Monthly Archives: June 2013

June in Review

The Site

I was going to grouse about WordPress.com changing up the blog admin UI yet again, especially since it appeared to be change merely for the sake of change, but what is the point?  Having pretty much perfected Word in version 5.1a hasn’t stopped Microsoft from revamping its UI over and over in the intervening 20 years.

I will just illustrate what a crank I can be.

WordPressQuestion

Instead I am going to grouse about something that may actually impact the site, the demise of Google Reader.  My secret hopes for a reprieve or an integration into Google + appear to have been folly.

ReadJuly1

And when iGoogle goes away in a couple of months, Google will just be a search engine again as far as I am concerned.

Google Reader has been, for years at this point, the most common RSS reader listed in my blog stats by a wide margin.  It is simple, they have only pissed off people with UI changes on rare occasions, and most people likely to be reading blogs seriously probably already had a Google account, so there was little friction getting into it.

With its pending demise, there has been a lot of talk about what services to look into.    But only six weeks ago half of the people who responded to my poll on the topic said they were still using Google Reader.  Since then, NetVibes has started climbing in my stats, as has The Old Reader.  But Google Reader still tops the chart.

After tomorrow though, Google Reader will be no more.  And I wonder if the absence of an easy to access, basic RSS app like Google Reader will end blog reading for some portion of the community.

Expect yet another poll on the subject this week.

One Year Ago

I was asking people about voice software again.  That poll is still open.

I went on about the ridiculous nature of material tiers for MMO crafting.

My daughter finally found a game she liked on the PS3.

The first Civilization V expansion came out offering, among other things, a performance boost to those who paid.  Meanwhile, the story about the decade long game of Civ II came to light.

Everything we knew about EverQuest Next was declared obsolete.  It wasn’t all that much really.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Gates of Discord expansion was finally unlocked, but not before there was a tie vote.

Turbine announced the Riders of Rohan expansion, the first LOTRO expansion I declined to buy.  For somebody still in Moria, it seemed to offer few benefits for its increased price relative to past expansions.

In Rift I hit level 50, which is a special thing in game, and started tinkering with the then new instant adventure option.  Trion also announced the Storm Legion expansion, a sign of success for most subscription based MMOs.

In EVE Online I hit 80 million skill points and was playing Lemmings in DBRB’s fleet.

And, finally there was Electronic Arts which, as part of its ongoing mission to be seen as the most arrogant company in gaming, tried to tell people that Origin was the Nordstrom to Steam’s Target level business model, unintentionally insulting Nordstrom, which actually cares about customer service before the fact, not just after it has screwed the pooch yet again.  EA says they “get it” but I have my doubts.

Five Years Ago

The big news was Blizzard announcing Diablo III.  Of course, they didn’t announce a ship date.  Still, we were all primed for the announcement, there having been a surge in Diablo II nostalgia at the time.

The Empyrean Age was upon us in EVE Online, if you could stay logged in.  CCP went looking for a fix and found one eventually.  When I could get a break on connectivity I went out to try a factional warfare mission.  It did not go well.  After that I moved back to Amarr space again and started in on level 4 missions.  And while that was going on, the skill point meter rolled over to 20 million.

Meanwhile, around the house, Summer began and it found us playing with LEGO and Pokemons.

Norrath was calling as SOE launched their huge Living Legacy marketing campaign.  I picked up some nifty stuff in EverQuest, but never really got rolling with EverQuest II during the promotion.  Of course, not everybody was happy about the campaign.  The phrase “a slap in the face” was used by some. I never got around to a post about that involving the prodigal son (I still have the notes) though I did wonder what sparked this campaign.

And in Azeroth the instance group struggled through the Mana Tombs and started in on the Auchenai Crypts.  We were struggling, this being long before the great re-spec of 2009.

New Linking Blogs

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in June

For some reason my “Feedback Issue” post, which was almost unanimously shot down by comments here declaring that it is a practical impossibility to hide numbers from users so we shouldn’t ever try, was posted to Reddit.  That in turn got a lot of people to come view it, though no visitor from Reddit left a comment about it either here or back on Reddit.  Another internet mystery.

  1. The Feedback Issue – Which Weapon Should I Use?
  2. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  3. PlayStation 4 Wins
  4. To War! We are Invading Fountain!
  5. What is it with Me and Storm Legion?
  6. Quote of the Day – The Strategy for the Conquest of Fountain
  7. EVE Online – The Odyssey Begins
  8. Walltreipers Alliance Defeated – Conquest of Delve Complete
  9. Meeting Up in Rift After the Big Change
  10. Thinking On Tank Crew Skills
  11. Neverwinter at First Blush
  12. Quote of the Day – It’s All About the Equity

Search Terms of the Month

humor planetside 2
[Then move away slowly, maintaining eye contact]

ccp eve online patch day humor
[A long and storied history there]

ccp bankrupt
[Still no]

mmos that have music
[Regrettably, all of them insist on it despite most coming up with forgettable pap]

team edward to norrath game
[I knew that vampire race would be an issue]

EVE Online

The war in Fountain dominates my time there.  Fleet ops are frequent enough that I can generally find one to join in on to help do my part in the war.  And even the ones you expect to be dull, like following Suas around to blow up SBUs, can turn out exciting when Retirement Club decides to send out a Munnin fleet to stop you.  Not that any fleet with Suas leading is ever dull.

How the war is going… well… that is a different tale altogether.  Both sides claim to be winning.  Neither side can actually produce irrefutable evidence that this is the case.  So it seems like the fail cascade has yet to come.

Lord of the Rings Online

Back in Middle-earth, my main character… and I am trying hard to focus on just the one character… has passed through all of the well worn content I am so familiar and comfortable with and is in that 40-50 gap before Moria.  It looks like I might get a second character into the nearly five year old expansion.  But can I get him out the other side and into Mirkwood?

Rift

Trion has gone all-in on the free to play front, making the cash shop the interface for all your currency transaction in-game.  Unlike LOTRO of EQ2, where you can avoid opening up the cash shop, in Rift any vendor transaction requires you to go into the the den of RMT.  Will this constant exposure to RMT currency goodies lead to greater success?  I suppose we shall see.  Right now we are in the happy time.  Check back in a year.

Coming Up

The war in Fountain goes on, so I suspect that will continue to dominate my time in New Eden.  Moria looms in LOTRO.  There is a possibility that the Saturday night group might all be on at the same time at some point, though given that we have only managed that feat once so far in 2013, I wouldn’t put money on that.

Summer means that there will be a Steam Summer Sale at some point.  Given that I don’t play most of the games I have on Steam as it is… will probably have no bearing when something I want but don’t need is marked down some crazy amount.  I am looking for Skyrim under $20.

A new expansion for Civilization V will be out soon.  I pre-ordered.  It will add in more features that were back Civ II, like trade routes.  I would just play Civ II for that, but I still cannot find the damn disk.  No idea where I lost it.

EI-O0O Back in TEST Hands

After yesterday’s non-fight for the final timer in EI-O0O, it looks like TEST got their act (and their allies) together and managed to lay claim to the system yet again about 16 hours after losing it.

TESTEI-Retake

Which means that a special little corner of north Fountain is still being contested.

SouthFountainJune282013The system is still clearly in play and it looks like the fight that was expected for yesterday’s timer is happening today.

Addendum: Well, that didn’t last long.

EI-SovChangeFour

Gaff provided a few images of the fight in EI-O0O.

EI-O0O Down Without a Fight

Things finally lined up this week and I was able to catch an important fleet op in Fountain.  Shortly after I got home from work, a call went out on Jabber to form up for the final timer for the EI-O0O system in Fountain.  Given the turn out, the CFC was ready for a fight.  There were over a thousand pilots in our staging system and three fleets filled up pretty quickly.

TEST too had been building for this fight.  They had a state of the alliance meeting the day before to get people on board and had been haranguing the cadres to fill fleets for this fight.

When I got on people were undocking and trying to move to the J5A gate, which managed to grind time dilation down to 10%.  I joined Laz’s Megathron fleet, then realized that while I had shipped a fresh hull and all the fittings out to the staging station, I had neglected to actually put all the pieces together.  As I was considering how long it was going to take to put things together, a Jabber update specifically asked for more more logistics in Laz’s fleet.  Since I had an Onerios set to go, I just took that and started the long undock.

TEST and friends had some bombers in system that hit us on the J5A gate, though not to much effect.  They managed to strip back the shields on an armor tanked fleet.  But it looked like we might be facing a fight if they were already having at us.  Even CCP_Fozzie was telling people there was going to be a fight.

When we landed in J5A, the tidi mercifully disappeared.  It seemed like CCP had the area reinforced with extra server power to handle the anticipated clash.

We moved on and jumped into EI-O0O and warped to the infrastructure hub, which would be our first target.  There was still 18 minutes on the clock until we could shoot it.  And as we were spreading out around the ihub, word came down the line that TEST could not get enough numbers and would be standing down.  No big fight would happen.  We would be shooting structures on our own.

Laz warped us off to put a TEST tower in the system into reinforce.  That ate up some time.  Then it was back to the ihub to shoot it.  And then it was time for us to hit the territorial claim unit, after which TEST lost sovereignty in EI-O0O.  Somebody else has to set up our territorial claim unit.

There were a few bomber runs at us, done with the usual TEST bomber fleet efficiency.

Then it was back home to B-D where we changed out for other fleet types to go shoot SBUs, reinforce towers, and otherwise “twist the knife” as The Mittani put it in his broadcast.

So I went to EI-O0O and all I have is a few screen shots.

Addendum: The Mittani took this victory as an opportunity to put out an official GSF update on the war.

Items from the Mail Bag – In the Material World

Another visit to the mail bag, which for some reason features a lot of actual things.  It also shows that press releases will go out to just about anybody these days.

A Love Letter to DOOM

I am always a fan of people who tackle gaming topics in actual printed book form.  Being over a certain age, getting somebody to publish that sort of thing lends legitimacy to the whole genre, even if it isn’t likely to make any best seller’s list.  So I was interested to see a press release for DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST.

DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST

DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST

According to the press release, this 200 page book covers the creation of DOOM, how it impacted the industry, pushed online multiplayer and modding, and spawned many imitators.  The book jacket quote:

This book is a love letter to DOOM and its various creators, written by a highly educated and devoted scholar and player. The book offers a well-grounded sense of the game and does an excellent job working its way through a range of topics: from the software company to the graphics engine to the story to the sound to the final game.”
—Katherine Whitlock, California State University-Chico

Never having actually played DOOM (I was working on Mac OS at the time, so Bungie’s Marathon kicks off first person shooters for me) and not being a particularly dedicated shooter fan, some of this will no doubt be lost on me, but it is nice to see it getting recorded somewhere.

D-Link Router for Gamers

D-Link sent me a press release for their new router for gamers.

Available in August

Available in August

This one interests me because we have to share a rather small pipe to the internet at our house and the tools available for apportioning out bandwidth seem to be to be rather primitive.  Looking at the we page for the router, it looks like they are headed in the right direction.  And, frankly, things like Quality of Service shouldn’t be rocket science at this point.  I am not going to run out and pre-order one, but I will look for reviews to see if it actually works as described.

FitDesk for the Happy Family

FitDesk is a company that sells equipment that allows you to use your electronics while you exercise.  A noble calling, or at least one with some merit.  I recall a story from a few of years back about a guy who bolted his laptop to a treadmill and spent all his World of Warcraft time walking.  He lost weight and got into shape while raiding.  So I have nothing snarky to say about the idea really, except that the picture they attached to the press release they sent me is a bit… odd.

Happy, happy family!

Just like no family ever

The thought process that lead to this would be interesting to map.  Put dad in the chair.  Have him smiling, happy that his son is getting exercise. Hand him a laptop to show he is tech savvy.  Give him a smiling trophy wife about his son’s age.  Have those two gaze fondly at the son while he plays his game completely undisturbed by this attention.  And no sweating!  We don’t need to remind people that exercise makes they moist and smelly.

Life in the world of advertisements.

LEGO Middle-earth Rolls On

And the people at LEGO continue to send me pictures of their latest and greatest stuff, like this Tower of Orthanc set.

LEGO Saruman

LEGO Saruman

Unfortunately, the age of LEGO seems to be pretty much over at our house.  My daughter is in the pre-teen stage and becomes quickly bored when forced to do things like assembling LEGO kits with dad.  Time marches on.  Now we’re worried about paying for college.

180 Days for a BMW M3

In my last “passing through” review of the state of Need for Speed World, I mentioned my obsessive experiment with the daily gem hunt and the fact that they added achievements to the game.

The first part, the gem hunt, involved me trying to find out if the statement that “each consecutive day gives better rewards” was actually true or not.

It sort of was.

At about day 20 you start getting 4 star rewards, which are best-in-game items.  But you still continue to get 1 star rewards, which is of a level you can purchase outright from the in-game vendor, most of the time well past day 100.

112 Days for This?

112 Days for This?

At least you have the option of selling them back for some in-game cash, which so far can still be used to purchase some actual vehicles.

As for the second part, the addition of achievements… well, if ever a game needed them, Need for Speed World was that game.  Racing is a reasonable genre to have them.  And they did keep me playing for a while longer as they had me hooked for one particular achievement.  If you do the gem hunt every day for 180 days straight, you get a special car.  And since I was past 100 days already… they gave me credit for the part of my streak that pre-dated the achievement… I felt I might as well press on!

Last week I made it, I hit the 180 day mark and got the achievement.

DHAchi

Now it was time to collect my new car!  It turned out to be a BMW M3 E92 with special “Achievement Edition” vinyl.

New Car

New Car

Not a bad looking car.  I wasn’t big on the color for it, but NFSW has decent customization tools if nothing else., so I went for a blue color.

More my hue

More my hue

It isn’t a bad car.  I like the looks well enough.  It is a B class racer by default, with a “very low for its class” 508 rating.  Not outstanding by default, but decent.  I took it out for a few test races.

M3 in the race

M3 in the race

It handles nicely, though it lacks something in the acceleration department.  Handling can be an equalizer if you can carry your speed through corners, so I thought I would try to boost that a little bit.  However, no matter which 4-star parts I added to the car… such as a suspension upgrade that indicates it should improve handling by 19%… the handling stat got worse rather than better.

So I drove around somet more, swapped over to my Porsche 914 for a bit to compare (the Porsche wins), logged off and… aside from a quick exception to take a screen shot… stopped logging in.

Which sort of demonstrates the down side of daily quests and the like.  When you have dedicated a consistent effort to a goal like this… and the same thing happened to me after doing the Argent Tournament stuff… some level of burn out (heh) is often the result.

I will probably be back for a visit in a few months.  But for now I feel “done” with the game.

Dice by the Pound

I thought I was done writing about Kickstarter project after the twin personality driven RPG projects earlier this year, Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar.  Wasn’t that enough?

But now blog neighbor Tesh has his own Kickstarter going for some Tinker Dice he designed.  And where I come from we help out our neighbors when we can.

Actually, in Silicon Valley we often barely know our neighbors, but it wasn’t always that way.

Tinker Dice

Tinker Dice

Currently, if you go in for the top amount, you will end up with a pound of his dice at some point later this year.  Perfect if you are running a massive Dwaven-techno based Tunnels and Trolls campaign.  Or you can get them in more reasonable quantities. Plus there are stretch goals that will yield different color and material options for supporters if enough backers kick in.

Because who doesn’t want a set of dice which indicate that you are probably screwed even before you make your saving throw?

Anyway, go take a look.

The Feedback Issue – Which Weapon Should I Use?

You were to adventure in the world and not focus on min/max or optimizing or beating the numbers. You were there to group up to go forth and find adventure. Your mind needed to be on the world described, not on some die roll.

Me, attempting to sum up the early philosophy of TorilMUD

Potshot latched onto this quote in a past post where I was going on about changes in TorilMUD.

The context was around the fact that TorilMUD is exposing more numbers to players.

The game, based on the early philosophy I mentioned above, strove at times to hide what we might consider some of the most basic numbers in the game.  Rolling up a character required accepting stats that were not numbers, but just descriptions.  You might see “average” or “above average” or “mighty,” each of which mapped to a range of values.  The numbers were eventually revealed once you hit level 20, by which point you were presumably committed to a character, though if this was you 4th or 5th character, you probably had enough equipment stored away to twink them out, and enough knowledge of where to go, to get them to level 20 in maybe just 8 hours of game time.

That started to change over the years, especially during the latest incarnation of the game.  And the changes were primarily justified as being about providing feedback to the players.

The first thing to change was how you could check on your level progression.

Back in the old days, you had to go all the way back to your class guild master and check on your experience, which resulted in messages like this:

The great druid Kaladan is ready to show you how to become one with nature.
Your guildmaster says ‘You are still a very long way from your next level.’

I think that meant I was between 20% and 29% into my current level.  There was a different message for each 10% graduation per level.  And while some of the messages were more obvious than that… before and after half way said just that and for the last 10% your guild master grinned in anticipation… it was still a pain to travel all the way back to town just to get a reading on your progress.

So that changed to a text version of a progress bar, then to a simple percentage read out, and, just recently, slaying mobs began reading out both an experience point value and a percentage like this:

You beautifully slash a burly sailor into two parts – both dead.
a burly sailor is dead! R.I.P.
A burly sailor slumps to the ground.
You receive 40,573 XP (1.07%) experience.
Your blood freezes as you hear the rattling death cry of a burly sailor.

So there you go.  It is now possible, 19 years after the MUD first started, to directly assess the value of a given mob.  And the “exp” command tells you how much you need to get to the next level.

You are 5,101,956 XP (94.48%) away from your next level.

The problem is that we have now moved from levels being something of a mystery to levels becoming a mathematically precise certainty, which is a clear step away from the original philosophy of the game.  The next step would seem to be to expose hit point values and damage rolls.  Right now those are still hidden with verbiage.

You parry a burly sailor’s lunge at you.
A burly sailor’s attack only grazes you as you maneuver your mount!
A burly sailor slightly wounds you with his average hit.
Your mighty slash slightly wounds a burly sailor.
Your attack only grazes a burly sailor as he dodges aside!
Your strong slash barely wounds a burly sailor.
< 400h/427H 210v/210V >
< T: Kigev TC: few scratches E: burly EC: small wounds >

But is that the right direction?  Must we always move towards exposing more numbers?

Certainly that is the easiest way to express feedback in a system that is made up of numbers.  And if you are going to try and hide numbers, you have to come up with an effective way to provide feedback on some things that we might otherwise not consider, such as how to tell which weapon you ought to be swinging.

Weapon comparisons have been done with numbers… which pretty quickly got summed up in DPS ratings… for a long time now.

Have shovel, want mallet!

WoW weapon comparo

But could you do it without numbers.  Could you look at a weapon, equip it, maybe try it in a fight or two, and get enough feedback to say whether or not this is what you out to be swinging.

I decided to check TorilMUD to see if perhaps weapons gave enough description for that sort of thing.

Certainly some do.  The description for my Paladin’s holy avenger lets you know that this sword is something special.

This heavy sword has been crafted out of an unknown metallic alloy, the exact nature of which is known only to the gods. The long blade gives off a soft and warming radiance, even as the edges glint dangerously. A hilt long enough for two hands to grip firmly has been decorated with kingfishers and the pommel is crafted to look as though a dragon maw is gripping a brilliant pearl. Flaring crossguards sweep up, masterfully tapering into the appearance of talons that meet the bright blade.

After the long quest to obtain it, you were probably pretty sure it was going to be hot stuff in any case. But what about further down the food chain?  I decided to look at weapons that new players might pick up, to see if I could correctly pick the best weapon by looking at the description.  In order to limit the range and to keep to places I knew well, I focused on the areas outside of Leuthilspar, the elven starting area.

In some of the old haunts I was able to pick up five weapons from various mobs to see what their descriptions said.

Name: a bronze sword
Description: The sword is fairly small yet broad, with a thick leather handle. It looks perfect for close in encounters.

Name: a small sword
Description: The small sword seems to have an inscription of some sort.

Name: a long sword
Description: you see nothing special

Name: a cudgel made of stonewood
Description: This blunt, short club is made from a special type of wood which is hard as stone. Crafted by the special skill of the faeries the club is impervious to damage.

Name: a wooden spear
Description: This wooden stick is almost but not completely straight, it is about two feet in length. Sharpened to a point it makes a crude but usable weapon as demonstrated by the dried blood on its tip.

So, given those five choices, which would you choose, assuming you have chosen the warrior’s path and are thus likely not to face any class restrictions?

Actual stats after the cut.

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