Monthly Archives: September 2007

September in Review

The Site

The site passed the one year marker.  My post with all sorts of data about the past year seemed to be well received and many very nice things were said.  Thank you again to all who left a comment on the anniversary.  This gives me a new filler item… er… topic I can introduce to the monthly round up.

Of course, recently, WordPress.com seems to be having some problems with comments.  Judging by the amount of spam comments I have had over the last few days, it may very well be load related.

I did get a nice surprise in that my observation about the unmentioned icon update that was part of EverQuest II’s Game Update 38 got linked in the Town Crier.   They also linked my “Naked” post in the Town Crier.  Together those two links generated a lot of traffic.

One Year Ago

Our WoW instance group started up.  We’re all the way to Zul’Farrak.  Is that a lot or a little?

One year since I started up EVE Online… at least for the first time.

New Linking Sites

Most Viewed Posts In September

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Tabula Rasa Beta Forum Access!
  3. Why Isn’t LOTRO More Fun?
  4. Tabula Rasa: The New Auto Assault?
  5. Tabula Rasa Pre-Order
  6. What Is A “Tank” In EVE?
  7. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  8. 38 – The Iconic Update
  9. Views on the G15 LCD
  10. Naked Zones
  11. A Year of Living Noobishly
  12. EVE, ISK, and RMT

Best Search Terms of the Month

wordpress faerie theme
[Ummm]

Rainbows Unicorns
[Shoot me now]

will i ever found a nice house
[Not if you play WoW]

Outgoing Link Connection

Both Scott Adams and I linked to the Wikipedia article on cognitive dissonance this month.  This wouldn’t be quite so interesting except as I was writing up my monthly summary I was looking for a way to tie in the concept again because it is one of my favorite oddities about human behavior.

Anyway, just so I can link it again, here is the article on cognitive dissonance.

Scott Adams’ post on why economists are resistant to cognitive dissonance is here.

Most Persistent Spam Comment of the Month

A spam signed by a “John Campbell” offering me a work from home job that pays 3000-4000 USD, GBP, or EUR per month.  The reason I keep seeing it is that Akismet is not sure that it is spam, so I keep having to moderate it over and over.  Oddly, or perhaps not, it always gets sent to the same posting on the site, over and over and over.

EVE Online

Lost a few cruisers, mined a lot of ore, and trained, trained, trained.  EVE feeds an obsessive compulsive need within me when it comes to training.  It is very rare for me to let any time elapse without a skill training.

EverQuest II

Aside from our adventure in the Court of Innovation, I have not had much time to get in and play EverQuest II.  One of our original guild members came back to the game.  He left before Desert of Flames came out and seemed to be pleased.  He has even declared the fae race, which I persuaded him to try, not as bad as he was afraid they would be.  Fae glide FTW!

Lord of the Rings Online

I have been back to poke around in Middle-earth a couple of times since the weekly instance group moved back to WoW, but I haven’t done anything serious in game.  I’ve just explored a bit more and taken some goofy screen shots of dwarven mining carts.

Tabula Rasa

I played in the beta some, but I do not feel compelled to actually play the game when it comes out.  There wasn’t anything really wrong with it, it just isn’t something for which I would drop one of the other games I play.  I will be interested to see what pricing plan they eventually announce for the game.  It is getting awfully close to the release date to be keeping that a secret.

Wii

We have been going Gamecube gaming crazy on the Wii over the last month.  So much so that we already broke one of the el cheapo Gamecube controllers I bought on eBay.  A special thanks to the guys at the GameStop over by Westgate Mall who went through every single used Nintendo Gamecube controller in the store to pick out the best one for me.  I did not ask them to do it, they were just that serious about the game play experience.

World of Warcraft

The return of the Saturday night instance group to WoW.  Three out of five of us are in the process of moving across country, so we haven’t hit every Saturday night, but we have managed to all be on together at least twice.  We will soon be moving on from Zul’Farrak.

Podcasts

I was not on any podcasts.  I broke my run of being on every non-prime, even-numbered episode of Shut Up We’re Talking, as #10 was recording last night and I wasn’t there.

I did get a mention on Warp Drive Active #14, where they took on my question about tanking in EVE.  A good listen, though I have to say that my handle is not pronounced “While-hem.”  I’ll send my German mother-in-law along and have those two saying “Vill-Helm” with Teutonic perfection.

Upcoming

I have a busy month ahead with an ISO audit coming up at work.  Nothing but fun there!  Still, I have a series of Wii related articles to finish up as well as the usual report on the instance group.  And, at some time near the end of October I will be able to fly the Hulk in EVE Online.  Expect some unoriginal and bad Marvel Comics related pun at some point.

The Dwarf from Suffern on the Steppes

A tale of 2004 and all that.

Per Kendricke’s request, based on Kytherea’s post, I present my own reminiscences on The Thundering Steppes.

Actually, the request was for a guide to the Thundering Steppes, but guides are not my stock in trade.  At least not on such short notice.

The Thundering Steppes in EverQuest II will always be that first “dangerous” and “new” zone for me.

It was late November 2004 when we started venturing into the Thundering Steppes.  Our guild started in Qeynos, and by that time Antonica was a familiar place.

Our small group was around level 17 when we went through the big gates at the eastern end of Antonica.  It was daylight, and we  found a road ahead of us.  The feeling, to me, was very much like being in EverQuest when I first ventured out of the Qeynos Hills and into the Karanas.

Part of this is natural, as the Thundering Steppes encompass some of what was once Karanas.  It has some of the same features, like an obvious road through it, towers visible along the way, and even wizard spires.

And it has big mobs.

In Antonica, as it was back in the Qeynos Hills, mobs tended to be human size or smaller.  But the Thundering Steppes, like the Karanas, has a lot more variety in size.  Giants.  Griffons.  Centaurs.  Even the skeletons come in the large, economy size.

And to add to the Karanas feel, there were scare crows, giant beetles, and even some bears. (Though not as many as there are now.)

Of course, back in December 2004, the spires were still broken, there were no griffon towers, and a lot more of the mobs were heroic encounters.

We walked up the road, undead on one side, gnolls on the other, and giant beetles up ahead.  That first venture did not last long.  We were scared.  Our equipment was poor, this being the early “wear what drops” days of the game, and even the solo encounter mobs proved to be tough.  We ran back to Antonica for another level or two before we came back.

This was the first zone where we fell back into the EverQuest normal mode of grinding mobs for experience.  There were plenty of quests, but most of them were either annoying (book quests? shoot me now!) or required a group to handle them.

This was the first zone that felt epic.  Huge.  Dangerous.

And the guard towers were barely staffed.  Only one of them offered any safety.

Not too long after we came to grips with this zone and were working through access quests to the Enchanted Lands and Zek, the Thundering Steppes went through a series of tweaks.  For a stretch the Steppes became a very solo friendly zone.  Then it got dialed back and forth for a bit until it settled down to the mix you find there today, which still has many heroic encounters, but is much more solo friendly than it was on day one.

Unlike my EverQuest screen shots, which disappeared with a bad drive some years back, I still have a collection of shots from the early days in the Thundering Steppes, a selection of which you will find below.

Nomu in the fields of the Thundering Steppes.  That scarecrow must be looking the other way.

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Gaff and I, doing the “Mini-me” routine.  That is the original Tier 3 plate armor look.  My oven mitts were a rare drop as I recall.  Gaff made all our armor once we decided we could no longer get by with drops.  I went to alchemy and made all the inks and warrior skills.

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Gaff in a fight with some gnolls.  Those are the original, pre-Splitpaw gnoll models.

Swinging for gnoll necks

Gaff putting the AOE taunt on a centaur encounter.  The cents were ALL heroic encounters back in those days.

Taunting centaurs

In the ravine of the undead that runs through the zone, Gaff taking on a skeleton.  Like the centaurs, all skellies were heroic back then.

Skeleton smash!

Gaff suffering from the dreaded “30 degree angle” bug.  Here he looks like a fridge magnet stuck to the wall of the ravine.

Not actually stuck to the wall...

Same bug, with him hanging out over the ravine.

Hanging out... literally

Gaff square dancing with a griffon.

Swing your partner 'round and 'round...

And, finally, proof that I did more out there than take pictures of Gaff getting beat on.  Here he is actually being healed by me!

Nomu actually healing

Station Launcher Beta in October

So one piece of news, at least it was news to me, that came out of Tuesday’s SOE shut down was about the new Station Launcher.

Was This All Just For Station Launcher?
While Station Launcher is slated to go into beta next month, the new account management system adds functionality and features beyond those that are going to work together with Station Launcher. With a single unified system that covers all SOE games, we will be able to create new options, services, and features that roll out quickly to all of our games as there is no need to adjust it for each different game system. 

This quote is from a “What Happened Tuesday” post available here on EQ2 Players.

I’ve been waiting for some news on the new Station Launcher since March.  It isn’t much news, but it is something.

A Changing of Roles…

I have started moving some of the roles previously assigned to my mining character off to Wilhelm, my main.  Now, in addition to doing the hauling while he isn’t running missions, Wilhelm also does the refining.

I did not start down this path because I ran out of skills for Wil to train.  There is a long list of shield, missile, power, and CPU related skills I would like to get him going on.  And he needs them.  I managed to lose another Caracal last weekend.  I got in over my head and stuck next to a big object that kept me from aligning to warp out.  And, as it usually goes, it wasn’t even a Charles Manson (kill everyone) mission, but just one of the “run in, grab something, and run away” variety.  Irony dogs me like some giant, ironic, dog-like thing.  My insurance agent is going to start raising my premiums soon!

No, the path was chosen to take advantage of Wilhelm’s much higher faction with the Caldari Navy to eke every last mineral out of the refining process.  A few weeks of steady but flat mining income and I am looking for how to get more.

Fortunately Refining V was only a couple day haul for him, while Refining Efficiency I, II, and III were about a day, and then specialization in refining a few different ore types (Plaglioclase being first on the list), ran under two hours each to level II, and which point refining waste dropped to zero.  At the end of this my yield, with the better faction, ended up being a little more than 2% better.

Go me!  Every little bit counts!

This change of roles also reduces some travel time.  I leave my miner in whatever system I am working in currently and let Wil do the travelling when the time comes.  I suppose that I do not even have to put my miner into dock, but I do anyway out of habit and paranoia.

Finally, it frees me up from one issue that has been bugging me, and that is the transfer of goods between players.  I only know of two simple ways to transfer goods between my characters.  The first is in space via a jet can.  The second is via the corp hangers in our HQ.  Since I do not plan to stay within two jumps of our HQ forever, and since space has its share of can thieves, I thought it might be better to consolidate hauling, refining, selling, and possibly production into a single character.

Adventure Recognized

For some time I have been trying to put together an article about one of my all time favorite games.   It was certainly the earliest game I played that had that magic “Wow!” factor that kept me playing it over and over long after I had “won” the game.

That game, released on the Atari 2600, was Adventure!

In some very fundamental way, Adventure had for me, at age 13, everything a game needed.  Playing it for the first time back in 1978 was every bit as enthralling as playing EverQuest for the first time was in 1999.  I was hooked.

black-castle.png

At the black castle with the chalice

I am still going to write my entry on Adventure some day and recount the hours I spent playing and the different ways my brother and I invented to play the game.

But until that day, I will point you to an article over at Gamasutra titled “Game Design Essentials: 20 Open World Games.”  The first game mentioned is Adventure.  This is no less recognition than the game deserves, as for the time and hardware, it was something very special.

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Beware the Green Dragon!

You can find some additional (and correct, relative to the Wikipedia article) detail here on the site of the man who wrote the game, Warren Robinett. (A name I have know for years, since it was in the game as part of the first in-game Easter Egg I ever saw.)

New Space Gadget

I pulled the Miner II off of Wilhelm’s Mammoth.  While it was nice to churn a little bit more ore, it really wasn’t worth it.

To start with, I generally do not leave the hauler sitting around in space waiting for the jet can to fill up unless other people are lurking about.  And even when I am in that mode, there is hauling to be done, so there isn’t that much “time on the ‘roid.”  No beam time means no ore in the store.

Second, the range difference between the Strip Miner I and the Miner II, while only 3km, is just enough to be annoying.  I tend to park the barge where I have the maximum number of targets in range, which often means a lot of them are in the range zone between the two miners.  Since I want to stick close to the barge and the jet can, I often end up picking a different flavor of ore, something that offends some internal sense of uniformity.

Finally, the whole range thing is compounded by my insistence on looting and salvaging every NPC pirate I kill.  I never leave a bunch of wrecks sitting around.  I maintain a tidy asteroid belt.  But keeping the jet can within 1500 meters, the target asteroid within 12km, and the wreck to be salvaged within 5km always leads to something being just out of reach when I need it. 

So the miner went.  It was a distraction.  I would rather have the ISK for it.

With a free high power slot available, I bought a Small Tractor Beam I.

Best buy ever for the lazy EVE pilot.  Perfect for the mission running pod potato in your life.

Sure, at nearly 1.5 million ISK, it might seem a pricey convenience.  But if you are like me and are sick of chasing down every last Gurista wreck on a mission or in an asteroid belt, this is a must have.

All you have to do is move with in 20km of a wreck or a cargo container, target it, then turn on the blue beam of happiness.

bluebeam.png

(Actual tractor beam inaction in action.)

The wreck or cargo container comes right to you at a speedy 500m/s.

When I get a battlecruiser configured for missions (I am leaning towards a Drake… missiles! missiles for all my targets!), it will have a salvager and a tractor beam, both because I am lazy and because I hear that speed and agility are not attributes of battlecruisers… at least not the Caldari flavored ones.

Browsing Othrikar

A tale of a dwarf and his shopping cart.

Full of hope at the start of the day.  The promise of fresh provisions draws him on to the shopping ahead of him.

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As he moves about town, his hope begins to fade.  He moves from vendor to vendor, leaving each shop with an empty cart.

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He wonders if the war with Mordor has swallowed up everything.  The fields seem full and game is plentiful, yet the shelves are bare no matter where he goes.

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Driven nearly to despair, our heroic shopper discovers the true nature of his cart.  It was taken from the Safeway of Angmar and it lays a curse on whoever possesses it beyond the limits of its parking lot.  Knowing now what he must now do, he sets out his quest.

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He abandons the cart at the first run down goblin apartment complex he comes across.  He leaves it by one of the goblin patios.  Over several days it moves about the complex, ending up out back near the dumpster.

Eventually the apartment complex manger, unable to get anybody to come down from Angmar to retrieve the cart, uses it to haul around his tools.  Later, when Mordor is thrown down and Sauron defeated, the front left wheel develops a wobble that he can never quite fix.  And so he goes on with his life, pushing his tools around in a cart that shakes and pulls annoyingly to the left, and never knowing why.

Patchwork Tuesday

Tuesday the 25th seemed to be a day for patches all around.

First I saw that EVE Online put up Revelations 2.2.2.  (Wasn’t Karen Valentine in that?) I had read that this was coming and had set  suitably long duration skills training on both my characters.  But the patch seemed to behave well, so it was an unnecessary precaution… this time.  The patch itself was focused on resolving the database issues they have been experiencing along with a fix for people running multiple clients on a single box.  That would be me!  Now if they would put in something that would let me booby trap my jet cans to take care of can thieves, I’d be set.  Something big enough to take out a battle cruiser would do.

Then I peeked into EverQuest II now that it was up after the All SOE Downtime event.  Patches there too, both for the game and the launch pad.  No surprise.  I am sure they had to tweak a couple of things due to changes in infrastructure.  Nothing much was in today’s patch game wise, except something to fix dual wielders from getting extra procs.  That would be me.  Oh well.  And the downtime was apparently so traumatic that Grimwell listed the date in the patch notes title as Wednesday, September 25th.  For some people, every minute of downtime seems like ten.

Then I poked my nose into World of Warcraft.  A big patch day, with version 2.2.0 going up which includes integrated voice chat.  I don’t think we will be giving up Skype just yet, but it is nice to see Blizzard handing out a huge upgrade like that.  The patch notes are huge.  Lots of stuff changed, every class touched, blah blah blah.  Biggest news for me?  My little pally buffs now have a 10 minute duration.  They used to be 5 minutes, which meant remembering to recast them 12 times an hour, or about every third fight.  While it is an improvement, if Blizzard really loved me, they would have upped them to 30 minutes.

Finally I went to check Lord of the Rings Online, just to see if EVERYBODY was patching today.  Nope, there was no patch today.  On the other hand, I had not logged in for a couple of weeks, so I ended up with last week’s patch.

So I can declare, “All Games Patched And Secure!  Ready For Adventure!”

Now to go check MSDN and see if Microsoft did me in again this week.

Mithril Mining Madness

As I move from game to game I tend to forget some of the differences until I am confronted with them.

So it is with my latest trip back into Azeroth. 

As with every other MMO, all of my characters in World of Warcraft have a trade skill.  It is my cross to bear that I cannot leave trade skills alone.

My main character, Vikund, a level 49 paladin, is also an engineer.  If you know me, you’ll know that as professions go, that one isn’t much of a stretch.

Engineers can make all sorts of interesting gadgets.  It is truly one of the hallmark professions of the game.  But since most of the itetms can only be used by fellow engineers at a similar skill level (how like real life!), there are not many items worth mass producing.  Bombs and the like are good for AOE, but Vik primarily manufactures guns and ammunition for my hunter, Tistann, and for friends.

With almost everybody unable to play last weekend, I decided to get Tistann out and work on him.  For solo play a hunter remains my favorite class in WoW. 

On getting Tistann logged in, I noticed that he had a lot of bag space available.  This is something unusual for a hunter in my experience, as they generally dedicate one of their bag slots to an ammunition pouch.  And since hunters go through ammunition very quickly, a lot of free slots shown on the UI usually means a shortage of ammo.  Tistann was down to a couple hundred rounds.

So I put Tistann away and got out Vik.  I was going to have him make some more high-impact mithril slugs for Tistann.  Unfortunately, he was fresh out of mithril.  And in the spirit of inflation brought about by The Burning Crusade, mithril listed at the auction house was a bit more pricey that I could afford.  Vik is level 49 and has all of 100 gold on him, so I have to watch the spending.

Mithril is a harvestable resource in WoW, so I did not have to buy any, I could just go out and get some.  Vik’s mining and smelting skills are up to the task.  But was my node locating knowledge up to it?

It has been a while since I went out solely to harvest in WoW.  Where would I find mithril?

Fortunately, I remembered finding some in the Badlands at one point, along the southern edge of the zone between Camp Boff and Camp Cagg.  So off I went, mineral tracking on, pick in hand, ready to harvest a mountain of mithril.

And so, finally, we arrive at the “I forgot” part of the tale.

When compared to EverQuest II or Lord of the Rings Online, resource nodes in WoW are pretty sparse.  Or my knowledge of where to harvest is pretty incomplete.  Or both.

This isn’t to say I couldn’t find any mithril.  I found and managed to harvest about 20 units of mithril ore over a two hour period of time.  But I would have to say that if I spend two hours harvesting an item in EQ2 or LOTRO that was in an area where the mobs were 8-10 levels below me, I would have come up with a lot more than 20 units.

The nodes themselves were not hard to find, there just were not very many of them and they took quite a while to respawn.

I found a node now and again.

Vik levitating with joy! 

More frustrating was running across a true silver node. 

Required skill to mine, 230.  Vik’s mining skill, 224.  No Joy here.

And when I finally collected those 20 units of mithril ore and recalled back to Stormwind, I realized that I also needed solid stone to make solid blasting powder, which is the other ingredient for high-impact mithril slugs.  I had only come up with 8 solid stones while I was out looking for mithril ore.  Two stones make one unit of solid blasting powder, so I ended up being able to make exactly four stacks of ammunition for Tistann.

And, of course, by that time I had used up the free time I had to play.

A lesson for potential trade skillers, no doubt.

Another Training Hill to Climb

Sunday my miner started on the last big skill towards his goal.  Mining Barge level 5 will take a little over 24 days to train.

On the bright side, once this skill is trained there is are only two more days of training to go before I can fly a Hulk.

In anticipation of this, and because I had the money, and because there were only 8 on the market when I last checked, I spent the ISK and bought my Hulk.

118,000,000 ISK. 

That would be the most I have ever spent on anything in-game by a large margin. 

Still, the mining guide I have been reading had the calculation for how soon a Hulk would pay itself off assuming you already owned a Covetor.  40 days was the result, but it assumed a selling price of 500 million ISK.

At 118 million ISK, and since I am still flying the Retriever, I am pretty sure the pay off period will be much shorter for me.

For now though, I have to keep mining.  I will need to equip this Hulk some day.