Monthly Archives: September 2016

September in Review

The Site

I finally got around to tinkering with the MMO Blog feed on the side bar, something I proposed to do a couple of months back.  My operating suspicion, given the sporadic reliability of the feed over the last ten months and my attempts to fix the problem via other vectors, was that some individual feed was screwing things up for everybody else.  As it stood, the old feed was drawing from a bucket in Feedly that contained nearly 200 blogs.

Top of the list... not sure why CZ is at the very top...

Top of the list… not sure why CZ is at the very top…

The idea was to have a lot of blogs in there so that even irregular writers would get their turn on the side bar.  A lovely idea, but when nobody is showing up on the side bar for what seemed like 18 out of every 24 hours, not a viable one.  So I created a new category in Feedly and routed it via IFTTT to Pinboard, where it gets turned into an RSS feed that I can display via a WordPress.com side bar widget.

I then moved just ten of the blogs from the original category to the new one, a set of the “regulars” from the neighborhood, put the widget in the side bar (moving the old one down to the bottom, just to compare reliability), and watched it grow.

That seems to have made the feed more reliable.  Since then I have been slowly adding a few blogs at a time, so that the count is up to 30 at this point. (You can tell when I add somebody because their last few posts suddenly show up at the top of the list.)  I will probably cap it out at 50 or so, rather than push things to the point where it breaks again and then have to dial back to find the culprit.

Also, I thought this month would have the lowest page view count since 2008… recent charts in the anniversary post will give you that scale… and then I posted twice about World of Warcraft this week and pulled out of that dive.  Now I am no further back than 2009.  Go me.

There is your blogging lesson of the month; if you want to be popular, post about WoW.

One Year Ago

The blog turned nine years old.

Some survey said it could guess my age based on my video game preferences.

World of Warships officially went live after its open beta.

As part of the Heart of Thorns expansion, the Guild Wars 2 base game went completely free.

Also on the free front, WildStar went free to play, bowing to the realities of the current MMORPG market.

In World of Warcraft, the ability to fly was finally unlocked in Draenor… provided you had all the achievements.

In Diablo III I was looking at the whole season thing.

Lord British was on again with some quotes, allowing that Blizzard could do some things well… like Diablo.  But he was more on about sandbox games, like his upcoming Shroud of the Avatar, because sandbox games generate news headlines.  His example was EVE Online, though it wasn’t clear to me that SotA was going to get the same sort of coverage.

In Minecraft I was making friends with the zombie pigmen and using a utility to see a map of our world.  I needed that map as we were all out exploring.  Aaron was kicking of our transit hub in the roof of the nether and I was ruining Xydd’s neighborhood.  Meanwhile, our hosting service was going out of business.

On the Daybreak front I was reflecting on the status of EverQuest Next five years after it had been announced.  There were expansion plans for EverQuest and EverQuest IIThe Ruins of Kunark expansion was unlocked on the Ragefire progression server while the vote for the Desert of Flames expansion was up on the Stormhold server.  Daybreak also killed off enforced raid rotation on Ragefire, having “fixed” the underlying issue finally. There was talk of the new server names for the coming server consolidation in EverQuest II.  I am not sure I liked the results.

In EVE Online I was happy, in the age of Fozzie sov, that towers still gave kill mails.  Even CCP seemed to think that maybe blowing things up was better than sov wands.  They were also considering going back to bigger expansions, putting less emphasis on the monthly updates.  The monthly updates still had names for the moment… the Vanguard monthly update for example… but that would go by the end of the year.

Asher Elias started off his podcast and led us off to a fight with Ron Mexxico, who was one of his early guests, and brought us to Cloud Ring in Fozzie Claws.

The monthly EVE Online blog banter… which seems to have died off recently… wanted to know what we would do were we put in charge of the development of New Eden.

Finally, I was reflecting a bit on lifetime subscriptions and noting Asheron’s Call downtime, Lord of the Rings Online server transfers, the Drunder server in EverQuest II, and Windows 10 in one of my Friday bullet point posts.

Five Years Ago

I did the great survey of blogs that had, at one time or another, included this site in their blog roll over the last five years.  Only 28% of them were still up and active.  There was also the five year anniversary post and all that it entailed.

I implied that Tobold’s mother a llama.  This had NOTHING to do with him not having a blog roll.

I was totally going to resist Steam selling me Rift for cheap.  That didn’t work, and I ended up playing for about a year or so.

Star Trek Online announced it was going free to play, though I couldn’t imagine how it wasn’t already.

In LOTRO, the Rise of Isengard expansion came out and I almost didn’t notice.  Which was odd, because we were kind of playing LOTRO still.

The Goons were going to wreck the EVE economy by blowing up high sec ice miners.  Another vast Goon conspiracy.  I was being nostalgic for my earlier days in EVE.

GameSpy had a post about re-imagining Diablo as a first person perspective game, which was met with much derision.  Me, I liked the idea and even had suggestions for further topics in that vein to explore.  Meanwhile, Diablo III was pushed out to the middle of 2012.

In other Blizzard news, the Official World of Warcraft Magazine went belly up after just five issues.  And then there was a drop in WoW subscribers.  They lost 600,000 players, though I wasn’t one of them… yet.  Good thing they never lost more than that…

I was still playing Need for Speed: World pretty regularly.  I was filming police chases, avoiding police chases, and buying the squarest ride in the game.

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw server, the retro experience was made complete by “guilds behaving badly” when it came to contested content.  Some GMs came up with unorthodox ways to resolve conflicts.  Somewhere along the way I got my SOE Authenticator, which I never use.

ArenaNet said something about private GuildWars 2 PvP servers.  I wonder how that would play today?

EA/BioWare gave us a release date for SWTOR at last, so I could start fretting about pre-orders and grace periods.  While I wasn’t in beta yet, BioWare was asking how I was enjoying it.

There was no word about life on Planet Michael.

And, finally, I was wondering how 9/11, which took place just a couple months before the birth of my daughter, would influence her view of the world relative to my own.  This was triggered by her trip to New York, where she visited the Nintendo Store.

Ten Years Ago

We are now officially at the point where I can just link back to old posts for this section.  I will still include the occasional outside item that I missed back then, or things that became meaningful in the context of the blog as time moved on.  Or just stuff that seems interesting.  Have to keep these sharp for when the “Twenty Years Ago” section becomes a thing!

There was the first post.  I still haven’t covered all of the topics I promised 10 years back.

After that I was straight into the EverQuest nostalgia, an oft recurring topic here.  The Serpent’s Spine expansion came out for the game.  I would get to that in a bit.

LEGO Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy launched, setting the casual path for future Traveller’s Tales LEGO based games.  My daughter and I would later play this on the Wii, but that was still out in the future.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, the first core Pokemon RPG titles for the Nintendo DS platform shipped in Japan.  They wouldn’t reach US shores for another six months.  Again, another series that would show up here as time moved on.

Green Monster Games, later 38 Studios, was unveiled to the public by founder Curt Schilling with R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane as part of the creative team.

I was into EVE Online, which I began playing just about two weeks before I started the blog.  My first post about it concerned the tutorial, then I went on to my impressions.  I already had EVEMon up and running, because you cannot play EVE Online without it.  And, while I was hardly aware of it, the first titan had been built in New Eden.

I was musing about games slated for the future, including Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online I had reservations about both.

I kicked off my old school gaming reminiscences with a post about Stellar Emperor as it was back in 1986.  That was 30 years ago.  Damn continuous motion of time.

The instance group formed up for adventures in Azeroth.

I wrote the first “Month in Review” post.  I am not sure WHY I decided to do that, but it became a thing as here I am doing the 101st such post a decade later. (About four years ago I decided month in review should have its own category, so I went back and edited each and every last one to put them all in that category.  Fortunately, being a once a month thing, it was easy to figure out if I missed any or not.)

I also wrote something about Saga of Ryzom in that month in review post, which might be the one of the few times I ever wrote anything about it.

But the smartest thing I probably did in that first month was link out to Brent at VirginWorlds in a post, which got him to notice my brand new blog, which kind of got me into the club pretty quickly as well as getting me my first comment.

Featured Sites of the Month

[none – I forgot]

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. Pre-Ordering WoW Legion at a Discount
  3. Legion So Far…
  4. WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers
  5. WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches
  6. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  7. CCP and the Elephant in the Room
  8. A Decade Under the Influence of Online Games
  9. CCP Has a Plan for EVE Online Free to Play
  10. WoW Legion? There’s an App for That!
  11. Delve Conquest Complete
  12. Honest Game Trailers – Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney

Search Terms of the Month

how to get listed in Yahoo News
[Pretty easy, pay them money. Half of their “news” is just ads.]

pokemon go what mean you have4 attempts left before locked out

“lucy bradshaw””piss people off”
[To be fair, she didn’t make that last version of SimCity on her own.]

why do they say tosh is clown shoes
[I got nothing, but I am blaming Tesh for you getting here.]

h1z2 wymagania
[At first glance that seems obscene, but it turns out to be Polish.]

Spam Comment of the Month

Whether gamers sell a Pokemon Go account or World of Warcraft character, they are in danger of being audited by the IRS.
[I am sure the IRS is all over that like green on Ben Franklin’s ass.]

EVE Online

There was a deployment to Querious with Reavers which was cut short as our list of goals was largely accomplished without fighting.  Groups seemed eager to move further away from the Imperium.  So it was more a month of tinkering and PvE for me.  I kill Blood Raiders, ran Purity of the Throne sites, tried to figure out PI, and generally boosted my cash reserves.

Pokemon Go

The wife and I continue to play this.  My daughter is so past it though, and it annoys here when we talk about it.

Current end of month stats:

  • Level: 18 (+7)
  • Pokedex status: 61 (+22) caught, 63 (+23) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Ghastly
  • Current buddy: Bulbasaur

Minecraft

Our Minecraft server has been pretty dead this past month, though I only know this since I actually played for a bit.  I have a blog post in progress about the game, but not the one you want.  Also, considering another resource consuming, scenery marring grand construction project.  After months of war, final defeat, moving to and then conquering a new region, having a quiet month wasn’t a bad thing.

World of Warcraft

The first full month of WoW Legion has now gone by.  I have a character at level cap, I have one zone left to run through, and then all the things that come after that.  I have enjoyed it so far, the zones are good, the quests are high quality, the usual characters and references are about, but I haven’t been overly enthusiastic for it or chomping at the bit to play.  I think that is just me.

Coming Up

As noted, I have been doing a couple of things in Minecraft I may write about.  There is also an update coming that will include llamas, because of course it will.

In doing the ten year anniversary post I dredged up a bunch of old topics I might want to go back and revisit after so much time has passed.  I try to not simply write stuff, hit post, and forget about it.  I like to go back and re-read posts and see how my views may have changed.

EVE Vegas is coming up at the end of the month and I will be attending.  More details on that later.  There is a war going on in New Eden of some interest, even if we’re not directly involved.  And the CSM 11 Summit meeting notes got released today, so maybe there will be something in those to dissect.

On WoW I will begin my assault on Stormheim and probably continue making hexweave bags.

I suppose we will hear more about the upcoming EverQuest and EverQuest II expansions.

And that is all I can see given my own limited horizons.  What else is coming in October?

Make My Alpha Clone

As we heard back at the end of August, free to play of a sorts is coming to EVE Online this November in the form of Alpha Clones.

For those two lazy to click the link, if your account is not subscribed to the game you will still be able to log into New Eden, but your characters will be in the Alpha Clone state, which limits them to 5 million skill points.

You still have all your skill points, but you need to be subscribed to use any beyond the 5 million cap, which the game promises to remind you of at every turn.

Can't touch that!

Can’t touch that!

And, on top of that, just because you have a lot of skill points when subscribed does not mean that when transition to the Alpha Clone state that you will have the full five million to play with, as those skills must come from a specific set of skills dictated by your choice of race.  Yes, that completely meaningless, primarily cosmetic choice of old can now come back to haunt you.

There is a post up over at The Nosy Gamer looking at the four race/faction choices.

Like a lot of other people, I started thinking about what I would do with a potentially unlimited supply of effectively disposable 5 million SP free pilots.  But even in a potentially bottomless well, there is always a first bucket of water drawn, and so I decided to start in on my first Alpha Clone in advance, so I reactivated an account.

I know, Alpha Clones are going to be free, why pay to make one?

Well, among other restrictions, Alpha Clones are going to train at half the speed of subscribed accounts, if I caught that detail correctly.  Given that it takes my main about 7 months to train 10 million skill points… his learning rate boosted slightly by spending down time in a clone with +4 implants when possible… a completely free 5 million skill point clone account looks to be about a 9 month operation by my guess.  Literally the human gestation period for a fully formed Alpha Clone.

Besides which, I already had a character, a May 2009 model named Reynaldo Fabulous (pre-dates Jay Amazingness by 4 years, and holds our old corp… anybody want to buy a 2007 corp so you can tell people how “old school” you are?), with more than 14 million SP and a set of +3 implants plugged in.  That also made my faction choice for me, since he was born Gallante back in 2009.  I figured I would have this Alpha Clone thing set in a week or two, so I subscribed him (hours before the magic date) to see what he had going on.

He had a Trisatan and a Quafe Skin for it, which I wasn’t sure how he obtained, but was out in the boonies, so I flew him off to a local NPC station that stocked skill books.

Quafe skins for all the ships

Quafe skins for all the ships

Once there I started comparing what he had trained in the past and what skills he would need to grab to get to that 5 million Gallente skill point Alpha perfection.  (The list of skills is in the dev blog, or in spreadsheet form linked from this post on Reddit.)

And herein lays the eternal struggle in EVE Online.  It isn’t so much about having skill points as it is having the right skill points.  Even my main character, 164 million skill points into training, still bumps up against the “hrmm, I guess I never trained that” scenario now and again.

So as I started going down the list, comparing what my potential Alpha Clone had trained with what he would be allowed to use as an Alpha Clone.. well, let the new skill training begin!

Get those new skills queued up!

Get those new skills queued up!

He wasn’t totally bereft of usable skills.  But there also wasn’t a lot of overlap between the Alpha Clone world and what he could use.  Gallente Industrial was good, but he had that to level 5 when an Alpha Clone can only have level 1.  He also had Mining Barges and Exhumers trained up to 5, which are of no use at all, akin to his ability fly a Drake and shoot heavy missiles.  But he didn’t have Gallente Cruiser injected.

So skills were injected and training commenced, though I also bumped into the 50 skill limit in the training queue.  And now, of course, every time I log in… or launch EVE Mon… I am greeted by a list of skills that have trained.

Training training training

Training training training

I probably do not need every skill on the list, but now there is a certain OCD aspect to this, the idea of having a “perfect” Alpha Clone.  And I am still not sure what I will even do with him once the skill queue is complete, but I think he should be done in time for the introduction of Alpha Clones.  We’ll see what happens then.

Addendum: After a prod from Noizy, I suppose I should link to the Reynaldo Fabulous origin story, and mention how there were versions of him in Middle-earth and Norrath.  Searching the blog shows that name was a thing here for a time.

Spaceship Pageantry in Amarr

Yesterday say the ascension of Caitiz of House Tash-Murkon, chosen through the Imperial succession trials after Empress Jamyl Sarum I was slain by drifters, to lead Amarr.  At the end of the coronation she was Her Majesty Empress Catiz I of Holy Amarr, First Apostle of the True Faith, and Sovereign Defender of the Imperial Rite.

After the ceremony, the Empress addressed assembled capsuleers and the assembled Fleet of the Imperial Guard.

The Fleet of the Imperial Guard

The Fleet of the Imperial Guard

There were attempts to interrupt the address, but it went ahead as planned.  The text of the formal address:

Esteemed Officers of the Imperial Guard, defenders of the faith, protectors of the sovereignty of Holy Amarr. It is an honor that my first address as Head of State is made before servicemen and women from the Imperial Armed Forces who have served the Empire with such courage and devotion over the course of their careers.

Capsuleers, both loyalist and independent, who have served the Empire in a time of need, successfully thwarting the attacks of a heretical enemy naming themselves ‘Purity of the Throne’.

My Imperial Guard escort wears their colors in defiance, as a tribute to your tenacity on the field of battle. It is a privilege to address each and every one of you.

I find myself humbled to see the familiar colors of so many loyalist organizations I have come to know and respect during my short tenure as heiress to the estate of my family.

Today, I leave behind that legacy and my family name, humbled under the watchful gaze of the Lord, as his servant, chosen by divine rite. I see that my champion, Lord Kelon Darkight is present. May the Lord bless him for his prowess in combat.

Today, I step forward to lead the people of Amarr into a new era.

An era of prosperity, an era of growth. An era of change, and progress.

For too long our course has been unsteady, our path uneven and unsure, rocky and infirm.

The loss of two great leaders in a little over a decade, the noble and wise Doriam II, the fierce and devoted Jamyl I, has left our people reeling in a storm of uncertainty, our future clouded and unclear.

Today, that lack of clarity ends. Today, our future is in our hands, and His light shines down upon us.

Today, together, we stand firm at the beginning of a new path. A path that takes us on a journey paved with prosperity for loyal subjects of the faith.

A journey, the first fleeting steps of which we take today, that marks a turning point for this great Empire and sets us on a course to stability, security and opportunity.

To ensure an end to the atrocities we have borne witness to and experienced at the hands of those who would defy the word of God.

However, with great military power comes great responsibility. The might and the honor of the Imperial Armed Forces will be restored, and with it we will usher in a new generation of capsuleers to support the Golden Fleet.

Tens of thousands more capsuleers will graduate from the Imperial Academy to join our already established and prized loyalist forces, in the largest expansion to our pod pilot training program ever conceived.

To support this growth, our administration will work to make the Imperial economy a powerhouse of activity, with new foreign policy and trade legislation that opens up our markets to the cluster like never before.

The future of this glorious Empire is in our hands. In your hands, and with the Empire’s might at your backs, this will be a defining moment in the history of Holy Amarr, and the legacy of the capsuleer.

This will be your Ascension!

Amarr Victor!

This all took place during the EUTZ evening and the middle of the day in the US.  Those who could attend got there, including Chribba.  The rest of us had to roll in to see the spectacle when we could manage it.  I popped in with an alt last night to see the Fleet of the Imperial Guard arrayed before Amarr Prime.  I happened to get there in time to see a Paladin class Marauder circling the event station and launching fireworks.

A celebratory Paladin

A celebratory Paladin

It was none other than Max Singularity.

Space Pope in flight

Space Pope in flight

Though I met him in person at EVE Vegas last year, and heard him on coms during fleets when we went to purge heretic in Providence, I don’t think I had actually seen him in space until last night.

Who puts a bounty on a pope? Heretics do.

Who puts a bounty on a pope? Heretics do!

All of which was a bit of New Eden lore put on display for people, and which got quite a turnout, with Amarr local reported to have passed 2K players in system during the ceremony.  I generally follow the lore loosely.  I am not immersed in it, but I keep an eye on it and run through some of the events that come up now and again, like the recent Purity of the Throne.

Of course, it was expected that something might happen… drifter attacker, purist incursion, or some other distraction… but nothing happened save for some player activity, which was dealt with but which itself becomes part of the lore.

Which is about the best you can expect in a sandbox, where the players are supposed to… and in this case largely do… run off and create their own content.  New Eden is already a tapestry of individual and group tales, so CCP generated game lore has to weave its own path, careful not to step on our own stories.

For a while now Amarr has been a place to see things you do not normally see in high sec.  Leaving aside Chribba and the only high sec dreadnought, there have been a group of titans parked off the station for a while and now the Fleet of the Imperial Guard is arrayed in the system for people to see… for a while.

Related items:

And then more screen shots.  You’ll never see a player fleet so arrayed.  We travel in blobs that get stretched out as we move. (An epic travel blob here.)  I think you need dev tools to get ships lined up so nicely.

Meanwhile Back in the Garrison

Despite being critical of the so-called “game play” of garrison missions and Blizzard having nerfed garrison gold farming back to the stone age with the 7.0 patch back in early August, I still hit garrisons with Vikund and several alts every day.

Why am I doing this?

Well, there is still that garrison shipyard achievement I want, “Master of the Seas,” so I will have the title “Captain.”

I will be called "Captain" before this is done

The current score is 19 out of 25 required

The naval bonus missions are the rare ones, so I check in daily to see if one has popped up, then run some missions anyway (including the one for 400 oil) because I might as well get the “Fleet Commander” achievement while I am there.

But mainly I have been going back for garrison resources.

After the 7.0 patch, Blizzard took away gold as a reward for many things… though you can still get occasional ilevel 655 or 670 items from missions that are worth… but boosted the garrison resource output.  I imagine that this is to help alts and others showing up in the post-Draenor era build their garrisons.

So all those follows with the extreme scavenger trait that I optimized for in order to boost gold returns on mission, they now return piles of garrison resources instead.

That is a pile of resources

That is a pile of resources for three resource missions

The salvage yard now hands out garrison resources with each box or bag you open as well.

I am taking all of those garrison resources to the vendor at the trading post, which I have built on several of my alt garrisons as well, and but supplies for my tail who then turns them into hexweave bags.

Making bags

Making bags

I save some of them for the auction house when the price is good, but my main goal is to outfit all of my characters, inventory and bank, with 30 slot bags.  I figured that I might as well put all of those alts hanging about in their garrisons waiting for their turn in the Broken Isles to use.

It is funny, at times, to see the array of bags that my characters have.  There are plenty of 16 slot mageweave bags, along with a fair number of the old school, no-bind, 16 slot traveler’s backpack.  I remember when getting one of those as a drop was a big deal.

There are bags that were quest rewards and bag that were drops from old raids that I ran back and did once I was high enough level to solo them.

I even have the Haris Pilton “Gigantique” from back in the Burning Crusade era.  A 22 slot bag for 1,200 gold, a time when both 22 slots and 1,200 gold seemed like a lot.  I did not, however, bother to buy the so-called “Portable Hole” bag from Haris Pilton, a Wrath of the Lich King era addition to her stock.  It wasn’t because it was too expensive, though you can get a 30-slot hexweave bag for less these days, but because nearly seven years back it simply annoyed me that Blizzard decided to use that name for what is otherwise a rather modest sized bag.

I’ve looked in a portable hole before, it holds more than 24 slots worth of stuff.

Legion So Far…

So far I would say that I like the WoW Legion expansion.  The whole thing feels, in many ways, like a reaction to the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

For example, there are still missions and followers, but there only a few of each, and they are much more focused on helping you, as opposed to the way things were in Draenor, where garrison missions were a self-perpetuating system.  There you ran missions to gain resources to run more missions, you gathered more followers in order to run more missions so you could gather more followers.  You geared yourself up and fattened your wallet, all while never leaving your garrison.  In WoW Legion you have to actually keep playing in the world to earn resources to have your followers do anything.

Likewise, crafting professions, which were made completely trivial in Draenor are now… well… I am not sure how to characterize them now.  I think, as an engineer, I have made one item so far as part of the quest line for the professions.  I’ve completed a number of mining related upgrade quests.  And I finally got the sixth cooking recipe that finished up the initial quest there.

Maybe that is the theme of WoW Legion; Quest all the Things!  Though I may not be far enough in to make that determination yet, the trend seems to be holding.  And questing works for me.

I have been… slow… in getting into the Broken Isles.  After mucking about a bit, trying to decide which character to get into the expansion first, I settled on my Paladin and started working through the zones in a clockwise fashion.

Starting at 7 and working my way around the clock

Starting at 7 and working my way around the clock

So far I have worked my way through Azsuna and Val’Sharah, getting both the exploration and questing achievements for both, and am almost done with the quest line in Highmountain. (Though I have a ways to go on the exploration achievement.)

Almost a month into the expansion, that isn’t very far… though by going more slowly I may have arrived at level 100 at about the same time I might have had I been playing more diligently thanks to always having blue bar exp as I went.   That was how that was supposed to work right, back in the day?  A way to keep slackers like me from falling too far behind or some such.

Anyway, yesterday I finally made it to level 110 with Vikund, my first character at the new level cap.

Somewhere in Highmountain

Somewhere in Highmountain

I still have all of Stormheim ahead with him, and then Suramar and Broken Shore and world quests and the artifact weapon to manage and all of that.  Lots to do.  I can see why people are saying that this is, perhaps, not an alt-happy expansion so far.  Of course, wait until flying gets unlocked and all your follow-on characters can just zip through the air.  That tune might change then.

Of course, this being Blizzard, there have been the usual staples of every expansion.  I have slaughter the local fauna with the Nesingwary.  I have helped out D.E.T.H.A. yet again.

Playing with murlocs

Playing with murlocs

The artifact weapon thing has been fine so far.  At least that is one equipment slot I don’t have to worry about updating, even if every ret pally in the order hall has an Ashbringer of one color or another.  I was a little crestfallen when the experience required to upgrade it went from a steadily increasing tempo… 750, 800, 1000… to a 6.8x jump.

Last level: 1,000 Next level: 6,840

Last level: 1,000 Next level: 6,840

That pretty much killed off any forward progress there.  It takes a lot of ~150 upgrade hits… never mind the low impact of all those 10-25 boosts you find in the field… to get anywhere.  I am hoping that I am just lagging behind somewhere and that better bumps will be available at some point.

But overall I am happy enough, if not overly enthusiastic.  Lots left to do, and with the usual two year expansion cycle unlikely to change, it is probably good to be a month in and still have a lot of content ahead.

Of course, I could probably do with a bit less of being pestered by Khadgar.  If his servant or his upgraded servant chasing me all over wasn’t enough, Now I have his disembodied head following me around trying to get me to take a quest when I am just back in town to clear out bags and take care of a few things.

Not creepy at all

Not creepy at all

Yeah, I know, take the damn quest and he’ll go away… only then I’ll forget about it in my quest log.  I’ve been trained by various games to take quests only when I am ready to do them, lest I kick off some event for which I do not have time.

At least I am not poor.  The plan to replace the garrison mission income in Draenor seems to be to make gray trash loot worth a lot more.  My auto-sell addon rings up hundreds of gold every time I stop at a vendor after question for a while.

So that is where I stand in the Broken Isles so far.  No exactly unbridled enthusiasm, but happy enough with things overall.

 

The Age of the Full Zone Respawn

More memories from the depths of TorilMUD lore.

Being one of the proto-MMO MUDs, and the MUD in particular that influenced the creation of EverQuest, TorilMUD included early/crude/simplified versions of many of the MMO mechanics we have come to love/loathe.

One of these is, of course, the respawn.

Oh, the respawn, one of those quirks required of a shared world.  You can’t just kill a thing and expect it to remain dead in a game where a hundred or a thousand other people might need to kill the same thing… or ten of the same thing… as well.

And so we have grown used to respawns, spawn tables, rare spawns, and all of that in our MMORPGs.  The sight of slain mobs reappearing on the field is nothing strange.  I remember when the two hour respawn timer for mobs in WoW dungeons used to be an issue, back when WoW dungeons took longer than 20 minutes to run.

(Even the term “mob” dates from the MUD era, when it referred to a “mobile object,” which is all our orcs and dragons were back then.)

But back in the MUD era, things were less sophisticated, resources more restricted, and even drive space could be an issue.  Back then there wasn’t any process keeping track of every single trash mob in the world, respawning them one by one on individual timers.

Sure, there might be a bit of code keeping track of a very special boss mob or a rare world spawn, but for the most part respawns were handled at the zone level.

Kobold Village - Surface

Kobold Village Zone – Surface Level

A zone back in TorilMUD… back in DikuMUD… was something of an autonomous process.  I tinkered with zone creation at one point and have forgotten most of what I once knew, but I recall that they were discreet areas that contained all the data… rooms, descriptions, objects, and mobs… that they contained.  There could be a lot of zones in a MUD.  You can see a list of zones from TorilMUD on a previous post I did.

When actually playing TorilMUD, it could sometimes be difficult to tell where one zone ended and another began.  The world was seamless in its way, probably more so that WoW, where you can see the change in geography and color palette as you move from one zone to another.  You had to look at the style of the text in the zone.

Sometimes it was obvious.  An old or connecting zone might have no ANSI color characters in it or the writing style in room descriptions might change dramatically.  And, sometimes, there would be a sign announcing the area, often including a warning about dangers ahead. (See the sign on the fence outside Kobold Village for example.)

Within a zone, all the mobs would respawn at the same time.  The standard timer in TorilMUD was 20 minutes if I recall right.  When off on a experience group, grinding levels some place like Kobold Village, the buffalo fields, the pirate ship, or even on the walls of Waterdeep, where elite guards gave great experience, it was important to establish a flow that worked with the respawn timer so as to limit down time.  We used to come up with regular cycles and move from mob to mob, winding up back where we started just in time for the respawn.

Some zones were different.  There were a couple of zones that were set to not respawn.  Once they were done, they were empty until the game crashed and restarted.

Other zones… the special zones like City of Brass that required a full group of 16, correctly balanced… would not spawn until empty.  That is, nothing would respawn until there were no players left in the zone.  That could lead to difficult times if there was a full party wipe.  With everybody dead and back in their own respawn points… their class guilds in most cases… the zone would respawn and all the mobs between the players and their corpses… corpses which had all of their equipment… leading to difficult times.  It was not uncommon to bring along an extra person just to sit in the first room and “hold the zone” for the group to keep it from respawning in the event of a wipe.

And there were, of course, some oddities with the full zone respawn, like spawn order.

Any unique mobs in a zone were likely just that, unique.  There was only one and they had a specific spawn location.  But more generic mobs, guards or patrols, or other trash if you will, might be a single mob that was set to spawn at a list of points.  At respawn time the zone would then refill any missing mobs from that batch starting at the top of the list of spawn points.

This meant that if you killed a generic mob from the second spot on the list, when respawn time came it would respawn in the first spot.  The process was simple.  It didn’t check what spots were empty or keep track of which mobs had spawned in which spot.  It just checked to see how many of that mob were left and, if the count came up short, it spawned more of them to fill out the desired number.

This could be painful if somebody killed the wrong mob.  Spawn order was serious business.

For example, I mentioned the elite guards on the walls of Waterdeep.  Those were tough mobs, but they would not call for help or trigger a city-wide alarm if you attacked them.  And they were excellent experience and dropped a decent amount of cash.  But they were generic mobs and you had to be careful to kill them in spawn order.  If you didn’t follow spawn order, or missed the respawn and kept killing in order past the first spawn after a respawn, you could end up with two elites in that first room.  And while elite guards wouldn’t call for help or set off the alarm, they would assist each other, so now you faced a double spawn.  And given that you probably setup your group to maximize experience, which meant keeping it as small as possible, a double spawn would be then end of things unless you got some help.

And so it went.  As I recall, the reavers on the Pirate ship were the same way as elite guards.  You needed to kill them in the right order or you ended up with overlapping spawns.

Anyway, that is my MUD memory of the day.

A Brief History of Station Cash Complete with Tirade

(Warning: Tirade contains less than 20% new content)

Whenever the topic of currency for “microtransactions” comes up, I think back to the origins of the term, more than 20 years past at this point.  The idea, back in the day, was to let people use their credit card to buy another currency so that they could make purchases that were smaller than would be practical for a credit card transaction.

Basically, at about the $5.00 mark, it stops making sense to take credit cards due to transaction fees, and these currencies were supposed to let people make payments down below a dollar if they wanted.  That was the goal.  It never really panned out despite some serious attempts over the years.

The idea was picked up in other places though.  Almost eight years ago SOE grabbed the idea and stumbled off with it, introducing Station Cash and a lackluster store with a meager list of depressingly priced items for sale.  Even four years after it launched, I couldn’t find anything worthwhile in the Station Cash store.

The pricing there, and in other in-game cash shops since, strongly indicate that the transaction cost had ceased to be the prime motivator.  In fact, the tragicomic tale of SOE and their virtual currency points straight to what companies want.  They want to separate their customers from some cash up front and worry about the cash shop later.  SOE went so far trying to boost their bottom line with Station Cash sales that they devalued the currency like a Latin American dictator.

TripleSC01

Stock up now? Don’t mind if I do!

For a stretch they had to stop letting players pay for their subscription or buy expansions with Station Cash because, if you worked things just right, you could have ended up paying as little as $1.25 a month for your Gold Access subscription.

Where were those people who love to study virtual economies when this was happening?

Anyway, SOE had to have a Station Cash austerity program (did the Virtual World Bank step in?) for a while, going so far as to suggest they might stop giving out the monthly 500SC stipend for subscribers at one point, as they worked out how to get people to spend their giant piles of cheap Station Cash.  I think they actually got a few useful items in the various stores after that, plus some mounts in EverQuest II that were not hideously ugly.

Still, SOE carried on.  They were committed to Free to Play.  The term was part of their marketing slogan for a while.

My way includes constant pop-ups asking me to subscribe...

My way includes constant pop-ups asking me to subscribe…

They were invested in the cash shop and getting people into their game for free, so that they might become paying customers later. (Via an unsubtle combination of inconveniences and incentives, but that is another tale.)  They were at least trying to be a stand-up player in the market. (For all its mistakes and missteps, SOE always tried to do the right thing in the end.)   Station Cash was pegged to the real world at a penny a point (except when on sale of course) so players could figure out how much something really cost without getting out a calculator.

Failure to do this is generally a bad sign.  Customers do not like it.  Microsoft fiddled with that in the XBox store for a while before going to a penny a point.  Nintendo dumped points altogether, assigning straight up dollar values in their shop.

I think companies suffer in the long term by trying to obscure the value of their in-game currency… which leads me to Turbine and Lord of the Rings Online, which has one of the more arcane RMT currency systems around.  Turbine Points can have a wide range of values depending on how you purchase them, and once in the game Turbine has added in subsidiary currencies, like Mithril Coins, that you have to buy with the main currency, in order to purchase certain unlocks.  Trying to fool the customer is only ever a short term strategy and I am sure LOTRO has suffered over the years for going all in on that.

Anyway, at least SOE didn’t go down that path.

And SOE stuck to having a single currency wallet across all of their games. (Well, on the PC at least.  There were complications in the land of PlayStation.)  If you played EverQuest II and wanted to move over to PlanetSide 2, your station cash went with you. (Again, looking at you Turbine, and how Turbine Points in LOTRO and Turbine Points in DDO are two separate and distinct things.)

Then came bad times at Sony and SOE was sold off to the investment bankers at Columbus Nova Prime, a group with a reputation for milking their acquisitions.  SOE became Daybreak, Station Cash became Daybreak Cash, and so on down the branding line.  No longer covered by Sony’s checkbook, reality set in quickly with layoffs and changes to the business model.

EverQuest and EverQuest II, perennial foundations of the company, managed to get back on their old track of an expansion a year after dabbling with the idea of more frequent, but less fulsome DLC.  I think the fact that loyal followers of the game have a habit of buying collector’s editions probably helped there.  How much DLC do you have to ship to equal on CE?

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

$140 offsets a lot of DLC

Also, the expansion thing keeps the player base from getting totally fragmented and unable to play together because somebody doesn’t have the right DLC for the night’s content.  Add in some special servers for subscribers only and the classic Norrath part of the company seems secure for the moment.  They did have to kill off PvP for the most part, but that is what happens when you have to focus on your core.

Over in another part of the company, quiet yet solid DC Universe Online got ported over to the XBox One.  Not bad for a five year old title.  But then, access to XBox and other platforms was supposed to be one of the big upsides of the acquisition.

Other titles were less secure.  Somebody found where Smed hid the last PlanetSide server and turned it off finally.  Dragon’s Prophet was sent packingPlanetSide 2 was having problemsEverQuest Next became EverQuest Never, heralding the end of the classic mainstream fantasy MMORPG. That is a niche genre now, but it probably always anyway.  Legends of Norrath was finally taken off life support, then its loot card organs were harvested for the cash shop.  And my question about how Daybreak would get off the sweet, sweet Early Access money drug was answered when they ditched free to play for Landmark and H1Z1, charging $20 a pop to get into either.

Ars Technica Reports...

Still have to replace that founder’s pack revenue stream though…

Well, $40 a pop for all of H1Z1 unless you already had a copy, since they split that into two games, each with its own $20 price tag. There is now H1Z1: King of the Kill, the money making one that turned out to be mildly popular on Twitch, and H1Z1: Just Survive, the mostly neglected worldly survival game for oddball old school MMO players.  King of the Kill got a “Summer 2016” ship date, which it has since pushed off (though there was already a press release saying it had launched quite a while back), while Just Survive seems to be living up to its name.

All of which brings us up to yesterdays fun new announcement that King of the Kill will not be using Daybreak Cash, ditching that for its own currency.  From the King of the Kill site:

INTRODUCING: CROWNS

Daybreak Cash will no longer be used in H1Z1: King of the Kill after the game update on September 20. Instead, the new currency will be called Crowns. Crowns are a unique currency, available and usable only in H1Z1: King of the Kill. With Crowns, you will be able to purchase crates and bundles as you did previously with Daybreak Cash

Beginning on September 20, you will have the option to convert all or some of your existing Daybreak Cash into Crowns. This is a one-to-one conversion: 1 Daybreak Cash = 1 Crown. This conversion is only one way; once you convert your DBC into Crowns, you cannot convert Crowns back to DBC. This conversion opportunity will only be available for a limited time. You will be able to convert your Daybreak Cash into Crowns from September 20 through December 31, 2016.

Daybreak Cash is still usable in other Daybreak games, including H1Z1: Just Survive. Crowns can only be used in H1Z1: King of the Kill.

So there it is, another turn in the long tale of Station Cash/Daybreak Cash.  You can, until the end of the year, change your Daybreak Cash into the new currency, Crowns.  But from then on Crowns are Crowns and Cash is Cash, and never the twain shall meet.

The question is, what does it mean?  Why separate the one game from the rest of the of the Daybreak family in this way? (On the PC at least, consoles are a different story.)

One of these things is not like the others... also, why a pig?

One of these things is not like the others… also, why a pig?

Does this mean that there are special plans for King of the Kill?  Does Daybreak see the game as especially promising when compared to the rest of its stable?  Is this a one-time event in special circumstances or a chilling portrait of things to come where Daybreak Cash gets stranded on specific games?

Not much of a tirade in there, unless you read it aloud in the right tone of voice ( I recommend whiny/sarcastic for the best effect) or you’re somebody who conflates criticism with hate.  I’m often critical of the games I play, but the ones I hate get no mention at all.  When it comes to H1Z1, at least in the King of the Kill flavor, I am largely indifferent, except where it intersects with Norrath.  This is really just another marker on the long journey of the company that made EverQuest back in the day.

Though when I go back to EverQuest II now and again, I still can’t find anything worthwhile in the cash shop.

Related topic: SOE and its MMORPGs, a post from a while back.