Monthly Archives: February 2008

February in Review

The Site

Another month slips by, but the site goes on.

I made more posts this month than I thought I was going to, given how busy work has become and that I was on Maui for six days. (*Ducks snowballs thrown by Bildo*) Fortunately allows you to submit a post to be displayed at a later date, so some posts went up while I was away and without a computer. (I did moderate comments via my aunt’s iPhone. It was slow, but manageable.)

And speaking of comments, my question of the moment is, “Why does Akismet file all of Syncaine‘s comments as spam?” He has a account and blogs regularly. My guess is that the people at Akismet are all carebears and seek to destroy Syncaine for his pro-PvP comments.

One Year Ago

Back in February 2007 Kendricke dropped by with the news that Sony Online Entertainment applied for a trademark for “EVERQUEST II RISE OF KUNARK,” thus confirming my guess that Kunark would be the EverQuest II expansion due near the end of 2007. A quick check of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site shows nothing on my guess for this years expansion. (Return to the Planes of Power FTW!) The USPTO does show that SOE at one time had the trademark for, “EVERQUEST: THE DEMISE OF ARADUNE,” which is mildly ironic from a Vanguard point of view. I wonder what they had planned for that title? (Aradune = Brad McQuaid, for those not completely immersed in EQ history and lore.)

Of course, SOE also announced a price increase for Station Access shortly thereafter, always a buzz killer. This was immediately blamed on Vanguard and calls for the demise of Aradune were literal.

I also started off in the Lord of the Rings Online open beta which eventually lead to the instance group spending the spring and summer in Middle-earth before returning to Azeroth.

And speaking of Azeroth, a year ago we were just starting to get into the fun that is Uldaman. And somewhere along the line I swapped out my rogue Blintz for my paladin Vikund, who has remained with the instance group ever since.

And finally, my wife got me a Wii for Valentine’s day that I couldn’t use until Easter!

New Linking Sites

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

Again, 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 still lazy.)

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Five New EVE Online Wishes
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  5. EVE Online – The Tutorial
  6. Drake Down
  7. What Is A “Tank” In EVE?
  8. Why Isn’t LOTRO More Fun?
  9. There is Hope for a SciFi MMORPG
  10. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  11. Adrift in a Burning Sea
  12. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want

Best Search Terms

naked zone .com
[Not here. Trying removing the spaces and see what you get.]

centaur sex
[I suppose after “gnoll sex,” this should be no surprise.]

sex with a horse warcraft map
[Is this related to centaurs?]

my secret unicorn
[Your secret is safe with us!]

[Stairs? How did that get you here?]

why are there noobs
[To give you a false sense of superiority?]

largest noob in ancient history
[Well, after seeing “300,” one might guess Xerxes. Or, depending on how you look at it, either Caligula or Claudius.]

big beard
[I knew that “Wilhelm is a dwarf” thing was going to bite me.]

Best Spam Comment

“At the reporter of the jigger we were both casually horny, and we got in Chad’s SUV, and we drove in the morally black sex movies behind the britney spears commando limousine center and he ofren me before I went rirance to my husband. The celebrities movie archive for folding was over.”

I feel there is a lesson in there for all of us.

EVE Online

When I wasn’t wishing for things in EVE Online, I was finally getting somewhere with invention and tech II blueprints. It was nice to make back some of my 200+ million ISK investment in skills and data tuners. I also started doing NPC research to get datacores for invention. Of course, losing another battlecruiser pretty much offset any financial gain from there, but I am not broke yet.

EverQuest II

I let my Station Access subscription lapse because February was so busy, but now I cannot find the motivation to resubscribe. Even the thought of fae glide can’t get me to sign back up. I’m in a Norrathian funk. Gaff, who is off four-boxing another group of new characters to level 80, is probably annoyed with me by now.


I have almost enough in-game currency to buy a custom license plate!  Go me!

Lord of the Rings Online

I thought that they fixed the problem with my graphics cards, but it turns out that the problem only seems to manifest itself around Bree. Once I get close to town, I “green out” and my system locks up. Hrmph! No love in Middle-earth.

Pirates of the Burning Sea

I have the box at home, but I have not had the time or inclination to start the 30-day clock for the registration code that comes with the game. Potshot gave me his 14-day buddy code to get me started when I was laid up with a sprained ankle (foot and ankle are now back to normal size and color, thanks for asking), so I’ve “been there,” but after 14 days I kind of felt I had also “done that.” I’ll watch the Pirates news to see if something shows up that makes me want to set sail again.

World of Warcraft

Again, Azeroth was my number one virtual destination for the month. After mucking around in the old world long enough, we finally stepped through the portal into the Outlands for our first Burning Crusade instance run. Those of you posting comments expressing your dismay that we were “stuck” in the old content, you can now rejoice. We are in the expansion with both feet.


I have not written anything about the Wii for a while because I made the conscious decision to write about Wii games in the order in which we received them at home, and I have been stuck for some time on a game about which I have been completely unmotivated to write. So I’ll come out right now and say that Mario & Sonic at the Olympics Games stinks for a variety of reasons. My daughter liked it for a little while, and it was a gift for her from one of our friends, but I did not enjoy it at all. So there. Now maybe I can get to the next game.


Nintendo DS. I am probably going to write more about that. And Pokemon. So brace yourselves.

And the usual stuff. My EVE foibles. The Azeroth instance group. More wishes. Strange thoughts about gaming that occur to me in the middle of the night.

Is it only March tomorrow? Is there anything new in the MMO world yet? Is The Chronicles of Spellborn out yet? I might have to try some older games.

Hellfire Ramparts

The weekend before last, while I was sitting in the warm Ka’anapali sunshine, drinking lava flows, and advising on Pokemon, the instance group went back to Stratholme for episode 97 of “The Baron’s Revenge – No Pants for You!” They were rewarded with the now familiar ironic drops of mail and leather items for a group that wears cloth and plate armor.

Last weekend, returned and refreshed, I rejoined the group as we decided to head someplace new.

We decided to step through the portal as a group and begin the Burning Crusade instances.

As a group we were all heading into the back stretch of level 62 and were starting to worry that we might be out levelling the new content while we mucked about in the old world. So, as a group, we moved on. We went in as:

62 Warrior – Earlthecat
62 Warlock – Bungholio
62 Mage – Ula
62 Priest – Skronk
62 Paladin – Vikund

We got on Saturday night and, once to Honor Hold, the first thing we had to do was actually find the instance.

Not noticing exactly how close it was to Honor Hold, we ran right past it and to the Southern Rampart.

We climbed up on that and ran around for a bit until we spotted a dungeon meeting stone far below us.

Looking for a short cut to get to it, Skronk hit Bung with power word shield and Bung jumped over the edge of the rampart… and went splat.

Undeterred, and seeing a ledge part way down that I thought might save me from a similar fate, Skronk hit Vikund with power word shield (even though we were pretty sure it wasn’t going to help by that point) and over the edge I went.

And splat I went as well.

Ula floated down past our corpses using slow fall and looking like a gnome in a glass elevator while Skronk found a safe way down for himself.

And once they got to the meeting stone, they found out it wasn’t the one we were looking for. We were too low level to even use it.

Eventually, after more running around, but no more dying, we found the right location.

Once in, things went reasonably smoothly. The instance is very linear. There are only three boss fights. They were:

We just happened to need to slay all three of these for the quest Weaken the Ramparts.

Getting to these fights was work, but not a huge challenge. There are lots of closely arrayed groups in the instance, with patrols wandering through, so we were kept on our toes. It wasn’t as hairy as Stratholme was for us, but we had to be careful. Here we are, a few fights in, sizing up the next set of groups:

Ramparts Lineup

And our care paid off, as we knocked off one group after another without much in the way of drama or sudden intakes of breath.

First we made our way to Gargolmar, who walks a patrol with two minions not far inside the instance. We cleared out all the groups along his beat, then pulled his little group over. Earl tanked Gargolmar while the Ula sheeped… pigged… polymorphed one of the minions, then we all piled the other minion. He went down fast, then we cleared up the other one, then went in with Earl and finished of Gargolmar.

One down.

There was more clearing of mobs until we got to a choice of directions. One way lead to Omor, the other to Vazruden. For no particular reason, we chose to go with Omor first. I guess he seemed a bit closer. We could certainly see him from where we were standing.

Like Gargolmar, he has two minions, so we did the exact same routine. We were not quite as successful this time around. Here we are in the fight. You can see some additional minions in with us, Omor summons those throughout the fight.


A bad hit killed Earl late in the fight and Ula went down as well, but we won in the end.

Two down.

That just left us with Vazruden. Here was the challenge.

There is a bridge to him, with a pair of guards at either end. The pair at the near end went down easy. The pair at the far end though trigger the battle event with Vazruden and him mount.

His mount proved to be the trick.

We went straight in and killed the two guards. That gets Vazruden, who is just flying around in a lazy circle on his dragon, to come in low, dismount, and attack. Here he is coming for us:


Earl and I went in and things were going well until we got him down to about 30% of his health. At that point, his dragon mount joins in the fight, and he has a killer breath weapon.

We managed to kill Vazruden, but Nazan did in Earl and Vikund almost immediately, then rounded up the rest of the team.

We felt we were close. Skronk used the soul stone and ressed us up. Fortunately, the encounter resets itself if you fail, so we got another run at it.

The second time around we did not even kill Vazruden. And we did not have a soul stone.

Fortunately, as I wrote above, the instance is very close to Honor Hold and the graveyard therein. Also going our way was the fact that nothing in the instance had respawned yet, so we had a clear run back to the encounter.

The third try also went awry. We had learned to stay clear of Nazan’s breath weapon, but the transition between Vazruden and Nazan was putting so much damage on Earl that he died again, and the battle with Nazan needed all five of us.

After running back for a fourth try, we started in again. As we approached the point when Nazan joins in, I decided to pull Vikund back and use up his mana helping Skronk heal while Earl was enduring the high damage phase of the battle.

This turned out to be just enough. Vazruden went down and Earl was still well stocked with hit points. After running down my mana, I ran in to melee with Earl and Nazan went down at last. Here we are in our hard earned victory shot.


Three down.

You can see skeletons from our previous attempts in the picture.

We nearly missed the chest that sits on the far side of the area that Vazruden and Nazan patrol, which had a couple of very nice items, the Ironsole Clompers, which Vikund won on the roll, and the Mok’Nathal Clan Ring, which Earl won.

After that, all we had to do was run back and turn in the quest. Now, from the instance, it looks like you can just hop off the rampart and run to Honor Hold.


It is, however, an illusion. You have to run back through the instance, which still had not respawned for us, exit, then run to Honor Hold.

After the quest turn in, we were all closing in on level 63.

I had read at some point that the five person instances in the Outlands were going to move away from the giant monstrosities, like Wailing Caverns and become doable in a more reasonable time frame. We started in on Hellfire Ramparts at 9pm and were done by midnight Pacific time, which is pretty reasonable indeed.

Next week we should be looking into Blood Furnace.

Invention: A Tenfold Increase

Okay, invention is starting to… well… not pay off, but at least pay back some of my investment.

After making more copies of my Expanded Cargohold blueprint while I was in Hawaii, I was ready to start in on invention again.

This time, using blueprint copies with the maximum number of runs allowed, 1,000, I set to inventing. Fortunately, stations for invention are readily available and the inventing only takes two and a half hours with this particular blueprint.

And after the two and a half hour wait, I was rewarded with:


Okay, ten runs does not seem like very much, but it is a heck of a lot better than a single run!

And getting a run of 10 means that, at the current local market rate in my area, about 1.6 million ISK, selling the first two covers materials and production costs. (I have done well on the materials, having low-ball buy orders out for all the parts for some time now.) That is about 12 million ISK gross profit.

Of course, you do not get an blueprint every time you invent. I seem to be hitting about 50% or so with my skills trained up, so that cuts the profits down under 10 million ISK per successful invention run.

And then there is there is all the money I invested in invention already. Over 200 million ISK for my folly with rigs, which just happened to overlap, skill-wise, with the skills for Expanded Cargohold invention.

Still, it is nice to see my ISK balance going up rather than down. I have a battelcruiser to replace.

Azeroth Pokemon Sighting

It was Monday evening and I was running around in World of Warcraft before dinner.

I was working on jewelcrafting with my druid, Selirus.

Yes, I picked up a new trade skill. And a dangerous one too.

Well, they are all mildly dangerous. Every time I start off making things with a trade skill, I start wanting to make another alt. It plays to my weakness. I keep thinking, “If I rolled a little warrior or shaman, I could equip him really well!”

So far I have managed to keep from rolling an alt to just to use up some of the stuff I have been making.

Of course, with jewelcrafting, you have to run/sail out to The Exodar every time you need to train up.

While I was travelling out to The Exodar from Ironforge, my daughter was sitting next to me playing Pokemon and watching me travel, asking questions about things every so often.

As we entered the city, she asked about the Draenei. As I was telling her the tidbits of lore I could recall, she offered up, “Oh, they play Pokemon!”

I was taken a bit aback at this statement, and my daughter could sense doubt in the “Uhhh…” that came out of my mouth, so she added, helpfully, “There’s a PokeBall!”

I was still lost, looking around me for the PokeBall she spotted.

“On the floor! Underneath you!”

Sure enough, there I was standing in the middle of what looked remarkably like a PokeBall.


The Draenei do come from space, so presumably they have some advanced technology.

I will have to keep an eye open in The Exodar to see if I can spot a Ninetendo DS.

LOTRO Good Until 2014… or 2017!

One news tidbit that came up last week was that Turbine has reached an agreement with Tolkien Enterprises to extend the licensing agreement for Lord of the Rings Online out until 2014, with an option to further extend the agreement out to 2017.

I was a bit surprised to find that Turbine was only good with the LotR IP for 3 to 4 years after launch. On the other hand, this might have been Tolkien Enterprises protecting itself in case things went poorly. Turbine, though, has done an admirable job of bringing Middle-earth to life and making a popular MMO.

This still brings me back to the question of how long an MMO is expected to last on the market.

Ultima Online will pass the 11 year mark this September. EverQuest will hit 9 years of age in a couple of weeks. Both games remain extremely popular, at least when viewed through their (pessimistic in hindsight) pre-release subscription targets.

Games that last that long, that have that much staying power, are rare indeed. But games that do hang on for a decade or more tend to have one thing in common: A loyal community.

Community keeps games like EverQuest alive. Heck, community has kept the MUD I started playing nearly 15 years ago alive.

On the last SOE podcast they effectively (if not literally) said that a game like EverQuest will remain available as long as there are enough people left playing to justify keeping a server going.

EverQuest has enough of a community still, nearly nine years later, to justified continued expansions of the game. This is why I keep getting on the accessibility kick for EverQuest. With revenue enough to justify expansions, now is the time to lay the groundwork to allow new people to pick up the game. More important than graphic updates for old world zones are things like a WASD keyboard layout and intuitive camera controls, at least to my mind.

On its current trajectory, EverQuest will be around for quite a few more years.

SOE has an advantage in that it owns the intellectual property that makes up the world of Norrath. They can trim back EverQuest to match revenues until there is a single server and a skeleton crew to keep it functioning.

But what happens when somebody else owns the intellectual property that makes up the world around which an MMO is built?

The licensing party, the owner of the intellectual property, has a different set of priorities. They not only have their own revenue targets, and in many cases, a competing set of choices by which to reach them, but they also have the responsibility to keep the property active, alive, and seen in a positive light.

Those goals may not line up with running an MMO down to the last server. Being associated with a dying, out of date game is probably not any an IP managers list of goals. And then there is the constant siren song any popular IP has of new project offers.

So there is a refinement to the oft asked question, “How long will a popular MMO stay up?”

What is the threshold for bringing down an MMO based on a popular IP? How much of a community is required to keep a game like Lord of the Rings Online (or Star Wars Galaxies) viable? Is a company better off rolling their own IP rather than going with an already established one?

This is probably why Brenlo gets asked about Star Wars Galaxies shutting down as often as he does.

The Official SOE Podcast #29

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this episode of the SOE Podcast, with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news.


  • SOE Game News
  • Fan Faire 2008 – Scoping out locations
  • Happy Birthday Vanguard – Jan 30th
  • Interview with Julie Burness, Vanguard Community Relations Manager
  • Matrix Online cinematics
  • Mass Effect Controversy
  • Marvel Universe Online cancelled
  • Station Forum Question: What do you love about your SOE game?
  • Interview with QA Team Members David Curington (QA Lead) and Lesly Irwin (Content Specialist)
  • Listener Emails from ShiXinFeng, SG_01 and Selerra
  • Inside SOE: Rumors
  • Presidential Candidates and their stance on Gaming
  • First 2008 Community Summit
  • 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 February 11th and runs just under one hundred and twenty minutes.

A Day at GDC 2008

After a week on vacation then turning around and spending a day up at GDC, my motivation to write is pretty low at the moment.

Yes, vacation is supposed to revive you, but the travel part is always such a pain. As is par for the course for us, there were problems with our flight back. You would think that being forced to spend a few more hours on Maui would be a good thing, but Kahului airport isn’t that exciting. Plus I am one of those people who, on travel day, isn’t happy until the traveling is done.

After a three hour delay caused by our original aircraft being taken offline for maintenance, a replacement Boeing 777 showed up to take us home. We did get something of an upgrade with the new plane. The 777 on the way out was configured for maximum capacity and minimum leg room, while the replacement aircraft was a trans-pacific hauler with expanded first and business class and extra roomy economy plus seats. (My knees didn’t spend the trip poked into the seat in front of me! Yay!)

And then we spent another hour on the tarmac while they worked out a computer issue with the new plane. It was a good thing I found an outlet in the airport to recharge the DS.

We finally got home around 1am California time.

But no sleeping in for me… well, some sleeping in, but not much. I had to get up to GDC.

I tried ringing Darren’s cell phone before I left, but he apparently isn’t allowed to roam south of the St. Lawrence. I had Brent’s cell number as well though, so I headed on up to San Francisco.

Text-master Brent guided me into their location on the Expo floor at GDC and we (Brent, Brenden, Darren, Troy, and myself) all met up for a bit before scattering again for various sessions.

I cruised the expo floor for a while. Of note were Vivox, who just entered into an agreement with SOE to bring voice to all of their online games.

Motion capture technologies were rife on the expo floor again this year, so there were plenty of booths feature people in black outfits dancing around and going through a series of motions that were translated into charater actions on computer screens. I’m not sure I needed to see a WWII-era US Army Sergeant dance the macarena, but there is was.

The MMO development software package, Hero Engine and Multiverse, both had big booths right next to each other on the exp floor and were showing off how you could make a “me too” MMO more easily than ever. Okay, maybe that isn’t totally fair, but neither engine looks to be the path to anything new and innovative and neither booth boasted a meaningful list of shipping MMOs that used either engine. Yes, BioWare has signed up to use the Hero Engine, so we may see the barriers of effective story telling pushed for the current MMORPG paradigm, but it will be evolutionary not revolutionary.

NASA also had a booth close by. They have announced announced their own MMO plan, but the booth did not seem to have much to do with that… or at least the staff I spoke to at the booth had no information on it. They were busy superimposing fuzzy frame grabs of individuals and superimposing them over pictures related to several NASA projects. Here I am superimposed in front of the Orion spacecraft:


Oooh, I’m in space. How fun.

One of the things I missed was the PlayXpert booth. PlayXpert was the focus of VirginWorlds podcast #103, which I listened to on the way HOME from GDC. I wish I had heard it on the way up, as I would have had some questions for the team there.

I also cruised through the career hall. All of the major studios were there and recruiting. Of note was Nexon, the makers of Maple Story and KartRider who had huge list positions available. They seem to be ramping up for something here in the US.

We met back up late in the afternoon, recorded a quick Shut Up We’re Talking podcast, then started talking about dinner. We headed over to the career hall, picked up Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and headed to Buca di Beppo for dinner. While it is located practically across the street from the Moscone West Hall where we started, we felt the need to walk all the way around the fifth street parking garage before ending up there. Once there we were joined by Michael Zenke.

We ordered almost exactly the right amount of food, not always an easy thing to do at Buca di Beppo, and went through what was interesting and what was not at the show. (The Future of MMOs session came up a few times and was the subject of one of Michael’s GDC posts over at Massively.)

Here we are, with exactly one slice of pizza left between us:

gdc08dinner01.png gdc08dinner02.png

From left to right:

[picture editing note: I had to kill the red-eye on Darren and myself, as we looked like new recruits for legion of the undead. I did not, however, make my eyes any more blue than they already were.]

And that about wrapped it up for the evening. Darren and Troy were heading home early the next morning, Michael, being a real journalist, had work to do, and Brent… well, he had tickets to the CCP party. We’ll all have to see if that comes up in a future VirginWorlds podcast.

[Addendum: Darren has a couple of pics from the CCP party attached to his post here.]


We’re back from a few days on Maui. I now have something that most of you probably do not at the moment: Sunburn.

Not a common thing most places in February.

We had a great time. We stayed at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, which I recommend. Here is a view from our room:


We saw a lot of things on Maui. Lots of sand, lots of sun, lots of hula dancing (usually the Hukilau,) lots of whales, and lots of Nintendo DSs. Of course, the whales were the most fun.


As usual, once you have something, in our case a brand new Nintendo DS Lite, you start to notice other people who have the same thing.

So I saw a lot of kids running around with DSs.

And every single one of them seemed to be playing Pokemon.

That was certainly the most popular game on our own DS. As I mentioned in a past post, I grabbed three games for the DS when I bought it, Pokemon Diamond, LEGO Star Wars, and MarioParty DS. My daughter and I played an hour or so of Star Wars and a few minutes of MarioParty, but she did not want to put down Pokemon.

I actually learned quite a bit about Pokemon myself, a lot of which came from having to read things to my daughter, who is in kindergarten and not quite up to reading most of the text herself. The game has a lot more depth than I had previously credited it.

Not that I want my own DS now… not yet. But I can see why people enjoy it so much.

I will have to give Pokemon Battle Revolution on the Wii another look. It certainly lacked depth on its own, but it might be interesting combined with the DS.

But now I have to get myself up to San Francisco and GDC. And it is raining and Darren‘s cell phone isn’t answering. bleh.

Another Level 60

Proving again that WoW patch 2.3 has made level 60 accessible to even the most alt-plagues casual MMO player, my hunter, Tistann, is now at the old level cap. Here he is at the magic moment, in Winterspring.


(You can see, in the midst of the level, he had also just proc’d Quick Shots, so there is some extra flair in his ding.)

As a dwarf you start in the snow, so I suppose it was appropriate to finish the climb to 60 in the snow.

Play time for him is just under 10 days.

Of course, now I have to find some more money for another epic mount. I actually have the money across my characters, but do I want to spend it? Or should I focus on saving up for a flying mount for Vikund?

The pain of alt-itis.