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May in Review May 31, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Month in Review, Nintendo DS Hardware, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH, World of Warcraft.
5 comments

The Site

Another month goes by and once again the statistics bear out that the less I write in a post, the more popular it is likely to be, with the most popular posts being things I copy from other people completely. There is a message in that, I am sure.

If you look at the “Most Popular Posts” section below, you will see that the WoW Guild Name Generator post continues its reign at the top of the chart. Somehow I am ranked very high on Google when searching for guild name generator.

Still, some items that I spent time on made the list. The 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations piece is on there, though it seems to primarily attract people lacking a sense of humor.

This month’s page view activity graph is brought to you by Batman.

Batman’s right ear is where I put up a cranky post about Age of Conan for the first time in months here, and the left ear represents Tobold pointing at my cranky post. (And congratulations to Tobold on hitting the 2,000 post mark.) The right ear represents the most page views ever in a day for this site.

And then there was a contest that three people entered. They all won.

One Year Ago

I was babbling on about the “Missing Ingredient” that WoW’s competitors lacked which helped make WoW the success it is today. Still, that did not stop some from speculating wildly about which MMOs might be able to compete with WoW. Age of Conan was on the list… but so was Star Wars Galaxies.

I spotted my first level 50 character in LOTRO and was carping about some minor issues.

The trials of Sigil Games Online came to a close with this note from John Smedley. As the recriminations began anew, Genda at the Grouchy Gamer had some insight at the time and recently posted a three part series reviewing the events. Meanwhile, parodies of the Sigil troubles ceased because things stop being funny when people start losing their jobs.

Blizzard teased us about an upcoming announcement, then finally sent out the news many had been waiting for. Hell, it was about time.

After raising the price of Station Access, SOE gave us a new race and home town in EverQuest II. My proposed model for the new race was rejected.

There was a bit of speculation on my part about how many more EverQuest expansions we might see.

And, finally, I made an attempt to get people to go back and listen to some older podcast episodes. I picked out five, and a year later I stand by them.

New Linking Sites

A big thank you to these sites who link to TAGN. I encourage you to give them a visit in return.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  3. Age of Conan: Hystarian Adventures
  4. EVE Online Smacktalk: A Primer on How To Do It
  5. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  6. Views on the G15 LCD
  7. Apotheosis Now!
  8. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG
  9. My Kind of EVE Mission
  10. My LOTRO Video Crash
  11. Reader Mail – Which MMO?
  12. What to do with $40 Million?

Best Search Terms

bear curious
[That is a little more than I want to know about your desires]

“eve online” what can i invent
[If you’re not careful, a way to burn through a lot of ISK]

german plate armor
[Like in Alexander Nevsky? Trust me, you should see the German armor in that film]

Age of Conan

I have not purchased, nor do I plan to purchase, Age of Conan. I did not play in the beta, open or closed. Any statements I make regarding the game are made from a position of hearsay and ignorance and should, thus, be suspect.

EVE Online

EVE Online is probably where I spent the most time, at least when it comes to MMOs, over the last month. EVE does have the advantage in that there is a lot you can do while you are doing something else. Plus a co-worker of mine is back playing and we decided to try to do some level 4 missions together. While we have only done one such mission as a team, all that at least set me on the path to finally getting a battleship.

Lord of the Rings Online

I wanted to play LOTRO this month, but never quite found the time. Gaff came back to the game, played for a few weeks, then went back to EverQuest II. Out of that time, I managed to find and group with him once. Now he is trying to get me to come back to Norrath.

World of Warcraft

The instance group is moving along. It looks like we’ll all hit level cap before Wrath of the Lich King ships, though we might still be working on the Mana Tombs at that point.

DS

Pokemon. We’ve been all about Pokemon on the weekends in May. My daughter, spoiled as she is, has her own NetFlix queue that feeds her a diet of Pokemon episodes, then daddy gets home from work and we talk about Pokemon and play it together on the DS.

I did play a little Mario Kart DS, and my daughter played a bit of the pet hamsters game she had, but mostly we’re about Pokemon when it comes to the DS.

Wii

I have been thinking about picking up Mario Kart for the Wii. It looks, and sounds, like a lot of fun. But frankly my daughter and I seem fully occupied with the DS and Pokemon most days and I am making a small effort to try not to spread myself too thin on games. I want to be able to get into a game deeply, which leaves me room for EVE and Pokemon and some WoW on Saturday nights.

Coming Up

June will be very busy at work and at home. We have a major release on one of the product lines for which I am responsible and more than the usual “bottom of the Marianas Trench” level of pressure to see that it ships on time. Our new company president, who looks just like Mo Rocca with grey hair, wants dates made at all cost, and one of the costs is likely to be writing time.

And then I will be on vacation at the end of the month… provided we ship on time. (Just a little bit of additional pressure there on top of the rest.)

So I am just going to plan in advance for June being a very light posting month.

Pokemon Goes On and On May 30, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo DS Hardware, Pokemon.
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5 comments

Pokemon Diamond has been the official weekend activity for my daughter and I for the last couple of weekends.

Both of us managed to free Uxie, Azelf and Mesprit from the clutches of the evil, arrogant, and oddly dressed Team Galactic, defeat their leader Cyrus, and capture Dialga, the legendary Pokemon. That done, we were able to proceed to Sunnyshore City, defeat the gym leader there and obtain the last of the eight gym badges from the Sinnoh Gym Leaders.

That done, it was left to us to face the elite four plus the Pokemon League champion.

This was a bit different that the challenges so far in the game, as you have to defeat all five of them, one after the other, without returning to a Pokemon Center for healing or a shop for fresh supplies.

I figured this out the hard way after I barely defeated the first of the four, Aaron, only to find myself up for the next battle with three Pokemon fainted and not much in the way of healing. I let myself lose on the next round then went to prepare.

I spent a couple of evenings getting a few more levels in for my six best Pokemon.

Then I piled up the hyper potions, the revive potions, the status healers and decided to take a stab at it again. I still felt I was on the low side of the level range for this, but the experience from these battles was pretty good, so I figured it would be at least as fruitful as spending the same about of time grinding a couple more levels.

Having faced the first two of the elite four already, Aaron and Bertha, I was ready for them and got through without too much pain. The next guy, Flint, was focused on fire, so my water guys were quite a help. Lucian was quite a battle by comparison as I had nothing that was very effective against his Bronzong. It was a tough, slow fight and I had to dip into my bag for some heals and a revive or two before it was over. Still, in the end, I won.

Which brought me to Cynthia the Pokemon League champion for the Sinnoh region. I spent some potions before I started the battle with her so my Pokemon were all set, but things went poorly almost from the start. He six Pokemon were, on average, 8-10 levels higher up than mine. I had four Pokemon down before I finished off her first one, so out came the revive potions as I juggled my guys against hers.

At one point I went four rounds where I had one Pokemon left. I would revive one and the current one in the battle would faint, so I would revive him and the other would be down. I thought I was done for.

Then I finally caught a break and one of my guys lasted three rounds, which let me revive a couple more and actually get in some attacks of my own. Finally Cynthia was down to her last Pokemon, but I was in the hole again myself, with only two injured Pokemon left. I finally decided to use my max revive potions and was able to power through.

Victory was mine.

I went through the awards ceremony and my team was inducted into the hall of fame:

Wilhelm- Trainer
Pipi – Level 54 Empoleon
Slinky – Level 58 Luxray
Alfie – Level 54 Azelf
Pops – Level 48 Drifblim
Medichop – Level 51 Medicham
Dallas – Level 54 Dialga

The credits for the game rolled.

After many high-fives from my daughter, she suddenly looked sad and said, “But I haven’t won yet.”

So we had to get her rolling, which was tough. As previously mentioned, she tends to focus on just one or two Pokemon, so while she had a level 68 Luxray ready to lead off, her next highest level was Dialga at level 50, then a few in the mid-to-low 40s.

That and she spent all her money on stuff at the various shops. She had 84 luxury balls in her bag for openers. So we had to go on a strict, nightly effort to earn some money for potions before her battle.

And then her first run failed.

Finally I traded her a couple of my guys, including a level 100 Palika I got in trade for a level 39 Ditto I put up on the Global Trade Station, to shore up her team and she was able to power through and claim victory herself with her own hall of fame entry:

Deedee – Trainer
Palkia – Level 100 Palkia
Fifi – Level 74 Luxray
Garcon – Level 54 Gastradon
Dallas – Level 54 Dialga
Alfie – Level 54 Azelf
Chimpee – Level 52 Infernape

Game over, right?

Only, the game is not at all over. There is still a ton of stuff left to do. There are contests to win, trainers to battle, a few more places to explore, and then there is the whole National Pokedex to fill out.

I have to hand it to Nintendo and their partners. I have been totally blown away by both the breadth and depth of the game.

I am also cynically envious of how deep they get their hooks in you. To complete the National Pokedex, to see all 493 Pokemon, you have to jump through some serious hoops. Some only show up during “mass outbreak” events in the game. Others only show up at certain times. And a group of them require you to put past GameBoy Advanced versions of the game in the front slot of the DS, and only then will they appear in the game.

Towards that end I picked up a copy of Pokemon FireRed off of eBay, which my daughter immediately took over. It had a game in progress and some Pokemon already caught. So she has been hunting in that game for Pokemon we need, which we can transfer over to Diamond at the rate of six a day, while I have been playing a bit after she goes to bed with the FireRed cartridge inserted so different Pokemon will spawn in Diamond.

We have also been very active with the Wi-Fi Global Trade Station in game that lets you trade Pokemon with people around the world. I was farming Growlithes with FireRed inserted to trade for Eevees, as my daughter wants all the various Pokemon that evolve from Eevee.

One fun thing. I have gotten a couple of trades from people in Japan, and their Pokemon come through with names in Japanese characters.

And, this weekend, there is a special event at Toys R Us, at least here in Northern California, where you can go into the store and download an exclusive Darkrai Pokemon.

Needless to say, that is a big part of our Saturday plans.

All of this Pokemon talk and play is driving my wife up the wall. We had to have a Pokemon quite period this week, as I think my daughter and I did very little besides play Pokemon over the Memorial Day weekend.

I have to say, two thumbs up to Nintendo and GameFreak for a surprisingly great game. I had no idea what all the fuss was about. Now I do.

And Pokemon Platinum is coming!

EVE Online: Empyrean Age release date May 29, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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New stuff coming soon to EVE Online!  Sooner than I thought.

EVE Online: Empyrean Age is slated for a June 10th release. The cold war that has existed between our four races for a hundred years is becoming very hot. It is now time for you to pick a side; some will fight for glory, others for personal gain. All will fight to win!

To find out more about the Empyrean Age expansion, please visit the features page and read all about the new content: the introduction of a faction ranking system, new militias being mustered, fresh agents pertaining to the massive conflicts, a dynamic new structure of system occupancy, details on hidden deadspace complexes and a whole new region in space, “Black Rise.”

EVE Online: Empyrean Age incorporates elements of fiction that will be introduced in a novel by the same name, slated for a June 19th release, by Tony Gonzales. The author of many popular web-novellas and short stories, Gonzales’ novel takes the reader through time and space, bridging the passage of time between the somewhat harmonious setting of New Eden as it exists for players now to a world of broken alliances on the brink of war.

Useful links:
Empyrean Age information
Where to buy the Empyrean Age novel

(source CCP)

The Mana Tombs – Death Revisited May 29, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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Saturday night and into Azeroth again.

After spending the last two weekends focused on experience and equipment we were all up another level and much better equipped.

Well, maybe a little bit better equipped.

Okay, we found almost nothing that improved our equipment while question in Terokkar.

And, while we all levelled up, none of us appeared to get the “I win” button as part of our level 66 spells and skills, so we were going to have to face the Mana Tombs the old fashioned way. The group for the evening was:

66 Warlock – Bungholio
66 Mage – Ula
66 Priest – Skronk
66 Paladin – Vikund
66 Warrior – Earlthecat

Things started off very well. They certainly went better than last time, when we practically wiped on the first pull in the instance.

We blew through to the first boss, Pandemonius, and sent him packing without much drama. His big trick, fading to another dimension for a moment, which causes damage to be reflected back, was not fooling us.

Here we are sizing him up before the attack.

After that we advanced at a brisk pace to the next boss, Tavarok, losing a gnome now and again along the way. But that is the cost of doing business some nights. There were no wipes, however, something that continued through out battle with Tavarok. Last time it took us a few runs before we brought him down. This time we had his number and dispatched him on our first try.

Go team!

We continued to clear and ended up with one wipe on the way to the last boss. It was a group of four mobs and we lost control of the battle. Not a huge thing, our first wipe so far into the instance.

We revived, cleared that group on our second try (we got two down on the first run, so the outcome was not in question), turned the corner and entered the room of Nexus-Prince Shaffer, he of the witty dialog.

Clearing his room was no problem, and very quickly it was only the Prince and his three minions, the ethereal beacons, before us.

And then the wipes began.

A few runs at him and we were not even close on any of them. Once he was down to 25% of his health, but he constantly respawning ethereal pals were too much.

We looked up some strategies for the fight online, but couldn’t come up with anything viable. We lacked the firepower to implement the suggestion we found at several sites, which was to kill the three beacons quickly, before they shifted into human form. Once they have that form, they get a bunch more hit points and do a lot of damage.

With Earl on the prince and the rest of us on the beacons, we could only slay one before they changed over and then the pain began as they ran amok on the casters.

It was getting late and at least one of us had a full dinner and a Broadway show as a lead-in for the evening, so we gave up on the prince and went back to do the escort quest in the instance, thinking to get at least one quest done.

At the first encounter of the escort quest, four elite mobs spawned and hit us from each corner of the room, resulting in a wipe and a failed quest. And that was it for the night.

We did not leave completely empty handed. Experience is always its own reward, plus Pandemonius dropped the Faith Bearer’s Gauntlets for Vikund (everybody said, “Eeew, Pally gear!”) and Tavarok coughed up the Staff of Polarities, which Ula won in a roll-off between her and Bung.

But we still have not defeated the Mana Tombs yet. It is time for some research into how to handle that last fight.

Building Battleships May 28, 2008

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

As I wrote previously, it is time for me to take a step forward in EVE Online, to get past my comfortable and reliable battlecruiser and level 3 missions, and start on something bigger.

The first step was, of course, acquire a battleship.

Since I had mostly trained up the Caldari spaceship command skill tree, the choices for which battleship were pretty clear; either a Raven or a Rokh.

Either represented a chunk of ISK, with Ravens going for around 85 million ISK while Rokhs for close to 130 million ISK.

While the Raven, oriented as it is towards a missile offense, was probably the right choice, I did not want to dismiss the Rokh out of hand. Having flown a Cormorant for early missions, I spent a good deal of time and ISK upgrading my gunnery skills before I joined the cult of the missile launcher.

I wanted to try them both, but I did not necessarily want to buy them both. At least not outright at market prices. That would have drained my bank account.

So I decided to put in some time working for them instead. Working in the form of mining so I could build both of them and still have money left to equip them and, ever so important in EVE, replace them should I have a mishap. And given my track record, that seemed a likely scenario.

I went to the contract interface and found single use blueprint copies for a Raven and a Rokh, both of which had nice high material efficiency ratings (40 and 32 respectively), to ensure I wasn’t wasting too much material in their construction. And then I started sorting out the minerals.

How much material to make a battleship?

The Raven blueprint required the following materials (with estimated market price):

Isogen      118,942 Units  7,136,520.00 ISK
Megacyte      2,262 Units  7,690,800.00 ISK
Mexallon    476,370 Units 16,672,950.00 ISK
Nocxium      29,701 Units  3,267,110.00 ISK
Pyerite   1,901,569 Units  8,557,060.50 ISK
Tritanium 7,604,695 Units 22,814,085.00 ISK
Zydrine       7,085 Units 17,712,500.00 ISK

I probably placed the price of minerals a bit high, but I tend to use the price I could get for those raw materials, since that is the cost to me to use them for construction rather than selling them on the open market. So the total cost of my Raven was:

Materials 83,851,025.50 ISK
Blueprint 900,000.00 ISK
Manufacturing 1,910.48 ISK

Total 84,752,935.98 ISK

Roughly equal to the lowest priced Raven I could find on the market, but without draining my ISK and giving me the additional satisfaction of having built it myself.

So I went to work on the Rokh next. Materials (with price estimates):

Isogen       169,546 Units 10,172,760.00 ISK
Megacyte       3,038 Units 10,329,200.00 ISK
Mexallon     668,504 Units 23,397,640.00 ISK
Nocxium       48,770 Units  5,364,700.00 ISK
Pyerite    3,182,327 Units 14,320,471.50 ISK
Tritanium 10,816,225 Units 32,448,675.00 ISK
Zydrine       12,430 Units 31,075,000.00 ISK

By this point I had used up my stores of Zydrine and Megacyte and had to go purchase some on the market, so the Rokh required some cash out of pocket

Materials 127,108,446.50 ISK
Blueprint 800,000.00 ISK
Manufacturing 1,910.48 ISK

Total 127,910,356.98 ISK

A bit of a discount when compared to the cheapest Rokh I could find on the market!

So I have another 212,663,292.46 ISK worth of ships sitting in my hanger and my bank account remains about the same, sales and a few missions having offset most of my costs.

Now I just have to equip them and figure out how to fight them.

And when I decide which one I like, I’ll just repackage the other one and sell it.

Witty Ranter #9 May 27, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online, Podcasts, Vanguard SOH, World of Warcraft.
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I was again invited to join Adam, along with Craig from Voyages in Eternity, Beau from Voyages of Vanguard, and Luper, the Voyages of Vanguard podcast co-host for another fun filled podcast round table.

The topic was RP vs. XP: Round 2!

As I stated the last time around, this is a huge topic and worthy of a whole series of shows

We moved through aspects of roleplay, like making roleplay elements mandatory in a game, what games have good role play elements built into them already (and Star Wars Galaxies gets its due this time along with Lord of the Rings Online), what intellectual property elements enhance role playing, is it easier to role play with a known IP like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, do we role play, and game elements that would enhance role play in MMOs. I also point the team towards Fear the Boot, a podcast about role playing game.

In the end, there will probably be another show on this topic to try to wrap up some of the details.

Witty Ranter is part of the ever growing VirginWorlds Podcast Collective.

You can find episode #9 here or on iTunes.

If you like the show, take a moment and leave a review on iTunes, then send Adam a note and he’ll put you down for some sort of prize drawing.

Memorial Day 2008 May 26, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in General.
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It is Memorial Day here again in the US. There are veterans honored on the front page of the paper, while just a page in begins the non-stop announcement of sales, presumably also to honor veterans, though I am not quite sure that purchasing a PlayStation 3 or a Mercedes-Benz would constitute a tribute to those who fell in defense of our country.

In the skies all week though, the sounds of the past have echoed. As it was last year, the Collings Foundation has vintage WWII bombers parked out at Moffett Field. The website says that there are three planes out there offering rides, but so far I have only seen the B-17G. But I have seen it quite a lot.

It was something of a childhood fantasy, to be able to go back in time to when the sight of such a plane would be common, when the skies were full of the sound of big, supercharged engines, to live through that time. A foolish thought of childhood, ignoring the suffering, sacrifice, and uncertainty that accompanied the times. Foolish too, in that the era when it was economically and militarily viable to have such huge numbers of aircraft available was a fleeting moment of history.

Time moves forward. The generation that flew those planes, that fought that war, who were in their prime when I was born, is slowly passing on.

One member of that generation I would like to remember today is Donald Lopez. He passed away on March 3rd of this year.

He joined the Army Air Corps after the US entry into WWII and flew P-40s and P-51s with the 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force in China, the successors to the famed Flying Tigers. After the war he became a test pilot, taught at the Air Force Academy, and work on the Apollo and Skylab programs.

Were that the extent of his career, it would be worthy of mention.

But in 1972 he joined the staff of the National Air and Space Museum and spent the remainder of his life working to preserve the memory of that fleeting moment of history in which he took part.

It was while he was working in that capacity that I had the honor to meet him.

In 1989 a friend and I went to a Virginia Bader dinner here in San Jose. The main draw, the big names, were Adolf Galland and Johnnie Johnson. A seat at their table was a bit pricey, but my friend and I wanted to be in the room at least, so we opted for a less expensive position.

That put us at the table with Donald Lopez. I did not know who he was at the start of the evening, but by the end I was quite impressed. He spoke a little of the war, but our conversation revolved mostly around the Air and Space Museum and the work that had gone in to preserving a physical record of the beginning of the age of flight. His passion and depth of knowledge were impressive and it was clear that it was work he enjoyed.

And so, this Memorial Day I remember him and the 90 minutes of conversation that took place in downtown San Jose some 19 years ago.

The Official SOE Podcast #36 May 25, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Podcasts, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this episode of the SOE Podcast, with Craig “Grimwell” Dalrymple reading the news.

  • SOE Game News
  • Listener Email: Jeremy and Andrew
  • Fan Faire Count Down
  • Podcast Follow Ups
  • Vivox coming to Star Wars Galaxies
  • ION Game Conference
  • Interview with Brad Wilcox, Executive Director of Customer Service
  • Inside SOE – EverQuest Server Name Pronunciation
  • Interview with Emily “Domino” Taylor, Game Designer, EverQuest II Tradeskills
  • The Return of Timmy
  • TV and Movies
  • What are you playing?
  • Out Takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on May 19th and runs just under one hour and eleven minutes.

The SOE Community team is also asking that if you enjoy the show, if you could take a minute and go Digg It on Digg.com. (Once they add the show to Digg that is.)

AoC-Daily.com May 24, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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For Age of Conan fans, the minds behind the EverQuest II news site EQ2-Daily.com have applied their knowledge to create a sister site devoted Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.

It is called, of course, AoC-Daily.com.

I do not know if, like EQ2-Daily, there will be an accompanying podcast, but it is a good place to start for a round up of Conan news and reviews.

LOTRO Contest Let Down May 23, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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At least one of the winners of the LOTRO Banner contest has found that the 30 day game codes issued to me as part of the LOTRO founders referral program don’t actually work!

No word from Turbine back on a support ticket opened on Monday evening.

Turbine seems to be copying the SOE support model in that regard. Tickets I open with SOE seem to have a 50% chance of disappearing into a black hole, never to be heard from again once the auto-confirmation is sent.

Say what you will about Blizzard, but when I open a ticket with them I get something back, besides an auto-confirmation, within 24 hours.

Has anybody else tried to use a game code generated from a referral by a LOTRO lifetime member? Do they generally work, or is this common issue?