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December in Review December 31, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, Pokemon, World of Warcraft.
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The Site

How many extra embarrassment points to I get for misspelling the word “embarrassment” in the title of a post?

The usual story, I throw some text in the title as a placeholder, write the post, hit publish, and realize some minutes later that I didn’t actually look at the title.  While I fixed the title here right away, the error was immortalized in the URL and on G+ and Twitter.  Go me.

WordPress.com broke a few less things than usual this month and provided me with the 2013 version of their blog annual report:

WP2013TAGN

I have flagged the report as public, so you can go and read it here if you want.  There isn’t much to it really, just a few basic Top 5 lists.  Interestingly, a couple posts that never bubble up to the top 12 I post monthly still get enough traffic over time that they end up on the top 5 for the year.  Of course, they produced this report more than a day early, so if as few as 5,000 people suddenly decide to view one of my posts, it could be rendered incorrect.  That doesn’t seem likely, but it could happen in theory.  If you are really into this report, you can compare it with the reports from 2012 or 2011.

And I mentioned quite a while back that there was a huge surge in Brazilian email list and SEO spam coming in.  That seems to have subsided.  The new thing this month appears to be online casino spam in Swedish.  Vive l’esprit international!

One Year Ago

I wrote a post looking at 50 years of James Bond.  It included ranked lists for people to argue about.

There was my standard Highs & Lows post for the year gone by, and I reviewed my questions for 2012.

Turbine announced that they were bringing back Asheron’s Call 2.  I am not sure what became of that.

I was deep into my World of Tanks binge.  I was up to the KV-2 on the Soviet heavy line, choosing that path after the three way split at the KV-1. (And the T-28.)  I was also still working on the German tank destroyer line.

We were having a bit of fun in Need for Speed: World.  I even made a holiday video.

In Rift we were having some trouble getting a full group together, so we were doing some lower level instances as a group of four.  I was also struggling with the whole dimension thing.

Gaff and I took a quick peek into EverQuest II.  Nostalgia didn’t last long.  I also took a one-time shot at Wizardy Online.  It just wasn’t a game for me, but not every game has to be.

I was looking back on a year in null sec in EVE Online.  The Retribution expansion went live.  And I hit 90 million skill points.

I crammed together all the ads I could find from the EVE Online splash screen.  The launcher killed off those ads.

Five Years Ago

December seemed to be all about the micropayments and the like.  Sony Online Entertainment surprised some by putting Station Cash driven stores into EverQuest and EverQuest II.  The selection wasn’t great and the pricing seemed a bit off, but I was more interested to know what other SOE products would get the Station Cash treatment.

And then EA announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be microtransaction financed.  Or maybe they didn’t.

In EverQuest II I ran Reynaldo Fabulous from creation to level 50 in an very short (to me) stretch of time.  And then I stopped.

In Azeroth we were still coming to grips with the Northrend instances.  In Utgarde Keep we managed to kill off Prince Keleseth, but couldn’t hold it together to finish the instance.  Outside, we were running around doing quests.

Meanwhile, somebody was working on a WoW code, akin to the old geek code that used to clutter many a .sig file back when Usenet was cool and we knew the spammers by name.

I actually found some time to play Lord of the Rings Online.

And on the MUD nostalgia front I was reminding people what quests used to be like and sharing some really bad limericks.

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 December

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. Greetings from the Timeless Isle… of DEATH!
  3. Quote of the Day – CCP Layoffs and World of Darkness
  4. Shroud of the Avatar… It’s a Thing
  5. Do You Know the Way to Blackrock Caverns?
  6. Seated on the Throne of Tides
  7. Remembering Warhammer Online
  8. LOTRO and the Latest Insta-Level Scheme
  9. The Instance Group… Under the Sea
  10. Four Space Operas and a Funeral
  11. An Embarrassment of Options…
  12. Looking Back at 2013 – Highs and Lows

Search Terms of the Month

love strawberry hate raspberry
[I'm with you on that.]

eve online missiles or guns?
[As much as it pains me, guns.]

ccp mintchip fired
[Not that I have seen.]

why would someone transport plex?
[That is one of the mysteries of EVE.]

jita make lego bolo
[All those words mean something, but not when strung together.]

EVE Online

I passed the two year mark in null sec this month.  Despite being in something of a lull for the last couple of months due to the lack of a really intense deployment, I still keep my hand in with a fleet now and again.  I still enjoy a big fleet fight and sovereignty wars in general.

World of Warcraft

The Azeroth binge continues.  I think I have said this before, but everybody in the regular group is playing at about their maximum rate.  I know I have been playing WoW more than anything else by quite a margin.  It is a combination of Blizzard smoothness, familiarity, and each of us discovering in turn that Mists of Pandaria is actually a pretty meaty expansion… and that there was still quite a bit left uncovered in past expansions.  I keep going back to bits of The Burning Crusade with various characters.  I feel like I haven’t done very much in that expansion to this day.

Steam

The Steam Winter sale has almost run its course.  I did manage to find a couple of titles I wanted on deep sale.  Company of Heroes 2 is the one I have actually spent some time playing.  It isn’t bad, though it isn’t quite Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin in depth.  The other game I bought was Endless Space, which I have heard both good and bad about, but which dropped to a price point that I just bought it.  Now to find time to actually play it.

Coming Up

It will be the new year, which means tomorrow I will have a post with some ridiculous predictions and such as well as a somewhat delayed yet probably very predictable 2014 MMO and like games outlook.  Things I do every year so at least you can plot my insanity/inanity over time.

My daughter also got a Nintendo 3DS XL for Christmas, and immediately used some gift cards she got to go buy Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon X.  She has played quite a bit of both since then.  I will have to give the unit a closer look.  It seems very nice and the big screen means I can read the text without my glasses.  Anyway, there will no doubt be a post on that at some point in the not too distant future.  Is the 3DS XL worth it, or would a DSi XL and a pile of older games be a better choice?

Then there is the ongoing adventures of the instance group, which I have been slacking on the last two weeks and all the things that go along with that.

And, finally, I have a Mystery Code from the EVE Online Second Decade Collector’s Edition to give away.  There will be a contest.  I expect it will involve screen shots.  I can’t help it, I can sit and look at EVE Online screen shots all day.

The Long Wait for the NS2L-4 Incursion Fleet December 27, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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3 comments

Another moment of opportunity.  I missed a fleet call early in the evening, but happened to sit down at my computer just as a broadcast went out from Reagalan for a Harpy fleet with the hook:

This is going to be funny . . . Seriously, join this fleet, if it gets 100 dudes there’s gonna be something hilarious, Hilariously hilarious.

Hilarious works.  The time in-game happened to be 03:37 when the message went out.

I logged in and realized I didn’t have a Harpy handy.  No problem, there were a bunch up on contract, so I just bought one, jumped in it, insured it… since hilarious pretty much requires bloodshed… and sat waiting for the word to undock.  Finally, Rudazara gave the word to undock and warp to the titan that would bridge us out.  I popped out of the station with about 100 other Harpies and warped to the person indicated in fleet, only to realize, just as I entered warp, that all of the modules on this fresh Harpy were offline.  Somebody else mentioned the same thing in coms, so it was a quick U-turn for a couple of us back to the station to quickly online everything.  Then back out to the titan for a short wait until the bridge went up.

Bridge up for Harpy Fleet

Bridge up for Harpy Fleet

Things moved along and inside of 25 minutes we had formed up, bridged out, and were sitting on a gate out in Immensea waiting for the word on what was going to happen.

And we waited.  And waited.

Eventually Reagalan passed along the word that we had intel that an N3 fleet consisting of Domis, Ishtars, Onerioses, and Guardians, was running an incursion in NS2L-4 and that we were there to catch them after they finished up.

Only they were not finishing up very quickly.  The command site they were doing was taking a lot longer than anybody seemed to think it should.

Eventually we poked our nose into the system and even took the warp gate into the first area of the site to see what was going on.  Then we moved over to an adjacent system with the plan to catch them leaving when they were done… whenever that was.

We formed up on the anchor and flew around the gate waiting for something to happen.

Finally, just past the 90 minute mark since the call went out for the fleet, we moved back into range of the gate to NS2L-4 and held.  Then Rudazara gave us the word and we jumped in, interdictors heading to the hostiles to bubble them up.  We were warped to the action and started targeting the hostile logistics.  And the same time a Black Legion Zealot fleet jumped in as well and started tearing into the N3 fleet as well.  Then it was just a matter of shooting the targets as they were called.

There were, of course, issue.  The EVE-kill related kills list is a mess because we ended up shooting Black Legion and they ended up shooting at us on occasion, so the sides are completely intermingled.  I tried to clean it up using the Battle Summary Doctor. (I think I got that mostly right.  I know the big names, but I am rubbish when it comes to the smaller alliances.)  That summary shows we ended up popping more than twice as many ships as we lost… 49 killed for 20 of ours down… and that we lost some relatively inexpensive ships compared to what we killed.  I will call that a clear win.

And then it was time for a swift retreat.  We headed back to G-0Q86 via gates, avoiding any retribution (and the potential gaze of Black Legion now that our cooperative operation was over), only running into a drag bubble one just one jump out from our base, which caught a couple of people before the sole proprietor of the bubble was chased off.

In the end it was a long wait, but a fair ration of kills pays for a lot of hanging about on gates.  Most of an expensive incursion fleet killed, hilarious indeed.

And the usual share of snap shots from the battle after the cut.

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Merry Christmas December 25, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in General.
8 comments

Artwork provided by my daughter, who said it was okay to post despite our very sad Christmas Eve.

Santa at Play

Santa at Play

Everybody should have a happy holiday if they can.

Self-portrait of the artist

Self-portrait of the artist

Remembering Fred December 24, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in In Person.
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Fred.  A big fuzzy friend who would head butt us with such vigor to show his affection for us.  He would bring us a toy to throw for him and fetch it back so we could throw it again.  He would open the medicine cabinet and steal a single Q-tipp, running down the hallway with it dangling from his mouth like a cigarette, and eat the cotton off the tips.  Every night he would follow the same routine, first sitting on my nightstand to attack my hand as I attempted to turn out the light, then running off down the hallway to curl up with my daughter for a bit, before finally retiring to his bucket on the cat tree where he would sleep away the night.

He and his sister came home with us a little over four and a half years ago.  He was just a little thing.

Fred and his new favorite toy

Fred comes to stay

But he grew up to be a big cat, weighing in at 15 pounds and long enough that he was able put his front paws up on the bathroom counter to see what was up there while his hind paws were still planted on the floor.  He was so full of life and interested in everything and everyone.

Fur at rest

Full of coziness as well

And then I found him on the floor in our room, on his side, completely still, having choked on something.  He was gone.  We miss him so much.

Fred in the Lights

Fred in the Lights

The holiday spirit has left us.  We feel sad and empty today.

Drone Assist Slaughter at BW-WJ2 December 23, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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6 comments

I have been shirking my responsibilities in EVE Online of late.  With the return to Azeroth and the sudden burst of enthusiasm from the instance group I have been allocating most of my gaming time to World of Warcraft.

And, honestly, it is easy enough to do that.  WoW, being the PvE solo-friendly world that it is, is always ready with something to do… so long as you are up for that sort of thing.  Interstellar space wars in EVE Online on the other hand do not necessarily work with your schedule.  Just because you have a block of time doesn’t mean that anything will be going on, and I hate to clone jump back to Deklein to rat or mine because that will lock me out of action in Curse for a 20 hour stretch.  So the last few weeks have been mostly about skill training and reading about battles I missed.

Finally on Sunday, with a chunk of free time, I decided I would drop into whatever fleet was announced, so long as I could get into an appropriate ship.  I was rewarded with a directorbot announcement almost immediately.

so I literally just woke up to find 500 people on mumble and shit happening, idk what shit but i wanna kill it. DOMIS on Reagalan – Op 1 – STRATOP – get in fleet let’s goooooooooooooo

Dominix fleet.  I had an appropriately fit Domi at our staging station in G-0Q86 (as well as an incorrectly fit one, which I have to fix at some point), so was able to join the fleet right away.  The situation, as described, sounded similar to the last fleet I actually flew out with, back at E-YJ8G nearly a month ago.  There were Slowcats on grid, things were bubbled, supers were arriving, and we were going to go add our weight to the fight.  Sounded like another node crash in progress to me, but what the hell.  Every fleet is its own story in New Eden.  We stacked up our potato fleet on the titan and waited for the bridge.

Dominix - The opposite of sleek

Dominix – Makes the Erebus look sleek

I am not sure where the actual capital fight went down.  We bridged out, and started to move in that direction until we made it to BW-WJ2.  At that point we held up as there was a report of a Nulli Secunda fleet laying in wait for us.  We sat for a while at the XVV-21 gate in BW-, aligned towards the S4-9DN gate waiting for the word as to whether we would go forward or retire.  Eventually the decision was made to turn around and head back as the route was going to be too hot.  Reagalan warped the fleet to a point in space not too far out so we could all turn around and warp directly to the XV gate.

However, some people missed the fleet warp and warped directly to the S4 gate instead.  The S4 gate had hostiles on both sides of it and it seemed sure that those we went there would be lost.  Some who warped there jumped through the gate into S4 in one of those “there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse” moves.  Reagalan, in a moment of compassion, decided to warp to the S4 gate to try and rescue those who had at least remained in system.  This was a 49 AU warp in 10% time dilation, in battleships, which is one of those “everybody is clear for a bio” times, as that takes a while.

As the gate came into view those landing first reported that the hostiles had apparently come through the gate and there was essentially a sizable cruiser fleet sitting, freshly arrived and embarrassingly far from the gate, just waiting for us to slaughter.  Rather than a rescue mission, Reagalan called for bubbles to trap the cruisers, for us to drop drones and assign them to him, and for everybody to start neuting any logistics so that reps would be unavailable to the hostiles.

The last 4K kilometers to the gate had to be the longest I have ever experienced.  When you are there, you see the bubbles up, you have instructions to follow, and targets are waiting to be destroyed, waiting for your ship to finish up its warp so you can start is like watching the kettle, waiting for it to boil.  The mere act of staring at it makes the whole experience seem to stretch out beyond all reason.

Eventually the universe relented.  I dropped out of warp, launched drones, assigned them, and then locked onto that one Onerios in the hostile fleet to apply my neuts in order to drain the energy from his capacitor.  Me and most everybody else in the fleet chose the same target.  I am sure his capacitor went dry pretty quickly… or as quickly as it could in 10% tidi.  The reddish beams in the picture below are energy neutralizers working on him.

He's still repping...

He’s still repping… or being repped

Slowly but surely Reagalan moved from target to target, popping one after another while our own logistics kept us all alive.  Ships that jumped through into S4 were able to come back and join the fleet in its slaughter.  The enemy fleet quickly decided that they needed to leave and began either heading towards the edge of the bubbles or towards the gate to jump out.  It became something of a scamble to hold and pop as many as we could.  Our one-sided battle began to wrap up as hostiles disappeared, either escaping or being destroyed.  A spike on the system graphs at DOTLAN marks our time there.

Our time in BW-WJ2

Our time in BW-WJ2

The EVE-Kill listing for the clash shows that we blew up quite a few ships.  37 cruisers and a smattering of other ships gone, along with a couple of golden pods.

We did not have much time to celebrate our victory though.  The word at that point was that a Nulli Secunda bomber fleet was headed our way to take us out.  We were told to pull in drones and align towards the XVV-21 gate.

During the fight I had managed to wander off my sentry drones, which are immobile when dropped, so went to move back towards them as we got set.  When moving the camera around for screen shots, clicking in space will sometimes set your ship in motion.  I did not realize that my drones were positioned in such a way that I would end up heading the opposite direction as everybody else in the fleet, which made me the idiot of the moment as people got mad at me for bumping them.  My camera was zoomed out far enough that I didn’t even notice my ship moving that way until people began complaining.  Still, I managed to scoop my drones and get aligned myself before Reagalan fleet warped us to the XV gate, so nobody was harmed by my transgression.

From there it was a race, with a pack of fat happy battleships running away from a fleet of stealth bombers looking to get in some hits of their own.  There were a couple of points where the hostiles were appearing through a jump gate as we were warping off to the next one.  That isn’t really a viable position for a stealth bomber, unless they want to chance taking their own bomb in the teeth.  We kept moving back through Catch to Derelik to Curse, where we were able to catch a bridge from an allied titan back to our starting point in G-0Q86.

The fleet stood down at that point, which was good as my chunk of free time was coming to an end.  Further fleets went out later, though so far as I heard there was no node crash because of too many drones in play.  And I did managed to get in a fleet and on the kill board for the month.  So mission accomplished there and I can tell my CEO I did something in December.

More snapshots of our trip to BW-WJ2 after the cut.

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Looking Back at 2013 – Highs and Lows December 20, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, War Thunder, World of Warcraft.
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5 comments

This has become a regular end of the year feature here I guess, now that it is in its fourth year.  Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:

This list isn’t meant to be definitive in any way.  Highs and lows are relative.  My lows are certainly highs to somebody, and vise versa .  This is more of a wash of impressions that I find myself left with at the end of the year.  I am sure I will miss something important, even for more own narrow definition.  Feel free to add or question in the comments or use what I say as fodder for your own blog posts.

The wall of bullet points beings.

Payment Model Wars

Highs

  • F2P vs. Subscription gave us plenty of things to post and/or argue about.
  • We are starting to get Western MMORPGs that were designed from the start to be F2P, which ought to give a better experience than conversions.
  • The “free” part of F2P MMORPGs seem, in general, to be edging further into the “substantially free” zone.
  • World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and… the one people seem to forget… Final Fantasy XIV still holding the fort for the subscription model.  Not dead yet.
  • WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online are determined to test if the subscription model is still valid for new games in this day and age.

Lows

  • A lot of people think WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online are headed for a trouble by going the subscription route.  F2P by fall.
  • SWTOR failing at the subscription model still casts a long shadow, which plays into the line above.
  • When somebody says an MMO is “free to play” that doesn’t tell me anything yet, beyond the idea that it probably doesn’t require a monthly subscription.
  • The dichotomy of the two models still exists for me.  I hate when a game brings up money almost constantly… nothing brings me “out” of the game like a financial calculation… but I won’t stay subscribed to a game for a day longer than I have to if I am not playing it.  Or, to flip it the other way, I like not having a subscription, but I hate that the hand is always out for money even when I do opt for the “yes there is still a subscription” option in a F2P title.  Or something.
  • Subscription to F2P conversions still dominate the Western MMO F2P landscape.  Even if you don’t think they carry the stink of failure, it is still tough to escape the before/after comparison, especially if the F2P model looks like a thinly veiled attempt to make you subscribe.
  • Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn is probably the most interesting sounding MMO I am never going to play.  Not buying a box and paying another monthly subscription.
  • Asian MMOs no longer have an automatic “in” to the market by virtue of being free to play.  Remember when Runes of Magic was a big deal?  Remember when a $10 horse caused outrage?  Dime a dozen complaint these days.   The market is crowded enough that even their tiny cost structures cannot be sustained.  Early entrants are still around… how Silk Road Online survives is one of the mysteries of the universe… but new titles seem to come and go quickly.  I am not sure that is good for the industry overall.  Or maybe it is.
  • Every conversion from subscription to F2P includes an immediate press release about huge success… and then we never hear another word on the subject.  I don’t expect weekly updates, but when you never mention something ever again, it sure seems like the peak came early on.
  • The F2P store balance seems to be a tightrope walk… and some companies are working without a net.

Turbine

Highs

  • Woo hoo, Lord of the Rings Online moves a step closer to Mordor with the Helm’s Deep expansion!
  • Middle-earth still has that Middle-earth charm.
  • I made it THROUGH Moria during my latest vacation in Middle-earth.  Now just two more expansions to get through and I will be caught up with all I have paid for.
  • The change up of classes into a more role specific model seems to be a good thing.
  • No repeat of the hobby horse idea.
  • Yay… other Turbine games.  Dungeons & Dragons Online and all calls routed through to Asheron’s number.
  • Oh, hey, they have Macintosh versions of DDO and LOTRO.  My daughter even tried DDO.

Lows

  • As much as I love Middle-earth, LOTRO is starting to show its age.  Moving to WoW after a summer of LOTRO was like realizing you’ve been driving with your parking brake on.
  • Being just out of Moria, it doesn’t matter how nice the next LOTRO expansion is, I don’t need to buy it.
  • Turbine seems to be rethinking the whole big expansion thing, with no such beast expected for 2014.  How we get to Mordor… or even Gondor at this point… is unclear.
  • Every time I come back to LOTRO, it feels like they have installed another “insert coin here” adjunct to the UI.
  • Insta-level to the mid-game seems like a half baked idea, unless you think Moria is the best content in the game… and you already own Moria.
  • Just waiting for Turbine to give in to the “lifetime subscribers are the problem” mob.
  • DDO reminds you that it pre-dates LOTRO in look and feel.  My daughter said it was confusing and ugly and went back to Minecraft.
  • The return of Asheron’s Call 2 was the big Turbine announcement last year at this time… and not much else has been mentioned since.
  • Infinite Crisis, Turbine’s run at the MOBA genre, sounds more like their financial situation pre-Warner.  And it looks like a no show for 2013 at this point.  Plus, really? Another MOBA?  I am not sure what Turbine brings to the table on this.

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs

  • Finally announced EverQuest Next as an MMO that might bring something new to the genre.  The word “sandbox” has been thrown about liberally.  There has been much excitement.  This is perhaps the only new MMO I am looking forward to at this point.
  • EverQuest Next Landmark, a subset of the tools being used to create EverQuest Next, will be available to players as a F2P title.
  • SOE eased up on the restrictions on free players in EQII.  One notch back on the “really, you should just subscribe to play” focus.
  • EverQuest is still a live an going concern.  It even got an expansion.
  • SOE has actually made some progress getting themselves out of the discount Station Cash hole they dug for themselves with huge discounts up through last year.

Lows

  • EverQuest Mac gets powered down.  Its days were numbered, but it is still sad to see it go.
  • EverQuest Next is way out in the future, and I am not convinced the “design by committee” thing that SOE is doing via the round table… even if is is all illusory… is the best of all possible options.  Still, it beats their past practice of announcing something then going silent for a year.
  • EverQuest Next… how is a F2P sandbox going to work?  SOE has a horrible track record at pricing things in a way that puts the “micro” in “microtransaction.”   If your minimum price is going to be $5.00, you might as well just take VISA up front.
  • EverQuest Next Landmark is closer, but I have no desire to try it for free at this point, much less pay $100 to do so.
  • PlanetSide 2 had so many problems this year.  Aimbots, stability, performance… I stopped playing pretty quickly, but people I follow seem to be bemused about SOE’s progress with the game.
  • I have grown so apart from EverQuest II that all I do when I log in is pay the rent on my house.
  • EverQuest abides in its own form, but SOE seems to be really pushing it to the back burner, and you wouldn’t know there was a Progression Server thing still going the way it has been handled.  I doubt we will see another such special server.
  • Just waiting for SOE to “expire” Station Cash on unused accounts.

CCP

Highs

  • EVE Online, still hanging in there on the subscription model, growing ever so slightly, and unique in so many ways.  Ten years old and as strong as it has ever been.
  • Two decent expansions this year, Odyssey and Rubicon, with some solid features and improvements in each.
  • Giant space battles deciding the colors on the map!
  • Does any gaming company running a live game do Dev blogs that approach what CCP produces?
  • Hints at plans for brand new space frontiers in New Eden.
  • Managed to stay away from controversy when it came to the direction the game is going.  No more “greed is good” talk or other things that caused the Incarna revolt.
  • Gave me a free copy of the collector’s edition.
  • EVE Valkyrie for Occulus Rift sounds very exciting.

Lows

  • Growth is oh so slow, and the question always arises about how many new accounts are just alts?
  • It wouldn’t be CCP without some scandals!  So we had  SOMERBlink and Ishokune Scorpions,  SOMERBlink at EVE Vegas, SOMERBlink and RMT loopholes, preferential treatment by CCP in general (which included SOMERBlink) and who gets what for free (which included some real crybaby attitudes at various points), Terms of Services hair splitting by CCP (which did NOT involve SOMERBlink!), and the usual CCP summer season of foot shooting.  Really, the only thing we were missing was Mintchip accepting an Ishukone Scorpion from SOMERBlink, selling it for a PLEX in EVE, and then using that PLEX to pay some capsuleer to mow her parent’s lawn… while topless, wearing a monocle, and speaking entirely in quotes from Atlas Shrugged.
  • PLEX continues to amaze and horrify people by turns.  It remains a comically divisive aspect of the game.
  • The defining issue for CSM8 seems to be the CSM minutes at this point.  Those minutes had better be worth it.  Still better than CSM7 though.
  • Epic space battles have turned into epic node crashes lately.  Does anybody think the drone assignment feature is a good thing at this point?
  • A good portion of the interesting things that happen in EVE… and 100% of the CCP run events… happen while I am at work.  I read about them online just like anybody not playing the game.
  • After the war in Fountain, the deployment(s) to Curse have felt a little dry.  I have spent more time moving to and fro than in actual fleets.
  • I am still trying to click on the lower left corner of the screen to undock six months later.  Old habits.
  • The future “huge effort to build a jump gate” in order to open up new areas of space idea sounds vaguely like “huge effort to build a titan” from times gone by.  Efforts will thus be limited to large entities and the huge effort will become manageable for those entities over time.  Expect jump gate proliferation.
  • DUST 514?  Hello, is anybody there? *distant occasional gunshot*
  • World of Dakrness?  Lay offs at CCP Atlanta make that an even more distant possibility.

Blizzard

Highs

  • WoW revenues: still laughing all the way to the bank.
  • Returning to WoW this fall was like getting into my own bed made up with flannel sheets fresh out of the dryer on a cold winter’s night.
  • The instance group returning to Azeroth has also revived our spirits and our time spent playing together.
  • Blizz’s work on softening the walls between servers has actually done some good.  The game feels alive still and I have been able to group cross realms with people I haven’t been able to play with since server splits ages ago.
  • I am reasonably sure there are no NSA/CIA/FBI infiltrators in our guild.
  • Warlods of Draenor and the return to the 10 level expansion.  Sounds good to me so far.
  • Mists of Pandaria, meanwhile, is pretty good.  I find it fulfilling in a way that Cataclysm was not.
  • Blizz actually seems primed for a very strong 2014.  The money machine will continue to print.
  • Hearthstone looks good enough to even interest me slightly, and the only card game I ever play is Gin Rummy.
  • Diablo III Reaper of Souls expansion looks promising.
  • The death of the Diablo III auction house is a winner in my book.
  • StarCraft II has Legacy of the Void lined up as the third expansion.
  • Heroes of the Storm sounds like it might be a viable thing.  It is Blizzard’s chance to apply their refinement magic to the MOBA genre.  If only they can find a name and stick with it.

Lows

  • WoW Subscribers down from the peak of “over 12 million” in the quarter after Cataclysm shipped to 7.6 million at last report.  Blizz can still say “more than you ever had” to most everybody, but that is a lot of subscribers gone.  There are whole industries that would disappear if that many people walked away.  And where is that subscriber number headed next?
  • Long term profitability seems to have stifled innovation on the subscription model options front, even considering how slow Blizz is about change in general.  Blizz just rolls along.
  • Coming back to WoW reminds me that there still a number of things that Blizz hasn’t quite fixed over the years, stuff that almost every competitor has worked out by this point.  Fodder for a blog post, coming soon-ish.
  • All that cross-realm and combined server stuff isn’t going to stave off server merges forever unless they stem the subscriber bleed.
  • A cash shop in-game?  Here we go again.  As a developer though, I think I am most offended by problems with the implementation.
  • There isn’t a lot between now and Warlords of Draenor to keep long time WoW players going if they have finished up Mists of Pandaria.  I am happy enough with WoD probably being 9 months out, but I am sure a lot of people are restless.
  • Also on the “Blizzard remains slow front,” even removing a feature they freely admit was a mistake and ruined their game for a lot of people is taking a while to happen.  The Diablo III auction house lives on into 2014.
  • Is the Reaper of Souls expansion, reitemization, and removal of the auction house going to be enough to goose sales and play time for Diablo III?  I cannot see myself going back to play, much less buying the expansion.
  • I doubt we’ll see Heroes of the Storm go live next year, and I wouldn’t bet against at least one more revision of the name.
  • Titan, the “next big thing” from Blizz post-WoW, remains a tiny dot on the horizon.  Or is that just a mirage?

Other MMO Developers

Highs

  • Arena Net has to have set some sort of record for content delivery in GuildWars 2, serving up some sort of new variation every two weeks for… how long now?  Somebody tell the SWTOR team “that’s how it’s done.”
  • Trion manages a pretty sharp F2P transition with Rift.  They went all-in on it and their commitment to the model shows.  The store is clean, bright, and filled to the brim with things to buy.  Once the F2P launch settled down, Trion relauched Rift on Steam with new starter packs and such.  The game remains the definitive alternate to WoW, polished and with plenty of content, even as F2P.
  • Trion also pulled Trove out of nowhere.
  • Cryptic and PWE entertainment seem pretty solid on F2P, delivering Neverwinter as a substantially free game that is both very well put together and provides a content generation system, the Foundry, that yields some excellent content.  Easy to get into, low commitment, looks good, what is not to love?
  • Path of Exile really scratched the Diablo II itch.  Official heir to the Diablo II crown in my book.
  • War Thunder, a title I set out to ignore, turns out to be decent and has low skill roles I can actually fulfill… and lots of cool planes to fly.
  • Wargaming.net joined up accounts across their games, so your World of Tanks account is also your World of Warplanes account and shares currency and so on.
  • SWTOR seems to have struck out on a new path with the Galactic Starfight update.  But what does it portend?
  • Shroud of the Avatar is a thing.
  • There is a minor possibility that I might be interested in the idea of playing The Elder Scrolls Online.

Lows

  • I am unable to understand how any but the most dedicated gamers can adequately handle and play through new content every two weeks in GuildWars 2.  I get physically tired just reading about it.  It feels like a lot of content just melting away, never to be seen again.
  • Storm Legion remains uninspired for me. I want to like it a lot more than I actually do.
  • The Rift F2P model feels too weak to me, like they gave away too much.  I could see no reason to ever give them money again.  I know, I complain when people ask for money, now I complain when people don’t ask for money.  See my entry in the first section about a tight rope walk.
  • Trove seems a little me-to at this stage of the game, with Minecraft already established and EverQuest Landmark showing up soon.  Plus, if you don’t care about that kind of thing, another option isn’t really a big deal.
  • Speaking of me-to, ArcheAge?  Haven’t we seen the “Asian MMO comes West and flops” tale enough times already?  Trion had better have some secret sauce for this one.
  • Neverwinter never really clicked with me.  There is lots of interesting stuff to see, but it never felt like I was in a world.  It was more like an arcade where you lined up to run the Cloak Tower machine, then ran off to play the Dreadmines machine, and then maybe played orc hockey in the open area for a while.
  • Path of Exile has “always online” problems similar to Diablo III.  When you depend on the internet…
  • War Thunder didn’t last all that long on my list.  I managed to tourist up to level 5 for all nations, then wandered off.
  • Wargaming.net still keeps regions separate, so I cannot play with my EVE corp mates without having another client/account just for Europe.
  • World of Warplanes, a title I was determined to play… well… we shall speak no more of that one.
  • Shroud of the Avatar is a thing in the sense that it ought to be worth looking at again in about a year.
  • Seeing what is potentially on offer for 2014, as like as not I probably won’t play a new MMO next year.  If it is just going to be the same game with different art, I might as well play the one I am most invested in.
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea, cut loose from SOE, seems to be more adrift than ever.
  • Warhammer Online goes to its inevitable fate.

Other Gaming and Vaguely Related Items

Highs

  • Sony pledges a long life, new games, and ongoing support for those of us who own PS3s.  And their track record with the PS2 seems to back up their statements.
  • Pokemon X and Y actually looked interesting enough to get some interest in our household.
  • I remain quite fond of my iPad.
  • The used game scene remains, not that I participate.  Good news for Game Stop, but also probably good news for the big publishers, since they have pretty much fessed up that the ability to trade in a game for store credit is probably boosting sales numbers beyond any perceived lost revenue from third party sales.
  • Some interesting projects on Kickstarter in 2013.
  • High speed internet is finally available in our home.  Buying a game on Steam doesn’t mean waiting a day or two to play it.
  • When 60 Minutes can run an NSA propaganda piece and call it news, it makes me think that game journalism isn’t all that bad.  At least motivations are clear; everybody has to earn a living.

Lows

  • Games?  I only use the PS3 to watch Blu-Ray movies and stream Netflix at this point.
  • Nintendo basically doesn’t support any of the platforms that I own any more.  There will be nothing new under the sun for Wii or DS owners ever again, and I have no interest in buying a Wii U or a 3Ds.  But I don’t plan to buy an Xbox One or a PS4 either.  Good thing about the used market.
  • The screens on my Nintendo DS Lite have gone all blurry, so I can’t even go back and finish up Pokemon Black.  Oh, wait, let me put on my glasses.  Damn tiny screens!
  • I remain somewhat less enthusiastic about gaming on the iPad.  Ticket to Ride remains my all time favorite, and board game translations seem like an excellent opportunity for the platform, yet I haven’t found many games I really like otherwise.  And then there is pricing.  EA has the most odious practice in that they will sell you a game and will then insist on running game interrupting ads when you try to play.  Has made me swear to never give EA another nickel again ever.  I find Candy Crush Saga to be a rare gem, a paragon of virtue and restraint compared to anything EA has to offer.
  • I’ve been stuck on level 125 of Candy Crush Saga for like six weeks now.  Still not giving them any money either, but for different reasons.
  • Kickstarter remains a “pay and pray” option.  You toss somebody some money and hope that it turns into something some day.  I can see why some people shun the idea.
  • Buy something on Steam?  I have too many unplayed or underplayed titles already in my Steam library.  Even Steam sales are a bit “meh” now.
  • I still do not see the appeal of streaming.  Except for a few rare cases where something special is happening, I’d rather play the game than watch somebody else play.  And then I saw somebody live blogging somebody else live streaming and my head just about exploded.  Stop the inanity.
  • Runic Games appears to have burnt out creating Torchlight II and has punted on the Mac OS version, the MMORPG version, and hasn’t bothered to get dressed to leave the house for much of 2013 so far as I can tell.
  • Microsoft, determined that there be a single version of Windows and that it run on all devices (q.v. Ballmer remains loyal to Mordor), gives people a tablet button interface for their desktop machines.  When people won’t stop complaining about the missing “Start” menu, which MS trained people for years to depend on, they add it back in to Windows 8… only it just brings up the tablet button interface.  Why Fucking Bother?

Blog Things

Highs

  • Hey, I still post something nearly every damn day, don’t I?
  • A lot more people visit the site, even after my purge from Google search returns, than I ever expected.
  • I have a pretty decent account of my online gaming since 2006.  I am particularly happy with the ongoing tales of the instance group.
  • I have lots of pretty pictures on the site, which helps out when I lose stuff on my hard drive.  I have no idea where all my Warhammer Online screen shots went.

Lows

  • Quantity is not quality, and a lot of what I write is just for me.  Plus, there are times when it is tough not to write “And we did another instance.  Thousands of people have done it before.  There were no surprises.  Consider this milestone marked.”  This has lead to what I might describe as an over-dependence on screen shots.
  • The name of the blog becomes ever more accurate.  I now write mostly about a 9 year old game and a 10 year old game, with an occasional look back at a 20 year old game.
  • It is sometimes tough to find the old post I am looking for.  The search option is primitive in the extreme.
  • Really feel like the blog needs a new look after seven years, yet I am not fond of any of the WP.com options.
  • WP.com has taken it upon themselves to break something about once a month by rolling new (and I would guess untested) code out to their customers without any announcement.  Just this week the “more after the cut” option was broken for several hours.
  • Self hosting seems slightly more attractive at this point, except for the hours of extra work, the need for a domain name, and the fear that I will find out just how many readers visit out of habit as they fall off the moment something changes.

And that is about all that oozed from my brain when pressed to come up with what happened in 2013.  What else should be on the list?

Do You Know the Way to Blackrock Caverns? December 19, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
4 comments

We had something of a double session of instance group fun last Saturday night.  As noted in the first post on the topic this week, we got on early and went to the Throne of Tides.

What you first see through the whirlpool

Previously on “The Instance Group”

By the time we finished that up and were back in Stormwind, we were just past the time when we would normally start playing, 9pm.  So we decided to scout out the next destination, which according to the instances by level guide, was Blackrock Caverns.

In hindsight, I supposed if you had asked me where Blackrock Caverns was, without any preamble or other data, I would have placed it in Blackrock Mountain, that well known location between Searing Gorge and the Burning Steppes.  Easy answer.  We’ve been there before many times to visit Blackrock Depths, Blackrock Spire (upper and lower), and to assault Coren Direbrew during Brewfest any number of times.

However, it appears if you mix in a zone in a new(-ish) expansion that is nowhere near that location, add in a quest in that zone that some of the group isn’t sure they have, add in our usual disdain for any pre-run research of any sort, then the obvious can become the obscure.

And so it was that, on arriving back in Stormwind after the Throne of Tides, we headed off to the portal to the Mount Hyjal zone on Kalimdor to search for the next instance.

More after the cut.

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Remembering Warhammer Online December 18, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Warhammer Online.
Tags:
4 comments

Well, today is the day.

As was announced back in September, Warhammer Online is slated to go off-line today.  I gave some thought to returning to the game for one last look, especially when Mythic said they were letting people back in for free.  However, various changes to the account system at EA over the years since I last played rendered my account unusable.  There would be no return to game for me, no joining in the last countdown, no final farewell as a mass of pixels and database entries faded into memory.

So, instead, I thought I would collect together a list of posts from the time frame when I was actually playing the game.

The instance group in Warhammer

The instance group in Warhammer

No speculation.  No beta posts.  Just what I wrote from the time the head start came online to when I let my account lapse.  That totals up to 18 posts in just over two months .

  1. WAR Goes Live! Sept. 14, 2008
  2. WAR Unleashed Sept. 19, 2008
  3. Not Enough Tanks in Nordenwatch Sept. 22, 2008
  4. WAR on Gold Sellers Sept. 23, 2008
  5. Tips About Tips Sept. 29, 2008
  6. Some Tips are Lies Sept. 30, 2008
  7. The Failure of The Surge? Sept. 30, 2008
  8. Dwarf Collector’s Edition Head Oct. 1, 2008
  9. The Instance Group Goes To WAR Oct. 2, 2008
  10. Chicken as Chicken Oct. 4, 2008
  11. Five WAR Quest Log Gripes Oct.  7, 2008
  12. Ride of the Twilight Dandies Oct. 9, 2008
  13. Wanted: Order Players – Bounties Paid Oct. 10, 2008
  14. The Siege of Mandred’s Hold Oct. 16, 2008
  15. New Classes, Alts, and Grinds Oct. 20, 2008
  16. Screw Job in the Altdorf Sewers Oct. 23, 2008
  17. The Storming of Stonetroll Keep Oct. 30, 2008
  18. WAR’s Trumpet Fades Nov. 19, 2008

There are, of course, a lot of other posts here on the blog that mention Warhammer Online.  If you go to the categories list on the side bar, you will see I have 93 posts tagged for the game. They range from predictions to discussion pre-release to the age of recriminations after most fled the game to EA Louse to occasional notes as to what was going on with the game, including an unsuccessful attempt to turn the assets into a MOBA.

There were various attempts to lure people back into the game, from free offers to Mac client support to opening up tier 1 as free to play.  But the magic was gone.  The game lingered only as long as it was contractually required to.  That requirement runs out today and there will be no such game available tomorrow.

And so the game is reduced to memory.  We talked about, argued over, defended, blamed, and went around and around on this game, not because it was what it was, but because it wasn’t what we hoped it would be.

Somewhere along the line in the last five years I managed to lose the directory with screen shots from the game.  After the cut, you will find pretty much all I have left… uploaded to the blog… condensed into a single gallery.

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Seated on the Throne of Tides December 17, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
6 comments

It was Saturday night and we were all online and in-game extra early.  The usual start time is 9pm.  A couple weeks back we all showed up at a little after 8pm.  This time we seemed to have a group nearly ready to go at about a quarter after 7pm.

It isn’t unusual to find Earl or I or Skronk on that far in advance, but when Bung showed up we knew we were off to an early start.  Ula was rousted out of whatever she was up to and got into the game, giving us the whole team.

  • Earlthecat – Level 82 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 82 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 82 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 82 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 82 Gnome Mage DPS

From there we figured we ought to head straight into our first Cataclysm instance, the Throne of Tides in Vashj’ir.

In order to avoid anybody feeling the ill effects of motion sickness from the sometimes disorienting zone of Vashj’ir, Skronk and I swam out to the great whirlpool at the bottom of the abyssal something or other and went on through to the other side.

The whirlpool beckons

The whirlpool beckons

There we were able to use the summoning stone to get everybody together.

Summoning Stone

Summoning Stone

Then it was just a matter of getting everybody pointed in the right direction and through the portal and into the instance.

More after the cut because… well… the same stuff I say every time.

(more…)

Hull Tanking – My Most Elite Certificate Preserved December 17, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , , ,
4 comments

Let it never be said that CCP does not have a sense of humor.

I noted a while back that, as a bit of a laugh, that I have managed to earn the coveted “Hull Tanking Elite” certificate.

However, with Rubicon, the whole certificate system went through a revamp, in an attempt to give it more focus.  So now we have mastery system that comes up with each ship… which is different, though I am not sure it is any more accurate.  Under the old system, I was pretty sure I was elite with the Drake.  Now I am not so sure.

Level III overall? *cry*

Level III overall? *cry*

So the old certificates were washed away with the excess bits once Rubicon came out… except for one.

I was claiming my items from the EVE 2013 Advent Calendar… which you should go do as well because… free stuff!  And you can claim prizes from the days that have passed, so you can still catch up.

CCP Staff as they really are...

CCP Staff as they really are…

Anyway, amongst the items that I claimed was a special edition commodity… a copy of the now obsolete hull tanking certificate to keep as a reminder that I once achieved such a silly thing.

Hull Tanking FTW!

Hull Tanking FTW!

That has CCP written all over it.