Daily Archives: February 26, 2013

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 GoG.com 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  It has been out since 1999 and feels its age in many ways, not the least of which is how out of date the official web site for the game is.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?