Monthly Archives: June 2008

June in Review

This month I got another unexpected mention on Massively (complete with a Warp Drive Active patented tin foil hat graphic) that lead to a readership spike. This time it involved my wild speculation (wildly inaccurate according to Michael Zenke on SUWT #28) about what the world looks like with Sony Online Entertainment reporting into Sony Computer Entertainment in the post A New World Order at SOE?

That was actually an all time record for the site, showing that Massively’s influence might be edging up into the “Tobold” range.

Other than that, the only site related item I thought I would mention is the introduction of… I am at a loss for the right term… so I will call them giant sized thumbnails.

Previously, WordPress.com had to options for inserting a picture into a post. You could put it in at full resolution, which for this template means keeping things under 500 pixel wide. Or, if you wanted to put in a big picture, you could use the thumbnail option, which makes it tough, at time, to see what the picture might be about.

They recently introduced an option to insert a thumbnail that is about 300 pixels wide, which makes it easier to see what the picture is so you have a hint as to whether it is worth seeing full size.

I just worry that people think that is the full size of the picture. If a picture appears to be linked, then there is probably a larger version available to view. The chart above is an example of what I am referring to.

One Year Ago

I got all Buddhist on the subject on the raiders vs. non-raiders rift. I think what I said could be applied to some current controversies.

I ran down my list of complimentary comment spam.

After letting Blizzard’s announcement of StarCraft II sink in, I put up a post about the original StarCraft back when it was our office game of choice.

Darren was all worked up about crafting being the suck, so I started trying to list out all the things that might be wrong with crafting.

And I said nice things about “Opinions of the Misinformed.”

New Linking Sites

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

Most Viewed Posts in June

  • Play On: Guild Name Generator
  • A New World Order at SOE?
  • How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  • EVE Online – The Tutorial
  • 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  • Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  • What Is A “Tank” In EVE?
  • My LOTRO Video Crash
  • EVE Online: Empyrean Age release date
  • Apotheosis Now!
  • Losing Two Ships
  • Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  • Notes from Amarr Space
  • SOE Really Wants You Back In Norrath
  • Desperately Seeking Diablo III

Best Search Terms

“second life” battleship

d&d 4th sux

Best Spam Comment

“Boy, this is some high-class site”
[Uh, sure thing, but I’m still not buying you a drink.]

Diablo II

Some Diablo II nostalgia this month. I installed it and played through the first act. I’ll have to see if I am up for more later.

EVE Online

I moved all my stuff back to Caldari space for the whole factional warfare thing that was ushered in by the Empyrean Age and only lost a Hulk on the way. Ouch. Still, my bank account has managed to stay on the sweet side of half a billion isk lately. Obviously I need a new money sink. Factional warfare though, I’m not “getting” it so far.

EverQuest

Thanks to the Living Legecy program, I actually spent some time in EverQuest this month. I even joined up with Nostalgia the Guild, though their regular group nights (Tuesday and Friday) and almost always bad nights for me, so I only see them in passing.

World of Warcraft

The Auchenai Crypts are being stubborn… or, that last boss is. Still, with level cap restrictions lifted from the group, we ought to be powerful enough soon.

DS

It is all about Pokemon on the DS. It was Pokemon Mystery Dungeon at center stage for about a week, but now we’re back to Diamond and LeafGreen.

Wii

We had a revival of the Wii in June with Pokemon Battle Revolution and Pokemon Ranch. We still haven’t bothered to get Mario Kart Wii or LEGO Indiana Jones yet.

Coming Up

I swear I am going to go back and write up another ancient gaming post. I will NOT sit and watch Pokemon Ranch when I get back from vacation.

Deoxys Obtained – Now for Vacation

My daughter and I hit GameStop this morning and downloaded the special Pokemon Deoxys. We even saw our neighbors while we were there. They were downloading too, and buying a Wii. Another candidate for Pokemon Ranch.

Deoxys shows up in game at level 50 (I read that the last time they made it available, it was level 75), has the moves Psycho Boost, Zap Cannon, Iron Defense, and Extreme Speed. The original trainer is listed as “Gamestp.”

And, speaking of Pokemon Ranch, I found out that when you trade Pokemon with Haley, the owner of the ranch, you can then migrate those Pokemon back to your DS. No thrill when she is offering you a Pikachu, but I hear that after a few trades you start getting some interesting Pokemon, like a unique Mew.

But now we are packing up and getting ready to head to the airport. Pokemon on a road trip, plus I might have a chance to catch up on podcasts. The collective has been quite prolific of late.

I have my vacation length skills set in EVE Online (Exhumers V and Minmatar Industrials V). My buy orders and items for sale are all up to date as well.

I have a couple of posts set up to display next week while I’m away, but nothing thrilling. Moderation of comments though, may be delayed unless they have web access on the ship. (We’re headed out on a cruise.)

And, I guess with Darren on vacation, I should go too. I was a guest on Shut Up We’re Talking #29, where we spoke about Blizzard’s mystery and Dr. Bartle. Hopefully the smoke will clear by the time I get back!

Deoxys at GameStop This Weekend

And, apparently, last weekend as well. Thanks to Matt for the tip on this.

Deoxys is a Pokemon that you can only obtain through special events. You cannot get one in the actual game, which makes it pretty rare. GameStop is having one of those special events.

From the GameStop Blog:

Unfortunately, I did not know about it last weekend, and this coming weekend we will be traveling. So Unless they have a GameStop in the Atlanta Airport, my daughter and I will have to wait for the next such event.

[Addendum: GameStop has this going on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, not just Saturday and Sunday, so we might get Deoxys yet!]

SOE Minicast #1

Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske hosts this mini episode of the Official SOE Podcast with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news. I guess we will see if this counts as show #38 when the next one comes out.

News

  • Living Legacy – Check it out!
  • EQII – Update 46, new live event
  • EQ – the Raid: Sprint – I.R.A. 2.0, Guild Recruitment Festival
  • EQOA – A Narrative of Tunaria and Proffessor Hedwocket
  • PlanetSide – MAX Factory Screenshots, Community Spotlights
  • MXO – Image Retrievals, Operative profiles, Sati’s Playground
  • SWG – Happy Birthday SWG, Chapter 10
  • Vanguard – FF 08, Isle of Dawn, Voyages of Vanguard Podcast
  • OSG – Legends Of Norrath: Oathbreaker, LON Sprint Events

Topics

  • Fan Faire!
  • Hamstergate 2008 – Part 2: The Investigation Begins

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

The show was recorded on June 18th and runs for just ten minutes.

Round up at Pokemon Ranch

Over the weekend, while my wife was out getting her hair done, my daughter and I were watching the Nintendo Channel on the Wii. The Nintendo Channel is a marketing gimmick from Nintendo that lets you watch trailers for and download demos of current and upcoming games for both the Wii and the DS. The DS game demo download capability is especially sweet.

While we were going through the list of things on the Nintendo Channel, we came across the trailer for Pokemon Ranch.

Once my daughter knew that there was some Pokemon related item out there that she did not posses, it became imperative we get it. We had 1200 Wii points sitting there unused, so I caved in and we grabbed it.

From a game perspective, this may be the worst use of my Wii points so far. There is no game there.

What you have is a farm, where a Mii named Haley raises Pokemon. The Pokemon are have about the same level of detail as a Mii and all end up looking cute in a low-res, spherical sort of way.

Haley has six Pokemon on the farm and you can bring in up to five of your own Miis to come hang out on the farm. Your Miis all get nice little cowboy outfits like Haley and they wander around petting or getting zapped by the various Pokemon while you watch.

And watch is about all you can do. You cannot really manipulate anything in the game. I could barely control the camera. Once in the while the Pokemon do a routine, like stand at attention in a spiral or form a totem pole, but that is about it. You can take screen shots of them which you can save off to an SD card if you so desire. Being JPEGs of television screen grabs, they are about as bad as you expect. Here is an overview of the ranch:

Down on the Ranch

Every day Haley adds a new Pokemon to the farm. The longer you have the game, and the more Pokemon there are, the more things they do.

All in all, if that was all there was to Pokemon Ranch, it would be complete crap, a screen saver featuring ill-drawn Pokemon.

But if you have a Nintendo DS and Pokemon Diamond or Pearl, there is more you can do. Not a lot more, but enough.

You can link your DS via wireless to the Wii and move some of your Pokemon to the ranch. The capacity of the ranch on day one is 20 Pokemon, so you cannot drop a ton into the game, but every day the ranch grows a little and is capable of accepting more Pokemon and more Miis, with a peak capacity of 1,000 Pokemon.

My daughter grew bored with the six Pokemon in the game, so moved a few of hers to the ranch.

Once you have linked though, something new happens. The game downloads your National Pokedex information and then creates a set of three wanted posters for Pokemon which you have not yet obtained.

This, of course, is the challenge. You now have to go out, get those three Pokemon, then transfer them over to the ranch. All you get are more wanted posters as a reward for getting the current wanted, but as a driver, this turned out to be just compelling enough for my daughter, and we spent the afternoon trying to catch or trade for various Pokemon, only stopping when we hit the ranch’s capacity of 20 Pokemon.

And, as it turns out, the more Pokemon who end up on the ranch, the more interesting or amusing watching the ranch becomes. The flying Pokemon sometimes pick up and fly around with their ground based friends. The Pokemon ride around on each other. Every so often the hit one of the Miis with an attack. They run from each other, fall asleep, wake up, and interact in some minor ways.

One of the most amusing interactions, for me at least, is the fact that a Pokemon or a Mii will become interested in another Pokemon or Mii. With the Pokemon it is cute, but with the Miis it can be quite funny.

At one point it said that Haley was interested in Wilhelm. Then Wilhelm was interested in Patty (the Pat Benatar Mii I made, showing my age). Then Patty was interested in Haley, and I thought we had the makings of a soap opera.

Haley and Wilhelm:

Wilhelm and Haley

Haley and Patty heading off to…

Haley and Patty

All told, Pokemon Ranch stayed up on our TV for about six hours that day.

Yesterday morning my daughter got up early… because it is Summer and she does not have to go to school, or so I have surmised… and found that the ranch had been expanded and could now hold 50 Pokemon.

Then, when I got home from work, I found that she had figured out all the controls and discovered all sorts of new little things you can do in the game. Before bed she was busy trying to put the Pokemon in what she designated the sleeping area.

I suspect we will be working on the Pokemon Ranch for a while to come. I just hope that they update the sound track some day. The music has got to go. Maybe my daughter will figure that out as well.

Connectivity in the Empyrean Age

The team at CCP appears to be aware of the connection issues that some people have been experiencing.

It seems that if your connection is routed to them via one of the ISPs that CCP uses, LimeLight Networks, you may have experience the whole disconnect problem.

CCP says that they have turned off their connection to LimeLight, which should make the problem go away, and has requested answers from LimeLight. LimeLight took the position that it wasn’t them but somebody up stream from them causing the problem.

CCP has a post about it here in the EVE forums, which is followed by the usual measure of responses from people who feel they know better, are willing to speculate and start rumors, and those with poor reading comprehension skills.

Desperately Seeking Diablo III

As I have previously noted, I am subject to bouts of game nostalgia. And, after more than 30 years since I received an Atari 2600 for Christmas, that is a lot of gaming ground to cover.

Lately I have been feeling the urge to play Diablo II. I blame Michael Zenke for this, as he put an article up on Massively a week or so back that triggered it.

The article itself was about Hellgate: London and was primarily posted to point out an excellent analysis of HGL by Shamus Young on his site Twenty Sided.

(And, as an aside, while you are there you should also check out his web comic, DM of the Rings.)

And how did this lead to Diablo II? I’m getting to that.

Shamus chose, as a major vehicle for his review, to compare HGL with the development team’s previous project, Diablo II. A good chunk of the team at Flagship Studios, where HGL was developed, came from Blizzard North, the group that was responsible for Diablo II. And so the two products end up being laid side by side at different points throughout the series of posts.

This not only highlighted the flaws of HGL in both a dramatic and a tangible fashion, but it also brought out what was done so well in Diablo II.

This lead to me digging out my Diablo II CDs.

Which, in turn, lead to a minor conflict between my memories and reality.

I decided to just install Diablo II and not the expansion. The four acts of the original game were all quite enjoyable and I did not think I would need any more than that to cover nostalgia.

After installation the game launched and resize the display down to 640 x 480. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just go into the options and fix that once I get into the game.”

I had forgotten that, in the base game, there is no resolution beyond 640 x 480. Digging around I discovered that and alternate resolution did not come into the game until the expansion, The Lord of Destruction. And even then, that alternate was only 800 x 600.

I figured that might be tough to cope with on my 1600 x 1200 LCD monitor.

I was committed by this point though, so I loaded up the expansion. And, yes, seeing the game running at one quarter the resolution of my monitor was a bit taxing.

At first.

But then I started playing, getting into the clicking rhythm of the game. It took a few minutes to stop putting my fingers on the WASD keys. Soon though, I was under the spell of the game.

It is a very good game, even today.. It always feels so dark and gloomy. Even in the bright sunlit areas, there is a sense of foreboding and the feeling that clouds are going to pass over the sun at any moment. The graphics startlingly good for their low resolution. The map system is outstanding. It feeds that obsessive compulsive desire to make sure you see everything. The difficulty of the whole game scales when you have more people playing with you. And, of course, there are elements of that game that we now recognize in our favorite MMOs. For example, punctuation marks anybody?

I found myself plunging into the game, appreciating both its simplicity and its depth.

This lead me to wish, yet again, that they would make a new version of this game. I want Diablo III!

Only, in my gut, I know this is never going to happen, for one of two reasons.

The first reason is that, theoretically, it already has been made, it was called Hellgate: London, and it stank on ice.

The second reason is that, while Blizzard no doubt has the talent on hand to create a Diablo III, that talent was put into making World of Warcraft. WoW owes so much to Diablo II that it is, for all intents and purposes, the technical sequel to Diablo II. After playing WoW for a couple of years, going back and picking up Diablo II can be a stunner. You start to see the logical progression of features, the things improved, borrowed, or lifted outright.

The only thing wrong is that Blizzard chose to place the game in Azeroth and give it a brightly colored appearance rather than setting it in that dark world of Diablo II. And that makes all the difference.

Not that WoW is a bad game, but it certainly does not feel like Diablo.

There have been a number of Diablo knock-offs as well, with Titan Quest probably being the most well known and best reviewed, but none of them have quite captured that Diablo feel either.

So I suppose I will go on wishing for a new version of Diablo while poking around again in Diablo II. I have friends and family who still play the game.

Do you think Blizzard will make another Diablo game?

A Sign of the Empyrean Age?

I have been seeing this a lot recently:

Connection to the server lost.

Not that I am suggesting we should hold CCP responsible for the reliability of the internet and the ability of my packets to move 8 times zones to the Tranquility server on a regular basis, but it sure can make the game tough to play when you and a friend get dumped half a dozen times in 90 minutes.

Is anybody else seeing an uptick in disconnects?

My First Factional Warfare Mission

In which I demonstrate I am obviously unclear on the concept

I had a couple of hours the other night so I thought I would finally dive into the whole factional warfare thing that the Empyrean Age has brought us in EVE Online.

I suppose I could have just jumped into some contested area, joined up with a blob of my fellow militia, and started blazing away at those “Gallante Nanofags” as somebody on the channel was calling them.

However at least one friend of mine reported that those willing to field tech II ships were eating the cheapskates in tech I ships alive, with interceptors chewing up frigates like there was no tomorrow.

Not wanting to merely feed my Kestrel into the garbage disposal, I thought I might go the mission route. I used the traditional in-game method of finding and agent, as detailed in my post on the subject, then popped out of the station and, one by one, set the available agents as a destination to see how close they were.

The nearest level 1 agent was 8 jumps away. I figured I would go with level 1, being in a wee frigate and all.

I cloned jumped to protect my implants, saddled up the Kestrel, all strictly tech I, and headed off.

Once there, I asked him for a mission. He told me to head off to Arderonne to destroy the reactor at some Gallente base.

Fair enough! So I left the station and set that system as my destination.

23 jumps away.

Hrmm… well, in the name of the state and all that, I headed out.

The last 12 jumps or so were in Gallente space, so every time I landed in a system I got a message from the local authorities declaring their intention to blow me up if I did not move along within a few second. This message:

Fine, I wasn’t planning to hang around anyway.

More jumps, with the last few being in low security space. No threatening messages at least.

Finally I arrived at the system. Time to warp into the mission!

At this point I have to stop and share my expectations.

This being a PvP, factional warfare mission, I have it in my mind at that point that somebody real is going to have to show up and stop me. The notes about the Empyrean Age talk about alarm bells going off when you show up, allowing the defenders to respond. I expect that what I am going to have to be on the watch for is somebody warping in to get me.

With that in mind, imagine my disappointment at warping in to find myself facing six frigates, two cruisers, and four sentry guns, all NPCs.

Twelve jumps from friendly territory, no place to turn to, expecting other players to show up and blast me, and now I have to face NPCs with the odds stacked against me.

This seemed like a bit more than a level 1 mission encounter, and this from somebody who had to run “Worlds Collide” in an Ibis. (That was the first mission I received when I started playing EVE.) But at least then I had a base close by for support, and another Ibis handed to me when I lost one. Out in hostile territory I was alone.

Still, I had come all that way, there was nothing for it but to go on.

With my usual deft touch, I managed to aggro the lot of them with my first missile. A few minutes later the Kestrel disintegrated around me, leaving me in sitting in space, in my pod, alone in low security in the middle of Gallente territory.

Of course, NPCs do not pod you, so I was safe. I sat there a minute wishing they would though, it would have saved me the trip back.

But, since no fatal blow was imminent, I set my destination for home and started heading back. I felt like those bears in the middle of the city in that one Far Side cartoon. I was the bear saying, “Great, were lost and it is only a matter of time before somebody shoots us.”

Nobody shot me. Nobody noticed me. After quite some time I ended up back where I started.

Unfortunately, this round trip used up all the time I had to play. I figured I might take another stab at it the next day, if I could find the time.

But the next morning, I got the message that I had failed the mission. It seems that factional warfare missions expire in hours rather than days.

And so went my first brush with factional warfare.

My standing now with the State Protectorate, the Caldari Militia, is now -0.03.

Considering that my standings with the Blood Raiders is 0.00 and with the Guristas is -0.04, both NPC pirate factions that I have spent a lot of time blowing up, that is not so good.