Monthly Archives: September 2009

September in Review

The Site

This is my fourth September in review, since I passed the three year mark earlier this month.  The whole idea of a month in review started on a whim as I wanted to wrap up what had gone on that first month.  Somehow it became a tradition.  If you like the tradition, go me!  If you don’t like it, well, it is only once a month.

The BlogFlux Topsites “13 Watch” continues from last month.  I should probably just take that down and find something else to amuse myself, but being eternally in 13th place has also become something of a tradition.

This has also been the first month since I started the blog where it was not clear that the site would exceed the page views from the same month the previous year.  It just so happened that September of last month was a big month with a lot of stuff going on (see below) while this September has been somewhat more relaxed.  In the end, the page view count did pass last year’s September total.

Finally, I started what I plan to be a series of articles titled “Leuthilspar Tales” that present how things were on TorilMUD in the mid-1990s based on the experiences I and several friends had.  While they are mostly tales of nostalgia, they have some slight relevance to the MMO industry, if only because it was the same MUD that influence Aradune Mithara back before he was declared “stinky.”  I want to try to get a segment out every couple of weeks until I have beaten the elven experience in TorilMUD to death.  Then I’ll start in on the dwarves of Mithril Hall.

The one nice thing about articles about TorilMUD:  Not many screen shots!

City Center in Leuthilspar

City Center in Leuthilspar

Unless, of course, you like screen shots.  That can be arranged.

ZMud Map of Leuthilspar

ZMud Map of Leuthilspar

In that first screen shot, the description says that City Center is a very busy place.  I guess it might be for the NPCs who wander in and out.  But when it comes to actual players the place has been pretty dead for years now.

One Year Ago

Warhammer Online went live, first with the head start and then for everybody.

As we just saw with Aion recently, there issues coordinating with friends about which server to choose, leading to yet another gripe post about the whole sharded existence we have to put up with in MMOS.  I did wonder if the EverQuest II mechanism of multiple versions of a given zone might be worth it to get everybody on a single server.

The instance group was game WAR, though as a group we have some parameters that we had to work within.

In Warhammer itself, war were declared on gold sellers and Mythic was being very demonstrative about it.  Of course, it did not seem to stem tells from gold seller bots that seemed to sit active for days.

I went on about those tips you see on the loading screen of many MMOs, spurred by a couple less than helpful tips in WAR.

In EVE Online I hit a major ISK milestone.  But I was building up ISK because I had my eye on a freighter.

The Empyrean Age 1.1 update was upon us, which included 2 changes designed to reduce the scourge of suicide ganking.

Meanwhile CCP was offering up battleships for sale… model battleship for real cash, not ISK.

But the most important EVE Online event was probably Yahtzee Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation review of EVE Online.  Much shoe-on-head wearing and talk about tactical logistics reconfiguration ensued.

And, finally, the site hit the two year mark.

Two Years Ago

I don’t plan to make this a regular feature, but I just thought I would mention that two years ago I asked if Tabula Rasa was the new Auto Assault, and action MMO doomed to an early closure.  I guess we have the answer to that question.

New Linking Sites

The following sites have been kind enough to link here.  Please take a moment to visit them in return!

Most Viewed Posts for September

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Pirate’s Day in Booty Bay
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. XP vs. Vista vs. Windows 7
  5. Heroic Deadmines!
  6. Marshal Windsor and Lady Prestor
  7. Three Years We Grew in Virtual Sun and Shower
  8. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  9. What Is A “Tank” In EVE?
  10. Corpse Spam in Stormwind
  11. Don’t Pimp This Instance!
  12. Day One: Is It Worth It?

Search Term of the Month

you can lead a noob to water
[I’m not sure where you are going with that, but I am suddenly thirsty]

EVE Online

I let my alt account lapse this month, so no mining or dual missions for a while.  The Hulk and Dominix and the sentry drones are hangered for now.

On my main I am closing in on being able to fly the Caldari marauder, the Golem.  The main question will soon be, do I spend the money on the skill and the ship? The package will run around 1.5 billion ISK for skill, ship, and fittings, and while I have that kind of ISK sitting around, I am not sure that it is worth it.  Golem prices seem to have soared since the crack down on the moon mining exploit a few months back.

And, finally, I may have to get out and run a few missions just to restock my sales inventory.  I’ve used up all my minerals and I’m running out of drops.

Lord of the Rings Online

I actually played LOTRO for a little while this month, rather than just do my usual “patch and quit” routine.  I got my captain up to level 31.  That still doesn’t get me into Moria, but it gets me a tiny bit closer.

World of Warcraft

The instance group still has three instances left to do in Northrend before we’re “done” with the non-heroic content.  It is still the contention of myself and Potshot that the group will probably want to take a break at that point.  I am going to guess that at some point between Halloween and Thanksgiving we will end up playing trying out another game.  There is still no decision on what that game might be.

Not that the instance group swapping games will be the end of WoW for me.  My daughter and I continue to play together and Potshot and I have been showing some interest in alts that I’ll get to in another post.

Coming Up

Leuthilspar Tales:  More installments.  I have actually been getting some help when it comes to remembering what was going on 15 or so years ago in TorilMUD.

The instance group: Will we finish up the last three Northrend instances by the end of October or will we get distracted by Brewfest and Hallow’s End?  Or maybe Blizzard will just throw some more content our way!

EVE Online: Will I actually leave the hanger?  Actually, I left the hanger a few times this month to go buy skills and haul trash, but it wasn’t very exciting.  Maybe the question should involve me actually firing a weapon.

We Don’t Like Gnomeregan

Well, 43 out of the 199 people who responded to my completely unscientific and statistically meaningless poll didn’t like Gnomeregan.

This is the follow up post to a poll I posted at the start of the month regarding which instance Blizzard ought to ignore when and if they start making heroic versions of old Azeroth instances.

199 people stopped by and voted, and this is what they said:

Instance Poll results

Gnomeregan was #1 on the list with enough of a margin to make in the unambiguous winner/loser.

That was my own pick.  From my view Gnomeregan has some very cool features but is spoiled by being too long and too grindy.  I went back and ran through Gnomer with Vikund to close out some of the quests for the faction back when he was level 79 and it was a pain in the neck even then.

Second place went to Maraudon which seems to have its own fan club.

Then things fell into a pack with Wailing Caverns, Stormwind Stockade, Blackrock Depths, and Sunken Temple which all have aspects that people have issue with.

Interestingly enough, following the rule which says that for any feature, no matter how good or bad it is, there is somebody out there who hates it and there is somebody out there for whom it is the best feature ever, all of the instances listed received at least one vote.

And, of course, 32 people responded that they didn’t care in any case.

I will take as validation of my own choice that while I was writing this, the 200th person came along and voted for Gnomeregan.

Here is to hoping that Blizzard will find some time to revise Gnomeregan some day.  It has potential, it is just buried in too much yard trash.

A Call for a Unified Auction House

With a couple of characters at level 80 I have been playing more with the copious alts I have on both sides of the Horde-Alliance divide.  Most of these characters are down in the 20-40 range.

Like many servers, the ones on which I play tend to have a population skewed in one direction or another.  The Census data over at Warcraft Realms seems to be a bit wacky these days due to low participation (for example, I don’t think Eldre’Thalas is at a close to 80-20 split between Alliance and Horde), but population differentials of 60-40 to 70-30 were quite common back when that census project was getting a lot of participation.

The main pain of unbalanced servers used to be the queue to get into a battleground.  There was a time when you could spend hours waiting for a battleground on a server that was really out of whack.

Blizzard has addressed that with cross-server battlegrounds.

For me, now, the main pain of server imbalance is the auction house.  If you’re on a server’s weaker faction, the auction house can be really bad.

Unless you are trying to sell something, especially raw materials for trade skills.  Then it can be the goose that laid the golden egg, as with no competition you can gouge your fellow players something fierce.  And somebody will always pay, no matter how much you charge.

But if you want to buy something, if you need some herbs to make just one more vial or ink or some ore to notch that engineering skill, then life is miserable.  There are days when you feel fortunate that somebody is even bothering to try to gouge you, because the most likely response to your search is no items found.

And this is especially painful if you play a class that gains a new armor wearing ability at level 40.  You want to trade in all that leather and buy some chainmail for your hunter or your shaman?  Good luck on that!

Try back tomorrow, I might have something then!

Try back tomorrow, I might have something then!

So I think Blizzard ought to just bite the bullet and unify all the auction houses.

I’m not even suggesting something that might be considered herasy.  This isn’t like, say, allowing people to change the faction of their characters. (Not that I am actually concerned about that in the least, but it seemed like a sell-out to some people.)

There are already cross-faction auction houses in the neutral cities of Azeroth: Booty Bay, Gadgetzen, and Everlook.

The problem is that almost nobody uses them, except to transfer assets from one faction to another. (You need a friend to help you out, since you cannot bid on auctions created on the same account.)

So I say combine the whole lot of them into a single, unified server-wide auction house.

The upside:

  • More choice for buyers
  • More customers for sellers
  • Auction houses in neutral cities might seem viable

The downside:

  • Can’t think of any

I am sure that somebody will come up with a reason why this is a bad idea, but none leap to mind here.

So why is this a bad idea?

Professor Oak’s Letter and Shaymin

While Nintendo is still being elusive when it comes to when we will be able to pick up Arceus for Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum (though the how is pretty obvious,  through a store event at some future date), they did just announce on how to obtain Shaymin in Pokemon Platinum.


Well, you encounter Shaymin.  Actually catching Shaymin is up to you.

Shaymin had previously only been available via a Toys R Us download event for Pokemon Diamond and Pearl back in February, before Pokemon Platinum was released.  You could then trade Shaymin to your copy of Pokemon Platinum after it became available.

Now Nintendo has opened up a method to obtain Shaymin directly in Pokemon Platinum.

However, you have to have a Nintendo Wi-Fi account setup to be able to get Shaymin.  And, of course, there is a time limit on this option, though it is a pretty generous time limit.

Remember, this is not an in-store event.

Corpse Spam in Stormwind

Gold seller corpse spam.  I see this sort of thing in Stormwind almost daily on the two servers I frequent.

Double Layer Corpses

Double Layer Corpses

Conflicting Corpse Spam

Conflicting Corpse Spam

Always in Stormwind.  Always in this area, which is admittedly probably the highest traffic area in the city.  And always the same two companies.

And every time I see this, a few questions spring to mind.

Who is buying gold in WoW?

Okay, I know some people must be buying it.  Not everybody knows it is even against the rules.  And it probably made sense back in the day when buying say, 100 gold, made sense.  That is a small amount, tough for Blizzard to track.  But to buy enough gold to do something meaningful in the game you have to get a chunk of gold large enough that you might as well name you character “Ban Me Please!”

Cheating and EULA arguments aside, I have too much time invested in my characters to do something like that.

How are they doing this?

I’ve sat and watch these URLs get spelled out.  It looks like these bodies are just dropping out of the sky.  I tried to bubble some one night with my pally, just to screw up the placement, but I never managed it.  What sort of automated tool are they using to do this?

How can Blizzard not be able to stop this?

I’m aware enough of life and the world to know that counter-measures against such things are generally fleeting in their effectiveness.  The spammers are working for their livelihood while Blizzard is just addressing an annoyance and all that.

But if I see this happening nightly, and I am going to guess that it isn’t happening just on the two servers I use, there has got to be a pretty big pile of data available as to how this is being accomplished.  In my gut I feel that I ought to see this sort of thing get interrupted once in a while.

Not that Blizzard isn’t doing anything.  I see these displays getting cleaned up reasonably quickly most nights.  I just find it odd that it is apparently easy enough for the spammers to do this that they do it every night and sometimes multiple times in a night.

Is it a big deal?

Not to me.  It is more a matter of repetition.  The first time I saw this sort of thing it was interesting, a unique event.  Now it is just vandalism that I keep seeing over and over.  An annoyance, but nothing more.

I am sure the whole thing irks people at Blizzard far more than could ever bother me, but I am not sure what they can do.

Aggressive and highly visible campaigns to stop gold spammers are usually good PR, but they tend to fail if the game design encourages selling gold to players.  And while Blizzard has effectively inflated to gold supply in Azeroth and made gold readily available for a little effort, some people will always shun even that effort if the game rewards having gold and the price is right.

I will be interested to see how this gets handles in Blizzard’s next MMO.

Drunken Pirates at Brewfest

Saturday night on International Talk Like a Pirate day and I thought for sure that we would be headed to the Caverns of Time for the Culling of Startholme.  I had run out to Booty Bay to see the festivities and get myself attired in pirate apparel.

The Dread Pirate Vikund

The Dread Pirate Vikund

After that I recalled back to Dalaran and took the portal to the Caverns of Time to get myself in position by the summoning stone to help get everybody assembled.

Caverns Transit System

Caverns Transit System

Then it turned out Bung was taking the night off.  So it was just the four of us:

80 Priest – Skronk
80 Mage – Ula
80 Warrior – Earlthecat
80 Paladin – Vikund

So we were all there in the Caverns of Time without a plan.

But one of Earl’s friends who had just rolled a character on our server and joined the guild mentioned on guild chat that Brewfest had kicked off.  The joy of being on a server in the East Coast time zone.

Well, that sounded like the best idea we available, so it was off to Ironforge to celebrate Brewfest… dressed as pirates!

The Twilight Cadre Pirate Crew

The Twilight Cadre Pirate Crew

Brewfest was crazy.

It seems that just about everybody on the server decided Brewfest sounded like the best plan for a Saturday night.  The event was packed!

Brewfest Crowds

Brewfest Crowds

It was crowded enough to have that air of a day one MMO event.  NPC quest givers took seconds to respond, vendors were mobbed to the point that you were mostly likely getting “That Object Is Busy” as a response to your attempts to purchase things.  And when the Dark Iron dwarves showed up it was like a huge battle in Wintergrasp.  Only we threw beer.

And yet it was a lot of fun, very much in the way day one of an MMO or an expansion can be, a shoulder to shoulder crazy, hectic, spammy event.

We were there in our pirate garb working our way through the quests.  We did the Ram riding, caught our Worpletingers, and helped defeat the Dark Iron.  As one person said after the Dark Iron were gone and we were all piled on the NPC to turn in the quest so that there was a continuous stream of achievements spamming in chat, “Oh no! We’re going to crash the achievement server!”

We then took advantage of having a mage on hand and went off to hunt pink elekks outside Darnassus, Exodar, and Stormwind.

That taken care of, we looked to see if we could wrap up the big Brewfest event that takes place in Blackrock Depths.

We got the quest that sent us out there to talk to a spy in the bar area of BRD and headed out.  As expected, the path to the instance itself was cleared by a stream of people headed there.

A clear path to BRD

A clear path to BRD

There was, however, no problem creating additional instances.  The appears to be fixed for our server group.

Once in we ended up removing our weapons as we cleared out any trash that was in our way.  That was partly to work on our unarmed skills, there being an achievement and all that.  But we also did it because we were still in pirate garb and there is something very satisfying about the animation of pirates punching people.  It isn’t hugely special or dramatic, but it just looked right.  I did not tire of seeing it as we pounded dark iron dwarves as we made our way to the bar.

And then we got to the bar and couldn’t find the spy.

We looked around, tried to talk to just about everybody, and eventually started a fight by drinking the beer on the table which let us punch a lot more dwarves.  But no spy.

We headed out, reset the instance, went back in, still no luck.  We checked the web for tips, but still couldn’t find anything that helped.

Eventually we gave up.  Later we learned that while Brewfest spawned for the game server at midnight Eastern time, it did not spawn for the instance server until the next day Pacific time.  Or so I was told.

We had run around enough and Ula decided to call it a night.  Earl ran off to work on a daily while Skronk and Vikund headed to Shattrath to get the achievement for falling 65 yards and living while completely smashed.  Drunken stupor is the achievement.  Be smashed yet not smashed I guess.

But something had changed since I got the Going Down achievement a while back.  I was able to walk off the Scryers platform and land on an awning for the achievement.  However, that seemed to no longer count as 65 yards.

So we spent some time trying to figure out where else we could fall and get the achievement, which lead to us dying a couple times each.  It also meant buying more alcohol in the lower city then flying up to some high point to try again.  Of course, I suppose we could have just used the Synthebrew Goggles, but I guess we were trying to keep things authentic.

Discovery:  Travel first, then drink.

Running or riding in WoW while completely smashed is annoying (yet oddly familiar), but flying while completely smashed is a challenge.

Eventually we figured out that if we just went to that spot on the Scyer’s Terrace where I first got the achievement, got on a flying mount, and hovered a just a few feet above the platform, we could dismiss the flying mount, fall, and get the achievement.

Drunken pirates at their worst.

And since Brewfest will be on next weekend as well, I am going to bet that we’ll be finishing up the BRD quest to kill Coren Direbrew together the next time we get together.

Day One: Is It Worth It?

Aion kicking off has lead to the usual menu of  MMO first day woes;  server queues, connection issues, and other problems veterans of the genre have seen on past occasions.  And so the usual question comes up:

Is it worth it to play an MMO on day one?

On day one you face the queues, the lag, the technical glitches, and the crowding as a bowling ball sized mass of players try to squeeze through the garden-hose sized content all at once.  Almost every MMO is a mess, a madhouse on day one.  What could make it worth the effort?

Well, there are some perks, though how tangible they are is up for discussion.

For a short time, everybody in the world is of equal stature.  For a day or two, even the hardest driving grinder and the most distracted altaholic are on par.

There is the feeling of sharing a new world with a mass of fellow players who are all starting out just like you.

And there is the fact that you are shoulder to shoulder with that mass of players, that you need never feel lost or helpless because you there are so many people around in the same situation as you that you can almost always find help or directions from somebody headed the same place you are.

Finally, there is the sense of an overall shared experience.  No matter how bad things are going on day one, you were there.  You are part of a club that saw the world in a state that will probably never exist again.  You can be the cranky old coot who tells those who show up days, week, months, or years later how things looked on that first day and how easy new players have it now that so much has been fixed and that the population has settled down.

Does day one of an MMO release hold any appeal for you?

For myself, I tend to be in favor of the day one experience, regardless of the aggravations.  I was there on day one for EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, and Warhammer Online, and each offered a unique experience that won’t ever be repeated.  I do tend to be something of a tourist though.

And on the other hand, I don’t necessarily feel cheated having first played World of Warcraft five months after launch.  That was still early enough in the history of the game that I experience things like server queues, auction houses limited to the local city, and only being able to fly between two connected flight points.  Then again, the population of Azeroth was still growing, so WoW might be a mild exception to the first day rule.  Starter areas were still crowded when I finally showed up.

I do wonder what EVE Online felt like on day one.  That certainly had quite the potential for calamity and confusion.

That Chef’s Hat – Not Just For Show

I went to cook up some food I had in the bank and noticed that I was cooking at what seemed amazing speed.  The usual languid progress bar was zipping along with almost indecent haste.

Well, there was a patch yesterday, so I checked the release notes to see if they had “dumbed down” cooking or anything.

But no, while Onyxia is now back as a level 80 raid (with 10 and 25 person versions), cooking was left untouched.

Then I happened to mouse over my chef’s hat, which I was still wearing from yesterday’s screen shot, and I noticed that it had an effect when worn.

It does indeed allow you to cook faster.  Very fast indeed.  Nice to see that a fluff item has even a minor benefit.

Hail to the Chef Already

I have just about wrapped up all of the cooking achievements in WoW.

First, after several months of running the daily cooking quest in Shattrath I finally got the last recipe that stood between me and the title chef.

The Elusive Recipe

The Elusive Recipe

A fine recipe, Stormchops!  The lightning it generates not only hits mobs you are fighting, but will zap critters that stray too close, even out of combat.

After doing all those cooking quests I had plenty of Clefthoof Meat on hand, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to find Lightning Eels.  However, somebody in the guild dropped a couple stacks in the guild bank.  I have no idea who, but I grabbed some and cooked the final recipe.

And with the title chef, you would think I would be done.  Of course not!  What is a chef without his hat?

The chef’s hat costs 100 Dalaran Cooking awards.  This meant running the Dalaran daily cooking quest for a few more weeks.  Unlike the Shattrath daily cooking quests though, the Dalaran quest rewards you with the award, some cash, a pouch that sometimes has another award, and a small Kirin-Tor faction boost.

The trek to the chef’s hat was sped up some by also running the Dalaran daily fishing quest which, in addition to some more cash and some more Kirin-Tor faction also includes a goody bag that, among other things, has a chance to drop a waterlogged recipe which can be turned in for five Dalaran Cooking awards. (And even more Kirin-Tor faction.)

Finally the hat was mine.

Pilsbury Chic

Pillsbury Chic

No surprise that the hat also comes with an achievement.


And after running all those quests, I realized I was just shy of exalted faction with the Kirin-Tor.  Two more daily fishing and cooking quests did that.

Now the only cooking achievement I have left is Chef de Cuisine which requires one to learn 160 cooking recipes.  I am seven shy of the mark.  Time to go inventory recipes.  I certainly hope I have all of the recipes from daily quests at this point.

And of all that, I think my favorite cooking achievement was Critter Gitter.  There are flocks of penguins around the Argent Tournament area, so I took my critter bites and tamed my 10 critters.

My critter posse

My critter posse

Then I mounted up and rode around the tournament area with 10 penguins in tow.  This may be the only thing I have ever done in WoW that got more that one person to ask me how I did it.  WoW players are generally a jaded lot.

What to work on next?  There are all those fishing achievements I suppose, but I haven’t managed to win a Booty Bay fishing contest yet, so it may be a while before I am salty.