Monthly Archives: March 2012

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.

Helvetica Bold in Crescent Reach

Sometimes when you are looking for a guild name, you take whatever is in front of you at the moment.

Equipped with warhammers for reasons explained below

Yes, I realize that the font in EverQuest probably isn’t true Helvetica, but it was clearly influenced by it in some way.  While no fontophile, even to me the cuts in the letters C and T look more like Arial, but that traces its roots to an imitation of Helvetica.

But when Potshot and I were on and brainstorming guild names and he said “Helvetica,”  I felt he was on to something.  I responded “Helvetica Bold!”  I liked both the connotation that the word bold brought with it plus the font does look more like the bold version than the regular version.  Plus it seemed an absurd name, which is always a winner in our book.

And so a guild name was chosen.

Fortunately EverQuest has gone to the most simple guild creation scheme ever.  You bring up the guild window, enter a name, click “create, and you have a guild.  No charters, no fees, and no getting six people in the same room to swear a blood oath or any such nonsense.  Cogito Ergo Guildium.

Guild Creation in One Field

And as we learned before, there does not even appear to be a minimum number of accounts required.  Our guild on the Fippy Darkpaw server, created a bit less than a year ago, still lives.

I just hope it complies with the Naming Privilege Policy, which I did not bother to read before entering the name.  But given some of the other names I have seen, I am not too worried.

We needed a guild in part because Raptr seemed to stop tracking EverQuest after it went free to play.  Potshot and I both use Raptr to see which of us is in what game on a week night, a handy thing to have given we do tend to flit about from game to game.  But now, even when I launch EverQuest from Raptr, it does not show me playing EverQuest.

The guild solves that… sort of.  While we cannot see if either of us is playing, at least when we get into EverQuest, we can see who is online.  That can be tougher than you might think, as we are in the experimental stage with classes and so have a few alts each already, plus second account characters.

We have also been playing with the various starting zone options.  The tutorial remains overcrowded.  It is easy to find a group for the couple of group missions in the game, but there are often queues of people for the solo quests like the one requiring the key from the kobold locksmith.  Only one person gets the item each time he is killed, he has a five minute spawn timer (like Spider Tamer Gugan), and a lot of people want him.

So I gave Crescent Reach a try with a shadowknight alt I rolled named Wegnar.  The rewards for the quests on the Hero’s Journey path have certainly improved.  Even if you are running through the tutorial, I would recommend jumping out to Crescent Reach to run the quick quest chain started by Disgruntled Boawb.   You end up with a belt and a mask for the two quests in the series, plus doing the quest gives you the achievement Boawb’s Jealousy, which gives you a weapon and a shield as a reward as well.

However, the achievement reward window takes several seconds to load, so if you dismiss it quickly you may not see the choices being offered as rewards and end up with the default reward.  Not that the default reward is bad, but it may not be appropriate to your class.  Wegnar was too quick on the button and got the default 1h blunt weapon and shield when I would have preferred a sword.  Ah well.  Garfinkel, Potshot’s bard, wields a 1h blunt weapon for the same reason, though his ranger was canny enough to wait and got the bow.

The quest chain itself through Crescent Reach seems a bit shy on experience rewards to start out.  My SK got to the Boawb’s Jealousy quest and finished it while still level 4, but the weapon and shield require level 5 to use. (Though you can equip them visually, they do not apply.)

The zone in and around Crescent Reach does appear to be a hot zone, or so I heard, which means that experience is increased for killing creatures.

Zam forecasts these zones as "hot"

So when I joined Potshot in the bear cave outside the city at level 8, Wegnar quickly leveled up to 11.

In the bear cave

That meant no trip back to the tutorial for equipment.  He had dipped into the tutorial a couple of times for armor pieces, but now he was locked out of that.  On to the Plane of Knowledge armor quests I suppose.

Meanwhile, I also spent some time scouting with Wilhelm, my warrior, to see if there were some new zones (well, newer than the original launch zones in any case) that we could camp and explore.  He headed out to Kunark and ran through The Overthere, Firiona Vie, and the Swamp of No Hope.

Mosquito issues in the Swamp of no Hope

While I was occasionally in over my head in each of those zones (the PoK books in the first two seem to put you in unfriendly places) they each seemed to have some potential.  I will continue to look at the chart of EverQuest zones by level to see where else we might go. You just have to watch those zones that show huge level ranges, like the ones that go from 15 to 90 or the like.

There are, frankly, so many places I have never been in old Norrath that it is embarrassing.  There is more to the world than what was around in 1999.

The Mittani Retains Chairmanship for CSM 7

The results of the election for the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management have been announced.

The Mittani, Chairman of CSM 6, pulled in the most votes again this time to retain the position as chairman of CSM 7.  He managed to obtain more than 10,000 votes, which is nearly as many as the next three candidates combined.

The Top 4 Winners

The vote tallies for all of the candidates have been posted by CCP.

The Mittani has promised a celebration in Jita when he returns from Iceland.

The members of CSM 7 will be (along with their total votes received):

The Attending Council Members (Flying to Iceland)

The Mittani(Alexander Gianturco)  10,058
Two Step (Joshua Goldshlag)        4,150
Elise Randolph (Peter Farrell)     3,714
Greene Lee (Dmitriy Vasiliev)      3,329
Trebor Daehdoow (Robert Woodhead)  3,184
Kelduum Revaan (Paul Cammish)      3,163
Seleene (Mark Heard)               2,845

Remote/Alternate Members (On the conference calls)

UAxDEATH (Mikhail Romanchenko)     2,465
Hans Jagerblitzen (Noah Garaas)    2,439
Meissa Anunthiel (Stephan Pirson)  2,289
Dovinian (Tyler Lehfeldt)          2,284
Issler Dainze (Michele Boland)     1,561
Alekseyev Karrde (Gregory Russo)   1,533
Darius III (Joseph W Morris)       1,282

Meanwhile, in some sort of fit of Icelandic crazy, CCP announced the following:

Video cards for PLEX? Upgrade your game machine via ratting/mining?

What does that portend?

LEGO Rifter? Do Want!

Updated: 10K votes achieved!

Images of this EVE Online frigate, the Rifter, possibly one of the most recognizable ships in the game, rendered in LEGO form have been making the rounds for a while now.

LEGO Rifter

The model itself is up on LEGO’s CUUSOO site that allows you to submit your LEGO creations for consideration to become actual LEGO kits.  There are of course rules, but you get 1% of the net sales.

This, by the way, is how we ended up getting a Minecraft LEGO set.

But to be considered, a kit needs to get 10,000 supporting votes.  The LEGO Rifter, as of this moment, has 3,490 votes for it on its page.  That is about a third of the way there.

CCP is clearly excited about the prospect of there being a Rifter kit from LEGO.  One of the log on ads this week asked people to go vote for the model.

CCP supports the LEGO Rifter

But the whole thing needs about 6,500 more votes, which means people need to go to the site and create an account and vote.

So can you take a minute and go vote for the LEGO Rifter?

I know, another account on the internet, just what we all need.  You can log in with Facebook, though that carries its own minor annoyances.  But just go do it.

And while you are there you can look at some of the other proposed LEGO projects.  There are some Mass Effect kits being proposed.  And some Doctor Who kits as well.  As one article put it, it is like Kickstarter for LEGO.

The “WordPress.com Requiring You to be Logged In to Comment” Issue

WordPress.com made a change to how comments work last week.  This is causing problems for some people trying to leave comments on WordPress.com blogs and is getting a stream of complaints.  I have gotten a few messages from people about this issue myself.

In the grand WordPress.com tradition, no mention of this change to comments was made before it started causing problems, and since then it has been getting little or no visible attention from what passes for support.  They might want to look into some ideas on that front.

Just a suggestion...

Anyway, it seems that if you have ever made an account at WordPress.com or any of its affiliated services, such as Gravatar, the email address you used has been stored away somewhere and you are now required to log into WordPress.com if you enter an email address that matches one in the database.

Even if you have since attempted to delete your account.

You can enter your email address in the lost password page at WordPress.com to see if you have an address that has been assimilated into the database.

Since I do not actually check the email addresses people use, unless somebody asks me to contact them, feel free to make up a fake email address to comment.  I won’t mind and would rather have your comment than an accurate email address.

I will enable anonymous comments in the mean time.  I don’t mind anonymous comments, but for some reason the need to enter an email address makes some people behave better.