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Returned from Omist November 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Null Sec.
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While my weekend… and, really, the last week… was spent mostly focused on World of Warcraft, I did find some time to drop into EVE Online.  I sort of had to, or end up stranded.

Shortly after the Phoebe expansion hit the game, as in the very next day, we deployed south again.  Our pre-Phoebe warm up deployments had been down in Insmother and Feythabolis.  We continued out our pattern of hitting the south by showing up in Omist.  Clearly we are out to annoy the N3 coalition and their vast tracts of renter space.

Deployments so far...

Deployments so far…

The deployment started with operations during European prime time and continued during the early US times, during all of which I was as work.  When I finally arrived home on the west coast another group was headed down, led by Baby Lemba, the FC of a thousand voices.  While I had initially planned to go south in an Ishtar again and actually shoot things, there was a call out for more space priests.  There is always a call for more.  So I swapped out the Ishtar for my Basilisk so I could keep the fleet in good repair.

The Basilisk, as a choice, seems odd to me, though I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of these sorts of decisions.  Up until this point, the Scimitar had been the shield logistics ship of choice, being both fast and cap stable.  Having taken up the Basilisk, we gained a bit more shield repping power and a bit more effective hit points, but our logi are no longer cap stable.  Instead we have to cap chain.

Cap chaining is where CCP gave up on any last pretense of realism, kicked the laws of thermodynamics to the curb, and embraced a “sum greater than the total of the parts” solution because… they could, I guess.  The capacitor of the Basilisk, as fit for our doctrine, with modules running, runs dry in about 45 seconds, at which point all the modules shut down.  But if we mount remote capacitor transfer modules, lock up the next ship down the line and start sending them capacitor juice, the problem is solved.  The output of the cap transfer modules is greater than the amount needed to keep us cap stable and we can run all our modules all day so long as we stay within range of each other.

Logistics cap chaining

Cap chaining Basilisks

Which is fine.  Cap chaining isn’t tough, so there is a net benefit… until you’re the only logi in fleet, which happened to me a couple of times.  And then you are pretty much useless and wishing you had disobeyed orders and brought a scimitar.  But I am good and always bring the right ship with the doctrine fit, so when Lemba had us undock for the trip south I was in a Basilisk.

That Stratios though... that is not doctrine...

That Stratios though… that is not doctrine…

The wormholes were not being as kind as they sometimes are, and we actually had to travel for a bit to get to our end of the pipe down south, and at the far end we were a good 16 jumps away from the planned staging system.  The trip had its moments, as we caught a carrier along the way (though I didn’t have my combat drone loaded, so couldn’t whore on the kill mail), but a sense of urgency was on us as well.  Lemba changed our destination along the way as there was a fight already in progress.

Somehow, over in XGH-SH, we had gotten in and were with in a hair’s breadth of taking the station and perhaps even flipping the system.  We were unlikely to hold it, but it would be an annoyance if we made N3 retake it.  We dropped our larger ships, especially the industrials, from the fleet and started slow boating through gates in hopes of being able to make this happen.

However, by the time we had gotten there the hostiles had also thrown in reinforcements, including carriers.  We were told to safe up, use our mobile depots to mount our cloaks if they were not already on, and cloak up.  I made a couple of safe spots, got myself cloaked, and then waited.  After some time Asher told us that nothing more was likely to happen, the system was too hot for us at that point, so we should safe log off if we could.  Extraction ops would come later when things quieted down.

Safe log off in XGH-SH

Safe log off in XGH-SH

I remained stranded there for a couple days.  I missed the extraction operations, so started slowly working myself back to our staging system.  There were a couple of times when I was in fleet and trying to make my way to them, only to be waved off by the FC as there were camps between us.  So I lingered alone in hostile space, where at least I could provide some intel and be an annoyance.  I got locked up on one gate by Sholto Douglas of the Methodical Alliance, but he either didn’t have a point or his heart wasn’t in it, as I managed to warp off and safe up.  I chatted with him a bit in local, because this is EVE and line members of the various groups rarely seem to harbor the hostility that the leadership sometimes attempts to instill.

Eventually though, I decided to make a run for it.  I got online and into fleet to hear that they had a Nyx super carrier tackled just a few jumps from where I was safed up.  I had my combat drone in my bay, so I decided to get in on that kill mail.  I crashed gates, including one that was camped, until I joined the fleet.  The Nyx was deep into structure when I launched my drone.  My drone got there and managed to get at least a shot off, so when it blew I was on the kill mail.  I was the lowest damage contributor of those who did any damage at all, but I made it.

21 out of 3 million hit points!

21 out of 3 million hit points!

A super capital kill is always good.  I posted a few pictures of the wreck shortly after that fight.

After that though, it was back to shooting structures.  I do not mind those ops, even if being logistics on a structure shoot is the only thing more boring than being DPS on a structure shoot, if only because you have to pay attention just in case somebody starts taking damage.  And when you are the only logistics ship with a fit that requires a cap chain you can barely help with that.  I could save somebody for long enough for them to warp off, but then I would be running low on cap.  You need at least two in order to have a cap chain.

We did see the occasional amusing bits or pieces of space history, like an Atlas Alliance infrastructure hub.  Atlas Alliance closed down back in 2010.

Abandoned ihub

Abandoned ihub

But after a number of those ops, the allure of World of Warcraft and getting in some last minute achievements and prep for the expansion took over.  So I dropped out of space for a while.  I still watched the broadcasts and, judging from them I missed a couple of fights.  I also missed getting piped bombed at one point as well, which meant moving people back down to Omist again.  Being on the third such deployment in approximately a month, I was getting a bit tired.  The pace of activity is constant but can be wearing.  So I rested, parked down in Omist, waiting for the recall to sound.

The recall came in the form of a broadcast this past weekend which announced, in case we hadn’t heard, that we were headed home.  I hadn’t heard and was keen to get on the train back to Deklein.

Getting home turned out to be fairly easy.  What I guess I would call a “do it yourself” fleet was up, with instructions in the MOTD about how to proceed.  A wormhole had been found just a few jumps from our staging system in Omist.

Landing on the wormhole

Landing on the wormhole

From there it was in and out of a wormhole that deposited me in Pure Blind and on our jump bridge network, where I accrued my first bit of jump fatigue.   Boy, that is annoying.  I only had to take two jump bridges to get home, but there short wait while my jump timer counted down before I could take the second.  A comprehensive, pre-Phoebe jump bridge highway now seems like a complete waste of resources.  Better to place them strategically to lop off jumps from routes that would otherwise require many gate jumps.  But I don’t run GSOL, so I just take them were I find them.

But I was back home in Deklein.  And the first thing I did was clone jump to my implant clone in high sec to speed up my training queue a bit.  Since I was going to be focused on WoW for a while, it was probably the best place to be.  Meanwhile, we will hopefully have a bit of a break before the next deployment.  I think three such high tempo deployments, one after another, started to wear people down a bit.  Clearly the numbers responding to pings was declining a bit before I got involved else where.

As for how things went, I am not sure.  There were clearly some high points, and the hostiles had to pull forces into the area to counter our activities and clean up after us.  But I haven’t seen any numbers on how much actual damage we did.  If nothing else, we livened up what was a relatively quiet area of space.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Spaceship November 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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Rixx Javix can count himself, among many things, an EVE Online player, pirate, blogger, in-game event organizer, crusader against warp core stabilizers, and occasional haberdasher to #tweetfleet.

But his most recent mania is posters.  Posters featuring the ships of EVE Online.

It started innocently enough with a poster or two… and then it consumed him and he started making poster after poster.  It became a whole poster series.

Samples from the Rixx  Javix Gallery

Samples from the Rixx Javix Gallery

Over at his site he has written about specific posters he likes, some forbidden ships, the difficulty of finding the right way to pose a Caracal, and how he puts the pieces together to make these.

How to make a Ferox look good

How to make a Ferox look good

The poster series has gone beyond 100 spaceships at this point and continues to grow.  The official series is available via this gallery at Flickr.

You can also see the series as part of his Flickr photostream starting here.  The photostream is worthwhile if you want to see naked versions of a few ships for use as wallpaper and the occasional special guest star… along with much more of his other work.

 

Blizzard – Up All Night Working on Draenor Queues November 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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We’re making preparations for the Europe maintenance beginning in just an hour, and along with hardware upgrades we will be implementing some of the performance improvements we’ve been testing. One of these is a fairly large change to the way the game world is run by the servers—expanding the phasing tech used for the Tanaan intro experience to the entire continent of Draenor. This will allow us to run multiple copies of Draenor simultaneously, spreading out server population, while attempting to keep guilds and parties within the same copy.

-Blizzard, Warlords of Draenor Launch Update

A little over 48 hours into the Warlords of Draenor launch Blizzard has upped the ante.  To counter the “we didn’t quite think this through” problems associated with too many people congregating at key spots in Draenor… problems that made the company limit server populations, thus making for horrendous queues on the more popular servers (insert my usual “shards are bad, mkay” rant here)… Blizzard is going to apply phasing, used in the intro experience to keep players more spread out, to all of Warlords of Draenor.

We’re not quite getting the zone copies that SOE has had going since 2004 to accommodate players crowding into specific areas of the game, something I mentioned might be handy in my post on Thursday.

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea zone

But we are getting something akin to it.

Blizzard had server down time last night to make this change and upgrade hardware, and so far this morning things are looking… better.

My daughter has some characters on a high population server, and hasn’t been able to get on there because the server queue has consistently been 4K or higher.  This morning, no queue.  Things seem to be better according to Blizzard.  There are still problems, I still see some servers locked, but huge queues do not seem to be as prevalent.

We’re continuing to monitor realms and track any individual issues as they occur. We’re still seeing some issues occurring now that Europe is in their peak playtime, but with greatly reduced frequency compared to before maintenance.

All realms are now set back up to their normal population caps. Queues being experienced now are due to demand beyond what the realms are normally capable of handling, and we’ll be looking into how to reduce them further.

Now, how will this play out through the weekend?  Since they have made garrison’s an OCD delight by giving us followers and missions to check up on, queues will cause some of us grievous mental distress if we can’t get in and take care of business.

I'd just sit here and play Hearthstone if this worked

I’d just sit here and play Hearthstone if this worked

Are you able to get into the game now?

Warlords of Draenor – An Early Success November 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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In one of those “fools rush in… and get the best seats” moments, I got home from work yesterday, started up my computer, launched World of Warcraft, logged in, and started playing.

No fuss, no muss, no queue, no problem.  I just logged in, decided to go with Vikund as first into Draenor, took the quest, and off I went.

The quest is hard to miss

The quest is hard to miss

I am not sure you can actually refuse the quest.  I tried with another character and the game seemed pretty persistent.  Anyway, I was in the game and headed out on my first try.

This happens to me once in a while, where I wander into a minefield and pass through unscathed by sheer luck.  I know that many people were having problems, and my luck is not in any way to say that everything was fine.  My daughter was interested in a level 90 on another server, where she ended up in a queue nearly 4,000 players deep and estimated to get her to the front of the line in about 7 hours.  She watched that for a bit then decided to join me on Eldre’Thalas, only to find that logins had been locked for the server.  So there were problems in my own house, and I had to hear my daughter moan about how she couldn’t get in while I was happily playing.

Because I was on and in game, which at that point appeared to be the big hurdle.  The server itself was only listed as “medium” when it came to load and I found Earl already on and level 91.  He had passed through the starter area and now it was my turn.  It is through the portal and off to work with Khadgar and Thrall.

Vikund, Khadgar, and Thrall

Vikund, Khadgar, and Thrall

The intro zone is a short, story driven event meant to give you the “why we fight” look at the expansion.  I was interested in the emphasis placed on the “bad” guys, the leaders of the Iron Horde, the so-called Warlords of Draenor, who were each introduced in a very cinematic fashion, like an 80s ensemble cast complete with action shot pose and dramatic name reveal.

The special guest star was the Eye of Kilrogg, which played a supporting role.

I won’t try to record the details of the intro zone.  I am sure there are guides out there, should you need one.  It was a quick lark.  As always, I took every opportunity I could to pose with Thrall.

Vikund and Thrall

Vikund and Thrall

I have built this “Homer Simpson/Mr. Burns” relationship with Thrall in my brain over the years, where we have interacted on many occasions yet, whenever we meet, Thrall doesn’t know me.  I just need an orc version of Waylon Smithers (or maybe a goblin) to start reciting past events to Thrall like, “he helped you escape from Durnhold Keep, he once shot you with a BB gun, you sent him into Deepholm to save Azeroth, he was on the team that brought Garrosh Hellscream to justice…” to complete the scene.

I was interested to see that Vikund’s gear, which is mostly Siege of Orgrimar LFR level purples, was not immediately worse than what was being handed out for the first few quests.  Vikund is probably better geared, sitting at the end of Pandaria, than he has ever been, so not trading up immediately was a new experience.  Eventually, he got something that was the same item level for one of the garrison quests, but it lacked a gem socket, didn’t have an enchant, and was otherwise almost identical, so I let it sit in the bag with the rest of the stuff.

I was a bit disappointed that, for no good reason, the game client refused to take screen shots during one of the cinematics where all of the orc warlords were standing together at the top of a cliff in a rather epic pose.  A movie poster level of positioning.  But Blizz seems to be odd on that front.  Sometimes screenshots work during cinematics, sometimes they do not.  I will have to run Fraps with the next character into Draenor.

Anyway, I thought the whole thing was nicely done.  Though it was probably a lot of work for a relatively short encounter, it does lay the foundation for the expansion.

A whole zone for a 30 minute intro

A whole zone for a 30 minute intro

I made it through and was dumped on the beach in Shadowmoon Valley, where I was given a “you made it” achievement.  There should probably be a special “you made it through all the technical issues” feat of strength achievement for getting there within 24 hours of the launch, but that might be rubbing salt in the wound.

Welcome to Draenor!

Welcome to Draenor!

From that point the game was very determined to get me into my garrison.  This does not appear to be an optional thing, but a requirement to progress.  Granted, I wanted a garrison, so I did not explore much when it came to “can I bypass this?” but it sure seemed like a requirement.  You end up at the site of your Garrison… with a few dozen other people in my case… where you have to collect some resources and kill a few things.  The resources were not consumed when others collected them, so it wasn’t an all out race grab them.  You basically flagged trees to be cut down, and with each you got an old school Warcraft RTS peon response.

The mobs to kill were contested, but were available in abundance as well.  I was thankful once again that Blizz made special quest mobs available to everybody who got in some damage, as there was a huge mob waiting to slay the one named guy we all needed.

That went pretty quickly, and I was soon standing before my garrison.

I will call it "Jim"

I will call it “Jim”

There were, naturally, some quests waiting within.  I went out to collect some things, kill some other things.  I built a barracks and visited the various vendors that are present just to see what I had.  And then it was time to head off to a school event for my daughter.  My wife is the PTA president, so we can’t skip this sort of thing, we need to be there to support her.

So I logged off.

Nooooooooo!

A couple hours later, when we returned home, I wasn’t able to log back in.  I managed to get into the server selection, but for quite a stretch it would not connect to a server.

This I can screen shot, but not the cinematic

This I could screen shot, but not the cinematic

My daughter was similarly locked out.  She gave up and went to bed while I sat around reading the various news stories and blue posts about DDoS attacks and unexpected issues.  Some of it was out of Blizzard’s hands and some of it was stuff they weren’t going to find until we all hit the game at once.  Then again, there was at least one Blizzard note I read that mentioned a problem caused by too many people being at the same place in the game, which got a big eye roll from me, since that was the system they designed.  Everybody ends up standing at that spot where the garrison is built, as an example.

As usual, some people were philosophical about the whole thing, while others were complaining that Blizzard had effectively stolen their money or other over the top statements.

Yes, it was bad at times and Blizzard should know we don’t appreciate it.  They own a lot of the problems.  In all likelihood Blizz will comp everybody a day or two  to cover this, and the storm will pass shortly.  But if you are bitching about having skipped school or taken a vacation day for this… well, I have to ask if this is your first online game.  I did that once, called in sick for a video game launch.  I think it was in 1989, when Gemstone opened up on GEnie after having been in the beta for a while.  It was an unplayable disaster on day one and my time was wasted.  Nothing has changed in 25 years.  If you are smart, you do that once and you learn your lesson.

Anyway, in the midst of all of this, while my screen sat in the trying to connect state on the server selection page, a tweet came through from Blizzard CS suggesting that people log out and back in.  I was hesitant, but had nothing to lose.  So I gave it a shot and, sure enough, I was able to log back in just fine, I was back in the game, back in my garrison, and ready to go.

I ran off and got my first follower, whom I sent on a mission which got me a second follower.  I sent them both off and rode out to the first town/quest hub.  There is kind of an interesting moment when you ride out of your garrison and down the road and you hit the point where you exit what is essentially the instance your garrison occupies and load into the shared world.  As it happened I was riding my chopper down the road and hit that transition point to find myself riding right next to a guy, also on a chopper and headed to the same location.

I saw Potshot online and he was able to get into the game at about that time as well.  However, there seemed to be a problem with people getting into the starter zone then, and he was stuck in the Blasted Lands getting the same automated message, “The portal you are trying to access… Draenor… is busy or out or service, please try again later.”  So all was not yet peaches and cream.  But Blizzard has a downtime today and some patches to do.  Tonight should be better than last night, and tomorrow night better than tonight, and at some point in a couple of days it will be a complete non-issue and we’ll move on to complaining about something else.

After a bit more running around, it was time for bed at my end.  And so ended my first look at the new expansion.

Others looking at day one:

Friday Night Addendum:

Oh, now I feel your pain.  Now I know the rage and humiliation of having to sit in a queue.

This will not stand!

This will not stand!

Big changes from Blizz incoming.  This should be… interesting.

Warlords of Draenor Day November 13, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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The date has finally arrived.  Warlords of Draenor, the long awaited 5th expansion for World of Warcraft has landed.  And if, like me, you were somewhat underwhelmed by the attention the game got inside of BlizzCon, rest assured that outside Blizzard was spending a lot of time drawing attention to the game.

WoD ad in Times Square

WoD ad in Times Square

The expansion launched in the US at midnight my local time, and midnight CET in Europe.  Blizz had a mini FAQ about the launch and how to access it, assuming you’re not already deep into the expansion.  I did not stay up for the launch (despite my daughter’s pleas) or play hooky for day one fun.  I will get online to see it tonight.  Everything should have settled down a bit by then, as there were reports of servers going down, denial of service attacks, and the usual set of “too many players in one location” problems.

I am looking for the announcement that somebody in Europe hit level 100 about the time I went to bed last night and some larger count of players who arrived at the level cap before I awoke. (Yeah, this.)

I spent the evening running up to the launch getting my rogue, mentioned in yesterday’s post, up to level 85 and into Pandaria.  I would say that there is something unique about getting into one expansion just hours before the next one launches, but there were a bunch of people also in the process of leveling up one last character before WoD.  I do not know if I am just on an especially active server or if that whole cross-server zones is tricking me, but I was never alone in a zone pretty much all the way up the ladder.  There was always somebody on the same quest, or running through the same quest hub.

Of course, the joined servers and cross-server zones might not seem like the best idea today, with people pouring back into the game.  This is where SOE’s ability to spawn multiple versions of zones pays off, awkward though it can sometimes be when you and your friends aren’t all in the same zone.

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea

Piled with heirloom gear, going from level 83 into Pandaria did not take much time, so I looked into getting in on a Garrosh run.  If I had been an ilevel 550 or above healer, I could have gone on a mythic level run, but as an ilevel 515 retribution pally I couldn’t even find a normal mode group.

Earl was on as well, and he defended the honor of the guild, finishing up the epic quest line… which earns both a personal and a guild achievement… with just 7 hours to go before the expansion, at which point her turned around and got in on a Garrosh run and walked away with an ilevel 550 1h heirloom sword that will grow with him to level 100.  He will be a mighty DPS tank in our group… not that he hasn’t been up until now.

Ula had also found some time to get online and hit 600 in tailoring, finishing off the last tradeskill we needed for another guild achievement.  That also unlocked the heirloom pants at the guild vendor.  Trianis made it to Pandaria without heirloom pants!  Are they going to boost heirlooms to work until level 90 at some point, the way they boosted them from 80 to 85 previously?

Anyway, the dark portal looms, Draenor awaits, the focus of the game for probably the next two years will be on this map.

The Draenor you have

The Draenor you have

I also logged into EVE Online for a little while last night to participate in an operation.  I had not logged in for nearly a week (good thing that we are still deployed at the same location, or I would be a little lost lamb in the middle of Omist) and I suspect that I won’t be logging in this weekend unless there are serious problems with Warlords of Draenor.

Addendum: I noticed that when Mists of Pandaria came out I put up a list of the expansions and the gap of time between each, so I figured I should carry that forward.

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 778 days

Average time between expansions: 728 days, up 8 days from the previous launch.

Final Decisions Before Warlords of Draenor November 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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I have a seemingly simple decision to make about Warlords of Draenor, which is, to put it bluntly, “Who goes first?”

Who will I push through the dark portal into Draenor, which character of mine will be the first to see what is to be seen in the new expansion?

In the past, there has not been much in the way of a decisions.  I had a level cap character that was part of the instance group and a level cap character for solo play.  The instance group character would wait for the group while the solo character would head off on his own.  That worked through vanilla, The Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King.  My paladin, Vikund was part of the group and my hunter, Tistann, was my solo character.

And then came Cataclysm, which screwed up so many things.  The group tried new characters, quickly grew bored at the fast pace of the revamped old-world content, where epic dungeons like Sunken Temple were carved down to fit the “30 minute or less” run time that the Dungeon Finder seemed to demand.  We ran off to play other games after not too long, though if we had gone back to our old group and picked up where we left off at the end of WotLK, things might have gone better.

In the mean time, I ran my instance group character to level cap in Cata along with my solo character and then stopped playing.

Until I returned about a year after Mists of Pandaria, where I again ran my instance group character, Vikund, to the level cap along with Tistann.  And then the instance group returned to Azeroth and I had to get in there and level up one of my druids so I would have somebody to play in the group.  That druid, Alioto, is now level 90, as is my insta-90 character, a Death Knight named Tokarev.

So I have four level cap characters from which to choose, and potentially one more character on the way.  My rogue, Trianis, is level 83 already.  He won’t make it to 90 by Thursday (though weighed down in heirloom gear, he’ll be 85 tonight given 90 minutes of play time), but he could be an option for the instance group give our bad attendance of late.  He could be level 90 by the time all five of us are online at the same time.

This is basically the first time I have had this wide of a choice.

The Draenor Contestants

The Draenor Contestants

Who should I send off to do what?

Vikund

My oldest character in the game and the one I tend to think of a “me” in Azeroth and beyond, the character I most identify with.  He was a pain to level back in the day when Paladins had no ranged attack except versus undead and no sort of “charge” substitute like warriors.  I still remember being out in the crowded fields of Westfall having to run up to melee range of each mob only to have some mage or hunter tag the mob just before I got there.  Vikund represents both identity and ~effort~ of a sort.  So it is somewhat of a big deal to me where he goes.

My gut response is to use this moment when the whole group is back to the same level to trade him back in as a regular member.  His glory days… my glory days… were from when he got swapped into the group at level 40 to replace the rogue I rolled up.  The rogue was not working for me.  So Vikund stepped in and went through the back half of vanilla as well as all of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King in the instance group.  There was a point when I was almost actually good at playing him.  And he is in a lot of those memory screen shots.

Through the years in Azeroth

Through the years in Azeroth

The flip side of this is that the instance group has been moving slowly of late.  Despite a blitz by four of us, the full group hasn’t finished Pandaria yet… and WoD is tomorrow.  I am not sure if I want to I want to leave him loitering while the group gets its act together for the expansion.  Furthermore, since the end of Wrath of the Lich King, Vikund has been my “do all the things” character.  He is the one who has the most exalted reps, who ground out Argent Tournament, who got the explorer achievement, and has basically become my “achiever” in Azeroth, as limited as my achievements might be.

So despite my desire to have him rejoin the group for old time’s sake, I think he will remain my trail blazer.  He will be the first one into Draenor, the first with a Garrison, the first to complete it, the one to do all the faction rep, the one who runs down every quest line, and so on.

Besides which, with him in the group we end up with two plate and three cloth wearers.  It would be nice to have somebody there to big on leather or mail.

Tistann

Tistann was my second character on the Eldre’Thalas server, and is second in my heart only to Vikund.  He was a hunter back when the class was complicated, awkward, and didn’t quite fit into the whole tank/healer/DPS scheme of things.  For quite a while, hunters were the odd class out.  But if there was a class that was completely unlike playing a paladin, the hunter was it.  Plus both classes were generally reviled for group play back in 2005.

But a hunter could solo like no other.  You lacked bag space because you had to devote a slot to a quiver or ammo pouch and you had to keep track of ammo as well as keeping food not just for yourself but also your pet.  I have a level 40 orc hunter sitting around that I will never delete because he is still equipped from circa 2006, with a quiver full of arrows and stacks of food for his pet.  However, your flexibility with a pet to cover for you made up for that.

So through the years Vikund has blazed the trail, worked his way up to level cap first, and then Tistann comes bouncing up to the cap right behind him, generally taking about half the effort.  Even at level cap in Pandaria, Vikund still has to work at soloing elites on Timeless Isle while Tistann and the right pet can blow through them non-stop without breaking a sweat, with a lower gear score to boot.  Part of that is me being bad at the game, but I am universally bad, so it also says something about hunters.

With that in mind, I think Tistann will continue on in his role of second to the summit solo.  I could bring him into the instance group.  That would give us a mail wearer.  But then we would end up as all ranged DPS.  Not that I am in love with melee DPS, despite the fact that is pretty much every other character on this list, but sometimes it is good to have somebody else on the boss even though running around and positioning yourself can be a pain.

Alioto

The real reason to make a druid is to get flight form, which may be the single best argument for having flight in World of Warcraft.  I used to think my default go to class was the hunter… until I counted characters and realized I had more druids than anything.  I have two druids on the alliance side of Eldre’Thalas.  If you are a true fan of druids, you have to have two because it is the only class that has four specs.  And there isn’t even a spec that really sucks.  Well, I’ve never warmed to Boomkin, but it gets play in the game.

Alioto is spec’d feral as his primary for DPS and whatever the tank spec is as a backup for evenings when Earl can’t make it and we want to go do something silly.  My other druid is spec’d healing and boomkin… I know these specs have actual names, but I never remember them… and is level 82, so could in theory make it to group level with some effort.  But DPS and backup tank actually fits well with the group, and actually being able to jump into bear form while in feral spec has saved us a couple of times.

So Alioto staying with the group is the default choice.  The easy choice.

That said, I am not exactly thrilled with feral DPS as a class/role, and doubly so after having played a real rogue up to level 83 already.  Feral spec has its moments, but it pales in comparison to a rogue.  But it is the spec that works with the group at the moment.

Tokarev

This is my insta-90 character.  Death Knights have always been somewhat interesting to be, but not enough to devote the effort to leveling one up to cap.  Tokarev has been around for a while, at least since WotLK, but has remained down the list when it comes to what to play.  So I decided to boost him.  So I went from having a level 68 that I played now and again to having a level 90 that I played now and again.  I also got a level 600 jewel crafter.  I ran him around a bit.  He is mostly equipped with Timeless Isle gear that he earned on his own.  He does a lot of damage.  So he might make a decent character to swap into the group.  A melee DPS who can take a punch and hold a boss for that last few seconds until he dies has some value.

Trianis

I am not sure where his name came from.  I think it was a name generator pick.  It certainly wasn’t from my collection of often re-used names.

But he was going to be a throw-away character in any case.  I rolled him up specifically as part of the summer Loremaster project.  He isn’t even on Eldre’Thalas, but on Korialstrasz, which might be the one server name more difficult to say that Eldre’Thalas.  The two servers are now joined, so he effectively plays in the same world as my other characters on Eldre’Thalas, but I have to change servers to log him in.  But he was just a temp, so no big deal.

And then, as I ran him through the 1-60 game and into The Burning Crusade, I really started to enjoy playing him.  I think was due to the fact that I did not go with the subtlety spec, which is what I have always picked in the past because rogues mean maximum stealth in my book.  This time I went with the combat spec, which ended up being a better play style for me.

And so, when I finally gave up on the Loremaster project at the end of Summer, I kept playing him.  I went slowly at first, getting him into WotLK.  Then I sped up some, using the Dungeon Finder to level him up through Northrend, which was both easy and showed that the combat spec worked well in a dungeon group.  I let him sit at 80 for a bit while I farmed materials for his tailoring and enchanting trade skills, which also made Vikund a tidy sum of gold.  The gray drops alone from WotLK and Cata heroics add up.  Then I piled on any herilooms I could buy/find on him and sent him into Cataclysm, where he has been good for a level a night with just about an hour invested.

The heirloom gravy train will be over soon, and which point I’ll send all that gear to my monk, but even leveling through Pandaria wasn’t a huge chore in past runs.  That is the blessing/curse of the five level expansions.  You can grind through them pretty quickly, but they also don’t provide as much substance.

So the question will be, can I level Trianis up in time to swap him in for Alioto in the instance group?  And should I?  I found the combat rogue more fun to play, even in groups, than the feral druid.

Other Last Minute Items

Who ends up doing what will be one of those things that will only be truly decided at the moment it is required.  I suspect Vikund will be first into Draenor.

But there are other things to think about, as in what to do with this last evening before the expansion.

I have been tempted, for example, to pay the 5K gold (saw it as low as 3.5K over the weekend) to go on a “Garry Carry” raid, where a guild sells you a spot on a normal mode Downfall run so you can defeat Garrosh and get that guaranteed bind on account heirloom items.  That will go away as soon as the expansion drops, and there is a minor compulsive feeling within me to “get it” before the opportunity is lost.

I also haven’t bothered to queue up and finish that special, pre-launch UBRS run, for which there is an achievement as I recall.  I did get in one group a while back, but it was a very bad group running all over the place.  So the second time we wiped on trash because the tank ran ahead while the healer was AFK, I left for other tasks.

Is there anything else I should do on the eve of the expansion?  By the time I get home from work tomorrow, Draenor will be open, people will be flooding through the Dark Portal in a reverse invasion, and there will be long lines for all the rides in the fun new section of the amusement park.  I will have to go in, just to see.  But after the first look, it might be worthwhile to go back to Trianis and get him a little closer to 90.  The only thing that has been slowing him down up to this point is that all of the Cataclysm zones seems to be quite active, full of players also driving to level up before the expansion.  Maybe they’ll all go away and I’ll have a bit of peace to move ahead.

What will you be doing on the eve of the expansion?

The Darkened Sea Brings EverQuest to Level 105 November 11, 2014

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

Leaving aside the whole “launching two days before Warlords of Draenor” aspect of things, who at SOE decided to launch both Norrathian expansions on the same day?  Have you no pity for your IT people?

So we have the Altar of Malice expansion on the EverQuest II front, which I mentioned in the previous post, and for EverQuest there is The Darkened Sea.

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

This, the 21st EverQuest expansion and officially launches today.  It was actually available to All Access subscribers two weeks back, but now it has been unleashed for even the unwashed masses… who still have to pay $40 for the content, so I am not sure why the head start.  Are there a lot of people who buy EQ expansions but who are not signed up for the All Access subscription?

Anyway, it contains the usual ration of content, taking stuff that worked in the past and adding more.

  • Level Cap Increase — You can now level up your characters to an unprecedented 105!
  • 8 New Zones — Brand new zones such as Thuliasaur Island and Combine Dredge offer immersive and captivating adventures.
  • Mount Key Ring — Easily access your entire mount collection in one easy location!
  • New Tradeskills, Spells, AAs and Items
  • New Quests, Missions and Raids

I am not sure how “unprecedented” going up to level 105 really is.  I am sure we can find some Korean grinder MMO that has 250 levels or the like.  But I guess for more mainstream western MMORPGs, going past level 100 is at least uncommon.  Now it will stand out from EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, which both get a boost to level 100 this week.

Anyway, the expansion should be live at some point soon.  Until then you can watch the trailer for the expansion over at YouTube.  Watching that video is interesting both to see how far the game has come as well as what still lingers from the old days.  At one point you can hear the sound of a spell that takes me right back to 1999.

A Decade in Post-Cataclysm Norrath November 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
Tags: , , , ,
4 comments

We are in the midst of a few different EverQuest II moments, and I am going to mash them together into one post as they are all mildly related.

The first is that today EverQuest II is launching a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion is only launching for All Access subscribers.  You can literally buy the expansion but be unable to play it until November 25th while subscribers can play today.  This seems at best a transparent “subscribe dammit!” move and at worst just dumb, another round of SOE being SOE.  But what are you going to do?  I suspect that there is considerable overlap between people invested enough in the game to buy the expansion and subscribers, so this will probably just annoy a few corner cases.

The expansion is either the 10th or the 14th… or maybe the 11th… EverQuest II expansion.  At this point I am not sure how to count the three adventure packs… Bloodline Chronicles felt tiny, the Splitpaw Saga was huge, while Fallen Dynasty was just strange… and then there was the expansion (but not really an expansion) that was the so-called Age of Discovery.

Anyway, over the years SOE has kept EQII alive and expanding, and the Altar of Malice expansion builds on all of that with its feature list (and patch notes), including a boost in the level cap to 100.  It is landing at that number as a level cap just two days before World of Warcraft hits the same number.  Say what you will about SOE and its game, but they have kept it evolving over the years.  Not always in directions in which I have approved, but not everything has to be about me.

So congrats to SOE and the EverQuest II team for keeping it going for however many expansions we’re talking about.

Ignore those smug bastards on the EverQuest team (who also pushed an expansion today) when they start in on however many expansions they have shipped.

The second is the 10 year anniversary of the launch of EverQuest II.  That was either November 4th or November 9th, depending on which source I look at.  Did SOE do a head start or something?  Anyway, it has been a decade at this point.

A decade in and launching a new expansion!  That is getting along in gaming years.  There have been a lot of games that have come and gone while things have been cranking along in Norrath, both new and old.

The third item, which rambles on, is after the cut.

(more…)

A Vaguely Dissatisfying BlizzCon… For Me November 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , , , ,
18 comments

If I were to take at random a set of video game genres and stack rank them from those that interest me most to those that interest me least, it might look a little something like this:

  • MMORPG
  • Action RPG
  • RTS
  • Online CCG
  • MOBA
  • FPS

That sort of defines what I am looking for from one particular company.  I realize that is just me, but that is the perspective I have.

So when one particular company runs their big convention and their priority list is pretty much that list turned upside down, well… what are you going to do?

And such was BlizzCon.

Before it hit, I wrote up my dreams and desires about what might be said.  This was the way it played out viewed through the lens of my own expectations and perceptions.

World of Warcraft

They keynote opened up talking about WoW.  Here we were, 10 years down the road from the launch of Blizzard’s biggest game, and 20 years gone from the launch of the Warcraft franchise with the first of the RTS titles, Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans.

A decade of this

10 Years of Azeroth as MMO

There was lots of cheering and some nostalgia and then they packed that all away in a box and ignored Azeroth for the rest of BlizzCon.

Yes, there were two WoW panels.  One was pretty much an “in case you missed it” refresher course in things already widely discussed about the upcoming expansion and 6.0 patch.  I mean, we’d been playing with 6.0 for a couple weeks at this point, so this was more by way of “yes, you discovered what we changed, and this is why we did it” sort of thing.  And then there was the Q&A panel, which I haven’t watched yet, and I am not sure that I will.  I tend to find audience Q&A painful to watch, though I have to admit that WoW nerds have been some of the more polite, literate, and to the point in their questioners in past years, so I should probably give it a shot, or at least read the transcription.

There was also a panel about the Warcraft movie, which I enjoyed.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for how the story was being presented, 50% human and 50% orc perspective.  In fact, there was a lot of enthusiasm about most things, including the fact that key members of the production team are World of Warcraft fans.  But, being something of a plug for the movie, nobody had any business being anything but enthusiastic on that stage.  And, like so many things Blizzard does, they were talking at BlizzCon about something more than a year out.  Coming to theaters in March of 2016.

There was also the premiere of the Looking for Group documentary about WoW, which I haven’t gotten to yet, but it is up on YouTube when I have the time.

So I guess I got the answer to the big question, which was, “What will Blizzard talk about when it comes to WoW, what with the next expansion less than a week off?”  The answer was that Blizzard decided to talk about WoW as little as possible.  Which, I have to say, if you’re all about WoW relative to their other titles, was a bit of a pill.  There was nothing forward looking about WoW.  There was no vague plan to reassure player that they wouldn’t be treated to another 13 month content drought, nothing to indicate that expansions wouldn’t continue to drop at the current rate of one every couple of years, and certainly no mention whatsoever of what the next expansion might be.  Nothing was said that might distract from this week’s Warlords of Draenor launch, which mostly meant saying nothing at all. I think I WoW got more screen time outside of BlizzCon than in it, as commercials were running on TV and at the movies.  My wife and I saw Interstellar on Saturday and there was a Warlords of Draenor ad in with the trailers.

But fuck it, we get the expansion in a couple days, that ought to be enough, right?  I’ll be happy.  Hell, I was happy still pottering around and cleaning stuff up in preparation for the expansion.

I did get one reminder of the state of things during the keynote.  During the talk about the origins of Warcraft and how it got to where it is today, there was a clear statement about how World of Warcraft was the evolution of the franchise.  Bascially, WoW is Warcraft IV, and we are unlikely to ever see Azeroth done as an RTS again.

Diablo III

On the Diablo franchise front, things were about the same as World of Warcraft, only without a movie or a significant anniversary to talk about, and there had already been an expansion this year.  So basically some “Hey, isn’t Diablo III doing well!” and then off to other topics.  There was nothing new.  So I guess it is a good thing I am more of a WoW fan or I might be feeling really left out.

StarCraft

The one and only remaining RTS franchise at Blizzard finally got some news about the Legacy of the Void expansion.  The whole thing has been held up in an effort to really try to capture the Protoss point of view or some such.  And, honestly, they didn’t give a release date or anything, so we are probably looking at November/December of 2015 at the earliest.

But they said “My life for Aiur!” a lot on stage.

And they mentioned that StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void would be a stand-alone expansion, so you wouldn’t have to purchase StarCraft II and the Heart of the Swarm expansion in order to play it.  They also announced a new cooperative play mode, where two players control the same base.  A friend of mine was excited about this feature, as he and his wife like to play StarCraft II.  However, I do wonder if attempting to control the same set of units and resources will bring them closer or become one of those things, like trying to assemble Ikea furniture together, than can really test a relationship.  We shall see, whenever it ships.

Hearthstone

Blizzard’s collectible card game got plenty of attention.  It will be coming to the Android platform in early 2015 and its first expansion, Gnomes vs. Goblins is also headed our way in December, dropping 120 new cards into the mix and no doubt really kicking off a Magic: The Gathering-like arms race when it comes to cards.  Only buying in will keep you competitive.  Since I have played exactly enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed in WoW, this all sort of washed over me.

Heroes of the Storm

I have to admit that Heroes of the Storm looked good.  My first thought, as they were showing demos, was that you could make a really good Warcraft IV on that engine, forgetting already what I mentioned above on that topic.  Since we’re getting down to the lowest rungs of my hierarchy, it is pretty safe to say that MOBAs are not my thing, for the same reason that battlegrounds aren’t my thing in WoW.  I do not particularly enjoy fighting the same battle over and over again.  I had a League of Legends account, but I found the game tedious after a couple of matches and my user name has long since been recycled and returned to the pool, though I am sure they are still counting me on the roll of total registered users.

Heroes of the Storm, in addition to looking good, has the advantage of pulling heroes I know from Blizzard lore.  But is that enough to make me play it?  Anyway, there is a semi-solid date for closed beta (December) and some hand waving about dates beyond that.  Stay tuned I guess.

Overwatch

This was the new hotness for Blizzard, their first new IP since… StarCraft?  It is a first person shooter.  Everybody stared in amazement for a moment at Overwatch

Look, a new thing!

Look, a new thing!

…and then collectively said, “Team Fortress 2.”

Well, everybody but me.  I was stuck thinking, “Wait, wasn’t “Overwatch” from Half-Life 2?

They run Earth, right?

They run Earth, right?

Still, reductio ad valvium or some such.

And, yes, I think the art style and the fact that Blizzard was piling into the FPS arena in a big way made most people jump straight to the idea that Blizzard is ripping off Valve to flesh out its game lineup.  It was certainly an easy jump to make on the surface.

However, I think Blizzard is going for something a bit different here, at least as far as I could read.  Granted, I am long beyond my FPS days and if you check my Steam profile you will see that I have downloaded Team Fortress 2 but have played less than an hour of it.  Shooters and the quick reactions required to be anything more than a target are in my past.  But TF2 feels like a classic FPS game with its modes and classes.  The whole thing is streamlined, but we’ve seen the types before.

With Overwatch, Blizzard seems to be going less for the classic FPS and more for something like a First Person Shooter MOBA.  FPSMOBA?  With what I heard… six players per team, specific scenarios, more potential heroes to play than slots on a team… it sounds more like a mix-and-match special teams game.  And, as such, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up financing itself in the MOBA style by being free to play but then selling the latest overpowered heroes, so that anybody wishing to stay competitive feels they have to buy in.

Or maybe I mis-read the whole thing.  I have to admit that between the big new game being a shooter and everybody and their brother saying, “TF2 clone!” my eyes began to glaze over and I went back to actually playing video games rather than watching people talk about them.

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

That is a saying from the old days of NASCAR, back when they drove cars that at least started their lives on the same factory floor as the ones sold at the dealer showroom.  Back then, a marquee that won races could look forward to a boost in sales and the various car companies would produce special models just to help them dominate on the track. (See: Galaxie 500, Torino Talladega, or Superbird)

I bring this up because I was a bit taken aback at how much of the BlizzCon coverage was devoted esports.  Three of the BlizzCon video streams were pretty much devoted to nothing else,  and the other two spent some time there as well, to the point that panels felt few and far between relative to watching other people play video games.  That is not my thing at all.  Like real world sports, I can watch for a while, but I tend to want to go and do something else… like actually play video games.  But there are plenty of people who seem to enjoy it and who are selling… or in many cases overselling… how popular it is.

So I started to ask myself if games like League of Legends are popular and thus become esports, or if games become popular because they get pushed as esports.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think at this point we can divine what Blizzard thinks.  Just about every game they have now has some esports aspect, from the WoW arena to Heroes of the Storm, with Overwatch looking to be focused on the esports thing as well.  Diablo III, with only a seasonal ladder, seems to be the odd man out, so I suppose an early prediction for next BlizzCon is a change to that.  Blizzard seems to be convinced that being an esport, or at least a popular esport, drives sales.  Sell on Monday.

Which I suppose is fine, so long as they don’t leave their WoW players high and dry for another long stretch.  We shall see.

Anyway, BlizzCon has passed, leaving not much of a ripple for me.  I will have to console myself with a brand new expansion come Thursday, and all the last minute tasks I am suddenly feeling compelled to finish before then.  I played little else aside from WoW all weekend, a situation unlikely to change during the near future.

The Paint on Phoebe is Barely Dry and CCP is Already Talking About Rhea… and Clones November 7, 2014

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

The Phoebe expansion just went live on Tuesday and CCP is still closing loopholes in the system… I think they fixed the bit where you could erase jump fatigue via clone jumping, and the doomsday timer on titans being reset via gate jumps is probably gone now too… but they still found the time to run another episode of the o7 The EVE Online Show on Twitch where they dropped another bombshell on New Eden.

Theo7Show

For those unfamiliar with chat in EVE Online, oh-seven is a little guy saluting.  Sometimes he is just waving, done as oh-forward slash.  Or it might be a she.  It is hard to tell with a little circle.

o7 - saluting
o/ - waving
o7m8 - being annoying

Not that this has anything to do with the news, but sometimes it is nice to re-state things as not everybody who reads this plays EVE.

Anyway, yesterday on the show, CCP announced that with the Rhea expansion there would be a major change to clones.  Clones would no longer have various grades based on the amount of your skill points, so there will be no need to upgrade your clone after you get podded, which means that there will be no more loss of skill points.

I am not sure that was as bit of an announcement as the unshackling of the training queue that came with Phoebe, but it got a lot of cheers.

This is one of those day one game mechanics that has just become one of those things we do because it is one of those things we do.  Losing skills because you forgot to upgrade your clone is a heartbreaker, as it hits your highest cost skills.  Ask Dabigredboat how many times he has lost Fleet Command V, a skill which could take you 60 days to train up.

And the ongoing rising price of clones is just an annoying tax on skill points.  CCP realized this a while back and actually reduced the cost of clone upgrades, so I went from a 40 million ISK tax on being podded to just 30 million.  But now they have decided to jump in with both feet and just remove the whole game mechanic.

There will be some complaints about this change.  As I have always said, no matter what feature we are talking about or how bad it is, it is somebody’s favorite feature.  I think CSM member Sion Kumitomo has a reasonable discussion up about the change over at TMC.  I think it is a good thing, as I always feel odd losing a clone that costs more than the ship I am flying, implants aside.  And, since there will be no change to implants, there will still be the joy of podding somebody with a full slave set.

CCP has posted the show up on YouTube and you can find that announcement at the thirteen minute mark.

Then there was the announcement that there would be some new space in Rhea.  A collection of new systems will be coming to wormhole space with unique features.  Covered on the show was a new wormhole system that will have a name, Thera.  It will have NPC stations in it with the idea that people will live there and use the static wormholes to known space to find adventure.  It will also have Sleeper sites, no local, and be null sec rated just like the rest of wormhole space today.  It will not allow capital ships of POSes however.  CCP Fozzie called it the fifth type of space, alongside high sec, low sec, null, and wormhole.

This strikes me as CCP rolling the dice by mixing up some of the current mechanics to see what players will make of it.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  Golden Age or not, it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

On the YouTube video, the discussion of this starts at the 27 minute mark.

And then, on top of that, there is a new Dev Blog up about revamping the UI.

Certainly the EVE Online UI has many problems.  It is one of those things that you simply have to adjust to over time, because trying to find a method in the madness is a fools errand.

But now they are talking about changing it up, which scares me a bit.  In part, that is because after 8 years, I am somewhat used to the idiosyncrasies of the UI.  But the other aspect is that, in life, I have found that people often confuse “new” or “different” with “better.”  I don’t want something that is just bad in different ways.  You might as well stick with the devil you know then.  But CCP is asking for feedback, so there is time to see and comment on their plan.

All of which, plus the Tech III destroyers announced at EVE Vegas, is starting to make the Rhea release in December look like a big deal.

At this point I am less worried about jump fatigue… I haven’t accrued any yet, despite traveling across New Eden post-Phoebe… and more worried about feature fatigue with changes like this coming at us about every six weeks.  Can CCP keep it up?  Can we keep up?