Monthly Archives: June 2009

June in Review

The Site

Is it the end of June already?  I know that time flying is a cliche and all, but this month only seemed like it had about 12 days in it.

The only thing I really did to the site was ad something to the right side bar (way down at the bottom) the shows the national flags of the visitors to the site.  It is silly, but it intrigues me to know that somebody from the Faroe Islands visited my blog. (Hey, can you get me Sunleif Rasmussen‘s autograph?)

You even get little “dings” for a new visitor or, even better, a new flag!

Hello Bangledesh!

Hello Bangladesh!

Yes, I am easily amused.  But I play MMOs, so that was probably apparent to some already.

The title on this side bar addition, “Release Flags of All Nations!” is something that Potshot says once in a while when we’re doing something memorable in the instance group, like unloading on some boss with every possible attack at our disposal.  Now who gets the reference?

Other than that, I ended up getting a pile of page views from a pair of sites called Condron and Alphainventions.  I cannot tell if they just offer a gimmick to drive up page views or if there is something worthwhile about the sites.  You can just go to either site and watch blog posts flick by every few seconds.  Relaxing in a way, I suppose.

One Year Ago

The big news a year back was Blizzard announcing Diablo III.  Of course, the really big news will come when they announce a ship date.  Still, we were all primed for the announcement, there having been a surge in Diablo II nostalgia at the time.

The Empyrean Age was upon us in EVE Online, if you could stay logged in.  CCP went looking for a fix and found one eventually.  When I could get a break on connectivity I went out to try a factional warfare mission.  It did not go well.  After that I moved back to Amarr space again and started in on level 4 missions.  And while that was going on, the skill point meter rolled over to 20 million.

Meanwhile, around the house, Summer began and it found us playing with LEGO and Pokemons.

Norrath was calling as SOE launched their huge Living Legacy marketing campaign.  I picked up some nifty stuff in EverQuest, but never really got rolling with EverQuest II during the promotion.  Of course, not everybody was happy about the campaign.  The phrase “a slap in the face” was used by some. I never got around to a post about that involving the prodigal son (I still have the notes) though I did wonder what sparked this campaign.

And in Azeroth the instance group struggled through the Mana Tombs and started in on the Auchenai Crypts.  We were struggling, this being long before the great re-spec of 2009.

New Linking Sites

A veritable land rush of new linking sites appeared this month.  Well, compared to last month.  I am going to save a few for next month, since I have noticed that the more I list in a post like this the less the sites in question get visited.

Thank you!  I encourage people to go take a look at these sites.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Rotom Secret Key Event
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Regigigas Event at Toys R Us
  5. Shaymin Event at Toys R Us
  6. Which Game Was I Playing?
  7. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  8. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  9. 2009 MMORPG Progdictionations
  10. Mount Up Sooner, Race Through the Outlands
  11. The Reluctant R&D Agent
  12. What Would You Do for a Pet in WoW?

Search Term of the Month

ancient sewer
[You have been here before I see.]

Spam Comments of the Month

/yawn
[Nearly fooled me into approving since most comments with spam links are very positive in tone.]

Tired of a competitor’s site? Hinder the enemy? Fed pioneers or copywriters?
Kill their sites! How? We will help you in this!
Obstructions of any site, portal, shop!
[Denial of service attacks, only $70 per 24 hours.  You can buy anything on the internet!]

EVE Online

It has been something of a slow month for me in EVE Online.  Training goes on as well as lining up the capital for the w-space venture.  Fortunately I spent a chunk of time in May stocking up my inventory for sale, so there has been a reasonable amount of cash coming while I’ve been idle.

On the other hand, Gaff has had some tales to tell about 0.0 space, a couple of which he has actually posted, so I have kept my hand in somewhat vicariously.

World of Warcraft

WoW was the only game I spent much time with over the last month.  The instance group kept up weekly appearances in Azeroth.  And though we have been down a person lately, we still find ways to get in trouble as a foursome.

As for my other regular group, my mother and daughter, we have… erm… breadth and depth I suppose.  My mom has one character almost to 50 and another holding around the 40 mark waiting for my daughter to catch up.  My daughter though… she won’t focus on one character.  She keeps making alts.  She runs off to other servers.  It all sounds vaguely familiar.  It all sounds like the way I used to play.  Now is it nature or nurture that is causing that?

Nintendo DS

Our daughter was banned from TV and the computer for a week after going Veruca Salt on my wife.  After most of a day went by she realized that the DS had not been put in time out as well, so out came the Pokemon.  Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, and Pokemon Diamond seemed to be the three favorites for the week, though I heard the bark of Nintendogs and the whir of the blender in Cooking Mama as well.  I had to get out my own DS to do some battles with her.  Oddly enough, Pokemon Platinum was low on the list.  In the MMO spirit, she is more invested in Diamond so isn’t so keen to move on.

Coming Up

I suspect that July will be a light month for me when it comes to posts.  We have a vacation planned plus work is very busy.  There is a correlation between my planning vacation time and work suddenly getting hectic.  It is somehow related to the rule that says I should always plan my vacations on the first product ship date we target, since history shows we will never ship on that date.

Anyway, I will keep the weekly instance group posts going.  The log of our weekly exploits and foibles is one of the cornerstones of the site.

No LAN Play in StarCraft II?!?!?!

New details were released about StarCraft II and Ars Technica has a round up.

The good stuff sounds… good.  Epic single player battles sound great.  And some of the negatives, like no port to consoles don’t really bother me.  I cannot picture myself playing an RTS in front of the TV.  But there there was this bit about support for LAN play in SC2:

Rob Pardo is the VP of Game Design, and he had strong words for LAN play when he spoke with IncGamers. “We don’t have any plans to support LAN,” he told the site, also saying, “We will not support it.”

Um… but Rob… LAN play at the office, where access to Battle.net was iffy at best, represents probably 80% of my multi-player time with the original StarCraft.

Okay, let me breath into a brown paper bag and calm down.

The game hasn’t shipped yet.  Things could change.  I remember back when Diablo II was announced Blizzard said they were only going to support advanced graphics via the 3dfx video cards, then changed their mind.

But then 3dfx tanked right about that time as well.

Meanwhile they are also talking about monetizing Battle.net with microtransactions, so who knows what we’ll end up with, though if I am going to pay anything for Battle.net it better include reduced lag.  That was the main reason we stuck to the LAN.

Shut Up We’re Talking #50

Shut Up We’re Talking,” one of the podcasts in the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective, celebrates its 50th show this week!

Regular hosts Darren from The Common Sense Gamer and Karen from Journey’s with Jaye were joined by Brent, the reclusive Howard Hughes father figure of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective, Michael Zenke, formerly of Massively and who is now working on fun stuff as part of the SOE team in Austin, Jonathan from the “Through the Aftermath” podcast, and myself.

Topics:

  • Introductions – Includes a poem from Karen to celebrate the 50th show/second year of SUWT
  • Listener Mail – From SmakenDahed and DestroyerDestroyer
  • What We’re Playing
  • Changing of the Guard at Mythic – We talk about the departure of Mark Jacobs from Mythic and EA as well as the return of Brad McQuaid to the spotlight.  Jonathan has a cathartic rant about the latter while I generalize about the former, referencing an excellent Scott Jennings post.
  • RMT Again – We then go on, again, about RMT and alternative subscription models in light of the major changes with Dungeons & Dragons Online and the release of Free Realms.  We’re mostly excited about the DDO changes, but that is coming from people who see buying D&D modules as a natural part of life.
  • Blog of the weekOf Teeth and Claws, go give it a visit.
  • Show Close
  • Out Takes – Michael runs amok

You can get the show via iTunes of download it directly here!

Congratulations to the SUWT team for 50 great shows!

Caverns of Time and the Botanica

Another foursie group on Saturday night sent us back to the Outlands for a bit more instance backfilling while Earl got some rest.  It is tough to blame him for missing once in a while since we start playing at midnight his time every Saturday.  He’s the young guy in the group, but nobody stays young forever.

So that left the Left Coast Quartet to carry on:

76 Priest – Skronk
76 Warlock – Bungholio
77 Mage – Ula
77 Paladin – Vikund

A check of the Instances by Level list showed that Shattered Halls was the next instance in our queue.  But it also requires a key which has a quest chain behind it which we have not yet run down.  Wanting to get straight to the action, we moved on to the next instance, The Caverns of Time: Opening the Dark Portal, also know by its location, the Black Morass.

I suppose this wasn’t exactly going back to the Outlands since the Caverns of Time are in Tanaris.  But it is Burning Crusade content.

We had been to the Caverns of Time on more than a couple of occasions, so we knew how to get there.  We did not, however, do any reading up front so were not sure how things were going to play out.

We grabbed a quest for the instance on the way in, found the right instance swirl, and then spent 10 minutes trying to get in.  We were back to the old “Additional instances cannot be launched, please try again later” routine, only it seemed to be worse than usual.  A busy night for instances I guess. Eventually though Blizzard relented and let us in.

Once in, we spoke to the quest mob at the door… he must have been the butler… and then headed towards a likely looking portal thing we could see in the middle distance.

There we spoke to a guy named Medivh who said something that essentially seemed to mean, “Cover me!”  We stood around for a minute or so, waiting for something to happen. Then some dragonkin began wandering in from one of the flanks.  We killed them while looking for the source.  There was a swirl in the air and a mob called a “Rift Keeper” standing next to it, so we figured that must be the target.

Upon killing him, a counter at the top of our screens incremented.  It seemed that we would be doing this at least 17 more times since we had just advanced to 2 of 18.

It turned out that at every sixth rift came with a boss.  We did well enough against the first one but had a rough go with the second, with Bung and Vikund getting killed.  Fortunately there is a fairly long delay after each of the bosses, so Skronk was able to bring us back before the next rift came along.

Rift Count and Shield Status

Rift Count and Shield Status

Back up we got through the next six battles including the last boss and… well… we were done.  Achievement.

CBODPachi

There we were, standing before the portal.  A host of orcs came wandering through, but they turned around and left.  I would have too, the place was a dump.  But when we tried to follow them, we just ended up at the backside of the portal.

Defective Portal

Defective Portal

Out of that the only look worth mentioning is the Mask of Inner Fire, which dropped off of the first boss.  And the only reason it is worth a mention is because it just looks cool.  Vikund won the roll for it and I am keeping it as part of his ever growing hat collection.

The Mask of Inner Fire!

The Mask of Inner Fire!

That done, it was still early for us, so we decided to go for two.  Ula opened a portal to Shattrath for us, and while we were there, it was decided that those who did not have the Going Down? achievement should pick it up.

I showed everybody where I had done it, jumping of the Scryers area and landing on an awning below.  It turned out though that only Ula was missing that achievement, so it was gnome free fall time.  Unfortunately she missed the awning.  Twice.

Ballistic Gnome

Ballistic Gnome

And then when she did hit the awning, she didn’t get the achievement.  So, once we stopped laughing (you should have seen her bounce off of that structure in the picture above) we decided to shelve that achievement for the time being and move on to the Botanica wing of Tempest Keep.

The Botanica did not turn out to be that hard for our group of four.  We hand’t picked up any of the quests for the instance, so we just burned our way through to Warp Splinter, the final boss, without slowing down.  There were four bosses in before him, but none were that tough.  We’ll have to go back and do this one in Heroic mode at some point.

Warp Splint and his minions in the last fight faded before our damage and soon another achievement was ours.

CBBotAchi
The loot, just for Coppertopper, was:

CBBotLoot

And that brought us to the end of the evening.  We just had to take our traditional victory shot.

Warp Splinter Down

Warp Splinter Down

This coming weekend, if we’re all available, it will be time for Violet Hold.

I Like WoW Pets, But Not That Much

The latest attempt to milk the World of Warcraft license comes from Figure Prints, which is now has 3D models of three of the in-game companion pets up for sale.

Pets for a Price

Pets for a Price

I can appreciate their offer to sell you a 3D sculpture of your WoW character.   Although I am not keen enough on them to put down the $130 to have any of my characters immortalized in resin, I can see the appeal. (At least you don’t have to enter the lottery I mentioned back in November to get one made these days.)

But to drop another $25 to have a companion pet in tow on your bookshelf or desk, I just can’t get there.

And this is just Series 1 and is available only through July 31st, at which point I am going to guess we’ll see Series 2.  Bets on which three companion pets that will contain?  I am going to guess it will be Mr. Wiggles, Pengu, and the Worg Pup.

A Midsummer Night’s Spree

In Azeroth (and the Outlands) the Midsummer Fire Festival is upon us.  You would think a company in Irvine would be a little skittish about summer fires, much of our state being a constant blaze during the dry season, but maybe that is the source of the inspiration.  A little bit of black humor perhaps?

The telltale signs of the Midsummer Fire Festival

The telltale signs of the Midsummer Fire Festival

Anyway, the event is akin in some ways to the Lunar Festival.  Rather than running around and honoring the scattered elders for event currency, you run around and honor… well… fires… which are located near, but not in, various settlements.  You ride up, talk to the guy with the exclamation point over his or her head (the local Flamewarden), collect your experience, your cash, a few burning blossoms (the currency… talk about money burning a hole in your pocket… I can’t believe I made that joke, I swore I wouldn’t…), and off you go.

The Alliance flamewarden and bonfire in the Dustwallow Marsh

The Alliance flamewarden and bonfire in the Dustwallow Marsh

There are a few other things you can do.  You can juggle fire.  You can throw fire.  You can dance around the fire pole.

And you can go desecrate the opposing faction’s bonfires.

That last bit is actually the fun part.

Since the bonfires are often located close to horde camps (as the alliance ones are often close to alliance outposts) there is a certain amount of risk involved since the moment you’re done with the desecration, you are flagged PvP and it is open season in you for five minutes.

Sunday morning when the whole thing started this was no big deal.  The only ones running after flames and bonfires were the hard core achievers, so there was some waving to the opposing faction but almost no conflict.  Then as the day wore on, the killers got involved.  There was fresh, flagged meat to be had.

By that time I had stopped running Vikund through the festival fun, fearing that the experience gains would level him up ahead of the instance group.  Instead I decided it might be a good time for alts.

I ended up getting out a couple of me “stuck in the 40s” alts, a 41 druid and a 42 rogue.

I made a point of picking up all of the alliance flamewarden updates with them that I could.  In the Eastern Kingdoms it was possible with a character in the low 40s to pick them all up for the achievement and maximum experience.  On Kalimdor though, Silithus and Winterspring are a bit tough for a character of that level to approach.

And then there were the horde bonfires.  The ones that were in close proximity with their alliance counterpart, like the ones near Booty Bay or Gadgetzen, were generally unguarded.  But the ones that stood alone or that were sites of traditional struggles, they ended up being a challenge at time.

Both of my characters had to dodge and run from higher level players at the Tauren Mill.  Both got away from the scene, though my druid got popped making his way up the canyon to the Hinterlands.

My druid got caught again on the road through Feralas by a group of horde players.  I managed to dodge them for over a minute before a consecrating Blood Elf Paladin got me cornered and finished me off.

In Trisfal Glades my rogue got into a long chase with a Blood Elf hunter that he only lost because I decided to stop and desecrate the Silverpine bonfire while I was passing by, enough of a delay to get me killed.

And at the Crossroads in The Barrens my rogue ended up playing hide and seek with another Blood Elf hunter (what is it with the Blood Elves?  Is being too pretty making them over compensate?) both getting to the bonfire and then getting away.  I was surprised to actually make it out of that one alive.

I even ended up deciding on a couple of survival tactics, the prime one being to avoid any road that runs directly between any horde and alliance camps.  They tend to be traveled by players already flagged PvP, 90% of whom are much higher level than me.

The other tactic involves a quick escape.  When you bring up the quest page to desecrate a bonfire, you get dismounted.  However, you can resummon your mount before you complete the quest, so you can be riding away just as you get flagged PvP.  Not a sure fire tactic, since every single player who has been after me has been on an epic mount (when are we getting th0se level 40 epic mounts?), but it gives me a bit of a chance to get out of site, stealth, and lose them.

After running through Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, my rogue was level 44 and my druid level 43.

Then today I read that they reset all the flags for the various camps to fix an issue with people who ran the quests last year, so I will be able to get out there with my rogue and do it all again.

And I am even relearning a bit about playing a rogue.  It has been nearly two years since I had him out in the field.

So not a bad deal for a silly WoW holiday.

The Achievement Cha-Cha

It ought to come as no surprise if you have read this blog for a while that I am fond of the achievement system in World of Warcraft.

Despite the fact that I rank higher as an “explorer” in the Bartle Test, achievements do tend to drive my actions.  Of course, I tend to view exploring different places, having seen the world as it were, as an achievement, so it is no doubt more a matter of  how I interpret the questions that is mucking up my results.

My Bartle Test results - Explorer!

My Bartle Test results - Explorer!

And it is not just in WoW that I like achievements.  In EverQuest II I had a reasonable pile of server first and three game-wide first achievements.  They were almost all related to trade skills where the different tiers of quality (all of this was pre-Live Update 24 which started the big move towards trade skill sanity) allowed for many ways to grab a server first.  My initial game-wide first involved my Woodworker taking a rare (and expensive) component and making the medium quality version of an trade skill item that had just been introduced to the game.

So, yes, I like achievements and will squander valuable resources both in-game (gold or rare harvests) and out (time) to get them.

And yet I have problems with most achievement systems.

In Lord of the Rings Online the achievements are a bit grindy.  (Not that some of the WoW achievements are not grindy.)  Plus you tend to zoom past some of them as you level up, so to go back and get them you have to slaughter mass quantities of no experience mobs.  I tend to find that a bit tough since gaining experience and levels counts as an achievement in my book as well, though one I am not so good at sticking to, so I tend to prefer achievements that give me experience AND something shiny.

Warhammer Online went the hidden achievement route (as did LOTRO for their emote based titles), which seems a bit counter-intuitive to me.  The achiever in me likes to have a nice laundry list of potential tasks.  That is the enticement, the fact that I know I’ll get a shiny if only I can find some way to fall 65 yards and live. (And maybe get a two-fer if I bandage myself quick while my health is under 5%!)  The object of these achievements is to say, “Here are 101 crazy things to do when you’re bored and we’ll acknowledge when you’ve done them.”  The Tome of (Hidden) Knowledge doesn’t give you that list until after the fact.  Some people like that, I don’t.

The vast majority of EverQuest II achievements are of the server first variety, which is great and satisfying if you’re the person who gets it.  But once it has been taken it is gone, never to be seen again.  EQ2 also has a series of achievement-like things that award titles and the like.  But titles, while a nice and obvious sign of achievement, get out of control fast pretty fast in EQ2.  I have characters with piles of titles.  And, of course, you can only display one title at a time. (Two at a time, I suppose, if you get a prefix and suffix title.)

EVE has an achievement-like in its certificates, though since they are relegated to the largely off-line training mechanism of EVE, I have not found certificate chasing a very compelling hobby.

And then there is WoW, with its bright and shiny achievement system that puts up awards for things you were going to do anyway (made level 10!  trained for a mount!), to things you might not do without the shiny dangling before you (yesterday’s explorer title or the loremaster title), to some things that only the most dedicated player might go after (killing all the rare spawn mobs in the Outlands or Northrend for example), with some goofiness mixed in for fun.

Yet as enamored as I am with the WoW achievements, I can still find problems.

Currently in Azeroth the Midsummer holiday event is running, though they must use a different calendar in Azeroth since according to my calendar summer just started.  Anyway, with this event there is the usual set of achievements offered to players related to things you can do in celebration of Midsummer.  These events are actually pretty sweet, offering cash and experience as a reward for a range of simple to mildly dangerous activities.  For pissing on a horde bonfire, which does flag you PvP, my level 76 dwarf hunter gets 20K experience and 6 gold while honoring an alliance fire gets him 10K and 3 gold.

Level 76 Quest Rewards

Level 76 Quest Rewards

Hot stuff, so to speak.  Back of the napkin I would estimate that there is a good 2 levels of experience to be had running around honoring your own sides fires while desecrating the opposing faction’s bonfires.

What is not to like?

Well, the problem is that my main achievement collecting character is also my instance group character.  If I were to run out and scoop up all of the achievements for Midsummer with Vikund, he would end up pretty close to level 80, if not there.  But our instance group tries to stick together when it comes to levels and I am already pushing the limit at 77.  Going to 80, or close to 80, would be seriously breaking faith with the group.

I can still run through the event and get some of the achievements with my other characters.  But their achievements are separate from the achievement’s of my main character.

So I am going to add yet another wish to my long MMO wishlist.

I would like something along the lines of an account-wide tally board for achievements.

I want to see the sum of the achievements for all of my characters.

I do not want this to replace the individual character achievement listings, but I would like some way to see the cumulative achievements across the game.

In addition to my problems with levels on my main, there are other achievement areas this would open up.

For example, I never do battlegrounds with Vikund.  I understand paladins can be reasonably effective in PvP, but when I want to do that I get out my hunter.  So my hunter has a reasonable pile of PvP achievements that I will never bother to try and pick up with my pally.

This universal achievement board could also open up achievements exclusive to the other faction.  You could see the total of both horde and alliance achievements, for those of us who play both sides of the game.  Blizzard could even add achievements for doing something on either faction or for doing something with more than one character or on more than one server.

Meta achievements.

So that is the long-winded path to my wish of the day.

Are you an achiever too?  Which MMO achievement system do you like?