Monthly Archives: September 2007

Trial in the Court of Innovation

Last weekend I actually got Blintz, my level 57 swashbuckler, out and played him for a while.  Gaff and I went into Klak’Anon and did the Court of Innovation.

It was my first chance to see Gaff triple box.

In hindsight, it was a bit of an unfair balance of characters.  Gaff had the responsibilities of tank, healer/warder, and buffer/crowd control, while I was just DPS and emergency evac. 

It worked out all right though.  Gaff was a lot more prepared than I was.  It was my first time actually doing something in Norrath for a few weeks so I was out of practice.  I even ran off without any poisons in my bag.  Some DPS.

We got on Skype at about 4 in the afternoon and headed into Klak’Anon.  Gaff mentored down 61, the level of his conjurer, so Blintz was also the lowest level in the group.  Fortunately most of K’A is grey to Blintz and we only ran into a few aggros just outside the entrance to the Court of Innovation.

Over all we did pretty well, only getting in over out heads for a wipe once during our expedition.  Blintz managed to grab too much aggro a couple of times and died while Gaff had a couple of additional deaths due to the character juggling he was doing.

The Court of Innovation instance, like the rest of K’A, is very nicely done.  I like the look and the sound effects, especially the crashing sound that a dying clockwork gives off when you kill it.  But it is all pretty hard on my system.  I had to step down to Balanced video settings, and then down one more step after that in the instance and I was still lagging quite a bit during the big fights.  My four year old system is showing its age, even with the video card upgrade.

We managed to do the whole thing in about two hours.  The biggest disappointment though was the drops.  None of the named dropped anything wonderful.  Not even a master skill that we could sell.  The best item I got was the Klak’Anon Metal Lord Earring, which was an upgrade for me at least.

Of course, being in a hurry to get on and get something done (I had some free time due to my wife and daughter heading out to a birthday party) I forgot to take notes.  And, as with a lot of indoors zones, it is difficult to get a good screen shot. 

Still, I managed to get a decent picture of the biggest battle, the fight between us and King Klak’Anon the Mechnamaximus.

When you begin the fight with King Klak’Anon, he is pretty easy.  But then he flees before you can defeat him to get himself upgraded to “Mechnamaximus.”  You have to clear a few more of his minions and then you get to battle him again.  A fun battle with some witty dialog.

In the end there wasn’t much of a loot haul and the experience was okay, but it was still a fun afternoon adventure.

The Official SOE Podcast #23

Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske hosts this “Best Of” edition of the Official SOE Podcast.  Alan “Brenlo” Crosby is on jury duty so they did not record a regular show.  The news with Jason “Pex” Ryan is not a repeat, nor is the preview of podcast #24.

Podcast #24 Preview:

  • Hank the Hamster
  • Dave Gilbertson and Julie Burness from the Vanguard team
  • Joel Sasaki
  • Dragon*Con and AGC
  • Inside SOE – Questions from the Community

News:

  • Community Outings
  • Legends of Norrath Updates
  • EQ’s Secrets of Faydwer Website Updated, also head over to the forums for Beta opportunities
  • EQII – guild announcements threads on the server forums and in-game looks
  • Lots of Fun on the EQOA Forums
  • SWG – Publish 6.12 and the Habitat for Humanity
  • Vanguard – Character Transfers, Guild Halls, meet Hannah B!

Best of Section:

  • From Podcast #11 – Henry the Hamster
  • Interview #1 – Senior Product Manager for EverQuest II Laura Naviaux and Ari Ziegel (Podcast #8)
  • Commerical from Podcast #11: Gnome Cookies written by Robyn Vallee
  • From Podcast #15 Timmy The Red-Headed Step child
  • From Podcast #9 Dramatic Rant from RanjaMan
  • From Podcast #14 Henri the Amsterdam Hamster
  • Interview #2 – EQ Community Manager Round Table (From Podcast #14)
  • From Podcast #14 Fippy Darkpaw
  • Commerical from Podcast #17 Auraxico Insurance concept by Lydia Pope and Joel Sasaki
  • From Podcast #19 Henrietta the Hamster
  • Interview #3 – Yivvits and Mr. Bubble (From Podcast #12)
  • Commerical from Podcast #18 Beastie-O’s written by Kelly Knox
  • What are you playing? (Not a repeat)
  • Commerical from Podcast #10 Mama’s Eggnog written by Nathan McCall

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on September 19th and runs just over one hour and eighteen minutes.

Battlefront Game Du Jour

Game Du Jour is a web site that specializes in selling independent and casual games. 

Their schtick is that every day ONE of the games they sell is available at a big discount. 

But only for that day.  There is no going back.  No rain checks.

 They do have a mailing list, so you can get alerted in advance of a game being discounted.  You do not have to check back every day.

And if you miss “the” day, you can still buy any of the games they list at full price.  Most of them have demos so you can download and try them out.

So why am I mentioning this?

Next week they are offering five games from Battlefront, a publisher of computer war games that I have mentioned in the past, as has Darren at TCSG.  The games and their dates are:

Sep 24– T-72 Balkans on Fire – just $10 instead of $25!
an exciting tank simulation focusing on tank combat tactics on the modern battlefield using the best tanks the Russians ever built

Sep 25– TacOps 4 – just $10 instead of $25!
the commercial version of “TacOpsCav 4”, an officially issued standard training device of the US Army, offering a simulation of contemporary and near-future tactical ground combat.

Sep 26– Combat Mission Afrika Korps – just $10 instead of $25!
a real-time 3D simulation of WWII tactical warfare, featuring combat as machine gun tracers arc overhead and exploding artillery shells shake the earth.

Sep 27– Down in Flames / East Front Bundle – just $14 instead of $35!
this game bundle is loaded for bear, giving you the ability to take to the skies in a German Me-262, a Russian Il-2, an American F6F Hellcat, Japanese Ki.84 Frank, a Polish P11.c, or British Tempest.

Sep 28– Combat Mission Barbarossa to Berlin – just $10 instead of $25!
a hybrid turn-based/real-time 3D simulation of WWII tactical warfare on the Eastern Front from 1941 to 1945.

Sep 29– Strategic Command European Theatre – just $6 instead of $15!
Don the uniform of the supreme commander of the Axis or Allied forces as you shape the fates of the nations at war during the Second World War in Europe.

Sep 30– Combat Mission Beyond Overlord – just $6 instead of $15!
a turn-based, 3D simulation of WWII tactical warfare, combining unparalleled game depth with a true 3D environment.

Of these seven, I would highly recommend checking out Combat Mission Afrika Korps and Combat Mission Barbarossa to Berlin.  I own both and have spent many hours playing them.  They are both based on the same game engine, with the first taking place in the Mediterranean theater of operations (Africa, Sicily, Italy) and the second on the Easter Front during WWII.

Also of note is Combat Mission Beyond Overlord.  It is from the same developer but is based on an earlier version of their engine and does not quite have the same feel of realism.

And then there is TacOps, which will always have a place in my gaming heart for being the first good translation of an Avalon Hill style war game (map and cardboard counters) that did away with the hex grid.  Yeah!  It sounds simple, somebody deciding that the computer could calculate movement without dividing up the terrain into little parcels, but I had not seen it done before TacOps. 

Eleven years ago, when I bought a copy of TacOps off the shelf (it came in a box for a while) it was an amazing game.  These days it seems a little dated, with fixed sized maps that were huge when we all were running at 640×480 or 800×600, but seem tiny in today’s resolutions.  Still, at $10, it is worth a look if you are interested in that sort of game.

Mining in the Morning

The prime annoyance of parenthood for me isn’t the changes to your lifestyles that are required.  No, the annoyance comes because it seems that as soon as you have finally hit some sort of routine that accommodates a change, another change shows up.

We got hit with a big change recently: Kindergarten. 

Our local school starts at 7:50am. 

When the clock beside my bed says 7:50am, my first thought is usually that I have another 20 minutes or so before my alarm clock goes off.

Now, however, with my daughter required to be in class at 7:50am, things are starting a little earlier at our house.  So we all get up earlier.

But there is still no point in my getting on the road before 9am still.  Traffic is awful and in the land of Silicon Valley software nothing starts before 10am anyway.

So I sit at my desk at home reading email and mining.

I think I have the mining thing down now. 

With the Retriever armed with drones I seem to be pretty impervious to rats.

With the 3 minute cycle on the strip miners, I can look away for nearly six minutes at a stretch without worrying about my cargo overflowing.

I just keep filling up a jet can.  I have to use a jet can of course, because every asteroid field I visit looks like this:

canspam.png

There is no space to anchor a secure container, there being a minimum space required between cans, so I make due with an open one.  That means that, once in a while, I have to deal with some bozo can thief.  Not that there is much that I can do besides move somewhere else.

After I get it close to full, I bring out Wil and his Mammoth to haul the ore back to HQ.

So I sit with work email up in one window, with EVE in a window in the background, positioned so I can see the overview and my cargo bay.  The joys of working in 1600×1200.  If I get up and get ready in short order (not tough when you wear jeans and a polo shirt every day) I can get in nearly 90 minutes of mining and get some of my overseas email answered before heading into the office.

By doing this most mornings, I have managed to hit a mining milestone.

I initially seeded my miner with 5 million ISK to buy skills, buy his Osprey, equip it, and to generally live on.  Since then he has been self-financed.  I handle the logistical support with my main account (Wil bought the Mammoth), but my miner has purchased all ships and equipment out of what he has earned.

So I was happy to hit the 100 million ISK saved mark at last.

moneymilestone.png

I also started pricing ships.  I was surprised to see the Hulk priced down near 120 million ISK.  So that amount, plus 28 million ISK for the Exhumers skill , with  some additional ISK thrown in for equipment and I am set.  I had planned to buy a Covetor first and then save up for a Hulk, which I had read was in the 500 million ISK price range at one point, but now I may not have to.  When it comes to training there is only a 3 day gap between being able to fly the Covetor and being able to fly the Hulk.

I also hit another landmark, this time on the skills front.  My miner is now less than 30 days away from being able to fly the Hulk.  I finished up Industry V a while back and Astrogeology V finished up yesterday (which will give me a small boost to mining yield), so I have only Mining Barge IV and V and then Exhumers I, II, and III to do before I am there.

All of which will give me more than enough time to earn the additional ISK required to buy the Hulk and all the trimmings.

I might even have enough to finance a battlecruiser for Wilhelm.

South Bay EVE Meet

From this post on the EVE forums:

Hello all, I haven’t held one of these in a while, due to lack of interest in the area, but it seems to have been re-sparked.

Please respond to this thread or send me an eve-mail if you plan on attending. Dukes is a Pub, so alcohol as well as food will be served, minors are allowed in until 11pm, so if you’re under 21 don’t worry… until 11pm.

I figured we’d follow the brits and hold a pub meet of our own ;-)

WHEN: Saturday, September 22nd
12:00 local time, 19:00 eve time.
WHERE: The Duke of Edinburgh
WHY: Because we love eve, and food and liquor and good company.
OTHER: Join “Bay Area Local” in game to chat w/ us and ask questions directly!
So come one, bring friends(and enemies) and let’s all go crazy.

Directions(taken from the website:
Take Interstate 280 to Wolfe Rd. in Cupertino.

• If exiting from Southbound 280, turn Left onto Wolfe Rd.

• If exiting from Northbound 280, turn Right onto Wolfe Rd.

Turn Left into the Cupertino Village Shopping Center.

The Duke of Edinburgh Pub and Restaurant is on the Right.

10801 N. Wolfe Road
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 446-DUKE (3853)

I am going to try to make it there, at least for some lunch. (Bangers and mash!)  I will try to remember to wear my Warp Drive Active shirt.

Wii Virtual Console

Where we find hype beats nostalgia.

Like the other two current generation console systems, the Wii has an interface to let you purchase games for you system over your network connection to the internet.

The Wii version of this feature, called the Virtual Console, is focused on the past.  It is an emulator that lets you play games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and the Nintendo 64 system (N64) as well as from Sega Genesis and NEC TurboGrafx-16.

It is a nostalgia machine.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I do not have much in the way of longing for these old console games.  Of the systems supported, I have only owned the Sega Genesis, and I did not play that very much.

Still, there is always room for a little nostalgia… even that false nostalgia for things you never experienced in the first place… like the 1950s… well, I never experienced the 1950s.

So, between bouts of Wii Tennis and Mario Party 8, I bought some Wii Points (the unit of currency in the land of Wii) and picked out four games available on the virtual console.

Three of my picks were based on nostalgia.

Action!

The first game I got was Elevator Action.  In the arcades of my youth, this was probably the last game I was any good at playing.  It came along at about the time I decided to save my quarters to buy Apple II software.

In the arcade it was really fun.  Even on the MAME system at the office, it is still a blast so many years later.  I also remember playing a pretty good version of it on my youngest cousin’s GameBoy a few years back.

Unfortunately, the version on the Virtual Console is from the NES, which is a pretty old system.  The game play isn’t quite the same, and it isn’t just the Wii controller that gets in the way.  It is obviously a port from the time when there was a serious performance gap between the arcade and the home console.  I would rather play the MAME version on my PC.

Nostalgia: 0 for 1

Super Sonic!

My next buy was Sonic the Hedgehog.  This was the game that came with my Sega Gensis 15 years back.  In my mind, this was a safe choice.  I had played and enjoyed this game before.  The graphics, if out of date, would still be decent, and the sound would be good.

And so they were.  It looked and played just like I remembered.  The only part I did not remember was how bad I was at the game back then.  And I have not gotten any better since 1992.  I have not made it past the second level.  Ouch.

Still, my daughter enjoys watching the demo that plays when the game sits idle.  She picks up the controller and thinks she’s playing.

Nostalgia: 0 for 2

Get Exited!

The third nostalgia purchase I made was Excite Bike.  While a bit wary of another NES game, I had actually seen this one reviewed on one of the gaming site who gave it a thumbs up for retro gaming.

And it is pretty good.  It made the transition from the arcade to the NES intact and actually improved.  It is simple, fun, and seriously worth the $5 in Wii Points for the retro experience.  I remember playing this in the arcade.

This game was a double bonus as my daughter latched onto it right away and we spent a Saturday afternoon racing blocky dirt bikes.

Nostalgia: 1 for 3

Go Kart!

The fourth purchase I made for the Virtual Console was Mario Kart 64.  Not being indoctrinated in Nintendo, I am not very familiar with the Mario Kart series.  Sure, I have heard of Mario Kart, but I have also had a couple of people tell me that Mario Kart was over rated.  I was looking for something else to play one afternoon and figured where there was smoke (hype), there might also be fire (fun).

Mario Kart 64 is fun.  A lot of fun.  It lived up to the hype as far as I am concerned.  I have easily played Mario Kart 64 ten times as much as my other Virtual Console purchases combined.

The only down side to the game is that it requires a somewhat delicate touch to steer, more so than my daughter can manage.  So she is not enthusiastic about the game, though she likes to sit an tell me what to do while I play.  And when my youngest cousin comes by (21 year age difference between us) she plays with me because she actually had a Nintendo 64 system at her house when she was younger.  She is pretty good too.

Hype: 1 for 1

More Virtual?

Nintendo releases three titles to the Virtual Console library every week.  So far though, only these four titles have caught my eye and been worthy of my Wii Points.  I understand that, some day, you will be able to buy and download new games in addition to the retro fare from Nintendo, but right now we’re stuck reliving the past.

Have you bought any Virtual Console games?

What Is A “Tank” In EVE?

I see the word “tank” used a quite a bit in the EVE forums, but I am mildly confused about what it really means in terms of the game.

For example, I pulled these phrases from a single thread on the EVE forums:

“I was able to tank”
“this can fit a tank”
“it is a passive tank”
“taking away the need for a big tank”
“chew though its tank”

I know what a “tank” is in the sense of most of the games I have played.  The concept of the person who stands up front, keeps aggro, takes damage, and is generally the focal point of a battle is something I learned way back in the early MUD days. (Back in early Sojourn, when you had the best armor class (-100AC), it used to read out as “M1a1 Abrams Tank.”)

In EVE though, “tank” seems to have a different meaning… or set of meanings. 

I can spot the passages where it seems to indicate the ability to stand up to damage.  The context is usually pretty clear.  

But at other times it seems to refer to equipment fitted on a ship.  What constitutes a “tank” in that regard?  Is it shields?  Is it armor?  Is it some measure of a combination of equipment?

And then there are the modifiers to the word “tank.”  What is a “passive tank?”  I see that mentioned often.  On the other hand, I do not think I have seen any mention of an “active tank.”  Is there such a thing as well?

And what about a “tank” makes it “big?”  And if having a big “tank” is important, why don’t I get in-game spam about “tank enlargement?”

Why Isn’t LOTRO More Fun?

Please Note – This post is from 2007, early in the history of the game.  A lot has gotten better since then.

I tend to object when I hear people characterize Lord of the Rings Online as “WoW in Middle-earth.”  It is, however, a hard objection to make stick.  You just look at the UI and say, “Hmmm… now where have I seen that layout before?”

Still, there are a lot of things that differentiate LOTRO from WoW.  If you have played both, you know what I mean.

With the return of Earl, we have gone back to WoW for our Saturday night instance group.  Earl actually went out, bought LOTRO, and was leveling up a character (and he is in the Gaff class of leveling machines).  But the first weekend we could play found most of us approaching level 30 while Earl was just in his low teens.  To get the group together to play, we decided to go back to WoW.

The suggestion that we leave Middle-earth and return to WoW was met with cheers by at least two of our group.  I was less enthusiastic.  There is still so much to see in Middle-earth.  But I could see the point of getting back to WoW.  We still have quite a few 5 player instances to get through there.  Accomplishing some sort of MMO milestone, like hitting level cap, might be a nice change for me.

So we played WoW that next Saturday night and we all had a lot of fun.  In fact I had more fun than I remember us having in LOTRO.

Now, as much as Earl is the life of the party, regaling us with tales of freight hopping and New York City property values, I do not think he was the key to the fun.

No, I think I found something that Turbine did not copy from WoW, something that differentiates the two games.

Fun.

World of Warcraft is just more fun to play.  Potshot has a similar post on his site because we talked a bit about this after the Hinterlands on Saturday night.  He wants to know why WoW is fun, I want to know why LOTRO isn’t as much fun.

Now, I am not talking about depth or the feeling of long term fulfillment here.  But as far as just getting in, grouping up, and playing goes, WoW wins.  WoW is more fun.

I say this from the perspective of somebody who started off pretty anti-WoW.  I have never been much on the Warhammer-derivative art style, the lack of parallel paths on the adventuring path past level 20, the shallowness of characters and guilds, the crappy PvP, the battle grounds, the heavy focus on an end-game I have no interest in, auctions, or the lack of frigging storage space.  And don’t get me started on the patcher or Stranglethorn Vale.  I have three alts that I stopped playing at STV.  So WoW pushes a lot of my negative buttons.

On the other hand, I have been quite the LOTRO partisan.  I really want to like the game.  I like the art style, both its depth and beauty.  I like all of the traits and titles and whatnot.  I am even okay with the trade skills.  You can actually make useful items for your level.  And then there is the whole Tolkien IP.  I want! I want! I want!

So I have enough going on in my brain with regards to LOTRO to ensure some pretty severe cognitive dissonance with regards to how fun it is.

And yet, even as we were making the decision to go back to WoW, I knew in my gut WoW was going to be more fun.

For me, LOTRO just isn’t quite there, and I have trouble pointing at exactly why.

Certainly part of it is the design of the game itself.  While, intellectually, I like all of the little features in LOTRO, all of the achievements and titles and what not, they do add up to a burden of complexity on the game.  They tried to give combat more depth but ended up making it a bit unwieldy. And the interface, while so similar between games, just seems more clear in WoW, especially when it comes to icons.  And, yes, I’ve griped about the icons before.

And then there is the game client itself.  WoW just feels much lighter and more responsive when compared to LOTRO.  I just do not feel like I have to work as hard to make things happen in WoW.  I remember reading quotes from Rob Pardo at AGC last year, when he mentioned spending a lot of time making sure that little things like the responsiveness of the cursor felt just right.  That work paid off.  And lag?  Bree on a Saturday night can be a painful place to run through.  Even some of the instances, as well done as they are, make my machine drag.  WoW, on the other hand, just felt right, with little lag and excellent responsiveness.

It is tough for me to admit, but I was more comfortable playing WoW after a five month break than I was with LOTRO after playing for five months straight.

LOTRO is good, but when it comes to polish and smooth operation, it cannot beat WoW.

Does anybody else feel that way?  What could Turbine do to change this?

Play Money

I recently finished reading “Play Money: or How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot” by Julian Dibbell.

Actually, I recently finished listening to it.  It was available on Audible.com and I took it as one of my two monthly titles.

Often listening to a book like this, one containing some level of detail, can be a bit annoying.  Having somebody read off numbers or statistics doesn’t work well for me, especially if they change over the course of a book.  I always like to flip pages to compare these sorts of things.

“Play Money” is a little bit different, as much of the numbers read off are available online.  The book is based primarily on a series of blog posts from 2003 and 2004 by Mr. Dibbell.

You can actually get the basic information the book delivers by just reading his blog.  But you would miss out on some of the cool stuff in the book.

What the book delivers is the story behind the blog entries.  What drove particular entries, who he was working with, what he was thinking at the time, and what really goes on… or went on… with gold sellers in a virtual world.

The virtual world in which this all takes place is that of Ultima Online.

This actually struck me as odd at first.  With the time frame set mostly in 2003, I tend to think of UO as past its prime at that point.

But UO had one advantage when it came to an external, real money economy:  Mythic Origin did not take a hard stance against selling in-game currency and items for real money.  So, unlike SOE, Blizzard, CCP, and other companies, Mythic Origin did not spend time shutting down eBay auctions, banning gold selling accounts, or any of the other activities that we generally see today in response to the sale of in-game currency.

That lax attitude by Mythic Origin made for a vibrant external economy even when the game was past its heyday.

The book itself is woven about three things.

First, most of the book goes into the methods and dynamics of the gold and item trade; bots, exploits, scams, cartels, trade wars, alliances, and Chinese gold farmers.  You will recognize some of the players in that trade including Brock Pierce, who founded IGE, and Markee Dragon, once a big gold selling site and now one that sells, among other things, EVE Online Game Time Cards… and has a tutorial on how to trade them for ISK.  Where have I heard that before?

Second, the book also goes into some detail about the game itself, something I found at least as interesting as the dynamics of the external trade.  I never played UO, and probably never will at this point, but the book gives some fairly rich views of the world of Sosaria that I quite enjoyed.  If you played the game these sections will probably bring up a good deal of nostalgia for the game.

Finally, the book tries to make a few over-arching points about play, the future impact of virtual work and virtual economies, and the tax implications thereof.  While the theories of play and the studies of virtual economies are interesting, the author, in my opinion, never quite completes any of the big points he starts out to make.  Even on the tax implications, something that you would think might be cut and dried (unless you actually do your own taxes), he comes up empty, though only after an amusing set of encounters with the IRS.

While the book does not makes its case for existence with any sort of big picture conclusion, it is quite an enjoyable read for those interested in the smaller picture dynamics of the gold trade and its interaction Ultima Online.  The characters the author meets, their motivations, and how the game itself becomes nothing more than a backdrop for the “bigger” game of the gold trade make for a rich enough story.

I am tempted to pick up a hard copy of the book just to go back over some of the Ultima Online chapters.  That is the problem with audio books, you cannot flip back and re-read sections very easily.  There is a soft bound version available at Amazon.com now.

The Mallet of Zul’Farrak

One week back into WoW and already we were short of players for a Saturday night. Bung was out of town while Earl said something about a “wedding anniversary.” A likely excuse.

That left three of us:

47 Mage – Ula
48 Priest – Skronk
49 Paladin – Vikund

We thought we might go looking for that Mallet of Zul’Farrak that came up missing last week in ZF.

gongmessage.png

This meant heading up to the Hinterlands and facing the Altar of Zul.

I was more than a bit dubious about our chances. The last time we went up to the altar we were a group of five and we got plastered all over the scenery. Now there were just three of us, though we were at least a few levels higher now.

Being higher level helped us almost immediately. The last time around our level meant our aggro radius was big enough that even getting to the altar was a pain. This time we managed to get pretty much to the base of the pyramid on which the altar rests before we had to start fighting.

We killed the mobs on the steps and soon faced Qiaga the Keeper and Morta’gya the Keeper, both level 50 elites, as well as a normal level 48 mob. We buffed up, took a deep breath, and went after them.

And won.

We won handily in fact. It was not even a close fight.

We all looted the mallet off of Qiaga. Of course, the mallet is not ready for ZF yet. You have to enchant it first.

enchanting it means a visit to another part of the Hinterlands, Jintha’Alor. More elite trolls in the level 46-50 range.

We took this carefully. You have to get to another altar at the top of Jintha’Alor to transform the mallet, so we battled our way up the stairs and along the paths, taking one or two mobs at a time. I believe we only ended up with more than two a couple of times, and only once was there enough drama in a fight to make anybody nervous enough to get Skronk to start his “remain calm” mantra.

We made it to the top, to the amphitheater where the altar is. There is an elite troll bound to the altar, Elder Torntusk, but he leaves you alone if you don’t bother him.

Around the altar patrols an elite as well as Vile Priestess Hexx. We took out the elite, let Hexx wander away on her rounds, and ran up to the altar to transform the mallet. You just have to get close to the altar and right click on the mallet in your inventory and it becomes the Mallet of Zul’Farrak.

Only one of us needed to get the mallet, but now we have three copies, just in case.

We were pretty much done for the night at that point. We had only one more thing to do, the Valkyrie ride back down and away from Jintha’Alor. While we could have used our hearth stones to head home, there is something of a tradition of mounting up and riding wildly down the stairs and over parapets to get out. It is something of a celebration. So off we went.

downja.png

Of course, here is where we had our only death of the night. Ula took a couple of big hits from passing mobs as well as a couple of rough landings and ended up dead at the bottom of Jintha’Alor. Skronk and I rode on while she just revived at the angel and ported back to Ironforge.

So now we prepared for our next trip into ZF. We have the mallet, we can sound the gong and get on with the instance.