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Rome – City Assaults are Difficult October 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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We formed up again on Friday night for another round of Roman mayhem.  We had done a couple weeks of river crossing battles and it seemed like time to try something new.  I opted not to form the game up so somebody else could decide which skirmish scenario we were going to try.  Loghound was up to lead, so he formed the game and we all joined in.

SGRome

We dropped in and the teams became Loghound and Mattman versus Potshot and I, while the choice of scenario was ambush.

But, for some reason, we couldn’t play an ambush scenario.  Loghound reported that an error came up when he tried to when he selected that option.  So it wasn’t going to be an ambush evening.

The next choices was for a city siege.  Potshot and I were assigned the role of defenders while Mattman would be on the attack.

Of course, I think only I out of the bunch may have tried a city siege in the game, and I failed miserably at it, failing to take Carthage even on the easiest setting.  So this was going to be interesting for at least half of us.

We started with a low walled city on a hill.  I went with the Iceni, the Britannic barbarians, because we had had a side discussion about the Romans being something of the easiest mode of play, while the less civilized tribes were more difficult to handle.  I figured I could play with them in this scenario because I figured that the defenders were going to have things mostly their way.  Whether that was doing the attackers a favor or just adding insult to injury should they lose is up for debate I suppose.

Potshot, my ally, went with the Macedonians again, as did Mattman outside the walls.  Why?  I don’t know.  Alexander maybe?  I figured after the discussion about Romans being the most solid troops everybody would go with Rome.  But maybe Macedonia has become like home for them.

And finally, Loghound stuck with the Romans.

We got ourselves set up around the city, both inside and out and pressed the “Start Battle” button to see how we all chosen.

More after the cut.

(more…)

Should Guilds Have Levels? October 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Rift, World of Warcraft.
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12 comments

According to Blizzard the answer to that question is no, guilds should not have levels.

We got guild levels as part of the Cataclysm expansion, 25 of them, along with perks to go with those levels.  Those levels were not easy to acquire back then.  During Cataclysm our guild only managed to get to level 2.  Granted, we left not very far into the expansion, but we were there long enough to see that progress was going to be slow.

10% Exp Boost! Just what you need in WoW!

And it was work to get that far!

Earl, who actually kept playing WoW while we were away got us to level 3 pretty much on his own over the course of 18 months.

Blizzard revamped leveling with Mists of Pandaria, turning the dial probably too far in the other direction, as getting a guild to level 25 went from something you needed an active raiding guild to accomplish to something I probably could have done solo between the launch of the Siege of Orgrimmar and the coming of the Iron Horde.

We got the guild back together just after Siege of Orgrimmar went live and popped up from level 3 to level 25 relatively swiftly.

It was enjoyable.  It was nice to see those levels show up and get those perks unlocked.

TCLevel21

It was something to celebrate, something that we could all help out with even if we were just doing quests with an alt.  I thought it was great stuff and some of the perks were quite worthwhile.  As a guild we were especially big on the perk that added some coin to the guild bank every time a quest was completed.  It didn’t raise a ton of money, but it made for a nice guild repair fund.

But, with the coming of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and the 6.0 pre-expansion patch, Blizzard has removed guild levels.  We still have a few of the perks.

Twilight Cadre 6.0 perks

Twilight Cadre 6.0 perks

Some of the missing perks have just been made part of the game.  The speed between flight points perk got generally applied if I recall right and among the stats squished was the amount of experience you need to get to level cap, so the exp boost effectively went there.  Others, like our little guild bank filler perk, disappeared completely.  It seems that people were spam inviting new players to exploit them for this perk.

Blizzard took a while to make guilds something more than a name floating over your head and a chat channel.  We didn’t get guild banks until… was it with Wrath of the Lich King?  And then with Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor Blizzard fleshed guilds out more with levels, turned it to easy mode, then threw it all away.  Bascially, over the course of four year, we went from no levels, to level 25 being a sign that a group worked hard, to level 25 being a sign that you had people playing, to no levels again.  Boom, gone, we’re done with that idea.

Which is odd, because guilds having levels isn’t exactly a rare thing.

EverQuest II, for example, went live (before WoW) with guild levels in place.

Our day one guild on Crushbone

Our day two guild on Crushbone

Yes, the whole thing was convoluted in that way that only SOE can manage on a first try.  You earned guild experience by acquiring status, but only designated “patrons” in your guild could earn experience for the guild, and the more people (or patrons) you had in your guild, the less of their status went towards guild experience. (Alts were thus not allowed in the guild, but when we made an alts guild, our guild leader got mad at us.)  And if one of the partons left the guild, they took their applied guild experience with them.  I remember our guild leader Wooflin being incensed when Oteb the Traitor, who we had vouched for because he was in our TorilMUD guild, left the Knights of the Cataclysm just after we had hit level 15, which at the time was the level where we got a status mount.  Whoops, no mounts for us until we earned back that guild exp.

Eventually SOE fixed some of the crazier bits and the whole thing settled down.  Earning guild exp got easier, but the fact that they kept piling on levels so that the guild level cap was always somewhere around the character level cap, meant that only the larger, more active guilds could expect to be at level cap and indulge themselves in all of the perks.  Gaff and I managed to ramrod the guild we created on the Freeport server as part of our ill-fated EQII instance group adventure to level 30 mostly on our own so we could have a guild hall, but after that the level curve continued to ramp up and we capped out at 42.

But even at lower levels guilds got identifying marks, like guild cloaks.  Small guilds can still have some nice things.

Shades of Twilight guild cloak

Shades of Twilight guild cloak

And as much of a pain as the guild levels were during the early days, I also remember them fondly (now).  They represented a point where the guild was working together to accomplish a goal.

While I would readily agree that a guild should be more than just what the game mechanics dictate… a guild is a social organization and if you feel yourself constrained by just having a chat channel then maybe you aren’t doing it right… having game mechanics like guild levels that a guild can work on together and which reward the guild can help build the social bonds without which you are just a bunch of avatars with the same guild tag floating above your head.

And it isn’t just EverQuest II.  While EverQuest never went the guild level route, other games have guild levels.  Some of them are similar, as with Rift, where you get perks and guild tasks you can work on together.

Tell me of these perks!

Our perks page early on

Others are of… more dubious value.  In Lord of the Rings Online kinships (guilds) have levels, but they are based on the age of the guild rather than anything anybody has done.  So at this point, having not really played LOTRO in over a year, all of the kinshipss I am in on various servers are at max level, more due to neglect than activity. (See my guild review for details.)

And then there is EVE Online, which turns the whole thing on its head.  In Soviet New Eden, guild levels you!  Sort of.  There are skills around running a corp, the EVE version of a guild, as there are skills for everything.  So while corps do not have levels, as your corp grows the CEO must level up the appropriate leadership skills in order to accommodate the change.  So The Mittani, CEO of Goonwaffe, which has 2,500+ members, might have had to train into Sovereignty, one of the Corporation Management skills, which takes more than 50 days to train to level I.

And I don’t even begin to know how alliances… groupings of corporations… work in New Eden.  But that is straying off the point.

Guilds having levels and such is a reasonably established thing in the MMO market.  And, in my experience, having levels that people can contribute to helps bring a guild closer together.  So I am somewhat disapp0inted that Blizzard has decided to dispense with the guild level thing.  Yes, we still have guild achievements, and those do actually unlock things.  But those are also somewhat focused.  You have to go do a specific thing in a limited group.  There aren’t a lot of them you can help out with by leveling an alt… a couple, but not a lot.  Killing a damn tauren rogue in a battleground, for example, would get us another achievement.  Do people even roll tauren rogues?

Anyway, I wish Blizzard would revisit the guild levels idea again in a future release.  And, Blizzard being Blizzard, if they do I am sure they will model it on an implementation that is already out there and working.  So the question is, who does guild levels best?  Who is totally winning on the guild levels front out there in the world?

A Short and Bloody Visit to F7C-H0 October 20, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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Well, it was a short visit for me.

The highlight of weekend fleet ops up until Saturday evening had been flying around Black Rise to pop a couple of Black Legion faction battleships with DBRB.  I hadn’t been in one of his fleets in ages, and it was good to see that he hasn’t calmed down at all.  The best moment during that op was when he had us on a gate, yelling into coms that the hostiles were on the other side and jumping through, only to discover we were on the wrong gate.  All those low sec names look alike.

Things were quiet on Saturday afternoon until the call went out to form up to take on some hostiles out in Cloud Ring who were hitting one of our towers.  We were going to head out in Tengu fleet, though we had to go through the usual round of trying to get enough Scimitars and boosters before we could get on our way.  Having gotten on my share of kill mails for the month, I joined up in a Scimitar to help keep the fleet alive.

I figured something interesting must be going on as when I undocked to join the fleet at the staging POS, there was a huge lump of capital ships undocking as well.

Heavy iron undocking

Heavy iron undocking

We had to sit in the POS and be cajoled for a while until the fleet composition settled down into something useful before we headed out and down the “so familiar I could fly it in my sleep” pipe from Deklein to Cloud Ring.  After nearly three years in null, I think I have finally flipped over and systems with seemingly random letters and numbers as designators seem normal while systems with actual names seem odd.

We got into the region and held a couple of gates out.  I gather we were waiting for our own caps to get into the system.  Eventually we moved into F7C-H0 as well though, and dropped into the fight under heavy TiDi.  The main fight seemed to be a slugging match between capital ships, but there were plenty of sub caps running around as well.  Our personal nemesis seemed to be a fleet of rapid light missile launcher fit Cerberuses. (fit)  Those seem to be the counter to our Harpy fleet doctrine, but they seemed to do equally well in a mass against our Tengu fleet Scimitars and Scythes.  They were able to lock up and alpha Scimis off the field before we could get reps on them.  And so when my name came up as a target, I could see that mass of ships yellow boxing me, meaning that they were locking me up as a target, at which point I called for shield reps.  But before help for me could arrive, the boxes went red and the missiles began to hit.

And soon I was in a pod in the middle of the battle, my Scimitar having exploded.

I had about a minute of peace as I tried to move towards the edge of the bubbles with an eye to warping off when I got caught and was sent quickly home to our staging system at YAO.

The battle was still in full swing, and my first reaction was to just jump into another Scimitar and head back towards the fight.  I knew the route after all, and a Scimi can be swift.  But that way lies madness and gate camps, so I reigned in my enthusiasm and took stock of the situation.  A Harpy fleet had just gone out (soon to pay the price in facing those Cerebruses), and was far enough away that I wasn’t going to catch them.

However, a Baltec fleet was forming up.  That meant swapping to an armor doctrine ship.  As usual, logistics was in demand so I went with an Oneiros.  I wasn’t in the right clone to fly the Apocalypse battleship, the mainstay of the fleet, in any case.  It needs an implant.  The joys of clone juggling.  Anyway, we got out there on the titan, as fleet boosters were obtained and logistics pilots were recruited (including any number of dead Tengu fleet logi pilots), and sat.

We ended up just sitting for about an hour before we got our participation link and were stood down.  We were, it seems, just a fleet in being, there to show the hostiles that we had more forces to drop on them should they pursue our withdrawal from the battle.

The whole thing was apparently a trap to lure out some CFC capital ships to kill.  While much of the CFC leadership was hanging out at EVE Vegas (here are Elo Knight and The Mittani, something I linked in fleet during the op) Black Legion and N3 set their plans in motion, and we stepped right into it.  (Rumor has it that the leadership in Vegas were all hovering over Skymarshal Blawrf and his laptop at one point to find out what was going on while they were away.)  The ISK war was tilted heavily in their favor, though they did not leave unscathed, losing some caps of their own.  The battle report sums it up as such:

Red: BL & N3 - Blue: CFC

Red: BL & N3 – Blue: CFC

Long time gaming pal Gaff, who just returned to EVE Online last week, managed to get on kill mails for ten hostile dreadnoughts before losing his Archon in the fight.  He was almost all the way into the POS shields as the capital fleet pulled back when he went into structure and exploded.

And so it goes.  Another big fight in before the November 4 Phoebe expansion turns operations like that from a two jump flit for capitals (16 ly covered from YA0 to F7C according to DOTLAN) to a 20 gate slow march through TiDi.

The two competing EVE Online news sites both have battle reports up.

Meanwhile I have, as usual, a few screen shots from my own short time on grid.  You can just see the ball of Cerberuses that killed me in that last picture.

Tech 3 Destroyers and Other Tidbits from EVE Vegas Keynote October 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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9 comments

EVE Vegas is running this weekend.  The one time player driven event that has turned into a CCP sponsored affair, complete with a keynote speech full of new treats.

CCP Seagull kicked things off with a theme and overview of how CCP is looking at the upcoming changes.  The idea is that CCP wants to create things where they cannot predict the outcome, because they if they can then we can as well.  So roll on emergent game play.

Playing and Outplaying

Playing and Outplaying

She reviewed the titan themed expansions so far this year…

The new expansions so far...

The new expansions so far…

And talked a bit about items we have heard mentioned before.  Then she gave us the release plan for 2015.

2015 Release Plan

2015 Release Plan

That is 10 release for 2015, plus the two we have left this year, Phoebe and Rhea.  This all led into a bit more overview on what the upcoming phases of change they are planning.

Going through a phase

Going through a phase

Phase 1 is looming, with Phoebe dropping in just a couple of weeks, but Phase 2 is where the shape of null sec might change.  She then wrapped up with a revised version of the road map for EVE Online.

Where we are...

Where we are…

This is a bit trimmed down from the old one.  The green line shows where CCP feels they stand, so industry is pretty much done but many more major changes are left to come.

CCP Seagull wrapped up and handed the stage over to CCP Fozzie who got to talk about some more specific items related to the Rhea expansion coming in December.  Most of that is still under wraps, but there were a couple of neat things.

Quick look at Rhea

Quick look at Rhea

The art change consisted of an update to the Blackbird/Falcon/Rook ship model.  There was a very early mock up of what they want to do with the some of the most loved/hated ships in the game, but CCP Fozzie said that it would likely bristle with antennae when it was done.

Then there was a new ship type announced, currently codenamed “Tug.”

The Tug

The Tug

This will be a freighter sized ship that will be used for carrying around multiple fitted sub cap ships.  A mock up of the ship was shown.

The model is still early on, so no textures have been applied, but CCP Fozzie did say something about the art team pushing the envelope when it come to the number of polygons used.  I suspect that this will be a popular ship.

Then CCP Fozzie spoke about the research race/contest that had been going on for the last week.  The results were in, which he announced, along with what it would mean.

Research Race results

Research Race results

Each of the empires will get their version of the end result in the order in which they place… and what they are getting is Tech 3 Tactical destroyers.

Tech 3 Destroyers

Tech 3 Destroyers

The Amarr should get theirs as part of the Rhea expansion, which other races getting theirs with following expansion.  There were even some mock-ups of potential models for the Amarr tactical destroyers shown.

Amarr tactical concepts

Amarr tactical concepts

He also showed mock-ups of the Caldari version, because apparently the Caldari were in first place in the race until almost the end, so the art team started in on what looked like the winning team early.

Caldari tactical concepts

Caldari tactical concepts

As with the “Tug” announcement, there were no final names or any stats for the ships.

That about wrapped up CCP Fozzie’s time, and he then gave way to CCP Seagull again who spoke of exciting times coming in the game with all of the changes they have planned.

Others talking about they keynote:

Also, the video of the keynote is up on YouTube now.

And on a related topic, CSM member Sugar Kyle has summarized some of the CCP roundtables.

The Birth of a Pipe Bombing Campaign October 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec, YouTube.
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When it comes to watching gaming related videos on YouTube, I must admit that I do not have much patience.  Small screen video, bad audio commentary, and a general inability to grab and hold the interest of any viewer not captivated by shiny colors and an overbearing sound track pushes me to reject just about anything that demands more than 5 minutes of my time in the medium.

Some of that is my MTV generation attention span, but a larger part is resentment that some poorly produced nonsense is demanding my full attention as it spews out its low quality efforts onto my computer screen.  I can tolerate armature podcasts… well, some armature podcasts… because at least they only require me to listen.  But demanding eyes and ears and mind for crap, that is asking too much.

And then there is the Rooks and Kings channel on YouTube.

Rooks and Kings is a small PvP alliance in null sec that, through skill and innovative tactics, is able to take on much larger alliances and win fights.

And they can make decent videos.  Their latest effort is over an hour long and I sat and watched the whole thing.  It is a documentary describing how the alliance had to alter its tactics to deal with the ever larger fleets it had to contend with, how they came up with and evolved the tactic called pipe bombing, and then how effective it ended up becoming.

(Direct link to video)

If you are interested in seeing a small group smash much larger fleets, describing how they did it, and playing audio of the victims (who in most cases express admiration at being so done in) this is a worthwhile watch.

Related to things discussed in this video are a couple of shorter videos, The Drebuchet,The False Tower, and War Crimes in Fountain.  The latter documents the time that Mister Vee got pipe bombed after mocking his fellow CFC FCs who had been roughly handled by Rooks and Kings.  I was in a fleet later that day and people were talking about that action.

Planetary Annihilation Goes Round and Round October 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
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The biggest mistake the devil ever made was agreeing to play God, one on one, on an eight player Total Annihilation map.

-Commander Söze

Origins

In the beginning there was Total Annihilation.

This was not the first RTS game I played, but it was the first of what I consider the three great games of the RTS genre.

The other two are StarCraft and Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings.

There have been other good… even very good… titles in the genre.  But for me, these are the crown jewels that defined the genre.

StarCraft showed that very different factions could be brought together to form an almost zen-like rock/paper/scissors balance that required serious unit management skills to excel at.

Age of Kings brought that sort of balance to medieval armies, advancing at a slower pace.  It reflected the real world aspect of cavalry vs. infantry vs. ranged, with siege engines in tow, forcing players to adopt a combined arms strategy to survive and win.

But before those two there was Total Annihilation, which brought chaos and mass slaughter.

TA wasn’t balance.  The ARM ruled the early game with the Flash tank and the Peewee rush.  Cavedog eventually had to give the CORE a unit whose only purpose was to kill Flash tanks and Peewee kbots.

It had a pretty bad, or at least not a very creative, single player campaign.  Resources were simplistic, just power and metal.  The UI was somewhat primitive compared to its contemporaries.

It was a resource hog that needed a couple of generations of CPU upgrades before it would run smoothly.  The music was literally in the standard CD format, you could pop the game disk into your boom box and listed to the sound track.

And yet it was wonderful, a synthesis of a number of ideas put together in just such a way as to make a great game.  Probably one of the greatest things the game did was make terrain matter in new and interesting way.  Maps were 3D and heights could give you range in shooting or something to hide behind when fire was incoming.  And then there was the whole modability aspect of the game.

Probably the greatest testament to TA is the fact that, while Cavedog Entertainment has been dead and gone for nearly a decade and a half, Total Annihilation still has a pretty strong and dedicated community still supporting it.  You can still buy a copy over at GoG.com, and it runs great on today’s machines.

Total Annihilation

The Atari logo is a recent addition

Its main problem is that it was designed when multiplayer meant friends on a LAN, so being able to play over the internet requires effort.  You need some network know-how or something like Game Ranger to help you out.  So the idea of bringing the game into the 21st century is a compelling one.

More after the cut because of wordiness.

(more…)

First Glance at WoW 6.0 October 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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It was a happenin’ time in Stormwind last night.  The place was overrun with people… at least the bank was… enough to make you believe that World of Warcraft subscriptions are up 600K users from their second quarter dip down to 6.8 million.

Actually, I have no doubt that the subscription numbers are up to 7.4 million, I just have to admire Blizzard’s preemptive end-run around potentially depressing news regarding subscription numbers for the third quarter of this year, which ended just a couple weeks back.  We may eventually know what that number was back on September 30th (or maybe we do, totally missed that in the footnotes) when the third quarter results come out in about a month or so, but it doesn’t really matter because the number today is 7.4 million.  Basically WoW subs jumped by about one and a half EVE Onlines.

Anyway, it was happenin’ because the long awaited WoW 6.0 patch was successfully deployed yesterday.

W6NowLive

And with that came a pile of changes.  The patch notes are long.

Of course, the first thing I saw was the new character models.

I am not in love with the new human models.

The design philosophy seemed to be “make these guys look a bit lost and not quite up to their tasks” or some such.  Of course, I thought the originals were just fine, and they were a bit more ruggedly handsome to boot.  So my pally went from looking like a hero to some guy who looked like he just got off the Google bus from SF.  Fortunately, the barber shop lets you change hair style and color as well as which of the faces your character has.  I was able to tinker that into something more acceptable for about 50 gold.  At least he looks a little less like a hipster waiter in a themed restaurant. (Belghast’s post has pictures and describes a similar need to change up.)

The new Vikund in Azeroth

The new Vikund in Azeroth

The new male dwarf models are hideously ugly… so are pretty much unchanged.  Basically they have a more high def texture so you can, by changing faces, dial in exactly how weather worn and craggy you want to be.  The range seems to go from “worn hard and put away wet” to “one step from Dark Iron,” your choice.  Dwarves live a hard life.

The male night elf models, on the other hand, do look like an upgrade.  They seem more lithe and and smooth and generally more like the high born.  A pity about the way they now run.  Rather than a feral grace, the male night elf runs like a guy who has pebbles in his shoes or who is trying to run barefoot over a hot beach.  Not sure who felt that captured the essence of the night elves, but I am not on board.

So I am not a big fan of the model change.  It doesn’t hurt the game to my mind, so it isn’t a huge deal, but I wonder if the time could have been better spent… or better directed.  Certainly the goal of retaining your character’s essence through the upgraded models failed for me. (Though there is an out, but now I’ve change my look for the new models. Bleh.)

Of course, the character model malaise faded into the background when I found that two of my characters had lost levels as part of the patch.  Color me confused, but I didn’t see anything in the patch notes about changing experience.  One of them, Alioto, my instance group character, who had been 88 for months, was suddenly back to level 87.  Granted, he was just ONE experience point shy of level 88, but he was no longer that level.

One point shy...

One point shy…

So I figure this might be akin to what happens in LOTRO when they tinker with exp, that I will just have to get a kill and I will be bumped back up to where I was, which was a third of the way into 88.  But no, I went and killed something, leveled up, and was only into 88 as far as the experience from that one kill would take me.

I could not figure out a pattern as to what might have caused this.  I first noticed it on my rogue, the character I had been using for the Outland quest achievements, who was past the halfway point into level 71 out in Shadowmoon Valley when I last left him.  Now he was one experience point shy of 71.  But he had just gotten that level over the weekend, so I thought maybe it was newly leveled characters.  But then there was Alioto, who had leveled up back in June.  Plus I had another character who leveled up on Friday at Darkmoon Faire, and he was just fine.

So I have no idea what happened and I have not seen anything mentioned about this anywhere, certainly not in today’s “whoops” patch notes for the first post-6.0.2 hotfix.  Anybody?

That was the low point of the evening, not being thrilled with the new look and having lost experience on a couple of characters where it matters. (Maybe THAT was the link! Hah!)  But after that it was mostly upside.

The stat squish seems to be working from what I can see.  Vikund, once over 500K hit points (with buffs) during Siege of Orgrimmar LFR groups, now sits at a much more modest 57K hit points, and his mighty two handed sword checks in at mere 98 dps.

Big sword, small dps

Big sword, small dps

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a screen shot of the “before” stats, though I know I have one tucked away somewhere, but for comparison my now level 70 rogue was dual wielding heirloom weapons at level 71 that were each flagged as doing 133 dps.  Those now show damage at just 32.68 dps.  I am going to have to go check how that level 20 hunter I have is faring.

But eventually we got to the high point of the night, when I started in on the inventory changes.

The new button to organize your bags… well, I probably shouldn’t have touched that until I had tinkered with some of the settings, because it moved everything.   That said, my only real objection is that I have to have my hearthstone in slot 1 of bag 1, as I have had it since the end of time.  Then I went to the bank and made the best 100 gold investment ever.  The new reagent tab in the bank is not free.

This bank is not a charity

This bank is not a charity

But once I paid the 100 gold and pressed the big button at the bottom, I was a very happy person.

All the reagents I had on me...

All the reagents I had on me…

There it is.  On one character this change basically opened up 89 inventory slots on my character and in my bank.  That was maybe the most extreme example, but I am not sure any character had less than 50 slots freed up by this action.  Best 100 gold spent ever, Totally worth it.

I was a little less thrilled by the toy box.  It works and it looks okay (if maybe a bit too widely spaced), but because it lists out all possible toys, I am now daunted by how many I am missing.  I have less toys than I thought, though perhaps I was applying toy more widely than Blizz was.  Also, there was the perennial Blizzard problem with what to do about dupes.  On various characters I had toys that were flagged as “already known,” but I am never sure what to do about them.  I am paranoid about deleting them, but I don’t want to keep them around cluttering up my bank. (Though that is certainly less of an issue at the moment.)  I have old pet tokens in the same situation, can’t redeem them, afraid to delete them, nothing to do but store them.

That out of the way, I went out to see the first bit of new content.  There is a set of lead-in quests that the game tells you about the moment you log in, at least if you are level 90.

Hey, did you hear? New quest!

Hey, did you hear? New quest!

You can click right on that to get the quest which sends you out to the Blasted Lands which is changed (or phased) to reflect the Iron Horde coming through their shiny new strawberry flavored dark portal.

The new dark portal

The new dark portal

There is a quest chain to run down which is primarily there to lay down the lore for you.  This is one of those times when you really should slow down and read the quest text.  There are not that many quests and the whole thing should take less than an hour if you digest everything, unless quest mobs are completely hunted out, (Though I was there when the zone was packed and that wasn’t much of a problem), or maybe 20 minutes if you blitz through like a crazed Munchkin.

This allowed me to play a bit with some of the changes.

As it turns out, retribution paladins are even easier now.  My rotation used to include a build-up to trigger a damage enhancing buff before I could really start in on the high damage attacks.  However, that buff seems to be gone now, so it is just build up for a big hit and let it fly.

The new quest log… well… I will have to play with it a bit.  Basically, the quest log and the map have been joined into a single window.  It seems to be well done… and it flags all of the quests by their type, which is new and useful… but I am going to have to use it for a while longer before I am settled on it.

The quest tracking in the mini-map is… changed.  Quest objectives are little yellow dots, but not the same little yellow dots they have used forever.  We have new little yellow dots, and they mark more things.  I was also able to turn off the new comic book outline effect when mousing over things right away thanks to a tip on twitter.  I was not big on that at all, but I am somebody who plays WoW with floating names off as well.

Questing itself seems to follow on in the Mists of Pandaria style, where it is meant to tell a story or involve you in an activity that changes things as opposed to old format which often seemed more interested in having you slaughter 12-30 things.  If you didn’t like the Pandaria style, you probably won’t like it in Draenor.  I actually liked the Pandaria philosophy, so it looks good to me.

The quest line itself shows you around the zone, has a cinematic, and then sends you off to the king in Stormwind where you get an achievement for completing this limited time event, plus a new title and the special Iron Starlette pet. (Oh, and now there is a gear reward, which wasn’t there last night. Erf.)

The big turn-in

The big turn-in

The pet looks like a barbed metal ball.  It is visible in the picture of Vikund up at the top.

As for the old kiwi-lime portal to the old Outland, that is gone from Azeroth.  You now have to take a special portal in the tower of magic to get there.

A vision of past portals

A vision of past portals

In general I am pretty happy with the state of things.  I still have to try out my other classes to see how they play now.  The healing thing has me a bit nervous, as I was a pretty marginal healer with my druid to start with, depending a lot on insta-heals to get me out of jams.  And I still have to queue up for the special, limited time Upper Blackrock Spire dungeon, which is only available through the Dungeon Finder currently.  I also wish I could manage the Garrosh heirloom smash and grab, but that is for real raiders and not LFR scum like me.

Overall though I am keen to see how things will play out when the expansion finally drops in a little less than a month.

Others looking at the new patch:

WoW 6.0 Drops Today – 30 Day Countdown to Draenor Begins October 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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At 1am this morning Blizzard was planning to take down all of its servers to start applying the big pre-Warlords of Draenor 6.0 patch.  I did not stay up to see if that went off exactly on time, but the big transition has begun, and Azeroth will be a slightly different place when we are all able to log back in at some point today.  The target time for completion is 11am today, but I will be happy if the game is up some time after dinner this evening.

Here come the changes

Here come the changes

All sorts of new things will be arriving in game.  There will be new character models, a new map interface, a new way to organize gear in your bags, changes to gear, stats, classes, and all sorts of things that were talked about 11 months ago at BlizzCon when Blizzard announced the expansion.  And this is all before we get to the actual Warlords of Draenor content.

Of course, some things will be going away.  There is a whole host of pets, mounts, gear, and achievements that will no longer be obtainable now that the patch is being applied.  This is, I guess, how Blizzard protects the value of things that were difficult to obtain.  Nobody will be able to hit level 100 and go back and twink that achievement you had to do the hard way at level 90 back in the day.

Then there is the stat squish.  And the removal of guild levels.  The patch notes are just overflowing with stuff.

Now it is time to see if the instance group can be roused from its lazy summer slumber.  We have about enough time to hit 90 and finish off the normal mode dungeons before the expansion goes live next month, if we can just all get logged on together again.  I’d like to be able to do the limited time special Upper Blackrock Spire. We shall see.

I think the biggest change I am looking forward to is the ones that will free up some bag space.  The toy box… and I have collected and held on to a lot of such items over the years… and the additional 98 slots of bank storage for crafting materials will be great.  I will probably spend the first night after the patch just getting all those things stored away so I will once again have space in my bags and bank.   And then it will be off to the Blasted Lands to see the precursor of the Iron Horde.

Is there anything you are looking forward to (or dreading) in the patch?

Addendum: And there it is…

 

One Hundred and Thirty Million Skill Points October 13, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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I missed the big battle at CCP-US, where we traded a titan for 60 dreadnoughts, and the pipe-boming fiasco of Sunday afternoon, so all I really have at the end of the weekend is another round number to write about.  I have hit another meaningless milestone in the eternal quest for skill points in EVE Online.

I think the skill point thing was perhaps one of the best moves CCP made in designing EVE Online.  It is practically money in the bank, as some people will stay subscribed for ages because they are making progress on that front, even if they aren’t really playing.  And with the new limitless skill queue coming… money.

Anyway, the milestones so far, which act sort of my progress chart through New Eden as I have bounced from one thing to another over the years:

The pattern of milestones is a bit odd, though that too reflects to a certain respect my engagement with the game.  And, of course, I never hit 100 million skill points because CCP broke out Battlecruisers and Destroyers into racial skill with the Odyssey expansion, giving those of us who had them trained to five an instant boost of about six million skill points.  That jumped me from around 99 million to 105 million skill points, and spared you all one of these numbers blog posts.

Anyway, here we are at the next round number and here are how my skill point distribution stands.  Those categories marked with an asterisk changed since the last milestone, so that is where my training time went, while the numbers in parenthesis show how many skills out of the total number I have for each category.

Spaceship Cmd   35,466,680 (42 of 67)*
Gunnery         13,915,745 (36 of 39)*
Missiles        10,311,505 (21 of 24)*
Navigation       9,362,039 (12 of 13)*
Drones           9,309,104 (17 of 20)*
Leadership       8,507,855 (13 of 14)*
Armor            6,899,137 (14 of 14)*
Engineering      5,748,120 (12 of 14)*
Shields          5,643,314 (11 of 12)
Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
Science          4,408,426 (21 of 39)
Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 13)
Electronic Sys   2,458,519 (6 of 15)
Targeting        1,521,805 (8 of 8)*
Scanning         1,412,995 (7 of 7)*
Neural Enhance.  1,384,785 (5 of 8)*
Subsystems       1,320,000 (10 of 20)
Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12)
Corp Mgmt        1,108,784 (4 of 7)
Social             943,765 (5 of 9)
Planet Mgmt        769,335 (5 of 5)
Rigging            580,275 (10 of 10)*

Total         ~130,000,000 (295 of 398)

I am clearly guilty of trying to have one character do everything over the years.  I will recycle, once again, Jester’s skill point chart that gives a general view of the whole.

Skill Points Mapped Out

Skill Points Mapped Out

There are, as always, chunks of training time spent around optimizing for fleet doctrines.  But far and away the majority of my training time over the last cycle has been devoted to Leadership skills, with more than 6.1 million skill points accrued.

This was due to me decision back in June to train to be a fleet booster.  Getting Leadership maxed out, which means all the way up to the Fleet Commander V skill, has been described as a year-long process that you just have to buckle down and dedicate your training to.  Certainly there are not a lot of happy, useful mid-points, at least not in our fleet doctrines.  You have to have a lot of level V skills to take on the role.  My first plateau, the point at which I might actually be useful, will probably come by the end of this year, at which point I will Wing Command V and the appropriate Warefare Link specialist roles trained up, along with the Command Ships skill, so that I can fly the Damnation command ship as an on-grid wing booster in Baltec fleets.

Damnation in a POS

Damnation in a POS

Let’s hope Baltec fleet is still a doctrine by then.  Given that leadership is shown as ~12 million skill points over all, my next milestone will no doubt feature mostly an increase in that category again.

All told, my character knows 295 different skills, up from 283 at the last milestone.

Level 1  - 4
Level 2  - 23 
Level 3  - 48
Level 4  - 71 
Level 5  - 149

Only four of the new skills were in the Leadership category, while another four went into Rigging, while the final four were in Targeting where I discovered I was missing the racial sensor compensation skills.  That discovery was largely because of the skill review at the 120 million skill point level, so I suppose these milestones are not entirely meaningless.

At the end of these posts I have traditionally put in a calculation about how far I am from flying a Titan.  Way back in time that tended to be a hilariously large number, to the point of seeming unlikely to ever come about.  As time has marched forward, I have managed to edge closer and closer to that ability, to the point that I last reported that I was about 50 days of training shy of being able to fly (but not fully equip) a Titan.  49 out of those 50 days were tied up in Capital Ships V, something I am unlikely to be training in the near future.  And so that number seemed to be static.

However, in the CFC, we have a utility that shows you where you stand on your skill progression if you want to fly in one of the capital fleets.  This shows you what skills you are missing and the minimum training level that the CFC will accept, so I can now list out how long it will take me to fly a fully operation titan.  In this case, the shortest path is to a Ragnarok, the Minmatar titan. (See its doomsday weapon in action. Not a super laser like the Avatar or Erebus.)

Free wheeling Ragnarok

Free wheeling Ragnarok outside the POS

This is largely due to the fact that I have trained up the skills to fly the Minmatar Naglfar dreadnought, and the capital ship level weapons skills apply in both cases.  The training plan to fly this beast looks like this:

1. Capital Ships V
2. Astrometrics V
3. Jump Portal Generation I
4. Jump Portal Generation II
5. Jump Portal Generation III
6. Energy Pulse Weapons II
7. Energy Pulse Weapons III
8. Energy Pulse Weapons IV
9. Energy Pulse Weapons V
10. Doomsday Operation I
11. Doomsday Operation II
12. Doomsday Operation III
13. Doomsday Operation IV
14. Minmatar Titan I
15. Minmatar Titan II
16. Minmatar Titan III
17. Minmatar Titan IV

According to EVE Mon, that is 6 unique skills, 17 skill levels, with a total time training time of 130 days, 17 hours, 44 minutes, 40 seconds.  The training time number was generated when I was in a clone without implants, and my attributes are sub-optimal, so I could cut that time down some if I so desired.  Any of the other titans would add another two days to the training time, which isn’t very significant.

Meanwhile, if I went the super carrier route, I could be flying an Aeon in about 105 days, thanks to the Amarr carrier skills I trained up for the Archon.

The Aeon looks half finished

The Aeon looks half finished

Of course, this is just an amusing numbers exercise.  I won’t be flying either a titan or a super carrier in the foreseeable future.  In part, that is because I do not have the patience to actually earn enough ISK to buy either class of ship.  I would be stretched to fork out the 3 billion ISK required for the Naglfar I have already trained to fly.  But mostly it is because titans and avatars pretty much require you to dedicate a character full time to them.  There is no docking up and swapping ships.  Once you are in your giant space coffin, you are stuck with it.

So, while an amusing metric, super capitals aren’t really a goal for me.

Anyway, off for the 140 million mark.  At least I don’t have to upgrade my clone until the 150 million mark.  Maybe I will be “done” training by then.

Sometimes you can even catch me in high sec buying skills or just sitting in my training implants clone.

New Eden Alt Creation Becomes Easy with Phoebe October 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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CCP put up a dev blog listing out what will be in the next expansion, Phoebe.

And while there are many tasty tidbits to digest on that list… including the whole jump drive nerf, which has gotten some alterations based on feedback… the one stunner for me is CCP removing the limit from the training queue.

You will be able to pile up as many skills as you want in your training queue.

Training queue to infinity...

Training queue to infinity…

Some people may never have to log in again.  I cannot tell if this is truly awesome or horrifying.  I know I like it, though you do have to wonder what eventually changed CCP’s mind on this.

And being able to identify a bitter vet will eventually go from those of us who remember when there was no queue to those of us who remember when the queue was only 24 hours long.  We have had the 24 hour skill queue for more than five years now.  It came in with Apocrypha back in 2009… along with a lot of other stuff.  Look at the list on that link.  Wormholes.  Ship fitting windows.  Blue lasers for ice mining.  Damn, we take for granted these days.

It isn’t the be all, end all of course.  Unless you can inject and queue skills that you cannot yet train, there will have to be some logging in now and again.  But it looks like I will be able to load up the remainder of my fleet booster training plan and let it ride after Phoebe drops on November 4th.

Makes me want to create another alt… which I am going to guess is part of what changed CCP’s mind.