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September in Review September 30, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, War Thunder, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

The Site

What to complain about this month?  Yes, with the coming of a new game, the spam turns to follow.  And so there was an outbreak of ArcheAge spam caught in the filter this month.

ArcheAge Gold Spam

ArcheAge Gold Spam

But there is a host of spam caught in the filter every month.  Sometimes SynCaine is caught in there too.  However, that isn’t really much of a complaint.  Besides, if you bought ArcheAge gold, could you even log on to spend it?  So I will have to find something else.

How about stats?

The other day I was looking at the referrer stats on this blog and saw that my other blog, EVE Online Pictures, was sending me a bit of traffic.

In the morning 17 can seem like a lot

In the morning 17 can seem like a lot

I thought this was interesting as, since I own both blogs, I can match up the stats!  Because accounting!  So I looked over at the outbound stats for EVE Online Pictures and saw this.

That would be less than 17

That would be less than 17

The flip side shows just two clicks.  I am not sure if they are counted differently or just counted incorrectly, but something definitely seems amiss.  Stats are an illusion.

One Year Ago

We heard that Warhammer Online was slated to shut down in December.

We also got the official word that Blizzard would be killing the auction house in Diablo III.

SOE was getting over some of their Station Cash screw ups.

In general I wasn’t too excited about the expansion outlook on the MMO scene.

In EVE Online the Rubicon expansion went live.  Our corp had a little drama as Gaff plotted to overthrow our CEO and created a new corp, Black Sheep Down.  As is usual, he was good for the intrigue, but once he became El Supremo, he got bored and stopped playing.  Happens after every coup… and there have been a few.  We went from being literally the worst corp in TNT to… erm… well, that didn’t change I guess.  We did run out to null sec for a fight and I put my alt in the corp to bolster our numbers because there is a minimum height requirement or some such.

In general we were finishing up our deployment in Delve cleaning up after the TEST collapse and I hit 110 million skill points.  Also, there was the war between evebloggers.com and evebloggers.net.

The instance group, in a hint as to where we were headed, ran a series of WoW dungeon knock-offs in Neverwinter.

And it was time for the usual bout of autumnal nostalgia.  This time I returned to Azeroth, which made me ask the question, when is it nostalgia anyway?  My daughter and I and a friend had a plan to roll up some new characters on a new server.  Whatever it was, it felt like home.

And, finally, I covered the great resurrection exploit in TorilMUD.

Five Years Ago

I described some really old-school gaming… pre-computer… which involved hunting each other in cars.

There was a brief moment of nostalgia for Infocom games… or at least for the ads.  Honestly, I think the ads were better than some of the games.

I was still talking about my days of playing MUDs, with a description of getting to Kobold Village and the great bronze armplate smuggling get rich quick scheme.

And Turbine announced the Siege of Mirkwood expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, which brought out a little guilt in me, since I hadn’t even gotten to Moria.  I still haven’t, for that matter.

Then there was WoW.  We were really on a WoW binge that September.  I put up a poll about what instance we didn’t want to see made into an heroic, and the results were… unsurprising.

There were pirates and Brewfest and I managed to get my chef’s hat and all the sundry cooking achievements.  There was corpse spam and phasing and we ran through Ulduar and the Oculus. and trial of the champion.

And, finally, there was the three year anniversary of the blog, with the usual round of stats and trivia… oh, and the Nine Circles of MMO Hell.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  2. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  5. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  6. Eight Years of Link Rot
  7. Nostalgia, Name Wipes, and the Next Expansion in Azeroth
  8. Rome – A Shameful Display
  9. When Does an MMO Become a Foreign Country?
  10. ArcheAge Went Live and Everybody Went Crazy or Something
  11. Extra Credits – Free to Play Is Currently Broken
  12. Rift Joins the Insta-Level Club with Nighmare Tide Expansion

Search Terms of the Month

what time will servers unlock warlords of draenor on november…
[Doesn't matter, the queue will keep you from playing anyway]

why is war lord of draenor $50
[Because Blizzard owns you, and me too]

firiona rift destroy
[I am pretty sure Norrath is her current target]

when does pokemon alfah safire and omega ruby come out
[I actually prefer your spelling]

Defense Grid 2

Long awaited, since the Kickstarter funded but not as fully as expected, I am happy to be able to play it now.  And with how Hidden Path Entertainment has put together the game, we can look forward to plenty of official and fan made updates.  It isn’t perfect.  They have some work to do on their administrative interface and I have found at least one serious “you shipped with that?” bug.  But actual game play is solid, so  I am a bit bemused at some of the rage about the game in certain quarters.  Basically, a few people seem upset that the game is… well… different.  The towers were changed and rebalanced and given new options, with certain go-to defaults being much less effective. (Cannon towers are no longer “I win!”)  On the whole it seems good to me, but some people just wanted more of the old game… which I can understand.  I played the hell out of that too.

EVE Online

Given that my previous three posts this month were about EVE Online, I guess I did actually play the game this month.  Or paid attention to it a bit.  I managed to get a couple more ships out of Delve and back up to our new staging system in Deklein.  There was also a bit of cleaning up the neighborhood in the north, as it had gone to seed a bit while we were away.  And then things got pretty quiet.  Even the regional intel channel has been quiet while I have been logged in.  What is Gevlon paying Mordus Angels for, if not to shit up our space?  Anyway, we’ve had to travel further afield, out to low sec to find fun of late.  And low sec is weird.  Security status means something there.  There are no warp disruption bubbles.  People don’t always shoot strangers in the face the moment they show up.  Gate guns shoot at you.  It is most queer and disturbing after three years in null.

Rome II

The strategy group has pressed forward with Total War: Rome II.  We seem to be doing okay as long as we fight against each other.  I think we are still mostly learning how to get the game to do what we want, or at least understand the limitations of what we can do.  The fights are interesting, but the fact that we, as a group of four, are pretty much limited to a variety of different skirmishes, which I can see getting old sooner rather than later… which is what happened with Age of Empires II: Age of Kings over time.  But I am not sure where we would head next.  Maybe Endless Legend or something from the list I made earlier this year?

War Thunder

I actually got out War Thunder and patched up to play for a bit.  I went out and dropped some bombs and then tried the whole tank side of the game.  The beginning level tanks are not the silly level of joy that they are in World of Tanks, but they also seem… more realistic maybe?  I’ve never driven a tank, so how would I know?  But there is a higher level of difficulty in just shooting stuff, your crew dies very easily if you take a solid hit, and the whole thing seems less arcade-like than WoT.  Is that a good thing?  I am not sure.

World of Warcraft

After the summer of working on the Loremaster achievement, I think I may have fallen off of that horse.  All the groundwork of the 1-60 achievements has been laid, so I can go back to it at some point, but my idea of doing all the zones in Outland at level became less fun and more chore as I moved through the zones.  I keep asking myself, “How did we do all of this with no flying mounts and effectively less power?”  So my WoW time has tapered off quite a bit.  That might not be a bad thing, as Warlords of Draenor is just about a month and a half away.  A rest from Azeroth might be appropriate, so as to be fresh when the expansion drops.

Coming Up

There is a blogging event called Bragtoberfest coming up.  I am not sure I understand it.

The Oceanus expansion for EVE Online is dropping today, so that will make some waves. (Ha ha!) I am not sure many doctrine fits will be affected by the first round of module revamps, though light missile launchers are on the list, which means that somebody might have to look at our Hawk or Crow fits I suppose.  Also, EVE Vegas is coming up in the middle of the month, which is about as close as an EVE Online event ever gets to me.  Unfortunately, I just wrote a big check for braces for my daughter, so that will have to wait for another year.

The ongoing ArcheAge: Tales from the Queue drama should no doubt subside at some point and people will start getting into the meat of the game… which should lead to some fresh new drama.  SynCaine is already hinting at some possibilities there. (As well as some of the promise.)

And, speaking of drama, maybe the whole “gamer gate” thing will subside soon.  One can only hope.  It seems to have devolved into two camps talking past each other, trying to score points more to impress their own team than to convince anybody of anything, and painting the other side as being in lock step with, or automatically condoning all actions of, the worst person on their respective “side.”  Bleh.

Finally, I have to think that we will see the big WoW 6.0 patch drop before the middle of the month, likely next week.  Blizzard has been talking about it, it has been on the public test realm for a while, and the launcher started letting people pre-download the files for the patch.  So it is a comin’!  And that will give us a few weeks to adjust to a lot of change before November strikes and we have BlizzCon, the Warlords of Draenor launch, and then the World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary.

Oh, and log on to WoW today if you haven’t recently.  Last day to get the Horde chopper for free.  I am not particularly enthusiastic about that whole Azeroth Choppers thing but, hey, free mount.

Riding the Waves with Oceanus September 29, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

The next small EVE Online expansion, Oceanus, is set to deploy today/tonight/tomorrow, depending on your time zone.  With one server, it is always happening during somebody’s prime play time, that is for sure.  Named for yet another titan (straight from Uranus, if you want to go for the puerile joke, and I know I do), following on after the Crius and Hyperion expansions, it contains the usual mix of interesting, obscure, and trivial changes.

And some music.  Every expansion must have new music.

Anyway, the patch notes tell all.

For example, the game client will now be available in French.

Vive Nouveau Éden

Vive Nouveau Éden

That only surprises me because I thought it already was in French… probably because of the Gallente.  Plus the client is already in German, Russian, and Japanese, so somebody had to at least metaphorically travel across France to get to these places.

Aur... doesn't translate well

Aurum… doesn’t translate well

Well, if it wasn’t in French before, it will be now.  Bienvenue à mes amis.

On the list of more trivial yet vital, players will now be able to import and export ship fits from the in-game ship fitting tool using the EVE Fitting Tool application format, to which I can only say, “Thank the living stars!”  Being in a corp, alliance, and coalition that combined  a wide variety of doctrine fits, which have been know to change quickly and quietly, I have spend more than my share of time fitting out a ship I had to build up from the hull via the time honored “Look and Paste” method across multiple windows.

There are some UI changes and the ability to opt-in on notifications in game and tweaks to some ships and the usual list of bugs fixed as part of the cycle.  But the big, big item in the patch notes is a change that is just starting with the Oceanus release.  CCP is going to revamp all of the named meta 1-4 modules over time.

The good part is that they are going to go to a standardized naming scheme, so you will be able to tell what the benefit of a given module is.  That has long been an issue… at least for me… as the naming scheme was all over the place.  I basically memorized the “right” module for whatever fit, but couldn’t tell you what any of the other meta modules were or which was better off hand without checking the comparison detail in-game.

The interesting part… or the dangerous part, if you prefer… is that they are pretty much doing away with meta 1-4 modules as they stand today.  Right now, the higher the meta, the better/more powerful the module.  When they are done, everything in the gap between the tech I and tech II modules will be meta 1, but will be specialized in a specific way.

Before and After

Before and After

The naming scheme/specializations have been laid out as such:

  • Upgraded- Used for named modules where no specialization is possible
  • Compact- Used for named modules that specialize in reduced fitting cost
  • Enduring- Used for named modules that specialize in lower cap use or otherwise longer running time
  • Ample- Used for named modules that specialize in extra capacity
  • Scoped- Used for named modules that specialize in longer range
  • Restrained- Used for named modules that specialize in reduced drawbacks

This is going to cause some fitting chaos over a long stretch of time.  CCP cannot do all the modules at once, so with each expansion going forward they will be changing a set of modules.  The first set to get the treat is:

  • Co-Processors
  • Reactor Control Units
  • Micro Auxiliary Power Cores
  • Light Missile Launchers
  • Capacitor Flux Coils
  • Cargo Scanners
  • Ship Scanners
  • Survey Scanners

That is kind of a safe-ish list I suppose.  The “tip of the ice berg” as CCP put it.  The scanners are easy and people will refit or whatever.  The power related items might cause some fit changes.  And light missile launchers will be the first dive into weapons, which is a whole can of worms on its own.

The fun part is going to see how people change up their fits.  A lot of the meta 1-4 modules get used because they often have lower skill/power/CPU requirements than their tech II brethren, so when you are trying to squeeze things into an optimum fit they are the go-to to cover that last 1% of CPU you need to make it all work.  I know that a lot of our doctrine fits depend on meta 1-4 modules to make them work.  There is a reason those meta modules are often pricier than the tech II versions.  Those doctrine fits that depend on meta 1-4 modules to work are all likely going to have to change as modules get updated… and maybe even change over and over with each six week expansion cycle.  All those doctrine logistics fits depend heavily on meta 1-4 modules right now.

So it is a good thing they have that fit import/export feature coming in now.  We are going to need it as we are headed into interesting times when it comes to fitting.  There is a whole long dev blog about the module changes should you want the details.

Anyway, as always, I have some long skills set to train as we wait for Oceanus to drop.  The next stop will be Phoebe a month and a couple weeks down the line.

Others talking about Oceanus features:

End of the Month Op Success in Low Sec September 29, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

The back half of September has been somewhat quiet in space.  At least for me.  There is always something going on somewhere, but since the move back to Deklein and Freedom Squad hell camping Mordus Angels back into their station and taking all their towers earlier in the month, there has not been a regular set of foes in space.

I tend to leave Jabber up most evenings, and not a lot of op announcements have been showing up.  And those that did pop often came at awkward times.  I have to be at my computer and ready to go and have the free time available when things get rolling.  A non-strategic fleet op tends to get moving somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes after it has been announced, and once an op is undocked and on its way somewhere, catching up can be a dubious proposition.  Travel in EVE Online is not trivial.  Catching up to a fleet op solo in anything other than an interceptor can be a dubious proposition.  Gate camps that will hide from the main body of the fleet tend to close in to try and grab stragglers and you have to cover every inch of space that the fleet has covered.  Nobody can summon you to the raid, you have to fly there on your own.

Flying Alone...

Flying Alone…

Still, sometimes it works.  I did managed to get into a fleet already 30 minutes live, fly out, and get on a kill mail before getting blown up myself.  I managed to warp into spot that made me the closest target and that was that.

Saturday night I gave it another shot.  There was a call for a Harpy fleet already 15 minutes old when I sat down at my desk.  As my wife was going to be away for a couple of hours, I figured I had time enough to give it a shot.  I logged in and got in my Harpy and then couldn’t get in the fleet.  I commented on the CFC general channel that the fleet was full and the FC, Alphastarpilot, got back to me in less than a minute with a “try now.”  And, hey presto, I was in.

And I was behind.

They were already 8 jumps down the pipe towards their destination and the FC was calling for people to catch up.  I undocked and immediately started down the route posted in the MOTD in fleet chat.  Three jumps in and then the FC began calling for people to reship to Bursts, as we were short on logistics.  I had to stop and ask myself if, already running behind, I should further compound that by turning around and reshipping or if I should just press on to catch up.  I decided to press on rather than miss out.  And it started to sound like the J4LP guys coming from another direction might have us covered on the logistics front.

I got to within a couple of jumps of the fleet before it started moving again, so it was just warp and jump and warp again trying to catch up.  Eventually the fleet stopped.  Part of the plan was to pass through a wormhole that the Circle of Two team had found that would get us a big leap towards our destination.  But he wanted everybody to go through together so nobody ended up lost in W-space where you actually have to know how scan and such to get out.  I managed to join the fleet on the wormhole.

Landing on the wormhole

Landing on the wormhole

Once we were assembled, we passed into W-space, flew to the exit wormhole, and ended up in Black Rise, Caldari low sec space.  From there Alphastarpilot had a plan.

Based on intel he had, we were going to drop on a group attacking a POCO in Pavanakka.  Our Harpy fleet, with about 70 people present, would land on them and attack in hopes that the would call in reinforcements in the form of a carrier.  So the FC got us into position and we landed on them and starting shooting up their logistics support.  Some of them were spooked, but the rest held on, a cyno was lit (which we were told not to shoot) and an Archon landed in our midst.

The big target arrives

The big target arrives

At this point Alphastarpilot calls in a Razor fleet that has been hanging around the area and we all drop on the Archon for the big kill.  Op success.

At that point the whole thing was probably the best fleet op I had been in all month.  A capital ship kill is always worth the effort, and another 16 kill mails was nice.  We could have gone home happy at that point.

But, according to intel, the people we dropped on were pissed and looking for a rematch.  Razor went on their merry way, happy to have helped, but we were still hanging around many jumps from home with nothing else to do, so we decided to stick around.

The one thing we had lost was logistics, so while our foes got themselves sorted out, we docked up in a station and started scrounging for replacements for our lost Bursts.  The J4LP guys managed to come up with a couple of Bursts and a few logistic fit Bantams for us, which gave us just enough coverage to go back for a second run.

Again, intel managed to put us in the right place at the right time and alerted us to the fact that our foes had phoned in for some help in the form of some ECM Blackbird support, no doubt in hopes of locking us down to be easy meat.

However, that did not end up working out for them.  When we clashed again, this time in Akidagi, Alphastarpilot called the targets, we shot them with a minimal amount of target splitting (when you get a secondary in the midst of a reload cycle, it is easy to think you should just move on to the secondary target if the primary looks like it is going down), and managed to get on top of things, again taking few losses and tearing a strip off of our foes.  I was on kill mails for 9 of the Blackbirds that came out in support.

They broke off and we chased around trying to find them again, catching one big fat target on the gate in Hikkoken.

Where we fought in Black Rise

Where we fought in Black Rise

From there we headed to the station when they seemed to be hold up and hung around the undock in hopes that they might come out for another round, but it did not look promising.  After a while playing undock games, Alphastarpilot pointed us back towards our wormhole and brought us home.

All in all, it was the best op of the month for me and ended a slow September on a high point.  I tried to assemble a battle summary to sum up who was there.  Alphastarpilot and his team did a great job.  I also have to commend Alphastarpilot for just being a great FC, calling all the right targets, and being able to pronounce, seemingly off the cuff, every low sec system we passed through.  I know a couple of time I thought to myself, “Ah, so that is how you say that name.”

And I also had a new ship spotting.  I saw my first Mordu’s Legion ship, as we had an Orthrus cruiser along for the ride.  It takes a while for new ships to filter into fleets.

As is the norm, I have some screen shots from the op, including a couple of the Orthrus, after the cut.

(more…)

Null Sec Lords Come Together for “The Null Deal” September 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: ,
6 comments

Fixing null sec has been a discussi0n point for a few months now.  All sorts of pet philosophies have been floated about power projection, apex forces, travel, fleet sizes, the effectiveness of logistics, how easy or difficult it ought to be to take a system away from another null sec entity, what actions/efforts should be required to even hold sovereignty, to going back to the pre-Dominion system of sovereignty.

Which ever theory is your favorite, the consensus seems to be that null sec needs to be changed.  Big battles in null sec garner the most attention for the game, but right not the effort it takes to actually run a war is beyond what anybody really wants to commit to.  The giant brawls are the shiny jewels in the crown of null sec, but having been through a few sovereignty wars now, I can say that actual victory goes to side that can maintain a hellish operational tempo the longest.  Winning is wearing out your enemy, and the inevitable “fail cascade” in a war generally amounts to one side declining to show up for a seemingly endless string of timers and structure shoots.

Null Sec Sov - Sept. 28, 2014

Null Sec Sov – Sept. 28, 2014

So everybody involved seems to want to fix null sec, CCP included.  We’ve admitted we have a problem. Now how do we fix it?

Towards that end, members of the major sovereignty holding null sec entities, including N3, Pandemic Legion, and the CFC, have come together to draft a list of things that they feel are important to a successful update of null sec.  The list is short, with just three items, that I would summarize as:

  • Occupancy Based Sovereignty – You should only be able to hold the systems your alliance lives in and uses.
  • NPC areas in all null sec regions – NPC null is the spring board for smaller groups to inject themselves into null sec, however much of sovereign null sec is out of reasonable range from NPC null stations.
  • Increased Player Density – A backwards way of saying that null sec systems should be able to support more player activity.  Right now based on various factors, systems can only support so many players ratting or mining or running anomalies, and there are many systems that support so little of each that they are essentially useless and are held only because the alliance in question holds the systems around it.

You can read more detail here on what is meant by each of these propositions, and who has signed on the bottom line in support, but they strike me as a reasonable and positive set of goals for a new null sec system, as opposed to a lot of the talk that has gone on over the summer, which focuses a lot on just altering one mechanism or another from the current system.

Of course, any change is a long way off.  CCP has to lay a lot of groundwork in their code just to be able to change things from what I have heard.  We may have to get things in bits and pieces over time.

There is, of course, a forum threadnaught associated with this as well.

EverQuest II Lore in a Minute September 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
Tags: ,
6 comments

Because… I actually knew all of this at one point.  And then there were expansions and flying carpets and such.

(Direct Link)

Project Gorgon – Not Dead Yet September 26, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: ,
8 comments

Barring some sort of miracle, this Kickstarter attempt isn’t going to succeed. But that’s been pretty obvious for a while! The more important thing, to the team here, is that people are getting a lot more excited than they’ve ever been. We’re seeing close to a hundred people online, which is still tiny, but for a previously-completely-unheard-of alpha test, it’s great!

Eric Heimburg, Project: Gorgon Kickstarter Update #6

There is less than 24 hours to go for the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter campaign at this point and it sits about 22% into its $100,000 funding goal.  Unless somebody shows up ready to write an $80K check really soon, the campaign will not fund.

ProjectGorgonLogo

And the failure to fund comes for a few reasons.  I mentioned the name recognition issue in my post at the start of the campaign.  “Who is Eric Heimburg?” is a serious problem in a field where names can be a draw.  And the name of the game itself, Project: Gorgon has never struck my as very dynamic or descriptive.   While it doesn’t feel as weighed down as the labored Shroud of the Avatar: The Hidden Virtues or as nonsensical as Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, it also doesn’t have the zing of Camelot Unchained or the simplicity of EverQuest.  And it isn’t like all the good short names are taken.  Didn’t Bungie just go live with Destiny?  And wasn’t there Journey just a while back?

I don’t know.  I just look at that name and wonder “What is this Gorgon?  And why has it become somebody’s project?”  It doesn’t say “game” or “fun” to me… it trends more towards frog dissection in high school biology to be honest.  That might just be me.

And the whole Kickstarter campaign probably could have gone better.  While I am on the mailing list, the whole thing came up as something of a surprise to me.  There wasn’t a lot of build up or attempts to get the word out in advance of the campaign.  There was no attempt to build up a sense of excitement to make a big, first day splash.  Hell, I only happened to see the Kickstarter announced on Twitter, after which I went away for about 20 minutes, came back, logged in, and managed to be the first backer.

Me being first in line for something I wasn’t even aware was coming, that speaks to some poor prep work.  And there is a strong correlation between Kickstarter projects doing well in the first 48 hours (well as in hitting 25-50% of their goal) and successfully funding.  Project: Gorgon didn’t even make 10% of the target in that time frame.

Finally, Eric Heimburg just isn’t a bright beacon for the project.  Not only does he lack name recognition, but he is just not the tireless showman that Mark Jacobs is, or the shameless self-promoting egomaniac that Spaceman Richard “Lord British” Allen “father of the online gaming industry” Dennis “most game designers really just suck” Garriott de Cayeux comes across as, or even the snake-oil selling charlatan that Brad McQuaid can be on a bad day.  Eric Heimburg is just too focused on the game itself… which is the right thing for an engineer, but doesn’t work so well when you need publicity.

Such is life.  I certainly wouldn’t be any better in the role.

And so, for whatever mix of reasons, the Kickstarter will almost certainly not fund.  And here I was all ready to name an NPC as part of my pledge.

However, as a follow on to the quote at the top, there is this:

We’re working on other ways to get the funding we need to make the game. I’ll share more of our plans as soon as I know them! In the mean time, if you’re enjoying the alpha, fear not: it will remain up and running for at least a few more months while we try to figure out a way to bring the game to completion.

And here is one of the key bonuses that Project: Gorgon has as a Kickstarter project.  You can go to the Project: Gorgon site right now, download and play in the alpha.

And there are things to see.  I only ran around the initial starter cave… it has been one of those month’s where “go play more Project: Gorgon” has been the 4th or 5th item on my list of things to do on any given night, and I rarely managed to get past the 2nd item… but there is a lot more to see, a world to explore, and I am sorry I haven’t gotten there yet.

Bhagpuss put up some screen shots of what he has seen, and I will add in some of the shots that have been posted as part of the Kickstarter campaign or on the game site at the bottom of the post.

But the essence is that there is a game here, an MMO, and if you are too busy whining about how World of Warcraft “ruined” MMOs to peek in on some of the niche projects like this or Camelot Unchained or Shroud of the Avatar, that are catering to concepts that just are not possible or practical in a mass market “must appeal to as many people as possible” MMO, then I am not sure I can take your rants very seriously.  Put your money where your mouth is.  If you want these sorts of things, go support them.

How often do the really interesting things in life line up with what works in the mass market in any case?

 

Rome – Improved Battlefield Lighting Ambiance September 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Strategy Group.
Tags:
3 comments

We skipped a couple of Friday nights, as people were off doing this and that as summer came to a close, before returning to Total War: Rome II.

SGRome

Our first run a couple weeks back at the multiplayer was summed up by the computer adviser declaring that it was a shameful display.

The only plan after that round was for everybody to go off an learn how to actually play the game.  That was it.  Just learn how to do things, because that seemed to be the first barrier in our way.  I often sort of knew how I wanted things to turn out, but even getting troops lined up the right way in the right direction… that was problematic.

In the mean time, the whole thing was upgraded to Total War: Rome II: Emperor Edition, a patch that included a bunch of… stuff.  So when I saw that, I setup the event/hangout in Google+ both to get the game on our collective calendars (I think we missed one week simply because nobody scheduled it) and to warn people to patch up.  My very words were, “Big Rome II update out on Steam, so patch up.”

I also put a link to the patch notes so people could see what was dropping.  However I also included my favorite minor bits from the update, which were:

  • Updates to battle grass colours.
  • Fix for some tree graphical issues on battlefields.
  • Improved battlefield lighting ambiance.
  • Updated weather environments for Mediterranean climate, dry and rainy conditions on the battlefield.
  • Briton Levy Freemen now look less like Celts.

Ha ha, right?  Ambiance!

But when we joined up on Friday night, only three of us had patched up in advance.  Loghound took the reference to ambiance to mean that the patch was no big deal.  So Mattman, Potshot, and I loaded up the game for some warm ups against the computer while Loghound patched.  He then decided to look at the patch notes and found that among the new features was native support for Mac OS.  That caused him to reboot his Mac from Windows mode to Mac OS, only to find out that installing the Mac version was not a trivial task.  So he went back to Windows and resumed patching.

While he patch the rest of us got together to face off against two AI opponents.  At a medium budget setting, it seemed like we ended up with a lot of troops on the field.

All of this versus 2 CPUs

All of this versus 2 CPUs

There we struggled a bit to get ourselves arrayed to even be able to strike at our foes, all while learning a new thing.  When setting up on the battlefield, if somebody clicks the ready button, everybody else gets a 30 second count down to be ready as well.  Those with the fewest troops to arrange or the simplest tactical problem to solve win!

We went on to crush the computer a couple of times, helped along by the AI’s determination to run straight at us, allowed us to fold around our flanks in something akin to a double envelopment.  It was practically Cannae.  We also figured out how to draw lines on the map, using the mini map palette tools, so we could indicate our vectors of advance and suggest possible cooperative moves.

More after the cut.

(more…)

The Power of Being Able to Say No September 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,
22 comments

The big news in the cycle yesterday was Blizzard canceling the Titan project, their work-in-progress next generation MMO.  We don’t know what it was, only that it was delayed at one point and now it has been cancelled.

It probably wasn't this

It probably wasn’t this

(Picture from the iOS game Giant Realms and the breeding guide site)

This has led to any number of people to say, “Ha ha! Blizzard sucks!” or other equally inane things.

Let me tell you about what really sucks in the real world.

What really sucks is being in a company where you have to ship your product, whether it good or not, because otherwise the place will go out of business.  When you have to release work you know isn’t quite ready or needed another design pass or just should have been shelved at some point, that sucks.  Or when your product hits the market after a year of crunch only to find that the customers interested in it only want some small feature that got tacked on because it was easy… and they aren’t willing to wait for version 2.0, much less pay for it… that sucks.

But being in a company with enough financial independence to be able to say, “No, that’s not good enough,  we’re not going to ship that,” that totally does not suck.

It is not easy.  Every project gets a life of its own, and if the company has invested in the project and talk about it outside the company, turning things off can be, as Chris Metzen said, “excruciating.”  And you have to be willing to ignore the whole sunk costs thing, because money has been spent. I have worked at a couple of companies that should have said no to bad projects, that would have been better off if they had, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

So seeing a company that is both secure enough in its market and knows what it is about enough to drop projects, that makes me envious more than anything.  That is what I was told “real” companies do back in college.

So Blizzard will just have to carry on with its streak of best-selling, money making games by not shipping something they didn’t feel worked.

I am hoping to see something deeper on the subject once people get past mocking the market leader for an alleged failure.

For example, what does it mean for the MMO market that Blizzard doesn’t necessarily want to make another MMO?  Is this opportunity for others, or just something that will scare off more investors?

And, of course, what does that mean for World of Warcraft in the long term?  The billion dollar a year cash cow that is WoW is part of the reason that Blizzard has the flexibility to say no at this time.  I expect that we will see even more focus on Azeroth to keep that revenue stream active.  Let it go?  How about never?  Is never good for you?

ArcheAge Went Live and Everybody Went Crazy or Something September 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: ,
7 comments

Normally I note when MMOs that are popular in our little corner of the web go live, if for no other reason than to track dates and such.  Somehow I missed my cue when ArcheAge went live… um… the other day?  Last week?  There was some sort of head start and such.  I sort of lost track.  But anyway, it went live and people went crazy.

ArcheAge_logo_450

Certainly, lots of people in the neighborhood seem to be playing it.  You can find all sorts of posts about it at:

As far as I can tell, Trion launched the game at exactly the right moment, in the lull where WildStar has begun to fade… erm… set out to create MegaServers(tm)… whatever… but Warlords of Draenor is still a couple months out.  And so ArcheAge became the oasis to which everybody flocked.

All servers queued, some with restrictions

All servers queued, some with restrictions

Being too successful is the best problem to have, but it is still a problem.  I even downloaded it over the weekend to take a peek.

I finally bit the bullet and let Trion install their Glyph gaming sales portal so I could log into Rift, and once I was there it was just a couple more clicks to have it install ArcheAge as well.

I was a little annoyed that they installed HackShield, an anti-hacking root toolkit, without bothering to warn me in large, flashing red letters, as I would have stopped the install right then and there.  I understand the need for such things, but I will avoid them if I can based on past experience with things like PunkBuster and such.  Basically, to play the game there is now another company in the mix, AhnLab, Inc., that can cause problems.  And there will be problems.  Some portion of legit users are always hit by these measures, so they basically send the message that it is okay to screw over a few of the innocent so long as we catch more hackers.  And then there is always the possibility of it being used as an attack vector.  Bleh.

And I wasn’t even going to have the potential to hack.  Being non-Patron scum, I was only able to check out the queues to get onto a server.  There was some variance, with the older servers being queued up past the 3K mark, and even had restrictions on what characters you could create.

More than an hour indeed...

More than an hour indeed…

More than an hour was a pretty light touch compared to reality.  While I am sure that patrons were being shown to the front of the queue that held me back, I let the whole thing sit there for a couple hours and it seemed that the queue moved me up about 700 places an hour.  The newer servers were at about half total queue it seemed.

Just 1,400 or so...

Just 1,500 or so…

The calculation eventually resolved to tell me my wait time would be about 20 minutes.  That was clearly optimistic in the extreme for prime time on Saturday afternoon.  Not that it mattered all that much to me.  I was just there to kick the tires.

But for others it has be a problem, and the whole queue situation has plenty of people talking about what ought to be done.  Hardcore Casual, Blessing of Kings, and Keen & Graev have all piped up on that front.

All of that has masked, to a certain extent, worries about the land rush in ArcheAge.  With housing being in the actual world rather than in some form of instance, the supply would seem to fall far short of the potential demand.  That has people worried and a whole side topic about illegal farms, which aren’t actually illegal has popped up.  However, stealing from them is illegal.  Go figure.

Anyway, it has all been an interesting read from the sidelines so far.  Trion is promising compensation for patrons over the whole queue thing and has worked to get more servers online.  But will this all end with them announcing the formation of MegaServers a few months down the line?  I suppose we shall see.

Defense Grid 2 Coming Online September 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: , , ,
19 comments

A little over two years back the team at Hidden Path Entertainment, the creators of Defense Grid: The Awakening, ran a Kickstarter campaign with a slate of goals.

The baseline goal was to raid $250K to create a new set of levels for Defense Grid: The Awakening.  Being one of my favorites in the tower defense genre, I was in just to get a few more levels of the game.

But Hidden Path Entertainment had a grander vision.  They had their eyes on Defense Grid 2, a sequel they hoped to fund through the Kickstarter.  For everything they wanted to do… new engine, multiplayer, level creator/editor, support across multiple platforms… the target was one million dollars.

DG2_Short

However, sometimes our reach exceeds our grasp.  In this case, 30 days of Kickstarting only came up with $271,727.  That was enough for the basic goal, more levels for Defense Grid: The Awakening, but nothing else on the list.  And they delivered on that… almost on time.  The promise was for December of 2012 and we got it in January of 2013.  Not much of a slip at all.

But Hidden Path also promised us Defense Grid 2.

You’ll Get DG2

We’re working to cross the minimum and fund Defense Grid: Containment.  But please also understand that by joining the team as a backer, you’ll also get a copy of DG2 when we release it.  We’ll need to do extra work on our end to earn or raise the remaining funds in order to complete DG2, but when we do, you’ll still be a part of the team.  Crossing $250,000 gets you DG:Containment this December, and DG2 when it is complete.

They were going to have to go find another way to fund it, but it was still part of the plan.

Time went by.  I played through all of the levels in the new expansion multiple times.  Hidden Path kept us up to date on funding, which they managed to secure through a couple of sources.  Kickstarter backers were allowed into the beta on Steam earlier this year.  And, today, Defense Grid 2 becomes available on Steam.

Defense Grid 2

Defense Grid 2

At least the Windows version is available today.  Mac and SteamOS versions are slated for mid-October.

Those of us who supported the Kickstarter got our keys this past weekend, so I have already spent some time with the game, and it is good.

The single player game is an expansion on the original Defense Grid: The Awakening, with story missions that carry on from there and all the variations on how to play through a given level you have been lead to expect.  There is still multiplayer co-op and the whole DG Architect, which allows players to create their own levels and share them through the Steam Workshop, still to discover.

Here are a few screen shots I have taken of the game.

The art style has changed, the turrets have all be redone, and the levels are part of a wider landscape now.  The aliens are a bit less interesting so far… though I haven’t made it that far into the game.  The turrets do seems to have more well defined roles now.  And, of course, there are a pile of achievements.  But for the most part it feels like a good, solid tower defense game.

As part of my Kickstarter pledge, I ended up with an extra key.  I am going to give it away to somebody who comments on this post.

All you have to do is leave a comment indicating that you would like the key and make sure that the email address you use when leaving the comment is valid (nobody by me can see it and that is where I am going to send it, so if it bounces you lose) within 24 hours of this post going live (by 15:00 UTC, 8am PDT, or 11am EDT September 24, 2014) and I will use some sort of random number generator to decide who gets it.

I can still do something like “/roll 1d100″ in WoW can’t I?

The winner will be notified by email and I will append the result to the post.

And if you don’t win, well, the game is only $25.  And if that is too steep, there is always the Steam Holiday Sale in December.

But so far I recommend the game if you liked the original or enjoy tower defense in general.

Addendum: Prize Roll straight from Ironforge in Azeroth.

PrizeRoll

The roll was 13, which I guess means spoutbec wins the Steam key.  We’ll see if his email address is legit shortly.