Monthly Archives: February 2009

February in Review

The Site

February was quite a busy month for the site.  In fact, it ended up being the busiest month ever in terms of page views and such so far, which isn’t bad considering we’re talking about the shortest month of the year.

Of course, the surge in traffic had nothing to do with any eloquence on my part.

No, all I had to do was mention Pokemon for that.

A picture of Shaymin is worth a thousand page views… more, really.

So, if nothing else, I have a new most viewed post this month, the first change in the top spot in some 17 months.

One Year Ago

The month started out with our Pirates of the Burning Sea enthusiasm waning.

The instance group was kicking off its Outlands efforts, after running the required equipment upgrade quests, with Hellfire Ramparts, though first we ran through lower Blackrock Spire and got access to Upper Blackrock Spire.

Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online had extended its agreement with Tolkien Enterprises out until 2014, with an option to go to 2017.  As a lifetime member I applauded this extension.

I went to GDC up in San Francisco and had dinner some members of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective plus Alan “Brenlo” Crosby, and got pictures to prove it. (I had a beard then… and I have a beard now… this is becoming a winter routine for me.)

My daughter got a Nintendo DS for Valentine’s Day.

We played a little KartRider, which is still MIA here in North America.

I defended myself against some slander about me being a dwarf.

I summed up the annual EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.

And I found out my blog was worth $61,534.86,though I couldn’t figure out how to cash in.  Since then, the value of the site has gone down.  I blame the economy.

New Linking Sites

Please visit these sites that were kind enough to link here.

I still have a bit of a backlog of sites.  I like to keep this list short every month so people are more likely to notice individual blogs.  Of course, the list is usually short because I cannot find so many linking sites.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Shaymin Event at Toys R Us
  2. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  5. Warhammer – Anger and Denial
  6. Players as Excuse
  7. 2009 MMORPG Progdictionations
  8. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORGP
  9. What Is A “Tank” In EVE?
  10. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  11. My Mom Plays WoW
  12. Iconic Distraction

Spam Comment of the Month

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EVE Online

There has been lots of activity in EVE Online over the last month, with Potshot and Gaff back in the game along with regular commenter and co-worker Bluelinebasher.  Even Darren is making his cyclical appearance in New Eden, influenced no doubt by the enthusiasm of Jonathan on SUWT #43.  We’ll have to get EVE voice going and have Jonathan do a mission briefing in his Beavis voice, ala his performance on Witty Ranter #16.1.

Lord of the Rings Online

I have been trying to advance my main and now my alt in LOTRO, but other games have been taking priority.  The combination of usually having to play solo (while friends are on in EVE) and the lifetime membership damping that need to play while I am paying has taken some of the edge off.  Still, that does mean that every time I get in, I have a full blue bar of bonus experience to help me along.

Of course, then my video card blew out playing in the fields of Bree.  I’m sure I’ll be back in LOTRO soon.  Tistann is closing in on 30.

World of Warcraft

The instance group remains on hiatus as real life has kept one member of the team out of action.  I hope we’ll be able to get back together some time in March.

Meanwhile, most of my WoW time has been spent playing with my mother and daughter exploring the starting zones of Azeroth.  That has been a lot of fun.

Coming Up

I am sure I will have something to say about Pokemon Platinum in March.  It is now on pre-order through for myself and my daughter.

The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is coming up towards the end of March.  I grabbed an Expo Pass again this year and will be up there to cruise the booths and find people on the Thursday of the show.  Is anybody else going to GDC?  I suspect tough economic times will keep the spectator crowd down.

Other than that, I cannot really see myself playing anything other than EVE, LOTRO and WoW for the near future, so expect more on those three.

Maybe somebody will tag me with that “Sixth Screenshot” meme.

There Was This Guy

There was this guy.

An MMO industry guy.  And he made fun of a game on his blog.

A PvP game.

It had delays.  It promised more features than it delivered.  Key members of the development team frequently said things of questionable value or intelligence in public forums.

And this guy pointed these things out.

And, for the most part, we laughed along at his lampooning of the game and some individuals associated with it.

Not everybody, of course.

Some people were indignant or outraged in that way people are on the internet.  I have yet to find something in the world about which somebody won’t get indignant or outraged.  I worked with somebody who would get pissed if you said you were happy.  An angry person who took the happiness of others as an affront if she was not also happy, and she was never happy.  True story.

But I digress.

Fun was made of that game.  Even on launch day, and for days after that.

But it was an MMO industry event, and notable and worthy of comment just on that basis alone.

As the event passed, it became less newsworthy.

Eventually Warhammer Online settled down and was only mentioned by this guy when Mythic laid people off or revealed their subscriber numbers.

Then this guy, an MMO industry guy, made fun of another game.

A PvP game.

It had even bigger delays.  It promised features on which it could not deliver.  And, of course, key members of its development team said things of questionable value or intelligence in public forums.

And this guy pointed these things out, right up and through launch day.

It was, after all, an MMO industry event.

And some people who didn’t seem to mind when it was Warhammer Online being teased, even though they were very much fans of Warhammer Online, seemed quite offended when it was Darkfall on the block, even though they weren’t notable in their own support of the game.

All of which shouldn’t confuse me, this being the internet and all.  But it does… well, a little… okay, not at all, but I wish it did.

A Tour of the Deadmines

We were all lined up to do the Deadmines, my mother, my daughter, and I.

My daughter was up to level 19 with her hunter and had all the quests in place.

My mom had been playing some over the week, so she was already level 26 and interested to see the inside of the Deadmines.

And my druid… well, my druid wasn’t going.  To get the three of us through the Deadmines without the adventure becoming a route, I decided to take along the level 40 hunter I have on our server in order to clear the path.

It had been some time since I ran through the Deadmines.  The instance group last set foot in the Deadmines back in November 2006.

I did remember to follow the right wall along the caverns leading to the instance, even if I messed that up at one point in the interest of taking a short cut.

Once in, I found it easiest to just set my pet on aggressive for a while to clear out the early sections of the dungeon.  That sped things up a bit.  Bosses did not pose much of a problem at level 40.  The biggest problem I had was keeping my daughter with the group.  As the lowest level, she was the aggro magnet, and as the youngest one, she was prone to run off on her own.

Still, with my pet running amok and my hunter shooting anything that got on her, I was able to keep her alive for the most part.  The only time anybody died was in the foundry when we managed to aggro just about everybody on the ground floor including Gilnid.

It wasn’t a wipe though.  My hunter powered through while everybody else got to learn the lesson about not clicking release when you die on a boss fight, otherwise you might not get to roll for the loot.

Oddly enough, while the 3.0.8 patch added new graveyards all over old Azeroth, including in Westfall, when you die in the Deadmines you still come back as a wisp way over at Sentinal Hill rather than one of the closer respawn locations.  One of the problems going in with three hunters is that all you can revive is pets.

Once we got everybody back and together, we pressed on, experiencing no further deaths.

Blowing the Door

Blowing the Door

We got in a bit over our head once or twice, but were able to keep things under control.  The fight with Mr. Smite was amusing if only because it went by so quickly that he had to hurry through his lines.

We made our way around and up the ship, finally facing off with and taking down VanCleef, which finishes off the main quest and granted us all the Deadmines achievement.

Even with the deaths, we were through in about an hour.  The loot was the usual Deadmines assortment.  Probably the best item for the long term was the Green Wing Macaw drop, a rare companion pet you can only get in the Deadmines.

I do not know if we’ll make instance tours like this in the future.  I cannot see us treking through Wailing Caverns for example.   But it was nice to run through the Deadmines.  It is a good deomstration of a well done instance.

8800GT Failure

Earlier this week I noticed that video on my computer was behaving oddly.  Strange artifacts now and again, things I would have attributed 20 years ago to problems with video memory.

Then last night when I poked my nose into Lord of the Rings Online, that was enough to push the card over the edge into failure mode.  All 3D operations appear to have ceased.  The card, thankfully, has fallen back to some minimal operation state, so I can still do things like type angry blog posts (without pictures), but everything is very slow on the screen.

Are you old enough to remember when scrolling text in a large Word document was a stress test for a video card?  Yeah, I’m operating with that level of video support now.  Scrolling down the page on my blog is a test of my patience.

The card, my second 8800GT after the first one failed almost a year back (also while playing LOTRO) has not given me a lot of faith in nVidia for the moment.

So for my next video card, just in time to be my birthday present I suppose, I think I will jump back to the ATi side of the video world with a 4850 based card.

But no Lord of the Rings Online for a while, not until I get the card replaced.  At least I can update my EVE Online skill training on our iMac.  Go CCP and Mac OSX support!

Raptor Love

While my daughter was interested in druids because they can turn into animals, the only real class choice for her was a hunter.  She loves to have pets, and the ability to run out and tame your own pet was a super bonus.

So she has had various owls, bears, wolves, cats, birds, spiders, and even a crocolisk since she gained the ability to tame pets at level 10.  Her biggest problem is that she can only stable two pets at a time.  (I wouldn’t cough up 50 gold for the third stable slot.)  And so there are hard decisions to be made.

Some pets come and go on a whim.  Some take more work to part with.  And when she accidentally dismissed the little white bear she found and tamed in Dun Morogh there was nearly an hour’s worth of tears.  She had to draw a picture of the bear, named Icicle, and put it on the wall in her room to remember him.

Of course, once the tears were gone, it was off for another pet.

Then, when we were out in the Wetlands she saw raptors.

She knew about raptors.  She had seen people with raptor pets.  But these raptors were nearly in her level range, wild, and ready to be tamed!

Nearly in her level range was the sticking point.  She was level 19, the raptors out there seem to be level 23-25.

Raptor fever was upon her though, so I ended up having to lead an expedition out to The Barrens so she could find a raptor she could tame… you know… now!  And so she tamed Stella.



The name Stella actually came later, after my mother tamed a blue raptor from the Wetlands and named it Stanley.

Of course I laughed when I heard this and exclaimed, “STELLA!” in my best Brando imitation then told my daughter to say, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  That just got a look of confusion out of her.

So I had to try to explain “Streetcar Named Desire” to her, which went about as well as you might imagine.  There isn’t a lot of Tennessee Williams on Nickelodeon, though I bet I could find some on PBS Kids.

We have the Simpsons version (Streetcar!) on DVD, I think we’ll just watch that.

EVE Online Makes the BBC

The defeat of BoB in EVE Online was big enough to make it to the BBC it seems.

The story is short and to the point.  The best quote for me was from Mittani:

“We don’t have any advantages, so we can’t obey your stupid ‘space bushido’. We’re going to spy, we’re going to use defectors, we’re going to lie, cheat, steal and be bastards.”

Space Bushido!

But can you say “bastards” on the BBC, or is that reserved for the web site?

Thanks to my friend Steven for IM’ing me with the link!

Gamer Social Networking?

I was looking at my page at GAX Online [long since gone, click links at your peril] the other day and was trying to find the point.

I mean, I get the idea of social networking.  I have a profile on Linked In, a social networking site focused on professional relationships.  I am linked to a whole pile of friends and co-workers and I can see where they are working now and what they are up to whenever the urge strikes me.

And that makes sense to me and because I am me.  For the former, as I said, I can keep track of friends and have a method to get in touch with them, at least so long as their profile is sufficiently up to date.  And for the latter, well, my friends tend to be people with whom I do things on a regular basis and, having had a job since I was 13, there is no more regular group than my coworkers.

But other services and social sites, things like Facebook, Plaxo, or MySpace, don’t do much for me.  There isn’t anything there for me.

But GAX Online is gamer oriented, so I thought I should give it a try.  I do spend a bit of time playing online games after all. (*listens for vocal comment from wife*)  And GAX was put together by the guys from Massively Online Gamer, so I felt I ought to support their endeavor in return for all the entertainment they have provided.

I signed up early one, got my account, created my page, put little bits of information about myself on it, uploaded a picture, added an RSS feed from my blog, asked to be friends with a couple of people, accepted friend invites from a few others, joined some groups, and generally poked around.

And that was about it.

I checked in regularly at first, looked into groups, followed a few of the blogs being run on the site, and watched what was going on.  But over time I began checking in less and less frequently.  Some things I kept up with via RSS, like Brent’s Other Blog back when he was having fun with it and telling people things like their blog probably sucks or that perhaps Tolkien and/or Halo are not that great.  But then he stopped doing that.

It is not that GAX Online is dead.  Every time I go there, activity is apparent, I just have no enthusiasm for it.  It does not seem to be for me.

As a comparison, in a fit of gamer social networking enthusiasm brought on by the launch of GAX Online, I also signed up for GuildCafe just for comparison’s sake.  But GuildCafe stuck even less firmly with me, no doubt because I didn’t even know a half dozen people to put on a friend’s list.  I kept up with that site so little that while they changed their name to GamerDNA in April of 2008, I didn’t even notice until September, and I am not sure I made the mental connection that one was the other until even more recently.  The triumph of apathy.

So there I am.

But just because I can’t find any compelling reason to visit these sites on a regular basis doesn’t mean I know everything that is there.

So my question of the week is what gamer social networking site do you use, if any, and what keeps you coming back to it?  What makes a site like worth it to you?

Or not worth it, if you prefer.

Raven Upgrade

Potshot, Gaff, and I got to spend some time running level IV missions over the weekend.

Not that they were a huge challenge.  All three of us have second accounts so when we bring all our resources to bear, we have three Drakes, two Ravens, and a Rokh, which adds up to some firepower.  We’ll have to bring that to bear on Worlds Collide some time.

As we finished up the mission, we were chatting about fittings and upgrades when Gaff asked what a Navy Issue Raven would cost, both in skills and price.

Skills are not a problem, but the price can be.  Or used to be.

Some months back I went through the exercise of comparing the Raven, the Raven Navy Issue (CNR), and the Caldari Marauder class battleship, the Golem, to see if it was worth upgrading.

The Golem turned out to be very expensive, both in price and in skills required.

The Raven Navy Issue was easy when it came to skills, but was still too much for me, running in the 400-500 million ISK range.

That was all back in July of last year though, so I decided to check prices on Raven Navy Issue contracts.  It seems that prices have come down.

There were half a dozen Raven Navy Issue battleships available via contract in Jita for 263 million ISK.  You could probably trade a PLEX for one pretty easily.

Since July my fortunes have risen.  263 million ISK still seems pricey, though after the Charon I could handle it.

So, with cash in my pocket, I hopped in a shuttle and headed to traffic control central, Jita, to buy me a new ship.  And after a moment or two of confusion and panic (263 million gone, no ship in hanger, have I been scammed?) I figured out how to claim an item from a contract and flew my new toy back home.

Raven Navy Issue safe in its hanger

Raven Navy Issue safe in its hanger

I stripped my old raven for fittings, added one more cruise missile launcher I had sitting around, gathered together salvage for three capacitor control circuit rigs, and I was set.

I will go back and refit my old raven over time to keep as a backup.  I hate to think of losing my new ship, but this is EVE.

Now I just have to try it out on a mission to see how much of a difference the extra shields and additional launcher make.

Wii Music

Wii Music is rubbish.

Seriously.  It is as though Nintendo looked at all the money being raked in by Rock Band and Guitar Hero and said, “How can we tap in on this market without really putting in any effort?”

And so Wii Music was mailed in.  Take some Miis, throw in some air guitar instrument motions with the Wii remotes, find some public domain music, mix in the usual measure of Nintendo required features, and let the sheep have at it.

I suppose I have to admire Nintendo for setting the bar extremely low.  This is a game that somebody who cannot handle the colored buttons on the fret board of a little plastic guitar can still manage.  But that does not make it any less annoying.

And the first, and most annoying bit is the fact that the Nintendo obsession with unlocking content is in full form here.  So you cannot just jump into the game and play a song you might enjoy… not that there are likely to be any… no, you have to kick off with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” in some crazed tribute to the Suzuki method.

And so you jam on electric guitar or drums or whatever to the song to which we all sing the “ABCs” here in the US.  Fun.  Not.

You then advance through “Do-Re-Mi,” “O Christmas Tree,” and “The Flea Waltz” to unlock “The Legend of Zelda” or, listed as popular, “Daydream Believer.”  I suppose it meets the “popular at some time in living memory” benchmark.  Looking at the list of songs the game has hidden away, there appears to be a couple of interesting titles, but we have not had the stamina to go unlock any of them so far.

There are other things to do in the game besides wave your hands to grammar school tunes.  One which I thought might be a bit amusing was Mii Maestro, which involves conducting an orchestra Miis.  Who doesn’t want to be the big shot with the baton?

You get to set the tempo for the piece, so you can drag it out like “Stairway to Heaven” or get all Herbert von Karajan and make it go by like “Flight of the Bumblebee.” (The man was a force, but could conduct some days like he was in a hurry to beat the traffic home.)  Of course, to get to any songs you might like to conduct… and there are one or two… you first have to conduct “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  And even once you get something like Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons – Spring” or Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on the menu, the game wears thin pretty quickly.

Of course, one of the worst thing of all about the game is that my daughter loves it.

And so we flail away together, Wii Remotes alive trying to mimic in some way the instrument we’ve each chosen, making noises that sound like distant relatives of the notes one would expect, occasionally straying into the neighborhood of the right tempo, and proving that when it comes to music we should probably just stick to the play button on our iPods.  It is no wonder I steer clear of the minstrel in LOTRO.

The other killer for me is the fact that it sure seems like there ought to be some good in the game.

The jam element seems to be on the right track, but it always ends up as a disco train wreck or a cat fight in the band room. (Doubly so when one of the instruments you can unlock is your Mii wearing a cat outfit that makes caterwauling sounds.) That could be just us… though I’d believe it if something sounded good even once.  We cannot be bad all the time, can we?

Meanwhile the wide selection of instruments invites experimentation and repetition, but only leads to disappointment as you find out that you make equally awful noises whether playing harp, bass, ukulele, banjo, sitar, marimba, saxophone, recorder, or snare drum.

Still, my daughter has fun with the game.  I just end up with a headache.  But I was never the air guitar kind of person in the first place.

Time to go play “Daydream Believer” again.  Maybe it will sound better if I go with the steel drums this time.

What a Difference a Hat Makes

Last week I asked what the most fabulous class was in Middle-earth with an eye towards guiding the creation of my inevitable alt (or alts) on Nimrodel.  The poll, as of this writing, shows the following results:

Minstrel            49
Burglar             11
Hunter               8
Warden               7
Lore-master          7
Heavy Armor classes  3
Rune-keeper          1

The minstrel class was the clear winner, getting an overwhelming percentage of the votes.

So I rolled up a hunter.

You see, I had tried a minstrel before and it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.  Plus I picture Reynaldo as more fabulous through deeds than through singing of his deeds.  He does not need to advertise his fabulous nature, he just is fabulous.

Plus my wife frowned on any sort of “Tiny Tim” online activity.

So Reynaldo the hunter was born.  And the hunter’s garb looked good on him.  He was almost fabulous.  Almost.

Tight britches? Check.

Well cut tunic?  Check.

Well turned boots? Check.

Stylish hat?  Umm… no.

The hats he found were just ruining his look and, frankly, character models in Lord of the Rings Online have a tough time going without a hat.

Reynaldo suffered through a series of narrow brimed Alpine models, a couple of the Andean knit variety so popular with the Burning Man crowd, and the inevitable over-turned soup bowl hard hats that made him look like a lineman for the county.

But fortune favors the fabulous.  At level 10 he got the drop he was looking for.

He got the wide brimed hat with plume.



Now with his bow on his back and a dagger on each hip he fights to rid Middle-earth of Sauron’s taint and to collect enough cash to register his last name.  No titles for him.  It is enough just to be fabulous.