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Fippy Darkpaw – Underfoot Unlock Vote Fails July 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest.
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6 comments

Another update in my sporadic attempts to cover and track the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server timeline while neither playing on the server nor actually paying all that much attention to EverQuest in general.

The rumor which I mentioned yesterday appeared to be true.  Last night my computer was finally able to find its way to the EverQuest forums… I wasn’t really interested in doing any work at my end to compensate for SOE’s blunder… and found the following from Roshen of the community service team:

The players on Fippy Darkpaw have voted not to unlock Underfoot at this time. This vote will remain available and players will still be able to vote to unlock Underfoot. The server will check every other Monday for the outcome of each voting period.

So for the first time in over two years, since the last of the three Gates of Discord down votes, it appears that an expansion unlock vote has failed on the Fippy Darkpaw server.

Dwarves feature...

Maybe they don’t like dwarves?

I do not really know why it failed.  At this point the raiding guilds appear to be the largest segment of the population on the server, and they have generally been very much in favor of advancing to the next expansion.  There was, as I noted, a rumor in the forums that members of one of the raiding guilds wanted more time to farm the Seeds of Destruction content for gear before advancing, but it doesn’t seem like one guild could swing the vote that way.  Then again, there were the usual complaints about the voting system not working for some people, so maybe they could.

Otherwise, I am not sure what it could be.  I haven’t heard that the Underfoot expansion itself, which went live back in December 2009, was particularly objectionable.  Yes, it had the “jump on the bandwagon” addition of achievements, which managed to capture a lot of the bad aspects about them without much of the shiny happy goodness, but otherwise nothing really noxious came with the expansion that I know of.  Maybe it is a meta game thing between the guilds.

No matter what though, it will have to wait until the next vote.

Meanwhile, there was a sad trombone moment for the accompanying Vulak’Aerr progression server, which also got a chance to vote on the Underfoot expansion, which turned out to be in error.

The vote for Vulak’Aerr to unlock the Underfoot expansion should not have happened on that server. The team plans on reverting this server back to Seeds of Destruction. Players on Vulak’Aerr will need to defeat the content from Seeds of Destruction before they can vote to unlock Underfoot.

Get back to work Vulak guilds!

So the Seeds of Destruction expansion remains live on both of the time locked progression servers at this point.

Seeds of Destruction cover

Seeds of Destruction cover

And on the game goes.

The timeline of the server, as I have been able to chart it over the years.  As always, if you have any dates I can add to this, leave me a comment.

  • Fippy Darkpaw server goes live with classic EQ content, February 15, 2011
  • Classic EverQuest competed, February 24, 2011
  • Ruins of Kunark unlocked, June 6, 2011
  • Ruins of Kunark completed, June 19, 2011
  • Scars of Velious unlocked, August 29, 2011
  • Scars of Velious completed, September 14, 2011
  • Shadows of Luclin unlocked, November 21, 2011
  • Shadows of Luclin completed, December 4, 2011
  • Planes of Power unlocked, February 13, 2012
  • Lost Dungeons of Norrath unlocked, March 12, 2012
  • Legacy of Ykesah unlocked, March 12, 2012
  • Gates of Discord unlock vote fails, May 7, 2012
  • Gates of Discord unlock vote fails, May 21, 2012
  • Gates of Discord unlock vote fails, June 4, 2012
  • Gates of Discord unlocked at last, June 18, 2012
  • Omens of War unlocked, September 10, 2012
  • Omens of War complete, September 12, 2012
  • Dragons of Norrath unlocked without a vote, November 13, 2012
  • Prophecy of Ro completed, April 26, 2013
  • The Serpent’s Spine unlocked, July 16, 2013
  • The Serpent’s Spine complete, July 19, 2013
  • The Buried Sea unlock vote goes up, September 23, 2013
  • The Buried Sea unlocked, October 7, 2013
  • The Buried Sea complete, October 9, 2013
  • Echoes of Faydwer complete, ~end of January 2014
  • Seeds of Destruction unlocked, May 1, 2014
  • Seeds of Destruction complete, May 12, 2014
  • Underfoot unlock vote fails, July 14, 2014

Fresh Out of Ruptures July 16, 2014

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

Bombs and smart bombs are becoming a theme for me in Delve.

The other day our Harpy fleet got caught on a jump bridge, bubbled, and smart bombed into pieces.  That is apparently a known Pasta tactic.  The warp disruption bubble disables the jump bridge so the fleet landing on it is stuck there as soon as the bubble goes up.  And then the battleships drop in and start smart bombing the the knowledge that they can survive while their frigate foes will likely perish before they can retaliate.  We were probably lucky to kill a couple during that run.

Last night was a whole lot worse.

There was a call up on Jabber for a short duration fleet to take care of some hostiles sitting in our staging system, F2OY-X.  The fleet was going to be either Ruptures or Harpies depending on how many people showed up.  Asher Elias was the FC and he had a plan.

The numbers appeared to dictate Ruptures.  I had two docked up in the station.  There was a change to the fitting requested and some special ammo to be purchased.  This was going to enable us to kill some bombers that were running about the system.

We undocked and got ourselves together.  We didn’t have enough logistics, not that it would matter in the end, but the FC spent some time trying to get people to switch.  I nearly did… I bought a Scythe on contract… but really wanted to shoot something.  I had never flown a Rupture before, so it was a new thing.

After some moving about the FC got us lined up on towards the 1DH gate.  There was a Caracal fleet there acting as bait.  We knew it was bait.  The FC told us it was bait.  The moment we landed within range to shoot them, we would get bombed.  Our goal, with each Rupture fit with a sensor booster in place of a hardener, was to shoot the bombers as they came in for their run.

The fleet warped into range of the Caracals, which just hung about ignored by us.  Then bombers landed and launched their bombs which hit us square on as we were locking up and firing.  I think we got two.  Our fleet, however, was ravaged.  My Rupture was gone.  The logis, flying off to one side as they should, survived, and a few of the Ruptures made it, but it was a bad exchange for us.

Worst of all though was the fact that I didn’t get a good screen shot of all those bombs going off.  It was seriously beautiful, but in my haste to get the shot  I hit the escape key rather than they key I have mapped to turn off the UI and snap a screen shot.  I’d lose a couple of ships for a good screen shot most days of the week, but this time it was a bust.

No bombs, just settings

No bombs, just settings

Those of us who lost ships warped back to the station.  Podding people did not appear to be on the agenda, which was fine with me.  My clone costs almost as much as a Rupture.

However, the station was out of sensor boosters this time around, so we went with the stock Gamma Fleet Rupture fit.  I bought some more of the special bomber hunting ammo and undocked to join the fleet.  There was some carping about a participation link at this point, people having lost ships, but the FC was disinclined to generate one so soon into the op.

At this point there was talk of running out to fight Brave Newbies.  Then the word came down that a Brave Newbie Drake fleet was in the area.  That sounded like an ideal target and there was much enthusiasm for shooting them.  But first we were going to take another run at the bombers in system.  The bait was now on the station undock, so the FC maneuvered us around to get us lined up to warp in at just the right spot.  That set, he warped us in with essentially the same plan; shoot bombers as they dropped from warp to launch.  However, we were not exactly in the right spot and, I swear on this, the last order I heard before the bombers hit was, “Prop mods on!” to speed us up a bit to get us in position.

Of course, that just meant most of us had our microwarp drives on when the bombers hit, boosting our signature radius and making us all the more vulnerable to the incoming bombs.

The Scythes were well positioned again… hail to the logi anchor for being on the ball… but many Ruptures went “Boom!” all to quickly for logi to save us.

We got our participation link after that.

Ruptures are supposed to be cheap, expendable brawlers to jump in en masse, so losing a couple wasn’t a big dent to the wallet, but I’d still like to get on a kill mail before one explodes.

I made it back to the station.  There was some talk about what to do next.  Ruptures were momentarily out of stock in the system.  I decided to call it a night at that point.  I had started a bit late for a work night in any case and talks of roaming out for an hour or so were no longer thrilling me.  Life in New Eden.

You can look at the kill stats for the time frame of those encounters.  That is a lot of dead Ruptures relative to hostile kills.  And you can see a lot of the pilots listed twice.

Including me

Including me

You will also note on that listing a couple groups of bombers made up of pilots with variations on the same name.

Septuplates!

Septuplates!

There is an example of the recently controversial IS Boxer debate, wherein a good bomber pilot has his skills effectively multiplied and is able to do perfectly timed runs solo.  All good and legal according to CCP, differentiating them again from some other games in the genre.  Better to just not take the bait as we did… though we did knock off one of his clones at least, making him 14% less effective I suppose.

But I am still annoyed that I did not get a good screen shot of the bombs going off on either run against us.  That is what I really wanted!  Life of a space tourist.

So a few other shots will have to do.

If It Can Go Wrong, It Will Go Wrong… At SOE July 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Sony Online Entertainment.
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I was actually trying to get to the EverQuest forums this morning.  There was a rumor going around about the Fippy Darkpaw Progression Server.  It was possible that one of the raiding guilds was going to down-vote the unlock of the next expansion, Underfoot, because they wanted a couple more weeks to farm gear from the current expansion live on the server, Seeds of Destruction.  There hasn’t been a down vote since the Gates of Discord fiasco back in mid-2012, when that expansion was voted down three times running before finally going live in June.

Pure rumor, with likely nothing behind it, but it is so rare to hear anything about the server that I thought I would follow it up and see it anybody mentioned on the results on forums.  Only I couldn’t get to the forums.

Sony Online Entertainment appeared to be down.

more titles in the past than in the future

A quick run through the usual sources turned up a post by the ever vigilant Feldon at EQ2 Wire, who noted that SOE had somehow forgotten to renew one of its underlying domains, sonyonline.net, and that, after a considerable grace period, fell off the internet.  Since SOE uses that domain for its own name resolution for its sites and games, that pretty much kicked the company offline.

It is Tuesday, we were expecting downtime in any case, right?

Word is that SOE has reclaimed the domain and that it should be propagating across the net even as we speak.  If you are in a hurry to get to an SOE site, Feldon has some tips over at EQ2 Wire on how to speed things up.

The question remains though, how did this happen?  The rumor is that the email address receiving such notices from Network Solutions had gone unattended.  That is speculation, of course, but I have enough experience to know that if  you lay enough people off, something important like that will get missed.  And, hey presto, your domain resolves to a site offering EverQuest and WoW gold!

What I saw on my iPad this morning

What I saw on my iPad this morning

Interesting that EverQuest gold (which should be platinum) is still a thing.  I thought inflation, F2P, and general old age issues had killed the currency market for EQ.

Anyway, not exactly in the same league as the 12+ days of downtime SOE experienced back in 2011, but it is still an SOE thing.

Addendum: Smed speaks

I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but who gave Network Solutions the “wrong email?”

Better.

Addendum: TechDirt sums it all up.

A Weekend in Delve and Other Bits July 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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I was somewhat otherwise occupied this past weekend, and so did not get many chances to partake in the Thunderdome that is currently Delve.  Things were clearly going on, Jabber was lit up quite frequently with fleet requests, enough so that even on my limited time budget I found a couple of opportunities.

Shipping Shipping

One of the first things I did was get my alt out in Jita and buy up some things I thought I might need for the war.  The war is new and the supply of ships and consumables has not caught up with the demands of a few hundred pilots arriving wanting to fight and replace losses.  Wars depend on logistics in EVE as in the real world.  Some contracts for key ships were starting to show up, but I sent myself a few hulls, fittings, and a supply of ammunition and such from Jita via one of our coalition haulers just to make sure I things on hand while the supply chain was ramping up… and to ensure I didn’t have to pay some of the highway robbery prices that sometimes show up before the market stabilizes.

Shipping is actually a bit pricey because the shippers all work out of Jita by default, and F2O is a long way from Jita.  An Amarr to Delve run would cut off a couple of jumps, but it is off the trade route.  Jita owns it all in that regard.

Win Fleet

I didn’t just get pipe-bombed over the weekend.  I did manage to get into one fleet that had a good run.  There was a call up for a Harpy fleet to go catch some Northern Coalition Caracals that were roaming nearby.  We managed to catch them near the gate in FWST-8 where we tore them apart. [Link points in the right direction now.]  It took us a bit to start breaking their tanks as their logi seemed to be quite on the ball, but we hung on until they started to fall.  This was helped by the fact that their choice of weaponry, heavy assault missiles, was sub-optimal for damaging wee frigates, so our own logistics were able to keep up.  A fleet of Ruptures dropped in towards the end, which makes the odds look more heavily weighted in our favor than they were for most of the fight.  Only the last few kill mails show any Ruptures involved, and the Ishtars on the chart were doing something else in system, so we were not blobbing as much as that report might indicate.

I also saw my first Nugoeihuvi Edition Caracal during the fight.

NC Caracal Fleet

NC Caracal Fleet

So somebody is buying those custom ship skins.  I might do so as well if they were available for any ship I happened to fly regularly.

Anyway, that was a short, sharp fleet battle that at least put me on a few more kill mails.

Stood Down Fleets

I also managed to get online and into a few fleets that ended up being stood down.  You still get a participation link for such fleets… they also serve who only sit and wait on a titan… but we don’t log in just for participation links.  We log in to shoot stuff.

One fleet stood down as an opportunity passed.  Just the nature of fleets in motion.  We got on and undocked only to find that the foes had other business to attend to.

Another was stood down for lack of booster ships in the fleet.  I am still training the skills to be able to fill that role, but that goal is still a good 120 days off, so I will probably be good for the next war unless the summer in Delve lasts into winter.

And the final fleet I was in that stood down was over position.  Black Legion was in system with us and neither side would put themselves at a disadvantage just to get the fight started.  They wouldn’t come to us and we wouldn’t go to them.  So we hung around on the station undock for a while before calling it quits.  That is one of the problems with this not being a sovereignty war, your fleet can stand down without any loss.  There is no moment of truth where everybody has to either show up or lose their work.  Timers suck, but they do bring people to battle.

The Mittani Resurgent

Not actually Delve related, but something that seemed to come up this past weekend.  The Mittani (the person, not the site), who has been, outside of GSF CEO updates, rather neutral in tone of late… well, neutral in tone for him… on The Mittani (the site, not the person) has suddenly come alive.

There was the announcement of a new regular feature by him, followed up by a column on the new player experience and what CCP ought to consider doing.  That got a lot of reaction, in part because his ideas probably weren’t what you might expect.  That in turn was followed by a another promised regular feature called Mittens’ Mailbox where he answers question sent to him or that come up in comments on his posts.  The first one had all the dirt you could want, including how TEST’s own intel was compromised during the Fountain War last year, how often he logs into the game, and who the enemies of the CFC really are.  Even if you hate him and rage at all his says, it is good stuff, the sort of thing that keeps the meta game spinning.

Addendum: And he is on a roll, with the next topic on the null sec stagnation front.

Addendum 2: Just in case you haven’t gotten enough of The Mittani, there is also an interview with him about getting into EVE and starting TMC posted over at Pollen.

Brave Newbies Leave the Key to the Station Under the Mat July 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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So when our FC had us all enter a starbase password and then warped us into the Brave Newbies‘ POS in V-3YG7, I was pretty sure that this was a product of our superior intelligence network.  Then, as we hung out in there, I zoomed the camera out to get a screen shot of us in the POS.

Hrmm... an interesting module arrangement...

Hrmm… an interesting module arrangement…

As I did that, I noticed how some of the modules were arranged.  A crop of the above shot:

Showing just modules

Showing just modules

Hrmm… that happened to be the same pair of characters we entered in the starbase password field.  Maybe it wasn’t an intelligence coup after all.  Seems like they left the key out so anybody could stop on by… if they but had the wit to see the message written in the night sky.  Funny stuff.

The op itself was a bit of a mess.  I gather that it was one of those “fight dates,” but we went out there in Harpies and wanted to fight that way, while they just wanted to bomb us or mess around on the station undock.  We nibbled at them, the nibbled at us, some kills were scored, though it was difficult to get any of the few targets of opportunity locked in time to get a shot off before they were gone.

The station camp and mucking around in their POS was only amusing for so long, after which we turned for home.

And that was uneventful until we landed on the jump bridge in 8QT-H4 and got bubbled and pipe bombed by some Pasta Syndicate battleships.

The part of the fleet that bore the full brunt of the smart bombs blew up right away.  Those further afield survived and managed to get in a position to fight back.  I was closer to the “dead” end of the spectrum.  I happened to have my hardeners on out of habit, so lived while some of those near me blew up.  But I was down to 20% structure with a big flame coming out of the back of the ship.

I started flying towards the edge of the bubbles to get away, taking a few shots at the ravens as they warped off.  One went down and I was on that kill mail.  And then somebody said that their FC, Fragbox, was still in the middle of the bubble in a Tempest.  I turned around and went after him for no good reason other than it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  He set off a smart bomb that destroyed what little there was left of my ship, but he want down at almost the same moment.

Final order of death

Final order of death

He got the final blow on both me and my pod, but I got on one more kill mail as my corpse floated in space.  My first death in the Delve campaign so far.

Fortunately, some Harpies were up on contract when I got back to the station, and some Ruptures are promised in soon.  So I should be re-armed and ready to go for the next fleet.

At least I remembered to insure my ship right before this op.

Link to the new battle summary tool, now with the correct link, which shows just how trashed we got.

In the mean time, some screen shots from this evening’s adventures.

A Rumor of War in Delve July 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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It isn’t much of a war, but it’s the only war we’ve got, so enjoy it

-Major General Charles Timmes, Military Assistance Advisory Group 1962

We’re going to Delve.  Again.  There is something that draws Goons and their allies to Delve every summer.

And I swear, I am never making an effort to move anything out of Delve again.  Not only can it be annoying, we just end up going back there in any case.  Remember the Rifter that got blown up while I was tackling a while back?  I left that in Delve after the 2012 war.  But I was able to pick it up again in Delve… twice.  That Rifter lasted through two summers and almost made it to a third.

Guns blazing

The late Rifter “FNG Style”

So I am not going to worry about hauling anything out of Delve anymore.  It will just wait for the next war… unlike all that crap I left in Curse.

I have some useful ships sitting, gathering dust in a couple of the NPC stations in Curse.

But I digress.  More after the cut.

(more…)

A New Player in Azeroth! July 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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When it comes to World of Warcraft, I can divide my friends and acquaintances into two groups:

  • Those interested in playing WoW
  • Those not interested in playing WoW

The former group is mostly made up of those who currently play the game, those on a break but who know they will come back for the next expansion, and those who once played and still have some interest in the game and who might come back some day.  The union between that group and the group made up of those who have played WoW would make for a Venn diagram that would almost completely overlap.  Being a member of that first group almost requires that you have already played WoW at some point.

The second group is more diverse.  It includes people who played WoW and didn’t like it, or who felt betrayed by some change along the line, as well as those who don’t like the MMO genre, or didn’t like some other game in the MMO genre and are thus soured on it forever (EverQuest being the primary source of those people), or people for whom video games are pretty much a game console only thing, or, of course, people who just don’t play video games.  Lots of those out there.

Basically, nearly ten years into the life of World of Warcraft, most anybody I know who is going to play WoW already has.  The pool of people who haven’t played WoW, but might at some point, has basically dried up.

Or so I thought.

The other day a friend mentioned that he and his wife had started playing WoW.  They downloaded the very limited Starter Edition, of which I wrote recently, rolled up trolls, and started in on Azeroth.  He reads the blog occasionally, so I’ll have to ask if that post planted a seed.

WoWStarterEdition

In hindsight, I suppose them picking the game up wasn’t a huge leap.  They play Diablo III and StarCraft 2, so have Battle.net accounts already and probably the Blizzard Launcher installed as well.  It is just a short step from there to having WoW installed.

And they are both MMO players.  He played EverQuest at launch with a big group of us from work way back in the day, though since then he and his wife have trended more towards free to play titles like Runes of Magic and Rappelz.  Their free time can be “bursty,” with stretches of not being able to log on being common, which tends to make a subscription game something of a drag.  You hate to pay if you aren’t going to play.

But the fact that they picked up WoW… so technically there are TWO new players in Azeroth… got me thinking again on the whole MMO lifecycle again.

At the start an MMO is nothing but new players, and new players drive the game and are its life’s blood.  You basically fizzle on the launch pad if that is not so.

Then at some point there is a transition, a time when the audience for a game is primarily people who have played the game.  New players are still important, but maintaining a loyal installed base becomes a primary mission.  EverQuest has been in that zone for about a decade.  WoW, while still seeking new players, is clearly past the tipping point and catering to the installed base, and keeping them subscribed is the primary business model.  It is certainly no coincidence that housing (of a sort, in the form of Garrisons) is coming now, as Blizzard probably hadn’t felt the need to play that card until Cataclysm.  Given their speed of development, it wasn’t going to happen for Mists of Pandaria, so Warlords of Draenor becomes the expansion where Blizzard finally responds to the realization that their business model needs people to settle down and live in Azeroth.  The game needs to be a bit stickier.  Dailies and faction and things like Timeless Isle aren’t quite enough if the content gaps are going to keep getting longer.

Of course, stickiness and people living settling down to live in a world is great for the game of choice, but is another problem with the genre.  I won’t play the fool and say that the potential market for MMOs is only n players big, as some have in the past.  The potential MMO audience is big and probably getting bigger.  But we also, as a group, tend to stick with our MMOs over time.  I remain interested in the next new game, but when it comes down to playing, I spend my time in WoW, which is about to turn 10 years old, and EVE Online, which is now past 11, as do a lot of people. (And I pine for EverQuest now and again, though so much time has elapsed that I probably will never really go back.  Maybe there is an expiration date on MMOs if you’re away too long.)

As a group, we don’t jump to the next game so much.  That Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Dark Age of Camelot remain viable, money-making enterprises in this day and age speaks to that as much as those of us who try the next new thing, only to return to the game we feel is home.  It isn’t that the genre doesn’t have a big enough audience, but that MMOs are like sponges.  They soak up players and hold onto them.  Even after all these years sitting in a corner, EverQuest is still moist, just to push the sponge metaphor a step too far.

Anyway, I was happy to hear about friends starting off playing WoW.  I was careful not to smother them with a burst of welcoming gifts.  When somebody is discovering a new world, it is often better to let them explore on their own rather than jumping out from behind a bush and shouting, “Come to this server! Join our guild! Have some free stuff from the guild bank! You should really go here and do this and kill that mob and get that drop and run this dungeon and blah blah blah…”  I’ve killed games for people doing that, and have had the same done to me.

So we shall see if a new seed grows in the game.

What do you think?  Do you know anybody who hasn’t played WoW who might still be interested in playing it nearly a decade into its life?

Felwood and Un’goro Crater July 9, 2014

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

I like having a goal, but I don’t want a friggin’ mortgage!

-Piacenza, on hearing about my Loremaster aspirations

The run for the loremaster achievement continues, though I am starting to feel a bit of the weight behind the task at this point.  I keep thinking “I am almost done with Kalimdor!” forgetting how much else was on the list.

And being done with Kalimdor got two zones closer since I last wrote on the topic.

After finishing up Thousand Needles I sent my rogue, Trianis, up north to Ashenvale again so he could make the run to Felwood, the next unfinished zone on the list.

Felwood Map

Felwood Map

Felwood, another long, narrow zone, wedged in between Darkshore and Mount Hyjal.  Oddly, Mount Hyjal has always been there on the map as I recall, though it only became an accessible zone with the advent of the Cataclysm expansion. (There is a good description of the old version of the zone, including the original map, over at Giant Bomb.  I only found that after I wrote 90% of this post.)  It had been a long, long time since I stalked the length of Felwood.

More after the cut.  Many words.

(more…)

The Deklein to Delve Tower Bash Commute July 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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There has not been a lot going on when it comes to the strat op front in EVE.  There is no summer war.  The groups in the nearby NPC space have stopped coming out in force, apparently feeling content to gank ratters they can catch.  And, I have to admit, as amusing as a Baby Lemba fleet can be, ops that are billed as 2-3 hour roams just don’t make me happy.  I like a kill of opportunity as much as the next capsuleer, but I also like ops to have a mission, a purpose beyond “lets find something to shoot.”

I am just an objectives oriented person.  This is why I like quests and levels and reputation and achievements and all sorts of other things that are now in the default MMO bag of tricks.  This aspect of my personality can, at times, make EVE Online a questionable game for me.  My career in New Eden has been a series of goals which, once achieved, tend to leave me knocking around looking for something else to do.  Null sec has worked out so far because, as a coalition, we often have discreet, concrete objectives.  Defend space.  Cover capital ops.  Defeat opposing fleets.

Even a tower shoot works for me.

So I was happy enough to go along to put a couple of Black Legion towers into reinforce the other day.  As with a number of other ops of late, the form up was in VFK-IV, but as soon as we were in motion, it became clear that we were headed down to Delve.  It is one of those things… if I hadn’t just clone jumped to VFK to get to where the main fleet was staging, I would have just jumped to our old staging system in Delve where I keep a jump clone and ships for a few doctrines, at least one of which we still use.

Not that the trip was a big deal.

By gates, according to DOTLAN, the quickest route is 47 jumps, taking you from Deklein into Pure Blind and Cloud Ring, then the full length of Fountain, and across half of Delve, to arrive at the nominal “capital” of Delve, NOL-M9.

Deklein to Delve route via gates

Deklein to Delve route via gates

But the jump bridge network cuts that down to roughly a third of the jumps, so the trip goes fairly quick even in battleships.  The route is well known by this point, it is pretty close to the gate route suggested by DOTLAN, and frequently camped, so you do not want to fall behind or leave late and try to catch up when an op is on.  But the presence of 90 battleships and another 30 support ships landing on a camp is enough to get them to scatter for a while.

The op actually ran a bit longer than I expected.  We got down there in short order and formed up with the forces that were already down in Delve there or along the way,  The LAWN gnomes live down in Delve now and Fatal Ascension is in Fountain.  But the capital ships were poking along, taking their time.  Dreadnaughts always show up for tower shoots these days, as they speed things up.  Baltec fleet is mostly there to cover them while they are sieged up and during the shoot.  So we went ratting as a fleet for a while and ran through an anomaly that actually had an escalation, which kept us busy for a bit.  But eventually the dreads were in range and it was time for business.

Black Legion tower

Black Legion tower

There were two Black Legion towers that had been dropped in the CFC rental space.  We hit them without incident.  The dreads pulled out and we began to withdraw as well.  There was some chasing about as the Delve contingent went to head home and ran into hostiles, and news that there was going to be activity in the pipe from Delve to Deklein must have gotten out, as there were several camps looking for stragglers.  One camp even hung out too long as we piled through a gate, allowing me to lock up and get a shot off at an interceptor before it blew up.  I didn’t do any damage, but my beams were on the way, so I was credited on the kill mail.

While we ended up having to circle back a couple of times to rescue somebody, eventually we all arrived home, op success.

Another day in space.  Hardly worth a mention, except for the few screen shots I included at the end of the post.  Space is always pretty.

However, it is currently in vogue to debate exactly the sort of thing we did in that op.  Force projection and the ability of the three null sec powers (PL, N3, and the CFC, ignoring any alliance between PL and N3) to get fleets around space quickly to maintain their empires against all external threats is the current favorite topic in the ongoing “null sec is stagnant and/or broken” discussion.

Over at EVE News 24 there was a post last week suggesting that capital ships needed to be nerfed, followed up by a post with a longer laundry list of things to kill off “easy” force projection, which included things like nerfing jump bridges into complete uselessness. (And another one slipped in while I wasn’t looking, and another.)  Over at The Mittani there is a post up that includes interviews with a few stakeholders in the argument that seems to argue that changing force projection would cut both ways… the big null sec blocs are the ones most likely to be able to adapt to any changes… and that other mechanics in play, such as the fact that time dilation holds battles in stasis so that force projection can be leisurely and still get their in time, as well as the long standing complaints about how sovereignty works, mean that just focusing on travel time won’t change much.

This is one of those “something is wrong so we need to do something, anything to fix it” discussions that seems ripe for unintended consequences and subject to conflicting goals.

I do not think there is a universally agreed upon place where people want null sec to go.  “More fun” gets brought up now and again, but fun is subjective, to the point I have been told I suffer from cognitive dissonance when I find things fun that don’t meet some criteria.  So how do we figure out what fun is in a game that can be argued is objectively not fun (Press F1. Whee.) and when people find fun in so many different things?

And then there are the different groups who are clearly working at cross purposes.  CCP wants more big fights, because that makes the news and gets subscribers, as do a lot of the line members in null sec alliances.  Those running the current power blocs want fun some fun for their line members, for whatever definition they may choose, as that keeps them subscribed and in space, while not having their power degraded.  There is a vocal group that wants to see null sec Balkanized into a series of small holdings where space isn’t empty, as most systems in null tend to be, but teeming and lived in and bloody from constant conflict.  And then there is a current pushing for null sec to be… well… for lack of a better term, useful, at least for something more than just epic space battles.  Some aspect of CCP wants that, given some of the industry changes they were proposing for Kronos. (Which got pushed out due to their controversial nature.)  And there are probably groups out there I haven’t accounted for that want any number of other things.

But there is certainly no unified vision of what null sec ought to be that I have seen.  There isn’t even such a thing from CCP that I have run into.

And, in something of an ironic twist, null sec might be getting more use right now than it has in the past.  Sure, there are no giant battles, and the likelihood that any group in game is going to be able to dislodge one of the three great powers is exceedingly small.  Internal rot and collapse seems to be the only hope on that front.  But what do you see when you look at the sovereignty map? (From the usual source)

Null Sec - July 8, 2014

Null Sec – July 8, 2014

You can say “stagnation.”  That is a defensible answer.  There were no sovereignty changes today.  There were none yesterday.  There will likely be none tomorrow.

But I cannot help looking at all the space devoted to the rental empires.  On the map, Northern Associates, Brothers of Tangra, and Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere color in most of space.  And while that is certainly a case of the rich getting richer, each of the power blocs make a lot of ISK through the renting of null sec space, that also means that there are more than 600 corporations currently in null sec working systems… ratting, mining, whatever… that likely wouldn’t be out there if space rental was not an option.  Yeah, I want more big fights, more objectives, more systems to take, but is the rental aspect of the current situation a bad thing?

I don’t know the answer.  I am not sure I understand the question.  But I am very suspicious of anybody solution put forth that suggests that a simple change focused on one area will result in everything being better when it comes to a complex system like EVE Online.

So I’ll just play the tourist.  Here are some pictures our time in Delve.

 

In Which We Feel Smug Relative to Raiders for Just a Moment… July 7, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , , ,
55 comments

“…matchmaking systems never work…”
“…players never believe they work.”
“Nevertheless everybody believes…”

-Tobold, in comments on his own blog

There is a natural tendency in human beings to project their view of the world on others.  I had a professor back in college who called it the “like me” phenomena, the belief that we’re normal and that most people are like us and view the world the same way.  The Tobold snippets above just happened to be handy, as they showed up just when I needed them, from a post that is, from my point of view, flawed in its very premise.  I have the first comment on that post, asking for a supporting argument which Tobold singularly failed to deliver in my opinion.  He went on, in response to others, in an absolutist tone that spoke for everyone.

Person speaks for a whole group and makes assertions unsupported by the evidence on the internet!

Hardly a special moment.  It happens all the time.  I slip into that mode myself on occasion even though I try to make a conscious effort to speak only for myself and not a wider community onto which I have projected my views.  It is easy to do.  Hell, I used “we” in the title of this post?  Is that a royal “we” or am I speaking for me and somebody else. (I am just assuming some non-raider besides me is going to feel smug, but I am getting ahead of myself now.)

But less often do people get put in their place by somebody with the numbers to back things up.

Last week over at Massively, Syp had an article published which I suspect gave him great joy, in which Lord of the Rings Online community manager Rick Heaton told raiders exactly where they stood in terms of the LOTRO population

Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn’t comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it’s not a new thing, it’s a long standing historical fact).

Forum posters comprise a slightly larger group than the combined group of PvMP and Raiders. However, Raiders and PvMP players make up the overwhelming majority of forum posters (More than half. Though raiders are the smaller group of the two (PvMP/Raiders)). So you have a tiny group, inside a small group that is grossly disproportionately represented on the forums.

Raiders and PvPers make up less than 10% of the population of Middle-earth, but tend to be vocal (and heavily invested) groups and are thus over-represented in the forums.

Doesn’t this just confirm something you have long suspected?  (Unless you’re a raider/PvPer.)  Haven’t there been times when you have just prayed for somebody from any given MMO developer to show up and say that?  Raiding and PvP aren’t the most popular activities in the game, so stop bringing them up in every single thread.  A bit of the total perspective vortex for a group in need of a being brought down a notch, right?

And you are only 4% of "Here"

And you are only 4% of “Here”

Having long since left raiding behind me, and never having been much for PvP, I feel more than my fair share of that warm schadenfreude glow on reading those words.  In your face, forum loud mouth!  You can bet that those words will be echoed for some time to come.

And yet, the words are incomplete.

All things being equal, Turbine probably shouldn’t spend time working on raid content to the exclusion of other areas if only a small percentage… let’s call it 4%… of their players raid.  Seems fair.  And I am sure that this reinforces what some of us feel, at least at a gut level, that resources are lavished on raiders out of proportion to their numbers in the game.

Unless, of course, we were to find out that raiders made up a greater percentage of paying customers.  Rick Heaton did say “total player base,” which in a free to play game has to include a lot of people paying little or nothing to play the game.  In the free to play market, 4% of your total player base might be a very large number when compare to total subscriber player base.  So if we found out that raiders, as a group, had VIP status… what they call the $15 a month subscribers in Middle-earth these days… at a much higher rate than the player base as a whole, then they might actually be more important than was made out.  And do raiders stay subscribed longer and play more and get more involved in the social elements of the game, including the forums?  Are they more committed to your game than other groups?  And what value does that have?

Basically, Rick Heaton slammed raiders and PvPers without really putting a nail in the coffin.  Turbine not building more content for 4% of their total player base sounds reasonable.  Turbine ignoring a significant portion of their long term paying players might not.  But we didn’t get those last bits as no doubt that would give a greater insight into Turbine’s business than they want to people to know.  I am honestly surprised a community manager came out and said as much as Rick Heaton did.

It also might be interesting to know just how “good” the raiding content in LOTRO really is?  That is a very subjective things, certainly, but does LOTRO raid content attract raiders?  I know that the PvP content has a small, dedicated following that is hampered quite a bit by Monster Play being sort of a side show of the game, but I have no real way to judge raiding in LOTRO, as I have never tried it nor do I know anybody who has.  I cannot name a single raid in LOTRO.  Does that mean raiding isn’t important to players or that Turbine hasn’t done a good job?

And there will be the temptation to generalize from this single statement and to apply it to what is generally terms “end game content” in other MMOs, with the first stop being WoW.

That is, I suspect, destined to a tragically flawed endeavor.  There are the general arguments I already made… who subscribes longer and is more committed.  Plus, I am going to guess, in the absence of any hard numbers at hand, that World of Warcraft sees a much larger percentage of players accessing raid content due to the much-maligned (by “real” raiders) Looking for Raid tool.  That is a matchmaking tool that works… just to circle back to those quotes at the top… for the specific purpose of giving lower commitment player the ability to experience the end game content.

Meanwhile over in EVE Online, where “end game” is a slippery concept, there is always the temptation to rage about null sec and sovereignty warfare getting more than its fair share of attention relative to the population involved.  There is the much quoted “most people never leave high sec” thing (though there is also the “most people who subscribe just leave after their first subscription cycle” thing as well, so most players never seem to get a reason to leave high sec) and the various constituencies throughout the game, most of which are not sovereignty holding entities in null sec.  But even its detractors have to allow that null sec gets press outside of gaming circles.  A giant battle like B-R5RB boosts new account generation.  It is hard to have a more tangible impact on a game than that.

And I suspect there are such arguments to be made around other MMOs and their end game content.  Not all of it is as focused on raid content as, say, the EverQuest time locked progression servers, which are raid driven by design, that being the way the next expansion vote is unlocked.  But end game, and keeping players playing once they reach the level cap is still a concern.  Longevity is tied to profitability in MMOs.

So as amusing as it is to point and say, “Hah, raiders got totally burned!” on that comment, I am still not sure what one should really take away from that particular statement.