Monthly Archives: March 2009

March in Review

The Site

No huge changes to the site this month.  I removed SiteMeter.  I added it back in September and ran it until recently to compare the stats with what feeds me.  While it was interesting, I ended up feeling that it was not worth another chicklet on the sidebar.

I also removed a couple of links including I Can Has Cheezeburger.  I still actually look at the site daily via RSS, but I could not recommend people actually going there with their browser.  The site hosts so many badly behaving ads which leave behind so many cookies that you feel like you’ve been mugged by the girl scouts.

One thing I am looking to do is add another section of links to sites I read/recommend that do not fit in any of the current categories.

This seems easy, but there is a trick to it.

With a hosted blog, I can have only one blogroll.  That blogroll can be divided up into categories, but the categories will be displayed in alphabetical order.  You can see how everything between “A Random Post” and “The Humor Supplement” is so sorted.

So what I need is a category name that sorts out down at the bottom of the list, below “The Games I Watch,” that captures the idea of “other, non-game related sites I think you should take look at.”  I am leaning towards “Worth Reading,” but somehow that doesn’t seem quite right.  Your suggestions on this are welcome!

One Year Ago

I was again ruminating about the whole “Why So Much Fantasy in MMORPGs?” thing, this time on the shores of chaos.

We started to see the end of the “Brent hand picks the news” era over at VirginWorlds.  The reign of myself and CrazyKinux was near to an end.

I got a Nintendo DS Lite and my own copy of Pokemon Diamond for my birthday!

EverQuest celebrated its 9th anniversary.  A very nice time line print of the game was posted over at the EQ Dev blog to celebrate, along with a video.

In Lord of the Rings Online some sites were speculating about future expansions.  And then Turbine announced The Mines of Moria!  Meanwhile, I was trying to give out some founder’s referrals.  I think I still have one or two of those left.

In World of Warcraft, patch 2.4 was the latest end-of-the-world panic.  I was trying out Alterac Valley trying to get a mount, not reading that I needed to get exalted reputation to buy it.  Meanwhile the instance group made it to Shattrath and then hit the Blood Furnace while my wife and her friends were drinking apple-tinis.

Official forums were the talk again for a bit, as Marc Jacobs said he wasn’t going to have them for Warhammer Online.  No, the Warhammer Herald (to be created in the image of the Camelot Herald) was going to be enough.  Well, we know how that worked out.

And, finally, a year ago Gary Gygax left us.  We still miss him because we still feel his influence every day.

New Linking Sites

A big thank you to these sites that link here.

I encourage you to pay them a visit.

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. Regigigas Event at Toys R Us
  2. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Shaymin Event at Toys R Us
  5. Because We All Love Lists!
  6. Azeroth on a Toaster
  7. Runes of Magic – Let Me Start Complaining
  8. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG
  9. Good-bye Felix, We Miss You
  10. Battlestar Galactica Source Material?
  11. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  12. The Wheel of Time – 3,430,682 Words Later

Spam Comment of the Month

NASCAR » Blog Archive » Yoga Mats Humboldt St Expo Hall




[uh? How does that even fit together, much less apply here?]

EVE Online

Our little corp is very active.  I think I mentioned somewhere that we have 12 live accounts logging in regularly these days.  Granted, there are individuals with more than one account, like myself, but for a corp that was just me for a long time, it seems suddenly very active.

More people means more activity in more directions.  Mining ops and missions are being run more regularly.  A couple of members have been sneaking into 0.0 space for the fun of it.  New ships have shown up.  And there is more talk about a POS, though with the corp’s current standing with Amarr, it would have to be in a 0.1 system.  (My own standing with Amarr is 6.5, so if the corp were just me….)

Lord of the Rings Online

I hate to say that LOTRO broke my old video card, but the death of my second 8800GT did seem to coincide with my actively playing the game.  I have been back in game since I installed the ASUS 4850, but have not done much other than test out how the Middle-earth looked with the new card.  LOTRO suffers from being the “third game” I play, and the one where I end up solo most of the time.

Runes of Magic

I keep patching it, but I don’t play.  I keep thinking I will get around to giving it a try.  Recently some friends started playing on the Artemis server, so I might have to actually play some just to say hello.

World of Warcraft

I ended up playing a lot of WoW over the last month.  The instance group has come off hiatus and is starting to get back into the swing of things.  Then there is the weekend play with my mother and daughter.  And in between I have been fooling around with inscription, harvesting herbs, and playing the auction house game to build up a supply of gold for the guild.

On the down side, after playing with driver versions and my motherboard BIOS, my video card is still unreliable in Northrend in general and Dalaran in particular.  I’d moan about the pain of the bleeding edge, but my video card has been out since last Summer.  Bleh!

Nintendo DS

Pokemon Platinum has landed, and it is good.  One of the minor flaws with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (and with Platinum as well) is that you can only have a single saved game on each cartridge and I have not been able to bring myself to delete my character to replay the game again, so have been stuck in that whole end game scene including the National Pokedex grind.  With Platinum though, I have had a chance to start again fresh and it has been a lot of fun.  More fun than I thought it would be, though not so much that I would be willing to deleted my character in Diamond.  Still, it may motivate me to play the Pearl cartridge that has been collecting dust at our house.

Coming Up

EVE Online has this whole new expansion, Apocrypha, that has brought a few interesting items to the table.  No doubt I’ll have something to say about that.

The return of the instance group will hopefully lead to a post announcing the downfall of Ingvar the Plunderer.

And I am sure I will find other items to fill the days and solve any insomnia issues Brent may have.

My Day at GDC 2009

I took the day off of work last Thursday and headed up to San Francisco to wander around the Game Developer’s Conference.

The expo and career halls were both a bit less heavy on exhibitors when compared to the last couple of years.  The expo hall especially seemed to be missing a number of past attendees such as Turbine and Red5.  Booths seemed to be occupied less by companies making games and more by schools with certificate or degree programs related to gaming, companies selling tools to help game developers (my favorite being Speedtree; I love that there is a company out there to help you get your foliage correct), and representatives from various locales that would like you to open a studio or development site in their district.

Not that those are bad things to see at such a conference, but they are a bit less interesting to somebody from outside of the industry like myself.

Probably the most commented on technology at the show was OnLive‘s game delivery service.  OnLive promises to delivery top quality games directly to your PC, Mac, or HD TV so that all the heavy lifting, that done by the CPU and GPU, is done at their end.  That means that you can play the latest games without having to have the latest hardware on your PC.  You will be able to play games on your toaster, so to speak, if they can deliver.  And that was the question on everybody’s lips, “Can they deliver?”  They had a slick demo in a huge booth and showed off an impressive list of partners.  Brent covered the OnLive booth and technology as part of one of his video podcasts from GDC.

The career hall was also less sprawling than in previous years.  Notable for their lack of a boot this year was Sony Online Entertainment.  I do not know if that was because they have been folded in with Sony Computer Entertainment America, which did have a booth, or because Brenlo, their past recruiting anchorman at GDC, was off having a painful medical procedure.

I did get to hook up on the show floor with Darren and Brent, and even got to watch Brent in action as he interviewed one of the principles of FileCatalyst on the show floor.

Brent making the magic

Brent making the magic

FileCatalyst was there pitching their file transfer technology as both a solution for moving files between locations as part of the development process as well as a potential technology for companies to move files to end users.

It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco, about as bright and sunny and warm as you can expect to get that often gets cold and foggy during the summer.  I took a break from the show floor for a walk and a snack in the park while I waited for things to wind down.

As it got closer to dinner time I met up with Darren and we went off to find Brent so we could go to the VirginWorlds collective dinner, something that has become an annual event at GDC.

We gathered up Brent and walked briskly (because we were late) over to Le Colonial, a French Vietnamese restaurant over by Union Square.  There we were joined by Shawn Schuster of Massively and the collective podcast OMG Real Life!, and Lady Sinea of RingCast, among other podcasts.

Dinner at Le Colonial

Lady Sinea, myself, Darren, Brent, and Shawn

Le Colonial was excellent and we ate and drank to excess and talked non-stop.  The Bo Luc Lac was particularly good, the filet mignon cubes practically melting in ones mouth.  There was live music upstairs that was close enough to enjoy but far enough away to not impede conversation.  A good time was had by all.

Eventually the evening came to an close.  We had eaten all we could politely could in a public place, the conversation began to slow down, and was time to say good bye until next year.  GDC 2010, March 9-13!  Be there!

Welcome to the Platinum Age

I know what my daughter an I will be doing this weekend.

I had to keep this hidden all week

I had to keep this hidden all week

You cannot tell from the picture, but the official guide book for Pokemon Platinum is thicker than the two guide books that they put out for Diamond and Pearl.  I hope it will hold up to rigorous use.

The book did come with a chart that is slightly more useful (and durable) than the posters that came with the older books.  On one side is a map of Sinnoh and on the reverse is a map of the underground that is annotated to show you both where to find things and also what location you need to be in above ground to get to certain areas. That will come in handy!

Warm Up in the Steamvault

With Ula finally through the rigors of getting a book ready for her publisher, it was time to get back into Azeroth and back on the instance trail.  So there we were again, logged in on a Saturday night.

We decided that since we had been out of action for nearly three months, we might not want to start off with another run at Utgarde Keep.  So we stepped it down a notch, dialed it back a bit, and headed to the Outlands where we still had a selection of instances left uncompleted by our group.

We settled on the Steamvault as it was the next in line on our list of Outlands instances before Lich King came along.  It is rated for levels 68-70, so we weren’t totally out of the level range as a group and, frankly, while we have geared up some in Northrend, we are hardly uber.

Also, there had been some re-spec’ing done along the way, so it was felt it might be good to take it easy so we could learn our new abilities.  After some parsing through Elitist Jerks (along with Rohan‘s site, Raider101, for a bit more ret paladin info), Skronk, Ula, and Vikund all put together new skill tree allocations.  Ula went heavy on mage frost tree, Skronk went the priest discipline route, and Vikund changed to a retribution paladin.  Bung stayed where he was, though was going to look into things further.

The first hitch of the night came up when Earl failed to show.  We think he has gotten used to going to bed at a decent hour on Saturday night while we’ve been on hiatus.  So our group ended up being:

72 Warlock – Bungholio
72 Priest – Skronk
72 Mage – Ula
73 Paladin – Vikund

We thought we would give the instance a try even without out main tank.  It would at least be a learning experience.  So we headed in to the Naga and water elemental infested Steamvault.

Something Squelching This Way Comes...

Something Squelching This Way Comes...

We started off pretty well.  The mobs in the zone are grouped pretty tight together, but we managed to maneuver and pull pretty well.  Only once did we get in over our heads with the yard trash mobs when a group of three we were fighting turned into a group of nine due to a couple of bad fear spells cast on us.  That one was a wipe, but a near run thing, leaving a single, a single, and a double group to clean up after the fact.

Damage wise, we had improved.  Vikund and Bung were always over 600 DPS for fights while Ula was often at 700 DPS, though her overall DPS for the run was thwarted a bit by the water elementals that were all immune to frost.  Meanwhile Skronk was dropping great big heals on Vikund, which he needed, that had nice side effects like putting up a bubble on a crit.

We hit the first boss, Mekgineer Steamrigger, and cleaned his clock (heh) on the first try, with no casualties on our end.

The second boss, Hydromancer Thespia, was a bit more of a challenge.  Vikund went down towards the end of the fight, but mostly due to being rusty.  I completely forgot that I could use a healing potion or health stone in my hotkey bar.  I hate it when that happens.

By that point we had cleared everybody else out and had only the locked door to go through.  And behind that door we expected to find Warlord Kalithresh.  And maybe a few minions.

A Naga Chorus Line

A Naga Chorus Line

The minions came in groups of four and were, like much of the instance, tightly packed together.  We managed to pull each group individually and cleared them all out. That left us alone with the Warlord.

This fight is a bit different.  We had looked it up in advance of the fight, but did not quite “get” what was going to happen.  Two wipes drove home the point though.  Warlord Kalithresh fights in a room with what look to be sizable fish tanks around the perimeter.

One Of The Tanks

One Of The Tanks

During the fight, he will run over to one of these tanks every so often and start channeling.  That will last for 10 seconds, at the end of which he will get a huge boost to his damage and kill you all dead.  Or at least he killed us all dead when that happened.

So, between the time he chooses his tank and starts towards it and when the 10 seconds of channeling ends, you have to destroy the tank.  The tank itself has 10,000 hitpoints.  Once we got this bit and all focused our attacks, the fight was easy.  With three of us doing 600 DPS or better, the tanks were gone in six seconds or less.  Targeting the tanks was a bit of a pain, but we managed.

And so Warlord Kalithresh fell.


I actually really like getting the achievement pop after the last boss in an instance.

We lined up for our screen shot before the defeated foe.

Warlord Kalithresh Defeated

Warlord Kalithresh Defeated

And then we ran off to turn in some quests.  We were not very diligent in collecting quests for the instance before we went in, but there were a couple we managed to pick up.  The equipment rewards were not going to replace anything we were wearing, but one of the hats from the quest The Warlord’s Hideout, the Hydromancer’s Headwrap, is right up there with Whitemane’s Chapeau as one of the hats I’ll wear all the time if WoW ever puts in an appearance tab like they have in EQ2 or LOTRO.

Fortune Telling Foursome

Fortune Telling Foursome

So we managed to get in, burn stuff down, defeat the boss, and get out without our tank.  With the tank we might be ready for another peek into Utgarde Keep.  We just have to keep him awake.

The Lich King Hates My Video Card

When I bought my new ASUS made ATi 4850 video card, the last thing I expected was to have problems with World of Warcraft.

I was worried that Lord of the Rings Online would overheat it, but I seem okay there.

I was worried that the graphics tweaks that came with Apocypha in EVE Online might slow it down, but I was covered.

But no, it is World of Warcraft, the game that runs on a toaster, that has issues.

And it isn’t even all of WoW.  I have been playing in old Azeroth quite a bit with my mom and daughter since the new video card showed up.  Every once in a while I noticed a stutter, a second or three of being frozen, but then things moved on.

No, it is Northrend that is killing me.

I figured this out when it looked like the instance group would return from its hiatus.  I had to get Vikund out to make sure I remembered how to play him.  He was parked in Northrend.  In Dalaran.

Log in.  Move several feet.  Freeze up.  Hrmm.

Log in.  Move several feet.  Freeze up.  Maybe one of those addons?

Turn off addons.

Log in.  Just Freeze up.  Okay.


Log in.  Move a few more feet.  Freeze up.

Okay, I know Dalaran is the new Ironforge lag city.  Maybe if I can just get out of the place.


Log in.  Don’t touch anything for a minute.  Move half way to the flight point.  Freeze up.  Scream.

Eventually I gave up.

I went over to our iMac.  Logged in.  Ran around Dalaran just fine.

I got out my laptop with its tiny ATi x300 mobile video card.  Logged in.  Ran around Dalaran with a lot of lag, but never froze.

I put Vikund in Stormwind and started looking into the problem.

I searched Google with the phrase “4850 WoW Crash.”  Lots of results.  I do not appear to be alone.  Of course, theories vary on the cause.  It could be the ATi drivers, the firmware, my motherboard, the anti-aliasing settings, Blizzard’s bad code, sun spots, or the Illuminati.

I found a couple of unhelpful threads in the Blizzard forums.  Well, a lot, actually.  Welcome to game forums.  I did find their system performance guide though, and it has a few things I can try fiddling with.

And ATi put out a new set of drivers last week.  I can give that a try.

But I have to get this figured out by Saturday night or I’ll be playing on the iMac.  Not that playing on the iMac is a bad thing, but it is out in the family room, close enough to the TV that I will probably annoy my wife.

I probably should have run that Google search BEFORE I bought the card.  Ah well.

Because We All Love Lists!

CCP Manifest noted in the EVE News that CHIP, the web arm of CHIP Magazine, put up a list of what they consider to be the Ten Most Important MMORPGs.

CHIP is a German language publication, so the reasons behind the ranking of these games (Online-Rollenspiele) are mostly beyond my rusty high school German.  But we all understand a top ten list, and their list is:

  1. Ultima Online
  2. World of Warcraft
  3. EverQuest
  4. Guild Wars
  5. EVE Online
  6. Warhammer Online
  7. Lord of the Rings Online
  8. Lineage II
  9. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
  10. Final Fantasy XI

Very little in the way of radical thought I’d say.

The first three are obvious picks, at least in my view.  The most popular game in the genre and the two previous holders of that title, each of which introduced, in their time, many players to the genre.

Guild Wars: Not to knock the game, but if I read the text right, it got that high on the list primarily because it represents the a deviation from the monthly subscription model.   I have only played the game for a few hours myself, so I am not the best judge of its strengths, but it seems like it has more going for it than that.

EVE Online:  Because it is EVE, the game most unlike anything else on the list.  The only science fiction game on the list as well.  Where are those science fiction MMORPGs?

Warhammer Online:  the current standard bearer for RvR.  If we are talking about importance to the genre it might be argued that Dark Age of Camelot ought to be on the list as opposed to Warhammer Online, not as a slight to WAR, but acknowledging that when it comes to RvR, DAoC begat WAR.

Lord of the Rings Online:  Makes the list no doubt for being a successful translation of a popular and beloved IP into a successful massive game, a difficult thing to manage. (And before you start, yes, Warhammer is a popular IP, but an order of magnitude less popular than LotR I would wager.)

Lineage II: hugely popular and one of the most recognized Asian PvP MMORPGs in the West.

We’ll skip to the end and Final Fantasy XI, which has popularity, its own look and feel in the genre, and the console aspect to set it apart.

And we’re left with Vanguard.

Vanguard?  Really?

My German is bad, but it is enough to get “Lots of promise, disappointing execution” out of the write up.

So what makes Vanguard important enough to make the list?  As a lesson to others?  Wouldn’t Age of Conan be a better lesson to study, or at least a more popular one?  Or could it be the whole wide open RMT stance that SOE has taken now that they have let Live Gamer onto all of the Vanguard servers?  That is a bit recent, and not mentioned in the write-up, but it will make Vanguard interesting to watch going forward.

Anyway, that is the list.  Nine monthly subscription games.  Nine fantasy settings.  Nine PC-only titles.  Nine different publishers.  Nine picks that were hardly surprises at all.

Who else belongs on the list?  Or who does not?

Just Mail Me The ISK Next Time

Economic activity in MMOs is often colored by the environmental factors as well as the attitudes of the players.  These often lead to market pricing decisions that do not always make a lot of sense.  The motivation of some people can be difficult to explain.

With my light missile economic experiment I have gotten to see a number of strange things.

In a particular system, and in all of the adjacent systems, I bought up all of the light missiles, many of which were priced below the cost to produce, and relisted them all at 18 ISK each.  I wanted to see if I could keep the price up at that level.  The investment wasn’t that much if things did not work out, and if they did, well, there was ISK to be made.

I mentioned before that one persistent player shows up every other day or so and lists a couple hundred thousand light missiles at 7.50 ISK.  And every time he does, I buy them up and relist them all at 18 ISK.

Recently, he changed his tactics slightly and started listing at 6.50 ISK.  I’m not sure how he figures that will drive me out of business, but I just keep buying up his stock.

Meanwhile, people seem quite content to buy light missiles at my price.

But yesterday a new player came on the scene.

I noticed that somebody bought a good part of my Bloodclaw light missiles from adjacent systems.  260,000 missiles went at 18 ISK each, and another 200,000 went at 20 ISK.  That is 8.68 million ISK in light missile sales in in just a couple of buys.  Very profitable for me, at least as a percentage of ISK invested.

Then I saw that somebody listed 1.2 million Bloodclaw light missiles in my target system with a price of 6.99 ISK each.  1.2 million missiles at that price came out to 8.54 million ISK.  I figured I might as well pick them up.  It would replenish my stock and I would still be ahead for the day in ISK.

After I bought them, I noticed that the seller was the same guy who purchased my missiles from the adjacent systems.  He must have been buying missiles in other systems as well.

So, looking at the net of my transactions with him, he gave me 740,000 Bloodclaw light missiles and 140,000 ISK.  If I sell all those missiles at 18 ISK each, which I plan to, he basically handed me 13 million ISK.  And this does not include the profit on the missiles he bought from me, which was close to another 4 million ISK, assuming I spent 10 ISK each on the missiles he bought, which is probably a high estimate.

Nice work, when you can get it.  But you stop wondering why people complain they cannot make money in these games when you see transactions like this.

And The Children Shall Lead…

My daughter likes to play on my account in World of Warcraft.

Specifically, she likes to fly around in the Outlands with one of my characters who has a flying mount.

She had not done that for a while, so when she wanted to fly around again the other day, I decided to give her a quick refresher on the controls.

I started off with, “The space bar makes you go up and the X key makes you go down…”

She replied in that voice that children adopt when they are suffering through their parents ignorance, “I know dad, it is the same as swimming!”

And I said, “It is?”

I’d been using the mouse to control all directional movement for swimming.

You learn something every day.

Good-bye Felix, We Miss You

Felix the cat came to live with us in the Fall of 2000.  We had just moved into a new house and decided it was time to add a cat or two.

Felix was a rescue cat, already an adult when we picked him out, or he picked us out.  Before he came to live with us he had been a feral cat living in the parking lot of one of the IBM facilities off of Cottle Road in San Jose.  There he has been fed by people who worked at the facility.  When it was shut down in 2000, one of the women who worked there picked up Felix and brought him in to be adopted.  She is the one who gave him the name Felix, which seemed appropriate for a happy black and white cat.

At the same time my wife and I had bought a new house and had settled in enough that we thought it was time to add a cat to the mix.  And so we went to the pet adoption fair that was being held at the pet store near us.  There we met Felix, who was warm and friendly and crawled into my lap.  We were happy and the adoption people were happy, as they often have problems placing adult cats.

Once at our house, a strange new environment, he immediately hid under our bed.

Not coming out

Not coming out

We set stuff up around our bedroom for him, since he did not seem inclined to come out.  However, once WE got into bed, he decided that it was better to be in the bed than beneath it.

Let the cuddling begin!

Let the cuddling begin!

A week later we added a kitten to the mix, who we named Oscar, which also turned out to be an appropriate name, as he and Felix were an odd couple.  While Felix was quiet, friendly, and happy to meet everybody, Oscar was aloof, afraid of almost everybody, and loud.

Still, they became the best of friends.

Comfy on my clean shirts

Comfy on my clean shirts

Most of the time, anyway.  Oscar could be a bit pushy.

Not quite enough room for two

Not quite enough room for two

Life went on.  Our daughter was born.  Felix found somebody new to cuddle with while Oscar… hid under the bed.  The Felix fan club grew.  Life was good.

A cat in his pime

A cat in his prime

But time passes quickly.  Last summer, Felix started having health problems.  We never knew how old Felix was.  His early years as a feral cat were undocumented.  But we estimated that he was at least 12 and perhaps as old as 15.

His teeth were bothering him and, while at the vet for that, they found a tumor in his abdomen.    Tests said that the tumor was not malignant… maybe.  Operating did not seem likely to extend his life expectancy, so we decided to make him as comfortable as we could.

He had lost some weight and kept getting smaller and more frail.  In an effort to get him to eat my wife ended up cooking for him.  He would nibble some, but never really seemed hungry enough.

Then last weekend Felix’s health took quite a noticeable dive.  He began to seem quite frail.  He was having trouble getting around.  Food no longer interested him.  The time had come to say good-bye.

We cried a lot.

Even after the first big outpouring of grief, the tears kept sneaking up on us at unexpected moments.

They still sneak up on us now and again.  Even Oscar has been looking for his pal, walking from room to room meowing softly.

My daughter's rememberence

My daughter’s rememberence

Felix was a part of our family.  We miss him a lot.