Monthly Archives: January 2016

MMOs on the List of Most Important PC Games

Earlier this week, over at PC Gamer, which I think still actually has a print magazine version, publishes a list of what they felt were The 50 most important PC games of all time.

PCGamerLogo

And, if you know me, you know I love a good list like that.  Those are discussion starters without equal, and I bring them up pretty much whenever I find them.  I’ve even written about a PC Gamer list in the past, when they were writing about the 100 Greatest Games of All Time, (they do that article every year, here is the 2015 version) that being a distinct and separate category from the 50 most important.

The most important games are the ones we could not imagine not having existed in the genre, that inspired people, or that changed the market.

Wisely, PC Gamer decided to not stack rank the lot of them, choosing to list them out chronologically, kicking off with Space War! from 1962, the first thing that actually looks like what we think of when we say “video game.” (I even wrote a bit about Space War! at one point.)

Of course, this being me, I went storming into the article shouting, “Where are the MMOs?  Show me that online massively multiplayer goodness!”

And I was not disappointed.  MMO titles that made the cut were:

  • Ultima Online 1997
  • EverQuest 1999
  • EVE Online 2003
  • Second Life 2003
  • World of Warcraft 2004

Yes, I am admitting Second Life to the fraternity of MMOs I recognize, and not just to pad the list.  It was a thing in its day, even if Massively totally over-covered it for a bit.  I have even played it a few times.

So that is five MMOs on the list… by which I mean persistent world online games in the mold we all know and grudgingly tolerate while complaining about incessantly… or 10% of the list.  Not bad for a genre.

I suppose it says something the “important MMO” era is pretty much 1997-2004.  Has everything after that been simply refinements and derivatives of what has gone before?

Of course, limiting themselves to 50 games meant that anybody is going to find omissions that they feel are important.  Even the editors had to make an Honorable Mentions list because there was no doubt a large number of titles that were so close.

On the MMO front, I am a little disappointed that MUD1 or anything from the 1980s online era was neglected.  Maybe MegaWars III wasn’t that influential, but what about Air WarriorBut the list does feel a little heavy on the more recent end of things, probably a result of the relative youth of some of the contributors and the general feeling we tend to have that nothing is more important than right now.

Still, there are some good games whose presence on the list surprised me, like Starsiege: TribesFor a fleeting moment of time that was the best online shooter ever.  I played the hell out of that

Ultima IV is on the list, which is interesting because I think you have to have at least ONE Lord British game on the list, but which one?  I suppose Ultima IV was a turning point in the series, but I was always a big fan of Ultima III.  I’m shallow like that.  Also, I had that Ultima III editor, so made my own version of the game.

I find it somewhat odd that DotA is on the list by itself as opposed to being paired up with Warcraft III, since then you could have gotten in a side mention about how much Warcraft III influenced WoW.  Ah well.

And, of course, a lot of the list includes the games you would expect… probably demand… should be included; Wizardry, Pinball Construction Set, Civilization, League of Legends, Quake, Tomb Raider, Diablo, Half-Life, SimCity, The Sims, Minecraft, they are all there.

Yes, of course Doom is on the list...

Yes, of course Doom is on the list…

But I still look back at that list of five MMOs and wonder, is that the legacy of the genre?

Entering Season 5 of Diablo III

We got the 2.4.0 Patch for Diablo III last week, which included a few new items.  The big items were listed out in the new patch intro screen.  The focus there was on new places and new gear.

Diablo III - Patch 2.4.0 highlights

Diablo III – Patch 2.4.0 highlights

That was enough to get me interested.  Then there was the new season, which started this past Friday evening, which also held the promise of new items.

Season 5 - All this can be yours

Season 5 – All this can be yours

Together that was enough to rekindle some interest in me to play the game.

I had tried out the season thing last time around, rolling up a Demon Hunter for Season 4.  However, the DH never quite stuck with me and I ended up leaving him lingering at about level 13.

So this time around I figured I would go straight to a class I already enjoyed playing, which pretty much narrowed things down to either a Barbarian or a Crusader… and since I already had two Barbarians, a Crusader was the choice.

I created him… character creation in Diablo III is basically just choosing a class, a sex, and a name, with check boxes optional for season and hardcore, so the term “rolling up” is barely applicable.

Oh, and you get to choose your difficulty.  This time around I decided to start with Expert, which sits in the middle on the continuum of difficult, arrayed as: Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, and Torment, though I am not sure if you can pick Torment right away with a fresh character.

Expert, if I read the chart correctly, gave me a 100% bonus for gold and exp and gave the monster a 320% boost in hit points and a 189% boost in damage output.

That seemed to be just about the right choice for me when setting out, at least while solo.  I opted to go through the story again rather than straight into Adventure Mode, and there is a gap between when you show up outside New Tristram and when you finally acquire a companion, some decent gear, and some skills that feels a bit iffy to me.  It wasn’t horribly difficult or anything, though I did die once.  It feels more like punishing the new player a bit.

Ah well, with the boost in exp I leveled into skills pretty quickly and you get a companion soon enough.  Gear dropped well enough, though the extra gold helped on the crafting front to fill in gaps.

One of the first thing I noticed is that the game is a lot more communicative about things like massacres, which can grant you a bonus to exp.  Previously you found out after the fact that you were on a streak.  Now you get a pop-up that tells you when you’re on your way and shows a little timer, in the form of a burning fuse, to let you know how much time you have to start hitting something new to keep it going.

Streak under way

Streak under way

There were also a pile of changes to all of the classes with the 2.4.0 patch, though it had been long enough since I played that I had to pretty much relearn the class anyway.  I pottered away solo through the first act going with the skill that let you single hand a dual wield weapon with a penalty to damage with reasonable success.

Then, in comparing notes with a co-worker, he said he preferred to go with single hand weapons and the skill that buffed up their speed instead.  I swapped to that and started in on Act II, which was a bit of a trial because I needed to get a decent 1h weapon.  There was a bit of a DPS deficit going from a Legendary 2h to just a Magic 1h that was handy.

Once I got a 1h Legendary however, the gap was clearly filled and my Crusader began tearing through mobs like they were paper.  He was doing well enough that part way into Act II I upped the difficulty from Expert to Master.  That put some effort back into the game and I had to start paying some attention to my health globe again.

So far, so good.  I have 7 of the 9 initial objectives complete.  Doing that gets me some stuff.

First objectives

First objectives

And my Crusader is advancing at a decent rate for me.  Playing solo and in short-ish chunks of time (there is always that one more thing cycle to deal with though) means that, unlike Bel who hit level 68 over the first day of the season, I am only level 43 so far.

Chadwick the Crusader

Chadwick the Crusader

But that works for me.

Signal Cartel Anniversary Contest

Signal Cartel has been around for a year now.

SignalCartel
Those hug fleet running, snowball throwing, Thera dwelling, space hippies… erm… I mean those intrepid explorers who help keep us appraised of the state of Thera wormholes… are holding a contest as part of their celebration.

You thought I was kidding about hug fleets, didn't you?

You thought I was kidding about hug fleets, didn’t you?

It is an EVE Online screen shot contest, something near and dear to my own heart.  They are looking for a few good screenies from your toonies for which they might even give you some ISKies. (It was painful to write that sentence, even ironically.)

You can find all the essential details here.  Entries will also appear, if I understand things correctly, in the EVE Scout Flickr library, while the best of the best will join the showcase at the EVE Scout Observatory.

The deadline for entries is January 29, 2016, with any ISK awards slated to be distributed the next day.

I am already in with 6 entries.  I had to choose them quick because I could spend days sifting through screen shots.

Meanwhile, I wonder what Signal Cartel has planned for today, since it is apparently the 30th annual National Hug Day.

The Return of the Stripper

Video safe for work, it is just music.

That is the song that came to mind when I saw the CCP Dev Blog go up about a return to the skill stripping plan, though Smed over using the word “hardcore” and “extremely deep” yesterday might have influenced that line of thought.  Anyway, the whole thing is a bit lurid, something of a tease, and not making everybody in the community happy.

Officially CCP is calling this Skill Trading.  This is the ability to strip skill points from a character in 500,000 SP chunks and sell them on the open market.

For lore reasons this may hurt a bit...

For lore reasons this may hurt a bit…

There seems to be a couple of reasons behind this move.

The first was articulated by CCP Quant at EVE Vegas, where he said the desire going forward was to have players able to create as many of the items in the New Eden economy as possible, including skills… and, apparently, skill points.  This seems to fit withing that over-arching goal.

The second is the classic new player complaint about their inability to “catch up” to older players.  I’ve seen that come up any number of times, the feeling that skill points are the levels of EVE Online and that people who show up late are being unfairly penalized by a system where time alone is the only way to grind up the skill point scale.

And, true enough, no day one newbie is going to be flying a titan or a faction battleship or even a strategic cruiser most likely.  Then again, no day one newbie is going to have the ISK to buy a titan or a faction battleship or a strategic cruiser… or a 500K SP bundle, which is bound to be a bit pricey… not unless they also buy some PLEX to boost up their bank balance.

And therein lies the rub, as the whole discussion gets into the “Pay to Win” arena.  There was enough push back on this idea when CCP broached it initially a couple months back that I thought they might shelve it, but now it is slated for the February 9th release.

The argument against does seem pretty clear.  You can take real world money and, through some process, turn that into skill point advancement for your character.  You are, essentially, buying levels and, while CCP isn’t selling them directly to you, they make money along the way and thus leveraging new players for fun and profit.  I’m sure the #ResistCapitalism team would have some choice words about that situation.

On the flip side CCP makes it quite clear that they are not creating skill points out of thin air.  A quote from the Dev Blog:

It’s very important to note here that this means all the skillpoints available to buy on the market in EVE will have originated on other characters where they were trained at the normal rate. Player driven economies are key to EVE design and we want you to decide the value of traded skillpoints while we make sure there is one single mechanism that brings new skillpoints in to the system – training.

The sum total of skill points in New Eden won’t change inflate because of this, players will simply be trading skill points amongst themselves. [And, as noted in the comments, the total number of SP in game may actually go down a bit.]

Also, for those dying to spend money to advance their skill point total, there is already the character bazaar where you can buy and sell characters for ISK, something that has been around for years without much in the way of objections.

The skill point injectors also will favor new players, so this won’t be just a way for those “rich” in skill point to get richer.  The injectors have diminishing returns based on how many skill points you already have:

  • < 5 million total skill points = 500,000 skill points per injector
  • 5 million – 50 million total skill points = 400,000 skill points per injector
  • 50 million – 80 million total skill points = 300,000 skill points per injector
  • > 80 million skill points = 150k skill points per injector

Then there is the fact that you do not actually have to spend any real world money at all on injectors and the like.  They will all be for sale, from other players, on the market for ISK.  See Jita for the best pricing.

And, finally, there is the fact that advancement does not equal winning in EVE Online, unless your goal… your personal win condition… is to merely skill up your character.  As somebody whose main character recently passed the 150 million skill point mark (while my main alt is past 110 million), I can tell you that having skill points does not mean winning any more than having ISK means winning.  In my case, it generally just gives me a wider range of ships in which to be blown up.

Still, even with those offsets, the whole plan makes me somewhat uncomfortable for a couple of reasons.  One is that even a whiff of “Pay to Win” will give those who already hate the game for whatever reason to throw stones about how CCP is exploiting new players, cash grabs, the evil of money grubbing developers, and so on.  Once you go into an area with a dubious reputation, like multi-level marketing schemes or free to play MMORPGs, you inherit some of the reputation that such has already attained.  You may seem to be selling power with the best of intentions, but it has been done so blatantly wrong before in other games that it is tough ignore.

Then, of course, I am waiting for the tale of how Goons will be the main beneficiaries out of the feature.  If your Goon conspiracy theory cannot include that, you’re doing it wrong!

But mostly I am wondering where the hole, the exploit, the unintentional outcome will show up, because if there is one thing that the last dozen years of the game has shown us is that the wisdom of crowds is a thing and that there is no way a few hundred people in Reykjavík can foresee what a couple hundred thousand people will come up with.

If they mess up with a new ship or a module or game mechanic, they can fix that in the next patch without much bother.  We’ve seen that over and over.  But when you start mucking with one of the core aspects of in-game character development, that might be a place where I fear to tread. We’ll just have to wait see how it plays out.  At least we don’t have skill point losses due to forgetting the update your clone any more, though there is still the strategic cruiser thing.

And in the long run, I suspect that the likely users of this feature will be old hands looking to quickly boost an alt, corps and alliances looking to help promising new players along, people looking for a bit of ISK out of skills they trained and never used, and maybe, just maybe, a few hard cores who want to be able to retrain lost strategic cruiser skills more quickly.

Will I use this feature?  After all, having gone beyond the 150 million skill point mark there must be some skills in there that I ended up never needing.

The thing is, this is EVE Online.  There are so many paths to follow that I can’t really predict what I might need tomorrow given how many careers I’ve had in the past.  Hell, if it wasn’t for Reavers I might run off and join Signal Cartel and be a space hippie for a year, and who knows what skills I might need for that.  So I doubt I will be stripping any skill points out of my skull any time soon.

Others on the topic currently:

Some post from when this first came up:

 

Torn on MMORPGs

That headline doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Back at the start of November I got an unsolicited email asking me for something.  Not an uncommon occurrence.  I get a surprising amount of offers on the blog email address, most of which I delete out of hand.  This one, however, appeared to be from an actual person.  I was still skeptical.  If you send me a note asking for something on that account, expect that.  But wanted to know what he was really up to.

Kevin, Head of Digital at Chedburn Networks Ltd, the makers of the text MMO Torn (from which I draw the title of this post, so there is that question answered) wanted to know if I would provide feedback on something akin to an MMORPG white paper project they were working on and, also, would I like my blog to be listed on the finished product.

After a bit of back and forth and cynicism on my part, set off by trigger words like “brand exposure,” I said I would look take a look.  After seeing an early draft, I said I would be okay with being listed as an example of an MMORPG blogger along with Syp, Murph, Jewel, Chris from Game by Night (where is your handle, man?), and some John Doe guy that used to write about MMOs, then stopped, but who can’t stop reminding people that he could have been a contender or something.

(I also appear to be the only one of the six that can follow instructions, judging from the final product, where I am the only one with an “established” date.)

That was in late November, after which the whole thing dwindled into silence… until this week, when I got an email with a link to the finished product.  You can go see it here.

There is actually quite a bit of information packed into that.  There is a nice little history of online games with a timeline that starts with Ultima Online and carries through to today, picking out some events that have happened along the way.  It is interesting, in its way, to see what got included.  I’m not sure that the EVE Online T20 scandal ranks up there with the advent of Leeroy Jenkins.  And did nothing happen in 2009 besides the launch of Aion?  It is also hard for me to see these two next to each other like they were totally unconnected events.  And no mention of Warhammer Online, which killed the genre.

SWG was closed because of SWTOR

SWG was closed because of SWTOR

There is also a chart listing out the top MMOs out right now that contains some hard numbers that I am sure people will want to see.  You can, I suppose, extrapolate total player bases by multiplying players per world by the number of worlds they list out.  Of course EVE Online is the top MMO when you sort that way, though the total players is a bit gloomy, while the WoW numbers seem to add up to a total not seen since 2010.

That is a lot of daily players...

That is a lot of daily players…

I asked about the source for some of those numbers, as some of them seem quite questionable, like the ones listed for EverQuest Next.

Daybreak dreaming here?

Daybreak dreaming here? These can’t be Landmark numbers…

But there it is, a pile of data ready to be argued over.  I can foresee some doom and gloom coming from a few entries on the list or what it means to be in the top five, depending on how you sort things.

Anyway, if you are a general MMORPG nerd there is probably something in the report that will interest you.  If nothing else, there ought to be something to spark a blog post.  I will likely write something further once I have had time to sit down and digest what is there.  And it is nice to be told how popular I am again.  It says so right there in that last section.  All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my authoritative close-up.

Smed Goes to Kickstarter for the Hardcore

John Smedley, formerly of SOE and Daybreak, went public with his new company and their first project.  The company name is Pixelmage (according to the trademark application), which is “Pixel Mage” and not “Pixe Image,” something that could be sorted out with a space or a capital “M” in the middle.  Or, just look at their logo.

Pixel Mage Games

Pixel Mage Games

And, in announcing this he has also pointed at the company’s first project which will, of course, be financed via a Kickstarter Campaign.  Pixelmage wants $800,000 minimum for their game Hero’s Song which is described as follows:

Sing this Hero!

Sing this Hero!

Basically a 2D retro-pixellated multiplayer action adventure RPG game thing… for the hardcore!

Hardcore action RPG for Hardcore Gamers!

It is a sign of my age I suppose that my brain always links the word “hardcore” with the word “porn,” which always makes this sort of discussion just that much more amusing.

Missing from the Kickstarter page at the moment is the platform it will run on, but I guess we can all assume Windows 64-bit will be required, though maybe it will run on the Nintendo 3DS.  It certainly looks like it could.

There are all the usual hallmarks of such a Kickstarter campaign, including dev bios, stretch goals, a range of backer options, some grand sweeping statements, and an overly optimistic time line.

Dates quoted for truth...

Dates quoted for truth…

Give the standard Kickstarter multiplier for multiplayer software video game projects, this ought to launch in late 2017 or early 2018.

Anyway, Smed and his new company are off to the races.  You can see the Kickstarter campaign here.  We shall see how things develop.  Pledge now ($25 minimum) or wait until it comes out and get it for $20.

 

The press embargo appears to have lifted so deeper coverage is available at:

Addendum: And a statement on supported platforms at last:

Addendum: Sanity kicked in and you can now pledge $15 and get a copy of the game when it is done, and if you pledge more you get a second copy now.

Rooks & Kings – Gridline Bombing

Rooks & Kings, who have applied some of the most interesting tactics in EVE Online and documented them in a series of fascinating videos (such as Clarion Call 4, which I posted here over a year ago), are back with a video about what they call gridline bombing.

This involved using the edge of grids in EVE Online to catch hostiles unawares.  As this depended on the old grid mechanics that were updated in December, this is something of a memorial to the way things used to be… until somebody figures out how to use the new, larger grids.

With a run time of just over 6 minutes, it one of the most brief exploration of tactics they have posted.

Typhoons and Jackdaws on a Saturday Afternoon

Asher had been pinging about a gimmick fleet he wanted to run this past weekend.  It involved some logi, a few command destroyers, a dreadnought, and some Typhoons.  I was all for that and imported a Typhoon, never having flown one before.  When the time came on Saturday I was logged in and ready to go, along with 30 or so others.  There was the usual fumbling around to get people into appropriate ships… you can ping all week about something and somebody will still show up and ask what we’re flying… and our Naglfar pilot, Swor Reborn, was a bit late, which put the operation in fix as Asher started trying to find an alternate who was willing to lose their dread on an experimental fleet.

Only a little bit behind schedule we had everybody together and undocked for the run towards Fountain where Asher had arranged a fight with The Culture, one of the small sov holding  alliances in Fountain which was, if I recall right, made up in part from the parts of Black Legion that wanted to stay in null sec.

On the way out

On the way out

Along the way Asher explained what we were up to, which involved one of the command destroyers using its AOE micro jump drive to  grab a hostile and launch it into the optimum range of the Naglfar’s guns, and away from any logi support, while all of us in Typhoons painted it with the target painters that were part of the fit, at which point the Nag, fitted with artillery, would open fire and blap the target in a couple of volleys.  The idea was optimistically called “shooting skeet” and Asher wanted Swor to call “pull” when he was ready just to keep with the gimmick.

At least that is how I understood it.  The high concept sounded fun, though I didn’t really grasp the mechanics on the ground.  It was either going to be hilarious or a slaughter or maybe both.

The run out was uneventful.  A couple of later arrivals got on to catch up, but nothing got in our way and we arrived at B-DBYQ, the designated spot, intact.  There was a moment of worry when a blue fleet showed up in the system.  It turned out to be a 4S Corporation roam and they passed through, leaving us to our business.

We got ourselves arranged about the J5A-IX gate in the system… the scene of many of the early clashes during the Fountain War, so a place I recall fondly… and then The Culture came through and it was on.

The Culture showed up with about 50 ships in a fleet built up around Rattlesnake battleships, which definitely put us on the back foot.  But Asher was still game, thinking that maybe the Naglfar would balance things out, and we didn’t have anything else to do anyway, so we got stuck into the fight.

And we got slaughtered.  We got in and focused on one of the Rattlesnakes, hitting it with our own missiles while painting it for Swor, but I am not sure if the MJD idea ever got kicked off or not.  Meanwhile we began losing Typhoons early and often.  When I got yellow boxed I called for shields and the remembered we were in an armor fit, so called for armor.  However, I think by that point they had eaten up our limited logi.  As I got deep into armor I lit off my own MJD in an attempt to pull range and maybe live for a bit longer.  However, I didn’t check where I was pointed and I believe I actually may have closed the range, or at least jumped through them so as not to open the range nearly enough.  The end result was that I had not in anyway impeded my own destruction and the Typhoon disintegrated around me and I was left in my pod.

At that point though I was out of the warp disruption bubbles that were all over the gate.  I could have warped off to relative safety and returned home.  But with no implants in my pod and the fight still going on, why leave the party early.  So I motored around and watched the remainder of the fight.  Asher, in a Damnation that was our booster, hung on for a while, though it seemed like he was getting reps as well as taking damage from our foes at one point.

Asher's Damnation attracting all sorts of attention

Asher’s Damnation attracting all sorts of attention

He and Swor eventually succumbed and that was then end of things.  Most everybody got blown up then popped in their pod, which meant not having to bother flying back home, except for Swor, who managed to get away with his capital pod.

Swor's wreck left behind on the gate

Swor’s wreck left behind on the gate

(That isn’t my screen shot, somebody linked it in fleet. I was back in D2-HOS in my pod by then.)

We did manage to knock off three Rattlesnakes, a Sabre, and a claw, but lost almost everything we brought.  A Pontifex command destroyer got away and a Claw, but that was about it.  The battle report is here.  A couple of people recorded the fight, but I haven’t seen it posted on YouTube yet. (I found one from The Culture side of things.  We’re the third fight in this video, which starts at the 3:08 mark.)

The experiment was not a success, but we died in the name of science I suppose… and the insurance payout on T1 battleships is pretty generous, so that, along with some peacetime reimbursement (75 million ISK for me from TNT), takes most of the sting away, leaving just the tale of a glorious defeat.

That done we thanked Asher for the fun ride and went our various ways.  I logged off and went to go look at the screen shots from the fight at least secure in the fact I would have something new to post about.

A while later, as I was farting around on my computer, a ping came in for a homeland defense fleet.  Jay Amazingness was calling for Jackdaws to tangle with a Pandemic Horde fleet that was hanging on the undock in D2-HOS and spoiling for a fight. (Pandemic Horde is Pandemic Legion new player learning/fun alliance. Watch their latest video.)

That seemed like a quick way into some action, so I logged back in and got into the Jackdaw I had handy.

Pandemic Horde had apparently just pretty much wiped out an SMA Caracal/Cormorant fleet with a pile of Federation Navy Comets (A JEFFRAIDER Police Fleet if I got it right, which means flying the Comet with the Police SKIN complete with blinky lights) in the system and were hanging around looking for another fight.  We piled into fleet at what seemed like an agonizingly slow pace.  The hostiles were on the undock and those who got in early were itching to get out there and come to grips with them before they decided to look elsewhere for fun.

Eventually we piled up enough numbers and undocked to chase them down… chase them down because they had left the undock.  Not that they were avoiding a fight.  Rather we bounced around for a short bit as each side tried to close with the other only to find themselves warping off just as the other side was landing.  EVE Online is like that some days.  Eventually though both sides were in the same bit of space at the same time and the fight began.  The head shot out FC right off the bat… something that is either good tactics or poor sportsmanship depending on who is talking about it and who just got head shot… which put us off our stride for a moment before somebody else picked up the reigns and started calling targets.

We managed to kill off the Horde that remained from the first fight with SMA in very short order, targets going down often before I could finish locking them up.  The ISK war would have totally gone to PH had they not brought along a few expensive ships, like a Kronos and a Vindicator.  Jay jumped in his Ragnarok alt just to pile on at the end, though he only managed to whore on two pods and a Megathron for the effort.  The battle report is here.

Jay's Ragnarok at the fight

Jay’s Ragnarok at the fight

That battle report actually includes both battles, so ships/players from both the initial encounter with SMA and the follow on with the Homeland Defense fleet are listed out.

All in all a good short, sharp fight and, as with our Typhoon fight earlier, the PH pilots were spared having to fly home.  And I actually got the killing blow on two of the hostiles, one in a Punisher and the other in the big old Vindicator that was along for the ride.  So somewhere on my Jackdaw there should be two kill marks, though I cannot seem to figure out where they are on that I-beam hull.  So now I have two ships with at least one kill mark, my Harpy and this Jackdaw.

Kill marks are around here somewhere...

Kill marks are around here somewhere…

All of which made for some fun in New Eden on a Saturday afternoon.

Some of the screen shots I took during the fights.

Random Thoughts about The Force Awakens – Spoilers

Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!

Are we clear on that?  If you read further, I will likely spoil key aspects of the movie for you.

SFTFAThe movie is still playing in theaters just about everywhere, so go see it first.

Context

Everybody’s view of the film is influenced by their past experience with the franchise.  I have yet to read a review that wasn’t in somewhat tainted by the relationship the writer already had with the series, though I have seen more than a few that refused to own up to the baggage the author brought with them.

I will try to explain my own baggage.  I didn’t mind the prequels.  I wasn’t one of those people who raged about how George Lucas had destroyed my cherished childhood memories.  Yes, there was a lot to dislike about the prequels.  But I had already had my moment of hate when it came to GL, because I felt Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was the big betrayal.  After Star Wars: The Muppet Movie, I was never as big a fan of the series.  So midi-chlorians were a kick in the nuts, but not the deal breaker it was for a lot of fans who had no problem with Ewoks defeating Storm Troopers with bows and arrows.

General Statement

I like it.  I liked it a lot, enough for my daughter and I to go back and see it a second time.

That isn’t to say I liked it uncritically.  There are aspects of the movie than make me shake my head and groan, choices that I clearly would not have made.  But in the totality of the film, I liked a lot more than I disliked, it far exceeded my low expectations, and I had a lot of fun.

I’d go see it again.

I will admit that having watched the George Lucas prequels and remastered original trilogy, where the added CGI bits get more annoying with each viewing, in the run up to this movie helped set up a situation where The Force Awakens was going to sit favorably with me.

After the cut, some more specific thoughts.  Last chance to avoid spoilers.

Continue reading

Friday Bullet Points About Games I’m Not Actually Playing

It is the middle of January already in the year 2016, a date that literally seemed like “The Future” when I was a kid.  Yet it feels really normal, right up until I watch some TV re-run from the early 90s… my daughter and I started watching The X-Files earlier this week, starting with season 1 episode 1… and not only aren’t there any iPhones or iPads or flat screen TVs, but there aren’t any cell phones at all present.

Clearly, future me is some sort of alien, since I can barely remember a time without such things.  1992 wasn’t THAT long ago, was it?

Anyway, some small items to note.

Diablo III Patch 2.4.0

We’re getting pretty much the only thing Blizzard deigned to speak about on the Diablo III front when it came to BlizzCon last year.

D3Patch240_500px
I was disappointed by the lack of new stuff for the Diablo franchise… like another full expansion or something about Diablo IV…  but I must admit that, reading the 2.4.0 release notes, they did deliver a decent pile of stuff.  A new island, some expanded areas in older zones, new rifts, a new season, and the inevitable new gear sets.

It makes me want to go back and take a look.  On the flip side, I am more about playing through the story… and exploring every single square centimeter of the map… than I am about the post-story gear grind.  Maybe I will start a season 5 character and run through the story again.

WoW Legion Alpha

I keep reading bits about the alpha for the upcoming WoW Legion expansion.. because it has no NDA… and I have to wonder what this means.  Is this how Blizzard is trying to keep their fans invested, by letting them into the next expansion even earlier than usual?

LegionScene_500px

My gut says that this might mean the actual launch will be far closer to the September 21, 2016 than, say, the Warcraft movie release.  We’ll see.

I also wonder if this now constant exposure to the expansion content starting in alpha will make the post-launch enthusiasm window for the expansion even smaller than we saw for Warlords of Draenor, which lost 46% of its audience in under six months.  Basically, will all but the non-hardcore be mostly “done” with the expansion before it starts?

Anyway, I am averting my eyes from this… which means not reading a couple of blogs and avoiding some stories that are grinding through every detail… so as to keep myself fresh for the eventual launch.

Amazon Prime Discounts

Amazon announced that Prime members would be getting a 20% discount on new and pre-ordered  games this week.  We have Prime at our house, and get our value out of it largely via the video service, the occasional free Kindle book, and a bit of free shipping now and again.  But now I can pre-order the WoW Legion expansion at 20% off months before it goes live.

Remember back when The Burning Crusade stayed at list price for nearly a year after it launched?

Stormhold Moves On

During the summer I was trying to get myself engaged in the Daybreak first run at an EverQuest II nostalgia server; specifically the Stormhold PvE time-locked expansion server.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

I failed to get there… I played a bit, and actually had some fun, but I never got quite enthusiastic enough about the whole thing to get very far.

Time, however, moves on… as noted at the top of the post.  Last week the Stormhold and Deathtoll servers both moved to the Kingdom of Sky expansion, which also moves them out of my prime nostalgia zone.  That whole pacing question comes to mind again I suppose, but my nostalgia for the game sort of ends with Desert of Flames, with everything after that feeling like “the new stuff.”  Again, time is strange.

New LOTRO Servers

Earlier this week the team at Turbine moved Lord of the Rings Online over to their new server farm.  This was part of their 2015 plan that also involved server merges to boost populations along with promises better performance and all the other things that go with fancy new hardware.

Unfortunately, with new hardware there can also be new problems, something the game has been experiencing.  On the bright side though, the server upgrade did fix my inability to log in on the Brandywine server, something that shut down my nascent return to Middle-earth in early December.  Maybe once they get this settled down I can get back to Mirkwood.

Boot Camp Denied

I have a spoiler laden post about Star Wars: The Force Awakens sitting around waiting for the right time to post.  Maybe this weekend.  But as an indicator of the reaction at our household, my daughter had the sudden urge to play Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I gave her a taste on my computer, but to get that back I had to promise to setup a Windows partition on her iMac.  Easy stuff, right?  She has a fairly recent iMac… it is probably the best computer in the house… I have the Windows 7 media and an extra license key and there is plenty of drive space on her system.

And it mostly worked, right up until Boot Camp wanted to install the drivers for the iMac hardware, at which point it announced that the version of Boot Camp was not for this Mac model.  Google gave me a variety of possible solutions (the problem seems to come up a lot), none of which solved the problem.  Without the drivers, I have a fairly useless version of Windows 7 hanging around the house.

Now I have to guard my computer to keep her away from it.  Nothing is ever simple.

Such is life in the video game lane for me this week… at least for some games I am interested in but do not actually play.