Monthly Archives: August 2007

August in Review

The Site

This is my twelfth month in review post, which must mean that this blog is approaching a one year anniversary some time soon.  I don’t think I will do a similar “year in review” post. I will save that for the calendar year.  But I have been thinking about what goofy metrics for the last twelve months I can put together.

August has been quite a busy month for traffic to the site, and this week in particular has been very strong.  No records set for page views on a given day, but the average number over the last few days is higher than normal.  The increase in traffic seems to be mostly due to my having two posts up about the Tabula Rasa beta.  Currently if you Google “tabula rasa beta forum,” one of my posts is the top item.

Also for August, I will have to check with CrazyKinux to see who won his August Challenge.  Does the winner get a shirt?

New Linking Sites

Most Viewed Posts In July

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Tabula Rasa Pre-Order
  3. Five EVE Online Wishes
  4. Tabula Rasa Beta Forum Access!
  5. Legends of Norrath
  6. LOTRO Update August 20th
  7. EVE Online – The Tutorial
  8. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  9. Five Coming Signs That WoW is Mainstream
  10. 100,000

Best Search Terms of the Month

ONline gaming depresses me

[I figure this was my wife.]

Best Spam Comment Title

cash fast make money

[I haven’t seen a “make money fast” message slip through a spam filter in ages!  Next I’ll see something about the “Good Times” virus.]

EVE Online

This has been my #1 game for the month of August, which surprises even me.  It is a sure sign that I have found a hook in the game to keep me interested.  I have been primarily involved with mining and refining ore and selling it on the market.  I have also spent some time running missions just to keep my faction going up with the Caldari State.

I have generated a little bit of interest in the game with some friends of mine, so we might actually get somebody else in our little test corp.

And speaking of corps, I do need to find some good “how to” items on corporations.   The little corp that Potshot and I run is useful and we’re fine with us and our alts all being director level, but it would be nice to know what we’re doing.  The corporation interface is not… intuitive.  At least I do not find it so.

Also, a few people have very nicely left comments about actually helping out in-game.  I haven’t responded to any of those, partly out of laziness, but mostly because my play schedule for EVE has been pretty irregular.  I think the Twilight Cadre will have to create a public channel so people can drop in and say hi.

EverQuest II

If it wasn’t for the fact that I have been playing so much EVE, I would have been on a tear in EQ2 with my ranger.  Even without spending too much time in game, Selirus is up to level 43.

I have not touched Blintz, my swashbuckler, all month.  He is still sitting at level 57.  Now that Gaff is back playing EQ2 and levelling up two more alts, I think my best bet is to hook up with him when he gets those two in their 50s (they are approaching level 20 I hear and will no doubt be 40 before I get home from work today) and try to ride the Gaff level elevator into the 60s at least.

Other EQ2 related items on my mind:

EQuinox – will have to dig into it this weekend.

The new Station Launcher – Where is it?  Or when is it?

Support – SOE STILL has not gotten back on my support ticket regarding sales tax charged for my copy of EQuinox.  I guess I am going to have to kiss that $1.07 good bye.  But worse than that, this isn’t the first time I have had a support ticket go unanswered by SOE.

Lord of the Rings Online

The neglected MMO.  We had another fellowship fiasco Saturday night where we took on a quest in the North Downs that was beyond the capability of the four of us.  Since then life has gotten in the way a bit, at least for me, so we have really just worked on a series of smaller quests in the North Downs.  Nomu is up to level 27, but I have not done anything with my alts and I have not paid much attention to trade skills.

Tabula Rasa

I bought the $5 pre-order box off the shelf at Fry’s.  For a preview of the game, it is totally worth it.  The game itself is interesting.  The controls are different until you get used to them.  I am not sure if it will end up being something I want to play long term, but I have had fun for the few nights I played.  Of course, I have broken the NDA with a couple of items in comments appended to my two posts on the game, so NCSoft will probably banish me from the game.


Sonic and the Secret Rings.  What a crappy game, mostly because it doesn’t use the Wii remote very effectively at all.  But my daughter thinks “Hedgie” (Sonic) is cool and enjoys playing the mini games.  We had this game out from GameFly for a month before I finally convinced her to let me send it back.

Now we have a GameCube game, MarioKart Double Dash. This was recommended by a co-worker.  Only I cannot figure out how to make it work.  Do you need actual, wired, GameCube controllers to play GameCube games on a Wii?  I suppose I had better get out the manual.


Hey, I was on Shut Up We’re Talking #6 along with a lot of other people.  I’m the one who spoke the least I think.  Which was probably a good thing for all concerned.  My run on even numbered shows is probably at an end.  Darren and Adele will be recording #8 tonight or tomorrow I bet, and I won’t be a part of it.  I’d probably talk about EVE too much.

I have been off the podcast wagon somewhat this month.  Everybody is out of town, so my commute to work has been very short.  That and titles from my two-books-a-month subscription are starting to pile up, so I have been catching up on Len Deighton at the expense of MMOs. (Two more Bernard Sampson books to go.)

Even so, I never miss an episode or VirginWorlds (at least when Brent is hosting) or Warp Drive Active (EVE is what I have been playing, plus they gave me a free shirt).


So was I right last month when I said there would be more EVE coverage?

Probably more of that, plus something to commemorate one year.

I read a book about Virtual Worlds this month.  I should probably turn that into a post.

Plus, my wife bought my daughter an online game… and regretted it within hours.  That tale of woe coming up in September.

Views on the G15 LCD

I have a Logitech G15 gaming keyboard.  It is a popular keyboard with good reason.  It is solid, well made, and works well for touch typing.  I am very happy with mine.  It has a number of interesting features, including a small LCD that can be accessed by applications on your computer in order to display information. 

For example, iTune can display information about a track you are listening to, including title, artist, and a progress bar with time that shows the duration and current point in the song or podcast.

Very handy. 

So when Average Joe came back from the SOE Fan Faire reporting that SOE would be putting in support for the G15 keyboard, I started thinking, again, what is the best use of that LCD.

Technically, the LCD is actually the only part of the G15 that EQ2 does not support as far as I can tell.  It already has the ability to notify the keyboard when the application has focus and thus should have its profile loaded.  I have also been able to map the extra keys to EQ2 functions.  So all that remains is the LCD.

The obvious first answer for me was health and mana bars.  That is what Lord of the Rings online puts up on the G15 LCD.

However, I never look at the LCD for my health and mana… erm… morale and power… because it is clearly and colorfully displayed up on the screen.  Since I have to pay attention to what is happening on screen anyway and since the data is already there, this ends up not being very useful at all.

So I started thinking about what other games display.

World of Warcraft puts up a list of all of your attributes on the display.  As an added incentive, it also puts up how much ammo you have if you are wielding a projectile weapon. 

These are at least items that are not already displayed in your game window by default. 

But how often do I need to know something like my strength or crit percentage?  And of those times that I do need to know it, how often do those times occur when my character window is not already open and displaying my stats?  Almost never.  Perhaps I am the exception in this, but stats do not strike me as a very useful thing to display.

And my ammo supply is actually easier to track with an addon that shows the number of projectiles left in my ammo pouch.

Vanguard, at least during beta, had a couple of options for display on the G15.  As I recall, they were health/mana, attributes, and a compass.

So the first two I’ve covered, but the third was at least a little different.  The compass at least had a little bit of “cool” factor going for it.  But in the end, a game would have to have a pretty awful in game compass (sense direction anybody?) before I would spend my time starting off screen to get my bearings.

After some more thought I realized that when I am playing I EQ2 occasionally run Fraps for frame rate reads or Advanced Combat Tracker for combat log parsing.  Both of those put up information on the G15 LCD.  In the case of Fraps it gets that big yellow FPS counter off your screen while with ACT you get an instant read on your DPS without having to bring the application to the foreground and analyze the fight.

So not only am I at a loss as to what EQ2 should display on the G15, I have managed to come up with two items I would likely use in place of whatever it did display.

So my enthusiasm for such support is tepid at best.  I am sure that SOE could come up with something, but I cannot imagine what it is at this moment in time.

What do you want to see on that G15 LCD in your game?  A clock to show in-game time maybe?

What about EVE Online?  There is so much data in that game, there must be something that would work well on that display.

Or have you all opted to save the $30 price difference and go with the G11 keyboard?

Warp Drive Active Shirt Arrives!

All the way from the UK, the shirt I won as part of the science fiction quote contest in Warp Drive Active Episode #5.

Here I am in the back yard, or garden, modelling the newly arrived shirt.


Any sign of middle-age mid-section spread is just an illusion caused by the cartoon on the front of the shirt.  Urban Mongral chose a button front shirt to accommodate my over-sized neck.  Thanks much!

The shirt itself features a print of Warp Drive Active (the cartoon) #116.  I chose this particular cartoon for the shirt because it is pretty funny and has a more universal message.  Somebody who did not play EVE Online would still “get it.”

On the back of the shirt they printed my EVE Online (first) name and the Warp Drive Active *PEW PEW PEW* logo.


I will have to find an appropriate event to which to wear this shirt.  Perhaps if we can get an EVE Online piss-up here in the San Francisco Bay Area going at last.  Lots of people posted “me too” on that thread in the forums, but not much else has been shaking.

Or maybe I will save it for GDC 2008 up in San Francisco.

Thanks to Urban Mongral and Winterblink of the Warp Drive Active podcast, part of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective.

A State of Ore

For the moment at least, I appear to have crossed a barrier in EVE Online.  For the last few nights I have been logging into EVE to play for at least an hour.

That barrier was the feeling of accomplishment.

A lot of my time in EVE Online up to this point has been spent thrashing about trying to figure out what to do.  I tend to be a goal oriented person (love quests, right?) and I really did not have any concrete goals in EVE.

Missions are fine, but they are too short to fill that sense of purpose.  And faction, while important, is such a long term thing that it is difficult for me to stay focused.

Then I got rolling in asteroid mining.  In his “Quick Thoughts About EVE” post, Potshot has a good description of the impression I think both of us have had recently when it comes to the EVE version of resource harvesting.  It scales with skill and equipment.  And you can make money at it.  How unique!

In fact, I make a lot more money mining than I can currently make running level I missions.

With the Osprey in an asteroid belt mining and jet canning continuously while my hauler makes pick up runs, I end up making what seems to me to be a lot of ISK.

And what do I plan to do with all of that ISK?  To paraphrase Mr. Burns, “Make more ISK!”

Which has given me a plan with a series of goals.  Just to the thing to keep me engaged. 

First I started picking up more learning skills.  My miner already has all of the base learning skills up to level four.  Now with the second tier learning skills I am able to speed up his progress towards flying an ORE mining barge.  I was hesitant before, as those skills run 4.5 million ISK a piece, but now I am making enough to afford it.

I also started scanning the market for strip miners so I can equip the barge.

I will face some choices soon though.

With my current training plan, I will be able to get into the smallest of the ORE mining barges, the Procurer, by Friday.

If I wait another day and a half, I will have the skills to fly the next barge up, the Retriever.

But if I want to fly the aptly named Covetor, I have a good 46 days left to go because it requires Mining Barge IV and V (5 + 24 days) and Astrogeology V (14 days) to get there.

I think the choice of ships is easy enough.  I should go for the Retriever this weekend.  Now I have to figure out how to equip it.

Ironically, by the time I get to the point that I can fly the Covetor I will be literally a day and a half from being able to fly the largest ORE exhumer ship, the Hulk

Then I will pwn asteroids!

And then I will have to come up with another plan.

Messing with

I found a minor bug in the other day.

It seems, when it comes to the tag pages, if you are the featured blog, it will show your latest post for that tag, even if it is still a draft.

I reported this to the staff and got a nice note back thanking me for informing them of this and stating that they would get it fixed as soon as they could.

Not that this is an earth shattering, service disrupting issue.

Still, I couldn’t resist screwing around with it.  Somehow I am the featured blog for the tag EVE Online.

Well, not somehow.  I’ve spewed out the most posts with that tag.  As far as I can tell, that is all it takes.

So I took the current draft of an upcoming post and put a silly comment at the top, so that it would show up in the featured blog section at the top of the page.


Some day soon this bug will be fixed.  But here I have recorded it for posterity.

Caracal for a Day

With mining going well, I thought I would splurge and buy that cruiser I was thinking about a few posts back.

I decided to go with the Caracal.  From what I have read, with the right load out, it will eat level II missions for lunch.

Of course, I do not have a lot of skill points in missiles.  I have tended to concentrate more on gunnery up to this point.  So this was probably my first mistake.  But I paid that no mind.

While my miner was off filling up a jet can, I scanned the market in search of equipment for my new cruiser.  I had cruised the ship setup thread on the forums and chose this setup from one of the Caracal threads, designed for mission running:

High Slots:

  • 3 ‘Malkuth’ Assault Launchers (armed with Bloodclaws)
  • 2 ‘Malkuth’ Heavy Launchers (armed with Scourges)

Mid Slots:

  • 1 10MN After Burner
  • 1 Large Subordinate Shield Extender
  • 1 Large Shield Booster
  • 1 Shield Boost Amplifier
  • 1 Passive Kinetic Screen

Low Slots:

  • 2 Power Diagnostic Units

I grabbed the Assault Launchers and one Heavy Launcher pretty quickly along with the after burner.

I was having a bit of a problem with some of the other items.  One of the problems with the forums is that people list out things by how they refer to them which is not necessarily their actual in-game name.  For example, I never found something called a “Passive Kinetic Screen”  In fact, aside from the after burner, when it came to the mid and low slots I was sort of picking things that sounded similar as there were no exact matches.

Still, I poked about.

As I was doing that, a player named Takanakano started circling around my miner.  He swooped in and grabbed some ore from my jet can.  There was not much there, as I had just done a hauler run to empty it, but that flagged him as an open target.  I locked onto him with my Osprey to see what he would do, but was not going to fire.  The Osprey has one standard missile launcher on it to clear rats.  It is otherwise configured to mine.

I had seen on local that Takanakano’s game was to harry miners by stealing from their cans.  There wasn’t much I could do about it with just the Osprey.

But I was just in the system with my Cacaral, so I formed a gang with my miner and warped over to him.  I then locked on to Takanakano with the Cacaral as well, in the hopes that this might send him in search of other prey.

He continued to orbit, then swept in again to take another bite from the jet can.

“Well,” I thought, “here I am with this new cruiser, five missile launchers ready to go plus a 6th on the Osprey.  Maybe I should go for it.  If things go bad, I’ll just warp for a base until things cool down.”

This is where planning, or lack there of, comes into play.

You see, I loaded the first assault launcher I bought, but neglected to load the other two.  Further compounding this, I left the ammo for the heavy launcher sitting in the station.

I noticed this after lighting off the first launcher.

I quickly hit reload all then noticed that the heavies were not loading.  Time to head for home!

Those of you experienced EVE players in the audience can probably anticipate what is going to happen next.

Yes, he scrambled my warp drive.  And me without a warp core stabilizer.  Why would I need one?  Rats never scramble me.

I lit off the Osprey’s launcher, just to add to the fireworks show then tried to figure out what to do.

Shield booster on!  Engines to full power!  Light the after burner!  If I could just survive for a bit, perhaps I could warp out.

Another item on my litany of mistakes comes up at this point.  Had I been thinking, I might have run straight towards him in the hopes that the fire from his cannon might become less accurate.  Instead I headed away, so I probably just put myself in the optimum range of his guns.

Things were looking bad.  I sent the Osprey off to a station.

I got a station up in the overview so that when the ship came apart I could at least get away without being pod-killed.

And the ship did come apart of course.  By that point I think I had his shields down by about 25% at most.  Maybe less.  That could be wishful thinking.  Those little missiles were not biting very hard and the big ones, the ones you kill cruisers with, were still asleep back in the station.

The mail from CONCORD tells the tale:

2007.08.25 00:47

Victim: Wilhelm Arcturus
Alliance: NONE
Corp: Twilight Cadre
Destroyed: Caracal
System: Hageken
Security: 0.6

Involved parties:

Name: Takanakano (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.8
Alliance: NONE
Corp: Darkness Inc.
Ship: Stabber
Weapon: 220mm Vulcan AutoCannon I

Destroyed items:

10MN Afterburner I
Power Diagnostic System I
Power Diagnostic System I
Bloodclaw Light Missile, Qty: 489 (Cargo)
Bloodclaw Light Missile, Qty: 63

My pod got away, so I was spared that indignity and expense.

At least I had decided to go with the platinum insurance policy. 

I had that Caracal for less than two hours I think.  But as my mother-in-law says, “Stupidity must be punished.”

My second ship lost to another player.  I’ll save the story of the other one for another time.

I think I will go with the Moa next time I buy a cruiser.  I have a lot of skill points in gunnery.  I’d better go read that thread on the forums.

And a warp core stabilizer.  I’m putting that on the list as well.

EQuinox Arrives!

EQuinox, The Official EverQuest II Magazine, Issue #1, arrived in the mail today.

First Impressions:

  • It sure is thin.
  • Look at that cover… dark elves… can’t read this in public.
  • 66 Pages… is that it?
  • Hey, I know Cyanbane and Adele… and I’ve read Aggro Me!
  • It is nice and glossy… but so thin…
  • Oooh, contact high from the freshly printed paper…
  • Didn’t that old SOE magazine have dark elves on it’s first cover too?
  • No computer equipment ads…
  • Is EON this thin?  How many pages was the last copy of EON?
  • Crap, is there a Rise of Kunark beta key in here somewhere?
  • I think it was the same dark elves… wasn’t it?
  • Do we have a postal scale? I need to weigh this thing.
  • I don’t think EQ2i is at that URL any more.
  • What is it with the dark elves?
  • Holy Crap! Look at that back cover! EQ2-Daily to the max!
  • This thing must weigh less than a Big Mac
  • Who else was in this issue… somebody… who was it?
  • Nearly $19… this thing costs more per pound than steak!

Now to go read the actual content. 

Someplace where nobody can see the cover.

Even my wife.

Especially my wife.


If you read much of the gaming press, blogshpere, and official gaming company news, you would certainly come away with the impression that most of the gaming community is opposed to selling in-game currency for cash. 

It is cheating.  It wrecks the in-game economy.  It is a violation of the rules.

The fly in the ointment is all of those sites dedicated to selling in-game currency.  All of those gold ads.  That seems to argue that some significant percentage of the player population disagrees.

But make no mistake, the gaming companies are against it.  The end user license agreements for MMOs almost universally, specifically, forbid it.

Blizzard regularly announces how many accounts they have banned for being involved with real money transactions for in-game currency.

Try listing some in-game currency for a Sony Online Entertainment game on eBay and see how long your auction stays up.

CCP has come out strongly in the past against the evils of selling their in-game currency, the ISK, for real world money.  In the EVE Online End User License Agreement, under Section 7 (Conduct) you will find paragraph B that specifically forbids the sale of any in-game items, currency included.

Except, of course, if you buy it from them.

To be fair, CCP isn’t actually selling ISK directly.  You cannot go to their site and order up 100 million ISK any time you please.

They will, however, direct you to somebody who will sell you a Game Time Code, or GTC. (Also referred to as an EVE Time Card or ETC.) Or they will sell you one directly if you want. 

A GTC is basically a time card like those offered by other online game companies that, when entered into your account, allows you to play for a given amount of time, usually 30, 50, 90, or 100 days depending on the source of the card.

And once you have purchased your GTC, CCP provides a forum and a secure method for selling your GTC to other players for the in game currency.

There is then a company sponsored and supported process which at one end you put in real world money and at the other end you receive ISK.

So CCP is selling ISK.

Yes, it isn’t that black and white.  You have to find a buyer, negotiate a price, and so on.  And CCP should certainly take umbrage at any suggestion that they are doing this to legitimize the sale of ISK.  I am sure that is not the case at all.

But it certainly does open the door.  There is a legitimate way to turn real world money into ISK, and I would be surprised if some ISK farming company out hasn’t tried selling GTCs at a mildly inflated price with the guarantee that you can turn around and sell it for an over market price, in ISK, to one of their mule accounts.  They keep the account going, make their money, and nobody can say they did not follow the rules.  At least one seller on the offical CCP list has a history in gold selling and RMT.

Of course, this leads to the big question, the universal question, which is, “So what?”

In the case of EVE Online, the question is quite legitimate.  EVE is the wild wild west of MMOs, where the list of things you cannot do is relatively short.  Those is search of “user created content” need only look at the maps of 0.0 space in EVE Online to find an example. (You can see such a map at EVE Tribune.)  There is a huge, ongoing saga out there, not one bit of which is scripted or driven by anything requiring you to, say, “Kill Ten Rats.”

In this environment, the idea that there ought to be free reign to turn your ISK into game time seems pretty natural.  It fits.  It rewards success in  a way that feeds the game.

In the case of the MMO gaming industry in general though, it may have implications.

It has often been said that the gaming companies could put the gold sellers out of business by just selling the currency themselves.  Keep the current pressure on the gold sellers at one end, while at the other end offer a legitimate way to buy the in-game currency, and gold sellers would wither.  They wouldn’t cease to exist, but a lot of them would get out of the business.

The game companies would, of course, like to be collecting that money themselves.  There are two things that stand between the gaming companies and the pile of cash represented by this.

The first is the whole “cheating” or “buying your way to success” stigma.  There are a few game companies for which this is a roadblock.  Probably not many as you would think.  Certainly none of the companies owned by large media conglomerates would be phased by this.

The second is the IRS.  Or Inland Revenue.  Or whatever the taxing branch of your national government is called.  Once a gaming company assigns a value, an exchange rate if you will, for the in-game currency, the tax implications begin to crop up.  Does that mean that the currency has real value?  Does that mean I owe the government a cut whenever I turn in a quest?

SOE got around that with their Station Exchange server by letting the players buy and sell and just taking a cut, ala eBay.  Currency can be bought and sold, but there is no official valuation.

CCP gets around the tax issue by taking another virtual currency (GTCs) that is tightly controlled, and making that the unit of exchange for the in-game currency.  CCP just sells GTCs and does not take any cut of any further transaction.  The end user then trades one for the other without any further real money being exchanged.

So is CCP on to something with this?  Is this crossing the “gold selling” line?  Does any other game allow something similar?

I find this more interesting than alarming myself.

For The Love of ha10kx2k.sys

I spent some time yesterday cleaning up some oddities on my own system and doing a fresh install of EVE Online. 

This managed to clear up the initial blue screen I was getting.

Now I am getting a different error when I run two clients.  A different blue screen.

Now my computer blue screens with an error related to the ha10kx2k.sys.

But at least I am not alone in that regard.  There is a long thread in the EVE forums about other people having this issue.  While there is a lot of speculation about what might be causing it, a little research seems to indicate that it is related to the drivers for my sound card, a Sound Blaster Audigy 2. 

I suppose that is some progress. 

Since my motherboard has sound built-in, I will try yanking the Audigy 2, uninstalling the drivers, and see how that flies.

The Official SOE Podcast #22

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this GenCon wrap-up edition of the SOE Podcast, with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news.

  • News
  • Podcast link fixage
  • Inside SOE – GenCon Recap
  • Interview with Steve “Saavedra” Kramer EQII Designer and Craig “Grimwell” Dalrymple EQII Community Manager
  • The Grimwell Photoshop Challenge
  • Best Quotes from GenCon
  • The Latest Yivvits and Mr. Bubble Podcast has a Fan Faire recap
  • Real life Sucks Podcast
  • Listener Email
  • Vanguard Server Merger Info
  • Interview with Julie “Ellyra” Burness Vanguard Community Representative
  • Dragon Con (Atlanta) panels about EQ and EQII
  • Austin Game Developers Conference SOE meet
  • 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 August 22nd and runs just over one hour and nine minutes. The show notes feature cast pictures and links.