Monthly Archives: January 2020

January in Review

The Site

What can I say about the site this month?  I fell off my streak of more posts than days in the current month, though not by much.  That probably meant I spent more time playing games and less time writing about them, which is something I always say I am going to do. Maybe I actually I did it this month.  Or maybe nothing much worth writing about occurred.

Other than that… well… when I was over at my mother-in-law’s house to fix her WiFi she showed us a lemon she got off the tree in her back yard.

Citrus nightmare fuel… also 80s counter top tile

I don’t think this is related to the WiFi issue, but you never know what is connected to what over on Innsmouth Drive.

Oh, and IFTTT dropped me a note to tell me that my applet that auto-copied posts from here to Google+ had to be shut off.  Google+ has only been gone for 8 months or so now.  Good of them to let me know.

One Year Ago

Yes, there were predictions, because there are always predictions.  There was also the usual rosy “maybe I’ll play something new” post about the upcoming year.  And just to round out the usual start of the year trifecta, another Steam winter sale passed into history.

I was wondering what the EverQuest 20th anniversary might bring.  It did look like expansions might still be on the menu for both EQ and EQII.

But PlanetSide Arena, slated for late January beta, had that date pushed back to March.

Blizzard finally fixed the crafting quests in Darkmoon Faire, which had been broken since the pe-launch update before Battle for Azeroth.

In EVE Online I was wondering if Circle of Two was dead, or just mostly dead.  I also went on a bit about the PAP link economy.

We got some updated asteroid visuals with the January update.  Also, people were sending messages to CCP in Jita.  I’m not sure they allow container spam anymore.

Actually in New Eden I was out in Geminate with Liberty Squad.  We shot a POS and I wondered if it would be my last. (Answer: no) We messed with somebody’s moon chunk and shot structures in TKE.

On the LOTRO Legendary server I went down to Goblin Town before I had heading off to Angmar.  The legendary quest line sent me around Angmar and then told me the truth about Sara Oakheart, though it never explained why she was so damn slow.  Then I was riding down the long roads in Forochel before finally ending up at the ring forges in Eregion.

I was playing a bit of RimWorld, where setbacks can be a thing.

SuperData’s 2018 review report pointed towards a mobile focused future.

And I started using ManicTime to track game play time, listing the first stats in the January in Review post.

Five Years Ago

The Elder Scrolls Online announced they were ditching their mandatory subscription model.

We bid farewell to Massively and WoW Insider as AOL pared down their web content presence yet again.

At long last Runic was poised to deliver the Mac OS version of Torchlight II.  I just didn’t care any more.

Anet surprised exactly nobody and announced a Guild Wars 2 expansion.

Elite: Dangerous was making me feel like an incompetent boob… well, more so that usual.

Smed took the bait and wrote “money grab” in a tweet, which then became a gaming news headline.  Of course, he was also saying things about disgusting carebears and telling us things were not MMOs when they were clearly labeled as such.

Sony players were told they would get as much as 450 Station Cash for the great downtime of 2011, while the lawyers would pocket $2.75 million.

PlanetSide 2 got a record for what I considered a somewhat dubious achievement.

In EverQuest II I was running a paladin through the same content I just ran through with a berserker including the Palace of the Awakened.

The Lord of the Rings Online Producer’s Letter wasn’t impressing me, to the point I was wondering whether anybody else might create an open world Middle-earth game.

In WoW I got in and did the 10th Anniversary Molten Core event at the last minute.  The instance group was discovering that you had to be level 92 to do just about anything in Gorgrond.  I was also opining about garrisons in Draenor.  I had five after all.

In EVE Online it was time to usher in YC117.  There was also a video about the age range of the New Eden player base, the Proteus expansion, Gevlon was making more friends, and the Reavers deployed again, passing though Thera on the way,

I was muttering about paid early access and that sort of thing again.  Even Blizzard seemed to be in on the act.

And we had to say goodbye to our little Trixie cat.

Ten Years Ago

Well, there was the usual set of ill-considered predictions.

Oh, and that Battlestar Galactia/Bohemian Rhapsody video on YouTube.  I liked that.

The first issue of The Official World of Warcraft Magazine shipped.

I was wondering how many people remapped they keys for games.

There was Hulkageddon II, from which I tried to draw lessons.  Always good for some gamer angst… and anger.  There was also the Dominion 1.1 patch.

There was a certain amount of excitement on my part for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  January was the ramp up time for Pokemon hype.

Oh, and there was LEGO Rock Band out.

The instance group was still warming up on the Horde side, making it as far as Razorfen Downs.

And the whole forever argument around Tanks and Healers vs. DPS?  We were going on about that back in January 2010 as well.  The Dungeon Finder brought this all into sharp relief.

But the month was primarily about Star Trek Online.

I was making making up polls and contests around that Del Taco shuttle tie-in and silly lists of things to do while waiting for open beta.

And when it finally arrived, I spent a lot of time with the character creator, some of it to make my first character and some of it just in the name of science.  I customized my ship and wondered how I could get rid of the shields in my combat screen shots.  Did they ever change that? And I pondered whether or not it was a good idea to get a lifetime subscription.  The poll results said it wasn’t, but I did it anyway.  The majority was correct it would seem.

Oh, I did do one other thing in January 2010.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. EVE Online Gets Heavy Missile Buffs, Shield Slaves, and a New Event
  4. Pilgrimage
  5. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  6. 2020 and Predictions for a New Year
  7. California Explores Gaming Power Usage
  8. The Daybreak Studio Split Comes to Pass
  9. What Would I Like to See in 2020
  10. Is Darkpaw Games the New Future of EverQuest?
  11. Black Sheep Done
  12. Blizzard Wants to Lock You In with a Flying Rat

Search Terms of the Month

dota tft what to buy
[Wait, you can buy something?]

starting off as heroic 85 eq
[Too bad the level cap is 115]

darlpaw games
[so close…]

new eq server for darkpaw
[Soon enough I am sure]

eve online do i collect daily rewards not being online
[No, that is why it is called EVE “ONLINE”]

Game Time from ManicTime

My EverQuest II binge was going strong coming into the month.  I think the measure after the first two weeks would have been more than 80% in favor of Norrath.  But other things picked up as the month went along, especially WoW Classic as the group got past the holidays, so in the end there was a close race for the top spot.

EverQuest II – 48.65%
WoW Classic – 47.64%
EVE Online – 3.36%
World of Warcraft – 0.35%

EVE Online

Kind of a quiet month in New Eden for me.  In part I was playing other games a lot more, but I was also in a bit of limbo in looking for a new home.  The wait for my KF application to get reviewed had me wondering if I ought to just ship everything from Delve to Jita and take a break from the game.  But then I got accepted and a new SIG opened up in the coalition with a promise of deployments, action, and structure shoots, so I’m sticking around.

EverQuest II

I binged quite a bit on Norrath in December and January.  I slowed down some in the back half of the last month, but I am still sitting with four characters at level cap.  That is unprecedented for my in the game and I remain with an odd, heady feeling, like maybe I should use this opportunity to catch up a few more characters.  I haven’t done much of anything with them since they hit level cap, but I could!

Pokemon Go

We continue our trek towards level 40.  I made good progress towards level 39 this past month, mostly due to xp from friendship level boosts.  I also caught a lot of Magikarp.  For lunar new year the game was featuring “red” Pokemon out in the wild, and despite looking more orange than red to me, Magikarp was on the list.  I went from less than 200 candies for them to over 400.  I can evolve another Gyrados, though I want a shiny Magikarp before I do that.

Level: 38 (35% of the way to level 39)
Pokedex status: 495(+14) caught, 525 (+20) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Oshawatt

World of Warcraft

I did the usual Darkmoon Faire thing during the first week of the month, but not much else.  The 8.3 patch hit and seemed to bring with it more woe for the retail side of the game.  The game is apparently broken for a lot of MacOS players and a substantial number of Windows players, with the game often crashing out in 20 minutes or less if reports are to be believed.

WoW Classic

I was a bit quiet with Classic at the start of the month, but ramped up as things went along, the holidays ended, and the instance group got back in the saddle.  And it isn’t crashing for us, unlike retail, which is a plus.

Coming Up

Next month is going to be a busy month in real life for me.  Lots of things going on.  So it is likely to be a light month for posts.  We shall see.

Activision-Blizzard should be rolling out their 2019 financials early in the month.  We’ll see if more layoffs ensue.

In EVE Online there is a new SIG that is inviting all and sundry to join up and go deploy to some new location in order to better make things explode.  Making things explode has my interest.  Of course, that depends on the game actually being  up.  It has been mostly down for four of the last seven days.  First there was a DDoS attack, but now things just seem to be broken.  That’ll mess with your new player retention right there.

I still have a level boost in EverQuest II.  I could get another character to level cap.  But which one?  And, with five there, is that enough of an xp boost to try and roll somebody up from the lower levels the old fashioned way?  It is a long way to 120 from anywhere below 80.

And in WoW Classic we ought to finish up Scarlet Monastery and move on to the next thing, which I gather is Razorfen Downs.

SuperData Wraps Up 2019 with December Numbers

We have the final monthly digital revenue update from SuperData Research with the release of their December chart.

SuperData Research Top 10 – December 2019

Going straight to the PC end of the chart, the usual top four stayed in their usual ranking, with League of Legends still at the top of the revenue list.  The first change doesn’t hit until fifth position, where World of Warcraft was last month.  In December Red Dead Redemption 2 moved up into fifth place thanks to launching on Steam, with Roblox, which drops on and off the list, surging up into the sixth spot.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare held onto seventh, where it was last month, while World of Warcraft ended up down in eighth.

After that was CS:GO, another title that wanders on and off the chart, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which landed on PC at the start of December.

Missing from the list are Fortnite, which had been in the top five for a few months, but which had been falling off more recently, and World of Tanks, a long time and regular entry in the bottom half of the list.  With no revenue numbers to gauge by, you cannot really tell if the new titles were surging onto the list or if revenue dropped off for the titles that fell off.

On the console list, Pokemon Sword & Shield, which topped the list after its November launch, disappeared completely.  On top for December instead was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare which was in second place the previous month.  FIFA 20 and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order swapped and then moved up a spot, while Grand Theft Auto V, the old grand dad of the list, managed a fifth place finish for the holiday season.  Finally, Fortnite is still holding on in the console space, grabbing the sixth spot.

On the mobile end of the chart Clash of Clans ran ahead and passed perennial top title Honour of Kings in December.  Candy Crush Saga landed in third place and Pokemon Go fell down to ninth position.  Also of note is Roblox, which broke into both the mobile and PC list this month, and Homescapes and Gardenscapes, both of which I have noticed advertising very heavily in other mobile apps.  I saw constant ads for both  in Words with Friends.

We can compare this with the December numbers from NPD.  As always, NPD is US only, combines PC and console sales, and do not always include digital sales.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  3. Madden NFL 20
  4. NBA 2K20
  5. Luigi’s Mansion 3*
  6. Pokemon Sword*
  7. Mario Kart 8*
  8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  9. Pokemon Shield*
  10. Minecraft**

* Digital sales not included
*** PC Digital sales not included

The top of this list tracks the first spots on the SuperData console list, as consoles still depend quite a bit on the physical distribution chain.  People go to GameStop to buy console titles still.

FIFA 20 doesn’t make the cut because we don’t care that much in the US.

And Nintendo, which has no presence on the SuperData console chart this month grabs half the spots on the NPD chart.  Nintendo depends on physical sales more than any other console.

I think it is a bit of a cheat to split out Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, but they do what they do.  But it looks like a lot of people got games for their Switch under the tree in December.

NPD also has a full 2019 sales chart.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. NBA 2K20
  3. Madden NFL 20
  4. Borderlands 3
  5. Mortal Kombat 11
  6. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  8. Kingdom Hearts III
  9. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
  10. Mario Kart 8*

* Digital sales not included

As one might expect, another console-centric list there.  I suspect that Pokemon Sword & Shield would have made the cut had they decided to break them out as individual titles.

SuperData released their own report on 2019 already, which I covered in a previous post.

And so it goes.  The SuperData report also included the following items to accompany their chart:

Consumer spending on digital games reached an all-time high of $9.8B in December 2019, up 8% year-over-year. Substantial year-over-year growth in mobile revenue (28%) more than offset falling Console and PC earnings (down 25% and 4%, respectively). Console spending was down partially due to shrinking Fortnite revenue (December 2018 was the title’s highest-earning month ever) and also due to fewer major premium games being released in late 2019 compared to the 2018 holiday season.

Clash of Clans from Supercell had its best month ever, more than seven years after its launch. The game earned $158.2M in December 2019 as content updates and holiday sales resulted in growth of monthly active users (MAU) and conversion rates.

A gamble on a new business model paid off for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Unlike past games in the franchise, Modern Warfare did not offer a season pass or paid map packs and monetized exclusively through battle pass sales and microtransactions. Despite this, Modern Warfare revenue in Q4 2019 was 4% higher than Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII during its launch quarter. In December 2019, the first month Modern Warfare players could purchase in-game content, spending reached $78.7M, nearly as much as was spent on Black Ops IIII in-game content during that game’s entire first quarter ($92.9M).

Grand Theft Auto V had its best month since December 2017. The game earned $84.7M across Console and PC as discounts drove downloads. Additionally, the release of the Diamond Casino Heist content update, a follow up to the highly successful July 2019 Diamond Casino and Resort update, resulted in increased spending on premium currency.

Red Dead Redemption 2 received a substantial boost after launching on Steam. Digital unit sales more than doubled from 406K in November to 1.0M in December. The game became available on Steam on December 5, one month after releasing elsewhere including the Epic Games Store and Rockstar Games Launcher. This brief exclusivity window was advertised in advance, so many players simply waited a short period to play the game on their preferred launcher.

 

Warcraft III Reforged

Earlier this week we got Warcraft III Reforged, the remaster of Blizzard’s 2002 RTS Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its follow-expansion Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.  The remaster was announced at BlizzCon 2018 and was in beta late last year.

The return of RTS again

I pre-ordered this back during BlizzCon 2018… we were only mad at them about Diablo Immortal that year… and have been looking forward to giving it a try.  Warcraft III was the last step before World of Warcraft for Blizzard.  WoW was very much a mash up of EverQuest ideas (the whole MMORPG thing), some Diablo II mechanics (itemization, skill trees, health pots, and so on), and the Warcraft III lore.

I went back to play Warcraft III a ways back to experience a bit of the pre-history of WoW and it was, with the hindsight perspective, a prototype of what WoW would become.  It is a key part of the Warcraft franchise, which according to SuperData Research, has earned $19.2 billion in digital revenues over the last 25 years.

Includes Hearthstone as part of the franchise. Does not include physical retail sales

Given all that I am keen to carve out some time to see what Blizzard has done with the remaster.  That will probably happen next month at the earliest, given that we’re at the end of the current month.  That will also give Blizz a chance to fix some of the bugs that have been reported already.

Of course, being the immediate predecessor of WoW is not the only the only thing Warcraft III is famous for.  It is responsible for kicking of another genre whose revenue no doubt eclipses that of the Warcraft franchise.

With the the Defense of the Ancients mod, the whole MOBA genre that would lead to League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm was created.

Who made $1.5 billion in 2019 alone?

Blurb also from SuperData Research.

Given that Heroes of the Storm is the distant third place runner in that race… and that Valve managed to grab control of the DOTA trademark which meant changing the games name from Blizzard DOTA to Blizzard All-Stars and later to Heroes of the Storm… Blizzard is no doubt still smarting at some level about all of that.  I mean, having to have this up on the Blizzard main site has to irk them.

DOTA USAGE
DOTA is a trademark of Valve Corporation and used under license. By making use of the term “DOTA” in any content posted on any Blizzard website or battle.net, you agree that use of this trademark is subject to Valve’s trademark guidelines found at https://store.steampowered.com/legal.

Not that I think having the DOTA name would have made Blizzard the MOBA winner.  They were almost six years late to the party, only launching Heroes of the Storm in 2015, by which time LoL was already king.  DOTA 2 rolled in two years ahead of HotS and was able to grab the “lesser alternative to LoL” spot in the genre.

But all the same Blizzard isn’t going to let that happen again.  So in there as part of their “Custom Game Acceptable Use Policy,” basically their mod rules, they make it clear up front in the first bullet that they own every aspect of any mod you make for the game:

Ownership: Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games. If for any reason you are prevented or restricted from assigning any rights in the Custom Games to Blizzard, you grant to Blizzard an exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, unconditional, royalty free, irrevocable license enabling Blizzard to fully exploit the Custom Games (or any component thereof) for any purpose and in any manner whatsoever. You further agree that should Blizzard decide that it is necessary, you will execute any future assignments and/or related documents promptly upon receiving such a request from Blizzard in order to effectuate the intent of this paragraph. To the extent you are prohibited from transferring or assigning your moral rights to Blizzard by applicable laws, to the utmost extent legally permitted, you waive any moral rights or similar rights you may have in all such Custom Games, without any remuneration. Without limiting Blizzard’s rights or ownership in the Custom Games, Blizzard reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to remove Custom Games from its systems and/or require that a Custom Game developer cease any and/or all development and distribution of a Custom Game. Please note that your Blizzard account can be subject to disciplinary action in event that you do not comply with Blizzard’s request or this Policy.

Nobody is going to create a whole new genre with their product and then walk off to another company like Valve to get it developed again.  Of course, this policy isn’t a huge incentive to spend time developing something new in the Warcraft III editor, but there it is.  The company has protected itself. (The statement applies to all mods for all Blizzard games, but was updated just before this week’s launch, so people are taking it specifically as a Warcraft III thing since the old version wasn’t so draconian.)

And so it goes.  I’ll still play it.  The MOBA thing doesn’t interest me in any case.  But I’ve already seen people grumbling about this pre-emptive land grab on Discord and Reddit.

Now we just need that Diablo II remaster, the third of the three promised remasters, though some of the original teams says that Blizz cannot make a remaster due to said team’s near disastrous mistake back in the day.  But this could also just be sour grapes as the Blizzard North team seems to be bitter about how things turned out for them nearly 20 years down the road.

Related:

KarmaFleet

I joined KarmaFleet.

My new calling card I suppose

As I mentioned early in the month, our long time corp Black Sheep Down was folding up shop.  With just a few active players I gather there was some pressure to be absorbed into a larger corp in TNT.  I doubt I would have left Black Sheep Down otherwise, as it enabled me to do what I wanted to do in EVE Online, which mostly involves repairing space ships in fleets and blowing up structures.

But given the need to move I also now had the incentive to consider where I should land.

This is a lesson that all companies, real or virtual need to remember.  Customers will often stick with you simply because it is easier to deal with the known than consider the unknown.  But if you force somebody to consider it, they might decide they would be better off elsewhere.

And so I ended up in KarmaFleet, the then CFC response to the “levee en masse” idea that started to become a part of war in null sec.  Once it was difficult to get into null sec alliances.  Many considered themselves elite.  But the math of “N+1” is what ended up winning wars and now any coalition beyond a certain size has to have some form of easy entry, new player friendly organization to keep fleets full and fresh blood replacing attrition.

Why KarmaFleet?

Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It’s not I’m anti-social,
I’m only anti-work.
Glory-osky! That’s why I’m a jerk!

-Gee, Officer Krupke, West Side Story

KarmaFleet has their own answer to that question and produces propaganda around that.

What KarmaFleet Offers

I’ve pointed a few people in the direction of KarmaFleet in the past as place to get access to the null sec aspect of EVE Online.  (Tellingly, I never suggested TNT or our old corp.  Being around me is not a lot of help in game really.)

Of course, they also produce propaganda that might be more on point.

The real progression

I may already be in that final state even as I join.

I certainly didn’t need free skill books or free ships, I had access to almost all the SIGs and squads when I was in TNT, and I am in a post-ISK state of denial, living off of the modest reserves I acquired in my more enthusiastic days.

Instead, the move to KarmaFleet was more of a simplification of my time.  Being in TNT gave me access to all of the GSF infrastructure.  In fact, it is a requirement to be integrated with their auth services, forums, coms, and what not in order to participate.

But TNT also has its own auth services, forums, coms, and SIGs, which are also required, such that to be in TNT means keeping up basically a dual set of services.  That wasn’t exactly a huge burden, largely because I mostly failed to keep them going.  I would update TeamSpeak for corp meetings when they happened, but I was mostly in a state of lapsed compliance.  Having, for example, a that second Jabber account TNT that would echo every Goonswarm all/all ping but wasn’t hooked into SIGs and squads wasn’t all that useful.

Now, in KarmaFleet, all the things I already had setup and maintained remain the same and the stuff I would occasionally have to get back into compliance with are no longer an issue.  That and a few other small items have streamlined things for me a bit.  I wasn’t going to leave our corp just for that, but since I had to leave anyway, I figured I might as well find what benefits I could.  So I indulged my laziness.

Getting In for Normal People

Of course, that is why I went.  How I went, that is a bit of a tale in its own.  As with many things, what you’re told and what actually happens do not always exactly align.

The application process is simple.  You go to the KarmaFleet site, click on the “Click Here to Apply” and follow instructions.  You create an account, add you API data for your characters, and fill out an short application that asks about your history with the game mostly.  The characters part is the sticking bit for most people.  I have seen it come up on their Discord multiple times and it was the only question directed at me; did you list ALL you characters in the game.

I foolishly said I thought so but that I had been playing since 2006.  So I had to answer the question in a couple more ways before I got an “alight” in response.  I’m pretty sure a spy would have just said yes, they were certain, but whatever.  Spying is still a bit of a mania.

After that you wait for a bit… I waited for almost three weeks… and then somebody will give you the yea/nay on your application.  If you’re accepted there will be a corp invite waiting for you in game… which was the only notification I got.  Accept that and you are in KarmaFleet.  An automated in-game email will show up full of all the things you need to do to register for and access the various alliance resources.

Getting In for the Encumbered

Of course, I was a bit different.  I was already in the coalition and already registered and on the various services and there is honestly not a lot out there about how to move forward from there.

I had dropped roles in Black Sheep Down a while back, so when the invite came I accepted it and was in KarmaFleet right then.  I knew from having heard in the past that I would have to re-apply to the various SIGs and groups to which I belonged.  But while I was in KarmaFleet nothing else had changed.  I still had access to all my old groups and various identifiers still showed me as belonging to TNT.

Here is what to do; be patient.

At some point the system will poll and notice that your current status does not match what it has stored for you, and it has only one response to change… to purge you as an inactive.  At that point you will get an email telling you this with a link the the authentication system and instructions to go log in and click the button to restore yourself.

Once you do that you will be set to go.  Your info will be correct and you will have access to all the default forum areas and such that you get as a corp member.  You have to reapply to all your old groups again, but that is pretty easy.  I was back in Reavers pretty quickly, for example.

I did not know the “be patient” part.  I last changed corps back in 2013 and almost everything in the API and authentication area has changed since then. So I asked in the general Jabber channel how long it would take for the data to refresh.  Somebody told me I needed to go push a button in the auth interface and everything would be fine.

But it wasn’t.  The system hadn’t gotten around to noticing something had changed yet.  It seems to poll about every couple of hours I would guess.  And until it notices you and takes action, there is no button to press that will move things along.

Somebody had indicated that there was something I could do and, having forgotten to calculate in the value of advice from random Goons in a general chat channel, I spent a futile hour or so poking various things in the hope of forcing an update.  Only then did I decide to be patient and went off to do other things.  Later, when the email arrived, I went and pressed the button and things were fine.

Now to wait for EVE Who and zKillboard to update while I reapply to my various SIGs and squads (and one new one that was just formed).  I actually might not reapply to all of the ones I was in previously.  I never was of much use in CapSwarm nor in the fleet booster SIG.

I just need to figure out how to get Pidgin to stop trying to log into their Jabber/XMPP conference channels every time I launch it.  I can’t find a UI element that controls that, but it knows to try and log me in every time, so there is probably a config file somewhere I can edit.  (Also, maybe I should upgrade my seven year old copy of Pidgin to the latest version.)

New Packs in New Eden Still Selling Skill Points

Just about seven months ago a controversy got stirred up about a new Starter Pack for EVE Online because it was selling one million skill points for the low, low price of five dollars.

The reasonably priced packs… we’re talking about the one on the left

This seemed very much against the grain of a statement from CCP in a past dev blog about the nature of skill points in the game:

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.

Here were packs with a million skill points, two skill injectors worth, being generated out of thin air and sold for cash.

CCP was quick to point out that players could only buy the starter pack once per account, though the math of getting a million skill points for five dollars even once was pretty compelling.  As I calculated out, for a veteran player who was only getting 150K skill points out an injector, this was like getting seven large skill injectors for five bucks.  An unbeatable deal, and there was even a bit of a rush to go buy the things due to that value.

The rush was also due to CCP responding to protests the next day in a dev blog in which they promised to do something about the starter pack.

And then they did nothing for seven months.  I was going to put up a post every month that the starter pack was still available, but I only did that once.  The crowd had moved on… there was the Blackout and the Drifter attacks and the cyno nerfs hitting after that, driving players out of space much more effectively than just breaking their word again about selling skill points.

Time passed.

Earlier today CCP posted an announcement about new “value” packs for capsuleers and I am happy to announce that you can no longer have access to a one-time straight up buy of one million skill points for five dollars.

Instead, you now have access to a one-time straight up buy of 250K skill points for ten dollars.  Or twenty-three dollars.  Or fifty dollars.  Or ninety dollars.

Admittedly, a much less appealing deal.  I don’t think people will be rushing out to grab that in the numbers that ran after the starter pack seven months ago.

But yes, the new range of “value” packs, which come in Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels, all include 250K skill points.

The January 2020 Value Pack Selection

If you are only interested in skill points… and frankly aside from PLEX or Omega time there is little else of value in these packs… the best deal is the ten dollar Bronze Pack.

The Bronze Happy Meal

60 PLEX won’t buy you much in game, though I suppose you can just sell it for ISK.

Oddly, if you are looking for value for money, the more expensive packages might be better deals, depending on what you want out of them.

The four packs are:

  • Bronze – $9.99
    • 60 PLEX (~$2.50)
    • Cosmetic outfit
    • 4 frigate SKINs
    • 250K SP
  • Silver – $22.99
    • 30 Days of Omega ($15)
    • 110 PLEX ($5)
    • 4 destroyer SKINs
    • 250K SP
  • Gold – $49.99
    • 60 Days of Omega ($30)
    • 500 PLEX ($15 or $20)
    • Vedmak SKIN
    • 250K SP
  • Platinum – $89.99
    • 90 Days of Omega ($45)
    • 1500 PLEX ($45)
    • Drekavec SKIN
    • 250K SP

The only things of value, in my opinion, are skill points, Omega time, and PLEX, and the latter two are the items you can buy, and likely do, buy from CCP.  So you can look at the amount of PLEX and Omega time you get as an off-set to the price paid for the pack.

For example, with the Bronze pack 60 PLEX is about two fifty… you cannot buy it in increments that small… so the offset price of the pack is about $7.49 for that 250K of skill points.

In the Silver pack we get into Omega time and PLEX increments we can work with.  We’ll give Omega time its highest value, $15 a month, and you can get 110 PLEX for five dollars, so that gives you $20 of value in the Silver pack, meaning you’re paying about three bucks for the 250K SP.

With the Gold pack things start to get interesting.  60 days of Omega is $30, and 500 PLEX is worth a month of game time, so another $15.  But to buy 500 PLEX costs $20, so you could value it that way as well.  So the offset is $45 to $50, making the 250K SP somewhere between $5 and the few cents I glossed over to get even numbers.

Finally, the Platinum pack gets you 90 days of Omega for a $45 value and 1500 PLEX, which in game time is another $45, meaning that you can get something close to $90 of value out of a $90 purchase and have your 250K skill points on top of that.

The thing is, you can only do it once.  All of the new packs are one per account.

That assumes you want to do it at all.  I am not convinced.  I don’t need the 250K of skill points… CCP just gave me that many last weekend for just logging in… I am not burning for some PLEX and I’ll buy my Omega time the old fashioned way I think.

So we went from a five dollar starter pack that was a really attractive deal that caused a good amount of outrage to a set of less attractive deals… that still have the stigma of selling skill points.

I don’t know.  I get that CCP needs to make money and these “value” packs are a way to boost income and that, due to the nature of the game itself, they walk a fine line in trying to offer something of value versus breaking the game and outraging the core fan base.  And skill points are a bit of a hot button issue for many players.  But what else is CCP going to throw in there?  Ships?  Already trained skills? (This certificate good for Amarr cruiser IV)  Even more cosmetics?

Meanwhile, there is that Best SKINs of 2019 pack for fifty dollars that contains nothing like any of what I would consider the best SKINs, for ships I don’t fly, all priced well beyond a point I would pay.  For fifty dollars straight up cash I want something like the whole Purity of the Throne Amarr SKIN sub-cap collection or all of the Caldari Ghostbird sub-cap SKINs.  But that might just be me.

Anyway, people are disappointed that CCP is still selling skill points, but the outrage seems weaker this time.  Either this isn’t as bad or we’re all just worn still out after a summer of outrage.  Or both.

The Armory and the Library

After our diversion into Strangelthorn Vale for a couple of levels last week, we were ready for a return bout in the armory in Scarlet Monastery.  We had given it a shot once before and had come up short.  But this past weekend our lineup was a little stronger.

  • Viniki – level 36 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 36 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 36 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 36 gnome mage

Moronae was actually only level 35 when we logged in on Sunday, but he was just a bubble shy of level and we were slow getting started, so he ran out, got his level, trained up, and got back to Southshore for the expedition.

Once again we set off for a run across Hillsbrad and around the Undercity to get to the Scarlet Monastery complex.

Ula, having been drinking, fell behind… she is back under the tree beside the road

I think we are actually getting to be high enough level now that we could run out to the flight point in the Western Plaguelands, get that, and run to the instance from there.  I tried it solo at level 34 and got the flight point, but going from there to Tirisfal Glades was another story.

So we made the trot and the swim and the trot, Skronk deftly avoiding the outpost along the way that got use killed previously until we made it to the ground.

Past the meeting stone

We pushed on in and were once again getting unexpected adds in the foyer of the place.  We just can’t help ourselves.  But we did press on and opened the door to the armory.

There are just a bunch of mobs hanging out here

From there things went pretty smoothly.  While we were still at or below the level of most of the mobs, our aggro radius was reduced enough that we were not getting in over our head with comedic regularity.

Starting off with the first few mobs

We pulled through the courtyard and archery range without issue and carried on into the heart of the armory itself.

The armory layout

Our only real problem going in were the various walkers that pace through the instance.  We could mark them, call them out, time things to avoid them, yet somehow always managed to have them land in the middle of a fight by accident.

Still, we have the bandwidth for a single add, though things did get hairy now and again.  We also managed to get past the pair of groups by the fireworks, which was where we fell last round.  Everybody knew there was two groups and we pulled each group well back so as to avoid an accidental proximity pull.

Past that it was around the corner and up the final hallway to Herod’s door.

Herod’s door is locked.  I am not sure why.  It uses the same key as the door that locks you out of the instance.  I guess it keeps people from sneaking in past that door and getting to the final boss unless they have the key from Doan next door.

But we had the key… I said that already, didn’t I… and went on in to behold Herod.

Yup, that’s him

Ula had read about the fight aloud to us.  Herod does a special spin attack which everybody has to get clear of, but otherwise it is a standup fight.  Ula and Skronk stood on the stairs above the fight while Moronae and jumped down to mix it up with Herod.

The spinning attack, announced by the same shout of “Blades of Light,” were more surprising in their frequency rather than their ferocity.  When he goes into spin mode everybody just hangs back out of the way… he is immune to damage while it is going on… and waits for the fight to start back up again.

There he goes, spinning again

The main off-script moment was when he suddenly ran after Skronk.  Skronk was standing back and hitting him at range with his wand between heals, and the combo of the two was enough to pull Herod in his direction, which was a bit unexpected.  I taunted Herod off of him on the second try (he resisted the first), but I had to chase him down as he ran off right after he was done with a round of spins and I was out of range.

Skronk did not die, though it was close.  It was almost time to shout “combat ress!” yet again.

Herod finally went down after eight or so rounds of spinning. [Edit: Ula’s video below shows 10 spins.]  At that point Skronk and Ula jumped down from their perch and we all braced ourselves for the onslaught of the Scarlet Trainees.

Here comes the chorus line

The whole trainee chorus line ran in and down around the stairs and I braced myself for a struggle… having forgotten that they have about the same hit points as a soap bubble.  Skronk and Ula did a couple of AOE attacks and they were gone.

Well, that went quickly

Boom!  We had done it.  And Herod had a nice treat for me, the Raging Berserker’s Helm, an upgrade from my current chapeau.  The only problem is that it requires level 37 and I was still just 36.  I would have to put it in my bag for later.

The helm

We took a few more screen shots then it was time for a break.

I swear somebody had their eyes close in almost every shot

I had to call in a Thai food order for my wife to pick up on the way home.  The Grammy’s were on later and we have a tradition of Thai or Chinese take out for awards shows.  Then Ula was away for a bit after I got back.  Then I went away for a bit.

All told we were away long enough for the instance to respawn almost fully.

The last hallway was empty for a while

We were going to fight our way out as we had another task to take care of in the Scarlet Monastery, and by the time we were rolling the first guy in the hallway before Herod had just popped, so we started with him.

After that we did a couple more careful pulls, though the next mobs up the hallway behind us respawned and Ula got them on a proximity pull.  But we managed to contain things… certain gnomish hats and and a dog whistle came into play… and won the fight.

The gut pile after the fight… hound just visible in the lower left

We moved forward to where the fireworks were and just as I pulled the next group a walker came up making the threesome a foursome.  A bit of a challenge, but we were still looking good.  And then the hound that had been summoned for the previous fight decided to run around the corner and pull the next group of three as well and suddenly it was seven on five, counting the dog, and the damn dog wasn’t keeping to the plan.  Moronae was the first to go down.

Moronae collapsing on the left

After that things fell apart.  I used whatever skills I had and managed to keep most of the group on me… but there is only so much mana in the world for healing and everybody on me meant I got pounded down eventually.  Then it was on to the casters.

Cloth tanking for the… well, not win I guess…

And so we wiped.

We ran back to the instance, Moronae and I going back into the armory because that made sense to us, while Ula and Skronk ran into the library to see if the game cared which of the instances you ran into.

The game does not care.  The revived just fine.  And they were there for a reason, with Moronae and I joining them momentarily to revive, buff up, and get ready to go.

But first a bit of food in the entry room

For her mage class quest we needed to go into the library to pick up a book.  Seems like a natural enough location to find one.  So we set out on another run through the library.  We were so close to having our act together.

Okay, maybe the wrong target, but we were good

For the first time ever we managed to clear out the opening hallway without an accidental proximity pull or walker wandering up.  Sure, it helped that we were all level 36 now, but we also had warmed up enough over the evening to be working pretty well.  So we moved on through the instance in search of the book.

We skipped Loksey.  His whistle summoned hounds have some issues to be worked out still.  We left the side rooms alone as well… again, levels meant no proximity pulls on those… and pressed on straight up the middle.  Along the way both Ula and Skronk hit level 37.

We made it to the book.  It is on a shelf at the start of the final hallway that leads to Arcanist Doan.  She grabbed it and was all set to go when I pointed out that Doan was really just a few mobs away and I was less than a bubble from 37.  So we pressed on to finish the instance.

I hit 37 in the last fight before we got to Doan, so was able to put it on.  I even turned off “hide helm” so everybody could see it.  Then we hit Doan, which went about the same way it did the last couple times.

Doan dead again

He dropped his staff… which the casters already had, so we did a roll-off and Viniki got it… and the cloth shoulders, which went to Ula.  That done, we had one last picture lineup.

Ula, dressed as Doan, and me with the new helm

So that is three wings of the Scarlet Monastery down.  Now about the fourth, the cathedral.  The bosses there are all level 42, so it would probably be good for us to hit at least 38 before giving it a serious run, which means doing some more experience.  We can run the armory some more… I wouldn’t mind, Herod has a few nice warrior items even if the armor will all be moot at level 40… or we can return to Stranglethorn Vale.  We have some quests left in the north end, and the quests at the south end are within our range as well now.  And it remains an easy-ish zone to get to, at least when compared to some of the alternatives.

We shall see.  Until then Viniki is working out with his new staff to raise his skill.

Beating on a Harvest Reaper for skill ups

You didn’t think I was going to just sell it, did you?  I think we should get one for Moronae as well so we can all have one in groups shots.

Addendum:  Ula has another great video up showing our run through the armory.

You should probably view it on YouTube at a larger resolution and higher quality level to get the full effect.  I think you can see us picking up the various walkers I mentioned as the video goes on.

The video also shows Herod doing his “Blades of Light” spin ten times, as well as the killing blow (in slomo) and the dispatching of the Scarlet Trainees.  The video ends there are does not show our subsequent demise.  Only the highlights!

Forty

It took five months, but I finally hit level 40 with my first character in WoW Classic.  That might seem pretty slow… lots of people have been level 60 for a while now… but I have been pushing a group of characters through the game in parallel, not to mention spending some time getting characters to the new level cap over in EverQuest II.  And I am in no hurry in any case, spending more time going into various side areas to see the things I might have missed back in the day.

And in getting past level 30 you do end up with opportunities to see more things.  While even at lower levels the rise in quest levels in zones encourages you to do a couple zones in parallel, past 30 it becomes something of a requirement.  I think one of the reasons that leveling past that point starts to feel difficult is that you have to have some insight into where you might go to pick up a few quests in your level range.  Tistann, my hunter, went all over.

Hunting Ravagers in Desolace

There are little bits and threads of quests in Desolace, Theremore, Thousand Needles, and Stranglethorn Vale that send you back and forth or lead you to other locations for a bit, like a diversion of the Swamp of Sorrows.  I had forgotten about a group that lived there, though I am sure they won’t enter into the story in any significant way.

You’re from where now?

And while I was out I also poked my nose into neighboring zones, like the Blasted Lands and Tanaris to pick up flight points and set myself up for later ventures.

The sights around Tanaris – Do I want to know how hanging people ends up with all that blood?

But eventually I was in Stranglethorn Vale, the southern end, when the moment hit and my hunter rolled over to 40.

I missed the ding, but here I am seconds later

And there I was.  I finished out the quest I had going and recalled back to Ironforge as level 40 brings with it a whole host of new things.

New Skills

There are always some skills to learn or upgrade every other level, but 40 got me Aspect of the Pack, the group buff version of Aspect of the Cheetah that lets everybody run 30% faster.  There was also Volley, a new shooting skill, and Track Giants to add to my list of tracking options.  I always feel blind when I play another character after my hunter because I get used to tracking very quickly.

New Pet Skills

There were also some pet skills to upgrade, including a new version of Growl for my wolf, to help him keep aggro.  This actually feels a bit overdue as he had been having trouble holding aggro for the last couple of levels.  I supposed that help keep my melee skills up to date, but it will be nice for him to be a little stickier going forward.  I just have to get him to level 40 now so her can use it.

New Ammo

Level 40 gets you the next tier of ammo, the accurate slug, that increases the amount of damage each shot applies.  I also upgraded my gun at the auction house, as the one I was using was a few levels past its prime.  So I can throw a lot more damage down range.  The wolf is going to need that new taunt, and until he gets up to where I can train him, I am going to be getting more time to work on my melee skills I guess.

New Armor

Technically one of the skills I got at 40 was the ability to wear mail armor, but I am putting it in its own category because this feature is on my list of “Why?” questions that go back to vanilla WoW.  Playing WoW Classic has reminded me of that list and I should probably do a post on it.  But still, why did Blizz think that changing armor type at level 40 was a good idea?  They got rid of that, but only much later.

I suspect that Blizz just assumed people wouldn’t obsess about it and pick up new gear as it became handy, which would just prove that Blizz doesn’t know people very well.  I started collecting mail armor drops from about level 35 forward and have been hording turtle scales to make mail armor, a leatherworker skill, but I am still mostly wearing leather.

A Mount

Of course, the big thing that comes with level 40 is the ability to buy a mount.  Unfortunately, after dealing with the above, I am well short of the gold needed.  I had about 30 gold going into level 40 and a little more than 12 gold once I got everything settled.

Of course, part of the problem is that I end up sending the good equipment drops to my alts rather than selling them at the auction house.  I have two characters that will be upgrading to plate armor at 40, so I save every such drop I see.  And, of course, with several characters in rotation I don’t end up with a lot of time spent on just working on earning gold.  So it will be Aspect of the Cheetah for a while now as I don’t think I have 100 gold across all my characters combined.

But, as I said, I am not in a huge hurry to get anywhere.  I’ll have the gold at some point, but for now I walk.

Friday Bullet Points about EVE Online and Bonus Skill Points

It is Friday and, despite not playing much in New Eden myself this month, I have accumulated a few items I want to mention about EVE Online.

  • More Bonus Skill Points

Another bonus skill point event starts today.

Bonus skill points are the best skill points

Log in daily from today through Monday and get some free skill points to spend on skills you need… or to hoard  for some potential future need.  Alpha pilots will get 75,000 skill points if they claim every day while Omega pilots will be eligible for 250,000 skill points.

  • PLEX For Good

The PLEX for Good campaign to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross is still going.  You can donate PLEX, the cash value of which will be donated, through until January 26th.  Details on how you do this are at the link.

PLEX for Good

There is also a Stream Fleet event coming this weekend to raise awareness for the efforts and drum up more donations.

  • Download Your Year in EVE

I wrote about the Your Year in EVE videos CCP produced already.  You can see one of mine again if you need a reminder as to what they were.

If you enjoyed your video and want to keep it, you need to download it by January 30th.  CCP will be purging them after that date.  Fortunately, each video has a link included that downloads an MP4 copy of the video to your system.  That format is pretty much ideal for uploading to services like YouTube, which is what I did.

Everybody who got a video should also be getting a reminder in the email about the videos going away, but it you don’t check that email account very often here is another reminder.

  • 64-Bit Client Transition Complete

Last year saw the introduction of the 64-bit client which promised to make EVE Online a better experience when it came to big space battles, or even smaller ones as you would no longer have to go into “potato mode” just to be sure the old client wouldn’t exceed the 32-bit memory limit and crash. (64-bit was also necessary for ongoing MacOS compatibility.  Apple doesn’t hang about supporting legacy features the way Microsoft does.)

Getting people to move to 64-bit went better than expected according to a Dev Blog from CCP, such that they have declared the transition complete.

Every dev blog gets a graphic

Because of this the old 32-bit client will be officially sunsetted on February 26, 2020.

In addition, the system requirements for EVE Online will be raised, with 4GB becoming the new minimum RAM requirement and 23GB being the new minimum drive space allocation.

  • December MER

The Monthly Economic Report for December 2019 is out at last, so now people have all the data for the year so they can explore what went on.

December 2019 – Top Sinks and Faucets over time – Everybody’s favorite chart

The Nosy Gamer has already been at it.  I don’t have much to say myself and am giving up the monthly posts about the MER.  They got tedious when I was reporting on them generally, so I went to focusing on specific items each month, but I think most people find the whole thing a snooze, so I’ll just play with the data on my own.

  • I Won a Thing

In conjunction with the Year in EVE videos I mentioned above CCP ran a social media contest around the hash tag #MyEVE2019.  Winners were picked at random and so I managed to make the RNG cut with this tweet.

Winners all got 500 PLEX which was delivered this week and the promise of a special SKIN to arrive at some future date.  I am going to keep the SKIN of course, but I am sending off the PLEX to the PLEX for Good campaign mentioned above.

California Explores Gaming Power Usage

The misperception that computer gaming is conducted only at the “fringe” of society has dampened curiosity about their role in energy use.

-A Plug-Loads Game Changer: Computer Gaming Energy Efficiency without Performance Compromise

The state of California issued a 92 page long report last year exploring the electrical usage of computer gaming in the state,  prepared for the California Energy Commission by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, exploring both why video games use as much electricity as they do and how the state might plan for the future related to gaming power usage.

That electrical generation has an environmental impact is multiplied by the fact that the northern half of the state is mostly served by one of the more dysfunctional companies of the breed, Pacific Gas & Electric.  The company has gone bankrupt twice in the last two decades and has a habit of setting up situations where it ends up blacking out large swathes of the state due to its own incompetence.  Even my late grandfather used to refer to it as “Perpetual Graft & Extortion.”

Anyway, the whole report is available for download from the state as a PDF file here.  But the key graph early in the report indicates why this is even being discussed as it ranks various categories of electrical usage.

Estimate Power Use of Various Residential Activities in 2016

That is computer gaming using 4.1 terawatt-hours of electricity, which puts it ahead of the total power consumption of Cambodia, if the CIA is to be believed and I am able to do the unit conversion in my head.  Also, we appear to use about a terawatt-hour of electricity a year on hot tub pumps.  I could have guessed that I suppose.

The report opens, naturally enough, with how this number was arrived at, definitions for quite a few terms (kind of interesting), an attempt to break gamers out into discreet usage segments, and even a chart of power usage for specific titles from various gaming  genres on different platforms. Also, there is the revelation that people play a lot of games online.

For the purposes of this report the computer gaming energy use category includes:

…desktop and laptop computers, consoles, and media streaming devices and associated displays, local network equipment, and speakers, as well as associated network and data-center energy.

If I wanted to nitpick, I would go straight to asking how data-center power usage figures into  residential plug-load numbers, but nobody is going to listen to me and I suppose as long as we’re only referencing data centers within the state then I ought to let it slide.  Even the report admits that the whole thing is complicated to address.

Then there is the matter of what we should do about it.  As I like to put it, the “So what?” part of the report that attempts to move it from trivia to some suggested form of action.  As the report points out, there has not been a lot of focus on energy consumption in this area, dubious EnergyStar ratings and efficiency measurements for computer power supplies (the 80 Plus program) being about the sum total of the efforts.

The possible suggestions include expanding power/efficiency ratings for components to having a system of ratings for games that indicate the energy use effects that they might have, along with some possible ways to incentivize players to use less power.

Then there are some forecasts of power consumption going forward involving various scenarios from the status quo maintained to VR takes off to consoles explode well beyond current popularity.

This report is mostly an interesting read, an attempt by some people serious about their jobs to quantify, explore, and explain a complex situation that defies easy measure.

Much of the information in the study is based on earlier studies which are available online from Greening the Beast and which go into more depth in places:

In the end you and I pay the electrical bill, so it makes some sense to be at least somewhat aware of the impact game, setting, and hardware choices might have on your monthly statement.

To Stranglethorn Vale in Search of 36

After our peek into the Armory in Scarlet Monastery the previous week we were feeling a bit under-level to consider trying to finish off the instance.  The gut feeling was that we probably should be level 36 as a group of four to have a hope of getting through the Armory to finish off Herod and the Scarlet Monastery floor show.

We were all in and around level 34 when we wrapped up that run, so there was between a level and two levels of extracurricular activity that had to happen to get us back there.

The question was where to go?

Having crossed over the level 30 threshold, we are now in the timeline of no fixed zone for leveling.  If you’re working through solo from 30 forward you optimally end up bouncing between a few zones like Thousand Needles, Hinterlands, and Desolace.

I do not know if it was a deliberate design choice, but in these zones you find that the levels of quests increment, often jumping a level or two with each step in chain, so that you can quickly find yourself bumping up against red quests and mobs where an accidental add means death.

But as a group that might be a more manageable proposition.  So in looking for a destination for us I wanted a zone that had a bunch of quests, the more the better, that we as a group could burn through.

Having run through pieces of those zones solo with my hunter, Stranglethorn Vale seemed like the obvious choice.  It has the series of quests from the rebel camp at the north as well as the first “slaughter the local fauna” Hemet Nesingwary quest hub, something that has become a tradition in WoW expansions since.

And the quests, for the most part, seemed about ideal.  For a group, killing a set number of mobs, as Hemet would ask, is about ideal.  Likewise, the rebel camp sends you off on a series of quests that almost require a group.  Both the Kurzen camp and the troll areas are teeming with mobs, packed in tightly and with sprightly respawn rates.  And the last quest in the Kurzen quest chain sends you after a level 40 elite.

Also in its favor is that most of the early quests are pretty well contained to the northern bit of the zone around the rebel camp and Hemet Nesingwary’s setup.

The general vicinity

That compares favorably with, say, Desolace.  I’ll get to Desolace later.

So that was our plan for the weekend, to dive into Stranglethorn Vale.

It was just a matter of getting people on together.  And getting there.  STV has a flight point, but it is down at the southern tip, at Booty Bay.  While I appreciate the sparse flight point aesthetic of early WoW, where every zone gets one flight point whether they need it or not, I have to admit that the later addition of the flight point to the rebel camp in STV was sorely missed more than a few times over the weekend.  Even a mailbox would have been appreciated.

Instead you have to hoof it from Darkshire into STV.

Welcome to Stranglethorn Vale

I set Viniki up down there ahead of time.  Oddly, of my alts in their 30s, I think he was the only one of the bunch that had not started on any of the quests there.  I camped him with Hemet so he would be ready when the time came.

Not the last time I’ll run into you

Saturday evening Skronk, Ula, and I were online, but Moronae wasn’t expected.  Skronk had his hunter out and was just starting in on the Kurzen quest line.  I grabbed my pally to join him, while Ula came along.  She was the furthest behind in experience, needing a little more than two levels to get to 36.  Skonk and my warrior, Viniki, were much closer to the group goal so we kept to our alts.

I was kind of glad to get my pally out.  While he had done some of the Nesingwary stuff, he was still early on in the rebel camp stuff.

Not for the last time, I wish it had that flight point

Specifically, he was a bit stuck on the quest Bad Medicine.  That requires seven drops, which are, of course, rather sparse.  In addition, the easiest source of the drops, the medicine men in the Kurzen camp tend to be both heavily hunted and a bit of a pain to solo with a pally.  They self-heal at a cycle faster than my interrupt, so each fight becomes a protracted event.

While we couldn’t do much about the competing groups… STV on a Saturday night had people running all over… we were able to press on into the caves where the headhunters also drop the jungle remedy potion needed to complete the quest.  So we were able to press on and finish that up.

Bad Medicine unlocks a couple of quests, including the first foray into the trolls.  That run was… interesting.  I had done it with my hunter a couple weeks back, so could guide everybody to the four tablets on which you need to click.  The challenge is more that the population density in the troll areas is pretty high.  It is easy to get way too many adds.  Even with other players around, getting through can be a challenge as the respawn rate is also very quick.  We had a duo wipe just ahead of us… horde, so we could only mourn… while we were fighting a group that had just respawned after their passing.

Trolls on the way out

But running the troll circle also brought us through areas for three of the Nesingwary quests, so we picked up various flavors of tigers, panthers, and raptors before finally circling back to turn in quests.

It is especially easy to see the quest levels ramp up with those kill quests.  The tigers are the easier of the trio as they start doable at 28 or so, with the final task of slaying Sin’Dall, a level 37 non-elite being soloable at 35 without much fear.

Waiting for Sin’Dall to spawn

At the other end are the raptors, which are level 40-41 when you are only on the third round.  We managed that at the end of the night, with a group that was 5-7 levels shy of the mobs.  A group of three can handle that, but the level difference means that the raptors resist spells regularly, and an add can be fatal.  We did have one death, though that was mostly because I had to remember that paladin’s can heal.  Fortunately they can also ress.

We also sorted out pages from the Green Hills of Stranglethorn quest.  I had been to STV already with my pally and, after collecting most of the pages, I bought my way through the quest at the auction house.  So I was able to hand over needed pages for Ula and Skronk, though in the end they too used the auction house to collect the last page or two.  I think I did this the hard way back in 2006.

The next afternoon was to bring Moronae on the scene.  However, some of us were early and so Skronk and I worked with a different set of alts, his pally and my restoration druid, while we waited for Moronae to show.  We dropped our alts when he logged in and started out with out mains.

Like Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon saw other groups hunting out in the Kurzen camp.

The Kurzen camp awaits

Having learned our lesson the previous night, we passed through the camp and into the caves and back down to where Sgt. Malthus lives to fight the mobs there that also drop the needed jungle remedy. Needing seven a piece and with low a drop rate, we were down there for a while.

Taking them all on

Aside from the occasional lost player, we had the place to ourselves for a while.  The spawn rate was rapid enough to keep us mostly engaged, while adding in the occasional surprise.

Skronk to be bonked by a surprise spawn

It took us a few cycles of spawns, but we eventually came up with seven jungle remedy potions for the three of us that needed them.  And then, on the way out, jungle remedy potions pretty much dropped off of every possible mob.  There were enough between us that I collected seven and set them aside to mail to one of my alts just to get past that stage of the quest.

What wasn’t dropping were pages for the Green Hills of Stranglethorn.  Unlike the night before, when we were getting quite a few such drops, this time around we all came out with one page.  And that was all I would get for the night.  Some times it rains those pages and overflows your inventory… usually when you’re on with you hunter… and some times they just don’t drop.

We went back to the rebel camp to turn in quests and pick up the next round.  Ula took a break while Skronk, Moronae, and Vinki went to go do the troll tablets run, which has the previously mentioned benefit of swinging through areas for raptors, panthers, and tigers.

We circled back from that to Nesingwary then to the rebel camp, where we happened to catch Private Thorsen doing his patrol, which allows you to get another quest chain going.  Unfortunately, Ula wasn’t back yet so missed out on grabbing that.

After a bit of a break we made out final run of the evening at the Kurzen camp.  We made a quick venture to the camp to knock out one last preliminary quest, then picked up the final goal.  We were after Colonel Kurzen himself.

I remembered this vaguely enough to know that we had to go all the way to the end of the cave to find him.  We found a solo druid who was trying to go that way as well and asked if he could join, so Skronk invited him.  We had the room.

And then we were into the caves and clearing our way to Colonel Kurzen.  That wasn’t particularly tough as the mobs are not elite, but there are a lot of them and you have to plow through row after row of them to advance and even non-elites can pile on if you pull too many.

We had made it through most of the cave and were just down the path from Colonel Kurzen himself, literally right outside his den at the end of everything, when a level 44 night elf hunter ran right past us as we were mid-fight and into Kurzen’s room.

I wasn’t going to let that stand.  I abandoned the mob I was finishing and ran into the room after him and tagged Colonel Kurzen with my gun.  It was on.

We were, of course, still involved with a couple mobs and Kurzen had a couple more with him, while the colonel himself is an elite with his own special routine.  It was not a guaranteed slam dunk at that point, and the hunter was content to let us work this out on our own.

Getting thing under control was… a challenge.  Things looked bad when Skronk went down before I could pull mobs off of him.  But we had two druids in the group, so there was a combat ress to be had.  Our guest druid got his off, putting Skronk back in the fight as we eventually got a handle on everything.  Kruzen went down, we looted his head, and that was that.

We had to fight some of the way back out of the cave, the respawn rate being what it was, along with stopping to get the the contents of the locked box that was on the quest chain that Private Thorsen set us on.  But from there it was back to the rebel camp to turn things in.

At that point Ula hit level 36, the first in the main group to do so.  Viniki was very close to 36, and managed to get there with a few kills later on.  Skronk likewise managed to get to 36 shortly thereafter.  And Moronae is very close to 36 and will likely get there soon enough; if not before out next run, then probably not too many mobs into it.

So we look to be set up to make another run at the armory in Scarlet Monastery.