Monthly Archives: November 2008

November in Review

The Site

The site goes on.  I’ll be at home on a Sunday evening and wonder if I will have anything to write about in the coming week.  I seem to find something almost daily.

I did get some money from the ad experiment, which paid my WordPress extra storage fees for next year.  I have to be happy about that!

I was hoping to have some more EVE Online Blog Pack profiles to post, but that Crazy Kinux has been jet setting around with the “Who’s Who” of the EVE Online world.  I hope we’ll get back to that this month.

And then, of course, there were all the expansions that came out in November.  Too many choices, not enough time.

One Year Ago

I was going on about MMOs on a single server again, focusing on EVE Online and why its unique set of circumstances allows CCP to get away with everybody on one shard.

I was thinking about all that vendor trash that just disappears.

I was moaning about EverQuest and accessibility again.  I need to get over that.

I hit level 60 for the first time in EverQuest II and was also claiming my four year veteran rewards.

I hit 10 million skill points in EVE and bought my first Drake. (I’m now past 27 million points and on my third Drake!)

My daughter and I were playing LEGO Star Wars: The Compelete Saga on the Wii.

And the instance group was finishing up Sunken Temple in a way that gave us a before and after snapshot of the WoW 2.3 patch.

New Linking Sites

Please visit these sites that were kind enough to link here to help show my appreciation!

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  3. Cats in the Commonlands
  4. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  5. Level 50 Dragonite Event
  6. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  7. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  8. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  9. The Ride to Utgarde Keep
  10. WAR’s Trumpet Fades
  11. The Salesman of Waterdeep
  12. The Expansion of LOTRO

Best Search Terms

wrath of the leet king
[d00d!]

wow server stasis
[a novel concept]

we hate wow
[and yet we all seem to play WoW]

rudolf the red nose rander
[our public schools in action]

EVE Online

With Northrend to explore and Norrath to revisit, I have not had a lot of time for EVE.  My goal was to buy a freighter by Thanksgiving. Financially, I was set by that date, with a nearly a billion ISK set aside in reserve for post purchase economic activity.  But with time limited, I have opted to run missions and such rather than haul trash.  The nice thing about EVE is that once you have your sales position set, it will run for a while by itself, so ISK continues to come in.

Meanwhile, I have been doing the usual training fun, sharpening up combat skills for both my main and my alt.

EverQuest II

Gaff, Potshot, White Kitten, and I have been back in EverQuest II for a while now.  In general it has been a lot of fun, though I am surprised that, four years after launch and to machines later, I still run into performance problems in the game.  I had to draw down the graphic settings (which were set to balanced) to be able to move smoothly through Nektulos Forest.  And at peak hours the responsiveness of the game seems less than ideal.  Press a button… wait a few seconds… action happens.

Still, EverQuest II has a lot to offer.  And being part of Revelry & Honor is great.  Having access to their guild hall… well… it almost feels like cheating.  Plus it is the most amazing and opulent indoor location I have seen in the game.  It takes as long to load as some zones.  I just dread the day when it will be my month to pay the rent on the place.

TorilMUD

My 15 year anniversary with Toril MUD has spawned some nostalgia and a few posts, with a couple more to come.  I have even played a bit with my friend Scott, who got me into the game way back when.  I even managed to get in on a zone group today (for Cave City), which was very confusing after more than three years away.  A lot of colorful scrolling text and me trying to figure out what to do.  I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much in the effort.  I only died once despite being somewhat lost the whole time.

World of Warcraft

Wrath of the Lich King has really delivered.  Was it worth nearly a two year wait?  I am not sure.  But it is fresh and smooth and funny and interesting and beautiful and many more things.  Blizzard proves again why they are #1.

Coming Up

A bit more TorilMUD nostalgia as well as reports from Norrath and Azeroth.

We’re coming up to the end of the year, so I’ll have to score my predictions for 2008. (Oh, and my EQ2 predictions as well.)  Tobold isn’t running Blizzard yet, but there is still a month to go.

And, if I get my act together and finish it, there will be another Christmas story.

Mis-spending Talent Points

Here is something (or something else, depending on your point of view) that World of Warcraft ought to copy from Warhammer Online.

I hate that, in the talents window, that spending a talent point is complete and final the moment you click on it.

There are no “take backs,” you’re done and if you made an error, you have to go spend some gold to fix it.

In Warhammer Online, the equivalent window has a save button at the bottom, and no change you make is committed until you click that button.

Of course, I did not actually click that button in Warhammer Online the first few times, having been trained by the WoW’s talents window (and EverQuest II’s alternate advancement window, which behaves the same way), but once I figured out why my selections were not sticking, I saw the advantage of Mythic’s method.

Now maybe I am the only person to mis-spend a talent point now and again, but short of Blizzard giving us multiple talent profiles, some way to alter or confirm your selections before you commit them is a change I would like to see.

Night of the Long Bears

We logged on Saturday night around 9pm and were rewarded with Baby Blizzard Bears.

uk24thanniv

Since we play on an East Coast time zone server, the day rolls over 3 hours early for most of us (Earl is in New York, so the time is right for him) so we got our bears a little earlier than expected.

There actually seemed to be some oddity with the times because while Vikund got the achievement and bear before midnight local, logging in other characters did not.  However, they all got their bears the following morning when I logged them in.

So we ended up running around with five little bears in tow through much of the evening.  And we were not alone.  The bears were everywhere.

The usual line up was on hand for the evening.

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

None of us had hit level 71 yet.

Thanks to and afternoon of cobalt hunting by one of Skronk’s alts, Earl was able to put together new suits of cobalt armor for Vikund and himself.  Here is Vikund as Mr. Cobalt:

Cobalt Jacketed Paladin

Cobalt Jacketed Paladin

Nice stuff.  I even left the show helmet option selected, since I like the sort of “Steampunk meets Shogun” look of it.

Along with that, my own alt, Tistann went out harvesting leather so, with the addition of a substantial pile of hides from Ula, he was able to make some Borean Armor kits to further boost the stamina of some party members.  That put both Earl and Vikund close to 14K hit points when buffed.

With that bounty of new equipment for the tanks, we thought we might have a better shot at Utgarde Keep.

This time we went straight to Howling Fjord, avoiding last week’s long, but scenic, overland trip. (Skronk actually got the flight paths set between Valiance Keep and Valgarde, but said the flight was too much gold to start with and there were additional charges for checked mounts and in-flight meals and entertainment.)

We rolled in pretty well, as we did the previous week.  We got through the forge area without issue and then the drake pens, which are also a nice setting that I did not post a shot of last week.

Here Be Drakes

Here Be Drakes

I noticed this time around that the roof is “open” on the drake pens.

If We Had A Flying Mount...

If We Had A Flying Mount...

Pretty quickly we found ourselves facing Prince Keleseth again.

Get Him? That Is You Plan?

Get Him? That's You Plan?

Unfortunately, the upgraded equipment on Vikund and Earl did not turn the balance quite enough.  Both of us lasted longer when going toe to toe with the prince, but in the end, in four runs, we only got him down to 50% health before wiping.

The casters, who bear the brunt of Keleseth’s ice block, were hard pressed to stay alive and provide the damage needed to bring him down.  Skronk did hang in better than last week, ending up the last dwarf standing twice.

Get The Priest!

Get The Priest!

But staying alive, un-frozen, and keeping everybody alive was a bit too much juggling.

So after the same result four times running, we decided to go do some quests to upgrade gear further.  Rumor has it that some of us are still wearing gear obtained early on in Hellfire Peninsula.  (No, don’t go to the Armory and check, it’s embarrassing enough.) Then to do some research on how other groups are going after Prince Keleseth.

Advice here is, as always, welcome. But if your own experience starts out with having the Warbringer Armor set or some such, it probably isn’t going to help us much.

We are strictly quest drops and auction house level of equipment.

Sizing Up a Vulture

The wonder of EVE is not only figuring out what you want to do, but then figuring out how you get there, how much it will cost, and how long it is going to take.

So when I noted that my mining alt had evolved into a decent combat alt, it was suggested by Andreaz that I look into Command Ships as a possible path forward for him.

That meant it was time to crank up everybody’s favorite EVE Online toys utilities, EVEMon and the EVE Fitting Tool.  Some days I am in those two more than I am in the game.

There are two Caldari Command Ships, the Vulture and the Nighthawk.  I picked the Vulture to work with.

A quick mock up of a Vulture with the fittings currently on my Drake showed a good 45% boost in effective shield strength.  Granted, I lose two missile launcher hard points, but that much of a boost over an already awesome low maintenance shield tank makes it all worth it.  This is a ship worth having.

Then I had to look into the cost.  Being a tech II ship, I gave up on any idea of building it myself.  I would need a couple of long skills to manage that, so I started pricing Vultures on the market and available via contracts.  From that it looks like a Vulture is somewhere between 105 and 130 million ISK.  More expensive than, say, a Raven, but on par with a Rokh both in price and coolness.

Finally, I made it to the usual EVE back-hand slap.  I want it today, I can afford it today, but when can I fly the damn thing?

57 Days.

If I keep on the true path of training, let not a minute got to waste between skills, and do not get distracted by other wants and desires, I can fly a Vulture on January 21st, 2009.

That’s the way things go in EVE.

At least I was already well into one of the two long skills in the training plan.  In fact, I just wrapped up Battlecruisers V this morning and started on Caldari Cruiser V, a 21 day skill to overcome.   The next longest skill on the list is Long Range Targeting V, which comes in just over 8 days, and then skills fall into a pile of four days or less cycles.

And, of course, if I am going to bother with a command ship, I should go all out and get the warfare link modules going along with the associate implants.  I can get the first one fully up and running by some time in March of 2009.

EVE is a game of long term goals, and I had no other plans for my alt in any case.

My First Northrend Level

While I have been impressed with life in Northrend and how things are going with Wrath of the Lich King, I have not been playing a lot.  Non instance group nights have been mostly spent in EverQuest II, exploring Norrath from the Freeport perspective.

Still, I do find myself in Azeroth now and again, chasing down quests that do have a bit more spark and flair than your average “kill 10 foozles” routine.  Among other things I’ve been bombing pirates from a captured horde airship and out hunting with a train falcon.

And, amongst the fun, I found my hunter, Tistann, suddenly level 71.

tistann71

Of course, a few minutes later I ran into a level 80 death knight.  There was somebody who managed 25 levels in the time I did one.

It isn’t a race, however… well, not since all the server first achievements got finished up.  I’m just enjoying the time I spend in Northrend.

Get Excited About Moria

The new expansion for The Lord of the Rings Online, The Mines of Moria, has been overshadowed by the release of Warhammer Online (and its tribulations) and the huge Wrath of the Lich King launch, so personally I had little idea of what the expansion entailed beyond very general information.

G4TV‘s MMO Report went out to interview the LOTRO team at Turbine and came back with some really good stuff.  In part one they talk with the team about Moria itself, its design and vast scale.  It is enough to get you excited about the expansion.

Find part one of the interview here.

Cat on a Bear

Here is Torill, my Kerra Fury, astride the level 20, first mountable version of the bear pet that came with The Shadow Odyssey.

catonbear
There is something just odd about seeing a Kerra riding a bear.  But then, there is something just odd about a humanoid, bi-pedal cat.

catonbear2
Unfortunately, as a mount he is not as fast as my own speed buffs, so I am inclined to just run rather than ride.  Plus his running animation is just ever so slightly off from his actual speed which, once I noticed, started to bug me.  But now that I have pointed it out, it will probably bug you too.  You’re welcome.

And, yes, that is the five year veteran reward pixie on a string flying over my right shoulder.  It leaves a nice, sparklie trail as I ride.  I want to see a Fae with a pixie now.

Stellar Warrior – 1986

The below is written mostly from memory.  You corrections, comments, and conflicting memories are welcome!  If you played Stellar Warrior, say hi!

I’ve been meaning to finish this for a while.  I’ll use Zubon’s Challenge as an excuse.

But this really isn’t a review.  It is just a fading memory.

Now, into space!

—-

It is late.  Very late.

Late as in “I got off of work at midnight and I have to be in class at 9:30am, but I’ll just log on for a little while.”

But isn’t that always when good gaming happens?

I am staring at an Apple /// monitor sitting atop my Apple //e computer.  Little green lights glow from the computer and the Apple 1200 bps modem (formerly Potshot‘s) sitting next to it.  The monitor itself can show 24 rows of text, each 80 columns in length.  Currently, most of the screen is empty.  A cursor blinks in the lower left hand corner next to the prompt.

I type in short commands.

NAV C

As I type in commands at the bottom and hit return, earlier commands and responses disappear off the top of the screen, never to be seen again.  There is no scroll back.

I am flying a battleship in enemy territory.  I am playing Stellar Warrior.  My ship number is 8891.

I have been rolling up that rarest of rare treats, a single battleship province.  All by myself, of course.

Then I notice that the player count has gone up from 1 to 2.  I do a “who” list.  It isn’t anybody on my alliance.  I’m on the B alliance, in the far corner of D territory, and this guy is a D.

I pop out of the star system I have just turned to my alliance and hit the number 1 macro key.

It types out a rapid command followed by a return.

SEA 300

Search scan, range three hundred light years.

Nothing visible.

There are 12 key star systems in this province.  If I turn 8 of them to my side, the province will change over from the D to the B alliance.

I have already turned 6 of those systems and now the province is in dispute.  That means it shows up as a big question mark in the middle of D territory.

The map of the play galaxy looks like this:

CAAAAA  BBBBBB
AAAAAA  BBBBBB
AAAAAA  BBBBBB
AAAAAB  BBBBBB
AAAAAA  BBBBBB

CCCCCC  DBDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDD?D

(I cannot remember the dimensions of the territories now, but 6×6 looks right.)

Both the C and the B alliances have been working to take some provinces, the main way you, your squadron, and you alliance earn points to win the four week long game.  You can see where I am.  It is the question mark, the system in dispute.

The galaxy itself persists, like current day MMOs.  If you log off, other people can undo your work.  This game is only a few days into the full four weeks, but some early scouting found that coveted single battleship province.  Now I can sneak in late on a weeknight and take it.

Of course, somebody else may take it back, but then I’ll happily retake it.

SEA 300

Still nothing.

NAV 320

My battleship moves off toward the next system on the list, star system 320.  Maybe the guy who just logged on will wait until I take the province, then just take it back when I log off.  And I’ll need to log off because it is late.

SEA 300

I keep hitting that macro over and over again.  He may not be close enough to see yet.  Or he may be in a destroyer, the stealthiest of the five craft you can fly in this game (scout, destroyer, cruiser, battlecruiser, and battleship), and only visible on scanners within 60 light years.

I arrive at my next target system.  The planet I am going to take will start broadcasting my presence on channel 400 any second now.  Time to get in there and take it.

NAV B

I move to the planet and start the process of wearing it down.

ATT

Short for Attack, that is it.  I will keep typing that command until the planet falls.  Or until my ship gets blown up.  The planet shoots back as I attack.

ATT

And then there is that other player.

ATT

If he drops into the system in a cruiser, a ship meant for in system laser battles, he can probably stop me from taking this planet.

ATT

He hasn’t popped in yet.  Maybe he’ll wait and just retake the province.

ATT

Finally the planet succumbs.  My ship is damaged.  I can refresh the shields at my newly captured base, but I won’t be able to do repairs or get a fresh ship for a while.  I start out towards the edge of the star system.

IMP 100,100

I need to get far enough from the star to warp into hyperspace.  As I get far enough out, I quickly edit then hit my “peek” macro.

WARP 0,0
SEA 300
NAV 320

My ship pops into hyperspace, but remains stationary.  I scan, then dive back into the system.  GEnie is wonderfully responsive to commands, and this takes a fraction of a second.

Nothing on scan.  Just the nearby star systems.  I head for the last system I need.

NAV 1008,20

My battleship will only safely fly at warp 8.  I can push beyond that, but then heat starts to build up and if the drive gets to 3500 degrees Celsius, it will go boom.  I can help cool it down by dumping fuel, but I won’t need to do that.  The system I am going to is only a few light years away and I will barely get to warp 10 in that space.  No heat worries.

Then as I start closing on the system, frantic lines of text begin to scroll across my screen.  Torpedo hits from the other player, bearing 0, which means he is straight ahead of me.  He has popped out of the system I am heading towards.  His position means it is easy for me to fire back.  I hit another preset macro over and over.  Each time it types:

LOA 1
TOR 1

Load torpedo tube one, fire torpedo tube one.  Again, GEnie processes this as fast as the macro can go.  But GEnie’s responsiveness is working against me this time.  His hits are coming in fast.

If he is in a destroyer, I might be able to kill him first, or at least drive him back into the system.  If he is in something bigger, he already has too many hits on me.

I score hits, but his fire comes in too rapidly for me to survive.  My ship explodes and I am dumped out to the game menu.

He was in a battlecruiser.

I load back up in a scout ship because I am way back in B territory.  I fly back towards the base system I captured earlier.  I can hear on channel 200 that he is taking back the system I just took.  I fly flat out, dumping fuel.  I get to the system and switch to a destroyer.

I move to a system close to where he is and begin pop scans, aligned to the system he is in, waiting for him to show up.

We end up stalking each other for another hour.  Eventually I grow too tired to continue.  4am?  Again?

I fly to the weakest base in the province that I own and change to a battleship.  I know that when I log back in, the base will no longer belong to me, but I will be able to retake it quickly.  I say farewell on channel 1 and log off.

Stellar Warrior.

A company called Kesmai built a game for CompuServe called MegaWars III.  An incredible and addictive game that ran for many, many years, it became a legend with some.

When GEnie came onto the scene in 1985, they wanted a game like that as well.  Not the same game, but one like it.  So Kesmai made Stellar Warrior, which was similar to MegaWars III in many ways, but very different in certain key aspects.

Rather than colonizing, growing, and defending six planets of your own, you belonged to an alliance of many planets.  Ships cost nothing and could be swapped out for different classes, which were all preset.  Your objective was to take war to the opposing alliances by taking their bases and their provinces.

It could be a very intense and very light game to play.  It did not have the compulsion factor of MegaWars III or GEnie’s clone Stellar Emperor, but it could be a lot more fun.  With the resources of an alliance at your disposal, you could concentrate on combat and tactics.    The game was about battling the people who were there rather than defending your planets against the people who would be there when you logged off.

I am sorry I missed the game at its peak.  When I started playing Stellar Emperor in 1986, during the 4th campaign, most people had moved to that game and Stellar Warrior was pretty quiet most nights.  While Stellar Emperor might have 100 people on for the start of a campaign, and rarely ever less than 20 on any given evening, getting a dozen people into Stellar Warrior was something of a rare event.

Still, it did happen now and again.  If your team got shut down in Stellar Emperor and all its planets taken, we would spend some time in Stellar Warrior, where the action was intense and the losses were always made good.  At least until the next Stellar Emperor campaign started.

PvP… heck, RvR… in 1986, online and in just 24 rows and 80 columns of text.  Those were the days.

A special thanks goes out to Spectrum and the team at MegaWarsIII.com.  I had to use their .pdf of the original MegaWars III manual from CompuServe to remember some of those commands from so long ago.

The Ride to Utgarde Keep

The first Saturday night for the instance group after the launch of The Wrath of the Lich King found us wondering what to do.  With a brand new continent to explore and ten more levels to grow, plus as yet unfinished content in the Outlands, the options were wide open.  The line up for the night was:

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

We thought we should stick with our usual mission, though in the new lands of Northrend, so we decided to take a look in the first instance, Utgarde Keep.

This was a bit presumptuous of us, given that we had only upgraded some of our gear so far and we were struggling a bit back in the Outlands.  But the new expansion smell was intoxicating, so we thought we would give it a try.

We met up in Valiance Keep in the Borean Tundra and started digging around various information sources to figure out just where Utgarde Keep really was.  The expansion being fresh, information was somewhat sparse, but we eventually figured out where we needed to be.

Valiance Keep Harbor

Valiance Keep Harbor

Northrend is shaped somewhat like Australia and we were in Valiance Keep (Perth) and needed to be in Utgarde Keep (Canberra).

Northrend

Northrend

(The above image was taken from Wikipedia who in turn took it from the CIA World Fact Book.)

Which, frankly, was a bit out of the way.  But, again, the spirit of adventure was upon us, so we decided to follow the roads east and see where we ended up.

That is very much the way we used to do things in the old days, in EverQuest; just saddle up the horses and ride… except we didn’t have horses back then.  All we had back then was Spirit of the Wolf, and we were happy to get that!

So on we rode!

We ended up on a very nice tour of… south Northrend? … Southrend? … the landscape.  As we went, we tried to pick up the flight points so we would not have to make this long ride again.  We did very well at first, but we missed one or two in the middle, so we do not have cross-country, non-stop service as yet.

The ride was a lot of fun, and my reference to the days of EverQuest and seeing new things was not idle.

There was the Borean Tundra.

See the Aurora

See the Aurora

There was a beautiful snowy area that looked something like the night elves might end up with if they got snow.

Do Those Hooves Melt Snow

Do Those Hooves Melt Snow?

There were areas of icy  tundra with great fissures running through it and a giant tower in the snow.

Do Not Put Your Tongue On The Tower

Do Not Put Your Tongue On The Tower

And, in the usual jarring environmental change common to Azeroth where deserts and tropical forests exist mere steps apart, we ended up in a lush green forested hills, beautiful scenery and fjord turkeys.

uk1waterfalls

Rustic Scenery

Eventually, after making it all the way to the coast and then past the Plain of Jars and back to the center of the Howling Fjord province, we found Utgarde Keep.

Charting Our Course

Charting Our Course

As usual with our navigation, we ended up around on the wrong side of the place, at Utgarde Pinnacle, which you need to be level 75 to enter.  A few minutes and only two falling deaths later, we made our way to the right summoning stone and portal.

Once we were there… and revived… there was nothing for it but to get into the instance.

Getting Ready with the Usual Buffet

Getting Ready with the Usual Buffet

Again, more great artwork.  I have not been a huge fan of the Tesla-inspired electro-plasma dungeons that you find in the Outlands, but here, in Utgarde Keep, I felt at home.  Skronk said it felt very much like a D&D location, and I could not help but agree.  There was even Vulcan’s own forge there to warm us when we got going.

Now There Is A Forge

Now There Is A Forge!

Warily, we started to work our way into the instance.  And things went surprisingly well for a while.  Our only wipe before the first boss due to line-of-sight issues when trying to heal.  Things were looking good.

And then we hit the first boss, Prince Keleseth, and he just worked us.  Not enough equipment upgrades, not enough hit points, and probably the wrong tactics meant that the prince wiped the floor with us five times running.

Prince Keleseth Thinking of New Ways to Kill Us

Prince Keleseth Thinking of New Ways to Kill Us

By that point, after the cross-country travel, we were tired and decided to call it a night.  Soundly thrashed but having had a good time all the same, we left the keep.

Looking for a way out, we headed south a bit and ran almost immediately into Valgarde which, from the looks of it, is the OTHER starting zone for Northrend.

We grabbed the flight point then saw a ship pull up at the dock.  It turns out that ship runs between Valgarde and Menethil Harbor.

Utgarde Keep in the Background

Utgarde Keep Very Close in the Background

So the right path for us would have been to take the boat from Menethil Harbor to Valgarde in Howling Fjord, then run 30 seconds to Utgarde Keep.

That information was not on WoWWiki on Saturday night.

Of course, not having that information made the night an adventure.

I think there is a lesson in that for all of us.