Monthly Archives: September 2011

SWTOR Launch Date Announced – December 20, 2011

Hot on the heels of Diablo III being pushed into early next year (surely a coincidence), I got an email this morning from EA announcing the launch date of Star Wars: The Old Republic. (Those in the EU got an email showing a launch two days later.)

No Jedi Mind Trick

Of course, with a pre-order, you might get to play earlier than that date.  Maybe.  The official pre-order FAQ isn’t solid on that point.

Pre-ordering also ensures that you may be granted Early Game Access before the Game’s official release. More information on Early Game Access will be provided at a later time.

The emphasis above is mine.  I am not sure how you can ensure something that “may” happen.  We shall see.  Begun early access debate has.

And that still means we have a good three months to go before launch.  What will we do until then?

No, Really… We Still Kill Orcs Now and Again…

Contrary to what you might have assumed from reading this blog of late, I have not totally given up on playing fantasy based massively multiplayer online games.

Yes, of the the last couple months posts, very few have been about me actually playing such a game.  Anniversary related items, Driving virtual cars, Star Wars coming out on Blu-Ray, the trials and tribulations of the Fippy Darkpaw time lock progression server, and the Storybricks logo seem to be more active topics recently than, you know, actually swinging a sword to kill a few orcs.

The instance group is still on hiatus.  The changes in Cataclysm which made WoW such a massively solo online game were unfortunate.  The game had been the cornerstone of our group, the home to which we would oft return.  Only now, it no longer seems like home, and a replacement has yet to be found.

And real life gets in the way now and again as well.

But once in a while, when the stars align and the old folks aren’t too sleepy, a few of us do actually get together and play.

And so it has been, the last few weeks, as we have slowly been working our way through the Lake Tahoe of Middle-earth, Evendim.  My goal of seeing all of the revamped version of the zone is well under way.

I started off with my champion as the tank of the group, but later switch to my guardian whom I caught up to the group via Oatbarton. (Okay, that wasn’t my guardian in the post, but it was Oatbarton.)  I found the champion to be a bit finicky as a tank, as opposed to the guardian who is all about the tanking profession.

So our group has been:

  • Enaldie – Rune Keeper
  • Garfinkel – Minstrel
  • Nomu – Guardian

And we have been taking on the zone in short, quest-hub sized bites.  That and the fact I haven’t been taking many screen shots (that often drives what I write/remember) has lead to few posts on the topic. (I installed FRAPS again to get better screen shots of LOTRO, but I keep forgetting to launch it.)

Anyway, we’ve been across quite a bit of the zone so far.

Evendim - Oh The Places We've Been!

We started off at the great bridge of Numenorian overcompensation as a group.

There is a bridge underneath that guy... somewhere...

One of the highlights there is the great big obvious rope hanging down in the midst of the quest hub.

Please do not pull rope

You run around doing some quests, eventually launching something up to the top of the great kings head via a captured Angmarian catapult (the Wardens of Annuminas are fans of Rube Goldberg) that eventually lets you climb the rope and stand at the pinnacle of the bridge.

Way up high

The view is pretty nice.  I never got around to being able to prove if I was really on top of the bridge in the actual zone (i.e. could people see me up there?) or if I was in a special room instance version of the place.

You cannot fall off the top of the bridge.  There is a Blizzard-approved invisible barrier all the way around. (A nod to all those invisible barries in instance in WotLK.)  You could, however, get some interesting camera issues if you moved to the wrong place.

A flying elf inside the king's head

The quests at the bridge took us one evening and were, for the most part, good to do as a group.  There is a series of things you have to do/find in some ruins across the river where it is easy to get overwhelmed by individual wandering mobs if you go in solo.

Hanging out in the river

That quest line ends up sending you to Tinnudir, which I end up pronouncing as “Tuna, dear!” on Skype.  It is good to get to Tinnudir, since that is the place with the stable route that connects to the rest of the world.  It is the hub of the hub and spoke system in Evendim.  Without it, getting around can be a challenge.

Tinnudir has a great quest thread that sends you around to the various ruins like a package tour.  At each ruin there is another set of quests you can pick up.  All in all it works well, as you don’t have the giant shopping list of things to do, but rather get a task that unfolds and develops into other tasks.    That and a trip to Ost Forod was another evening.

Showing off Isengard pre-order horses in Ost Forod

Up at Ost Forod the whole meta quest thing… you get a quest to help a few other people who have quests for you… starts to get a bit out of hand.  It started to become an accounting task to make sure everybody had spoken to all the right people and had picked up all the correct quests.  Fortunately makes the audit process pretty easy.  I recall similar tasks in New Halas being a nightmare.

Ost Forod remained the center of our tasks for most of two sessions and took us on a tour of the East and Northeast sections of the Evendim including the rather lush, green goblin encampment.  You wouldn’t think filthy goblins lived there.

This is actually pretty nice...

We paid our respects by slaying them in wholesale lots.  And goblins are almost orcs in the Middle-earth mythos, so there we go.  Orc slaying accomplished.

We took some time out while we were way up in the Northeast corner of the zone to get the stable route to Forochel.  We successfully acquired it, we just could not use it.

You must be at least level 40 to go on this ride...

That was a bit awkward as far as travel went, but we made our way back to Ost Forod and wrapped up the quest lines there, with the multi-stage turn-ins proving a bit of an accounting task as well.

From there we were sent of to Rantost, an island in the lake, where we met with the usual party of rangers, eager to hand off work to gullible strangers.

Rangers of Rantost

This actually turned out to be another area where having a fellowship along proved to be a boon.  The three quests were of the slay/collect/burn variety, but in the midst of the area where you do this is a clump of signature mobs, including a named one, that would pretty much do in anybody attempting to solo them at level.  For us the group, which came as a surprise add, lead to a vigorous workout.

Upon returning to the three beach rangers, we were given an instanced, small fellowship task to take on.  We completed that and called it a night.

All of which brings us up to where the group stands as of this moment.  I believe we only have two more areas to face before the big battles in Annuminas.  We keep on advancing.  I just have not been playing much LOTRO on the off nights.

We will very likely all be kindred status with the Wardens of Annuminas by then.  I think we are ally at this point.

I might have to take the Isengard pre-order bonus experience boost item out of my pocket, as we are climbing up a level or two every session and I do not want to out run the zone.

And speaking of Isengard, that is pretty close.  I will have to start figuring out what changes are coming and how it will impact me.

Items from the GameSpy “To Do” List…

Passed to me by a mole at GameSpy HQ, it turns out that yesterday’s “Imagining of Diablo III as a first person perspective game” is just the first in a series that the site is planning.

Going forward we can look forward to imagining:

  • Portal as an Infocom text adventure (tentative title “Get Cake”)
  • Pokemon played from Pikachu’s perspective
  • Quake as a collectible card game
  • Star Wars Galaxies in a universe where Anakin Skywalker died at birth. (Wait, we’ll be getting that after December.)
  • MUD1 as a graphic novel

The list appears to be only the first of several pages.  Has anybody picked up on any other titles they might be working on?

Diablo III Delayed or Something

Blizzard has never officially announced a ship date for Diablo III, so saying that the target date is now “Early 2012” is not really a slip.

How can you push back a date you never announced?

The official line is that it isn’t ready yet.  As Mike Morhaime put it:

…we didn’t put so many years of work into Diablo III to release a game that was almost ready.

A good enough reason for sure.  The list of games that didn’t delay for that reason is pretty long, and many suffered for it.

Still, I will be interested to see the dark theories running around with the “real” reason for the “not a delay.”  Did Blizzard fear being over shadowed by SWTOR?  Are they maneuvering to try and rain on the Guild Wars 2 parade?

Anyway, this is something of a blow to the instance group, which has been on hiatus since late spring due to the lack of interest in Cataclysm and any other MMORPG.  There was a hope that Diablo III was one of the games that could potentially get us back together and playing as a group this fall.

So that leaves Star Wars the Old Republic from my MMO outlook list of late last year.  Here is hoping.

And where the heck is Torchlight II these days?  That was estimated as “some time in 2011” at one point?  Is that headed to 2012 as well?

Quote of the Day – If Only Blizzard Would Try This…

I’d love to see what Blizzard could do with a first person view. I love the freedom that this camera system gives us to explore the virtual worlds we’re inhabiting. I can only imagine what a Blizzard first person game would feel like; I’m guessing it would be astonishing given the company’s eye for detail, provided it had an engine powerful to give the designers free rein.

Bennett Ring of GameSpy, Diablo III Beta Musings

Fine, you want to imagine Diablo III as a first person perspective game, go right ahead.  I’ve written dumber things than that.

But if you’re going to aspire to be a real, actually paid to do it, gaming journalist, never having heard of World of Warcraft seems like it might be a bit of a draw back.

(Zonkeriffic hat tip)

Need for Speed Retro Ride Nabs Me…

Need for Speed World is full of exotic cars that you can buy and drive.  Prestige marquees such as Lotus, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Lamborghini are all represented at the in-game dealership.

And I have no interest in any of them.

But they put an early 70s Nissan Skyline GT-R on the weekly web specials list and I could not buy it fast enough.

I think that is actually a '72 model

Amongst all the shiny new cars, I could not resist this box.  The Hakosuka’s ugly retro charm was too much.  It is like a Japanese Ford Cortina Mk. II.  (Which I would totally buy as well.)

I painted it a horrible shade of green that reminds me of Japanese cars of the era (our neighbor had a Datsun 510 in this color) and took it out on the road.

In my garage

It is a tier 1 car, so in races it competes against vehicles like my starter Nissan 240SX.

And this car is a screamer.  It hits 155 MPH on a straight away, it is light so it sticks to the road and corners well,  plus all the fun that read wheel drive brings with it.  Cash store bought cars come fully upgraded.  I am not sure you can even find better performance upgrades than they come with.  All you have to do is paint them up and you are set to go.

GT-R on the road

Of course, people complain about this.  Yes, this pretty much makes the game pay to win.

It isn’t like there is NO skill involved.  I have beaten new players in their store bough Porches with my mildly upgraded 240SX.

Theoretically, if you managed to get all the right rare tier 1 performance part drops (this sounds more like a fantasy MMORPG every time I write about it… daily quests, farming for drops… where is raiding?), you could bring your initial tier 1 car up to the level of performance of the GT-R.

But it would be pretty unlikely.

And so I had a nice win streak.  The race is yours to lose with such a cash store bought car.

But I do not race all that much.  I tend to do the gem hunt and a few police chases and call it a night.  I guess I am squandering my pay to win advantage.

EA got a bit of cash from me due to my affinity for retro vehicles.

Fortunately, they almost always concentrate on much more modern vehicles, so I am unlikely to have to worry about spending more money with them any time soon.  They can put up nice cars like that Aston Martin they just listed in the store, but unless it is the one James Bond drove in Goldfinger, I am not interested.

So I peek in at the weekly web deals and yawn…

Wait…  what is this week’s deal?

More retro flavor this week

Aww crap.  They have my number again.

How much boost do I have left?

Fippy Darkpaw GMs Starting Their Own Fight Club

I had to laugh when I read these two posts in the EQ Time Locked Progression Server forum.  This apparently was not exactly what somebody meant when they started demanding that GMs intervene with raid target conflicts.

First, there is the litany of “creative” solutions from one poster:

GM showed up and told the two guilds contesting mobs to pick one person for each guild to duel for the rights? The other day a GM perma killed Yelinak. The time before that we were told to random for rights on raid mob, but the GM disregarded their own decision and left. Wtb Senior GM’s on Fippy? This is completely absurd.

And then there was more detail on the duel situation:

Ok, this is it. I’ve had it with this BS customer service. We’ve been dealing with it for months now, but its finally came to the point where its no longer possible to raid on Fippy.

Twisted Legion shows up to Statue of Rallos Zek spawn 45 minutes before Citizen shows up. Citizen petitions. GM-Sepki shows up and decides to give our guild leader 30 seconds to decide on someone to PVP for the mob? Are you serious, this isn’t Zek. This is Fippy Darkpaw. Make your GMs follow their own rules. You expect people to sit by complacency while GMs decide to change the rules on the fly?

Can we get a LEAD gm, or a SENIOR gm to come and give some consistent rulings. First its perma-kill mobs, now its duel for it, etc? BS

SynCaine proposed PvP previously as a solution, though I am sure he meant a wholesale guild on guild slaughter rather than champions representing their guild.

All Piestro from the EQ community team had to say was:

This action was taken with full knowledge and direction of the head of the EQ GM team. If a GM is forced to intercede, it is advisable to follow their direction.

So if a GM tells you to man up and fight for your raid target, you had best get out there and fight!

Is such a duel standard procedure in EQ or any place else when guilds come into conflict over a raid target?

Addendum:  The big man, HeadGMKaeldread steps in and says… well… we can’t solve your problems.

Greetings,

The raid issues on Fippy are indeed sad, but not something that Customer Service has a good fix for. No matter what we do someone will be unhappy. We understand that, and that is the reason why our rules and policies specifically state that it is better for our players to come to an agreement between themselves.

In the case of Fippy, much like the incidents we previously had on Vulak, two of the major raid guilds do not see eye to eye on how raid mobs should be distributed. We understand this happens, but we simply cannot and should not be involved in these types of situations.  Our customer service is to help people with the game or in the game, not to serve as a mediator to police each and every raid spawn, especially when both sides will either not compromise, or will not work with us.

When we come upon issues of this type a GM will quickly make a ruling and both parties will be asked to abide by it.  At times we may simply make a ruling based on our observations, at other times the two parties will have to compete for the right to the mob. This could be a /roll, a duel, answering trivia questions, etc.  If the GM does not feel either guild is willing to do what they ask the raid mob may be perma-killed.   I did not feel comfortable leaving this with just a /roll, as recent history has shown that raids will start to take advantage of it in hopes of spending less time at a spawn point and still having a 50% chance of getting the mob. We cannot allow it to be a DPS race as that just ends up with guilds kill stealing each other constantly.

There are so many variables; at times a raid may have cleared 90% of the zone to get to a raid mob just be leap frogged. At other times the mob is already engaged and it gets stolen. Now throw in a guild that has spent 6 hours wiping on a mob, or people training each other and we have just started to scratch the surface of open world raids. First in force does not work as each raid mob has different levels of commitment to kill and with the number of multiple boxing raiders every raid mob could be permanently camped.  Please keep in mind that making one policy for this is difficult, and it is not a simple issue.   The simple policy is however, play nice and work it out yourself.  Work to make it a win-win situation for the two raids, or the entire server community itself.

And then, because that was not enough:

If it comes down to one mob and two raids, and a GM has to be involved someone is going to be upset when they are asked to leave.  This type of guild dispute has existed as long the game itself.  If you are not willing to do this you will have to deal with a GM coming in game and deciding for you.  It isn’t just a lone GM decision either,  it will always be gone over with a supervisor and in many cases the game manager.  We don’t want to have to decide and take action, we want this to be a great experience for all, after all it’s a game, and a darn fun one.   But once we have made our decision it is final and if you are not willing to work with the GM, there are consequences to that decisions.

In this specific case we had today, a handful of guild leaders that refused to cooperate with the GM were suspended temporarily from the game.

I hope this sheds some light on the issue we had earlier today on Fippy, as well as the overall issue on contested MOBS.

WoW Magazine Decision – Mulling Over a WoW Related Contest

I decided to go with the easy option in regards to my World of Warcraft Magazine subscription and take the WoW companion pets and the subscription to PC Gamer.

You can have this, or you can try and get your money back

While I am sure I could have worked the required letter writing campaign in search of a refund into a series of posts, I feel a certain amount of apathy over a small amount of money spent some nine months back.

It helps that I only have two of the pets listed and that the pets are bound to your account so that all the characters you have or ever make in the future will get them.  So Future US and Blizzard are off the hook, having successfully followed the principle of “never give the customer their money back” in my case at least.

Still, this pet hand-out makes me wonder why Blizzard didn’t offer up a special custom pet for subscribers to the magazine.  One of those a year would have made the magazine too successful to consider shutting down.  Ah well.

So all of my characters, now and forever, will have all of the Blizzard store companion pets.  Go me.

But now I have two codes left over.  I have an extra Lil’ KT and a Pandaren Monk.

So I immediately thought about having a contest of some sort in order to give the codes away to a lucky/skillful/attentive reader.

But what sort of contest?

Being in many ways a stereotypical guy (I am visually oriented and can often see better than I can think), I am drawn to a screen shot contest of some sort.  It is just a matter of figuring out what the focus of such a contest should be.

Screen shot contest ideas so far:

  • Best of WoW
  • Most exciting boss encounter
  • Azeroth Travel Posters
  • I love WoW/I hate WoW

I am leaning towards the travel poster idea, allowing said poster to be Photoshopped to the submitter’s hearts content, but I am not completely sold on the idea.

So I am looking around for any other ideas as well as any sort of expression of interest in the contest.  I’d like something interesting, but also something people will enter.  There is little point in go forward if only two people are going to enter. (Though that makes prize distribution pretty easy.)

Tell me what you think.

Things I Hate About Twitter – The Babbling Company Feed

There are companies that do not get it.

Seriously, when I follow your company on Twitter, it is because I want to get updates about what your company is doing.

This is especially the case when the big name at your company invites people to follow with the promise of company information.

Okay, wow, cool, Richard Garriott‘s company, Portalarium is on Twitter.  They are going to tweet about their games in the works and more!  I’ll jump right on that and follow!

Only they are not really tweeting anything about their games.

Portalarium tweets since September 8th: 38

Portalarium tweets talking about Portalarium products: ~2

They actually tweeted this twice:

I submit that, technically, this is not really “about” their game at all, just a come-on to try and get people to download it and play.

I realize that some poor schmoe has been given the job of engaging with the community.  I realize this person must have a tough job, since apparently the company has given them nothing to talk about.  But this sort of crap is… well… crap!

We are not stuck in a god damn elevator together, you do not have to make conversation to pass the time.  If you have nothing to say, don’t say it!

Okay, yes, their twitter profile says, “Sharing interesting infobits on topics of interest to our company and employees and our industry!”  Which I guess makes Mr. Garriott the person to blame here.

And the fact that the main thing on the front page of their web site is the text:

Home of
Hall-of-Fame Game Designer,
Richard “Lord British” Garriott

along with what must be at least a 20 year old picture of gaming’s most famous space tourist should have probably tipped me off as to what I should expect.

The Great Survey of Linking Blogs

Way back when I started this blog, I had some plans for how I would handle certain things, including the blogroll, the links in the side bar to other blogs.

My theory at the time was that a blog roll over a given size would cease to be of value to those listed.  The more choices offered, the less likely any particular item would be chosen.  So I planned to limit the blog roll, at various times, to 10, 15 or 20 blogs.

And they would be blogs I would keep tabs on.  You would know, clicking on my blog roll, that you would end up on an active blog discussing MMO related topics.  This would be a quality blog roll!

Of course, watching traffic over time, I discovered that the blog listed at the top of the blog roll got a majority of the traffic, and that the top three on the list accounted for almost all of the blog roll traffic.

This lead me to suggest to at least one blogger than he rename his blog to Aarhus Gymnastikforening.  The name looks really interesting in English, it would get him the top slot on most blog rolls, and there was bound to be some residual traffic generated by confused Danish soccer fans.

(You can see why people generally approach me for blogging advice exactly once.)

Anyway, my initial theory of limiting the size of the blog roll meant I would not automatically reciprocate being linked on another blog with a spot on my own blog roll.

So I decided, by way of a thank you, to call out any blog that put me on their blog roll or other such list as part of my month in review post.

So since my October 2006 month in review post, I have done this.

I figured I would get through a few months on new blogs and then I would go back and rotate through the list again, adding in new ones as they showed up every so often.

But in what I consider an amazing turn of events, I have been able to list at least two new blogs a month (the average is a little over 4) in my monthly summary for 59 months straight.  And I already have two blogs set for this month, so it will soon be 60 months straight.

So, first, wow!  And, second, thank you all very much!

Having hit the five year mark, I decided to see what had become of all of those blogs.  So I went through all of my monthly reviews and clicked on every single one to see what was going on.  I also moved the data into a spread sheet and came up with a few status categories so I could quantify all of this.

One of my first surprises was the number of duplicate entries.  I thought there might be 3 to 5 such entries.  There were, in fact, 16 blogs listed twice, and one listed three times.  Go World of Blogcraft, but call me a liar if I ever call you unforgettable.

So let me get to the numbers.  Those will speak for themselves.

  • Total Blogs Listing (including dupes): 281
  • Total unique blogs listed: 263
  • Average blogs listed per month (no dupes): 4.49
  • Most blogs listed in a single monthly review: 13 (June 2007)
  • Least blogs listed in a single monthly review: 2 (more than a few times)
  • Number of listed blogs still active: 74 / 28%
  • Number of blogs moved: 12 / 5%
  • Number of blogs dormant: 108 / 41%
  • Number of blogs gone or otherwise inaccessible: 69 / 26%

For those numbers, the count is only for the URL I listed.  I might have mentioned below that a given blog moved and then went dormant, but I only counted it as moved.

Now, if I was feeling really motivated, I would go back and chart the start date and end/last post date for the blogs that are dormant (not sure to what to do about the ones that are gone) to get some sort of life expectancy for a blog.  But it is clear that most blogs fold up after a year or two.  Such is life in the blog lane.

It was actually pretty neat going through the list.  There were quite a few “Oh, I remember this blog!” moments.

Another surprise was… well… how many blogs I missed.  I will be able to hit my quota for the next few months with obvious omissions.  And then I can move onto the ones that have moved.

I have included, below the cut, all of the blogs listed in past monthly reviews.  I removed the duplicates, keeping the first listing for a given blog.  I also put a status message next to most of the blogs.

I went through the list in four sessions, and my thoughts on what to do with the list changed from session to session.  So for some of the blogs marked as “Gone,” the name is there without the link to the blog.  Later I decided to only kill the link if it went to a particularly noxious link-spam site.  If you really want one of the original links, you can go back to the original month in review post for it.

My thoughts on what counted as “Dormant” wavered a bit as I went.  In general, if a blog was not posting at least monthly and hadn’t posted in August, it was marked as such.

There is probably room for a study on how often a dormant blog will get revived and how successful such revivals end up being.

For those of you interested in the raw blog list, broken out by month, you will find it after the cut.

Continue reading