Monthly Archives: July 2009

July in Review

The Site

Our summer trip came and went without much impact to the site.  This was largely due to my writing up a couple of posts in advance and then being able to monitor and approve comments via my wife’s brand new iPhone.  The 3G reception by the pool at the Marriott Grand Residences in Lake Tahoe is excellent.  My wife was able to upload pictures directly from poolside to Facebook.  Reception from the trail around Emerald Bay was a bit spotty by comparison, but still viable at points.

RubiconTrail

That is 1.7 miles, not 17 miles, to Vikingsholm, a so-called castle.  Personally, anything with only a two car garage can hardly be called a castle in my opinion, except in the “A man’s home is his castle” context.  Even the viking reference is something of a flight of fancy.  It was designed by an architect who happened to be from Sweden, and the last time I recall the Swedes behaving viking-like was back in the time of Gustavus Adolphus.  Still it was pretty, but not really exotic enough for us to cough up $5 each for the tour.  I live up the road from the Winchester Mystery House, so I might be a tough crowd in that regard.

Quote of the trip from my daughter:

You dropped me at the kids club and then left the state?

The Marriott compound is a few minutes walk from the state line between California and Nevada, so the wife and I hit the casinos on the Nevada side for all of an hour while our daughter was occupied with activities back that the resort. We actually left with more money than we had when we entered.  Imagine that.

As for changes to the site itself, on the side bar of the site you may have noticed that I changed the feeds I display.  I removed Massively’s feed.  It wasn’t because I don’t love the team over there, because they are great, but because on a lot of days the VirginWorlds feed displays almost everything on the Massively feed at the same time, so it was looking a little redundant.

To replace Massively I put the feed from Massive Blips, which is a site that tracks MMO related blog posts, including those at Massively, so stories from there may still appear in both feeds on the side bar.

The interesting thing about Massive Blips is that you can create an account and then vote for posts.  So few people seem to use this at the moment that just myself and Gaff voting can raise the visibility of a story.  Now will turn into a more focused version of Digg or just fade away over time?

One Year Ago

The mention of Diablo III seemed to spur a revival of Diablo II with the Diablo II Battle Chest taking the #1 sales spot for a time.  Not bad for a game that had not had an expansion since 2001.

Meanwhile, on the SOE front, it was time to say farewell to the EverQuest side of the Living Legacy program.  I also griped a bit about how SOE was advertising the completely out of date EverQuest Platinum on the EQ Players site and had been doing so for a long time.  That ad disappeared before the month was out though.  Such a coincidence.

In Azeroth the instance group went back to the Slave Pens as we edged ever closer the Burning Crusade level cap of 70.  Meanwhile people were selling Wrath of the Lich King beta keys on eBay for $500.

In New Eden I was pondering the economics of building and flying a marauder and comparing the benefits of a Raven Navy Issue and the Caldari marauder, the Golem.  Our little corp was on the move again.  And some of us were taking the EVE personality test while I compared ships styles of the different factions to cars from my youth.

Warhammer Online was on the horizon.  I had pre-ordered the collectors edition, but then came the content removal, some classes and four cities.  And while Mythic posted the minimum system requirements, I was wondering what the recommended… often thought to be the true minimum for many games… might end up being.

And, finally, I was done with GameFly and damn glad to have escaped from Atlanta.

New Linking Sites

The following sites have been kind enough to link here.  Please take a moment to visit them in return.  The next Tobold may be on this list!

Also, Anakh at Big Ogre, Small World wants people to know he is back to writing again after being on hiatus for some time.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  3. Rotom Secret Key Event
  4. Date With a Lady
  5. Shaymin Event at Toys R Us
  6. Rotom Secret Key Available Via Nintendo
  7. Is It Cheating?
  8. Daily Bog Roll 7/11 – Two Ply Edition
  9. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  10. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  11. For Want of a Horse…
  12. What Is A “Tank” In EVE?

Search Term of the Month

boobs inflation pokemon
[Ash finally hits puberty?]

EVE Online

Despite being in somewhat of an “off” time for EVE Online I have managed to find a bit to keep myself amused.  The AFK level 4 mission running Dominix experiment is about ready to roll.  The skills are done, I just have to round up the last modules, fit them, and give it a try.

World of Warcraft

The instance group has been chugging along.  Summer plans have diverted us from our primary path of hitting the five person Northrend instances on occasion, but even when we can only get four people together, we find ways to have fun.  Still, the level cap looms.  We still have to see if the group will want to move on when there is no more experience points to be earned.

On the family side of the game, my daughter seems enamored with her Blood Elf hunter and prefers to play that character now.  However, she still gets upset when I or my mother level up any of our characters past level 39, where her previous favorite character sits.

Coming Up

Some organizational changes are on the horizon at work.  Expect delays.

I will certainly have to report on whether or not I lose my Dominix in EVE Online.

I’ve got to roll up the results from the cheating poll and see how they compare with my own views.

And I am going to predict that at least one of the instance group will be level 80 before the month is out.  The level cap test will be on us soon.

When is Star Trek Online coming out?  I’ve been averting my eyes so long I’ve lost all track of the game.

Warhammer on the Mac

Electronic Arts/Mythic has actually come up with something that could make me come back and try out Warhammer Online.

The have announced that there is a Macintosh OS X (10.5.3 or later) version of the Warhammer Online client in the works.

WarMac

Mythic Entertainment is pleased to announce that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is coming to Mac. The Mac version of WAR is schedule for release in the fall of 2009 – and players from both platforms will be able to battle and quest together on the same servers.

The beta version of the Mac client is now available to both existing WAR account holders as well as new players who would like to play the Mac trial version.

I have a habit of trying out any MMO I play on the Mac if a client is available, to see how they compare.

The shining example of a Macintosh MMO client for me is World of Warcraft.  It works like the Windows client, right down to allowing you to use the same addons, and has a few additional features, such as built-in video capture.

I have also played the EVE Online Mac client which is good, but not great.

And then there was EverQuest on the Mac.  Worst client support ever.  But I hear people still play on the Mac despite being exiled to their own server (Al’Kabor) and not having had an expansion available to them since the gods know when. (Was Legacy the last one or was it Planes of Power?)  You want Classic EverQuest?  Go play on a Mac.

So I will be interested to see how the Warhammer client plays out.  I actually wonder why they decided to support the Mac OS.  EA does not go out of its way for the Mac very often and Mythic has no history at all on the Mac that I can recall.  So color me surprised to find that there will be a Mac client at all.

I won’t be jumping on the Mac client right away.  It is in beta currently and I am not so interested in paying to help them work out their client issues.  But when it is live I will probably give it a try.

Why Does Tetris Get Faster?

I was watching my daughter play Tetris on her Nintendo DS the other day. (I found a copy a while back.)  She picked it up out of our box of DS games and decided to give it a try as a break from various flavors of Pokemon. (Pokemon Mystery DungeonNetHack meets Pokemon… has been the favored flavor of late.)

I was interested to see what she thought of the game.  But I am always interested to see what she gets out of older games, classics or ones with which I have a history.

Those Famouse Tetrominoes

Those Famous Tetris Tetrominoes

She grasped the game pretty quickly and enjoyed it for a bit.  But Tetris on the DS advances levels at a rather swift pace if you’re any good at all, and soon she was at the frantic stage of blocks dropping out of the sky and the game was over.

After a couple of games she asked, “Why does it have to get faster?”

A deceptively easy question, that.

The obvious answer is that it gets harder because that is the challenge.  If a game always ran at the same speed you would lose only to boredom.  The history of video games is jam packed with games that get harder the further you progress.

But that is not entirely correct.  Challenge can go too far, at least for each individual.  There is a point for all of us just shy when we have essentially given up control of those falling blocks where the game is exactly as challenging as it needs to be, where we are immersed, tense, and on the edge of losing control.

In a perfect world games would be able to analyze our play and keep us at or near that threshold, advancing only when we had begun to master the current level of difficulty.

Now Tetris is an older game, so it is tough to fault it for not being perfect.  I first played it back on my Macintosh SE over 20 years ago.  It was a best seller on the original GameBoy, the esteemed ancestor of my daughter’s DS.  There were versions out for all sorts of systems including the Apple II.  I am surprised there wasn’t an Atari 2600 version of the game.  If ever there were a console system well adapted to dealing with things shaped like blocks.

So we can forgive Tetris its jumps in difficulty, but it does point to an interesting aspect of game design.  How quickly should difficulty ramp up in a game?

Which in turn makes you wonder about some MMORPGs.  Well, it made me wonder.

This week I ran some quests with my level 78 paladin and my level 44 druid (who is cat, so dont heel) in World of Warcraft, and playing one was not particularly more or less difficult than the other.  34 levels between the two but no noticeable change in skill required to play.  The effort expended doing quests was about the same.  Sure, the monsters being slain were higher level for my paladin, but his equipment and abilities canceled that out.

Would I put that much time into a game like Tetris if it never got harder?  Maybe if the level of challenge was right, but probably not.

Since I enjoyed playing both characters, it would seem that for me the level of achievement was in balance with the level of challenge.  WoW seems to work for me.

But you can see that if the level of challenge versus the achievement doesn’t work for somebody after the first 20 levels or so in a game like WoW, it isn’t going to get any better for them beyond that.

But does any MMORPG really get more challenging as you move through the main body of content?  Sure, there are dungeons, and even heroic versions thereof, as well as raiding, but I would argue that most players never go far in those directions.

And should they get more challenging?  Should getting from level 79 to 80, for example, require not just more experience points and some equipment upgrades, but additional skill?  Is character advancement enough?  Is there some happy medium between the two?

And my daughter?

She thinks WoW is great, Tetris is not, and that comparing the two is “totally ridiculous.”

The view from age 7 1/2.

Closer to Mining Perfection

One of the nice… or addicting… things about EVE Online is that even if you are on something of a break from the game, you can still feel productive.  Skill training rolls on even if you just sit in the station.

Last week I mentioned that I was experimenting with armor tanking and the Gallente Dominix battleship with my alt.  This week my main has enhanced his mining support abilities.

Way back in February, as a reward for a story line mission, Wilhelm Arcturus, my primary character in EVE, received a mining foreman mindlink.  Just one thing stood in my way of using it; nearly 40 days of skill training.

But when you are not focused on immediate needs you can sit back work on those longer range goals.  And so I managed to get there finally.

Added in to the mining boosts that go with my Orca, I am close to the pinnacle of asteroid busting, at least in empire space.

With the boost and bonuses available from the Orca, Wilhelm’s skills, and my alt’s mining skills, my mining alt in his Hulk:

  • Pulls 1778 cubic meters of ore per strip miner per cycle.
  • Has a strip miner cycle time of 2 minutes and 20 seconds, down from the base time of 3 minutes.
  • Has a range of 22km on his strip miners, a boost from 15 km, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but which turns out to be very useful when clearing an asteroid field.  You can stay in place and fill cans for much longer.

So aside from the highwall implants, the best of which are running over 150 million ISK in my region for a 5% boost in yield, there isn’t much else I think I can tune.

Sure, I could always train up for the Rorqual (just 28 more days of training!) but that seems kind of silly for somebody who has never once left empire space.

And the ironic thing is, at the end of the day, this setup is too efficient for mining normal belts in empire space.  You can literally spend more time positioning yourself to harvest ore than you actually spend with the mining lasers running.

Fortunately there are a few missions out there than spawn big enough rocks to make it worth your time.  Enemies Abound is one of my favorites in that regard.

Hulk and Orca burning rocks

Hulk and Orca burning rocks

Back to combat skills I guess.  Only 60 days of training to fly a Golem!

Date With a Lady

We last left our four adventurers looking for… well… adventure.  The cast for the evening was:

76 Warrior – Earlthecat
78 Priest – Skronk
78 Mage – Ula
78 Paladin – Vikund

And while we had managed to knock off the heroic version of Opening the Dark Portal, that really wasn’t enough adventure for the evening.  We were looking for some place new to visit.

A plan was hatched.

A mage portal was opened to Theramore… did you know that mages can open portals to Theramore?  It was a surprise to me, as the place seemed something of a backwater location… all the more so since it is located on the edge of a swamp.

It seemed akin, to me, to a major airline advertising that they offer direct, daily flights to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Emporia, Kansas.

Of course, if Emporia had a large dragon living on the outskirts of town, that might explain things.

Yes, we were headed to Theramore en route to Onyxia’s lair, the one-time 40 person raid instance that we were going to try to do as a short-handed instance group.  We had, after all, met Onyxia before.

And yes, I know that leet dudes solo Onyxia for kicks these days, but we felt that by going in there as a group of four we could help do our part to trivialize other people’s fond memories.

We had done a quick check to make sure we could get in to see Onyxia, especially after we were just thwarted at Zul’Aman and Karazhan.  It looked like we were clear to go.

So we rode across the Dustwallow Marsh to see the lady.

Getting in was a snap, and the four guards on the way to her lair were easily dispatched.

One of Onyxia's Guardians

One of Onyxia's Guardians

Those out of the way, we turned the corner and beheld the dragon in her lair.

Onyxia Revealed!

Onyxia Revealed!

We had not read anything about the fight itself, so at least we can say we were going in blind, if over-powered.

Well, we thought we were over-powered.  A look at her hit points made us think twice… that and the fact that her level does not show.  Seeing her level displayed as “??” gave us pause.

OnHitpoints
Hrmm… big dragon indeed.

Still, there we were.  We fell back on Plan A; there she is, get her!

So in we rushed.

Dragon fights are special, yet they do have their similarities all the way back to Tiamat in AD&D.  You have breath, you have claws, you have a honking big tail that will sweep you off your feet.  All that was in play as the fight started.

Onyxia breath weapon engaged!

Onyxia breath weapon activated!

The first part of the fight went well enough.  We kept to our allotted positions for a dragon fight, we did a lot of damage, Earl kept her focus, and healing was never an issue.

Then we hit a point in the battle where Onyxia flew up and a host of her whelps began to attack us from either side of the room.  We took that in stride, killing the whelps, then waiting, then killing some more, then waiting.

We seemed to be at an impasse.  We expected that, once we had killed enough whelps, Onyxia would come down and play some more, but she seemed to feel that we were beneath he dignity, both literally and figuratively, so she flew around and we killed whelps.

After a while of this, we started taking potshots at her with whatever we had to hand; spells, guns, wands, anything with some range.  She started spitting fire now and again as she meandered aloft in her lair.  Chipping away, we made some progress in bringing her down.

Onyxia half way done, but still flying

Onyxia half way done, but still flying

As we did that, we noticed that when we got close enough to her, out melee skills would work despite the fact that she was flying around some meters over our heads.  Any port in a storm.  We took to chasing her around and beating on her.

It was a good thing too, as the casters were doing the brunt of the damage so were starting to attract a respectable amount of attention from Onyxia.

Eventually she settled down to our level and added some stomping and bellowing to her repertoire, cute tricks that sent us off into the whelps again for more fun.

Onyxia back on the ground with us

Onyxia back on the ground with us

Still, with her on the ground we were all over her.  Her time was at hand, though it had taken quite a while to get there.  We started the fight at about 5 minutes after the hour and she wasn’t dead until half past.  A 25 minute long fight is a rare thing for us.  There were a lot of abilities we can generally use once per battle that got repeated use this time around.

Once on the ground, the fight reached its per-ordained conclusion.

OnAchi
Onyxia was laid low and we stood in triumph.

This would have been really impressive a few years back!

This would have been really impressive a few years back!

Then came the loot.

And boy was there a lot of loot.  I realized, intellectually, that for a 40-person raid there had to be more goodies to hand out at the end than you would get in a five person instance.  Never having actually been on a raid in WoW however, I was surprised and awed at the pile of stuff Onyxia dropped.

Probably the most useful items were the 18-slot Onyxia Hide Backpacks.  There were two of those in the haul.  Other things were interesting, even good looking, but nothing worth using.  Except, of course, Onyxia’s head.

We had to get back to Stormwind to turn that in.  Skronk won the roll for the head, so he got to present it.

Sire, we have this head you see...

Sire, we have this head you see...

The king has better things to deal with, so he sent us off to Major Don Mattingly who serves as the dragon head repository in Stormwind.  It is king of like being a casino greeter, one of those things you can get after a successful career in professional sports.

Waiting for Major Mattingly

Waiting for Major Mattingly

Major Mattingly has his role.  With the head handed over and he shouted out to all of Stormwind,

Citizens and allies of Stormwind, on this day, history has been made.  Skronk has laid waste to that which had attempted to usurp the rule of the kingdom.  Gather round and join me in honoring our heroes.

Behold the might of the Alliance!  The dread lady, Onyxia, hangs from the arches!  Let the rallying cry of the dragon slayer lift your spirits!

At which point everybody in Stormwind got that buff.  See, we were doing a public service in slaying Onyxia!

We got the souvenir photo with the head of course.  Everybody does.

How to get a head!

How to get a head!

After which, we called it a night.

Now, about Molten Core