The Patcher of Sauron November 25, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Helm's Deep, Talent Trees, That's Just Your Opinion Man
Is there any in this rout with authority to patch with me? Or indeed with wit to understand me?
Surety you crave! Turbine gives none. If you sue for its updates, then you must do its bidding.
-LOTRO Patcher, Lieutenant of Turbad-dûr
I might be a little down on Turbine’s patcher this week, which no doubt colors the tone of this post.
I haven’t been doing much in Middle-earth since my summer vacation there saw me through to the far side of Moria at last. I had finally made it through the first LOTRO expansion, which I purchased just five years previously. But since I owned the next two expansions already, and a third lay out there waiting for me already, you might be able to forgive my lack of excitement surrounding yet another LOTRO expansion. I am not at all likely to see any of the Helm’s Deep expansion in the foreseeable future.
However, with Helm’s Deep, Turbine was looking to revamp the classes in a way to… if I understand this correctly… make the various roles a given class can perform more distinct. Previously Turbine just heaped a bunch of skills onto a class, some for one role, some for another, and let the player sort them out, along with the various traits, to do whatever they wanted. For some classes… especially the Warden and Runekeeper… the various skills seemed somewhat comprehensible. For others, such as the Captain, skills were not always clearly role specific.
Still, with understanding and a correct application of buffs or stances or auras or whatever, the old system let you mold your character to fill a specific role. I am not sure that the Guardian was ever going to be optimal for DPS or the Captain turned into the healer of choice, but your Champion could certainly play either tank or DPS. Zubon’s recent post on Adaptation probably has some applicability here.
So while I might not see the siege of Helm’s Deep any time soon, there was clearly change afoot that would affect me. This drove my desire to log into the game and see what was up. Would this make things better or worse for me? One of my problems with the game is that, upon returning after a long absence, I often find it difficult to pick up where I left off with a class. Things often change. The spread of skills are not always clear in their use. And the skill icons, tiny and over-wrought, frequently bear only a passing resemblance to what the skill actually does. I did a post a couple years back about the icons of the Champion class, which I found more distracting than useful.
Yeah, tell me what those do based just upon the picture. I have my own guesses. So it is often easier to just start a new character and relearn the class than to pick up where I was.
I actually think that redoing the skill icons… making them larger, clearer, simpler… might have been a bigger win than revamping classes. In fact, I had half a hope that icons might be part of the revamp, making me all the more keen to see what had changed. But first I had to patch.
Oh, the LOTRO patcher.
We were going out for a bit on Thursday night and I figured I could let the patcher run while we were away. The Helm’s Deep expansion had dropped earlier Thursday, after a 2-day day delay, and should have been ready to go. I let it update the launcher itself, then started it off on its patching process before we left the house.
We got back a little over 90 minutes later and I found that the patcher wasn’t even half done yet.
Back before we upgraded to a 25Mbit connection, I expected such updates to run all night. The old ADSL connection was good for about a gigabyte an hour if nobody else was doing anything online. I used to start big patches before going to bed in hopes of finding them done in the morning.
Now, with the high speed connection, EVE Online did its 1.21 gigabyte Rubicon patch, along with the update, in about 8 minutes. So either the Helm’s Deep patch was absolutely huge, or their patcher is crap.
I’m voting for crap.
First, it does things inefficiently. It seems to go file by file, judging how many individual items it had to download. And, LOTRO has historically been unhappy about older installs. After it passes a certain threshold of updates, everything slows down, including game play. Given that my install is now over three years old, I am probably due for a “delete and install fresh” the next time I want to play seriously. Finally, sometimes the installer just gets stuck.
When the patching was done on Thursday, I went to bed. When I tried to launch again on Friday, it appeared to need to repatch all over again. And then it hung up and stopped. I started it over again and it carried on, but got stuck again. I went off and did something else.
Saturday morning I patched again and it got through this time, but then wouldn’t connect to the game. I waited a bit and tried again, at which point the patcher got stuck yet again. But at least it got stuck at something I have faced before.
I knew which files to delete and, after it downloaded them again, the patcher finally finished, the glaring eye of Sauron was finally dismissed, and I was able to get into the game. There, as expected, I was warned that I needed to choose a class specialization for my captain.
On my way at last. And I was glad to find that the specializations bordered on the obvious when it came to which role was which. For my captain, there was healing, DPS, and tanking. And it looked like I could pick two out of the three right away and have access to the third by spending some Mithril Coins.
Unfortunately, tiny undecipherable icons appeared to remain in force, so that wish fell by the wayside. And then there was the question as to what to pick. Basically, I liked my captain he way he was pre-patch, so I had to decide which spec fit that. For solo play, the red DPS spec was probably the right one, but the yellow tanking spec sounded more like what I was used to. The captain is the guy with the halberd in my book, and I always equip my captain thus, so I went for that spec.
And then I was sent to the talent tree to spend my points in something that felt like it was right out of World of Warcraft in about 2006. Here are some points to spend, here are some skills and such, good luck making an informed choice.
Now, I realize that some people love talent trees, and I am not necessarily dead set against them, but when you get options where you cannot really answer questions like, “Do I need this?” “Will that change how I play the class?” or “Does even a full 5% boost make any real difference?” then I start getting pissy. Yes, theory crafters dig this. I do not. And, given the many random specs I have seen in days gone by, theory crafters are in the minority. I want to play the game, not decipher whether or not a 1% change in something has any meaning, so the potential positives of going this route are a bit lost on me.
It doesn’t have to be this way. And it does not have to go the route that World of Warcraft chose either, which is admittedly much simplified. (And where there is still an occasional “right/wrong” choice in some brackets according to theory crafters at places like Elitist Jerks.) EverQuest II, which has a mind boggling array of options for Alternate Advancement points, has some of the best class specific choices that let you focus on what you want your character to be that can make a distinct difference in how you play your character and what skills and buff you get. And, most of all, I feel like I am given enough information in a majority of situations to make an informed choices as opposed to having to us Google to find out what the trade-offs really are.
Anyway, I won’t be playing LOTRO much in the near future. And by the time I get back to playing the game, somebody will have deciphered which choices actually impact your play and which are a waste of points. Then I will be able to use Google to make an informed choice.
Why Can’t I Just Turn Off Achievements? November 7, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, World of Warcraft.
Over in a corner of the blogesphere this week achievements have been the discussion point.
Syl at MMO Gypsy started venting on Twitter about achievements and went on the write about about her hate of them and other like things at her blog.
In the way of the world, that lead to Liore at Herding Cats to express her love of achievements. Cuppy joined in on that front as well, while Klepsacovic just wonders if they are the right tool for the job.
The lines were drawn, let the battle commence!
Both sides make impassioned, emotional pleas for their point of view. The ill-defined concept of “immersion,” which I think means something different to everybody, has been flung about. Comments have popped up trying to explain one point of view to those whole held the other, myself included. All just the blogesphere functioning as designed.
I fall on the achievement lovers side of the argument. They went into World of Warcraft five years ago and I have enjoyed Blizzard’s implementation ever since.
I don’t think they necessarily belong in every MMO… and some retro-fits, like the EverQuest implementation, make me groan… but for WoW, already a bright and shiny game with a cultural reference around every corner, it seems like a good match. I especially like the statistics tab which tracks all sorts of little details, but I am that sort of person.
That isn’t to say that I don’t “get” the dislike of achievements. And while I think trying to describe what immersion is to each other is like trying to describe what blue is to each other, I can understand how some might find that a shiny pop-up in the middle of their experience might break that for them.
And while I was absorbing all of this, a thought popped into my head.
What if you could just turn them off?
I am not even suggesting that they be expunged from the game, but that the game have a check box somewhere in the settings to not pop up achievements, yours mine or ours. They would still accrue somewhere in the background in case the person in question changed their mind, but while the correct box was checked somewhere in the settings, they just wouldn’t be a thing on that particular game client. No pop-ups allowed.
And in imagining that, it sounded so simple that I had to believe that such a setting was already there. I mean, you can turn off all sorts of things in the UI in most games. How could that not already be a thing?
So I launched World of Warcraft and went to the setting to check.
You can turn on and off lots of UI elements in WoW. You can toggle the on screen quest list, quest tracking, floating names over players and NPCs, quests markers on the map and so on and so forth. There are even conditional settings, so you can have NPC names hidden unless they are part of a quest you are on.
But as far as I can tell, there is no setting to turn off achievement pops.
Well, WoW is a big game, with 7.6 million subscribers at last count. Maybe somebody has filled this niche with an addon! So I went to Curse to look at achievement related addons. There are dozens of addons devoted to helping you find, track, and achieve your achievements, but not one to suppress them. There may be one out there (let me know if there is) but I couldn’t find it in my admittedly limited search.
I decided to check other games. The next up was Rift. I downloaded the latest update, which was sizable, and got into the game. Ignoring the fact that somebody clearly left the realm administration console unlocked during a bathroom break (Or was that server-wide broadcast about Ceiling Cat watching you part of the current event?) and the blinky telling me I earned a reward just for logging in (that I could do without) I started leafing through the settings.
Like WoW, Rift has a pretty comprehensive set of things you can turn on and off. There is even a social media tab where you can annoy your soon-to-be-ex-friends by spamming Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr with all of your achievements. But I could not find a way to keep achievements from popping on your screen.
I can automatically decline marriage proposals (which I have set) but achievements are sacred. I even tried editing the UI to see if I could move achievements off screen, but that particular UI element isn’t part of the editor.
No luck on that front. So I moved on to Middle-earth.
Lord of the Rings Online doesn’t have achievements… at least not in the WoW sense of them. But there are traits and pop ups and all sorts of little nags that do get on my nerves. And they also have a pretty comprehensive list of things in the settings. But on the achievement-like traits front there was no joy there. Like other games, there are plenty of potentially immersion breaking things you can turn off, but trait notifications… and the accompanying “Visit the LOTRO Store!” message… are stuck on. So I moved on.
Next I patched up and tried EverQuest II. EQII has such a half-hearted “I’m just like WoW! Love me too please!” attempt at achievements that even I am not really interested in them.
Which is odd when I think about it, because EverQuest II had a sort of proto-achievements implementation back at launch in 2004. In addition to server first and world first discoveries, which were kind of neat until they inevitable ran out, there were the slaughter titles you got for killing so many undead or gnolls or what not. But they felt they needed to tack on the WoW model as well, making EQII even more of a mish-mash of conflicting visions.
Anyway, in digging through the “monumentally huge since day one” options window of the game, I figured out that achievements are part of the updates and notifications in the game. You can set how quickly they are displayed and where the UI element shows up, but it doesn’t appear that you can actually turn them off. I suppose you could move that off-screen, but since it shows information for things besides just achievements, I am not sure if that is a viable solution. Call that a “maybe” at best.
I thought about checking Guild Wars 2, but was brought up short by two things. First, their super duper, point of interest, laundry list, be the completionist mechanism seemed so much a part of the game when I tried it that I seriously doubted you could turn it off. And it seems to have progressed since then.
And, second, I’ve forgotten my password and I cannot get Anet to cough it back up again because I’ve changed internet services since I last logged in so they think I am trying to hack the account. Saved me from patching in any case.
I also considered checking EverQuest, which has had achievements grafted onto it as well, but I was starting to get bored with the whole idea. Plus the pattern seemed to be pretty clear and I hated to ruin it by finding a contrary example. Once you have two points, draw the line, calculate the slope, and move on I say!
But this does leave me with a few questions.
First, does any MMORPG with achievements let you turn off the pop ups? Did I miss an example or a setting or an addon that would do that for any of the above or some other example? And why isn’t the option to turn off achievement pop ups available? Do companies believe them to be so important that the game cannot be separated from the achievements?
Then, would turning off the achievements as I have describe be enough for you explorers and those of you who just do not like achievements in general? Or does the fact that achievements simply exist bother you?
Destination? Journey? Destination? Journey? October 23, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, World of Warcraft.
I always feel a mixed set of emotions when something like a double experience event gets announced. Lord of the Rings Online has one going now as part of their ramp up to the Helms Deep expansion in November.
That is a pretty long stretch of double experience. A lot of games will toss that sort of thing out for a special weekend or maybe a holiday or “please come back and play!” event over maybe a week. But a 30 day stretch seems like a lot. I cannot recall off hand any other game going for double for quite that long. I wonder what SynCaine would say?
And when I saw that offer on the front page of the LOTRO site, a little voice within me said, “Wow, I should totally take advantage of that to get a few level!”
I mean, I made it through Moria with my captain on Brandywine (5th server, 5th guild) and if I just pushed a little bit forward I could actually get into Siege of Mirkwood content that I purchased a couple of years back.
Basically, opportunity! I should take advantage of it.
Then another voice in my head coughs and says something along the lines of, “Weren’t you just grumbling about how fast leveling is in MMOs these day?”
And I must sheepishly admit to myself that I have groused about how trivial, for example, the 1 to 60 game in World of Warcraft has gotten. One of my issues in my quest to see the Horde side of the post-Cataclysm world is that I seem to out-level the quest chains in a given zone long before I am done. The achievement for doing all the quests in Azshara, as an example, shows 60 quests to be completed. But the zone had pretty much gone gray to me just after the 40 quest mark with one character. And with another, with whom I did a couple of instances, I was beyond the zone before the 30 quest mark. In fact, I was so far beyond that the Warchief’s Call board directed me to essentially skip the next zone in line as well.
Likewise, back in LOTRO, I was skipping whole sections of content. I actually optimized my path through the game to visit some of my favorite zones… The Lone Lands and Evendim being two where I ran down the whole zone of quests… but otherwise leapfrogged until I could get into Eregion and then Moria. Even in Moria I ended up skipping a big chunk of the content while running through some of the areas. As it turned out, I think I picked the better areas… the content in Moria is somewhat uneven, with areas in the old fetch-and-carry quest hub model while other areas are in the more recent, more dynamic vein that Turbine has adopted… but there was still a lot left behind.
Of course, I write that in full knowledge of my own hypocrisy. What is that I have equipped in my pocket slot?
What has it got in its pocketses indeed! A 25% XP boosting item!
Well there’s your problem.
Or at least an insight into the problem, the competing aspects of such games that pull some people, like myself, in contradictory directions.
While seeing the world, experiencing the content, ought to be the part of the package, at the same time level based progression oriented games like this also push the achievement button for people. As somebody who tends to be very goal oriented, at times I find myself quite caught up in the progress aspect of games. Pushing on, getting another level, getting access to another zone, another instance, another expansion, another whatever, can quickly become my focus, especially if the content is nothing to write home about. A series of fetch-and-carry and solve the local bear/boar/wolf problem quests become an obstacle to overcome in pursuit of the next stage of the progression aspect of the game.
In getting my fourth character to level cap in Rift before the Storm Legion expansion, my run became very much a matter of progress over everything else.
Progress, and giving feedback on progress, can be very powerful motivators. There is a reason we went from the dark ages of TorilMUD, where you had to travel back to town to speak to your guild leader to see where you stood in your progress to the next level (and he would only give a vague answer that you could translate into which 10% segment of the climb you were in), to the tiny little five bubble experience bar in the character window in EverQuest which used to cause people to track progress in pixels (I had a friend who used to take a before and after screen shot every time he played so he could compare the bars and get an exact pixel count), to experience bars that are part of the main UI and which go from edge to edge across the screen, chopped up into nice little 5% increment.
This whole thing is exacerbated by the general “more levels” expansion plan that MMORPGs have been using since at least Ruins of Kunark. When you start a game and you are staring at 85-90 levels to get to the latest content… presumably the “best” content, or at least the content where most of the population is playing… It becomes just that much harder to ignore progress in favor of content.
And it is not just the fantasy MMORPG where this holds sway. I was thinking about why I left off playing World of Tanks earlier this year. In part I think it was because I had hit a point where I was logging on every night to get my “first win” bonus XP with a couple of tanks on trees that I wanted to advance, and then logging off when I was done. The fights seemed like they were becoming secondary to progression, at which point you sort of have to ask yourself why you are playing. In my case, that dialog seems to happen somewhere in my subconscious and I simply stop logging in if it comes out the wrong way. And now that I have picked up War Thunder, which has a similar daily bonus scheme, I wonder if I will end up in the same rut over there eventually.
It is easy at this point to say that we should focus on games without levels and the like. But we will find our various progress metrics. There are no levels in EVE Online, but people will track their progress in ISK, skill points, kills, standings, loyalty points, or being in one of the alliances on the sovereignty map. We do like to have our cut and dried indicators. And I think if you worked to eliminate all such things, you might just end up with no game at all.
Progress is in these games for a reason. It can be both a good and a bad motivator. I like the idea of getting to level cap. In a number of MMOs my having arrived at that point meant me feeling done, in both a satisfying and a terminal way. And progress, in my mind, is invariably tied in with the journey. I couldn’t really get myself on board with SOE’s play to sell the jump to level 85 in EverQuest II. In part that was because of the mire of skills and points and what not you are handed without any context. But it also feels a bit like cheating, jumping up all those levels. That is my own feeling anyway. I wouldn’t point fingers at those who chose that path, but in my gut it feels like skipping all that progress… even though I have no inclination to do it myself at this point… is skipping the game.
Which sort of ties progress back to content in some odd way in my brain. But, in the end, do I play the content in order to progress, or progress in order to play content? And is there a “right” balance in there somewhere?
How do you feel about the balance between content and progress?
NBI – To All The Guilds I’ve Loved Before… October 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, TorilMUD, Warhammer Online, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: NBI, New Blogger Initiative, Newbie Blogger Initiative
Doone’s Permanent Floating New Blogger Initiative II has been up and running for a while now. It has forums and goals and things to do and participants and all that.
And while I signed up as some sort of sponsor, I have so far completely failed to anything very sponsorly.
Of course, I was a bit glib the first time around as well. In part that is because I have trouble swallowing some of the advice people throw out for bloggers. And, also, because I have trouble taking myself seriously in this regard. So while I came up with some bits and pieces of things that worked for me, my only real advice is to be the blog you want to read. If you look at your blog and cannot answer the question, “Would I read this if it was written by some stranger?” then you might be doing it wrong.
Anyway, I thought it was about time to earn my so-called keep as a sponsor . Doone has a couple of blogging activities for the month, including something called a “Talk Back Challenge” that appears to be an attempt get a few people tackling the same subject. One of them happens to be about Guilds in MMOs.
Guilds: What For? What functions to guilds serve in games and what kind do you prefer? You can talk about your experiences in guilds, what attracts you to them, and their role in the games you play.
Rather than going about this by describing what I think guilds should be about and such, I thought I would do a bit of research to see what guilds I am still in (or which still influence me since I have left) and try, from that, to derive some indication as to what a guild appears to actually mean to me.
Because this is just a list of guilds with a few comments, I will hide this after a cut so as not to make the front page a mile long.
Expansion Watch – A General Lack of Excitement September 11, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Gaming Industry Trends, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Neverwinter, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft.
Normally I would say it was just me, content in my little gaming routine, that was feeling a lack of excitement about MMO expansions right now.
But after working for a good minute or two on the subject, I began to see some signs, and get a general sense, that I might not be alone on that front. Certainly the game companies haven’t been doing much to light a fire. And I say that while noting we are headed straight into the last quarter of the year when some companies traditionally ship, or at least announce, expansions.
This is what I have noted down so far.
CCP has been on the “about two a year” track for ages now. Just look at the list up to June of this year. Sometimes they slip one way or another, with their expansions running early or late. And I am not sure if Revelations II should be counted as its own expansion or not. But for the most part CCP has a system and it has worked.
Yet here we are into September and we just got Odyssey 1.1 with a whole pile of changes. That seems awfully close to the margin when you want to start off rolling new features into the main code branch for integration and sanity checking reasons. There is a hazard in changing things up too frequently.
On the flip side, CCP has not been very successful with the long wind-up for things. See DUST 514. And EVE expansions tend to have a pretty short cycle between announcement and go live. So they may still be operating as normal.
The big news maker at SOE Live was EverQuest Next. That was what everybody was talking/writing about. But, somewhere amongst the sand art the talk of voxels was an announcement about the next EverQuest expansion. The 20th expansion. A big, fat hairy deal, making it to 20 expansions one would think. And so this important milestone was named…
um… where did I put those notes…
It was named Call of the Forsaken! There is even an official title/logo/graphic thing, which puts it well ahead of the game compared to most other expansions at this point.
Given how much press it has been getting, that name might give the Chains of Eternity expansion a run for its money in the unintended irony department.
SOE has announced beta and pre-orders for the expansion, but as far as I can tell has not bothered to post a feature set or other details on the main EverQuest site. I suspect that this is in part because the name of the expansion does not follow the standard naming format of “Something of Something,” which has lead to some internal rebellion by the web team. Or they were part of the layoffs.
Like its older brother, EverQuest II had an expansion announcement at SOE Live which was likewise completely overshadowed by EverQuest Next. The new expansion, Tears of Veeshan, was announced in a hallway somewhere and hasn’t been heard from since as far as I can tell. Unlike the EverQuest site, the EverQuest II web pages appear to have no mention of the expansion whatsoever. Remember what I said about SOE and keeping excitement going?
The expansion is planned for November, so SOE has some time. But it is starting to feel like past versions of Norrath are on the back burner while EverQuest Next hogs all the excitement by… uh… talking about whether female dwarves should have beards or not. Jesus wept.
Guild Wars 2
No expansion for Guild Wars 2 has been announced or even discussed to my knowledge. But when you are clearly making most of your revenue from selling boxes, and you have a history of selling boxes, it seems like you might want to get another box on the shelves at some point.
Lord of the Rings Online
At last, somebody who has an expansion in the works, who has announced it, and has followed up with… something. They have a press release posted on their site at least. And a logo.
And I guess they showed some stuff at PAX. But if you were just me poking around on the web trying to find information about it, you might wonder if they were really serious. Usually Turbine is out with the per-order incentives and such about now. So far it seems pretty quiet for the Helm’s Deep expansion.
[Addendum - There is now an announcement for the expansion release date.]
Star Wars: The Old Republic
SWTOR already had an expansion this year, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. That came out six months back. But now, if you are a subscriber, you get it for free. I am not sure what that says about how well it was doing. And I have to guess that, if you’re a subscriber, it means you really like the game, so you probably bought it already. Well, They have a little something for your trouble at least.
World of Warcraft
Ha ha ha, I know. They just released Mists of Pandaria like a year ago. That is practically yesterday in World of Warcraft terms. And they just gave us the Siege of Orgrimmar update with all sorts of new features. Even Kihei was on her level 90 reaping the rain of loot that is the Timeless Isle at the moment. I am sure that will be nerfed significantly before I get there, while all the best noodle cart locations will be taken. Yes, we got noodle carts with the patch as well. I am not making that up. Go read the patch notes I linked there, you’ll see.
Anyway, will the new stuff in patch 5.4 be enough? Can a patch, no matter how feature rich, have the same draw or get the same attention as a full blown expansion. As much as expansions expose the ludicrous nature of the level based system, often stacking the shiniest new content as far out of reach of new players as possible, it is the sort of thing that will get people to buy boxes and resubscribe. So I will be surprised/dismayed/annoyed if Blizzard does not announce something like a WoW expansion at BlizzCon this November. Hints about character remodels are not enough.
As slow as they are, Blizzard did get a Diablo III expansion into the queue for next year, so there should be something.
That is just the stuff that springs to mind. Are there any other expansions that ought to be noted?
I figure that Final Fantasy XIV and Neverwinter are too new. Trion is probably too busy with the free to play conversion and their own internal turmoil to have anything set for Rift. And who else is there that might ship an expansion?
I am not sure how well selling expansions mixes with free to play in any case. LOTRO has kept it up, and SOE is trying. But other players in the space seem to be just dropping semi-regular content updates in the hopes that they can tempt you into spending at the cash shop, or at least annoy you into returning to the subscription model that I suspect some free to play developers still secretly love. Why else would you sell hot bars at your cash shop?
But expansions have been, in the past, a community focal point, a way to get both your current and former customers excited about your game again. Only I am just not feeling it this season.
Am I alone in this? Are things different this year? Or is it just too early in the season?
August in Review August 31, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online, Month in Review.
I have been experimenting with Tumblr. This has been for no reason other than the fact that WordPress.com now supports direct updates to Tumblr. So there are now Tumblr versions of both my blog.
I would have to say that the Tumblr version of this blog is… not worthwhile. The auto-update basically takes the first picture from any given post, adds in a link back to it, and calls it a day. Add in the fact that I could not get tagn.tumblr.com as the URL and I am vaguely dissatisfied with the result. Only the fact that it is zero effort keeps it going.
The EVE Online Pictures Tumblr however seems to be working out quite nicely. Since every post is just a picture anyway, with maybe a sentence of text, nothing is lost in the updates. WordPress.com even successfully moved my tags over for each post, though not the categories. So it seems to fit into the Tumblr mold just fine.
Nobody appears to actually have looked at either of those sites, but there they are, experiment in progress.
One Year Ago
Then Vanguard suddenly went free to play ahead of schedule, no doubt trying to get in early and avoid the crowd.
It was announced that NCsoft would be closing down City of Heroes.
Turbine delayed Riders of Rohan, but continued pushing the crazy stuff you would see.
Speaking of year long commitments, Trion liked that Blizzard idea so much, they did it themselves and gave us an ugly mount for it right away. Oh, and they got rid of faction group restrictions. What population problems? The instance group started on its attendance slide, with just four of us trying Runic Descent. At least we had instant adventures. Or was that instant levels?
In EVE Online, there was a revamp of mining ships. I listed them out and wondered which would become the most popular. In the end, the Mackinaw won I think. All the while CSM7 seemed intent on proving that the thing they loved most in EVE was themselves.
Meanwhile, having been asked by TEST to leave the war down south, the CFC got into a scrap with Northern Coalition over moons. We fought in Venal and some monkeys lost a titan. We were staging in QPO for a thrust into Tribute with the goal of taking a forward base at UMI-KK.
AWESOMESAUCE.LIVE was announced. Only the fact that it was later cancelled preserved my faith in humanity.
Five Years Ago
After what seemed like endless delays, Darkfall went looking for beta testers for real. Many asked if this product would shed its “vaporware” reputation and see the light of day, and if the feature set would be anything close to what was promised.
Meanwhile Warhammer Online was rolling on towards release with a preview weekend. The CoWs were gathering. I looked at races and classes as well as my general opinion of the game as I saw it. I thought I was generally positive, though I wanted to be able to open up the quest log with a single keystroke. Rabid fans sensed faint praise and whined a lot in the comments. Still, Google liked me as I got the top spot for the search on “WAR Preview Weekend.”
Suicide Ganking was the plague in EVE Online. I suggested that the Secure Insurance Commission be given the power to extract the cost of insurance payouts from high sec gankers as a way to make this “throw away character” exploit a bit less lucrative. In the end, CCP just made CONCORD a bit more responsive to attacks right under their noses.
In WoW the instance group we were hitting level 70 and starting on the Caverns of Time dungeon Escape from Durnhold Keep. Instances were starting to get tough for us and it would take a revamp of our talents and some work on gear before we would be able to take on an at-level instance on the first try.
Also in WoW, Zhevra fever.
We went down to LEGOLand for vacation, but I left a vacation cliffhanger post to keep people amused.
LEGO Indiana Jones came out, and while it was a lot of fun, I wasn’t sure if it was worth list price.
And finally, people were fretting about Diablo III. It was too colorful! Internet petitions were deployed and accomplished what they generally do… nothing.
New Linking Sites
The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.
Please take a moment to visit them in return.
Most Viewed Posts in August
- 6VDT-H – The Biggest Battle in EVE History Ends the War in Fountain
- Who Holds the Oldest Null Sec Sovereignty?
- Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
- Comparing EverQuest and EverQuest Next in Two Pictures
- Conspiracies, Immersion, and the Secret Life of PLEX
- More Propaganda from the War in Fountain
- Monday Morning Talking Points for EverQuest Next
- The Elder Scrolls Online: Throwing Itself Under the Subscription Bus?
- Projecting on to EverQuest Next
- The Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere and You!
- Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE?
- Can SOE Keep the EverQuest Next Excitement Going?
Search Terms of the Month
is tobold trolling us
how to steal turbine points
[Way to support free to play!]
eve small or big ship in nullsec
[Bigger ship, bigger target]
Spam Comment of the Month
This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
[Nobody has ever said that, until the payday loans spambot happened by at least]
It was a quiet for most of the month for me in New Eden, a time for training and plans. I spent a lot of time in my high sec clone with implants to speed training along. My focus changed to capital ships and, once I make up my mind, I could be in either a dreadnought or a carrier withing a day, skill-wise. I still have to obtain one.
And then the call went out to deploy down to Delve. I seemed to have missed the mass of convoys, if there was a mass of them, and only have two ships down there, a Megathron and a Harpy. So if they aren’t in the fleet composition being called for, I stay docked.
I didn’t play any EQN, as there is nothing there to play yet. But we all certainly spent a lot of time writing about what was shown at SOE Live at the beginning of the month. A very exciting moment. However, the moment has passed and I expect we won’t get any real news for a while now.
Lord of the Rings Online
I made it through Moria, one of my big goals. And then, last weekend, Turbine had a “welcome back” double XP event. Rather than using that to push my main guy into the Mirkwood expansion, I spent the whole time… and I was in-game for many hours… playing alts. For example, I rolled up a guardian and ran him all the way to level 30. His role in life is to finish off the epic quest line, which I always end up straying from somewhere in the Lone Lands. And I pushed my champion into Evendim and started up a rune keeper as well, because hey, lightning!
I need to invest some time in this just to get far enough in to tell if I like it or not.
Autumn is coming, though it is often more a state of mind and an arbitrary date on a calendar here in California. Still, in anticipation of the regular bout of autumnal nostalgia, I started looking into how to play EverQuest Mac on a Windows PC. I haven’t actually got it running yet, but I have all the parts in place, including a copy of EverQuest Titanium I unearthed. Old school, Planes of Power level EverQuest could be a possibility. We’ll see how much I enjoy that cup.
Of course, there are other choices for the nostalgia season if I cannot get EverQuest Mac going, including other flavors of Norrath, Azeroth, or even NeverWinter Nights 2, where we stopped playing mid-campaign. Plus there are a few new delights out there, like World of Warplanes and War Thunder, both of which I have totally meant to try, and neither of which I have actually played yet. I have even considered Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn due to reports of its old school nature and it not being cash shop driven. Unfortunately, part of its old school nature included a rough launch. Some things never change.
And then there is the cast iron rule of MMOs for me is that I can really only play two at any given time while maybe dabbling in a third. That would likely mean LOTRO going dormant again, since EVE is different enough from anything else that I want to stick with that for now.
So I expect my play time pursuits will change up soon.
Neverwinter – Enormous Red Tape in the Bush August 29, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, Lord of the Rings Online, Neverwinter.
In theory Neverwinter ought to be a slam dunk winner for me.
It is based on Forgotten Realms, my favorite D&D campaign setting. It has beautiful scenery. Classes are distinct and have a limited number of skills available at any given time. The UI is responsive. While being free to play, it does not remind me every minute of the day that I should visit the cash shop. And the game includes a good deal of instanced, small group content so our regular group can go off and do a dungeon crawl whenever we get together.
And yet this past weekend I spent nearly every available gaming moment playing Lord of the Rings Online. While LOTRO does have perhaps the one setting that trumps Forgotten Realms in my book… Middle-earth… and the scenery is good, objectively you could conclude that Neverwinter is a better game for me. If nothing else, LOTRO seems absolutely determined to remind me that it has a cash shop at every possible moment. It is like a small child with a new toy, every conversation must be turned to discuss it. I am sure Neverwinter will get there as well… it seems to be the way of things… but for the moment I can play for long stretches of time without being asked for a buck.
But I have kept Neverwinter patched up all the same. It is part of the matrix of possible games for Saturday night, the choice of which is driven by who happens to be online and available to play. And I have put my nose into the game a few times since I was last there with the group.
One of the first things I did was trade in my great weapon fighter, Sven Sverdsk for a trickster rogue. I named him Sans Serif.
I rolled him up, got him through the tutorial and well into level 4 before leaving him be for a while. But last Saturday when the “who’s online” came up with me, Potshot, and Mike (the guy in our group without a consistent character naming pattern who is not me), Neverwinter was the pick.
They had both been playing a bit more than I had and were up to level 8, though that did not seem to be an impediment really. We first ran through a couple of quests that Mike had, and I had no problem keeping up, doing damage, or surviving any hostile intent from mobs. He was able to share them and we all go credit. Then we turned towards the quests I had, which I was able to share with everybody and which we blazed through. That the whole thing was designed to be soloable no doubt helped speed our progress.
After basically blitzing through four different quests, we decided to roll the dice with some user created content. Last time around this worked out well for us. We ended up with a connected series of a few adventures that at least showed off the potential for the foundry tool. This time around we were less fortunate.
The first choice sent us off to an inn because… well… D&D!
And a fine looking inn it was. However, from there the adventure seemed to be broken. Our first attempt to advance beyond the “hanging about” stage of things dropped us from the game. And upon returning, things did not recover well. I was still at the inn but Mike was not and couldn’t get back. We all dropped the quest, went back to where we started, and tried again. This time we all got to the inn, but then could not activate whatever was required to move things forward. After a bit more poking around we gave up.
The second one we tried was created by somebody who clearly felt that actually getting to your destination in these adventures was far too easy. And, admittedly, things are often on a pretty clear
set of rails path. This person had a solution though.
This was an outdoor instance where the author went nuts with nature in an attempt to simulate crossing a dense forest. At night. I had to lighten these screen shots up a bit so you could see what we were facing. Then imagine that you couldn’t really see it because it was dark and there was no path, and you immediately got separated from the rest of your group.
And it was just “okay, we’ll hide the trail underneath bushes.” There were some serious log jams where it took a lot of jumping and turning and trying to find the right perch to get through. I fell into a pit and one point and spent several minutes trying to get myself unstuck. And I don’t mean that in the “GuildWars 2 jumping puzzle” way, where you know you have to hit the space bar at just the right moment to get to that next ledge. This was “it’s dark, I can’t see shit, so I am just spamming the space bar and turning in hopes that I will land on something that will help me move forward.”
We would occasionally reach a quest objective, or fight a couple of mobs.
But for the most part the whole thing seemed be designed around the premise, “Make movement difficult.” After what seemed like a long time of fighting foliage… but which was probably only about 20 minutes… a motion was made and seconded to “fuck this shit” and we left.
We decided to move back to the quests that were part of the game, which lead us to chasing a series of glowy lined in search of sludge samples.
That moved us back into a path of very little resistance as the three of us jumped on and destroyed anything that happened to cross our path with very few mouse clicks. More satisfying that being stuck in a bush, granted, but still not quite as fulfilling as one might hope. After a bit of that, which wasn’t all that engaging, I declared myself the party pooper and called it a night. It was past 11pm, so I wasn’t parking the bus too early, but I was clearly the first one who wanted out.
So another night in Neverwinter and I remain unconvinced.
Now clearly part of the problem is I have not invested all that much in the game. Expecting to find great challenges in a group with a level 5 and two level 8 characters in a game where the level cap is 60 is probably asking a bit much. Judgement should probably be withheld until we get further along.
Still, everything killed was very very fast. Fast enough to make Diablo III battles seem like protracted combat. My rogue was clearly Mister Click-Click, Kill-Kill. Nothing offered anything like a fight, even what I was levels down.
Except, of course, all of that foliage. Defeated by plants.
On The Far Side of Moria August 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Flaming Deeps, Lothlorien, Mines of Moria, Nud-melek, Redhorn Lode
The odd thing about Moria is that, as a region, it gets much better as you move along.
That seems like a way to drive people off… though if you seek to reward persistence, I suppose it has some merit.
The initial quests are dull, presented in the usual quest-hub style, and involve a lot of running back and forth. You end up getting sent back out of Moria at first and then, once inside, areas are dark and narrow and not very interesting. I can see why I gave up the last time around within the threshold of the area. It is something of a let down after all the build up in Hollin.
This time I persisted. First the environments got better. I found the Waterworks to be quite the place to just run around and sight see. The quests were about the same and involved running back and forth pretty much constantly. I wore out the paths around the Rotting Cellar.
From there I made my way to the Redhorn Lodes, where the quests moved from the strict hub dynamic to what I would call a much more organic approach.
You end up picking up quests along the way… though it took me a bit to notice the “you have a new quest” indicator on the right side of the window, as I associate that with the seasonal/holiday events… and some you can turn in on the fly, some send you back to a hub, while others move you forward to a new location. And, like the Waterworks, the environments were still a draw in and of themselves.
I then made my way into the Flaming Deeps which continued the more organic approach and sent me through more epic environments. At the end of that I was level 59 and moving into Nud-melek. There were a few of the “back and forth” quests at the top, but then it evolved into a “take your quest giver with you” set of objectives that brought me to the bridge of Kazad-dum, which was broken.
That was actually a pretty neat moment, and in my head I was all, “Wow, this is where Gandalf fought the balrog that was Durin’s Bane!”
And then the more logical part of my brain pipped in with, “You know, that didn’t really happen. It was a made up story you dolt.” Why can’t I let me enjoy my moment? But I was immersed for a moment there.
Anyway, I stood there looking across the abyss, wondering how Turbine was going to get me across that gap. There is a whole new zone to explore… an outdoors zone… on the other side.
I wondered if the orcs had built some sort of rickety contraption to get over the great gap that separates the first and second halls of Moria.
Or had the dwarves now swarming Moria built up some sort of crossing already?
And, as a secondary thought, where did all those dwarves come from? The soon-to-be-broken fellowship of the ring passed through here… what… fifteen minutes before I got here? Back in Hollin I was picking up their fresh trash, putting out their campfires, and generally acting as cover and janitorial service. Makes you wonder what kind of ranger Aragorn really is.
But now there are hundreds of dwarves swarming the place. They have set up encampments all over and created a regular goat subway system, with standard cross-town goats as well as a spoke-and-hub insta-goat transit service. They have a settlement in the twenty-first hall with a bank, a crafting hall, an auction house, and regular postal service. And I am pretty sure they were building a strip mall there with a Starbucks, a Noah’s Bagels, and a Chipotle.
Did I bump my head somewhere between Hollin and Moria and fall asleep for a year… or five… or twenty? Is the war over?
And speaking of the war, what are all these dwarves doing in Moria screwing around with public transit projects? Don’t they know Sauron needs to be defeated?
Yeah, sometimes it is a burden to have to live inside my head.
But after all of that, how I ended up getting to the other side of the chasm did not seem like a big deal. We just walked around.
Yes, Moria’s main line of defense, the chasm with the single bridge that no army could cross if even a dozen dwarves opposed them, has a big old gap about two football fields up the way. And it isn’t like this was something new, a landslide caused by a balrog hitting the bottom or anything. If you look at the map, they built a road that followed that path. There is a whole Durin’s Way bypass/business loop that lets you avoid the rush hour traffic over the bridge.
So Svanr, my personal dwarf quest giver, and I did some quests, then went ’round the bypass, then did a few more quests that involved killing some orcs and destroying a few mining carts.. I hit level 60 while that was under way.
I now only have five levels of experience boost left in my pocket.
Actually, that is an old screen shot. I think the stats now show the maximum level as 64, so once you hit 65, you have to find something else to put in your pocket. Turbine will sell me an upgraded, good to level 74 version for just 495 Turbine Points if I so desire.
Anyway, from there, Svanr and I headed to the first hall, where he then brought me on a little quest for my first peek outside of Moria.
The goal was to point me at the first quest hub on the path to Lothlorien. Though it was an odd quest, as it happened in a special instanced version of the zone where the quest hub wasn’t active yet. I just had to go there, click on somebody, come back to Svanr, then it was back into Moria again to finally finish up, get a new title, a new goal, and to ride back out on my own.
I was mildly disappointed to find that you cannot walk/ride through the gates of Moria. There is a zone teleport in the first hall that drops you outside of Moria. I get why they did it. It is the gateway between expansions, so they need to keep people who do not own the expansion out. Or they did at one time. I think now you can travel through them all, you just don’t get the quests or some such. Anyway, I have a new zone to explore.
I am standing on the edge of a new expansion. Or close to the edge of one. And who keeps putting down damp cups on all the maps? Could Turbine not come up with a different “this map is either old and weathered or was once a Denny’s place mat” graphic?
At this rate I might have to buy Riders of Rohan some day.
Is Your Faction Getting the Short End of the Stick? August 16, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Red Shirt Guy… you remember the Red Shirt Guy from BlizzCon, right… he got his own NPC in game… has an editorial up about the perception in World of Warcraft that the Horde is the favored faction and the the dev team prefers to work on things for the Horde to the detriment of the Alliance side of the coin.
Since he is a well established lore hound in addition to being a dedicated player, it was interesting to see his take on what has been a controversial topic from time to time.
Of course, the bias hasn’t always been that perceived the same way. I recall a time when it was felt that the Horde was neglected because they did not have a “pretty” race. And so they got blood elves. And the Alliance got blue space goats. Making things right or evidence of bias?
Anyway, this got me thinking about other games, and there are certainly times when I felt a faction was being neglected.
For example, when I started off in EverQuest back in 1999, I chose Qeynos as my starting place. That was a mistake in some respects. The city was somewhat neglected, was not the place to be if you wanted to craft, and was on the opposite side of a hostile continent from most of the player base. They were all in Freeport where all the cool stuff happened. So while I loved the Karanas, I still had to travel to Freeport time and again to by things or meet up with friends.
On the flip side of all of that, when it comes to nostalgia, being from Qeynos is now superior. Freeport continued to be lavished with attention, getting a graphics revamp a while back. Meanwhile, Qeynos remains in pretty much its original state, which is fine with me.
And the Freeport bias continued in EverQuest II, where at launch Freeport was a giant, over-wrought city or intricate detail. And Qeynos was a nice place to live, but not very memorable.
In EVE Online there used to be some irregularities in the factions. And I am not talking about the ships, which seem to favor one faction or another with each revision. Long was the rule of the Drake and Hurricane battlecruisers before their nerfing. But back when I was starting, there was a clear advantage to picking the Caldari faction and specific bloodlines and background, as you ended up with more, and more useful, skill points to start with. That has since been fixed, but for quite a stretch there was a “right” choice when creating a new character.
And, to beat a nearly dead horse, there was Warhammer Online, where it sure felt like destruction had been given some better options when it came to character classes back when a lot of people actually played it.
You could go on. the Guardians in Rift clearly got the better character models. The dwarves and elves in Lord of the Rings Online get kind of crap starting zones in my opinion, while the hobbits just get a version of the human starter zone, then get jumped from Archet to the Shire, breaking the story line.
But you start to get to nit picking and things that are really opinion. Some people might like the Defiant character models in Rift.
The question comes down to whether or not it really matters. I think in a lot of cases, it really does not. I got over the character models, you don’t spend much time in the starter zone, I’ve moved on to flying other ships, and once in a while it works out, as in the case of Qeynos. Not that I let anybody forget the slight.
Of course, I am in favor of there being a more difficult faction available, something that makes the game more challenging for those willing to accept the assignment.
What about you? Is there a faction getting a raw deal in your game?
Drying Off After The Waterworks August 13, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Mines of Moria, Redhorn Lode, The Waterworks, Twenty First Hall
I have managed to keep plodding forward in Lord of the Rings Online. My previous post put me on the verge of Moria. Well, I am through the doors and stuck into the expansion.
Our kinship seems to have faded however. The summer diversion into Middle-earth has fallen by the wayside for most of our EVE Online corp which, if nothing else, means that even at my modest pace of advancement, at level 56 I am close to being the highest level player. Of course, without everybody else, doing instances as a group hasn’t come to pass. And just to rain on my parade a little bit more, the founder of our kinship quit EVE and, in what I take to be a big “Up yours!” to his former corp mates, revoked officer status for everybody in the kinship. So the kinship is now both dead and without anybody who can make any changes.
Life in MMOs.
At least there wasn’t anything for him to steal.
So my progress forward has been pretty quiet as well as slow. But it has allowed me to explore Moria, which is turning out to be a much bigger place than I had imagined.
I do find that Moria’s separation from the initial world… which I know was required back in the day… is initially quite bothersome. You cannot travel straight to Moria, the last horse stop is at the portal into the zone outside Moria, so you have to hoof it across a modest zone every time you leave and then come back. This is aggravated by the fact that all of the services you go back to Bree or Rivendell for are available in Moria, just not until you reach the Twenty First Hall, which the map below shows, isn’t exactly close to where you start off.
So you can be a while getting there. And until you do all your crafting, banking, and training needs have to be served back on the surface.
Initially you start off in mostly cave-ish areas where the dwarves have carved out rooms and a few structures. But as you move deeper in, the size and scale of the works become truly massive.
Of course, massive comes with a price as well. I was in Durin’s Hall at one point, which is a well developed area at least five levels deep, and was standing on a walkway at the top on one side of the area and needed to be on a platform one level down and across the… room? I could see it from where I stood… but actually getting there involved a Super Mario Brothers routine of stairs and ramps. This was further hindered by the designer’s love of very steep stair cases. They are so steep that you often cannot verify that there are stairs there until you get to the very edge of a platform. And they are not always where you think they will be, something that has lead me to go over the edge on several occasions.
And I always seem to be a bit lost. Not a bad thing, as it speaks to the depth of the zones. But not only is it surprisingly easy to get turned around and headed in the wrong direction if you fail to consult the map every so often, but I also end up completely losing the thread of quest chains as I accidentally stumble on new locations.
And the names of places just don’t seem to be sticking with me. So I abandon some quests, pick up some new ones and carry on.
In part I think this is because the goat subway system that forms the mass transit backbone in Moria insists on naming the stations, such as they are, after the immediate geographic location. So, for example, the destination when I want to get to the Waterworks, a zone in which I did all the quests I could and finished most of the deeds, is reached by a goat stop at The Rotting Cellar. But it took me a while to associated that name with the Waterworks.
The Waterworks itself though is an amazing place. At least assuming you don’t mind being waist deep in water a good portion of the time. It is one of those locations that makes you feel really small. The quests in the zone were not anything exciting. They were mostly the standard fare, go kill some of these and come back, now go turn the knob over there and come back, now kill something else. And the water structures themselves often appeared to have all the purpose of the engine room in Galaxy Quest. But the design and feel of the zone, a huge open cavern with immense structure all bathed in an eerie crystal light, kept me going. It was one of those zone where I wanted to poke my nose into every location.
I suppose the fact that is was a much more open zone than what I have been through in Moria helped. I could see the distant corners I wanted to explore.
So I actually finished up the quest chain there… unlike any Moria area up to that point… after which the final task was to send me off to the Twenty First Hall and essential services. I had been there already. I dropped a Mithril coin to get there just to be able to use the bank. But now I was actually being sent there.
Gaff pointed out that I might want to pick up a new legendary weapon, as I was still using the one I picked up in Eregion. It was falling behind in damage rating, and I apparently picked up some of the barter currency as drops along the way. With auto loot on, I am often surprised what I find in my bag or wallet at the end of the night.
Fortunately, that investment in first weapon gets paid back somewhat when you deconstruct it. You can then apply that to your new weapon.
After doing some lift and carry and search quests (the dwarves seems to lose a lot of things in Moria) in and about the Twenty First Hall, I made my way to the Redhorn Lode area. That will be my next area of exploration. It isn’t as open as The Waterworks, though it certainly isn’t as cave-like as the opening zones either. And it is tinted in a reddish glow rather than blue.
While I start in on that, here are some tourist photos from my time in The Waterworks.