Monthly Archives: May 2014

May in Review

The Site

Let’s talk about spam comments!  Won’t that be fun?

The ratio of spam comments to legitimate comments here has been pretty consistent over the years.

98PercentSpam

 

Yes, 98% of the comments that hit this blog are spam.  (But if 99% of everything is crap, what does that say about half of the legit comments?)  The numbers are ~26 thousand real comments to ~1.2 million spam comments.

When you read that number, 1.2 million, you probably feel sorry for me thinking that I somehow have filtered out all those spam comments on my own.  The mere thought of that  is probably enough to put someone off starting a blog.

But it is not that bad.

Comment spam here is filtered through a Akismet, a WordPress plugin, and it is pretty effective.  For me, comment spam comes in three flavors.

The first is spam that Akismet knows is spam.  I never see any of that.  It just gets disappeared, never to bother me.  Most of the time that represents 90% of the 98%.

The third is spam that completely gets past Akismet.  These end up in the moderation queue and I deal with them individually.  Over the life of the blog there have been 1,318 comments up for moderation which I have had to mark as spam myself.  Not bad out of 1.2 million I suppose.  Legitimate comments, usually in the moderation queue because it is a first time comment from somebody or because Bhagpuss has come up with a new way to spell his name, get cleared and posted to the blog.

And then there is the middle zone, the second flavor, the comments that Akismet believes to be spam, but not with enough certainty to just delete outright.  It keeps than for me in a spam queue so I can review it.  Legitimate comments do sometimes end up in there, 167 in total over the life of the blog.  This is why I try to go through this queue regularly rather than just emptying it.  Most of the time I could safely, but there is on occasion a real comment mixed in.  And there are usually only somewhere between 5 and 30 comments in this queue on any given day, so it is no big deal.

However, for about the last three weeks there had been a change in the balance.  According to Akismet’s stats, there was a big spike in spam in May, but that was because April was unusually low in spam comments.  Otherwise May hasn’t been that out of line with the three months before that for total spam.  And there were months in 2013 that saw as much as three-fold greater numbers of spam comments.

But the spammers must have been re-arming with something new for May, because the middle zone, the spam comment that gets queued up so I can review it has gone up dramatically.  Just today there were 600+ in the queue for me when I got up this morning, and less than eight hours later there are 700+ lurking in the queue.  And I do not appear to be alone in seeing this.

Given the total spam numbers Akismet is showing for May, it appears to be literally putting all spam in the queue for review.

So I have had to change my review process for the time being to just search on the names of a couple of people who comment regularly, but whom get stuck in the spam queue for reasons unknown, and dumping the rest of the queue sight unseen.  And even that has problems.  WordPress craps out about half the time when trying to dump more than a couple hundred spam comments from the queue.  It is annoying.

Anyway, that has been the administrative fun time here this month.  If I missed a comment of yours in the spam queue accidentally, I apologize.

One Year Ago

I celebrated the five year anniversary of a blog.  No, not this one.

EVE Online turned 10 (I even made a movie) and reminded us of its true nature, while DUST 514 finally went live for real.

Somebody was saying that there had only ever been two successful MMOs, EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

I checked up on the Newbie Blogger Initiative to see who survived their first year of blogging.

Camelot Unchained made its Kickstarter goal one day before their campaign ended.   Success at the last minute is still success.

The project code named Titan was rumored to have been pushed out to 2016.  Meanwhile Activision-Blizzard announced that WoW had shed 1.3 million subscribers, dropping to 8.3 million total.  And then there was the problems with the Diablo III economy.  Rough times.

The XBox One was announced.  Or the name was.  I didn’t like it.

I made a chart about the relative natures of MMO economies.  I was also musing about dangerous travel.

We were starting to peek into NeverWinter as a possible game for the instance group, in hopes that we might have a hiatus from our long hiatus.  We also played a bit of Need for Speed: World.

Rift, ostensibly the game the instance group was playing (and which I was still playing a bit of), announced it was going free to play, which made me mutter about revenue models again.

Our EVE Online corp decided to go play some Lord of the Rings Online, and so my relationship with Middle-earth continued and I was quickly in the Lone Lands.

And finally, I wrote a bit about the first computer game I ever played, which lead to some charts about my video gaming timeline.

Five Years Ago

I was able to expose the true conspiracy behind the EuroGamer Darkfall review.  Powerful forces have been suppressing this story ever since.

Meanwhile, EverQuest was celebrating its 10 year anniversary by putting up a new server.  Polled on what it should be, people chose the 51/50 rule set.  I’m sure that, somehow, that say something about MMOs and nostalgia.  And did anybody go play on that new server?  How did it work out?

I went back and played some Blizzard classics, Diablo II and StarCraft, both of which have patches now that mean you do not need the CD to play.  This was prompted by Blizzard’s pushing people towards Battle.net and the announcement of the opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  I opted in right away.  I hear that some people got in to the beta almost a year later. *cough*

In New Eden, it was new ship time, as I picked up both an Orca and a Buzzard.  I also managed to lose my Cerebus.   Oops.

And speaking of EVE Online, it was a year ago that I announced my one year experiment, EVE Online Pictures.  That site is now six years old.

The instance group was moving along slowly.  We did hit Azjol Nerub, but vacations and such kept us down to four people, so we spent a bit of time back in Burning Crusade doing heroics and generally messing around.  That included our run into Ogrimmar to do Ragefire Chasm.

Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.  The site for the game was still there (go Google it, not sure if it is still around) but it still mentions signing up for beta invites.  Casual might refer to the development plan I guess.

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 May

  1. A Consolidation of Empires
  2. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  3. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  4. Is the Learning Cliff EVE’s Biggest Problem These Days?
  5. Worst Sith Ever – Escape from Korriban
  6. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  7. Pantheon: Just Brad has Fallen
  8. Tackling in Syndicate
  9. Quote of the Day – Getting the Dev’s Attention
  10. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  11. Civilization – The Big Map
  12. Pandaria – Jade and Ale

Search Terms of the Month

Unstinting porn galleries
[Totally! Screw those stinting porn galleries!]

did blizzard cancel warlords of draenor?
[No, it is just in a timeline far, far away.]

“oculus rift” “clockwork orange”
[Pretty much Facebook’s plan, I’m sure.]

bio break
[How does that even get you here? It should get you there. Wait, are you using Bing?]

gratuitous linkage
[We love nothing more around here!]

Civilization V

The multiplayer game of Civ V, now on the big map, continues forward.  The couple hours a week that the group plays tends to whet the appetite rather than sate it, so I have been playing more Civ V during the rest of the week.  Single player matches do not really lend themselves to a blog narrative though.  What would I say?  The AI is erratic, the game is bloated and slow, and while I like the game, the way certain mechanics like happiness were handled this time around annoy me.  I think Civ II still might be my favorite.

EVE Online

Lack of a war in null sec would seem to mean lack of things to do… or at least a lack of things to do that  I enjoy.  I enjoy operations that have a mission, a goal.  Sitting on a gate to gank random passers by seems dull by comparison.  Just me, I know.  Lots of people enjoy gate ganks.  Fortunately, there has been no shortage of nightly ops of late, generally to clean up bits of null sec in our area of influence that were infested by NPC null sec players while we were away in the south.  That may eventually wind down though, and then what will happen?  If there is nothing, then boredom will prompt an implosion or two.  That alone can lead to war.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I actually downloaded this and played through the starter zone.  I got up to level 11 and to the next planet.  And then I sort of stopped.  I still log in a bit, but I do not find the game very compelling.  I do not come home aching to log in.  Rather, I log in after I have played some WoW and when there is no op current for EVE.  It isn’t bad, I just don’t find it very engaging as yet, though I have to admit the obligatory voice acting for every quest does wear me down some, even when I space-bar skip through them.  I will give them points for using in-game art assets for that, but the animations look awkward and wooden when used for long stretches of dialog.

World of Warcraft

I have been playing a bit more WoW this month, though mostly solo.  The instance group is heading towards its usual summer hiatus with people going on vacation.  The patch update that brought in more levels for gear got me to get out my level 90 hunter and return to Timeless Isle.  That has been fun.  And the current “double your valor points” buff has a lot of people out and playing.  And it looks like “scenarios with level 90 alts” might be part of the summer plan.  We shall see.  It is still a long way to Draenor from here.

Coming Up

The WildStar head start launched at some point this morning.  Good luck to those who were there for the first moments of the live game.  The timing for the launch seems just about perfect.  It is still month from Warlords of Draenor but just in time to catch those disillusioned with The Elder Scrolls Online.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative new blogger campaign for 2014 is wrapping up.  I barely contributed anything, though I had one more half-done post on the topic of blogging.  I will probably save that for next year.  I will have to post a list of the class of 2014 tomorrow, if I can find a definitive listing, to help spread the word.

I should finish up the Pokemon Y story line… tomorrow.  I tend to play on Sunday afternoon.  Then I will write up what I thought about it.  Lots of good new things, though a few mixed blessings in the bunch.

And somewhere in the not too distant future looms a Steam Summer Sale.  What else could I possibly need though?

 

EA Puts a Bullet in Mythic Entertainment

Mythic Entertainment, developers of Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online, joins the ranks of some other famed developers acquired by EA, such as Kesmai, Westwood Studios, and Origin Systems, in being shut down.

MythicLogo

I have, over the years, written my share about various MMOs coming and going, including the demise of Mythic’s own Warhammer Online.  But a studio being zeroed out, at least one that still has an MMO running and being updated, is a tale much more rare.  Of course, given EA’s past actions, the closure of Warhammer Online back in December, and the general revulsion over the nature of the studio’s final project, the despised mobile platform Dungeon Keeper reboot, this move was probably a surprise to few.

Mythic Entertainment is survived by its creation, Dark Age of Camelot, which was announced back in February would be maintained, along with Ultima Online, under contract by an independent studio, Broadsword.

Broadsword!

Broadsword!

Mark Jacobs, the founder of Mythic, has since started up a new studio, City State Entertainment, which just last year funded its Camelot Unchained MMO project through Kickstarter and, more recently, added Brian “Pyschochild” Green to its ranks.  That makes Brian’s We all need Camelot Unchained to Succeed post from last year all the more poetic I suppose.

I hope those left at what remained of Mythic find their way to new opportunities soon.

Addendum: Words from Mark Jacobs about the closure.

Civilization – The Siege of Madrid

We setup our game for the usual time.  Loghound, who had faced a trying week, was uncertain if and when he might be able to get on with us, but since the AI will keep the game going in the absence of individuals, we kicked off at our usual time.

Potshot, Mattman, and I were all online and in the Google hangout.  Potshot started up the game and sent invites out for us to join.  I hopped right in the game and clicked the “ready” check box.  An odd aside, the ready control never works the first time I click it.  It selects and unselects on the first click, but then works correctly thereafter.  No idea why.  But while I was doing that, Mattman was having some issues.

He was trying out Civ V on a laptop… an older pre-Lenovo logo, IBM ThinkPad laptop… in hopes of being able to join in on games while he is traveling for the next couple of sessions.

I remember my old ThinkPad T42 quite fondly.  It was one of the nicer laptops I have been issued over the years.  I miss having a 4:3 aspect ratio screen, as I tend to work on things that lend themselves well to lots of vertical space, but do not benefit much from a wider screen. But considering the IBM logo disappeared from the ThinkPad line at some point in 2007, and that Civilization games are traditionally tough on the generation of processors current when they ship (Civ V can bring my quad-core i7 to its knees when it feels like it), this seemed like it might be an exercise in the purest form of optimism.

While Mattman struggled to get Civ V loaded, Potshot and I started off the nights game, picking up at turn 301.

I started off the evening with one simple goal.  I was going to break my isolation and come into contact with all of the other civs in the game.  That would open up trade and diplomatic possibilities as well as filling out the “unmet player” spots on the scoreboard.  There were still six civs with whom I had yet to come into contact according to the scoreboard at the end of last week’s round.

r2wk3turn300score

My hope was, with research leading to the compass, which would give me the caravel unit, the first ship that doesn’t need to stick to a coast line, that I would be able to sail out and find everybody else.  Scouts were not working out, as I had them mostly deployed to keep the barbarians at bay.  And the few I let go explore inevitably ran into more barbarians.

More after the cut.

Continue reading

The Prospects for Action this Summer

It’s entertaining how people who vow to destroy us somehow feel entitled to ‘content’ from us…

-The Mittani, comment on the Cold War CEO Update

The current Goonswarm Federation CEO update, which also stands in for an update for the CFC, says there will be no summer war.

But there is always a summer war, right?  I am not sure why.  You would think some of us would go on vacation.  Instead, when school is out, wars flare up, and I don’t think it is just because of DBRB alone. (Didn’t I hear he graduate recently?)  So summer tends to be a campaign season.

The thing is that wars, big wars, wars over sovereignty in null sec, tend to go badly in the end for those opposing the CFC, at least during the last two and a half years I have been in the coalition. (That is correlation, not causation.)  When a sov grind is at hand, we win.

Go ask the remains of White Noise, or Raiden, or TEST how things went for them.  But don’t bother looking for them on the sovereignty map.

White Noise in Branch

White Noise in Branch

As for those left on the map, ask Northern Coalition why they no longer live in the north.  Or ask Nulli Secunda about their time in low sec. (Though they did bounce back from that.)  Or ask Pandemic Legion about what happened to a quarter of their titan fleet back in January or about the B0RTlord agreement.  You can say the CFC is bad at EVE, but we seem to win a lot.

So nobody is going to come get us and try and take our space.

And we are already spread out enough that we aren’t exactly dying for some more sovereignty to hold.

So unless there are plots afoot… and for all I know, there may very well be plots afoot, since none of the few remaining players in null sec are dumb enough to telegraph their intentions in advance… the prospect for a summer war sovereignty war seems to be pretty small.

Which is, of course, an issue.  The problem with The Mittani’s statement at the top is that it cuts both ways.  While he was responding to somebody who wanted to know why the CFC wouldn’t play ball in such a way to ensure the elusive “good fights,” it is still incumbent upon him and the leadership of the CFC to provide content for its members.  I wrote previously that the CFC is a coalition of the willing in large part because the leadership provides content… wars and conquest and victory… and perks to the membership.  Owning all that space doesn’t get people into fleets.  The possibility of battles does.

So what will we do this summer?

I have been lucky so far this month.  Black Legion, no longer on the CFC payroll, has been reinforcing towers and running around Pure Blind from their base in X-7OMU.  So, rather conveniently for me, every evening in my time zone there seems to be a fleet op under Reagalan to go defend a tower, or shoot a tower, or otherwise try to tangle with Black Legion.  The rumor early on in the month was that Black Legion was itself facing some sort of crises of content, as Elo Knight can only get people to log in and be active if there are people to shoot regularly.  So Black Legion keeps coming out to play on the same schedule.

I haven’t been there for any big fights… except for the trap at Daras… but have been around enough to get on a few kill mails when I haven’t been flying logistics.  It has been a good time to get used to flying the Guardian, with its cap chain requirements and such.  Otherwise we nibble at each other most nights, catching the sloppy or unlucky, while we warp around this system or that.  Occasionally somebody makes a mistake and one side gets a clean shot at the other, but mostly it is marching and counter marching to gain some measure of advantage, almost like Wellington during parts of the peninsular campaign.  Most nights there hasn’t been much to write home about, so I haven’t even put together a post about those ops yet. (Tentative title: The Same Thing We Do Every Night Pinky; Shoot Black Legion!)  But they keep coming up.

How long Black Legion will provide a distraction I do not know.  They do persist, and I suppose they have nowhere else to go.

Another option seems to be Providence.  Much is being written about that as the place to be for content this summer.  And a region is certainly a big enough place for a small war of entertainment.  But if you start pulling in the three big players from imperial null sec, the ante tends to go up.  “Good fights” rarely trumps “playing to win,” and those with masses of capital ships and super capitals will tend to use them if that is what needs to be done to win.  N3 and PL are already deployed down there, and while there has been no official CFC-wide deployment to the region, some groups have been flying down there looking for fights.  What happens if all three of the big groups deployed in the region is an open question.  Does it automatically have to escalate to capitals?  If the elephants jump in the pool, will we push out all the water… and the fun with it?

And that looks like about it.  Nothing like last year’s war in Fountain… some of the best entertainment ever… seems to be in the offing.

What other options are out there for the imperial coalitions this summer?

 

Memorial Day 2014

Aftermath

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

Siegfried Sassoon, 1886-1967

 

Last Day for A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online

As I write this there are less than 24 hours left in the Kickstarter for the planned book A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online.

Age of Rentals - May 18, 2014

Age of Rental Empires – May 2014

There is little danger that the Kickstarter will not fund.  As it stands now, the campaign has brought in nearly seven times the initial asking amount of $12,500.  That was enough to add a hardcover option on top of the digital and softcover editions that were initially announced.

But time is running out if you want in.  There is always the possibility that there will be a way to get a copy later, but there is no mass market appeal for such a book.  It is likely to be a special, one-off run and not something you’ll see on Amazon or at your local book store… should you still have a local book store.

So if you want a copy, time is running out.  The Kickstarter campaign ends tomorrow, May 25, at 8:51am PDT, or 15:15 UTC / EVE Online time.

Addendum:  You can still order a copy by going to the EVE History site.

Is the Learning Cliff EVE’s Biggest Problem These Days?

This picture is pretty much a staple of MMORPG lore now.

Learning Curves

Learning Curves

The objective is to show how insanely hard/deep EVE Online is compared to the standard MMORPGs.  There are many things you can do in EVE, many career paths which you can follow, but the game is quite miserly in doling out information about them.  The learning cliff was the biggest obstacle I faced back when I started playing, which was almost 8 years ago at this point.

At EVE Fanfest this year, CCP had a panel on the new player experience (video here) in which they trotted out some depressing figures, represented by this chart (which is discussed in the video at the 16 minute mark for about two and a half minutes).

New Player Trajectory

New Player Trajectory

Basically, of new players who subscribe… which means that they got past the trial account period and actually paid money… half of them leave by the time their first subscription period runs out.  After putting down money, they decide the game isn’t for them and they are gone.

Another large chunk goes on into mission running or mining and never goes any further.  That is certainly where the current new player experience pushes you.  That is the route I took way back when I started playing EVE, two or three new player experiences ago. (The tutorial was a lot less smooth back then.)  It is basically the closest EVE has to a standard MMORPG progression path.

But as with leveling in games like WoW, there is a limit to it.  You end up the master of level 4 missions or you earn and skill yourself up to mining in a Hulk… or I guess a Mackinaw these days… and there isn’t much more to do other than grind rep with specific factions, make ISK, and do the same thing over and over again.  So those people tend to end up leaving as well.

And then there is the small group, described as 5-10% of players who pay/subscribe, who end up beyond missions and mining.  They engage in more of the wide range of activities that make up EVE Online, get involved in PvP, appear on kill mails, and stay with the game for a long time.

Clearly, if you have a game whose revenue benefits most from retaining subscribers for the long term, this chart represents a problem.

CCP’s response in the video is to try to get the new player experience to push people into areas of the game that have high retention rates.  I might ask if people stay longer because they do those things, or do they do those things because they stay longer, but I’ll allow for the moment that CCP has data that drives their assumption.

There is a not insubstantial number of players out there who look at that chart and say, “Well, duh!  Provide a richer (and safer) PvE experience!”  To make money, give people what they want.

That can lead to a more philosophical discussion.  CCP clearly has a goal and a vision for EVE Online.  Does altering that vision, which appeals to a good number of their long term subscribers, to chase another demographic make sense?  That sort of thing has blown up in developer faces in the past with things like the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies or Trammel in Ultima Online.

And that still leaves the biggest group, the 50% of players who just walk away without even getting into missions or mining, a group that I would guess is actually vastly under represented in that chart.

A reader dropped me a note that, among other things, pointed out that the chart above doesn’t address people who download and play the trial, made it through the tutorial, and then never subscribed.  We don’t have any data on that, but I would guess that if you included those people in the chart, people who invested enough time to get through the tutorial, that 50% number would grow substantially.

Now, why they dropped the game is unknown.  There are a few possible reasons, including the incomprehensible UI.  But the same reader also included what he went through with the new player experience:

I started working my way through the industrial tutorials…and about halfway through you need to gather resources from within the system, but it isn’t your own private patch of asteroids.  This is a basic function, and I’m fine with it.  The problem is, while tooling around the system in which the tutorials are offered, I get harrassed and threatened by no less than 3 different players over the course of two hours, stating I need a permit to mine there…threatening to blow me out of space…demanding an insane amount of ISK from someone who’s spent a total of 3 or 4 hours in game…and finally threatening to report me as a bot if I don’t pay up and get out.

A few people got angry at me the other day because I mentioned that a player (actually two) on his first day in the game was out in a fleet with us and tackling hostiles.  I was accused of putting forth an anecdotal fallacy, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t arguing that their experiences were typical for new players in the game, misunderstanding… perhaps deliberately… the difference between capability and opportunity.  That it is possible speaks well for EVE.  That such opportunities can be difficult to find does not.

The quote above is also an anecdote, yet I will guess that the very same people who cried “fallacy” a few days back won’t do so again.  It fits their narrative about bad people in EVE.  And there are certainly bad people in EVE.  I don’t think CCP changing their ad campaign from “Be the Villain” to “Be the Hero/Villain” will alter that. (Nor do I think the “Be the Villain” campaign changed the game in any noticeable way in any case.)  To use the tale above as evidence of widespread bad behavior would be a fallacy.

But I will go back to capability and opportunity.

You can assert that some new players may not have the opportunity to get their legs and discover good aspects of the game before the harsh realities come and find them.  More concerning is that “bad” people, for lack of a better term, have to capability of going after new players while they are still getting their first impression of the game.  When you get a PvP game where the established players start thinking that going after the new players in the starting zone is good sport, and the devs do nothing about it, the writing is on the wall.

So I want to know more about that 50% on the chart above.  Because if new players can’t make it out of the tutorial without facing that sort of thing, if they think the player base sucks before they have had a chance to discover the game, then the writing is on the wall for EVE and all the “HTFU” in the world won’t bring it back.

You can argue about what CCP should do about it.  I am sure suggestions will range from putting the tutorials in their own instanced space… though you still have to enter the real game at some point… to making high sec space PvP free… a complete departure from CCP’s philosophy and something in the NGE range of options.  But if new players are important to the game… and they are… then CCP needs to look at that 50% who just leave and why they go.

Timeless Isle, Busy Isle

As we continue to travel the long road to Draenor, which leads to a point somewhere beyond the summer, I have stumbled a bit.  I had a couple of weeks where logging in seemed like a chore, as I had no real goals other than a few faction grinds.  Still, I kept going in little chunks of time.  I managed to get exalted with the last “easy” faction in Pandaria.

AugCelAchi

“Easy” defined as I figured out how I could get there without committing to long play sessions.  In this case, I got there entirely by doing the daily farming quest for them.  8 striped melons a day for… well… a lot of days.  But I was also harvesting trillium on the other 8 plots, refining that, and making living steel to sell at the auction house mid-week, when the price is high, so as to collect some gold reserves for things like… the 7,000 gold August Celestials cloud serpent mount.

Meanwhile, Gaff and one of his friends who joined the guild were hitting 90 with some characters and were starting to do things like Timeless Isle.  So I got out my hunter and started working on that with them.  It also gave me a reasonable short term goal, which was to save up the 20K Timeless coins required to get the Featherdraw Longbow, which represented a serious upgrade for my hunter.

I kept up on that path, either with them or solo for a bit.  Solo was interesting as my hunter had no problem taking down the elites around the island, even when he was only about half equipped with Timeless Isle drops.  I compare this to my retribution paladin, whose average gear score is something like 530 now due to a couple of nice drops from Siege of Orgrimmar LFR, and with whom I can barely solo any  of the level 90 elites… forget about level 91 or 92… and even then I have to lay hands half the time, even though he puts out considerably more DPS than the hunter.  I am bad at WoW.  Or maybe just bad at melee.  I’ll have to get my insta-90 Death Knight out there to see how I do with him I guess.

Anyway, I managed to wrap up my quest for the new bow on Monday night.  It was easy.  Timeless Isle was practically deserted on my server.  I was able to complete the “kill 20 elites” quest at a leisurely pace and was able to make it to rares because people needed to wait to get enough players to make a go of Houlon and the like.

And then patch 5.4.8 dropped.

The full patch notes are here, but there were two key items related to Timeless Isle:

All upgradable epic quality items introduced in Patch 5.4 (items found in Siege of Orgrimmar and Timeless Isle) are now eligible to be upgraded an additional 2 times for a total increase of 16 item levels.

So upgradable purples, such as my brand new bow, now have four upgrades instead of two.  You upgrade items with valor points, the price being 250 valor points per upgrade.  There are all sorts of ways to earn valor points, from daily quests to the brawlers guild to raiding and beyond.

Oh, and patch 5.4.8 added one more way to earn valor points:

Mistweaver Ai on the Timeless Isle next to the Celestial Court now sells a token called Deeds of Valor for 3000 Timeless Coins. When used, Deeds of Valor grants 100 Valor Points to the character, up to the 1000 Valor Point maximum per week.

So you can convert your Timeless coins into valor points at a vendor on Timeless Isle.

Apparently this rang some sort of bell for anybody with equipment to upgrade, including other bloggers.  When I wandered back to Timeless Isle after the patch, the place was suddenly overrun with people.  It was like locust had descended on the isle.  Elites were being popped as soon as they spawned.  Rares were mobbed immediately.

On the flip side, the isle felt much more alive and players were reacting pragmatically to the situation with groups being formed up to share elite for the daily quest and such.  I was invited to a couple of such groups and it worked out quite nicely.

So I have to hand it to Blizzard for revitalizing some content, even if only temporarily.  I am sure things will level out a bit after the initial rush has passed and eventually taper off once people get their equipment fully upgraded again.

I wonder if the LFR queue has been sped up by this change?  I wouldn’t mind pushing my hunter through Siege of Orgrimmar for a few valor points and the chance for an item upgrade or two.  Plus it might be nice to stand back as ranged DPS and actually see the fights.

 

Civilization – Thoughts on a Wider Multiplayer Game

Nearly every time I put up a post about our ongoing Civilization V game, I get a note from somebody wanting to join in.  I have, I hope politely, declined to add people to our game, it being made up of a group of Potshot’s long-standing friends.  I went to high school with him back in the dark ages, while Mattman and Loghound were college roommates of his during the time when you could sit down, read pretty much all of Usenet that interested you with your morning coffee and feel like there wasn’t much there.  So it is a bit of a special group of cranky old guys who can all pick on Potshot equally.

Still, there is clearly some interest in multiplayer Civilization V out there.  So I was playing with the idea of how to set up a game that readers and fellow bloggers could join.  Our own closed game has shown that players can jump in and out of a game, with the AI holding down the fort, pretty well.  So it seems like maybe one could create a semi-open regular game that people wander into if they so desired.

So I started on a plan, on which I hope people will comment.  The plan so far:

  • Find somebody to host the game at a regular weekly interval for 2-3 hours.  It doesn’t have to be me, but to keep continuity it probably should be the same person over the course of the match.
  • Find people interested in playing, get all linked up on Steam.
  • Decide on game version and parameters
  • Actually bring it all together
  • Profit… or play… or something

There are clearly some holes in that plan.  Basically, in my mind’s eye, I see one person will launching the game every week, inviting players who are online and ping him via Steam chat, them dropping into the open slots, and the game running… adding late comers if there is room… until the time slot is up, at which point there will be a save which will be used to start the game the following week.

Comedy will no doubt ensue when it comes to picking game parameters, picking a time slot, picking a day of the week, what the AI does with civs when people are away, people not getting the same civ every game, the game being full, timer impatience, client crashes, connection issues, that guy trying to join in on his laptop using WiFi at the Starbucks in Tierra del Fuego, and the usual disparity of skill level when playing against real people.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Oh, and nuclear terror…

But aside from that, what could go wrong?

Anyway, I am looking for input on this idea.  Is it viable?  Should we try?

Oh, and most importantly, we need to call this something.  I have tentatively tagged the post “Summer Civilization,” but am not totally invested in the name.