Category Archives: entertainment

In Search of Hypnocroak

There were only four of us on last Saturday night, Earlthecat, Skronk, Bigbut, and myself, playing as Tokarev.

That meant postponing the question from last time, how will Draenor work out for a part of five playing through, to embrace the question of the moment, which was how will Draenor work out for a party of four playing through that doesn’t want to get too far ahead of a fifth member who is out for the week.

Skronk, who had been thinking of this in advance, suggested that we roam Shadowmoon Valley in search of rares and whatever else we might encounter.  That sounded like a reasonable plan, so we ran with it.

We met up right outside of the garrison border line and hit that “suggested three player but you can probably solo it” Elekk quest that is right there.  Knocking that out, we moved on into the zone.

Initially we were following Skonk, who was looking for rare locations in a browser window while we roamed hither and yon.  After a bit I grabbed an addon, MyRareFinder, that marks all the rares on your map and marks them off once you have killed them. (They are only good for one pass, after which they are just regular mobs.)

MyRareFinder map

MyRareFinder map

Of course, in an age of all ground travel, having something marked on the map doesn’t automatically mean you know how to get there.  In fact, I am beginning to suspect that we won’t get flying mounts in Draenor for a long while as Blizzard clearly spent some time making things a bit tricky when traveling on ground mounts.

In the north of the zone mobs were on one plateau or another and we had to find the right path.

At the Anguish Fortress, which was guarded by a forcefield because none of had done that quest with Khadgar yet, we had to find our way around into the place through a back door in order to get to Voidseer Kalurg.

Levitate let us drop right in on him

Levitate let us drop right in on him

I wonder if, when I do get to that quest, if I can just tell Khadgar that forcefield is no big deal because the Iron Horde left the back door open?

But our biggest challenge of the night was getting to the rare named Hypnocroak.  He isn’t just a Futurama reference, he is also a jumping puzzle, and one it took us a while to find.

We went to the spot on the map where his location is marked, which is up on a plateau, in a lake.  However, he was nowhere to be seen, though we could, when in the correct position, see his icon on the mini map.

The lake had a waterfall at one end that led down to another water area.  Standing at the edge of the waterfall, however, put his icon on the mini map behind us.  So we decided he must be behind the waterfall.

The waterfall

The waterfall

Standing on the edge of the waterfall, we thought we could just glimpse a cave opening.  I tried to see if I could get to it by dropping first onto the trunk of a tree sticking out from the waterfall, then jump to the mouth of the cave.  That did not quite work out as I expected.

Tokarev, dead on the rocks behind the waterfall

Tokarev, dead on the rocks behind the waterfall

But from there I could at least see the cave.  It was also clear that the cave was situated in a way to prevent us from dropping in from above.  Instead, we would have to reach the cave from below via a jumping puzzle.

Another corpse on the rocks

Another corpse on the rocks

As it turned out, I fell to my death at just about a perfect spot, as it marked the point you had to get to on one of the rocks in order to be able to successfully jump to the next. A death not in vain.

Scrambling and jumping and falling and trying again, I managed to bull my way up and into the cave without really being able to describe how I did it.

Looking down from the cave

Looking down from the cave

Earl made it up next, then Bigbut managed the last jump and was up in the cave as well, which left only Skronk working his way up.  And he was having problems, to the point that we were beginning to discuss whether or not this was a short race issue.  As the dwarf in a group with two Draenei and a human, Skronk was at a serious height deficit.

Eventually though, he was able to get past the two big jumps, which were really all that was standing in his way.  With a dwarf you have to time them just right.  So he made it up and we were able to slay Toxicroak.  His loot was a toy that lets you hypnotize critters so that they will follow you around.

The group in the mouth of the cave

The group in the mouth of the cave

From there, Skronk hit us all with levitate again and we were able to cruise on down to the water below and float to our next objective.

Levitation party

Levitation party

Levitate is kind of a creepy way to travel.  You just adopt a casual pose and float off in the direction you’re headed.  There is no look of “I’m moving” on your character.  It is, rather, one of some indifference.

From there we went on to hunt down a few more rares.

They all have their own special gimmick

They all have their own special gimmick

But it wasn’t much long before I called it a night.  We managed to find some rares, we all added a follower to our garrison, and we at least picked up the quest chain that unlocks the level 2 town hall upgrade, though we did not finish it up.  I went and did that the next day and ran the upgrade.

No a bad evening.  We will see if we can get back to the party of five next time.

This is EVE and EVE is Different

What would we encourage ALL new players to do in their first month to get them to subscribe long term, if we had to give out one set of advice for everyone (which we do if we’re giving general advice)?

The Question for Blog Banter #61

Well, the first thing I would tell a new player is how easy they have it these days with their “warp to zero” and their agent finder and their fancy fitting interface that is all easy to use and informative!  Back in my day the game was actively hostile towards you, ships looked like they were made out of beer cans, and asteroids appeared to be so many potatoes floating in space…

What was that?  Get to the point?  I was getting there!  Kids today, always in such a damn hurry.

Advice?

EVE Online will not meet your expectations.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’re going to come charging in with some ideas in mind and EVE just isn’t going to line up with them.

Part of this is because of our desire to categorize things.  We stamp “MMO” on the side of the EVE Online box and drop it in the bin with World of Warcraft and EverQuest and Wizard 101 and call it a day.

And yes, if you pull back far enough, all of those games share similar characteristics.  For somebody who doesn’t care about MMOs, “WoW in space” is probably a sufficient characterization for EVE.

But even if you are just a mild MMO fan and do not suffer from the affliction of the connoisseur and bristle when somebody describes Lord of the Rings Online as “WoW in Middle-earth” because you can name fifty significant (to you) differences between the games, EVE Online is still an odd duck.

If you look at blogs from people playing World of WarcraftBelghast, Alt:ernative Chat, Kinless, Ysharros, or whoever… our posts tend to be about similar things.  Right now we’re writing about garrisons and leveling up and equipment and interesting sites in Draenor and items that pretty much cement that we are all playing the same game.

If you look at blogs from people playing EVE OnlineKirith Kodachi, Rixx Javix, Sugar Kyle, Gevlon, EVE Hermit…  things can be quite different.  Sure, some days we are all talking about the same thing, like the latest expansion.  But there are times when we clearly aren’t just playing in different areas of the game, but it seems like we might be playing totally different games.

EVE is an MMO the way a Swiss Army Knife is a knife.  If you really want just a knife… which we’ll define as a WoW-like NPC driven set of goals… it can be used for that, but you wouldn’t want to carve the Thanksgiving turkey with it.

I’ve posted this chart before.  The source site has the chart hooked up so clicking on a box brings you to semi-appropriate, somewhat out of date information on that particular aspect of the game.

What to do in EVE Online - A Chart

What to do in EVE Online – A Chart

That is a guide to a series of possible professions or goals or whatever in the game.  Each is a deep well which you could spend months, if not years, exploring and perfecting.  Or you could lightly explore a few at once, mix and match, or whatever.  And this chart is a few years old, so there are probably a couple more boxes that could be added at this point.

And like the Swiss Army Knife analogy, none of boxes are probably the best  experience possible for a given activity.  Some are crude, silly, or seem tacked on at times just to say that there is such a thing.  But you don’t buy a Swiss Army Knife because you need a single-purpose tool, and you don’t play EVE Online because it offers a single, linear experience.

You play EVE Online because it mixes all of those possible experiences into a single universe.  And it works… sort of… in a Rube Goldberg, this might spin out of control or go horribly wrong at any moment way.  The sum is greater than the whole of its, at times, rather mediocre parts.  It is an interlinked, living, breathing, system made up of a couple hundred thousand people doing their little space jobs and making things, moving things, or blowing things up.  All aspects are equally important in this mix as people go about their lives in space.

And the interaction with other people is a key, maybe THE key.  In no other MMO do I interact with so many different players, be it at the end of a laser, through the market, in my fleet, or just flying by in space.  All those people doing their thing.  You don’t have to join a corp or be in a big group or whatever.  You can play EVE solo, there being no wrong way to play.  But you cannot escape other people, good, bad, and indifferent.  The game is a fine mix of parts, each dependent in its own way on all the others, and people drive that.  Why I remember this one time I was in a system alone, way out in Omist and there was this other pilot… we were out there blowing up stuff that belonged to his alliance… anyway, there we were, both on the gate and he locked me up… and this really illustrates the dichotomy of man, the whole Jungian thing… and then…

What?  I’m rambling?  What was the question again?

What would I tell a new player to do in their first month to keep them subscribed in the long term?

That’s easy.  Go join Brave Newbies, get into null sec, and have a blast blowing stuff up.  The rest of the game is for losers.

Is it time for my nap yet?

Oh, here are some other people who tried to answer the same question.  They might have different opinions, this being EVE Online and all, and probably more useful than what I have had to say.

Rhea Ushers in a New Era of Clones, Wormholes, and Graphics to EVE Online

CCP is launching Rhea today, the next expansion on the EVE Online hit parade, and for the first time ever, nobody had to remind players to start training a long skill just in case there were issues with the update.  That is because, after Phoebe, everybody should have a long training queue at all times.  Why wouldn’t you?

My own queue stands at 320 days going into the expansion.  That should be plenty of buffer.

But back to Rhea.

I have to admit that I was skeptical that CCP could deliver exciting, game changing, quality of life improving content on a regular basis with their “every six weeks”  expansion plan.   After all, there were expansions during the “twice a year” era that barely spark a memory for me.  I would say that the Quantum Rise expansion springs to mind, only it doesn’t  I had to go look at a list of expansions, and I couldn’t recall a single feature from that release.

But since the summer started, almost every one of these small expansions has had something meaningful to me in it.  With each one the features seem to be getting bigger and better, and Rhea seems to be continuing this trend.

The Rhea expansion page is bursting with new and updated items.

There is new space, in the form of Thera and the shattered wormholes (Also the name of a Jon Hallur tribute band), adding up to 101 new star systems, with new and interesting characteristics.  This is the first time CCP has expanded the number of systems in New Eden in quite a while, and it will be a race to see who reaches Thera, the new mega wormhole system.

There are two new ships.  There is the Amarr Confessor, the first of the tech 3 destroyers.

Still looks like a Cayman to me...

Still looks more like a Cayman to me…

And then there is the Bowhead freighter, which is meant to transport assembled ships.

Bowhead... how soon until the first gank?

Bowhead… how soon until the first gank?

Probably the biggest change for me will be the update to clones.  CCP is removing the whole clone upgrade and skill point loss aspect of clones.  No longer will I face a 30 million ISK toll for being podded and Dabigredboat should now be safe from losing Fleet Command V going forward.  No more of this. (From this thread celebrating what might be the last skill loss pod death in the game.)

I realize that this has caused some moaning amongst those hardest of the hard core, this softening of the death penalty in EVE, but the skill loss thing has always seemed like a “Gotcha! Didn’t say ‘Simon Says!'” sort of deal.  And you are already losing your ship and dropping back in a medical clone that could many jumps from where you want to be at the moment.  Basically, how much death penalty is enough?

Then there are graphical updates to, some ships, and the introduction of Physically Based Rendering that will change the look of all the models to some degree.

Can I bring my PBR Drake?

Can I bring my PBR Drake? (New vs. Old)

There is also whole new version of  the star map in progress, which you will be able to opt-in to try with Rhea.  I have said in the past that the star map in EVE Online is one of the most impressive yet least useful features in the game.  CCP is aiming to make the map even more impressive while trying to make it useful as well.

Also, there will be manual controls.  You will be able to steer your ship about using keyboard controls as opposed to the current “click in space” or “align to a thing” methods currently available.  I am actually looking forward to this, being one of those people who occasionally just likes to undock in a fast ship and fly around the station just for the sheer hell of it.

Rhea also includes Sleeper cache sites and polarized weapons, Sleeper drones in known space, pirate faction jackets and dreadnought skins in the store, a bunch of smaller items, and a new song for the expansion. along with a video.

The release notes for Rhea are dense with changes.

All in all, a lot of stuff for what will be the final titan themed release.  The word has come down that the 2015 expansions will have a different naming theme, though that has yet to be announced.

There are a lot of things in this release I am really looking forward to seeing or trying out.  And, of course, with various updated models, skins, and the PBR graphics update, there will be a lot of new screen shots to be taken for my other blog.

Five More Small Fixes for WoW

Whenever I am playing a game for an sort of extended period, especially when it is my main focus, I start mentally building up a list of gripes, the little things that, while not game breakers in any way, start to annoy me or get on my nerves.

And when I get five that stick in my brain at the same time… which can be the main challenge, as my short-term memory like a sieve… I write a blog post.  So here we are, five small… and probably non-controversial… changes I would like to see in WoW.

Free the First Bag!

There was a time when that first bag, with its 16 slots, was the anchor of all of our bag space needs.  There was no worry about having to replace it because 16 slot bags were rare and expensive.  I remember feeling great joy at having one of those old school, 16 slot, travelers backpacks drop way back when.  That was huge.

That was also at least seven years ago.

Since then we have gotten netherweave bags (16 slots), and frostweave bags (20 slots), and embersilk bags (22 slots), and probably something in Pandaria, plus quest reward bags and boss drops bags, which has pushed the 16 slot bag from a object of intense desire to a default, baseline item.

We haven’t hit the bag slot nirvana of EverQuest II and 90 slot bags, but 16 slot bags are pretty ho-hum these days.  They are the stuff of uncared for alts.  On my regularly played characters, that 16 slot first bag is the smallest bag they are carrying and, in the case of Vikund, my main of mains, the smallest bag he owns.

So I would like to be able to replace it.  Or upgrade it.  Or, Blizzard, if you just want to spread the love universally, make it a 20 or 24 slot bag.

Larger Quest Log

I know, I know, we got an quest log upgrade from 20 to 25 quests back with the 2.0 patch for The Burning Crusade.  I am sure that seems like just yesterday for some. But I also know people who have forgotten that the cap used to be 20 quests.

And I’ve gotten by pretty well with the 25 quest cap, especially since Blizzard started doling out quests in smaller batches at each quest hub.  25 was barely enough in Outland, where you could vacuum up a dozen quests at a time.  But Blizzard has balanced that out some since then.

At least until now.  Juggling garrison quests, zone quests, holiday quests, and whatever else shows up, I have managed to bump into the “quest log full” error a couple of times in Warlords of Draenor.  It hasn’t come up often, a couple of times at most, but I am generally brutal about deleting or not picking up quests before I need to.  It is unusual for me to hit the quest cap.

So I am wondering if it might be time to bump the limit up to 30?  I mean, we got five more quests the last time we came to Draenor.  It seems appropriate to get five more now.

That Ramp in Thunder Bluff

I have been admiring my daughter’s Horde garrison, which she describes as ‘put spikes on all the things!”  So I started looking at my own Horde characters to see who I might be able to level up eventually.  The closest to Draenor is a Tauren druid in his mid-60s.

I went to log him in, just to see where he stood.  I could actually send him a bit of heirloom gear and probably level him up quickly enough, once I get around to it.

He was in Thunder Bluff, where I tend to hang out as Horde when possible, but I wanted to fly him over to Orgrimmar.  So I mounted him up on his Horde chopper and headed towards the flight point at the top of the central spiral, only to be dismounted on the way up.

Had to hoof it up here!

Had to hoof it up here!

I had forgotten about that, and how annoying it can be.  There used to be a similar scenario in Stormwind, which Blizzard fixed about four years ago.  So I was wondering if we could get that same fix for my Tauren brothers and sisters.

Dismount Me

Another of those “fixed years ago” things was having to dismount to do any number of things.  Blizzard changed things so that we wouldn’t get that “You are mounted” error when we tried to take a flight or use a vehicle for a quest and so on.  And, for the most part that fix seems to have been good.  It probably fixed 95% of the occurrences of this issue.

But there is still that five percent.  And it isn’t just in the new content.  I got an error about being mounted while trying to accept a special ride in my garrison.  While this is the weakest of my five gripes, I still wonder if somebody at Blizz couldn’t go look into this, or at least make sure devs are following whatever best practices are required to make sure that old, old fix for this applies.

Stop Making Me Delete Things

This is actually one that has bugged me for quite a while, but was brought home to me again with the 10 year anniversary gift.   We got the Molten Corgi pet, which was one per account.  However, Blizzard gleefully mails it to every character on your account the moment you log them in.  So after the first time you redeem it, the rest of your characters get a useless bit of bag filler.

FRMoltenCorgiYou cannot do anything with it, save delete it… or stow it away just in case something changes.  And, of course, deleting the item is accompanied by the ominous “Are you sure? Please type out ‘DELETE’ to do so” dialog.

This has always struck me as wrong, handing me something where the only option is to waste bag space or delete it.  And this goes for gear and toys and whatever else, and has led me to hang on to items “just in case” Blizzard changes their mind on this.  So, in my bank I found I still had this.

FROnyxiaWhelpThe Onyxian Whelpling, that was the five year anniversary gift.  He pre-dates shared pets, but wasn’t destroyed on use so you could pass it to alts as they came along.  I also saw Mr. Chilly sitting in my bank as well.

I am not sure what the best answer is here.  For some of the gear items, just let me vendor them.  But would that work out for things like the Molten Corgi?  All I know for sure is deleting them is counter to my instincts.

 

Nagrand – The Moment

There I was last night, turning in a quest when it happened, I made it to level 100 with my first character in Draenor.

Level 100

Level 100

Certainly not the fastest run to 100, but it still seems like it went by pretty quickly, given I how much I dawdled and played other games, plus spending a few days reviving my computer.

One benefit of moving a bit more slowly than some is that I had more time to accumulate garrison resources, so I was able to jump right in and upgrade my Town Hall to level 3.

Garrison Resources and Gold

Garrison Resources and Gold

Now I have a whole bunch of things to unlock and upgrade there.  I have to work on some pets to take on the three battle pets in the garrison, a requirement to unlock the menagerie.  I have a few level 25 pets, but as with Pokemon, you can wander through the world and succeed with any number of combinations, but once you get to a boss-like fight, you need the right set.

Picking the Right Fleet – NCDot Supers Down in Querious

ENEMY SUPERS TACKLED GET THE FUCK IN FLEET RIGHT NOW

Web Broadcast to [SIG] Reavers from Asher Elias

I wrote something yesterday about picking the right fleet.  This is the fleet you want to get into.  So I logged in and burned to LS-V29 to join in on the fun.  We ended up killing:

I managed to get a combat drone out and get on the kill mails for those ships with an asterisk.  Again, there were so many bubbles on grid at one point that the background in my screen shots turned white.

Signs I am a bad Logi pilot

Signs I am a bad Logi pilot

This was one of those “happens once in a while and makes all the slow fleets worthwhile” operations, like CCP was trying to illustrate in their This is EVE 2014 video.  People were excited, comms were buzzing, but it was far from clear exactly how many capital ships, if any, we would be able to kill.

When I got on grid our FC, Asher Elias, was pretty sure we would get the Aeon and maybe one of the Nyx.  They were trying to get to the safety of their POS shields, and it at least one Nyx was very close before he inexplicably turned around and started motoring away.  There was also the looming threat of reinforcements. The Nidhoggur and the Chimera were dropped onto the battle to try an repair the supers and were chewed up for the effort.  Eventually a couple of fleets of hostiles were on grid trying to drive us off and we started taking significant losses when the last Nyx got into structure.  We had enough left in us to take him out, then the call went out to scatter, safe up, cloak if possible, and “fofofofo” in local.

Let us "fofofo"

Let us “fofofo”

Then we escaped back to our staging system.

We got a bit of a briefing in the fleet about how this was all planned out, with tacklers logged off in the system waiting for the supers to log in, but the full story will probably come out in the morning. (Addendum: Here is the tale from the CFC end, and from the N3 end of things.)

Meanwhile, this other battle happened.  It will probably dominate the new cycle.  A titan was killed… killed by Brave Newbies no less, an alliance that prides itself on taking new players into combat.  A lot of younger pilots got their first taste of an epic battle with capital ships on grid.  Good for them, and good for EVE Online.  But our own kills cannot be made less sweet, and the battle report shows (ZKillboard version) we lost about 9 Billion ISK in ships while destroying 125 Billion ISK.

 

The CFC Holds All of Fountain Again

Last week was not looking very rosy for the CFC.  With the loss of the LGBI-2 system in Fountain to N3 and aggression by Triumvirate in Vale of the Silent coming just after the opening of a campaign against Black Legion in Venal.  Wags at the not-CFC EVE News site were quick to ask if the CFC was in real trouble, facing a situation that was “just not feasible post-Phoebe.”

A week later though, things look a little less dramatic.  Staging out of a system deeper in Fountain, but withing the 5 ly titan bridge range, fights started over Y-2ANO.

South Fountain Area

South Fountain Area

After losing a contested timer fight over the weekend, N3 backed off and did not contest any further structure shooting ops beyond harassment and trying to pick off stragglers.  Northern Coalition lost sovereignty yesterday and, after a last minute push to bring down the onlining TCU, FA once more had control of the system.

LGBI-2 Sov Changes

LGBI-2 Sov Changes

And that went on while there were continuing ops in the north and Reavers running around in Querious shooting up infrastructure.  So I am not sure we were stretch too thin or between “between a rock and a hard place” as just not organized for the jobs to hand.  Once people got the right ships in the right places with jump clones in staging systems, things immediately got better.

Through the magic of jump clones I managed to get into fleets on each front over the last week.  With current skills I have 9 jump clones with a cool down of 20 hours, which is just about perfect.  I can pick where to land during my usual block of play time most evenings.  The trick is just to choose the right theater of operations.

Unfortunately, I seemed to have missed all the big fights.  The timer at Y-2NAO had so many fleets that we never went to Fountain, and just chased Black Legion and shot SBUs instead.  The final timer fight at LGBI-2 ended up being a non-event.  Our fleet just shot towers while waiting to see if N3 would show up.

An unfueled tower

An unfueled tower no less

And when that was done, I clone jumped down to the Reavers deployment just in time to miss the fight while FA’s TCU was coming online.  And then, with Reavers, mistakes were made.  So, yes, perfect so long as I choose correctly.  I will pick right one of these days, and I do get to take more screen shots of various ships and structures.