Monthly Archives: February 2010

February in Review


After an outstanding, record breaking January here, along came February.

There is a reason we tend to travel in February.  Even in California February tends to be a chilly, gray month.  Work also tends to ramp up as certain departments finally sober up from the holidays and start making demands, leading to long hours at the office.  Werner Herzog could no doubt express the feeling February sometimes has better than I can.

So things settled down to the normal routine here, with the usual tales of the instance group and minor achievements carried on along with the occasional mention of new or upcoming games.

One Year Ago

My 8800GT video card died.  That was the second one to go.

I had been looking at my dis-used GAX Online account and wondered what gamer social networking needed to be viable.  Since then, GAX Online has shut down.

PLEX showed up in EVE Online a year ago.  In game I got the mining foreman mindlink as a storyline mission drop, I upgraded to a Raven Navy Isssue, and finally bought the freighter for which I had been training.  And then there was the whole Goonswarm dismemberment of BOB in EVE Online, which made the BBC news.

I was still active in Middle-earth, playing characters on Nimrodel.  Looking for a class on which to affix the Reynaldo Fabulous name, I put up a poll on the subject.  While Minstrel won the poll, Reynaldo ended up being a hunter with a fabulous hat.  And when I wasn’t fooling around with alts, I was leveling up my captain who made it all the way to Rivendell at one point.

While over in Azeroth, it was revealed that my mom plays WoW.  I wondered at how active Westfall seems to be most of the time.  But the answer to that seems to be the Deadmines, which I ran my mom and daughter through. (No dungeon finder back then!)  There was a little pet drama with my daughter who wanted a raptor.  I also managed my first exalted status with a faction in WoW, the Kalu’ak in Northrend.  I wanted that fishing pole.

On the Wii, we had Wii Music, which was crap, and LEGO Batman, which suffered a bit from being yet another variation in the successful LEGO video game franchise.

And then there was the usual bog war shenanigans as somebody was still looking to blame WoW and WoW players for Warhammer Online’s failure to meets its subscriber goals.  I think we’re all over that now, right?  Warhammer did what it did on its own faults and merits in a market that was well known before they shipped.

New Linking Sites

The following sites have been kind enough to link this site in their blog rolls.  Please take a moment to visit them in return!

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. GameStop Pichu Event
  2. STO – Del Taco Cup Code Caption Contest
  3. Jirachi GameStop Event Announced
  4. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  5. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  6. STO Character Creator – Experimenting
  7. Jirachi Download Event Dates Announced
  8. The Del Taco Shuttle
  9. Heroic Deadmines!
  10. Dungeon Finder – Becoming Part of the Problem
  11. TTH Picks the Top Ten PvP MMOs
  12. STO – Special Space Junk Edition!

Search Terms of the Month

wtf eve online blog
[If you think this is just an EVE Online blog then, yes, WTF?]

[He’s over there, but he doesn’t write much any more, except to summarize what he’s said aloud.]

Deleted Comments of the Month

yo mamma
[Really?  That’s all you’ve got?]

um…. can you get rid of this and stop spamming google with 6 month old posts?
[This comment was repeated over a number of posts, thus actually spamming me.  The idea that I am somehow spamming Google shows a gross misunderstanding of how search engines work.]

EVE Online

In training and light economic mode.  Sales are still stable, with more ISK coming in every day.  I had a couple of friends leave the game recently and drop me their ships so I could use them for screen shots.  That has given me a whole new training agenda.  I’ll soon be able to fly all the battleships in the game.

Star Trek Online

It has been a month since STO launched and I have settled into something of a routine with the game.  Unlike my typical fantasy MMO playstyle, with STO I tend to log in, say hello to people on the channels, run a couple of missions, and log out.  Usually I am on for an hour or less at a stretch.

The game’s structure lends itself to that.  I can get in the right measure of space combat.  This is the same way I used to play Starfleet Command, in regular small bursts.

Of course, this playstyle does not lend itself to quick advancement.  That is why I am still on the cusp of becoming a Lt. Commander while somebody made Admiral on the blogger channel the other night.

World of Warcraft

With two holiday events to feed my completionist obsession, I have spent more time playing WoW than anything else.  I actually knocked off all of the Love is in the Air achievements, but I have one left to do for the Lunar Festival.  However, that one is the dungeon elders, and I don’t think I am going to get it done in time.

Nintendo Wii/DS

We actually have a couple of new Wii games in the house that I will have to find some time to write about.  And there was that return to Pokemon Platinum.  But that sort of fell through.  We did not finish up the base game before the Pichu download event.

Coming Up

The Game Developers Conference up in San Francisco is coming in mid-March.  I plan to get up there on Thursday the 11th to wander around and see Brent, Darren, and Karen, plus anybody else who might be about.

And of course, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver ship just after that.  I’m sure I’ll have something to say on that subject.

Oh, and one more thing.  There will be a contest in March.

Berlin Serendipity

I have been a Netflix subscriber for a number of years now.

I like to browse through their selection and add things to our queue that I might like to watch some day.  There are well over 100 titles on our list.

I try to keep at least some of the top of the queue dedicated to things both my wife and I will enjoy, but I do not farm the queue constantly, so once in a while something I put on the list ages ago on a whim will bubble to the top.

And so it was a few weeks back.

At the time I was reading Anthony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945 (US title), something of the companion to his excellent Stalingrad, when the red envelope from Netflix dropped in through the mail slot.

And inside was Downfall.

You have probably seen at least one scene from Downfall.

It turned out to be perfect timing.  I was about 75% of the way through the book when I sat down to watch the movie.  I had just been reading the details of the events surrounding Berlin and got to take a very personal view into what was going on in and about Hitler’s bunker.  That very scene, which has been re-subtitled so often,  and which was described in detail in the book, played out there before me in our living room and I knew exactly what Hitler was raging about and how self-deluded he was.

Okay, it was hard not to smirk a bit and imagine Hitler going on about grammar or Jay Leno.  But I feel vindicated in that I recently read that the director of Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel actually finds these parodies of his work funny.  From an interview in New York Magazine:

I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.

Of course, he has his own wish in that regard.

If only I got royalties for it, then I’d be even happier.

Such is life.

But I digress.

Seeing the movie after having read most of the book really brought a lot of the central characters alive and gave even more depth to an already well written narrative of events.

So if you happen to pick up Anthony Beevor’s book, I would recommend renting Oliver Hirschbiegel’s movie as well.  After having experienced them together, it seems almost wrong to have one without the other.  Just make sure you get a copy of the movie with the right region set.

“I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.”

Werner Herzog Reads “Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel”

While sequels are depressing reminders of both the limits of creativity and man’s primitive desire to find safety in the known and routine, I present another childhood tale seen through the lens of Werner Herzog.

“His affection for the machine was out of proportion with social norms.”

-Fake Werner Herzog

Return to Zul’Farrak

It was time for a return to an instance that was a challenge the last time we were there, Zul’Farrak.

ZF is interesting in that it is an outdoor instance, which means you can mount up and ride.  But the spaces are not that open, and they can be quite crowded.  Plus the trolls who live there have a penchant for fleeing at low hit points.  So a group, especially a lower level group with a large aggro radius, has to take care, lest it find itself overrun.

And we were such a lower level group.  We had actually popped up, for the most part, into the ZF level range, but only just.

41 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
42 Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
42 Tauren Druid – Azawak (Skronk)
42 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
43 Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)

In advance of the night’s adventures, Azawak and Hurmoo made their way down to Tanaris and then to the entrance to ZF, forgetting once again about the implications, or even existence, of dungeon finder.

The implication is that the only people who run to instance doors these days are high level players who need something from that dungeon or who are running through some lower level friends.

Azawak and Hurmoo sat there at the meeting stone in stealth discussing how we would summon people in and have them run for the door since there was a ?? death knight hanging around in the area when another group, lead by a level ?? popped out of the instance, saw us, and killed us in about as much time as it took to read this sentence.

As we were headed back to our corpses, we realized that we could have avoided all of this by just using the dungeon finder.  So we headed back to Gadgetzen after reviving and sneaking away from the scene of our demise.

Once everybody was on and grouped, we fired up dungeon finder and took the easy way in.

It never seems like 8 bosses in ZF, but who am I to argue with the dungeon finder?

Once in ZF we settled down to the routine of clearing trash.  We took the counter-clockwise path to try and pick up the scarab shells early.  It turned out that all of the quests we had for ZF, including the red level 50 quest for Gahz’rilla, were all sharable.  And, as was pointed out in a comment previously, we didn’t even need the mallet of ZF to summon.  But we’ll get to that, first we had some trash in our way.

Who is clearing who?

We got a little over zealous once we got in and let fleeing trolls get out of hand, leaving us all dead in the sand.

Re-entering Zul'Farrak

Wow, a wipe!  On trash mobs! This might be… a challenge! We had best take care!

That was the only problem we really had. We worked out way through the trash, taking care not to let the trolls get out of hand again.  At one point, Bigbutt had to jump out of the instance, and when he came back he was placed at the entry point.  He mounted up and rode past some respawns without thinking that stuff in instances do not lose interest and let you just run away.  We were semi-AFK at that point so had a bit of a chaotic fight as Bigbutt and his new found friends arrived amongst us.

And then there was the site with all the graves, which we diligently began digging up one-by-one, fighting each undead troll that appeared, until we were about 75% through them when somebody asked, “Do we even have this quest?”

No, we did not.

Still, the experience was good.  There were level ups all around as we cut our way through.

We then made our way to the big event at the top of the stairs.

Everybody loves an event!

That actually came off about as well as I have ever seen it.  Okay, I’ve only seen it three times now, but it worked, we won, and nobody went away grumbling about bugs or having to reset the instance to try again.

The event cleared the way for the… um… final boss, Chief Ukorz Sandscalp.  His fight is not all that exciting, but you have to go kill him because his death now triggers the achievement for the instance.

Achievement in hand, we still had the best fight left, Gahz’rilla.

We cleared out all around Gahz’rilla’s pool, bumping into Elder Wildmane who was there for the Lunar Festival.

Once clear, the fight began.  Of course, no Gahz’rilla fight is complete without some air time.

Cast interrupted!

You’ll note that Azawak is flying through the air encased in a block of ice.

Gahz’rilla’s fight was exciting but short.  The end was a foregone conclusion.  We stood in victory.

Gahz'rilla defeated

Or sat, in some cases.  Enaldie likes to be seated for these shots.

That left us done with the bosses, but short on troll temper and scarab shells for various quests.  We kept clearing out the instance, but had to leave and reset the instance before everybody was covered for quest drops.  I seem to recall some of the ZF quests requiring multiple visits previously.

That done, we left the instance to turn in our quests and found ourselves scattered throughout Azeroth.

Returning to where we started, Azawak and Hurmoo rode out again from Gadgetzen to the summoning stone and pulled everybody through so we could ride together to finish our tasks for the night.

Riding to Gadgetzen!

Between Gadgetzen and the Mirage Raceway we managed to close out four of the five quests we had.  This included turning in Ghaz’rilla’s scale for the the Carrot on a Stick, an alien trinket of unimaginable cultural significance.  There is another reward for that quest, but I think everybody goes for the carrot.

That put us well past midnight, so at least ZF delivered a full evening of adventure.  The next up on the list is Maraudon which features, as I recall, a disappointing number of Gahz’rilla clones.  Life in the re-usable content lane.

How Do You Hide an “Elefant” in a Tree?

More news from World of Tanks.

While I have obstinately refused to learn anything about the game not obvious from the front page of their site, I did sign up for their newsletter since my first post about the game and have already received two updates, both of which were short and to the point.  (Take note Funcom.)

First, they gave an interview at the site MMOGRPITALIA (not as amusing as POWERGENITALIA, but oh well), which is available in an English translation here. (The forum post I linked seems okay to read, but DO NOT visit their main site, it is spyware/trojan central.)

Then, in the second newsletter, they announced the advancement tree through which you will have to work to be able to drive the German panzer of your choice.  From the page indicated in the newsletter:

German Tank Tree Available in Gallery

Our Art gallery now contains the German tank tree that will guide you through all the development branches you’ll have to follow to reach for your desired steel giant.

Bear in mind, the tree represents all the armored vehicles that will be available by the release date. It does not contain such machines as Jagdtiger, Panther II, or the famous E Series prototypes, all of which will be added to the German fleet of tanks soon after the final version of World of Tanks goes online.

To see the German tree, go to the Art gallery.

The actual tree is available as a graphic.

you can spec for "Panther" or "Tiger" but not both

The Elefant in question is in fact hidden in the tree under its other name, Ferdinand.

So it looks like we’ll have to start out in a Panzer I and work our way up.  That should be a joy, playing against armored vehicles in a tank with only 2 machine guns, for players who start after day one.

Still, I can’t wait to see the British and Soviet trees.

STO – Take a Survey, Get a Klingon

I got a note this morning from Cryptic about Star Trek Online.

They wanted me to take a survey!

We’d like to know more about you!

How often do you play the games you love? For that matter, what games do you love? What’s the one thing you’d change about Star Trek Online, if you could?

We’ve put together a special Star Trek Online player survey to learn how we can better tailor the game to your needs. If you visit our special survey page, you’ll find a few questions for you to answer. If you complete the survey, we’ll send you 240 Cryptic Points for your trouble.

This survey is open only to people who have purchased and applied a valid Star Trek Online retail key to their account, and you can only fill it out once, so make your answers count.

240 Cryptic points for taking the survey.  Hey, I would have given them my opinion for nothing, but if they want to give me something, so much the better.

And 240 Cryptic points happens to be the the price to unlock Klingons as a playable Federation race.  So here we are a month after release and they have given us a freebie… unless, of course, you’ve already purchased the Klingons.

Personally, I am going to save those 240 points for something else.  As cool as Michael Dorn is, and he is cool, my Star Trek dreams involve being Kirk, or maybe Riker, but not Worf.

Anyway, if you’re a paid up subscriber, go check your inbox (and spam folder) for the survey.  The questions are a bit light… a bit too light if you ask me… but it only takes a minut

Jirachi Download Event Dates Announced played coy for a week, then finally let us know the dates for the last download event before Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.

You will be able to download Jirachi at GameStop from February 27th through March 13th, just one day off from the timeline I predicted in my previous post on the subject.

As has been the pattern in the past, there is a promise of something special when you transfer Jirachi to HeartGold or Soulsilver as part of the promotional ad copy:

One of the most elusive Pokémon is soon going to be available: receive Jirachi into your Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum Version game for a limited time at participating GameStop stores in the United States and Puerto Rico! This Jirachi is very special, with unique moves and items that will make it a must-have for your Pokémon collection! Plus, Jirachi holds a secret that will be revealed when you trade it into a copy of Pokémon HeartGold or SoulSilver Version!

The secret, according to, is a special Pokewalker route that can only be unlocked by Jirachi.

The Pokewalker is, of course, the pedometer device that was previously announced as part of the Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver package.  We’ll see how much this adds to the game in just over two weeks when HeartGold and SoulSilver are released.

The Coin Master

Meanwhile back in World of Warcraft, where I seem to be spending most of my gaming time of late, I have achieved yet another pointless achievement!

Yes, I have finally managed to fish up all those damn coins from the fountain in Dalaran!

I have actually been one coin away for quite a while.  I needed Thrall’s golden coin.  But I am sure his is no more elusive than any other gold coin.  It is one of those quests that, when you start, progress in guaranteed.  The first coin you pull up is one you don’t have yet.  And the next dozen or so are likely to be new to you as well.

After that, you start in on the duplicates.  So getting that last one can seem like it takes forever.

Aside from the achievements, you also get the Titanium Seal of Dalaran for your troubles.

The coin essentially gives you an emote of flipping a coin and having it land either heads or tails.  Amusing, but I don’t think anybody is going to use it for, say, loot roles.

So that is one more of the fishing achievements down for me.  Though considering how often I bring up fishing in MMOs (at least relative to other people) I’m kind of slacking on the fishing achievements.

Crown of Byzantus Goes Live

The free-to-play browser based game Crown of Byzantus went live today!

So perhaps my post last week about the open beta ended on a bit of a dire note.  If you missed the tiny crack in the open beta window I left open, have no fear, you can now play the game for real.

The game features NO gladiatorial combat or farming.  Seriously, their press page makes the point of saying:

Byzantus is based loosely on the late 14th century Byzantine Empire spiced up with monsters, relics and a whole lot of action. It does NOT feature farming, raising pigs or building log cabins.

So we have that out in the open.  Farming is RIGHT OUT!

So what do you get by playing the new, live version of the game.  Again, I go to the Byzantus press site for the answers:

  • Five factions instead of three!
  • More than twice the territory to explore and fight over!
  • New quests and PVP goals!
  • Not all-out hostility but  a network of faction relationships and enmities!
  • New title levels and intermediary goals!
  • Legend Point refills with Glory!
  • Fortunes of war displayed on your map!
  • Jousting – mock combat with small rewards, to test your troops and skills!
  • Pearls to give you an edge on competition!

Of course, I played so little that I couldn’t have told you any of this was missing in the first place.  Except for the pearls.  The pearls are the in-game currency you can buy through their site.

Pearls are a premium feature used to purchase various advantages such as magical potions, advisors and extra gold. Crown of Byzantus can be played all the way to the throne without premium advantages and all glory has to be earned by the sword. However, premium advantages will make travel easier, progress faster and enable different playing styles and objectives.

The minimum is 40 pearls, which will run you 5 Euros.

Anyway, if you see Wilhelm IV, knight of the Pope, that would be me.

Jirachi GameStop Event Announced

As part of the build-up to the mid-March release of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, has announce that there will be another download event at GameStop.

While the dates for this download event have not been announced, I would have to think that February 28th through March 14th might be a reasonable guess.  That would mirror the dates for the recent Pichu event and would tie right in to the March 14th launch date for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.

More details, such that they are, at

[Edit: The download dates have been announced.]