Monthly Archives: May 2010

May in Review

The Site

As predicted, the disruption of being laid off meant less posts.  Theoretically, I have much more time in which to write.  However, I had a writing routine which is broken without the whole job thing around which it was structured, leading to less writing over all.

Well, less blog writing.  I’ve been writing lots of email, updating my resume, writing cover letters, and so on.  So the amount of writing I’m doing is going up over all.  You just don’t see as much of my output now.

My mother was also out to visit recently, which really has nothing to do with the site, but gives me an excuse to post a picture.

Authenticators Three

It turns out that while my mother, myself, and my daughter all have Blizzard authenticators, we all have different ones.  I am sure there is somebody out there who collects this sort of thing and who is saying, “Hey, where did you get that middle one?”

One Year Ago

It was just a year ago when I was able to expose the true conspiracy behind the EuroGamer Darkfall review.  Powerful forces have been suppressing this story ever since.

Meanwhile, EverQuest was celebrating its 10 year anniversary by putting up a new server.  Polled on what it should be, people chose the 51/50 rule set.  I’m sure that, somehow, that say something about MMOs and nostalgia.  And did anybody go play on that new server?  How did it work out?

I went back and played some Blizzard classics, Diablo II and StarCraft, both of which have patches now that mean you do not need the CD to play.  This was prompted by Blizzard’s pushing people towards and the announcement of the opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  I opted in right away.  I hear that some people got in to the beta almost a year later. *cough*

In New Eden, it was new ship time, as I picked up both an Orca and a Buzzard.  I also managed to lose my Cerebus.   Oops.

And speaking of EVE Online, it was a year ago that I announced my one year experiment, EVE Online Pictures.  That site is now two years old.

The instance group was moving along slowly.  We did hit Azjol Nerub, but vacations and such kept us down to four people, so we spent a bit of time back in Burning Crusade doing heroics and generally messing around.  That included our run into Ogrimmar to do Ragefire Chasm.

And a year ago Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.  The site for the game is still there (go Google it) but it still mentions signing up for beta invites.  Casual might refer to the development plan I guess.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Pokewalker Winner’s Path WiFi Event
  2. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  3. Pokewalker Twinking
  4. Battle of the Immortals – Key Features
  5. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  6. Starting Fresh in Middle-earth Three Years Later
  7. So This is Where EQII Marketing is Headed
  8. April Fools at Blizzard
  9. TTH Picks the Top Ten PvP MMOs
  10. The Agency… on Facebook
  11. Re-Entering Middle-earth
  12. Of Server Merges, Memorial Dings, Vanity Mounts, and Predictions

Search Terms of the Month

freeport housing looks like shit
[Well, I hear the Halas housing is much better.]

how do i hack the arceus event
[I make a pokewalker cheat and this is what I get?]

MLB dugout blueprints
[I’m calling homeland security on this one.]

white mouse
[My first thought was, “Seriously?”  But it turns out the site is the number one response when you search Google images for “white mouse.”  Go figure.]

Spam Comment of the Month

Tom Cruise is a fudge packer
[This was on a Pokemon post.  Again, go figure.]

EVE Online

The wormhole expedition seems to be back on.  Potshot has been leading on this, and has a couple of posts on the subject. (In order, Spaaace, Parking, Defenses, and Room.)  I opted-in by taking my pile of ISK and buying a couple of PLEX so I could be around to help out and still keep up my embargo on new expenses.  I also trained up Starbase Defense Management so I could man the guns should it come to pew-pew.

Lord of the Rings Online

I have a couple of posts backed up on LOTRO.  I have been playing my two new characters on Firefoot.  They are both past level 25 at this point and it feels like I could keep going at a moderate pace and make my goal from last year of at least seeing Moria.  Then again, things could flatten out.  We’ll see.

Lord of Ultima

A friend of mine thought Lord of Ultima looked neat, so I joined him in playing.  He has since stopped, but I plug along.  I am WilhelmIV on World 3.  It isn’t really anything like the Ultima series up to and including Ultima Online.  It is more like Evony without the ads, scams, and stolen artwork.  I’m about ready to build a castle, which makes you open to attack, to see how quickly I will get wiped out.  I am surrounded by BioWare Edmonton players.

World of Warcraft

After throwing out tons of different ideas and possible alternative games, it sounds like we are going to press on with our team of horde characters on Lightninghoof and see if we cannot blast through the Outlands doing only random instances via the dungeon finder.

Nintendo DS/Wii

Pokemon is still in play.  My daughter and I are both in Kanto now, another item I should post about, since we managed it in very different styles.  I was disappointed to find that Pokemon Ranch does not work with HeartGold and SoulSilver, and I am going to guess that Pokemon Battle Revolution is likewise incompatible.

While we have a new, favorite disk for the Wii, I will write about that later.

And we pulled out Wii Fit, which my wife got for her birthday in 2009 (she asked for it!).  The body evaluation section of the program declared my daughter obese.  We had to go in and change her profile.  She had grown over 7 inches since we last played.  Once fixed, she was again at the skinny end of healthy.

Coming Up

More sporadic posting, and it will get worse before it gets better, as once I get a new job (please!) there will be coming up to speed with the new position and the eventual creation of a new routine which may allow even less time to write, like if I get that job over in Emeryville for which I applied.  I would end up spending a lot more time commuting and a lot less time writing in that case.

But I should always have time for at least the weekly instance group write-ups.  We shall see what the future brings.

Hellfire Random Remix

It was a long Saturday for some of us and it looked to be a long Sunday for others, but we all still logged on at 9pm Pacific time for instance night.

A couple of us admitted that we would not be heartbroken if we skipped a week and that a long dungeon crawl might not be our fondest desire at that moment.  So after a run through the options, we decided to just let the dungeon finder pick our destination for the night.

We also had a character change this time around, the first change out in our horde group and only the second since I traded out Blintz, my rogue, for Vikund the paladin way back in the day.

This time around Potshot decided to put in his death knight, Maliverney, in place of his druid, Azawak.  So a tank change in the lineup.  That gave us the following group for the night:

59 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
60Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)
60Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
60 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
60 Undead Deathknight – Maliverney (Skronk)

It was just a little after 9pm when we were all grouped and selected the random option.  Take us away dungeon finder!

And we ended up in Hellfire Ramparts.

Enter the Ramparts

Looking at the dungeon finder interface, once you hit 60 you are apparently too high of a level to get a classic dungeon a random pick.  You are limited to the Outlands.

Well, what the hell… so to speak.

A couple of us had already wandered into the Burning Crusade expansion in order to pick up our flying skills and mounts and, while there, ran just a couple of the initial quests for a gear upgrade or two.  I think Enaldie, Hurmoo, and Bigbutt all had a new had and pants.  But the rest of our kit was strictly classic Azeroth.  Hurmoo, for example, was still swinging the Scepter of Celebras.

Because of this, there was one school of thought that felt an Outlands instance might be a challenge.  We hadn’t ramped up on the gear, we were working with a new class tanking, and we hadn’t actually been there at level for more than two years, at which point we had problems finishing up, all of which seemed to add up to a non-faceroll experience, to use the SynCaine term.

The reality though…

Okay, Hurmoo died two fights in when we pulled a group and got a patrol in addition, though the reason Hurmoo got jumped on was that he was playing with Wild Growth before Maliverney had a solid aggro lock on everybody.  And even then, the fight went down okay with some healing from Earl and Enaldie.

No, we were in for a quick kill AOE fest with no crowd control required.  Once we settled down a bit and Maliverney got into the tanking groove, we were splashing through the trash pretty quickly.  The first boss, Watchkeeper Gargolmar, gave up the ghost pretty fast.

Soon we were past him, up the ramp, and clearing out the courtyard with the two remaining bosses within sight.  We went left first and took on Omor the Unscarred.

Omor Awaits

There were some vague recollections of this being a tough fight, with Omor summoning some sort of helpers part way through the fight, but we didn’t spend too much time dwelling on that.  We asked Enaldie to keep her consecrate going in order to pick up any random adds and went straight and Omor.

I think Omor only got to summon a single felhound.  I couldn’t recall if he had any other special attacks, everything went by so quickly.  And when he died, we got the instance achievement.

That seems kind of flimsy, handing out the achievement for the second of three bosses.  Then again, the last boss has all of the cool stuff, so they probably figure you are going to go after him no matter what.

Then it was on to the last fight, the event with Vazuden and his dragon mount Nazan.

This fight left a couple of lasting impressions with us.  For example, we all remembered that the battle event starts when you kill the last pair of guards.  Those guards look just like any number of guards in the instance, so it is easy to think you’re just clearing some trash rather than kicking off the event.

Also, it was well recalled that we need to step out of the blobs of fire that Nazan shoots at people during the fight.

After those two facts, things were a little blurry.  But those two facts turned out to be enough as we went into the fight.

Fight Finale

The fight was exciting, if only because people had to keep on the move.  That can be tough on the casters.

You can see the end of the fight above, with Hurmoo casting tranquility while standing in one of those blobs of fire.  That was enough to keep us all going and finish off Nazan.  That finished the instance and got us our bag of goodies.

We looted the chest at the far end of the platform, took our victory shot, and looked at the clock.

Nazan Defeated

The time was 9:50pm.

So we decided to do it again.

And when we finished that round it was 10:40pm.

So we decided to do it one more time.

We did get sloppy on the third round, when early on, in the exact same fight where Hurmoo died the first time, we ended up pulling two groups plus a patrol leading to more damage hitting the tank than the healer could keep up with.  But we didn’t, technically, wipe, since we were close to the door.  So Hurmoo ran out when everybody else was dead, then came back to ress people.

But after that we pressed on and wrapped up the third run at around 11:30pm.

Weapon upgrades

Three runs through yielded some good drops, getting upgrades for all of us.  You can see Earl’s new Crystalfire Staff (which looks like he took it off of one of General Grievous’ bodyguards) and Enaldie’s Hellreaver in the picture above.

The evenings run left us with another idea for how to go forward.  We might just see if we can run through the Outlands, and how quickly we can manage it, doing nothing but random dungeon finder instances.  How much of the expansion can we avoid this time through?

So This is Where EQII Marketing is Headed

Wednesday morning and on my checklist just above “find a job” was “read xkcd” and “watch Zero Punctuation.”

However, when I got to Zero Punctuation, it seemed to be blighted with one of the greatest non-flashing eyesore advertising schemes I’ve seen in a long time.  And it was imploring me to tell somebody why my MMO is so cool!

Tell me why you think these colors are so cool

ZP was amusing and, ironically in hindsight, spent some time trashing the collection quest aspect of MMOs, which the game he was reviewing, Monster Hunter Tri, seemed to have adopted as its core game play aspect.  By the end of ZP I thought that, perhaps, this ad was some MMO-trashing come-on to promote a different sort of game.

But it was not.

No, clicking on the ad lead me to the site EQII PWNZ! where it put up a little quiz asking about my current MMO.  In response to each answer, the quiz would reveal a marketing blurb about EverQuest II.

EQII PWNZ because we say so

No matter which answer you select in the quiz, you get the same three responses:

Q: How satisfied are you with the amount of gameplay options in the MMO you currently play?

A: EverQuest II® has 19 customizable player races with 23 different skill classes for all-out adventuring fun whether it be PvP, PvE or crafting.

Q: About how much game content have you completed in the MMO you currently play?

A: EverQuest II has grown its fun-filled world through six expansion packs containing more than 300 expansive zones and 8,000 exciting quests.

Q: Have you ever got bored or tired of the traditional MMO grind and thought of jumping ship?

A: Well, with a new faster, easier leveling curve and directed character progression through the new Storyteller system, EverQuest II is more fun than ever before. Booyah!

I’m not sure the whole thing works.  (And is “game play” one word or two?)

For example, if I am “pleasured” by the experience of my current MMO, why do I care how many races or classes EQII has?

Or, if I have only completed a small amount of the content in my current MMO, why would the admittedly huge amount of content EQII offers entice me?  I haven’t finished the content in front of me.

But the capper has to be asking if I have ever gotten bored or tired (a fine distinction there, I might have opted for “bored or frustrated” were the choice mine) of the traditional MMO grind.

First, it isn’t exactly clear that what they are proposing is anything but a variation on the same old grind in a game that is as mired in the traditional MMO grind as any.

Second, you just told me about all this wonderful content you have, but now you’re saying you’ll help me zip right through.  That can’t really be seen as a hearty endorsement of the content, now can it?

Then there was a little text box at the bottom of the page asking the question, “So, tell me why you’re not playing EverQuest II?”  I hope somebody reads the answers, since I wrote a short tale there.  I would bet that it is more likely that answers will just be tallied up as “favorable” or “unfavorable.”

And then, on submitting the web form, you get one more pass through the pink and yellow, which blend in so nicely with the ice blue of the Halas Reborn logo.

Thanks, now subscribe dammit!

And while it is new content, I am not sure Halas Reborn is really a big draw.  Either you played EverQuest and remember Halas and learning to swim by falling off that raft or running the gauntlet of the great twilight conga line of monsters marching through the snow, or you didn’t, in which case you might be excused for not caring.

And, when you’re done with that page, if you want more information, it routes you back to the current page for Halas Reborn where, if you have a lapsed account, they offer a few goodies if you’ll just reactivate and come back.

Look! A kitty!

All of which isn’t really selling me.  But then I am still being “pleasured” by my current MMO, mostly because that is where my regular group plays.

How about you?  Convinced by any of this?  Excited about Halas?

Now back to the job hunt.

Wrath of the Kitties

No, not those kitties.  Our own, real life cats.

I arrived home this afternoon to find our LEGO pokewalker project had been knocked off its location and lay smashed to pieces on the floor.

No Free Steps Today!

This appears to be part of an ongoing anti-cheating campaign initiated by one of our cats.

The suspect in this brutal attack on our LEGO project declined to answer questions from his daytime perch atop the six foot tall bookcase in my office.  I’m pretty sure the little one put him up to it.  She’s a trouble maker.

Maintaining his right to remain silent

My daughter and I will not be deterred by this misfortune.  A better and stronger LEGO pokewalker system will emerge from the ashes of this setback.

Of Server Merges, Memorial Dings, Vanity Mounts, and Predictions

EverQuest is merging servers.

No big surprise there I suppose.  The last time I was on EQ my benchmark for population/activity, the number of vendors set up in the Bazaar, was looking pretty grim.

I did not get notified directly about the merger like some did, but my account is lapsed currently.  I guess they don’t send such notifications to their inactive user base, despite my having signed up to get such mailings in my Station preferences.

And they have not mentioned server merges on their Facebook page, where they seem to be focused on their Memorial Ding! contest.

If enough people become fans of the EverQuest Facebook page, they will raise the spawn rates for rare items this coming Memorial Day.  They have already handed out rewards in-game for meeting their 12K goal, but to get a 100% boost in rare spawn rates, they want to hit 18K.  Go social networking.

Anyway, when I did see the server merge announcement, I took a minute to go back and look at my predictions list for 2010, which was written and posted on January 1st of this year, just to see how things stood.  And, sure enough, I had server merges on the list.

EverQuest – The next round of server consolidation will happen, and it will be a good thing

I wasn’t really going out on a limb there I suppose.  It will no doubt be a good thing too, though I cannot remember what happened to my original EQ server, E’ci.

But while I was looking into that, I also noticed another prediction I made, about which I had completely forgot when the events came to pass.

Most subscription MMOs that sell vanity items like pets or appearance gear will sell custom mounts by the end of 2010.  WoW and EQ2 will be the benchmark.

WoW and EQ2 to sell custom mounts.  Well, I think I’ve got that one covered with the Greed Steed and the Fat Cats both selling for $25 a pop.   And it isn’t even June yet.

I also predicted StarCraft II would ship in the second quarter of this year, so I missed that by 27 days.  That ought to be worth some partial credit.

Two Doors to Statholme

When Saturday night rolled around we decided not to go back to Dire Maul North to turn in the two quests we finished the previous week.  With Dire Maul complete in our eyes, we to pick our next target.  Dungeon finder listed a few options for us.

The choice really came down to Stratholme and Scholomance.  We were interested to see that Stratholme had two options in dungeon finder, so we decided to go there and use the service entrance.  Our group for the night was:

57 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
58 Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)
58 Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
59 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
59 Tauren Druid – Azawak (Skronk)

We let the dungeon finder take us away to see what we could see.

The dungeon finder generally does not let you go places where you cannot achieve a given goal.  Of course, that is for the random dungeon.  There is no telling what you get when you pick your poison.

We were wondering if we would need a key to come in from the service side, but that did not seem to be the case.  And when were in, we could see Magistrate Barthilas who holds the key to the city.

Barthilas spotted

So we started forward to clear the area, which proceeded at a rapid pace.  However, we failed to notice that as soon as we stepped in, Barthilas ran away deeper into the instance, leaving us on the wrong side of the locked gate.

Soon the area was clear but the gate was locked.  We started working our way towards the front door, just in case we missed something, but aside from Hearthsinger Forresten, there was naught to be had from that direction.

With that decided, we left the instance, reset it, and then came back through the front door.

This worked out a bit better.  We had to work our way around to Barthilas, but the fights were not very tough.  We managed to get back to where we had started, finding Herathsinger Forresten again, in a short time.

Unfortunately, we managed to screw up the Barthilas fight.  Azawak stepped through the big gate to pull him back to where we were.  However, once the fight started, the gate went down with Azawak on one side and the rest of us on the other.

Azawak stranded

We could not target either Azawak for heal or Barthilas to do damage, though Hurmoo did find that tranquility would heal Azawak.  Too bad about the long cool down.

Azawak went down eventually, and Barthilas walked through the gate to us.  He had been beaten down sufficiently that we managed to take him out without too much drama.  The gate then opened.  We had the key to the next gate and were able to ress Azawak.

We were then into the Gauntlet area, the Baron’s timer started counting down, and it was time for some tougher fights.

The Gauntlet awaits

We did well enough for the most part.  We kept things to small, manageable groups through most of the Gauntlet, though at one point we did get in over our head and ended up with a wipe.  That set us back and pretty much meant would wouldn’t beat the timer.

Those bones out there... they are ours

We pressed on to the finish though.  And by the time we got within sight of the Baron’s hold, people in the group started getting this achievement.

Yes, we were turning the corner to 60.  First Enaldie, then Azawak leveled up.

We managed to finish off Baron Rivendare without there being any question as to the outcome.

The Baron defeated

That done, we headed back into the instance to clear out any pockets of undead we left behind and triggered the Postmaster Malown fight just for fun.

Malown Malowned

That got Hurmoo to 60 and Earl to 59, at which point nobody was left close to a level.  We decided to call it a night.

For Hurmoo, level 60 meant a whole pile of healing skill updates.  No lifebloom until 62 though.

And there was one more important item on the list, druid flight form and the accompanying achievement.

This will be my second druid with flight form, and it is still fun even the second time around.

But the first time you get flight form can be a pretty big thrill.  Azawak got flight form for his first time and his own post on it tells the tale.  Too much fun!

And now we’re arriving at level 60 and have to make some decisions.  Do we finish up the classic instances?  Do we press on into the Outlands after that, before that, or ever?  Do we go back to our old set of characters and finish off the three instances that were added after we moved to Lightninghoof?  Do we try a new game?  Or do we just take the summer off until Cataclysm comes out?

Pokemon by the Bay

This past Saturday was the Pokemon Regional Championships in San Francisco.

A Pokemon event in my area

Only it wasn’t really in San Francisco.

As is often the case, San Francisco was given as the location because if they said they were holding it in San Mateo, which is 30 minutes down the highway, most people wouldn’t know what they were talking about.  People barely know the way to San Jose, which is the 10th largest city in the US.

So it was more of a battle in the city down the road from the city by the bay.

But not being in San Francisco was probably better for all concerned.  It made the whole thing much easier to attend for most people I would guess.

The event was part of the Pokemon Video Game Championship Series.

This should not be confused with the Pokemon The Card Game Championship Series.

The Pokemon Video Game Championship Series is a set of regional events that lead into a national event in the case of the US and Japan, and a series of national events in Europe that lead into a regional event.  All of that leads into a world wide Pokemon Videogame Championship in Kona on the island of Hawaii at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.  (I’ve stayed at the Outrigger Waikoloa, right next door.  It is very nice area.)

Pokemon Championship Locations

With the San Francisco about a 30 minute drive away in San Mateo, I thought we ought to go up and see how this sort of thing was run.  It would get us out of the house and they were offering up a shiny Eevee download for spectators and participants.

We had a soccer game in the morning, which precluded my daughter from entering the junior division to compete, but after a post-game shower and some lunch, we were able to get up there in time for the senior division part of the program.

For the purposes of the Pokemon Video Game Championship Series (PVGCS), a senior is defined a somebody born in 1997 or earlier.  13 year old seniors.

I was not sure what to expect.  On the one hand, Pokemon is kind of a big deal.  Nintendo sells a lot of Pokemon cartridges for its GameBoy systems.  And this was one of only six regional championships in the US.  This could be a serious, big-time event.

On the other hand, I haven’t really got any sort of feel for how much actual Pokemon battling goes on outside of the storyline of the game.  When it comes to competition, I hear a lot more about the card game.  There are a lot more events for the card game, a whole ranking systems, and the whole world championship series.

We grabbed our Pokemon games, our DSs, and my camera, and headed up the road to San Mateo to see what we could see.

The venue was at about the county fair ground level.  The building in which they were holding the event was typical polished concrete floor, high ceiling affair which could easily be playing host to a Victorian collectibles show, a home improvement show, or an antique show on any given weekend.  Fortunately the weather was mild.  This sort of venue can be miserable in August, no matter how much air conditioning they have running.

But the first thing we saw when we parked was a line.


That picture is just one segment of the line, which went a couple dozen yards further, then looped back around and came about halfway back to where we were standing, if that makes any sense.  I was a bit worried that we were going to have to stand in that line.

I found an official at the end of the line who explained that it was only for competitors.  Spectators could go in the other door, which had no line at all.

The official was at the end of the line to keep any further potential participants from getting in line.  It was 1:30pm already and registration for the event was supposed to have concluded by this point.

The first sign

We walked into the spectator’s side of the building and were greeted by some inflatable Pokemon.  First, the trio that are featured in Pokemon HeartGold and Soulsilver.

Totodile, Chikorita, and Cyndaquil

And then, of course, the Pokemon superstar.


Size = importance.  The trio were about 3 feet tall each, while Pikachu was probably 8 feet tall and a good 12-15 long, looming there above the competition as he does above the whole franchise.

For non-competitors there wasn’t much of a show.  They had an information booth that was remarkably clean.  It was certainly uncontaminated by information as far as I could tell.  I asked the poor girl sitting there all sorts of questions for which she did not have answers.  I left her alone until somebody replaced her, then started up again, and got the same thing.  I even insinuated that I might somehow be a member of the press, asking if they had a press packet or a press liaison to whom I could speak.  No such luck.  The only information available was also readily available on large, clearly printed signs.

Aside from the non-information booth, there was the download area which had the usual big signs indicating how to download your shiny Eevee.

There was a demo station consisting of two chained down DS Lites where you could try out Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver.  I’m not sure I saw anybody who needed that sort of demo.

There was a demo station with two Wii consoles setup where you could try out Pokemon Rumble.  We’ve played the demo at home already, and from what I’ve read, once you’re done with the demo, you’re probably done with the game.  There was no Pokemon Ranch demo, since it does not work with HeartGold or SoulSilver.

There was a table setup with some kids playing Pokemon the card game.  I’m sorry, but the reason I started playing computer games was to jettison the accounting and equipment that went with so many role playing and war games.

Confirming again who was the star, somebody came out in a Pikachu costume, so you could get your picture taken with Poke-royalty.

Fat Pikachu!

And there was a little cafe that sold surprisingly good looking food at the unsurprising gouge-level pricing that is the standard at such events.

So it was clear that this event was really about one thing.  It was about the competition.  The hall was divided in half.  The spectator half was pathetic.  The competition part of the building was where the action was.

Lord Pikachu over the Competition

The competition was just kicking off when we arrived.  I was interested to see how this would be handled.

They have special stations set up.  All you have to do is show up with your Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver cartridge and team info sheet (VGC_Team_Info_Sheet_EN),  which lists out your team, and they provide the rest.  You do not even have to bring your DS, as you have to use the special DS stations that they provide.

Pokemon competition stations

You get in, you do your battle with the person you’re assigned to face, one of you wins and advances to the next round and one of you is done for the day.  Each of the competition tiers is a different color.

The orange tier awaits the finalists

I am not sure how they winnow the crowd down to the final set of players and eventually declare the winners.  Again, no press sheet and the site didn’t go into that much detail.  But they had a waiting area all set up for those who won out over the competition.

The Finalists Lounge

And what did you get if you made it through the gauntlet and became one of the top 16 players in the tounament?

1st Place:

  • A Regional Championships 1st Place Trophy
  • A Nintendo DSi system
  • Airfare and 4 day/3 night hotel accommodations for the winner (including parent or legal guardian for players under 18) to attend the Pokémon Video Game National Championships in Indianapolis, IN on June 25th-27th
  • An invite to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships

2nd through 4th Place:

  • A Nintendo DSi system
  • A $300 travel allowance (including an additional $300 travel allowance for players under 18) to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships.
  • An invite to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships

5th through 16th Place:

  • An invite to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships

Not bad.

I guess if you end up in 5th through 16th place, you are going to have to decide if you really, really want to go to Indianapolis for the national championship.

We watched some of the matches.  They had big flat screens at the end of each aisle of the competition that displayed one of the matches in progress.  They even had a competition station set aside for people to try out.  The line for that was both long and somewhat ill-defined, so we gave that a pass.  Besides, we didn’t have our Pokemon setup for competition.

But my daughter decided that she would get ready to compete in next year’s event.  We’ve gone over the rules and printed out the team info sheets so we can practice.  I just wish the video game site had as many resources for organizing and playing tournaments as the the trading card game does.  The trading card game seems to be the main focus for league play, the video game barely getting a mention.

Of course, the trading card game sells product at game shops, so it has that going for it.  The same cannot be said for the video game which, once sold, doesn’t generate any further revenue.

We might have to create our own tournament.

Bringing a Submarine to a Gunfight

I thought the dogs with guns was amusing in The Agency: Covert Ops, but then I got into a gunfight with a submarine.

Dodged that submarine attack!

Okay,  I realize that this screen just represents the game’s conflict resolution mechanism, its own little marathon rock/paper/scissors effort to declare a winner when face with direct enemy opposition.  The actual resolution describes what happened in the story of your character.

Out swam a sub!

But when you choose the gunfight metaphor for every conflict resolution, it ends up looking pretty silly when you start throwing in dogs or submarines as opponents.

What else do you suppose is packing heat in The Agency: Covert Ops?

Dire Maul West – Mistakes and Misdirections

We were not planning on doing Dire Maul West initially.  We had been there before, both as part of the epic mount quests for our paladin and warlock, and then to finish it off.

However, when Saturday night rolled around, some of the group was feeling spent and not really up for a run at Stratholme or Scholomance.  Dire Maul West seemed like a less involved choice, so in the group went using the dungeon finder.

The group for the night was:

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

And, certainly, it started off as a we expected.  We did the same careful clear that we had done before.  We worked our way around and picked up one of the  two quests we had going for the night, The Madness Within.  The goal is to knock off two bosses in DM West, but to get to one of the bosses, Immol’thar, you have to disable five magic pylons that are at various points in the dungeon.

A Sample Pylon

You can tell when you have deactivated a pylon as it ceases to glow.

Unlit pylon behind our wipe

You can see the pylon in the upper right of the picture above.  That picture also documents our one wipe of the night.  I walked off to help my wife put fresh sheets on the bed (sleeping on fresh sheets is one of the minor joys of life, in my opinion)

So we were off to get the pylons.  Two pylons are in the ring around Immol’thar, one is right at the entrance, one is right before the quest giver (it is in the picture above) and one is on the far side of the quest giver, just out of line of sight.  So two were out before we even got the quest.  Two we took out by the boss.  And then there was that other one.

When we were here before, we missed that pylon just past the quest giver and had to go all the way back to get it to drop the force field around Immol’thar.  We did the same thing this time.  And there are some quick repsawns that dog your path when you make that round trip.

Not tragic, but annoying.

We made the trip back, picked up the last pylon, returned, and knocked down Immol’thar without much drama.

Immol'thar Down

Slaying him also got us the achievement for the set of three instances.  This is one we had not collected as a group previously.

After that nice quick fight, we headed towards the library and walked into a couple of the wandering arcane monsters in that circle Immol’thar’s area and nearly had a wipe.  Two of us went down and it was touch and go to hold on.  Look both ways before you cross the street is the lesson here.

Once back to life, we made it to the library, killed Prince Totheldrin, and collected our last quest updates.

Now it was time to turn in the quests!

Milling about post-fight in the library

The quest tracker was up there in the UI telling us where to go!

It looked like we just needed a portal back to The Undercity and then a quick ride out to turn in these quests.  After all, they weren’t just in the quest tracker, they were also clearly marked on the in-game map!  Thanks Blizzard!

Location One

Location 2

Unfortunately, the built-in, Blizzard provided quest tracker was WRONG.

Of course, we did not figure that out until we had spent a good deal of time searching around, an effort that included Hurmoo falling into the Dalaran crater.

It turns out that, to complete the quests, we have to get back into Dire Maul North.  Now we have to decide if we really want to spend the time finishing those two quests up or move on to another instance.