Monthly Archives: July 2009

GAX Online to Close on 8/31

Gary Gannon, one of the founders of GAX Online, posted a notice today on the front page that the community site he helped found saying that it will be closing down at the end of August.

It is with great sadness that I deliver this announcement. On August 31, 2009 GAX Online will be closing its virtual doors. My dreams of creating a user generated/self perpetuating video game social site has proven me wrong.

I had thought that once the site had a user base and was “established” that it would sort of run itself based on quality content/blogging from the community. Unfortunately I have learned that without proper leadership a community of this nature may be impossible. Over time the sites content has slowly degraded and has become less and less valuable to anyone.

As most of you know GAX was created at a time when Ryan and I did the podcast Massively Online Gamer, and even if it was not intended this was the central “core” running GAX. Even though MOG lived at GAX I always saw the two as separate entities. That is where I was wrong. I had hoped for a site that created extremely valuable content for gamers where all of the content was created by gamers. An independent collective community that could give the “big boys” a run for their money. Although many of you created great content since it’s inception, this obviously did not transpire.

I know I had trouble finding meaning in the site for myself.

Gary does have a new blog of his own and is talking about a potential podcast.

We will have to see what develops.

But it seems that GAX will be gone for good soon.

[Of course, Gary went on to found Gamebreaker.tv.]

Is It Cheating?

As part of Shut Up We’re Talking episode #51, we had a quick side discussion about what is considered cheating versus what used to be back in the day of MUDs.  Andrew, Frank, and I ended up in an email discussion about it a bit later, and if I got around to actually replying, it might keep going and blossom into something.

Anyway, while I’ve written about aspects of this change in perception before, I thought I would put up a poll today and ask which of the following you consider cheating.

I want to define what I mean by each of the items in the poll, hopefully in a clear enough manner that you know what I am getting at for each item on the list.  They are:

  • Maps from external source – The acquisition of maps and map data from a source outside of the game.
  • Quest info from external source – The acquisition of quest related information, locations, NPCs, objectives, from a source outside of the game.
  • Fight info from external source – The acquisition of detailed fight related information from sources outside of the game such as boss fight walk-through guides or videos.
  • Illicit RMT – The acquisition of in-game items or currency for real money through a method unsanctioned by the game.
  • Sanctioned RMT – The acquisition of in-game items or currency through a game sponsored or other condoned method, including via cash shops and microtransactions.
  • Purchase of Characters –  Buying characters or accounts, usually to gain access to leveled and/or equipped characters.  Some games make allowance for this.
  • Multi-play – The old MUD term for playing multiple accounts at once, often called multi-boxing.
  • Automation of simple tasks – Simple triggers or macros, generally manually activated.
  • Automation of complex tasks – Complex triggers or addons that automatically do things like rescue, heal, cure, for the player.
  • Automation of play – Automation intended to be used for unattended play.  You set it and walk away.
  • Twinking – Equipping a low level character, usually an alt, with very good gear relative to the character level.  Usually gear, enchants, and the like that a character of that level could not otherwise easily obtain.
  • Power leveling – Your friends, usually higher level, facilitating experience gain often by buffing, healing, or clearing mobs to allow quest completion.
  • Paid power leveling – Pay somebody else to level your character.
  • Exploiting game mechanics – Using a flaw in the system to achieve a goal, such as defeat a major boss.  Something the game lets you do, but which was obviously unintended.
  • Hacking – The use of external applications to modify game play so you can run faster, hit harder, be invisible to NPCs.
  • Way too much free time – You can play all the time so you’re better at the game, have more stuff, and are generally uber.
  • Other – Add something I missed.

Now, not everything on that list violates the terms of services of any given game.

I have never seen a prohibition on free time for example.

Nor can I recall power leveling ever being a rules violation.  It was very common in EverQuest.  But it was quite clear that somebody at SOE did not like it because at launch EverQuest II had mechanisms in place to make power leveling very difficult.  For example, most buffs could only be cast on members of your party.  No passing out Spirit of the Wolf to all and sundry. (And no more surly demands for the buff either.)  Some of that got relaxed as time went along, but there is still the locked encounter mechanism that keeps you from assisting in another players NPC fight in anyway.

But I am not so interested in what is allowed or not allowed by a given game.

What I want is your gut reaction to this list of items, independent of any statement in the terms of service of EULA of any given game.  Which ones are you sure are cheating?

You may select multiple items.

Not an exhaustive list I am sure.  Those are just some commonly discussed aspects that seem to relate to the concept of cheating.  If I have missed something, or if you have a strong opinion about anything on my list, please feel free to leave a comment.

Gundrak Attack!

Saturday night found Skronk and Vikund hanging out on the Gundrak summoning stone.

Nice view, eh?

Nice view, eh?

See what happens when you give people flying mounts.  They perch on top of everything.

We found our way to Gundrak, which wasn’t that hard given that it occupies most of one end of the Zul’Drak zone.  Finding the actual entrance to the instance was a bit of a challenge, as it is not part of the giant, obvious structure at the end of the zone.  You can see the “not the instance” building in the picture behind us.  And that is just a bit of it.

Instead, you back up from said structure until you get to the giant captured named rhino, then turn either left or right 90 degrees and you’ll find one of the two entrances, located in small (relative to the main structure) out buildings.

The one to the left also has the summoning stone.

We had been warned off attempting Gundrak two weeks back in a couple of comments that said it was a level 80 instance and that we should attempt Halls of Stone instead.  However, I could find nothing that indicated that Gundrak was a level 80 instance and a couple of sources that said it was meant for levels 76-78, including the WoW wiki instances by level page, so we decided to press ahead.

And so Skronk and I hung out on the summoning stone.  The login server appeared to be having issues and was keeping Ula and Bung from getting into the game.  Meanwhile, Earl was running a bit late as he was clearing up from having friends over for the Ultimate Fighting pay per view event.  So we bided out time.  We picked up some quests for the instance.  We found the local flight point.  I showed off the engineering parachute enchant for my cloak, skydiving and successfully landing on top of the summoning stone.

Eventually Blizzard relented and Ula and Bung were able to get into the game.  Then Earl arrived with the message that he was ready for a summon and that one should not serve buffalo wings for an Ultimate Fighting event as guests will steer clear of them once people start beating on each other TV.

The line up for the night was:

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

I had scouted the entrances on a previous night and decided that the one across the rhino-burdened courtyard from the summoning stone would be the best choice, if only for its lack of snakes.

Fortunately, since we ended up with a train of angry mobs chasing us, the login server problems seemed to take the pressure off of the instance server, so for the first time in weeks we were able to get into an instance on the first try.

We entered on the troll side of the instance.  There is a little arena and a troll sparring match going on, all of which we managed to clear out without much problem, even when we got some adds from a patrol.  That left us with Moorabi, a straightforward boss who obliged us by dying in a quick and straightforward manner.  He coughed up the Frozen Scepter of Necromancy which did not interest anybody.  It looked like it had potential for Skronk, but the need to mate it with a decent off-hand item put a damper on that, so it went to a greed roll.  12 gold for somebody.

Behind Moorabi there was a clickable device.  When clicked, it sent out a beam of light that dropped a weight onto a mechanism in the center of the instance.  We were all pretty sure at that point that this was part of unlocking the final boss fight, so kept out eyes open for similar devices.

The brought us around the elemental segment, where living mojo elementals drop nasty purple pools of goo that do an annoying amount of damage.  After an accidental death we took care to keep out feet dry when we could.  We cleared out the area, running into an familiar looking object.

This is history Jones!

This is history Dr. Jones!

Then we were left with the Drakkari Colossus which was surrounded by six living mojo elementals.  We weren’t sure how this was going to play out, so Bung hit one of them with a banish, just to see what would happen.  It turns out that they all get inside the colossus to run it.  But with one banished, we could just picture the other five in their, impatient, trying to get the last guy to get a move on.

C'mon, get in the collossus already!

C'mon, get in the colossus already!

That fight was a little more of a challenge, as part way through a giant living mojo jumps out of the colossus, attacks and then spews pools of the aforementioned purple living mojo goo, which meant dancing him around the room until we took him down.  This happened twice before we finished the fight.

We found another clickable device, and activated it, then moved on to the next area, which was all about snakes.

Here we had our only wipe of the evening.  There is an oval shaped pool in the room with the next boss, Slad’ran, and on either side of it there is a moving patrol of three elites.  The pull got mis-timed however, and so we hit them just at the two groups came together at one end of the pool, which meant that we got all six.  We killed two and went down.

Post-wipe recovery

Post-wipe recovery

That aside, we were able to get in, clean out the remainders, stomp on the many level 1 snakes in the room, then turn out attentions to Slad’ran.  He wasn’t a big fight.  He calls on some minions at a couple of points, but Earl grabbed aggro, we beat everybody down, and that was that.

One final clickable device and then the center of the instance rotated and there was a ramp leading to some stairs and, we guessed, the final boss.  We ran back around to where the Drakkari Colossus had been and started across the ramp.

Something big at the top

Something big at the top

The stairs were defended by trolls on rhinos.  Ula did a good job, sheeping the rider so we could kill his mount with each one, until we were left with just Gal’darah at his altar.

Rhinos, why did it have to be rhinos?

Rhinos, why did it have to be rhinos?

Gal’daran continued the rhino theme by transforming into a rhino for part of the fight, a rhino that charged party members at random knocking them down and doing a good deal of damage.  Still, we managed to put out enough damage to limit the amount of time Gal’daran spent in rhino form.  He didn’t last much longer and soon we had the achievement.

GunAchi

Plus, in the achievement screen shot there was what looks to be an extremely aggressive heal hitting Earl.  It looks like Skronk hit him in the back of the head with a slushball of healing.

Have some health!

Have some health!

So there we stood, victorious over Gal’daran.

Gal'darah Defeated!

Gal'darah Defeated!

He was kind enough to leave his signet ring behind for Earl.  And that was that.  We got through without a boss wipe and without having to delve into the web to figure out what to do.

We walked out the back of the instance and headed off to turn in the quests.  All in all, given the late start, we were done in good time and spent a little while finishing up another quest we picked up out by Gundrak.

After that, we called it a night.  Next up on the list is the Halls of Stone.  Good thing a few of us have cold weather flying because it doesn’t look like the kind of place you can walk to.

I Want To Make YouTube Videos!

So says my daughter.

This is the payback for letting my daughter watch WAY TOO MUCH World of Warcraft based machinima on YouTube.

I have now been tasked by said daughter with formation of our own WoW machinima studio.

She even had a little list of videos for me to watch to learn how to do this, though I am pretty sure she did not watch them herself because they were about making machinima in Halo on your XBox 360.

Still, I found a starting point video on YouTube and one of the first things it recommends is getting an application called WoW Model Viewer.  I grabbed that and played with it for a bit.

I was able to recreate my main character, Vikund.

You are supposed to be able to import from The Armory, but it wasn’t working for me.  It probably breaks on servers with apostrophes in the name, like Eldre’Thalas, or some such.

Subject A: Human Paladin with a Pointed Stick

Subject A: Human Paladin with a Pointed Stick

Anyway, you can do all sorts of animations.

Subject A Cowering

Subject A Cowering

Subject A Flexing

Subject A Flexing

And you can load up any of the major NPCs and mess with them.

Edwin VanCleef in a gyrocopter

Edwin VanCleef in a gyrocopter

I’ll have to work with WoW Model Viewer more this weekend.

My daughter also handed me a draft script she was working on for her first movie.

Learning 2 Play WoW

This is the hunter style, firing thrown, arrows, and bullets.  This is the hunter style.

This is the druid style, healing, transforming, and casting.  This is also the priest and the shaman, but not the priest really.

This is the mage style, using fire and frost and minions.

This is the warlock style, shadow, fire, and curses.

This is the pally style, healing cast and putting spells on toons.  And the warrior is like a pally except the healing.

The rogue is like the second best toon, so thank you for watching.

While I did correct spelling errors (they don’t beat kids for spelling errors like when I was a kid, they encourage them to spell phonetically) this is otherwise entirely her script.  Still, the emphasis on writing versus spelling seems to have paid off.

I like the script for what it says about her views on the character classes.  As you might guess, she plays a hunter primarily.

I’m also impressed that she had the patience to sit down and write a script at all.  When I was 7 years old and had access to a movie camera, I wanted to start shooting film that second.  And while I got some fine footage of 1/72 scale tanks being blown to bits with firecrackers, there wasn’t a lot of character development or closure.  They were just clips of a tank with a burning fuse sticking out of them, and then BOOM!

Anyway, we shall see if this ends up going anywhere.

Shut Up We’re Talking #51

Shut Up We’re Talking,” one of the podcasts in the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective, has released episode 51.

Regular hosts Darren from The Common Sense Gamer and Karen from Journey’s with Jaye were joined by Andrew from Of Teeth and Claws, Frank who runs MMO’ Money and contributes to MMORPG.com, and myself.

Topics:

  • Introductions
  • Listener Mail – DestroyerDestroyer regarding Mark Jacobs
  • What We’re Playing
  • White Collar Crime in a Space Suit – We talk about the latest EVE Online drama surrounding EBANK and the embezzlement of 200 billion ISK by Ricdic, the former CEO of the venture.  The nature of EVE and the lack of any effective recourse when you have lost money this way come up, along with the fact that your money is safe in your character’s wallet so that one of the traditional roles of a bank, safeguarding your cash, is missing from the equation.
  • The Horse That Would Not Die – After the enthusiasm on the last show for Dungeon & Dragons Online’s adoption of a Free To Play model, Darren turned around and found a sore spot in the Runes of Magic cash shop, the now infamous $10 horse which lead him to post, and post, and post, and post yet again, some of which generated response posts from various points in the blogesphere, including this site.  We have a therapy session with Darren and help him work through his issues.  There are group hugs and towards the end we find that the horse in question was discounted to $5 for a limited time, which was almost low enough for Darren.
  • Blog of the week – Mynxee’s Life in Low Sec
  • Show Close – Includes peer pressure to get Karen to do a blog post
  • Out Takes – EVE is like a hot biker chick?

You can get the show via iTunes or download it directly here.

My Daughter in Dalaran

My daughter shouted “I got a mage portal to Dalaran!” from across the room.

I said something agreeable then stopped to think for a second.

“Which character is now in Dalaran?” I asked.

It was her level 16 blood elf.

I thought about this some more.

“That character is on your account right?  You’re not using my account are you?”

This was her account.

Her account does not have Wrath of the Lich King enabled on it.  It only has The Burning Crusade, and the only reason it has that is because she really, really wanted to make a blood elf.

I went to go look over her shoulder, to be sure she really was in Dalaran.  She was.

The iMac has Lich King installed on it because I sometimes play on that machine, especially when I want to do something in Dalaran.  It is laggy, but it does not crash on me at least.  WoW has this quirk where you cannot play on a machine unless it has all the expansions on it to which you are entitled.  It you have Lich King enabled on your account, you can’t play on a machine with only the base game or Burning Crusade.

She got fed up with Dalaran pretty quickly, it being extra laggy on a weekend evening.

I guided her to the flight point.  An investment in the future.  Should she ever get that character to Northrend, having that flight point will be a help.

After that I showed her where the portals to other towns were.  I had to figure that one out myself, never having been on the horde side of town, but it wasn’t a huge mystery.

From there she wanted to go to Shattrath.

I left her wandering around there for a while, but when I checked back she was in Orgimmar.  Shattrath is only fun if you have a flying mount it seems.

I told her she should have set her hearth stone in Shattrath, then she could recall and use the portal to any of the major cities.  She liked the sound of that, but not so much as to regret leaving Shattrath before she had done it.  She can do that later, she said.  After all, she’s only level 16 on this character.

I’m going to have to figure out how she got into Dalaran.

Daily Bog Roll 7/11 – Two Ply Edition

We at TAGN, who have apparently started using the royal first person plural, have decided to pitch in and help Tipa while she is adjusting to a new work schedule.  So, we give you the Daily Bog Roll!

It gets readable if you click on it

click to make the text legible

Our top story today: Blogalissimo Francisco Tolbold is still dead!

Or at least he is taking a break from blogging.  Work on Toblopedia has been suspended out of respect for the auteur.  Candle-light vigils have been reported in major cities.

In a change of editorial policy, Syncaine put out a Friday post that did not attack World of Warcraft, but rather defended the standard $15 a month subscription plan in the case of well established, triple-A titles.  Don’t cry for me Rob Pardo.

Potshot, tiring of the “Horse Dialogs,” runs off and actually plays Runes of Magic to see if it is even worth worrying about their cash shop policies.

Scott Hartsman was deported from Ohio or something.  Anyway, he is out of a job.

Eric the Elder Gamer points out that the live team, the team that runs an MMO after it ships, often isn’t the same group that built it.  Wasn’t that Scott Hartsman’s job at SOE?  Anyway, he calls them the “B-Team,” at least when it comes to WoWLive team people commiserate.

Another former EverQuest II guy, Ryan Shwayder, wants to know where all the “social” went in our MMOs.  He has a laundry list of things that have made us solo-nauts in these games and then says that the Copernicus project at 38 Studios is going to fix all of them.  How it will do this though is left as an exercise to the reader.

Chiming in on the Professor Goodbar drama, Gevlon says that winning is everything and the ends more than justify the means.  But he says that about everything.  Meanwhile we find out what the Professor thinks about somebody quoting from his work… though  he uses the word “srsly.”  No word yet on a coconut powered netbook.

Recently some nun said space is boring. (To be fair, I am pretty sure that is church doctrine.)  But Mynxee at Life in Low Sec doesn’t find it boring, though she did find it a bit exasperating being lost in wormhole space.

Meanwhile, Evony (a contraction of “Ever Annoying”) the self-proclaimed “World’s Best Web Game” fresh from its stunningly successful web ad campaign has begun spamming the comment threads of all the cool blogs just to make sure everybody knows they’re still alive and they have this awesome cool game and that it is free forever… or until it shuts down… whichever comes first.

And, finally, Beau Turkey wonders if his relationship with Darkfall ended too soon.  What is the MMO equivalent of the phrase “Booty Call?”

Anyway, go enjoy your free Slurpee at participating 7-Eleven stores.  It is National Slurpee Day.

The Moment…

Server:  Eldre’Thalas

Location:  Sholazar Basin

Date:  July 8th, 2009, 7:11pm local time

Tistann hits level cap!

Tistann hits level cap!

In one of those “couldn’t have planned it” moments, Potshot was taking a break from Runes of Magic, popped on and asked how close I was to 80.  I did not answer, preferring to make the four kills that put me over the top and broadcast the answer to all the guild.

HowCloseAnswer
Amusing, but the final sentiment in that chat is true enough.  Until that very moment I was mentally planning to grind enough cash to get Tistann an epic flyer, to work on Argent Crusade faction because they have a nice gun upgrade for him at revered, to get his leatherworking skill notched up the last bit to 450, and to generally keep working on him as a character.

And then the moment passed and my enthusiasm went from aggressive to passive.

Now what?

Now what?

Why bother?  No matter what equipment upgrades I get, they will be outdone by the first green drop I get in the next expansion.  There is not even the achievement incentive, since Vikund is my achievement character and currently all that is character, not account, based.

Of course Blizzard knows that this is going to happen.  Not only do you get an achievement, but you also get a message with a present when you hit level 80.

CongratsMessage

Rhonin says “Fight on!”  And keep paying us that monthly subscription!

Still, he sent a couple of nice things.

TheGift
The potions will probably go the instance group, since Tistann gets by pretty well with the next tier down of healing potions.  The fireworks I’ll have to think about.  Is there an achievement involving those?

I might still go work on Argent Crusade faction and get that gun.  My daughter, who was standing next to me when Tistann hit 80, immediately asked if she could do some battleground with him this weekend.  Arming him up will help her out with that.

And I should probably dual spec, since beast mastery is great for the PvE world, but is not so useful in PvP.

And Blizzard doesn’t have to worry too much about losing my subscription money.  I have plenty of other characters I want to play.  I haven’t even finished the Death Knight starting quests.

But if I were a single character player driven only by levels, I might be headed out at this point.