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H1Z1… Because… Zombies? April 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
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7 comments

SOE has announced their previously hinted at zombie apocalypse (I get a twofer on that word today, because lasers) horror survival “dedicated to Star Wars Galaxies players” game yesterday.

I think it is just that sort of dedication that brought about the NGE, no?  I guess if SOE can figure out that Landmark isn’t an EverQuest game, maybe they can eventually sort out who H1Z1 is really for as well.

So far all we have for official word is a web site with a moonrise, some spooky music, and a link to the H1Z1 subreddit, Smed’s current favorite venue.  I guess Reddit is the demographic he wants to reach.

The night is dark, I think I'll go to bed

The night is dark, I think I’ll go to bed

The H1Z1 subreddit has a “what we have learned so far” thread that attempts to summarize what is known.  The state of affairs as it currently stands:

Gameplay Details

  • First Person or Third Person shooter
  • Zombie Survival
  • Night is dark and full of terrors
  • Player versus Player at it’s core.
  • More than just zombies in the world
  • Base Building, Town building, Fortress creation
  • Can burn down things others build.
  • Lots of crafting. Probably the biggest thing about the game.
  • Vehicles are already in. Possibility of aircraft in the future.
  • Based off the United States.
  • If you die, you lose your gear. It stays on your corpse.
  • “No skills or levels”.
  • “Thousands of players”. I’m willing to bet this will be larger, playercount wise, than planetside 2.
  • There will be Hunting.

Tech Details

  • PC first, PS4 later. “Well, we are Sony” when asked about the PS4 version.
    • In terms of cross-platform play, Planetside 2 will not be doing cross platform due to the logistics of updating the game on the PS4 vs the PC. I expect that this has not changed so I don’t see cross-platform play happening. SOE has made no comment on this point however, so I could be talking out of my ass.
  • “If you can run Planetside 2, you can run H1Z1 better”.
  • “Orders of magnitude larger than Planetside 2″.
  • Based of Planetside 2. Shares no tech with Everquest Next (so no Voxels).
  • Built in voice chat options.

Monetization Details

  • Free to play
  • Part of the All-Access subscription that SOE is launching this month. $15/mo for premium sub in all SOE games.
  • “you seriously don’t need to spend a dime. We’re still figuring out the monetization but we will telegraph our plans early and let people comment and we’ll listen if they don’t like something and come to a place where people feel good about it.” -Smed, in this thread
  • Early Access ($20ish, on steam) in 4-6 weeks.

I’ll just leave that there as a baseline to compare against as things move forward.

For those hoping that this will be a Landmark or EverQuest Next based zombie game, disappointment is already in the cards.  The cynic in me sees this as PlanetSide 2 tech re-purposed as a zombie game with some PvE and building elements.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  There could be a market for this, so long as it doesn’t degenerate into the aimbot hack hell that PlanetSide 2 became.  It doesn’t thrill me at the moment, but a shooter with more to it could have a draw.

Of course, the cynic in me also wants to know how it will work in a world where you already have a lot of choices on the zombie front?

How will SOE differentiate H1Z1 from the pack?

I suppose we shall see.

Others talking about H1Z1:

Lasers at Last April 10, 2014

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

I might be coming out of my EVE Online malaise… a bit.  Aside from corp day ice mining, I haven’t really logged on to do anything in the game aside from update skill queues.  And I even let that slip at one point.

Oh myBut as the binge in Azeroth has tapered off some… more on that later… I have begun to turn back to null sec space.  I still have ships and such scattered all over the southeast part of space.  I have no idea what I will do about that.  Getting down to Curse… or back out again… has a new element of danger now that the Marmite Collective has us war dec’d.  And the ships are not terribly valuable.  A couple of Dominixes that are no longer part of a fleet doctrine since the great drone assist nerf finally dropped with Rubicon 1.3.

Domis in a green sky on the way to battle

Once proud space potatoes are now all docked up

I still have the Domi I flew at B-R5RB sitting in the station there, along with a jump clone.  I will probably just give that one an appropriate name and leave it be.

And I have ships and jump clones at other key places in the EVE universe.  I am ready to jump to the action at a moments notice… if my jump clone isn’t on cool down already.  I have Baltech fleet Megathrons most everywhere.

Our backbone since Fountain

Our backbone since Fountain

As it turns out, I might not even have to jump all over EVE.  According to the latest CEO Update, we have a nice little skirmish going on up in Deklein.  So there is that.

But what has really piqued my interest and gotten me to log back in is the opportunity to fly a new ship… a new ship with lasers!

Yes, I am goofy in that regard.  I have flown in fleet doctrines that have use missiles, and railguns, and projectile weapons, and drones in just about every variation so far.  But I haven’t done anything with lasers.  But now the Apocalypse battleship is part of the Baltech fleet doctrine… which I guess means that the fleet doctrine info-graphic needs to be updated.  Anyway, they are in high demand, as our current foes run with Ishtars, which are pretty much immune Megathrons, as was pointed out to us in the update.

So, of course, I ran out and bought one off contract.

Loafing about in VFK

Loafing about in VFK

I was only mildly surprised that I had all the skills needed to fly the doctrine fit.  During a lull last year I put a bunch of training time into lasers knowing that one day they would come back into fashion and wanting to be ready for once, rather than doing my usual catch-up routine.  I immediately took the Apoc out to belt to shoot some rats… because lasers.

No, really, lasers!

No, really, lasers!

I will need to grab some more crystals so I can have ~colors~ on demand.  The white of multi-freq is a bit dull.

Straight lines converge

Straight lines converge

So now I am keen to go press F1 for real and watch lasers bloom… or fly… or whatever lasers do… lase I guess.  So far I have only managed to sit on a titan for half an hour with my new ship.  Hey, it was good for a participation link… and I am awfully shy of those lately.  But I hope to see some action soon.  Because lasers!

Birth of a Civilization April 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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3 comments

The Strategy Group got together last Friday night for our first run at Civilization V.

We managed to browbeat Potshot into upgrading to the Gods and Kings and Brave New World expansions, which I understand was cheaper than trying to just get Gods and Kings, which was our target content.  That gave us religion as an aspect of the game, though tourism was not yet within our grasp.  We all got into our Google+ hangout, got ourselves a bit ogranized, and

As we did in our test run last week, Potshot hosted and select the game options.  We went with the Pangea map in order to make sure we were all on one landmass.  All victory conditions were allowed.  Barbarians were on, but not extra raging.  Difficulty level was Prince for all of us.  We threw two computer controlled civs into the mix.  We elected to go with random civs.  And off we went.

Certainly at the start it felt very much like a single player game.  Well, the turns took a bit longer than an early game, as we settled down into the routine.  There was some getting used to the fact that you have to click “next turn” or hit return to end your turn, and after a couple of fumbles and “wait, is everybody waiting on me?” moments, we all finally figured out that if you select “next turn” and then go back and do something, the “next turn” state is abandoned.

For me the game started out poorly.  I was in one of those positions where I might have just started over had it been a single player match.  I used to do that a lot with Civilization II, running through starting positions until I got a decent one.  I do that less so with Civ V because it is still new enough to be slow starting up.

Anyway, I ended up with the Germans, which was pretty good.  I was stuck in a strip of land between the coast and a mountain range, which did cover my flanks and seemed pretty safe at first.

Berlin founded, exploring

Berlin founded, exploring

However, that feeling of safety quickly faded as multiple barbarian camps formed up at either end of my stretch of territory.  I spent something on the order of 2,000 years battling barbarians as they attempted to swarm my city.  They captured an early settler and I ended up having to put production into full military mode for a while in order to suppress these uprisings.

They weren't even set to raging...

They weren’t even set to raging…

And the kicker was that I didn’t even get the benefit I expected.  One of the German special features is that barbarians will sometimes convert to your units when you defeat them.  I didn’t get a single one when I needed it, though I did finally pick up a couple at the very end of the battles.  And I did recapture my settler, which was good fortune.  I was eventually able to get that second city going.

Meanwhile, I had also spotted Potshot and his Ottomon empire to the south of me.  I set to trying to block off my coastal plain and catch up on the expansion.

Ottomans spotted

Ottomans spotted

Potshot and I establish diplomatic relations and kept a wary eye on each other as I tried to get another settler up front to keep myself from being boxed in.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the map, somebody was having a serious run-in with the Mongols.

We blame Potshot for having that Mongols DLC.  This is the second time they have shown up and been an issue.

But for the most part we spent our time expanding our empires and laying down the foundations for the rest of the game.  I managed to come into contact with Mattman eventually and established diplomatic relations with him.  I never saw Loghound or the Mongols, who were beating the tar out of him at one point.  And somewhere out there the Mayans are hanging out.  We ended up calling the game at turn 100, which put us at about midnight real time, and just past 800 AD in the age of the game.

What I could see

What I could see

It took me 4,800 years to develop that far.

The game was saved and we plan to pick it up again some time this week.

All and all it seemed to be a satisfactory start.  There wasn’t much contact between the four of us, but we are now growing in size that we will be right up against each other soon.  And then there are the Mongols.  We did have one disconnect incident during our time, but we were able to restart the game and bring everybody back and carry on without issue.

I will note that, checking on Steam throughout the weekend, all four of us ended up playing quite a bit of Civ V.  We should be warmed up for the continuation of our joint game.

EVE Online – CSM9 Voting Begins April 8, 2014

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

The time has come to elect a new Council of Stellar Management in EVE Online.  CCP even has a fresh new logo for ninth CSM.

CSM9_Logo_450px

Voting runs from now through April 22.

CCP has a nice page up describing the voting process and the changes from last year, along with a statement about how vitally important the CSM is to them.  And maybe it is.  But as The Mittani proved back during Incarna, and Jester demonstrated again with the whole Erotica 1 thing, the CSM and its members have real power, but only when they take things out of school and oppose CCP publicly.  Otherwise the CSM comes off to me as more of a special insiders club.  They have value I am sure, but do they represent us behind that NDA screen?  And does CCP have to listen to them?

So while CCP Dierdra Vaal has the EVE Vote Match site up to help you sort through the candidates to find out which ones publicly claim to support things with which you might agree, or at least consider important, I always look at those results and wonder, “Will this person be ready to take it out of school when the time is right?  And will they know when the time is right?”  You don’t stand in opposition for trivia, you do so for things that really matter… in our pretend internet spaceships game… or something.

Which one of these would go there?

Which one of these would go there?

I do not have any endorsements.  I am a line member in a null sec bloc and I haven’t read the post telling me who to vote for yet or picked up my talking points cheat sheet.  Theoretically I could really get behind a “Send Xenuria to Iceland” campaign just based on the apoplexy it would cause.  Those would be some CSM minutes I would enjoy reading.  And I must declare that the best candidate name on the list has to be Awoxing Pizza-Spymaster McBlushooter from Brave Newbies.  We shall see if that name can carry him through.

Anyway, voting is live.  The CSM election dev blog has a link that will send you to the ballot to cast your votes.

The Seven Day Landmark April 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next.
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6 comments

This dropped into my in box on Friday afternoon,

Subject: Your Access to the Landmark Closed Beta is Ready!

YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN ACTIVATED

Congratulations,

You’ve got seven days of access to the Landmark Closed Beta, beginning now! If you redeem an additional Time-Limited Closed Beta key, that seven days will be added to your total. There is no limit to the number of Time-Limited Closed Beta keys you can consume. See below for information on how to download the client and begin playing

This came from the “EverQuest Franchise Team,” which amused me a bit because Landmark just had the E-word removed from its name, so is technically not an EverQuest anything at this time.

The email message was scrupulous in not using the E-word anywhere besides the “from” address.  But I know the full flavor of pain that comes with changing project names.  I have heard, “The product is named Y, but you have a sub-directory named X which contains a file named Z.config. Why is that?” or its like many times in my career.  Such is life.

My first bit of confusion was about being invited at all.

I have not been interested in Landmark at all, except in a “what does this say about SOE and its future directions” sort of way.  I certainly did not sign up to be in the beta.  I wouldn’t have bothered, if only not to waste SOE’s time as well as my own.

But I quickly realized that I probably had signed up for a beta.  Back in the heady days just after Fan Fest SOE Live last year, when EverQuest Next was the big announcement and something called Landmark was just a bullet point on the list of possible features (and a confusing one at that), and people were excited, I am pretty sure I ran off and signed up to be in beta.  I just meant EverQuest Next, not Landmark.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

THIS! This is what I wanted!

However, that was then and this is now.  And in the now EverQuest Next is just the promise of a sighting of a blurry vision on the horizon that might just be a mirage… or it might be if SOE was talking about it at all.  They have gone nearly The Agency level of quiet on it.  Landmark is what SOE is busy talking about to the point that it seems like they only have the bandwidth that topic alone.

Or so it seems in my little world, where EverQuest is pretty much what SOE does, the rest being games destined to be closed or handed back to their creators… and PlanetSide something or other.

And it was in that spirit that I decided to take up SOE’s offer.  I figured that Landmark started off being a part of the engine that would drive EverQuest Next, even as it has become the all- consuming passion for SOE, so that playing it might give me a little insight into the game I want.

So I grabbed the installer and went off to see what I could see.

(more…)

One Hundred and Twenty Million Skill Points April 7, 2014

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

Months pass, seasons change, and suddenly I am at another round number with my main character in EVE Online.  You can see the timeline of round numbers so far:

At this point, coming up on 8 years of playing EVE Online… with a few breaks… and hitting a big number like 120 million, you might well feel like asking, “Are you through yet?”

Heh.  Ha ha ha!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Oh my, no.  As far as I can tell, nobody has trained everything yet and there are people who at least claim to have been subscribed and training continuously since day one back in 2003.  By way of illustration, I am going to borrow a chart from Jester and his post about alts in EVE Online.

Skill Points Mapped Out

Skill Points Mapped Out

Those divisions are rough cuts, not exact counts.  You will note, for example, that I have 9 million SP in drones, 1.5 million more than the 7.5 million on the chart.  I have yet to train fighters or fighter bombers, which would count towards capital ships, and I still have a large amount I could train, at least for specializations.

But as a quick view of where skill points can be trained, and how many there are, the chart is a sufficient illustration.  It shows 270 million skill points possible, so I am not even half way towards being done.

Not that I would ever want to be done.  In capital ships especially, there are a lot of skills I wouldn’t bother with.  Why would I, as an example, ever train all four racial titan skills up to V?

Well, to be a completionist yet… but otherwise that seems like a silly (and expensive) venture.

Instead, as Jester put forth in another post, people tend to train into roles.  And that drives people to have second accounts, because if you want to perform two roles… especially early on… it is much easier and much quicker to divide your efforts and specialize.  I started off my second character that way, pushing him into industrial roles while my main trained subcap combat skills.

However, over time, they two characters have grown more similar.  When I got my alt out again about a year ago, I put him on the path to duplicate the combat skills of my main so that I could have two characters capable of flying fleet doctrine ships.  This was motivated by the fact that we now have staging points in four corners of the galaxy and I had been caught a couple of times with a fleet going up where I was not while my jump clone was still on cool down.  So now I have two characters that are becoming more and more focused on combat sub caps.

Anyway, 120 million skill points buys me a big chunk of that chart, but not all of it by any means.

Here is where my skills stand.  The numbers in parentheses represent the number of skills in that category, while the asterisk indicates if the point total for a category changed since the last round up post.

Spaceship Cmd   34,410,952 (41 of 67)*
Gunnery         12,753,934 (30 of 39)
Missiles        10,278,191 (20 of 24)
Navigation       9,323,289 (12 of 13)*
Drones           9,053,104 (16 of 20)
Armor            6,345,000 (14 of 14)*
Engineering      5,747,620 (11 of 14)*
Shields          5,643,314 (11 of 12)*
Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)*
Science          4,408,426 (21 of 39)
Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 13)
Electronic Sys   2,458,519 (6 of 15)
Leadership       2,447,530 (9 of 14)
Subsystems       1,320,000 (10 of 20)
Scanning         1,301,230 (7 of 7)
Targeting        1,223,765 (4 of 8)*
Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12)
Neural Enhance.  1,162,510 (5 of 8)*
Corp Mgmt        1,108,784 (4 of 7)
Social             943,765 (5 of 9)
Planet Mgmt        769,335 (5 of 5)
Rigging            326,509 (6 of 10)*

Total         ~120,000,000 (260 of 398)

The category seeing the biggest change is probably armor.  This is because our fleet doctrines have moved from shield tanked ships… Caldari and Minmatar… to armor tanks ships… some Amarr, but mostly Gallente.  I realized that while I had the minimum skills for such ships, I had a long way to go towards being proficient, so a lot of training time has been spent filling in that gap.  Last time around I had rounded out gunnery.  Not sure where the big point increase will come next time.

The other boosts have largely been around capital ships.  I have a carrier that I needed some more skills for and I am now capable of flying a Naglfar dreadnought, though I haven’t actually purchased one yet.  I have a few more skills to train up in order to be able to join in cap fleet operations… plus I haven’t actually had my carrier out of the hangar since I bought it, so I am not inclined to invest heavily in another hangar queen.

Archon in 0P-F3K

It is still just sitting there

Of course, since I have been barely logging into EVE over the last month or two… or maybe three… I might need that carrier to haul my crap out of null sec when the corp decides to kick me for being a slacker.  I think my last fleet op was B-R5RB, though I did come out for corp day to mine ice.  Life in space.

Actual skills I have injected stands at 283 now, up from 260 previously.  Those break out as follows:

Level 1  - 9 
Level 2  - 14 
Level 3  - 53 
Level 4  - 69 
Level 5  - 138

The new skill are primarily capital ship or armor tanking related.  The 9 additional level 5 skills are all in armor tanking.  Those cover so many ships that they seemed like a good investment for the long term.

As for my long running measure, how far away am I from flying titan, that has not changed.  I noted last time that there were only four skills left to train:

  • Factional Titan Skill I (I could choose any one): 1 hour, 36 minutes
  • Jump Portal Generation I: 1 hour, 38 minutes
  • Astrometrics V: 12 days, 8 hours, 49 minutes
  • Capital Ships V:  49 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes

At this time there is not much to be gained by investing in any of those.

So that is where I stand.  The only other big change is that I had to upgrade to a higher level clone, so now it will cost me even more every time I get podded.  On the bright side, CCP cut the price of clones a while back, so the latest upgrade puts me back to about the same price range I was in before the cut.  It doesn’t make me happy… 30 million ISK on top of every death is annoying… but it is what it is.

 

Coming Soon – Burn Jita 3 April 6, 2014

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

People have been wondering in the EVE forums if Burn Jita is going to happen again this year. There has been no official announcement so far.

But finally, we have a clear sign… someone has started making posters for it!  The rule is always, first Photoshop, then action!

Zombie Metaphor Time

Zombie Metaphor Time

Self-proclaimed Goon nemesis Gevlon has already been proposing a plan to defeat Burn Jita this time around.  Has to be better than last year’s approach that largely involved ignoring the whole thing.  That worked out so well.  The PLEX to dollar count, beloved link bait metric of gaming sites, pegged the losses at $27,000.

What is going to happen this year?

Addendum: Further hints that it is coming.

The Elder Scrolls Online – It’s Here April 4, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, The Elder Scrolls Online.
8 comments

Today is the official go-live date for The Elder Scrolls Online.  I was a bit skeptical about them hitting their target in good order, especially after a couple of the beta weekends, but here we are.

I'm skeptical about that date...

The Date has Arrived

And what I have read online so far seems to indicate that things are going well.  SynCaine, something of a bellwether on this front for me due to his past investment in Skyrim and such, making him a good point for telling whether this is really an Elder Scrolls game or not, seemed to be happy during the head start.  I will take that as a good omen.  And I like his advice on how to approach such a game.

I am still not ready to dive in.  The game isn’t off my list, but I really don’t feel the need to go some place new right now.  I am still in the midst of reliving 2008 or some such with WoW and Pokemon and the like.  But when the usual Summer instance group hiatus comes and I have ground out all the factions in Azeroth I can stand and it is time for a vacation in some different world, TESO is very likely candidate.

Others looking at launch day (as I find them):

 

Friday Morning Blizzard Roundup April 4, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, World of Warcraft.
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15 comments

It is Friday and Blizzard has announced a bunch of things this week, wisely waiting until after April Fools day. (Unlike CCP, which did a Dev Post on drones and Summer expansion forum posts on mining ships and Nosferatu upgrades on April 1st just to torment us. I am still not convinced they are real.)

Several of the Blizz are worth noting, but I am not sure there is a full blog post in any single one yet, so I figured I would just lump them all together.

Reaper of Souls Sales

Blizz reported that Reaper of Souls, the Diablo III expansion, shipped/sold over 2.7 million copies in the first 24 hours after going on sale.  They sold a bunch as pre-orders, but were only able to ship… well, unlock… and recognize revenue on last week.

I am not sure how to parse that number.

It is surely a big number, and probably makes Reaper of Souls one of the top sellers for March, even adding in all comparable platforms.  Go PC gaming.  That number beats The Burning Crusade, which managed 2.4 million copies on the first day.

But with an installed base of at least 12 million players on the PC for a game that has been out for nearly two years, that sounds a little shy of a “hopes and dreams” number for Blizz.  They will still be pushing a wheelbarrow of money to the bank, but they were probably planning to make a few trips.

Did the rough start or always online kill off interest in the game?  Or are a lot of us still playing fresh characters through the original game to soak in the full “Loot 2.0″ experience?

The press release says that the expansion “breathes new life into Sancturary,” I am just wondering how much life.

Warlords of Draenor Alpha

Nobody out there is still holding out hope for a late spring/early summer release for this expansion, right?  We’ve all moved this to our “things to do over Christmas” list, haven’t we?

Anyway, Blizz said that the expansion is now in Alpha, which is no doubt a poke in the eye for those who were all ready for the beta announcement.  For those hoping for an early Fall release, Eldacar tweeted a graph showing the time from “Friends & Family Alpha” (are we even there yet?) to release for past WoW expansions.

F&F Alpha to Release

F&F Alpha to Release

The average is 6.6 months, which puts us nearly into November… if WoD is average and if we are at the friends & family start point.  So it is possible we’ll being playing on Thanksgiving… maybe even Canadian Thanksgiving… but Halloween will likely be free of such distractions.

And, as always…

Warlords of Draenor Patch Note Fun

Lest you think we’ll be bored waiting for Warlords of Draenor, Blizz has also published the first Alpha Patch Notes for the release, so that the hardcore fans can start panicking and complaining right now.

There is a lot to take in.  Even the TL:DR summary is 17 bullets long.  I have to spend some time digesting that.  But I can already see items in the summary that will make people run around screaming as though their hair is on fire.  This should be fun. (Is it really a return to Vanilla 1.0?)

The random perks thing sounds interesting.

And one key take away appears to be that the promised/threatened stat squish probably isn’t coming until the big pre-expansion patch.

Chat in the Battle.net Launcher

Blizzard also updated the Battle.net launcher this week.  I am not sure how widespread it is yet.  I got it when I downloaded Hearthstone, but not sure if it has been pushed to everybody.

But now, in addition to being able to see all of your online Battle Tag and RealID friends in the launcher, you can now chat with them as well.

So I’ll just add that to Steam, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, Jabber, Microsoft Lync, Raptr, TeamSpeak, Mumble, and RaidCall as another possible way people can try and chat with me while I am AFK.

I think I finally stopped logging into AOL Messenger.  You can no longer chat with me there.  And ICQ.  I think I gave up on that at last.

Did I ever tell you I had a five digit ICQ number?  True story.

April Fools Forever

Blizzard put up a page that lists out all of their major web site April Fools jokes since 1999.  Call The April Fools Archive, you can go back and find some of their best stuff.  I love when a company takes the time to preserve and present things like this.  I wish SOE would take note here, as they seem to toss things down the memory hole on a regular basis.

Still, not everything is on Blizzard’s list.  I though the funniest thing this year was the fake WoW 6.0 Patch Notes.  It is one of those things that is for the community as it pokes straight at contentious items with a laugh.

 

A State of Civilization April 3, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
Tags: , ,
8 comments

The… well… I am not sure what to call our Age of Kings group, especially since this post will be about us not playing Age of Kings.

I suppose I will call us the Strategy Group, lacking any other ideas.  We seem to be picking titles in genres where strategy is the common denominator.  And I will have to make a tag or a category or something, since this appears to be an ongoing endeavor and not just a flash in the pan.

Anyway, the Strategy Group has been growing less enthusiastic about Age of Kings.  It started with a burst of nostalgia, developed through recalling how things actually worked, and then landed in that pit that has so often been the downfall of RTS games, at least for me, where we remembered that once you have things sort of nailed down, every game starts to seem the same.  There is the build order, the harvesting, the scouting, the building up of the economy, the timing of the ages, initial defenses, the military build up, and so on down the line.

Sometimes that can be okay.  Sometimes honing a skill or really optimizing a routine can be its own fun.

And sometimes you’ve been down that path already and maybe this time around it isn’t so fun.  And maybe we’re old.

So last week the group started talking about trying another game.  (I mentioned this in the month-in-review post earlier this week.)  I was out for that session, but Potshot got me up to speed.  The first alternative on the list was Civilization V.

For me, that was a fine choice.  I have Civ V in my Steam library… I am going to guess it was a choice because we all happened to have it in our Steam libraries… I have enough hours in to be familiar with the game, though by no means an expert, and I am upgraded all the way to last year’s Brave New World expansion, which I quite enjoyed.

On the other hand, in the last 20 years or so since I played the original Civilization, I have not once played a multiplayer game.  Never.  In fact, given how turns tend to go, expanding in duration as the years pass, I wondered at times how viable a multiplayer game the Civ series might make.  It always seemed an unlikely candidate for multiplayer.

Now was our chance to put that to the test.

Potshot and I actually got to give it a pre-test.  The instance group… now that we have two groups, should I capitalize the names of groups?  Anyway, the Instance Group was having a night off last Saturday, so Potshot and I decided to give things a test run.  So, for the first time ever, I went to the multiplayer menu in Civilization.

The Menu

The Menu

We went with the Standard option.  Hot Seat clearly meant multiplayer on one computer… possibly the worst of all possible worlds for a Civ game… and I am still not sure what the Pitboss option really entails.  Something about the game running on its own server.  Not for us, not yet.

As with Age of Kings, the integration with Steam made getting us together in the right start screen easy.  Potshot created a game and then was able to invite me in from his friends list.  From there he setup a 4 player game, with the two of us and two computer opponents.

Setting up the game

Game starting in 6 seconds…

Some of that was easy enough, selecting landmass, size, pace, difficulty, and level of barbarian rage.  Other aspects were a bit more… interesting.

There is a timer for turns.  We talked about that for a bit, and then left it set for two minutes.  Early in the game no turn should take anything close to two minutes, but I began to wonder how things might play out as things got more complex.  As it turns out, that never really became an issue, but we’ll get to that.

And then there is the “who has what version of the game?” issue.

As it turned out, Potshot only had the original release of the game… and the Mongols DLC for some reason… while I had both expansions.  The game, however, will reconcile this for you and show you what your options are.  In this case, we pretty much had to play the original rules version of the game, with the Mongols thrown in, because why not.

So Potshot kicked off the game and off we went.  I ended up as the French, he got the Russians, while the computer ended up controlling the Chinese and… of course… the Mongols.  I ended up with my settler in a decent spot, so I did not have to engage in the debate about moving my settler.  There is a school of thought that you should never even waste a turn of production, but just build that first city and get going.  I, with an eye towards optimization, tend to move a hex or two if it will substantially improve my access to resources, though that has come back to bite me at times.

Paris is founded

Paris is founded and expanding

In that picture you can see a couple of aspects of multiplayer.

At the bottom of the screen is the two minute turn timer.  Turns are taken simultaneously, so that timer is for everybody at once and no turn can take more than the allotted time.  This is a very good thing.  Everybody moving on the same timer, as opposed to everybody getting their own two minutes, will speed things up dramatically.

And in the upper right corner there is a scoreboard that shows everybody’s basic relative standing.  That should be an amusing barometer for our match up.

As for playing the game… it was odd.  Well, it was odd for me, because I haven’t played the pre-expansions version of Civ V since before the first expansion, Gods & Kings, which gave us Steam Workshop mods, performance updates, and spies.  That was nearly two years back.  So I had to stop looking for bits of the game that were not there originally.

The game itself wasn’t a dramatic success.  I got dropped on an island with the Mongols and the Chinese who boxed me into my little corner of things pretty quickly, helped by some serious raging barbarian hordes, which put my expansion on hold for a while.

Facing Mongols and Chinese

Facing Mongols and Chinese

Meanwhile, Potshot was on another island with a couple of city states.  We didn’t come into contact for quite a stretch.

I started trying to tech/culture my way out of trouble while trying drop at least one or two more cities.  Not being in contact with Potshot meant that there wasn’t much to talk about, and having a plan meant that I wasn’t spending a lot of time on turns, so I was often reading the news on my iPad while waiting for the game to alert me that another turn had come.  I started thinking at about the one hour mark that we ought to cut our experiment off, but the “one more turn” obsession kicked in, even with a game where I wasn’t really getting anywhere.

About 90 minutes after I figured we ought to stop we actually did try a stop to test out ability to save a game and then resume it.  As with creating the multiplayer game, this seemed to work pretty well.  Potshot saved and left, then was able to restore the game and invite me back into it.  There was an awkward “I’m alone so what is the situation?” moment when he left and I was still in game, but after I bailed and then got back into the restored game, things were okay.

After that, I bought off the local city states to make them allies and declared war on the Mongols.  I managed to drive off their initial assault on my territories in something of a Pyrrhic victory.  Then he destroyed two of my city state allies in quick succession and bought off two more who quickly sued for peace, leaving me with Kuala Lumpur and not much of an army facing what could be correctly described, both literally and figuratively, as the Mongol hordes.

It was time to call it a night.

As a test run, things went fine.  We were able to create a game, play, save it off, and restore it without issue.  Waiting for turns wasn’t too onerous.  We just have to come up with something like an optimum settings mix so that the four of us are playing and engaged with each other.  We might need to go with a single continent and maybe just one or two computer players.

I also started mocking Potshot in our Google hangout, which is the base of operations for our games (Because why not add yet another peer to peer interface to the mix?), for only having the base game… plus the Mongols.  This may backfire on me though, as I may be the only one in the group who is up to date on the expansions, flagging me as the one they had best gang up on.  They probably aren’t going to fall for things the way they did for the first game of Age of Kings.

We shall see how it goes.  Suggestions for settings… or for other games we might consider… are welcome.