Monthly Archives: September 2022

September in Review

The Site

Last month I was on about email subscriptions and how they appeared to have broken for a stretch, then started back up.  Well, they seem to be completely broken again.  WordPress.com working its magic yet again.  So if you’re one of the 45 people WP.com thinks still subscribe via email… that number dropped suddenly as well… you’re probably not reading this.  Sorry?

Also, I have somehow carried on posting every single day, bringing the tally up to 916 days in a row.

Another meaningless milestone

That means I only need to do that for 84 more days to hit 1,000.  And there are 92 days left in the year.  I could get there by Christmas and give myself boxing day off… unless I have waited until the last minute for all of those end of the year posts.  We’ll see I guess.

That is about it for the 17th September in Review post… well, except for all of the usual stuff below.

One Year Ago

It was time to sum up the labors of Blaugust once more.

It was also anniversary time as the blog turned fifteen.  Also, WordPress was talking about putting “sponsored content” into blogs.

I also wrote something about 35 years of connected computing, it marking the anniversary of purchasing my first modem back in 1986.

I was wondering if the level squish had been a good idea a year after Blizz did it.  I still wonder if it was today.

In Burning Crusade Classic the instance group managed to get through the Blood Furnace as a foursome.

But we were kind of slowing down on that, and on our radar was Diablo II Resurrected, which launched at last.

Daybreak announced the Visions of Vertovia expansion for EverQuest II.  Then it was time for the Pandas and the pre-expansion catch up.  Meanwhile, over in EverQuest there was something about perks… for sale of course.  And Lord of the Rings Online announced the Fate of Gundabad expansion.

Meanwhile, Amazon finally launched New World.  Having played in some of the beta cycle, I was moaning about how the vision for the game had changed.

In EVE Online it was once again time for Caldari Union Day.  We also got the Gateway quadrant update, which included yet another new player experience, as well as a UI update for skills that once again proved that the one thing CCP UI designers value over all else is wasted empty space in the middle of informational elements.

CCP was also telling us that 24 million pilots had played EVE Online, though they were not clear about what that really meant.

The New Eden monthly economic report was showing us the impact of the end of World War Bee.  Meanwhile, CCP remain on its path to make players poor, their solution to MUDflation, while I was looking to my own finances in game.

Things were still happening though.  We blew up a Keepstar in Catch and CCP helped up blow up botters in Yulai once again.

I was getting setup with Zwift and our new exercise bike.  A year later I am still using it regularly, even if the stages of every ride remain the same.

We were also binge watching Ray Donovan and all of the Helen Mirren versions of Prime Suspect.

My wife and I went to Maui where we were involved in some minor driving adventure.

Finally, it had been 20 years since terrorists brought down the World Trade Center and I was reflecting on how it was very much a dividing line in history.

Five Years Ago

The blog turned eleven and so I brought out an elf.

I was talking about a typewriter.  The first typewriter I used.  I still have it.

Raptr announced that they would be shutting down at the end of the month.

GuildWars 2 launched their Path of Fire expansion.

Destiny 2 launched.  That’s an MMO, right?

Pokemon Gold & Silver were made available via the 3DS Virtual Console.

Crimson Leaf Games announced MegaWars – Dawn of the Third Age.

I took a look at Daybreak 30 months into is existence.  And, as I did that, we got the bad news that EQ2 Wire was shutting down after covering the game for nine years.  Then Daybreak announced that the Fippy Darkpaw server would be merged with the Vulak server… probably a few years too late to make any difference.

In EVE Online CCP gave us a heads up as to the coming Lifeblood expansion, complete with trailer.  Last I checked the site was still up, but running pretty much unattended.

I was running on about meaningful PvE progression in New Eden and going on about return on time invested and content on demand.

In space I was doing the Alpha Strikes event while the August MER showed that deploying to Hakonen cost the Imperium in mining and ratting revenue.

Then came the Warzone Extraction event to celebrate the non-VR version of the soon to be in maintenance mode EVE: Valkyrie.  It was a tough event by EVE Online PvE standards and I am sure it killed some newbies.

But the big EVE Online news of the month was The Judge betraying Circle of Two, selling their Keepstar to the Imperium (who later sold it to TEST) and the camp in 68FT-6 as alliance members tried to escape from their former home.  GigX was banned and CO2 seemed doomed.  It was one of those “Only in EVE” sort of events.

Andrew Groen was planning some EVE Online history lectures via a new podcast.  That only lasted five episodes before he went back to writing books on EVE Online history.

In a bullet points post I noted the passing of the EVE Gate site, that CCP cancelled their deal with Nexon for Japanese EVE Online support, that Ultima Online was talking about free to play, and that Daybreak wasn’t going to be handing out any more free content in Norrath for the foreseeable future.

And finally Chris Roberts was unironically talking about developer optimism in an interview.

Ten Years Ago

The World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria launched, adding a panda race to Azeroth, right on Ultima Online’s 15th anniversary.   I think the shark jumping trope jumped the shark that day.

I was falling out of WoW myself, though still not allowed to unsubscribe. Being locked out of the Theremore event due to item level helped kill any enthusiasm I had for staying with the game.

Torchlight II showed up.  I was still waiting for the Mac OS version so I could play with my daughter.

In the land of EverQuest, the Rain of Fear expansion was announced, while EverQuest II went straight to truth in advertising and revealed an expansion called Chains of Eternity.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, Omens of War went live and was finished.

SOE was talking about some form of Wizardry that was online.   PlanetSide 2 was planned for the end of the year… sort of.  And then there was Player Studio and all that implied.

The next chapter in the Darkfall saga was announced.  And they had a new game/expansion or some such.

In EVE Online, the CSM was looking for a way to… well… screw most of the people who actually vote for the CSM.  I stranded my null sec Drake in Jita and I compared Traffic Control to a hostile FC.

In a more serious vein, the real world reached into our game took a fellow player.  Even tragedy cannot displace idiocy though.

My goal to get my fourth class in Rift, a mage, to level cap before Storm Legion had me in Stonefield.

BioWare, not done with their trend of announcing public metrics they eventually failed to meet, committed themselves to a new content schedule for SWTOR.  Later we found out that “adding items to the cash shop” counts as new content.  Meanwhile, I pondered the SWTOR lore choice.

The Lord British saga continued as he opted to jump in bed with Zynga!  He, of course, expressed great fondness for Zynga, while I wondered what his sith name would be, since he was clearly going the Anakin Skywalker route.

I remembered Spaceship Warlock.

Free to play was still under discussion.  An article in Game Developer Magazine included the warning to not assume profitability just because people are going on about revenues.  And yet all I hear about are revenues when it comes to free to play.

The people at Stormpowered Studios started in against marriage.

And the blog turned six and felt very clever about it.

Fifteen Years Ago

I summed up my first year of blogging, the first in a long series of anniversary posts. I also participated in a meme… back when that wasn’t an picture thing… about the power of four.

Auto Assault was gone, another NCsoft title shut down.  I was wondering if Tabula Rasa might follow suit.

I started thinking about what an expansion would look like for Lord of the Rings Online.  I was also browsing in Othrikar.  But I was more curious as to why the game just wasn’t as much fun as, say, World of Warcraft.

On the Wii it was Mario Party 8 and the Virtual Console.

In EVE Online I finally fixed the sound driver issue that was making the game crash. Hah, I used to run EVE with the sound on!

In other New Eden events, I was flying the Mammoth as a hauler to support mining ops in my Retriever.  Jet can mining and training up to Mining Barge V and salvaging.  I was also getting lost with the corp and station interface.  Another wish list there.  At least I found the “warp to 0” options quickly.  I still wasn’t quite sure what people meant by “tank” in the game though.

I was still running missions and had advanced to cruisers on that front.  And I was losing them as well.  I also had to queue to log in because there were 21K people in the game.  Traffic control was coming up as well.  CCP was working on the issue.

Our summer vacation from Azeroth was over with the return of Earl.  We were back to running instances, starting with Zul’Farrak.  Of course, then we realized nobody had the mallet, so we had to go get that.  I still have it in the bank.  I was also out searching for mithril.

SOE announced that their combined Station Launcher would be available for beta soon.  I don’t think it ever left beta before it was finally scrapped.

I was reminiscing about the Thundering Steppes in EverQuest II, a zone I was playing in less than three years before.  Early onset nostalgia I guess.

There was the loaded question about who counts as “press” in a world where blogs exist.  People seem determined to embrace arbitrary rules on that front, something that always leads to suppression of opinions with which they disagree.

And finally there were naked zones and wondering how to make PvP (and PvE) better.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Ultima Online launched.  Raph Koster has some accumulated memories of the game from over the years and a link to a video… and then he wrote some more about the game as it came about, what influenced it and what it influenced.  He was back with another post for the 25th anniversary.

A little title called Total Annihilation also launched 20 years ago today.  With a real three dimensional environment and line of site constraints, it was ahead of its time and remains an underrated title to my mind.  Cave Dog, the developer, went bust ages ago and, through the twists and turns of the video game business, Wargaming.net of World of Tanks fame ended up owning the rights to the title.

Forty Five Years Ago

Atari ships the Atari 2600 Video Computer System, getting the retail channel all setup for the best Christmas ever.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Flight in Pre-Patch Outland
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  4. The Level 70 Boost Question for Wrath Classic
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  7. A Brief History of Goon Leadership
  8. CCP Lets EVE Online Players with Multiple Accounts Subscribe Secondary Accounts at a Lower Price
  9. Sixteen Years of Driving the Blog
  10. Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend
  11. What Will it Mean to Have a Bunch of 20 Year Old MMORPGs?
  12. Where Does WoW Classic End?

Search Terms of the Month

seedofthedead “fail”
[Um, sure]

portable hole bag price
[Too damn much]

dune adventures in the imperium sand and dust download pdf
[That sounds pretty interesting really]

Game Time from ManicTime

Another month with two titles, with pretty much the same ratio between them.  I did, however, spend about 20% more time actually playing video games this past month, so I guess I shared that extra time out equally.

  • WoW Classic – 77.8%
  • EVE Online – 22.2%

At least I think it was just those two titles.  There was an update to ManicTime and, while the daily stats remained normal, the rolled up stats for the month got messed up and now seemed to be associated with the executable rather than the window name.  So, for example, WoW Classic and retail WoW both run as the same name, so I just see time for World of Warcraft.  Now I know I mostly played WoW Classic, but I did spend a bit of time in retail WoW redeeming that dragon mount and poking around.  But I cannot tell how much time.

As always seems to happen, my time tracking app seemed to get screwed up eventually.

EVE Online

Something must have happened in New Eden, I spent some time there.  I guess there were a couple of move ops home, my Planetary Industry to tend to, and at least one fleet op… the one where I lost the insured Ferox.  That was a net win.  I only have eight more in my hangar.

Pokemon Go

Still working our way towards level 43.  It may still be a while.  I did, however, finally get a Torkoal this month.

  • Level: 42 ( 82.7% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
  • Pokedex status: 733 (+8) caught, 751 (+5) seen
  • Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 25
  • Pokemon I want: Pachirisu
  • Current buddy: Golisopod (just because he looks cool)

WoW Classic

It was the big run up to Wrath Classic and getting mains and alts leveled up and then that first brief look at Northrend.  Really, it is about as simple as that.  We leveled up mains, leveled up some alts, and made Death Knights.  And we were happy doing it.

Zwift

I have somehow kept this up for over a year.  I may have to do a post about that.  But here are my stats as of today.

  • Level – 16 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 1,244 miles (+64 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 49,652 (+2,040 feet)
  • Calories burned – 40,232 (+1,797)

Coming Up

October is likely to be very much about Wrath Classic.  We’ll be heading there as a group this weekend for the first time.  Eventually we’ll get to the first dungeon and will have to work out how to get past the Prince Keleseth fight.  It will be tough with only four of us, but we’re working on ideas.

In EVE Online there could be some happenings… though Hurricane Ian ravaging Florida means that our Alliance leader is offline.  I do hope he is okay.  I’ll trade some downtime for his safety.

Also, CCP is starting to roll out some of the things they presented at Fanfest.  There might be actual game news to cover.

Otherwise Daybreak will be ramping up for its range of content launches in Q4 and holiday event will start showing up.

World of Warcraft Dragonflight is Launching November 28th

Companies seem to be in the mood to get announcements in before the end of the month, no doubt to be able to claim they did them in Q3 of 2022, Q4 starting on Saturday.

Next on my list is Blizzard, which has given us a launch date for the Dragonflight expansion.

WoW Dragonflight

As has become the pattern for Blizzard, this will be another world-wide launch, happening at 3pm Pacific time on Monday the 28th, midnight Paris time, and morning hours of Tuesday the 29th in Asia

Dragonflight World Wide Launch Times

Of course, Blizzard would like you to buy a pre-order.  There are the usual three flavors available.

How much to fly a dragon?

The base edition will get you the content and the new race, along with a pet if you pre-order.  If you want a boost up to level 60 you’ll have to opt for the Heroic or Epic editions, which also include an additional layer of fluff, the Epic edition tossing in 30 days of game time as well.

As for the launch date and timelines, Shadowlands to Dragonflight is about mid-pack, coming in at 734 days if they make the November 28th date.

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 779 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 656 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 714 days
  • Battle for Azeroth to Shadowlands – 832 days
  • Shadowlands to Dragonflight – 734 days

Coming so soon after the Wrath of the Lich King Classic launch, I have no plans to join in on the new expansion at launch.  I might log in to see where the action is at 2:45pm on the 28th, but I am not spending $50 to take a step beyond that.

The Shadowlands expansion was a bust for me.  I got exactly one character to level 60, the new level cap after the big level squish.  It isn’t as though I couldn’t have run more alts through.  Getting to level cap was fairly easy.  I just had no interest in doing so after my first run through.  So while I enjoyed the xp boost in classic, the one they’re offering in retail won’t move me.

Google Stadia to Shut Down on January 18, 2023

You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!

-Willy Wonka describing when a thin client application shuts down

When the news hit yesterday that Google was shutting down Stadia, it wasn’t a moment of shock.  I think it had been clear to most people who were paying attention… that being a rather small population… that Stadia’s days had been numbered for quite some time now.

I haven’t had much to say about Stadia since it was announced back in June of 2019.  It wasn’t of much interest to me, and only got the mention it did due to the company backing it.  I don’t think I wrote a single post devoted exclusively to Stadia.  I covered its announcement and launch in bullet point posts and mentioned it in passing in a post about thin client applications.

I think the biggest deal I made about it was when somebody representing themselves as a big deal at Google was ranting on Twitter that streamers needed to be made to pay to stream video games.  And the main mention of Google was them repudiating that statement. (Also, I see that the person in question did not delete that tweet, but also no longer works for Google.  Whatever.)

So welcome to my first blog post devoted solely to Google Stadia.

At it heart it was another attempt to stream video games.  The main difference was that Google wasn’t some start up, so wouldn’t fold the moment it became clear there wasn’t a huge market for what they were offering.

Of course, it being from Google meant that a good number of us simply expected it to join the ever growing graveyard of products killed by the company.  Being shut down was always on the table.

I am frankly surprised Stadia lasted as long as it did.  It never caught fire. (neither literally nor figuratively)  I suspect that the pandemic, which was nature’s gift to video game studios, helped keep it going for as long as it did.  But in the world of vaccines and a death rate low enough that we can pretend COVID isn’t a thing anymore (though I saw an anti-vaccine protest just last night in the middle of Silicon Valley) people are no longer feeling the need to stay home all the time.

Less binge watching.  Fewer Doordash orders.  Not as much time for video games.

The good news is that Google isn’t going away and isn’t going to play the Wonka card, no doubt from a desire to avoid getting sued, so it is offering refunds for a lot of things according to the shut down FAQ that they have posted.

We will be offering refunds for all Stadia hardware purchases (Stadia Controller, Founders Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages) made through the Google Store and software transactions (games and add-on purchases) through the Stadia store. Stadia Pro subscriptions are not eligible for refund, however you will be able to continue playing your games in Pro without further charges until the final wind down date.

That is something, money back on all of your purchases… if you used the Google or Stadia store.  You don’t get your subscription money back because that was a purchase allowing you access over a given time frame which you have already received.

So it goes.

I guess the most smug person today must be one Daniel Camilo, who wrote a post for Gamasurta, now Game Developer, back in September of 2019, before Stadia launched, explaining why he thought it was going to fail.  And fail it did.  We’ll have to wait for the post-mortem to see if he called it completely I suppose.

Expect one more Stadia post out of me on January 18th to confirm that it has in fact gone.

Related:

Faction Warfare Updates are Kicking Off in EVE Online

Promised at Fanfest back in early May and occasionally hinted at over the summer, the beginning of the Faction Warfare updates have finally landed in New Eden.

Faction Warfare, within the scope of EVE Online, is probably most akin to realm v realm in other MMOs.  But, with one server, you can’t fight other realms, as there are none.  Instead players align with one of the four major NPC empires (Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, or Minmatar), which battle over four regions of low security space, the Amarr facing the Minmata and the Caldari facing the Gallente.

That sounds exciting, but as a feature of the game it has often been neglected, been the subject of exploits, and felt the pain of collateral damage as features roll out for other aspects of the game.  So it was kind of a big deal to have CCP say they were going to focus on Faction Warfare at Fanfest.  Even groups with their own lists of long standing issues felt it was long past time for FW to get some attention.

So today’s patch notes include a big update about Faction Warfare.  There was a news item posted about the militaries of the empires going on alert with an accompanying dev blog, while in The Agency there is now a headline about the new Faction Campiagns.

Faction Warfare – Does it live yet?

There are two campaigns available, one for the Amarr/Minmatar side of the house and one for the Caldari/Gallente conflict.

The two campaigns

For the Gallente/Caldari conflict the copy says:

The Gallente Federation and Caldari State have placed utmost importance on controlling the Athounon system, and are attempting to build stargates leading back to Amygnon and Samanuni respectively, Capsuleers can assist either faction by occupying Athounon through factional warfare, and mining unique ore in the Serthoulde constellation.

And for the Amarr/Minmatar war the copy says:

The Amarr Empire and the Minmatar Republic are both attempting to develop new technology derived from Triglavian Stellar Transmuters. To advance this research they are fighting over control of prototype Stellar Transmuters that the Amarr has constructed within the warzone, as well as data collected from remote observation facilities spread throughout the local constellations.

Helping with the efforts of the empires will reward players with Loyalty Tokens… not to be confused with Loyalty Points, the usual currency of FW… where they can be used to purchase early access to the new faction hulls that are coming to the game.

The new hulls are:

  • Navy Issue Battlecruisers
    • Cyclone Fleet Issue
    • Ferox Navy Issue
    • Myrmidon Navy Issue
    • Prophecy Navy Issue
  • Navy Issue Frigates
    • Probe Fleet Issue
    • Heron Navy Issue
    • Imicus Navy Issue
    • Magnate Navy Issue

Attributes of the new hulls are available in the patch notes linked below, but my guess is that these must be good hulls because people have been complaining about them on r/eve since they showed up on the test server.

One thing that is not clear to me with the update is who is able to participate.  One of the pitfalls of FW has long been the need to join a corporation that has pledged itself to one of the factions in order to participate fully.  So it wasn’t something you could do casually on your main, like Abyssals, because it required your organization to commit.  If they didn’t, it might be something you did on an alt.

It was at least implied back at Fanfest that CCP planned to break down that barrier to FW, but the patch notes, while one might infer something like this, does not call it out explicitly.  So, as usual, your mileage may vary.

Related

LOTRO Announces the Before the Shadows Mini-Expansion

The lesson from EverQuest and EverQuest II is that having some new content to sell every year is a money making deal.  Even now EQII is warming up for its annual fall cycle of events leading to this years expansion.  I’ll get to all of that later for both titles.

Since Turbine sold off Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online to Daybreak under the guise of the Standing Stone Games deal, both titles have been trying to get on the regular expansion content train.

And so we have the Before the Shadows mini-expansion coming this fall.

Before the Shadow and after the summer

And which shadow exactly are we speaking off… or where is it in any case?  Well, the blurb for the expansion says:

Reveal the mysteries of the One Ring as you venture through the reedy fens of Swanfleet and the moors of Cardolan.  Journey alongside Boromir to Rivendell, and run afoul of the Witch-King and Nazul in their pursuit of “Baggins” and the peaceful land of the “Shire” as shadow begins to pour forth from the land of Mordor.

So it sounds like we’re getting a bit of a prequel adventure, which is to be expected I suppose.  There is only so far you can go once you’ve thrown down the dark tower… though I don’t think we’ve scourged the Shire yet.  But they’ve added some areas to the Shire, so maybe we’ll get to that at some point.

The actual meat of the expansion is fairly thin:

  • New Regions & New Early Leveling Experience
  • New Skirmish and 6-player Instance
  • New Delving System
  • New Themed Missions Wrapper
  • Go Further with Expedition Supplies
  • Upgrade Your Experience with the Ultimate Fan Bundle
  • 10% VIP Discount

However, the base price for the content alone is just $20, which is a bargain these days.  We’ve finally hit the point where the base price for a big studio title is going to be $70, and that is before you get to the deluxe edition and the season pass and the cash shop.

Of course, if you WANT to spend more on Before the Shadow, if you have money to burn and a desire to support your favorite MMORPG set in Middle-earth, you can throw as much as $100 at your screen with the “recommended” ultimate fan bundle.

Before the Shadow pricing options

That, of course, is another thing Daybreak has been good at.  But I cannot begrudge them their pricing scheme.  Some players want all the possible goodies and if it keeps the game alive and the studio afloat… and it isn’t mandatory or game breaking… then good for them I suppose.

Anyway, you can find more details over at the LOTRO expansion page, which is a reminder that unlike EverQuest, they don’t just roll up that last expansion into the current one’s content.  They still have older stuff for sale.  It doesn’t go all the way back to Mines of Moria.  I think that is all free now.  But If you want to get into Mordor, there is still an expansion for that and a few more after.

Addendum: Also, there is a coupon pack that will get you additional content. It expires Oct. 31, 2022.

Two Hundred and Fifty Million Skill Points

Back to New Eden again and another milestone moment as my main character in EVE Online hit 250 million skill points.  I carry on with this mostly because this has been a regular series of posts since I started playing the game way back in the day.  Since the introduction of skill injectors having any given number of skill points is possible if you have enough real world cash.  I have not gone that route, though I can’t claim any real purity since I’ve accepted my share of free skill points for login rewards and such.  But this series does, in its way, track my progress through the game.

Here is the full history for those with too much free time on their hands:

As I noted at the 240 million SP mark, my progress has generally slowed down over the last few years.  If I am diligent I end up getting 10 million SP about every 8 months.  But I have been spreading out the training with my alts on the same account fairly regularly.  So I am closing in on 300 million SP across my account.

My account skill point spread

If I had maintained sole focus on Wilhelm, I would likely be at 300 million SP on him today.  I still jump him into the +5 training clone in Jita when I know I am not going to play for a couple of days.

But I don’t focus on him solely because having alts is useful now and again.  If nothing else, all three of them now do Planetary Industry, so I have incrementally more income on that front.

Also, there was a bit of a slow down when I spent February as an Alpha clone, so no training was completed then.  Turns out being an Alpha clone kind of sucks when you’re used to having a couple hundred million skill points enabling you, so I came back to Omega in March.

Anyway, lets see where the skills on my main character stand as of this milestone.

Spaceship Cmd    80,297,970 (71 of 85)*
Gunnery          36,069,569 (50 of 63)*
Drones           19,564,708 (23 of 28)
Fleet Support    15,872,000 (14 of 15)
Missiles         12,252,872 (22 of 26)
Navigation       11,346,275 (13 of 13)
Electronic Sys    9,821,179 (15 of 15)*
Engineering       8,939,855 (15 of 15)
Scanning          7,168,000 (7 of 7)
Armor             6,131,137 (13 of 13)
Shields           6,074,039 (12 of 13)
Science           5,714,282 (21 of 39)
Trade             4,626,275 (11 of 14)
Planet Mgmt       4,352,000 (5 of 5)
Resc Processing   4,585,347 (10 of 31)*
Subsystems        4,096,000 (16 of 16)
Neural Enhance    3,810,275 (7 of 8)
Targeting         3,207,765 (8 of 8)
Rigging           2,576,865 (10 of 10)
Structure Mgmt    1,446,824 (6 of 6)
Production        1,157,986 (5 of 12)
Social            1,130,040 (5 of 9)
Corp Mgmt            24,000 (2 of 5)

Total ~250,265,220

As usual, the categories that changed since last check-in are marked with an asterisk.

This time around Gunnery gained the most skill points, adding nearly 8 million to that total.  Gunnery has the most skills of any category besides Spaceship Command, so I suppose that isn’t surprising.  Spaceship Command still has almost double the SP, but Gunnery was clearly my focus.

Why Gunnery?

The Vorton specialization skills for the EDENCOM ship weapon systems, which fall under gunnery, have finally become, if not cheap, at least not ludicrously expensive.  This, and the fact that there was a buff to the EDENCOM ships to make their special weapons more effective, means that we might actually use some of these hulls for special operations at some future date.

Vorton weapons in use

So I went all in and trained all of those up to V, plus rounding up some of the support skills that make them more effective.  I’ll probably never end up killing anything with them, but it wouldn’t be the first set of unused skills on my list.

Spaceship Command also saw some SP added, as it almost always does.  I was rounding out the Precursor ship skills to level V, another set of skills I will likely never use.  Oh well.

Electronic Systems got some fresh skill points.  I think Weapon Destabilization made it to IV.  Not a big deal, but it might come in handy at some point.

And, finally, Resource Processing got some skill points?  That is almost crazy talk around here, as I haven’t mined in years and have no real desire to do so since CCP’s resource starvation plan.

But then the coalition was asking people to start doing gas mining, because we need gas products in order to build capital ships.  So I trained Gas Cloud Harvesting up to V.  I had the skills for the Prospect already, so I fitted one out, got my scanning alt out and went into low sec in search of gas sites.

3+ hours later, having not spotted a single gas site, I headed back for home swearing I would never waste another moment in this game on resource harvesting.  More wasted skills, but at least I got a learning experience out of it… I learned that I no longer have the patience for that sort of thing.

So it goes.  That about sums up the skills I trained up since last check-in.

Overall I have 361 skills injected and trained to at least level I.  That is down from the 367 I had at peak, before they redid the Resource Processing skills, but up from the 357 I had from the 240 million SP post.

My skills are scattered as follows:

Level 1  -    1
Level 2  -    3
Level 3  -   15
Level 4  -   80
Level 5 -   262

That is ten more skills at level V.

Of course, the question is always what to train next.  My skill queue remains in the 600 day range, but very little on it would enable anything new.  It is mostly rounding out the 80 level IV skills to level V.

It might be time to turn the queue over to one of my alts again.

On the First Boat to Borean Tundra

Between a meeting that ended early and a visit to the dentist I found myself in the right place at the right time to be there when Wrath of the Lich King Classic opened up on our server, Bloodsail Buccaneers.

Wrath World Wide Launch Times

I am actually still impressed with how smoothly things went, at least on our server.  Newly promoted VP and WoW Classic executive producer Holly Longdale can be proud. Things started off on time… even a bit early.

I checked in on the server during my lunch hour… working from home has some benefits… and found that everything was still as it had been the night before, with the XP buff still running.  So I got out my Death Knight and did another half a level of quests while I ate.  Closer to Northrend for him.

I also positioned my main, Wilhelm, in Stormwind in anticipation of the coming ride to Northrend.  When my afternoon meeting wrapped up 20 minutes before 3pm, I decided to log in to see what was going on.  I couldn’t remember how the expansion kicked off back in the day, but I saw people riding over towards Stormwind harbor.

Stormwind now has a harbor.  That was a bit of the pre-patch, including routing the boat to Auberdine to the new dock facilities in the big city.  But the action was all clearly at the dock at the other end of the harbor, where a crowd was gathering.

Arriving at the dock in Stormwind

I worked my way into the crowd, uncertain if I needed to do something before the boat arrived… I remember some past scenario where you ended up in a different phase of the harbor if you were not on the right quest or something… but the fact that everybody else seemed to be in the same situation kept reassured me.

Hanging out on the dock

The first sign that we were close was when the level 70s in the crowd started shouting about how their XP bars had suddenly re-appeared.  Some people needed to reload the UI to see it, but it was a sign that we were close.

Then King Varian Wrynn yelled out, calling out to defend the harbor.

The King yells like everybody else

I am not sure which harbor he meant, but we certainly had more than enough people in Stormwind harbor.

Then, at least, the boat appeared, popping into view due to the horrible draw distance limitations in classic.  The crowd came alive.

The boat looms into view

As it pulled up along the dock, people piled aboard.  It might have been the most crowded ship I have ever seen in World of Warcraft.

Will she swim with this load?

Then the boat was in motion, five minutes before the appointed hour.

This was unfortunate for Ula, who had expected things to run on time and had not arrived at the harbor before the boat pulled away.  She had done such great videos of the opening of Burning Crusade Classic and Shadowlands.  But Blizz being early robbed us of another video.

I was on the boat though, and off we went.

In the first wabe!

We made the transition and appeared in Northrend, pulling up to the dock at Valliance Keep.

First view of Northrend

When we pulled up to the dock, those who had the patience to wait flooded off the boat into the keep.  Others, less patient, had jumped off the boat and pulled themselves ashore, hoping to beat the substantial crowd.

Going ashore at Valliance Keep

The first comers to the land ran to the inn, the quest keepers, the flight point, and to the trade skill trainers, a mass of people swarming over the town.

Up and down trade skill alley

The initial moments of the expansion seemed to go quite smoothly.  I got in there, trained up the trade skills I could… my engineering is still well behind… grabbed the flight point, and stopped at the inn.  That was about all I had time for.

Of course, there were different circumstances on different servers.  Marie Peters posted a screen shot of the queue on Grobbululs.  That is a difficult queue to swallow.

332 minutes is longer than I would wait

Fortunately, she has a character on our server to work on.

Meanwhile, as the day progressed the boat ride to Northrend became somewhat perilous.  As server loads increased, people started getting dropped in the water zoning into Northrend… problematic if you happened to be on a Horde Zeppelin I imagine… and Blizz flipped the switch to 2008 mode and started letting the dockmasters teleport players to the dock in Northrend.

Just talk to the dockmaster and they’ll teleport you.  Captain Placeholder would be so proud.

Send me to Northrend

I remember slow load times dropping me in the water back in 2009, long after launch.  It was a thing.  But with the launch crowd, it was happening a lot more.

And now that the expansion is open… I’ll probably work on my alts a bit more, get them up to level 68.  The beginning zones will be so overrun tonight and I am not feeling the mood to stand in line like we did back at the launch of WoW Classic.

Still, Northrend is open to us.  The adventure begins!

Wrath of the Lich King Classic Launch Day

It will be here soon, in less than five hours from the time this post goes live if everything goes to plan.  It is Wrath of the Lich King Classic launch day.

Wrath World Wide Launch Times

And I suspect things will go to plan.  Blizzard isn’t Daybreak, where a noon launch plan means being able to log into the servers maybe that evening.

In a way this is very exciting.  We are at last being allowed to go back to Northrend in something of a simulation what we experienced back in 2008.  I know some people are pissy about this feature or that or things not being EXACTLY like 2008.  But five years ago I was pretty sure this was never going to happen, that Blizzard would stick with the “You think you want it…” line and carry doing whatever the hell it is they think they’re doing with retail WoW.

So I am very happy this day arrived and will ignore any nit picking about it, even my own.  Especially my own.

In a way this day rings a bit sad.  This is, so far as I am concerned, the end of the classic era being delivered to us.  There are talks about Cataclysm Classic, and there is a place in the world for that I am sure, but that isn’t “classic” WoW for any but the most general definition of the word.

This is it.  This is the culmination of what many of us wanted, even if it may not be exactly what every single fan wished for.  This is what we get and we’re never likely to get anything better on this front.  For all the complaints, Blizz has taken this seriously and has done a better job than we had any reason to expect five years back.  Today is the big day and there won’t ever be another return to Northrend like it, even if they do a hundred Wrath Classic launches, because today is the first.

And I am also feeling a bit of pressure on myself, personally today.  There is very much a mix of emotions stirring within me about this.  As I have written multiple times, this is a chance to go back to what is absolutely my high point in Azeroth.  But that comes with the risk of being a let down, because we all know that your experience in a game is as much about what is going on around you in life as it is about the game itself.  Context matters, and it changes constantly.  Fourteen years down the road the world, my life, and myself have all changed.  Can I just inject Wrath of the Lich King back into that mix and expect it to be as fun as it was back then?

Was it even that fun back then?  How much of my memories are being viewed through rose colored lenses?  How much of the fun was because there just wasn’t another title that had as much pull on me at that moment?  How much of this will be fun doing it again?

There is a lot to unpack about this new stage of the WoW Classic journey.  But I am ready to set out on the road to Northrend.

I have the following characters either ready to go or close to being ready:

  • Wilhelm – 68 Paladin
  • Tistann – 68 Hunter
  • Alioto – 67 Druid
  • Irondam – 65 Deathknight

Nobody at level cap.  Once I hit 68 I started working on alts.  But they’ll all have blue bar still.

The plan is to carry on with our group, which means my paladin.

On the other hand, one thing I found out when we made Death Knights a week back was how OP they really are.  Did I know this back in 2008?  I don’t remember.  But I am seriously considering driving hard to get my DK into Northrend and maybe swapping him in as tank.

However, looking over at Icy Veins, they rank the protection pally ahead of the DK when it comes to tanks in Wrath Classic, so maybe I’ll stay with things as they are.

Anyway, here we are.  We will soon discover if we really wanted this, all of this, every single bit of this, or not.

Also, I’ll be able to stop writing all these broad scope, over thinking myself posts about classic, its meanings and implications, and just go play.  Yay!

Reflections on Outland after Burning Crusade Classic

Here we are at the very tail end of the first Burning Crusade Classic experience, where we got to try and relive something akin to the way things were back in 2007 when the expansion landed and gave us something new to do.  Tomorrow it will be Wrath of the Lich King Classic, so there are only a few hours left for Outland.

Through the Dark Portal

I will say that the adventure was a bit of a surprise, at least relative to the initial WoW Classic experience.  Or maybe it was just an odd juxtaposition.

I came into WoW Classic wondering if it was going to be as good, fun, engaging as it was back when I started playing in 2005.  And somehow it managed to meet those expectations.  I mean, it certainly reaffirmed some of the negative bits as well… that level 40-ish content drought was as painful as I remembered… but it was a lot of fun and I am glad we went back to play.

With Burning Crusade Classic the question was more whether or not it was as annoying or awkward or grindy as I remembered it.  And it too confirmed my long held sentiment about the expansion.  I have complained about it in the past, and I was able to go back an experience the root of those complaints.

However, I will say that as far as WoW expansions go, there is a LOT of content in Outland.  I very much get the sense that the design of TBC was a reaction by the dev and design team about how they were going to keep players busy in a ten level expansion after they had consumed a 60 level initial game in two years.

Everything is slower, every quest means killing more mobs than you would have in Azeroth, every skill improvement takes just that much more effort, and the experience bar moved very slowly all the way through, making sure you felt like you had to do all the many, many quests that each zone contained.

I have joked in the past that about the Outland motto being, “If killing ten rats is good, then killing twenty must be even better!”  But having been into it again, it was clearly more a matter of “If we don’t keep the players busy, they’ll leave!  So we had better slow them down as much as we dare!”  And the same goes for crafting.  While I have leveled up all my harvesting, my crafting lags far behind.

I think that in later expansions, once Blizz had discovered end game content beyond raiding and giving players horizontal objectives and daily quests that were not dull and repetitive, they didn’t feel the need to cram quite so much into every zone.  It feels like there is about two expansions worth of overland content in Outland, that they could have split it in half and had us run through ten levels on that, then given us the other half for another ten levels.

Of course, the winnowing of the run to level cap reach its absurd end with the Shadowlands expansion, where you could get there in under a month of casual play and the next 23 months of the expansion was all alts and end game.

Except I never bothered with the alts and the end game for non-raiders was boring.

So Outland at least has content.  There is no lack of that.  The problem is that once you ease up on the slow xp crawl to make it feel like you’re actually making some progress with each play session, there is too much content.  Easing the XP curve means being done in the first three zones pretty much.  Maybe four.  But Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, those get skipped.

I wonder how the Outland experience is in retail WoW after the level squish?  Is playing 50 levels of Outland better than 10 levels?  All I know is that an accelerated experience probably sold the expansion short.

Otherwise it was all very much a step on the evolutionary path of the game.  Blizz decided that maybe one flight point per zone wasn’t necessarily enough, though they stuck to that in some zones.  And that trend would continue until we got a flight point per quest hub pretty much.

In hindsight, for all of my criticism, it was good to go back and play through some of the expansion, if only to revive memories.  I wish we could have managed more dungeons, but being a group of four is a limiting factor there.  And it will be all the more so in Northrend.  Prince Keleseth will be a huge barrier for us.

Then there are the general problems of WoW Classic, such as the draw distance, which never ceases to annoy.  Also, what is Blizzard’s plan now for the classic path?  It sounds like all servers will more forward to Northrend and, if the signs are correct, to Cataclysm.  That will be a bad move, but we’ll get to that discussion later.

So enjoy the last day when Outland is the peak destination in WoW Classic.  I still have to play there, having alts that I might want to level up.  But that will come later.  Tomorrow I’ll have two characters ready for the cold north.

The Level 70 Boost Question for Wrath of the Lich King Classic

As we move inexorably towards Wrath of the Lich King Classic next week I have been running down what it is I need to do between now and then.  Really, with the launch at 3pm on Monday local time for me, anything I want to do needs to get done by Sunday night.

Monday afternoon is not far away

I have met my basic goal… the whole group has… of having a level 68 character ready to go into Northrend.  Op success on that front.

In addition, my hunter has also made it to 68, so I have an alt that can run off into the expansion on his own, which is generally how things go for me.

I have also managed to get my druid alt kind of close.  He’ll probably be level 66 or 67 by Sunday night, so not quite there for Northrend, but close.  I will be able to get him there without too much effort, though I am trying to get him as far along as I can with the experience boost still running.  Make hay while the sun shines and all that.

There is also my Death Knight… I am not sure what I’ll do with him, but he and my warrior are level 60, so stuck in Outland and unlikely to get very far before the experience boost falls off.  The downside of no Dungeon Finder is that before character boosts, it was the fast way to level up alts.  I went through Outland with a couple of alts solely by queuing up for dungeons.  Fast and easy.

Which brings us to the level 70 character boost on offer.  If I really, really want another character in Northrend, that is an option.  The thing is, I am not too sure I would play more than my main and my hunter alt in the first place.

I am trying to balance my expectations and abilities when it comes to Wrath Classic.

On the one hand, Wrath is the only WoW expansion that I played from launch to end.  I was clearly into it.  Short of raiding, I did all the things, played through with alts, ran Wintergrasp regularly, and was basically logged in almost every day.  So there is clearly something in there I enjoyed.

On the flip side, and I have brought this up before, am I willing to do it all again?  As I noted with my post on Thursday, I already did a lot of this.  My main character in retail WoW has the titles and achievements and faction rep and artifacts to prove it.  And I do not regret having made the effort to get, for example, that Kalu’ak fishing pole.

But do I really want to do that all again?

Yes?  Maybe?  I don’t know.  We’ll see how it goes.

I mean, I might be really into it.  It is quite possible that I might want to do, for example, the Argent Tournament dailies again until I am exalted with every faction and have all the special mounts and tabards and whatever.  Maybe I will want to run multiple characters through the content.

Which brings us to the level boosts… or the Wrath of the Lich King Classic Upgrades, as they are called over on Blizzard’s site.  If I want a level 70, I can have one.  I just have to be willing to pay the price.

How much is a boost worth?

The base price for that instant level 70 is fifty bucks.

Did I even pay that much for Wrath of the Lich King back in 2008?  I can’t remember.  It was a long time ago.  But $40 seems to ring a bell.  I know I didn’t buy the collector’s edition, because I don’t have the frosty pet.

So I am kind of torn on this.  One part of my brain, bouncing and enthusiastic for Northrend, is all, “Yes, buy it! No, buy the $80 version!  Go all in!  You know you want to!”

But another part of my brain… the part that not only feels that lack of commitment to the retro experience I pondered on Thursday, but also the skepticism that Northrend is going to be nearly as much fun the second time through… that part of my brain says it would be a complete waste of money.  Am I really going to play more than three characters?

Finally, there is the question of which character I would boost in any case.  Three characters are already in or so very close to Northrend as to be not worth the effort.  I have a couple of level 60s, but one is a DK which can’t be boosted, while my warrior… just doesn’t thrill me.

What class would even be worth boosting?  What character do I have that is far enough back to be worth the effort.

Roll on brother Chad

I’m still trying to figure that one out.