Monthly Archives: May 2011

And Sony Finally Drops Me a Line to Say They’re Back

In what is hopefully the end of this community management disaster at SOE, I finally got an email directly from them indicating that they are back online.

It is only about six days late and would have caused me to miss most of the double experience welcome back event had a sat back and waited for this notification.

I suppose there is a case to be made for being cautious, but when you are giving out bonus time and holding a special event, people often like to know about it before it starts, not at the tail end.

For the record, and in case you have not gotten your note yet, here is what it says:

Customer Service Notification

We are pleased to confirm that our services are now back online and more secure. We deeply regret the inconvenience this cyber attack has caused.

We take this issue extremely seriously and want to assure you that the protection of the data you have entrusted to us is of the utmost priority. As a result, we require that you reset your Station Account password as an added security measure, and recommend that you do so immediately.

[Password Reset Graphic]

To show our gratitude for your patience and support, SOE is offering a Welcome Back program. As part of this program, you will receive 45 days of game time (30 days plus 1 day for each day of the outage), added to your Station Account. This game time applies to any game you have currently or previously activated on your Station Account.

For those customers currently on an active paying plan, this time will be added to the end of your current billing cycle. For all other customers, your time begins upon your first login to each of the relevant games.

Please note, customers must log in by 11:59 pm PST August 31, 2011 to claim the game time.
Should you require game software, visit www.soe.com/getthegame.

Additionally, many games are offering a variety of items and special events to welcome players back. Get the Welcome Back Program details.

SOE is committed to helping its customers protect their personal data and will provide a complimentary identity theft protection program. For Station Account holders in the United States, we have made arrangements with Debix, Inc., one of the industry’s most reputable identity protection firms, to offer a 12-month complimentary enrollment in the AllClear ID PLUS identity theft protection program. For detailed program information, click here.

Complimentary enrollment begins upon registration for the program and you will have until June 28, 2011 to sign up for AllClear ID PLUS. You will need to sign up directly through Debix after claiming your access code from SOE. Please note, you will need to reset your Station Account password before you can enroll for this service. Get your access code and instructions, here.

Step 1 – Reset Your Station Account Password

Step 2 – Obtain AllClear ID PLUS access code

Step 3 – Sign up for AllClear ID PLUS at http://www.allclearid.com/sony

We continue in our commitment to deliver secure, stable and entertaining games for players of all ages, and again, we thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time.

Sony Online Entertainment

Perhaps we’ve heard the end of this, aside from the “Will SOE be able to bounce back?” question.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note, the next item in my email inbox had the subject “Has The Goodies Arrived?”

I took the syntax to be a sure sign it was spam, until I saw it was from Netflix and realized that, yes, I had put The Goodies on our Netflix queue.  We shall see if it lives up to my 30 year old memories of the show.

Pokemon Regional Championship – Question of the Day

Tomorrow is the Pokemon Video Game Regional Championship here in Silicon Valley.

And I was hoping my daughter and I would be able to at least go see how things look this year, having gone to the regional championships last year as well.

Nintendo has at least chosen a nicer venue this year, and given all the work that went into the Pokemon Black and White tour, I have some hope that they will step it up a notch this time around.

But, if you had not heard, tomorrow is also the Rapture, at least according to the revised Harold Camping view of things.

So my immediate thought was, at what time is the Rapture supposed to occur?  Will it come before the event or after?  If I decide to enter, will my chances be improved?  How much overlap is there between those destined to be saved and competitive Pokemon players?

And what will this do to the parking situation down town?

I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

When You’ve Given People a Reason Not to Hand You Their Credit Card…

It is probably a good time to highlight how potential customers can pay with cash.


During the US Memorial Day weekend, May 27th through 30th, SOE is having another bonus Station Cash event.

Yes indeed, a triple Station Cash event.

Unlike the previous double Station Cash offer, this one appears to only be good if you redeem an SOE game card.

$15 for 4,500 Station Cash is a good deal, if you were looking to buy some.  I might grab a card to finance copying a character over from live to EQ2X to give the guild another in-house crafter.

A pity it only applies to Station Cash.  Some of the cards can also be used to pay for your monthly subscription, and if Sony really wanted to move some cards off of store shelves, adding “Double Subscription Time” to “Triple Station Cash” would probably do it.

Will you be getting any Station Cash?

Would a double subscription time option tempt you?

Frostfang Recovery Plan

We had a simple plan.

Having faced a third week of awkward parallel questing the last time around, we opted to let everybody just finish out the quest line in the Frostfang sea on their own or in smaller groups (while the quests can be annoying in pairs, it is nowhere near the logistical problem of keeping six people on track and getting the right drops) over the intervening two weeks.

We would then, all at level 20 or so and riding our first mounts, form up again to conquer some of the group content in EverQuest II.

Being eager, what with having momentum, I got on the next day and ran the quest line with Campell, got my mount, hit level 20, and was done.

I even went out and collected some of the quests for Stormhold, the first zone we were looking into attempting.  Things were going well.

And then the next day SOE went down due to the security breach and didn’t come up until a couple hours before we were supposed to join up.

And while I was pleasantly surprised that SOE came up when it did, as we effectively did not miss a single planned group night, everybody showed up without their homework done.  The dog, in the form of SOE, had eaten it.

And so we had to do the exercises in class.

I went along with Campell, turning the AA slider to 100% and mentoring down to the lowest level person in the group.

We actually ended up with just a group of four.  Cerrdwyn was tired and promised to get caught up before the next Saturday, while Meclin turned out to still be at the previous quest hub, so he would just drive to catch up with us.

With four of us, and only three of us actually doing the quests, things went smoothly enough.  It helped that I had recently done the quest line, so I pointed out a place or two where there was a certain efficiency in doing quests in a certain order, if only to avoid an extra swim to the islands you end up having to visit.

It was also nice to have along casters with water breathing spells for the last chunk of quests.  There is an underwater swim that you can make without water breathing… if you are careful, time things right, and make no mistakes… but having water breathing on tap helps.

Yes, you get a totem of water breathing with 5 charges (not enough), and can get another (if you read all the quest text and found the totem replacement on the ground near the quest giver), but it still surprises me a bit that SOE made the swim under water so long.  I only know I can make the swim and live because with an odd number of charges, you are likely to run out when you are down at the far end of the swim and need to get back to the surface.

So having the spell on hand meant not running out at an awkward moment.

Things went smoothly enough.

We killed many orcs.  I think everybody in that group got Orc Lore & Legend completed before the end of the night.

There was one death, when Earl stood too close to the explosive barrels we had to blow down the wall in the underground.  Three barrels of explosives will do that.

An interesting moment of comparison game up with the wall and the explosives.  Campell had already done the quest, so the wall was down for him.  However, the wall was still there for everybody else.  And yet, we could all see each other and interact.  Blizzard, seemingly addicted to phasing in Cataclysm, but Potshot and I in different phases of a zone for smaller changes than that wall.  SOE felt no need to separate the group over such a small detail. (Though it was, perhaps, immersion breaking that Campell could walk through what seemed to be a solid wall to everybody else.)

The underground area is actually a place best approached in a small group.  There are lots of orcs around, some of whom wander, so you can get in over your head if you are not careful.  In a group we were able to plow through.

Probably the biggest help I was able to provide was with the Griz quest.  This is the last one in the line that gives you your mount.  But it can be a very frustrating quest.

You put on this animated hat which then gives you essentially “warmer/colder” directions to help you find a couple of items in the underground.  However, the directions only trigger at certain points and you can easily wander all over the place and get nowhere.  I tried for quite a while when I first did the quest and eventually had to look up the locations.

So this time around I was able to point people in the right direction.

Griz hats on in the underground

That done, we swam back and turned in the quest.  Four of us now had our first mount.

New Halasian Coursers

The horse scales for whichever race, though Trucknut’s horse looks a little small for him for some reason.

After that there was some more running around and talking about where to spend AA points, since with double exp we all bumped the slider over a bit more and accumulated quite a few.  But we were done with adventuring for the night.

We should, hopefully, be on tap for Stormhold this coming Saturday.  The initial parts of the zone will be a bit below our level, but it follows the old pattern of getting considerably harder the deeper you delve.  Stormhold is not a single visit dungeon.

And while we were sitting around chatting, I started opening up more of my Legends of Norrath card packs, looking for loot cards.  I had about 50 to open up at that point, and it takes 10 operations in-game to actually open a pack up, so it is going slowly.  But I did manage to get the card based on Brent at Virgin Worlds.

Forsworn Crusader Brent

That was kind of cool… though it isn’t a loot card.  I should probably figure out the set on which to focus in hopes of getting something else interesting.  I’ve still got quite a few packs left to open.

But the group itself should be done with the Frostfang Sea at this point.  It is time to get out and see more of the world.

Rift Coming to Amazon’s Gold Box Today

Today’s Amazon US Gold Box specials are all video game related, and come 14:00 Pacific Daylight Savings Time (21:00 UTC), it looks like Rift will be the featured product.

The rest of the selections today look to be console focused, but it was interesting to see that Trion got Rift on the list.

Unless I am totally wrong and there is some other game featuring Guardians and Defiant.

Anyway, we’ll see what kind of deal they offer in a few hours.

Addendum: By way of a follow up, here was the price.

Not a bad price I suppose, but not low enough for a game I don’t have time to play.

Momentum and the Dubious Draw of Double Experience

Momentum.

Momentum is a surprisingly important, if somewhat nebulous, concept in an MMORPG.

At least it is important for me.

I tend to be about the advancement part of the game, something that tends to feed on itself.  Successfully moving forward makes me want to continue moving forward.  Thus momentum, of a sort.

And once lost, it can be difficult for me to regain.

I often have trouble getting back into an MMO from which I have taken a break.  I return to find my characters sitting, ready to complete the tasks I have totally forgotten about over the intervening time, usually in an area that was new to me at the time which makes me feel lost, often in a game that has seen changes and updates since I last played.

At that point momentum can be hard to regain.  I not only have to come to grips with where I left off and what has changed in the game, but also seemingly simple things like how to play my class.

And the game itself can make coming back harder or easier.  Every class in EverQuest II, for example, has so many skills by level 30 that it can be very difficult to come to grips with playing your class if you have been away for a while. (WoW, on the other hand, has considerably fewer skills, but Blizzard has a habit completely changing how some of them work once or twice a year.  Same issue, different method.)

Often I just end up creating a new character in order to get into the game and to get that all important momentum.

So part and parcel of SOE being down for almost two weeks was a complete loss of that momentum.

This problem was compounded by the fact that I seemed to gain some traction in Lord of the Rings Online very quickly thanks to the task system.  It helped boost me out of an area where I had forgotten the landmarks and into a new zone.  That alone helped me get momentum with my hunter.

So when SOE staged their unexpected (and certainly unforeseeable through any communication Sony put out) Saturday evening recovery, there was a question in my mind as to whether I would be able to get back in the saddle with the same enthusiasm for the game I had felt two weeks previous.

There did not seem to be anything in SOE’s welcome back incentives that resonated.

Yes, there was that extra 30 days of subscription time on top of being credited for every day they were down. (Which they rounded up to 15 days even though they were only down 13 by any reasonable reckoning.)  That was a good thing.  Thank you SOE.

And even Silver and Bronze accounts, which represents 3 of the 6 people in the group, got upgraded to Gold accounts for the next 30 days.  That too was a nice touch.

But paying for a game does not always bestow enthusiasm.  My last few months of EVE Online stand as an example.

They did launch the city festival.  That really doesn’t do much for me, and I have to admit I thought that was something they were going to do anyway so was tough to count as an incentive.  Yes, we got all the city festivals at once and a bunch of new stuff to buy, but it wasn’t like it wasn’t going to come to pass in any case.

I’m not sure what the “loot bonanza” is nor what the return of the original Aether races means to me.  Maybe I should be excited about these two items, but somebody will have to explain why.

And even double experience is a bit dubious at this point.  We are trying to keep the group together in levels, so extra experience is like free ice cream when you’re already full.  Yes, EQII has options for the leveling too fast problem, with both the ability to turn of experience as well as being able to divert it into alternate advancement.

But Campell, my troubadour, already had the slider over to diver 100% of experience into AA.  He is closing in on 40 AA points, which seems like a lot for a level 20 character.

No, it turned out that the hook to at least get me interested in getting back into the game was double guild experience.

As a single group guild (just six of us) some aspects of being in a guild can be quite beneficial.  While we have stars in our eyes when thinking about getting a guild hall some day, the guild bank is a right now, useful item for the group to hand around items.  While the initial size of the bank is small, it gets larger (it doubles in size) if we can just get the guild to level 10.

It gets bigger again at 20, and I seem to recall at guild level 15 we get access to certain status mounts and items, but 10 looks like an obtainable goal.

And it is that simple, obtainable goal that has gotten me back in the saddle in EQII.  Gaff, Potshot, and I have started working on writs to get make this goal that benefits the whole group a reality.

Will that provide the momentum to get my head back in the game?

I cannot be sure, but it is a start.

Staying On Task(s)

While I had not played much Lord of the Rings Online since last summer, I do keep an eye on what is happening with the game, mostly thanks to the team at A Casual Stroll to Mordor, which reports on the game in great detail.

Among the things that have shown up in game since my last serious play time are daily tasks.

That got quickly translated as daily quests, which are a common enough feature these days since they were popularized by World of Warcraft as end-game padding back with the Burning Crusade.

They are not my favorite thing.

Sure, I have done my share.  While the Burning Crusade set in WoW never thrilled me, I did go through the Argent Tournament set with two characters and did the cooking and fishing daily quests regularly.

But I was interested in the tangible results of doing them.  The Argent Crusade tasks essentially gets you exalted faction with all of the cities on your side of the world and access to heirloom items, while the daily fishing and cooking I wanted for recipes and cooking supplies.

But for LOTRO, the daily tasks appear to be only for local faction.  So when I picked up the game again while SOE was down, I saw the daily task boards, but ignore them.

I am ignoring you...

I did not really need a bunch of additional side quests was my thinking.

And then I got caught in a trough between quests in the Trollshaws.  I needed something to boost me up a level to make things a bit more manageable for my hunter.  And there was the daily tasks board with a big old “Quests Here!” indicator over it.

“Fine,” I thought, “It will give me something to do besides a raw grind to get to the next level.”

So I picked up the tasks, and only then was their true nature revealed to me.

It turned out that I had ALREADY DONE the tasks.

You see, the tasks all seem to be a matter of collecting the trash drops from mobs in the area, things you would normally just sell to a vendor, and things that would likely be cluttering up your bags if you had been running any of the quest lines in the area.

And my bags were very cluttered at that moment in time.

I actually just had to run back and forth between the board and the NPC to whom you turn in the quests a couple of times and I had done my five daily tasks.  And my bags were still full of potential quest items.

Of course Turbine will sell you something if you want to turn in more daily tasks.  And they are quite sly about hooking you on this.  You can pick up as many tasks as you want, but you can only turn in five.  Then you get a little info icon that, when clicked, tells you that you can purchase a task reset if you like.  Just 50 Turbine points.

Or, if you want to up the limit, you can get an additional daily task for 200 Turbine points.

I actually splurged and upgraded myself to 10 daily tasks.  As a lifetime subscriber I get 500 Turbine points a month, so I had some to spare.

And while the faction boost wasn’t a big thrill for me, the xp pop was good.  You do not get as much xp as you would for a normal quest at your current level, but the effort to get the xp is pretty low.

So daily quests were a big part of boosting my Hunter out of the Trollshaws and into Forochel.  And even there, the daily tasks helped me get faction with the locals who seem dubious of outsiders until you have proven yourself a bit.

So, all in all, the daily tasks have worked out for me.  I probably have a little less silver in my pocket, since I am no longer vendoring all that stuff, but it is helping me inch, ever so slowly, to Moria.

SOE – Communication Fail… Again

Okay, so we got a new announcement.  The meat of it is here.

SAN DIEGO, May 14, 2011 – Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE) announced today that restoration of its game services will begin today. The phased restoration will include the return of nearly all of SOE’s portfolio of online games, the reinstatement of SOE’s game forums and websites, and added functionality to require players to reset their passwords.

What does it mean?

I guess, yay, things will be coming back.

But when is this going to happen?

Will anything be live this weekend?

Seriously, would a time line or a rough estimate kill them?

You are either ready to go, and you should be able to pass on some sort of conservative timeline, or you are not, in which case you continue to keep things to yourself.

The same vague sort of message hit the PlayStation blog as well.  We’ll need to reset our passwords… whenever things come back up.

Communication fail.

No SOE This Weekend – Looking to the Future

SOE has not put up a “not today” message since Thursday.  I’m not sure if that is a bad thing or a good thing. They did say it would be a few more days at that point, so I guess they felt they were covered… at least for a few more days.

So it looks like the weekend is out.

I think the next stage will be to start announcing that the servers will be up “soon.”  Long time SOE veterans know what that means.  There is even an official definition in the knowledge base.

“Soon” Defined – Click for Full Size

Hopefully this will be the last weekend down.

On another comment thread I made a dire prediction that if SOE was down for three weekends or more, it would pretty much be the end of SOE as we know it.  If it is only two… well, what do you think will happen?

This is going to be costly outage for them.  They are not currently billing and won’t bill players for the down time.  Thus every day down costs SOE a lot, in case you were wondering if they were motivated to move as fast as possible on this.  Plus they have promised to give each subscriber an additional 30 days free for their trouble.

Can SOE get back to business as usual while losing almost 2 months of revenue this year?