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A Busy Thursday in August for MMOs August 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EVE Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
8 comments

Here it is Wednesday night and I am wondering what I am going to post about tomorrow.  I have several choices, as tomorrow appears to be a busy day in the MMO world.

Blizzard

At 9:30am Pacific Time (16:30 UTC) Blizzard is going to do their big announcement for the date for the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

Save the date! Which date?

Tell us the date

That is the date people have been waiting for… and predicting would come early or earlier… since the beginning of the year.  My own pick back in January was September 9th, a date judged as pessimistic by some.  Now I am going to guess November 18th, right near the 10 year anniversary but just before the holiday season begins in the US.

Blizzard will also be showing us the cinematic for the expansion, which will no doubt be much discussed, but won’t tell us much more than the story behind the whole thing.

CCP

Then just a couple hours after that, at 20:00 UTC (13:00 Pacific Time), CCP will be holding their own live stream on their Twitch channel to present the next expansion for EVE Online, Hyperion.

No Hyperion graphic yet...

No Hyperion graphic yet…

So far this has been billed as the big “fix wormhole space” expansion.  I didn’t even know W-space was broken, but players will work whatever system is in place.

Sony Online Entertainment

Then in the evening, at some point past 19:00 Pacific Time (2:00 UTC) SOE will be having their SOE Live Welcome Keynote address.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

This will also be on their Twitch channel, though  SOE is trying to get people to put down $20 for their channel, so I am not sure what you get for free.

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

While we probably won’t get much in the way of details, this is the likely point during the event for any big announcements.  This will produce news, and I will be watching the EQ2 Wire blog for a summary. (And they have a list of streamed SOE Live events.)

BioWare

And at some point today BioWare will be launching the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Galactic Strongholds.

Housing!

Housing!

This will be the housing expansion for SWTOR and I will be interested to hear what path they have chosen for this and how players react.

Addendum: Or maybe not.  I thought there was a live stream planned for today about housing, but I must have dreamed it.  Probably for the best.

Others?

Meanwhile, Gamescom is still running in Germany and I haven’t checked to see if any other developers have decided that the second Thursday in August is THE day to announce something, but I won’t be surprised if somebody else is on board.

Which announcements will you be paying attention to?

Civilization – The Battle for Yaroslavl August 13, 2014

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

We returned for our twelfth round of this game of Civilization V, which started back in early May.  Joining me this week was Potshot and Loghound, it being Mattman’s turn for a week away.

I had a very simple goal for this round.  I wanted to knock out two, or maybe three if we were lucky, of the AI civilizations.  I figured that the fewer AIs gumming up the works, the more responsive the game would be.  And we had two very likely candidates.  Morocco, which had been hanging around without actually possessing a city since week 8, was first on the list.  Last week I had spotted what I had hoped were his last few units and I was ready to dispatch them as soon as we got going.

See you in hell Morocco!

See you in hell Morocco!

And then there was Russia, which had been reduced to a single city on a two hex island, hemmed in by Loghound and his Celts, and just waiting for the dagger to be driven home.

Yaroslavl Under Siege

Yaroslavl Under Siege

The potential third empire headed for destruction was that of Montezuma and the Aztecs.  With Potshot back it looked like we could renew our joint offensive and drive the Aztecs to the brink of destruction.

But first we had to start the game already.  More after the cut.

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SOE Live 2014 – What Are You Wishing For? August 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: , ,
8 comments

Currently I am not very invested in any SOE games.  I pay some attention to changes in EverQuest, with occasional glaces towards EverQuest II, based mostly on nostalgia for the “good old days,” but otherwise there isn’t much in their current lineup that thrills me.  Landmark has some potential once it gets closer to being feature complete.  EverQuest Next has raised some enthusiasm, but exists only as a blur on the horizon at this point.  And the other remaining titles aren’t really my thing.

But here it is, the week of SOE Live, the time for announcements big and small.  Yes, whatever Smed says during the Thursday night keynote will likely be overwhelmed in the news cycle by Blizzard’s big Warlords of Draenor announcement planned for earlier in the day… I think the timing was more to head off the subscription numbers news than to stick it to SOE, but they seem to have gotten a threefer on that one if you include the SWTOR hit as well… plus there is Gamescom this week as well… but some of us will still be paying attention to SOE.

SOELiveLogo

And because it is that time, I am asking myself what I would like to see and what I expect come out of the event.  SOE Live can bring with it some very big news.  Last year had a lot of people talking about EverQuest Next.  What will we get year?

What I Expect

  • Some firming up of the Landmark timeline, with some more details about specific features, but no real “go live” information
  • Expansion announcements around EverQuest and EverQuest II, though as the F2P years roll along I am not sure expansions have all that much impact any more unless they raise the level cap or add new AA features
  • An open/paid beta plan for H1Z1 with an estimated date for access that will be off by at least a month
  • Something about fixing whatever woes are currently afflicting PlanetSide 2
  • Some more screenshots and in-game video from EverQuest Next, but nothing playable and no concrete details

Things I Would Like to See

  • A date for Landmark to be feature complete and generally available for those who didn’t pony up for a pay-to-test package. (Even if it is off by 3-6 months.)
  • Something solid, tangible, and new about EverQuest Next
  • Or just something that ignites some hope that EverQuest Next will be a game I want to play

Things I Fear Might Be Communicated

  • Closing down PlanetSide… well, that might not be a fear for me, but I do wonder how it is still running
  • Little or nothing about EverQuest Next
  • A draw down of content for EverQuest, no more expansions, limited content updates on a vaguely expressed timeline
  • That some new game is dedicated to the dispossessed players of another SOE title that has been shut down (e.g. The planned science fiction biome in Landmark is really dedicated to former players of Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures)
  • Some new technological dead end like SOEmote or SOE Launcher to eat up dev cycles for no real benefit or follow through (cue Sony Olfactory Enhancements or some such)

Dreams Likely to be Unfulfilled

  • Something about the next EverQuest nostalgia focused server, progression, classic, or otherwise
  • An announcement that an EverQuest II nostalgia focused server… original content, steeper leveling curve, more difficult mobs, or whatever… is in the offing
  • Something that might otherwise revive my interest in either EverQuest or EverQuest II… but I don’t know what… what is the “fix these games for Wilhelm” plan?
  • An open/paid beta plan for EverQuest Next with an estimated date for access… this I might pay for… maybe
  • Something about hats… no… wait…

From Left Field on Bizarro World Unlikely

  • The Agency being revived on the PlanetSide 2 platform ala H1Z1
  • The return of any dead SOE game
  • A new game announcement
  • The EverQuest Next plan being completely revised from last year’s announcement
  • EverQuest Next being cancelled
  • A ship date for EverQuest Next

So those are my various lists.  What do you want to see, expect to see, or fear might come from this year’s SOE Live?

 

People Aren’t Wearing Enough Hats! August 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , , , ,
6 comments

Last week Rixx Javix put up a post over at his blog about hats.

Specifically his post was about EVE Online avatars that he has adorned with hats over the years, including his own and others.

A selection of Rixx Javix hats

A selection of Rixx Javix hats

You should go look at that post.  He has done a lot of hats.  EVE Online avatars with hats on them appear to be quite a thing.  Even my own avatar on the blog is my EVE avatar with a horned helm applied to it. (I used that avatar at work as well.)

That lead me to joke that if CCP had given us hats instead of monocles with the Incarna expansion, things might have gone a bit differently.

I was, of course, being silly, and doubly so because monocles were never the main issue with Incarna.

But still, I felt in my gut that there was something to this.  Hats are fun.  Putting on a hat is almost the simplest form of costume.  Hats lend a sense of style, silliness, or personality when put on.  I love hats.

In fact, in-game if I cannot have a good hat I won’t wear any hat at all.  But I will go out of my way for a hat that fits my mood or forms the basis of a look.  One of the things I miss about Rift is that it had both a varied selection of hats available and a cosmetic system that allow players to easily wear what they liked.

Hillmar with his mean face on

I always liked that farmer’s hat on Hillmar

I realize that Blizzard wanted to use transmorg to get gold out of the economy, but the restrictions on what can be transmog’d into something else are too restrictive in my book.  I want to make my plate helm look like Whitemane’s chapeau or the Hydromancer’s Headwrap!  Is that too much to ask? (Also, the stuff you sell in the Blizz Store… the hats… they look awful.)

Fortune Telling Foursome

Fortune Telling Foursome

And in Lord of the Rings Online as well, I always had to find the right hat.

Manteca the Goon

Go ahead, say something about me hat!

Hats may be the only item I have eagerly spent money on in cash shops.

Who you calling, "fuzzy?"

Bunny hat I bought in EverQuest II

And there is Team Fortress 2 which apparently finances itself entirely through the sale of hats.  That seems to indicate that it isn’t just me with the whole hats thing.  Hats make the character.

Hats seem to be a thing worth monetizing.  Here is an opportunity for CCP to add something to their in-game cash shop that people might buy.

I hear somebody from the back of the hall saying, “But you can buy hats in EVE Online.  And they are bringing more in with the Hyperion expansion.”

And I would have to admit that those are true statements.  But the options currently available do not thrill me, and the options they are adding with Hyperion are even less palatable.

Hyperion Apparel Additions

Hyperion Apparel Additions

That was clearly the problem with the NEX Store, or whatever they are calling it these days; not enough color choices in the hosiery section.

Anyway, those headgear options barely qualify as hats and certainly do not represent anything I would want to display on my avatar.

What CCP needs to do here is get off the whole dark brooding dystopian future… after all, this is the future where anything should go, so if you can name yourself DoomBunny or HVAC Repairman (or even Dabigredboat) in-game and be taken seriously… and at least one of those people is… then fix things so you can find a decent hat in New Eden.  Dystopias tend to have pretty decent hat selections.  Look at Blade Runner or that snappy model Alan Arkin wore in Gattaca.  And lets not forget the Mad Max series.  Or the Soviet Union.  Police states and dictatorships practically rise and fall on their haberdashery selections.

So here is what I want.

I want to have a wide selection of hats, from subdued to zany, that I can buy from the in-game cash shop and apply directly to my in-game avatar so when anybody sees it come up in an info screen… or if they are one of those horrible people that leave icons on in chat… there is my damn hat in full view making exactly the statement I want… which is that I think hats are cool.  In a year I want Rixx Javix to look at the store in EVE Online and say something like, “I can’t keep up with that.”

But that is not all I want.

No, I want an entire hat subsystem in the game.  I want to be able to buy a hat from the store and apply it to my avatar right away, easy-peasy, no questions asked.  I want a hat inventory window where I can view and select from my ever growing collection of hats so I am always wearing the hat appropriate to my mood and the occasion.  I want the method by which I acquire in-game currency… Aurum, isn’t it?  I want that simplified.  I don’t want to have to buy a PLEX and then convert it to Aurum.  That commits me to a nearly $20 transaction.  Just sell me a stack of Aurum, small to large, starting at $5.

Which leads me to the last, and most essential bit.  Make the hats cheap.

We have a luxury item with a non-insignificant amount of overhead to create, but which has almost zero incremental cost per unit sold.  You make it once and sell it a zillion times and your costs don’t change all that much.

Because here is something that Jester got totally right on the similar topic of ship skins, which are too expensive (and too inconvenient) for most people to buy for ships they are going to lose.

Price the hats so that you will sell many.  I want them to be cheap enough that an FC can call for a specific hat style and get decent turn out on that front.  I want them to be cheap enough to feel okay calling anybody who refuses to “hat up” a cheap-ass scrub.  I want to see GSOL running around in yellow construction hats and Theta Squad in fezzes and Triumvirate in very serious fedoras and a halo for The Mittani and a selection of pirate hats and horned Viking helms for every low sec pirate corp to feel included.

What hat would you and your corp or alliance want?

I know, I know, technical details, 3D modeling, limited resources, everything is too hard.  Make the hats freakin’ stickies to apply to your avatar ala that horrible system in Google Hangouts.  You can add in fright wigs, red ball noses, and bow ties while you’re at it them.

All I know is that I want some decent, affordable hats dammit.

Which CSM member will take up this cause?  Who will lead the campaign for more hats in New Eden?

I would, but I’m trying to get this Soviet Naval officer’s cap on my avatar.  It just isn’t quite right.

Comrade Wilhelm

Comrade Wilhelm

A work in progress.

 

World of Warcraft – 10 Years 10 Questions August 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft.
Tags:
10 comments

Over at ALT:ernative chat there is a survey request centered around the impending World of Warcraft ten year anniversary.  Since bloggers do it for an audience, I will answer the questions in the form of a blog post (as bloggers were encouraged to do.)  You are encouraged to respond as well.  Please go to the site linked for recommended response methods.

Victory over VanCleef

Victory over VanCleef 2006

1.Why did you start playing Warcraft?

Back in the day a number of people I knew from EverQuest started cajoling me to come over and take a look at WoW.  They had left EverQuest, spent a month or so in EverQuest II, then hopped to WoW, never to return to either SOE title in any serious way.  Meanwhile, Gaff and I and a pack of TorilMUD players stuck with EQII.  In March of 2005 I gave in to the calls to come try WoW, as EQII was having problems and Vanguard wasn’t ready yet.

I did not like WoW all that much on my first venture, leaving after two months.  A few months after that our EQII guild pretty much abandoned the game and came to WoW.  That was fun, but we were a bit of a group without a rudder.  It wasn’t until late 2006, just after I started this blog, that the regular instance group got together and began its journey through Azeroth (and a few other games).

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

I rolled up a dwarven paladin on the Hyjal server, and that character was part of the reason that WoW did not stick with me initially.  I didn’t like the dwarven character models (I’ve since grown used to them), I didn’t like the dwarven starter area (snowy zones are all just bland white), and I didn’t like the Paladin (this was the age of no ranged pull for paladins, so a lot of running to mobs only to have some mage zap it before you got there).  That character has long since been deleted.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

Faction choice was entirely dictated by what my friends were playing.  I have since played characters on both factions, but everybody I knew was playing alliance when I started.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

When our standing five person group killed Archaedas in Uldaman for the first time back in 2007.  It was our third run, it was after midnight, we had wiped already, and we won just by the skin of our teeth.

The Moment of Victory

The Moment of Victory

I found that I was shouting loud enough after the fight that I woke up my wife in the other room.

There have been lots of other memorable times, but for some reason that particular fight stands out even seven years later.

5. What is your favorite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

The five person group content, the single group dungeon crawl.  We have a standing group that has been doing that content off and on since 2006.  That is the structure around which the game revolves for me.  I do lots of other things in game, but that is the baseline.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

Not really.  I used to have a very same-ish leveling path for characters back in the day, but Cataclysm and other changes to WoW have killed that off.  Now I am all over the place.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I have been playing off and on since March 2005, but over too many characters on half a dozen servers such that I am not going to go add them all up.  (Plus that might be a very scary number.)  In that time there have been about 20 months where I have not been subscribed, most of that coming after Cataclysm.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

About 60% of the time I only look the objectives, which sometimes gets me in trouble.  I always seem to not pick up the magic dingus next to the quest giver that you need to finish the quest at the far end.  You fail to read, you pay the price.  If a quest is clearly related to the story being told in the zone, I usually stop and read it.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Nothing significant.  There are always plenty of, “I wish I knew this before I set out…” sorts of moments, but that goes for anything and they sometimes lead to the more memorable situations.  Failure is often more interesting that success.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

WoW itself?  Not a lot in general, as I was playing online games for nearly 20 years before it came along.  I do play with my daughter and my mother, so there is something of an out-of-game bonding that comes along with the shared experience of the game, which is great.  My daughter and I can go on for hours in the car talking about WoW, though that does drive my wife mad at times.  And there are lots of fine memories.  I even did a video at one point about the first year of our regular instance group.

All in all, a fine game.  Four and a half stars, would play again.

You can find a listing of other blog, video, and podcast responses to these questions here.

Weekend Fleet Ops in Delve August 11, 2014

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

The “Good Fites” war in Delve continues on, giving us something to do during our summer vacations, such that they are.  As usual, I tend to just sit and do other things until Jabber pops up and tells me it is time for a space fight.

Saturday morning seemed to be a rich time for ops.  I missed an earlier tower defense, but happened to just sit down at my computer when a call went out for Harpy fleet.  They had suffered some losses during a fight and were re-shipping in F2OY-X, so there was an opportunity to jump in.  I quickly got online and on coms and was off with the fleet to NOL-M9 where a Northern Coalition Tengu fleet was in the process of being pinned down.  NOL is about at the edge of what is the current radius of action around the NPC null sec stations in Delve.

The hot corner of Delve

The hot corner of Delve

We arrived just in time to find the NC Tengu fleet bubbled up and heavily committed.  We were able to warp to the fight and join in at extreme range for Harpies, using Spike ammo and range scripts.

Rolling in on the bubbled Tengus

Rolling in on the bubbled Tengus

Time dilation was running close to 10% at times with a lot of ships on grid, but we were able to close and get in on our share of kills before the remaining hostiles slipped the trap.  We then bounced around quite a bit trying to catch them on their way home, but there was no further action for the Harpies and we eventually headed home ourselves.

That fleet slaked my need for a fight, but when a call came up two hours later for a Baltec fleet to go and kill some super capitals, I was in as quick as I could be.

On coms the word was that there were supers tackled and so it was time to go go go!  Reagalan was FC and, as proof that we were in a hurry, he had us warp to zero when traveling to the titan waiting to bridge us, causing it to get a severe bumping. (Don’t bump the titan is the mantra of almost every bridging operation.)  We bridged immediately to another POS where another titan was waiting to bridge us soonest out to Rilera, where the supers were said to be waiting.

However, once we got there, the supers had slipped away.  We were left with a Black Legion carrier on the field though, which we proceeded to blow up as quickly as we could, and then we cleared out all the drones that the supers left behind.  Super pilots leave so much litter behind I swear I saw a crying space Indian… or native American… or whatever.

No splitting fire with just one target

No splitting fire with just one target

We then managed to corner a Black Legion Ishtar fleet and took a bite out of them before they got away.  There were a lot of people hanging around the system for a while, and then people faded and Reagalan had to figure out what to do with us.  We were in a low sec system, which was fine, but to get back to Querious and F2OY-X, we needed to travel through high sec.  Rilera is a pocket of low sec surrounded by high.

The route to low sec

The route to low sec

For me this was no big deal.  My security status is 4.98.  But there were a lot of people in fleet with negative security status, all the way down to -10 if coms are to be believed.  And I have yet to be in a CFC fleet that has to pass through high sec where anybody seemed to know definitively what will happen if low security status pilots go into high sec.  Will CONCORD shoot them, will faction police shoot them, will they get pointed or just webbed before being blown up, will they be able to get through in a battleship… always questions with half a dozen conflicting answers on coms.

Reagalan eventually just got us lined up on the jump gate to Col, gave everybody the destination, and told us to just fly as fast as possible through high sec.  There was nothing else for it, nobody was going to risk jumping a titan out to low sec just to rescue a few relatively cheap battleships.  So we went.

And, as far as I could tell, nobody got blown up.

From there it was just a matter of getting to null and the jump bridge network for The Initiative, which we can use, and hey presto we were home.  A lot of anxiety for naught.

That was it for me on Saturday, but Sunday held the promise of more fights.  One of our towers was reinforced in 1-SMEB and the timer was set to come out at around 19:00 EVE time.  Skymarshal Blawrf McTaggart was putting up pings on Jabber about this operation, counting down to the undock time and practically promising a fight.

STRATOP FORMING IN 30 MINS. We’ll be forming large – tengufleet as first fleet, baltec as second, fyf & harpies as third. BE IN F2O FOR A SUNDAY BRAWL

Since 1-SMEB is in the Delve hot pocket, I figured this would be a short commute for a fight, so got into the Tengu fleet.  I am starting to acquire a ship for every occasion in F2OY-X.

We formed up, caused a lot of TiDi undocking, bridged to 1-SMEB, got to the POS and watched the tower count down the minutes.

And nobody showed up.  Well, we showed up, but the other side did not.  We ran off to a blocking position in another system, lest this be some trickery of some sort.  But the hostiles were not going to fight us.  Eventually Blawrf was back on Jabber telling us the fight wasn’t going to happen.

After broadcasting for guarenteed fight all day, the lowsec pirates sit on a titan and ref a moon before docking again. Sorry that we didn’t get a fight.

We wandered back home and stood down.  Unfortunately, that was about all I had time for on Sunday.  I left Jabber up and it looked like there were fleets of opportunity throughout the day, but I was done.  Still, two fights out of three tries isn’t a bad record for null sec.

Some screen shots of the various ops after the cut.

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And What of Raptr? August 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: ,
12 comments

I originally installed Raptr to track my game play time.  I wanted to see what games I was really playing over the course of time.

And for that it has worked out well enough.  I had previously used XFire, which did give me better low level data, but which always had some problem or another.  It was bad at tracking certain games.  I could never, for example, get it to track EVE Online, a game I have played a lot of over the years.  Leaving that out of the mix would be a serious gap.

So, since late 2010, Raptr has been keeping track of my time spent playing games.

The start date is a little late to get a real sense of my gaming history.  EverQuest II is dramatically under represented in hour played if the time frame had been from 2004 or even 2006 forward.  And there is a big chunk of time allocated to EverQuest II Extended, which is still counted as a separate game despite having been merged into EverQuest II in late 2011.  And game tracking isn’t perfect.  There are games it does not track.  Nobody will know, as an example, how many hours I have spent playing Civilization II.

But it gets the basic job done.

And over the years Raptr has added some things that I have found interesting.  I like the friend’s list comparisons for each game, so you can see who else plays a game on your list.  I am okay with the notification of people launching a game.  It often isn’t that helpful, but once in a while it alerts me that Potshot is logging on.  And the yearly gaming reports have some fun trivia.

Raptr2012RareAchi

I was also happy when Raptr let me import my XFire stats, which basically added Battlefield 1942 to my list.

RaptrBF1942

XFire used to be quite useful back in the day for games like that.  You could see your friends online and join them on the server on which they were playing.  That was a huge boon, as the server interface for the game was a mess.

And they have given out some fun stuff as part of promotions done in conjunction with games like Rift and EVE Online.  While I flew around a bit in the Catalyst destroyer in EVE, I think the little Raptr dino pet in Rift is probably my favorite.

Four Enter... plus a dino

Four Enter… plus a dino

Generally speaking, I like Raptr and look at it regularly.

Of course, there have always been parts of Raptr that I haven’t cared for.

I realize, for example, that Raptr probably has to have an IM client built into it, but given nearly a dozen other IM services on my system, it isn’t one I use very often.

They also push a lot of promotions at me in which I have no interest, something that has ramped up since Raptr started giving you points for your play time which you can spend on these special offers.  I have a lot of points and haven’t spent a one.

And they have started integrating other services into the client so I can launch my games, stream on Twitch, optimize my video settings, share screen shots, and record gaming sessions, none of which I particularly want or need.  Even if I wanted to do something like stream, I am not sure the first recommendation for getting started would be “Install Raptr!”

I understand that Raptr has to find its niche and make money, but as each of these features has been added over time, the bits I actually use have been pushed further and further into the background.  Not so long ago I used to be able to just bring up my profile from the taskbar control.  Now I can only bring up the Control Center.

Out of Control

Out of Control

From there I can click on my avatar in the upper right hand corner to get to my profile.  But that is my social media profile (which I no longer use because they don’t want external stuff… like blog posts… linked and I am not interested in having essentially another blog) and I have to click on About to get to the little bit of detail that I actually want to see.

That BoonSmith has a lot of hours...

That BoonSmith has a lot of hours…

I know, cry me a river over the horrible inconvenience I face trying to access a bit of trivial data.

What I installed Raptr for in the first place is mostly still there, even if it gets moved around or hidden more and more often.  But more and more Raptr is cramming stuff into their client that does not interest me, which is not without cost.  Just sitting idle the various Raptr processes are eat up more memory and processing time than Steam.  At some point I have to ask myself if I am the type of person Raptr wants using their service.  Are they burying the bits of their service I like because they would really rather people like me just go away?

 

 

Picking My 2014 Club Nintendo Reward August 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Nintendo, Nintendo DS Hardware, Pokemon, polls.
Tags:
8 comments

Back when we got the Wii and a paid of Nintendo DS Lites and my daughter an I were playing Pokemon or Mario Party 8 or LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy every Saturday morning, we went pretty whole hog into the Nintendo experience.  We got Nintendo Power Magazine, we kept up with their news sites, we went to Nintendo events that showed up locally, and my daughter even went to the Nintendo World Store in New York when she was there on a trip.

And, of course, we set ourselves up with Club Nintendo.

ClubNintendo

Club Nintendo is basically Nintendo’s customer loyalty program.  You make and account there and register your Nintendo products (each product comes with a code that directs you to Club Nintendo, so it is tough to miss) and take surveys about the games you have played to earn coins.  The coins can be spent on various cheap but often exclusive prizes.  I had some coins that were expiring this year and used them to buy my daughter a pair of posters with all of the characters from Animal Crossing: A New Leaf.  It can be a lot of that sort of thing.

Animal Crossing Posters

Animal Crossing Posters

If you get enough coins in a year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, you can earn Gold (300 coins) or Platinum (600 coins) status.  That entitles you to a special reward at the end of the cycle.

Back in the day those were rewards were similar little things.  I think we got a set of special DS Lite styluses one year and a Pokemon plush toy another.  That was about it during the Wii and DS Lite days.  But as time moved on and Nintendo bought into the digital delivery system, which started with the Virtual Console on the Wii for old games and then became a regular store with the Nintendo DSi series and the Wii U, game downloads started to become prizes.

Occasionally there is a special new game, but mostly they are popular games from Nintendo’s past.

This year, with the purchase and registration of two Nintendo 3DS XL units, two copies of Pokemon, and a couple of other games, we hit gold status pretty easily.  The rewards have been announced.  I have until August 15, next Friday, to choose one.  But I cannot figure out which one to pick.

The choices are:

Gold Level 3DS Rewards

Gold Level 3DS Rewards

There are actually more choices on the list for Gold level rewards, but they are for the Wii U, and we haven’t been convinced that buying one is worthwhile yet, MarioKart 8 and the Luigi Death Stare not withstanding.

Having come to the world of Nintendo later in my life… I already had a computer when Atari crashed the video game market and avoided console gaming for years… a lot of the Nintendo classics are just names on a list for me.

Given the choice of these four games, I would probably go for Donkey Kong 3. I am not a big fan of old DK, so it would be mostly because I am at least familiar with the oeuvre of the big ape.  Throw barrels, kill plumber.  We call all related to that.

I have heard of Metroid… Nintedo fans tend to say that name in hushed tones and a sense of reverence while wishing for a perfect remake… but have no idea what it is actually about.  And the other two are completely opaque to me.

Basically, four blind choices.  So I am going to put it out there for a vote.  Which of these four titles should I get?

We shall see where that takes us.  Expound on your choice in the comments if you are passionate enough about it.

Do You Remember Dragon’s Prophet? August 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs, Sony Online Entertainment.
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10 comments

Whenever I end up looking at the SOE MMO lineup, I am always surprised to see a new MMO on the list.

SOE Live 2014 list

SOE Live 2014 list

Down on the bottom row, second from the right, is Dragon’s Prophet.  And every time I see it, I think, “Hey, that’s new!”  As recently as my post post about the demise of Wizardry Online I was ready to add in that Dragon’s Prophet was the new Asian import set to replace it in the SOE lineup.

DragonsProphet450

But that isn’t right.  That isn’t right at all.  And it was a good thing I checked up on it before I published that post. (See, I do catch some errors before I click the “Publish” button!)

Dragon’s Prophet has been out for nearly a year at this point, having launched in September of 2013, which means it was already a thing back when SOE announced it was closing four titles back in January… and I totally forgot about it then as well.

I just cannot seem to remember that Dragon’s Prophet is a thing.  I cannot tell if SOE just did a bad job publicizing the game’s launch, if it just go over shadowed by all the excitement around the EverQuest Next at SOE Live just a month before its launch, or if I am just getting old and/or can’t be bothered to care about Asian import MMOs… at least when their not trying to destroy cherished game of my youth with scantily clad horned gnomes.

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

Not part of MY Wizardry head canon

Whatever the reason, the game just could not seem to stay attached to my brain.  Which is odd because, while I do not actually play any SOE games regularly at this time, I do tend to pay attention to what they are up to.

Anyway, I decide I could fix this by giving the game a quick try.  I was encouraged to do this because of who made the game.  Unlike Wizardry Online from Gamepot, which appears to be batting 1.000 on the “games closed in North America” front, Dragon’s Prophet was developed by Runwalker Entertainment who also created Runes of Magic.

Runes of Magic is actually the only decent Asian import MMO that comes to mind.  It managed to cater just enough to western sensibilities to survive and thrive outside of the Asian market.

Of course, five years back, when Runes of Magic landed on the scene, it was kind of a big deal.  It was going to be the Asian import that “got” how to make an MMO for the west and it was coming in as a free to play game by design, at a time when F2P was mostly a niche for MMOs that failed badly at the subscription thing.

And Runes of Magic was even a bit controversial back in 2009, at least in our little corner of the blogesphere.  The game dared to charge $10 for a horse!  This practically set a few people’s hair on fire with the rage.  Doesn’t that all seem charmingly naive five years down the road?  Today if some game has a mount for just $10, it generally means it has been marked down.

But it was still a decent game despite the patcher, which I am reliably informed has remained just as awful to this day.  We actually got out there and gave the game a try, assessing its potential for the instance group.  We even did and instance and got housing and tried crafting and invested a bit of real world cash into the RMT currency before letting it drop.  I am not sure why we never went back at this point.  At the time we were busy with our horde group in World of Warcraft, and after Cataclysm we tried a number of games but never landed in RoM.

Anyway, the remaining impression of the game five years down the line was reasonably favorable.  And my impression of Dragon’s Prophet, after a few hours of play, is likewise reasonably favorable.

The character models themselves look a bit like RoM graphics brought forward five years.  They are a little more real looking, but still anime influenced.  And upon logging in there was just an air about the game… some combo of the fonts and colors and general layout… that made me think of RoM.

Not sure what all those bars actually mean...

Not sure what all those bars actually mean…

The mechanics of the game itself though are different.  It was claimed by some that RoM was very much an attempt by an Asian company to clone WoWDragon’s Prophet is more influenced by the design philosophies of Asian MMOs.  Movement is done with the WASD keys, but you steer with the mouse cursor and combat is much more about mouse clicks than hotbars.

Take that you fiend!

Take that you fiend!

It feels much more like Neverwinter in mechanics than WoW.  You click for attacks, big graphics display for your move, big numbers bounce up showing your damage, and you can jump around avoiding incoming attacks which are often telegraphed in advance by big red indicators on the ground.

Now THAT is a lizardman!

Big orange slash in Neverwinter

The graphics aren’t as… nice… polished… realistic… something… well, they are different from Neverwinter’s style.  And Neverwinter’s draw is, to my mind, more about being in Forgotten Realms and the whole Foundry aspect of the game that lets you run through player created modules.  Neverwinter is more like Dungeons & Dragons (table top game, not DDO), with various modules that exist in the same world but which are not necessarily connected by stories or geography.

And Dragon’s Prophet does feel Asian, with many of the usual conventions, like women in mini-skirts and high heeled boots tromping around in the wilderness hunting zombies.

That's what Wizardry Online said...

That’s what Wizardry Online said…

But even Runes of Magic didn’t get away from that, right down to the housing helper in a skimpy French maid’s uniform.  And there are, of course, the WoW conventions that still must be catered to.

Always exclamation points

Always exclamation points

Otherwise it seems to fit the standard MMO bill.  You are the hero in the Dragon’s Prophet story.  People go about town talking about you like there were no other players in the game fulfilling the exact same role and performing the very same tasks.

Talking about me again

Talking about me again

That NPC comment would have been a lot more impressive if I had not been stuck on that little tree stump at that very moment.  Or maybe the game was being sarcastic.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be a bad game.  The graphics are decent.  It ran well for the few hours I spent with it.  The combat is very dynamic.  I am not sure I will be able to find time to play the game seriously.  It isn’t bad, but it is still way down my priority list.  And if I stop playing, I am not sure I will ever get any sort of trigger to start back up again.  As I said above, I almost never hear anything about the game.

So how about you?  Do you remember Dragon’s Prophet?

Bloodmyst Isle – The Worst Zone in WoW August 7, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I know I have rolled up a Draenei character or two at some point.  There was a time that, if you wanted a shaman on the alliance side of things, you had to make a Draenei.  I am sure I gave this a whirl at some point.  But when I looked through my list of characters, I could only find a Draenei death knight.  Since death knights start at level 55, that means he never went through the whole Draenei starter zone.

So Draenei have not been my thing, what with only a single blue space goat in my roster.  Now however, with the whole Loremaster project going on, it was time to return to the Draenei level 10-20 zone, Bloodmyst Isle, and the last achievement I needed for the alliance 1-60 part of the game.

Bloodmyst Isle MAp

Bloodmyst Isle Map

This should have been a doddle.  The first twenty levels are often cited as the fun part of MMOs.  It gets you out in the open air, you run through some easy-peasy quests, you level up quickly, gain new skills, and generally experience a lot of the things that seem fun before ending up in the torpor of the mid-levels. But the Draenei experience lasted hours. It was a slow, horrible death process.  So much so that I am making it the official position of this blog that Bloodmyst Isle is currently the worst zone in World of Warcraft.  And I say this with the perspective of having done most of the 1-60 zones in the game over the last year, including Silithus, the Eastern Plagulands, most of Vashjir, and the blood elf starting zone.

I get to laying out the sins of this zone after the cut.

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