Monthly Archives: January 2013

January in Review

The Site

I’ve got nothing.


Really, the site hasn’t changed. hasn’t screwed things up in any new and unusual ways.  I still haven’t changed the look of the site.  No unusual honors or attentions have come this way.

I haven’t even got any new linking sites this month.  This is only the second time in 77 month in review posts that has happened.  Time to run with some “classic” Krusty…  I mean links.

So I am going to go with my usual ruse and run a poll and pretend that it is content.

And so it goes, month in review #77.  But those poll results will probably be in #78.

One Year Ago

I asked 12 questions for 2012.

I updated the About Page to its current format.  I am not sure it is any more useful, but it certainly is… uh… longer!

There was that whole SOPA thing.  Are we safe yet?  Somehow I think not.

I struck a couple of games from my watch list, as it seemed I would never go back to play them again.

I bought an iPad for our cats… judging by the pictures.

LEGO Universe joined the ever increasing list of departed MMOs when its free to play conversion failed to save it from extinction.

SOE gave us the subscription matrix for the EverQuest free to play transition.  As part of that conversion, EQ Mac was targeted for extinction as well. (Spoiler: It survived.)  Meanwhile, somebody had an EverQuest cocktail shaker on eBay.

Prompted by comments from others, I asked why those who sought an old school MMO experience were not out playing Vanguard.

Blizzard said they were going to be too busy in 2012 for a BlizzCon.  Speaking of Blizzard, I hit level 85 at last in WoW.

Turbine announced that their fall expansion would be Rider of Rohan.

There was an odd divergent current about Star Wars: The Old Republic, with some declaring it dead already (one month in) while others were still in “best game ever” mode.

I was starting to moan… more loudly… about how free to play makes an MMO focus heavily on cash shop content… to the detriment of the game in my opinion.  This was prompted, no doubt, by those wings.  Smed, on the other hand, was very happy about free to play.

In EVE Online the war against White Noise came to a close, leading to a quiet time in the north.  But a conflict with Raiden was looming.  during the lull, I recalled my first PvP death in EVE and celebrated that Garde drones now actually went *pew* *pew*.  Boring no more!

In Rift, the instance group was kicked off its server.  We regrouped on a new server.  We were also warming up and starting to work as a group again in the Iron Tombs and the Darkening Deeps.  That last was a struggle.

The Type 59 tank was pulled from the cash shop in World of Tanks.

And, finally, there was Pop Muzik.

Five Years Ago

January 2008 saw me writing all sorts of stuff that came back to haunt me.

I started off with a helping of silly predictions.

Then, with Tabula Rasa dead to me since open beta, I started wondering if there was any hope at all for a Science Fiction MMORPG.  This ended up being one of my most responded to posts ever with, in addition to all the comments, Potshot, Tipa, Lemegeton, Gooney, and even Massively following up with response posts. This post still gets a lot of views every month. (And yes, I do think there is hope, I just don’t know when we’ll get what we’re looking for.)

And, along with that, I wrote about five LEGO Video Games I would like to see made, another post that made the monthly list of most viewed posts on a regular basis a year later. [And I got a couple of the games I asked for!]

Then there was the start of the run-up to Pirates of the Burning Sea which, among other things, required me to invest in a new router.

In WoW, the Saturday night instance group was hitting Scholomance, Stratholme, and level 60, getting us to the Outlands only a year after Burning Crusade shipped!

In EVE Online, after spending millions of ISK, I managed my first Tech II Blueprint, then I couldn’t afford to build it. Ah, life in EVE.  I also got my standing past 8.0 with the Caldari Navy and spent time hauling trash.

And, finally, in Lord of the Rings Online I was able to pick up my Bree Pony, the 2007 holiday gift to founders.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll since 2007 or so, for which they have my thanks, and are still up and running and being updated, which makes them pretty rare.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. More Than 2,500 Ships Clash in Asakai
  3. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  4. A Journey of One Hundred Deaths
  5. What The Hell Do You Spend Your Station Cash On?
  6. Bosses and Gimmicks and Nostalgia
  7. Wielding The Dead Rat
  8. Surviving the French Connection
  9. The Fate of the Mighty Mackinaw
  10. What to do in EVE Online – A Summary
  11. Big Guns, Slow Tanks, and Crew Training
  12. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II

Spam Comments of the Month

Yes! Finally someone writes about adjustable coffee.
[Because screw that non-adjustable coffee!]

buy azithromycin for chlamydia
[Yeah, we’ll talk about that later]

your words are like advice for me
[Your comment is like a simile to me!]

Search Term of the Month

гейб ньюэлл
[That is “Gabe Newell” in Belorussian, according to Google. How I got on the first page of results for “Gabe Newell” is another mystery.]

mafia wars myspace inventory
[Mafia Wars and MySpace? A match made… somewhere warm.]

why noone talks on nfs world?
[The same reason people don’t talk on the freeway, you cannot speak directly and texting distracts you from driving.]

information about servel cycles and weather changes occurred during the year 2012 to 2013 at various places around the globe
[This term brings you to the graphic for my New Year’s post. Google remains a mystery.]

EVE Online

It looked like war… and then it didn’t… and then a bunch of capital ships got blown up.

And I missed it all.

Okay, I did go on one fleet op this month and was on two kill mails.  Plus I sealed my reputation with our new corp leadership by asking if there was a participation link after our rather over-long corp meeting this month.  So I have that going for me.

And I now have enough skill points that I need a Tau grade clone, which runs 30 million ISK.  That just reinforces my aversion to frigates and cruisers.  They are cheap to lose, but when I get podded it puts 30 million ISK on top of the price.  Won’t somebody save us from this regressive tax on the most successful (by at least one measurement) players in EVE?

Need for Speed World

I still play this a bit.  Actually, for about 8 minutes every day.  I do the gem hunt, which gives you a prize every day when you complete it.  But it says right on the prize reward tab that the prizes get better every consecutive day you complete the gem hunt.  I am testing this.  I am currently past the 30 day mark.  Expect a report on this some day when I am really bored.


Do I even play this game any more?  Do I even play fantasy MMORPGs any more?

Evidence is starting to suggest I do not.

Expect a long and angst ridden post at some point laying the blame squarely on Blizzard and World of Warcraft for destroying the genre.

That’s what you’re supposed to do when you hit this point, right?

Or is SOE to blame for ruining EverQuest?  Or for making EverQuest II?  Or the NGE? I can never remember.

But expect something once I figure it out!

World of Tanks

The instance group, or most of it, has gravitated to WoT, which is something of an “old man’s shooter” to my mind.  I like shooters, but when it comes down to it, I have never been very good at the run and gun and bunny hop routine, and my skills have not gotten better over the years.  So a tank shooter, where you move slowly… unless you are in one of those damn T-50s… and things like cover, aim points, and line of site matter fares well with me.

It is also light, can be played in small doses, and is fun as a team… though we have to start working more like a team.

Coming Up

I have a post brewing about the iPad.  I have had one for a year now, so it is probably time to explore how I thought I would use it with compared to what I actually ended doing with the thing.  And I will probably insult people who make 99 cent apps again.

Something will likely happen in EVE.  It always does.  I’ll get some new tanks I bet.  And some email to post about.

Meanwhile, the drought of posts about me actually playing a fantasy based MMORPG… there was exactly one this month… will probably continue.

Milestones: In with Wizardry Online, Out with Pirates of the Burning Sea

Wizardry Online is now a live, full fledged member of the SOE stable of games.


While it doesn’t really bring back the spirit of the original Wizardry for me… and really isn’t my cup of tea… it is now part of the line up, free to play if you want or as a subscription or part of SOE’s All Access Pass.

Some find me... disturbing

It was tough just getting past this screen…

It remains to be seen if this title will bring a lasting dungeon crawl experience or if their concept of “permadeath” will be a compelling feature. We shall see whether it lights a fire or languishes in the shadow of SOE’s other fantasy MMORPG titles.

Stropp has been in there for day one fun, if you are looking for a report on that.  He does mention that the “connecting” issue, that so many people have arrived here searching for, appears to be SOE completely lacking any sort of informative “you’re in the login queue” messaging.  You just sit there “connecting” until it is your turn.

Meanwhile, Pirates of the Burning Sea is taking its leave from SOE.


Flying Lab Software will no longer be the developer and SOE no longer the publisher of this title. The following announcement went out to those of us still on their mailing list:

Ahoy there!

As you may know, Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) will be leaving SOE’s family of games at the end of the month and setting sail with Portalus Games. Portalus may be a new name, but the people behind it are veterans of Flying Lab who love the game. They have banded together to form a new company whose sole focus is PotBS, and will continue running, developing, and expanding the game into the future.

I’m personally very excited about Portalus and I’m looking forward to where they’ll be taking PotBS, but it will be as a player, not as a member of the development team. I’ve had a lot of great moments in the development of Pirates, and while the details of these moments are wildly varied, they all revolve around the same thing: interacting with you, the players. We decided to build an MMO because we wanted to have a more direct relationship with our players, and PotBS came through in spades. I’ve enjoyed going out, and meeting and talking with so many of you, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world.

I want to thank all of you for your support, and if one day you’re sailing on the open seas, and you meet a grizzled old Pirate who talks about the old days, think a kindly thought for me. Then give him a broadsides and take his ship!! See you on the Burning Seas!

Russell Williams
– Co-Founder Flying Lab

Accounts can be migrated to the new company, which takes over today. The SOE servers will go down at 10:30pm PST. Instructions on how to migrate your account are on the Portalus Games web site.

While Potshot and I were there at launch and before with the pre-boarding pass (and once again adopting the French faction), the game never really stuck with us.

The French have the most attitude

The ship to ship combat was very good. It was about all you could expect from such a game and then some.


Most other aspects of the game fell flat for us however. Ship boarding combat was dull, the economy was convoluted, the strategic game was broken, and even finding ship to ship battles was unsatisfying. In less than a month we felt adrift in the burning sea, rudderless and uninterested in where the current might take us. And so we left the game, though it sailed on.


And while I always intended to come back and check on how things had progressed after our short time in the game, it never came to pass. There are always more games to play than time in which to play them.

As with Wizardry Online, the future remains to be written. Will this be a rebirth for the now five year old game, or has it merely been moved to hospice care where it can die quietly?

World of Tanks – Les Chars de Combustion

Last week we came up short in the instance group so spent some time playing World of Tanks as a lark.  Earl downloaded the game and ran around with us in tier I tanks while trying to figure out what was going on.  By the end of the evening, things seemed to be going okay, but I did not detect any enthusiasm for the game.  I figured we might be back to Need for Speed: World as an alternative the next time this situation came up.

The week went by and come Saturday I logged in to WoT and actually saw Earl in game.  I checked his profile and he was just about to hit the 200 game mark.  That would be at least 190 more games since the previous weekend.

For comparison, if I play 100 games in a week, that feels like a lot of tank time.

Earl had clearly been bitten by the tank bug.

Potshot got on as well and we ended up playing off and on Saturday afternoon and evening, right up to start time for the instance group.

At that point, Giz was a bit iffy for the evening, but Jolly seemed interested in the World of Tanks idea.  He has agitated for something more shooter-like for the group now and again.  However, his internet connection is more on par with my own rather than Earl’s fiber optic speed, so his download was going to take a while, which ended up putting him out for the night.

But the three of us pressed on with our Saturday of tanks right into instance group time.

Earl, who had bought some of the gold currency for the game, was keen enough on the whole thing to offer to pay the price for us to form a clan.

Potshot and I had previously discussed this, which followed our usual pattern of about 2 minutes of hastily exploring the actual benefits of forming a clan and several hours of discussing potential names for the clan.  So when Earl said he would set up the clan if we just gave him a name, I had a list at my finger tips.

They were all in French, as Potshot and I had been discussing the whole thing in the context of our run at the French tank line, but there were some amusing ones on the list.  Here are some samples, along with the tag we would get for each. (And a translation in some cases.)

  • Fair Play for Vichy Committee (FPFVC)
  • Les Freres Corses (LFC) –  the Corsican brothers
  • Ou Est Mon Bourbon (OEMB) – Where’s my Bourbon
  • Regardez la-bas (RLB) – Look! Over there!
  • Amerique du Nord Resistance Francaises (ANRF) –  North American French Resistance, plus the tag would be “a nerf!”
  • Le Grand Cerf (LGC) – From a French children’s song
  • Nous Abandonnons (NA) – we give up
  • Je m’abandonne (JMA) – I give up or I surrender
  • Pas de Pays Pour Viellards (PPV) – no country for old men
  • Les Viellards Qui Rit (LVQR) – The laughing old men
  • Les Epaves Qui Rient (LEQR) – The laughing wrecks
  • Les Chevaliers Mauritian – Because nobody is going to miss a Maurice Chevaliers reference

However, I had to use this opportunity to pitch my own favorite, which was:

  • Les Chars de Combustion (LCDC) – The Burning Tanks

That was picked up as our clan name though, due to an error transcribing, we ended up as:

  • Le Chars de Cumbustion (LCDC)

So now we must hang our heads in shame should any Frenchman bother to look up our clan.


There is an option to pay some more gold to alter your clan name… but that feature is not functional at this time.


I opened a support ticket about fixing our clan name, but I suspect that will come to naught.

[I got a response to my ticket. They are going to fix the typos! Yay!]

None of which really matters all that much because we got what we really wanted, which was the opportunity to put a clan logo on our tanks.  Potshot found this free image on a site offering free images (that were free):


Which we resized and altered to add in the French roundel.


And so we have a burning tank logo on our often burning tanks.  The silhouette even looks vaguely Gallic in shape.  Mission accomplished!

Our Logo on a StuG III

Our Logo on a StuG III

And, that accomplished, we ran off to play. Which lead us to the next problem, which was what tanks should we all drive in order to play matches together without putting some of us at a disadvantage.

There is that whole match making chart to take into consideration.  We swapped around a bit, and ended up with Earl and Potshot in their tier III SP guns (a Wespe and a Lorraine 39) and me in my KV-1, which seemed to be about right to get us into matches where none of us were out of our depth.  When I was teaming up with them in my AMX 40, things were decidedly unpleasant for me. (Is there a “most bounced shots” medal?  A “Pinball Wizard” award?  If there is, I do not know why I didn’t earn it in the AMX 40.)

Later I swapped to my Churchill III because it has a cap on its match making that keeps it in tiers V and VI.  And then Potshot got out his Char B1 to work on that while keeping up the French aspect of our new clan.

And we seemed to do pretty well.  There were a couple of matches where Earl and Potshot were clear factors in the victory, reaching out and smiting all those who exposed themselves while I lumbered around spotting and peppering anybody I could catch with a rain of 6 pounder rounds.

With two of us in lightly gunned heavies, the burden fell on Earl to keep the destruction coming, but he was doing well in the arty role.

As the evening wrapped up, we created our own battle so we could take a group shot.  It is odd that you have to disband your platoon in order to do this.  Ah well.

The Final Trio in the Snow

The Final Trio in the Snow

And then, of course, we shot each other.

Going straight for the weak spot!

Going straight for the weak spot!

We will have to see if tanks remain the game of choice next week.  And if Jolly joins us, it will be back to tier I and II tanks for a while.

Defense Grid Kickstarter Success

The buzz around Kickstarter seems to ebb and flow.

When there is a Kickstarter going around something that gets you excited, it can seem like a great way for supports to get involved in a way that helps the development process.

And then there is the reality.

There was an article a couple months back (that I wish I could find) which reported the results of a study of Kickstarter projects and found that not only do most projects not get funded (which one would expect given the quality of a lot of the pitches), but that a large percentage of those that do fund subsequently fail to deliver anything (call it “take the money and run”), fail to get even close to their projected timeline (everything takes longer than you think), or deliver something that does not match what was promised in the initial pitch.

Now some of projects in the study seemed to be stuck in a category without considering mitigating factors.  The Steve Jackson Games O.G.R.E. Designer’s Edition project has been delayed because they asked for $20,000 and ended up with nearly a million, so they actually expanded the scope of the project so that the end result will be even better that they had initially planned.  But that has pushed out the timeline, so it appears on the “failure due to missed dates” list despite keeping backers fully appraised of the project status with regular updates.

(And I cannot emphasize how important updates are for such projects.)

In my own case, of the four projects I supported that actually made their funding goal (out of eight total) two appear to be stuck in the failed project timeline dimension.

Now, in one case, I know what is going on.  The Jason Scott documentary three pack, which I first mentioned way back in September of 2011, has been delayed because of his Internet Archive work and because he got paid to do another documentary ahead of the ones funded on Kickstarter.  I cannot say that the latter makes me very happy, but the documentary is being made available for free, so if you squint your eyes and look at things with your head turned sideways, it seems like maybe we’re getting a fourth documentary as part of the deal.  Plus the other three are under way and I consider them getting made to be more important than me getting my copies in a timely manner.

On the flip side, there is a book I helped fund that has gone to the editors and hasn’t been heard from since.  Such is life.

And then there is Planetary Annihilation, which I pitched in on because they invoked the name of Total Annihilation, one of two RTS games I still drag out and play to this day. (The other is Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, which I wish would get a screen resolution update and appear on Steam or  But this project has no real set timeline and, frankly, I have been burned before by people invoking the TA lineage.  Supreme Commander was not at all satisfying to me, and so I stand ready to be disappointed again.

But amidst all of this “someday” level of hope, the fourth Kickstarter on my list delivered.  The new content for Defense Grid: The Awakening arrived last week.  As a supporter I already had my key and had access to pre-release versions of the new content, though I did not spend much time with them.  I wanted to experience them as finished product.

The product is now finished.

It showed up a little late.  The target was initially December.  But progress updates were frequent and if you entered the Steam key you got as a supporter, you could see the new levels evolving from raw layouts to fully formed encounters.  And once it was done, Steam updated you to the final version.

So I now have what I really wanted; more levels for my favorite tower defense game.

Appropriately enough, here is the first achievement for the Containment DLC for Defense Grid: The Awakening:


I am off to conquer the new levels in their various modes.

Now if Hidden Path can just get funding for their Defense Grid 2 project.  They did not reach that level of funding as part of their Kickstarter and so must seek the money via more traditional channels.

Items from the Mail Bag – Barrel Scrapings and the Like

Mail bag was going to be a regular monthly feature, but frankly the mail I have been getting on the blog account really hasn’t been living up to the role.  Still, I do get something amusing now and again.  A pity none of it showed up recently, so this is all you get.

Three Kias, One Cup

The Kia Motors Overseas Communications Team ( 해외커뮤니케이션팀) wants me to go connect with their Facebook page so I can play a flash based tennis game featuring players that are, if I understand this correctly, anthropomorphized versions of their cars.  The SoulSorento, and Cerato to be specific.  Except I think that last one is sold as the Forte here in the US.

Totally not ripping off Disney/Pixar

Totally not ripping off Disney/Pixar

All because Kia sponsors some aspect of the Australian Open… which is a tennis tournament.

I had to look that up.

I almost want to go play this, just to see how they get that lumpy Sorento to move its ass around the court.  But a surge of apathy has stayed my hand so far.

Still, don’t let me stop you!  You can find the page on Facebook here.  Just be quick, as the game only runs from January 16th through the 31st.  Of course, they only sent me this note on the 29th, so clearly my participation was not all the important.

Aventurine Fails Again

Aventurine sent me a “Media Alert” to invite me to come and explore the world of Agon, which I am afraid always brings up images of Larry Storch.

A little whackier than this though

A little whackier than this though

Unfortunately for Aventurine, all they actually had for me was a link to a dev diary video about their upcoming (some day) Darkfall: Unholy Wars reboot.

Then they listed out the price of the game ($14.95 if you are a Darkfall Online returning player or $29.95 (25% off) if you are new to this game) like they expected me, a member of the media (who else gets “media alerts” right?), to actually pay for it myself.  This is how you get 2/10 reviews.  (Though I still suspect there was a method to their madness.)

Haven’t we all learned by now that companies can get game journalists to degrade themselves and their profession with a few simple freebies?  Playing it straight is a mug’s game.

The Soda Sipping Inside Joke?

I keep getting press notices about a game called Soda Drinker Pro, but cannot tell if this is just the internet yanking my chain or not.  The quotes sound tongue in cheek.

Soda Drinker Pro is the most advanced soda drinking simulator ever created

While sites like Gamasutra have reprinted the press releases due to contractual obligations.

Mashable has a brief write up, but it still ends up sounding like an internet goof.

I have to think that the only reason I got this was that I have written about soda, and soda experiments, here in the past.

Somebody Sued Facebook

Which probably isn’t news, but the announcement showed up in my email.  It was something about sponsored stories.

Why did I get this notice? This Notice relates to a proposed settlement (“Settlement”) of a class action lawsuit (“Action”) filed against Facebook relating to a particular Facebook feature called “Sponsored Stories.” According to available records, you may be a “Class Member.”

What is the Action about? The Action claims that Facebook unlawfully used the names, profile pictures, photographs, likenesses, and identities of Facebook users in the United States to advertise or sell products and services through Sponsored Stories without obtaining those users’ consent. Facebook denies any wrongdoing and any liability whatsoever. No court or other entity has made any judgment or other determination of any liability.

You can read more about it here.  If Facebook used your likeness without your consent, it could be worth a sawbuck to you.

Meanwhile if the suit succeeds the lawyers will all get paid for the hours they billed and Facebook will have to change their terms of service so that by accepting them you allow Mark Zuckerberg to do whatever he damn well pleases with your likeness.

Oh, Mark, you crazy!

Oh, Mark, you crazy!

So who is going to win here?

Raptr Has a List!

Raptr sent me a list of awards they made up and gave out for 2012 based on their game tracking stats.

  • Most Played New Game – Borderlands 2
  • Most Played Game (Released Anytime) – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Biggest Boost from User-Generated Content – Portal 2
  • Most Played Long-Awaited Sequel – Borderlands 2
  • No Bathroom Break – Borderlands 2
  • Most Played XBLA Game – Minecraft
  • Most Played New IP – Dragon’s Dogma
  • Most Successful Paid to Free-to-Play Game – Star Wars: The Old Republic

Some of those make sense, while others… I am not so sure.  The “Bathroom Break” bit probably relates to a measurement of play sessions, but how did they come up with “Long Awaited Sequel?”  Was Borderlands 2 really that long in showing up?  Relative to what?

Meanwhile, their last category almost always reflects a sentiment of “crap, we’d better mention MMOs!”  They used the same category as 2011, but this time they managed to combine it with an attempt to suck up to EA/BioWare.  Or does somebody think if you were going to mention MMOs that there weren’t other categories or titles you might choose?  “Most played MMO” or  GuildWars 2 certainly springs to my mind.

Anyway, you can read their full post here, which includes some additional details.

The Rest

Finally, I seem to be getting more and more messages asking me if I would like to come write for other sites.  These invites are rather transparent requests to please provide free content for such and such a site to exploit for ad revenue.

It is the sources of these requests that are getting more interesting.  I had one from a web media group from everybody’s favorite Germans, ProSiebenSat.1 and another from a group that purports to run the largest MMO gaming site in China.

All I can think is, “China?”  My Larry Storch jokes are probably too obscure for, how would they possibly play in China.

Anyway, send me something interesting that isn’t about your 99 cent iPhone app and maybe I’ll make fun of it.  As always, contact info is on the About page.

How Games Can Boost Their Raptr and Xfire Hours Played!

Just make sure your launcher/patcher counts as your game being played.

The other night I went to patch up Path of Exile.  It is going into open beta which, among other things, means that characters made from this point forward won’t be wiped.

And while it is really tough to build any enthusiasm for the third attempt to recapture the Diablo II spirit in less than nine months, it had been about a year since I last peeked into game, and so I thought it might be time to go back for a visit.

Of course, with that much time having passed, I was rightfully expecting a big patch.  So I waited until the end of the evening, kicked off the patch process, and went to bed.

And, in the morning, not only was the patching done, but I had two items in my inbox from Raptr.

Raptr was proud to tell me that I had earned the rank “Experienced” and the “Dedicated” for my playtime in Path of Exile.

Raptr Calls It

Raptr Calls It

Although I have to admit, Raptr does seem a bit confused as to what rank I really am.  Both of the messages are proud to tell me the rank I have achieved and what I have to do to get to the next rank, however they used the same name for both.  So am I experienced, or have I been experienced, or what?

Anyway, it ends up Raptr looking like I have played a lot more Path of Exile than I really have.

I am not sure how big of a benefit that really is, and I am almost completely sure that this sort of thing is the fault of the likes Raptr and Xfire as opposed to the developer.  But it did make me wonder what other games might be benefiting in the playtime number department due to this sort of thing.

I went through some of the other games I have installed and found that Star Trek Online’s launcher/patcher gives the same result.  I did not bother to try it with Xfire, as it would have meant re-installing Xfire again, but I have to imagine that the same thing happens with some games there as well.

Of course, the real question is, does it matter?  Does this make play time numbers from services like Raptr and Xfire any more dubious in your mind or not?

Now I wonder if anybody logged into my account by accident over the weekend.  Not that I need any more playtime credited…

More Than 2,500 Ships Clash in Asakai

And I missed it.

I was eating dinner when the op got called, but my pal Gaff was along for the ride and gave me some updates as the evening progressed.

A snapsnot (broken out by alliances) showed as many as 2,667 players in the low sec system of Asakai, which sits in the Black Rise region of Caldari space.  Gaff linked me this picture of the operation, which seemed to be going around. (More battle images here.)

Supercaps at Asakai

Supercaps at Asakai

Of course, so many players in a single system was a bit of a change.  The system stats from DOTLAN show a big spike in everything but NPC kills.

Jumps and Kills

Jumps and Kills

This is another example of both the strength and weakness in EVE Online.

The game let more than 2,500 players converge on a single system and engage in battle.

The game was also bogged down with that unexpected load to the point that the time dilation feature, which slows everything down on the impacted node so the servers can keep up with the action , was itself not enough to keep things going slowly but smoothly.  Extra lag, disconnects, and problems loading the grid were reported.  And this affected people not in the system but in systems on the same node, which probably covers the whole of Black Rise.

As is often the case, news of such a big even spread quickly, and both The Mittani and EVE News 24 had live reporting about the battle in progress, while a thread about the battle made it to the top of posts on Reddit. (Though TEST is from Reddit, so go figure.)  Included in the reporting was a count of over 3,000 ships in system at the very peak of the battle.

Of course, this all comes immediately after a week of escalating tensions between TEST and Goonswarm over a long simmering conflict between TEST and Goonswarm ally and CFC member Fatal Ascension.  While a devastating sovereignty war was averted, there was a mutual reset between the two sides and shooting has been encouraged.  TEST appears to have put the FA angle into their post battle propaganda.

Is FA Really Worth It?

Are FA Really Worth It?

The Mittani himself was a little more subdued about the battle results.

And now the post-battle analysis is under way, and no doubt will include everything from portents of doom for the Goons, to calls of fakery, to simple jibes at Goon FC Dabigredboat, to awe at the simple fact that such a huge battle even took place, to the ongoing discussion about whether or not null sec is dead.

Because, of course, this is EVE Online, where just because the shooting is over doesn’t mean the battle is done.

Addendum: And because it is EVE, it makes the mainstream media.  Gotta love this game.

Addendum 2: Now CCP has a Dev Blog about the battle.

Addendum 3: Okay, two Dev Blogs about the battle. This one has the numbers.

New Tanker, New Tanks

Saturday night rolled around and we came up one short again.  Jolly was out sick, which left four of us in search of something to do.  Giz was happy enough to work on an alt in Rift while Potshot, Earl and I considered our options.  We could find something to do in Rift.  We could have another evening in Need for Speed World.   And then there was World of Tanks, the current obsession for both Potshot and myself.

I figured we would go back to Need for Speed.  We had great fun there last time and I wasn’t sure if Earl would want to download a new game.  Plus, I had been playing tanks in every spare moment for most of the day, so felt pretty settled on the tank front.

But Earl seemed keen and, living in a place where he gets fiber optic internet connectivity, was able to get World of Tanks downloaded in a pretty reasonable amount of time, which made me a bit jealous.  It took him less time to get the whole game than it generally takes me to download their updates.  That will teach me to live in the barbaric wilds of Silicon Valley.  Rural New York is where connectivity is happening!

Once he was downloaded and had created an account came the first hurdle, getting him in a platoon.  In WoT a platoon is essentially the analog of a group.  (Though, honestly, I might have gone with the cavalry term “troop,” but whatever.)

Potshot and I were already grouped up, but there appears to be some delay from when a new account gets created to when you can find it in the contact search.  We could find quite a few Earls on the list, but Earlthecat was not among them.

We sent him off to his first battle alone, thinking maybe the initial stat reporting would update things.  But it did not.  Eventually I hit upon creating a public chat channel and had him join it, at which point we could see him, add him to our respective contact lists (he had already added us, as he could find us easy enough), and get him in our platoon.

Then it was off for a couple of dismal training rounds.  We all jumped into a tier 1 noob tank and ran off to war.  However, for the first couple of rounds we seemed to get lumped into matches where we were the only tier 1 tanks in a field of tier 2s.  Add in the fact that I started off with the new and completely un-upgraded Chinese tank and things went badly.  We all died quickly, our side lost, our homes were burned down, and our fields were sewn with salt.

But Earl did start to get the basics at least and got enough experience and coin to upgrade his tank a bit.  Eventually Earl and Potshot settled on the French Renault FT, while I opted for my sleeper MS-1.

MS-1 Unleashed!

MS-1 Unleashed!

While I haven’t used it as much as Mrrx, it is fully upgraded, has a 100% trained crew, and has a camo net, a binocular periscope, and the enhanced gun laying drive.

All the better to shoot you quickly

All the better to shoot you quickly

Even with all of that, it still doesn’t hold a candle to my StuG III.  It still feels slow to aim and the aiming circle still feels obnoxiously large at anything but close range.  But I guess you cannot let people make a completely deadly tier 1 tank.  But we drew the Mines map, which I always think of as the original map, but which is a nice one with some open fields of fire and I was able to get five kills and a lot of hits.

And then I got cocky and charged on towards the enemy base in support of another player and we both ended up dead.  Potshot lasted a while longer, but got sucked into the push on the enemy base and destroyed.

Which left Earl as our sole champion.  Both Potshot and I were in ally view mode, essentially watching over his shoulder and giving advice, which I am not sure was all that helpful.  But we sent him back to our base to defend, where he managed to take out one of the remaining opposition players.

Earl on Defense

Earl on Defense

However, he ended up facing a couple of enemies approaching from different directions and was bagged eventually.  Another loss, but a satisfying match this time.  We all got kills.  Heck, I have had tier 1 winning matches where I did not get as much experience.

Defeat, but I did a lot of damage

Defeat, but I did a lot of damage

We had a couple more matches, then ran off to try the private matches, the ones you can set up yourself.  Neither Potshot nor I had ever tried that.  I put Earl and Potshot on one side and me in my sleeper MS-1 on the other and we had at it.  That lead to some amusing fights.

Potshot and I battle on El Halluf

Potshot and I battle on El Halluf

Earl got the hang of laying back and sniping.  After Potshot damaged me heavily in our head on battle, Earl was able to snipe me from a distance despite my return fire.

I see Earl

I see Earl

And so we ended our evening plinking at each other and figuring out how to best use the low level machines.

World of Tanks is now an off-night option for three of us.

And, while on the topic of tanks, I did manage to pick up a new tank of the week last week.  I ground my way through to the AMX 105AM SP gun.

Tier IV Arty

Tier IV Arty

Meanwhile, Potshot has been working on the French heavy line, getting up to the B1.  So our work with the French vehicles continues.

What Happened to the War Fever?

We’re going to war.
This is a fact we can’t ignore.
We’re going to war.
In case you hadn’t heard before,
I think they think we’re going to war.
We’re going to war.
I think they think we’re going to war.
We’re going to war.
We’re going to war.
We’re going to war!

The War Song, from Duck Soup

Ever since I read the Montolio Madness CEO Update it has seemed like we were headed to war.

And yet the whole thing has had an air of the absurd about it as well.  I quoted Duck Soup at the top of this post because it keeps coming to mind. (If you haven’t seen it, find some time. It may be the finest of the Marx Brothers movies.)

The only stumbling block in my mind is trying to actually pick the cast for this little bit of space theater.  I just can’t quite do that the way Jester does.

Normally I would assume The Mittani in the role of Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho), since he gets all the best lines.  However it really seemed that Montolio was playing that role, and the dialog certainly fits.  This is practically a summary of his response to the ongoing imbroglio with Fatal Ascension.

Forget? You ask me to forget? A Firefly never forgets! Why, my ancestors would rise from their graves, and I’d only have to bury them again. Nothing doing.

Then there is the point with negotiations on the brink where Montolio seems deliberately provocative.

Montolio strikes The Mittani

Montolio strikes The Mittani

And I guess the wily Ambassador Trentino does fit the personality of The Mittani more so.  Plus, from what I hear, this is a pretty accurate representation of TEST alliance meetings.

Directors play, FCs dance

Directors play, FCs dance

Anyway, it looked like two of the biggest factions in the game were headed for a serious round of space violence.

Drake fleet in the fight

Stock Footage of Space Violence

And then the whole thing blew over.

Shadoo from Pandemic Legion, who I guess is Mrs. Teasdale attempting to broker peace in the Duck Soup metaphor, a mental image that cannot be making any of us happy at this point, reportedly “talked Montolio off the ledge” and defused the situation.

There will not be a wholesale clash, complete with bloody, prolonged sov grind, between the two sides, much to the dismay of those looking for such a spectacle.  Instead, it seems that were back to this, or so some say.

Living the Technetium Dream

Living the Technetium Dream

Others say that the mechanics of the game itself stymied the war.

Not that I wasn’t looking forward to a war.  I was a bit caught up in the war fever myself.  I have been training up the skills for our new Tech Fleet doctrine, which relies on armor rather than shield tanking.  Of course, I am maxed out on all shield related skills, but have only halfheartedly gone after armor skills in the past, so my training path is clear for the moment.

And then a bloody conflict was avoided.

But there is still hope.  This came over Jabber last night while I was online.

If you missed the earlier broadcasts, both GSF and TNT have reset Test Alliance Please Ignore. This is a mutual reset and members are permitted to shoot members of TEST. Expect to see TEST sending fleets to Deklein. In fact, there may be one in VFK area right now.

And, sure enough, TEST had been reset.

Standings with TEST

Standings with TEST- Needs some bounty

They have only been reset to neutral, which means if we run into them in space, we shoot them.  We will see if that results in any battles.  There was a Homeland Defense call last night, but by the time I got on, there was nobody left to shoot… assuming there had been anybody in the first place.

Time will tell with the great war that wasn’t.

The Age of the Discriminating Vendor

Another one of those posts that starts with “back in the day…” and which recounts how things used to be during the stone age of online gaming.  Writing about it is not necessarily advocating for its return, but it certainly made things different.  Anyway, on to it…

Back in the day, back in TorilMUD, there were things that were very different than we see them now in modern MMORPGs, and there were things that were very much the same.

All text, all the time

It was all text, all the time back then

One thing that was the same was money.

Everybody needed it, the economy needed it, but nobody started out with any and the only real way to get any was to kill NPCs that spawned in the world for their loot.

There were also quests.  But quests were not very common, annoying to find, and could be frustratingly difficult to complete.  I have gone into the way questing used to be back in the day.  There was nobody standing around waiting to tell you to kill ten rats.  And the end result was more often an item than any money.

So that left murdering the residents of the world and looting their still warm corpses as the only real money making enterprise.

Wholesale slaughter would get you some coins.  But for the most part that was a pretty slow way to earn money, at least at lower levels.  Later, in a leveling group in place like the pirate ship, a good group could end up with a nice pile of cash.

But you, new adventurer, won’t be doing that or zones or anything of the sort for a long while.

And that went double for elves and half elves who started on the Island of Evermeet, in the elvish city of Leuthilspar and were stuck there for the first 20 levels of their career.  I will focus on the plight of the elves, since that is what I am most familiar with.

So to supplement the tiny trickle of coins, you would have to also grab whatever else your victims were carrying.  Swords, bits and pieces or armor and clothing, random items of junk, whatever you could pry from their cold, dead fingers.  You would collect all of this to sell to one of the many vendors in Abeir-Toril.

As a young citizen of Leuthilspar, you would head out to Kobold Village or the Faerie Forest in search of adventure, experience, and loot.  At least, once you figured out how to get there.  Eventually, if you were successful… by which I generally mean that you did not die and have to go find your corpse in the dark… you would have a pile of coins and some items to vendor.

In Kobold Village there was a couple of vendors, but as your became more seasoned you began to notice that those vendors paid very little for your items.   That was the way of the world.  The buy and sell prices from vendors were influence by your race, your class, your charisma stat, and the general level of wickedness of the person who created the zone.

The young elvish adventurer could make much more money, multiples of what the stingy vendors out in the world were offering, if said adventurer just dragged all of that loot back to a vendor in Leuthilspar.

The key was, which vendor.

Leuthilspar Locations

Leuthilspar Locations (click to embiggen)

The good part was that all the vendors were pretty close to the square at city center and near to the bank.

The down side was that the vendors were all pretty picky about what they would buy.  Your options were:

1 – Talidnal’s Goods and Supply Shop – Sold random supplies like rations and small bags, would buy miscellaneous items of the same sort.  You had to sell the red feather from the traveling faerie here.

2 – The Weapon Shop of Leuthilspar – Bought and sold weapons and only weapons.  Notable for being one of the vendors with special responses.  Would point out in all caps that this was weapon shop if you tried to sell something else and would claim that they could buy items flagged “no value” because they just bought a Doombringer earlier.

3 – The Scribe Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold scroll, including the scroll of identify.  These cost 2 platinum coins, which was more than any new player could afford, but which was the only way to see the full stats and information on any given item.  Except, of course, if the item was flagged as “no identify,” in which case you just wasted 2 plat.

4 – Silyonlanster’s Fine Gems and Jewels – Sold some gems that had no purpose I ever found, and would buy any gems you happened to have.

5 – Norlan’s Pet Shop – Bought nothing as far as I could tell, but would sell you a very expensive pet that would fight for you and which would be gone forever if it died… or if you logged off.  A lot of us bought one of these exactly once.

6 – The Armorer of Leuthilspar – Sold some very heavy bronze armor and would buy anything flagged as armor, which did not include leather armor from Kobold Village or the Cloak of Forest Shadows.

7 – The Leviathan Shipwright – Sold rafts and canoes for crossing water.  You just had to have one in your inventory (but not in a container) for them to work.  Would buy them back at a deep discount.

8 – The Green Griffon Pub – Sold alcoholic beverages.  Never bought anything I had to sell.

9 – Tilanthra’s Shop of Alchemy – Bought and sold potions.

10 – The Magic Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold a number of scrolls and wands, despite there already being a scroll shop.  Would only buy wands and the like.  This is where you would sell that Wand of Thunderous Rage that was in the garbage heap and which never worked for me over the last 15 years.

11 – Morlanthrtilan’s Fine Clothier – Had nothing for sale as I recall, but would buy that leather armor from Kobold Village that the armor shop turned its nose up at.

12 – The Blue Dragon Inn and Restaurant – Sold oddly specific and very expensive food at various times and would buy, for reasons I could never determine, arrows and quarrels.

13 – Qulazoral’s Barrels and More – Sold you a skin or a barrel of water after your first issued water skin evaporated after you emptied it (I think they finally fixed that) but before you finally got a flagon from Bandor.  Would buy liquid containers, if you ever found one.

There were some other vendors in town.  Each guild had a vendor that might give you a few more coins for specific items.  But in general, it was vendor row on main street that handled your needs.  You just needed to run around a lot until you figured out who bought what.  It helped that what vendors purchased ended up in their inventory for sale again, a feature I miss, and which was last seen in EverQuest as I recall.

And even then you would end up with a few items that no vendor would purchase, but which were not flagged “no value.”  There were a few items I would have to travel to Mithril Hall, way up in the north beyond Neverwinter, in order to vendor.  I think the dead rat was on that list.

Still, in some ways, the elves did not have it so bad.  The vendors gave decent prices and were all centrally located.  This was not necessarily the case in Waterdeep or Baldurs gate, and good luck selling things way down in Calimport.

And vendors in Leuthilspar never closed.  Elves don’t need sleep.  In other towns vendors would often close for some or all of the night cycle of a given day.  The time translation was one real world minute for one game hour, so you might end up sitting in a shop for 6 or 8 or 12 minutes waiting for the vendor to open up again.

And with all of that, you still ran the risk of selling something of value to other players… something you could sell or trade… to a vendor without knowing.  As I mentioned above, you needed a scroll of identify to see what an item did.  There were no stats on demand and equipment was not color coded by the now standard formula (gray, white, green, blue, purple) to indicate relative worth.  Of course, once you sold the item to a vendor, it cost you a lot more to buy it back.  It seemed that vendors were in the business of making money… or at least acting like they were there to make money as opposed to just being a place to dump your crap.

Today though, we can see it all.  Stats show up when we hover the cursor over and item, and it will even show what we have equipped in the relevant slot so we can instantly compare.  Items names are color coded, as noted above.  And not only will vendors buy just about anything you have (and sell it back to you at the same price if sold something by mistake) but we are at the point in games like Rift where there is a button that will automatically sell all of your “trash” grade loot to the vendor with a single press.

As I said at the top, I am not exactly hankering to go back to the way vendors used to be.  But it is interesting to see how much has changed, and one wonders if it was all for the better.