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Are We All in the Draenor Beta Yet? August 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Congratulations, you’ve been selected to participate in the beta test of World of Warcraft®: Warlords of Draenor™!

So said the email that arrived earlier this week.

Some war chiefs

Some war chiefs squeeze into the picture…

Yes, nearly two months after the beta started (but more than two months before it goes live), the net appears to have been cast wide for testers.  At the same time I got the email, one also came for my daughter’s account and two other people I know also got an invite this past week.  All we have in common is being subscribed, opting in for betas on Battle.net, and having pre-ordered the expansion.

You can download the client now! Be ready to log in to the game from Friday, June 27, at 2:00 PM PDT, when new content will be available to play.

As a beta test participant, you’ll experience the new content and features of Warlords of Draenor before the expansion is released. Over the course of testing, you’ll venture through the Dark Portal, establish your Garrison, and fight back against the Iron Horde!

Install is pretty easy now too.  The new Blizzard Battle.net combined launcher keeps track of your installs for you and will pull new ones down.  So if you have been given beta access, there are no codes or anything, you just select the beta and tell it to install.

Install now... or wait?

Install now… or wait?

My daughter was, of course, dying to install it on her system.  I, on the other hand, am debating my usual pattern of averting my eyes from anything I’ve already decided on.  I’ve pre-purchased the expansion, so I am going to play, there is no doubt.  Do I spoil that first day of discovery in November by running around in the expansion now?

For now I think I am going to stick to my plan.  I have a project under way in Azeroth already, so I am not starving for some new content.  I think it is best to keep things fresh.

I will just have to try not to listen to my daughter too much.  She is very excited about the new character models and she keeps trying to tell me about garrisons.

Better put on my headphones.

Savior of Blaugust – That Video Game Questionnaire Thing August 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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In which I again prove I am old and grumpy.

Blaugust is past the three week point.  You can see all the posts piling up over in our little corner of Anook, with more than 500 submitted at this point.  People are putting in the effort.

Blagust_No_BR

For somebody like me with a routine,a  pattern, a plan (I already know what I am posting 5 of 7 days next week, even if I haven’t written more than a title for most of them yet), and incredibly low standards (I’d rather write something than write something good as I theoretically get better with each post, right?), the addition of a few more posts in a month isn’t such a big deal.  Go look down the side bar to the archives menu.  I already effectively write one post a day most months as it is.  It is just a matter of spreading them around.

But the strain is beginning to show for some.  Somebody without a plan, for whom each day is a blank slate and an empty text editor, and who has standards they feel they need to maintain, this sort of sustained effort can be a trial.  Or so it seems.  I’m the guy with a plan and no standards after all.  Anyway, it has been a voyage of discover for some and a pain for others.

But a lifeline has been thrown to the Blaugust team, in the form of a video game questionnaire.  Jaysla over at Cannot Be Tamed has put together 21 questions for people to answer on their blogs, and the Blaugust team has gone for this like a drowning man grabbing for a… lifeline… I already used that metaphor, didn’t I?  See, complete crap.

Anyway, in the spirit of community spirit… or something… I too shall take the quiz, as well as linking out others who have taken the quiz in that community spirity spirit thing which I mention so recently in this run-on sentence.  Also, it allows me to be grumpy, pick nits, write about stuff as far as 40 years in the past, link back to a bunch of old posts where I covered bits of this in detail, and generally ramble on in my accustomed Friday fashion.  My previously planned Pokemon piece will be moved out to next week.

Others who have taken the quiz, some of whom aren’t even in Blaugust, but I am feeling expansive today:

And that is surely not all, just the ones I could find easily.  I will add more as they pop up.

As for my own answers, I am hiding those after the cut.  The whole thing is kind of long, there are pictures, I get a bit testy about a couple of the questions, there is a moment of sexual innuendo, and the whole ends up being something best hidden in the back room so that random passers by don’t inadvertently see it.

This is a choice, what will you choose?

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Two Shy in Terokkar Forest August 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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The chase for the Loremaster title continues in Outland.  Having decided to go through the unfinished zones the hard way, at level with a character new to each zone, it was time to get started.  My rogue, Trianis, ran through some of Hellfire Peninsula in order to gear up a bit and get to level 62 so that quests would be available, then headed into Terokkar Forest.

Map of Terokkar Forest

Map of Terokkar Forest

I will start off by stipulating that everything I bitched about while doing Bloodmyst Isle is present in Terokkar Forest as well; too many “kill 12 things” quests, the “kill 12 things” quests where there are only 15 things so if two people are trying to do the quest you start to hate each other, horrible drop rates for quests that require drops, having to run back and forth across the zone, being sent to kill minions and running back to the quest giver only to be told you now have to kill the boss behind all the now respawned minions, too many quests available to the player at one so that any story thread gets lost, and at least three escort quests where the NPC seems to actively seek out hostiles.

It is all there in the Blizzard of 2007, “People like quest? Then we will drown them in quests!” vision of how to make an MMO.

As I have said before, I have pretty much bought into Blizzard’s more recent vision of how to do a zone, where they limit you to two or three quests at a time to keep the story clear, pop up the “kill the boss” quest right then and there once you have killed the minions (or at least put the minions in combat with some of your allies so you don’t have to clear the field every time you need to pass through), and do not rely quite so heavily  “go kill a dozen foozles while we figure out where to send you next” mechanics.

And before you ask, no I don’t hate The Burning Crusade.  It has/had some of the best dungeon content in the game.  The instance group had quite a time there.  It is just the solo, overland quest philosophy that aches now even more than it did back then.

Anyway, all of that is there and… at least from this point forward… I will try not to dwell on those aspects of the zone.  They were at least mitigated by having access to a flying mount (though I started to yearn for the faster mounts after a few round trips) and playing through with a rogue who could at least stealth through bad guys at need.

So on to the zone… after the cut.

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Civilization – The Fall of Babylon August 20, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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The more people smoke herb, the more Babylon fall.

-Bob Marley

Babylon falling was certainly one of the possible scenarios as we went into the 13th session of our game of Civilization V.

Did you hear about the Netherlands?

Babylon awaits

This time around Loghound was off at a family event, but Mattman was back from camping, so he joined Potshot and I in the resumption of our campaign to reach some sort of victory condition.  But first we had to have trouble with Google.

In an attempt to avoid the problem last time, where Google seemed disinclined to let me join the event hangout, I went ahead and created the even for this week, stealing that job from Loghound.  However, while I created an event, I somehow did not attach a hangout to it and so… it was just an event.  I am not sure what good an event is in Google+ without a hangout.  It is more than a meeting reminder, since you can check in and such.

So Mattman, spotting my error, created a hangout and invited Potshot and I and, of course, Google wouldn’t let me join.  No idea why still.  Eventually I created a hangout and invited the other two, at which point we were joined together in all the audio/video splendor that this digital age allows.  Basically, three middle-aged guys on the a video conference call.

Finally we were able to get started, which meant letting the first turn drag out for a while as Mattman came to grips with how the AI had been handling his empire while he was away.  The phrase, “Deep, cleansing breaths” was muttered a number of times between sounds of exasperation.  But eventually he was able to reign in the AI’s deficit spending and “600 ship navy” plan so we could move on with the game.

More after the cut.

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SOE Live – The Norrathian Front August 19, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
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SOE Live went off this past weekend in Las Vegas and, in my typical hope in the face of reality sort of way, I tuned in to watch several of the live streams with the idea that SOE might have some magic potion that would tempt me back to one of their games… or would tell me something about the one I was looking forward to.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

So the keynotes for EverQuest, EverQuest II, and EverQuest Next were on my list, as well as a couple of the follow up panels and the main keynote.  Norrath is clearly what draws me to SOE.

However, the one thing I did not do was take notes while watching the streams.  Why would I?  Any normal company doing big announcements for various products which they had been working on for weeks, and which obviously had time to get press briefing packs complete with graphics and what not together, surely would have all of that information posted on their web site shortly after the respective keynotes.  Right?  I mean Blizzard had everything from their Thursday morning live stream up for the world to see on their main page by early afternoon the same day.  SOE had all the information together.  It should have been tee’d up so that after each keynote, somebody pressed a button to update the respective site so that all of your user facing media is delivering the same message.

But no, this is SOE.

As of my writing this, there is none of the information from SOE Live on the respective sites or forums as though none of this had happened.  So I had to thrash around looking for what other people wrote to get details that I would have written down had I not forgotten yet again how SOE runs their railroad.

EverQuest – A Return to Pirates

The EverQuest announcement focused on the upcoming expansion, as one would expect.  This time around SOE is returning to the nautical theme last visited with The Buried Sea expansion.  This time it is The Darkened Sea, which will launch on October 26 for All Access Pass members and on November 11 for the unwashed free to play masses.

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

The level cap goes up from 100 to 105 with this expansion.  There are more zones, access to the bazaar from outside of the bazaar, and a few other goodies.  As essentially an outsider to EverQuest content after… well… The Planes of Power really, though I have gone back for a couple of runs since… it is tough to find something to get excited about here.  Even Bhagpuss seems relatively calm in his words, tucked in at the end of a long post about SOE LiveEverQuest is catering to the installed base, we have long known that.  But even then, I don’t recall The Buried Sea being a fan favorite back in the day.  The blog review of it over at the past version of Mobhunter, when Loral was writing it (internet archive for the win, I miss Loral) seemed to be lukewarm at best.

But there it is.

EverQuest II – And Malice Towards None

Is EverQuest II the current standard bearer for Norrath?  I cannot tell if it is more popular than EverQuest or not.

Anyway, there was a small disturbance in the community force a few weeks back as the EQII forum dwellers started getting a bit testy about SOE’s trend towards social media and streaming and what not, to the point that information that would normally be in the forums first was falling all over the place.  I have long complained that SOE has favored their forums and used them as their primary method of information distribution as opposed to the web site they allegedly maintain for that purpose, and which is the first point of contact for any new player.  But at least with their forum bias they were concentrating in one spot, so at a minimum I knew I had to dive into the forums if I wanted current information.  Now I am not sure where to find things.

Or I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Feldon over at EQ2 Wire.  He keeps on top of that game like no other.  So it was a bit disappointing to see that SOE left him off the list of sites to be fed information in advance of Altar of Malice expansion announcement at SOE Live.  The embargo on that news dropped five hours before the EverQuest II keynote, so anybody paying attention knew all the details before the presentation.

So, yes, a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion brings in a new race… the Aerakyn, another one with built-in wings that can fly, though unlike that vampire race from a few years back, you won’t have to pay $80 to unlock all of its abilities… new dungeons, new raids, new overland zones, and a boost to 100 for most flavors of levels. (adventure, trade skill, guild)

The interesting bit for me are the level agnostic dungeons.  These run from level 20 to 89 and are suppose to make the process of leveling up to the more recent content… and the main mass of the player base… more fulfilling or some such.  I think the phrase was “not wasted.”  Currently, with the the state of abilities, both alternate advancement related and otherwise, jumping up through the first 60 or so levels tends to be challenging mostly in the form of figuring out what some of the outdated quest text really means.  So I gather that this is suppose to be more of a challenge so as to make game play fun.

Sounds good to me.  A pity that our past run in with EverQuest II with the instance group ended up with it on the banned list, as that sounds kind of like what we needed back then.

And, on the sea theme from EverQuest, there are also some islands involved, including the long lost Isle of Refuge, where we all used to start back in the day via the shipwrecked survivor video game trope.  There is also an island with dinosaurs.

Then there are all the other details.  Rabbit mounts.  A revamp of the extraneous deity system.  Another rank or two for spell/skill quality.  And a cross-server dungeon finder.  I am curious as to how dungeon finder works for EverQuest II, though not curious enough to actually go ruin somebody elses’ day by logging in a queuing up myself.

This all goes live on November 11, which is going to make for a busy week.  The EverQuest expansion above goes live for everybody that same day and just two days later, Warlords of Draenor launches.  (And then Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire come out less than two weeks after that.  Where will I find the time?)

As noted, all the details, live blog of the keynote, slides from the game mechanics presentation, and more are over at EQ2 Wire.  Check it out.

EverQuest Next – Dark Elf Disco

 EverQuest Next is where my hopes truly lie.  The idea that SOE could miracle their way into something that would tempt me back to the two remaining members of the Norrathian franchise (out of what, a dozen total EverQuest games according to Georgeons?) has always been a forlorn hope.

But EverQuest Next is the future.  The lack of news on that front has banked the flames of passion for that title, they remain aglow, waiting for the day when we get something tangible.  This was the keynote to which I paid the most attention, and which was both the most interesting and the least satisfying at the same time.

We got a look at some architecture, especially some of the dark elf stuff in its moody, pointed glory, some of which came from the fan base via Landmark.  SOE’s crowdsourcing/exploitation pays off.  They also showed some examples of the dark elf character models.  Dark elves are apparently the most popular race in both EverQuest and EverQuest II at this point, so it is important to get them right. (Screen grabs from the stream.)

The art all looked very good and very much made me want to go there… wherever “there” was… and explore.

Then the devs introduced the wizard, warrior, and cleric classes and went through some combat situations with them.  This was by far the most impressive bit.  Each was a quick run through of some combat encounters, followed by a step by step replay where he described what was going on at each point.  The combat looked fluid and dynamic and exciting.  Various moves flashed or blurred or exploded in very satisfying ways and there were no little damage numbers popping up, which helped with the visceral feel of the combat.  The little kid inside of me was shouting, “Oooh! Oooh! Let me try that! I want to do that!”

I recommend watching the replay of the keynote, which is available on YouTube.  The combat segment picks up at about the 29 minute mark and runs for about 20 minutes.

Of course, the downside to all of this was that there is no date in sight for EverQuest Next.  Speculation is that a launch is at least two years away.  Certainly they have to get all of Landmark nailed down first, as it represents the foundation on which EverQuest Next will be built.  So until Landmark is solid and stable and fully featured and live there can be no EverQuest Next.

Bummer.

David Georgeson invited us all to go read the ebooks that are being used to build up the lore for the game to tide us over… which I was honestly tempted to do after the combat stuff… but publicly SOE still seems most focused on Landmark and likely will remain so for some time.

Return to Norrath?

So while I found bits and pieces of all of the presentations interesting, is there anything that would make me focus on EverQuest or EverQuest II as my primary game?

Probably not.

I am in the odd duck position of having been away too long for both titles at this point, so the new stuff being piled on top of the level curve is so far away as to be effectively unreachable given my reserve of patience, but the old stuff I would have to work through… well, it didn’t interested me enough when it was new stuff to work through it.   The 20-89 level agnostic dungeons in EverQuest II are interesting, though I probably wouldn’t bother with them until level 40 or so, as the 1-40 game is the heart of my nostalgia for the game.

But who knows.

With the autumn I always seem to be hit with a bout of video game nostalgia.  Maybe I will heed Norrath’s call yet again?  Though unless Warlords of Draenor slips, it seems unlikely.

How about you?  Is Norrath in your future?

Tower Watch in Fountain and Delve August 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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It looked like it might be a good week for fights.  The word came down that the rest of the N3 coalition was going to deploy to Delve to join Northern Coalition and help boost their numbers.  NC and Black Legion had also gone out of their way to reinforce a number of CFC towers in both Delve and Fountain, which I took to be a good indicator.  As much as null sec veterans loathe the sovereignty mechanics, timers mean fights.  Both sides have a vested interest in showing up and being on grid when the tower comes out of reinforce.

However, it was not to be.  At least not for the times I was online.

During the week we rolled out to cover some tower swaps in Delve.  I was in Baltec fleet for that run.  We headed out to 1-SMEB to stand by as a small tower of ours was blown up so it could be replaced with a larger one.  Hostiles were reported forming up, but could not get the numbers to come fight us, so the only kill mail for Baltec fleet was our own tower.

On the way back from that we stopped at the BL staging system and hung out around the undock in hopes that somebody would come out.  CFC Sky marshal Blawrf McTaggart even flew around the station in a pod daring the enemy to emerge and pop him.

The Skymarshal's capsule

The Skymarshal’s capsule

But they didn’t have the numbers to come out.  Meanwhile, people started locking Blawrf up just for fun.  He was getting reps from several of the logis in the fleet.  Then Jay Amazingness put a target painter on him which lead one of the Fatal Ascension dudes to open fire… because FA.  So essentially we ended up popping him for BL.

Blawrf painted, getting reps, as the fatal beam lands...

Blawrf painted, getting reps, as the fatal beam lands…

It is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

After that it was back to base.

Saturday looked to be a prime day for a fight.  There were several towers in reinforce up in Fountain and Blawrf had been pinging us well in advance to get people out for the timer.

I was on early for the first call, as were a load of people.  We had well over 100 people in the Tengu fleet before the announcement that the fleet was up went out.  There was also a Baltec fleet and a Celestis fleet up as well along with the carriers that would be needed to rep the towers after they came out of reinforce.  Of course, we were gummed up for a while trying to get boosters for the fleet.  You need one for each wing and one for the fleet itself, each of which has to fly a very expensive ship and, in the case of the wing boosters, hang around in a safe spot during the battle giving boosts while hoping not to be scanned down.  I am still a long way from my training plan for that fleet role.  Maybe next war.

But eventually we got the support ships we needed and we off to Fountain.  We bridged through various systems and got to the first tower and hung out.  Intel came down saying that the hostiles could only get about 100 people into fleets because they were all watching the Alliance Tournament.

(Editorial: The Alliance Tournament is never going to be a popular esport because an outsider can’t tell what is going on by looking at the stream. You either see a single ship, which doesn’t give context, or you see the grid with some icons on it which is dull.  And even the announcers can’t keep up with what is going on with all the ships.)

So with 600 of us stomping about Fountain, there didn’t seem much point for them to come out to play.  But we still had to stick around and cover the capital fleet and their tower operations just in case.  That meant staying system, but we didn’t have to sit on the tower itself, so the FC took us through some anomalies just to shoot stuff.

Tengus blowing stuff up

Tengus blowing stuff up

That got us some ISK for bounties as we melted anything that showed up.  A lot of us were shooting, so those bounties at least exceeded the cost of the faction ammo we were shooting for most of us.

We also got to admire baltec1 and his amazing fast Megathron.  People were moaning about a battleship being in a Tengu fleet, assuming it would slow us down in fleet warps… which adjust to move at the speed of the slowest ship… not knowing how it was fit.  I had seen it previously flying with a Harpy fleet where, jumping alone in a race against the fleet, it landed ahead of the Harpies every time.

Fast Megathron is fast

Fast Megathron is fast

We stayed at that until the caps were done and then headed home.  We did get two participation links out of the deal.  Participation links, or PAP links, are the metric by which corps and alliances in the CFC see who is pulling their weight, to the point that we have all become a bit obsessive about getting our PAP links for each fleet.  Some alliances pay members for each PAP link.  In our alliance we just get yelled at for not clicking enough of them.  (I was the #3 clicker of PAP links for our corp last month, behind our CEO and a corp member who is also an alliance FC.  Not bad for a lazy, on-call pilot.)

Sunday morning saw a call up for a Harpy fleet to go shoot hostile capital ships.  That is the sort of fleet everybody loves, especially when the caps were reported to be just a few jumps from home.  The fleet was already under way when I got in, but they were running via gates so I was able to catch up by taking jump bridges to PR-8CA where the hostiles were reported to be.  It turned out to be a safe route as a CFC Tengu fleet was headed out that way, so I had plenty of cover and arrived in the target system at about the same time as the rest of the fleet, albeit through a different gate.

By the time we arrived any capital ships had vanished.

We did, however, run across an NC/BL Ishtar fleet and were able to bubble them up and pick off some of their logistics in hopes of setting up a dunk.  They slipped away a couple of times and eventually headed to a POS where a titan was waiting to bridge them out.  We had to sit and watch them jump away, though we did knock off about a dozen of them during the chase, including Futurama reference of the day, 25star-General Zapp Brannigan.

So that was my weekend in space.  A lot of running about and hanging around with a few moments of combat.

On the hopeful side for the future, there is a report up that a group of 14 alliances has formed a new coalition.  Called “Battlement Coalition” they are declaring that they are coming after the CFC to reclaim content.

Battlement Campaign Message

Battlement Campaign Message

I am a little confused by a quote attributed to leader, PantsuFan:

CFC has taken a lot of content away from the pilots in EVE and we are here to rectify that. CFC controls nearly one half of the game content in eve now.

As far as I can tell, we haven’t take any content, we ARE the content, at least in null sec.  And even then, our wars hardly matter to most EVE players, except that they sometimes drive up market prices and occasionally cause TiDi in the odd low or high sec system.

The new coalition includes a number of alliances we were shooting at anyway, such as Triumvirate and Mordu’s Angels.  How this will play out has yet to be seen, but I can only imaging that more fights will work for us, given how many pilots we had piling into the game for the timers this past weekend.  This might actually be a boon for the CFC, since I think the most likely reason it might crumble is lack of fights. (The Mittani responds to this development, complete with competing PowerPoint presentation.)

And that is about all the news I have from space for the past week.  Some fleets, a few kills, the promise of a new foe, and screen shots… always screen shots after the cut.

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Warlords of Draenor – Expendables Style August 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Humor, World of Warcraft.
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Last Thursday we had the big reveal.  Blizzard had an event where they talked about various aspects of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and gave us the big news that we had all been waiting for, the launch date.

And they also showed us the big cinematic trailer.  This focuses on the change in lore.  This time around the orc chieftains reject Gul’dan and his offer.  It isn’t exactly clear why they do this.  Did somebody come back in time and warn them?  Were they that much on the edge last time around that it could have gone either way?  Did Gul’dan blow it with his choice of stemware?

Whatever it was, there won’t be any fel orcs or like abominations.  But the orcs are still building that protal and they are still coming to Azeroth.

And that’s is all you really need to know, that they are coming… on or about November 13th of this year.

But if you are a bit of a lore noob (Liore noob?) you might be wondering about the cast of characters.  I ran through the quest line in Felwood just about a month back, which included a whole “Previously in Azeroth” quest segment that played out the high points of the story behind The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, but I still can’t name the 47 7 orc chieftain without peeking.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Blizzard is trying to solve this with their own Lords of War video series.  But maybe you want something a little more straight forward.  If so, I offer this:

(Direct link)

Pity about the heavy use of ads at both ends, but it does show you some of the in-game versions of the actual Warlords of Draenor.

And if you want to see all the WoW cinematic trailers, Shintar has them all queued up in a single post.

Quote of the Day – Prescience at GDC 2007 August 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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…because of wow, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.

-Rob Pardo,  MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007

Back in early March of 2007 I wandered up to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  I grabbed an expo pass to go up and meet up with Brent from VirginWorlds and a couple of other people, as well as scouting around to see what I could see on the expo floor.

GDC2007Logo

It wasn’t a great expedition on my part.  I was coming down with a cold or something.  I spoke to a few people, but did not hang around very long.  It wasn’t a GDC where I hung around to have dinner with anybody.

But on the way out I happened by the booth where they were selling what was essentially a pre-purchase of the audio from various panels.  There were a couple of different career tracks that you could order, and one looked particularly interesting, so I put down my credit card and ordered it.

Some time later I received it, ripped it to iTunes, and listed to the whole thing.   And then I forgot about it.  My iTunes library has more than 7,000 various items in it, so things can get lost.

Last weekend I was running through a list of tracks, looking for something interesting when I came across the audio I ordered for 17 panels on the whatever track it was and started listening to bits of it.  There was a panel on Korean MMOs and how they succeed and rant session that really laid open some astounding day one problems with Windows Vista.

And then there was the panel titled MMOs Past, Present, and Future.

Just looking at the list of names on the panel… Raph Koster, Gordon Walton, Mark Jacobs, Rob Pardo, Mark Kern, and Daniel James… and you have to marvel at the breadth of  experience and influence thay have had on the MMO world.  All that was missing is somebody from SOE to represent EverQuest.  And they were there to talk about lessons learned and the future of MMOs at what was something of a transition point in the genre.

Right then, in March 2007, Blizzard had recently launched their first expansion for World of Warcraft and sales were booming.  Star Wars Galaxies had launched a few years back and had done well, but had not eclipsed EverQuest, a crime for which it was then was put through the NGE. Vanguard was faltering, but still wasn’t part of SOE yet.  The Wii was still a big deal.  Lord of the Rings Online had yet to launch and was just in open beta.   It was that age of expectation I wrote about the other day in reference to Vanguard, where we were getting a new top dog every few years.

And this group of heavy hitters who all influenced the genre in their own ways, chose to wade in on the subject, leading to some great quotes.  The Rob Pardo quote at the top seemed the most prescient, though Daniel James seemed to have a good sense of things as well.  There was also a lot of focus on polish, echoing what Rob Pardo said six months before at the Austin Game Conference. (I remembered off the cuff that Brent had transcribed that 8 years back.)  And lest you think Rob Pardo was the only one hitting that note, there is this:

I don’t think big media companies will be able to execute their way out of a paper bag. A lot of people will lose their shirt in this space.

-Daniel James

and:

Here come the mass media, and they’re shouting, omg we wanna be just like World of Warcraft. Here’s a lot of money, make a great game, but there’s only a handful of people who know how to make it really well. I’m predicting disaster.

-Mark Jacobs

Though that one might be a bit mitigated by his statements that there will be another WoW, that an MMO will come along and beat WoW.  And that could still happen, but I get the sense that Mark had a shorter time frame in mind.  At least he said that he didn’t think Warhamer Online would be the game that beat WoW.  And there was Gordon Walton on the panel, listening to all of this, who then went off to Star Wars: The Old Republic which at one point EA said was going to hit 11 million subscriptions. a clear “beat WoW” number financed by a dump truck of money.  SWTOR has been a success in the long term, just not by any metric EA chose in advance.

All and all it was a good panel to listen to, both back then and seven years down the road.  But how to share it with people?

If you are a GDC member, which costs a hefty $500 a year, you can find it in the GDC Vault.  There are some free sessions available, but this one is a members only selection.

So I dug around for transcripts, and found a pretty good one over at Wonderland Blog, which covers most of the key quotes.  It is missing some of the intro and clips Raph’s quote about how people keep just remaking Diku MUD and Lambda MOO, but most of the meat is there.

 

 

Steam Mistake? Tropico 4 Collectors Bundle for 39 Cents [mistake fixed] August 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: ,
9 comments

The Tropico 4 Collector’s Bundle for 39 cents… um… I’m in.

99% off

99% off

You could literally sell a couple of trading cards to pick up this bundle.

I heard Alikchi spotted this and the word has spread.

Addendum: As noted in the comments, somebody at Steam noticed their mistake and the price has been changed.  It was climbing rapidly up the daily best seller list, so it seems like a lot of people got a bargain today.

Whither Outland? August 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,
6 comments

After finishing up the 1-60 achievements for my Loremaster project, culminating with the Bloodmyst Isle run, I hit a bit of wall in my effort.  I can be a very goal oriented person, but once the goal has been achieved I sometimes drop right off.  So while I had a lot of fun going through all of the zones I had not previously finished after Cataclysm, I was now facing a new goal in the form of another set of zones in Outland.  Five of the seven level 60-70 zones from The Burning Crusade,waited for me.

Outland Map

Outland Map

Those five zones held a total of 434 quests to be done.

  • Terokkar Forest  62-65 – 63 quests
  • Nagrand  64-67 – 75 quests
  • Blade’s Edge Mountains 65-68 – 86 quests
  • Netherstorm 66-70 – 120 quests
  • Shadowmoon Valley  67-70 – 90 quests

After Bloodmyst Isle I was not ready to face that, so I slept for a bit.  My WoW play time pretty much dropped off a cliff.  If it had not been for Darkmoon Faire, it might have dropped to zero.

But this week revived my spirits a bit.  With the release date announcement coming, I knew it would also put a limit on how much time I had to screw around with old stuff before the fresh, new expansion fun began.  So the question had to be answered: How was I going to deal with Outland?

The easiest path was to just dig through some of my higher level characters who had already made it through the expansion and use them to finish up whatever zones they were close to being done with.  I have characters that are within 25 quests of being done for the first three of the zones listed.  That would rush me through some of it, but would leave me two zones I left to run.

The downside of that plan is the fact that running zones with a high level takes a lot of the fun out of things.  One shotting mobs gets old… and annoying when you have a quest that requires you to get them down to 20% health and apply a gizmo to them… and is a sure fire way to turn the whole thing into a numbers game.

The other option was to draw from a set of characters I had ready for Outland… I ended up my 1-60 run with a level 58 Monk, a level 59 Warrior, and a Level 61 Rogue… press through the early bits… I already have Hellfire Peninsula and Zangarmarsh done… and take on the zones at level.

The real upside to this plan, beyond doing the quests at level so as to feel some connection to things, is that it feels like it might be a perfectly timed review of the Outland content before Warlords of Draenor shows up and presents a different view of these zones.

A Better Draenor vs. Outland map

Draenor vs. Outland map

To test this out I brought my level 61 Rogue, Trianis, through the portal… soon to be “the old portal” I suppose, though with time travel it might just be “the other portal” or some such… to see if I was really ready.

On a bombing mission before we had the whole vehicle thing...

On a bombing mission before we had the whole vehicle thing…

Things went okay, though my good feelings were mitigated by a couple of factors.

The first was that Hellfire Peninsula is literally the most familiar place in Outland for me.  As the starting, kick-off zone, I have been through at least the first half of it with every single character over 60, just to gear up some before running instances if nothing else.  So I knew the story, I knew which quests out of the big pile to do in which order to avoid retracing my steps repeatedly, I knew where the named mobs hung out even without the little skull on the mini-map,  and I knew exactly where to find those damn prayer beads for the exorcism.  (Not to mention what to do during the exorcism, which is confusing even if you have read the quest text.)

Plus, having hit level 60, I had the skill and access to a wide selection of flying mounts, so I was able to avoid pounding back and forth through the same mobs.

And, being a rogue helps.  The whole stealth thing lets you bypass trash and get straight to the point.  Plus, at level 60, I got the “I Win!” button… or skill.

Cloak and Dagger...

Cloak and Dagger…

I chose this skill after hitting level 60 because… well… it is yet another reason why people who don’t play rogues hate them.

I just have to stealth myself within 40 yards of my target and activate one of my “Hey, surprise, gotcha!” skill and I am teleported directly behind the mob and get that first attack pretty much for free.  And with at level mobs, my pair of heirloom weapons, and a crit, that can be a one-shot kill.  Even I hate me for having access to that sort of skill.

So I was able to carve a path through the zone, upgrade his gear, and get him to level 62 in fairly short order.  Now I have to find my way to the starting quest for Terokkar Forest, the first zone on the list.  My memories are pretty sparse when it comes to that zone.  There are some blood elves and a big spider, right?

Yeah, that one...

Yeah, that one…

That screen shot was taken back in 2008.

We shall see if I have a pre-WoD tour of Outland in me.  If I can get on that bicycle, there will be a few more zone touring posts.