Monthly Archives: December 2007

December in Review

The Site

Due to the mysterious workings of the search engines, December has been a very active traffic month. The monthly page view tallies show that December has been the best month ever.

monthlyview.png

There were no traffic spikes over the month to account for this. It seems to be more of a slow news month phenomena along with seach engine behavior. On the latter, people searching for pictures of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer made for a lot of my search engine traffic, while the former meant that I received some attention from Massively as well as having a post or two of mine able to linger in that ever-so-important “last 10 items listed” segment at VirginWorlds.

One Year Ago

My daughter and I were chasing Rudolph across the Frostfell zone in EQ2. We did that again this year.

Digg starting listing podcasts and there was a call to help Digg some of the MMO related podcasts. Some podcasts went up in Diggs since then, others… well…

Podcast           Diggs Dec 06    Dec 07
EQ2-Daily                21        21
Fear the Boot            33        80
Massively Online Gamer   32       200
VirginWorlds             27       191

The Commonlands in EverQuest got a make over. The two zones also got combined into a single zone.

I compared the Butcherblock chessboard in EQ and EQ2

I correctly predicted the venue for this year’s EQ2 expansion, Kunark, which I will never let anybody forget.

And the instance group did Gnomeregan and started in on Scarlet Monestary.

New Linking Sites

A big thanks to these sites who link to TAGN. I encourage you to give them a visit in return.

If your site does link here and I have not mentioned it in the past, feel free to drop me a note, as it is getting harder and harder each month to find sites! (And I’m lazy.)

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. EVE Online – The Tutorial
  5. The Next EverQuest II Expansion?
  6. Trinity First Glance: Issues
  7. The Road to Invention!
  8. EverQuest and the Keyboard Question
  9. And Then I Lost a Battlecruiser
  10. EverQuest Nostalgia Tour – 2007 Edition

Best Search Terms

arasai butt
[we’re not that kind of site]

star trek red shirt
[Make me the tank and I might as well be the red shirt]

EVE Online

My time with EVE Online is beginning to fade… for now at least. There are just other games I would rather be playing now. I let my miner account lapse. Making ISK was fun, but the answer to the question, “How many asteroids must a man burn down?” is apparently a smaller number than I thought. Still, he is there should I need him again. On my main, Wilhelm, I continue to play the market, train, run missions, and try to get that elusive Tech II Cargohold Optimization Rig blueprint.

EverQuest

Gaff and I decided to run off to Norrath of old for some more adventures there. And we did play for a bit. Of course, as these things tend to go, we found that, while playing EverQuest is fun and interesting, there are frequently things we would rather play more. Still, we got some way towards our goal.

EverQuest II

Frostfell. I actually parked all of my alts in the Frostfell zone to get their daily presents. I also got off to a round of trade skill activity, my prime motivator being the high price of T7 items and materials. I laid in a huge stock of T7 stuff when it was cheap. My wood worker is leading the way, since the arrows he makes sell well.

In the larger view, I made that prediction and made fun of the seeming non-stop stream of odd news that came from SOE this month.

World of Warcraft

The instance group was active on off-nights with alts as we all got closer to level 60 with out mains. We are all trying to get together cash for epic mounts and such. We are moving into the last instances from the original game before we start in the Outlands.

Wii

It was Christmas. The Wii was not forgotten. There might even have been something in the pile that my wife could enjoy.

Upcoming

The WoW instance group will continue to roll on!

Several articles on Wii games which will invoke names that will make Brent scoff at me again.

Pirates of the Burning Seas. I have Station Access. I have the pre-order. I have otherwise avoided reading much about the game to keep my mind clear (easy) and fresh (not so easy) on the subject.

And, finally, do I do what the cool kids are doing a list out some more predictions for 2008? I will have to see what I can pull out of my… um… forsee in the next day or so.

Webkinz Holiday Slam!

As I wrote in a past post, Webkinz is the somewhat secret “Mommy MMO” that has come to our house.

To the list of mothers I know that play Webkinz to earn cash for their kids I can safely add my own sister, as my niece has nearly 20K KinzCash in her account, and I am sure she did not earn that on her own.

Ganz, of course, had a problem though. Once you buy your Webkinz plush animal, they have to figure out a way to get more money out of you.

They tried ads for a short time, but were inundated by complaints.

So this holiday season they pushed a variety of addons for the game, including something akin to a collectible card game, jewelry and charms, and a range of new plush Webkinz and Lil’kinz animals.

Their strategy seems to have worked beyond their plan.

My own daughter received a total of SIX Webkinz and Lil’kinz animals (a bunny, two poodles (one white, one pink), a seal, a unicorn, and a panda) and some Webkinz charms which your pet can wear both in real life and in game.

All of these items need to be activated through codes that come in the packaging, which, I suppose, is where the problems began.

On Christmas Day, the Ganz site started coming apart with traffic.

We were able to log on once in a while, but were unable to go to the rooms on our account or access the “adoption” page where you use the activation codes to make new items appear in game.

Instead we were greeted with the now all-too-familiar “Please wait…” message.

But at least we were able to get on Christmas Day. Since then the load on the system has become worse and we have been unable to logon at all.

Today Ganz finally turned off all logons while they worked on their site. The site now reports:

Webkinz World is currently down due to technical difficulties. Your furry friends at Webkinz are working around the clock to bring the site back up as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

They have also stopped answering the phones for support and now a message directs callers to please email the company with any issue at support@webkinz.com.

So if you got a new Webkinz (or six) in your home this holiday season, it will likely be some time before you can see them in game… or get in the game at all. There is currently no ETA for the return of Webkinz World.

Marshal Windsor and Lady Prestor

With the holidays and the accompanying travel, the instance group was not up for much in the way of big operations last week.

We did find some time to get together and move the Marshal Windsor quest from Blackrock Depths along another step. We did the procession from the gates, through the city, to Stormwind Keep.

Actually, we had to do it twice, as somebody was quick on the trigger accepting the quest and only two out of the five of us got it the first time around.

If you have been in Stormwind very much, you have certainly heard this quest segment, the Great Masquerade being played out, as it involves a bunch of NPC shouting… er, yelling.

Essentially, you follow Marshal Windsor through town to a confrontation with Lady Katrana Prestor who, it turns out, is the human form of Onyxia the dragon.

So we got a glimpse of Onyxia:

Onyxia Appears

Onyxia Appears

Then she disappeared while a set of elite minions (which you can see in the picture) started to hammer Marshal Windsor and Highlord Bolvar Fordragon. The script demands that Windsor die, but if Fordragon dies as well, you have do the procession over again.

Of course, there are usually a bunch of people standing around in the Keep, so once the fight begins, people tend to jump right in, so Fordragon is as safe as can be. On the second trip we actually took down a couple of these level 60 elite mobs ourselves.

And thus it played out, twice, and we are all now a step closer to access to Onyxia’s Lair, which we are unlikely to ever do, at least not as a five some. The quest experience was huge, and when we were done, everybody in the group was at least level 58.

17,726 Files and No Horse

I had seen, via Random Battle, Keen & Graev, and Potshot, that Turbine had a special Christmas present for some of its Lord of the Rings Online subscribers.

A level 25 mount.

Since one of the down sides of LOTRO is that the distances and the cost of public transport make travel either annoying or expensive until you hit level 35 and can buy a horse (buying a horse is also annoying and expensive, but at least it is only annoying and expensive once), getting a FREE mount at level 25 is actually a big deal to me.

So, as long as you were a founder or a life time subscriber to LOTRO, you got a new, level 25 horse for the holidays. Actually, you get a mount for any of your characters that are level 25 plus any characters that cross level 25 at a future date.

Not a bad deal.

While I have not played LOTRO much since the instance group reformed in World of Warcraft, I have peeked in once in a while.  I am both a founder and a lifetime subscriber and I have at least one character over level 25, so I wanted that horse.

But, since I have a new CPU at home, that meant installing LOTRO from scratch.

And when I say “from scratch,” I am not kidding. I could only find the disk from the beta, so I had to start with a really out dated set of files.

It installed, and then the patching began.

17,726 files to be updated!

Oh my. That is a lot of files.

At least it wasn’t at some peak time, like the release of a new expansion. It only took a few hours to install the update. I started the update before I went to work and it was done by the time I got home.

I logged in, once home, and ran from Bree up to the horse fields to find the NPC who was giving out the horses.

It turned out to be the same NPC who starts the quest to get your horse at level 35.

Unfortunately, with the level 25 mount enabled, the level 35 quest also shows up. For no good reason, I figured that I had to do the quest to get the lower level horse as well, so started on the quest.

The first stage of the quest involved carrying a sack of grain back down to Bree. Talk about accentuating the annoyance of distance in the game.

I delivered the grain then logged off, determined to pick the quest up at a later date. I still wanted the horse, but I wasn’t in the mood for the quest at that time.

Later that night, I ended up talking to Potshot and he told me that I did not have to do the quest, that there is an option available which is essentially “give me the damn horse already” for the level 25 mount. At least I had only done the first stage of the quest. It does seem a bit careless to let the level 35 quest show up for somebody who is only level 28.

A couple days passed by and I decided to get my horse. A new patch was up by then. Mercifully, it was nowhere near the number of files I had just updated.

It introduced another problem however.

Since that update went in, I have not been able to run LOTRO successfully. Within two minutes of getting into the game, the a video fault occurs (judging by the sudden appearance of a red pattern over the display), the game locks up, and I have to reboot my CPU.

No doubt this is somehow related to the relatively new 8800 GT card in my system. And, no doubt, somebody is going to tell me that I need to update the drivers so that it will work with LOTRO. Feel free to supply the appropriate forum thread in the comments.

The problem is that EVERYTHING ELSE is working just fine.

No problems with World of Warcraft, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EVE Online, or any of the other applications I run.

Being old and grumpy, I am not inclined to try to fix a problem with an application I rarely use that might cause issues with applications I regularly use.

So I do not have my level 25 horse yet. But it will be waiting for me when I decide I want it.

Yo Soy Sony, La Fea!

Wow, has it been crazy this month on everybody’s favorite MMO Telenovela, “Yo Soy Sony, La Fea!” (Literally, “I am Sony, The Ugly One” or “Ugly Sony”)

First, long time cast member and EverQuest II producer Scott Hartsman said good-bye mid-season to a stunned audience.

Then, seemingly minutes later, those wacky people at the SOE office moved a whole guild from the test server to a live server, in violation of the EULA. When other people noticed (And we all knew they would, right? I mean, they moved a WHOLE FREAKIN’ GUILD that was NOT known for its quiet, reserved approach to gaming!) and said, “Hey, how about me too?” there were lots of red faces and they had to move the whole guild back to the test server and follow up with a mildly passive-aggressive apology.

Then, just when we were all still clucking out tongues over that, a press release came out that said a company called LiveGamer had teamed up with several online gaming companies to offer a secure and reliable platform for real money transactions for in-game items and currency. And there on the list was Sony Online Entertainment!

But after barely a “ZOMFG!” from the community, another press release showed up in the India Times stating that Sony was selling their Sony Online Entertainment division to Zapak Digital Entertainment of India for a paltry $300 million.

Well that lit up the net as the staffers in San Diego suddenly wondered if they would still have jobs and began to inundate SOE chief John Smedley with messages that could be succinctly summed up as “WTF?!?!” had to take action.

Smooth Smed, who several seasons back brought in the Star Wars franchise over a game of liar’s dice, only to blow it all on the “NGE” bet (thus creating one of the longest running gags in the industry), stepped up to the podium and said that there was no such deal with Zapak and that SOE had merely been in negotiations about distribution rights for some SOE games over in India.

After the requisite thousand follow up questions (sometimes known as the “death by a thousand ‘huhs?'”) Mr. Smedley managed to also squeeze in that the deal with LiveGamer did not mean that SOE was going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan. He added that they were primarily interested in the technology and then put in a few jabs at the unscrupulous practices of gold farmers/sellers.

With that being the seeming last word on the RMT and Zapak topics, all fans want to know if that was the season finale or if, with three full business days to go in the year, Sony can top these actions with one last bang before the new year! And if there is more to go, how will they top it next season?

Stay Tuned!

Merry Christmas

I hope today finds everybody happy, healthy, and at peace, even if Christmas is not your holiday.

In the rush to the holiday I never quite finished up my Christmas story for the year. I will save it for next year, which will be a little more appropriate as it will be a 25th anniversary at that point.

So, I offer up, in the spirit of recycling, last year’s story.

Christmas 1977

A tale of Christmas thirty years ago.

62 and Xegonite

I have been falling behind a bit in my writing. Almost two weeks back Gaff got out a pair of his characters, mentored down, and helped Blintz clear out most of the heroic quests he had left in Lesser Faydark.

That was not quite enough to get a level for Blintz, so we headed to the Kingdom of the Sky and the Sanctum of the Scaleborn to finish up a few quests in there. We fought our way pretty much into the center of the zone before Blintz finally ticked over to 62.

level62.png

One of the things I like about the compass UI I use is that it shows not just the zone, but the location as well.

Of course, the biggest thing about hitting 62 is that Blintz got to move up to the Xegonite armor that I asked Gaff to make for him back in July. Here is Blintz showing it off.

blintzxegonite.png

It is a bit different than the previous patterns, as it appears to be sleeveless. Blintz has on the mantle and arms for the suit, but his arms are bare all the same.

The annoying part is that the Legendary Jouneryman’s Boots have finally fallen behind in stats, so Blintz is losing his speed boost. Now he only had the scout spell Pathfinding, and that is just a 16% boots to out of combat speed.

As much as I love Fae glide, I might have to go buy Blintz a horse for travel.

Top 10 MMO Consensus Drive at F13.net

Just in case mine is the only MMO gaming blog you read (in which case, what is wrong with you?), there is a forum thread over at F13.net asking people to vote on their all time, top ten favorite MMOs.

You can find the thread here.

The way it works, and you need to follow the rules for your vote to be counted, is that you go in and post your ranked favorite list (minimum of five, maximum of ten) in the thread. Every so often they update the tally, which is in the first post. Any game that gets ranked #1 gets 10 points, #2, 9 points, and so on.

My own vote, which is somewhere on page 5 of the thread, were for the following:

  1. EverQuest – First and foremost for me, I would not be playing any of the others had I not played this
  2. EverQuest II – A squeaker ahead of WoW, so deep, yet it manages to annoy me a little too often with things like number of character slots
  3. World of Warcraft – I will hit the level cap here, in the land of polished goodness, long before any other MMO
  4. EVE Online – Like a Chinese toy, it can be fun and engaging, but it is sometimes filled with toxic waste and covered with lead paint
  5. Lord of the Rings Online – On my list just for the visual imagining of Tolkien’s world, I just wish the game play was a little better

Nothing surprising in that list. Those are the five MMOs I have written about the most.

While I can count at least a dozen MMOs I have played, it is only those five that I have both played enough to fairly assess and liked enough to want ensure they got any points at all.

As of this writing, the tally shows the following as the top ten:

874 pts. – World of Warcraft
529 pts. – City of Heroes/Villains
511 pts. – Dark Age of Camelot
496 pts. – Ultima Online
451 pts. – EverQuest
435 pts. – Eve Online
376 pts. – Star Wars Galaxies
357 pts. – EverQuest 2
337 pts. – Lord of the Rings Online
228 Pts. – Asheron’s Call

You may say, “Well duh, most users, of course WoW is on the top of the list.” but while it recently broke out of the pack, the race has been very close for #1 at times, so your vote might count.

You might not be able to help out Auto Assault, sitting down the list with only 6 points, but there are other titles in contention.

SOE Holiday Bonuses

In addition to the usual holiday themed in-game treats, Sony is also offering some other perks to players this season.

EverQuest – There is a 25% bonus to experience between now and 11:59pm PST January 1st, 2008. Details here.

EverQuest II – As noted by Mrrx, there is a 20% experience bonus this weekend and next that applies to both adventure and trade skill experience. Details here.

Vanguard – Accounts that have been inactive for at least the last 60 days will be activated and able to play between December 18th and January 20th. Enough time to patch AND get in some play time! Details here.

EverQuest Nostalgia Tour – 2007 Edition

As I have written, every fall it comes, the urge to go back to pre-cataclysm Norrath, the desire to see EverQuest again.

Back in 2004, the desire was filled by a new game, EverQuest II. It had just enough tips to the old game to keep me happy.

In the fall of 2005, talk on our guild channel about the days of old in EverQuest, plus the cheap price for a copy of EverQuest Platinum on the shelf at Fry’s ($9.99), and the whole Station Access thing got me back on the ground in Norrath again. And with Gaff in tow as well.

Gaff is seems to have sympathetic nostalgia for EverQuest. He never played it back in the day, but knew people who did.

So he joined me for a little while there. We made fresh characters, wheedled some help from EQ2 guild mates with Station Access and high level characters in EQ, and played for a little while, getting characters close to level 20 and exploring some of the old world content. Places like Blackburrow, Crushbone, Unrest, Najena, and even a peek into Mistmoor showed up on our tour.

Then we started in on World of Warcraft. That December of 2005 started the hiatus from Norrath as we joined up with some old guild mates from Toril MUD and ran through Azeroth. At least one person in the guild declared WoW to be the spiritual successor to EverQuest.

But the seasons turn. Fall finds its way to me always.

So in the fall of 2006 I started this blog and then got fully on board the SOE nostalgia train. The EverQuest II team, finally making a very smart move, tapped into the EverQuest nostalgia with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion. Of course, that meant first going back to pre-cataclysm Norrath to see the sites in Faydwer again, places like Kaladim and Kelethin.

EverQuest had a new expansion as well, The Serpent’s Spine, which I picked up and played through 14 levels with a new character. In an attempt to make a point, I did those levels only in the new content and only with gear I was able to find myself.

Of course, then Echoes of Faydwer shipped and I discovered how much fun Fae Glide was and that was the end of EverQuest nostalgia for another season.

Which brings us to this Fall, and another trip into EverQuest, and Gaff is again along for the ride. We started talking about Toril MUD, and actually logged in for a peek, which got the nostalgia urge going. I was already starting to potter around in EverQuest and he decided to come along.

Again we started new characters. He rolled up an Iksar monk while I chose a Drakkin druid. We let that whole purist thing I had going last year fall by the wayside and begged, borrowed, or stole whatever we could to boost the characters.

And we have been proceeding apace. Gaff, who should be writing his own blog entry on the topic, has commented that the connection with MUDs in general, and Toril MUD in particular, really comes through in EverQuest and that the rawness of it is refreshing in its own way. (He will correct if I have abused his quotes.)

We have set the modest goal of getting both characters to level 30 before interest and the holiday vacations wrap up.

Of course, Cameron is going to come along, tug on my sleeve, and whisper “Test server you noob!” in my ear.

And he has a compelling argument. On the EverQuest test server experience is doubled, and doubled again if you are in one of the designated hot zones. Furthermore, you can have your character sent straight to level 25 with a full set of level appropriate gear and spells.

Not a bad deal.

I just have my own, personal issues with the test server deal.

I have a need for a long term character. While it rarely happens, test servers tend to be subject to pwiping and all sorts of crazy nerfage as the devs try out one thing or another. I need a stable environment. (Though I hear if you ask real nice, SOE will move your character to a live server! Ouch, cheap shot!)

I also actually do not want to skip those first 25 levels.

First, those levels tend to be pretty fun, and moreso with a small group. Those are also the levels that have a lot of the nostalgic appeal.

Second, I need to play those first 25 levels just to figure out my character. Really, there is a reason that they only give you a couple of spells every level. (I see they broke the iron grip of the every five levels model from Toril MUD, which in turn took it from second edition AD&D.) It is so you can figure them out a spell or two at a time, so by the time you get a few pages of your spellbook filled up, you aren’t bewildered by what they are all about.

So, when we can link up, we are off and running around in EverQuest. We are already into the mid-teens.

As usual, it is an illuminating experience, going back to EverQuest. The rawness of the game relative to current titles, the simplicity of it as well, and the feeling that it is the link between the MUDs of days gone by and the MMOs of today.

Plus, I have broken a long standing tradition with this return to Norrath of old.

Back on day one of EverQuest, a friend and I were trying to decide what classes to play. I tried to lay claim to a druid, that being my primary character class in Toril MUD. My friend also wanted to be a druid, and for the usual mish-mash of reasons, we felt we could not BOTH play one.

So I gave in and let him roll a druid while I rolled up a ranger.

Both of us were half elves and started in Surefall Glade in the Qeynos Hills.

There was the parting of the ways pretty much, because, back in early EverQuest, druids were uber, kiting, solo experience machines.

Rangers though… well… nobody has ever accused them of being uber in any way to my recollection.

So he pretty quickly levelled out of sight… well, out of my sight anyway. We were still friends, but he might as well have been playing on another server.

Since that time, until now, I have not played a druid.

And now, finally playing an EverQuest druid, I have to admit, they still rock.

I shouldn’t have given in back then! How different things might have been if we had both rolled druids.