Monthly Archives: May 2009

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?

Back to Battle.net

I noticed on the World of Warcraft start page that Blizzard was letting people opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.

BNetOptIn

For a long period StarCraft was THE game at the office and so while I have not played much in the RTS genre for quite some time (the genre being somewhat stagnant in my opinion) I thought I would like to go back to StarCraft.  In fact, if the original StarCraft played in a resolution higher than 640×480 I might consider loading up the original again.  But it is painful to look at the game blown up on a 1600×1200 LCD monitor.  So on to the beta.

But to opt-in for a chance to be in the beta I had to go create an account on the latest version of Blizzard’s Battle.net.

Battle.net has been around for almost 12 years, coming out in conjunction with Diablo.  I have made a number of accounts on the service over the years, but they used to expire if left inactive for a set duration, so they were all long gone.

With Blizzard not shipping a new game besides World of Warcraft in almost seven years, and with WoW not requiring Battle.net, it seemed to me that the service was set to wither away eventually. (Though with StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III all showing up regularly on the X-Fire monthly stats, that eventuality might have been pretty distant.)

But now with two new games announced, StarCraft II and Diablo III (okay, new sequels as opposed to new games I suppose), Battle.net seems to be getting a new lease on life.  Blizzard wants it to become the unified logon for its games, including World of Warcraft.

So I headed to Battle.net site to create an account.

One of the first things I noticed was that your account name has to be an email address.  I have mixed feelings about this.  An email address is probably something people will remember.  On the other hand, and email address is also something other people are likely to know, so there is a bit of a security concern.

Myself, I have enough email addresses that I could pick out an obscure one that I use only to deflect spam for my logon, which was actually an improvement for me from the aspect of security.  When I made my WoW account I didn’t think I would stick with the game, so used a rather easy to guess (if you know me) user name.  Now that is gone.  And, in an experiment, I saw that Blizzard lets you change your email address… and thus your logon… relatively easily.  Perhaps a bit too easily.

And Blizzard has their authenticator option available if security is a concern.  I may look into that.

Still, with that in mind, an unified account for Blizzard products still seemed like a good idea to me.  I created the Battle.net account then merged my WoW account with it, which changed the logon for WoW immediately.

Then I noticed that I could add more games to the unified account.  So I grabbed some CDs off the shelf an added Diablo II, the Diablo II expansion, and StarCraft.

The Games

The Games

Akin to how SOE handles games with their  Station Launcher (which has been in beta long enough for me to think that Google must have created it) and somewhat reminiscent of Steam, Battle.net keeps all your game keys so you can access them online at any time as well as download the associated game if you need.

Now if it would just keep me from having to stick the physical CD in the PC I would be happy.  Of course, I would think that would be the case if they are letting your download the software.  It doesn’t make much sense to let you download and then require you to find the physical disk.  Maybe I should give it a try.

And, after all that, I went to the beta profile settings to opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  You actually have to download and run a little utility that profiles you system.  I did that, checked the appropriate boxes, and went on my way.

Of course, the actual likelyhood of my getting into the StarCraft II beta is microscopic, but we shall see.  Maybe I will download StarCraft from Battle.net, just to see if I need the CD.

Blizzard Poaches from PopCap

Ars Technica reported this morning that Blizzard is bringing on board PopCap Games VP Greg Canessa.

That Blizzard is hiring from ultra casual game developer PopCap no doubt confirms in the minds of some the direction Blizzard has been heading for a while. (roll stock forum posts about dumbing down WoW and footage of Bejeweled AddOns.)

Of course, Mr. Canessa was largely responsible for moving PopCap games on to console platforms.  Maybe that has meaning?

Or maybe Mr. Canessa wanted to change the focus of his career, and what better place to go than the top entry on the Develop 100 list of “most bankable game development studios.”  PopCap is # 35 on the list.

A few other MMO developers made that list.  EA Mythic is in at #55 and CCP is a bit further down at #70.

But Blizzard is in there at #1.

Playboy Themed MMO… erm… MCOG?

Because Second Life is getting paranoid on the subject?

From The Register:

Always wondered what Hugh Hefner’s life’s like? You could soon find out, because a Playboy-themed “Massively Casual Online Game” (MCOG) is in development.

Although it’s unlikely to displace World of Warcraft, EVE or Ultima, Playboy Manager will see you play a crack talent agent who must manage the career of some of Playboy’s hottest up-and-coming models.

You’ll compete against other players to help guide your chosen model’s career toward her ultimate goal – becoming a world-renowned Playmate with a permanent room in the Playboy Mansion.

Said to combine “the best elements of trading card and turn-based gaming”, Playboy Manager will also feature exclusive Playboy content, such as steamy videos and photos.

Will there be other features for the ‘I read it for the articles’ brigade, we wonder?

You may want to think twice about where you play the MCOG though, because the game’s publisher, Jolt, has suggested you “play it during a lecture, on your phone or even in the office”.

Playboy Manager will be launched globally this summer and you can register online to take part. ®

I think you can assume that link is NSFW regardless of what the publisher has to say.

And MCOG?  Did we need another acronym for massive titles?

Anyway, commence jokes regarding the character creation tool.

Fabulous in Space

I picked up a copy of the new “box on the store shelf” version of EVE Online.

I actually bought it a few weeks back, shortly after it came out, but have been sitting on it wondering what I ought to do.  Finally I decided that what I needed out of a third account, at least in the short term, was a dedicated hauler in an Iteron Mark V, hopefully in time to support The Expedition.

And so Reynaldo Fabulous came to EVE Online.

Hot shot hauler pilot to be!

Hot shot hauler pilot to be!

And I got to experience the “new” new player experience.

At the character creation end of things they tried to trim things down to keep new players from facing a wall of text, but they may have gone a bit far.

You start off choosing your race.

The Selection

The Selection

But the information given about each race in the mouse-over text doesn’t tell you much about each race.

Amarr is the largest empire in New Eden, solely devoted to God, Emperor, and the spread of their faith.

The Caldari State is the epitome of civic duty and ruthless efficiency.

Championing freedom and liberty across the universe, the Gallente Federation is the only true democracy in New Eden.

Breaking free of Amarrian subjugation, the Minmatar Republic is a nation of resilient, ingenious, and hard working people who thrive on a tribal culture.

While perhaps offering brief insights into the nature of each empire, I am not sure if anything said really reflects what influences actual game play beyond how agents of a given empire greet you when you want a mission.

You really need some tangible differentiation.  I suggest the following:

Amarr – Their spaceships actually look like what you think a spaceship should look like, plus they shoot frickin’ lasers!

Caldari – You get a wide choice of slow asymmetrical ships that shoot missiles.  But you don’t have to do much to hit with a missile.

Gallente – The French in space.  Really, that is all you need to know.

Minmatar – They fly really fast ships that look like they were welded together in a junkyard.  It is like The Road Warrior meets Star Wars.

I went with Gallente because I don’t necessarily find “French” a pejorative, because I actually like the looks of the Citroën DS, and because I wanted primarily to fly one of their ships.  On the last I assumed that starting as Gallente would give me a leg up on that goal.

Then you have to choose a bloodline, because inter-breeding is apparently a no-no in New Eden.  This is a choice out of three, none of which have a description worth mentioning.  I chose Gallente as my blood line, since then Reynaldo would be Gallente Gallente and look like he should be in Duran Duran.  Neither Intaki nor Jin-Mei offered anything as amusing.

Then there is the choice of ancestry.  You can pick from Activist, Miner, or Immigrant.  Man, these people really are French!  I went with “Miner” in hopes of being among the third of the population who actually keeps the republic going.

And then you get to choose your sex, which as far as I know, only affects your avatar creation choices.

You do not get to do anything with your attributes.  That is completely out of the character creation process now.  As far as I can tell, they just balance them all evenly and send you on your way.  You do, however, get two attribute resets after your character is created.  After the second one you have to wait for a full year before you get another shot and attribute changes.

If you chose male, you are then presented with an avatar that looks remarkably like Darren from The Common Sense Gamer, which you then must alter to shake that particular “I’m playing as Darren” thought.

Once you are done making your “not Darren” avatar, you can enter the game.  You actually have the option now to start in a station or in space.  However, the drop down menu for that is so small and dwarfed by the “Enter Game” button that I am going to bet that no more that 20% of people will ever notice it is there.

Not that it matters, because once you start the tutorial, you’ll be going between space and station on command.

The tutorial.

I honestly couldn’t bring myself to go all the way through another version of the EVE Online tutorial.  I got far enough in to see that they bring you up to speed on some useful things.  For example, almost immediately they give you a damage control I module that you cannot fit because you don’t have the right skills.  Then they give you the skill you need to use the module.  22 minutes later, after training the skill, you can actually put it on the ship.

Now if the tutorial had really been true to the game, it would have added one more tab that said, “Get used to this, you’ll experience it over and over again!” in big red letters.

I went as far as getting the first mission.  I decided I did not want to start making enemies just yet so I flew off to one of the university stations where they sell skills.  Then I logged on my main, sent Reynaldo 20 million ISK.  With that I bought a stack of learning skills and started laying the groundwork for my ongoing training plan.  There is about a week of getting all of the learning skills up to level IV, then I can start on the path to the Iteron Mark V.

In the mean time I can fly around in my new InterBus shuttle, one of the special items you get with the EVE Online box edition.

The InterBus gives you wings

The InterBus gives you wings

And, just to close the loop, the actual time advantage one gets towards the Iteron Mark V by starting as Gallente is just over 2 hours.

Ah well, time to figure out how this double training speed is really going to affect me.  So far it seems to confuse EVE Mon now and again.

Solving the Three Cat Problem

It is time for me to go to work.

My daughter is already off at school and my wife is out the door.

It is just me, three wandering cats, and a problem.

Two of the cats are our new kittens, Fred and Trixie.  The third is our older cat Oscar.

The kittens are allowed to wander our house when we are at home.  When we leave or go to bed, they have to go back in the guest room which is kitty safe enough for us to get some rest and peace of mind.

The cats are out and about and I need to get the two kittens into the guest room and keep Oscar out before I can head to the office.  I also must keep Oscar from eating the kitten food as he is a bit overweight.

Some parameters I face:

  • You may only pick up one cat at a time.  Once you pick up one cat, the other two run away.
  • The kittens will not stay in the guest room when the door is open.
  • Oscar cannot be left alone in the guest room.  He will eat the kitten food.
  • Oscar and Fred cannot be left together in the guest room with the door closed.  Fred sees a big fuzzy playmate and Oscar sees a little terrorist coming to steal his stuff.  Trouble ensues.
  • Oscar and Trixie can be left together, except in the guest room because Oscar will chase her out and eat the kitten food.  If the door is closed Oscar will still eat the kitten food.
  • Fred and Trixie are fine together, except that they chase each other all over the place, so if you lose site of them outside of the guest room (or inside if you leave the door open), you have to search for a while to reacquire them.
  • Trixie cannot be left alone in the guest room with the door closed.  She will emit plaintive cries that will melt your heart causing you to go back and check on her constantly.
  • Fred can be left alone in the guest room, but he will position himself to dart out of the room the moment you open the door.
  • The only place Oscar will stay put is on our bed, but if you put him there both kittens will run into our room and start playing under the bed where they cannot be reached.
  • If you leave the guest room door open for a long time, like when you’re out trying to corral two lively kittens that way, Oscar will walk in and eat the kitten food.
  • If you close the guest room door, you have no hope in hell of getting both kittens in the room.

How do I make sure I get to work on time?

[Pictures added below: includes a spoiler]

Continue reading

EuroGamer: Darkfall Agent Provocateur?

By now you have certainly read about EuroGamer’s review of Darkfall which was riddled with hyperbole, inconsistencies, and factual errors.  You may have also seen Aventurine’s response and how solidly EuroGamer stood up to it, pointing out that the reviewer wasn’t actually a staff writer and offering to have somebody they, you know, actually trust re-review the game.

It seems a pretty cut and dried journalistic screw up.  A lone reviewer (how many hours did he play?) cuts corners and gets called out, end of story.

But to those of us who have experience in the shadow world of deception and conspiracies and who don’t take these things at face value, there is much more here than meets the eye.  This was quite clearly a false flag operation.

And what would Aventurine have to gain by such an operation?  Clearly, there are two obvious wins.

1. Further solidification of the of the Darkfall community

2. Inoculation against further negative reviews

For the first point, the Darkfall community has spent most of its time under siege.  Years of delays and being declared “vaporware” has driven the weaker members from the Darkfall flock and forged a small and dedicated fan base.  They have been the foot troops in the public relations war that Aventurine has waged… if somewhat haphazardly… for the last few years.  It is surprisingly easy to be fanatical in the name of a game that is not live yet.

But now Darkfall is real.  The game is live.  People are playing.  Aventurine has tried to keep the player base pure by creating a false shortage.  You cannot just pick up Darkfall off the shelf at Fry’s.  No, you must run the web gauntlet in order to obtain one of the rare spots in the game.

But this has not been enough.  There has been some unrest in the ranks.  The less hard core have managed to get into the game and have begun to express their dissatisfaction.  Aventurine has seen what happens when your hard core fans lose their edge.  They not doubt witnessed how so many of the “Warhammer Faithful” turned on the game after launch.

What they needed was an external crisis, an attack on the game, something they could use to rally the troops.

So the masters at Aventurine contrived to have a major European (because they view that as their base) gaming site, EuroGamer, to give them not just a low score, but a low score based on a review written as though it were meant specifically to incite the Darkfall player community.

Did Aventurine attempt to refute anything said in the EuroGamer review?

No, they just trotted out some server logs (which they control) that indicated the reviewer spent approximately two hours playing the game, and that most of that time was spent in the character creator.  The errors did not matter.  The community would take care of that.  Aventurine just needed to sew the seeds of doubt.  EuroGamer responded that the reviewer says he spent about 9 hours playing the game, but then the review itself talks about how the game progresses after the 10 hour mark, creating a huge credibility gap.  Was it around 2, almost 9, or more than 10?

And so the Darkfall community has been up in arms, united (as Aventurine planned) in the face of this outrageous attack on their game.

The second point, while a bit more subtle, is no less important.  With this review, EuroGamer has effectively inoculated Darkfall against further such reviews.  The EuroGamer piece was so palpably bad that people who do not play Darkfall have called them out on it.  It was so over the line that it does not matter what sort of review Darkfall gets from anybody going forward.  Certainly a good review would help them, but anything negative will be now be dismissed as more bias, and half-hearted bias at that, since nobody will write anything down at the level of this obvious shot at Darkfall.

Anything negative will be shrugged off as “another EuroGamer” by the core Darkfall fanbase and any other review will probably look good compared to the EuroGamer review for the mildly disinterested people outside of the community.  Of course the Darkfall haters will pick up on any new negative review, but they will likely have supported the EuroGamer review themselves, and are thus discredited as biased.

So Aventurine’s operation appears to have been a success.  Only the details of the actual operation, secret by necessity, remain in doubt.

Was Ed Zitron Aventurine’s inside man or just a patsy?  Did he act alone?  Or was it somebody at EuroGamer pulling the strings?

Certainly EuroGamer and Aventurine both act like they want you to believe this “lone reviewer” theory.

But there is much to suggest EuroGamer complicity if not outright control of the whole process..  A conspiracy there could have easily pushed Mr. Zitron in the right direction, given him the editorial attitude of the organization, pressured him with aggressive deadlines, and even edited his review and screen shots to maximize the anger of the Darkfall community.  It seems unlikely that Mr. Zitron could have manipulated his editors in that direction.  And you can see the way that EuroGamer hung him out to dry.  He wasn’t a staff writer.  We’ll get somebody we trust to re-review the game.  We’ll make this right!

And of course EuroGamer benefits from all of this controversy, maybe even more so than Aventurine.  All those page views.  All those unique visitors.  The big boost to their page rank.  On a site that is obviously financed, at least in part, by ad revenue, these are all the right moves.  All they had to do was hire somebody from the outside who would do their dirty work for them, somebody expendable to the organization.

And so much the better if the person in question has a history of negative reviews.  Somebody you can trust to make a scene. Somebody whose Wikipedia page was deleted for being pretty much at attack on him and his character.

All we need is a smoking gun.  A way to link the conspirators together.

Yes, we have this picture of three EuroGamer editors being hauled in by the local police for littering during the “Athens Event.”

Taken into custody

They are dressed like game magazine editors...

And then there is Mr. Zitron’s work with the “Free Play for Moria” committee and its alleged connections to NC Soft which needs to be explored.

threevaga

Mr. Zitron seated on the left with fellow committee members

And if you go look at the list of anagrams that can be made from the name “Aventurine” you will see “Van Uterine,” which turns out to be one of the online handles used by a highly placed member of the EuroGamer staff.  (Plus the fact that the word “urine” is right there in Aventurine’s name!  Hah!  Darkfall, however, only comes up with “Lard Flak.”  I am not yet sure if that is significant.)

Quite clearly there is more going on here than a simple bad review!

There are those who will say I am seeing things that are not there.  But this has to be a setup!  Can’t you see that the government is reading your mail nearly everybody in this cabal got exactly what they wanted.

Aventurine got community cohesion and protection from further negative reviews. (And who knows, maybe even a follow up good review from EuroGamer… anything higher than a 6 would be a reason to declare total victory.)

EuroGamer got some Euros from all that traffic and got to wash its hands of the review at the same time.

Even Mr. Zitron got a public platform from which to rant and a bit of internet fame… something he probably thought he wanted until it was too late.

We have to work on this!  We must find the evidence to crack this conspiracy!  I already have a message in to Dave Emory on this.  We need somebody with Dave’s body of work and experience helping us smoke out the real story!

This is what real bloggers are about!

(And if you believe I am serious about this, I know where you can get a good car on Craig’s List for cheap as well!)