Monthly Archives: September 2015

September in Review

The Site

Well, one thing I never quite got around to doing this month was some sort of final, post-Blaugust wrap up.  Of course, Belghast has already summed the whole thing up, listed everybody out, and handed out awards.  I got the right to display this logo.

Made it all the way, second year running

Made it all the way, second year running

I was also going to collect up and link to everybody else’s summary to merge it all into some sort of mega meta summary or some such… and then my wife said it was time for dinner and I forgot about the whole thing until I found it in my Drafts folder yesterday along with something I was writing for the NBI… back in 2014 judging from the date… and that idea I had for picking the most negatively influential games I have played.  Anyway, these are the links I collected before I got distracted:

Maybe next year I will remember to finish what I started.

One Year Ago

Blizzard said no to its Titan project.

ArcheAge went live, was overwhelmed, and pissed off some people.  But everybody is happy now, right?

Destiny also launched and though I went nowhere near that, I was interested in Bungie’s seven design point.

Project: Gorgon was coming to the end of its second Kickstarter campaign and it clearly wasn’t going to make it.  On the other hand Defense Grid 2 was headed for release even though Hidden Path didn’t make all of their Kickstarter stretch goals.

Also on the developer front, Notch sold Minecraft to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then sales have gone past the 20 million copies mark, which I am sure Michael Pachter thinks is nothing.

Rift was set to join the insta-levels club as part of their Nightmare Tide expansion announcement.

EVE Online had the Oceanus release.  We all remember that, right? Parlez-vous français?

Meanwhile the Lords of Null Sec put our their Null Deal proposal.  In actual space, we left Delve yet again to come home and clean up Deklein. We were out numbered at one point, but we ended up with a nice op at the end of the month.

As part of my Pokemon binge I finished up Pokemon White Version 2.  I still think that is a horrible name, but it was a good entry in the Pokemon RPG series.

In World of Warcraft I managed to get the Brewfest Kodo.  However, my Loremaster project started to fall apart in the Blade’s Edge mountains.  Well, we had more details about Warlords of Draenor to fuss over.

The strategy group was putting on a shameful display in Total War: Rome II.

I was wondering how long you had to be away before an MMO changed so much it became like a foreign country.

For the blog itself, I was on to the third iteration of my sidebar feed and it had been eight years since I started blogging.  And finally there was a review of the first Blaugust.

Five Years Ago

Well, there was that whole four year anniversary thing.

Planet Michael, the Michael Jackson virtual world, was announced.  How is that coming along?

The whole David Allen, Derek Smart, Quest Online public blame and shame fest ended when Quest Online gave David Allen some money and he went away.  Derek Smart could not help but throw in a couple final comments.  Good thing he’s been quiet since then… *cough*

CCP was talking about Public Fleets and such that were planned for their Incursions expansion.  That got delayed long enough for me to get tired of waiting.  Still, it was better than Incarna.

More interesting was a guide to suicide ganking in EVE Online put up by TooNuRacoon.

Meanwhile, I was kicking off my EVE Online screen shot contest.  All of the entries are now posted on my other site.

I tried turning an old joke into an MMO joke.  Some people got it.  Some did not.  Some got angry, because this is the internet and that is what people do on the internet.

I looked at cloaks in MMOs, and how little they resemble what we would call a cloak in the real world.

In World of Warcraft I finally got that Brewmaster achievement.

Lord of the Rings Online flipped the switch and went free to play.  We were truly among the free (to play) peoples Middle-earth then.  There were some issues with Turbine Points, though I did get my 5,000 point pay-off.

The instance group was still summering in Middle-earth.  The group was finally into the meat of the Lone Lands.  We also tried some skirmishes and talked about Anderson Cooper.

In LOTRO I also ran into somebody who was looking for a social environment similar to old EverQuest.  I wonder if he ended up on Fippy Darkpaw which, for a short time, had all the best aspects of early EverQuest.

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 September

  1. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  2. When is WoW Legion?
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. EverQuest Expansion Plans and Progression Server Polls
  5. Once Upon a Lifetime Subscription…
  6. EverQuest Next Five Years Down the Road
  7. Flying Comes to Draenor
  8. Nine is a Magic Number
  9. GuildWars 2 and What Free Really Means
  10. Minecraft – Our World
  11. The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds
  12. The Unusual Scent of Victory in Period Basis

Search Terms of the Month

i am getting adventurous dreams after wearing emerald
[You go… um… girl?]

pokemon x shot 3ds nintendo tea
[I like some Nintendo tea in the morning]

rerolled killed pantheon
[Not yet]

an ancient raft
[Like this one? I think that is an ArcheAge screen shot.]

эверквест Интор
[The EverQuest II Russian server lives I guess]

Diablo III

I spent some time playing this, far more time than I spent playing EQII, so swapped this in for the other on the side bar list of games I am playing.  It is fun, immersive, and I remain impressed with how good it looks every time I play.  It just isn’t a game that sparks much blogging interest in me.  Weeee, I followed the same linear path as everybody else and got some interesting somewhat randomized loot.

EVE Online

Just enough happened in New Eden to make me feel like I did something without me burning a lot of hours in the game.  A short deployment, a couple of fun roams, a couple of homeland defense ops, and here we are done with the month.  It wasn’t as interesting as a good war, but it was enjoyable.

EverQuest II

Post-cataclysmic Norrath fell off the end of the list.  I can only really play three ongoing video games at a time, and as noted above, Diablo III bumped EQII into the oblivion of fourth place.  A pity, as I was enjoying a bit of nostalgia on the Stormhold server… just not enough to actually play I guess.  Time to cancel that subscription.

Minecraft

Again this month, the game that eats up most of my gaming free time is Minecraft.  The game is definitely better with a few people playing in the world, so I am glad we have a hosted server so that the five regulars can play.  But with the bump in price due to changing hosts, I have again started thinking about the whole renting vs. owning calculation.  Expect a post again about that I suppose.

Coming Up

It is October and suddenly the end of the year looms as we rush towards Halloween and the blur of the holiday season that will inevitably spit us out at the far end in the bleak landscape of January.

And so much is coming up.  Daybreak is supposed to spill the beans on the EQ and EQII expansions… well, tomorrow… with an official reveal.  The GW2 expansion Heart of Thorns is coming out later this month.  SWTOR and UItima Online also have expansions slated for this month.  People will be passing judgement on the WildStar free to play conversion.  There is EVE Vegas, which signs indicate I may very well attend, and the reveals that CCP will have there.  And then there will be the run up to BlizzCon.  While that is actually in the first week of November, I am sure people will begin to speculate about what we might see there.

Which is all good because, as noted, I am not at all inspired to write about Diablo III, no matter how enjoyable it is, EVE Online content can rarely be predicted in advance, and I am not sure I have a lot to say about Minecraft at the moment besides server logistics and how I built yet another crude structure or fell off of some high place yet again.

So time to start thinking about the inevitable “hopes and expectations” post about BlizzCon I guess.  It is either that or take up the offer I got in email earlier to go review Aeria Games’ upcoming title Dragomon Hunter…. which would mean trying yet again to fit four games into a three game time budget.  Oh well,  I am going to bet that somebody Massively OP has that game covered already.

Vanguard in New Eden

Another month, another expansion bump from CCP.

I actually had to think for a moment about the title of this post as, not being an EVE Online blog, the name Vanguard might bring up the late and ever troubled (while it was around) Brad McQuaid project.

I am not sure I succeeded with that title, so let me just say now that there is no Brad McQuaid connection to New Eden… at least none that I have ever heard of.

Yes, CCP announced that full sized expansions would be returning, but they will also continue on with the scheduled smaller code drops to deliver smaller feature updates and fixes at regular intervals.

Today’s drop is Vanguard and I am going to say that the biggest item… there being no dev blogs or such on Vanguard features to indicate importance or scale… on the list of features it brings is the change for new characters.  Fresh characters in New Eden will show up with more skills and skill points.  You will essentially start 400,000 skill points into your lifetime of training, up from 50,000 previously.  That is maybe 10 days of training (and a bunch of ISK), but those first days in the game are important and can shape your destiny.

Neville Smit has posted before/after pictures of the skills being added while over at Th Nosy Gamer there is a far more detailed look at what skills are being added and what they mean to players.

The next up and probably most talked about change, at least in null sec, is the combat and Navy issue battlecruiser rebalance.

FC, can I bring my Drake now?

FC, can I bring my Drake now?

This has vets happy, since we remember a golden era of battlecruiser dominance where we flew Drake and Hurricane doctrines every day.  I miss my 2012 pera-MWD Drake of doom.

So these old hulls… old being defined as anything that was around when I started playing in 2006… are getting a buff.

The problem is that it just isn’t 2006… or 2012… anymore.  These ships can’t stand toe-to-toe with the strategic cruisers still, which can fit a battleship level tank if needs be, nor are they as versatile, not having a subsystem swap option to make them interdiction nullified or able to use black ops bridges or whatever.  And in the post-Phoebe world of jump fatigue battlecruisers are slow travelers when you have more than a few gates between you and your destination.

So they are a cheap… and now a little bit better… option on the home defense front or for nearby deployments, but if you’re going to go far my gut says that alliances will bring harder, more survivable, more expensive ships to fight.

But we’ll see.  Maybe Reavers will be drop Tengus and pick up Hurricanes.

(A run down of the changes over at Crossing Zebras.)

And then, also a big deal in null sec, the ability to fit Entosis Link modules has been removed from interceptors.  The trollceptor is dead, but I am sure something will rise to take its place.

After that, we have:

  • Physics based rendering (PBR) being applied to stations and Amarr and Minmatar strategic cruisers.  Make more shinier.
  • Jump invulnerability timer: You will now have a visual indicator as to how long your cloak will hold after you jump through a gate or wormhole.
  • Wormhole polarization timer: You can now see when you will be able to jump back through a wormhole.
  • A multi-buy option for the market, the flip side of the multi-sell option introduced previously. (Dev Blog up now.)
  • New Guristas burner missions.
  • Blue Tiger skins for a range of Minmatar ships.
  • Festival launchers no longer require a launcher hardpoint, just a free high slot.  Launchers for all your carriers!

Then there is the typical range of small fixes along for the ride on this particular release vehicle.  And new issues for new features…

There is a release page for Vanguard and a set of patch notes which tell most of the story of the release between them. (But never the whole story.)

That is what Vanguard brings us… well, all that a theme song.

WildStar Goes Free to Play

Two years ago I was wondering if The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar were throwing themselves under the bus by declaring for a monthly subscription model in an era when only a select few games seem able to hold enough customers to make that model work for their vision.

Wildstar_logo

Back then the team doing TESO said that a subscription model was essential to deliver the experience they wanted while the WildStar team felt they could offer a PLEX-like option and declare themselves free to play already.

The subscription business model champions of 2013 have come around to free to play in 2015.

TESO went first, going free back in January, while WildStar, after a precipitous drop in revenue, reflected in the NCsoft quarterly results… I believe somebody said that WildStar might end up bringing in less revenue that City of Heroes when NCsoft shut that down… announced that they were going free to play back in May.  This staved off closure by the trigger happy team at NCsoft for the time being.

And today is the day.  WildStar is now officially free to play, another such title in a veritable forest of free to play MMORPGs.  I cannot name a single factor that would set it out from the crowd of other options.  We shall see if free is sufficient inducement for players to keep the game going.

The WildStar site has been updated and there is a FAQ spelling out what free to play means for the game.  As with the game itself, nothing in the FAQ stands out as new and different enough to separate it from the pack.

The Barad-dûr in Minecraft – First Attempt

I had an idea.  After digging those long tunnels in the roof of the nether I was looking for something to do with all of that netherrack that was piling up.  So I started refining it into nether brick, which gave me a decent supply of dark building material to work with.

What better plan than to use all that dark material to try and recreate the dark tower of Sauron, the Barad-dûr.

I went for a somewhat modest first try.  While I had a lot of netherrack, the supply wasn’t infinite, and I was leery of building too far up both because I tend to fall off of things and because once something is above the cloud line, it tends to get obscured at night.

So I ended up with this.

A dark-ish tower

A dark-ish tower below the cloud line

My brilliant plan was to make the eye at the top a portal.  That seemed a bit easier than trying to work with lava, as I had originally intended.  I had seen various screen shots of rounded portals.  However, that is not yet a feature of the game, meaning portals still have to be rectangles.  So I ended up with more of Sauron’s Jumbotron as opposed to his eye.

The original tower was all in dark nether brick.  But then I decided it needed something to spice it up.  With some colored clay from the mesa biome I put together a lidless eye of sorts.

Sauron has a sanpaku eye...

Sauron has a sanpaku eye…

All of which would be innocuous enough, except that I chose to build this monstrosity just within the view range of Xydd’s castle. (Complete with road from my own complex.)

Xydd's castle and the tower from a map render

Xydd’s castle and the tower from a map render

So now when he looks to the north, the north looks back at him… or some such.  That top screen shot is the view from the top of his mountain.

Also, Xydd looks to be building some sort of parking garage on the far side of his castle.  The tower might not be the biggest eyesore soon.

So Close to Taming an Ocelot…

After several expeditions into the nearby jungle biome, I finally ran across an ocelot in one of the clearings I had made on previous trips.  It wasn’t even a single ocelot, but an ocelot with two kits.  My quest to tame one seemed to be close to success.  I crouched, put a fish in my hand, and approached.

The ocelot family was attracted and came over to be fed.

The ocelot family, ready to be tamed

The ocelot family, ready to be tamed

It was only then that I noticed that I had forgotten to grab that stack of fish I had set aside for this venture and had only three fish available.  Three attempts to tame the ocelots.  And they all failed.

Once the last fish was gone they sprinted off into the jungle.

The hunt continues.

Into the Roof of the Nether

I went down into the nether earlier this week only to be confronted with a grand new structure there.  Amongst our various portal protecting block houses there was a tower that seemed to stretch to the very top of the nether, decorated with lava no less.

Lava tower in the nether

Lava tower in the nether

Of course, I immediately had to go investigate, climbing up and down the ladder that went up the center of the lava spire.

It was mesmerizing to travel through...

It was mesmerizing to travel through…

A hell of a structure, and I had little doubt that Aaron was behind it.  Like all of us, he has a building style of his own.  While Skronk is decorative, Xyd is grandiose, and I am… erm… somewhat primitive in my style… okay, my stuff tends to look like a 4 year old’s LEGO project, but I’m working on it… Aaron has a flair for both monumental scale and efficiency.  Just look at his farm.

Nobody tell PETA please...

Nobody tell PETA please…

Sure enough, the next time he logged on I mentioned it and he said it was his, and that it was central to a plan he had come up with.

Rather than all this mucking about on the floor of the nether, building roads through walls and over seas of lava while under constant attack from ghasts… along with the lurking threat of the zombie pigmen… we should just go up to the top of the nether, burrow into the netherrack up there, and then dig tunnels through that to wherever we wanted to go.

Having faced some of that peril in the past, I was good with the idea.  And so began the excavation at the top of the nether.  Aaron started out with a plan to dig to the location where he could link up with the portal he had previously put up the mushroom island he found during his explorations the previous week, while I decided to head off in the direction of the mesa biome.

Digging northwards from the top of the lava tower, which was at level 108, it quickly became clear to me that we were not quite high enough.  I ran out of “floor” after a short distance, so started filling in with cobblestone, back filling way up over a lake of lava on the nether floor below.

It doesn’t matter how far you fall if you’re falling into lava I suppose… but I still wasn’t going to lift a hand off the keyboard to screen shot that view.

After running down my supply of cobblestone, I decided it might be better just to go up a little higher, so I stair-stepped myself up to level 118 and carried on.  That turned out to be just about ideal.  I had more than 600 blocks to mine to get to the right coordinates, but never once broke through the floor to a long fall at that level.

I also seems to be pretty much immune to my one dread tunneling in the nether, the random pockets of lava.  Grinding through netherrack with an iron pick is fast work, but you have to be wary lest some of that fast moving nether lava suddenly start pouring out into your dig.  I only hit one such pocket the whole way across.

Aaron reported similar success as he dug towards his goal, though later on, when he started on the dig to the ice spike biome, he was beset with lava pockets and died repeatedly until he managed to get past what must have been a pretty thick mass of lava there in the roof.

I managed to get all the way to the right coordinates, at which point I dug out a decent sized pocket in order to house the portal, a chest for supplies, and to have some room for a rail stop.  The grand design wasn’t just to have paths, but to build a series of mine cart tracks up there to speed through the nether.

Having finished the basic tunnel, I walked back to the top of the lava tower, prettied things up a bit, and put up a sign.

Mesa biome, this way

Mesa biome, this way

Of course, it wasn’t quite ready yet.  I had to get back down to the bottom of the tower and then walk all the way to the portal I had previously built down on the nether floor, take apart that portal, get back up to the new location, rebuild it there and then light it up.

I also did the same for another portal to the north, just to get them all on the same axis.

Then it was time to use up all my iron building tracks.  I always worry about not having enough gold for the powered segments of the track, but with the ration of iron to gold track segments being 30 to 1, iron gets used up a lot more quickly.

I started laying track.  Ran out.  Made more track.  Ran out.  Made even more track.  Ran out.  Mined for some more iron and made a bit more track.  Ran out.  Went and scrounged through chests I had scattered about three bases and several outposts, found I had a lot more iron squirreled away than I though, used that to make more track, and actually got to the end with about a stack of rails left in my possession.

Something to start the next rail line.

So we now had a significantly quicker way to get to the mesa biome to collect colored clay.

Mesa biome rail terminus

Mesa biome rail terminus/launcher

I think the most immediate beneficiary of this new travel route was Skonk and Enaldi, who used the new access to harvest up supplies for their growing base being built in something of an Italian Renaissance style.

Colorful shops on the end of the piazza

Colorful shops on the end of the piazza

I am definitely stealing some of their ideas.

Anyway, the first rail connection has been setup and there are tunnels to two others.  Now somebody just have to collect enough iron again to roll out the next set of track.  Meanwhile, the lava tower stands in the middle of our efforts in the nether.

The lava tower, another view

The lava tower, another view

 

Desert of Flames Vote Up Again on Stormhold

Another 30 days have passed and it is time to vote again on whether or not to unlock the Desert of Flames expansion on the Stormhold time locked expansion server… and the Deathtoll PvP server as well, though I don’t have any characters there, so won’t be voting there.

Last time around I was actively encouraging people to vote against the unlock, the server having only been up for 30 days.  That seemed like way too short a duration to enjoy the original 50 levels of content.

This time around I am voting against the unlock again.

The vote is up

The vote is up

However, I do not feel as strongly about it, for the most part because I have not been playing much in the last 30 days.  I never ended up finding somebody to play with… the obvious target, Gaff, who got me to buy the game back in 2004, picked up EVE Online again just as the server went live… and other games have filled the gap.

So as much as I would like the server to sit and wait until the time was ripe for me, it won’t be a personal tragedy if the whole thing moves on to another expansion.

But I am still voting against.  The vote runs through the weekend, closing at noon on Tuesday, with results expected shortly thereafter.  To vote you just have to log on to the server and check your in-game mail.