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July in Review July 31, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, blog thing, Diablo III, DS, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Month in Review, Nintendo, Pokemon, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,
5 comments

The Site

This past month I wrote about all sorts of things.  I wrote about exploration in Middle-earth, a 1500 word review of The Agency: Covert Ops, FarmVille, Hulkageddon III, the freeing of PLEX (with an obscure musical reference as a title, which nobody has yet mentioned), StarCraft II, and the ever hoped for flying car.

And which of my posts made it to WordPress.com’s front page?

There, in the upper right hand corner

Yeah, the damn octopus.  That is what made the front page.

Okay, granted, there are a lot of low cards on that front page.  Proof that we were, in fact, in the Summer news doldrums I suppose.

But Paul the Octopus was enough to make July the month with the most page views ever.  I really cashed in on World Cup fever… if only there had been some actual cash involved.  Still no job yet.

Anyway, page views for the month ended up looking like this.  Click on it to see the full size version.

July 2010 Page View Chart

One Year Ago

I won a contest.  Granted, all I got was a T-shirt.  But that was probably more than you got.

Mythic announced a version of Warhammer Online for the Mac.  How did that turn out?

I was, as usual, asking silly questions like why does Tetris gets faster.  Okay, it was an analogy, but it was still silly.

Oh, and then there was the horse.  Remember the $10 horse?  I did a poll about it and everything.  Boy, that seems like small potatoes a year later.  I mean, that was a cash shop game selling a horse for $10.  Now WoW and EQ2 will sell you mounts that are even more expensive.  And they charge a monthly subscription fee… so far.

Gary Gannon announced that GAX Online was going to close in August, bringing to an end that experiment in gamer community building.

I asked what people considered cheating in an MMO.  It included another poll.  I was doing polls last July.

I did a parody of Tipa’s Daily Blog Roll feature.

In EVE Online I got another step closer to mining perfection.  I was also fiddling around with a fit for a Dominix.

The instance group hit Violet Hold and Gundrak, but couldn’t get the team together for Halls of Stone, so went back and did some Burning Crusade heroics just for kicks.

Then the instance group took a run at Onyxia.  The old school Onyxia.  She’s since been remade into a level 80 raid.

And even as we were doing all that, we were starting to mull over what we should do once we were level 80 with no new expansion in sight.  It only took us a year to try another game.  At about that time, my hunter alt hit level 80.

I also dredged up the old Alamo Teechs U 2 Play Druid post from the WoW forums.  Philisophical question:  Would Alamo have posted that if he had had to use his real name?

And, finally, my daughter was trying to get me to help her make WoW videos to post on YouTube.

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 July

  1. We’re in the Summer News Doldrums Now…
  2. Blizzard Real ID vs. My Privacy
  3. We Learn About Account Security with Club Penguin
  4. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  5. Hulkageddon III – Summer of Gank – Coming Soon
  6. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  7. Possible Jirachi Nintendo WiFi Download
  8. Hulkageddon III – Game On
  9. Blizzard Authenticator: New Tool for Bad Guys
  10. As Real ID Oozes Forward, More People Lose
  11. Octopus Defeats Parakeet – Spain Wins World Cup
  12. World of Warcraft Magazine – Issue 2

Search Term of the Month

jdjdjdjdjdjdjdjd
[glad to see that completely random things will bring you here]

Hate Mail of the Month

Not many people bother, but once in a while I get one.

u r gay [from IP Address: 97.116.53.48]

Wow!  That was worth the effort!

Deleted/Spam Comments of the Month

Wow this site sucks butt! Who would make a site like this!
[This then turned into an ad for a craptastic, third-tier Facebook game which I won't mention. So ha-ha, I win.]

Rumour has it that Azeroth Flying will cost 25,000 gold. So getting a ton of gold seems like a good idea before Cataclysm
[One of many gold seller spam comments.  This one had a reason behind it I suppose.]

Can the WOW accounts be auctioned? Both for buying and selling of accounts. It would be an awesome idea. Are there any providers for this?
[Odd they should ask this question when links to such a site were embedded in their comment.]

EVE Online

The W-space station expedition lost steam and has been shelved, mostly due to our inability to find a system in W-space that we could settle and which did not already have somebody there.  So I’m back to the default EVE play style, which is training.  I’m running on PLEX time I purchased with some of my ISK.  I probably have enough time left to get to 70 million skill points.  And then what?

Lord of the Rings Online

It is no longer just me goofing off in Middle-earth.  The instance group is now in LOTRO and looking to stay there for a bit.  This means that my main character, Terentia, has been side-lined for a while.  That seems to happen to any character that I think of as my main.  And a new character, destined to be part of our regular group, has emerged.  Roderigo, the burglar.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is really on the back burner right now.  The instance group is at the same point we were at before Wrath of the Lich King came out.  We’re a bit tired of Azeroth and trying out something different.  Well, a little different.  Last time it was Warhammer Online, which lasted us about six weeks.  This time around it is LOTRO.  Will that last past Cataclysm?

Nintendo DS

I am this close (hold fingers millimeters apart) to defeating Red in Pokemon SoulSilver.  And then I will really only have the National Pokedex to complete… which means I’ll pretty much be done with the game.  I tell myself I’ll finish out the Pokedex, but somehow I don’t think it will happen.

Coming Up

I have not purchased StarCraft II.  Not yet.  But a bunch of people I know have dropped $60 on it and seem to be pretty happy with the single player campaign.  I’m still not sure that I will buy it, but at least I know some people to play with should I grab a copy.

The instance group is in Middle-earth.  That will occupy us for a few weeks.

And then I’m sure some other subscription based game will announce they are going free to play with a wacky tiered account system.  Who will it be?  Not WoW I’m pretty sure.

But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a press release saying that Diablo III is going to get some sort of Hellgate: London-like premium option…  only with less fiasco involved.  We shall see.

EQII Extended – The Trial of Inconvenience! July 30, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: , ,
18 comments

Certainly Sony Online Entertainment has given us a lot to chew on with their announcement of EverQuest II extended.

Let me put up that chart again.

EverQuest II Extended Membership Matrix

Certainly, the idea of free EverQuest II has appeal.  Free anything does.

There are also obvious downsides illustrated by this chart.

If you are a current EverQuest II subscriber, I am sure that none of the subscription models hold a lot of interest.  For $15 a month, you’re already getting more than what is being offered for $200 a year in some regards.

And the idea of playing under the restrictions imposed by the free version of the game… well, let’s call those out.

  • 2 Character Slots – Well, I guess you won’t have to worry about being distracted by alts
  • No Shared Bank Slots – With no alts, who needs them?
  • 2 Bag Slots – It encourages traveling light!
  • 4 Races – Well, you were going to be a barbarian anyway, right?
  • 8 Classes – EQ2 has too many classes as it is, eight is enough!
  • Inbound Mail Only – Only gold spammers use in-game mail in any case.
  • Spell Tier Limited to Adept – No need to farm for master drops!
  • Broker System Restricted – Who wants to play the auction house game?
  • No Legendary or Fabled equipment – Less stress trying to get upgrades!
  • Cash Cap of 5 Gold Per Level – You are encouraged to live off the land!
  • 20 Active Journal Quests – Feel what it was like to play EQ2 on day 1!
  • Restricted Chat Abilities – Nobody listens to you anyway, you don’t need /yell.
  • Cannot Create a Guild – A guild is a state of mind.
  • Only KB Access for Problems – If you have issues, just rage quit.
  • Limited to Level 80 – You can “win” the game with 10 less levels!

Now, certainly from a the perspective of a current player, this probably looks like something of a nightmare scenario.

But you can view this from another angle.

Back when many of us were playing the original Diablo, after having mastered the basic game, used to try to defeat it in other ways.  One way was what we called the Iron Man method.  You and your friends went into the dungeon and were not allowed to leave until Diablo was defeated.

No going back to town to sell, buy potions or equipment, repair, or take a breather.

You had to survive off of only what you could pick up.  And if you died along the way, the attempt was over.

Now EverQuest II offers a similar sort of Iron Man option.  Call it Inconvenience Man, or the Trial of Inconvenience.

This is actually a viable game play style, since SOE plans to offer all the content and then sell convenience items as opposed to Turbine’s approach to F2P with LOTRO, where they will be selling both convenience as well as content past level 20 or so.  You could still do an Iron Man attempt at the level cap in Middle-earth of course, but it would mean grinding mobs from level 20 to 65.

What do you think of a Trial of Inconvenience attempt at the level cap?

I would suggest picking a server and forming a guild for a group attempt… but you cannot form a guild without paying in and getting some of the convenience.

Adventures with An Unwanted Guest July 29, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

If you have not played Lord of the Rings Online, you might not know that there are a variety of different quest types in the game.

There are, of course, the standard help the locals quests, what they call the regional quests.  You show up in town or at somebody’s camp site and somebody wants you to help them out by killing ten rats.  Or boars.

I think I have only been asked to kill rats once, in the Barrow Downs.  But boars, every zone seems to have its boar infestation issue.  In fact, after Terentia hit the Trollshaws and got the inevitable “kill boars” quest almost immediately, I started rewriting in my head the old song Smoke Two Joints to reflect the apparent situation in Middle-earth.

Here is what I have so far:

I kill 10 boars in the morning.
I kill 10 boars at night.
I kill 10 boars in the afternoon, for the meat that’s white
I kill 10 boars in time of peace, and 10 in time war
I kill 10 boars before I kill 10 boars,
and then I kill 10 more

But I digress.

In addition to the standard quests, you also get class quests every 10 levels that give you a new trait and generally a nice piece of equipment.  And there are crafting quest, some of which help you advance your abilities to the next tier, and others which reward you with faction or crafting supplies.

And, amongst there there are fellowship (group) quests and even raid quests.

Then, finally, there is the epic quest line.

This is the line of quests that follows the plot of Tolkien’s tale and gives you a part in the war against Sauron and the quest to destroy the one ring.  The quests in that line are divided into Volumes, which contain a given number of  books, each of which is divided into a number of chapters.  Book 1, for example, has a forward and 13 chapters, each of which represents a quest.

This is the differentiator for LOTRO.  This is, along with the three basic game play pillars common to MMOs, combat, exploration and character progression, is the fourth pillar in the equation.  This is the story element.

Wait.  Where have I read that before?

Anyway, this is the thread that winds through the game.  You do not get to be in the fellowship of the ring, but you can play a supporting role and take on the many side tasks that went unmentioned in the books.

What’s that?  You want to be the hero?  The star?  The warrior king tanking the Lich Witch King?  Sorry, that game is down in Irvine.  This game knows there is no “I” in “Fellowship.”

And the plan for the instance group in Middle-earth is to follow the eipc quest line.  We will certainly do other things, but that is going to be our guiding thread as well.

So on Saturday night, we were all ready to begin Volume 1, Book 1.

We had all done the epic prologue quests, which are specific to different racial starting areas, but which all, in the end, lead you to the Prancing Pony in Bree to speak with Barliman Butterbur.

Our fellowship for the night, standing there in the common room of the Prancing Pony, was:

  • Roderigo – level 14 Burglar
  • Enaldie – level 15 Elf Rune Keeper
  • Garfinkel – level 15 Elf Minstrel
  • Rarik – level 16 Dwarf Champion

While Earl couldn’t make it this week, we did pick up Rarik (also known as Meclin or Gaff) who got our of his pod in New Eden and joined us in Middle-earth.

The book starts at the Prancing Pony and our first task was to go and speak to the Unwanted Guest at the Prancing Pony, Strider.  He was there in his room waiting for Frodo to show up.  But there was more brewing between around Bree.  We first had to help Strider with find Amdir, a ranger who had come under the power of the Nazgul.

That actually takes place in an instance and wraps up the prologue quest line around Bree, which focuses on Amdir.

In the instance we faced several of the Nazgul.

Paralyzed with dread

They left us for Amdir to deal with while they went to continue their search for the ring.

Without his new Nazgul friends though, Amdir did not stand a chance.

Sorry Amdir

After that, we followed the quests in the lands between Bree and Buckland, meeting up with other rangers and even Fredegar Bolger in Crickhollow.  Eventually we ended up at the home of Tom Bombadil.

Tom Bombadil - Jacket Blue, Boots Yellow

Tom, in his Bombadillian fashion, sent us after a few odd items, water lilies and such, before getting around to the task at hand.

The Willow in the Old Forrest

Tom finally came to the real task, at which point we ran into a problem.

While the experience over these quests had been very good, Roderigo had just hit 14 before we started the evening and was already half way into 15, we all needed to be 16 to get this next quest.  So we took a side trip to the Barrow Downs.

There is a lump of quest givers on the path between Tom’s house and the Barrow Downs.  We picked up all of their quests and headed in.  We’d all been through the Barrow Downs before, so there was a common feeling in the group.

It certainly does Lalia...

This approach turned out to be serious over-kill.  Roderigo hit 16 while we were still working on the quests and was half way to 17 once we turned them all in.

Like I said, the experience was good.  And in LOTRO, when you are in a group… erm, fellowship… they don’t divide the experience from each kill by the number of group members.  You get the full experience you would if you were solo.

Thus leveled up, Tom was happy to send us along to… the Great Barrow!

Well, the version of the Great Barrow used for this particular quest.  It is something of a starter version of the Great Barrow, and while this quest is flagged as a small fellowship quest (3 players) I have done it solo a few times with well equipped characters.

It is a story telling event, though at the end you face Sambrog the Wight Lord who is seemingly undefeatable.  And then Tom shows up again, banishes Sambrog and leads you all out of the instance.

Uh, why did you need us then?

Done with Tom’s tasks, we were directed back to the Prancing Pony to speak with Strider.  However, when we got there, we found that Strider had left along with four hobbits from the Shire.  Gandalf had just shown up though, and was glad to speak with us.

Sit a while and listen...

And that ended Book 1.

Gandalf gave us the lead-in to Book 2, but seeing that that quest thread starts off with a level 22 quest, we might spend this upcoming Saturday night getting a few levels and perhaps looking into doing the Great Barrow for real.

In the mean time, Earl will have a bit of catching up to do.

I Write Like Who? July 28, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment, Humor, Random.
Tags: , , , , ,
15 comments

I saw this thing over at World IV. You past in a writing sample and it spits out the name of an author that your writing style approximates in some vague way.

So I took one of my posts, the Christmas 1977 story, and fed it in the machine to see what would turn up.

I was secretly hoping for Kurt Vonnegut, mostly based on a pattern of short paragraphs.

But, alas, I was disappointed in that as with so many things in life.  I need more poorly drawn sphincters in my work I guess.  Instead, I was told…

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Cory Doctorow? But I don’t even have a hot air balloon.

Okay, maybe that was the wrong writing sample.

So I dug through some more and decided that the Christmas 1983 story might be a good try.  Obviously I was avoiding some of my usual dreck and going for things I cared about.

Kurt Vonnegut this time?

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Douglas Adams!  Well, I could live with that.  Not that I am down on Cory, but he, Douglas Adams!

Still, this could be just some random author generator.  I need at least two similar results to feel good about this.

So I pulled out one more tale, The Adventures of Opus and Mopar Mac.  Forget dear Kurt, just match one of the previous picks.

I write like
Ian Fleming

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Ian Flemming? Flattering again, but I’m still more shaken than stirred by that result.

That’s it random author generator, I’m going to bed before you tell me any more lies.

Dead Rising 2 – Zombrex Edition July 27, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

Normally I wouldn’t mention a game like Dead Rising 2.  It isn’t my kind of game, really.

But back at GDC there was this mystery booth where the… uh… actors who were staffing it were giving out anti-zombie injections and Zombrex related information.  But they played the whole thing as though it were totally serious and never mentioned any video game connection.

And so we were all trying to figure out what was going on with this bit of stage craft.

Some research later connected Zombrex with Dead Rising, but that was about it.

Now, however, Dead Rising 2 – Zombrex Edition has been announced, closing the loop on this otherwise minor event in most of our lives.

Some of the goodies that come with edition were the same items that they were handing out at GDC.

Dead Rising 2 - Zombrex Edition

I still have the syringe pen, the band aid, and that poster in the back of the picture.

And… well… that is about all I have to say on the subject.  I won’t be buying the game, but I still think the pen is pretty cool.

EverQuest II Free to Play Too? July 27, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
27 comments

Well, we can certainly see which way the wind is blowing this year… in the direction of free to play… or no cover charge, if you prefer.

As noted over at Massively this morning, Sony Online Entertainment announced EverQuest II Extended, their version of the free to play.

Like the Lord of the Rings Online free to play announced earlier this year, there will be different access for different plans, from free to various fees.

EverQuest II Extended Membership Matrix

However, unlike the LOTRO plan, this is not going to do away with the current EQII subscription plans.  From the FAQ:

EverQuest II Extended is a completely separate gameplay service from the EverQuest II live subscription service. The server lists are not shared, it has completely separate forums, and if you don’t want to be around the community that plays in the free adventure service, then there is no reason for that to ever occur. However, if you want to go try out Extended, feel free to do so. Active EQII live players can create a new account on EQII Extended for free or copy over a version of an existing EQII live character for $35.

If you currently play EverQuest II, you won’t be able to drop your monthly fee unless you want to pay $35 to copy over (does that mean “clone” or “move?”) a character to a new server.  If you pay for Station Access, you will apparently get a gold level account, but that doesn’t mean much if you characters are elsewhere.

What will this mean?  Will this effectively kill off any new players to the current EQII servers, leaving them to dwindle over time like their EQ brethren?  Will guilds jump to the new server?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in comparison to the LOTRO conversion.

I do not think, however, that this free to play mania is going to spread to Blizzard and the WoW cash machine any time soon.

Addendum:

From the forum post by Dave Georgeson:

“EverQuest II Extended” shares all the content and features of Live EQII. It plays the same. It looks the same. It *is* the same, with two obvious exceptions: a) it’s free-to-play, and b) it has a more robust marketplace.

What does “free-to-play” mean? It means that you can download the game and play all of it (except the most recent expansion) all the way up to level 80. Your character is restricted in a bunch of different ways (limited class selection, limited races, limited coin, etc.) and to unlock those features fully, you’ll need to subscribe to Gold level membership. Which, coincidentally, is $15/month. Sound familiar?

What is a “robust marketplace”? It’s exactly the same marketplace that you see on the EQII service, but it also adds lots of “convenience” items. Can’t find a good shield in-game? We sell one appropriate to your level and class. Want a healing potion to use in a pinch? Need an emergency buff? Want to shortcut your research time? Items like that are all available in the marketplace. Do we sell the very best items and equipment? Nope. Legendary and Fabled gear are better than what you can buy in the marketplace. Has the game been rebalanced so that you *need* to buy these “convenience” items? Nope. EQ2X is exactly the same game that you’re playing currently on the EQII servers. Those items are just there if you want them. They are true “convenience” items.

I guess they will be taking the Station Cash aspect to a new level and start selling equipment with stats on the new service.  That is a significant change, no matter how they try to play it off, and explains, to a certain extent, why they will be keeping EQ2 Live and EQ2 Extended apart.

Defragging Middle-earth July 26, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

I couldn’t tell you exactly how old my install of Lord of the Rings Online is.

I have upgraded my computer since the game came out.

On the other hand, I have screen shots sitting in one LOTRO directory from February of 2007.

My very first screen shot in Middle-earth

So I may very well have dragged my install of LOTRO from the old machine to the new and kept on plugging away.

And while LOTRO has always been somewhat tough on my system, grinding the hard drive and boosting temperatures on my video cards to the point of potential failure, performance issues seemed to be pretty bad this time around in Middle-earth.

Video was getting slow and jerky even when I adjusted settings down.  I was beginning to be able to figure out where zone lines were in the game, as my character would come to a halt at them as the hard drive ground for a while to load up new art assets.

I recalled seeing a post over at Mordor of Bust about a utility called FlashBoost.

This utility let you put your LOTRO install on a flash drive to speed up performance.  However, it is Windows 7 only, and I’m still sitting on XP and will continue to be there until I get a new computer, which is a pretty distant prospect right now.

But that post pointed me to Turbine’s LOTRO DAT File defrag tool, a utility they put out back in February.

Turbine put this utility together to fix data fragmentation within the game’s data (.dat) files.

It seems that after three years of patches, expansions, and updates, this has become something of an issue.  It certainly appeared to be so on my system.

I downloaded the utility, which is just an executable that you place in the LOTRO folder and then run.  It brings up a command window to display progress, and then starts going through your .dat files one by one, defragmenting those which need it.

In my case, that was all but two out of the dozen or so such files.  The utility ran for nearly three hours on my system.  Of course, some of the files run past 2 GB in size, so taking some time is to be expected.

And how did things run afterward?

Very well indeed.

Performance was improved dramatically.  But then, with some of my files being well past the three year mark, I suppose that is to be expected.  This past weekend I was able to turn my settings back up and run freely through the land without hitching or hearing the hard drive grind to load a file.

Another issue resolved.

Repeating History in Middle-earth July 23, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment, Instance Group, Lord of the Rings Online.
10 comments

By which I mean we may be making the same mistake again.

The instance group summer hiatus from Azeroth looks like it will be going on for some time.

Bigbutt/Bungholio is getting ready to move, which means that over the life of the instance group, all of us will have moved to a new home.  That will keep him busy for a while.

And if that doesn’t, a new arrival, an addition to his family, certainly will.  Moving and a new baby in the same month will fill up your schedule.

So the rest of us started looking around for another game to play.  Other genres of games did not fit the group.  We don’t all like first person shooters or real-time strategy games, so we decided to stick with the MMORPG path.  (Where is Diablo III when we need it?)

And since we already have two Middle-earth partisans in the group (Potshot and myself), Lord of the Rings Online ended up being the choice.

Last Saturday we had the big character roll-up on the Firefoot server.  I already had a couple of characters there, which will give us some trade skill support at least.

Earl went for the tanking role, his usual chosen occupation, and created a dwarf guardian.

Enaldie, who favors the caster role, went with the rune keeper this time around, having played a minstrel and lore master in previous ventures into the lands of Tolkein.

Potshot took back the healing role and went with a minstrel.

And I picked one of the classes I have not touched in the past, the burglar.  I defied convention however and rolled a man rather than a hobbit.  That’s just me.

We spent the evening warming up with LOTRO, learning how it is different from WoW and getting through the starter instances.

Of course, we also had to form a guild… erm… a kinship.  Terminology is one of the ways LOTRO is different from WoW.

After tossing around a few ideas, we settled on Murder for Shire.

We had enough alts already, between Potshot and myself, to complete the kinship registration process.  It is nice that, unlike WoW, alts can sign the charter.  Two people can effectively form a kinship.  And so a kinship was born.

Roderigo of Murder for Shire

We also divided up some of the trade skills between us.  We’re just the type of people who feel they have to do trade skills in MMORPGs I guess.  Though in LOTRO, a lot of the player made gear is quite worthwhile.

And so we had a good first night in the game as a group.  But there is still the whole repeating history issue.

Way back when LOTRO first came out and Earl was involved with his new job and cross-country move, four of us attempted to go play in Middle-earth.  However, LOTRO is a game where a group is six people, so we attempted to muddle through with only two thirds of the resources that instances like the Great Barrow were designed for, which meant things went generally poor for us.

Now we’re back, three years later, again with only four players.  Will the game prove more viable for us?

A lot has changed in Middle-earth since we were last there as a group.

Certainly there is the skirmish system, which came along with the Siege of Mirkwood expansion.  Those encounters scale.  However, they seem to scale for 1, 3, 6, or 12 players, so I am not sure what you do with four.  And you cannot join a skirmish until level 30, so we have a ways to go for that.

And there is some promise for the future.  A recent LOTRO developer diary discussed bringing the scaling mechanism from skirmishes to some of the instances in the game.  But that is in the future.

Will we be able to find success and glory with a group of four?  Will we need to recruit to fill out those two empty group spots?  Should we just try and grab some available players when we get to the Great Barrow or Weathertop?

We will see as the story unfolds.

This coming week we plan to start with Book 1.  There is, it seems, an unwanted guest at the Prancing Pony in Bree.  One of those “rangers” from the north.  We’ll see what that is all about.

Are You Buying StarCraft II? July 22, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: , ,
31 comments

StarCraft II comes out next Tuesday, and it is almost assured to be a best seller from day one.

I mean, it is a Blizzard product, right?

Or is it really the first Activision-Blizzard product?  Hrmm…

Anyway, it is coming out in a few days and I am trying to decide if I should buy it.

Part of me, the part that really enjoyed StarCraft when it came out in 1999, the part of me that wants to shout, “Jacked up and good to go!,” that part wants to go out and buy it on day one.

But then there is the part of me that is annoyed by the absence of direct LAN play features in the game and the fact that you will have to log into Battle.net even for solo play.  And then there is the whole Facebook integration and the Real ID question, which has been shelved for the moment, but which I am sure will return.

And finally, there is the part of me that played in the beta.  Whee, I got in the beta!  Okay, I got into it roughly 6 weeks before it ended, but I was there.  That experience left me with a few impressions:

  • The game looks really nice
  • The game play and controls are as crisp and as sure as expected
  • They took almost no risks with the game, so if you’ve played StarCraft, you know what you are getting
  • I suck at it

The last came from me getting smoked regularly in matches.  I’ve lost my build order and unit control skills over the years.  And since single player wasn’t available to me in the beta, I have no idea if that is at all worth the price of admission.

So I am on the fence about buying the game.  Nostalgia and the fact that Blizzard does make good games is pressing me forward.  But the Battle.net requirement and the fact that it is the same game most of us have played already makes me want to pass, at least until I hear how the single player campaign play.

How about you?

Battle.net Parental Controls Get Tweaked July 22, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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1 comment so far

This week’s Tuesday WoW/Battle.net maintenance  (which went until almost 5pm Pacific on some servers, compared to the usual noon-ish wrap up) included an update to the parental controls page.

They did not fix many of the issues that came with the move from it being part of World of Warcraft to being part of Battle.net. (see past rant on the subject)  They fixed one, to be exact.  And the whole thing still bypasses the Blizzard authenticator, which annoys me.

But there were a few other minor tweaks.

One was the color.  I guess that midnight blue was too dark for some.

Now in shades of gray

And they also added the ability to clear the schedule for a given day.  Previously you could only clear the whole schedule.  That fixed the “once you have a time slot on a given day, you cannot undo it without clearing everything” issue.

But more interesting in view of the whole Real ID in the forums blow up of two weeks back, is the addition of an option to allow forum posting. (Real ID still lives, btw.  Just not in the forums at the moment.)

One new check box

Previously there was only a check box to enable Real ID.  And, since Real ID was going to be required to post on the forums, the two actions were effectively controlled by a single control.

Now, however, in the wake of the “No Real ID in the forums” outburst, there is the new check box for forum posting access.

But what does it mean?

Was this planned to be there all along?  Is this a reaction to Blizzard having to yank their Real ID in the forums plan?

And what will it mean when StarCraft II comes out in a week?  The press release about Facebook integration with SC II seems to indicate that there will have to be additional factors to consider for parental controls.

I guess we’ll find out about that in a week.