Monthly Archives: February 2013

February in Review

The Site

The site is dying!

Look at these monthly traffic numbers.  That last bar is February 2013.


I have lost a greater percentage of my readership than WoW has lost subscribers, and if WoW is dying, then I must be dying even more so!

This month saw the lowest number of page views since late 2009.  There has also been a corresponding drop in uniques, those are the dark blue bars, though hasn’t been measuring that for very long.

As for the cause, my theory is that it is related to Google.

A few weeks ago there was a change in how Google image search works.


Previously it was like any other search, where clicking on the item returned would send you to the page on the site hosting it.  Now though, Google will grab the image directly for you, allowing you to search, view full size, and copy/download without ever having to visit the site from which the image originated.  Nice if you want to avoid malware on those sites I KNOW you surf late at night.  Not such a good idea if you run the site and are counting page views.

This actually had a much more dramatic impact on page views at my other blog, EVE Online Pictures.  Since it depends on Google image search for vast majority of its traffic, the change caused page views to plummet.


All of which would be meaningful if I actually derived any income from page views from the site.

Since I don’t, the site isn’t really dying.  Certainly other metrics… number of posts, number of comments, the actual page views for the post of the day… are all steady. just doesn’t put up a handy bar graph of things like that, so it doesn’t have the dramatic impact that page views do when I go to the stats page.  Things will continue on here as they have for the last 6+ years.

But I suspect that there are sites out there which are hurting now due to the change at Google, if my theory is correct.  Ad revenues are already dropping on the web, now Google is killing off some page views.  That has to be making somebody mad.

Of course, this is just my theory based on page view counts and the fact that Google image search changed.  It could just be screwing around with how it counts page views again (or how it doesn’t count views directly to images on your site).  Or it could be that I just wrote nothing interesting this month.  Certainly the weekly adventure tale of the instance group has gone missing, as have most references to my actually playing a fantasy based MMORPG.  So who knows.

Oh, and as I threatened, here are the results from last month’s poll, where I asked what section of the month in review posts people liked the best.

Poll Results - Click for Full Size

Poll Results – Click for Full Size

The top result was the One Year/Five Years Ago section, which is my favorite as well.  Game summaries came in second.  I like those too, as they let me cover bits I never got around to making a post out of.

The “Other” results were:

  • All of the above – Thanks mom!
  • the end – Which I am going to guess is like saying the best part of school is when I get to go home.
  • Avatars that I jerk off to – I am not even sure what to do with this, besides wash my hands again.

Nobody voted for most viewed post… which was a bit of a surprise.  I guess that section is just for me.  New linking sites garnered no votes either.  I guess that once I have linked to you, you’re done with that section.  And, finally, no votes for the “Coming Up” section, for which I can hardly blame people.  It tends to me a quick, last minute “more of the same” entry, plus it is at the end of the post by which point I am sure most people have moved on.

One Year Ago

I made a video celebrating the first year of the instance group, which formed up back in 2006.  It was focused on what was essentially vanilla WoW and had a serious nostalgia vibe to it.  It got some views.

Then I made a video about Sunken Temple in the same vein that pretty much nobody watched.  That instance always got mixed reviews.  (And my video of the EVE battle at EWN-2U was more popular than both combined.)

Somebody stole our guild on Lightninghoof.

And Blizzard was making money, optimizing clients, and selling new mounts.

In EVE, the war in the north had gone kind of quiet.  There were some big battles over tower (e.g. EWN-2U, which was my first epic fleet battle, and 92D-OI), but the sov grind had not begun.  There was some fun around VFK.  I also noted that a “green” kill board seemed to be the norm for individuals.  Meanwhile, CCP was making money and giving us the occasional fun statistics about the game.

Trion gave us actual loot pinatas as well as a check box to turn off exp in Rift.

And, probably most importantly, we got standardized build templates for common roles.  Rift’s soul system is still deep and complex for those who want to theory craft, but for mere mortals it became possible to just get a workable build and go play.

As a group in Rift we made it to the Darkening Deeps.

I also figured that, due to the way Rift was progressing, it wouldn’t go free to play unless WoW did.  I am beginning to feel less certain on that assessment, especially with the departure of Scott Hartsman from Trion.

On Fippy Darkpaw, the Planes of Power expansion opened up.  For many the PoP expansion marks the dividing line between what counts as “classic” EverQuest and what is considered “the new crap.”

And EverQuest Mac was saved from the chopping block, going free for… as long as it stays up I guess.

Five Years Ago

The month started out with our Pirates of the Burning Sea enthusiasm waning.

The instance group was kicking off its Outlands efforts, after running the required equipment upgrade quests, with Hellfire Ramparts, though first we ran through lower Blackrock Spire and got access to Upper Blackrock Spire.

Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online had extended its agreement with Tolkien Enterprises out until 2014, with an option to go to 2017.  As a lifetime member I applauded this extension.

I went to GDC up in San Francisco and had dinner some members of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective plus Alan “Brenlo” Crosby, and got pictures to prove it. (I had a beard then… and I have a beard now… this is becoming a winter routine for me.)

My daughter got a Nintendo DS for Valentine’s Day.

We played a little KartRider, which is still MIA here in North America.

I defended myself against some slander about me being a dwarf.

I summed up the annual EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.

And I found out my blog was worth $61,534.86,though I couldn’t figure out how to cash in.  Since then, the value of the site has gone down.  I blame the economy.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs… er blog… has linked this site in its blogroll, for which I offer my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit this site in return.

Most Viewed Posts in February

Kind of an odd mix of old and new posts on the list this month.  Nostalgia seems to be high on the list.  It is more powerful than some people can bring themselves to admit.

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. An Unfiltered (and Unfair) Impression of Wizardry Online
  3. Notes from the War in Delve
  4. The Real Problem with Levels…
  5. The Nostalgic Call of the Emerald Dream
  6. More Than 2,500 Ships Clash in Asakai
  7. Missing MMO Music Features – LOTRO Leads, Nobody Follows
  8. Side Notes About Used Games
  9. Not Your Father’s House of Cards
  10. More Unspent Virtual Currency
  11. Thrilling Internet Spaceship Stories!
  12. Air Warrior – Vague Memories from the Early Days of Virtual Flight

Search Terms of the Month

daenerys pov boring
[Ain’t that the truth!]

lego minifigures tarot cards
[I’d buy that! But only if there was a Knave of Bricks or some such.]

what cool things you can buy for station cash for everquest
[Define “cool”]

anderson cooper look like elf
[Yeah, I will grant you that]

wizardly online is a joke
[Is this a wry comment on the game’s Asian origin?]

is it normal to get scammed by the mittani, chairman of csm ???
[It’s not unusual.]

Spam Comment of the Month

Check out [redacted] site if you want to see some funny second life blog videos
[There are no funny Second Life videos. Go to YouTube and search on ‘Second Life Funny’ and see.]

Oddest Spam Source

I got a few spam messages that linked to Ron & Barb McHugh’s Miniature Horse Ranch.

Has it come to this?  Spam comments to drive traffic to a miniature horse web site?

EVE Online

I managed to get into one fight over the course of the month.  Otherwise, things were mostly quiet.  Training continues as always.  I am set to get my 6+ million skill point boost when they break out the destroyer and battlecruiser skills, though in reality, that will just push me towards an even more expensive clone.  Grade Tau clones, at 30 million ISK a pop already inhibit me from small ship actions.  Losing a cheap frigate is all fine and good until your clone gets popped.

Guild Wars 2

So, I own it.  We shall see if it sticks.

Need for Speed: World

Stubbornness keeps me going here I think.  I have been doing the daily gem hunt… well… daily.  It takes 10 minutes or less and promises to reward players with better items with ever more consecutive daily runs.  At some point I will decide if this is really true or not and give up.  I am already past the 60 day mark.


The instance group successfully avoided Rift for another month.  Mrs. Potshot has actually been working on an alt, and I have logged in to collect my Rift Mobile app prizes now and again… I am almost capped out on planarite… but other than that, not much fantasy gaming going on of late.  Still, the Carnival of the Ass End of Telara is coming up.  At least that means a new scratcher game in the Rift Mobile app.  Go glass beads!

World of Tanks

All the boys in the Saturday night instance group are off playing tanks now… which brings up the “four of us, but only three can be in a platoon” issue… but we’re still having fun.

Coming Up

More tanks seems likely.  I am still a long way from my tier IX goal.  And probably a few more little tank videos.  I kind of like the under two minutes,”silly thing happened” video format.

More Rift… or Guild Wars 2… well… we shall see.

Potshot, who represents the pen and paper oriented wing of the Saturday night group has been looking for something closer to actual rolling of dice.  After being somewhat ignored during his online remote D&D campaign aspirations (sorry man), he has picked up Neverwinter Nights 2, which is at least more self contained.  I have that installed as well now, so something may come to pass in that department, if we can figure out how to get multiplayer working over the internet.

And GDC is coming back to San Francisco again late next month, but at $250 just for an expo pass, I am not likely to be attending.

Tidbits from EVE, WAR, and PlanetSide 2

One of thosen informational time stamp post.

New EVE Online Milestone

CCP apparently told Massively (oh, there is an official press release now too) that they passed the 500K subscription mark, which puts them into the range of EverQuest at its peak, just before the launch of World of Warcraft.  Certainly the total players online has been up when I have been logged in, hitting close to 60K during the weekends. (The record is currently 63,170 online at once.)  The longer term numbers show an uptick as well.

Not bad for a game that started off badly.  The game has come a long way in a decade.

Early Raven in Combat

Early Raven in Combat

The iconic Rifter hasn't changed much

The iconic Rifter hasn’t changed much

(Early game pictures from this CCP forum post.)

Also not bad for a studio predicted to go bankrupt… well, by one person at least.

Yeah, I’m not letting that one go yet.  Financial reports do not lie, but people projecting their internal wishes about games they dislike…

Warhammer Online Trail of Tears – MOBA Edition

Meanwhile, the Warhammer Online team cannot seem to catch a break.  While League of Legends roams the internet landscape as possibly the biggest online game ever, and certainly one of the few with what seems like a license to print money, EA/Mythic’s attempt to take Warhammer Online assets to create their own MOBA game, Wrath of Heroes, seems to have fallen flat.

EA has announced that the game, still in beta, is closing up shop because it did not meet its financial goals.  I love how we use the word “beta” in the 21st century.  Oh, and if you spent any money on it… well… no refunds.  How about a couple of drink vouchers and a free month of Warhammer Online?

My own feelings remain mixed on the original game.  There was a lot in it that I liked… but there was also a lot there that turned me away.

Most developers agree, the quest log should be mapped to "L"

And not all of it was this trivial

In the end, I simply stopped logging in about two months after launch, which is the real sign of whether or not a game has grabbed me.  I can kid myself, but I won’t log into a game I am not enjoying.

PlanetSide 2 Bot Thoughts

I haven’t logged into PlanetSide 2 lately, but I still keep an eye on the news.  And one thing that keeps popping up is the proliferation of aimbots, unauthorized add-ons that make sure you are shooting to kill every time you pull the trigger.  This gives the user/cheater a huge advantage in the game.

Smed has been quite vocal about how they are working to fight aimbots, including banning the accounts of anybody caught using one.

But in this war, SOE is fighting without all the tools it once had.  With a free to play game that is free to download, does an account ban keep a player out of the game any longer than it takes him to create a new account and maybe grab an updated version of his aimbot?

How do you fight the aimbot blight under those circumstances?

You cannot just ban IP addresses, as a lot of people do not have a fixed IP address.

You might be able to tag the client so that it won’t log in again if an account using it has been banned.  That would at least make cheaters have to download a fresh copy.  A minor inconvenience for anybody with a faster internet pipe than mine… and most people seem to have faster pipes than min.

In response to all of that, it sounds like SOE might be lawyering up to go after the sites that are creating… and selling… the bots.  Certainly there are EULA and DMCA aspects to exploit as well as making money on an SOE game.

But does that have any real chance of success?  Will that do anything more than slow down the aim-bot menace?

In the end, will SOE just have to include auto-aim, a built-in aim assist… or aimbot… which some console shooters use to overcome the problems of aiming with the analog stick, and just nerf accuracy to simply remove the viability of aimbots in PlanetSide 2?

I know that mouse aiming is the long established norm on the PC platform and can be a skill differentiator.  Should we give that up in order to make teamwork and tactics even more important?

Artillery Aspirations and Four Man Platoons

Earl has become the God of Thunder, the master of artillery in World of Tanks.

Earl jumped on World of Tanks like a man possessed and has already passed the 1,300 game mark in his first month of play.  And part of the reason is that he has found a home with self-propelled guns (SPGs).  He enjoys dropping shells on people and is getting quite good at it.  You have to jink and turn to keep him from catching you on the move.

His focus on a SPGs of course leads to some issues on Saturday night when we’re all playing together.  The problem is that SPGs get stuck in tiers… differently.

A tier IV SPG like his Grille can get placed into tier VIII battles because SPGs (and scouts) are… um… different.  Early on it wasn’t so bad.  We could find combos that worked.  He would get out his Wespe while Potshot and I rolled as the BDR brigade, which are close in battle tiers.  But when he got to the Grille, he started pulling us up into fights where we were in trouble.

Two BDRs and Earl's Grille

Two BDRs and Earl’s Grille

And now that Earl has a Hummel and an M41, it can be tough for us to group up in a way that allows him to play with his new toys.  I can get out the KV-3 if it is just Earl and I, which is fine, but as a group we don’t have a working set that lets us all gain experience on our top tier vehicle.

Again, group dynamics comes into play.

Fortunately, you don’t have to play at your peak level, and Earl is happy enough to grab some of his lower tier stuff.

Of course, we have other issues with groups now as well.

Last weekend the four male members of the Saturday night instance group were online and in tanks, which meant we could not group up in our traditional manner.  A platoon, the basic group in WoT, is limited to three players.

The next tier up in group activities is tank companies, which would require more than the four of us.  We would either need to find more players to come with us, or join an already formed tank company.  The former seems unlikely right now, while the latter… has the usual problem with shooters.  Do I really want join a tank company whose description is something like “No Effing Scrubs!” or “have 2500 battles or more!” or “Coms Required – Must do what your [sic] TOLD!!!” on the tank company list?  Or am I just likely to get yelled at and kicked?

Plus, with Tankerbell just joining in on tanking, we would be limited to the “junior” category, which tends to be empty when I check on it.  Still, I think with Potshot and I both having the only heavies allowed in the junior category, the French Char B1, we would do okay if we could form a company.

But tank companies seem to be out for now.  Further research needed.

So we decided to do what what somebody suggested previously.  We formed two platoons, Potshot and Earl in one and Tankerbell and myself in the other.  We all grabbed LOLtraktors so we were in the same tier.  Earl and I, as platoon leaders, made sure both platoons were ready, counted down, and attempted to press the “Battle” button at the same time to see if the match maker would group us together.

It didn’t.

We ended up in different battles.  And then one battle ran long while another was over quickly, so those in the short battle went again, and we ended up totally out of sync.

We stopped after a couple of battles and decided to do some 2 on 2 team training battles.  Platoons were dropped and I created a private training room and divided us up into the same groups.  We ran a few of those, though 2 on 2 battles are pretty quick unless both sides decide to camp.  I picked some encounter battles so everybody would have a common target, and a couple of smaller maps, like Komarin, which confused Earl and Potshot, as it has been out of match maker rotation for a while now.  That used to be a great map for swift and bloody battles back when the Type 59 was new and over-powered.

Eventually though, we wanted to be in bigger battles.

We reformed platoons, though this time Potshot and I were platoon leaders on the theory that being closer in the real world (Earl is in NY, Potshot and I are in Northern California) would increase the likelihood that our button presses would be received close together and would get us into the same matches.

I do not know if that change actually has any impacted on our plan, but we managed to get in the same match this time.  One of the aspects of the match maker is that it tries to match up platoons on either side, so one completely random side won’t end up facing a group of coordinated platoons. (Though the words “coordination” and “platoons” often seems to mean “we managed to group together” and not “we fight as a team.”)

So we had a run of about 10 matches with the four of us together.  Most of the time we were on opposing sides.  I got killed by Earl at least once, and hit both Earl and Potshot more that a couple of time.  Once in a while we ended up on the same team.  We migrated up from the tier I LOLtraktor to tier II vehicles as we seemed to be getting stuck into matches that were primarily tier II.  Tankerbell, who only had a few matches had the T1E6 in his garage, the WoT Christmas gift, as he had made his account a while back.  In hindsight, that was probably a mistake, as to progress he needs to earn experience on tanks that lead to upgrades and new vehicles.  Of the group, he is the least likely to spend money on the game.

But we had fun.  The simultaneous button press routine seemed to work.  It would still be nice to find a way for all of us to play on the same side consistently.  We will have to work on that for next time.

Age of Kings Gets an Unofficial Expansion

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is one of my favorite RTS games from what I would consider the peak of the RTS era, where we also had StarCraft and Total Annihilation.  Three great games.

Age of Kings took what was good about the original Age of Empires game and refined it to what I feel what really the optimum state of the series.  It was good to the point that a lot of features in Age of Kings were eventually back ported into Age of Empires.

After that, the series had little new to offer me.  I was disappointed by both Age of Mythology and Age of Empires III, and never bothered with the more recent Age of Empires Online.

But I still drag out the disks for Age of Kings now and again to play it.  It is one of the games I wish somebody would update and put on or Steam.  It has been out since 1999 and feels its age in many ways, not the least of which is how out of date the official web site for the game is.  Check out this classic ad from the site.


I guess I should be more surprised that there still is an official web site.

Anyway, I would like a version that didn’t need the CD, supported higher screen resolutions, and worked with an online game connection service out of the box.  I have written about it and some of its problems a decade and more down the road previously.  While I like and encourage Game Ranger, the only method I know of playing Age of Kings with remote parties at this point, I wish it was a little more tightly integrated.

And while I am wishing for things that I am unlikely to get, I might as well wish for a new expansion for this 20th century RTS.

And, as unlikely as it seems, I might be getting that last bit.

A team got together and created Age of Empires II: Forgotten Empires, an unofficial expansion for Age of Kings, complete with trailer, because if it isn’t on YouTube, it isn’t really a thing, right?

Actually, you need the Age of Kings: The Conquerors expansion, so it is sort of an expansion of the one official expansion to the game.

It adds the Italians, Incas, Indians, Slavs, and Magyars to the game, along with new map types, a new campaign, and new AI types.

Forgotten Empires - The Italians

Forgotten Empires – The Italians

That last piece seems especially interesting.  I will have to take a closer look at this.

Anyway, it is nice to see another old-ish game I still enjoy getting some attention.

Find the expansion and related information here.

An Inauspicious Return to Tyria

Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!

Br’er Rabbit, applying the teachings of Sun Tzu

I guess at this point we should all take it as read that when I put up a post that says I am not going to buy something that is on sale, said sale has a high likelihood of winning out in the end.

Remember when Steam put Rift on sale?  Yeah, that.

So I broke down and purchased Guild Wars 2 Sunday morning.

For those who want a time stamp to see if their comments had any influence, I put in a comment of my own at about the time I was making that decision.

Getting in and buying the game was a snap.  Aside from the odd fact that the 30% discount didn’t seem to apply to PayPal purchases, there was no problem and I had a code for the game in mail email within minutes.

ArenaNet and I are both pretty security conscious, which lead to problems.

I forgot the password for my Guild Wars 2 account, something I figured out only when I got to the screen to register my code.  The problem with juggling so many passwords is that if I don’t use one for a while, I forget it.  And just to tease me, Firefox remembered the password, so I could log into my account on the web, I just couldn’t enter the password myself.  That actually surprised me, because I thought I had that remember password feature turned off.  Ah well.

So I went to recover my password.  Unfortunately, recovering your password requires entering your product registration code, and I had just acquired the code, so it wasn’t associated with my account.  So that failed and directed me to contact customer support.

The customer support site requires its own account, which makes sense but I really don’t need another account/password to remember, and, in the end, had answers to issues unrelated to my own.  The most interesting tidbit there was a notice that people who had not changed their passwords recently were being forced to reset them.  So I was going to need a password reset no matter what it seemed.

Eventually I decided that there must have been a code for the free weekend back in November.  Tracking that down meant filtering through chat and email across a number of accounts for the week preceding the event, because while I knew who sent me the code, I couldn’t recall on which channel it had been sent.

That tracked down, I was able to get a link for a password reset, which then took me a number of tries because it rejected the first few new passwords that I gave it as they had been previously used.  And they had been.  I had just typed them in attempting to access my account, which apparently puts them on a “used” list.

That was annoying, as was their suggestion that this XKCD cartoon was the answer to all password problems.

I love XKCD, but I hate that cartoon.  To me, it feels very much like saying all your computer virus and trojan problems will be gone if you use Mac OS.  Yes, if few people use that method, then it is brilliant.  But if everybody’s password is four dictionary words, 3-8 characters in length, then the security gained by that many more bits is removed by it being four freaking dictionary words.  And we’re all going to pick easy ones.  We’re just like that.

My question is always, “Why does your system let somebody enter 1,000 passwords a second?”

That tends to earn me dismissive looks and statements about how I don’t understand security at all.  Fine, not my area of expertise.  But still, why?

Anyway, once I picked a clean password I was cleared to move on to the code registration, which followed form and failed for me with a “session expired” error.  Eventually I figured out that my clicking on the link to allow my IP address access to my account was what had expired, as ArenaNet was sending me a new link every time I tried to register the code.  How about an error message that says, “Go click on the damn link we just sent you, you great pillock!”  I guess that entering user name and password triggers a new session, which you have to do as part of the registration.  I was already logged in when I started, so I thought I was covered.

Anyway, after about two hours, the registration of my code was complete.  At least I did not have to deal with customer service, as I expect it would have reflected the rest of the process.  They had my money, so without a subscription, my general usefulness as a customer was over and my new role as a burden on their resources was just beginning.

Fortunately, in a nod to the fact that something in the subconscious  me actually knows me very well, I had decided to patch GW2 the night before after we wrapped up instance group play time.  I had no conscious desire to buy the game at that point.  In fact, I try to follow the rule online purchases made after dark are almost always a mistake.  Something said, “Just in case….”

Of course, I also patched up Diablo III and Star Trek Online in the last week as well, so even my subconscious seems a bit random in its choices.

Anyway, at about lunch time I was able to actually get in and play the game, which was the point of the whole exercise.

I had a couple of characters on the server Henge of Denravi, which I picked back during the November free trial because I had some friends playing there.  I promptly deleted them.  The characters, that is, not the friends.  The friends I didn’t have to delete, as they all stopped playing GW2 months ago.  Hrmm, maybe I should have recalled that fact a bit earlier?

As for my characters, they were only a few levels into the game and I figured I was better off starting from scratch again than trying to figure out where I had left off.

I created a Norn warrior in what was going to be something of my own likeness, but which ended up looking more like friend and occasional commenter here on the blog, Blueline Basher.

Big bearded Viking guy

Big bearded Viking guy

I went through the Norn start and ended up in Wayfarer Foothills with a decision about how I was going to proceed.  There are no quests in the WoW style to guide you through the game.  There is your personal story, a long series of quests that your character is offered and which does appear to send you to new places.  But you cannot make that your only focus, as each stage requires you to pick up a level or two, so the chain quickly out runs your capabilities.

You have to get out in the world and do other stuff.

I decided I was going to take the OCD route and find/do everything in each zone once.  The GW2 designers clearly had that in mind, putting up a little counter for you on the map to make sure you know where you stand.


That also seemed to be the most viable route, as experience given for finding/accomplishing these things seemed quite generous, at least relative to grinding the local fauna.  Experience for killing stuff is pretty stingy in comparison.

With that as my goal, I set out into the sparsely populated Wayfarer Foothills zone.  We are certainly past the big rush of character creation.  I do not know if Henge of Denravi is a low population server, if the Norn are just not a popular race, or if Sunday is, contrary to Raptr’s opinion, is just not a busy day, but it was very quiet when I was out and about.  (Nosy Gamer’s weekly Xfire stats show GW2 down again last week, though still more popular than any MMO besides WoW.)

I did see other players now and again, but almost nobody who was a new.  They all showed to be down leveled (little down arrow next to their displayed level) and judging by how quickly they were tearing through things relative to me and how quickly they showed up and moved on, they were people at or around level cap filling out some daily quota or picking up locations that they hadn’t hit before.

My experience back in November indicated that nobody talks when filling up their little hearts, so fewer people not talking isn’t really a big change.  I did get one high level person who grabbed mobs and trained them on to me while I was fighting.  My main attack seems to be AOE, which is very handy, except when somebody drags a bunch of mobs over you and you tag them and they stomp you into a pulp.  I have no idea why that happened.  The person in question didn’t answer me, except to drag more stuff over me once I returned from the waypoint.  I went elsewhere until they were gone.

I ran around doing events, visiting points of interest, admiring vistas, picking up waypoints, talking to scouts, and the various other things in zone to level myself up so I could continue on with my personal story which, among other things, seemed to be the only source of equipment upgrades.

Experience for just looking around!

Experience for just looking around!

A few of the special events I couldn’t do, as they clearly required multiple players.  That hoard of whatever they were in the cave over by the place across the river by the bears… yeah, them… they were going to stomp me into so much Norn jelly no matter how hard I tried.

I also started to wonder if my plan to do everything just once was going to hold out.  That didn’t seem to be keeping up with the level I needed to be and I ended up wandering into areas in search of the next thing, only to find that the next things was a few levels above me and likely to return me to my Norn jelly state again.  I may have to go back and repeat things to keep up at the level I need.

Of course, I might have just run off in the wrong direction.  And even when in over my head and likely to die, the system is very forgiving.  I went after one guy in my personal story about two levels too soon.

Smacking Elder Thruin

Smacking Elder Thruin

I made some headway, but wasn’t able to pull it off, dying short of my goal.

Dead Again

Dead Again

But I was able to revive at the waypoint for the encounter, which basically put me right back in the fight again fresh, while the bad guy was still down health.

Didn't expect a full recovery, did you?

Didn’t expect a full recovery, did you?

That got me through the event, which I really wanted because it rewarded me with an upgraded weapon.

I last ended up a couple levels down on my story and looking around for something to do that didn’t involve kids and snowballs or obnoxious Norn-tipping rabbits.  I swear, I was ready to call on Bhagpuss the bunny slayer.

Still, being lost in the world for the first couple of days is about par for the course.  And there is much to recommend the game.  As I have said previously, a limited set of skills is something of a relief after the “skills? the more the merrier!” approach of games like Rift and EverQuest II.  I swapped between my sword and shield set of skills and my duel wielding sword set of skills to unlock what I could there.

And I have to admit a fondness for the F key being the “do the thing” key, like it is in EverQuest II.  Though in GW2, if also covers looting as well, though I am going to have to find the check box that lets me just loot the stuff I find in a corpse without having to go for another key press.

The most unlikely synergy so far was between GW2 and World of Tanks, as the default GW2 key set binds the auto run key to both the traditional Num Lock key and the R key.  In WoT, the R key is also the auto run… or auto drive… key, and since I have been playing a lot of WoT lately, my finger instinctively goes there to start moving.

Granted, I tend to do R-R-R, because in WoT there are three forward speeds, so my Norn tends to start his run with a stutter step or run, stop, run.  Still, it works.

And so begins my journey into Tyria, as I pit GW2 in the fight between my long time love of fantasy MMORPGS and my current malaise with the genre.  Which will win out?

And Sometimes We Just Fly in Circles

Every time I see a call go up for a Drake fleet, I try to join if I have the time.  My hope is to winnow down the Drakes I have stashed around in null sec, as CCP’s nerfs to my longtime favorite ship have made it unlikely to remain useful in fleets.

Basically, nobody will want to buy them, so I might as well lose them and collect the insurance and reimbursement ISK.

So on Friday night when Fyzick called over Jabber for another Drake fleet in an attempt to lure The Retirement Club out to fight, I was online and in the fleet.  After all, last time we tried that, I lost a Drake.  And, since I did eventually get reimbursed for that loss, and didn’t get podded, it was at least an economic victory.

This time around though, we rang the doorbell, but nobody came out to play.

We formed up, traveled out to our titan and got bridged out to the target.  It was yet another POS shoot.  We knocked the modules offline and started in on the tower.  There was a glimmer of hope that The Retirement Club might come out and play.  A couple of their members were inside the shield and had manned the guns until they were all out of action.

(Complete aside: I have the Starbase Defense Management skill up to level IV. I could shoot POS guns.  I trained it up for out aborted wormhole expedition a couple years back.  I have never had the opportunity to use the skill.  And that article I just linked has, at the bottom of the page, probably the best description of POS attack and defense issues that I have seen.  Pity it is hidden in an article about a skill.  Typical CCP.)

However, nothing happened.

Well, we flew in circles for a couple of hours, and launched missile after missile into the tower, slowly chipping away at it.  But it was a tedious event.  Nobody came out to bother us.  There was no in-fight movie arranged to distract us.  And Fyzick, our FC… a position that requires you to be more like a cruise director during these sorts of boring shoots… was distracted.  He was likely off in one of the intel channels trying to figure out if anything was going to happen.

So I did what I often do in this sort of situation.  I took a bunch of screen shots.  I also opened up Fraps and took some video of Drakes shooting missiles to use as stock footage should I ever get around to making another Drake Fleet video.

And then a DBRB fleet was announced, its intent to roam out and find targets, something at which Dabigredboat excels.  However we were all stuck flying in circles.  Fyzick did talk DBRB into waiting for us to finish up so we could join in.  However, by that point I had sort of had my fill of fleet ops for the night.  Even the lure of endless DBRB trolling and stories couldn’t keep me going.

But I ended up with a few decent pictures.

KV-1 Circle of Death

Another silly World of Tanks video.  This time, the durability of the KV-1 demonstrated.

On the Westfield map, I committed one of my usual errors and got too far ahead of the pack.  I was going to run down an impertinent T-28.  Instead I found myself getting flanked by a Hetzer and a Stuart who seemed determined to run around my back side.

Direct link to the video, so you can view it in a larger window.

That Wolverine that rammed the Hetzer about half way through… and died… helped me out some, though I am not sure why he didn’t just hang back and pop my two friends as they came around the circle.

In the end, I got the two kills and went on to get three more in the match, including that T-28 and a Grille.

However, my comrades in arms were not doing very well and I ended up getting swamped by the other team.

A Testament to my Malaise

My excitement for fantasy based MMORPGs is clearly at low ebb.

I have two offers in my email.  The first is for Mists of Pandaria for half off, or $20.

WoW Weekend Sale

WoW Weekend Sale

And the second is for Guild Wars 2 for over 30% off, which works out to $39.99 for the standard edition or $54.99 for the deluxe edition.

Guild Wars 2 Offer

Guild Wars 2 Offer

And I cannot bring myself to pull the trigger on either deal.

I said I would buy Guild Wars 2 once it dropped below $40.  But there is sales tax, so it isn’t quite there yet I suppose.

I am interested to know if any of the digital deluxe goodies ended up being meaningful, useful, or otherwise worth the extra $15 toll that they represent in this offer.

Back to tanks I suppose.

The Problem with Bond Villains…

A friend of mine was complaining about the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

He did not like the movie because the Bond and the MI-6 team did several things that he felt were… well… dumb.  Dumb to the point that they ruined the movie for him.  And, I had to admit that some of the items he listed had merit.

However, I still had to laugh as he didn’t seem to have any problem with the villain’s plan until I pointed out that the bad guy could have accomplished his goal, wrapped things up nicely, and gone off to live happily ever after in the first 30 minutes of the movie had he not been bat-shit insane.

And that is a major aspect aspect Bond Villains.  To get in the cross hairs of 007, you practically have to be certifiable.

I wrote a piece back in December, Travels with Commander Bond, which included some lists of some of my favorite aspects of the film series.  However, I felt one list was clearly missing, the list of my favorite Bond villains.

The problem was that, while the other lists sprang to mind pretty much fully formed, when I think of Bond villains, things get a bit confused.

Certainly some quips come to mind.  “I don’t expect you to talk Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” is a favorite.

I speak English well! I learned it from a book!

I speak English well! I learned it from a book!

But then I start thinking about henchmen.  Rosa Klebb, Odd Job, Jaws, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd… but they are just the hired help.  They aren’t running the show.  Then there are the various incarnations of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  Does he count as one Bond villain, or is he a different villain in each movie?

Then there are the plots.

And here is where thinking too hard about Bond movies starts to fail you, because the schemes, when examined, can underwhelm.  Wikipedia has a nice list of Bond villains from the movies, what their plan was, and the result.  Simplifying the plans down to desired results, out of 23 films, I count the following motives:

Money – 14

Surprisingly, to me at least, this seems to be the most popular motive.  I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.  Twice it is in the name of drug cartels.  But a lot of the time… especially in the SPECTRE years… it seems to be an already fabulously wealthy organization spending a lot of time and money on a result that, even if successful, would have paid off less than just investing in US Government securities.  Max Zorin, for example, wants to destroy Silicon Valley in order to increase his company’s market share.  That is his business plan!  I suppose you have to go to some lengths to look evil relative to Bill Gates… though this pre-dated most Microsoft shenanigans… but still, couldn’t he have just lured away a few key execs?  He already had immense wealth.

Start a War – 3

Actually, starting a war comes up four times, but I am not counting Elliot Carver because he was trying to start a war merely to expand his media empire… so, really… money. And I am not sure I should count SPECTRE’s attempt in You Only Live Twice, since they are doing it for a third party.  But since they spent enough money to create a secret space program more advanced than either the US or USSR (whom they want fighting) and hid it in a dormant volcano, I have to imagine that the return on investment will be pretty poor.  And, of course, in none of these movies does the whole war scenario really seem like a good idea.

Revenge – 2

This is at least a raw, emotional motivator.  It just doesn’t come up very often.  SPECTRE wants revenge for the death of Dr. Julius No (After all, the R in SPECTRE stands for Revenge! It is part of their mission statement in a way that smart financial planning is not.) and Raoul Silva wants revenge because he simply isn’t as tough as James Bond.  Alex Trevelyan claims he wants revenge, but his revenge involves stealing a lot of money and covering his tracks, so I put him in the money column.

Utopia – 2

Kill all of humanity except for a chosen few, who will repopulate the world.  In one the chosen were going to hide under the sea, and in one they were going to hide in space.  This plot came up twice in the 1970s, back when we thought we were destroying the Earth (global cooling) and running out of resources.  I am glad we’re past that now.

Just Doing My Job – 1

In For Your Eyes Only, Aristotle Kristatos steals the ATAC device for the Soviet Union… because that is who he works for.  And when the plan fails, his boss doesn’t even seem that upset.  Maybe the most realistic plot ending ever in the world of James Bond.

Random Asshattery – 1

I am not sure it is ever fully explained WHY Dr. Julius No was messing with the US space program in Dr. No.  I guess SPECTRE was funding it, though it could have just been a hobby.  Or it might have been version 1.0 of SPECTRE space program.  It could have been meant to start a war eventually, or used for extortion.  But in the movie Dr. No just seems to enjoy pissing off NASA.

So the prime motivator for a Bond villain appears to be money, followed by, but not exclusive from, insanity.  After all, in Live and Let Die, Dr. Kanaga’s drug cartel plans were built around readings from a tarot deck.  Then there is how all these guys plan to kill Bond after they inevitably capture him during the course of the film.  Like that SNL skit said, when you capture Bond, don’t screw around, just shoot him and be done with it.

And don’t even get me started on the poor rank and file of these villains.  How do they recruit them?  And what entices people to work for these guys?  I have to think the death benefits for your family must be excellent, since these villains kill their own rank and file on a regular basis.  Their HR staff must be going crazy.

So, in the end, it is very hard for me to pick a favorite James Bond villain because they are all so bad at what they do.

It is almost like they are put up there simply to make James Bond look good…



Well, without them, we wouldn’t have had the Austin Powers series.

Roll on Dr. Evil.  Your plots are not half as mad as they could be.

RuneScape Embraces Nostalgia

RuneScape, a popular (200 million accounts created is their claim to fame metric) browser-based fantasy MMORPG, has decided to farm the nostalgia sector by opening up servers aimed at those who want to relive RuneScape’s past.

Officially called “Old School RuneScape,” the setting will be August 2007 version of RuneScape.


Jagex, the game’s developer, has taken an interesting approach to bringing these servers to the community.  They have a poll up to gauge how much interest there is in the servers, with more interest by the player base yielding more focus by the studio itself.

The poll approaches 250K

The poll approaches 250K

Omali has some condensed details over at MMO Fallout about what happens at given result levels. (There is an update to go along with the final results.)  There is also an official FAQ up about the servers.

Interesting to me is that by default… with the likely poll results… is that people interested in playing the classic version of this free-to-play game will have to pay for a subscription.  That seems right to me.  I don’t think people looking to relive a “classic” experience do so because it might be cheaper.

Certainly I did not run off an play on the Emerald Dream server in order to dodge the WoW subscription price, and I doubt Keen or SynCaine were so influenced with the Ultima Online Forever.

And that is how SOE has handled things with the Fippy Darkpaw server in the post free to play EverQuest world, making it available only to subscribers.

So RuneScape joins the rather short list of MMOs offering official “old school” versions of their game.  I only know of two others.  There is SOE with its EverQuest progression servers and Mythic with its past classic Dark Age of Camelot server (and its never to see the light of day Origin server).

And while there will always be arguments about what point in time is the “best” and whether such a server should be stuck in time or move forward, I think this sort of exercise is a good way to reach out and revive interest in your game with a big chunk of your current and former player base.

Of course, this sort of things probably works with some games better than others.  World of Warcraft is an obvious target.  Few expansions and slow improvement over time gives it a series of identifiable eras.  EVE Online, on the other hand… their whole single server approach pretty much precludes such a nostalgia path… plus who wants to go back to the days before “jump to zero?”

What MMOs would you like to see embrace nostalgia?  Or does that even have any appeal for you?