Monthly Archives: November 2008

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.

The Missing Title Quest

A tale of warning.

If you already have a character in EverQuest II and you go to make an alt, when you first enter the starter zone, you will get two windows that come up.

The Choice

The Choice

The one on the left is for a quest, the one on the right is to choose a default UI layout for your new character.

Accept the quest first!

If you choose your default layout first, as I did, the quest window will disappear, never to be seen again.  That quest ends up giving you a title if you hit level 20 within 14 days of creating your character, a feat that is now quite achievable.

So if you make the wrong choice, you’ll never be a Knight of D’Lere, or the Qeynos equivalent.

Day and Knight

Day and Knight

And then woe to you.  Unless you already have a bunch of titles for being around for four years.

WAR’s Trumpet Fades

I just got the automatic notification that my Warhammer Online account expired yesterday.  I thought it was going to expire last week, which I’m sure says something.  I did not even notice I had an additional week.

Overall, Warhammer Online is not a bad game.

There is a reasonable PvE game in it that takes you through a lot of very nice landscape, and once in a while you get a decent piece of equipment from a quest.  But for that part of the game to be my main focus in any way, three or four other MMOs would have to cease to exist.  I’m not going to complain that it doesn’t push the PvE envelop because, frankly, it isn’t quite at the state of the art in my opinion.  Two hours of running solo quests in WoW or EQ2 can be fun and compelling.  Two hours of the same in WAR becomes a drag for me.

Scenarios were fun, while I could stand them.  There is a reason I don’t play FPS games or do WoW battlegrounds.  I am not big on repetition.  Once I have spotted the decision point for a given scenario I can generally call the winner about two minutes into the match with 80% accuracy.  After that point I am generally not interested.

Open RvR was a lot of fun, when it happened.  At its peak, it was the best time to be had in the game.  A desperate defense against long odds (people who say they want a fair fight don’t know what they’re talking about… or they’re lying) can be a moment to remember.  As has been pointed out though, the stratification of the population through tiers means that if you are behind the leveling curve, you may find yourself searching long and hard for those desperate battles in open RvR, which is a shame.  That, on any sort of regular basis, might have kept us playing the game.

One regret I have is that I did not get to do much with the big guild I had joined.  However, half of our regular group couldn’t get in, so it came down to playing with the guild or playing with my regular group, the regular group won out.  You stick with who brought you to the dance and all that.  On deciding that our group was going to leave the game, my character was removed from the in-game roster.

In the end, I think the most telling piece of evidence for me is that I have not bothered to log back into WAR since our last Saturday night excursion.  There are just too many other games that I would rather play.

Maybe in a year Mythic will have worked out some of the issues it faces tuning the game to make it fun to a broader group of people.  I read about people having fun in the game, a lot of fun, but it seemed to be difficult to find on my part.  I’ll keep reading the news about the game.

And, finally, my friends at Ideazon would like to point out that Mythic told them that the L key should bring up the quest log as well, so it is printed on their Warhammer Online edition keyboard.  Damn you Mythic!  Damn you!

Shadow Odyssey by Noon

The Fry’s ad in the paper promises to have The Shadow Odyssey on the shelves and available by noon today, and at the discounted price of $34.99, five dollars off of the list price.

So it looks like I will be getting the $35 Dire Bear.

We’ll see if I can actually find a box on the way home from work tonight.