Monthly Archives: December 2014

Back from Operations in Querious

Another deployment behind enemy lines has wrapped up.  This was our fourth deployment.  Previously we have been down in Insmother, Feythabolis, and Omist, the heartland of N3’s rental empire.  This time we moved to the southwest, to Querious.

Deployments so far

Deployments so far

(Somewhat out of date map from the usual source.)

This deployment was different from the last three.  While successful, those were really practice  runs to validate the doctrine and get used to living rough in the field behind enemy lines.  This time we had a serious operational objective, which was to force NCDot and friends to divert resources from its “invasion” of Fountain.

This was back when the CFC was in trouble, being besieged from Delve and Venal.  We were not going to be able to fight a two front war.

Only we did.  And we opened up a third front along the way, as the Reavers went out to shoot up unguarded infrastructure.

This deployment was also different in that we did not live rough, setting up a POS in the middle of hostile territory.  Because of the the way space is laid out in the southwest, we were able to get a room at the Royal Khanid Inn and Suites in a corner of Amarr high sec space to use as our staging base.

Royal Khanid offers HBO in every room

Royal Khanid offers HBO in all Captain’s Quarters

This gave us a few of advantages.  This gave us a safe haven to work from, like the Taliban in Pakistan.  It made resupply very easy as Amarr, the second biggest trade hub in New Eden, was fairly close and the Marmite Collective’s camp of Amarr was asleep at the switch, letting us wander in to buy things repeatedly.  Ships could be put up on contract to replace losses.  And death clones could be set to the station, thus removing the “I died and am now on the other side of the galaxy” problem with previous deployments.

It also meant that getting out there was easy for me.  My computer was down when we initially deployed, but I had a jump clone handy in Amarr, so was able scoot on down on my own without any drama and buy a ship from contract.

Finally, it also meant that we could jump clone back to other fronts if we wanted to.  I switched up and split my time between Reaver ops and flying on some operations in south Fountain, including the final push that removed NCDot’s foothold in the region.

NCDot was trying to deal with us in Querious with minimal forces for a while.  We would shoot up their SBUs, drop our own, and go away.  They would then return and shoot our SBUs and drop their own back.  A few times we got into later timers, shooting infrastructure hubs and even station services, but the idea wasn’t to take systems, it was to make them pay attention to us, something they really started to do after we killed four super carriers, which had been involved in the regular SBU shooting ping pong match, one night.

NCDot had given up on Fountain by that point, but after that they started showing up in force to oppose us.  They moved their super capital fleet back to F2OY-X and started forming Tengu fleets against us, obliterating us a couple of times. (ouch, 9 logi were not going to cut it) With that our ability to cause them pain with little effort ended, but it also meant our job was done.  The enemy had given up on their offensive as we reduced them to chasing our Ishtars around their own territory.

Shiny post-Rhea Ishtar

Shiny post-Rhea Ishtar

There were a couple of other attempts at operations.  Asher Elias handed out Crucifier frigates to all of us, with a plan for us to zip out to B-R5RB so we could be there when The Initiative took it back.  Site of the great titan battle back in January, it was taken back from NCDot this past weekend.  I still have a jump clone and the Dominix I flew during the fight holed up there, maybe I can get them out safely now… or at least put the Domi up for sale.

B-R5RB ownership swaps in 2014

B-R5RB ownership swaps in 2014

In one of those moments where you realize that the same names have been around for a while, further down the list it shows that The Initiative owned B-R5RB July 2009 until January 2011.

Unfortunately, as we were burning across space to get to B-R5RB, we hit an Against All Authorities gate camp in Catch that killed enough of us to break up the fun.  I was one of those who got blown up and podded.  But, having happened after the Rhea expansion dropped, the whole thing was an ISK-free adventure.  Asher gave me the ship and clone upgrades are a thing of the past.  I should go die more often in frigates.

We tried another Crucifier op later that evening, reshipping in Amarr again.  We were going to be one prong in a great DBRB trap, however the prey sensed something was wrong and fled, leaving us flying around low sec looking for something to do.

Crucifiers faffing about waiting for a target

Crucifiers faffing about waiting for a target

And that was about it for the deployment.  I flew my Crucifier straight back to Deklein from our last operation, where it will likely sit in a hangar with the rest of my “no longer or never were a fleet doctrine” ships.  So many Maelstroms, Megathrons, Apocalypses, and Drakes… oh the Drakes.  I’m going to start bringing Drakes on ops, I swear.

Now we are in something of a down period.  NCDot has other troubles so Fountain is off their agenda, Black Legion decided more fun was to be had teaming up with Brave Newbies to joust with Pandemic Legion in the south, Triumvirate, if I heard this right, apparently got dunked so hard that they issued a DCMA request to pull down a video of the fight (though, to be fair, I only know what I saw on Twitter and The Meta Show), leaving us with nobody except Mordu’s Angels as a regular foe in the north, and there is a CFC group camping them in 5ZXX-K, which is just a few jumps from our staging system.

Time to go out and earn some ISK.  Once a lot of people are on a holiday break, things are likely to heat up again.

How to Succeed in Norrath Without Really Trying

Be patient? Don’t you realize I’ve been working here… well, two whole hours now?

-J. Pierpont Finch

As I mentioned last week, the 10 year EverQuest II anniversary has stoked a bit of nostalgia for the old game in me.  It was one of my choices to install after the big drive disaster.

So there it is, installed.  It is also free to play, so I need not even get out my credit card in order to return to post-cataclysm Norrath.  I can jump right in.

And yet I am wary of an uninformed jump back into the game.  There is a history here.  I have a rather large slate of characters sitting in the 48-60 level range.  From launch through each return to the game, I have found myself stalled there.

At one point, of course, that range was, or was at least close to, the level cap.  But as the years have gone by and one expansion has lead to another, the cap has crept further and further away, sitting now at 100.

I have taken a number of runs at the game at various points in its history, and I always get bogged down in the same spot.  I am good through the classic content for the most part, which gets you to about level 50, I am okay with the content from the Desert of Flames, which will get you close to 60, but after that I just fall flat.

In the Pillars of Flame

In the Pillars of Flame

Kingdom of Sky content has never clicked with me, while Echoes of Faydwer, the expansion that revived the early game for many, just runs down at about the same point.  I get lost, the quests get scattered all over, and momentum dies.  There is also some content in The Fallen Dynasty area as well, but as with EoF, I always seem to end up at a dead end, lost and forgotten.

The map of place, most below my level now...

The map of place, most below my level now…

Basically, I am good with the 2004 content and the 2005 content, but once I get to 2006 content I fall of the horse and never get back on again.  And I would kind of like to see some more recent content in Norrath.

Yes, there is an easy out for that.  I could take up SOE’s offer and just boost a character straight to level 85.  I already used their freebie offer on a whim, but the cost is only 3,500 SC, and I have 10K sitting around… still.  I could boost one of my old favorites.  That would gear them up and push them right into content from 2010.  Sentinel’s Fate raised the cap to 90.

The problem is that while I want to get past the content that has stood as a barrier to me for so long, I am also interested in playing through the content just on the other side of the, the Rise of Kunark expansion.

I think that might be the last expansion I purchased for EQII.  I would like to play through it at level, which means playing to it.

So I need a plan.

I have a character picked out.  My berserker Sigwerd, on the Freeport server.

Sigwerd in New Halas

Sigwerd in New Halas

He is level 60 at the moment.  He is wearing the full set of cobalt armor that I made him back… when was that when we actually played this game last? 2011?  That will serve him for a couple more levels, but at 62 he will have to completely refit because… does gear in EQII completely lose value still when it is 10 levels down?  Anyway, I’ll need to find a pile of xenogite to make a new suit soon.  Berserkers are… or used to be… crazy good for beating on stuff.  He has a healing mercenary if he needs it.  I should be set, I just need to plot a course.

SOE is helping to narrow things down for me by removing experience from Dungeon Maker this week… today, actually… so that will no longer be an option.  Another system SOE invested in and then abandoned, or at least turned into something akin to second tier housing.

Surrounded in a farming dungeon

Surrounded in a farming dungeon

Though, honestly, if my only option was to do Dungeon Maker for 10 levels I would probably just quit right now, so that being removed isn’t going to change anything for me.

SOE is also helping me out by changing how Alternate Advancement points are earned.  Going forward you will be granted AA points as you level up, so I can leave the experience slider set to 100% for adventure and 0% for AA… if I subscribe.  Which I think I will, since that gives you a small experience boost and removes what Bhagpuss described as something of a tax on free players, with half your exp being siphoned off into an unnecessary pool.

So with that set, should I just try to plow through some combo of paths through Kingdom of Sky, the Loping Planes, and the Isle of Shin?  All of those have defeated me before.

Should I try to press into some of the open dungeon areas, like New Tunaria, with my healer in tow and make my way on heroic mobs?

New Tunarians were not happy to see me...

New Tunarians were not happy to see me…

Or is there another path through to 70?  I still have every single experience boost potion SOE ever granted me as a veteran reward.  I could use those to speed things up and ease the pain, though I hate to drink too many at what is now the mid-levels of the game, as I understand the experience curve spikes up sharply later on.

But then, my goal isn’t necessarily to get to 100 so much as it is to get into some of the newer content.

Where would you head in my place?

Reviewing my Predictions for 2014

Here we are, racing towards yet another new year.  We have gotten into the holidays, a mass of releases and updates have hit so far during November and December, and even another Steam Holiday sale has come and gone.  That was their Holiday sale, right?

It is about time to look back to January and a list of half-ass predictions, most of which I pulled out of… well… my ass.

DruidWoW2014_450pxYou can find the full predictions post here, along with reactions to what I predicted in the comments.  I am not going to quote all of it here, but I will try to get most of the relevant bits in.

I – Ship Dates

When I figured things might land.  10 points each with 2 points removed for each week I was off, plus 10 extra points if any of the names I came up with were used.  None were.

  • Hearthstone – April 1 –  Actual: April 16, 6 points
  • The Elder Scrolls Online – April 22 – Actual: April 4, 4 points
  • EVE Online 2014 expansions – (working names Excursions and Magellan) May 13 & November 18 – Actual: They changed their whole expansion method, and didn’t use my names, 0 points
  • WildStar – June 10 – Actual: June 3, 8 points
  • Warlords of Draenor – September 9 – Actual: November 14, 0 points… but I was a lot closer than most back in January!
  • EverQuest Landmark – October 15 – Actual: Despite being called beta, this is still pre-alpha development and nowhere near live, 0 points
  • StarCraft: Legacy of the Void – October 15 – Actual: Ha ha, is Blizzard ever going to ship this?  0 points
  • EverQuest II expansion #10 (working name Cheese of the Ratonga) – November 4 – Actual: November 25, 4 points
  • LEGO Minifigures Online – November 4 – Actual: October 1, 2 points
  • EverQuest expansion #21 (working name Return of Lady Vox) – November 25 – Actual: November 11, 6 points

Point total: 30 out of 100, no bonus points

II – Missed Dates

Project I said would not ship in 2014, and by ship I mean live, no “beta” tag, real and honest to goodness shipped.  10 points for each, pass/fail.

  • EverQuest Next
  • Heroes of the Storm
  • Line of Defense
  • Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  • World of Warships

Not one went live.  Hell, EverQuest Next isn’t even a bare-bones pre-alpha yet.  I’ll be putting that one in the 2016 basket going forward.  The rest… it was not unreasonable to expect them  Shroud of the Avatar, as an example, listed October 2014 in its Kickstarter.

Point total: 50 out of 50

III – Changes, Offers, and Upsets

Predictions about things that would come to pass in 2014.  Each is worth 10 points, with partial credit for things that are close.

  • World of Warcraft will report a small boost in subscriptions for Q4 2013 based on BlizzCon and Warlords of Draenor.  Subs will then resume a slow down trend until the expansion ships.

Mostly right.  There was a surge at the end of the third quarter that seemed to buck that trend.  Three out of four quarters right though, 7 points.

  • Blizzard will announce that WoW subscribers will get special benefits in Hearthstone.

Well, we got a mount for playing.  I am giving myself half credit on that.  5 points.

  • Blizzard’s World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary gift will be a mount for those subscribers who log in during the right time frame.

No, it is only another pet.  The whole mount/chopper thing was another gig, and I am not all that happy on that front.  0 points.

  • Blizzard’s insta-90 option will be available as a service for $35 by December of 2014.

The service is available… remember, it wasn’t even a thing in January… but the price is $60.  5 points.

  • SOE’s naming decision with EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark will come back to haunt them with some headline grabbing rage as people outside of the hardcore fan circles download Landmark and discover that this was not the game they were expecting.  One (or both) of the products will end up with a new name.

Oh, hey, EverQuest Next Landmark is now just Landmark.  Not a completely new name, but enough for 3 points I think.

  • ArenaNet will slow down their continuous content update plan and announce they are working on an expansion for GuildWars 2.  Off the record, Anet will report that their master’s in Seoul demanded this.

It isn’t clear to me where this is headed.  There was a cut back on the living story for a bit, but now that is back.  On the other hand, there is also something more than a rumor about Anet working on an expansion for 2015.  0 points.

  • WildStar will be off to the races with a smooth launch and a huge initial spike, but it will fall into the dread “three monther” category as subscriptions will trail off dramatically.

This wasn’t really a stretch, but it feels like WildStar dumped hard on the subscriber front, with the usual NCsoft treatment; big layoffs.  How long until the second NCsoft shoe drops and it gets cancelled?  10 points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will have a rocky launch, starting with a delay for the PC side of the house.  But the game will manage to capture enough of the Elder Scrolls franchise to sustain the game, making it one of the rare recent MMORPGs, one that doesn’t peak in the first month and go downhill from there.

Yeah, shipped on time, things were a bit rocky, but subscribers seem to have faded as well.  0 points.

  • WildStar will announce plans to move to a free to play model before the end of the year.

Hasn’t happened… yet.  But clearly there is talk and rumor of problems and low subscription numbers.  The real question will probably end up being will NCsoft allow them to change business model… possibly good money after bad in the eyes of Seoul… pare them back to profitability, or just put a bullet in them in 2015?  0 points for me.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will not budge on to the monthly subscription model in 2013.

Well, at least I won on that.  I suspect that no major change will come to their business model until the console versions ship… some day.  10 points.

  • Turbine will remove the 500 Turbine Points per month stipend from Lifetime subscriber accounts in Lord of the Rings Online.

They actually did not do this.  The future of the game is dim as Turbine tries to jump on yesterday’s bandwagon (MOBAs) looking for a cash cow, but they left us lifetime subscribers alone.  0 points.

  • Turbine’s Gift of the Valar insta-level option will be revised after the trial run.  The new version, with a new name, will boost players at least 10 additional levels and include all of the pre-Helm’s Deep expansions.

Nope.  Once Turbine comes up with a half-assed idea, they stick with it.  0 points.

  • With no support/budget for any raise in the level cap featuring fully voiced content, Star Wars: The Old Republic will follow on the Galactic Starfighter mini-game with more of the same.  First up will be Droid Battles.  Somewhat akin to Pokemon and WoW Pet Battles, to which it will be immediately compared, it will be far more focused on upgrading parts and abilities on a small set of droid models.  Cosmetic options for droids, as well as special models, will be the cash shop aspect of this feature.

Again, no biscuit.  SWTOR even got a level cap increase, which I guess means more fully voiced content.  I still think the Droid Battles is a great idea though.  0 points.

  • CCP will announce new areas of space to explore, as they have hinted at since Rubicon.  The new areas will be a cross between null sec and wormhole space.  Local chat will work like W-space and there won’t be any sovereignty.  You get to keep the space you can hold.  But there will be none of the mucking about with wormhole stability.  Jump gates will be the mode of travel.  And this new area of space will be just our of capital ship jump range.

You know, I was almost on to something with this, compared with what Rhea ended up giving us.  Maybe a little something for the effort?  2 points?

  • CCP will severely restrict drone assist in 2014.  However, it will be done in typical CCP fashion and will pretty much break drones for all purposes until they do a big drone revamp as part of the second 2014 expansion.

They nerfed drone assist, but they did it in the other typical CCP fashion and put a quick band-aid on it then walked away while various devs denied it was them who touched it last.  5 points.

  • Funcom will finally have an unequivocal success with the launch of LEGO Minifigures Online.

Erm… I couldn’t tell you really, which I guess means no.  Plus, the usual “failed to meet expectations” talk from them.  Couldn’t even win with LEGO.  0 points.

  • The inevitable rough ride for Chris Roberts will come when Star Citizen needs to start generating revenue beyond the donations of the faithful and features begin to get trimmed down to a more realistic target.  It doesn’t mean that the game(s) won’t be good, but they won’t be everything ever promised by Chris Roberts.  That will make a few big spenders rage.

Nope, Chris Roberts is still out there selling the full on dream that Star Citizen will be everything any fan boy has ever projected on the title, with the addition of space bonsai.  Granted, it helps that nothing substantial has shipped, just a couple of teaser modules.  0 points.

  • The Brad McQuaid “challenging epic planar high fantasy” Kickstarter won’t fund if he asks for more than $500,000.  I just don’t think he has the reputation/following of Mark Jacobs or Lord British.

Pretty much on the money.  If he had asked for $500K he would have made it.  10 points.

  • 2014 will be the year of the “insta-level” option for “levels” focused MMOs successful enough to ship an expansion that boosted the level cap… which, honestly, isn’t that many games when I think about it.  I will count this as fulfilled if I get EverQuest and Rift and one other game.

Fulfilled.  Even Funcom has something for Age of Conan running now. 10 points.

  • The near-ubiquity of free to play as an option for MMORPGs will start to take its toll on those games for which “it’s crap, but it’s free!” was the prime competitive advantage.  Expect to see more than half a dozen Asian imports fold up shop in North America in 2014.

First on the list appeared to be, Lunia, then Legends of Edda, then ArchLord, then Wizardry Online, then Rusty Hearts, and finally… crap, I couldn’t find a sixth.

I bet there is one out there.

I thought somebody said RF Online was going down, but the site is still up.  And I keep expecting Silk Road Online to falter and die.  I suspect it is sustained by the mistaken belief that you can buy drugs there.  Still, close enough for, say, 7 points.

74 out of 200 points.  The future is murky at best when you lack actual, first hand knowledge.

IV – Scoring

  • 30 out of 100 in the first section
  • 50 out of 50 points in the second
  • 74 out of 200 points round up the third

That gives me 154 points of out 350, which would be a failing grade in most classes I took in college.  That psych class with the hilariously altered curve might be the one exception.

On the other hand, getting as much right as I did… and I could have spun the news to make myself seem more on target than I was, but I chose to be conservative on that front… would clearly put me amongst the ranks of those such as Jeane Dixon.  I could re-brand as The MMO Psychic!

Now I have a couple of weeks to bend my mind once again towards the future for a January 1st post.

V – Predictions of Others

Of course, I wasn’t the only one to hang it out there and make some wild guesses about the future.  I counted the following blogs jumping on the futurist bandwagon in one form or another:

While it isn’t a competition, it is always interesting to see what comes to pass. (Their own prediction reviews linked as well, where available.)

The Great Installation

After the hardware mess of Thanksgiving week, I was presented with a new challenge… or a new opportunity if you prefer.

I had to figure out what to games to install.  This was something of a test, as it determined what games I really want to play and which I keep around “just in case.”

The first two were easy, as they are games I have been actively playing on a daily basis.

World of Warcraft
Of course WoW had to get installed.  Warlords of Draenor is still new and reasonably fresh and my friends and family are playing.  An install from scratch wasn’t too bad either.  I don’t use many addons and I do not modify the UI much.  Even so, I was surprised at how much the game saves on the server side of things.  I only had to make a couple of tweaks and download a few addons and I was back and running.

EVE Online
EVE Online is the other one that was a no brainer, a game that appears on the “Games I Play” section of the side bar of the blog.  Getting EVE installed was quicker than WoW, there being simply less assets to download.  I think WoW was 24GB while EVE was less than 8GB.  But after the install was another story.

There are a lot of finicky little settings that EVE stores on your system.  I spent a lot of time fiddling with chat channels and the overview and what appears on the Neocom bar and so on.  Every warning or alert that I ever dismissed and told never to bother me again is back and live.  And so many notifications.  I had this about under control and then CCP launched the Rhea expansion this week and all the icons changed.

Not that the changes were necessarily bad… I no longer think “what does the Pentagon have to do with the market?” when I go to buy something.

Visual closure does it...

Visual closure does it…

But learning the new icons at a point in time when they were also mixed up from the order I was used to wasn’t helping me much.  And logging into my alt restarted that whole process.  At least there is a utility out there to copy settings from one account to another, so once I have my main set, my alt can be molded in its image.  I’m just not sure when my main will be set.

Installing EVE also meant installing a few helper programs, like EVE Mon, the GARPA Topographical Survey, and EVE Fitting Tool.  That’s the way things roll in New Eden.

With those two installed and running, the question of what else makes the cut came up.  The next choice was actually easy.

Steam
Technically not a game, but it enables the ability to play a lot of games.  I have around 120 in my library, though 40 of those were from the time I bought every PopCap title during a Steam sale because I wanted Peggle. The price for everything was the same as the Peggle list price.

Of course, with Steam installed, I had a long list of choices.  From them I chose:

Total War: Rome II
The current staple of our somewhat on hiatus Friday night group.

Defense Grid 2
The fruits of a Kickstarter campaign.  I still have a few levels to get through.

Shroud of the Avatar
Another Kickstarter game.  This one is hardly done yet, as the large yellow letters at the top of the window indicate.  But Lord British has put the whole thing on Steam now, so I can let that take care of keeping it up to date rather than the native installer/patcher, which has been a bit wonky.  And it relieves me of having yet another set of log on credentials to remember.

And that was about it for Steam.  Just three games.  I will probably install Civilization V again at some point when I get the urge to play, and maybe War Thunder, but I didn’t feel the need for either right away.

After those, I only installed one more game.

EverQuest II
I have been telling myself for a while now that I am going to go back and play EQII again for a bit.  I have some nostalgia welling, what with the 10 year anniversary and all.  There is a whole post exploring HOW I should go about that in progress, probably for next week.  But in order to get there I have to have the game installed.  Fortunately, I long ago gave up on modifying the UI for the game, so the defaults were pretty much what I was working with already.

And that was pretty much it, which leaves some games I write about, or claim I pay attention to, not on my system.

Those not installed included:

EverQuest
The high holy of games when it comes to nostalgia, I am so lost and so out of touch with the live game and the current expansion that there is little point in my installing the game.  At some point, if SOE decides they are going to create another progression server or farm nostalgia in some similar fashion, I may go back.  But for now I am out.

Lord of the Rings Online
I think it is time to admit that there has been a parting of the ways between myself and LOTRO.  Buying a Lifetime subscription to the game was the best MMO deal ever for me, and I got my money’s worth and then some out of it.  But after the last class revamp I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back and relearn the game.  Add in the fact that I haven’t been more than a few steps beyond the far side of Moria in all these years, and it might be time to admit I am done.

Rift
While I loved the original game and the instance group made their home there for a while, the Storm Legion expansion never clicked with me.  While their free to play model is the most generous around, I still have no real desire to go back and play, much less so with Trion’s Glyph client now a requirement.

There is also a pretty long list of games I wasn’t really playing or paying much attention to, which did not get installed again.

  • World of Tanks – Haven’t played it in ages
  • GuildWars 2 – Never really clicked with me, plus I lost all my account info
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – Gave it a run again earlier this year, but never really got into it
  • Need for Speed: World – Our some-time driving game diversion, haven’t logged in for over a year
  • Diablo III – Played through it twice, liked it post patch, but not enough to play again
  • Path of Exile – Was a good Diablo clone, better than D3 probably, but network issues chased me away a long time back
  • Torchlight II – Since I am listing the other pretenders to the Diablo throne, in the end this was the most disappointing of the three, as Runic released it then pretty much walked away
  • Neverwinter – Home for our group for a bit, not a bad game, but down the priority list
  • PlanetSide 2 – I tried this at launch, but it quickly became a hack-fest, so haven’t been back since
  • Dragon’s Prophet – SOE’s Asian flavor of the month, didn’t really hook me

That is about the state of my games right now.  I suppose this leaves me plenty of room to install whatever great stuff shows up in 2015.

In Search of Hypnocroak

There were only four of us on last Saturday night, Earlthecat, Skronk, Bigbut, and myself, playing as Tokarev.

That meant postponing the question from last time, how will Draenor work out for a part of five playing through, to embrace the question of the moment, which was how will Draenor work out for a party of four playing through that doesn’t want to get too far ahead of a fifth member who is out for the week.

Skronk, who had been thinking of this in advance, suggested that we roam Shadowmoon Valley in search of rares and whatever else we might encounter.  That sounded like a reasonable plan, so we ran with it.

We met up right outside of the garrison border line and hit that “suggested three player but you can probably solo it” Elekk quest that is right there.  Knocking that out, we moved on into the zone.

Initially we were following Skonk, who was looking for rare locations in a browser window while we roamed hither and yon.  After a bit I grabbed an addon, MyRareFinder, that marks all the rares on your map and marks them off once you have killed them. (They are only good for one pass, after which they are just regular mobs.)

MyRareFinder map

MyRareFinder map

Of course, in an age of all ground travel, having something marked on the map doesn’t automatically mean you know how to get there.  In fact, I am beginning to suspect that we won’t get flying mounts in Draenor for a long while as Blizzard clearly spent some time making things a bit tricky when traveling on ground mounts.

In the north of the zone mobs were on one plateau or another and we had to find the right path.

At the Anguish Fortress, which was guarded by a forcefield because none of had done that quest with Khadgar yet, we had to find our way around into the place through a back door in order to get to Voidseer Kalurg.

Levitate let us drop right in on him

Levitate let us drop right in on him

I wonder if, when I do get to that quest, if I can just tell Khadgar that forcefield is no big deal because the Iron Horde left the back door open?

But our biggest challenge of the night was getting to the rare named Hypnocroak.  He isn’t just a Futurama reference, he is also a jumping puzzle, and one it took us a while to find.

We went to the spot on the map where his location is marked, which is up on a plateau, in a lake.  However, he was nowhere to be seen, though we could, when in the correct position, see his icon on the mini map.

The lake had a waterfall at one end that led down to another water area.  Standing at the edge of the waterfall, however, put his icon on the mini map behind us.  So we decided he must be behind the waterfall.

The waterfall

The waterfall

Standing on the edge of the waterfall, we thought we could just glimpse a cave opening.  I tried to see if I could get to it by dropping first onto the trunk of a tree sticking out from the waterfall, then jump to the mouth of the cave.  That did not quite work out as I expected.

Tokarev, dead on the rocks behind the waterfall

Tokarev, dead on the rocks behind the waterfall

But from there I could at least see the cave.  It was also clear that the cave was situated in a way to prevent us from dropping in from above.  Instead, we would have to reach the cave from below via a jumping puzzle.

Another corpse on the rocks

Another corpse on the rocks

As it turned out, I fell to my death at just about a perfect spot, as it marked the point you had to get to on one of the rocks in order to be able to successfully jump to the next. A death not in vain.

Scrambling and jumping and falling and trying again, I managed to bull my way up and into the cave without really being able to describe how I did it.

Looking down from the cave

Looking down from the cave

Earl made it up next, then Bigbut managed the last jump and was up in the cave as well, which left only Skronk working his way up.  And he was having problems, to the point that we were beginning to discuss whether or not this was a short race issue.  As the dwarf in a group with two Draenei and a human, Skronk was at a serious height deficit.

Eventually though, he was able to get past the two big jumps, which were really all that was standing in his way.  With a dwarf you have to time them just right.  So he made it up and we were able to slay Toxicroak.  His loot was a toy that lets you hypnotize critters so that they will follow you around.

The group in the mouth of the cave

The group in the mouth of the cave

From there, Skronk hit us all with levitate again and we were able to cruise on down to the water below and float to our next objective.

Levitation party

Levitation party

Levitate is kind of a creepy way to travel.  You just adopt a casual pose and float off in the direction you’re headed.  There is no look of “I’m moving” on your character.  It is, rather, one of some indifference.

From there we went on to hunt down a few more rares.

They all have their own special gimmick

They all have their own special gimmick

But it wasn’t much long before I called it a night.  We managed to find some rares, we all added a follower to our garrison, and we at least picked up the quest chain that unlocks the level 2 town hall upgrade, though we did not finish it up.  I went and did that the next day and ran the upgrade.

No a bad evening.  We will see if we can get back to the party of five next time.

This is EVE and EVE is Different

What would we encourage ALL new players to do in their first month to get them to subscribe long term, if we had to give out one set of advice for everyone (which we do if we’re giving general advice)?

The Question for Blog Banter #61

Well, the first thing I would tell a new player is how easy they have it these days with their “warp to zero” and their agent finder and their fancy fitting interface that is all easy to use and informative!  Back in my day the game was actively hostile towards you, ships looked like they were made out of beer cans, and asteroids appeared to be so many potatoes floating in space…

What was that?  Get to the point?  I was getting there!  Kids today, always in such a damn hurry.

Advice?

EVE Online will not meet your expectations.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’re going to come charging in with some ideas in mind and EVE just isn’t going to line up with them.

Part of this is because of our desire to categorize things.  We stamp “MMO” on the side of the EVE Online box and drop it in the bin with World of Warcraft and EverQuest and Wizard 101 and call it a day.

And yes, if you pull back far enough, all of those games share similar characteristics.  For somebody who doesn’t care about MMOs, “WoW in space” is probably a sufficient characterization for EVE.

But even if you are just a mild MMO fan and do not suffer from the affliction of the connoisseur and bristle when somebody describes Lord of the Rings Online as “WoW in Middle-earth” because you can name fifty significant (to you) differences between the games, EVE Online is still an odd duck.

If you look at blogs from people playing World of WarcraftBelghast, Alt:ernative Chat, Kinless, Ysharros, or whoever… our posts tend to be about similar things.  Right now we’re writing about garrisons and leveling up and equipment and interesting sites in Draenor and items that pretty much cement that we are all playing the same game.

If you look at blogs from people playing EVE OnlineKirith Kodachi, Rixx Javix, Sugar Kyle, Gevlon, EVE Hermit…  things can be quite different.  Sure, some days we are all talking about the same thing, like the latest expansion.  But there are times when we clearly aren’t just playing in different areas of the game, but it seems like we might be playing totally different games.

EVE is an MMO the way a Swiss Army Knife is a knife.  If you really want just a knife… which we’ll define as a WoW-like NPC driven set of goals… it can be used for that, but you wouldn’t want to carve the Thanksgiving turkey with it.

I’ve posted this chart before.  The source site has the chart hooked up so clicking on a box brings you to semi-appropriate, somewhat out of date information on that particular aspect of the game.

What to do in EVE Online - A Chart

What to do in EVE Online – A Chart

That is a guide to a series of possible professions or goals or whatever in the game.  Each is a deep well which you could spend months, if not years, exploring and perfecting.  Or you could lightly explore a few at once, mix and match, or whatever.  And this chart is a few years old, so there are probably a couple more boxes that could be added at this point.

And like the Swiss Army Knife analogy, none of boxes are probably the best  experience possible for a given activity.  Some are crude, silly, or seem tacked on at times just to say that there is such a thing.  But you don’t buy a Swiss Army Knife because you need a single-purpose tool, and you don’t play EVE Online because it offers a single, linear experience.

You play EVE Online because it mixes all of those possible experiences into a single universe.  And it works… sort of… in a Rube Goldberg, this might spin out of control or go horribly wrong at any moment way.  The sum is greater than the whole of its, at times, rather mediocre parts.  It is an interlinked, living, breathing, system made up of a couple hundred thousand people doing their little space jobs and making things, moving things, or blowing things up.  All aspects are equally important in this mix as people go about their lives in space.

And the interaction with other people is a key, maybe THE key.  In no other MMO do I interact with so many different players, be it at the end of a laser, through the market, in my fleet, or just flying by in space.  All those people doing their thing.  You don’t have to join a corp or be in a big group or whatever.  You can play EVE solo, there being no wrong way to play.  But you cannot escape other people, good, bad, and indifferent.  The game is a fine mix of parts, each dependent in its own way on all the others, and people drive that.  Why I remember this one time I was in a system alone, way out in Omist and there was this other pilot… we were out there blowing up stuff that belonged to his alliance… anyway, there we were, both on the gate and he locked me up… and this really illustrates the dichotomy of man, the whole Jungian thing… and then…

What?  I’m rambling?  What was the question again?

What would I tell a new player to do in their first month to keep them subscribed in the long term?

That’s easy.  Go join Brave Newbies, get into null sec, and have a blast blowing stuff up.  The rest of the game is for losers.

Is it time for my nap yet?

Oh, here are some other people who tried to answer the same question.  They might have different opinions, this being EVE Online and all, and probably more useful than what I have had to say.

Rhea Ushers in a New Era of Clones, Wormholes, and Graphics to EVE Online

CCP is launching Rhea today, the next expansion on the EVE Online hit parade, and for the first time ever, nobody had to remind players to start training a long skill just in case there were issues with the update.  That is because, after Phoebe, everybody should have a long training queue at all times.  Why wouldn’t you?

My own queue stands at 320 days going into the expansion.  That should be plenty of buffer.

But back to Rhea.

I have to admit that I was skeptical that CCP could deliver exciting, game changing, quality of life improving content on a regular basis with their “every six weeks”  expansion plan.   After all, there were expansions during the “twice a year” era that barely spark a memory for me.  I would say that the Quantum Rise expansion springs to mind, only it doesn’t  I had to go look at a list of expansions, and I couldn’t recall a single feature from that release.

But since the summer started, almost every one of these small expansions has had something meaningful to me in it.  With each one the features seem to be getting bigger and better, and Rhea seems to be continuing this trend.

The Rhea expansion page is bursting with new and updated items.

There is new space, in the form of Thera and the shattered wormholes (Also the name of a Jon Hallur tribute band), adding up to 101 new star systems, with new and interesting characteristics.  This is the first time CCP has expanded the number of systems in New Eden in quite a while, and it will be a race to see who reaches Thera, the new mega wormhole system.

There are two new ships.  There is the Amarr Confessor, the first of the tech 3 destroyers.

Still looks like a Cayman to me...

Still looks more like a Cayman to me…

And then there is the Bowhead freighter, which is meant to transport assembled ships.

Bowhead... how soon until the first gank?

Bowhead… how soon until the first gank?

Probably the biggest change for me will be the update to clones.  CCP is removing the whole clone upgrade and skill point loss aspect of clones.  No longer will I face a 30 million ISK toll for being podded and Dabigredboat should now be safe from losing Fleet Command V going forward.  No more of this. (From this thread celebrating what might be the last skill loss pod death in the game.)

I realize that this has caused some moaning amongst those hardest of the hard core, this softening of the death penalty in EVE, but the skill loss thing has always seemed like a “Gotcha! Didn’t say ‘Simon Says!'” sort of deal.  And you are already losing your ship and dropping back in a medical clone that could many jumps from where you want to be at the moment.  Basically, how much death penalty is enough?

Then there are graphical updates to, some ships, and the introduction of Physically Based Rendering that will change the look of all the models to some degree.

Can I bring my PBR Drake?

Can I bring my PBR Drake? (New vs. Old)

There is also whole new version of  the star map in progress, which you will be able to opt-in to try with Rhea.  I have said in the past that the star map in EVE Online is one of the most impressive yet least useful features in the game.  CCP is aiming to make the map even more impressive while trying to make it useful as well.

Also, there will be manual controls.  You will be able to steer your ship about using keyboard controls as opposed to the current “click in space” or “align to a thing” methods currently available.  I am actually looking forward to this, being one of those people who occasionally just likes to undock in a fast ship and fly around the station just for the sheer hell of it.

Rhea also includes Sleeper cache sites and polarized weapons, Sleeper drones in known space, pirate faction jackets and dreadnought skins in the store, a bunch of smaller items, and a new song for the expansion. along with a video.

The release notes for Rhea are dense with changes.

All in all, a lot of stuff for what will be the final titan themed release.  The word has come down that the 2015 expansions will have a different naming theme, though that has yet to be announced.

There are a lot of things in this release I am really looking forward to seeing or trying out.  And, of course, with various updated models, skins, and the PBR graphics update, there will be a lot of new screen shots to be taken for my other blog.

Five More Small Fixes for WoW

Whenever I am playing a game for an sort of extended period, especially when it is my main focus, I start mentally building up a list of gripes, the little things that, while not game breakers in any way, start to annoy me or get on my nerves.

And when I get five that stick in my brain at the same time… which can be the main challenge, as my short-term memory like a sieve… I write a blog post.  So here we are, five small… and probably non-controversial… changes I would like to see in WoW.

Free the First Bag!

There was a time when that first bag, with its 16 slots, was the anchor of all of our bag space needs.  There was no worry about having to replace it because 16 slot bags were rare and expensive.  I remember feeling great joy at having one of those old school, 16 slot, travelers backpacks drop way back when.  That was huge.

That was also at least seven years ago.

Since then we have gotten netherweave bags (16 slots), and frostweave bags (20 slots), and embersilk bags (22 slots), and probably something in Pandaria, plus quest reward bags and boss drops bags, which has pushed the 16 slot bag from a object of intense desire to a default, baseline item.

We haven’t hit the bag slot nirvana of EverQuest II and 90 slot bags, but 16 slot bags are pretty ho-hum these days.  They are the stuff of uncared for alts.  On my regularly played characters, that 16 slot first bag is the smallest bag they are carrying and, in the case of Vikund, my main of mains, the smallest bag he owns.

So I would like to be able to replace it.  Or upgrade it.  Or, Blizzard, if you just want to spread the love universally, make it a 20 or 24 slot bag.

Larger Quest Log

I know, I know, we got an quest log upgrade from 20 to 25 quests back with the 2.0 patch for The Burning Crusade.  I am sure that seems like just yesterday for some. But I also know people who have forgotten that the cap used to be 20 quests.

And I’ve gotten by pretty well with the 25 quest cap, especially since Blizzard started doling out quests in smaller batches at each quest hub.  25 was barely enough in Outland, where you could vacuum up a dozen quests at a time.  But Blizzard has balanced that out some since then.

At least until now.  Juggling garrison quests, zone quests, holiday quests, and whatever else shows up, I have managed to bump into the “quest log full” error a couple of times in Warlords of Draenor.  It hasn’t come up often, a couple of times at most, but I am generally brutal about deleting or not picking up quests before I need to.  It is unusual for me to hit the quest cap.

So I am wondering if it might be time to bump the limit up to 30?  I mean, we got five more quests the last time we came to Draenor.  It seems appropriate to get five more now.

That Ramp in Thunder Bluff

I have been admiring my daughter’s Horde garrison, which she describes as ‘put spikes on all the things!”  So I started looking at my own Horde characters to see who I might be able to level up eventually.  The closest to Draenor is a Tauren druid in his mid-60s.

I went to log him in, just to see where he stood.  I could actually send him a bit of heirloom gear and probably level him up quickly enough, once I get around to it.

He was in Thunder Bluff, where I tend to hang out as Horde when possible, but I wanted to fly him over to Orgrimmar.  So I mounted him up on his Horde chopper and headed towards the flight point at the top of the central spiral, only to be dismounted on the way up.

Had to hoof it up here!

Had to hoof it up here!

I had forgotten about that, and how annoying it can be.  There used to be a similar scenario in Stormwind, which Blizzard fixed about four years ago.  So I was wondering if we could get that same fix for my Tauren brothers and sisters.

Dismount Me

Another of those “fixed years ago” things was having to dismount to do any number of things.  Blizzard changed things so that we wouldn’t get that “You are mounted” error when we tried to take a flight or use a vehicle for a quest and so on.  And, for the most part that fix seems to have been good.  It probably fixed 95% of the occurrences of this issue.

But there is still that five percent.  And it isn’t just in the new content.  I got an error about being mounted while trying to accept a special ride in my garrison.  While this is the weakest of my five gripes, I still wonder if somebody at Blizz couldn’t go look into this, or at least make sure devs are following whatever best practices are required to make sure that old, old fix for this applies.

Stop Making Me Delete Things

This is actually one that has bugged me for quite a while, but was brought home to me again with the 10 year anniversary gift.   We got the Molten Corgi pet, which was one per account.  However, Blizzard gleefully mails it to every character on your account the moment you log them in.  So after the first time you redeem it, the rest of your characters get a useless bit of bag filler.

FRMoltenCorgiYou cannot do anything with it, save delete it… or stow it away just in case something changes.  And, of course, deleting the item is accompanied by the ominous “Are you sure? Please type out ‘DELETE’ to do so” dialog.

This has always struck me as wrong, handing me something where the only option is to waste bag space or delete it.  And this goes for gear and toys and whatever else, and has led me to hang on to items “just in case” Blizzard changes their mind on this.  So, in my bank I found I still had this.

FROnyxiaWhelpThe Onyxian Whelpling, that was the five year anniversary gift.  He pre-dates shared pets, but wasn’t destroyed on use so you could pass it to alts as they came along.  I also saw Mr. Chilly sitting in my bank as well.

I am not sure what the best answer is here.  For some of the gear items, just let me vendor them.  But would that work out for things like the Molten Corgi?  All I know for sure is deleting them is counter to my instincts.

 

Nagrand – The Moment

There I was last night, turning in a quest when it happened, I made it to level 100 with my first character in Draenor.

Level 100

Level 100

Certainly not the fastest run to 100, but it still seems like it went by pretty quickly, given I how much I dawdled and played other games, plus spending a few days reviving my computer.

One benefit of moving a bit more slowly than some is that I had more time to accumulate garrison resources, so I was able to jump right in and upgrade my Town Hall to level 3.

Garrison Resources and Gold

Garrison Resources and Gold

Now I have a whole bunch of things to unlock and upgrade there.  I have to work on some pets to take on the three battle pets in the garrison, a requirement to unlock the menagerie.  I have a few level 25 pets, but as with Pokemon, you can wander through the world and succeed with any number of combinations, but once you get to a boss-like fight, you need the right set.

Picking the Right Fleet – NCDot Supers Down in Querious

ENEMY SUPERS TACKLED GET THE FUCK IN FLEET RIGHT NOW

Web Broadcast to [SIG] Reavers from Asher Elias

I wrote something yesterday about picking the right fleet.  This is the fleet you want to get into.  So I logged in and burned to LS-V29 to join in on the fun.  We ended up killing:

I managed to get a combat drone out and get on the kill mails for those ships with an asterisk.  Again, there were so many bubbles on grid at one point that the background in my screen shots turned white.

Signs I am a bad Logi pilot

Signs I am a bad Logi pilot

This was one of those “happens once in a while and makes all the slow fleets worthwhile” operations, like CCP was trying to illustrate in their This is EVE 2014 video.  People were excited, comms were buzzing, but it was far from clear exactly how many capital ships, if any, we would be able to kill.

When I got on grid our FC, Asher Elias, was pretty sure we would get the Aeon and maybe one of the Nyx.  They were trying to get to the safety of their POS shields, and it at least one Nyx was very close before he inexplicably turned around and started motoring away.  There was also the looming threat of reinforcements. The Nidhoggur and the Chimera were dropped onto the battle to try an repair the supers and were chewed up for the effort.  Eventually a couple of fleets of hostiles were on grid trying to drive us off and we started taking significant losses when the last Nyx got into structure.  We had enough left in us to take him out, then the call went out to scatter, safe up, cloak if possible, and “fofofofo” in local.

Let us "fofofo"

Let us “fofofo”

Then we escaped back to our staging system.

We got a bit of a briefing in the fleet about how this was all planned out, with tacklers logged off in the system waiting for the supers to log in, but the full story will probably come out in the morning. (Addendum: Here is the tale from the CFC end, and from the N3 end of things.)

Meanwhile, this other battle happened.  It will probably dominate the new cycle.  A titan was killed… killed by Brave Newbies no less, an alliance that prides itself on taking new players into combat.  A lot of younger pilots got their first taste of an epic battle with capital ships on grid.  Good for them, and good for EVE Online.  But our own kills cannot be made less sweet, and the battle report shows (ZKillboard version) we lost about 9 Billion ISK in ships while destroying 125 Billion ISK.