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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.

 

March in Review March 31, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

The Site

WordPress.com, ever fodder for for this section of the monthly round up, popped up something amusing this month.

Leet?

Leet?

We all love the number 1337 right, being “leet” in “leet speak” and all that.  But the pop-up does make me wonder a bit.  I am close to 3,200 posts here, but only 1,337 were likeable?  Okay, the whole “like” button thing didn’t show up here at WordPress.com until quite a while after I had started blogging, but still.  If it were not for C.T. Murphy, I wouldn’t even have 1,337.

Meanwhile, on my “other” blog, EVE Online Pictures, WordPress.com congratulated me on having 500 posts.

500! It's a round number!

500! It’s a round number!

Which confused me, because I have nearly 800 posts total over there.  However, I started posting under a different nom de plume when I launched the blog.   It was done for dubious reasons.  That whole story is here.  So what this really meant was that I changed over to just posting as me, Wilhelm Arcturus, 500 or so posts ago.

And, finally, I applied for official EVE Online community fan site status for EVE Online Pictures, and it was accepted… which shows you just how low the bar is for that sort of thing. (I decided to give it a shot after reading one of many posts on monetizing blogs.)

Between my Italian pals! Ciao!

Between my Italian pals! Ciao!

While that lead to a very minor boost in traffic, the big thing is that my main account is now a “fan site account” which means it is free so long as I keep the site active and fill out a form every few months.  The main change for me was having to put up a couple of legal disclaimers, which was no big deal.  The impact here is that I will likely remain subscribed to EVE Online for the foreseeable future, as keeping the other blog going doesn’t require a ton of effort. (And I got a pile of pictures for the site this month.)

So you can consider me bought and paid for by CCP, but I doubt it will change what I write here in the slightest.  After all, this isn’t the fan site, the other one is.

One Year Ago

Dave Georgeson of SOE said MMOs should never die. A noble sentiment at the time, it rings a bit hollow a year and five SOE MMO closure announcements later.  Business is business.

I got a seven day pass to Azeroth from Blizzard.  It was nice.  I had some fun, but I wasn’t ready to go back full time yet.

Meanwhile, Blizzard was saying they were blindsided by the popularity of the auction house in Diablo III.  They were nearly a year late on that revelation.

On a similar theme, EA launched a new version of SimCity, pretty much ignoring the obvious expectations the franchise comes with.  I could only wonder if they learned anything from their efforts.

The instance group was doing some Rift content as a four player group.  This was the time of our long hiatus, though we got a full group now and again.  And when it was just the three of us, we ended up playing Neverwinter Nights 2 instead.

In EVE Online we were chasing around Deklein, flying the Tech Fleet doctrine, and bagging a carrier or two.

EON Magazine was closing its doors, marking the end of an era in EVE Online.

EverQuest hit its 14 year anniversary, and there was some talk about the camera view’s influence on the game’s popularity.

I was still playing World of Tanks and had hit the 2,000 battle mark.  I was out there with the KV-3 and the ARL 44.

I finished up all the things in Wayfaerer Foothills, which sort of ended my time in Guild Wars 2.

Then there was the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign, which seemed more marketing tool than funding effort, and which hit its number in 11 days.  Still, Lord British felt the need to stir the pot by declaring most game designers suck… and are lazy… and are not as good as him.  Then he claimed he was taken out of context and not just saying things for cheap publicity.  As the month closed, his Kickstarter was wrapping up, but Camelot Unchained was coming.

It was announced that Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was getting updated to run on modern machines with better graphics.  That set me on five other older games that I wished would get a similar revamp, which I think was more useful than just declaring that game developers need to innovate.

Finally, I was looking for input on some actual, real world things.

Five Years Ago

In March 2009 we were excited about Pokemon Platinum around our house, although we weren’t really finished with Pokemon Diamond yet.

I spent a day up at GDC in San Francisco.

In WoW we finished up a short hiatus and started back in at the SteamVault.  My daughter was tearing up Warsong Gulch.  Meanwhile, the Lich King seemed to have laid a curse on my new video card.  Nothing I did ever seemed to change this issue, though it did seem to go away eventually.

In EVE Online, Apocrypha came out, and with it the classic graphics were swept away.  Adam though, was making his own adventures in New Eden.  Oh, and I bought a freighter.

Somebody tried to put together a list of the Ten Most Important MMORPGs.  Like all such list, this one started the comments rolling.

It was launch day and I was already complaining about Runes of Magic… well, about the patcher in any case.

I finished up what was the last book of the Wheel of Time series.

The EverQuest 10th anniversary just wasn’t evoking the level of nostalgia in me that I thought it would.

And we had to say goodbye to an old friend and family member.  The picture my daughter drew is still up on the wall.  It still draws the occasional tear later in the evenings when people are tired and a bit more emotionally fragile.

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 March

You can tell when I have written nothing exciting all month, some old nuts and bolts post rises to the top thanks to Google.

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  3. Warlords of Draenor to be a $50 Expansion? And Something About Insta-90s
  4. Picking My 15 Most Influential Games
  5. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  6. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  7. Show Me The Planets Contest Results
  8. Report from New Tristram
  9. How Blizzard Got Me to Play Hearthstone
  10. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  11. The Insta-90 Choice is… Death Knight
  12. CCP – Losing Money and Getting Closer to Sony

Search Terms of the Month

that moment when a ex friend still manages to steal your beer
[That pretty much cements the ex-friend status]

is there aplace where some one can get donated plex for eve
[I'm not sure that is how it works.]

how did the lego universe story end
[Quietly]

Age of Kings

Our floating Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings group managed to get in a few matches over the course of the month, including our disastrous encounter with actual, real people.  The question is whether we will carry on.  Player against the computer gets dull fast, playing against each other remains imbalanced, and playing against live people… is a challenge mostly confined to seeing how much we can slow down the inevitable steam roller.  We might need a different game.  Maybe something more in the turn-base strategy genre, playable by four people.  Ideas?

Diablo III

Loot 2.0 and the coming of the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo III revived some interest around the game.  I rolled up a new barbarian… can you used the term “rolled up” when your only options at start are name and sex?  Anyway,  went out and played most of the way through Act III and found the game much improved for the effort.  However, I didn’t run out and buy Reaper of Souls, or even finish Act III.  Even at my most engaged, the game never got higher than second place in my mental “what do I want to play?” list, where I barely play the third place entry and fourth is lucky if I launch the game.  Still, maybe at some point.  The expansion sounds exciting.

EVE Online

EVE Online spent most of the month sitting in that fourth place position, as reference above.  There is no real war going on.  We’re back to cloaky campers in the systems I might rat in just to earn some ISK.  I have ships scattered all over the game that I should corral and bring back to staging systems, something that can be an adventure when I am in the mood, but which has just seemed like work of late.  And our corp, which hasn’t kicked me out for idleness yet, has gone through a leadership change.  Gaff is out.  And with that change, the “more POS towers!” faction is running the show.  We had a corp day to mine ice, which I attended.  The op was to gather ice to fuel our towers, and most of the talk was about where to get the rest of the ice we’ll need to fuel our towers.  Because we have a lot of towers.  Because, towers.

I did find out that one of the reasons things have been so quiet is that strat ops are no longer getting rebroadcast from Goon coms to our own.  So if I want strat ops, and that is pretty much all I want, I have to log into their coms, not ours… which is not a big deal, as I am on their coms most of the time anyway.  If I had actually bothered to post something from my SA forum account in the last six years, I’d consider just applying to Goonswarm to cut out the middle man.

World of Warcraft

Azeroth still looms large in my daily gaming, in part because I am on the auction house and daily quest treadmill.  That isn’t a bad thing.  I have a set of goals which keep me coming back.  It is when I have no goals that these sorts of things become drudgery.  The guild remains active over the weekends.  Gaff, no longer worried about running a corp in EVE Online, has joined us and brought along a friend.  So they are diving into Pandaria and doing all the usual alt-a-go-go routine.  The guild is lively enough that we’ll get to level 25 before summer I am sure.  The instance group also has enough content ahead to get to summer and our usual hiatus.  What will happen come the fall if the launch date for Warlords of Draenor is close to the first day of Winter?  I couldn’t tell you.

Coming Up

The Elder Scrolls Online launches this week.  The head start kicked off yesterday, mere mortals to be allowed in by the end of the week.  I am not buying the game as yet, but I will mark the launch date.  Have to get that into the “one year ago” and “five years ago” system.

I have a post coming up this week about new hardware and a new game I have been playing.  We’ll get to that on Wednesday I think.

The instance group carries on, World of Warcraft remains a thing.  EVE Online, likewise, remains on my list.  Diablo III… we shall see.  It has fallen into fourth place for now.  Or maybe lower.  I didn’t play it at all over the past weekend.

And then there is tomorrow, when we get to sort out the obligatory from the inventive.  I have nothing planned, so I will probably just point at others.

WowCraft Episode 1- Character Creation March 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Humor, World of Warcraft.
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3 comments

A new humor series about World of Warcraft is starting on YouTube.  Called WowCraft, it naturally opens with character creation.

I like the criteria presented for class selection.  Simple and direct.

On the other hand, I never have much problem with name selection.  I suspect my conventions for character naming are… different.

Facing the Voodoo in Zul’Aman March 27, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

We have had a bit of a gap since our last full instance group run.  Birthdays, marathons, and some other outside activities have intruded.  We have done some things together.  Operations in search of mounts, bags, and rep are always an option.  But it hasn’t been the full group for almost a month.

And I wasn’t sure we were going to have a full group up until nearly the last minute on Saturday.  I was in a game of Age of Kings with that group, where we were working on build strategies influenced by our obliteration at the hands of MoronHunter and friends, when suddenly everybody in the instance group was online.  Time to go!  I quickly built a wonder, thanks to my booming economy, and let that match run out in the background with my apologies while I got World of Warcraft up and running.

We were on for the night, and our group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 86 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 85 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

No boost in levels for anybody since last time.  I think I mentioned this before, but an interesting side effect of the huge inflation in numbers when it comes to Mists of Pandaria is that, at level 85 and beyond, experience gained from doing Cataclysm content is almost negligible.  You have to get into Pandaria to move that experience bar beyond a rate measured in single digit pixels per hour.  The situation is almost EverQuestian in that regard.

Anyway, despite everybody getting logged on at the appointed hour, we ended up mucking about for drinks and bathroom breaks and at least one computer reboot to clear up a sound issue.  I was able to watch the end of the Age of Kings match and close that out as we got ourselves settled.  Earl and I got on the bird to get out to the summoning stone at our target for the night, which was Zul’Aman.

Zul’Aman is rated level 85++, where 85+ is a standard heroic mode dungeon.  Given that, even with out item level 372 gear upgrade from Pandaria, we still ran into problems in the heroic Deadmines, I was a bit concerned that an instance considered to be a challenge relative to that might be an issue.  But we were going to give it a shot.

Earl and I summoned the rest of the party out to the stone and off we went.  Well, we bounced of the entrance for a minute because the group leader (me) had not set the instance mode to “heroic.”  It seems odd that a heroic-only dungeon should care about that setting, but whatever.  At least the error message was informative, so I switched modes and we were able to enter.   We picked up the quests in the foyer of the instance and then the gate was opened and we were set loose.

Opening to Zul'Aman proper

Opening to Zul’Aman proper

Our efforts in detail after the cut.

(more…)

Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor March 26, 2014

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

More on the phishing front.  This arrived in my spam folder with the incongruous subject line:

Gift-Boost a character to Level 90 when you pre-purchase Warlords of Draenor!

That sounds like an announcement asking you to buy the expansion, but the graphic inside purports to have a code for a free copy of the expansion.

Congratulations

Congratulations

This looks to be built on the same template as the Reaper of Souls phishing attempt I mentioned back in January.  The game key is likely just as valid, which is to say not valid at all.

Of course, the most egregious part of the whole thing is the statement that the expansion will go live at noon on December 20, 2014.  I am not sure some of us can wait that long.

Picture of the Day – Attack Chopper Cat March 25, 2014

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

Gaff has belatedly wandered back to World of Warcraft with the rest of us.  He can now join us in our wait for Warlords of Draenor.  But he is just getting started with Mists of Pandaria, so he has a little while until he hits level cap.  His druid was the first of his characters into Pandaria, and he was in cat form when he jumped into the gyrocopter strafing mission.

Attack Cats are Go!

Attack Cats are Go!

I cannot tell if he is calling for blood or just terrified.  That is not a naturally tenable position for a cat.

Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What? March 17, 2014

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

these new boost 90s are ruining the game

-Search term of the day

Last week we got insta-level boosts in both EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

In WoW they are a $60 option, though you get one “free” with the purchase or pre-order of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

In EQ they are a $35 option… or maybe less, depending on how you acquired your 3,500 Station Cash… and you can get one that is actually free for a limited time.  The offer for that ends on March 26.

So I had to go try these out.

I went for the WoW option, boosting up a Death Knight, which I covered in another post.  There were quirks.  Some of them have been addressed.  You no longer get dumped at Timeless Isle when starting out, which is probably good.  But there are still points where you wonder how a new player is going to handle an insta-90.

I had to go look up how to play my Death Knight now that he had all of his skills and access to all of his talents and would be expected to have glyphs in group content.  I went to Icy Veins this time around, which has a nice set of class guides.  A new player might do that as well.

However, I did have a serious advantage over a new player in that I knew what I wanted this character to do at level 90.  He is already out and exalted with the Tillers so I have another farm for trillium when I need it.  I have him on a couple of other faction hunts and running through some content that benefits me overall.  I never hit the “so what do I do now?” question.   Of course, he got through some of the things I wanted so fast that I’ve gone back to another low level alt that I am leveling up.  But that is more a matter of being boosted to level cap where there is only end But he is also my third 90, so things like LFR are no longer fresh and new.)

I did wonder how it would feel if I didn’t really have a goal, what the game would be like if I got that insta-level character and was facing a world in which I had no real plan.  I couldn’t do that in WoW.

But EverQuest looked like it might be a different story.  While I have played plenty of EQ over the years, I have never had a character past level 60, so most of the last decade of new content is completely unknown to me.  So I was curious to see how the EQ insta-level plan, which gives you a fully equipped level 85 character, would guide me.  Time to take advantage of that free boost.

Heroic for Free

Heroic for Free

More after the cut because verbosity.

(more…)

The Insta-90 Choice is… Death Knight March 14, 2014

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

I went out and pre-ordered Warlords of Draenor because… well… because I wanted to play with the whole insta-90 thing and I didn’t want to just lay out $60 for the pleasure with nothing else to show for it.  At least I have the expansion queued up for some time this year.  This is what you get with your insta-level:

  • Boost to level 90
  • 150 gold
  • 4 Embersilk (22-slot) bags
  • A stack of 20 food items
  • Full set of spec-appropriate Item Level 483 (blue-quality) gear
  • If a boosted character was already level 60 or above, their existing Primary Professions and First Aid are bumped up to level 600
  • A faction-specific flying mount—a traditional Wind Rider for Horde or Gryphon for Alliance
  • Artisan flying—that’s one rank below max flight speed
  • Northrend, Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms, and Pandaria regional flying skills trained

I chose my level 68 Death Knight so as to get the primary professions bump as well.  I pulled the trigger and ended up with a level 90, fully equipped DK.

Tokarev, Level 95

Tokarev, Level 90

Of course, that list of what you get is general.  The details can be… interesting.

I didn’t bother to read any descriptions about the process or watch the video, I just did it and found myself standing at the flight point on Timeless Isle all geared up and with 102 free bag slots.  The starting location was no doubt a prompt to go get some even better gear, which I promptly did along with finding a crystal of insanity. (The cave was full of people doing the same.  I’d love to know how many fresh 90s there were this week.)

But 102 free bags slots?  Out of 104 total?  Where did all my stuff go?

Oh, it was in the mail.  Blizzard unburdened me of all my past worldly possessions and set them aside in a locker for me.  I guess, of possible options, that was a decent choice.  At least once I figured it out.

And on the unexpected front, I did get my primary professions boosted to 600, giving me max skill mining and jewel crafting.  What I did not get was any of the recipes along the way.  And the price of getting them… just the Pandaria ones that you can train… is a lot more than the 150 gold then give you.  Fortunately, I already had a pile of gold on my DK, so I trained that up, though I still have to go out in the world and find a good portion of the top tier recipes as drops.

Not the worst thing in the world, but it does put the question of the target audience in mind.  If you were a brand new player enticed in by the insta-90 scheme and only had that 150 gold… well… I guess you wouldn’t get the profession boost so it wouldn’t matter.

Now I just have to figure out how to play my DK.  I had been leveling him up as a tank, so blood spec, which was easy enough in The Burning Crusade.  But for the boost I opted for frost DPS spec, since you have to know what you’re doing at level cap to tank.  The insta-90 process gave me the choice of spec.  Now I have a dual wielding DPS DK and have to figure out skills and glyphs and what not.  But at least I know where to go and what to do with him.  He is already stuck into faction with the Tillers and the Cloud Serpents.  We will see if I have the fortitude to bring another melee DPS into LFR.

So far, so good I guess.

I also plan to take advantage of the freebie insta-85 boost over in EverQuest this weekend.  We only have until the 26th for that.  I will be interested to see how the two compare.

But That is the Name the Random Generator Gave Me! March 14, 2014

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

My pal Xyd sent me this picture from the new character creation screen in WoW.

Shlong

Random name generators are always fun, but since he was making a Panderan, was the name generator trying to make a joke about Chinese names?

How Blizzard Got Me to Play Hearthstone March 12, 2014

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

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Blizzard’s Warcraft themed digital collectable card game, went live rather suddenly yesterday.  There was a patch, a press release, and, hey presto, it was no longer in beta.

HearthstoneWhite_450

I suppose I should applaud Blizzard for not keeping the game in eternal beta, though that sort of behavior might have fallen out of vogue here in the post-Zynga world.  Which is fine.  I tend to at least furrow my brow severely at any game that is taking in money while claiming to be in beta.  Or alpha.

I actually downloaded Hearthstone back in January after reading John Smedley’s praise of the game (and how it might get SOE to do something with its own 6+ year old Legends of Norrath collectable card game).  But I did not actually play it then.

I think I launched the game and played the first step of the tutorial and then went back to something else.

Collectable card games are not really my thing.  The last time I took a stab at one was at the height of my daughter’s investment in Pokemon, when she was watching the TV show, seeing the movies, playing the video games, and wanted to round out her devotion by playing the card game.  Unfortunately, she only had me to play with and after a couple runs at it I declined to continue.

And while there are a number of reasons for my disinterest, high on the list was the general housekeeping .  This is why I enjoy games on the computer so much, there is a machine that takes care of the details.  Solitaire used to be a big deal for my grandmother, who used to play several hands of it every day after lunch.  She would pour herself a Coke, light up a cigarette, and deal out a deck of cards to take another try at “beating the Chinaman.”

Apparently some mythical Chinese guy was you opponent in solitaire back in the day.  My grandmother couldn’t explain it other than to say that was what her mother said when she was young.  At that point we’re talking about somebody who was alive while Queen Victoria reigned.

Anyway, I was always fascinated watching her.  But attempts to play myself were always ended pretty quickly by the mere effort of card handling.  And the fact that, after all the work of shuffling and laying out the cards and then moving strings of them this way and that, cheating seemed like a reasonable step once you hit a road block that would undo all that effort.  And once you start cheating you always win so there is no point in playing.

It wasn’t until the late 80s, when I found a good solitaire game on the Mac, that I actually enjoyed playing.  And I enjoyed it because the computer took care of the annoying bits as well as the fact that cheating was no longer possible.  I played a lot of it back then.  And, of course, once Microsoft put a version in as part of Windows 3, it became a vast time-wasting obsession for many people.  A couple companies I have worked for have specifically removed the game from all company computers, lest we fritter away the days playing solitaire.

(Meanwhile, my grandmother quit smoking a few years later… pretty much everybody in my family smoked when I was born and then gave it up eventually… which, in turn, ended her solitaire playing.  The whole Coke, cigarette, solitaire routine was a tight knit package and she couldn’t have one without the other two.)

I am sure after that side-trip down memory lane (I miss my late grandmother), some CCG fan somewhere is tapping their foot impatiently, ready to point out that there are all sorts of digital versions of collectable card games out there that take care of the housekeeping chores… like, say, Hearthstone, which I have already said I downloaded and installed.

Which leads us to the other thing I am not too keen about when it comes to collectable card games:  They are pretty much designed as vehicles to sell product.

I like playing card games.  I have played cards all my life.  I still enjoy solitaire now and again.  My wife and I will play Gin Rummy at the kitchen table.  For a good fifteen years a group of former co-workers and I used to get together every other Wednesday night to play cards.

And never once in that time has the United States Playing Card Company introduced a new playing card to the standard 52 card deck (plus two Jokers and that odd ball rules card that somebody always forgets to remove) that forced me to go out and buy little random packets of playing cards in order to stay competitive.  Sure, there are some fancy decks, as well as the occasional pinochle deck that used to confuse me as a child.  And I have quite the collection of decks with various casino logos on the back.  But otherwise a standard pack of cards stands alone.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, beyond a certain point of play, Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon or whatever other big name CCG you care to name, are all about introducing cards over time to get people to buy new card packs.  It is a fairly lucrative business as I understand it.  I just have no interest in supporting it.

And the same goes for the digital versions, like Legends of Norrath and Hearthstone.  Their purpose in the world is to sell more cards.  Only you don’t even get nice physical cards to hold in your hand and, at least in the case of Legends of Norrath, they seek to replicate the whole “pack unwrapping” process in the most annoying way possible.

So Hearthstone, despite all the praise it has garnered, remained low enough on my list of things to do that it was pretty much untouched since the day I downloaded it.

And then Blizzard said, “How would you like a free mount in World of Warcraft?

Must have it NOW!

Must have it NOW!

They certainly know which button to press.  I will jump through many a hoop for a new mount.  Pretty much my whole reason for grinding all of the factions in Mists of Pandaria is that Blizz was wise enough to give each faction quartermaster at least one mount you could buy, but only after you hit exalted.  And I am not alone in that regard.

So I joined in with probably many other WoW players last night in learning to play Hearthstone.  I managed to shamble my way through the tutorial, learning the game despite myself.  It took me four tries to get past the Hemet Nesingwary part of the tutorial, which was trying to get you to contain your opponents minions.  With Illidan Stormrage I managed to grasp the “go for the throat” message it was sending after only one failed pass.

And then it was off to face my fellow WoW players, all stacked at the bottom of the rankings in what seemed to be a pretty universal pile of poor players in it for the mount.  Or such is my guess, because I managed to win the three games necessary for the mount in only four tries.  The one time I lost I was matched up against somebody who, if they didn’t know what they were doing, they had at least gained more from the tutorial than I had.  They were also the only person I played that wasn’t using the default Mage deck.

The other three though I beat simply because they made even more mistakes than I did.  The most common mistake seemed to be to click the “End Turn” button before having your minions on the field attack.  Must not click that button until you hear the “Job’s done” quip.  The second most common mistake looked to be ignoring the opposing minions altogether in hopes of knocking out the opposition in a concerted attack.  My last opponent made that mistake in spades.

My third win

18 points of hurt ready to go

He knocked me down from 30 to 15 in fairly short order and only then seemed to realize that my minions were going to do him in faster than he could hope to finish me off, in much the same way Hemet Nesingwary did me in three times.  So I guess that segment of the tutorial worked.   The coup de grace was drawing the six damage fireball card when he only had two points left and was already facing an unstoppable minion attack.

But more important that stomping my opponent was getting that mount.

Hearthstone Reward

Hearthstone Reward

Of course, at that point I left Hearthstone to log into WoW to see if my mount had been delivered.  I had read a number of early complaints about people not getting credit for their three wins or not getting the mount delivered or some other sad story.  But when I logged in, it was waiting for me in the mail.

Mei Francis Delivers

Mei Francis Delivers

Of course, I got it out and joined the other people running around and otherwise attempting to be “that guy on the horse” at the various congregation points in Azeroth.  There were plenty of us.  I wonder how many people got the “Hearthsteed” achievement that goes with the mount yesterday?

Before the Shrine of Seven Stars

Before the Shrine of Seven Stars

It isn’t a bad looking mount, all things considered.  The effort spent getting was worth it, relative to many other mounts I have gone after.  I certainly spent more time per mount working on the Netherwing faction.

Hearthsteed closer up

Hearthsteed closer up

An evening well spent, at least in my book.

But will I go back and play Hearthstone after this?

There is the question.

While I was fixated on getting my three wins, I did have fun playing against real people, even way down at the bottom of the skill level curve.  My evening was well spent playing as well as obtaining.

On the other hand, Hearthstone is still well down the list of games to play right now with two other Blizzard titles, World of Warcraft and Diablo III ahead of it.  So I suspect that, for the time being, I won’t be clocking much more time with Hearthstone.

At least until the iPad version becomes available.  I could see Hearthstone as a very viable “away from my computer” game to play.  And while a version for the iPad has been promised, there is no word on when we might see it.  So Hearthstone might be idle for a while.

Unless, of course, the rumors about the Red Hearthsteed turn into something.