Down and Out in the Twenty-First Hall

I’ve mocked Lord of the Rings Online on occasion for taking so long to get to Mordor.  We’re past the eight year mark and we’re just getting a hint Minis Tirith might come to the game in some form.

At least we've hit Gondor

At least we’ve hit Gondor

The events of the books on which the game is based were wrapped up in three and a half years, and that time line generously includes a couple years or post-war activity.

But my own progress in the war of the ring has been desultory even in comparison with Turbine’s progress.  I made it to the far side of Moria back in August 2013, and so completed the game’s first expansion, which went live in November of 2008.

Not exactly Mister Speedy.

Which isn’t to say I haven’t played a lot of LOTRO over the last eight years.  I have characters on five servers… soon to be consolidated down to two… or maybe three… and I have had good times playing LOTRO.  I have most certainly gotten my lifetime subscription investment out of the game.  I just tend to run out of steam with my characters somewhere around level 40.  After the Lone Lands and Evendim the experience becomes a bit uneven in my opinion and I tend to stop and make an alt of something before I get to Moria.

So the fact that I have a character on the far side of Moria says something.  Moria was actually very good.  It started slow, but built up to be quite a bit of fun after I got past the opening area.

And then ended up on the other side in Lothlorien and things sort of fell flat.

To Lothlorien

Lothlorien, land of ageless elves and lifeless quests

Moria had a story and different quests and kept me engaged.  Lothlorien seemed to fall back into the defacto kill/collect ten things… generally killing orc or collecting things from orcs… in a land that, while pretty enough, had no real unique feel to me.  So my progress dropped off.

And then, of course, came the Helm’s Deep expansion and the great skill revamp that brought us what looked like WoW talent trees, circa 2005.  That both changed the quirky but unique feel of LOTRO classes and made it feel like I was going to have to re-learn how to play my captain from scratch after having made it to level 61.

The Captain's Specs

The Captain’s Specs

The zone and the class changes conspired to keep me from playing the game much over the last two years.  My main character, my captain on the Brandywine server, basically hung out in the Twenty-First Hall of Moria that whole time, it being the closest place with a bank.

I logged in at least once a month to keep my account active and collect my 500 Turbine points… points which I then used to buy what appears to be the last two full-on expansions for the game, Riders of Rohan and Helm’s DeepSo I could move forward with the game, owning all the content at this point, I just needed to find the motivation.

Then Gaff appeared to be getting the LOTRO bug.  He decided to re-subscribe and started on with his highest level character, pushing on to Mirkwood.

So I shook off some of the cobwebs, cleared some of the fluff out of my Captain’s bags, and rode back out to Lothlorien to see if I could get invested.  I also had to pick a spec and figure out some new skills.  I need to find a decent guide to playing the captain, but I muddled through, picking the DPS spec and trying to pick things that improve damage.  I also think my legendary weapon, a halberd for my captain, needs to be replaced.  Even with its DPS fully upgraded, it is barely better than a couple of one hand swords I have gotten as drops.

I killed some orcs.  And some more orcs.  And collected more stuff from them, occasionally burning some things they built, because screw orcs.  And eventually I managed to get into some of the story again, catching up with the as-yet-unbroken fellowship… I even spoke to Boromir… and was actually introduced to Celeborn and Galadriel.

We live in the woods, so our natural stance is wooden...

We live in the woods, so our natural stance is wooden…

This gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I might be nearing the end of the bland sameness of Lothlorien and could be inching my was slowly towards Mirkwood.  I would dearly like to get there, if only to get into the second game expansion.

We will have to see if I can stay invested.

And then there are the server issues.  Gaff is playing and it sounds like he might have made it to Mirkwood already.  However he is on the Silverlode server with the Nazgun.  I only have a level 35 Rune Keeper on that server, so to play there I would have a long way to catch up.

Of course, the Silverlode server is going away.  However, while there are free transfers to other servers, Brandywine, where my captain resides, is not on the list.  The Nazgun is headed to Landroval at some point, and I can actually get a free transfer OFF of Brandywine (it is apparently the highest population US server) to Landroval, but I am not sure if I should… or if I could.  I already moved a bunch of characters there from Firefoot, so I might not have enough slots left to bring more than one or two characters.  And the Nazgun is holding out on moving for some reason, so actually playing with Gaff is problematic at the moment.  Then there is WoW, where I have 21 days left on my token.  No easy decisions.

Life in the MMORPG lane I suppose.

Not Ready for a Return to Azeroth

I have to hand it to Blizzard.  They took their WoW Token idea and made it very easy for players to buy one to get back into the game.

With the World of Warcraft 11th anniversary hitting this month, I decided to see if I could log in with a level 20 or under via the Starter Edition to get the the obligatory Feat of Strength “being there” achievement so I could brag about it and pretend I was subscribed at the time or some such further down the road.

But when I logged in and got to the character screen, Blizzard popped up a dialog that said I had 200K gold sloshing around on various characters and wondered aloud in a not-so-subtle bit of copy if I wouldn’t like to just drop 35K gold on a WoW Token right now to reactivate my account.

WoW Tokens have gone up in price; not to the 90K gold some were predicting, but they are at least up past the original 30K opening price.  Still, I figured I could afford it, so I pressed the button, restarted the client, and was good for another 30 days.

I then collected and put on the Edwin VanCleef costume and the Inflatable Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker that were part of the anniversary package.

Vikund as Van Cleef

Vikund as Van Cleef

That got me two achievements.  Also, there was the now usual anniversary booster.


Then I was standing around in my garrison, so I went back to business and collected the items from my followers who had all been out on missions since July.  That got me an item that yielded another achievement.

Then I spoke to King Varian Wrynn, who happened to be standing around in my garrison, took the quest he was offering, and went off to build a ship yard for my garrison.  Another achievement there.

Ships, I need lots of ships...

Ships, I need lots of ships…

That lead me on into the intro quests for Tanaan Jungle.  I did that then started on the quest chain in the jungle, ran through a few of those quests, and then called it a night.

And then went a full week before I realized I hadn’t logged back in again.

I am not sure there was anything wrong with Tanaan Jungle, though running through the garrison routine started to put me to sleep.  I suspect I am just to ready yet for another return to Azeroth.  We still have a long way to go until WoW Legion hits, even if the eternally optimistic keep saying that it COULD ship before summer.

I was interested to see who from the instance group was logging in.  Earl had been on recently.  He never unsubscribes and is a dedicated player.  And Bung had been on recently.  The rest of us in the guild though had been offline for months.  So perhaps the time is not yet ripe for a return.  I think that will have to wait until we get a firm date for WoW Legion.  At that point we can get back in, finish up Warlords of Draenor as a warm up and then set sail for the Broken Isles.

Still, that leave a hole in my usual routine, not having a fantasy MMORPG I am actively playing.

Minecraft and The Guardian Farm

I mentioned at the end of a previous post how Aaron walled up and drained the area around an undersea monument.  Impressive stuff.

Dry monument

Dry monument

As it turns out, he was not done yet.

I had not been paying attention to his monument as I was off in my usual routine of base building in an attempt to populate a bit of the great northern road.  So it came as some surprise when he dropped us an email about his ongoing efforts with the monument.  (Screen shots provided by him, shrunk a bit by me as they were very large.)

First he decided to trade out the sand wall for a glass wall around the monument.

Monument with an undersea view

Monument with an undersea view

According to Aaron, the original effort with sand required about 8,000 blocks of sand in order to wall off the whole thing, plus some additional sand segment the whole thing up in to sections to be drained.

On the bright side, he then has plenty of sand on hand to convert into glass blocks, burning through 15 full stacks of coal in the process. (There was no handy source of lava I gather.)

Once that was done, the “what next?” question struck.  After pondering just moving in and living in the monument, Aaron decided to strip it away.

The monument stripped back a few layers

The monument stripped back a few layers

That completed, he went to work and built a monument guardian farm in the space where the monument used to reside.  More work and more glass.

Guardian farm complete

Guardian farm complete

And there it was.  I had to visit this new structure… though it took me a bit.  It is as impressive in person as you might imagine.

The guardians spawn in the large tank then eventually fall through the porous bottom… made so by signs… into a flowing water that drives them over the edge and through a layer of lava.

Dropping through the lava layer...

Dropping through the lava layer…

The lava is also held in place by wooden signs which, unlike all other wood in the game, fails to catch fire when in close proximity of lava.

The fish then drop onto the killing floor where the expire through a combination of burning and the blunt force trauma of the fall.

Flaming fried fish

Flattened flaming fried fish

Below that floor is a series of hoppers that route the remains to a sorting machine that drops the resulting items into appropriately labeled chests.

All sorted out for you

All sorted out for you

You end up with fish, prismarine crystals, and prismarine shards.  The shards appear to be the most common, followed by crystals and fish.  The shards and crystals can be combined to create sea lanterns, though you need five crystals and four shards, which means you have a lot of excess shards.  But the shards can be used to make prismarine bricks as well, a blue-green block that I will have to build something with at some point.

I addition, the whole thing is located on a chunk that spawns slime at night as well.

Slime visitor

Slime visitor

Some trivia provided by Aaron about his structure:

  • Once torn down, the materials which made up the monument fit into roughly 5 or 6 double chests.  Temple in a box for Christmas!
  • The first filter of the farm alone is comprised of 1,296 signs – which took 702 chunks (~11 stacks) of wood to make.
  • I’m not sure what my “sand blocks used” tally was before this started, but presumably it wasn’t much in that I’d only used sand for the glass to the roof of my home base.  Now that number sits at over 44,000.  The “times mined” number is within a hair’s breadth of 60,000.  (Yes, I went through a ton of shovels.)
  • The interior volume of the spawn chamber is 25,920 blocks.
  • The initial length of the “fall damage” section of the kill unit was too short and I ended up quickly accumulating dozens of guardians bouncing around on the hopper pad.  This meant I had to extend the fall column while it was occupied and new little friends were dropping in at a horrible rate.  That was fun.
  • By the time that was done, I had to dig down another couple levels (sadly stopped by bedrock) in order to expand the storage at the end of the sorter because the drops were come in too fast.
  • During demolition, I found that there was a pretty sizable chamber wrapped around 3/4 of the perimeter of the temple with no entrance or egress – which means I totally missed it during my initial drying-out of the interior.  Man, were its occupants pissed when I finally broke in.

And then he also made a beacon, which required him to spawn and defeat a wither to acquire a nether star, and then put the beacon on top of a pyramid of material blocks.  In his case, he went for blocks of emeralds, having farmed his villagers for the materials.

Beacon, deep within his base

Beacon, deep within his base

The beacon itself shoots a beam of light into the sky that is about the most visible object you can create in the game.

Beacon lighting the sky

Beacon lighting the sky

So that is what he has been up to.  At some point I will have to write something about his base, which includes a slime block based elevator that almost never kills anybody anymore.

EverQuest Phinigel Server – A True Box Progression Server

The EverQuest team is prepping another nostalgia run with a new progression server, which will mean that there will be a total of five such servers in play with Fippy Darkpaw, Vulak, Ragefire, and Lockjaw still chugging along.

The nostalgia is strong in Norrath.

Named for Phinigel Autropos, the last known knight of the Kedge, this is going to be a special progression server according to Daybreak.

Phinigel awake...

Phinigel awake…

The Phinigel time locked progression server is aimed at addressing some of the more common complaints about the past round of servers, specifically Ragefire and Lockjaw.

To this end, you will only be able to log into the server with one client from a single computer.  Multi-boxing a pile of characters from a single computer will be blocked.  As the Daybreak team put it, if you want to multi-box you will have to do it the old-fashioned way.

A Computer for every client

A Computer for every client

(Real old-school would have had a half dozen scrounged 15″ CRTs.)

In addition to this, the whole open world raiding log jam will be addressed by having both open world and instanced versions of the big bosses.  From Daybreak:

The big raid targets from each expansion will be instanced. While bosses like Lady Vox, Lord Nagafen, and (/cough) Phinigel Autropos (hey, THAT’S where we got the name!) will still spawn out in the world, groups of players will ALSO be able to have these targets available to them via Raid Instances.

The instanced raids’ targets have an account-wide 6.5 day lockout and will have the same difficulty as the non-instanced version of the raid target. Note that raid bosses on progression servers have had their difficulties increased since the launch of Ragefire.

So the bosses will be out in the open if you want to compete for them and hidden away in an instance on a timer if you just want to raid and not deal with external guild drama. (Internal guild drama is still on you.)

And, finally, voting will be dispensed with and expansions will unlock on a regular, 90 day schedule.  People can just be angry about that schedule being too short/long rather than claiming vote fraud.

So what will EverQuest players find to complain about in the forums this time around?  I have no doubt they will find something.  Recruit a friend is always popular.

All of this kicks off on December 9th.  We’ll see if the tradition holds and Daybreak has to open up a second server, though with all of the multi-zone instancing work they have done, I hope they can keep the population on a single server.

And, as always, in order to play on the Phinigel server you will have to have Daybreak All Access active on your account.  I’ll have to see how I feel when the launch date arrives.  I am currently not playing any fantasy MMORPGs at the moment and it is strange.  Of course, Gaff is now trying to get me back to LOTRO, so we shall see…

In Which We Blob

The purging of Cloud Ring continues, though mostly while I am asleep.  Waffles and Pandemic Horde changed their vulnerability widow to be during AUTZ, so the Entosis Link ops have been left to Lemba’s Korean’s in DOKDO and Arsehole squad, the AU/NZ time zone SIG in The Imperium.  So I wake up in the morning and can see the fleet pings that went out overnight.

While The Mittani’s optimistic six day forecast now seems… well, optimistic… the purge doesn’t seem to be in doubt.  The desired end state though… I’m not sure what that is.  We don’t want any hostiles living in that region, so we are purging them.  But we don’t want to take the sov ourselves, so we didn’t, for example, drop a TCU in W-4NUU after we killed the Pandemic Horde TCU, which allowed them to drop one and take the sovereignty right back. (Though reset to 0, so the system is easier to take/retake.)  And we have seen that our only friend in the region, Fweddit, can’t hold the whole region by itself, so I am not sure who we expect to come live there.  Who wants to live next to us?

Anyway, there has been day by day coverage over at The Nosy Gamer under the Kickstarter War tag.

Having avoided Cloud Ring completely, I did get into one fleet over the weekend, once that ended up in a fight.  There is a story about it up at TMC that I find a bit confusing.  The copy makes it sound like the whole thing was a surprise when, in fact, there were pings out for a “max dudes stratop” nearly 24 hours in advance.  Maybe I have misunderstood.  I guess we did pour in over time.

Anyway, the pings were out far enough in advance for me to get down to our staging system in Pure Blind and be online and ready to go.  Well, mostly ready to go.  I ran down in an interceptor and wasn’t keen to buy a doctrine ship off contract until I knew what fleets were going up.

When the ping for fleets went out, the initial options were Tengu fleet or Harpy fleet.  Later Cawk fleet was added to handle all the people piling into the system and trying to get into a fleet.  I opted for Harpy fleet because, if nothing else, a Harpy is cheap and warps faster than a Tengu and looks better as well.

Harpy out and flying about

Harpy out and flying about

Also, with three Basilisks lost already this month, I might be past my limit on reimbursement.  No need to risk losing a Tengu or a Basi.

Anyway, I got into fleet and immediately began looking forward to the next Reavers deployment.  It has been a while since I have been in the main fleet during an op.  Somewhere around 500 of us showed up, got in fleets, and starting flying towards some distant destination, leaving time dilation and tasty stragglers for MOA in our wake.

We reached UMI-KK about an hour after I joined the fleet, a system where I had both a jump clone and a Harpy standing by, so if I had known I could have saved myself the first part of the journey and the price of a Harpy.  The cost of op sec.

We didn’t have to go the whole way by gates.  We did take one jump bridge.  When we arrived there, the guy who said he had a three day timer before he could take a jump bridge and was told we would be taking one, again announced his timer issue.  I suppose he expected us to all slog an additional half dozen gates to keep him safe.  We took the jump bridge and let him fend for himself.

We left one Harpy behind

We left one Harpy behind

From the far end of the jump bridge it was a few more jumps through tidi until we finally arrived at MR4-MY in Geminate.  Our FC was hurrying us along at that point, as it sounded like the fight was going to end soon.  Sure enough, things certainly seemed to be in progress when we got there.

Fight in MR4-MY

Fight in MR4-MY, many bubbles

After some mucking about just out of range of all of the fun, our FC pointed us at the two biggest targets on the field, the two Archon carriers supporting the NCDot fleet.

The prized on the field

The prized on the field

Everybody loves a capital ship kill.  And certainly everybody seemed to get on those kills.  There were 741 involved parties on the first carrier kill, and 717 on the second.  I also managed to get on the kills of a Proteus, a Damnation, and a Devoter.   But that was about it.  After that, the field was clear and it was time to head back home.

The battle report shows 865 of us blobbing 121 of them, inflicting 43 billion ISK in damage for about 5.5 billion in losses.  That is the old CFC way.

And then it was another hour getting back to our staging system.  The whole thing went a little longer than three hours, so at least we got two participation links for the effort.  But it was a reminder of what big fleet fights can be like in the main fleet, with time dilation, hours of travel, uneven levels of skill, and coms that made me hide in the “no chatter” channel.  After that, a Reavers deployment feels like a vacation.

The Fountain War – A Video Documentary

Scott Manley has put together a video about the Fountain War, going through the players, how the war came about, and how it played out. (Direct link)

Of course, this coincides with the struggling Fountain War novelization Kickstarter campaign.

Reinforcements bridge in

The fight at 6VDT-H

And I have my own tales of the Fountain War, collected here, from which a number of the assets for the video were drawn.