Monthly Archives: June 2007

June in Review

The Site

After the month of May, which was my peak month for traffic so far, June has been relatively steady and quiet.

Not that I am entirely traffic obsessed, but I do like to see what brings people to the blog.  I refresh and stare at the stats for the blog no more than, say, once every 15 minutes in a 24 hour period.

On the other hand, comments have been great this month.  Thanks to all who took the time to leave one!

I have actually been playing a bit more, and when I play more I tend to write less.  I have a serious backlog of articles I want to write, but the times when I write that are not eaten up by game time (while eating lunch at the office or in the morning before work) have been a bit hectic as well.  Such is life.

Still, I did manage to work in references to Buddhism, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Bored of the Rings, and the Kennedy Assassination over the course of the month, so June has been about quality of nonsense over quantity of nonsense I guess.  It is all plusgood.

New Linking Sites

I certainly cannot blame a flattening of incoming traffic to a lack of linking sites.  New MMO related blogs seem to pop up daily.

Most Viewed Posts In May

  • Allakhazam’s Okay Again?
  • Rejected Arasai Character Model
  • TAGN Central
  • Five Minor LOTRO Gripes
  • The Field of MMO Crafting Gripes
  • Follow Up Thought…
  • Tanha, MMO Style
  • Where on Earth is Middle Earth?
  • Handcrafted at Higher Levels?
  • 500 Quests

Best Search Terms of the Month

BIG DOGGIES

[No idea how this brought somebody here.]

Gestalt Vanguard Saga

[Delusions of grandeur, wasn’t it? Or at least a lack of connection with the “here and now?”]

EVE Online

I have not played EVE Online since February, yet it appears in my round up every month.  How is that for staying power?

This month my excuse is that while I was recovering from having three wisdom teeth extracted I sat around and listened to the music from EVE Online, something that generated a post of its own. (iTunes says I have listened to “Below the Asteroids” 17 times, and that is just the count for the computer, not the iPod.)

I do have a minor obsession with the game.  It has so much going for it.  I have all sorts of excuses for why I have not resubscribed.  I do not have the time.  I do not have any friends that play.  I already play two other MMOs.

But when it comes right down to it, I think it is just a matter of not knowing what in the heck I am doing in the game.  I might just be the type of gamer now that needs something a little more directed, like WoW or LOTRO.  I like that sense of progress those games provide.  I can play for an hour and feel like I have gotten something done.  In EVE I played for a few months and was never sure if I accomplished very much at all.

EverQuest

There was some talk amongst my friends of another nostalgia tour of pre-cataclysm Norrath this summer, but is seems that Middle-earth is the vacation destination for the season.  Perhaps in the fall.  I still have that 30 days of play time that came with the Anniversary Edition of the game.

EverQuest II

I managed to get Blintz up to level 57 and he is within an evenings work of level 58 at this point.  But the twitch is starting to get to me again.  I have been thinking about playing something different.  I cannot make an new alt, I am saving that 7th character slot for Kunark, but I have five other characters to choose from.

I did get my wood elf ranger, Selirus, out one night and got him a level plus some AA exp.  He is in the middle of the Zek quest lines which I know so well, so it was fun to run around there some more.  It is a shame he cannot glide.  I do have to get into the swing of the ranger thing again if I am going to play him much.  Despite being outfitted with feysteel he isn’t the stand-up fighter that Blintz is.

I also spent quite a bit of time doing trade skills.  A mild Vicondin buzz, the EVE Online sound track, and some free time is just about all I seem to need to grind out some levels.  Vikund, my woodworker, is not up in the middle of tier 7 and Nomu, my alchemist, is not far behind.

Lord of the Rings Online

I would have to call this my “primary” game at the moment.  Aside from the beautiful scenery, it seems to be quite fulfilling to play in small doses.  Add in the fact that some friends are playing as well and that we are all happy at the moment progressing at a slow to moderate pace, and life in Middle-earth is just grand.

Plus we have a special, surprise guest joining us in Middle-earth.  I will wait until he admits it in his own blog before I mention who it is. (But go ahead and guess.)

Pirates of the Burning Sea

I have been on the fence on this one.  On one hand, I am a fan of the age and have, if nothing else, read all of Patrick O’Brein’s Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin novels as well as a few of the supplemental works.  On the other hand, the idea of yet another monthly subscription fee for yet another game that I might not be able to devote time to seems silly.

And then they said the magic words, “Station Access.”

Wii

I have a pile of notes about the Wii which may become posts some day.  Do you want to read about my views on Mario Party 8 and Wario Ware Smooth Moves or my virtual console recommendations?

My daughter and I have a lot of fun playing with the Wii and I am pretty sure I have sold a couple of our friends on it when they have come to visit.  It is just a blast and completely light, goofy, interactive entertainment.  When I end up with my daughter and my mother-in-law running around the living room playing Wii Tennis, you know it is a winner.

The only person who won’t play with it is my wife.  I haven’t figured that out yet, and she isn’t talking.

Upcoming

There will probably be some breaks in posting in July as we have some travel planned during the month, and when I go on a family vacation the laptop stays behind.

We will be visiting my sister down in San Diego (Carlsbad, really) and spending some time at LEGO Land.  I told my wife that we will have to at least stop by 8928 Terman Court so she can take a picture of me in front of SOE HQ.

Recipes & Crafting to Order

In the ongoing “Crafting: What is it Good For?” thread Tobold has added his voice with the suggestion that the focus on recipes is a false path and that perhaps there should be no recipes.

My initial reaction to this was to RUN SCREAMING FROM THE ROOM!

Later, after breathing into a paper bag, I was able to calm down.

You see, I played EverQuest early on, back when trade skills were new and the standard formula for them had not been laid down.  There were no recipes.  You “learned” how to make things by experimenting.  You put some materials and a mold into the crafting station, pressed the button, and either got something or lost all of your materials.

Not fun.  Very expensive.  And in the end, somebody compiled a list of combinations that worked, so there was a defacto recipe list, but only if you knew where to find it.  I dislike something that requires special knowledge outside of the game to use effectively or efficiently in its most basic form. 

And even in a better version, where you at least do not lose your materials if you choose poorly, I am not sure that a Horadric Cube style of crafting is a good plan. 

Yes, eventually somebody will create a 3rd party guide on the web that may or may not be complete, accurate, or up to date at any given time, but I hate to depend on external sources like that when you want to make something.  You should be able to learn at least the basics within the game without a huge effort.  You should be able to make something pretty quickly, lest the average player get frustrated and give up. 

Recipes (or blueprints) for creating items have become standard in games for a reason.  I would argue that I was in no way “welded” to recipes in my previous post on the topic, as I was exploring what people did not like about crafting, but the more I think about recipes, the more I am inclined to stick with them.  They are something we all tend to understand.  Why change something that works?

That said, I do rather like the idea of an archetypical recipe, such as gloves, where that recipe, plus the materials you choose, plus your skill level, dictates the output.  Expanding the variety of crafted goods would be a big plus. 

I only have to think back to my days playing Toril MUD, when I was very aware of what boosting a particular stat or attribute would do for me, to see the benefit.  Like many players there, I would try to optimize my equipment to get just the right balance.  On my druid I would, for example, toss over some +wis and even some +hp to get an item that had enough +con to notch my hit point bonus to the next level.

Take that and add in some control over how the end item will look through dyes for color and perhaps styles or adornments to and the crafting market suddenly begins to blossom.  In addition to stats, people like to control how they look.  Imagine if you had a market where you could control stats, color, style and cut of said glove.  I know more than a few people who would love to be able dictate those details when they order up an outfit. 

I think Tobold might well be on to something with that idea.

Game Update 36 Today?

As usual, I kicked off EverQuest II this morning to check sales and just poke my nose in before work.

This morning there was a huge, Game Update-sized download.  I went to check the EQ2Players.com site to see what was up.

Unfortunately, the prevailing default behavior of information lagging behind action at SOE was still in force this morning and I saw nothing in the Game Update Notes forum about anything happening today.

The network status page, which I am glad to see now appears to reflect live data as opposed to its old, static format, does say that there is a scheduled downtime for this morning. (The page is still ugly, and less informative than even Warcraft Realms’ server status page, which is a freakin’ third party effort.  Come on SOE!)

Call me impatient I suppose, but my machine finished the download an hour ago and I still see nothing.

Yes, I am being unfair.  SOE has better things to do than keep me up to date. 

But I wanna know!  Now!

[The answer, at 11:54am Pacific Time, is yes, Game Update 36 is out today.  Notes here.]

Lunch at the Forsaken Inn

Every MMO has a progression, a series of areas where your adventures take place.  If properly laid out you will slowly graduate from one area to the next as your character is ready.

In Lord of the Rings Online, once through the “newbie zones,” each of the player races starts off in their own area, the Elves in Celondim, the Dwarves in Thorin’s Hall, Hobbits in the Shire, and Men in Combe.  From these points, all roads eventually lead to Bree.

It is hard for me to picture Bree as the center of trade and industry for the region (I always pictured it as a much smaller place) but at a certain point your adventuring will focus on the regions around Bree, and primarily in the strip of land that runs between Bree and the Branydwine River, an area that includes the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs. (That strip of land is 75 miles wide in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.)

As things go, eventually quests around Bree will begin to wind down.  But if follow the right quest paths you will find yourself on your way to the Forsaken Inn.

Out where the Midgwater Marshes meet the Weather Hills (which I am told is not the home of the Weather Underground), in an area known as the Lone Lands you will find the Forsaken Inn.  It isn’t much to behold, but you cannot afford to look too flashy when you live in the shadow of Weathertop.

fifront.jpg

Shame about the hole in the roof.

Like any place, the Forsaken Inn has its regulars.  I mentioned The Whittler in a previous post.  Then there are the three vagabonds who sit around out in front of the place.

threevaga.jpg

Each one of them has their own bits of advice for any passer by.  Here the one they refer to as “Cord” opines on the fare served inside. 

threevaga2.jpg

They are pretty vague about why they do not seem to do much besides sit around.  Inside they will tell you that the three of them got caught up in some sort of big event in Bree and the local constables thought it would be best for all if they left town. 

Here is a shot of the Bree constables taking the three in for questioning

3trampscrop.jpg

Aside from colorful patrons and scenery reminiscent of the California inland hills in summer, the Forsaken Inn is also a gold mine of quests for the aspiring mid to late teens adventurer.  There are a large number of quests available at the inn and a number of them have objectives that overlap, so make sure you collect them all before you start off.

You can see from this list over at The Brasse that there are quite a few quests in the Lone Lands that start at the Forsaken Inn, so make sure you stop by!

But avoid the special.  I mean it.

I Do Not See This Enough…

In fact, I have only seen this once.

windqueue.png

And I saw it on the first week the game went live. 

I realize that we have gone around, here and elsewhere, on the idea that the number of subscribers is not a direct indication of the health or profitibility of an MMO. 

On the other hand, with a new game that is getting good reviews and that has a strong IP behind it, I would expect to see this message more and more as time went along, eventually leading to the addition of a new server or two and all the gymnastics that go along with that.

Even Brandywine, which used to show a queue every night when I logged in has been clear of such waits recently, at least when I have been coming online.

Of course I have no subscriber data, but I wonder why this is.  Have all the power gamers hit level 50 and run off already?  Is this the summer slump?

Pirates of the Burning Sea on Station Access

Flying Lab Software has announced a partnership with Sony Online Entertainment to bring their upcoming MMO, Pirates of the Burning Sea into the family of games published and distributed by SOE.

The announcement details the division of responsibilities between Flying Lab Software and SOE.  One of the benefits of this arrangement is that Pirates of the Burning Sea will be available as part of the Station Access subscription plan.

Let’s just hope SOE doesn’t raise the price again.

You can find the announcement here on the Flying Lab Software site.

The SOE press release is here.

The SOE press release also includes information about a new SOE brand called Platform Publishing that may be a change to remove some of the stigma for gaming studios of being associated SOE.

Of course, Platform Publishing still has a “station.sony.com” address, but at least the SOE name and logo need not appear on the box on the shelf.

The Official SOE Podcast #19

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this show with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news.

Topics

  • News
  • Fan Faire
  • The Official SOE Podcast Anniversary
  • Interview with Henrietta the Hamster
  • Interview with Community Team Interns Erica Corrado and Julie Burness
  • Inside SOE – Community BBQ
  • Listener Emails: Nathan, Jay and Howard
  • SOE Block Party
  • New SOE Web Sites
  • The Love Doctor
  • Interview with EverQuest Game Designers Travis McGeathy and Holly Longdale
  • The Agency
  • 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 June 18th and runs in just under one hour and fourteen minutes. The show notes feature cast pictures and links.