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Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphired Launch Today November 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
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The busy November continues as another launch I have been waiting for arrives.  Nintendo and Game Freak’s remakes of the Game Boy Advance titles Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire are finally here.

Today is the day

Today is the day

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are now available and, if Amazon keeps its word, a copy of each should be waiting for my daughter and I when I return home from work today.  After playing Pokemon X and Y, I am looking forward to another round of Pokemon on the Nintendo 3Ds platform.

Hoenn region revamped

Hoenn region revamped

I know the reaction to this release being a remake has been “yawn” or “boo, hiss” in some quarters… and not just from the lost cause sons of Digimon types… but remakes are pretty much part of the Pokemon tradition at this point.  And Pokemon is pretty much steeped in tradition at this point, so one might as well embrace it.

There have been four consolidation remakes, a seemingly discontinued tradition at this point as Game Freak seems to have streamlined their development process to allow production of new titles more frequently, where they would take the current pair of games, such as Diamond and Pearl, and make a combined version, such as Platinum, that had Pokemon from both games and a few small differences.

Then there have been the generation-crossing remakes, where an older version of the game that is no longer available on the current platform gets remade with the current technology, with Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby being the third on that list.  Those remakes have been well received.  Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen were top sellers, while Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are still my favorite Pokemon games from the DS Lite era.  And, of course, they are great ways to bring old rares back into the population.

So given the history of the generation-crossing remakes, I am pretty excited for Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby.

Of course, this means that I will likely continue to move slowly through the Warlords of Draenor expansion… and all the more so since, unlike WoW, where I binged for a couple weeks before the expansion, I set Pokemon aside for the last month or so, stopping that binge shortly after wrapping up Pokemon White Version 2.

So we are primed.  Our Nintendo 3DS XLs are charged up, my daughter and I have the next week off from school and work respectively, we will have a fresh video game in our possession, it is dark, and we are wearing sunglasses.

Hit it.

Moving Slowly in Warlords of Draenor November 20, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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So here’s the thing.  Despite the last week being mostly talk about the expansion and such, I haven’t really been playing a lot more World of Warcraft.

Part of that is because I was binging pretty hard on the game during the two weeks preceding the launch.  Such a sprint usually leads to some time away from game.  So, in the midst of the big launch weekend I spent time in EVE Online getting myself home from the last deployment.  I also spent a couple hours messing around with the Isle of Refuge prestige home in EverQuest II.  And I downloaded and played the demo for Combat Mission: Red Thunder, the eastern front expansion to the revised Combat Mission series.  As with the original series, the Normandy scenarios don’t excite me, but the eastern front is wild.  I many need to buy this when I have some free time.

Not that I did not find time to play World of Warcraft.  Given the binge of the last couple weeks, I probably played more of it than I might have otherwise because of the expansion.  But I am clearly in no hurry.  I took some time out to level up my rogue, who made it to 88 over the weekend, getting me closer to having four alts ready for Draenor.  I even did some pet battles, finally getting my first trio up to level 25.

In Draenor itself I have been moseying along at a more leisurely pace, trying to move Vikund forward on a broad front, which means taking some time out from strict adventuring to cover other things.  As such, he just made it to level 94 last night.

WDLevel94

If you were stuck behind queues all weekend, that probably seems like a lot of progress.  On a server that was open for most of the launch, that wasn’t too tough.  I think Earl got there with his alt in the first 24 hours… and then he made a new alt because he has a friend who is giving WoW a try, so he is off playing with him.  But you can find people who have hit level 100 pretty readily at this point.  Too fast?

As for Vikund, in following the story, that puts him through the first pass in Shadowmoon Valley, through much of Gorgrond, and back into Shadowmoon Valley, with an outpost setup in Talador.

The Draenor you have

Draenor Zones

That’s been fun.  The quests have been good.  I think I have finally gotten used to the little hand icon having replaced the little cog icon for things you need to click on during a quest.  I realize that has been in place since Mists of Pandaria, but age sometimes means it takes longer to get used to change.

The zones look really good, certainly when compared to how things looked back in the days of Outland.  I have always been a bit biased against The Burning Crusade in part because the zones did not really click with me.  Hellfire Peninsula, as a place to start, set a negative tone for me on looks alone.  The Warlords of Draenor zones so far have been stop and gawk good.  I am also a bit jealous of my daughter who has both horde and alliance level 90 characters to play.  As always, the horde architecture, in their towns and garrisons, looks interesting and exotic while the human themed alliance garrisons look rather staid and maybe a bit dull.  I might need to work on a horde alt at some point.

The lack of flying mounts has been interesting.  It has certainly put me back in touch with my collection of ground mounts and I have selected a few that seem appropriate for the expansion so far.  For example, talbuk mounts fit fight in with Shadowmoon Valley, where wild talbuk roam.

Cobalt riding talbuk

Cobalt riding talbuk

Getting back to ground mounts also exposed what having constant access to flying mounts for nearly year does to me.  I hit 90 in Pandaria with Vikund almost exactly a year ago, and at this point I have three alts there with him.

At first, navigating around the new expansion, once I was out in Shadowmoon Valley, seemed really difficult.  I was having a really tough time getting to locations for quests and such.  I was ready to chalk this up to some sort of Blizzard design flaw.  Then I went back and played Trianis for a bit, running him through the Jade Forest quests in Pandaria, and noticed I was having the same problems.  Basically, I had become so used to flying that I was automatically just heading straight towards objectives, oblivious of what the map might indicate, and running into all sorts of obstacles.

So I am back to looking at the map now, charting a route, looking for paths to follow and landmarks to use for navigation.

I have also been working on trade skills.  I managed to get all of them unlocked for Draenor so I can level them up to 700 now.

Vikund's Various Professions

Vikund’s Various Professions

I am getting used to how trade skills work and new recipes get unlocked.  No more visits to the skill trainer.

I am way out ahead on mining, thanks largely to the the mine being unlocked in my garrison.  I upgraded that to level 2 which yielded a huge jump in ore plus there are now mining carts scattered about the mine every day to harvest as well.

Mining cart fun

Mining cart fun

I have also been dumping the draenic stone I have been pulling up mining into work orders that turn it into ore, so I am well supplied with ore for now.  I then use some of that ore to feed work orders at the engineering works to turn that into gearspring parts, the universal engineering component for Draenor.  I am saving those up for a Blingtron 5000 at the moment.

And, to my joy, I also unlocked the fishing shack, which involved me running out to do a fishing quest.

On the Shadowmoon Valley shore

On the Shadowmoon Valley shore

There was a pond in my garrison, but until the fishing shack was built, all it yielded was junk with a value of 1 copper.  Now I can fish there.  And I was able to upgrade the fishing shack to level 2 almost immediately.

Hey, upgraded fishing shack

Hey, upgraded fishing shack

Having the fishing shack not only opened up fishing in the garrison, but also gets me a daily fishing quest so I have a reason to take fishing on the road.

Fishing in Gorgrond

Fishing in Gorgrond

I also managed to fish up a blue quality fishing pole early on, which gives me +100 fishing skill.  A hell of a catch, and enough to make me go back to actually using a fishing pole for the bonuses.  I stopped doing that in Pandaria as you no longer need to equip a pole to do simple fishing.  But for a +100 skill boost I will trade out my weapon for a pole.  I just have to remember I have it equipped.  Last night I slowly beat several mobs to death with my fishing pole.  That won’t do, I might damage the pole!

Finishing in turn put me on to cooking.  That took a bit with the new process where by you have to collect a stack of a particular fish… anywhere from 5 to 20… before you can process them to extract meat for cooking.  The reagents bank tab on Vikund is now filling up with partial stacks of various fish. (Also, I am about ready to purchase a second reagents tab.  I love the concept, and it is the one place where I use the sort button religiously.  But I am a pack rat and the damn thing is nearly full already.   Am I going to have to wait until the next expansion for that.)

Cooking the basic recipes gets you new recipes, but I am now waiting for some recipes to take advantage of some of the meat I have stocked up in the reagents tab as well.  It all comes down to bag and bank space again.

So despite my uncertainty as to how the whole garrison thing fits into the world, it is keeping me busy and engaged.  I am also keeping my followers busy, though it looks like I need to take some care not to focus too much on leveling up a specific follower, as the highest level follower seems to drive the level of missions you get to run.  With a level 97 follower I realized that I needed to use the two level 92 followers in my pack lest they be always at a disadvantage.

Overall, the whole expansion has been good for me so far.  I am enjoying it even if I only feel compelled to move forward slowly.  There is lots to do, but I haven’t seen anything yet from Blizzard to indicate that we won’t be hanging out in Draenor for another two year stretch.

Orc Villains, Best Villains – WoW Passes 10 Million Subscribers Again November 19, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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IRVINE, Calif.—November 19, 2014—On November 13, millions of Azeroth’s champions enlisted for the war against the Iron Horde with the launch of World of Warcraft®: Warlords of Draenor, the fifth expansion to the world’s #1 subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game.* Blizzard Entertainment today announced that as of the first 24 hours of the expansion’s availability, more than 3.3 million copies had sold-through and the game’s global subscriber base had passed 10 million, with growth across all major regions.

Blizzard Press Release

It looks like orcs might trump pandas (and destroying the old world) when it comes to igniting the WoW player base.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Warlords who get it done

I am not sure what it means when you have more than 10 million subscribers, up 2.6 million in the last month and a half, but are talking about moving 3.3 million units of the expansion in the first 24 hours.  Does that 3.3 million number include all the early sales?  Is that an indication of what the US/EU player population is, as the rest of the world was waiting for the expansion to drop? (It launched in South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau today according to the press release.)

Subscriber numbers (what constitutes a subscriber is mentioned in the press release) had dropped to 6.8 million in the second quarter of 2014, down further from the slight dip to 7.6 million in the first quarter when the first blush excitement for the expansion had passed, and which was likely only that small because Blizzard said they sold through 1.5 million pre-orders of Warlords of Draenor back then to people interested in getting their insta-90s early.  Then in the third quarter subscriptions bounced back, hitting 7.4 million, with the announcement of a date for the expansion.

Now WoW is back above the 10 million mark, something we have not seen since the post-Cataclysm climb down from the 12 million subscriber high water mark before pandas appeared on the scene. (First quarter of 2012 the subscribers were listed as 10.1 million.)

Now, where will the number be in a month and a half, when we close out the fourth quarter of 2014?

Addendum: Visual aids from Twitter on subscriptions.

I am surprised that WotLK held as many subscribers as it did over its two year run.  I mean, I sat there and ground out everything in the Argent Tournament during that second year, I just didn’t think so many other people did as well.

The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone? November 19, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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The EverQuest II 10 year anniversary just passed, and I posted about hitting the 10 year mark myself with the game last week.

This past weekend, while taking a break from Warlords of Draenor so as not to burn myself out on it right away (a hazard as I spent the two weeks running up to the expansion binging on the game), I decided to log into EverQuest II in order to see if I was eligible for the 11 year veterans reward.

Yes, I can do simple math.  How can I get the 11 year award just days after the 10 year anniversary?

SOE, as part of the enticement to get people to buy expansions, threw in a 90 day boost to your veteran’s status with the first four expansion.  Having purchased The Desert of Flames, Kingdom of Sky, Echoes of Faydwer, and Rise of Kunark (and The Shadow Odyssey, which was the last EQII expansion I purchased, in part because I haven’t even made it into Rise of Kunark yet), I had, like many long time players of the game, an extra year on my record.  And so SOE has to be a year ahead of the game when it comes to these things.

There was also a point in time when SOE was only counting the time you were actually subscribed to the game.  I think that went in at some point after Rise of Kunark.  Up to that point the calculation was based on when you created your EQII account (or the launch date, if you were in the beta).  So, despite taking time off, I was always eligible for the latest award.  Then they got picky, people were complaining in the forums that it was not “fair” for non-subscribed time to count (I seem to recall Scott Hartsman backing that idea, but I could be wrong), and I wasn’t playing very much, so I fell behind.

With the advent of EverQuest II Extended and free to play, SOE eventually changed their minds, no doubt wanting to avoid complications, and set veteran rewards simply based on your account start date again, and suddenly I was overloaded with such items to claim.

The rewards vary in quality.  They started out as anniversary loyalty markers… you usually got a title, a house item, and a couple experience potions… then somebody at SOE thought that such awards might help with player retention and we ended up with a batch of rewards for the first two years.  There is a one day award.  Yay, you didn’t uninstall and walk away after a day with the game, have a 12 slot bag rather optimistically called “The Bag of Endless Adventure!”  I think of it more as the bag of about 15 minutes of resource harvesting, but you go with your experiences.  You can see the semi-complete reward list at the wiki.

Anyway, enough of that back story, though this post is going to be pretty much all back story and nostalgia.

I logged in with Sigwerd, a berserker and the last character I played as a “main” or sorts, and I didn’t even have to type in the /claim command to check.  There in the system messages in chat was a reminder that I was eligible for the 11 year reward.  So I typed in /claim and brought up the list.

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 year reward is a prestige home in the form of the Isle of Refuge.

More after the cut.  Warning, back story and nostalgia ahead.  Also, screen shots.

(more…)

Blizzard Offers Up 5 Days for Draenor Launch Problems November 19, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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As I suspected, once things calmed down a bit Blizzard came out with some compensation for the troubles people were experiencing with the launch of Warlords of Draenor.  This was posted in the forums earlier today.

WoW Community:

I know how much everyone was looking forward to this expansion, and once you were able to get in and start having fun, all the comments I’ve seen indicate that this is one of our best yet. But the quality of the content does not excuse the subpar launch experience we delivered, and I apologize for that.

The first two days of the expansion were not a great experience, with many of you facing high queues or significant gameplay problems. We worked around the clock to tackle the demand issues and technical challenges, and fortunately things started looking better on Saturday. While millions of you were able to get in and play over the weekend, with many already reaching level 100, others still ran into very lengthy queues, particularly on the highest-population realms.

To help address this, we’ve expanded the new instancing tech we used to improve queues on Saturday and we’re continuing the process of applying that to raise the capacity of all realms again. This will result in approximately double the prelaunch capacity on each realm, which should greatly reduce queue times for most realms if not eliminate queues altogether.

In recognition of the difficulties so many of you ran into when trying to play over the first few days, we’re adding five days’ worth of extra time to every subscription in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe that was active as of Friday, November 14. Things are already in a much better place than they were going into the weekend, so I hope you’ll now be able to focus on having a ton of fun with this expansion.

I also hope you’ll accept my apology and keep your faith in us. The support voiced by many of you as we worked through the challenges was immensely appreciated. We’re extremely grateful to be part of such a passionate community. We love World of Warcraft, and we’re very proud of this expansion, so stumbling out of the gates like this was very disappointing for all of us.

On behalf of the World of Warcraft development team, as well as everyone at Blizzard, thank you all again for your patience and understanding.

See you in Draenor.

Sincerely,
J. Allen Brack
Executive Producer, World of Warcraft

Looking at my account history… which is kind of strange, as it runs back to 2005… this 5 days will mean that Blizzard has comped my account a total of 19 days for various reasons, not including a “return for 7 days free” offer.  It is also the largest credit, the previous high water mark being a 3 day credit awarded back in November of 2008, which corresponds with the launch of Wrath of the Lich King.  I don’t remember what I might have gotten the credit for, but there were queues going on back then as well.

Warlords of Draenor – Garrison Life November 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I said multiple times during the months long run up to the Warlords of Draenor expansion that I was going to try to avert my eyes and ignore details about the release so as to be surprised and engaged when the launch came.

I was pretty successful in that regard, as I felt almost no sense of the final product having been spoiled or played out before I even arrived, leaving aside the semi-meta idea that we’re going to be killing ourselves a ton of orcs.  But the day I tire of slaying orcs is the day I should probably hang up my sword and devote myself full time to Pokemon or internet spaceships.

So when it came to garrisons, I had no idea what they would really end up being.  I listened to what Blizzard said about them at BlizzCon last year, when they announced the expansion, filed that away and thought no more about it.

The Garrison Slide

I pretty much just remember this slide

Now though, a couple levels and a zone and a half into the expansion, color me surprised on a couple fronts when it comes to garrisons.

The first surprise was that garrisons do not seem to be an option, a side item akin to the farm or pet battles during Mists of Pandaria, or just some sort of end game exercise to keep us busy during the next content drought.  When you finish the starter zone, you are lead by the nose to a specific spot in the zone… along with everybody else in your faction on your server, one of the great Blizzard oversights of the launch… and are set towards building your garrison.  I went with the flow for my first character, Vikund, as it seemed to be a required step on the path into the game.  Plus he is, as I noted previously, my “do all the things” character, so I’ll try any task with him.  But I will have to see if I can skip that, and how far you can get without it, when I bring my next character into Draenor.

Vikund however jumped onto the whole garrison thing with both feet and got his garrison to level 2 pretty quickly.  I am just not sure what to think about it.  Frankly, I am not even sure how it leveled up.  This post is impressions based only on what I have seen in game, and the game seems pretty cagey about indicating progress towards levels and such.

Level 2 Alliance garrison layout

Level 2 Alliance garrison layout

More after the cut because aimless verbosity.

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Returned from Omist November 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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While my weekend… and, really, the last week… was spent mostly focused on World of Warcraft, I did find some time to drop into EVE Online.  I sort of had to, or end up stranded.

Shortly after the Phoebe expansion hit the game, as in the very next day, we deployed south again.  Our pre-Phoebe warm up deployments had been down in Insmother and Feythabolis.  We continued out our pattern of hitting the south by showing up in Omist.  Clearly we are out to annoy the N3 coalition and their vast tracts of renter space.

Deployments so far...

Deployments so far…

The deployment started with operations during European prime time and continued during the early US times, during all of which I was as work.  When I finally arrived home on the west coast another group was headed down, led by Baby Lemba, the FC of a thousand voices.  While I had initially planned to go south in an Ishtar again and actually shoot things, there was a call out for more space priests.  There is always a call for more.  So I swapped out the Ishtar for my Basilisk so I could keep the fleet in good repair.

The Basilisk, as a choice, seems odd to me, though I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of these sorts of decisions.  Up until this point, the Scimitar had been the shield logistics ship of choice, being both fast and cap stable.  Having taken up the Basilisk, we gained a bit more shield repping power and a bit more effective hit points, but our logi are no longer cap stable.  Instead we have to cap chain.

Cap chaining is where CCP gave up on any last pretense of realism, kicked the laws of thermodynamics to the curb, and embraced a “sum greater than the total of the parts” solution because… they could, I guess.  The capacitor of the Basilisk, as fit for our doctrine, with modules running, runs dry in about 45 seconds, at which point all the modules shut down.  But if we mount remote capacitor transfer modules, lock up the next ship down the line and start sending them capacitor juice, the problem is solved.  The output of the cap transfer modules is greater than the amount needed to keep us cap stable and we can run all our modules all day so long as we stay within range of each other.

Logistics cap chaining

Cap chaining Basilisks

Which is fine.  Cap chaining isn’t tough, so there is a net benefit… until you’re the only logi in fleet, which happened to me a couple of times.  And then you are pretty much useless and wishing you had disobeyed orders and brought a scimitar.  But I am good and always bring the right ship with the doctrine fit, so when Lemba had us undock for the trip south I was in a Basilisk.

That Stratios though... that is not doctrine...

That Stratios though… that is not doctrine…

The wormholes were not being as kind as they sometimes are, and we actually had to travel for a bit to get to our end of the pipe down south, and at the far end we were a good 16 jumps away from the planned staging system.  The trip had its moments, as we caught a carrier along the way (though I didn’t have my combat drone loaded, so couldn’t whore on the kill mail), but a sense of urgency was on us as well.  Lemba changed our destination along the way as there was a fight already in progress.

Somehow, over in XGH-SH, we had gotten in and were with in a hair’s breadth of taking the station and perhaps even flipping the system.  We were unlikely to hold it, but it would be an annoyance if we made N3 retake it.  We dropped our larger ships, especially the industrials, from the fleet and started slow boating through gates in hopes of being able to make this happen.

However, by the time we had gotten there the hostiles had also thrown in reinforcements, including carriers.  We were told to safe up, use our mobile depots to mount our cloaks if they were not already on, and cloak up.  I made a couple of safe spots, got myself cloaked, and then waited.  After some time Asher told us that nothing more was likely to happen, the system was too hot for us at that point, so we should safe log off if we could.  Extraction ops would come later when things quieted down.

Safe log off in XGH-SH

Safe log off in XGH-SH

I remained stranded there for a couple days.  I missed the extraction operations, so started slowly working myself back to our staging system.  There were a couple of times when I was in fleet and trying to make my way to them, only to be waved off by the FC as there were camps between us.  So I lingered alone in hostile space, where at least I could provide some intel and be an annoyance.  I got locked up on one gate by Sholto Douglas of the Methodical Alliance, but he either didn’t have a point or his heart wasn’t in it, as I managed to warp off and safe up.  I chatted with him a bit in local, because this is EVE and line members of the various groups rarely seem to harbor the hostility that the leadership sometimes attempts to instill.

Eventually though, I decided to make a run for it.  I got online and into fleet to hear that they had a Nyx super carrier tackled just a few jumps from where I was safed up.  I had my combat drone in my bay, so I decided to get in on that kill mail.  I crashed gates, including one that was camped, until I joined the fleet.  The Nyx was deep into structure when I launched my drone.  My drone got there and managed to get at least a shot off, so when it blew I was on the kill mail.  I was the lowest damage contributor of those who did any damage at all, but I made it.

21 out of 3 million hit points!

21 out of 3 million hit points!

A super capital kill is always good.  I posted a few pictures of the wreck shortly after that fight.

After that though, it was back to shooting structures.  I do not mind those ops, even if being logistics on a structure shoot is the only thing more boring than being DPS on a structure shoot, if only because you have to pay attention just in case somebody starts taking damage.  And when you are the only logistics ship with a fit that requires a cap chain you can barely help with that.  I could save somebody for long enough for them to warp off, but then I would be running low on cap.  You need at least two in order to have a cap chain.

We did see the occasional amusing bits or pieces of space history, like an Atlas Alliance infrastructure hub.  Atlas Alliance closed down back in 2010.

Abandoned ihub

Abandoned ihub

But after a number of those ops, the allure of World of Warcraft and getting in some last minute achievements and prep for the expansion took over.  So I dropped out of space for a while.  I still watched the broadcasts and, judging from them I missed a couple of fights.  I also missed getting piped bombed at one point as well, which meant moving people back down to Omist again.  Being on the third such deployment in approximately a month, I was getting a bit tired.  The pace of activity is constant but can be wearing.  So I rested, parked down in Omist, waiting for the recall to sound.

The recall came in the form of a broadcast this past weekend which announced, in case we hadn’t heard, that we were headed home.  I hadn’t heard and was keen to get on the train back to Deklein.

Getting home turned out to be fairly easy.  What I guess I would call a “do it yourself” fleet was up, with instructions in the MOTD about how to proceed.  A wormhole had been found just a few jumps from our staging system in Omist.

Landing on the wormhole

Landing on the wormhole

From there it was in and out of a wormhole that deposited me in Pure Blind and on our jump bridge network, where I accrued my first bit of jump fatigue.   Boy, that is annoying.  I only had to take two jump bridges to get home, but there short wait while my jump timer counted down before I could take the second.  A comprehensive, pre-Phoebe jump bridge highway now seems like a complete waste of resources.  Better to place them strategically to lop off jumps from routes that would otherwise require many gate jumps.  But I don’t run GSOL, so I just take them were I find them.

But I was back home in Deklein.  And the first thing I did was clone jump to my implant clone in high sec to speed up my training queue a bit.  Since I was going to be focused on WoW for a while, it was probably the best place to be.  Meanwhile, we will hopefully have a bit of a break before the next deployment.  I think three such high tempo deployments, one after another, started to wear people down a bit.  Clearly the numbers responding to pings was declining a bit before I got involved else where.

As for how things went, I am not sure.  There were clearly some high points, and the hostiles had to pull forces into the area to counter our activities and clean up after us.  But I haven’t seen any numbers on how much actual damage we did.  If nothing else, we livened up what was a relatively quiet area of space.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Spaceship November 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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Rixx Javix can count himself, among many things, an EVE Online player, pirate, blogger, in-game event organizer, crusader against warp core stabilizers, and occasional haberdasher to #tweetfleet.

But his most recent mania is posters.  Posters featuring the ships of EVE Online.

It started innocently enough with a poster or two… and then it consumed him and he started making poster after poster.  It became a whole poster series.

Samples from the Rixx  Javix Gallery

Samples from the Rixx Javix Gallery

Over at his site he has written about specific posters he likes, some forbidden ships, the difficulty of finding the right way to pose a Caracal, and how he puts the pieces together to make these.

How to make a Ferox look good

How to make a Ferox look good

The poster series has gone beyond 100 spaceships at this point and continues to grow.  The official series is available via this gallery at Flickr.

You can also see the series as part of his Flickr photostream starting here.  The photostream is worthwhile if you want to see naked versions of a few ships for use as wallpaper and the occasional special guest star… along with much more of his other work.

 

Blizzard – Up All Night Working on Draenor Queues November 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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We’re making preparations for the Europe maintenance beginning in just an hour, and along with hardware upgrades we will be implementing some of the performance improvements we’ve been testing. One of these is a fairly large change to the way the game world is run by the servers—expanding the phasing tech used for the Tanaan intro experience to the entire continent of Draenor. This will allow us to run multiple copies of Draenor simultaneously, spreading out server population, while attempting to keep guilds and parties within the same copy.

-Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor Launch Update

A little over 48 hours into the Warlords of Draenor launch Blizzard has upped the ante.  To counter the “we didn’t quite think this through” problems associated with too many people congregating at key spots in Draenor… problems that made the company limit server populations, thus making for horrendous queues on the more popular servers (insert my usual “shards are bad, mkay” rant here)… Blizzard is going to apply phasing, used in the intro experience to keep players more spread out, to all of Warlords of Draenor.

We’re not quite getting the zone copies that SOE has had going since 2004 to accommodate players crowding into specific areas of the game, something I mentioned might be handy in my post on Thursday.

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea zone

But we are getting something akin to it.

Blizzard had server down time last night to make this change and upgrade hardware, and so far this morning things are looking… better.

My daughter has some characters on a high population server, and hasn’t been able to get on there because the server queue has consistently been 4K or higher.  This morning, no queue.  Things seem to be better according to Blizzard.  There are still problems, I still see some servers locked, but huge queues do not seem to be as prevalent.

We’re continuing to monitor realms and track any individual issues as they occur. We’re still seeing some issues occurring now that Europe is in their peak playtime, but with greatly reduced frequency compared to before maintenance.

All realms are now set back up to their normal population caps. Queues being experienced now are due to demand beyond what the realms are normally capable of handling, and we’ll be looking into how to reduce them further.

Now, how will this play out through the weekend?  Since they have made garrison’s an OCD delight by giving us followers and missions to check up on, queues will cause some of us grievous mental distress if we can’t get in and take care of business.

I'd just sit here and play Hearthstone if this worked

I’d just sit here and play Hearthstone if this worked

Are you able to get into the game now?

Warlords of Draenor – An Early Success November 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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32 comments

In one of those “fools rush in… and get the best seats” moments, I got home from work yesterday, started up my computer, launched World of Warcraft, logged in, and started playing.

No fuss, no muss, no queue, no problem.  I just logged in, decided to go with Vikund as first into Draenor, took the quest, and off I went.

The quest is hard to miss

The quest is hard to miss

I am not sure you can actually refuse the quest.  I tried with another character and the game seemed pretty persistent.  Anyway, I was in the game and headed out on my first try.

This happens to me once in a while, where I wander into a minefield and pass through unscathed by sheer luck.  I know that many people were having problems, and my luck is not in any way to say that everything was fine.  My daughter was interested in a level 90 on another server, where she ended up in a queue nearly 4,000 players deep and estimated to get her to the front of the line in about 7 hours.  She watched that for a bit then decided to join me on Eldre’Thalas, only to find that logins had been locked for the server.  So there were problems in my own house, and I had to hear my daughter moan about how she couldn’t get in while I was happily playing.

Because I was on and in game, which at that point appeared to be the big hurdle.  The server itself was only listed as “medium” when it came to load and I found Earl already on and level 91.  He had passed through the starter area and now it was my turn.  It is through the portal and off to work with Khadgar and Thrall.

Vikund, Khadgar, and Thrall

Vikund, Khadgar, and Thrall

The intro zone is a short, story driven event meant to give you the “why we fight” look at the expansion.  I was interested in the emphasis placed on the “bad” guys, the leaders of the Iron Horde, the so-called Warlords of Draenor, who were each introduced in a very cinematic fashion, like an 80s ensemble cast complete with action shot pose and dramatic name reveal.

The special guest star was the Eye of Kilrogg, which played a supporting role.

I won’t try to record the details of the intro zone.  I am sure there are guides out there, should you need one.  It was a quick lark.  As always, I took every opportunity I could to pose with Thrall.

Vikund and Thrall

Vikund and Thrall

I have built this “Homer Simpson/Mr. Burns” relationship with Thrall in my brain over the years, where we have interacted on many occasions yet, whenever we meet, Thrall doesn’t know me.  I just need an orc version of Waylon Smithers (or maybe a goblin) to start reciting past events to Thrall like, “he helped you escape from Durnhold Keep, he once shot you with a BB gun, you sent him into Deepholm to save Azeroth, he was on the team that brought Garrosh Hellscream to justice…” to complete the scene.

I was interested to see that Vikund’s gear, which is mostly Siege of Orgrimar LFR level purples, was not immediately worse than what was being handed out for the first few quests.  Vikund is probably better geared, sitting at the end of Pandaria, than he has ever been, so not trading up immediately was a new experience.  Eventually, he got something that was the same item level for one of the garrison quests, but it lacked a gem socket, didn’t have an enchant, and was otherwise almost identical, so I let it sit in the bag with the rest of the stuff.

I was a bit disappointed that, for no good reason, the game client refused to take screen shots during one of the cinematics where all of the orc warlords were standing together at the top of a cliff in a rather epic pose.  A movie poster level of positioning.  But Blizz seems to be odd on that front.  Sometimes screenshots work during cinematics, sometimes they do not.  I will have to run Fraps with the next character into Draenor.

Anyway, I thought the whole thing was nicely done.  Though it was probably a lot of work for a relatively short encounter, it does lay the foundation for the expansion.

A whole zone for a 30 minute intro

A whole zone for a 30 minute intro

I made it through and was dumped on the beach in Shadowmoon Valley, where I was given a “you made it” achievement.  There should probably be a special “you made it through all the technical issues” feat of strength achievement for getting there within 24 hours of the launch, but that might be rubbing salt in the wound.

Welcome to Draenor!

Welcome to Draenor!

From that point the game was very determined to get me into my garrison.  This does not appear to be an optional thing, but a requirement to progress.  Granted, I wanted a garrison, so I did not explore much when it came to “can I bypass this?” but it sure seemed like a requirement.  You end up at the site of your Garrison… with a few dozen other people in my case… where you have to collect some resources and kill a few things.  The resources were not consumed when others collected them, so it wasn’t an all out race grab them.  You basically flagged trees to be cut down, and with each you got an old school Warcraft RTS peon response.

The mobs to kill were contested, but were available in abundance as well.  I was thankful once again that Blizz made special quest mobs available to everybody who got in some damage, as there was a huge mob waiting to slay the one named guy we all needed.

That went pretty quickly, and I was soon standing before my garrison.

I will call it "Jim"

I will call it “Jim”

There were, naturally, some quests waiting within.  I went out to collect some things, kill some other things.  I built a barracks and visited the various vendors that are present just to see what I had.  And then it was time to head off to a school event for my daughter.  My wife is the PTA president, so we can’t skip this sort of thing, we need to be there to support her.

So I logged off.

Nooooooooo!

A couple hours later, when we returned home, I wasn’t able to log back in.  I managed to get into the server selection, but for quite a stretch it would not connect to a server.

This I can screen shot, but not the cinematic

This I could screen shot, but not the cinematic

My daughter was similarly locked out.  She gave up and went to bed while I sat around reading the various news stories and blue posts about DDoS attacks and unexpected issues.  Some of it was out of Blizzard’s hands and some of it was stuff they weren’t going to find until we all hit the game at once.  Then again, there was at least one Blizzard note I read that mentioned a problem caused by too many people being at the same place in the game, which got a big eye roll from me, since that was the system they designed.  Everybody ends up standing at that spot where the garrison is built, as an example.

As usual, some people were philosophical about the whole thing, while others were complaining that Blizzard had effectively stolen their money or other over the top statements.

Yes, it was bad at times and Blizzard should know we don’t appreciate it.  They own a lot of the problems.  In all likelihood Blizz will comp everybody a day or two  to cover this, and the storm will pass shortly.  But if you are bitching about having skipped school or taken a vacation day for this… well, I have to ask if this is your first online game.  I did that once, called in sick for a video game launch.  I think it was in 1989, when Gemstone opened up on GEnie after having been in the beta for a while.  It was an unplayable disaster on day one and my time was wasted.  Nothing has changed in 25 years.  If you are smart, you do that once and you learn your lesson.

Anyway, in the midst of all of this, while my screen sat in the trying to connect state on the server selection page, a tweet came through from Blizzard CS suggesting that people log out and back in.  I was hesitant, but had nothing to lose.  So I gave it a shot and, sure enough, I was able to log back in just fine, I was back in the game, back in my garrison, and ready to go.

I ran off and got my first follower, whom I sent on a mission which got me a second follower.  I sent them both off and rode out to the first town/quest hub.  There is kind of an interesting moment when you ride out of your garrison and down the road and you hit the point where you exit what is essentially the instance your garrison occupies and load into the shared world.  As it happened I was riding my chopper down the road and hit that transition point to find myself riding right next to a guy, also on a chopper and headed to the same location.

I saw Potshot online and he was able to get into the game at about that time as well.  However, there seemed to be a problem with people getting into the starter zone then, and he was stuck in the Blasted Lands getting the same automated message, “The portal you are trying to access… Draenor… is busy or out or service, please try again later.”  So all was not yet peaches and cream.  But Blizzard has a downtime today and some patches to do.  Tonight should be better than last night, and tomorrow night better than tonight, and at some point in a couple of days it will be a complete non-issue and we’ll move on to complaining about something else.

After a bit more running around, it was time for bed at my end.  And so ended my first look at the new expansion.

Others looking at day one:

Friday Night Addendum:

Oh, now I feel your pain.  Now I know the rage and humiliation of having to sit in a queue.

This will not stand!

This will not stand!

Big changes from Blizz incoming.  This should be… interesting.