Monthly Archives: March 2012

March in Review

The Site, despite occasionally doing things that annoy me, does still represent, in my mind, the superior free blogging platform.  Blogger has caught up in many ways lately.  They now have built-in stats, for example, one of the initial factors that sent me to WordPress.

I even pay WordPress a bit of money.  I kick in the $30 yearly to keep the blog ad free, something I started when I noticed that the ads they were inserting were all from gold selling sites.  You’re welcome.

Recently WordPress has been trying to tempt its bloggers to use its new stats page, which looks remarkably like the old stats page, leaving people like myself wondering “why bother.”  To sweeten the deal, WordPress now includes geographical stats as part of the new page.  That is kind of nice.

Of course, I have been getting that sort of data for a couple of years now thanks to a widget in the side bar, but I appreciate the thought.  I will now have two data points for international traffic, though the WordPress data only started getting archived in late February.

Visitors from around the world

The color gradient isn’t quite to my liking.  Medium light orange to medium dark orange does not make for much granularity.  It pretty much says “The United States and Everybody Else.”

Still, it has some nice features.  When you go into the detailed view, you can click on a country and the map will change to show you its location.  Handy for the geographically challenged.

Look, Pakistan!

WordPress is even careful to shade the disputed area of Kashmir.  Of course, the feature has its limitations.  Your country must be of a certain size before it shows up on the map however.  For example, the Maldives seem to have gone missing.

Maldives? Looks like empty ocean to me

The same goes for some smaller islands in the Caribbean, the Faroe Islands, Monaco, Guam, and a few other small places.  Oddly, the map does zoom in for the Solomon Islands.  I am betting some marine was involved.

One Year Ago

Rift officially launched.  And while I wasn’t playing, the social media options integrated into the game made it feel like I was there.  And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Pokemon Black and White came out, which became the theme for my birthday.

World of Tanks was talking about going live in April.  There was, of course, a pre-order offer.  There always is these days.

Potshot and I made it to GDC thanks to Darren, where we were able to hobnob with the likes of Brian Green and Damion Schubert.

As with this March, March of last year found me spending time in EverQuest.  It was on the Fippy Darkpaw progression server last year, which at that point was still set in the original EverQuest zones.  Potshot and I were doing some classic things, like getting stuck in the Ocean of Tears and making alts.  And running out of money.

There were the newbie armor quests to work on, which required travel to Freeport at one point, something as hard as we remembered.  We also visited Unrest, North Karana, the Desert of Ro, and Najena.

It was also the 12 year anniversary of the EverQuest launch, and nobody was more surprised that I that I was playing the game 12 years later.  But no corpse runs please.

The instance group, still in Cataclysm Worgen form, spent a couple of nights in Scarlet Monastery and then went to Razorfen Kraul.

I put up a poll asking people which of several items in my drafts folder (current population: 35) I should buckle down on and finish.  I think everything on the list except the winner is still in my drafts folder.

And I came home one day to find the TV had died.  Emergency CPR (read: banging on the damn thing) brought it back to life temporarily, but clearly a replacement was going to be needed.  It was, after all, a few years older than EverQuest.

Five Years Ago

In EverQuest II, my swashbuckler Blintz became my highest level MMO character at the time, hitting the level 50 mark.

Meanwhile, I was still griping about the rise in the cost of Station Access, but at least I got something of an answer as to how my Station Access dollars were allocated.

In World of Warcraft the instance group, after a couple attempts finally finished up Uldaman, was then coming to a temporary stopping point at Zul’Farrak. Work would keep Earl too busy to play with us for the next few months. Meanwhile, a load of my other friends in WoW disappeared due to server splits.

Proving that random grouping has been a problem for a long time, there was a discussion going around about being able to rate people with whom you have grouped.  That option doesn’t seem to have come to pass.

CCP was whispering in my ear about resubscribing for their Revelations expansion.

And, finally, I had a comically large arrow stuck in my head.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following sites for linking here in their blogrolls.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in March

Pokemon barely beats out Mittens.

  1. How to Catch Zorua and Zoroark
  2. The Mittani Removed from CSM7, Banned from EVE for 30 Days
  3. Reshiram and Zekrom Download Event for Pokemon Black and White
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. Close Up with a Battleship – The USS Iowa in Richmond
  6. Pokemon Black and White Version 2 – Nintendo’s Least Creative Names?
  7. The EverQuest Free to Play Subscription Matrix
  8. Hulkageddon V: Unholy Union – Coming Soon
  9. LEGO Rifter? Do Want!
  10. The Mittani Retains Chairmanship for CSM 7
  11. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  12. My Drake Gets Popped in S-EVIO

Search Terms

runes of magic another cash shop pile of shit
[Which is why people are worried about GW2]

where is the action house in durotar
[I think you are looking for the Inn in Goldshire]

cannot remember everquest 2 password or secret question
[Then you, my friend, better call customer service]

EVE Online

EVE kicked off with a few fun events in March, but I was distracted for most of the latter half of the month by EverQuest going free to play.  EVE managed to recapture my attention via its usual method, excess drama, and then the CFC went on a full war standing and there were battles to be fought in my own time zone.  Hard to say no to that.


Free To Play.  That went straight to the nostalgia center of my brain… and Potshot’s brain as well I would guess… and so a lot of my mid-week free time since the EQ 13th Anniversary has been spent in old-ish Norrath.  New characters, new server, new guild, the works.  And alts.  I need lots and lots of alts.

We’ll see how long this lasts.  These bouts of EQ nostalgia can burn out fast.


The instance group continues in our WoW surrogate mode.  The Carnival of the Ascended continues on, spewing glass bead prizes and such.  All in all Rift is good, fills a niche for us, and will likely continue to keep us until we hit level cap.  But I think most of us have stopped playing alts on off nights and that sort of thing, one of the usual signs that we’re not that invested in the game.

World of Warcraft

I have an invite to the Mists of Pandaria beta, just like Blizzard promised all the people who went with that one year subscription deal.  The only problem is that I went with the deal more for Diablo III.  I doubt I will install the beta.  I have no interest in playing it before launch.  But they had better send me a pass for my daughter’s account.  She totally wants to play.

And for no good reason, other than the update to Raptr, I decided I would go out and earn one achievement a day in WoW.  Not literally one a day, but 31 achievements for March.

Coming Up

It is April Fools tomorrow and I’ve got nothing.  I tried to troll for a new blog title for a joke update, but didn’t get anything that really worked.  So I’ll just be watching other people’s April Fools.

The instance group will continue on in Rift.  We’re now in the low 30s, but at our rate of playing 3 hours on about 3 Saturday’s in a given month means that we will be at this for a while.  Or until Guild Wars 2 comes out.  Though with how Rift went for us, I think we might be pre-disposed to let any future game age six months before we jump in.

The war in Tenal is just kicking off in EVE Online.  The biggest factor in how much it will mean to me is the fact that our enemy, Raiden and whoever they are bringing to the dance this time, operate in Euro time while I am way over on the left coast of the United States, 8 hours behind UTC.  The return of Mittens event in Jita on April 28th should be interesting, and it sounds like things might actually be ramping up for Hulkageddon V.

And I have now had my iPad 2 for 3 months and have clearly settled into a routine with it.  I should probably what about it works for me and what does not.

Slow Times in Q1U-IU

After spending some time this afternoon laughing at the internet because… well… go read this, as it seems to indicate we do not all live in the same planes of reality… I realized I had not logged into Jabber.  Being able to log on during Euro prime time usually means ops running in EVE Online.

And I was not disappointed.  A fleet message popped up almost immediately.

The message was for the form up of a fifth fleet, there being four fleets already in Tenal and engaged.  A big battle was under way.  Time to log in.  I was actually almost too late.  I got into fleet, got onto coms, and headed out of the station.  We were already being vectored to the system Q1U-IU where the battle was under way.

Undocking and on the way

We were only a few jumps out, and off we went… straight into the mud.

Two jumps down the line we hit the same set of servers that were hosting the battle and time dilation kicked in at 10%.

in EVE, time dilation, or TiDi, is the method by which CCP keeps giant fleet battles under control when the server is being overwhelmed by activity.  To keep up with the ships and gunfire and missiles, the system slows everything down, with the maximum slow down being 10% of normal, or 1/10 speed.

At 10% TiDi, a one minute warp across a system from gate to gate takes 10 minutes.  Everything slows down.  Even certain aspects of the UI slow down when TiDi is engaged.  I opened and closed the local chat window a few times just to watch it slowly disappear.

So the bad news was we were in for a long trip to get to the battle.

Drake Fleet moving slowly in warp

Of course, pictures do not capture how slow we were moving.  I opened up Fraps and took a few video captures.  Flying through warp at 10% TiDi is very soothing with the UI off.  I will try to splice them together and post them, I just need the right song to go with them.  I was thinking of the Dr. Who theme running at about one quarter speed.

On the bright side though, the battle was going slow as well, so it wasn’t like we were going to get there too late.

We did run into some opposition ships, which was kind of comical.  Because everything is moving so slowly, ships can hang there waiting to be targeted for what seems like ages and still get away.  We did get a few when we stopped and waited for some to catch up.  Then it was the other way around as they slowly fell into our trap.

And, eventually we made it to the battle.  It was a big one. There were almost 1600 people involved over the course of events, stacked about 2 to 1 in our favor.  At then end we had six fleets operating in the system.  Not bad considering we were just getting into our prime time hours.

One of those battles

Things were still running close to 10% Tidi (I think we got up to 14% at one point) when we got into the system, into formation, and started the routine of calling targets, firing, and then calling the next one.  It was a target rich environment.

A nice fat pack of Abaddons

Once there, the fight seemed to take very little time.  Odd how time flies where you have something to do.  The fight took place mostly at the gate where we jumped in.  There was a report of some enemy carriers hanging around at planet 2, but jumping into that once we were clear of bubbles only ended up in a space traffic jam.

Drake Fleet and Alpha Fleet collide

Raiden and its allies were driven from the field and the kill boards indicate that the CFC did very well.  The results at seemed messed up, with Northern Coalition ships getting counted in the CFC ranks, but the TEST Alliance kill board seemed to have things sorted out correctly

TEST Killboard Results

That shows us as killing 413 ships and pods for a value of 83 billion ISK in return for losing 48 ships and pods valued at just under 3.5 billion ISK.   A hell of an outing.

I managed to put another 20 kills on my own killboard for the month of March.

And the moment the shooting stopped, TiDi went off.  Still having several hundred people in the system wasn’t an issue.  But shooting all those guns and missile launchers, that makes the CPUs grind.

Then it was back to our forward deployment.  During the trip back we got a bit strung out along the route, which was not helped by my having to step away from the keyboard at one point.  And so it was I got caught by a bomber gang that was sitting and waiting for an easy target to wander into their sights.  The same thing happened to a Drake just a minute or two before me in the same system.

Nobody was close enough to save my ship, and so it went boom.  But a few of allies and at least one corp mate rolled in quickly enough to keep me from getting podded.

That was my fourth Drake lost in null sec.  I seem to lose about one a month.  And the motto of Drake Fleet, when it comes to losses, is “Who cares? It’s a Drake!”  They are indeed cheap and plentiful, plus there is the insurance payout and the eventual alliance reimbursement.  Plus there were already a couple of dozen Drakes for sale on contract at the forward deployment base, so I was able to re-ship in no time at all.

And, in something that must have been a sign, moments after buying the new Drake, I got a stack of notifications about the insurance expiring on almost all of my ships in null sec.

The CFC is in the process of setting Tenal on fire.

Convoys and SBUs in Tenal

The forward deployment for the Tenal campaign continues.  It takes some time to get a group of alliances that consists of hundreds of people to pack up their suitcases and head to the far edge of our territory.

I was lucky.  I happened to have left a Drake only a few jumps away from our forward deployment point after an op a few days back.  It sounded, even then, like we might still be doing things up in Tenal to support Razor and the few systems they had grabbed in the region.  So I used a jump clone to get back to home turf, leaving the clone and the ship to wait for my return.

Western Tenal - March 29

Well, the war has been heating up.  As I mentioned, Raiden and its allies stepped up the pressure on the CFC, hoping to find us confused and demoralized after the events surrounding The Mittani and the Alliance Panel.

Part of that pressure was an attempt to reclaim the few systems in the Tenal region we had grabbed.  And that meant dropping Sovereignty Blockade Units in those systems so that they could be contested and captured.

This is an SBU

Just to show how things go around, I was part of the screening operation that covered Razor when they planted SBUs in these systems to take them from Raiden in the first place.  Now it was our turn to do what Raiden failed to do, destroy the SBUs.

There was a fleet announcement on Jabber while I was already on and figuring out what else I needed to bring out to forward deployment, so I figured I would see if I could tag along.  Despite being a call for an Alpha Fleet, which means Maelstroms, I joined with my Drake.  Nobody seemed to mind.  Everybody was still getting ships moved out.

I undocked at the forward deployment base, where there was clearly something going on.  A fleet of CFC carriers were there repping the station.  I am not sure what that meant, but it was more carriers that I have probably ever seen at once, so I took pictures.

Carriers repping the station

From there it was a jump out to a POS where a titan was waiting to bridge us out.  Jokes were made on coms because poor Zarks had lost a brand new titan earlier in the evening when, in attempting to open up a jump bridge to a cyno deep in hostile territory, he instead hit the wrong button and jumped the titan there.  And then hilarity ensured… for somebody.

Our titan driver was more careful and opened up the jump bridge to send us on our way.

Jump bridge open

Out in Tenal we set about blowing up SBUs.  I now have three SBUs on my kill detail for March.

Shooting a stationary object

SBUs are durable, but a hundred or so ships laying into one will take it down eventually.

When we completed that, there was a sudden call to get back down to VFK.  A hostile fleet was going to go after one of the towers that was coming out of reinforce.  We headed back to forward deployment as quickly as we could.  Dabigredboat (DBRB) told anybody who had a jump clone to jump to VFK or the vicinity and get in an alpha fleet ship.

I was actually ready for this.  I had a jump clone in VFK.  I was cleared to jump as my timer had already run down and I had my Maelstrom sitting in VFK.

DBRB had us switch fleets to the Alpha Fleet in VFK, told those of us who could to clone jump, to the rest to burn to VFK as fast as possible… and then said stop.  And then said go.  And then waited a few minutes and said hold up and then never mind and then called a stop to the whole operation.  The tower was already down.

At which point I and a lot of people were already in VFK.  So DBRB jumped to VFK himself and the open turned into a convoy to get more ships back up to our forward deployment.  I installed a new jump clone in VFK so I could jump back again at need.  They are relatively cheap and I can always destroy one if I use up my allotment. (The number you get is based on a skill, and I think I get 5 jump clones at where I am trained.)  I stayed in my Maelstrom, thinking that an Alpha Fleet ship would be the best thing to bring to the forward deployment next.

Maelstrom traveling to Tenal

At about this time The Mittani showed up on coms to talk about the war, Fan Fest, his getting banned, and other things people asked about.  This went on for a bit and then, to give us some entertainment for what looked to be a boring convoy op, Mittens agreed to tell a story from days past in EVE Online.

Story time is part of the great oral tradition of the Goons that brings players new and old into the history and traditions of the alliance.  It is part of their strength, that they immerse themselves in their history and bring new members along with them.  In fact, we had a new player, just two days into the game, on coms and in the fleet. (And, in the DBRB fleet tradition, he requested people send the new guy ISK, so suddenly he was very rich by his own measure.  100 million ISK is huge when you are new.  I feel like am I poor when I get down to a billion ISK these days.)

And then we ran into a gate camp.  We were spread out, traveling more as a stream than a convoy, as gates had been declared green all the way.  A Maelstrom got tackled in one system and there were a few reds in another system and people were trying to coordinate a response which was hindered by the fact that Mittens was telling his story and we could not get him to shut up.

The immediate theory was that he had recorded all these old stories and, when asked to tell one, would turn on the recording and walk away.  This was given credence by the fact that he seemed to press on with his tale without change of tone or pace no matter what was said on coms.

Eventually somebody pinged him by another method and it came out that with his new microphone setup he had accidentally turned off the sound and so thought he was telling the story to a silent and attentive audience.  There is a metaphor in that somewhere I am sure.

That got straightened out, people were rescued, the fleet arrived, and Mittens pondered the idea of actually recording these stories to be played on demand for story time.  Goons on Tape.

And so I got my Maelstrom and a load of ammo to the forward deploy.  Logistics in EVE… the actual moving crap around, not the cruisers… can be a bitch.  I still have a Hurricane I should bring out if we need a welp fleet, a back up Drake I should probably have on hand, and a Scimitar which I still have to figure out how to fly, but which I now have the minimum skills for to fly in fleet.

But we’re in for the long haul, so there will be time.

Dragons: April Fools Comes Early to World of Warplanes

Or so I hope.  This press release just showed up in my mail.

Here Be Dragons!

Majestic Dragons Add Fire to World of Warplanes

30th March, 2012 —, the award-winning online game developer and publisher, is proud to announce the next faction to join the current set of nations in the highly-anticipated flight combat action MMO World of Warplanes: dragons! The all-new line of majestic creatures will set the sky on fire when the game enters its beta stage later this year.

The initial tech tree will include 12 dragons and will eventually expand to more than 60 creatures. Each mystical animal will have its own peculiarities and strategic employment. Players can upgrade several key characteristics including fire intensity level, color, number of claws, horns, wingspan and skin thickness.

The addition of these fire-breathing beasts will add more diversity to the gameplay since a dragons’ behavior requires a different approach in terms of controls and tactics.

“Adding dragons into World of Warplanes has been one of the most challenging aspects of game development so far,” said CEO Victor Kislyi. “Dragons are so different from planes; they are much more edgy and self-willed, but if you put in just a little more effort, they will serve you well. I’m happy we’ve finally announced them!”

There are, of course, screen shots.

Dragon vs. Germans

Jets and Dragons

Flames and Biplanes

A dragon tech tree.

How to Train Your Dragon

And an accompanying video up on YouTube.

Just setting us up for the big “April Fools!” post on Sunday, right?  Please?

Return to the Foul Cascade

It was Saturday night and time for a return venture.

The previous weekend was the wipe-fest in Foul Cascade, where we just could not bring down Matron Verosa in eight attempts.  Our goal after that was to get as much of the group up to level 30 as we could, find a bit of new equipment, train up skills, and basically try to give ourselves a bit more leverage in the situation.

We did not quite get the whole group up to 30.  Earl got there and I got Hillmar out mid-week to get him to level 30… and to then use all those glass beads from the Carnival of the Ascended to buy him some good level 30 gear from the World Event Merchant.  Glass beads can be traded in, at a rate of 1 to 1, for any of the past even currencies, and I had been playing that limited time mobile app to earn glass beads since the Carnival started.

I have won over 3,000 glass beads

That got me some upgrades.

So, when the time came around, the lineup for the evening was:

  • Earlthecat level 30 warrior
  • Hillmar level 30 cleric
  • Jollyreaper level 29 mage
  • Gizalia level 29 mage
  • Zahihawass level 29 cleric

Not all level 30, but close.  And at least the healer was loaded down with shiny new gear.

Remembering how many retries went by last week, we decided to save time and use the Looking For Group tool to teleport us into the dungeon.  No time to waste walking.

Group ready

I am always quietly disappointed that I never get to see ALL the icons filled in with that dialog.  Once the last person is ready, it goes away too quickly to get a screen shot.

And into the instance we went.

(Cut for the usual reasons, a spam of pictures and some spoilers.

Continue reading

Tenal and the Law of the Jungle

“Now this is the Law of the Jungle—as old and as true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

-Rudyard Kipling, from The Jungle Book

The banning of The Mittani from EVE for 30 days, and the casting him out of the CSM, has emboldened the foes of the CFC.

They are hoping to find us demoralized, angry at CCP, rage quitting, or in an otherwise weakened state.

Such is the law of the jungle, which is the law of null sec.  When the enemy seems weak, you attack.

The border between Branch and Tenal has been a festering sore for a while now, with the CFC making some inroads into Raiden territory.  But it hasn’t really been a war, not like the crusade into Branch that saw the demise of White Noise.

White Noise was another alliance that looked weak and thus suffered.  They have disappeared completely from the map, its erstwhile allies dividing up its remaining footholds in null sec.

Sov. Map - 3/28/2012 - No White Noise here

In their boldness, the enemies of the CFC struck and put many stations into reinforcement, hoping that they would be easy targets, hoping they could further weaken an enemy they were hoping would shrink before them.

And then there was the State of the Goonion.  And The Mittani declared that we would go to Tenal, that we would show our enemies that we were not weak.

While some joined the fleets to defend the stations whose timers were running down, others went with the convoys bringing ships and supplies to forward deployments in preparation for operations in Tenal.  The Goonswarm delivery service (we have our own FedEx, complete with a shipment tracking page) opened up new routes to support this deployment, and started running those routes.  I had stuff delivered within a few hours of the end of The Mittani’s address.

Archons at the forward deployment

War has come, as it must.  Our enemies think us weak and so we must prove we are strong.

And we are strong, with our friends and allies deploying along side us.

The Mittani’s 30 day exile from EVE is shaping up to be an interesting time.

April should be a lot of fun.

The Mittani Removed from CSM7, Banned from EVE for 30 Days

CCP has come out with their ruling on the actions of The Mittani at the Alliances Panel at the 2012 FanFest in Iceland.

It was determined that his behavior violated the terms of service of the game.  The Mittani voluntarily stepped down from the chairmanship of CSM 6, which runs out its term early next week, and from the chairmanship of CSM 7.

CCP issues a 30 day ban from the game and declared that he had also forfeited his right to sit on CSM 7.

The Latest Goon Image

A more detailed look at this and what it means can be found here.

So The Mittani, who had just received an unprecedented 10K votes in the CSM 7 elections, securing him the chairmanship for another term and giving him a clear mandate to continue his policies, has seen all that come to naught due to his actions at the alliance panel.

The results announced on March 24

The ban will not affect his position as the leader of the Goonswarm.  The Mittani is famous for running the alliance while rarely ever logging in.

As Jester pointed out, and The Mittani confirmed, one of the The Mittani’s problems has been wearing hats that represent conflicting roles.  Being the leader of Goonswarm, the mastermind behind the most controversial alliance in EVE, is a role that does not mesh well with being the chairman of the CSM, which is a political position that requires being a good citizen.

Relieved of the second responsibility, The Mittani now returns to the role that built his reputation, the leader of Goonswarm.

And his first post-ban declaration is that Tenal must burn.  The State of the Goonion broadcast announcing this can be found here.

The war with Raiden will go from harassing cross-board exchanges to a full scale conflict.

The fury of the Goons will be thus focused.

April 4 Addendum: Seleene has been elected Chairman of CSM7.

Zynga and Martha Stewart – Two Brands Racing to Jump the Same Shark?

I really just don’t know what to think of this.  It is like I don’t want to see it, yet cannot look away.

Martha Stewart comes to CastleVille!

A bit more information is available at GameInformer,  where I first saw this story.  But what else really needs to be said.  I unblocked CastleVille on Facebook just to go see if it was true.

All that is left is the discussion as to who is benefiting the most from this relationship.

On the bright side, I suppose I should be happy that they are being up front in making it clear that Martha is somebody distinct from the group of people you know as your friends.

Items from the Mail Bag – Rainy March Edition

It is that time again!  Time to sort through my mail archives to see what has come my way in the last month that wasn’t worth a post by ought to get a mention, whether for real or comedic value.

Path of Exile Open Beta

In a very timely email, the folks making the Diablo-esque online game Path of Exile, a game about which I have written, have announced that this coming weekend, March 30 through April 1, beta access will be thrown open to everyone.  There is, of course, a FAQ posted with details.

Path of Exile – It is raining there too!

So if you are totally jonesing for a Diablo fix and cannot wait for May 15th to roll around, this might be an opportunity to get some click-action RPG time in.

Badass vs. Robot vs. Roger Ebert

Trexx Robotnyk wanted to let me know about the “truly unique, precious art” that is encompassed by Badass vs. Robot.

I think we call that art style “primitive”

I am not even sure where to go with this, so I’ll just quote the message in full.

A one-man operation. Destined to reshape the world order. Badass vs Robot has been temporarily unleashed to fund future development (episodes 1-3, about 1-5 playing hours, available in a week or so). In its brightest moments, small glimpses here and there, this robotic art project from Sweden sort of reminds me of mass effect 3/starwars/whatever but with heavier guitars and a cheaper price tag. Anyway, if you wanna join the fans around the globe and make this amazing space action robot saga turn into an uncontrollable behemoth on rockets, please buy a copy (you set the price). Note that this is a separate work-in-progress tech/devel funding/sneak peek release with awesome music, learn more at the homepage. And to those that hate this project solely cause it’s a difficult to grasp kinda space-art exhibition (e.g. nude politicians and a laser themed forced sterilization scene), are encouraged to share it with all of their friends. Please note that I’m not looking for investors, truly unique, precious art like this must be completely independent at all costs.

So there you have it.  Nude politicians, the laser themed forced sterilization scene, and Roger Ebert need not apply.

Blacklight: Retribution Open Beta

Back to the open beta scene, Blacklight: Retribution went into open beta… well, a month ago.  But I got the note AFTER I did last month’s mail bag.  See, timing is everything.  B:R is an online first person shooter game, a niche that seems to be growing into very non-niche like proportions.  Anyway, if you are interested, their web site is here.

EON Magazine Joins the Digital Age

Naturally, as soon as I subscribe to the physical magazine again, the folks at MMM finally deliver on their digital aspirations.

A digital edition at last!

For those interested, you can find more details on this at the EON Magazine site.  There is currently a special offer to get people interested.

Unbiased Reviews, For Specific Values of “Unbiased”

Leslie, a business development intern at FindTheBest, wanted to let me know that their site now has video game reviews as part of their engine that… I guess… allows you to find the best.  Per the email:

It allows users to filter by price, console, ESRB rating, and more. All of the information is completely unbiased and certified from sources such as Gamespot, Metacritic, and IGN.

Claiming a lack of bias on their part, I suppose, could be correct.  But when GameSpot, the site where no advertiser gets a bad review (or we’ll fire the reviewer!) is part of your sample, bias is clearly part of the equation.  Garbage in, garbage out as they say.  Anyway, I asked on that and actually got a response.

In the smart ratings algorithm, expert reviews only account for a small portion of a balanced rating system which takes into account things like number of copies sold, other metacritic ratings, as well as others. After doing considerable research we will take this feedback into account and discount GameSpots rating moving forward.

While I appreciate the attempt to quantify things, selling the most units is not always an indication of quality.  The literary works of L. Ron Hubbard and William Shatner spring to mind.  Still, it is nice to see somebody out there trying something new.

Oh, and the highest rated MMORPG on their list; the Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria expansion.  Take that for what it is worth.

Digital Kids Conference – You Need to Know!

Those in charge of the 6th Annual Digital Kids Conference, which despite its name is focused on child safety in the digital world and not the creation of electronic children (which presumably would come with an “off” button, every parents dream on occasion) seem very concerned that I be made aware of the agenda and specific events pertaining to the conference.  Hence the six email in two days things.

Consider me brought up to date, especially on the mobile app safety front.

The unsubscribe link, it does nothing!

Mistborn: Birthright – Not Wheel of Time

Brandon Sanderson, perhaps best known as the writer to pick up and (I desperately hope) finish Robert Jordan’s epically drawn out Wheel of Time saga, is having some of his own work made into a video game. (The Wheel of Time series was also supposed to be made into an MMO. What happened with that?)

Called Mistborn: Birthright, it will take place 100 years before the Mistborn series of books.  A quote from the author:

“As an avid gamer, I’m extremely excited by this opportunity,” said Sanderson. “The chance to write the story for a Mistborn game while working with a team of talented developers is, quite literally, living a dream.”

The game is scheduled to come out in the Fall of 2013.  Such information that there is available is on the game’s web site.

Peeking in on Need for Speed World

For a while last summer I was playing EA’s free to play driving MMO, Need for Speed: World, pretty regularly.

It was reasonable fun, with races, polices chases, and a few other distractions.  I put some money down for a couple of cars.

Eventually its appeal wore off and I summed up what I liked and disliked about it, then mostly stopped playing, halting my career at level 26.

But since then I have peeked in now and again to drive a bit and see what has changed.

And like most MMOs, the game has changed over time.  And as with MMOs, I am sometimes strained to see how some of the changes have been for the better.

The first thing I noticed as time passed was the removal of police from the world.  Police chases are no longer random things that could happen at any moment if you slammed into a police cruiser.

Patrol Cars go Flying

Instead, police pursuit became a type of road course, and instance like races and team escape.  Police cars are no longer seen on the streets.

For me, that made the world feel a little less real.

Not that smashing into police cars was anything like realistic.  But the police in the world were the one thing you could not smash into without fear of repercussion.  They added a… well, sense of danger isn’t really the right term… but maybe a sense of constraint, a feeling that there were some limits in the world.  There was a price to be payed (unless you could get away!) if you went too far.

They also changed up the daily treasure hunt.  That wasn’t really a big change.  They started actually giving out some better stuff at times.  But it also became a vehicle to get you to spend Boost, their RMT currency. (Which, for some reason, never got combined with the rest of the EA Play4Free currencies.)

For the daily treasure hunt, your rewards now get better as you finish the hunt consecutive days in a row.  But if you miss a day, you can buy your way back into your streak with the revive option.

A new place to spend Boost

They also changed the timer on the hunt.  It used to be, to my recollection, based on calendar day.  You could do the hunt on any given day.  Now there is a 24 hour lock out on it, so if you finish the hunt at 6pm on Tuesday, you cannot do it again until 6pm Wednesday.

Here is something I wish everybody would pick up from Blizzard; the 20 hour day for lockouts.  I hate when I forget, or am late, to do something that is on a 24 hour timer and then I am stuck with that late time going forward unless I just skip a day.  I did the gem hunt late one evening, and the next evening just punted on it because I did not want to stay up that late again just for one small game event.  That, of course, broke my streak, which removed an incentive for me to log on again, which in turn meant that I ended up not logging on and essentially stopped playing.

Ah well.

Spam bots are even more aggressive.  The “free boost” scam bots now invite you to group.

Chat now auto-hides URLs at least

This happened to me one day when I was logged in off-peak.  Apparently I was one of the few viable targets as the bot would invite me to group every two or three minutes until I logged off in frustration.  There does not appear to be a way to auto-decline groups.

They have introduced language specific chat channel.  When you log in for the first time since the change, it asks what your preferred language is and assigns you to an appropriate channel from there on.

This, however, appears to not be working out very well.  The English language channels still seem to be full of other languages.  Maybe those people fear that we will miss their long tirades in Portuguese.

Then there is the pain of world-spanning races.  This was a problem before, but it seems to have grown more acute since I was away.  Every race start seems to take 5 or minutes to load while we wait for, I would guess, some guy in Tierra del Feugo on his 14.4Kbps dial-up connection to get ready.

You will see 8 players in the pre-race lineup, then the load screen comes up, and when the wait is finally over, there might be 5 or 6 people left in the race.

That would me tolerable I suppose, except cheating/hacking in the game seems to have gotten out of control.  I ran six races the other day and there was an obvious cheat/hack going on in three of them.  While hardly conclusive evidence of an epidemic, it was enough to put me off racing.

And it is really bad when it is obvious enough that I can spot the pattern.  On multiple lap races there appears to be a hack or exploit that allows a person to use the “add one lap” opti0n so that it applies to everybody in the race except you.  And when you only have to do two laps and everybody else has to do three, guess who wins?  I was neck and neck the whole time with a person who did that in one race and they won right in front of me while I still had a lap to go.

Ah well.  According to the forums they are trying to fight this sort of thing, but it sure sucks the wind out of your enthusiasm when you see it happen that often.

The devs seemed to have figured out that very few people read the news and specials listed in the launcher, so they have also put news and deals in a window that comes up when you enter the world for the first time.

Wanna buy a 240Z?

I get that they need to push cash shop items… and it isn’t like I don’t get something similar in EverQuest or EverQuest II these days when I log in… but it is just one more window to close.  And the important news, like “oh, we’re having a special event which is why all but six of the usual courses have disappeared from your” is absent.  Priorities, I suppose.

And, finally, things have gotten blurry… but in a good way.

Warp Speed!

Now when you start going really fast in game… it seems to kick in somewhere above 100 MPH… the scenery will blur as you speed down the road.  That sounds a bit silly, but it is an interesting effect, as the distortion radiates out from the center of your view, growing more pronounced as you read the edge of your vision.  But it seems maybe a little more Star Trek than Street Racer.  Plus, as you can see in the picture above, other cars on the road remain oddly in focus relative to the scenery.  The overall effect is strange.

So Need for Speed World is still around and appears to be getting regular updates like any healthy MMO.  And with any MMO, when you have been away for a while, upon returning the world feels like it has moved on without you.