Monthly Archives: March 2007

March in Review

The Site

The Ancient Gaming Noob passed the six month mark earlier this month.  While that hardly qualifies me for “Elder Statesman” status in the MMO blog community, I was a bit worried that I would get tired of the whole thing in two months and let it drop.  No such luck for my vict… readers!

And what has happened since I started this blog?  What would give perspective?

Since I kicked off the blog on September 11th, 2006, there have been:

32 episodes of the VirginWorlds podcast
Not quite as many episodes of the Massively Online Gamer podcast
10 episodes of the Official SOE podcast
9 episodes of the EQ2-Daily podcast
5 episodes of the Gaming Steve podcast (and 4 were this month)

Since I started:

EverQuest: The Serpent’s Spine launched
EverQuest II: Echoes of Faydwer launched
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade launched
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launched
EverQuest: The Buried Sea launched
Archlord launched

(I actually purchased three of those titles.)

Also, I started a character in EverQuest II and made it to level 50.

The site itself has had:

290 entries posted
726 comments, many of which were from other people
45,604 views

So thank you all for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment.  Now to see if I can make it to the one year mark.

New Linking Sites

I got nearly to the end of the month before I found a couple more linking sites.  I thought I was going to have to wrap up this segment, but then I found:

Most Viewed Posts In March

  • Rise of Kunark?
  • My Aching Head
  • The Next EverQuest II Expansion?
  • Rehash of Station Access
  • The Downloading of the LOTRO Beta
  • The Alchemist’s Lot
  • 44/44/44
  • LOTRO – Frist Impression
  • How Your Station Access Money Is Allocated
  • More Vanguard Character Creation Fun

Best Search Terms of the Month

shawn elliot nerd voice blog

(I wish I could do that voice)

boob inflation game

(Isn’t that more an Adele Caelia thing?)

Deleted Comment of the Month

None.  The worst thing anybody called me was a fool, and I heard that enough growing up to be used to it by now.

EVE Online

I thought hard about going with the 7 day activation just to get some skill training in, but ended up being too busy elsewhere to get to it.  However, two co-workers want to get back into EVE and play, so we might try to do that as an after-hours thing at the office.  EVE has the advantage of running pretty well on the machines we have at the office.

EverQuest II

Oh my, I spent a lot of time playing EverQuest II this month.  As stated multiple times, Blintz made it to 50!  Yay!  Go me!  When he gets another level he will be my highest level online character ever.  Since I also wrote mostly about EQ2 this month, I won’t try to summarize it all again.

And then there is the Station Access thread.  I am still waiting for SOE to let me know what we’re getting for our extra $5.00 a month.

Lord of the Rings Online

I played almost no LOTRO since I wrote about it initially.  I feel really bad about this, especially after Meghan Rodberg the Online Community Manager for LOTRO came over and posted a comment that made me look like less of a dipstick than usual in which she pointed out that my whole timeline confusion would have been cleared up if the cut scenes had been available when I was downloading.  Also, as somebody with a beta key, I feel I did not contribute very much at all to the process.  But I have a whole hang up with beta that will get a post of its own some day.

The open beta has started however, and since I have a pre-order box, I have made a character there.  The server of choice: Windfola.

World of WarCraft

I gave a brief summary of the state of the game when it comes to our instance group of late.  We’re working our way into the level zone for a full ZF run.  I haven’t spent much time outside of instance nights playing WoW, partly because I have been on an EQ2 bender getting to 50, and partly because I am currently a level up on most of the team and the goal is to keep ourselves close.

Wii

It is in its original shirkwrap locked up in my desk at the office still.  I did go buy a classic controller for it. (I can play the GameCube version of Star Wars Lego on the Wii, can’t I?)  My mother bought be the Zelda game for my birthday. (Thanks Mom!)  Also I put SSX Blur and another Wii-mote on my Amazon.com wishlist.  It will be nice to actually get our living situation settled so I can hook this puppy up and try it out.

Other March Events

I did get a chance to spend a few minutes up at GDC in San Francisco before the wind came completely out of my sails and I had to head home.  In that time I did get to meet Brent of VirginWorlds, Brenden of FalconTwin, Todd and Gary of Massively Online Gamer, and the ever affable Alan Crosby of Sony Online Entertainment.  And I did not get a screen shot.  I had a digital camera in my pocket (and I was happy to see you), but forgot all about it so didn’t get the obligatory proof that I was in physical proximity of these individuals.  Such is life.

Also, The Ancient Gaming Noob was mentioned in the weekly EverQuest II Town Crier news column.    Specifically mentioned were my post about EQ2 alchemists and the ever popular Fae with a comically oversized arrow in his head.

Coming Up

I am probably going to fall off the post-a-day horse in April.  I hope to make it to April 8th, so I can have a full six months straight of something posted every day, but that may not happen.  We finally have an offer on our house so, first, I hope soon to stop fretting about two mortgages… two Silicon Valley mortgages… anybody else in debt beyond 1 million dollars?  You know that saying about borrowing a million dollars and you own the bank?  It doesn’t account for inflation.  The bank still owns me.  Two banks, actually.  Second, we have to stop just painting and fixing up the new (older than me) house and actually move in and start living there, which will mean less time to play, less time to write, and more time wishing I was asleep.

The Official SOE Podcast #15

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this special “No EverQuest” show with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news.

Topics:

  • Important Announcement
  • News
  • April Fool’s Day
  • SOE Lingo
  • Stargate CCG
  • Star Was Galaxies
  • Games in Movies
  • A special in studio interview with Timmy
  • Interview with Thom “Enrico Pallazzo” Terrazas of Planetside 
  • The Matrix Online
  • TV and Movies
  • What are you playing?
  • Out takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on March 26th and runs in just under one hour. The show notes feature cast pictures and links.

Mutually Assured Negativity

Over on Potshot the whole “asshats” discussion hit a new stride with the suggestion that an eBay feedback system might fit the bill for a social feedback mechanism to correct antisocial behavior.  An excellent way to turn in this discussion in my opinion.  There are certainly questions raised by the idea.  Who gets to rate whom?  How often do you get to rate somebody?  How long until ratings get pruned?  Should the ratings people give out be visible so you can weigh them or should there be a calculation in the rating system that gives weight to the person giving the rating?

But those are details, really.  They can be solved.

There is another problem however.  One with a solution that is not so obvious, at least not to me.

For a while I was the front for my wife and mother-in-law when it came to eBay, so I have a some feel for the dynamics of the feedback system.  Not that it is rocket science, but you generally have to get more than a few transactions in before you start running into the odd scenarios.

I always play the buyer.  I pay promptly and follow the directions of the seller to the letter, asking for clarification if I am at all confused.  My expectation is that I will get a positive rating no matter what else occurs.  I have done my part.

And, 90% of the time, that is the case.  I get a positive rating, sometimes right away, sometimes after some delay, but usually without my having to do anything further.

But once in a while I run into a seller in the grip of “mutually assured negativity.”

That seller will not give me a positive rating unless I give them one first.  I have received notes from sellers following payment that include a requirement that I give positive feedback before they will consider giving any feedback.  And in such a case I find that the seller and I often end up in a stand off worthy of any south of the Rio Grande. 

Having performed my part of the deal successfully I resent having my feedback held hostage.  Since this communication generally occurs before the buyer has delivered, I generally ignore the request.  In fact, being quite stubborn at times, I usually go beyond that and take the position that I will give no feedback until I have received mine.  Two can play at that game!

Generally this means that nobody ends up getting any feedback on the transaction.  Once in a while the other side will look at my record and see that I have never given a negative feedback and only two neutrals and will relent.  At other times I have ended up in email exchanges with the other party that rival the strategic arms limitations treaty negotiations.  I had a 7 month long, once or twice a week email exchange with one seller.  Well, exchange might be stretching it, since it was mostly him sending the email.  One more rating didn’t mean much to me, but he seemed determined to get every single positive he felt he had coming.  Unfortunately, he started out with a very aggressive demand that I give positive feedback first, which put my back up and my Catalan stubbornness in play, and that was about it for any resolution.

Despite my stubbornness, I do understand the position of the seller.  While I am conscientious about my feedback, generally declining to give feedback rather than give a negative, there are a lot of people who are much more capricious with their ratings.  You do not have to look too hard to find people who have given negatives because they felt the shipping and handling charges that were spelled out in the auction on which they bid were too high.

So the whole stand off about getting a positive rating is also to ensure that if you get a negative rating you can retaliate in kind.

eBay put in a response system so that if you received a negative, you could explain yourself.  While this ended up generating a lot of amusing excuses and counter claims, it did not actually solve the problem.  Eventually eBay but in a function that let the buyer and seller remove a negative rating by mutual consent.  While that can take care of those who rate on a whim and regret later, it just extends the “mutually assured negativity” issue another step, so now you can get to, “I’ll remove mine, but only if you remove yours first.”

Sorry, but that is where I came in and I still refused to play.

So how do you solve this problem in an MMO if they cannot (or will not) solve it at eBay?  Or is it even worth solving?

Offline Selling, Then and Now

I keep starting on an piece about the allure of playing an MMO on day one.  One of the key points for old farts like me is that we can tell people how bad it was on day one and how easy kids have it these days.  That and yelling at the neighborhood kids to stay off my lawn is all part of the training that will turn me into a world class curmudgeon some day.

In the spirit of that, I want to go revisit something I mentioned in a previous post about Nomu’s adventure play time and how I could not really use that to compare how easy or hard it was to level up a character in the old days because the mechanics of the game at the time.

Nomu’s adventure play time is somewhat inaccurate in the context of “adventuring” but completely accurate in the context of the early days of EverQuest II.

His adventure play time reflects the fact that when EQ2 first shipped, the only way you could put things up for sale on the broker was to remain online.  Yes, back in the old days, there was no such thing as off-line selling.  So, like many people, I just left my computer on and my character logged into the game 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Nomu would just sit in his inn room waiting for people to buy his stuff while I was at work or asleep.

What was SOE thinking?

I mean here they had a system that actively encouraged players to leave themselves logged into the EverQuest II servers at all times.   While all of these idlers are in their own little inn room instance and not doing a whole lot of anything, they are still generating network traffic.  I cannot believe that anybody thought this was a sound idea.  Off-line selling must surely have been planned but not implemented at launch.  The idea of the SOE server infrastructure team signing off on this makes me laugh.

So Nomu racked up minutes, hours, and days play time without a whole lot of play going on.

And as it worked out, I was in the right time zone to really maximize my online idle time too.

Sony would bring down the servers early every morning Pacific time for patches and maintenance. (And there was a patch every day… you kids have it so easy these days….)  The servers would be up again at least an hour before I had to head to work, so I would log Nomu back in, check to see what he sold, set him up to sell, and head off for the day.

Off-line selling just had to happen.  There was no way it could be avoided.  All these people logged in had to be a drain on SOE’s server resources.

But even when off-line selling was finally implemented not too long after launch, you could only sell from your house vault, which was a 2 slot affair no matter how big your house was.  But if you were online, you could sell from your inventory AND your vault.  I remember seeing people walking very slowly from the bank to their inn room.  They were getting the maximum number of slots by carrying boxes rather than bags to their room to setup for online selling over night.

And, of course, if you were selling expensive items, you really wanted to be online selling so people could come to you and buy them directly and avoid the broker’s fee.  Yes, off-line selling had its own little tax in that fee that encourage people to remain logged in and selling while idle.

It wasn’t until the advent of the salesman’s case (and its item specific cousins) that off-line selling became truly viable and we could all log out characters out for the night.  The salesman’s case stands in for your character and people can come to your inn room and buy things from it without paying the broker’s fee.

In addition, the salesman’s case gave carpenters another useful item to make.  While all of their furniture items are very nice, boxes and salesman’s cases are all they really have going for them in the marketplace.

Of course, after writing this up, I realize that 31 days of play time really isn’t that much at all given how many hours I kept Nomu logged in.  His grand total is 55 days including trade skill time, so I have to believe that some of that selling time got allocated to trade skill as opposed to adventure.

AA Pirate Blintz

I finally finished up the Alternate Advancement tree that gave me, among other things, the title Pirate.

It only took me 52 AA points to get it!

Why it took that many AA points is a tale that certainly says more about me than about the EQ2 Alternate Advancement process.

Way back when Blintz earned his very first AA point I went to spend it and found that there were two trees, the swashbuckler tree and the rogue tree. (Why is it the “rogue” tree? Isn’t the general class called “scouts?”) 

For your first point, the swashbuckler tree has a number of options, some that would improve combat skills with which I was already familiar.  The rogue tree, however, has only one choice: pick pocket.

“Pick pocket? Screw that useless skill!” was what flashed in my mind and I looked at the rogue tree no more.  I did not bother to check what was available after that, pick pocket being one of those skills I have found to be less than useful in most games.

So I spent that first point, and the next 26 after it, in the swashbuckler tree.  Then, in a comment on a post about upgrading my equipment to Feysteel, Van Hemlock mentioned the skill “Walk the Plank,” which is in the rogue tree. (Thanks for that tip, btw!  That skill is very useful to a back-stabby swashie!) 

I went back and looked at the rogue tree again, found the skill and the ones that lead up to it and thought that perhaps I was a bit hasty dismissing the whole rogue tree based on that first skill.

“No problem” I thought, “I’ll just respec my AA points and put all 27 in the rogue tree!”

That would have given me “Walk The Plank,” the title “Pirate,” and a couple other nice skills.

Why would I imagine that I could respec and move my AA points from one tree to another?  Because that is the way it works in World of Warcraft!  In WoW, spending the analogous points in a particular tree does not lock those points into the given tree.  If you respec there, your points all go into a pool to be spent freely.

Okay, so this is EQ2, not WoW, and as it often goes for me in games, I have to learn things the hard way.

I used up my free respec for the swashbuckler tree, tabbed over to the rogue tree, and found I had no points to spend there.  They were all allocatable only in the swashbuckler tree.

So I was NOT going to get “Walk the Plank” and my pirate title just like that.  I was still 25 AA points away.

So I spent no further points in the swashbuckler tree.  I concentrated, calculated, and spent only on the rogue tree.

Finally, on Sunday night, I hit my 52nd AA point and was able to finish up the tree and get the title.  Here I am, Pirate Blintz, out in the Sinking Sands, celebrating.

pirate-blintz2.png

Only 48 more AA points to go until I max out.  Now which rogue line should I look into next?

A Busy Experience Week

Yesterday I posted a comparison of three characters of mine that were all level 47.  Blintz, my newest character, hit level 47 last Thursday.  He has not been idle since then. 

Friday…

level48.png  level48big.png

Sunday…

level49.png

Tuesday…

level50.png level50big.jpg

So, after nearly two and a half years since EverQuest II came out, I finally have a character at the original level cap. 

An update to his stats from the last post to show where he stands at level 50:

Blintz Plinsen – Swashbuckler

Rolled: November 18, 2006
Hit 50: March 27, 2007 in Sinking Sands
NPCs killed: 4,445
Quests completed: 411
Total Deaths: 80
Adventure Play Time: 7d 23h 55m

The Level 47 Challenge

As of Thursday night I had three level 47 characters in EverQuest II.  I took a quick snapshot of the basic play stats for each of the characters so I could compare how much effort it took to get to level 47.  I figured that this might shed some light on the question of how much tinkering has been done with the experience and levelling curve in EQ2 over time.

Nomu Stonemantle – Templar

My first EQ2 character, rolled up on the day I brought the game home. 

Rolled: November 13 2004
Hit 47: November 27, 2005 in The Pillars of Flame
NPCs Killed: 7394
Quests Completed: 608
Adventure Play Time: 31d 10h 28m

The adventure play time is somewhat inaccurate.  It reflects the odd way that selling through the broker worked in the early days, something I will cover in another post.

While it appears that it took about a year to hit level 47, there were about three months worth of gaps where I did not play Nomu at all, so call it nine months.

Vikund Versuche – Paladin

I managed to play EQ2 for a whole 15 days before I made my first alt.  

Rolled: November 28, 2004
Hit 47: October 29, 2006 in Antonica
Hit 46: December 4, 2005 in The Enchanted Lands
NPCs Killed: 6940
Quests Completed: 462
Adventure Play Time: 19d 7h 28m

Again, adventure play time is skewed by oddities of the early days of the game.

Technically, it took me almost two years to make level 47 with Vikund.  However, I did not play EQ2 at all for 10 of those months.  I included the time to level 46 to illustrate this.  Since I stopped playing EQ2 by the end of December 2005 and levelled him when I came back  with a small quest turn-in in Antonica, I would say he was pretty darn close to 47 before then end of 2005. 

A look at the adventure level history on EQ2Players.com does not show any huge gaps where he did not level during the first year.  But he has always been my #2 character.  I never set him aside fully when playing other characters, but rarely made him the focus of my playing either.  I would call the time to 47 about 12 months of moderate play.

Blintz Plinsen – Swashbuckler

Rolled: November 18, 2006
Hit 47: March 22, 2007 in Steamfont
NPCs killed: 4007
Quests completed: 373
Adventure Play Time: 7d 5h 26m

Adventure play here is accurate.  I also was not distracted by alts very much after I started playing Blintz.  I did slow down some during January when I started playing the Vanguard open beta, but otherwise I ground Blintz along at about the fastest rate that real life and spousal tolerance would allow, four months from creation to level 47.

Comparisons

  • Adventure Play Time:  I have to throw this out.  There is no way to compare the numbers due to changes in the way the game worked. Add in the fact that at some points I ran Nomu or Vikund out to harvest for Blintz and you can see that this isn’t really worth analyzing further.
  • Calendar Time:  This is a hard one to compare as well.  Certainly Blintz’s time is significantly shorter than either Nomu’s or Vikund’s calendar time, even when adjusted for alts and time away from the game.  While I concentrated on Blintz, I did not play EQ2 itself any more than I did in the past.  I just always spread out my time on other characters before.  This is inconclusive.
  • NPCs Killed:  At last, something that can be compared.  In getting to level 47, Blintz killed only 55% of the NPCs than Nomu killed and 58% of the NPCs that Vikund slew.  That seems to be a pretty dramatic number when you consider that in EQ2, killing NPCs usually yields up the lion’s share of the exp when compared to quests.  This is a strong indicator that experience has been tuned.
  • Quests Completed:  Another telling factor?  Blintz only did 61% of the quests that Nomu completed and 80% of the quests that Vikund completed.  But when it comes to experience, few quests in EQ2 deliver very much.  NPCs killed is a better measure in my opinion.
  • General Feel:  A subjective entry, I know, but it just felt easier to get Blintz to level 47 compared to Nomu and Vikund.  With both of them, levelling after 40 was something of a slow grind, especially solo.  Both of them did most of their post-40 experience in small groups because that was where the games was optimized when it came to experience at the time.  
    Blintz on the other hand has glided through levels, both literally and figuratively, and almost always solo.  I might suggest that the swashbuckler class really suits me, but then I also have a ranger which, when it comes to soloing, plays about the same.  Things definitely felt much smoother with Blintz.

Conclusion

While the patch notes over the life of EQ2 have had entries about experience being tuned this way and that, it seems that it has ended up set to a point that allows easier levelling, especially for solo players.  As I mentioned in a previous post comparing the current WoW and EQ2 levelling curves, EQ2 now seems to very much in line with Blizzard’s own tuning of the experience tables.

And with however many million players, who is to argue with WoW as a model?  Blizzard figured out that people like to see progress in their levels, even when they only have a short time to play.  I know that I have had a lot of fun with Blintz and part of that I attribute to the constant feeling of progress.

One Last Barb

Of course, now that the EQ2 experience table is on par with WoW, offers more paths to level up, more character classes, and more races, you would think that this would translate into a game with high replayability that invites people to experiment with new characters.

Except that there is the whole “6 character limit” for your $14.99 a month.  A game with 24 classes and 17 races ought to have more character slots than that.  I cannot pass up another opportunity to harp on that issue!

Questing in Tanaris and the Hinterlands

I have not been writing much about our adventures in World of Warcraft of late. With the defeat of Archaedas and our departure from Uldaman, we have been building up for Zul’Farrak.

Unfortunately, we got through Uldaman with our highest level group member at 44, and Zul’Farrak looks to be more in line with a group closer to the level 50 range.

So we have been slowly working on experience. We have been doing some of the quest lines that lead into ZF. At this we have been mostly successful, though one quest in the Hinterlands requires a pretty serious fight with some level 50 elites which ended up with us getting plastered all over the terrain on our first few attempts. We marked that one “for later.”

We have actually been into ZF a couple of times to knock off a couple of the lesser quests, such as the one for scarab shells, and to scout.

intozf.png

Even though we did okay, we were still fighting a bit out of our weight so that anything unplanned generally lead to some deaths on our part, like this:

deadinzf.png

So our group activity for last weekend was an outing in Tanaris to collect pirate hats and other odd items that the NPCs of Azeroth love to horde. We are moving up slowly. We are all level 46 now and climbing. We probably have another week of side quests and lead-ins before we are ready to run into ZF again.

If nothing else, I have been learning some new quest lines in Tanaris and the Hinterlands. If I have some spare time I can run my hunter through them as well, as he isn’t too far behind in levels at this point.

So that is where we stand.

A Frog, a Rat, and a Fairy Walk Into…

…the Living Tombs.

Here are Lurk, Gaff and Blintz standing in the aqueduct that leads into the Living Tombs.

lgb01.png

So the die has been cast and Blintz is digging into the Desert of Flames.  This isn’t the first time I have been in DoF, though it was the first time I had been into the Living Tombs.

Of course, we had to get in and mix it up with the locals.

lgb02.png

Look at Lurk swinging that Hierophant’s Crook.  Mighty mystic smashing power.

We did okay to start with, but on Friday night, when these shots were taken, Blintz was just level 47 while Lurk and Gaff were just a level or two above that. (Though they are starting to climb away from me in levels… it always happens.)  We ended up biting off a bit more than we could chew (more than once) and Blintz had to evac us to safety.

It was nice to actually poke my nose into a new location.  The Living Tombs feel immense and have a lot of nice visual touches.  I cannot wait to go back in once I have the x1950 card back and can crank the graphics back up again.

The End of Butcherblock Canyon

I hate when I miss an opportunity.

Last night, as I was running from Greater Faydark to Butcherblock, I headed up the canyon that leads to the zone line.

I ran right to the point where you should start zoning.

And kept on going.

I ran past the zone line, around another bend, and all the way to a dead end.

Somehow I slipped right past the trigger that should have sent me into Butcherblock.

And the missed opportunity?  I didn’t take a damn screen shot of it.

Here I was, in a location that maybe 1% of the EQ2 population might ever end up, and I did not record the event.

But I was in a hurry, I was running out to meet up with Gaff to work on a heritage quest.  So I ran back down the canyon and at about the right point, I zoned into Butcherblock.

Not that there was anything spectacular at the end of the canyon.  It is just a dead end.  But now you know what is past the zone line.  I just don’t have a picture to prove it.