Monthly Archives: January 2011

January in Review

The Site

Another month of very minor changes to the site.

I think the big discovery of the month involved Twitter.  WordPress.com allows you to past the URL for a tweet into a post and it will then reproduce the tweet in all its correctly sized glory in you post.  This has allowed me to pass on some of the tweets of Chairman Smed and Blizzard Customer Support as well as earth shattering proclamations like this.

Beware the wrath of @professorbeej.

One Year Ago

Well, there was the usual set of ill-considered predictions.

Oh, and that Battlestar Galactia/Bohemian Rhapsody video on YouTube.  I liked that.

The first issue of The Official World of Warcraft Magazine shipped.

There was Hulkageddon II, from which I tried to draw lessons.  Always good for some gamer angst… and anger.

There was a certain amount of excitement on my part for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  January is the ramp up time for Pokemon hype.

The instance group was still warming up on the Horde side, making it as far as Razorfen Downs.

And the whole Tanks and Healers vs. DPS and who is more important that is all the rage in January 2011?  We were going on about that back in January 2010 as well.  The Dungeon Finder brought this all into sharp relief.

But the month was primarily about Star Trek Online.  I was obsessed.

I was making making up polls and contests around that Del Taco shuttle tie-in and silly lists of things to do while waiting for open beta.

And when it finally arrived, I spent a lot of time with the character creator, some of it to make my first character and some of it just in the name of science.  I customized my ship and wondered how I could get rid of the shields in my combat screen shots.  Did they ever change that? And I pondered whether or not it was a good idea to get a lifetime subscription.  The poll results said it wasn’t, but I did it anyway.  The majority was correct it would seem.

Oh, I did do one other thing in January.

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 January

  1. Shiny Pokemon Events Coming to GameStop in January
  2. Fighting Blood Elf Porn
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  5. Download Ash’s Pikachu at Toys R Us
  6. LOTRO – Comparing VIP with Free
  7. What is the Scale of this Blog Health-o-Meter?
  8. Five Minutes with the New EVE Character Creator
  9. My Demands for 2011
  10. Westfall Ablaze!
  11. 2011 – First MMO Check Points
  12. The Five Most Pressing Issues Facing World of Warcraft?

Most Common Search Terms of the Month

  1. elf porn
  2. blood elf porn
  3. wow account hacked
  4. ancient gaming noob
  5. cataclysm
  6. guild names
  7. gamestop pokemon events
  8. gamestop shiny pokemon
  9. gamestop shiny pokemon event
  10. blog-health-o-meter
  11. thorin
  12. gamestop entei

Search Terms of the Month

3d wow blood elf porn
[now there is somebody with ambition]

why do cats play patty cake
[some things are unknowable]

“fear the boot” affair
[Obviously I need to catch up with their podcast]

Where I Spent My Gaming Time

Game time distribution as counted by my Raptr profile, which doesn’t count everything… especially when I forget to add a game until I have been playing it for a while.

  1. World of Warcraft – 79%
  2. World of Tanks – 7%
  3. EVE Online – 5%
  4. Lord of the Rings Online – 4%
  5. Rift – 4%

EVE Online

Incursion is finally fully deployed.  I still haven’t made my new avatar yet, though I am favoring the Percy Dovetonsils look.  I wonder if I can make an avatar with no pants?  I haven’t seen any Sansha incursions either, but we’ll get to that I’m sure.

EverQuest II Extended

As I became more involved with Cataclysm, EQII started to fall by the wayside.  I did spend a little bit of time in the game as I had to be ready for the Gold to Bronze to Silver transition.  That meant salting away my excess platinum in trade skill fuel.  But once that was done I was able to buy the extra bag slots on my two main characters, so now they are just waiting until I come back for another visit.

Lord of the Rings Online

I got the Middle-earth bug for a little bit.  I didn’t do much.  But I have been entering the newly restored LOTRO Lotteries, and when I win one, which happens now and again, I log on to collect my prize and usually end up playing for a little while.

World of Warcraft

I have been exploring Cataclysm, both at the low end at the high.  I still haven’t gotten a character to level 85 yet though.  I have been seeing the sights and sticking my nose in every corner.  That, and my daughter and I still have characters we play that are in the mid-70s, so I’m not done with Lich King yet really.

Coming Up

Well, there are at least two games on that list above that I have not mentioned in posts.  You can probably expect to hear about both of them. (Potshot already has a post up about one we were playing this past week.)

And Pokemon.  With the run up to the release of Pokemon Black and White, I am sure I will have more events to mark.

And, of course, the usual stuff along with the occasional reposted tweet.

2011 Pokemon Video Game Championship Series Announced

Pokemon.com has announced the 2011 Pokemon Video Game Championships. [Dates and locations here.]

While the Pokemon Trading Card Game gets all sorts of tournaments throughout the year, there is only one sanctioned event for the video game.

Last year, one of the regional events was held here in the San Francisco Bay Area and my daughter and I were able to go watch.

They have not yet announced where the regional events will be held this year.  We will see if my daughter and I will get another chance to see the event.

Of course, last year the final championship was held in Kona, Hawaii.  For 2011 the final round will be held in San Diego in August.  Not as glamorous as Hawaii, but still a nice place to visit.

Of course, to push the new Pokemon release, only Pokemon from the Pokemon Black and White regional Pokedex, the 150 new Pokemon available with the game, will be eligible to participate.

The official announcement

Join players from around the world and get ready to compete in the 2011 Pokémon Video Game Championship series! The series starts this spring and consists of multiple events across the United States and Europe—events where anyone can compete. Top players from the National Championships will be invited to the Pokémon Video Game World Championships, taking place this August in San Diego, California!

Here’s a quick snapshot of the major changes you’ll see at the 2011 Pokémon Video Game Championship competitions.

All of the events will be played exclusively on Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version, which will launch in early March. Players will be limited to Pokémon from the Unova Pokédex only, and no two Pokémon on a player’s team can have the same Pokédex number.

Players will compete in one of three age divisions, based on their date of birth:

  • Junior Division: Born in 2000 or later
  • Senior Division: Born in 1996, 1997, 1998, or 1999
  • Masters Division: Born in 1995 or earlier

Each battle will use the Double Battle rules. Players may register 4–6 Pokémon at the beginning of the tournament. Before the start of each battle, players will select 4 Pokémon to use that round, with two Pokémon active at once.

During each battle, all Pokémon will be capped at Level 50. Any Pokémon that is Level 51 or higher will temporarily be reduced to Level 50 for the duration of each battle. Pokémon that are Level 49 or lower will not be raised to Level 50. Pokémon retain all moves they’ve learned, regardless of when they were learned.

Look out for more details after the release of Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version!

Dates and locations posted.

Running Redridge

The Redridge Mountains zone has never been one of my favorites in Azeroth.

Pre-Cataclysm it was pretty much a long string of “kill 10 mobs” and “get 10 drops” sort of quests, though of the very picky variety.  Often it wasn’t kill 10 gnolls, but kill 10 of a specific type of gnoll which were mixed in with a few other types of gnolls as though slaughtering gnolls in general wasn’t good enough.  And I still remember searching for a long time to find vultures for the vulture meat drop.

So my enthusiasm for the zone has never been high.

Enter Makarov the warrior.

He is my first real warrior character in WoW, all previous warriors having been deleted before getting to level 15.

And his purpose in life is to provide the non-instance view of post-Cataclysm Azeroth.  So Maloney will do dungeons with the instance group and Makarov will run through the outside world experience.  Or such is my plan.  We’ll see how far I get with this.

Makarov kicked off last Saturday in the starter zone and ran through Elwynn forest pretty quickly.  The starter area has changed up a bit and serves as a good example of the different sorts of quests you can expect to run across in game, while the rest of Elwynn forest is relatively unchanged.

Some of the quests have been moved a bit to make them easier to complete, a couple were trimmed from the mix, and there are two flight points, one in Goldshire and one at the Eastvale logging camp, to limit the tramping up and down the road.  But otherwise, it is pretty much the same old set, from kobold candles to princess, to Hogger.  Although you don’t get to kill Hogger.  Instead you just beat him down until help arrives and he is taken off to the Stormwind Stockade, where you do get to kill him.

Hogger, you are under arrest!

Makarov then went off and did Westfall on Sunday afternoon.  I would say that running through Westfall again was easier because of the repetition, but it didn’t make that big of a difference.  The built-in quest helper points out locations, so for most quests it is a matter of going to the place indicated on the map and doing what it says on the quest guide right there on the right side of your screen.

That caught Makarov up to what Maloney had done, as well as getting him to level 17, now it was time to diverge.

Two quests then send you off to Redridge.  Fortunately, if you grabbed the flight point, you can fly to the Eastvale logging camp and then make the short run into Redridge.

Once there, the first big change is a tower out at the crossroads where a single guard used to partol.

New fortifications

The tower and small palisade seem to be arranged to keep people OUT of Redridge rather than keeping all the bad guys (orc, gnolls, murlocs) in Redridge and away from Stormwind.  The pointed stakes point towards Stormwind, the open door of the tower faces the orcs in Redridge.  It was probably a government contract.

The tower is the first quest hub, and the quests start off disturbingly familiar.  Kill gnolls (though any damn gnoll will do), collect animal parts (but the animals are all in the vicinity now), and pick up a few things from the gnoll camps.  You then move to the town hall where, as in the old days, you kill some more gnolls (some for drops, some for just being damn gnolls), a few murlocs (many, many fewer than before, thank Pardo), and find that little girls necklace.

And then you start picking up the Bravo Company quests from Colonel Troteman.

This is the main story line in Redridge and if you hate when Blizz makes pop culture references, you will hate this quest line, because Blizzard proceeds to send up the Rambo movies in a series of quests that take you all over the zone to defeat the Blackrock Orc invasion. (I’d like to think there is a little Missing in Action in this quest chain as well, since that was a Chuck Norris vehicle, the patron saint of Barrens chat.)

First you have to rescue some key members of Bravo Company who have been captured by the Blackrock orcs.  You start off looking for help from John J. Keeshan, the John Rambo of the story line, but he doesn’t want any part of your mission.  He’s busy working out his aggression in underground fighting tournaments.

The first rule of underground fight club…

Rejected by Keeshan, Col. Troteman has no choice but to send you off alone to rescue the remains of Bravo Company.

As you rescue each member of Bravo company, they join up with you, allowing you to take on a series of powerful elite NPCs who would otherwise wipe the floor with your lone character.  You do have to take care not to stray off to an encounter with the later bosses too early, as the last one requires you have most of the team behind you.

Once freed, and returned to Colonel Troteman, Bravo Company heads out to their base camp across the lake, bringing you along.  Even John Keeshan is moved by the rescue of his comrades and finally joins in enthusiastically.

Mage power!

From there, it is preparations then a very good stealth mission where you scout, grab keys, free prisoners, plant explosive, and then blow up the Blackrock compound.

After this, you are give then a quest titled AHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHH!!!

No, really.

You drive a demolisher through hordes of Blackrock orcs while John J. Keeshan mans a gun on the back which he uses to slaughter the orcs wholesale.  While you only need 200 orcs (only?), it was amusing enough that I kept rolling through the orcs for a while after the quest was completed, just laughing at what Keeshan was yelling as he fired.

AHHHHHHHHH!!!

That done, you meet up with Col. Troteman who sends you and the five members of Bravo Company off to face the Blackrock leadership in a final battle.

Bravo Company ready for the last battle

That ends the quest and story line for the zone.  You get a very nice blue quality item with the last quest.   This seems to be the standard now when you finish the main storyline in a zone, a non-heroic quality boss drop.

Oh, and you get Keeshan’s bandana as well.

Adrian… no, wait, wrong movie…

The whole zone has a very linear quest progression now, the main quest line is a chain of events that gives you as many as four parallel quests at once, but I cannot recall ever having any more than that in my quest log.  This is not the quest hub with a dozen quests that you pick up and run through.  While you might not like being on rails, at least your quest log won’t over flow. (A problem I often have.)

The quests are amusing and diverse.  You end up doing a lot more than kill 10 rats for credit or drops.  I had fun.

The whole zone is for solo consumption only.  We’ve crossed a line somewhere, in that not only are there no group quests, but when you need a group the quest line provides it.  I’m not even sure what would happen if you tried to do some of these quests as a group.

The whole zone makes heavy use of phasing once you get into the main quest chain, which is probably a good thing since seeing other people on the same quests gets to be immersion breaking.  I was running in parallel with another player at one point and took a break so he could get far enough ahead of me that I wouldn’t keep bumping into him.  The stealth quests, for example, would be much less fun with other players around doing the same thing.

When finish the quest line, and are in the final phase of the zone, the Blackrock are gone.  Hey, the world changed!  A little.  For me.

The quest line also guides you through all the locations in the zone, so if you follow it to the end, you’ll get the exploration achievement.  You will also get the quests achievement about a half a dozen quests shy of finishing the main story line.

And when you’re done, you do feel like the zone is done.  It is something like an open air instance now, though the gnolls were still hanging around when I left.

Makarov ended up well into level 22 at the end of the zone.  While he got a boost from the fact that he mines and gathers herbs, he had almost zero blue bar rest experience.  He is now lined up for Darkshire.

The Hazards of Console Gaming…

Somebody else might come along and want to use the TV.

The computer, though, is safe from intrusion.

At least that is the way it goes at my house, where computers out number TVs 3 to 1.

Thrice into the Deeps

Blackfathom Deeps, that is.

Xula: What are we doing tonight?
Ethelred: BFD
Maloney: if you don’t want to say, that’s fine, but there’s no need to be rude

-Actual Guild Chat Before Our Run

It had been a long time since we last ventured into Blackfathom Deeps (BFD) as a group. We ran that instance as a group back in November 2006. That was back in primitive age of WoW. We’ve had three expansions since then. The world has changed a great deal since then. (Plus look at how much detail I used to put in my instance run posts.)

But BFD, it has not changed much at all. The changes in the game overall do intrude into the instance.

We were all ready to go by about a quarter after the hour. Our line up was:

  • Xula – level 23 Gnome warrior
  • Ethelred – level 23 Worgen druid
  • Earlthedog – level 23 Worgen warrior
  • Maloney – level 23 Worgen mage
  • Nancyboy – level 23 Worgen priest

That put us, we hoped, in about the prime position, challenge-wise, to take on a dungeon with a suggested level range of 21-30.

Of course, the first change we felt was on the travel front. There was no need to make our way to Darkshore and fight (and swim) to get to the instance. Dungeon Finder took care of that for us.

And once we teleported into the instance, all of the quest givers were right there waiting for us. As Potshot so aptly put it, the quest concession stand was waiting for us in the lobby.

Quests Await

BFD has changed little in more than four years.  It is still a watery cave and full of murlocs, naga, turtles and twilight cultists.

And turtles.  We must not forget the turtles, and the boss turtle especially, Ghamoo-ra.

We killed them all.

Ghamoo-ra Ghamoo-gone

Literally.  Because of the need for drops from some mobs and the general completionist nature of a couple of us, we cleared the place out.  Lady Sareves, Lorgus “Joan” Jett, Gelihast, and all the rest fell before our blades.  We slaughtered the naga and put paid to the Twilight Cultists.

Rooting out the Twilight Cultists

We remembered not to click on all the braziers after we cleared out Twilight Lord Kelris, and we made our way to the final boss, Aku’mai.

And while the whole thing wasn’t a complete cake walk… we did have to stick together and work as a team… the end result was never in doubt.  Aku’mai held out for quite a while on hit points alone, but nobody on our side was in danger of dying.  And so Aku’mai was slain and the achievement was ours.

With the last Aku’mai dead and us left standing at the far end of the instance, we did a check on our quests. It turned out that all of us were set on the two “kill a boss” quests, but the two collection quests were another story. All of us sat at five out of the ten required twilight medallions from the twilight cultists, while of the corrupted brain stems, from naga and such, some of us had as few as one out of the eight needed to complete the quest.

And this is where we come to the point when the influences of the Dungeon Finder come into conflict with the way things used to work.

In the old days, these two quests were give outside of the instance and the mobs which dropped the items were located both inside and outside, so there was considerably greater opportunity to finish off both quests during a single run. Now though, with Dungeon Finder, we never saw the outside of the instance, and teleporting out via DF would put us back where we started, which was Stormwind for most of us. That is a long way from BFD.

BFD though, being a long and linear instance, did give groups an easy way out. There is an NPC at the very back of the room where the last battle takes place who will teleport you out of the dungeon. This, at least, would keep a group, in the old days, from having to walk all the way through the instance.

However, the teleport point isn’t simply outside the instance, where it would have been extremely handy for us. The NPC teleports you to Darnassus. This was, again, handy in the old days because two of the quests had to be first obtained and then turned in at Darnassus.

Left with the three choices of using DF to leave, walking out, or getting a free trip to Darnassus, we chose the latter. We had hopes that Blizzard would have forseen this and would have left the quest turn-in at the old location.

They did not. Teleporting to Darnassus left us in a city far from both the mobs and the quest NPCs we needed.

Um... why are we here?

Sitting there in night elf city, we decided that the best choice would be to just use DF to start the instance again. That would put us in the lobby again. We could turn in the two quests we had already finished and then knock out the two we still had left.

So off we went for round two of BFD.

We managed to knock out the corrupted brain stem drops with only a few potential mobs left to go. That was okay though, as we had to get through them to get to the mobs with the twilight medallions. And, along the way we also picked off each of the bosses for a second time.

By the time we had all picked up our last twilight medallion, we were all the way to Lord Kelris, who is the last boss before Aku’mai. Since we were there, we felt we might as well just finish the whole thing off for a second time.

We did the Lord Kelris event again, we through the door, killed off the guardians, and then tanked and spanked Aku’mai for the second time that evening. We even remembered to take a victory picture this time around, since last time we were fixated on the whole “how do we get out and finish our leftover quests” aspect of the adventure.

Aku'mai's second death

Done, again, we chose to teleport to Darnassus again, use the trainers there (since all of us were up at least two levels by that point), and then DF back into BFD for a third time in order to turn in the two remaining quests.

Those last quest turn-ins boosted three of us to level 26 and put the other two within a few percentage points of doing the same. As it was getting late, we opted not to push on and run it for a third time. Instead we all used our hearth stones and headed for Stormwind.

Very good experience again for an instance run, though we did have to run it twice to complete all the quests.  An interesting look at how Dungeon Finder doesn’t always improve the actual dungeon crawl experience.  Or maybe it encourages more dungeon runs.  It certainly did in our case.

We are now at the appropriate level to queue up for Gnomeregan. Viewed as one of the more grindy early dungeons in WoW, we will have to see what the Cataclysm has wrought there.

The Rebate

Rebates

I don’t like them.

Generally, I mentally removed any mail-in rebate listed in an ad from my calculations, since at least half the time I send in the documentation for a rebate I never hear anything again.

And a good percentage of the time, when I do hear back it is to be told that I failed to provide something or fell outside of the required date range.  I think Sony’s policy used to be to return rebate forms claiming that the offer had expired regardless of the actual date. I had two forms returned from them that were clearly within the rebate period printed on the rejection form claiming that the offer had expired.

I still fill out the rebate forms all the same.  The effort is usually small and it tends to be an indicator of what sort of company I am dealing with and whether I will deal with them in the future.  It is very difficult, for example, for Sony to sell me any consumer electronics any more.

So, when I built my new computer back in October, there was a $20 rebate for the motherboard I purchased for the system.

Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R

And, proving that miracles do happen, this time around I actually got my rebate.

It took some time though.

Time line:

  • 10/12/2010 – Purchase Gigabyte motherboard at Fry’s, which prints out all the rebate information on a separate piece of paper for me. They find it easier just to do that so they don’t have to deal with rebate questions.
  • 10/13/2010 – Fill out online registration form with fulfillment company that is handling the Gigabyte rebate. The domain for the fulfillment company site is 4myrebate.com which according to a whois lookup, is owned by Systemax, Inc. Hrmm…
  • 10/13/2010 – Receive confirmation from the fulfillment company which includes further instructions and a tracking number and direct link to get status on my rebate. At least I can if it goes into a black hole.
  • 10/18/2010 – Mail rebate forms and UPC code to the San Diego address provided. Estimated time for first class post to reach San Diego from San Jose: 1-2 days.
  • 10/28/2010 – Receive email acknowledgment from fulfillment company that they have received my forms.
  • 11/1/2010 – Receive email notice that my rebate, which will come in the form of a pre-paid VISA card, has been approved and that it will be mailed out in 8-10 weeks with the basic level of service. I can, however, opt for expedited service for $10.00 if I need my rebate sooner. I decline.
  • 1/13/2011 – 10 weeks and 2 days after my claim was approved, I receive notification that my pre-paid VISA card will now be mailed to me and that I should receive it in the next 7-10 days.
  • 1/22/2011 – The $20 pre-paid VISA card actually arrives. Elapsed time since purchase: ~15 weeks.

The sad part about this time line is that this is, without a doubt the absolute best rebate experience I have ever had.

I bought the item at Fry’s which has a policy of giving you a separate related print-out with full instructions and a special rebate receipt.

The fulfillment company had a web site that let me track the status of my rebate.

The fulfillment company sent me status updates via email.

And the fulfillment company actually met the (low) expectations they set, give or take a few days.

More than a quarter of a calendar year, but at least I got my $2.00 $20.00.

And I still don’t like rebates.

Coy Gaming Company Tweet of the Day

Why yes, it would be cool if LOTRO lotteries gave out Turbine points now and again.

That might change the “entries per character” model a bit I suppose.

I expect we’ll hear more on this soon.

Addendum:

That didn’t take long.

Despite the fact that Turbine Points are “per account,” they let you enter with each of your characters.  People with way too many alts are at an advantage for once!