Monthly Archives: April 2014

April in Review

The Site

All continues on as it generally has for quite some time.

I did experiment with a possible replacement for the unreliable blogger RSS feed on my side bar.  Feedly was all full of news about it integrating with a service called Zapier.  They do a whole bunch of what I guess I would call “data manipulation and consolidation” services.  One of the new features of Zapier is the ability to move content you flag or otherwise indicate in Feedly into its own RSS.  That sounded ideal.

ZapierUnfortunately, after a week or so of tinkering with Zapier, I could not get it to produce an RSS feed that would play nicely with WordPress.com’s RSS sidebar widget.  Not sure whose fault that was (Zapier, WordPress.com, or me), but it wasn’t happening.  Plus Zapier was really keen to have me sign up and pay for the service, which would run $15 a month to run a feed to my sidebar that got updated with any regularity.  That is probably a fair price if I had a business use for the service, but it is really more than I want to put out for a widget on my side bar.  So I’ll put that money towards an MMO scubscription instead.

One Year Ago

I was remembering the SEGA Genesis and NBA Jams

Our Wii seemed to be collecting dust and destined for retirement.  Maybe one more round of Wii Bowling?

On the iPad I was fiddling around with Vinylize Me.

The Camelot Unchained Kickstarter had kicked off with a steep $2 million goal.  With only three days left to go the campaign was $400K short.  Not sure if Mark Jacobs’ dire vision of the future of F2P helped or hurt.

Meanwhile, Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar wrapped up its Kickstarter campaign over the $2 million mark, having doubled its $1 million initial goal.

LOTRO turned 6 years old and I was wondering what lay it its future.

World of Tanks hit 2 years and I was pondering tank crew skills and finally driving the KV-4 along with some other new tanks.

Age of Empires II – HD Edition launched on Steam.

I took another run at Need for Speed: World, which had added achievements.

In Rift, I was wondering why the Storm Legion expansion just wasn’t grabbing me.  I tried to press on.  Meanwhile, the instance group spent evenings one person short trying to find something to do.

The Burn Jita 2 event kicked off.  People didn’t seem to be paying much attention to it before it started, but it got extended and ended up bagging 573 billion ISK worth of ships.

CCP launched its EVE Online timeline.

And it was kind of a quiet April Fools at Blizzard.

Five Years Ago

Dave Arneson passed away.  He was, with Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, that so-influential gaming system that has shaped how we view fantasy swords and sorcery games for over 30 years now.  There would be no World of Warcraft as it is today without Dungeons & Dragons.

We also saw the launch of SOE’s Free Realms, which stuttered a bit on day one.  Now they have millions of people who have signed up for the game, but since it is free to play, that is no indication of revenue.  My daughter has tried to sign up four times, so that is four out of the millions.  SOE was advertising the game heavily on Cartoon Network.  But FR does not run on a Mac.  I know she has signed up because her email gets routed to me.  And, as a side note to SOE, if you’re going to require a parental email address for approval, allowing it to be the same as the child’s email address isn’t really an effective way to control under age players.  I realize you’re in a bind on this, but you seem to have taken the easy way out.

In EVE Online I was mulling over the Apocrypha expansion and configuring up a Cerebus to try out as a mission runner.

As usual, there was much ado about WoW.

And then there were new comers as we brought home two wee kittens.

New Linking Sites

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 April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2014
  2. Coming Soon – Burn Jita 3
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  5. The Seven Day Landmark
  6. World of Darkness Goes Dark
  7. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  8. April Fools at Blizzard – 2013
  9. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  10. Remembering Our Time in Zul’Gurub
  11. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  12. Quote of the Day – When You Have a F2P Hammer, Every Nail is a Microtransaction

Search Terms of the Month

i need a email address for someone i can contact who is responsible for shutting down warhammer online age of reckoning
[You tell them!]

rapid assembly jump clown
[That would be the name of this blog if I were launching it today.]

i want to gift warlords of drainer but keep the 90 boost
[Selfish are we?]

Civilization V

Our first multiplayer game of Civ V came off this month.  It seemed to go pretty well, well enough that we are ready to go for round two.  Of course, Civ V and games like it are binge games, where you always want to go just one more turn, so I have played a couple of single player campaigns over the course of the month as well.

EVE Online

After a couple months of rather minimal activity in New Eden, I actually went out on some fleet ops.  A busy weekend prevented me from spending any time observing Burn Jita 3 (something that has me in trouble with our current corp leadership), but I was able to get into fleets for our simmering little conflict in Pure Blind and actually get into some fights with our major opponent, Black Legion, which is acting as a proxy for the actual people we’re fighting because Black Legion needs fights.  That is their thing, to the point that they appear to be having problems because they are not getting fights often enough.  I hope our presence helped Elo Knight out.

Pokemon

While we launched into Pokemon X & Y with lots of expectations, we ran into the problem of pacing.  Basically, my daughter finished the game and was done before I had managed to get the second gym badge.  So I have been pottering along slowly, but there hasn’t been a lot of “lets play Pokemon!” time around the house.  I am almost done at this point myself and will have a post at some point to discuss the good and the bad.

World of Warcraft

The instance group has pretty much finished up Cataclysm content and is ready to move into Mists of Pandaria.  There we have some dungeons awaiting us, Timeless Isle, and maybe some other five player content, all of which we will have to stretch out to last until Warlords of Draenor ships.  Considering that we generally go on hiatus during the summer, we can probably manage that without feeling the need to run off to another game as a full group.

As a sub-group or individual though… I don’t know.  Pandaria already feels very much like a known quantity to me at this point.  Twinking old content has a certain charm, but is more of a hobby than a vocation.  And one can only level up so many characters.  We’ll see.

Coming Up

Is anything coming up?  What is going on in May?

I suppose we will have a new CSM in EVE Online and we’ll know more about the summer expansion.  And there will be fleets.  But EVE is never really a full-time game for me.  I need to play something else along side EVE, because the players are the content, and players are notoriously unreliable in lining up to entertain when it is convenient for me.  Damn them!

WildStar is coming up, but I am not so interested in that.  At least not enough to buy another box and sign up for another subscription.

If I felt any nostalgia for Vanguard or Wizardry Online I suppose I would go back and play those before they close.  Honestly, I am not much on anything SOE has to offer at the moment.

The Elder Scrolls Online seems unready for prime time, depending on who you read, though even those singing its praises have to admit there are issues.  It is more a matter of the issues being worth the experience or not and whether or not it really is an Elder Scrolls game or not.

I could be facing a fantasy MMORPG lull, unless I want to head back to Middle-earth.  And the thought of re-learning my characters after the big skill/talent change is holding me back there.

It might be time to get out tanks or airplanes and shoot stuff.

SOE’s New All Access Plan Up and Running

After a couple of false starts this month, Sony Online Entertainment has finally launched their new SOE All Access plan, which was announced back in late January as part of some big changes to their game lineup.

For what was once the price of a single Gold subscription you can now have premium access to a range of SOE games.

The new SOE All Access pricing

The new SOE All Access pricing

There was a time when this would have been an “OMFG must have this” deal.  Despite closures, both recent and pending, SOE still has a few games in its stable and more on the way, each of which delivers its own set of benefits should you go with the SOE All Access plan.

Not coming soon: EverQuest Next

Not coming soon: EverQuest Next

The problem, for me at least, is that my complex relationship with SOE and its games is at a point where I now get my limited fill via free.  EverQuest II is a strange place for me now, EverQuest is best left as a happy memory (at least until they launch a new progression server… maybe some day), while neither PlanetSide 2 nor DC Universe Online ever really lit a spark.  I have some mild interest in where Landmark might end up, but that is out in the future.  And H1Z1 is… I don’t know… somebody is going to have to sell me on that.

So while I applaud SOE continuing to be a leader in this area, there isn’t really any call for me to subscribe to their brand new plan at this time.

Maybe when EverQuest Next makes the “coming soon” list.

Civilization – Nuclear Terror Wins the Day!

Our fourth week of Civilization V started with a move towards peace.  Mattman and I were still at war at the start, but we didn’t have much direct contact, so he accepted my peace proposal.  I think the major change that came about with that was that the one cavalry unit I had pillaging his hinterland was evicted from his territory.  So we looked to be entering a period of economic and scientific competition.

And then problems started on my domestic front.  My real life domestic front.

Earlier in the evening I had asked if somebody had spilled something during the day, because the carpet in the family room was wet in front of the TV.  My wife, in investigating this, discovered that the water line to our refrigerator had sprung a small leak.  The fridge backs up to the same wall as the TV, and water had been leaking through for some time to the point that the carpet was wet all the way out past the TV.

Time for emergency action.

So we got to test the ability of Civ V to handle people dropping out and then returning to a multiplayer game again.  I left a world at peace that looked like this on the map.

The World - Circa 1950

The World – Circa 1950

My lands are grey, with the dark dots being cities, Potshot is cream with green city dots, Loghound is white with red city dots, Mattman is red with pink city dots, the Mayans are that bisque color with two green city dots, and the black areas are the independent city states.

After moving our TV and related devices, pulling up the carpet and the padding, my wife pulling up a couple gallons of water with a Bissell carpet shampooer, and generally attempting to get things drying while mitigating our damages, I was able to get back to the game.  A little over two hours had passed, and I returned to a world at war.

At some point, after a long period of peace, the AI running Germany declared war on everybody and drove straight into Potshot.

The AI on the move

The AI on the move

By the time I got back, Potshot was down to a single city and Mattman and I were grappling over the island off of his northern coast.

Potshot's last city

Potshot’s last city

Nuclear weapons had come onto the scene, allowing Mattman to essentially bomb me off of the island.  I got one off in return, enough to get the achievement, but not enough to change the outcome of the war.

Wk4NukesAchi

Meanwhile, I was facing a whole series of internal issues caused by the AI.  My net happiness was at -51, so I had revolts springing up all over my empire, while production, research, and military efficiency were all way down due to discontent.  All of the little automations and queues were reset, so now I was the one running out of time with two minute turns as I tried to get my empire under control.  I was bleeding cash.  And the AI had done things like built a gigantic navy in the lake in the middle of Pangea while on the high seas I was out numbered.

I sued for peace after losing the northern island and set about trying to fix things.  I got my happiness under control and my economy running again.  The AI had sold a bunch of improvements in cities in order to keep itself funded, including seemingly anything that made people happy.

And so we ran for a little bit.  The Mayans were gone, Potshot had his one city, Loghound had a small empire, but was still far behind when it came to the score, and Mattman and I were pretty much neck and neck.  I built the United Nations, which allowed us to try to elect a world leader, one of the victory conditions.  But you cannot vote for yourself.  So even though Mattman and I both voted for Loghound, our allied city states voted for us, meaning nobody obtained enough votes to win through that route.

With the space race uncertain… I couldn’t seem to get my ship to assemble… and other paths to victory were looking unlikely… nobody was close on culture or religion, and there was no way anybody was going to conquer the world this late in the game… we were clearly competing on score, and that would only matter on the last turn.

War opened up again with about 30 turns left to go.  I cannot recall who started it, but I am going to blame Mattman, since I was ahead in the score.  The periphery of my own empire was pretty close to his core, so I had to stay on the defensive after trying to bring some units to bear on him piecemeal.  Potshot signed a defensive pack with Mattman, along with an open boarders agreement, allowing him free access into my territory.  That could not stand, so I… and Loghound by mistake… declared war on Potshot.  After some messing about, I eventually drove on his city with a giant death robot (the final upgrade to the armor line) and Chuck Hestonia was mine.

This knocked Potshot out of the game, both literally and figuratively.  He was kicked and sent to the “You lose” screen while the game had to deal with the host having left.  It piled hosting duties on me for my sins, which caused the game to slow down considerably for a couple of turns while it tried to sort this out.

Mattman had been unleashing his nuclear arsenal on me while that was going on.  I had no comparable stockpile (AI built 20 ships in a lake, but no nukes!) and was not well positioned to deliver it even if I had.  Mattman had begun pounding my front line city, Samsun with nukes.

Samsun being terror bombed

Samsun being terror bombed

He managed to create a glowing wasteland around the city before finally extinguishing it.

Samsun wiped out

Samsun wiped out

At turn 325 I was still holding onto a narrow lead.

Wk4ScoreTurn325

But attacks on Chuck Hestonia and a nuclear submarine attack on my west coast managed to push my score down through simple population loss, so that I fell behind by turn 327.

Wk4ScoreTurn327

Mattman was set to win, ready to claim victory over a nuclear wasteland of a world.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

When turn 330 hit, we were all dropped into the standard end game interface, which was “You Win!” for Mattman and “You Lose!” for Loghound and I.  I was a bit bummed that it didn’t come out and give us the final score for a multiplayer game right there on the first screen.  After all, that seems the obvious question.  But in all the graphs you can view, there is one that shows the scores throughout the game.

Who won?

Who won?

I thought one of the more interesting graphs was the happiness differential.

Excess Happiness Charted

Excess Happiness Charted

You can see where I was playing, then where I handed things over to the AI, which went for maximum happiness.  And then it declared war and went to a -51 happiness differential, after which I came back and got things back on a happier plane, if not as happy as things once were.

Final Demographics

Final Demographics

Overall, the game went well and seemed sustainable over multiple weeks.  We are going to give it another run on a bigger map with more AI players (and a couple observer slots so people kicked from the game can get back in and watch) and possibly one of the slower time rates, on the theory that with less to do per turn, the timer won’t be as likely to get in the way.

And, finally, a short gallery of the map situation over the course of the game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The gallery was made by dissecting an animated .GIF file that Loghound created showing the map over the course of the game.  It is over 12MB is size, so I didn’t want to put it in the main post, but if you want to see if I believe this link will take you there. (It is somewhere in G+, so who knows if that link will work reliably or not.)

It runs a bit quickly, and is too big to edit with any of the animated .GIF editors I could find, which is why I pulled out individual frames. (I wanted to slow down the time between frames.)  Oddly, neither PaintShop Pro X3 nor PhotoShop Elements could pull frames from the .GIF file, but the Mac OS image preview app did it without me even asking.  There might be a better tool out there for that sort of thing, but this was my first experience doing anything besides look at an animated .GIF.

Thanks to Loghound for creating that!  That wraps up 9 hours and 39 minutes of game time (According to the end stats, but that number seems low to me. I would expect it to be closer to 12 hours after four evenings of about 3 hours each.) in about six seconds.

The past entries in the series for this game:

 

Burn Jita 3 – A Video Sample

It has been a busy weekend, so I haven’t had a chance to log on and watch what has been going on for Burn Jita 3.

Zombie Metaphor Time

Big system keeps on burning…

But there is a video up that shows a freighter gank that looks really good, so I thought I would share that.

(Direct link to video)

You can see the freighter, a big fat Amarr Providence, and the stream of Catalyst destroyers burning into range to start their attack.  (There is a Thrasher in the mix there, and a Cormorant.)  As the Catalysts get in range and start firing, you can see the red beams from the CONCORD enforcement ships, which are off-screen at that angle, locking down the attackers.  CONCORD pops a few of the attackers, but then the freighter succumbs and ends up a wreck.  CONCORD finishes blowing up the attacking ships as they cluster around the wreck of the freighter in a pyrotechnic end to the gank.

The Burn Jita event is slated to run through the 28th, though it could be extended if the stockpiles of Catalysts hasn’t run out.

If you are interested in the freighter kill tally, there is a site up dedicated to the count.

Spacewar! for the PDP-1

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 is now officially the oldest video game I have ever played, thanks to it being brought back to life in an emulator over at the Internet Archive.

The great-grandfather app of many games, including the Space Wars arcade game from the 70s, the emulator simulates as much of the PDP-1 experience as possible, including blinky lights.

Spacewar! Loaded!

Spacewar! Loaded!

Of course, it is raw… and the gravity is brutal.  I am doing all I can just to not crash into the sun in the first 30 seconds.

Boom! yet again!

Boom! yet again!

But when you consider the time frame… this was done in 1962… it is nothing short of amazing and a pretty good glimpse into the future.  It even has something of an Easter Egg.

Another addition to the Internet Archive’s Historical Software Collection.

Small Items for a Wet Friday Morning

Mother nature seems determined to keep my lawn from dying during the drought out here, so delivered some more rain last night.

Of course, this is supposed to be the start of an El Niño year out here, which traditionally means a wet, wet winter is coming.  So expect us to flip the record over from side A (“Not Enough Rain”) to side B (“Too Much Rain!”) come autumn.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t think of anything worthy of a full post… and you know I’ll make a full post out of almost nothing… so here are a few tidbits that have been rattling around.

ArcheAge Founder’s Pack

Free to Play MMO titles have begun to develop their own traditions as they have evolved.  One seems to be the “Founder’s Pack,” a pre-order of sorts granting various benefits, usually including guaranteed beta access and some of the local currency.  As this has become a staple, the only parameter left to explore seems to be how much will the market bear when it comes to price.  Trion is testing the upper limits with ArcheAge, asking for $150 for the top tier pack in the shop.

ArcheAge

Take that SOE and your $100 Trailblazer’s pack!

ArcheAge Thoughts

I have had very few thoughts about the game.  This has been primarily because of the long tradition of bad Asian MMO imports over the years that has so thoroughly poisoned the well of expectations on that front.  And billing it as the “Ultimate Fantasy MMORPG Sandbox” just stokes the fires of skepticism in me, as does the long list of “be all the things!” features.

ArcheAge_logo_450Others seem less skeptical.  It looks like Cuppy and Liore are going to go give it a try, so you can read up about it on their sites.

As for me, I am still trying to figure out how to even pronounce the name.  Is that first “e” silent or not?  If it is, then the name reminds me of ArchLord, another on the long list of poor Asian imports, which isn’t exactly a good association.  But if you pronounce the “e” then it will sound like Archie Age, and I will be gravely disappointed if it doesn’t take place in Riverdale.

EVE – The Death of High Sec Industry

CCP posted a dev blog about proposed changes to industry for the summer expansion.  And, as usual, drama/rage/hilarity ensued.  That is just the nature of things in EVE Online.  The net net, if I read things right, was that, aside from changing the UI and removing some serious annoyances, if everybody just kept on doing what they did now, prices could go up by as much as 15%, but there would be incentives, in the form of lower production costs (to offset the risk) to start building things in null sec space.

A few people went the drama route, exemplified by Mord Fiddle, who attempted the Smothers Brothers routine of “Mom always liked you best!” for his big exit post.  Only it wasn’t actually funny, and wasn’t trying to be.  It was just drama.  Meanwhile, Dinsdale Piranha, in a “broken clock is right twice daily” moment, was clearly feeling vindicated in his long standing “CCP and the null sec barons” conspiracy theories.  Even Jester seemed to be straying off the range a bit with what sounded like a “go null or go home” conclusion. (And a bit of drama in the post title.)

Meanwhile, in the strange bedfellows department, the issue drove usually bitter foes Gevlon and Mynnna into the same camp on the topic, putting many on the lookout for a plague of frogs or some other biblical level event.  Lots of numbers and logic involved in their arguments.

My own point of view is that the strongest force in the universe is laziness, and that most people who have set up an industrial operation will just stay in place, the markets will correct a bit, and life will go on pretty much as it has before.  A few people will slip out to null to see if things can be done more profitably.  But considering that the three biggest 0.0 slumlords (Northern Associates, Brothers of Tangra, and the Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere) have alone opened up over a quarter of null sec (963 of 3,524 systems) to rentals (and have agreed not to fight over those bits), there looks to be space for those who want to give null a shot.

Others weighing in on the topic:

I suppose we will see come the summer.  That is my answer for everything lately.

GARPA – A New EVE Tool For You

In a what was a bit of a surprise, Goonswarm’s science and research division released the GARPA Topographical Survey app for general use.  This is the space map and route planning application that, along with DOTLAN EVE Maps, sustained me during my first year in null sec.

Of course we all use a newer, web based tool, from the fine minds in the Razor Alliance, for route planning and navigation in-game.  But the GARPA Topographical Survey app is still pretty neat.  I can tinker with it for hours.

EVE – Burn Jita Begins

Burn Jita kicked off at some point last night.  There was a big convoy op to fly all the last-minute slackers from VFK to Jita.  And then there was an emergency in Fountain and another fleet had to run off in that direction.   I showed up late, but was able to join the fleet thanks to the fact that I kept a jump clone and a few random doctrine ships in our old staging base from the war last year.

Anyway, be advised that, if nothing else, time dilation will be hell in Jita for the balance of the weekend.  And if you want to make people laugh, link this image in local and tell people you paid a lot of ISK for it.

Burn Jita 72 Hour Pass

Burn Jita 72 Hour Pass

Some days it is like people aren’t even trying.

Lord British – Shroud of the Avatar Continues to Be a Thing

Pre-alpha release 5 of Shroud of the Avatar was made available to some level of backers this week, which included me.  I patched up and logged in just to see the state of affairs.

I now have a mustache

I now have a mustache

The game is still in a very raw and essentially unplayable state, but you can poke around and see what has been done.  I couldn’t recommend trying at full screen and full resolution though.  The graphics look good.  I am not keen on the movement controls, which are the FPS style “steer with mouse, move with WASD where A and D are strafe and not turn” configuration.  Anyway, things move on.

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2014

The NBI is back again for 2014 and I have been slacking on doing anything about it.

NBI_Logo_450But rest assured, things are happening over at its permanent home on the web.  If you are interested in started a gaming blog or want to help out those who do, go over and join in on the fun.  The official start date is May 1, so I still have time to catch up.  You can go ask them anything if you like.

And that about covers the items I had.  Now to go back to staring out of the window at the rain.

A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online

Andrew Groen, who has written for Wired and the late Penny Arcade Report, has decided to take on the history of EVE Online.

In order to fund this project, he has launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Of course he has.

The campaign is to fund the printing costs of such a book.  He needs $12,500 to print the minimum run of 1,000 copies.  Given that he is already past the $9,00 mark, just hours after the campaign opened, it looks like he will make his goal.

His introductory video, which is something that Kickstarter really pressures you to have, is actually worth a watch.  WordPress.com won’t let me embed video from Kickstarter (they only like YouTube) so here is an awkward screen grab from it.

Andrew tells his story...

Andrew tells his story…

He has been working on the history for six months and, while there is work still to be done, he is now setting himself up with an eye towards printing and distribution.

The book itself will focus on null sec, where the wars of sovereignty have created so many stories.  From the Kickstarter details:

This book will take readers from the very first day the servers switched on to the formation of the first regional alliances, through the Great Wars of 2004, 2007, and 2008, and into the modern era of huge power blocs of coalitions. It’s a journey through the politics, warfare, and culture that have shaped Eve into the game we read about in the headlines today.

This is, of course, the part of EVE that separates it from so many other games.  Raids, battlegrounds, quest chains, or even one-time events like GuildWars 2 has run for the last year, don’t garner the same sort of attention as the ebb and flow of politics and war in the outer ring of stars in New Eden.

Interestingly, for the “Risks” section of Kickstarter information, there is none of the usual “things might go south” or “I might just walk away with your money” sorts of statements.  Instead, Andrew seems more worried about the nature of the content he is trying to produce.

Deception: I’ve been warned by members of the Eve community that there are some who will attempt to deceive me into writing their own version of events to make their organizations look better. The Eve wikis are proof of this fact as they’re often rife with hyper-partisan history. The only way to counteract this is through extensive reporting and interviewing. Only by getting multiple perspectives on situations can you dig through partisanship. I’ve dedicated myself to doing dozens of interviews to make sure all information is as balanced as possible.

Jargon: When discussing the high-level events of Eve it’s easy to get bogged down in jargon that the average person – and even many committed Eve players – don’t understand. Some accounts of Eve history are so riddled by jargon that they’re illegible to anyone without years of in-game experience. In my work, I always place an emphasis on making sure everything is understandable for everyone without dumbing things down or making writing boring for experienced players. To that end, I’ll be working with a team of editors from both Eve and non-Eve backgrounds to ensure I’m getting a variety of input before publication.

We shall see how that works out.  That he already has endorsement quotes from The Mittani and Helicity Boson might make the first goal a bit hard to swallow.

The Kickstarter itself has only two tiers.  For a $10 pledge you will get a .pdf or Kindle version of the final book.  For $25 you will get a softcover book and a .pdf or Kindle version, though you’ll have to kick in a bit more for shipping outside of the US.  I am in for the softcover book.

The campaign is set to run for 30 days, finishing up on Sunday, May 25th.

Addendum:

Well, that didn’t take long.

But you can still pledge to get a copy of the book in either format until the end date.

The Long Road to Draenor

Back in September, a few of us returning to World of Warcraft felt like returning home to the comfortable, familiar game we had enjoyed for so long.  It was a happy time and we were happy to be back.  Happy. Happy. Happy.

A little later, after the BlizzCon announcement for Warlords of Draenor, the full instance group jumped back in to the game and picked up where it left off with the main group, way back at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, where we left off back before Cataclysm.  That was back in late 2009.

Victory over King Ymiron

At the throne of King Ymiron

And it was good.  And it remains good.

The instance group has moved along at a leisurely pace, knowing full well that we had to get to at least summer on Cataclysm and Pandaria content.  Not because we thought we might see WoD during the summer… I, rather optimistically in hindsight, figured September would be the drop date for the expansion based on some vague napkin math… but because we tend to go on hiatus during the summer as travel and other real life events take over.

Outside of instance nights, we have all been busy little beavers.  We have been leveling up alts, collecting mounts, going after achievements, running old content, getting the guild up to level 25 (finally there!), and generally immersing ourselves in Azeroth.  Fun, fun!

Or fun for a while.

Now more than six months back, with the guild taken care of, three level 90s at my disposal, having run all the level 90 LFR content at least once, and being exalted with all but two factions in Pandaria, I am starting to feel sympathy for those who really had their hearts set on a much earlier release for WoD.

My enthusiasm for logging in to work on yet another set of dailies or to get another mount towards my goal of 150 (I am at 132) has begun to wane some.

I still log in daily.  I tend my farm at Sunsong Ranch, though mostly for items I can sell at the auction house in order to build up my gold account.  I am working on a couple of low level alts, including a Panda monk with full heirlooms, just to see how ridiculously fast I get levels in a given play session.   He leveled three times doing Shadowfang Keep at one point.

But the fires have faded some.  I have joined the ranks of those who are starting to feel that Azeroth might need a little something to carry us through to the expansion at the end of the rainbow.

That feeling was enhanced this week with the Noblegarden holiday, for which I got all the achievements back in 2009.  I do not have the mount that was added in 2012, but I am not sure I can bring myself to run the holiday events even for that.  We’ll see.  And then next week is Children’s Week, the one holiday event keeping me from the holiday meta achievement because I refuse to do the battleground achievements.  Clearly some bitterness on my part there, and certainly not something that is going to raise my enthusiasm for WoW at the moment.

On top of that, we had what was effectively a narrowing of the gap as to when WoD will ship.

Previously Blizzard had said “Fall 2014,” conspicuously pointing out that “Fall” lasts until December 20th.  But the optimists in the crowd could at least console themselves with the thought that Fall stars in late September, so WoD wouldn’t necessarily have to be a “week before Christmas” launch.

Well, Blizzard has rained on those hopes, at least in my opinion, with the announcement of the dates for BlizzCon.

BlizzCon2014

BlizzCon will be November 7th and 8th of this year.  And, as Liore pointed out the other day, you really have to be a cross your fingers and toes optimist to think that Blizzard is going to launch their big expansion of the season BEFORE BlizzCon.  Who would let their thunder roar before the big convention?

It seems likely that we’ll get the pre-WoD patch before BlizzCon, which will give some people plenty to chew on as they work through the changes in order to be ready for expansion to drop.  But that is still likely to be out in October at the earliest, and that still leaves us with the window for actual new content somewhere between November 7th and December 20th.

Which is probably going to leave a fair number of people in the odd position of having purchased Warlords of Draenor in advance, yet considering unsubscribing until it actually launches.    How strange is that?

I suspect that, unless Blizzard has something up their sleeve, it is going to be a long summer of declining subscriptions.

That whole Azeroth Choppers thing… that isn’t going to be enough.

 

Civilization – The Center Cannot Hold

The third week of our Friday night Civilization V game saw us all online together, but we were going to have to test something new.  Loghound was with us, but would have to drop out of the game almost immediately to take care of a domestic issue.  From what we had read, the game should allow him to drop out, at which point the AI takes over, and then return to the game.

As Loghound departed I started putting my threatened Drang nach Osten together.  I opened up diplomatic relations with the Mayans, the remaining AI run civilization, and got them to agree to attack Potshot and his Ottoman empire with me after 10 turns.

After the turns had passed, I declared war and launched my forces into the heart of Potshot’s territory with an eye towards taking Istanbul.  The Mayans however, totally reneged on their deal, and everybody else, including the AI running Loghound’s Japanese empire, declared war on me.

War were declared

War were declared

That wasn’t actually as bad as it sounded.  Mattman was on the other side of the Pangea continent, so couldn’t really get to me easily.  I had the same problem getting over there when we destroyed the Mongols last week.  Japan was a bit closer, but didn’t have many troops it could bring to bear, and those that came my way were technologically outdated.  I was rolling out with US Civil War level technology (cavalry, riflemen, and cannon) while Japan was fielding pikemen.

So it was mostly a grapple between Potshot and I.  Like most armies, I found that I did not out number the enemy by the ratios I had hoped, but I was technologically superior.  Potshot’s knights, crossbowmen, and Janissaries wore me down, destroying some of my forces.  But I was able to cut off his capital from the mass of his forces and hold them around Edirne while my guns headed towards his capital.

Battle Opens

Battle Opens

There was a short, sharp battle around Istanbul… once I figured out how the simultaneous turned worked… sort of… there were times when it wouldn’t let me move units that I ought to have been able to… eventually I figured out that persistent double-clicking gets things done…  but I was able to pound it into submission, taking it and renaming it Constantinople.

You can't go back to Istanbul?

You can’t go back to Istanbul?

I was able to push further and take Ankara, just to the south of Constantinople as well as a small city Potshot had dropped on the northern coast of the continent, closest to Berlin of all cities, and in something of a cul de sac.  I marched a small army out to take it and then found I couldn’t really go anywhere from there, so the portion of the army not set to garrison the town had to march back to Berlin and around the mountain range to get to the main front of the war, only to find peace had been declared.

Potshot sued for an end to hostilities and I accepted.  He then did what any nation still possessed of military might but which just lost a war would do; he looked for somebody else to kick the crap out of in order to redeem national pride.  He proposed an alliance with me, which I accepted, and then declared war on Mattman and his Spanish empire.

They began a decades long battle over the former city-state of Almaty.

The Ottomans hold it today...

The Ottomans hold it today…

The battle appeared, from my perspective, to consist mostly of rolling cannons up to each other and blazing away in an all consuming hail of lead.  Losses were staggering.  The city changed hands several times.

About then Loghound got back, was successfully able to rejoin the game, and aside from being at war and finding me picking off his pikeman units one by one, found his empire in better shape than when he left it.  He asked for peace, which I agreed to primarily because our empires were positioned such that coming to grips with each other was going to be a problem.  I think his half-sherpa pikemen spent more than a century getting over the mountains and to my frontier.

Which left me in a similar position as last week, with a war raging far to the east, obscured by fog, and decades away for my troops.  My only real point of contact with Mattman was via a city I dropped on an island towards the end of the last session.  My city shared the island with the city state of Singapore, which was an ally of Mattman’s Spanish.  I figured the city was a lost cause, as it was half way around the world from most of my empire and right on Mattman’s doorstep.

Mattman poured a pile of troops onto the island and I expected to go down fighting in a few turns.  I continued to send supplied to Potshot to keep his war going while starting to build some early armored cruisers in order to keep Mattman away from my coast.

However, the flaw in the “blast ’em” warfare taking place in the south came into focus on the island.  Mattman dropped cannon and Gatling guns, which proceeded to pound my city.  My only unit consisted of riflemen, who would sally out from the city to attack one of his units and then retire to heal up.  While Mattman proceeded to beat down my city defenses, he soon realized that he had not brought along a unit capable of actually capturing a city.

Then my armored cruisers started showing up, sweeping him from the sea like Dewey at Manila Bay and keeping any reinforcements at bay.  I was then able to get some lancers and cannons onto the island and was able to destroy all Spanish forces.  After a bit more build up, I was able to take Singapore, giving me an outpost off of Spain’s northern coast.

Island secured

Island secured

I sent some of my units across to the mainland to scout and pillage, but Mattman had begun building submarines in earnest.  Those were able to intercept most of my troops so my attempt to disrupt his war effort was not successful.

The bloodbath around Almatay meanwhile had sapped Potshot’s martial spirit.  He and Mattman ended their war as the evening was winding down.  That just left Mattman and I skirmishing on the high seas now and again.

My empire, turn 239

My empire, turn 239

We decided to call the game for the night at turn 240.  Amongst the victory conditions we set was a turn limit, so that the person with the highest score will win at turn 330.  That leaves us just 90 turns left to play.  The game could wrap up in the next session.

At the end I was out in front in points, though not by a huge margin.

Score at Turn 240

Score at Turn 240

The contest appears to be between the two coastal powers.  I am on the west coast of Pangea, while Mattman holds the east coast.  Those in between us suffer, and likely will continue to suffer, due to our conflict.  There has been a certain amount of talk about who is going to get what when nukes appear on the scene, though we are a ways off from that.  While I was ahead of the historical curve at one point, with Gatling guns and Riflemen in the late 1600s, we are now at 1940 and are working on 1915 technologies.  We will have to see if we can even get to nukes in the next 90 turns.  But if we do… well… I chose the name of that island city for a reason.

The demographics show Germany holding its own on most fronts.

Turn 240 Demographics

Turn 240 Demographics

I solved my lebensraum problem with my attack into the Ottomans.  My approval rating is sagging, but I have been investing in the order social policies to stem that.  The oppression will continue until happiness increases!

Technologically I believe I still hold a small edge, though Mattman has been deploying units that are up to mine in tech.  Somebody stole one of my technologies during this round.  Oh no!  But the game doesn’t tell you who committed this vile act.  However, it just so happens that Loghound got the achievement for stealing a technology during this session, so I think that mystery has been solved.

As noted, there is a chance we could wrap this up coming Friday.  Then we will have to decide if we give Civilization V another go or not.

I am going to guess that we will play Civ V again.  But what settings will be used the next time around?  There was a suggestion of setting up a game with a lot more AI civs and joining together to destroy them all.  That could work.  And then there is map size and all the fiddly little settings.

The one setting that is going to cause contention though is turn time.  We are currently playing with a 2 minute limit on turns.  Mattman complains about the lack of time to finish his moves every couple of turns.  On the flip side, 90% of the time I am done with my turn inside of 30 seconds and spend the next minute and a half waiting for the turn to end.  I automate a lot of stuff.  So we’re going to have to have that discussion.

But otherwise, the end is in sight for this match, though who will win is still in contention… just not for the civs in the middle.

On the iPad: Hearthstone and QuizUp

It has been a while since I have written an iPad app post.

That is probably because, in the end, I tend to use the iPad to read news and Twitter and to text my wife from the office.  The iPad screen has nice big buttons that I can mostly hit correctly with my big fingers.  So I am still playing DragonVale and Candy Crush Saga in dribs and drabs along with Ticket to Ride. (I am stuck on level 165 of Candy Crush Saga, a level I could easily win… if only I would pay… and I haven’t been able to get DragonVale to even launch in the last few days, so I might be done with that.)

I think there are more apps on the iPad for my daughter than for me at this point.

And then suddenly last week there were two new apps to download.

The first was Hearthstone which, after an exclusive engagement in Australia and New Zealand… presumably because the deserve something first now and again… the iOS version of the game finally showed up in the US iTunes store.  I hadn’t played since the second I got my Hearthsteed a few weeks back… I have more games on my PC than I can possible play already… but the iPad seemed like the right platform.

HearthstoneWhite_450

And given that Hearthstone became a top downloaded app in the store almost immediately, I guess I was not alone in that though.

I was wondering what changes or compromises Blizzard might have to make in order to work with Apple and iTunes.  A lot of smaller devs avail themselves of the Game Center approach, which worried me.  I did not necessarily want another Blizzard account.

But my worry was for naught.  When you bring up Hearthstone on the iPad, you log into your Battle.net account exactly the same way you do on Windows.  That does mean that you need your authenticator to hand when you log in, which makes sense but which also means I won’t be playing Hearthstone on the road.

The real problem was getting it away from my daughter.  Fortunately, with the standard Battle.net login, we could share the device and play on our own accounts.

So, I thought I had the new app to keep me happy when a friend suggested I grab QuizUp.

QuizUp is a trivia game for iOS and Android.  There are dozens and dozens of categories to choose from.  There is a competitive element in that you always take a quiz (all of 7 questions) in competition with another player, so there is a win/lose thing at the end.  And for each quiz you take in a given category, you earn experience (more if you win, but still some if you lose) and level up and earn titles for that category.

Did I mention there are a lot of categories.

So clearly there is something simple but compelling for the achiever in this one as well as the PvPer.

I found it amusing, showed my wife the music categories… where she excels… and then she downloaded it as well.  Now we can challenge each other across the living room.  She kills in music, I am ahead in science fiction, and we are neck and neck in logos.

The nifty thing is that you can challenge somebody and play against them without both of you being live and online at the same time.  You challenge, take the option to go ahead, and do the quiz.  Then when the other person shows up, they take the quiz as well and you get the results.

The killer/tie breaker is that there is a time element to answering the questions.  The longer you take to answer, the fewer points you get for a correct answer.  In random games against strangers, time often fails to be a factor.  But when head to head against somebody who is up on the topic, tapping the right button instantly for the full 20 points can be the difference between winning and losing.

One point difference

One point difference

Which can be annoying when your finger darts out like lightning to tap the correct answer and then, as you smile smugly to yourself on a job well done, you realize that the damn touch screen didn’t register your tap and you’ve lost a couple seconds and now you are going to lose.

I am pretty sure that is what happened in the game above.

Anyway, that was a good start.  And then, just this weekend, a new category opened up:  EVE Online trivia. (Under games, category EVE.  Why not EVE Online? I don’t know.)  And then I spent a bunch of time focused on that, often in competition with Mark726 of EVE Travel, against whom I tied three time running at one point.

Meme abused for QuizUp

Meme abused for QuizUp

It is actually interesting to see when a new category shows up, as people will jump on it just to earn titles and maybe get a world/regional ranking by playing early and often.  The top player in any category gets a “world’s best” rank which, considering you get points for just playing as opposed to playing well… and you can buy a points multiplier, which is how they monetize… lends those titles a dubious air.  But I guess you should reward persistence.

And, of course, as you play a category for a while, you start to see questions repeat.  So if you have the memory for it, you will eventually do well.  But when you first start off, get ready to lose.

You have clearly never played EVE

You have clearly never played EVE Online

I can only play in short bursts, so will never be a contender, but there are people out there who are obsessed… and probably paying money too.

So that has been the iPad focus for the last few days.  If you want to friend me and/or challenge me in QuizUp, my handle is Wilhelm Arcturus.

Know my avatar and background

My avatar and background

I actually had the EVE Online background set before there was an EVE Online category.  Call it being prepared.  And my title is from hitting level 10 in the WWI category.  While I already have two titles from the EVE Online category, the titles suck.  “Nooblar” was the best somebody could come up with?

Now my only question out of this is, why is there no World of Warcraft category on QuizUp?  That seems like a natural!

Of course, if I want WoW on the iPad, I suppose I could go play Hearthstone.