  All in good time.

DS IX is well rated, well designed, and fun to play.  If your child is looking for a good E rated DS game, check it out.  And if you’re kids get stuck, don’t forget you can always access the FAQs and forums at Gamefaqs for a quick assist.

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