Monthly Archives: April 2007

April In Review

The Site

Another month has gone by and I am still here.

I did manage to make it through a full six months posting something new every single day.  I was going to start taking weekends off after I hit that point, but then I ended up with a log jam of topics I suddenly wanted to write about.  In fact, I got far enough ahead that I started posting comments on other sites that I normally would have turned into blog posts. (A number of my posts, usually the ones that start off referencing a post on another site, began their lives as comments that grew in the typing.)

Now that I have worked off a bit of the backlog, I will probably start posting only on week days.

And why only weekdays?  My informal study of traffic on the site indicates that people are less likely to read MMO gaming blogs on the weekend.  We all prefer to do that at work I imagine.  I know I do.  Anyway, look at my data.  The chart below shows the last 30 days of page views for The Ancient Gaming Noob.  The bottom of every valley?  Almost always a weekend.  I guess we do have lives.


I also added a minor new feature.  Along with the links on the right side of the page, there is the option now to bring up a random blog post from the site.  I am sure this is something you have all been waiting for.

New Linking Sites

Most Viewed Posts In April

  1. EverQuest II Gets A Big Head
  2. Rise of Kunark?
  3. An Evening With Emperor Fyst
  4. Aradune Mea Culpa
  5. The Next EverQuest II Expansion?
  6. LOTRO – Frist Impression
  7. The Failure of Vision
  8. No Sash, But A Dirk!
  9. The Downloading of the LOTRO Beta
  10. The Demise of TelonCast 

Best Search Terms of the Month

burning crusade collector’s edition hair

(Does it come with hair, or does it do something to your own?)

find out if you are of Elven descent

(A disappointed nerd out there somewhere)

Deleted Comment of the Month

Several, from strangers, asking me for my LOTRO buddy key.

EverQuest II

I did not do much when it came to levels, only getting up to 53, but I am now the master of Nektropos Castle.  I have now done 11 heritage quests and have nothing yet on which to spend my status points.

With the expiration of my Station Access account, I am on a bit of a hiatus from EQ2.  I am sure I will be back to it some time soon.  There is still so much of Norrath to see and experience.

Lord of the Rings Online

The new game.  I successfully avoided playing the beta enough that Middle Earth is still new to me.  And big.  At least it feels big.  In exploring the world it does seem like a sizable place, but that may also be a result of its newness.  I remember Antonica feeling immense in the first month of EQ2.

Our weekly WoW instance group has moved to LOTRO for the time being, as Potshot has detailed.  We are learning the land, learning our skills, and learning how to work as a group again.  With all of this newness comes enthusiasm.  I’m having fun just exploring the world.

World of WarCraft

With the rise in time spent playing LOTRO, other games are declining in play time.  While my paladin has managed to get up to level 48, he will be probably sitting there for some time to come.


I own a copy of it now.  It was $29.99.  I think if I held out for a while longer I could have paid less.  I bought it too late to get a “founders” title in game however.  Too bad.  The game itself is still in the shrink wrap on my desk, but I will us the fact that I own the to pretend I have a vested interest, thus giving me free reign to comment on the ongoing “Saga of Sigil.”


I have been playing some, though my daughter gets far more time on the Wii than I do.  She only plays when I am around, but when I turn the game on, she hogs the controller.  I have to get some two player games.

Coming Up

No doubt I will have more to say about LOTRO.  Also, I actually have a small backlog of things about EQ2 to write, so it will be as if I am actually playing the game still.  I am also wondering if there is something more, something beyond the ordinary I can do with Brad’s latest post.

SOE & Sigil – No News is No News

Reading Brad’s update on the future of Vanguard and SOE “getting more involved with Sigil and Vanguard” reminded me, at first, of an old Spike Jones routine.  During a song, the phone would ring, the music would stop, and the singer would answer the phone:

singer: Hello?

singer: You don’t say.

singer: You don’t say!

singer: You don’t say!!!

Hangs up

band: Who was it?

singer: He didn’t say!

So we get a lead-in from Brad that goes like this:

Does this mean an acquisition? I can’t say at this point.

Does this mean more or less people at Sigil?  I can’t say at this point.

Does this mean management changes at Sigil?  I can’t say at this point.

All he can say is that SOE and Sigil are talking and that it seems that the relationship between the two companies will be closer in the future.

And then there are seven more paragraphs of classic Aradune.  Literally a week of material for any blogger worth his or her salt.   There are items in there I do want to dig into later, but for now I want to concentrate on the big picture. 

What did we learn about the rumored SOE acquisition of Sigil?

I think this line in the last paragraph is key.

To pull it off however, requires a funded and supported Sigil and a well marketed Vanguard….

What can we infer from it?

Sigil is running out of money (again). Yes, he says early on that Vanguard is doing “decently,” but if that were really the case, Sigil wouldn’t be looking for more funding. (One of the options I laid out the other day.)

SOE is their first choice to help them out.  Natural enough, as they are already partners for hosting, Brad knows people there, and Sigil is unlikely to find another company as receptive as SOE.

Sigil’s current negotiating stance is “Just give us the money and we’ll make it all good.”  A funded and supported Sigil is an independent Sigil, not just another department in SOE.  Brad is not yet ready to give up control or, if you read the rest, some form of the vision.

Of course, the fact that he cannot say what is going to happen at this point seems to indicate that SOE is watching out for its own interests.  Good for SOE.  I’d rather see Sigil go elsewhere than see SOE commit to a deal that might harm any of its other titles.

And what does SOE have to say on the subject so far?  Well, Smed doesn’t get out there and bare his soul for us like Brad.  All they have is:

SOE is in discussions with Sigil regarding the future of Vanguard and Sigil Games in Carlsbad.  Talks are going well and first and foremost, our primary concern right now is what’s best for Vanguard and its community.  We want to ensure that this game and its community have a healthy future.  The specifics that we work out over the coming days will all be with that single goal in mind.

Which is marketing for, “Yes, we’re talking.  Yes, we have the upper hand.  Yes, we want to look magnanimous.  Yes, we will pwn you if the price is right.”

More Aradune Incoming!

Brad McQuaid, who now has his own forum on the SOE Vanguard forums posted this last night:

Subject: Update on the future of Sigil and Vanguard coming soon…

It’s all ultimately good news, but complicated enough to justify one of my verbose postings ) I should have my first Sigil/Vanguard update up tomorrow and then look for regular updates as to the future of the game here and on the affiliate sites (probably weekly or so, depending on what’s going on).  I will post here first and then immediately copy the post to a set of the Vanguard affiliate sites.



Brad “Aradune” McQuaid
Exec. Producer, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Chairman & CEO, Sigil Games Online, Inc.

You can find it here.

I guess I know what we will be writing about this week.  If nothing else, this again argues for having official forums.

The Superlative Six

The day of reckoning is at hand.  SOE has not shown me any reason to spend an additional five dollars a month on Station Access, so my account has been cancelled.

When you quit Station Access, it appears that you have to cancel your account, let it run out the clock, then subscribe individually to the games (if any) you want to play.

But I had one thing left to do before time ran out on Station Access.  I had to slim down to six characters in EverQuest II.  Some deletions were in order.

Now, I know, you do not HAVE to delete your extra characters if you leave the Station Access plan.  SOE doesn’t expunge them.  They remain, just in a state of inaccessibility.

I just worry about the algorithm used to determine which characters go into suspended animation.  I can just see me doing something at the last minute and suddenly finding that one of the characters I want to play is locked down.

Fortunately, when it came down to it, the surviving six were not too hard to choose. 

I had a total of nine character.  Six of them were over level 50 in either adventure or trade skills, one of them was level 27 and had only just passed the Artisan stage of trade skills, and the final two were under level 15 and had no trade skill training at all.

So the six remaining are the six represented on my characters page.

Now to think about subscribing to a standard EQ2 account.  I might actually let that slide for a couple weeks.

As much as I enjoy EQ2, Lord of the Rings Online is out, fresh, installed, and much on my mind.  I get home and I want to play in Middle Earth rather than Norrath.  For now.

So I will probably save myself a few dollars and hold off my EQ2 subscription until I have worn out a bit of the LOTRO bug.  I still want to get Blintz to 70 (or close to 70) before the next expansion, but I really do not have time (or budget) for 3 MMOs.  LOTRO is free for the next few weeks, WoW is paid out to June, and Station Access expires today.  Like picking the six characters, the logical choice is pretty apparent.

And since Station Access is going, I should probably uninstall The Matrix Online and Star Wars Galaxies as well.  I played MxO a bit, but was not enthusiastic about it, and I never got around to creating a character in SWG.  And so it goes.

Tagged: Five Reasons Why I Blog

I was tagged by Gaff, damn him! Five reasons why I blog? 

  1. I was writing already:  I have a history of polluting guild forums with my own opinions, tales, and misadventures.  One of the reasons I jumped to blogging was that these forums seem to spontaneously combust with alarming regularity taking my wit and wisdom with them.  Here at least I can back up the database myself.
  2. The persistence of memory or the lack thereof:  Part of the reason I was posting to guild forums was as sort of a written memory.  The older I get, the more I forget it seems.  This way, when I am really old, and somebody comes by to give me a “told you so” on what sort of memories I would have left over from all of this gaming, I can smugly tell them about how we took down Archaedas in Uldaman by the skin of our teeth on the fourth try and how the whole server cheered and we received a parade in our honor through Stormwind. (I plan to exaggerate the hell out of everything in my old age.)
  3. The appearance of mattering:  By howling in the wires of the internet my so-called opinions occasionally attract the attention of somebody who matters more to the MMO gaming community than I do. (Which turns out to be an astoundingly long list of individuals.  I am well below even Timmy at SOE, which is a slap in the face to third rate bloggers everywhere!)  This person’s stature in the community reflects momentarily on me when they acknowledge my existence.  It is like momentary immortality! Go me!
  4. I get to educate:  How many gamers now know who Peter Roget, Gertrude Stein, and Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski are thanks to my insistence on using obscure references and then linking them to Wikipedia?  By my count, three.  Anyway, my outside references give me a chuckle.
  5. Feeling of superiority: I do not have to go surf through many random blogs before I start feeling like the paragon of consistent literacy.  Really, try it some time.  I think much of the web is out there to make you feel better about yourself.  It is like your mind is giving you some subtle proof that your solipsistic thoughts might have validity. (Add solipism to that education list!  Thanks Ryan North!)
  6. My own boss:  I don’t have to follow rules. (See, now I have 6 reasons! What are you going to do about it?) I can blather about what I like, take humorous things seriously, serious things humorously, and generally carry on as I please. 
  7. Despite myself:  Even after all of the above, I still have some regular readers who comment, say nice things, and generally make the effort more than worthwhile.  Can’t you see that this just prolongs the life of this blog?  Comments and attention are like crack to a blogger.

So there you have it, all seven of my five reasons why I blog. 

Since I know, deep in my soul, that the only thing WORSE than being tagged for one of these lame blog memes is not to be tagged when many of your peers do get tagged, I am going to spread the love and tag some people.  You can complain about it in public, but thank me in private.

So I am tagging:

Melmoth’s Inferno:  Because I love a good literary reference.  I’ll let you know as soon as he has one.

Kilanna at Dwarven Runes:  Because even the thought of Kilanna not commenting on my blog leaves me curled up on the floor with the DTs and because she has a shiny new blog on which I got to leave the first comment. (I see codependency in our future.)

MMO Critic: Because real life has let him return to MMO blogging

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats: Why should Ethic have all the fun?

Kinless at Kinless’ Chronicles: Because he links me despite the fact I haven’t talked about WoW much lately and he appears to be the kind that actually responds to these things.  I mean, Gitr got him to do one of these just a couple weeks back. Now he can pass this back to Gitr.

Title Mania!

I am already giddy about all of the titles you can get in Lord of the Rings Online.  The wide variety you can earn almost assures you won’t be standing around in town with similarly titled crowd.  But Potshot just sent me a list of additional titles you can get from emotes. These were in a comment on Tobold’s Blog.  Some of them are great:

  • the Adorable – Recieve 100 /hug emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Alluring – Receive 100 /flirt emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Befuddling – Receive 100 /confused emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Beloved – Receive 100 /kiss emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Dull – Receive 100 /bored emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Harassed – Receive 100 /beg emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Helpful – Receive 100 /thank emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Infuriating – Receive 100 /angry emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Insulted – Receive 200 /rude emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Intimidating – Receive 40 /cower emotes. This can only be incremented 2 times per day.
  • the Naughty – Receive 100 /scold emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Ridiculed – Receive 100 /mock emotes. This can only be incremented 5 times per day.
  • the Victorious – Receive 40 /surrender emotes. This can only be incremented 2 times per day.

Too much title fun!  I don’t know what I want to try for first!  I want “The Infuriating” I think, but Potshot seems to think I’m a natural for “The Dull.”

[I suspect I may have been had on this bit.]

The Future Paths of Vanguard

A simple comment on The Demise of TelonCast from Cyanbane of EQ2-Daily got me thinking.  He just wrote that he believed that Vanguard had a future.

And why shouldn’t it have a future?

So let’s dismiss a few of the pundits and assume Gertrude Stein is wrong and that there is some “there” there in Vanguard.  What options does Sigil have?

Stay The Course – Bite the bullet, control costs, try to power through and hope for an Echoes of Faydwer-like expansion success.

Pro: Already in progress, don’t have to change the story for the investors.

Con: The investment in the game probably requires a string of EoF-like expansion successes, or an unlikely Burning Crusade-like expansion success.  Working on an expansion means time spent away from fixing the base game.  The track record so far makes successful expansions a difficult proposition to sell.

Sell OutSell to SOE, sell to Vivendi, sell to CodeMasters, sell to NCSoft, sell to the next bus of Korean tourists that drive by, just get some money back out of the investment.

Pro: While little would change in the short term, in the long term a new company might make better choices.  Sigil itself might be able to go back to the drawing board and do better with lessons learned.

Con:  If Sigil isn’t the whole problem, then we just have a new company with a similar set of problems.  Companies with the know-how might reasonably be expected to pass this offer up unless Vanguard was being sold at fire sale prices.  While a bus load of Korean tourists could probably muster the cash, they are unlikely to understand the dynamics of massively multiplayer games in the US market.

Alternative: Replace senior management.  Loses the “EQ History” cachet, but saves money on changing the letterhead.

Go Free – Anarchy Online model.  Charge for the box, charge for any new content, make the base content free.

Pro:  May retain a larger and more patient subscriber base

Con:  Would have to spend a lot of time fixing and filling out the base game before Sigil could begin to charge for expansions.  Sony, Sigil staff, and investors undoubtedly will still expect to get paid during this time.

Alternative: Get that new guy at SOE to figure out a micro transaction scheme for Vanguard to keep the game free.

Go Free Temporarily – Declare a six month billing amnesty for subscribers.

Pro: Preserves subscriber base for the duration.  As a gesture, it would be worth a hundred Brad Mea Culpas.

Cons: Can Sigil afford it?  Can Sigil do enough with the game in six months to not kill off the subscriber base when they resume billing?

Go Niche  – Pick a game play segment, drop everything else, pursue that relentlessly.  They would have hard choices to make.  They could follow the hardcore vision and make Vanguard the raider’s paradise: No solo content after, say, level 20, no PvP, all grouping, all the time.  They could refine their PvP rules and become the EvE Online of high fantasy.   They could become the happy care bear quest realm.  They would just have to pick a segment and focus.

Pros: No more dilution of effort. Ends the fantasy of being all things to all people.  Allows the building of a better relationship with a core set of players.

Cons: Will have to cut staff, servers, and overhead to the bare bone to make this profitable in the short term. Will the Sony and the investors sign off on a niche game after being promised the world?

Find New Revenue Streams – Since their IP has no draw (does it?), they could try to find something that Sigil does better than most companies, something that they have nailed, and sell it as a service to other MMO companies.  Sony does this with hosting.  CodeMasters does this with disappointing Korean MMO ports. 

Pro:  More revenue will prolong the time Sigil has to fix Vanguard.

Con:  Still does not address how to fix Vanguard, so may still require one of the above.  Will dilute attention from Vanguard.  Not clear that Sigil can do anything better than other companies.

Find New Investors – Easier to do before you’ve flopped on the market than after, but not impossible.  Will probably require one of the other options to sell the idea to a new investor.  Will undoubtedly require Sigil founders to give up control of the company.

Pro: Game would remain available.

Con: Even at a birthrate of one every minute, investors may not be plentiful enough.

Other Ideas?

That is what I could come up with in a rather short time based on my own experience at a couple of foundering start-up companies. 

I personally feel that Brad, Jeff, and the rest of the crew could really make their mark on the world of gaming with the niche option.  Unfortunately, they have sold the vision as mass market and have planned for success.  It can be very hard to pull back from that when it is in motion, no matter what the alternative prospects are.

What else could they try?

The Demise of TelonCast

I picked up the 10th and last episode of TelonCast Monday morning.

TelonCast was a podcast dedicated to Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.  It was on my recommended podcasts links until yesterday.

Unfortunately for Vanguard and the Vanguard community, the game itself appears to have worn a bit thin on Michael, the host.  He still wants to play the game, but it sounds like his enthusiasm has waned.

More surprising is his mention that nobody from Sigil ever responded to his enquiries or made any comment, official or otherwise, about the show.

So who dropped the ball on this?  A little official support of recognition might have spurred Michael on to keep the show going.  He says so himself.

I would hate to think that this was a failure on the part of SOE, since their community relations team does such a good job in the face of some daunting obstacles.  (Station Access price hike?  They didn’t make the decision, but they have to face the music.) 

For a game that most people agree needs all the help it can get, a little effort in the name of podcast support seems like a natural to me.  Think if, perhaps, Brad had skipped one of his posts and spent 10 minutes talking to Michael on Skype.  Think how jazzed Michael would have been.  That would have been motivation for ten more shows I bet. 

Plus all the bloggers would have had to rant about something other than Brad’s latest post.  A win-win for Vanguard in my book.

But that is just speculation.  The opportunity has passed.

You can find all ten episodes of Teloncast, the definitive collection, on iTunes or the Teloncast site, while it remains up.

And if you liked Teloncast, you can find Michael (and Chris) in a new podcast called Wildly Divergent.