Monthly Archives: February 2007

Station Access Price Hike

Well, ouch!

Dear Station Access Subscriber,

We want to give you some important information regarding your Station Access subscription. Effective April 2, 2007, the new monthly subscription rate will be US$29.99 per month (not including applicable taxes).

We know that rate adjustments are never popular, but the increase is driven by our desire to provide our Station Access subscribers with a consistently high quality entertainment experience, as evidenced by our most recent addition to the Station Access subscription plan, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

You don’t have to do a thing; you will automatically be migrated to the new monthly subscription rate under your existing subscription plan when your current subscription plan comes up for renewal on or after April 2, 2007. We appreciate your support and continued participation in our community.

Station Access subscriptions are recurring, meaning you will continue to be billed at the appropriate subscription interval, until you affirmatively cancel your subscription. Subscription fees are subject to tax and value-added tax, as applicable. The subscription charges are in addition to the cost of the games that are part of the Station Access subscription plan. All game software is sold separately.

Now that the plan is effectively the price of two MMO subscriptions, and I only play one SOE game regularly, it is time to decide which of my six EverQuest II characters I want to keep, delete the rest, and change to the standard plan. 

February in Review

The Site

Five full months in and I am still coming up with new and inane topics on a daily basis.

Of course, the highlight of the month was the 22nd when Kendricke slipped in and left a comment about the possible name of the next EverQuest II expansion, Rise of Kunark.  My guess was right as far as location went, though my shot at the name “Return to Kunark” was wrong.  I was going to say something about it sticking to the three letter acronym model, but then I remembered KoS is really “Kingdom of the Sky” or KotS.  I always knew there was something wrong with that expansion.

I did get a lot of great comments on the site this month.  Thank you very much for those!

New Linking Sites

Thank you all for linking me.  I watch the WordPress.com stats to see where my traffic originates, but if I missed you, let me know.

Most Viewed Posts In February

  • Rise of Kunark?
  • Vanguard’s Fatal Character Flaw
  • The Next EverQuest II Expansion?
  • You = EXP
  • Five Insane MMO Things I Want
  • More Vanguard Character Creation Fun
  • Initial LOTRO Timeline Oddity
  • Rumors of Kunark
  • LOTRO – Frist Impression
  • Modelling Stealth

No surprise that Kunark is on top.  That was something akin to actual news.

Best Search Term of the Month

wow character creation simulator

(what ever for?)

Deleted Comment of the Month

“Are you serious?….or are you just the biggest loser ever?”

Can’t I be both?

EVE Online

Account cancelled, but I should be past 5 million skill points trained if Caldari Cruiser V kept training.  There is too much high fantasy to stomp through right now to stay cooped up in that pod… unless I could play MMOs in there… hrmmm.

EverQuest II

I had an EverQuest II month.  With the end of the Vanguard beta I was back into EQ2, the best game that none of my friends play.  I have to do something about that.  February seemed to be about finishing heritage quests as I wrapped up “The Journey is Half The Fun,” “Return of the Light,” and “Dragoon K’Naae and the Thexians” as well as making a big dent in a few others.  Fortunately, pick up groups for these quests seem to be a reasonable proposition.  On the other hand, I never seem to run into these people again, so I have nothing like a regular group at the moment.

I am somewhat paused at the moment on adventure levels as I grind up some more trade skill levels to equip myself for the next tier.  As usual, I have more I want to do in EQ2 than I can probably manage, which is one of the things I like about the game.

Lord of the Rings Online

I was in the beta as of last week.  I also bought the pre-order box, partly to solve my download issue, but also because I will want to play the game at release.  I have not decided if it is a game for which I will need a lifetime subscription, but it could very well be a summertime diversion for our WoW group.

World of Warcraft

Real Life was rough on our regular instance group in February.  I do not think all five of us were on together all month.  We did get together in smaller groups to do some Uldaman fights, roam the Badlands, and start off in the Hinterlands.  Real life is likely to interrupt me for a few weeks in March, but we will pick back up again.

Wii

I think it must be a sign that I am an adult that the Wii is still in its shrink wrap and I am not going crazy to unwrap it.  My daughter keeps asking me about it however.

Coming Up

I said a month ago that my writing was going to be reduced somewhat because we are moving in March.  Yet, in February, I still managed to write quite a bit.  March is upon us now though.  Soon I will be out loading all of our stuff in a truck and moving 8 miles up the highway.  8 miles closer to work and in a better school district.  That means there will be a stretch of time where I will not have high speed internet access from home.  The Wii may come into play to bridge that gap.

GDC is coming up next week.  My wife got me an Expo pass for my birthday, which is also next week.  I plan to take Thursday, March 8th off of work to head up to GDC.  If you are going to be there and want to hook up and say hello, drop me a note.

I am also thinking of a contest for the 6th month anniversary of this blog, which will be coming up soon.  Details to follow.

Into Steamfont

I wrote this entry, then lost it for a week or so by foolishly filing it in a directory titled “Blog Topics.”  That is apparently the place I put things to forget about them, judging from the number of times I said “Oh, yeah” when going through it.  This post fits into the time frame of the post “Working The Nek Forest Spawn Table.”
—–

I have to admit, despite the fact that I really like the Faydwer zones, old habits die hard and I have been spending the majority of my adventuring time in Zek.  Orc rich and full of quests, I ask again, what is not to love about the place?

Last night though I decided that I had best make the plunge and explore a new zone.  Now that I have hit 38, I was worried that I might exp myself out of the level range for the quests in the zone.   That worry, plus a deity quest to take care of, “Ro’s Infernal Device,” got me on the road to Steamfont.

The quest itself was pretty easy and came in two stages.  The first part is requires you to collect 15 magma cores and 10 magma crystals.  The magma cores are harvest nodes only visible to those who have the quest, that spawn around two of the craters in Steamfont.  As I ran around them, avoiding patrols, and harvesting, I noticed that, even at level 38, a lot of the mobs were higher level than I.  This seemed odd, since I wasn’t that far into the zone, so I actually went and looked up the zone level recommendations.

Steamfont – Levels 35-45

How cool. I had assumed that the Faydwer zones would just mimic the other mid-level zones and cover a standard tier.  Instead, I can continue to harry the orcs in Zek for a while and not worry about missing out on the Steamfont experience.  Color me happy!

Anyway, back on message.  The magma crystals are available from a vendor in the Gnomeland Security area, which is located at the top of a plateau in the middle of the zone.  Another climbable wall to scale. (I haven’t really looked at the other races, but the animations for a fae climbing are very good.)  This is also quest giver central for the zone.  A lot of the quests were yellow or orange to me, so I let them be for now.  I’ll come back in a couple levels to storm Steamfont.

Anyway, I finished up my collections and ran back to Civean Il’Pernod in Butcher Block.  He gave me the next step of the quest, which asks you to return to Steamfont and kill a crazed Kobold at the northern edge of the Mazkeen crater.

I found the crazed kobold, Grak Shattersnout, about where the quest said, atop a tall point along the edge of the crater.  While he was only level 35 and not marked heroic, he was still a named mob with all sorts of adornments to the thick horned border around his name, which usually means some sort of badass, so I thought I would take this carefully.  I summoned my servant of flame, my favorite benefit of being a follower of Ro. 

I had not used my little follower, who only lasts for 10 minutes and can only be summoned once per hour, for quite some time.  In fact, the last time I used him was for the Blood Talon fight for the dwarven workboots quest, and I didn’t remember him doing all that well.  He appears to have improved with time and levels though.  I pulled Grak with a thrown dagger, then set the pet on him.

Holy crap, the little guy just unloaded on Grak.  I had to actually use my taunt skill (aggression skill now up to 6!) to get Grak off of him.

Anyway, Grak went down without too much trouble.  On my way out of the zone I ran into a quest giver who had a blue quest for me.  I decided to run through it.  I was close to both a level and another AA point. 

The quest involved killing kobolds which, in addition to rogue clockwork devices, pretty much rule the zone.  The quest was not too hard, not with the scout tracking skill at least, since it involved specific kobolds.  It started a chain which ran me around the zone a bit, netted me some discovery exp along with quest and killing exp and showed me some of the sights.  I saw the windmills, the entrance to Klak’Anon (which, frankly, is even more dull looking than the EverQuest version), and a lot more kobolds.  The quest chain even involved some interesting rock climbing gear.

In the end, I got level 39, finished up the quest for Ro, which got me the next level of blessings (which don’t seem all that useful to a swashbuckler), and picked up a bunch of runes.  These drop from kobolds and are supposed to be part of the language quest, though they do not actually start the quest, so I’ll have to figure that out.

But Steamfont, while being somewhat small, is another nice zone on Faydwer.  I’ll be back to conquer it, and take some pictures, some day soon.

Once I’ve dealt the orcs in Zek another stinging blow.

You = EXP

PvP

There is a topic I have mostly avoided.

I personally have no use for PvP.  While there are all sorts of minor reasons around why I do not care for PvP, the essential factor is that in an MMO, PvP is inevitably a different game.  You can either play the lore and levelling and quests game, or you can kill other players.

I don’t want to play to conflicting games.  I don’t want to give up levelling and such just to go kill some people.

So screw notoriety, kill leader boards, titles, arenas, and all that crap.  When I kill you, I want experience for the kill.  I want to be able to grind Freeps, Qs, Horde, Alliance, or strange furries for levels.

EQ2-Daily podcast #37 was all about PvP in EverQuest II.  At one point during the show the idea of writs for killing the opposite faction was brought up.

I say if you’re going to go PvP all the way, there should be lots of quests for killing the other faction.  Can you imagine a quest where you must, say, kill one of each class of a given to complete it? 

Racial and class collection quests!

“Hey, a ratonga mystic!  I need one of those for a quest! Get him!” 

And can you imagine being, say, the one ogre warlock on the server?  Imagine how popular you would be!  You would be prime bait for PvP traps.

There will be the question of how much experience you should get for killing a player.  Should it be based on level, level differential, equipment, hit points, reputation, or some mix of them all?  But that could all be worked out.

The real problem would be the opportunities for exploiting the system.  There will have to be some mechanism to keep you and your buddy from trading kills to level 70.  I can just see guilds from opposing factions organizing pkill circle jerks and all sorts of other shenanigans. 

But unless stepping over your corpse is going to get me closer to my next level, I’d rather just let you live.

Initial LOTRO Timeline Oddity

In which the author gets to display some minor Tolkien nerdiness.

I have found my first nit to pick with The Lord of the Rings Online when it comes to deviating from the books.  It is probably pretty minor, but it is one of those things I love to carp about, like people who write up all those errors about movies on the Internet Movie Database.

The game is called, of course, The Lord of the Rings Online.  That means, to me, that not only do I expect to be running around in Middle Earth, but I expect I will be doing so in a given time frame.  Since I have read that I will be interacting with members of the fellowship of the ring, my expectation was that the game’s story line would probably start a little before Frodo leaves the shire.

So when I created my first character, Nomu the dwarf, I was rather surprised by my first vision in game.  So surprised I took a screen shot right away, lest it disappear.

gloinandbalin.jpg

Gloin is who I am supposed to be talking to, but in the background is Balin.

Balin?!?!

I walked up and took a closer screen shot.

balin.jpg

Yup, it is Balin alright, if one is to believe the golden drop cap letters floating over his head.

The problem here, for me, is that in the Third Age time line, Balin is already dead before you read page one of “The Fellowship of the Ring.”  He died in Moria.  Yet here he is sitting around the initial starting area.  He doesn’t have any lines to read, he is just hanging out.

So I look around the starting area and who else should I see but Thorin Oakenshield!

thorin.jpg

He’s off to one side, talking to Gandalf about finding a burglar.

My first thought is, “Oh, crap, I’ve been sent back to “The Hobbit” by mistake!”

Silly me, I guess, thinking I might start within 50 years of the first page of the books on which this game is based.  Still, what the hell, why not start further back.  It isn’t like the world stood still between the two books.

And, true to “The Hobbit” you run around in the noob area killing goblins rather than orcs while you learn how to play.  All fine and good.

Eventually you learn that one clan of dwarves is making nice with the goblins and you have to run around with Dwalin to thwart them.  This is the quest bridge between the beginner area and the main world.  I was playing my elf by that point, but I assume the quest is the same for dwarves in the area.

At one juncture between fights Dwalin has to stop and rest.  He complains that he really hasn’t done any fighting since the Battle of the Five Armies.

Huh?

Of course, one of the more notable deaths at the Battle of the Five Armies was Thorin Oakenshield.  Thorin whom I saw talking to Gandalf not 90 minutes ago my time.  And Dwalin is talking about the battle like it was some years ago.  (How long does it take for a dwarf to get out of shape?)

Maybe I missed something along the way, but I got no sense that that much time had elapsed between my coming into the game and getting to this quest.  Furthermore, members of Thorin’s party have been around the whole time.  When did they find the time to run off and have this little adventure?

And now that I have finished that quest and have been dumped into the real world, what day is it?  Where am I in the story?

I suppose I am only confused because I know too much.

LOTRO – Frist Impression

Saturday evening I actually got a chance to log in to Lord of the Rings Online.  As is my usual practice, the first thing I did was make a dwarf.  Why do I always make a dwarf first?  And why is his name always Nomu?  I have no idea, but I seem to have a track record in that regard. 

The dwarf models are, well, very dwarf like.  I chose a champion, as that seemed a very dwarf like class to me.

I ran through the first quest chain, which introduces you to the game and leads you into one of the starter areas.  At one point you face a huge cave troll, just like the one in the movie, from which Gandalf saves you, turning the troll to stone.  You actually run across this stone troll again later, which is kind of neat, even if it is a gimmick swiped from the books.  Here are Gimli and I being saved.

gandalfsaves.jpg

At the end of this you find yourself in the starter area.  It was snow covered, just like the dwarf/gnome starter area in World of Warcraft.  Snow is really boring visually in a computer game, so after a couple of quests I logged off my dwarf and made an elf, thinking I would at least get away from the snow.

The elf models are okay, with the exception of the who pointed ears thing, but I guess that is just me.  Everybody else seems to be fine with the Spock ears on steroids look.  I am just sorry that those ears have to stick out no matter which hairstyle you choose.  I was happy when I finally got a hat that covered them.

I made a minstrel and gave him the name “Celinbran” so I could correct people when they pronounced it with a soft “c” sound.

I ran through the opening quest with my elf, which was much prettier than the dwarf quest, and ended up in the starter area.  The same area, snow and all.

Fine, I’ll play in the snow.

It was stress test weekend, so there were a lot of other players on with me, and every single one of the elves appeared to be a hunter.  On OOC this was being referred to as the “Legolas Syndrome.” 

I suppose I should have been fine with this.  An elf with a bow is a pretty stock character.  The only problem was I was now the only elf without a bow.  I spent a little too much time running up to mobs only to have them snatched from me at the last second by some William Tell wannabe to be happy with the situation.

Still, the run through the starter area was fine.  I did all the quests I could find except one.  That one required the slaying of a named mob, and the line-up for him seemed to be somewhat excessive.

The quests themselves were clearly written.  They all included sufficient detail to get you headed in the right direction without spelling everything out in detail.  Your destination was mostly in the form of “to the West” or “South of here,” though at least once it was as complex as “follow this path down to the crossroads then turn north.”

The game ran smoothly enough.  I insist on running my monitor at it’s native resolution, which is 1600×1200, so that is saying something.   I did get some lag when running around a lot of players outside.  In the tunnel instances the game ran as quick as I could have wanted.

The UI is okay.  There isn’t anything daring about it.  The game sticks with the standard conventions of the industry (more so than Vanguard), which means people will say it looks like WoW, even though many of those conventions pre-date WoW by a decade. (That round mini-map in the upper right for example… that idea has been around for ages people.)

A couple of things did bug me about the UI.  The first was that the standard “attack” command gets its own permanent button on the UI.  While it is big and easy to find, I have a long time standard of mapping the standard attack to the “2” key, so I would rather have “attack” in the button bar with the special attacks.

The second was when you mouse over one of your skills to try to figure out what it does, the description pops up at the very top of the screen.  Nearly 1000 pixels is a long way for the eye to travel and it makes it difficult to mentally link the button to what it does.  I found myself looking up and down the screen a couple of times to try and make the association and to be sure that I had not accidentally moved the mouse over another skill.

I could also do with a few less rings overall.  The “One” ring, glowing with the elvish script visible, is the icon for the game itself, its tray icon, the graphic above quest givers, the graphic for quest givers on the mini-map, the icon next to quests in your quest tracker window, and the icon on the button to bring up your quest journal.  Heck, even the mini-map is surrounded by a golden ring at times.  I think they may have overdone the ring thing just a bit. 

One additional gripe is the way names are shown in game.  Everybody not in your fellowship or kinship has their name above them in the same size, style, and general color.  NPC names a are a little more yellow than PC names, but not by much.  You can see an example here where Moparisthebest (no doubt of Hemicuda elven lineage) is speaking to Merethen, an NPC.

mopar.jpg

They seem pretty distinct in this shot, but there are places where close to a dozen NPCs reside with players all around them, at which point names becomes indistinct and confused.  Everybody gets the same size and style of type, even the cat.

cat.jpg

Otherwise, the game ran well.  It seemed to be solid, it didn’t balk and awkwardly redraw if I tabbed out then back in.  I did not run into any overt bugs aside from a couple of typos in the quests.  It certainly looks ready for prime time so far.

Still, I have quite a bit more to explore in the game.  These are just my first night impressions.

The Patching of LOTRO

The DVD pre-order copy of Lord of the Rings online installed easily enough.

I launched the application (it’s icon is that of the “one ring,” a motif that I imagine I am going to tire of before long in this game.) and it first patched the patcher application, then gave me an alert that the application needed to be restarted.  Once I did that, it then began patching the actual game.

The count was 5840 files to be downloaded.  I let that run and went off to watch TV.

One episode of Law & Order later, I came back and found the patcher apparently stuck. 

It wasn’t, actually, but it looked like it was.  When the screen saver kicked in on my machine, the UI stopped updating, so while the patching was complete the progress bar still said 6%.  I restarted the launcher application and it passed through all of the updates and went to the log on screen.

I put in the account I had setup for the beta and I was in the game.