Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Music of EVE Online

One of the things I really liked about EVE Online was the music.  For me it was almost the perfect sound track for being alone in space riding among the stars.  I would sit it my office with the lights out and only the glow from my screen and my G15 keyboard… and the 900 other little LEDs aglow in my office… with the music turned up and glide through the stars feeling both alive and isolated.

I tend to pull any game music I can into iTunes just to listen to, but the EVE Online stuff actually made it onto my iPod.

Yesterday after I got back from the oral surgeon I sat around for a while just listening to some of the tracks from EVE Online.  Definitely interesting music for coming off your medication post-op. 

I tend to just listen without really paying attention to which track is running so picking out all of my favorites is somewhat tough.  Still, I know my favorite is “Below the Asteroids.” 

And, as far as song titles go, the theme of my blog should be “Opinions of the Misinformed.”  If I ever do a podcast, that will have to be the opening music.

CCP, the great crew that they are, has actually made the sound track available for download from their site.  You can find all the music here.

Level 57

I managed to get out with the deadly Gaff/Lurk combo and bounce up to level 57 in the Sanctum of the Scaleborn.

level57.png

Getting decent screen shots in the middle of interior hallway battles is something of a challenge, so no nice picture of the moment.

This was my first real venture into the Kingdom of the Sky beyond looking for tier 7 trade skill recipes, so I picked up a full point worth of AA experience as well.

Things might be a little quiet here for the next few days as I will be having my three remaining wisdom teeth extracted this morning.  The doc says that if I were 18, it would be a very low risk procedure.  Pity I’m no longer 18.  Still, it isn’t exactly life and death.

Anyway, a couple of days to recover and then a couple of days to catch up with everything else in life.

Guild Level 30

Our little alts guild, Shades of Twilight, finally hit level 30 in EverQuest II.

Founded in March 2005, back when alts were frowned upon in our main guild, Knights of the Cataclysm, it has seem some ups and downs since it was formed.  Back then if you left a guild all of your contributed status left with you, so the act of switching alts for mains and such with the other guild had the result of Shades getting as high as level 5 and dropping all the way back down to level 1 at one point.

After several guild status revamps in EQ2, we were finally able to make (and maintain) progress in levelling the guild up.  The guild was level 20 when two of the three remaining people in the guild ran off to play World of Warcraft for 10 months. (Our guild there is The Twilight Cadre.  Shades of Twilight was taken.) 

While we were away, the one remaining EQ2 addict, Laniala, managed to grind enough status to get the guild up to level 27.

Now we have more space in the guild bank, access to a few more status-based housing locations, and we can create a guild cloak.

This is my suggestion for the cloak:

sotcloak01.png

The guild itself is a descendant of our Toril MUD guild, also called Shades of Twilight.  The three most active members in the guild were also active in the Toril MUD guild.

The Field of MMO Crafting Gripes

I always end up crafting in MMOs.  Something within me likes the idea of reducing my dependency on other players and the market when it comes to providing for my characters.  So it was with some skepticism that I read the post “Craft Be Gone” over at The Common Sense Gamer

The general gist of the post is that Darren wants to see some fresh ideas about crafting.  However, I think his question is a bit premature.  It assumes that his readers not only think there is something broken with crafting, but that they all agree on what that broken part is.

So I am going to try to write what I feel should have been the prelude to asking for ideas to make crafting in MMOs better.  I am going to try to list out some of the things that I see people complaining about when it comes to crafting.  Not all of these are universal to all trade professions in all games, but they seem to me to be applicable.  I have divided these into two areas.

Making Stuff – Show me your skills as an artisan! 

  • Harvesting is boring/difficult/competitive – Some jerk stole my node while I fought off a bear, now I need to find yet another one.
  • Harvesting requires adventure levels at or above the level of items you wish to make – Harvest tier 5 raws with my level 24 weapon smith?
  • Crafting useful items requires craft skill levels beyond which your current skill level can support – I need to be a level 49 armor smith to equip my level 40 guardian.
  • Can only make a small number of actually useful items – I have 63 recipes, but only two are worth making.
  • Drops from adventuring of better quality relative to crafted items – The bane of early EQ.  Armor items I could make even at high skill level were usually worse than drops from mobs I could kill with a harsh look.
  • The best recipes are drops or otherwise not readily available – The stingy artisan crafts NPC won’t teach me purple recipes.
  • Crafting is boring and repetitive and takes too much time – Maybe I just don’t “get” crafting?

Selling Stuff – We all want to get rich by crafting, right?

  • Most items crafted are not in demand – Nobody will buy my crappy silken hoods.
  • Market is over saturated – Nobody will buy my 100 crappy silken hoods.
  • Market prices are too low – People will buy my crappy silken hoods, but only at a price that is almost break-even.
  • People are always undercutting my price – Damn that guy who is now listed his crappy silken hoods 1 copper below mine!

So that is my little list of things I hear or experience on a regular basis when it comes to crafting.  Before we try to fix crafting, what else do people think is broken in the realm of MMO trade skills?

Complimentary Comment Spam

I mentioned previously that comment spam on the site seems to be on an uptick.  I must have passed some magic threshold of notoriety as the level of spam is holding steady.  I was rather hoping it was some sort of spammer’s rush to hit totals before summer.

The comment spam seems to be primarily about the following topics in order of frequency:

  1. Online Gambling
  2. Automotive Insurance
  3. Online Pharmacies
  4. Porn
  5. Home Refinancing

The topics ebb and flow.  Today seemed to be online gambling and pharmacy day.  Other topics show up from time to time, like divorce attorneys and cheap airline tickets, but for the most part the five topics I listed make up the bulk of the traffic.

The comments themselves can contain any number of things.  Long lists of URLs, text from Wikipedia with links in it, index words and numbers that no doubt get used to track what comments get past the spam filter, gibberish, product endorsements, frank descriptions of associated URLs (usually porn), and compliments all make their way into the stream.

It is the compliments that are my favorite. 

You can read through those, ignoring the URLs pointing to Canadian Pharmacies and off shore gambling sites, and imagine that you have a huge and appreciative following who say things like:

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And, my all time favorite: 

  • Your site is a refreshing change from the majority of sites I have visited. When I first started visiting web sites I was excited by the potential of the internet as a resource and was very disappointed initially. You have restored my enthusiasm and I thank you for your efforts to share your insights and help the world become a better place.

You would think you had changed somebody’s life, were it not for the fact that the name listed with the comment was “Best Italian Online Casino!”

StarCraft Memories

I will forever associate StarCraft with the office.  My career in Silicon Valley, at a variety of companies, has been marked by a lot of after hours game play at the office.  Bolo, Marathon, Age of Empires, Delta Force, and Total Annihilation all saw a lot of action at work over the years.  Before we had TeamSpeak and Ventrilo, we had phones in our cubes (and sometimes even headsets) to allow communication around the building.

More recently the increased workload at my company, the rather restrictive policy regarding what we are allowed to install on office machine has pretty much killed off the after hours game time, the games that our office machines actually support, and the general aging of the people with whom I work (we’re not a bunch of unmarried guys with excess free time any more!) has pretty much killed off the after hours tournaments.

But there was a time when we would be on the network and engaged in combat with each other several nights a week.

The release of StarCraft coincided with my starting a new job.  At the new company there was a group of Age of Empires players, but this fresh new game distracted everybody’s attention for a while.  And it deserved to do so.  While I was a bit skeptical at first, not being a fan of Blizzard’s WarCraft (I and II and, eventually, III), I bit when we were at Fry’s and other people were picking up copies.

While not my favorite RTS of all time (that is a toss up between Age of Empires II: Age of Kings and Total Annihilation) it is undeniably a great game.  Three races, well balanced, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, made for very intense game play.  No other RTS I have played has had such diversity between factions.  Most of them are similar enough that learning to play one faction means gaining knowledge that will apply to any faction.  In StarCraft, learning to play one faction did not give you much insight into the other two.

The distinct factions, of course, meant that we specialized.  People picked a race that suited their play style and generally concentrated on that race to the exclusion of the others.

We had some very aggressive Zerg players who would swamp you if you stumbled at all in the first few minutes of the game.  We all developed an opening build order to defeat the zergling rush and counter strokes to punish any player who tried that rush and failed.

We had a couple of very good Protoss players.   You had to starve them early and keep them from getting to late technology.  If they managed it, your superior numbers might end up turning to dust in the face of well handled Protoss units.

And then there were those of us who went the Terran route.  It is hard to argue with a mass of marines with good air support.  I played enough games as a Terran with speakers on that to this day my wife will use the phrase “Jacked up and good to go?” to ask if I am playing a game.

A lot of battles were fought, many of them short and sharp, a few were long and drawn out, but all were fun.  The game is light, well balanced, and, in the Bilzzard tradidtion, easy to learn, difficulty to master.  If it wasn’t locked into a 640×480 resolution I would probably have it still installed.  On a 1600×1200 monitor though, it looks like Sega Gensis quality graphics.

But now StarCraft II has been announced.

I am sure that I am not alone in being somewhat skeptical about any game replacing StarCraft.  How do you strike a balance between providing a new and different experience while at the same time staying true to the finely balanced instrument that StarCraft has become?  I mean, this is a game with a professional league in Korea that gets TV coverage on par with any professional sports here in the US.  You have to tread carefully.

Of course, one can look at Blizzard and say, “There is a company that knows how to do sequels.”

But have they ever faced a challenge like this?

Their other sequels have kept to the spirit of the past games, but have tended to change the dynamics quite a bit.  Warcraft III felt quite different than Warcraft II.  Diablo II was certainly the successor to Diablo, but in a bigger, faster, grander sort of way.  Once you played Diablo II, Diablo was probably out of the picture for you.  But neither predecessor had the fanatical following of StarCraft.

Blizzard will keep us guessing for a long time to come.  They are so good at being teases.

Until then, the best insight I have read into the potential of StarCraft II and what the reality is likely to be is over at Firing Squad.

Istarivoir Wargs

The Tolkien parody I am waiting for. 

The tale of Master White, Master Grey, Master Brown, Master Orange, and Master Pink. (Why am I Master Pink?)

They were brought together in Middle Earth for one job and now it has gone horribly wrong.

All they had to do was take care of one little ring.

Now the other side is on to them.  Riders garbed in black are on their trail.  Two of their own are missing.  If they do not act fast they will be cornered.  But how did things go so wrong?

Master Brown: You really think we were set up?
Master Grey: Do you even doubt it, friend? I don’t THINK we were set up, I KNOW we were set up!

Elrond and “Nice Guy” Aragon gave them some details about the ring, but they had to track it down on their own… only somebody is playing a double game.

Master Brown: I’m blind, man. I’m blind.
Master White: You are not blind!  Your damned tamed birds have discharged their bowels into your eyes again, you doddering old fool!  And look at my robe… and the end of my staff… I shall pay you back for this and all these other indignities some day… some day you shall see….

[In case I am being too obtuse, the answer is: Reservoir Dogs.]

Alts Finish A Book

It was the first Saturday night in June we did not manage to get our instance group together.  Somebody was still out of town, so it was declared an alts night.  We decided to try to get through a bit more of the Epic quest line.

We started out with

Liadan – 20 Elf Loremaster
Wilifred – 20 Hobbit Mistral
Tistann – 19 Elf Hunter

You will notice a distinct lack of tanking classes in this group.  All squishies.  While we were running along through quests that were several levels below us, this lack of heavy armor would hurt us.  A lot. 

First I had to catch up.  I was the only one not ready to head to the Old Forest and speak to Tom Bombadil, so we had to run out and kill crows for Lenglinn the Lazy then run back to Bree to speak with Strider again.  He pointed the lot of us at the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil.

Bombadil.  I can see why he lives nearly alone out in the forest.  He’d drive you nuts if he were your next door neighbor.  He is like a rustic Ned Flanders with a beard, ADD, and a slightly altered rhyming scheme.

Anyway, we would end up talking to Bombadil quite a bit.

The first time we spoke to him, he sent us off gather some lillies for Hashberry Goldberry while Old Man Willow drained our power.  After that he led us off to an instance of The Great Barrow with instructions to follow the Witch-king.

We traveled, we saw the Witch-king at the front door.  We saw him go in.  We attempted to follow.

We were defeated by the mobs at the front door.  Not a good sign.

We regrouped outside of Bombadil’s house, chased him around until he stood still long enough to speak to, then headed back to the instance.

We did learn one nice thing; these instances do not respawn, so the brute force, banging your head against the wall method is somewhat viable.  And a good thing for us.  Several times we would be defeated, but only after whittling down an encounter enough that we could take it the next time around.

Battering our way through the instance and facing more than a few defeats,  we finally caught up with the Witch-king.  Fortunately, he doesn’t spend time fighting low level players like us. 

Still, he took the time to lay down the dread on us.  This screen shot shows some serious dread. 

wefindthewitchking.jpg

Look at Tistann’s morale.  And, of course, look at Liadan.  While Wilifred and Tistann are up there in their best “Superman facing kryptonite” poses and eating up dread with a bucket, Liadan is a few steps back with little dread and no change in posture.  Again.  I think this pretty much settles the fact that she is smarter than us.

After a bit the Witch-king moved on, offering to drop Ivar off at his seafood place on the way, and left us to face some minions more in our range.  They killed us… er, defeated us… but through the magic of rally points, we came back and won the second round.

My favorite mob in this fight was the deadly tomb-wight and its creeping arm minion.

wightandarm.png

We opted to fight on the steps, which actually turned to our advantage as the creeping arm had some difficulty negotiating the stairs.

wightandarm02.png

And then there was the final fight.  Sambrog looks pretty easy sitting there alone.  By the time we had gotten to Sambrog here we had been defeated five times.  All our combined crowd control abilities could not stop us from getting stomped over and over.

sambrog.png

Sambrog starts off non-aggro with the usual quest ring over his head.  But then you talk to him and he goes aggro.   And he summons four helpers.  Yes, we went down for defeat number six here.

One final trot through the whole instance back to Sambrog.  We decided to use all of our crowd control to try to get the job done.  If this had been a stand up fight, we would have gone down again, but it turns out you only have to beat Sambrog down to about half health and suddenly Tom Bombadil shows up and finishes everybody off for you.

If he could do that, what did he need us for?

Still, we managed to lose Wilifred during the battle.  One more defeat.  His equipment came up on the paper doll as badly damaged after that.

We wrapped things up with Bombadil and found ourselves at the end of Book I.  We headed back to the Prancing Pony and found that Strider had left.  Gandalf was around though, and he started us out on Book II.