Monthly Archives: May 2009

Payback in the Outlands

It was Saturday night and we were not expecting a full crew, since Earl was off at a wedding.  Still, we were there and needed something to do, so we thought we would take a look at the Outlands.  Our group was:

74 Priest – Skronk
74 Warlock – Bungholio
75 Mage – Ula
75 Paladin – Vikund

There are some five person instances out there that we have not done yet as well as a few we have done but which do not show up in our achievement credits.  That last part is annoying because there does not seem to be much logic to it.  Hellfire Ramparts, the first instance we did in the Outlands shows up for us.  But the Blood Furnace, which we did shortly there after did not get counted.

So, seeing that we are becoming somewhat achievement attuned, we decided to clear some of that up, starting with the Blood Furnace.

Which meant finding the instance… again, since we found it once before.

After some running around it was remembered that we can actually use our flying mounts in the Outlands, which seemed likely to make our search easier.  But as we were searching, I saw one of those damn Fel Reavers that stomped us from behind on several occasions and declared that it must die.

"Fel" down, did he?

"Fel" down, did he?

That was the payback referred to in the title of the post.  Nothing beyond this point has anything to do with any sort of actual payback, real or imagined.  You have been warned.

We then went back, found the Blood Furnace, got the message about not being able to create any more instances for a bit, then finally got into the the instance.  We considered for a moment trying the heroic version of the instance, but then realized that none of us knew how to access it.  It was only later that I figured out that Honor Hold Quartermaster, Logistics Officer Ulrike, sells the key that enables heroic versions of the local instances.

Flamewrought Key
Live and learn.

So eventually we were in and knocking down or just walking past level 60-ish mobs, practically slaying them at will, which lead to momentary visions of invulnerability.

It was a trap!  There were two of them!

It was a trap! There were two of them!

This visions were disiolved from time to time.

Even with that sort of thing though, we were through the instance in very little time.

The Blood Furnace
We walked on out the door and considered which instance we ought to clean up next.

In glancing through the list of achievements, I suggested Mechanar in Tempest Keep because the final boss was named Pathaleon the Calulator.  I rather pictured a blood elf with a slide rule.

So we ported back to Shattrath and flew on out to Shadowmoon Valley only to realize that Tempest Keep is not in Shadowmoon Valley, it is in Netherstorm.

So We ported back to Shattrath and flew on out to Netherstorm and went in search of Tempest Keep.  It was not too tough to find, as it stands out on the map.  We even guessed right for once and ended up at the correct instance on the first try.  And after a message or three about not being able to create more instances, we were in.

The first floor was a walk-over for the four of us.  This was a bit of a surprise to me.  I know we are better equipped, but we were still facing level 70-72 NPCs.  But the four of us seemed to be able to take on all comers even when we got more than we bargained for.  Until we got to the second floor.

On the second floor was Nethermancer Sepethrea who wiped the floor with us twice before we went to look up strategies on dealing with her.  It seems that to keep her two flame elemental minions from causing havok you have to kite them around while doing in Sepethrea.  With that tidbit of knowledge we were able to finish her without much issue on the third attempt.

Then, true to form, we stumbled into the final boss, the aforementioned Patheleon the Calculator, who is not just a boss but a whole event, quite by accident.  Well, not quite by accident.  We deliberately started walking down the hall towards his location on purpose, we just didn’t know that was the trigger for several waves of angry blood elves to come and attack us.

Blood elves with a disposition for math were no problem for us however and soon we got the magic pop.

The Mechanar

So we setup the group shot to record our victory.

We weren't part of his calculation it seems

We weren't part of his calculation it seems

And that was it for instances for us.  We took a short detour to Dealer Rashaad at the Stormspire so Ula could stock up on some companion pets for the pet achievements.  (I had already been.   You can see my blue dragonhawk pet in the picture above.)

And that was it for the evening.  We will be down a person this coming Saturday as well, so I imagine we will continue with the semi-serious achievement chasing.

Sailing an Orca

It is new ship week for the Twilight Cadre it seems.

Potshot, while laying out plans for the corp W-space station, also mentioned that he finished up training for his blockade runner.  And yesterday I mentioned the Buzzard covert ops ship that is to be part of our plans.

Today it is an Orca.  Mine makes the third Orca in our corp… or it would be the third one in the corp except that Gaff has run off to join the Latvian Rifles in 0.0 space to experience some fleet action fun. (Maybe he can tell me if fleets do indeed look like this.)

My Orca isn’t that new actually.  I have had it for a couple of weeks now but I have not gotten around to mentioning it.  But, as I am closing in on the final skill I have planned to support it, I thought it was about time.

For somebody who does multi-box mining, the Orca is a dream.  As long as it sticks within 2500 meters of your mining ship, the harvesting craft can drop ore directly into the corporate hangers that are part of the Orca.  And if you’re doing a group mining operation and you are all spread out, a tractor beam mounted on the Orca can reach out 50km to pull in a jet can at double time.

Orca and Hulk

Orca and Hulk

I have the Orca fitted out as follows:

High

Mid

Low

Rigs

With my current skills, this gives me a cargo capacity of 85K cubic meters in the cargohold, plus the additional 40K cubic meters in the corp hangers give me an effective 125K cubic meters of hauling capacity.  That isn’t quite up there in size with my Charon freighter, but about 75% of the time I use the freighter I could probably have fit everything in that much space.

In fact, if I could sell the Charon and invest the money in something that paid a regular, reliable return, I would probably do it.  The Charon has been sitting in the hanger a lot lately.  However, I am not certain such an investment opportunity exists in EVE Online.  Ponzi schemes and directors just running off with the ISK seem to be the more popular scenarios… or at least the ones you hear about.

Ironically, I suppose, one of the things the Charon is better at that the Orca is maneuverability.  The Charon’s agility is enhanced by an additional skill, so the Orca can feel as cumbersome, if not more so, when aligning for warp and such.  On the other hand, you can’t slap an afterburner on a Charon.  And the Orca needs that afterburner to keep up with a Hulk, which is yet another declaration of its whale-like performance.

But for what it does, it is a fine ship.  And once I get Mining Director V trained I will be able to use the Mining Foreman Mindlink I got as a mission reward some time back.  That will put me near the pinnacle of mining performace.  Just another 19 days to go.

Buzzard – No Skill Left Behind

Plans for The Expedition continue to evolve as we muster resources and skills.  Meanwhile Potshot, the brains behind the operation, has been working on plans B, C, and possibly D to suit any changes in circumstances.

So while we have been stockpiling supplies and working on getting high enough standing to make jump clones (all the better to save wear and tear on the implant budget should podding happen), we have also been beefing up our skills.

One thing I added to my repertoire was the ability to fly a covert ops ship and use a covert ops cloaking device.

Fortunately I did not have to wait almost 50 days to get covert ops ready.  It turned out that way back in October of 2006 I thought covert ops sounded like an interesting career choice.  I gave up on it within a month, but I managed to train enough prerequisites that when I went to EVEMon to check out how long it would take me to go full bore with a Buzzard, it turned out to be just under 10 days.

In fact, to fly just to Buzzard just two hours of training distant, so I was able to hop into the Caldari covert ops ship almost right away to do my probing.

Buzzard in flight

Buzzard in flight

And in little over a week I added the skills to make it a serious exploration ship, with the key item being the Covert Ops Cloaking device.  It is nice to be able to warp when cloaked.

The Buzzard is currently fitted as follows:

High

Mid

Low

Rig

Now I just have to get a little more adept at the actual pobing mechanism and find something on which I can actually try out the Analyzer and Codebreaker.  And, of course, work on just a few more skills.  Always more skills.

A Not So Fabulous Turn of Events

Reynaldo Fabulous has been pressing ahead with his training, tying up all of the learning skills in his plan by Saturday.  He trained up the first and second tier learning skills up to level 4 for everything by Charisma.  It was time to start the trek to Gallente Industrial V.

The only prerequisite left Gallente Frigate III, then five Gallente Industrial skills in a row, with the last being about 14 days.

Of course the first three went by quickly.  I queued up the fourth, which ran over a day, as soon as I could.

Finally, I went to queue up the level five skill and ran into a problem.

Previously there had been a loophole in the training bonus given to new characters.

You get double training speed up to 1.6 million skill points, after which you are, in theory, caught up to the people who rolled characters in the past that came with around 800K or skillpoints.  But any skill you started before you hit the 1.6 million point would continue to train at double speed.  So, if you were aware of this, you could wait until you got close to the end point of your double speed training and start up a really long skill and continue to benefit long after your bonus should have ended.

A bonus bonus.

In hindsight, you would think that CCP would have seen this one coming, knowing the EVE Online player base as they do.  And even without that, I have to think there was a test case somewhere that would have shown what happened when somebody tried to queue a skill that went beyond the limit.  It is called boundary checking and people in QA ignore it at their peril.  Somehow though they missed it, or didn’t think it was important, and ended up having to fix it after the fact.

Now, the logical, independent of code complications, fix to me would be to just apply a 2x multiplier to any skillpoints trained up to and including the 1.6 millionth, and after that they run at a normal rate.

Of course, long experience has taught me that the logical fix can often be quite difficult.  Sometime you end up with the expedient fix instead.  That appears to be what we got.

Last night when I went to queue up Gallente Industrial V, I got this error:

No Gallente Industrial V today
The rather blunt force fix to the exploit seems to be simply to not allow you to start training a skill that will take you beyond the 1.6 million skillpoint barrier with the bonus, unless agree to throw away any remaining bonus.

Gallente Industrial V is an 800K skillpoint skill.  If I start training it now I will essentially be throwing away almost 500K of double speed trainin.  That is about one third of what you get, since you start with around 80K skillpoints.  So I don’t want to do that!

Now I am going to be delayed in being able to fly the Iteron V.

And I also have to spend some time with EVEMon figuring out the optimum set of skills to train to ensure I waste the least amount of my remaining 500K double speed skill points.

Certainly this is not the worst situation ever foisted onto an MMO player base, but this double skillpoint routine is part of the NEW USER EXPERIENCE.  This is yet another parameter with which somebody new to EVE Online is going to have contend.

And the “slap in the face” aspect of this whole fix, and there always has to be a “slap in the face” now doesn’t there, is that people who queued up long skills before the patch introduce this change did not get interrupted.  No, really!  One of the people in our little corp queued up a long skill on a new character that was close to the limit right before the patch.  After the patch he was still trucking along at double speed.

Now, if I had been the product manager… or producer in the game world I guess… and someboday had come to me and said that they were going to fix this exploit by adding more complexity  for new players while allowing everybody who was in the process of using the exploit to carry on and get the benefit, I might have pushed for a different solution.

One decision model that we have used at various companies at which I have worked laid things out into four categories, listed here in descending desirability:

  1. Right Action, Right Reasons
  2. Right Action, Wrong Reasons
  3. Wrong Action, Right Reasons
  4. Wrong Action, Wrong Reasons

An organization that hits on the first item, they do the right thing, and they do it for the right reasons, is doing well.  We all want to be doing that as often as possible.  However, most places I have worked that have done well end up doing the second quite a bit.  That is getting lucky.

CCP’s solution to this issue seems, to me, to be in the third category.  The problem needed to be fixed, right reason, but the actual solution is… sub-optimal in my opinion.  It puts a burden on a group of people least able to cope with it, the new players in EVE.

Again, certainly not the worst thing ever.  Players will get past it.  I doubt anybody would quit based on this fix alone.  But it is annoying, and sometimes it is the preponderance of little things rubbing the wrong way that makes people walk away from a game.

Anyway, I have to go figure out my plan for those 500K skillpoints.  I think I can get to 1,595,259 skill points and contribute to my next goal (a Hulk, of course) without training any skills I do not need.

Sleepless in Orgrimmar

I couldn’t get to sleep last night.

I don’t know why.  It was just one of those nights when sleep didn’t seem like it was headed my way.  My wife was out cold, my daughter was sleeping soundly, the cats were relatively peaceful, but I just couldn’t get in the zone.

My personal rule of thumb is that after 90 minutes of failing to get to sleep I get up and do something else for a while until I feel like the time is right.

My usual plan is to go sit out on the couch and read.  However I am in something of dry spell for reading material at the moment.  I went in to my office to pick something out, perhaps one of the Derek Robinson novels that have served me well in the past, when I looked at the computer and remembered the time.

“It is after midnight” I thought to myself, “I could go run the cooking and fishing dailies again!”  So I booted up the computer and went to work.

Dalaran still doesn’t agree with my computer.  Even with all the settings turned down with the low, late night population, I still got locked up and had to reboot twice.  I have gone so far as to swap out the ATi 4850 for an nVidia 250 GTS card and tinkered with drivers, such that I could with two later model cards, all to no avail.  The same bad behavior on both cards.  Dalaran was perfectly reasonable, if a bit laggy, with my old 8800GT.  Now I have to pull out my work issue laptop with its ancient x300 video card if I want to be crash-free in Dalaran.

But I got through the fishing and cooking dailies there, then did the two similar dailies in Shattrath.

Those out of the way, I still had a bit more left in me.  I thought about what I should do, then decided I ought to clean up the achievement I mentioned in the previous post and go fishing in Orgrimmar.

I headed out to assault the front gate of the horde city again wearing only my tabbard and bunny ears.

I nearly made it to the Valley of Honor, the one place I could recall that had a body of water in the city, without dying.  I outrode the gate guards and ended up standing at the junction between the valley and the Drag safe and out of combat.

Then as I was getting my fishing pole out thinking I might make the last run and be able to fish without dying, a blood elf paladin came up behind me and did me in.  Ah well.

I managed to move my corpse forward to the water before that same pally caught me and killed me again.  Fortunately they were gone when I got back to my corpse, so I was able to revive in a discreet corner of the lake in the Valley of Honor and fish away.

Don't mind me, I'm just fishing

Don't mind me, I'm just fishing

All I needed was one fish and the achievement was mine.

FishingDiplomat
That done, all I needed to do was use my hearthstone and be on my way.  But I decided to be a cowboy and attempted to ride on back out of Orgrimmar.

I nearly made it, too.

But I decided to showboat a bit and road through a group of horde players standing outside of the bank.  It turned out one of them was actually awake and hit me with a hamstring so the guards could pound me.  It took another run back, a revive, and a bubble to get me back out of the city to a point where I could recall.

Of course, this morning I got a couple of comments on my last post indicating that the other entrance to Orgrimmar is the preferred way to get in if you are alliance.  Well, I was already done and had fun doing it, so it was all fine in the end.

And that was enough for me to get to sleep at last.

Things to do in Orgrimmar When You’re Naked

I was not the only one in our little guild feeling the post-Noblegarden achievement buzz, or so it seemed.  I logged on Sunday after our Azjol-Nerub run to find Skronk and Ula in the midst of an assault on Orgrimmar in search of an achievement.

They weren’t after Thrall or anything crazy.

When Blizzard introduced the achievements a lot of things that you might have done before they were part of the game did not get recorded.  That includes, for us, almost all of the instances we did.  So they were looking at the list that we were going to have to redo and saw one we had not done.  They wanted Ragefire Chasm.

Of course, the reason we had not done it is that the instance is located deep within Orgrimmar, one of the horde capital cities.  But, being a quiet Sunday afternoon, it seemed as likely a time as any to give it a go.

Getting to Ragefire Chasm involved stripping down to avoid damage to our equipment and running through Orgrimmar until we died.  Actually, we left our tabards on so as not to terrorize the local population too much.  Noblegarden bunny ears were also worn to give the whole thing a festive appearance. (Those bunny ears are the best head gear ever, even beating out my animal fur trimmed pimp hat in my opinion.)

Once dead, we would run back to our corpses, revive at an opportune moment, and run a bit further into the city, thus moving the ball forward with each death.

Our Route into Orgrimmar

Our Route into Orgrimmar

Ula and Skronk had some bad luck inititally and only made it to about the auction house while Vikund, wearing tabard, bunny ears, and mounted on his swift Zhevra, made it all the way to The Drag before falling to the city guards.

Running back to Orgrimmar

Running back to Orgrimmar

It turned out that the corpses of Skronk and I ended up pretty close together, so we coordinated our next move forward.  He revived, bubbled himself, mounted, and raced ahead pulling the guards with him.  Then Vikund revived, mounted up and followed in Skronk’s wake.  We had a clear shot to the instance and were going to make it when Blizzard stuck it to us yet again.

rfcinstances
So close.

Ula moved herself up in the chaos and we all ran back through the city and debated how long to wait until we revived.  Death would be quick as two guards were camping our corpses.  Skronk tried running into the instance as a ghost only to find that reset him back out in Durotar again, giving him the joy of running back to his corpse without actually having the fun of dying.

We got lucky though, and were able to get an instance to launch for us after only a couple of tries.

In the name of being sporting, we remained unarmored for our run through the instance, wielding only silly things, such as my fishing pole.  Okay, it is a pretty devestating fishing pole, but it does not allow me to do any of my special paladin weapon attacks.  Not that I needed it.  We area attacked our way through the instance, mowing down very low level elites until we came upon a bigger than average guy whose death gave us the achievement we desired.

rfcach
Tradition dictated that we take our picture after killing the main boss, so here we are, attired for adventure in Ragefire Chasm.

Naked Aggression Rewarded

Naked Aggression Rewarded

Now, if I had been thinking, I would have run over to some open water in Orgrimmar and quickly fished to get the achievement for catching a fish in both Stormwind and Orgrimmar.  But that will have to wait for another time.

We then went off and knocked out the Scarlet Monastery achivement.  We had done that instance ages ago, but it was in the pre-achievement days so did not get counted.  That run also let us pick up quite a few of the books you need to read for yet another achievement.  They were mostly in the Library wing, of course.

With Mother’s Day though, we did not do a Northrend instance last week and Earl has a couple of weddings to attend this month, so we will be on a short instance hiatus in WoW.  We’ll probably keep it light and work on some other silly achievements in the mean time.

LOTRO Bullroarer Performance Event

A  note about Lord of the Rings Online found its way to my in box last night regarding an event they will be hosting tomorrow on the test server.

An image clip from the email

An image clip from the email

Turbine will be running an performance test on the test server and wants to get people to log on and help.  To encourage this, they are giving away prizes to a few lucky participants who log in between 9pm and 11pm Eastern Time.  You can read about the details, rules, and prizes here.

Unfortunately, the way things go for me, I am rarely home before 7pm Pacific time, which translates to 10pm Eastern, so my participation will be unlikely as I have prior bed time story commitments.  Such is life, living on a sphere and all.   Any time you pick will be inconvenient for somebody.  But should you be able to log in, you might actually win something like a new video card.

And, as they always say, no purchase is necessary and void where prohibited.

Except for the game, which you will have had to have purchased already, right?