Monthly Archives: December 2011

December in Review

The Site continues to try to improve by doing things that just set my teeth on edge.

The redid the UI recently.  They have gone to an all “hover over and pop-up” menu system for the admin page side bar, so when I push the mouse out of the way of what I am typing, I seem to be prone to bringing up menus which proceed to get in the way of what I am typing.  I just like menus that activate when you click on them, not menus that eagerly jump up just because the cursor showed up in their neighborhood.

And then they removed the link at the top of the admin pages that brings you to the main page of your blog.  This is, of course, one of the things on the admin page I used to use all the time, popping between the admin page and the actual blog front page.  It isn’t gone completely, it is just in the third level of one of those little pop-up menus.

Finally, they did a very nice little year in review link for blogs.  You can see a version of it at my other site.  Unfortunately, the one for this site is… well… wrong. (If you are a bit clever, you can figure out how to see it by looking at the other one I just linked.) It includes a batch of bad data from a couple of months ago when they screwed up (or fixed, as one story went) how they count page views.

Ah well, the theme of the modern age seems to be progress without reason.

Or maybe I’m just getting more cranky in my old age.

One Year Ago

Last December I had my all-time most popular post, Talking Cats Playing Pattycake!  You can thank me for not taking the hint and going all talking cats, all the time.  Or hate me for not doing that.  Take your pick.  And We Didn’t Start the Fire?  Nothing.

But I still have kitty pictures.  Awww.

I still think that if you label a window “Currency” it ought to show all your currency, not just the odd-ball stuff.

I was still feeling the sting of ThinkGeek teasing us with the iCade at April Fools, all the more so because some pretenders were on the scene.

Turbine was giving away 10,000 Turbine Points, which comes out to real, and possibly taxable, value in real world dollars.  The comments on the post were obviously not from tax professionals.

I visited EverQuest for long enough to find a house.  And then I was out of money.

In EverQuest II they were starting the run up to vampires.

And I summed up what we knew about The Agency to that point… which was bupkiss.

In World of Warcraft, Cataclysm launched.  If you weren’t in the beta, there were still scams promising to get you in.  There was the digital pre-order, which worked for me.  And one final hardware upgrade we needed at our house before the expansion launched.  And then there was picking a new character for the re-rolled instance group in Azeroth.

The U.S. release date for Pokemon Black and White was announced at last.

And I wrote something that looked sort of like a review of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s book “Mogworld.”

Five Years Ago

My daughter and I were chasing Rudolph across the Frostfell zone in EQ2. We did that again this year.

Digg starting listing podcasts and there was a call to help Digg some of the MMO related podcasts. Some podcasts went up in Diggs since then, others… well… and that has all fallen by the wayside since then.  Hey, at least Fear the Boot is still podcasting!

Podcast           Diggs Dec 06    Dec 07
EQ2-Daily                21        21
Fear the Boot            33        80
Massively Online Gamer   32       200
VirginWorlds             27       191

The Commonlands in EverQuest got a make over. The two zones also got combined into a single zone.

I compared the Butcherblock chessboard in EQ and EQ2

I correctly predicted the venue for that year’s EQ2 expansion, Kunark, which I will never let anybody forget.

And the instance group did Gnomeregan and started in on Scarlet Monestary.

Oh, and I had a Christmas story from 1977.

New Linking Blogs

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

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. And Now I REALLY Want That SWTOR Authenticator
  2. How to Catch Zorua and Zoroark
  3. What I Saw at the End of the Galaxy
  4. Hulkageddon V: Unholy Union – Coming Soon
  5. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  6. To Soar with Titans, To Sow Destruction!
  7. Victini Available for Download Again Through Dec. 31
  8. LEGO Lord of the Rings: The Video Game – It Could Happen
  9. Three Generations of the Caldari Navy Issue Raven
  10. Lord British: About Tabula Rasa… and Ultima 8…
  11. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  12. Deklein Will be Rid of Goons by February

The Top Search Terms for 2011

It is always humbling to see that most of my search engine traffic comes from interest in Pokemon, the SF Giants logo, elf porn, and from people who are probably trying to make home made bombs with triaminoguanidine nitrate (the shortened form of which is “tagn”).

  1. zorua
  2. world of warcraft
  3. how to catch zorua
  4. how to get zoroark
  5. giants
  6. tagn
  7. blood elf porn
  8. pokemon black download
  9. zoroark
  10. how to catch zoroark

I am not sure how people get here via the search term “world of warcraft.”  I am on something like page 97 of the results for that… even for images.


I was hoping I could sum up with stats from Raptr to list out my most played games for 2011, but there are some issues with that.  To start with, Raptr doesn’t always seem to catch when certain games launch.  Rift and EVE Online do not always get counted.

Second, while Raptr will tell me what games I played the most over the last week and the last month, it then jumps straight over the previous year and goes straight to all time most played.  You would think that a service like Raptr, which to be honest is totally unnecessary to the gaming experience, would feed a few more stats your way.  The only reasons I can see for using Raptr is to track you own gaming time and see what your friends are playing.  The community aspects of their site do not do much for me, as I don’t really need yet another Facebook alternative to ignore.

Anyway, I started using Raptr in October of 2010, so my all time stats are almost good for the past year.  And so, without further complaint, the list is:

  1. EverQuest II Extended (which no longer exists!)
  2. World of Warcraft (I guess I played a lot when Cata shipped)
  3. Lord of the Rings Online (Got to Moria!)
  4. EverQuest (Fippy Darkpaw fun!)
  5. Rift (Current home of the instance group)
  6. EVE Online (It never logs you out)
  7. Civilization V (as always, just one more turn)

Maybe Raptr will give us access to more stats before 2012.

EVE Online

I came back to EVE for the graphics update, but stayed for 0.0 space.  We will see how long that lasts.  I have been trying to get involved, but I can only play so much so I am not sure if the corp will be interested in keeping me around.

I have also yet to get to the riches of null sec.  Even with Gaff fronting me a ship and some expensive fittings, I am down a good 400 million ISK on the venture so far.  Gotta make some ISK at some point or I will be space broke in a month at this rate.

But it is a different world out in 0.0 and I am out there to see new things.  So far that has been a success.


The instance group has been off doing things for the holidays, so we have not been playing much Rift.  I did some of the Fae Yule stuff and got enough snowflakes to buy my characters each a santa hat as well as a couple of Rudy dogs.  But playing solo, where my lead character is up to level 38, has been wearing on me a bit.  It is good as a group, but as a solo venture it is just another fantasy MMORPG very much in the WoW mold, and I am feeling a bit tired of that at the moment.

Star Wars MMOs

It was the passing of Star Wars Galaxies and the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I poked my nose into one and let the other just pass on by.  But there is no doubt that SWTOR will be the focus of much discussion in 2012.

World of Tanks

I did get out WoT for a bit this month.  As always, it is fun in small doses.  I actually had enough gold left over from the launch-day buy-in that I was able to buy the Type-59 tank.  So now I am one of those guys.  But the bracket the Type-59 plays in is probably the most fun I have had since bopping around in the tier 1 tanks.  It sure beats struggling up the mid-brackets in any case.  And since I really do not play that much… maybe three matches on a night I actually play… maximizing fun for the minimum effort clearly serves my needs.

Diablo-like Games

I have had Diablo II out, Path of Exile, and, most recently, Torchlight, just to compare the Diablo-ness of these titles in preparation for the possible launch of Diablo III and/or Torchlight II in 2012.  We’ll see how that works out.

Coming Up

Well, it will be a new year tomorrow, which means that I will probably have some prediction-like post up in the next day or two.

There will certainly be the further (non) adventures of Wilhelm in EVE Online.  I have at least one more thing to write about, and I am still stuck out at Burger King, so maybe I will see a big fleet battle.

The instance group will be back together soon I hope.  I mean, we’ve only done one instance in Rift.  It would be nice to double that.

I am tempted to try out a Beastlord in EverQuest II.  The hunter class in WoW was always my favorite solo class and, likewise, my lead character in Rift is a rogue who has majored in the ranger pet class, which plays a lot like a WoW hunter.  We shall see how the Beastlord stacks up.  Certainly the EverQuest version was not very much like the WoW hunter.

And, finally, I am feeling like another contest.  I think I have one just crazy enough to work.  I just need to figure out a prize.

I Beat Some Little Girls at Laser Tag

My daughter picked laser tag as her birthday activity this year, a step up from last year’s ice skating party in my opinion, because I got to participate.

So we headed down to our local Laser Quest with a pack of her friends and a few parents, where my wife had reserved a party plan which included two rounds of laser fun and a party room, checked in, got suited up, and went to war.

It was a free for all game, so there were no team and you could shoot anybody.  I did team up with some of the little girls from time to time because, in addition to our group there was a pack of teenage boys in the game.  The match ran for 20 minutes and, despite it being cold out and there being a “no running rule” to which I strictly adhered, I came out of there winded and sweating.

And much to my surprise, when they announced the results of the match, I had the top score.

Not bad for a guy close to 50 and at least 15 years older than the next oldest person in the match, one of the other dads in our group.  And he’s a fireman.  So I was pretty happy about that.  My wife said I was acting like a 9 year old at that point.

They even gave us a print out of our score.

Wilhelm Ranked #1

Of course, being a data nut, I thought the printout was pretty cool.  It shows you the list of people you hit (everybody picks a handle for each match), which of their sensors you hit (front, back, laser, or shoulder), and your point total (10 points per hit), in addition to your shooting percentage, who hit you and where, and your total score.

I was interested to see that the actual laser gun, which has multiple sensors on it, was the place I hit most.  It is clearly the biggest target.  So for the second round I told the kids to aim for the laser if possible.

We also agreed to team up, even though it was another free for all match.

Some of the Team Getting Suited Up

An iPhone 4s in a dark room lit only with black lights… not going to get you your best picture ever. (Are there any good digital camera options for indoor flash photos?)  Still, that is most of us, with my daughter and I in the back.

So in the great big indoor room, we took over one of the up stairs positions and sniped a lot, which is what I did for the most part in the first round. (All that training in Desert Combat paid off, I became the annoying sniper guy who got the top score.)  We did end up assaulting one of the other upstairs locations to flush out a group of teenage boys who had hold up in there.  It was a bloodbath.

As a group we did much better during the second round and there were relatively few friendly fire hits.  I managed third place this time around, with fireman dad getting second, and one of the teenage boys (R2-D2) getting both first place for the match and the high score for the day at that location.

All in all, it was a blast.  The gaggle of 9-10 year old girls all seemed to have a lot of fun and there was talk of coming back from most of them.  My daughter wanted to forget the cake and presents and play another round right then.  I suspect we might see a couple more birthday parties at Laser Quest this coming year.

Items from the Mailbag – End of the Year, I Almost Forgot Edition

December is almost gone and I have items in my mailbag I forgot to mention!  So without further ado, I give you:

Warp Plus

Spectrum at Crimson Leaf Games sent out a notice announcing Warp Plus, a sequel to and extension and modernization of MegaWars III. Bullet points:

  • Space exploration with planet colonization and ship to ship combat.
  • Play in a galaxy that can expand to over five million stars.
  • Work independently or as a member of a team.
  • Learn the game without being preyed upon by other players.
  • Compete on a level playing field.  Everyone has an opportunity to win including free players.
  • Levels of play allow for casual or hardcore players.
  • Every campaign is unique as the players actions decide the game outcome.

But, like MegaWars III, it needs players to gel and become a community to be a worthwhile game to play.

Trion Hacking

There was the obligatory note from Trion Worlds telling me that they may have been hacked and asking me to come change the password to my account.  Their solution to the hacking apparently involves making sure that everybody’s password was longer, and contained a capital letter, a number, and a special character.

Somehow I doubt the strength of individual account passwords was what got them hacked, though if it was, they have bigger problems than I care to imagine.

Tactical Carnage

Mike from the Tactical Carnage Gaming Community sent me an invite to become a “combat liaison” at his site, or to at least move my blog there, since he could offer me free hosting and I would get more exposure.

He did not explain what a combat liaison was, the site only listed StarCraft II and Counter-Strike as related games (that has been updated since), and judging from the ticker on the front page, he get fewer views in a week as I get in a day (and I do not get that many views in the grand scheme of things) so the “more exposure” seemed a bit dubious.  Plus I am never keen to put my content into the hands of some random stranger or change my URL, probably the most valuable asset on the blog.

Still, he was persistent, following up the next day wanting a response already, so I outlined the above and asked if he had ever, you know, actually read my blog, since it did not seem to fit in at all with his site.  I signed my response “Wilhelm SynCaine de Cayeux” to see if that would cause any confusion, but there was no follow up.  Ah well.


Namaste sent me a note letting me know that Storybricks would be going into beta.

I am just not sure I want to play with their story development tool so much as I want to see what really smart people can do with it.  Still, it might give me the opportunity to recreate my most reknown MUD mob ever, the one named “My Ex-Girlfriend,” an NPC that would follow me around and complain loudly about all my faults and shortcomings.

Windows Phone

Not technically a mailbag item, but as I was finishing up my Looking Back at 2011 post, I got a call on my cell phone (eh?) from an evangelist at Microsoft wanting to get me interested in developing games for the Windows Phone platform.  There were all sorts of incentives and Windows/XBox Live tie-ins and he was very excited about the whole thing.  He seemed a little sad when I had to tell him I did not develop games nor did I have any tangible experience on mobile platforms, Microsoft or otherwise.

I can only imagine that he got my phone number from a resume I submitted to Microsoft for a position with the TellMe group, which actually does things I have years and years of experience with, like VXML, speech recognition, and speech app tools, design, and implementation, all of which was pretty clear on my resume.  But I guess he just saw “phone stuff” and gave it a shot.

In hindsight, I should have pointed him at Lord British.

Angry Boys with Lettuce and Tomato

Raimy of BLT & Associates (their URL is, so yes, that sort of BLT) wanted to tell me that HBO was making a Facebook game related to their show Angry Boys and that I should watch their Facebook page right here.

I don’t actually get HBO, I had never actually heard of Angry Boys until that email, and I am really about done with Facebook games.  But, you know, if you are into any of that, there it is.

See what a sandwich based URL will get you?

My Phone is Developmentally Disabled

I keep getting messages asking me to download, try out, or review various iPhone and Android apps.  There were literally a dozen in my December list.  The problem is that I do not have an iOS or Android device.  I have an el-cheapo LG phone that is mostly a phone with some texting capabilities and a Bejeweled knock-off game that came with it.  So, no, I will not be trying out your phone app.

And that is it.  Now it is time to go play Laser Tag, which was my daughter’s choice for a birthday activity with her friends.  Go figure.

Looking Back at 2011 – Highs and Lows

Last week I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed online game-wise in the new year.  That list was filled with a lot of not-quite-MMOs.

Now it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2011, or at least what came to pass from my vantage point in this little corner of the gaming world.  So, as I did last year, I present you with a lot of bullet points in no particular order.



  • LOTRO is still there, still has wonderful Middle-earth charm, still has some of the best role-play tools available in any MMORPG.
  • Their games survived and thrived post free-to-play.
  • They got a nice new chunk of Middle-earth on the map with Rise of Isengard.
  • I made it to freakin’ Moria at last!!11 one one one


  • Their stuff still doesn’t feel as polished as WoW or Rift, which is bad in a still-growing field of competitors.
  • Their character models, awkward at launch, are not aging well at all.
  • I am still in Moria and have no plan to buckle down and get to Mirkwood, much less Isengard.
  • They shipped their last new game when?

Sony Online Entertainment


  • I say this every year, but EQ still lives!  12 years in and still going!
  • Time locked progression servers brought back a healthy slice of that MMO nostalgia goodness!
  • I got to partake in that goodness with Potshot for a while… and it was damn good!
  • EQ got a new expansion with things like parcel delivery through the mail, more zones, five new levels, and hotbars that look like they are now from this century.
  • EQII still does a ton of things better than other games, like housing interiors.
  • SOE reconciled the Live/Extended split so there is, again, but one Popeye EverQuest II.
  • EQII got a new expansion and actually added a new class, beastlords, to the game after seven years.
  • Star Wars Galaxies goes out with dignity and some fond memories.
  • Planetside 2 announced!
  • Vanguard is actually getting some attention!


  • That whole PSN/SOE hacking thing.  It killed our momentum on Fippy Darkpaw and made SOE look bad in general.
  • The nostalgia marketing effort around the EQ progression servers started weak and then totally disappeared once they went live.  A 12 year old game has a big nostalgia card to play, but SOE chose to pretty much ignore it the day after the Time Locked Progression servers were launched.
  • The behavior of some players on the TLP servers reminded us all why we went to instanced dungeons in the first place, plus a lot of other old arguments sprang up anew on the forums.  Too much nostalgia.
  • Hey EQ team, haven’t items through the mail been on every MMO since 2004? What took you so long?
  • EQII still pisses me off with a myriad of stupid little things, like why is “auto loot” when solo and “auto greed” when in a group the same setting.  I want to do one but not another.  The game has more settings than any MMO I have ever played, yet felt the need to combine these two?
  • EQII pissed off members of the instance group and pretty much closed the door on us ever going back there again.
  • SOE remains amazingly unprepared to announce things.  The whole merger of EQII Live and Extended brought up a couple dozen questions, the immediate answers to which were, “Uh… we need to think about that.”
  • I still cannot get past level 60 or so in EQII before becoming bored.
  • There were layoffs and the death of The Agency.
  • Who decided that a double station cash event was a great idea three days after a triple station cash event?
  • Planetside 2? Was the original popular enough to spawn a sequel?
  • Star Wars Galaxies… Lucas pulls the plug, leaves SOE to clean up the mess.



  • The EVE Online CSM actually does some good, gets management to focus on EVE fundamentals.
  • CCP management actually turns things around for the next EVE expansion.
  • Crucible moves the game forward by fixing what we already had.
  • Oh, hey, I am in null sec!  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
  • Dust 514 looks like it might become real giving CCP… two games.


  • Arrogance, blindness, and Incarna nearly lead the company off a cliff.
  • Over-extension of resources meant layoffs and the long-term postponement of a World of Darkness based MMO.
  • EVE is back on the right course… but there are still times when the game is dull.  I had to buy Peggle to play while sitting and watching local.
  • Dust 514 makes sense I guess… CCP clearly has to focus… but with their customer base all on the PC, was going to a console game really the right move?



  • WoW still has more players than any other subscription MMO you play… not that there are many of those left.
  • Still immensely profitable.
  • Has plans for pandas.  My daughter is all over that.
  • Oh, and they shipped Star Craft II in the last decade… and are talking about Diablo III and some new game.


  • WoW is down 2 million players since this time last year.
  • Cataclysm malaise and the killing of game nostalgia by redoing the world we started with.  Can they ever do a WoW progression server now?
  • The slow response time of Blizzard, which worked out fine when things were going good, is starting to work against them.
  • Pandas?  That was the big news in 2011 from Blizzard?
  • Did they ship a freakin’ thing in 2011?  Does Blizzard and its huge profit margin exist simply to keep Activision from losing money every quarter where they do NOT ship a version of Call of Duty?

Trion Worlds


  • Rift actually turned out to be well executed.  It is like somebody learned from the last dozen years of MMO foibles.
  • Comfortable and polished enough to pick up and hold on to some defectors from WoW.
  • Public quests… rifts and invasions… done in the way that Warhammer Online should have.
  • Turned out to be a good place for the instance group to call home for now.


  • It is, really, just another fantasy MMORPG in the WoW model.  If it had shipped against Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King I am not sure it would have been as successful.
  • Nothing in Trion’s next acts has me interested.



  • I am beginning to reconcile myself with Steam.  I am still not fully on board, but I see the utility of the system as a platform to distribute games.
  • Wow, they put a lot of games on sale for real cheap over the summer and this winter.
  • Steam achievements are… something I guess.


  • The internet went down for a couple hours last week and guess what I couldn’t do?  Play any of my games on Steam!  And, of course, Steam is where most of the single player games I would want to play when the internet goes down are.  This is the part I cannot reconcile.
  • Just because a game is marked down from $29.99 to $3.74 does not mean I will like it.  I have a lot of very inexpensive games that I do not like now that I simply wouldn’t have purchased at all were it not for a Steam sale.  Victory for the developer and Steam there, not for me.  Steam now represents the greatest collection of games I do not play on my current PC.
  • Why in the hell did I buy the entire Pop-Cap catalog? I know it was marked down 84%, but I really only wanted Peggle.  Damn you Steam!  And damn me for violating the “never buy anything online after dark” rule.
  • How often does Team Fortress 2 get updates?  Steam was updating it so frequently I had to uninstall it.

Free to Play Movement


  • Lots of free to play games out there to sample, like World of Tanks, League of Legends, and Need for Speed World, and a lot more are promised.
  • Older games are getting a new breath of life via an influx of new players via this model.  It seemed to do wonders for EverQuest II.
  • Facebook… there were sure a lot of new games there.
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play.


  • To one degree or another, the current consensus on the business model seems to be that a company must bestow some sort of advantage on or remove some annoyance from players who pay.  It is accelerated experience and golden bullets that support most of the games I see, with the selling of actual content far behind in the pack.  And the idea of supporting a game entirely based on cosmetic items sales appears to be a myth on par with Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The games that I play that converted to free to play were the ones I played when they were subscription based.  Time is still the biggest tax on my ability to play games.
  • That a game is free to play does not make it fun to play.  A business model can ruin fun, but it can rarely create fun.
  • Is there any game idea that has not yet been screwed up in attempting to bring it to Facebook?
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play

Players, Blogs, and Community


  • Players, like those in EVE Online, show that a group with limited, rational objectives can make their voices heard and see their demands met.  #Occupy protestors take note.
  • Community and playing together is not dead.  Thrown into the EverQuest progression servers, people got together, formed groups, and played nicely… for a while.
  • Hey, we all like to comment on each others blogs!  Thanks for taking the time to leave comments on mine.


  • Every time I go into a game’s official forums, I am saddened. This is surely a symptom of the human condition.
  • EverQuest progression servers were a self-selected population of those who wanted most to group up and play nicely… and that has devolved into all the problems that made the WoW model of solo content and instances so popular.  Remember that when you have your rose colored glasses out.
  • For every rational discussion where consensus is reached I see in a blog comment thread, there has to be a dozen cases of the complete inability to see the other person’s perspective or even admit that it exists.  Can we get over that please?
  • I am still not sure which is worse, people complaining bitterly about a game they do not play and do not understand, or people complaining bitterly about people who do not like their game de jour.  Of course, they are often the same people on both counts, so at least they are easy to spot and ignore.
  • Most of the problems in-game… in any game… such as hacking, cheating, bad behavior, poor community, illicit RMT, and the state of official game forums are all pretty much our own damn fault.  Can we promise to try to behave better next year?

So that was 2011, at least from where I sit.  Yes, I failed to mention SWTOR, but I think that is really part of 2012.  There is still too much new game euphoria for me to get any feel for how things are going, especially since I am not playing.

Still, trying to recall a whole year, even with the blog open in front of my for reference, is doomed to failure.  What did I miss?  What came to pass in 2011 that I should have remembered?

Left Behind at Burger King

Not every day is eventful in EVE Online.  Not every day is a huge space battle… or even a string of POS destruction.

Some days it can be like work.  You haul stuff around, shop for stuff on the market, go pick it up, list other things, fit out your ships, and generally to the maintenance required to keep things going.

And then some days you think it is going to be a big day… and it isn’t.  At least not for you.

Today was one of those days.

We had a big fleet op planned because White Noise did as well.

Очень важная операция,делаем первый красивый бой, просьба всем быть.

Внимательно следим завтра за альянсовой почтой.

-Official White Noise Notice

There are no secrets in EVE Online.

This was translated to us as “Very important OPS. Possibly the first awesome fight. Everyone please show up. Pay attention to alliance mail tomorrow.”  And I was a bit keen to go, having just finished up the skills for the recommended ship for this sort of operation, a Maelstrom.

My First Maelstrom

Unfortunately, I was off to a bad start.  The op started when I was still asleep.  And since I had the day off, I was not keen to get up.

Still, I did have a bit of luck.  Once Gaff got me on the right channel to find the reinforcement fleet (I was in a channel that *almost* had the right name, with about 100 other people which made it seem like I was in the right place) I was able to join up for the convoy out to the fight.

A convoy was required because there were groups out there, like these guys, camping gates to try and knock off small groups of reinforcements. (They ran off to safe points when we passed through their system, so the convoy worked, but I would have liked to have gotten a shot in at them.)

And convoys do tend to be slow.  People join late.  People fall behind.  People get ahead and get lost.  Jump bridges run out of fuel causing you to have to make extra jumps (which happened to us).  And the fleet commanders tend to be a bit cautious because they want to deliver as many ships to reinforce the fleet as possible.  That is their job, but it takes time to do it right.

So we were moving at a snail’s pace.  You think system travel in EVE is slow, try it while attempting to keep about 100 ships together while one guy scouts ahead.

Fleet Warping Again...

But we were buoyed during our travels by reports from the fight.  A kill mail came through that showed an engagement where we killed 76 White Noise ship for the loss of only one of our own.  The enemy was out and looking for a real fight it seemed.

One of our scouts finds an enemy fleet

And then we started slowing down… even more so.  We halted at one point to get jumped in by a titan, but that never came to pass.  Then we moved on, turned around and moved back, then eventually halted in a system whose designation made me immediately thing of Burger King, hence the reference in the title.

Eventually we formed up around a titan who was going to bridge us into the action.  So we sat and waited to be called.

Waiting at Burger King

After a while and some confused messages, we were told to jump back to where we started.  Our initial fleets had broken contact to refit and replace losses and to avoid the 77 titans that White Noise and their allies managed to get onto the field of battle.

The Enemy Titans En Masse

At this point I was about ready to head back to a system with a station where I could log off.  I had been traveling around with this fleet for about three hours at that point.

And then the news came that we were to sit tight and wait until the main fleet finished refitting and reforming and joined up with us.

So I was sitting there at Burger King, with no password to that POS bubble (nobody seemed to know it) and no access to the station in system (it appeared to be bugged after the sovereignty change) when my wife got home and said it was time to head down to the post office to renew our daughter’s passport. (Both parents must be present for that.)

At least that was an activity that made running around in space for 3 hours seem not so bad.

So I had to simply log off in Burger King.  Now hopefully that system will continue to be a staging point for operations, because it is a long and dangerous route home… or a quick one if I run into a gate camp.

Lighting the Cynosural Field

It was time to get myself back to Deklein in null sec… you know, before we lose it all… and Gaff set up a way for me to get some more ships out there.

Originally I had set up a courier contract with one of our guys who flies a jump freighter between empire space and null sec.  However, I had just missed his last trip out and so my stuff was going to sit until enough stuff accumulated to make the trip again.  That could end up being a week or two.

Gaff got one of our corp mates with a super carrier (a very big ship… bigger than a carrier) to jump out to empire space to pick up some of my stuff.  I just had to help in getting it to me.

I must digress for a moment to bring up how travel works in EVE Online.  Please check the comments for people correcting me on this, as it is extremely likely I am wrong on many points.

Within a solar system, you move short distances with the drives built into your ship and travel at speeds best measured in meters per second.  My freighter can go something like 80 m/s, while my Rifter, which is fitted for speed with an afterburner and a booster can easily hit 3,500 m/s (and can run at that speed forever).  In addition, there are microwarp drives, which speed you up even more, but which consume a lot of energy, usually more than your ship systems can provide.

To move long distances, like from planet to planet or off to a distant asteroid field, you use the warp drive in your ship.  While the previous drive lets you just… well… go… the warp drive needs a target.  It is very fast, covering astronomical unit distances in seconds.

Warp drives, and disrupting them, is often the key to small battles.  Warp drives allow you to escape battle quite quickly.  They do need a bit of time to set up and you have to have a target and you must align to that target before you can jump.  In that time somebody who is after you can use a warp disruptor fitted to their ship to basically turn off your warp drive.  Then you have to stay and fight, usually at bad odds.  That is what happened to me the other day.  There are also warp bubbles and interdictors and heavy interdictors (which are completely different) cloaking devices and the like which all make low sec and null sec… interesting.

To move between system you need to use a jump gate.  There are at least one, and often two or three, jump gates in any system in EVE Online, from empire to null sec.

Jump Gate in Action

This is how EVE explains away traveling interstellar distances.  Gates are natural choke points in the game, and the “gate camp,” hanging around a gate waiting for a target of opportunity is probably as old as the game itself. (Who set up the first gate camp in EVE?)  All that warp stopping stuff comes into play around gates as when you jump into a gate, you are too far away from it to jump right back out, so you must warp or fight if caught.

And then there are capital ships.

Capital ships cannot use jump gates.  Instead, they have built-in jump drives which cover interstellar distances, but which  need special fuel and a target to which to jump.

So to get the supercarrier out to pick up my stuff, I had to setup a target.  But first I had to get my stuff to another system.  A low sec system, so there was danger involved, though I was covered by a corp mate who scouted for me.

The Station for my Stuff

Once my stuff was in place, I was given a Kestral and sent out to be the jump target, which meant activating a cynosural field.

Flying the Kestral out of the Station

Gaff had the foresight to tell me to train that (so I could be target boy for him, but it is all good) so I was able to light it up.

Kestral and Cyno Field

The cyno field lit, the super carrier soon hove into view and docked in the station.

Looks like a Nyx

And then I learned something new!  Once you fire up the cyno field, it runs for 10 minutes.  During that time you are stuck there… and in this case, in a low sec system… sitting outside of a station with a great big flare announcing your presence.

Waiting for the timer to run down

The corp mate who set me up with the Kestral was astute enough to only load it with enough fuel for on 10 minute cycle.  If you forget to turn the field generator off and you have enough fuel, you will find yourself waiting out another 10 minute cycle.  So I was only hanging out in space for 10 minutes.

After that it was back to the station, where I gave back the Kestral, handed over my stuff, which included a Tengu, a Hulk, and my Crane blockade runner along with some fittings.  I had the two ships broken down to be carried one at a time in the Crane, in case I ended up having to sneak them into null sec. (A task for which the Crane was built.)

Then, quicker than I could switch jump clones (because I always forget I have to pause skill training to do so… and why is there no “resume skill training” button?) everything was waiting for me out in null sec.

Tengu in Null Sec

I can now haul and mine as well as finally doing something with that Tengu.  I bought the ship nearly two years ago and it has sat in my hanger ever since.  Hopefully, all of that will lead to some more ISK coming my way, as I seem to be spending far more than I am making of late.

And I have a new career ahead of me lighting cynosural fields for jump targets.

Deklein Will be Rid of Goons by February

Although I spent Christmas in empire space, thanks to the magic of jump clones, packing up some stuff to be shipped out to null sec, I have been keeping an eye on communications and other bits of intel that find their way to me, usually via Gaff.

It seems that White Noise had a meeting of their own which, like the last State of the Goonion, shortly found its way to the web in audio form and is posted, along with a summary, over at EVE News 24.

Some of the key items from that:

  • White Noise was “surprised” by the attack, despite The Mittani discussing everything short of a seating chart for the victory celebration to take place after the defeat of White Noise.  Winter is Coming was more than a meme.  Maybe White Noise only read the State of the Goonion summary over at EVE News 24, which was terse to the point of uselessness. (The subtitle for their post was “Too Long, Didn’t Listen.” I am told that EVE News 24 hates the Goons.  But then the fill in the blank statement “_______ hates the Goons” has a lot of potential answers I suppose.)
  • White Noise jumped straight to the Godwin’s Law moment and made the historical (hysterical?) comparison to Germany invading the Soviet Union in 1941.  White Noise certainly fit the bill when it came to not being prepared despite obvious intel that the blow was coming.  Can they trade systems for time until they get their act together is the real question.
  • White Noise is getting their allies together and plans to start their counter offensive on January 1st.  This includes borrowing forces from Red Alliance down in the south, which apparently has enough free time to ship pilots across the map just for a chance to kick the Goons in the nuts. (Because, of course, they hate the Goons.)
  • White Noise says that the Deklein region will be cleared of Goon forces by February.

So, with that in mind, here is the sovereignty map for December 27th, borrowed from here:

Null Sec Sov. December 27

If things go as planned for White Noise, most of that big yellow splotch in the upper left corner should be gone.  That little purple patch as well, which is where I live when I am in null sec.

We will have to see what the map looks like on February 1st.

Until then I have a bunch of mining equipment set to to be shipped out to Deklein.  I need to start making some money somewhere along the line.

Though, I suppose if it came down to a desperate moment (it won’t), PLEX recently hit a new all-time peak price.  According to the November EVE Price Index, PLEX was selling for nearly 500 million ISK per unit at one point before settling down a bit.  Lots of ISK out there chasing PLEX I guess.

And the war, in which I played a very small part one night, goes on.

First Death in Null Sec… My Drake Goes Boom

More lessons in “you cannot be too careful.”

Despite the fact that there were nearly 200 blues (allies) on the side of the gate where I started, the 10 reds (bad guys) on the far side of the gate seemed unconcerned and were picking off ships like mine.

I did turn on my hardeners and launch missiles back at them.  A futile gesture, but there wasn’t much else to do.  That is probably 14 more missiles that did not drop.

I did get away with my pod, so at least I only lost the ship, which was insured.  I get some money back for that.  A pod kill would add another 20 million ISK to the bill, and only that little because I came out to null sec without implants.

Time to go shopping again.

Kill mail details after the cut. (Boring stuff if you don’t play EVE.)

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My 2012 Sorta-MMO Outlook

At about this time last year I wrote a post about my MMO Outlook for 2011.

There were six games I was looking forward to in 2011 that were… mostly… in the traditional MMORPG, virtual world, shared experience with thousands of fellow players mold.  The real question was on which of the six would I be able to focus.  It seemed likely that I would only have time for one, so there was a choice to be made.

Two of the candidates were pushed out into 2012 (TERA and Guild Wars 2), one was cancelled (The Agency), and two I played in beta (DCUO and SWTOR) and decided to pass on.  The choice ended up being Rift, which is where the instance group is playing currently.  Despite my “Oh no, not another fantasy MMORPG!” initial reaction, and probably because that was exactly what it was, it filled the niche for our group.

Sitting here now and looking out at 2012, I find that the MMOs I am looking forward too… really aren’t traditional shared virtual worlds.

There is a shared experience in each, be it cities, towns, lobbies, or chat channels.  But the actual world in which you adventure, those are instanced.  You an your group are on your own and you will never run into anybody who is not on the guest list one way or another.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 was actually on my 2011 Outlook list, but it fell out of 2011 and there seems to be some risk of it falling out of 2012 when it comes down to it.  That is certainly Zubon’s prediction!

The game is certainly the most traditional looking of my choices for 2012 when comparing to other MMOs.  The original Guild Wars was fully instanced with just cities available as locations where players could interact with the population as a whole.  But the people at ArenaNet never claimed it was an MMO.

This time around they are stating that it is an MMO with a persistent world, with dynamic events, described as being scalable and to “encourage impromptu group play,” seeming to be the primary draw in that regard.

And, of course, it will solve all the problems from which current fantasy MMORPGs, and their players, suffer.  Or so one might be lead to believe reading some of the fan comments.

Still, the game does appear to be trying to break some past trends while keeping its subscription-free business model.  (Hey, Guild Wars was free to play back in 2005!  What trend setters!)  That ambition alone, along with the no subscriptions, is probably enough to get me to buy the box.

But I also own two Guild Wars boxes, and it was never sticky enough to get me to stay, so we’ll have to see how they do this time around.

Diablo III

And now we get into the items that are either Diablo III or very much like Diablo III, and where any MMO pretense starts sliding away.  No shared virtual worlds here.

I will, almost assuredly, buy this game.  But the true key to this list is whether I will play it with other people.  While I played a lot of the original Diablo with other people, Diablo II settled down into an almost all solo affair.  Part of that was the syncing of maps, where joining up with somebody would redo the random elements of your world to match theirs and your maps would be gone.  And part of it was the scaling difficulty levels in Diablo II.  Back in Diablo, we would sometimes just play in the same game but in different areas just to be chatting and such.  In Diablo II the monsters all scaled up as people were added, so three people running around solo wasn’t a viable option.  You had to stick together.

Then there is the group size aspect of things.  Diablo III, like its predecessors, will be limited to four players.  Given our regular group runs five people regularly, and can get expanded up to eight pretty quickly, this means it will be a game played on off-nights, which means no regular group.

So while I might play Diablo III, it may just get the treatment I give most games I play solo, which is a mention or two and a summary.  Unless Blizzard loses its roots and fails to capture what made the Diablo games great, in which case it likely be one complaint post and silence ever after.

Torchlight II

Torchlight II is clearly trying to be the Diablo III you want versus the Diablo III Blizzard is going to give you.  It will offer LAN play, server options, up to eight players in a game, PvP games, 100 levels, pets, fishing and so on.  Look at the comparo chart.

All done by a team that includes people who made the original two Diablo games.

The problem, for me, is that Torchlight, as solid as it was, did not capture the “feel” of the Diablo games.  Much like one of my early and often complaints about WoW, it has a very cartoon feel to it, in the Team Fortress 2 sort of style.  It failed on the atmosphere aspect of the Diablo essence, though it certainly had the simplicity part down.

So Torchlight II certainly gets past the group size issue and has many things to recommend it… and I will almost certainly buy it.  But will it end up being a side game I play solo, or something the whole group can dive into?

Path of Exile

I wrote about Path of Exile the other day.  This is another entry in the Diablo-like category.

If I can summarize the game badly, it is attempting to be Diablo 2.5 with a Guild Wars world and a free to play business model.  All of which may be very good things indeed.  Rather than the lobby system, it will have shared towns ala Guild Wars, where you can group up and then go out and adventure in instanced zones and dungeons all with Diablo style clicky game mechanics.

The problem is that while I give it high marks for graphic qualities and capturing some of that foreboding feel of Diablo, it hasn’t really grabbed me.

Now, to be fair, the game is in closed beta and has a ways to go.  And I haven’t played all that much.

It could be a contender, but I get the feeling we won’t be talking about a go-live date for quite a while yet.


Honestly, I don’t even know where Neverwinter is going these days.  It started off sounding like a LAN party D&D adventure with five player groups.  Perfect.

But times have changed, Atari has been a pill, Cryptic has been bought up by Perfect World Entertainment (who is also Runic’s publisher for Torchlight II), and things seem to be bending to become a free to play MMO style game with the addition of Cryptic’s usual player created content system being added on.

All of which sounds fine on the surface.  I have been known to pine for an overland Forgotten Realms campaign MMO.

However, my experience in software development shows that things that start in one direction and then bend to another often fail to come together as well as one might like.  Ask me some day how the multi-server, no single point of failure, custom voice banking app development environment aimed at financial institutions with over a billion dollars in assets worked out when after launch it was decided it should become a canned, fits on one box, minimal configuration necessary, to be sold to the low end, price sensitive credit union and local bank market.

And only ask if you’re buying the beer.

Okay, maybe it won’t be that bad.  It is a multiplayer game that is now going to be integrated into a more MMO-like environment.  Cryptic has done the MMO thing a few of times now and has no doubt learned a thing or two.  It could go smoothly this time!

The real killer for this though is that it is not likely to be shipping in 2012.  Go Zubon predictions!  It is already slated for “late 2012,” and we know how that works out.

World of Warplanes

Finally, the “one of those things is not like the other” entry into the mix, World of Warplanes. (Not to be confused with World of Planes, which sounds sort of similar.)

I will play this.  It will be free to play, free to download, I will try it.

Yes, there are many questions, like how will controls work.  Somewhere at the simple F-15 Strike Eagle from my Apple II days end of the spectrum seems more likely than the IL-2 Sturmovik “so many damn controls I can’t keep track” end.  This will piss people off.

And it will probably be much like World of Tanks as far as business model, where money buys faster advancement, gold planes, and special ammo.  This will also piss people off.

My only real hope though is that it will capture the fun of World of Tanks in airplane form.  For all of its faults, I have fun playing World of Tanks, which should be the key metric, right?

So What Will It Be?

My list last year was in search of a single game out of six that would stick.  That, as I said, came to pass, with Rift being the winner.

This year it looks likely that I will play all of the items on my list, at least if they manage to ship in 2012.  The distinct lack of subscription fees certainly help on that front.  Six boxes to by at most, and maybe just three really, since three of the games seem to be going the online free to play route.

The real question is whether any of them will make it into the regular group as a title we play together.

As with last year, I am going to end this post with a poll.  This time around though, it will be multiple choice.  Which of the games on my list will you play if they are available.  I included a “none of the above” option, but only click that if you do not click anything else.

What else might come along in 2012 that I should be looking for and which fits in the sorta-MMO or MMO genre?

To Soar with Titans, To Sow Destruction!

When I last wrote, I was hanging around in Mittaningrad, so named, as I understand, for the heroic defense that took place there back in July, looking for something to do.

Me, still at Mittaningrad

With fleet ops active, screwing around in empire space or hunting rats in the asteroid belts were officially verboten, so something to do would mean getting into a fleet.

Fortunately, as I logged on to see what was going on last night, there was a convoy forming up to bring people out to our advanced staging point, from which fleet ops were being launched.

With Gaff’s help, I was able to join the convoy fleet just as it was leaving.  In fact, due to my fumbling, I was actually a couple of jumps behind it for most of its run.  It was a good thing somebody pasted the route into the fleet channel.  And with a 100+ ships breaking trail, and a couple of stragglers along for the ride, I do not suppose I was in horrible danger.

I arrived at the staging system, left the convoy fleet and joined Gaff in second fleet, and I did so, as usual, just in time.  It filled up to its maximum 255 ships just after I joined and a third fleet started assembling.  There were a lot of people out there.

So I warped out to the second fleet leader to see what I could see.

And what did I see?

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