December in Review

On Events in 2008

I sit here on the final day of 2008 looking back and saying, “WTF?”

Pirates of the Burning Sea set sail, but foundered.  Excellent ship to ship combat turned out to not be worth a monthly fee.

Age of Conan should have launched in March because it came on like a lion, but is now more like lamb in size and competitive vigor. (Or maybe a salt marsh harvest mouse.)  Folks in Oslo have since been heard saying things like, “Third time is a charm!”

Warhammer Online screamed “WAAAGH!” in September, but within six weeks the Mythic team was trying to consolidate its population rather than adding new servers, something that Mark Jacobs himself had previously said would be a sign they were in trouble.  Not that Mr. Jacobs is now saying they are in trouble, but I just love that quote as an example of things not to say. Meanwhile, even some WAR fanbois have changed their mind on the game.

Tabula Rasa, after a statement of support by NC West President of Publishing David Reid, was declared untenable just weeks later and slated to be closed at the end of February 2009.  The Bane issued a press release declaring total victory over the humans while General British, Colonel Blackthorn, and Major Miscalculation fled into space.  A blank slate indeed.

Sony Online Entertainment talked a lot about cool upcoming products, but shipped no new games.  Aside from two expansions and a lot of small content additions, the big headline of the year for SOE seemed to be, “EverQuest and EverQuest II: Now with RMT!”  While I won’t argue with Grimwell’s declaration of success on that front, the reaction seemed to me to be mixed.

All the while the Wrath of the Lich King seemed to be getting lukewarm support at best over the summer with many a blogger picking apart individual features or weighing the whole and declaring it “too little, too late” after nearly two years of waiting.  Then, as the day approached, people began filing back into Azeroth after their summer vacations in other lands.  On the ship date Wrath broke previous sales records set by The Burning Crusade, pushed WoW to a new subscriber peak (sure, just half a million people… small when compared to 11 million, but still more than almost any other subscription based MMO you care to mention has total.), and was generally declared wonderful by those who have enjoyed WoW in the past.

So screw convention wisdom, I’m going back to wild and crazy predictions.  Diablo III will generate more revenue than Toyota when it ships and StarCraft II will cure cancer and lead to the reunification of Korea.

The Site

I cleaned up the right hand bar quite a bit.  The most obvious piece that is missing is the counter for Feedburner.  I originally put it up there to encourage people to subscribe to the site via FeedBurner, since it offered some statistics.  However, most of the people who read the site via RSS use the WordPress.com feed, so the counter was displaying about 10% of my RSS readership.  Since WordPress.com has since added some minor stats about RSS, I decided to just remove the counter.  The FeedBurner feed is still live and will remain so, there just won’t be a link to it now.

One Year Ago

December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE.  First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha.  Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment.  And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan.  All of which I wrapped up in one post.

The yearly EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities.

I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” which I have yet to score.  I will have to get a post together comparing The Shadow Odyssey with my own guesses.

The Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group was finishing up Blackrock Depths.

Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.

I was interviewed over at World IV.  So far that is the only interview I have ever been asked to do.

I lost my first battlecruiser to pirates in EVE Online.  Meanwhile, after pissing away a lot of ISK on invention, I was not getting a lot of results.

And I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.

New Linking Sites

A big holiday thank you to these sites who link to The Ancient Gaming Noob.

Please take a minute to visit these sites, one of them may be your new favorite blog!

Most Views Posts in December

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Howling Fjord Quest Night
  5. Best MMO Expansion in 2008?
  6. Do You Name Your Ships?
  7. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  8. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
  9. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  10. The Name Generator (which has nothing to do with #1)
  11. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  12. The Way Questing Used To Be

Best Search Terms

world of warcraft hot to get out of gnomergen
[A lot of people are]

which mmo
[A question that plagues so many of us]

new lego emperor
[That is what we all seek!]

Spam Comments of the Month

ignorant christmas wallpaper cell phone :PPP
[Not a random string at all!]

I use WoW code all the time as it saves time!
[added to my Know Your WoW Code post and linked to a gold seller.]

Deleted Comment of the Month

Die in a fire you ‘tard.
[Like almost all of the really hateful comments I get, this came from an EVE Online player.  The game inspires passion, both good and bad.]

EVE Online

EVE Has been quiet for me this month, not so much out of a lack of desire to play as a lack of time.  The first half of the month I was busy shipping a product before the holidays, and then came the holidays.  Still, I ran a mission or two, hauled freight when needed, kept production going, and brought in another pile of ISK.  Still no freighter though.

EverQuest

I have not played ANY EverQuest.  There has been no 2008 EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.   EverQuest II might be old enough now that it is suitable for nostalgia.  That certainly fits what I have been doing there.

EverQuest II

In Norrath I have been mostly involved with the adventures of Reynaldo Fabulous of Freeport, a swashbuckling berserker who has been cutting a swathe through the original level 1-50 content in EverQuest II.  With the support of his friends and his guild he has managed to get to level 52 and remain fabulous.

Lord of the Rings Online

The call of Moria seems to have hit Gaff.  Having a lifetime membership means I can pick that game up any time.  However, now he is talking about starting over on a new server.  Damn his eyes, I finally have horses on all my guys on the old server.

World of Warcraft

Holiday commitments and illness has kept the instance group from playing as often as usual.  Still, we are banging away in Northrend and expect full victory in Utgarde Keep any day now!

Coming Up

Santa delivered more than just LEGO kits to our house over the holidays.  There were also a few Wii and DS games that I will mention in future posts, though it seems at the moment that Cooking Mama II is the surprise DS hit with my daughter.

And, of course, tune in tomorrow for my predictions for 2009.  I’d better start working on them!

Orcs Versus Pirates!

In a complete abuse of my parental influence over the action of Santa, Santa’s minions, and certain grandparents, Christmas this year ended up with our household receiving no fewer than eight substantial LEGO kits.  This was helped along by Toys R Us having a “buy one get one free” sale on selected LEGO sets.  I know I am going to end up paying for this somehow, but for right now my daughter and I are having a lot of fun.

Included among the kits were two ships, the Pirates themed Brickbeard’s Bounty (kit 6243) and the Castle themed Troll Warship (kit 7048), which has already lead to the best sea battle match up ever; Orcs versus Pirates!

Avast Ye Scurvey Orcs!

Avast Ye Scurvey Orcs!

Okay, I know in the LEGO universe, they are trolls, not orcs.  But look at the little guys.  We all know they are orcs and it is just that big guy in their ship that is a troll.

Both kits are very nice and have good projectile weapons.  While I admire the ingenuity of the troll missile launcher, the cannon that come with the new LEGO Pirates kits are simply awesome.  I am talking about “put an eye out” if mis-handled sort of firepower.  I am glad we have three more LEGO Pirates kits to assemble, so we should have plenty of cannon to go around.  (Though I am tempted to buy a couple of this kit just to stage a small Napoleonic battle.)

I’ll post some more pictures when we get them all assembled, and when our new digital camera, which is supposed to take better indoor pictures, gets powered up.

Anyway, I think there is an untapped game play mechanic here in Pirates versus Orcs.  Or maybe that will be the next World of Warcraft expansion.

Fabulous Gifts

After posting that Reynaldo Fabulous had hit level 50, he found a gift in his mail box the next time he logged in.  Kilanna had run him up a suit of induim armor to bring him up to tier 6 spec.

reyindium

The coloring happens to be perfect for adventuring in the Sinking Sands.

Then, later that day, guild-mate Jute (who has many characters whose names start with “Shay” and who appeared on SUWT #39) sent Reynaldo a fabulous Frostfell suit for his appearance tab.

holidayrey

The helm he had on hand.  It seemed to fit the look better than the indium helm.  Now he just needs a tower shield with a fir tree on it to finish off the look.

Thanks to Kilanna and Jute for keeping Reynaldo Fabulous… well… fabulous!

Christmas 1983

I don’t know exactly when the Apple IIe computer showed up at Gary’s house.  One day it was just there, set up on the dining room table.

Gary’s house was like that.  Cool, new, or interesting things would suddenly show up without ceremony.  His father was an engineer as well as a car and gadget aficionado, so his house was always an interesting place to be.  And his house was one of the centers of my late teens.  It was the place where we would hang out.  Gary was the guy with the really cool parents.

And one day during the winter in early 1983, that Apple IIe appeared.

It certainly wasn’t the first Apple II that I had ever seen.  Marianni Avenue ran behind my junior high school, and any school that close to Apple got computers handed to them.  My high school and several acquaintances were also so equipped.  So I had been poking at Apple computers for nearly five years when this particular unit showed up at Gary’s.

What was different was the amount of time I had access to it.  That was a rainy winter and Gary and his family saw me a lot. (For which, in hindsight, I apologize profusely.  They were very kind to put up with me.)  And while I knew in a vague way that computers and I needed to come together at some point (I was sold on that years before when I got to play Star Trek on a computer over at HP, a game a friend and I were so enraptured with we went an created a board game version of it), hours of playing Castle Wolfenstein, Epoch, Ultima II, Aztec, and other classics cemented the deal and set my course.

I had to get an Apple II.

The question was how.

Back in 1983 a typical Apple IIe setup could run to $2,500.

Going back to the Measuring Worth site shows that $2,500 in 1983 is the equivalent of $5,000-$7,500 in 2008.

Frankly, $2,500 still seems like a lot of money to me today.  And back in 1983 when I was bagging groceries for $4.50 an hour and paying for college… it was an impossible amount.  I was feeling flush when I had $400 in the bank back then.

And then Christmas came around.  Of course, I was 18 at this point and had no illusions about there being a repeat of the 1977 Christmas miracle that brought me an Atari 2600.  I couldn’t even imagine asking for something as expensive as a computer.  I needed a decent scientific calculator and a new ribbon for my Olivetti portable typewriter.

So when Christmas day came, I expected no happiness to come boxed up and placed under the tree.

And since, 25 years later, I cannot remember a single gift I received that year, I am sure my expectations were met.

But then, after all the presents were open, my grandmother handed out some envelopes.  She said she had received a large dividend payment from an investment and wanted to share it with us.  There was a check made out to me for $1,300.

I am sure my grandmother had any number of good uses in mind for that money when she gave it to me.  In fact, I am quite sure a replacement for my slant-6 powered 1974 Plymouth Duster, my first car, was high on her list.  While generally reliable, putting up with the abuse of a youthful male driver was asking a bit much of the Duster.  It ate starter motors, and somehow the tires wore out quickly.  Then there was the suspension work it needed, caused, I imagine, by driving down Barbara Avenue in Mountain View at high speed so as to get the car airborne over the high crowned cross streets.  I was told by those watching that the sparks off the pavement on landing were quite impressive.  The subsequent suspension issues might also have explained the rapid and rather odd front tire wear.

So when the first thing out of my mouth after “thank you” was “now I can buy a computer,” I could see on my grandmother’s face that this was not at all part of her plan.  Car, college, savings, or any number of other possible items were on her mental list of expected answers.  But a computer?  I might well have been proposing to buy drugs with the money.

Still, despite my reading of her face, she did not immediately grab the check back.  She suggested some of the possibilities I listed, but my mind was elsewhere.

Things were in motion.

Magic was happening at Christmas again.

The stars were in alignment.

First there was the money.

Then there was the connection.

My aunt was present and she had invited along one of her friends who just happened to work for Apple Computer.  And she just happened to have a co-worker who was looking to sell an Apple II+, information she offered up almost immediately.

That was Christmas Eve and before the New Year I was over at this co-worker’s home looking at the computer he had for sale.

He seemed to feel some duty to make sure I was buying the computer for the right reasons.  He wanted to know why I wanted to spend so much money to buy a personal computer.  I spoke about programming, which did not impress him.  I went somewhere with the idea of the future and computers.  I mumbled “it plays games.”  And to each of these statements he had an answer, a more reasonable use for my money that did not involve buying a computer.

And then I just said I was hooked on the whole thing, that I could not explain it, but there was something inside of me that just screamed that I must have a computer, an Apple computer, and that I wasn’t going to be able to silence that voice.

This made him smile.  Perhaps passion spoke to passion.  Whatever it was, it seemed to be the right answer because only a few minutes later I was headed home with $1,300 worth of computer in tow.

For my money I got an Apple II+ with 64K of RAM (it had the 16K language card plugged into slot 0, boosting it up from 48K) with dual floppy drives, an Apple III monitor, some 5.25″ floppy disks, and the ubiquitous (and almost useless, except for Little Brick Out) paddle controllers.

Once home, I set it up immediately, then took a picture.

Apple II+ on Day One

Apple II+ on Day One

After some fiddling, I ended up with a more standard desktop configuration that had the floppy drives stacked, the monitor set back a bit, a fan on the side of the computer to cool the power supply, and a CH Products joystick.

Apple II+ In It's Natural State

Apple II+ In It's Natural State

Eventually I upgraded the main unit to an Apple IIe. (I was promoted to food clerk at the grocery store and was making an astounding $13.48 an hour, fifty cents more between 7pm and 7am, and time and a half on Sunday!)  I remember being disgruntled at having to pay extra because the computer store only had the 80 column card with the extended 64K of RAM. What was I going to do with 128K or RAM?  I also remember I was able to trade in the Apple II+.  Used computers had some value.

An Apple Dot Matrix printer was added so I could print out papers for college, retiring my Olivetti forever.  A 3.5″ disk drive was attached, which stored 400K of data, a huge boost over the 143K of the standard 5.25″ floppy disks.  I even bought a Mockingboard sound card at one point, though I can only ever recall Ultima III supporting it.

And then I got that modem from Potshot.  He was not immune to the siren’s call and ended up with an Apple IIc not too long after I took the plunge.

The modem which, of course, hooked me up to GEnie and Stellar Warrior, Stellar Emperor, and Gemstone.  The modem that got me interested in modems and guided my career path, first to running a BBS (back when that meant a computer with a modem attached), then installing and configuring modems, then working for a company that made modems, then ISDN technology, which lead to telephony, speech recognition, call center applications, VoIP and the middle management cog I am today.  An amazing amount of influence for a beige box with a single green light on the front.

In my mind, the Apple II era was a huge part of my computing past, despite the fact I sold my Apple II setup just over four years later for the same $1,300 I paid for it.  Sure, I spent a lot more on it during the interim, but long gone are the days where a four year old computer will sell for anything.  I put an ad in the local paper and a guy who ran his accounting on Apple II’s came by and bought it without any hesitation.

The era is larger in my mind no doubt because it was my introduction to the technologies that would shape my career and my life.

I look back on the programs… the games of course, but also some of the more mundane applications… AppleWorks for the Apple II was a thing of beauty, though it managed to suck on the Mac… and I am still in awe of the depth and sophistication of so many of the applications created to run on that little 1MHz 6502 processor.

For years I have maintained some form of Apple II emulation so I can go back an revisit the classics of that era.  For all the technology and sophistication modern games have, they have lost some of the charm and, more importantly, the clarity of many of those early games.  Yes, there were stinkers in that era, as there are in any era, but I used to spend hours and hours with games like Autoduel, Seven Cities of Gold, or Wizardry, games that were rather simple, rather raw, but completely engaging.

Today as close as you can come to that early purity, when game play trumped all, is in browser based games.

So it is almost ironic that my friend Scott (of TorilMUD fame) sent me a link recently for a site that emulates the Apple II, where you can go and play some of those classic games.

At Virtual Apple you can see some of the classics that still influence gaming today.

And while I don’t wish for those days to return… I like a lot of modern games and I have grown used to multitasking operating systems and not having to type arcane commands like “PR#6″ in order get things running… I do think there is something still to be learned from the simplicity of the time.  Not to mention nostalgia to be mined.  Who owns the rights to Seven Cities of Gold?

For me, all of that started 25 years ago and set me on a path that, in hindsight, seems almost obvious.  But at the time, the future of computing was wild and unknown.  The only fact of which I was sure was that I was going to be a part of it somehow.

Fifty and Fabulous

It seems like just the other day that Reynaldo Fabulous was level 40 and thinking about starting the heritage quest for the Legendary Journyman’s Boots.

Oh, wait, it was just the other day.  Monday in fact.

And now it is Wednesday and Reynaldo has turned fifty and is still fabulous.

I mentioned on Shut Up We’re Talking episode #40 that having access to the Revelry and Honor guild hall pretty much felt like cheating.

Frankly, the way experience has gone for Reynaldo, the whole game feels like cheating!  And I love it!

Did I miss an announcement about double experience for the holidays?

I’m a progress and achievement addict.  I am often most driven by that little experience bar.  When it’s pace quickens, so does my pulse.

Yes, at times it does seem like a whirlwind tour of Norrath and perhaps if I had not been there and done that in most of the zones so far I might feel a bit cheated, leaving so many grey quests behind and all.  Or I might feel the need to create an alt and do it again.

And speaking of tours, Reynaldo stopped killing things once he hit level 49 and traveled to 50 solely on discovery experience.  A run through the Desert of Flames expansion was good for 97% of that level.  He just had to peek into the Island of Mara to get that push over the edge to 50.

All that discovery experience was good enough to get him past 40 AA points as well.

I cannot imagine that the pace will continue to be so brisk.  Still, going from a character I rolled just to get a screen shot to my second highest level character ever in EQ2 has been quite a heady experience.

The main problem is keeping up when it comes to gear.  Kilanna just made me this fulginate suit and now I need an indium set.  And about the time I managed to harvest my first ebon cluster I need to start grinding for some cobalt.

I was considering dropping EQ2 to try to focus on making it to Moria, but now the game is like a novel I cannot put down.

EVE – The Temptation

I have not been playing much EVE Online lately.

I have been minding the economic store, doing some production, and hauling what needs to be hauled, but I have not put a lot of effort into it.

Needless to say, I still have not purchased that freighter I had my eye on a while back.  There is no point in spending the ISK if I am not playing that much.

Then my subscription came due.  I pay by the quarter, so I am good until almost March.  But I realize that, with just ISK in the bank, I could buy time codes and keep playing into 2010, at least on my main account.

It would mean no freighter and, of course, contributing to an RMT scheme, but it is tempting.

Reynaldo Fabulous says, “Nice Boots! I’ll Take ‘em!”

I had run the heritage quest “The Journey is Half the Fun” at least four times before I even rolled up Reynaldo Fabulous on the Guk server.

The first couple of times I ran the quest, it was as part of a guild group.  There were a couple of stages, most notably the Thundering Steppes and Nektulos Forest, that required a scout class with evac to be able to finish in the allotted time.

After that, I ran the quest a couple of times with my own scout characters, so I had that ability on hand.

When Reynaldo hit level 40, I felt it was time to start him down the path to his own pair of Journeyman’s Boots.  As a berserker, he lacked any innate speed buffs as well as the evac option.  But, since other heritage quests had been tuned down in EQ2, I decided to see if I could solo my way through the quest.

And, to cut to the chase, I could.

With the griffon towers in Nektulos Forest, the I finished the run with plenty of time to spare, while Thundering Steppes I finished with a good 30 seconds still on the clock even after I stopped along the way to pick up some sparklies.

In fact, the only problem I had on the whole run was in Feerrott.  It has been a while since I last ran through there.  The spiders along the southern leg of the run have a nasty 30 second root, and there are a lot of spiders, so Reynaldo was waylaid on his first run through the ‘rot.

The second time through I used a totem of the chameleon to go invisible and just walk past the spiders.  And, despite the fact that I am always a bit lost in Feerrott, I managed to make in with time to spare.

And, as a double bonus, the last bit of discovery experience Reynaldo got in Feerrott pushed him over the line to level 42, so he was able to wear the boots before he had even finished the quest.  And turning in the quest was good for 75% of a level, so he was nearly 43.

The boots themselves got improved along the way, as you can see below:

February 2007 Boots

February 2007 Boots

And now:

December 2008 Boots

December 2008 Boots

Yes, I realize that is the chain vs. plate, but aside from the mitigation, the other stats seem to be boosted, and the +10 spell and combat art damage is a very nice boost indeed.

So they made a nice addition to Reynaldo’s wardrobe.  In fact, his clothes were not keeping up with his last name, most of them being tier 3 gear.  Fortunately, Killanna was around and made Reynaldo a new suit.

Reynaldo in Fulginate

Reynaldo in Fulginate

I opted for fulginate.  While ebon is truly fabulous, at the rate Reynaldo is going, he would only end up wearing it for a few days before looking for a replacement.

Still, he bought tailored, not off the rack.

Shut Up We’re Talking #40

Shut Up We’re Talking” one of the podcasts in the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective now has episode Forty available.

A very special year end show, and not just because it consisted just of members of the Revelry and Honor EQ2 guild.

Hosts Darren and Karen are joined by Michael Zenke and myself to wallow in all that was 2008.

  • Introductions – As if you did not know
  • What We’re Playing – You can probably predict most of the answers
  • The Ghosts of Predictions PastDarren, Karen, Michael and myself talk about our predictions for 2008 and how far off we were.  Darren and I scored ourselves in posts already, but you can look back at and see how well we did.
  • The Ghosts of MMOs Present – We take up the Massively categories and pick our “bests” for the 2008 MMORPG scene.
  • The Ghosts of Predictions Future – We each make one prediction about what will happen with MMORPGs in 2009.
  • Blog of the Week – There was NO blog of the week.  But Darren has an angle to this.
  • Out Takes – What could beat Mr. Zenke’s Bartle rant during the show?  How about Darren’s wife?

And, as an added bonus, an after-show picture of the show crew in the R&H Guild Hall.

Darren, John, Michael, and Karen

Darren, John, Michael, and Karen

Another fine show and a testament to the editing powers of Darren.  However, he really needs to hire me to do his show notes.

You can download it via iTunes or here at VirginWorlds.

Retaking Weathertop

Saturday night found the usual instance group… missing.

Skronk and Ula were in Vegas, so the rest of us took the night off from Azeroth.

Instead, Gaff and I spent the evening adventuring in Middle-earth.  The four of us, I have one account while Gaff, in his usual modus operandi, was running three, met up in the Lone Lands where we both had a series of fellowship quests to finish off.

I think the lure of Moria has set in on Gaff.  I know I feel the urge when I read stuff like this.

We decided to start off with Retake Weathertop, one of the book quests that follows the tale of the Lord of the Rings.  Between us we had a level 24 champion, a level 27 hunter, a level 24 guardian, and a level 24 minstrel.

Waiting Below Weathertop

Waiting Below Weathertop

While we were getting set up, Gaff found another pair looking to do the quest, a level 25 guardian and a level 22 lore-master.  I think this might have been the first time I was in a full fellowship.

And, being a full fellowship, and a bit over level for the task, we rolled on, taking out all comers and defeating the might cave troll at the peak or Weathertop.

Cave Troll Defeated!

Cave Troll Defeated!

That done, we moved on to the tasks that Radagast hands out, starting in on the next book.  After the first two, we entered into that whole “the problem with strangers” part of the night.

Our lore-master was too low level to get the next quest in the Radagast line, so she and the guardian were going to run off an do a couple of side quests to get her a level, at which point she should be able to join in.

The guardian also asked if Gaff could log off one of his characters so one of his guild mates could join in for the next stage of the quest.  Gaff had been up early and was ready to call it a night in any case, but I said I would stick around Ost Guruth in anticipation of doing the next stage.  My champion was closing in on 25 and I wanted to get him that founder’s horse to which I am entitled.

Gaff logged, the other two ran off, and I wandered around Ost Guruth looking for things to do.

I was actually out of solo quests in the area, having only a hand full of fellowship quests to run down, so I spent my time mining, doing trade skills, and working on local achievements by killing spiders and the like, checking in once in a while with guardian about when they might be headed back.

After two hours had passed and they still weren’t ready to proceed, I began to sense that additional quests weren’t going to happen.  The two hours were not wasted.  I picked up three titles, got to the next tier as a prospector and a weaponsmith, as well as hitting level 25, but I have to admit, if I had not stuck around Ost Guruth, I could have done all that in about an hour

At least I can go collect that horse for my champion now!