Monthly Archives: December 2006

December in Review

The Site

I seem to be settling down into a style of writing where I end up with one of a few different types of entries:

Even Reporting: We hit Scarlet Monestary.  I hit level 30.  I did “Ro’s Flame.”

Things I Find Amusing: Anything from the number 1337 to bad articles in Newsweek qualify.

Picture posts:  Screen shots, especially the “Then and Now” series.

Hey Lookie: Posts that point to other things of interest.

Actual Commentary: Pretty rare.  Something of the engineer in me makes it easy to describe things but difficult to make judgments unless I have no information at all or all possible information.

And speaking of comments, thank you for all of the great comments this month.  Getting some feedback makes a big difference and motivates me to write more.

New Linking Sites

A big thanks to the sites I found that put me on their links list over the last month:

Most Viewed Posts In December

Five Features Blizzard Should Steal From EverQuest II
The Next EverQuest II Expansion?
Portal to the Commonlands
Escape to Antonica
Burning Sensation
SOE Trajectory
A Bad Podcast Morning
One Three Three Seven
Falling Off The Faydwer Wagon
The Chessboard – Then and Now

I removed EVE-Mon and the x1950 review posts from the list since they contain little in the way of actual content.  They would actually top the list if they were included.

The “Five Features” post actually generated a list of topics I want to write about in the upcoming year.

EVE Online

I spent almost no time playing EVE in December.  I logged in to keep my skill training going, but did not run a single mission.  I made up my mind to cancel my account and then found out that a co-worker of mine also plays.  I was giving a presentation with my laptop and at the end, when I was packing up, he noticed the EVE-Online icon on my desktop.  Still, while my admiration for the game is still high, my enthusiasm for actually playing it is ebbing away.  However, I still have until February 9th to decide on cancellation as I did not follow Zubon’s advice.

EverQuest

I promised to go back and get to level 20 in Crescent Reach, didn’t I?  I haven’t actually decided against that, but I have been playing other games so much that I have not invested any time in accomplishing it either.  I still have Station Access, so it is still an option.  All I really did in EQ in December was run around and take some screen shots.

EverQuest II

I have been playing a lot of EQ2.  In fact, I have been playing EQ2 almost to the exclusion of all other games.  There is something about it that is satisfying to play, even solo.  I always feel like I have so many choices about what to do.

Solo has been the operative word most of the month.  The two guild mates who returned to EQ2 in October are already back raiding in WoW.  Still, people have commitments and such for the holiday’s and the end of the year, so I hope to see a few more people I know in game come January.

World of Warcraft

Instance nights were interrupted a little by the holidays, but they continue to roll along.  Our levels are building up so we can finally get past Scarlet Monastery.  Still, going back in there several times has yielded some good equipment drops.

Coming up in January

More of the same no doubt.  I am saving my “2006 in Review” entry for a few more days, mostly because I find writing a bit more challenging at home rather than while I eat my lunch at work.  I also want to start looking more seriously at the MMOs that will be coming out in 2007 to decide what I absolutely have to play on the day of release, what I may play eventually, and what I will probably skip.

30-30 Fae

Actually, at the time of this writing, Blintz is a 30 Swashbuckler and a 33 Armorer, but for a point in time he was level 30 in both adventure and trade skills.

I was determined to use the holiday experience bonus to get Blintz to 30 and to get his armor crafting skill high enough to equip himself for the road to 40.  I have hit one and I am going to grind hard until I hit the other tonight.

Blintz actually hit 30 just as his adventure experience vitality ran out, which was pretty good timing.

I did have to send my level 47 paladin out to harvest for Blintz.  He gathered up two stacks of feyiron and a stack of tussah for Blintz, but no etched leather.  I forgot that I had not worked on his trapping skill in the past, so was a bit annoyed when I got him out to Zek and found I could not gather any leather.  Still, I was out there and of all the items on the broker, etched leather pelts seemed the most reasonable.

I did get Blintz back on the Faydwer wagon for quests and experience, though I ended up splitting his time between there and Nektulos Forest.

I have always liked Nek Forest, even when it was such a hazard to travel through.  Actually, probably because it was such a hazard to travel through.  Unlike the Thundering Steppes, where they had to add some aggros around the zone, Nek killed the unwary dead on day one.

But, even in its current, less deadly configuration, it is fun.  There are lots of quests to work with, including my favorite quest series with the dark elves on the beach.  I ran through a lot of that, started on the Shining Brass Halberd quest, and did a bunch of side quests as well.  Compared to Faydwer, the older zones are almost obscenely quest rich.

I have yet another character past level 30, so now I have to fight the temptation to create another alt.  I have this fascination for what a fae berserker might be like.

Massive Magazine Issue #1

I received my copy of Massive Magazine about a month back and have been meaning to write about it ever since.  If you have not seen it, it is a new magazine dedicated to the coverage of the MMO world.

Since I would like to get my comments out before I get issue #2, I will break my review into two quick parts.

Lows

News: For me this is a low.  It is a reminder of why I do not subscribe to monthly magazines that are news oriented.  I was reading the news clip in the magazine announcing the Ryzom Ring on the same day I read about Nevrax going into receivership.  Of course, I may not be the target audience here, being somebody who picks up MMO news via RSS every day.

MMOGRAPHICS: Some statistics thrown into the news section.  No source or methodology is provided with them, so they might as well be made up by my standards, and 87% of MMO players surveyed concur with my opinion.

Tradeskills of the Future: A humor piece scattered about the front section of the magazine.  It fell completely flat for me.  Besides, if they think that “prostitute” or “beggar” are trade skills of the future, they haven’t spent enough time playing World of Warcraft.

Ask Dr. M.M. O’rly: Did not care for it and, given that this is issue #1, it seemed pretty faked up to have letters available to answer.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising Beta Key: It is a key to get on a list to maybe get an invite to be in the beta.

The Same Five Questions We Always Ask: This is their last page piece.  They need to ditch their first question, “When was the last time you pulled an all nighter working on a game, and why?” If you have somebody interesting there, I do not care about the last time they pulled an all nighter.  Find a better question.

Highs

The magazine itself is well put together and well laid out.

The Ads: The big, colorful double page spreads for the different games in the magazine are very nice.  They made me want to play games I knew I had no business playing.

Features: There were several very good articles about different aspects and history of online gaming.  “Anatomy of a Crash,” the story of a huge EverQuest II outage, was good because I remember that episode well.  “Mods of War” was decent, though with the World or Warcraft 2.0.1 update, a lot of the information is now out of date.  There were also interesting articles on hacking online games and gold farmers.  I could have done without “Say What,” a piece on in game chat language,mostly because I think that topic has been beaten to death.

Columns: There are pieces from Raph Koster, Richard Bartle, Richard Garriot, Brad McQuaid, and Nick Yee.  A pretty heavy hitting set for a first issue.

The Same Five Questions We Always Ask: Again, their last page piece.  Rob Pardo of Blizzard was the person being asked this month, and the other four questions were good and generated interesting answers.

Thoughts

If I had a friend who was not into MMOs but who wanted a quick look into the world thereof, I would hand him or her a copy of this magazine.  It is bright, colorful, and has lots of pictures of different games, so it has a toy catalog air about it that works well.

They also sponsor the Massively Online Gamer podcast, which is a pretty cool thing to do.

I am looking forward to the next issue.

Purple Horns?

Another MMO related story I read in the print media then had to go find on the web. (We get Time, BusinessWeek, NewsWeek, and AviationWeek at our house… and those are just the weekly magazines.)

I love posting these sorts of stories because, well, I have a reputation as an instigator of trouble and this is the sort of haphazard media coverage of the gaming world that makes gamer blood boil.

From last week’s Newsweek magazine, read “Embedded In Azeroth.”  It is mercifully short. 

I hope they had somebody to take over the character this guy was handed when he bailed on their Molten Core raid when dinner was ready!

One Three Three Seven

If you have played online games for a while, you have probably seen somebody use “Leet” in chat.  Of course the name of the dialect is usually written in the dialect itself, where it is commonly represented by the numbers one, three, three, and seven.

1337

“Leet” has been around for quite a while, and while the people I know and play with regularly do not use the dialect except in occasional parody, we do, as a group, seem to like to slip the number 1337 into things just for fun.  I personally chuckle whenever I see that number come up anywhere.

So I got a laugh while doing a quest in Butcherblock when I saw this:

1337 Axes! Haxors!

I am sure somebody got a chuckle putting it in the quest as well.

Level 30 Armorer

I made it.

227 items crafted to get there.

I was determined that while I had the trade skill vitality, while I had the time, and while there was a 20% experience bonus, I was going to get Blintz’s armor skill up to level 30.

Getting to 30 was no easy chore, and it portends a lot of work getting to 40.  Getting up to 25 was easy enough.  I was able to make a few level 18 and 19 items for initial experience, then started making the level 20 items.

My primary plan to get trade skill experience is to make every item at least once, pristine, to get the extra “first pristine” experience bonus.  For levels 10 to 19, this was very easy since, as an outfitter, you can make metal armor, cloth armor, leather armor, and weapons.  At level 20 though, your options are limited to metal armor.

For levels 20 through 26 you actually get a few new items to make at each level, so once you get through with the “first pristine” experience, you only have to make a few more items to get to the next level.

Things start to slow down after level 26.  At level 27 you only get two new items.  That got me about 35% into the level. 

At level 28 though, you only get one item!  That one item, made the first time, got me 14% of the way into level 28.  Then it was time to grind.  Each additional pristine version of that item gave me another 5% experience, so I ended up making 20 more, since I did not hit pristine every time.

At level 29 you get two more items to make.  But by then I had another problem.  I was running out of materials.  Every item worth decent experience at that point needed 4 carbonite clusters, 2 strips of boiled leather, and 2 belladonna roots, and my supplies were running out fast.

I was 20% into level 29 when I ran out of boiled leather.  A check at the broker showed boiled leather selling for 15sp, a price I was not willing to pay.  So I started going through all of my other character’s bank slots looking for supplies.  I found quite a bit and started loading up the shared bank slots.  This actually cleared out a lot of “old” trade skill supplies I had stockpiled, like carbonite blades for swords, carbonite studs, carbonite pommels, boiled leather hilts, and so on.

Soon I was back up and running.

All of these supplies got me to 97%.  And then I ran out of carbonite.

On the broker, carbonite was going for 50sp and more.  Despite only needing four more clusters, I was not going to spend 2 gold for them.

I ran out to harvest.  Of course, when you really need something, you can never find it.  Ore was hiding from me.

I did use the opportunity to get my harvest skills up to at least 140, so I can harvest the next tier of nodes, but I really wanted ore.

The first ore node I found was a tease.  It only gave me loam on all three harvests.  The next one I found only gave me one carbonite.  Finally, in the dwarf mines around the East and West fort Irontoe, I managed to harvest some carbonite. 

(In all of my tier 3 harvesting I never once saw a steel cluster.) 

I got back, made that last item, and hit level 30. 

That not only got me a new tier of items to make, but at 30 you get a new set of trade skill reactions that promote durability.  Since I always shoot for pristine, the durability reactions are all I use.  That made the end of the 20s a challenge as well, since I was still using the level 10 reactions. 

Now I need to find some supplies and get in a few more levels before the holiday trade skill bonus goes away! 

Meanwhile, I have hosed the carbonite armor market by trying to sell all of the pristine items I made.  Anybody need some carbonite armor on the Crushbone server?
 

Podcast Digg-mania

Roughly a week ago there was a sudden burst of requests from several podcasts to which I listen to please go to Digg.com and select them in the new Digg podcast area.  Being very much the partisan for theses podcasts, I went out right away, created a Digg account, and, as they say on the site, “dugg” them all.

So now, about a week later, I was interested to see how the four shows I clicked on were doing as far as their Digg ratings went.  In order of popularity:

Fear the Boot – 33 Diggs

Massively Online Gamer – 32 Diggs

Virgin Worlds – 27 Diggs

EQ2-Daily – 21 Diggs

This is a rather disappointing set of results. 

I realize that only a subset of listeners to a given podcast ever see these requests in the forums, and that a subset of those listeners actually act on the request, but these numbers seem very small all the same, especially for EQ2-Daily, which got a boost on the EverQuest II forums with a post by Brenlo.

By way of comparison, The Instance, which is probably the gold standard for an MMO related podcast, has over 400 Diggs.

Even the World of Warcraft Podcast from Rotten Eggs Media, which only has 9 real episodes and changed hosts after episode 7, has 65 Diggs.

So, if you have the time and energy to create a Digg account, do so, and then click on the links to the shows above and digg them.

And while you are there, Digg GuildCast as well.