Category Archives: Diablo II

My Games Played for 2020 and Looking Forward into 2021

I am a little behind on my usual end of year posts with this.  Generally I have a wrap up and a looking forward post at some point in late December… but then I found a bunch of other things to write about.  I was only reminded of it when Belghast posted his charts.

2020 banner by my daughter

There is a history here, as there is with so much on this blog.  It started with something akin to goals, a list of games I wanted to play, often very specific games.  Then it became games I was likely to play.  Then it turned into something like a long term weather forecast with some easy calls (it will be warm in the summer) and some possibilities.

And so it was that I wrote a post way back when about what I might play in 2020.

The list was broken up into several categories:

The Sure Things

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • EverQuest II

The Likely Candidates

  • WoW Shadowlands
  • RimWorld

Possibilities

  • Civilization V
  • Stellaris
  • World of Tanks
  • Minecraft
  • The Witcher

The Long Shots

  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • EverQuest
  • Diablo III
  • Elite: Dangerous
  • New World

I Should Make Time

  • Project: Gorgon
  • Grim Dawn

So, now that the year has gone by, what did I actually play?  ManicTime has some numbers for me.  I am only listing the top ten because after that the times drop down to mere minutes played.

  1. WoW Classic – 33.33%
  2. EVE Online – 32.69%
  3. World of Warcraft – 14.02%
  4. EverQuest II – 6.03%
  5. Minecraft – 5.25%
  6. EverQuest – 2.16%
  7. RimWorld – 2.08%
  8. Diablo II – 2.02%
  9. Pokemon Sword – 1.24%
  10. Minecraft Dungeons – 0.75%

At the top is a close race between WoW Classic and EVE Online, with a gap smaller than ten hours played total between them.  I guess Azeroth wins over New Eden overall, since retail WoW is in third place.  Everything else shakes out from there.

As has become the custom of the neighborhood, I have a chart.

2020 games timeline

At the top are WoW Classic and EVE Online, both of which I played throughout the year.  I also put Pokemon Go on the chart.  It isn’t tracked by ManicTime, being on my phone, but I played every day in 2020.

Technically, looking at my times, I also played retail WoW every month, but there were months where that did not represent a significant investment.  I have made those months where I pretty much just did Darkmoon Faire and some pet battles as a narrow streak.  And once the level squish came and then the Shadowlands expansion launched, I spent quite a bit of time there.

EverQuest II and Minecraft had their runs.  The former was me finishing up the Blood of Luclin expansion to the extent I felt I needed to, and Minecraft was a bit of a pandemic diversion setup by Skonk.  I played a bit of EverQuest after the anniversary gave us another heroic character boost, though I ended up mostly tinkering with the Overseer feature.

RimWorld had an update that I wanted to try out.  That was good for a bit of a run, though like so many build and conquer games, it suffers from the mid-game malaise once you get your base setup well enough.

I had a great run through Diablo II to celebrate its 20 years.  The game still lives up to its legend, though I would like it to run at a resolution higher than 800×600.

I received a Nintendo Switch Lite for my birthday with a copy of Pokemon Sword, which I played for a stretch.  I just wasn’t that into it.  For a Pokemon game to grab me I have to be in the right mood and have a real goal.  I couldn’t quite get either this time around.

And then there was Minecraft Dungeons, which is a serviceable and solid but shallow ARPG whose main attraction is being set in the Minecraft IP.  I played through the story, but it doesn’t have a lot of replay value save to boost up stats so you can face harder monsters that drop gear that let you boost up your stats further.

So that was 2020.  What of 2021?

As with last year, there are some sure things this year, games I am actively playing right now so that has already been decided.  They are:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW

And, given the news, we can add one slight variation to that list:

  • WoW The Burning Crusade Classic

After that, however, the future is a bit fuzzy, and part of the problem is hardware related.

As I wrote about last year, I have a 34″ 3440 x 1440 wide screen monitor now, and I love playing games on it full screen.  But not every game I have plays nice with it.  The three titles I am playing now all happen to work great with it, but others struggle and have issues or won’t run at all.  I actually tried to play Grim Dawn, which was on my “should make time” list for 2020, but it was not having it at all.  It would not even launch correctly with the new monitor hooked up.

And there is a further constraint, which is my video card.  I currently have a EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB card and, given the price of college and my wife being somewhat under-employed for the last year, spending a few hundred bucks on a new one is way down the priority list right now.  So whatever I play needs to work on the big screen with that video card.  WoW Classic and retail WoW both manage very well, with a few settings dialed back a bit, and EVE Online works like a champ, all settings maxed out, save for fights where the ships on grid get past the 2,500 mark.

But most newer games require a lot more horsepower to drive all those pixels.  There is no way I am getting something like Cyberpunk 2077 or Red Dead Redemption II or Black Desert Online or anything like that to run well.

Meanwhile, a lot of older stuff is a bit shaky.  As I wrote back when I got the monitor, EverQuest, EverQuest II, and LOTRO all sort of work, but have some issues, while Minecraft gives me motion sickness on the wide screen unless I dial back the field of view so far that I might as well just play it on my phone.

First world problems, I know.

Another angle is strategy games.  Things like RimWorld not only run fine, but the large screen improves the experience.  Maybe it is time for a bit of Civilzation V again. (I’m, betting Civ VI has too much going on visually to work with my video card at that resolution.  It is the way.)  Maybe I’ll pick up World of Tanks again when I need something fresh.

Of course, the lack of desire for something fresh is part of the problem as well.  I’ve been kind of okay playing the same stuff all year.  We shall see how I feel in 2021.

Looking Back at 2020 and Trying for Highs

2020.  What a year.

Every year I try to distill a bit of the world I focus on into highs and lows.  There is a history of posts here.

Sometimes I include a “middling” category, but usually not.  This year though I have had enough lows.  This year I am going to make a list of highs.  And I am going to try… though I make no guarantees… not to include sarcastic highs that are back handed jabs to highlight actual lows.  Your mileage may vary.

Video Games Overall

  • 2020 has been a banner year for video games.  SuperData Research has reported every month since the pandemic began in earnest that sales have been up over last year by double digits.  Lots of new releases, lots of good games, lots of revenue to keep the industry going.

Blizzard

  • The Shadowlands pre-patch events went well.
  • Shadowlands launched to big numbers.
  • WoW Classic remains strong despite the pull of the retail expansion.
  • The instance group’s return to WoW via WoW Classic has kept on rolling throughout the year.
  • Bobby Kotick says WoW is a billion dollar a year franchise.
  • Shadowlands and WoW Classic combined have revived the fortunes of WoW… though the pandemic helped some too.
  • The retail WoW level squish clearly did not drive too many people away and made getting into the latest content less of a chore.
  • It seems likely we’ll at least get some news about a classic The Burning Crusade server.
  • Had a fun run through Diablo II, which still plays pretty well 20 years down the line.
  • Blizz has been quietly fixing Warcraft III Reforged after its bad launch.
  • We got some scraps of information about Diablo IV.

Daybreak Game Company (now including Standing Stone Games)

  • The games are set to be run by EG7, a company optimistic about being in games.
  • The company actually makes money.
  • The games they still have all actually make money too… well, maybe not H1Z1, but most of them.
  • The mystery of who really owns Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online was finally revealed.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got updates and expansions this year.
  • EverQuest was able to play the special server card successfully yet again.
  • We learned that DC Universe Online has what would have been considered a huge player base in the pre-WoW era.
  • LOTRO got a 64-bit client.

CCP

  • The EVE Online franchise is a resilient part of the Pearl Abyss portfolio.
  • EVE Echoes, the mobile version of the game, has grabbed a lot of new players, and took less time to get out than Diablo Immortal.
  • The pandemic helped boost the PCU over 40K for the first time in a couple of years.
  • Hilmar said at the Youil Fireside that 1.9 million new people logged into EVE Online this year, more than the past three years combined.
  • World War Bee got enough players together organically to set two Guinness World Records.
  • Andrew Groen delivered Empires of EVE Vol. II, another great installment in the history of the game.
  • That Triglavian event wrapped up with an epic finale that tore systems out of New Eden to create a new Triglavian region.
  • CCP seems really, really serious about fixing the in-game economy.
  • PLEX for Good ran for both the Australian wild fires and pandemic relief.
  • Tech II salvage drones.  At least one person got their Christmas wish.
  • CCP finally rolled out the replacement for the old fansite program.  I did not make the cut, but a lot of streamers now how free accounts and extra PLEX to spend.
  • CCP still has hopes for an EVE Online based shooter game.
  • The CSM15 election saw a peaceful transition of power and nobody has been kicked off the council… yet.  Seriously, it is a rare CSM when somebody doesn’t get voted off the island.

Pokemon

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield launched at just the right time before the pandemic to become a staple of play.
  • The new Pokemon model on the Switch is expansions after the main game drops, and Pokemon Sword & Shield had The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra this year, which helped keep the game a hot property.
  • Pokemon Home showed up to provide a link to bring Pokemon forward from the DS era and transfer them in from Pokemon Go.
  • Niantic changed up Pokemon Go to adapt to the pandemic, giving us things like remote raid passes to keep us playing when we had to stay home.
  • Niantic also raised the level cap on Pokemon Go in a way that didn’t toss your accumulated xp by tying levels 41-50 in with both xp and special tasks.

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

  • TorilMUD carries on for another year, making it a total of 27… and even added a new class this year.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed just in time to give many a shared virtual experience as we stayed home for the pandemic.
  • Minecraft got a big update to make the nether a more interesting place to explore.
  • Minecraft Dungeons launched, and was a nice, if somewhat simple, clicky ARPG.
  • EA managed to ship another decent Star Wars title, Star Wars: Squadrons, which is supposed to be quite good in VR.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator had an excellent launch.  Again, another title that was supposed to be good in VR.
  • There was a Half-Life game.  That almost never happens.  And, one more time, Half-Life: Alyx was good for VR.
  • Crusader Kings III gave people the medieval royal soap opera simulator that they didn’t know they needed.
  • GuildWars 2 has an expansion coming.
  • A two year old game, Among Us, suddenly exploded onto the scene thanks to streamers.
  • New consoles!  The Xbox Series X/Series S and PlayStation 5 came out!

Blogging and the Like

  • Hey, the blog is still here!  Both of my blogs.
  • This blog is also experiencing a bit of a revival… or a dead cat bounce… as traffic has been up a lot over last year.  It is still a far cry from the heady peaks of 2012, but I guess the pandemic didn’t just boost video games.
  • I wrote a lot of posts in 2020.  This post number 403 for the year.
  • I actually got close to 800 followers on Twitter… and then they purged a bunch of bots and I fell back down.  Also I strayed into the political with the election and no doubt scared some people off.
  • We had a double event year with Blapril and Blaugust.
  • Lots and lots of plumbing related spam comments this month… like tens of thousands. If your comment got stuck in the spam filter I probably never saw it due to that.  Hrmm, that wasn’t a high, was it?

Television, Books, and the Media

  • I watched a LOT of television this past year.  There is probably another post on that coming, though I have done those Pandemic Binge Watching posts along the way.  While not everything was great, there were a lot of good shows available.
  • My reading routine was disrupted by the changes the pandemic brought.  I have to find a regular time in my schedule for that or it won’t happen.  But still I managed to read a lot of books in 2020.
  • I spent a lot more time reading the news… and I do not shirk on that front on a normal year.  No doubt this is some attempt to foster a feeling of control in the world, but I suppose I learned a lot.
  • Podcasts and YouTube content kept me going at times, with new faces popping up like Julie Nolke and Sarah Cooper.

Personal Life

  • We’re in the back half of December and I still have a job and haven’t caught COVID-19.
  • I have somewhat adapted to my new life where I spend 23 hours a day, seven days a week inside at home.  Nothing tests your introvert status than forced isolation from the world I suppose.
  • Daughter made it through her first semester of college living on campus and came out with both good grades and good health still.
  • I bought an exercise bicycle for home and have been very good about using it regularly… except over the holidays when my now weak grasp of time fell completely apart and I only know what day it is when I open up the blog.
  • I started depositing checks via my phone.  This was largely because my credit union finally added that feature to their mobile app.
  • Let me reiterate; family still healthy and safe.

This ended up being a somewhat shorter list than past years.  In part that is because the scope of my game knowledge has been funneled down to a few titles of late.  But mostly it is because I am better at writing negative entries I bet.  The post would be more than double in length if I let go on that front.  But we’ll let sleeping dogs lie, for now at least.  There will be plenty of time for that in 2021.

But if you’re dying for some 2020 sick burns, Honest Trailers has you covered.

Take that 2020!

Diablo II Act Five and some Thoughts

In my brain Diablo II ends with Act IV.  I mean, you kill Diablo, whose name was on the box, just like in the original, you feel like you’re done.  So once that was done, my arrival in Act V and the town of Harrogath, home of the barbarians, felt a bit strange.

Deckard Cain is always there waiting for me

That isn’t to say I am knocking the Lord of Destruction expansion.  It brought a lot to the table, like new classes and the coveted upgrade from 640×480 to 800×600 video resolution.  But the actual content… it only stuck with me in a very vague way.  Something about being in ice tunnels and catapults… though that latter might have been from Diablo III, which itself is already eight years old at this point.

And you don’t even get an opening quest to send you off into the wild.  I mean, sure, you got the pep talk about Baal, so you know who the final boss is, but beyond that you don’t even get a “good luck storming the castle.”

So I just headed out the gates to see what I could see.

Cain’s words about Harrogath being untouched only apply to inside the town.  Just outside are the armies of hell who have the place under siege.  And there were catapults to destroy, so I did at least remember that bit.

You only get the first quest at the far end of the first zone, once you have cleared enough stuff out.  Then it is back to town for an update and a plea to go into the next area and release captured barbarians.

The next zone is more of the same.

I will say that the zone tiles were all new, so it wasn’t a repeat of any of the last four acts.  And there are new mobs, some new mob mechanics, and all that, but I wasn’t feeling a lot of attachment to it either.  That may be due to the new zones being somewhat sprawling in an aimless sort of way.

I freed the barbarians, the reward for which was the ability to put some sockets in a piece of gear.  I bought the highest armor class piece of chest armor I could find, put sockets on that, then put two runes in it, which ended up being the last item upgrade I did during the game.

My memories of Diablo II don’t include crap itemization and drops, but here I was in Act V and I was still wearing a couple of items from Act I because I had yet to find anything better.  And I think the most recent piece of gear was from Act III.

Basically, there isn’t any feeling of planned gear progression.  Some of the stuff at the vendors gets better as you level up, but not radically so in most cases.  My rogue companion had a very good bow with two sockets that I picked up in Act II and I never once saw anything better drop or show up at a vendor.

My stash was overflowing with gems and runs and whatnot, just waiting for a good item to use them on, and I got nada.  I complained about pre-expansion itemization in Diablo III, where it felt bad, but at least it did progress somewhat regularly and, more important, it got fixed with the expansion.

Anyway, I carried on, found the start of the ice caves.  There I realized how nice the open plains had been to me.

Having spec’d as a Hammerdin, as I mentioned last time, I was pretty dependent on that attack in order to kill things.  You launch the Blessed Hammer and it spins around you in an ever widening spiral, applying damage to any mob it passes through.  A pretty good attack when you’re in the thick of things, though the spiral does open up wide enough between orbits that it does miss mobs at times.  It only stops when the hammer fades after it has traveled its full distance, or it runs into something solid, like a wall.

Caves are nothing but walls, so my Blessed Hammer often faded as soon as I launched it.  So I learned to train things back to open areas to make better use of it.  Eventually I found one of the people I was looking for as a follow up quest.

Really, I only vaguely remember why I came here…

There was a quest update, and then more caves.  I could feel myself starting to lose interest in the cave crawl, something not helped by the fact that waypoints seem poorly scattered.  There were the usual full complement of them, but I somehow managed to miss three of them along the way.

I ended up popping out of the caves into an open area again, where I faced a boss challenge blocking my progress.  Something different at least.

Challenge accepted!

This was at least in a nice, open area, where my Blessed Hammer could be used to full effect.

Beyond them was the Worldstone Keep, another indoor crawl.    The mobs ramped up a bit in there and tended to come in large groups.  I hit a few points where I got overwhelmed and died and wondered if I should really bother carrying on.  The closest I came was when I died trying to get my gear back before I could toss a fresh town portal, so there was going to be a long run back to where I was.  But I persisted.  I felt I was close enough to the end that I should hang on.

And I did come to the throne of Baal.  There he throws five waves of special baddies at you, including some old favorites, as they appear to be a group from each of the previous acts, plus a special new group for Act V.  The most recognizable group was the councilors from Act III, largely because they and Mephisto were the only memorable bits of that act.

There were issues and a couple of deaths and a some regret that I didn’t thoroughly clear the whole level before I started on these event spawns, but I managed to defeat them.  Then Baal disappears through a portal and you get to follow him in for the final fight.

This way to Baal

When you get in, you find you are fighting two Baals.  There is no doubt an endless supply of testicle jokes in that.

In the chamber there is a real Baal and a fake Baal.  They look alike.  There is apparently a way to tell them apart by their name tab, but in the end fake Baal is less tanky so it becomes obvious which is which.

It is another fight with a lot of running away, using portals back to town to refill potions, and scrambling about to stay out of the way of Baal’s big attacks.  Keeping on your feet slows things down, but eventually I got the best of him.

Baal down at last

That is the queue for Tyrael to show up for another one of his expositions.

He is always impressed, isn’t he?

After that, you are about done.  You get the victory screen where it announced you have a new title.

Slayer Wilhelm at your service

And then you are tossed back out to the character screen where you can choose to start over again at two of the three difficulties.

Hell remains locked

That is it, I made it through.

Final Thoughts

Despite the low resolution and the distortion caused by the game being rendered at a 4:3 screen ratio, the whole thing was very playable 20 years down the road.

In various ways the experience of playing through was both better and worse than my memories.  A lot of the game is very well tuned and timed.  The waypoints are… mostly… spread out just right to make for nice play sessions in manageable chunks.

The play though showed, once more, that Act I is good and connects you back to the original Diablo.  Act II then takes everything up a notch and gives you a brand new feel and locale.

Then comes Act III, which isn’t bad, but which doesn’t have a lot of flavor to it.  It feels like a bit of a slog just to get to the fight with the council and Mephisto.

Act IV is short, but lively.  And, of course, you face off against Diablo again here.

After which there is Act V, a level that feels like an expansion level, tacked on and perhaps unnecessary.  It wasn’t horrible.  The team clearly had some ideas they wanted to try out.  But the whole act felt like they stretched it out more just to make sure you felt like you got your money’s worth.

Having done a play through, the question becomes what to do next.  I am not particularly keen to run through the same content at Nightmare difficulty.  I am just not that engaged.

I could try another class.  The paladin has been my go-to for ages.  I might try out a druid or an assassin, the expansion classes.  I am not sure I have ever played them at all.

I should/could play each class through at least Act I… maybe Act II… to compare the classes.  We shall see what I feel up to.

But for a 20 year old game, it isn’t so out of date as you might think.  Playing through does make me wonder how a remake or remaster would play.  The temptation to update things that feel “wrong” in 2020, like the respec option, would be strong.

Diablo II Act Four

Having made it through the long and linear third act of the game, I was deposited in the Pandemonium Fortress, the base for the fourth act.

Tyreal is there to greet you

I tend to think of this as “the short act” as well.  There are only three quests, two of which are optional, and three waypoints, including the one you start with.  Feeling a bit of completionist drive, and knowing the act to be short, I took the time to take on all three quests.

The act itself takes starts in a gray hellscape as you follow the path to the final confrontation.  Along the way I found Izual and confronted him.

Izual speaks

Finding him is worth it as the quest reward is two more points for your skill tree.

After that, you keep moving forward… though I ran into a problem in getting to the next zone, The City of the Damned.  The path there are some stairs that are on the edge of the zone and, after having circled the perimeter of the entire zone, I realized that there was one tiny bit off on one side that I had not gotten close enough to, so of course that was where the stairs were.  But I fully explored that zone.

In the city you run into Hephasto the Armorer, who works at the Hellforge.  Fighting him is a bit of a battle, and he drops some gems and runes when you defeat him.

Hephasto the Armorer

But what you really need is the Hellforge on which you destroy Mephisto’s soul stone, which you have left over after defeating him at the end of Act III.  That knocks out the second quest for the act.

From there you hit another NPC who gives you a pep talk about moving forward.

On the path forward

Tyreal has your final goal to hand as well.

The final mission

From The City of the Damned you enter the River of Flame.

That is a lot of flame

From that point you are on the route straight to Diablo.

This is where I started having some problems.  I managed to fight my way through to the five seals that you need to unlock in order to release Diablo, but forgot that clicking them spawns a boss and some minions, so clicking two in quick succession got me in over my head and I died in an awkward spot.

Also, I had not thrown up a town portal.  So it was back to the way point for a naked run to my corpse, where I put up a portal, then started kiting mobs away from my corpse.  Of course, I died a few times doing that… and blew a bunch of gold reviving my mercenary each time as well.

Eventually I got things under control, but it was one of those situations where, after I had several corpses on the floor and my gear as yet not recovered, that I started thinking about calling and end to the run.  I pressed on though, got my stuff and then, carefully, cleared out the area and clicked on the final seals.

And then Diablo himself shows up and the fight is on.

A wild Diablo appears!

And then things were slow going.  I am honestly surprised that my “seemed like a good idea at the moment” spec actually lasted this far into the game.  But here, at the final fight, it was not cutting it.  I wasn’t doing enough damage and was having to jump out through a portal for more heal potions (and to revive my eternally dead merc) way too often.

But I had planned for this.  Not too long after launch Blizzard added a reward to one of the Act I quests that let you re-spec just once.  I had been waiting until I hit a wall, so I decided now was the time.  If not on the Diablo stage, then when?

Googling paladin builds, I came across the Hammerdin spec, where you go all in on Blessed Hammer, and skills that boost its damage.  Once I had that set, I went back to Act IV and jumped back in to face Diablo.

It took me a bit to figure out how to use the spec… maybe I should have read that bit before jumping in… but I got it down after not too long and managed to bring Diablo down.  Victory was mine.

I went back to the Pandemonium Fortress and got the pat on the back from everybody.  I had defeated Diablo, something I probably last did more than 15 years ago.  But I was not done yet.  I had created my paladin as an expansion character, so there was another portal go jump through, to get to Act V, and another prime evil to slay, Baal

Deckard Cain is always there waiting for me

The first two acts I remember very well.  I’ve gone back and run them many times.  The third act was a bit hazy, while the fourth act is so short that there is little really to forget, save a few details that might get you killed.

But the fifth act, the expansion act… I was having trouble recalling anything at all about that except for being in a frozen tunnel at some point.  So I pressed on.

Diablo II Act Three

My 20th anniversary replay of Diablo II has reached Act III, which is beyond where I expected to get.

It has been a long time

I have picked up Diablo II again a number of times over the years.  I always play through Act I, which I said is very much the Diablo memory act.  And I always get well into Act II, though the the Duriel fight is probably the first real check in the game to see whether you are geared and spec’d usefully.  I save that one respec that you get until that fight at least, because that is usually the point where I have to get serious.  You can get that far in the game with a strategy of “I’ll just carry more health potions!”  Duriel is the first place that tends to fall apart for me.

But Act III… that doesn’t have any strong memories for me.  Sure, I recognized it when I got there.

On the dock in Kurast

But in the first two acts I know what the quest are by heart.  In Kurast I am just the new guy in town.  Fortunately, Deckard Cain is there to keep me on track.

Stay on target!

Part of the reason I forget Act III no doubt relates to its design, which isn’t all that exciting.  It is very gray in tone, which is odd for a jungle I suppose, and lacks much in the way of interesting visuals.

A village in the jungle

It is also a very linear.  Not the way that the Diablo III story zones are tightly linear, but there is basically one path forward.  Kurast is at one end, Mephisto is at the other, and you just walk straight towards him, stopping occasionally for a dungeon along the way.

In the Flayer Dungeon

No portals, no change of scenery, no doubling back, just walk the jungle, clear the dungeons, find the waypoints, check in with Cain whenever the quest log says.  It makes you wish for a bit of the Arcane Sanctuary again, just for a change up.

In that Diablo II way, you have to go collect some bits and pieces again, delving into one dungeon for a brain, another for a heart.  They are always in the big shiny chests.

A likely place

And all the while Cain and his pals back in Kurast are pushing you on with a false sense of urgency.  You have to get moving, danger is at hand.

Look, the game will wait for me, there is no need to hurry. I’ve seen the script.

At the far end of the jungle is Travincal, a town clearly in a red district as everybody there is open carrying and the city council is very much anti immigrant… or at least anti me.

And they are not just all talk either

The council is kind of a tough fight.  They are all mini bosses so I had to run in and out of the fight a few time.  You can see I have a portal up in the fight for a quick exit.  Also, my mercenary is down again.

The council defeated, you end up with the last drop you need, Khalim’s Flail, which you combine with his hear, brain, and eye in the Horodric Cube.

The cube works some magic

That assembled, it is back to Travincal to break the magic orb that opens up access to the final dungeon area, Mephisto’s lair, the Durance of Hate.

Time for Mephisto

The Durance of Hate has a few mini bosses in the way, some of the alternate members of the council I think.  This was the first time I ran into a mini boss with a serious defense buff, being immune to physical damage.

Steel Grumble indeed

Fortunately my weapon does other types of damage as well, so he took a while, but we eventually knocked him down.  Then there was some more clearing to do, but it wasn’t long before we were facing Mephisto.

Mephisto speaks!

He has some more of the council with him, and he delivers his big line, which is that we are too late, his brothers Diablo and Baal have already been and gone.  The fight was tough, though not too bad.  My merc died, as usual, but I was able to take him down without having to jump out of the fight more than a couple of times.

When he dies, you get his soul stone and return to town.  From there you get the wrap up narrative and passage to the Pandemonium Fortress and the start of Act IV.

Tyreal is there to greet you

Act III did not feel as long as the previous two acts, though that may be more due to the lack of distinctive areas of dungeons.  But when we talk about short, Act IV brings it.  More on that in another post.

Carbot and Diablol 2

Carbot Animations has a Diablo II series of videos running on YouTube, akin to the Diablol series they ran early last year for the original Diablo.  As with the previous run, it combines audio from the original game with the Carbot animation style.  They are a few episodes into the series.  You can find the playlist here.

My favorite so far covers the Blood Raven fight in Act I.

This nicely corresponds with the 20th anniversary of the game… no doubt intentionally… and my own replay through the game.

Diablo II Act Two

Carrying on with my 20th anniversary play through of Diablo II.  I wasn’t sure how far I would get, but I appear to have some momentum.

It has been a long time

The first act of Diablo II sets the player up in an atmosphere that is reminiscent of the original Diablo.  It could be seen as both the act that welcomes the players from the older game into something that feels familiar… everything is dark, and while there is a lot of above ground play, you spend a lot of time in dungeons as well… while introducing them to the mechanics of the new game.

Act Two changes things up.  You run off to Lut Gholein, set in the bright desert wastes.

Welcome to Act Two

This is very different from the darkness of the original and what was in the first act.

But the structure of the act, based on six quests, remains the same.  And, while there is a bright sunny desert to explore, the first quest sends you down below the town, a dark dungeon with a new tile set for the new act.

Down below town

There you fight the first boss, which is where I lost my NPC helper.  I managed to finish the battle, but I was a bit worried about getting her back.  Something in the back of my brain said that you could only revive rogues back in the first act.  But once I found the NPC who does the revives, I saw I did not need to travel.

Available for a price

Then it was back out into the desert sunshine.

Fighting cat people and vultures

But the desert is really just a way to put distance between your objectives.  The major objectives of the act all tend to be deep in some dungeon somewhere.  Somewhere.

Finding the dungeons can take a while as the random desert areas can be somewhat sprawling and you have to eyeball every grid of the map until you find what you are looking for.

The first thing you’re looking for is the Horadric Cube.  Sure, finding it in the Halls of the Dead advances the quest line and Deckard Cain is impressed when you show it to him.

Praise from Deckard

But the real reason I want the cube is that by this point in the game my stash has started to fill up with gems and the cube cans transform three of a kind into a higher quality gem.  So it is time to clean up the stash.

Cube, take me away!

Also, in a pinch, the cube is bigger on the inside than on the outside, so while it takes up four slots in inventory you have a dozen slots to play with when you open it up.

Once done there the Horadric staff is next on the list.  That is further along into the desert in a warren of rather squelchy bugs.

It is in the glowy chest one you wipe off the bug guts

After that, it is the head piece for the staff.  Once you have that and have assembled them with the cube, you are off to the palace where the tale continues.

The intro to the palace levels

Somewhere deep inside is a portal to the arcane sanctuary.  Things came forth from there and slaughtered those in the palace, so you have to clear your way down to it.  This actually went very quickly.  The random factor and the fact that the upper levels have two connections up and down, mean that it is pretty easy to just go a few rooms and find your way to the next level until you hit the cellars.

Down to the cellars

Those are a little more complicated, but I managed to stumble my way down to the bottom level and the portal to the arcane sanctuary.

The portal

The arcane sanctuary is very much its own place in the game.  An Escher-esques series of ramps, stairs, and platforms, it isn’t one of my favorite bits.

In the arcane sanctuary

There are a couple of challenges to this area.  First, a lot of it is made up of narrow paths, so you do not have a lot of room to maneuver.  More narrow than most dungeon hallways, you often find yourself having to plow though a wave of melee mobs to get to those casters in the back that are killing you.

But mostly the layout is such that your helper ends up getting hooked up trying to follow you because the pathing algorithm isn’t up to the complexity of the level.  So I end up losing my rogue friend over and over.  Sometimes the game decides to teleport her to me, sometimes I just have to do without.  But you have to keep plowing through until you find the summoner, read his book, then jump through the portal that appears.

Summoner down, time for the portal

The symbols in that screen shot are all the ones that mark the false tomb.  The real tomb is marked with the missing symbol, which is recorded in your quest log.

Though the portal puts you into the Valley of the Kings, right at the waypoint, which I always click immediately so I do not have to go through the arcane sanctuary again.  It is visually interesting, but not a place I like to linger.

The it is off to Tal Rasha’s tomb.

The tomb awaits

There are six fake tombs and one real one.  Back in the day I would run them all, just on the off chance of getting some good drops.  This time I just went for the correctly marked one.  The plinth with the symbol, the triangle, is just barely visible in the dark in the upper left of the screen shot.

From there it is another fun dungeon crawl to the room where you use the assembled Horadric staff.

Staff goes here

At that point a passage is broken open in the wall, you can see it in the upper left, which leads to the final boss.  I took the precaution of opening up a town portal in the staff room, just in case things went badly.

Fortunately, the fight went pretty well.  I remembered, from past experience, that I needed to skill up cold resist aura for this fight.  I also had saved a couple a couple of pieces of cold resist gear to wear for the fight, so I was able to do it in one go.

Fighting Duriel, the Act Two final boss

After that, the fighting is over.  In the back of the chamber you will find the angel Tyrael who has a speech for you.

Due to the fact that we had a power blip before I saved some of my screen shots… Diablo II doesn’t do the screen shot thing so all I do is press Print Screen, then tab out to paste the captured image into Paint.net, which I then crop and save… I lost all of my original screen shots from Tal Rasha’s tomb.  I was able to go back and recreate some… I fought Duriel twice… by Tyrael is gone after you speak to him.  But I have a video i took back in late 2011 of that speech.

 

After that the act is pretty much done.  You get comments from the main NPCs and are set for Act Three.

For whatever reason, I always seem to miss a couple of waypoints in this act.  ITt happened back in the day, and it happened again now.

Missed some

The Lost City is out in the desert, and once you find your destination and finish, you don’t need it ever again.  Likewise, the palace can run so fast that you end up in the arcane sanctuary pretty quickly and can live with just the waypoint there.

So now I have made it through the first two acts and have been deposited in Kurast for Act Three.

On the dock in Kurast

Now to see if I get through that.

August in Review

The Site

It was Blaugust and Promptapalooza this month.  I participated a bit in the prompt thing, though not very much.  I kept myself busy elsewhere.  There was plenty to post about without additional prompts.

August means some sort of Blaugust

Belghast, who set the whole thing up, has a summary post about the event up with links out to everybody’s prompt post.

I did, however, stick closer to the old school meaning of Blaugust by posting every single day over the course of the month.  In fact, I managed to do that from the start of April, which was Blapril, all the way through August of Blaugust.

A post a day keeps… something away…

153 days in a row of blog posts, so “go me” I guess.

One Year Ago

I wrote way too many posts.  49 in one month, and not a bunch of short ones either.  But it was Blaugust, so I was in the mood.  As usual I went on about all sorts of things like what to write, and burning things down, and how to crank out posts.  Oh, and that gamer motivation profile thing again.

Daybreak was setting up Twitter accounts for its new sub-studios.  They also brought DCUO to the Nintendo Switch.  And they were sketching out some plans for the EverQuest II 15th  anniversary.

PlanetSide Arena also resurfaces with a new plan.

I explained the difference between Team Fight Tactics and DOTA Overlords.

There was more talk about lock boxes and bad analogies.

I hit three years with Pokemon Go.

The August update brought community fittings to EVE Online.  A big cyno nerf was also announced.  EVE Fanfest Home also happened.

Out in null sec the blackout continued, though not without issues.  Local came on for a bit, even in WH space.  The MER showed a big hit to NPC bounties in null sec.  I was starting to wonder about chaos fatigue from the stuff CCP was doing.

Meanwhile, I was in low sec with Liberty Squad, flying Abaddons.  Some days we didn’t get a fight.  Other days lots of stuff blew up.  But we tired of the locals refusing to fight unless they had the numbers to overwhelm us us, so we flew home.  The “hell dunks or blue balls” routine gets tiresome and there was nothing really at stake.

I was also on about the absolute nature of some things in New Eden, warp core stabilizers, interdiction nullification, and the things that they counter.

There was also announcement of the the alpha for EVE Echoes, the mobile version of EVE Online.  Could you play EVE on your phone?  Should you play EVE on your phone?

There was another round of EVE Aether Wars to try, this time with prizes.  It seemed to go pretty well.

I also celebrated 13 years of playing EVE Online by going down the list of all the places I had called home in the game.

But mostly I was wetting myself about WoW ClassicThe count down to launch was on.  They announced the server names, a list which ended up expanding greatly.  The crowd trying to reserve names on various servers proved Blizzard was not thinking big enough.  PVP realms seemed popular.  Like, very popularSuper popular.

Blizzard was trying to get the word out on what you should know.  They even did a Reddit AMA and explained things like layering in detail as well as some videos with the game’s creators.

I tried to define the different factions of players these servers attract.  I also had some predictions about what would happen on the eve of the launch.

The instance group eagerly played the last load test just to get a taste of it, because all I really wanted to do was play WoW Classic.  I was wondering about addons, which have come a long way since back in the day.  What would enhance the experience and what would ruin it?

And then it was LAUNCH DAY and we queued up to get in the game, then queued up again once we got in.  My hunter tamed his first pet just a couple days in as I wrote about the strange ways of the class.  Good times.

Five Years Ago

It was Blaugust and a lot of people played along.

I told the strange tale of my first automotive test drive.

Project: Gorgon had Kickstarter success at last, then there were stretch goals, the grand total, and mapping out a plan going forward.

Blizzard, on the other hand, was facing bad news as WoW subscriptions dropped to 5.6 million, the lowest since December 2005.  In order to drown that out, Blizz had a big WoW announcement planned later in the week.  There was much anticipation.  I speculated on what it might be, but it turned out to be the WoW Legion expansion announcement, sans cinematic.  Of course, once they announced it, everybody wanted to know when we would get it.

In EVE Online, it was all about Fozzie Sov.  People were complaining.  We had to take sov from allies in order to transfer it, at which point MOA temporarily scooped up a couple systems. Crazy days!  The Galatea expansion addressed some of our issues.

Then the Imperium went to Providence to test out the new sovereignty mechanics… and to purge the Jamylites with the blessings of Maximilian Singularity VI.  The resulting conflict is all under the Provi War tag here.

Meanwhile, CCP was doubling down on VR, adding EVE Gunjack to their lineup.

Turbine was warming up for the great LOTRO server upgrade and merge effort.

Daybreak was also planning server consolidations, these for EverQuest II.  They were also working on a server for misfit players, which seemed like a dubious idea.  And on the Stormhold server, the first expansion unlock vote came up.  The players said “no” to the unlock.  And in EverQuest, on the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers, the inevitable enforced raid rotation schedule was implemented, with an eye to keeping out casuals it seemed.

In Minecraft, I was discovering fire and putting our world up on a hosting service to share it with friends.  Xydd joined up and began working a lot on the nether, while Skronk began his own building project, as I tinkered with dungeons.  We had a setback with our hosting service.  It was a good thing I was keeping backups.

ArenaNet made the base version of Guild Wars 2 available for free, no doubt hoping to sell expansions.

And I wrote a little something about the passing of Robert Conquest.

Ten Years Ago

Let’s see… people were hating on GameStop for selling used games, which was equated with stealing.  That was before GameStop started officially stealing.

Massive Blips went away.  I miss it.

I made my position on raspberries perfectly clear.

Yahoo had a couple game related lists.  I love lists.

Cryptic and Atari announced they were doing the game Neverwinter.

Runic started talking about Torchlight II.

Stunt Rock.  I need say no more.

EverQuest Next was announced at Fan Faire, and I was wondering about the lessons SOE has learned after a few turns of the EverQuest wheel.  Pity nothing came of it.

In the real world, boars were starting to become more like their MMO counterparts.

WoW account hacking was still a big deal, though getting to be common enough as to not be news on an individual level any more.  People have their views on whose fault it is.  But was any game facing as much account hacking as WoW?

My daughter got into the WoW Cataclysm beta.  She got me some screen shots of Stormwind,  Southshore and the Barrens.  This, by the way, probably killed her interest in Cata when it finally did ship. Indulging early can take the edge off of things.

Blizzard got a serious judgement against somebody running a for-profit WoW pirate server.

The instance group, done in WoW and on the now usual summer hiatus, was spending some time in Middle-earth, which required a bit of selling.  We made it through Othrongroth, and to the North Downs and the Lone Lands.  I finally found my way to Evendim, which I had never  managed to visit before.  It was in a state of change, pre-quest revamp but after they added in the boat routes.

And, finally, in EVE Online, there was the PLEX story we had all been waiting for.

Twenty Years Ago

The Age of Empires II expansion, The Conquerors, launched.  Good times.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Command and Conquer launches, an RTS game that spawned a franchise and gave us the hell march (with Red Alert at least).

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. The Fall of Niarja and the Shape of High Sec
  2. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  6. The Ahn’Qiraj War Effort set to Begin in WoW Classic
  7. Remembering Brian Green
  8. Reflections on the Eve of the 20 Year EverQuest Anniversary
  9. Campaign Medals
  10. Burn Jita 2020 Seems Unlikely
  11. The Coming Metaliminal Storms May Decloak You in Null Sec
  12. WoW Tokens Five Years Later

Search Terms of the Month

project discovery 40 million isk per hour
[Tell me more]

eve online notoras
[They have icecream]

can a drake null sec rat
[A Drake can do anything… except light a cyno]

felwood or un’goro first
[Un’goro]

Spam Comment of the Month

Hey mate are you selling your blog by chance?
[Everything has a price!]

Gaming Time from ManicTime

I was away for a week… pretty much all of last week… so my overall hours played were at their lowest since February, when I was also away for a week.  I was in Portland, Oregon both times, as that is where my daughter goes to college now.

As an aside, I was downtown a couple of times last week and it is not the dystopian landscape of destruction that the President or Fox News would have you believe.  In February we stayed at a hotel that is at the mid-point between the park where the nightly protest forms up and the two federal buildings where the protests take place.  Unless you’re in about a four block area, you might never notice a thing, and during the day nothing looks out of place.

Anyway, game times:

  • EVE Online – 50.33%
  • WoW Classic – 33.31%
  • Diablo II – 13.93%
  • World of Warcraft – 1.01%

Both Minecraft and EverQuest dropped off the list in August, with no time recorded for either.

Diablo II

I kept on going through Diablo II, if a bit more slowly than back in the day.  I am through Act II, so a post about that is coming this week, and into Act III.  I think the challenge will be Act V, the expansion act, as I have zero memory of it.

EVE Online

World War Bee continues.  The invaders have taken all of Fountain and have moved their supers and titans into the region.  Querious remains a skirmish zone around the gate to Catch and the hostiles come through into Period Basis as well, but our core home region of Delve remains mostly unscathed.  Oh, and Niarja fell to the Triglavians and people wonder what that will mean in the long term.  We shall see.

Pokemon Go

A good month for Pokemon Go.  A friend of my wife’s is part of a raiding group and she got us on the friend’s list, so we get remote invites to raid now.  Have to save up coins for remote raid passes though.  (Good thing they are selling some cheap ones soon.)  On the down side, I haven’t hatched anything new or useful from an egg in months now.

Level: 39 (70% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 572 (+16) caught, 601 (+12) seen
Pokemon I want: Need some Unova Pokemon to fill in the gaps
Current buddy: Fraxure

World of Warcraft

As has been the pattern for a while now, I went and did the Darkmoon Faire stuff on my main and then mostly did not log into retail WoW.  We did get some big WoW news though; Shadowlands will launch on October 26th, which means the big 9.0.1 patch will hit some time before then, introducing the level squish.

WoW Classic

The instance group did the ground work for quests and then dove into Sunken Temple for the first time.  I had to miss a couple of weeks due to travel, but we have another run or two there to finish up the instance.

Coming Up

More World War Bee in EVE Online is a given.

More instance group in WoW Classic for sure.  Also, we’ll probably get the retail WoW pre-expansion patch with the big level squish.

More Diablo II certainly.

And some sort of anniversary post.  I’d better start working on that.

What else is coming up in September?  I am sure I missed something.

Diablo II Act One

As I mentioned, for the 20th anniversary of the game last month I downloaded it and set up to play a bit, just to remind myself of what it was back in the day.

It has been a long time

I did try to run down mods that were alleged to help with screen resolution.  The problem with Diablo II is that the base game runs at 640×480, with the Lord of Destruction expansion boosting that to a big 800×600.  However, I did not have much luck on that front.  A lot of stuff I ran across was out of date.  20 years will do that.  So I opted to just go with 800×600 and rough it.

Which, honestly, wasn’t all that bad.  When you first get into the game things look blocky and distorted as the 4:3 aspect ration maps itself onto a 16:10 screen.  Everything is a bit wider than one might like.  But I found that I got used to it pretty quickly and only really noticed it when I was looking at screen shots, which show up as 800×600 4:3 images.

The main problem with getting 800×600 is that the expansion added some things that were not in the base game.  While gems were always there, charms and jewels were expansion items, and I started getting those as drops pretty early on.  So not a real run at the experience of 20 years ago, but close enough I guess.

I went with a Paladin, which is sort of my default class in the game.  I like the aura and the tanky nature of the class.

You start out in the rogues camp and there is a quest waiting for you.

Oh look, a quest!

You can see how that quest marker might have evolved into the yellow exclamation point we know in WoW.

Diablo II drives the plot via quests, but it is not at all quest obsessed.  The quest UI only has space for 6 quests per act, and if I recall right, a couple of them are optional and the final act doesn’t even have the full six.

Quests are more central to the game than in the original Diablo, but not as rampant as they are in Diablo III, and they seem almost rare relative to how most MMORPGs in the last 15 years have handled them.

Things start off slow… though the pacing is never frantic save for in a few boss fights… as you are sent forth from the camp to find some bads in a den.  You need to slay them all, which starts you on what is my own obsession, exploring all corners of the map.  Eventually you’ll find that last little demon in a side path you missed and then return to camp for a reward… and a new task.

You gain the esteem of the rogues and get one to follow you around and assist.  I had forgotten about that, but quickly came up to speed.  The rogue assistant, who is a ranged player, is the best in the game.  I recall that in Act Two you get a melee helper who jumps in and gets themselves killed a lot, compare to the rogue who hangs back, pelts mobs with arrows, and lights them up with a target marking ability.

Lighting them up is important because the game is dark, and the play of light and dark and the shadows in between is still amazing 20 years down the road.  I have said this before, but I don’t think any game I have played has done this better.  I always use this video from Act Two as a sample.

But it is everywhere in the dark underground or indoor places in the game.  I was wandering around places just to see how the shadows moved around my light source, how places remained dark until I got up close.

(Also, you can see I have the Act One rogue helper there in Act Two.)

Eventually though you have to go find the narrative voice of the series, Deckard Cain of “Stay awhile and listen…” quote fame.  He is locked away on old Tristram, the setting of original Diablo, which has fallen to the forces of evil.

Cain locked up in Tristram

Once he is freed he portals back to the rogue camp… not sure how he knew where to go, but sure… and then he starts in on what he believes is really going on.

There is another quest along the way, but it takes you along the path to where you need to be.

Charsi lost her hammer

That gets you into the final area and gives you another preliminary boss to fight.

The Smith has the hammer, or course

This is where I want to point out how much I like the map system in the game.  It is an overlay, which has its pros and cons.  You can have it up while still seeing what is going on, which is a big plus.

The map in the barracks

I do find that it can be a distraction when up though.  I find myself looking at the map and not the tactical situation if I leave it up.  And, of course, it isn’t mapped to the M key by default.  The Tab key isn’t a bad choice, but habit keeps me pressing M over and over.

Once you have fulfilled Charsi’s quest, which has an excellent reward, you’re on to Cain’s mission.

Cain and his working theory

This is where the pacing of the game shows its patience.

One of the key features of the game is the waypoint system, little teleport pads that you find as you move further into each act.  There is one in the starting base, then eight more through each of the first three acts, and they allow you to basically pick up where you left off rather than having to camp in place or walk all the way back to the start of the act to turn in quests and get updates.

My general play style is to play through to the next waypoint.  They are good ways to dice up the content into more manageable pieces.

In Act One, Charsi’s quest gets you to the Outer Cloister.  The barracks is just beyond that.

The waypoint list

That done, the final battle, where you face Andariel, is a good three waypoints down the line.  In between are levels to explore, loot to find, and mini-bosses to slay, but nothing to advance the final quest, save getting closer to it.  I am not sure a more modern game would let you wander that far without a quest update cookie or, if it did, it would likely be accused of padding out the game needlessly.

Here, it is just a nice, extended dungeon crawl, part of the experience you’ve paid for.  It isn’t in the way of the game, it is the game.

Loot is, of course, everywhere.  Some named bosses along the way almost explode in a shower of loot.

Gold spilled everywhere in the tower

But inventory space keeps you honest.  You need to carry potions and keys and scrolls and those charms you may have picked up that need to be in your inventory to work.  You cannot pick up everything, and anything good needs to be identified.  Once Cain shows up he will do it for free, but you have to portal or waypoint back to town for that.  Otherwise you have to keep identify scrolls on hand to asses the value of something.

And it often feels like feast or famine when you’re deep in a dungeon.  I will go from walking past some healing potions because I have too many in my bag and on my belt already, then get in a tough fight and suddenly I am scrambling to grab every healing potion I spot because I am running dry.

I did reach Andariel and defeated her without dying myself.  I made it through the whole of Act One without dying.  But it was a tough fight and I had run in and out of the area a lot.  I long ago learned to pull a fight like that back to the zone line so I could flee at need.  I lost my rogue helper at one point, so had to portal back to town to revive her.  But I always keep a town portal up for those fights as well.  And, after a few retreats to heal up, Andariel exploded as nicely as an ship in New Eden.

The loot fairy says yes!

Then there was the sorting through the drops.  There was a set item, which I think were also expansion things.  The problem is that once you get a piece of gold level gear, it is hard to find a replacement that scratches all the same itches.  I got a gold scepter early on, have to level up into it, and then used it for the full first act as nothing else I found came close.

And so Act One was done.  I moved on to Act II, arriving to the welcome in Lut Gholein.

Welcome to Act Two

Act Two is out in the desert, a bright and sunny landscape unlike that of Act One.  But there are still many dark, underground places to explore.  We shall see how far I get on that.

July in Review

The Site

Muchas gracias. ?Como puedo iniciar sesion?

This is the most common spam message over the last couple of months.  I believe it translates to “Thank you. How do I log in?” and it shows up dozens to hundreds of times a day in my spam folder because Akismet isn’t sure if it is spam or not.  Welcome to the problems of programmatic moderation, where the algorithm cannot pick up on a single repeated phrase because the IP address that they spoof or the user name or the email address change every time so it cannot say for sure if this time this person is really asking a legitimate question.

see what we’re working with here?

A false positive is seen as much worse than just piping thousands of messages into the spam folder for me to review.

Life in tech.

Meanwhile, I noticed that, for not particular reason, I have posted every single day for four months straight.

March wasn’t quite there

April, which was Blapril, which was Blaugust come early, is explainable.  After that, I guess I was just on a roll.  (That one last empty square in July is covered by this post.)

One Year Ago

There was a Steam Summer Sale to write about, with its odd contest.

Daybreak was fiddling around and registering studio names with the USPTO.

Pokemon Go hit its third birthday. StarCraft got cartooned.

And it looked like Blizz was going to give people a mount every six months so long as they subscribed to the six month renewal plan.

CCP, after saying they would change the 1 million skill point starter pack, just kept on selling it so long as there was sufficient demand.  But at least it was limited to one per account.

Out in null sec space, it was all about the Drifters as the month opened up.  They changed up a bit, but the war we had in progress was already ruined.  We tallied up the damage and headed home.  We had chased PanFam out of Tribute and Vale of the Silent.

But the Drifters were just the start of what would be dubbed the Chaos Era.  CCP announced that local would soon be blacked out in null sec.  We got warnings it was coming.  And then it hit and CCP said it would remain in place indefinitely. (Which some people took to mean permanently.)  The idea came from Hilmar, though many people were going on about null sec being risk averse.

The big VNI nerf hit in there as well.  And a tax increase!  Good thing devs don’t need to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, CCP was trying to keep people in the game during the blackout with skill point handoutsSo many skill points.  And they had to clarify what they meant even.  But the online player count suffered all the same.

And I was on CCP about maybe building their own killboard or at least making SKINs for all the things.

Still, I did get some play time in New Eden.  We did a Triglavian roam with DBRB.  I went on a blackout roam. I moved a dreadnought around to a new deployment on my own, then lost it.  It was a suicide dread.

I tried out DOTA Underlords.

I had been fiddling around with tracking my game play time for six months.

And, finally, we were getting ready for Blaugust once again.

Five Years Ago

I was feeling a bit of the summertime MMO ennui blues.

Windows 10 launched, bringing with it the Microsoft Solitaire Collection.  This wasn’t your Win 3.1 Solitaire or Freecell, and more is the pity.

Project: Gorgon was off with another Kickstarter campaign.  Would the third time be a charm? (Spoiler: yes.)

Need for Speed: World shut down, so I said farewell to Palmont.

Derek Smart began what would become is crusade against Star Citizen, detailing why he felt we would never see the game that was promised.  It could have ended there, but RSI responded in a way guaranteed to turn it into a fight and took away his Rear Admiralty.   Game on!

In Minecraft I was learning about not falling off of thingsbringing light to dark places, and accumulating materials.  Also, sheep stole my mine cart.

I was mucking around in War Thunder for a bit.  It is a pain to return to the game because there is always a huge update required.

Over at Daybreak, there was a vote up for the EverQuest progression server Ragefire about speeding up the unlock of Ruins of Kunark, as well as talk about raids and such.

On the EverQuest II side of the house, there was a beta for its first nostalgia servers.  I avoided the beta but was there when the servers went live… for the big surprise, the return of the Isle of Refuge, adding to the nostalgia experience.

And while that was going on, it appeared to be the end of Smed at Daybreak.

In New Eden my alliance, TNT, handed over its last system in Deklein. We then lived in Tribute.

The Aegis expansion hit… but there was a delay between that and other bits of what we now call Fozzie sov to be deployed.  But entosis link modules were finally able to take sov as the month rolled along.  So we started to learn by doing.

There was a plan in the Imperium to bring in care bears to mine and rat in order to raise ADMs so that our now much reduced space holdings would remain secure.

At one point Mordus Angels managed to claim some sovereignty in Pure Blind!  Can you imagine?  Crazy times!

Meanwhile, in the cash shop… erm… New Eden store, more skins were being rolled out.  Or, rather, the same skin on more ships.  The blog banter of the month was on about attributes, and I was bitching about never having enough jump clones.

On the Azeroth front, Blizzard said they would be announcing the next World of Warcraft expansion… right after the Q2 quarterly report was released, which raised some suspicions in me.  What would the subscription numbers look like if they felt they needed a big announcement to distract from them?

And I finally got my copy of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls from the Kickstarter… only two years late.

Ten Years Ago

The late Paul the octopus created the largest page view day ever in the history of the blog, later to be surpassed by Cats playing Patty Cake and Alamo.

I was told I write like Cory Doctorow… or maybe Ian Flemming.

My daughter was Banned from Club Penguin.  Tears were shed, lessons were learned.

EverQuest II Extended, the free to play EverQuest IIwas announced.  I wondered whether trying to play it without paying at all would be a challenge in and of itself.  Meanwhile, there was some evidence that EQII accounts had value.  That stunning news no doubt got them going on the authenticator they announced at Fan Faire this year.

I completed 100 levels in The Agency: Covert Ops.  I was unemployed, what can I say?

StarCraft II launched.  I never bought a copy and the base edition eventually went free.

Need for Speed World, an MMO version of the Need for Speed series, launched.  I ended up playing it for a bit.  But, being an EA MMO, it was doomed to be shut down.

In EVE Online Hulkageddon III ended, and it even had a video wrap-up.  And then PLEX was made transportable in space.  I wonder if they waited for Hulkageddon to be over for that?

In another Summer hiatus season, the instance group started another run at LOTRO.  This time it was Bung who was out, having the dual issues of moving and having a new baby to care for.  Those of us in Middle-earth hung out with old friends.  That put off deciding who my main character was, by letting me roll another one!

Blizzard gave up on some of their RealID plans thanks to much public kvetching.  Shortly there after, the ESRB came out against Real ID as being bad for consumer security while proving they too were bad for consumer security.

Blizzard revamped Parental Controls again.  As much as I have griped about them, they are better than any comparable controls I have seen, even in games that offer that as a feature.

World of Warcraft Magazine issue #2 showed up.  Issue #4 would arrive 9 months later, which is kind of a long time for an alleged quarterly publication.  Once issue #5 was finally out, the whole thing was shut down.

And somebody was trying to make yet another flying car that failed to live up to our expectations.  Have none of these scientists ever seen The Jetsons?

Fifteen Years Ago

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas gets rated adults only (AO 18+) and the company faces sanctions when the hot coffee mod unlocks a hidden mini-game that existed in the product which allow the protagonist to have sex with his girlfriends.  Unlike some other infamous graphic mods, this one was not fan created content, but something the company put into the game.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  2. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  3. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  4. Day One of World War Bee
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  7. Lurking in Catch
  8. Leveling up Your Crafting Without Actually Crafting
  9. EverQuest II at Fifteen and the Memories of What Could Have Been
  10. Opening Moves in the War
  11. Two Weeks of World War Bee
  12. Theaters of Operation

Search Terms of the Month

is lotro fun
[When it is running it can be]

bloodmyst isle tedious
[Yes]

classic wow peoplle arent doing shadowfang keep
[It is kind of low level, most people are past it I bet]

minecraft burning forest
[guilty]

nfs diggy donuts
[Hell of a file system]

story of babylon in swahili
[Let me get back to you]

Game Time from ManicTime

EVE Online pretty solidly dominated my play time in July.  Diablo II was probably the surprise entry.  I wasn’t planning to play it, but then I wrote something about the 20 year anniversary and decided I ought to take a look.

  • EVE Online – 72.36%
  • WoW Classic – 15.83%
  • Minecraft – 6.53%
  • Diablo II – 4.43%
  • EverQuest – 0.74%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.11%

Diablo II

With the 20th anniversary I downloaded the game again and spent some time playing.  I never did find a mod solution for screen resolution, but the game is still very playable in 800 x 600 and you get used to the graphics pretty quickly.  It still holds up pretty well.  I doubt I’ll do a full play through, but I did get through Act I, so we’ll see how far I go.

EVE Online

The war in null sec, World War Bee (or World War Bee II, depending on your narrative), has been raging and, as the ManicTime numbers indicate, that is where I spent most of my gaming time.  There are quite a few posts this month about the war, something I expect will carry on for a while.

EverQuest

My time with the Overseer option slackened quite a bit.  I had been logging in a couple of times a day to keep that going, but with the war in New Eden and other things vying for my attention, something had to fall off the list, and that was the Overseer. (Along with Swarm Simulator, which I forgot to backup before I purged my browser cache, which reset me to the beginning.)

Minecraft

There was the Nether Update, which I wanted to explore.  I did manage to find one of the new nether biomes.  The whole thing makes the Nether more interesting… and even more dangerous.

Pokemon Go

I did not pay the $15 for Pokemon Go Fest.  That seemed like a lot for something I didn’t quite understand.  But the side effects of the event were still beneficial, including some returning legendary raids.  Thanks to that and remote raid passes, my wife and I picked up Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina.

Level: 39 (51% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 556 (+11) caught, 589 (+12) seen
Pokemon I want: Some more good legendaries from raids
Current buddy: Fraxure

World of Warcraft

As usual I have been wasting the double experience opportunity in retail WoW, which I am sure I will regret at some later date.  But not today.  So all I did again this month was log in and do Darkmoon Faire on my main to get those five points of trade skill experience.  And, at this point, I am not sure that is even worth the effort.  Will it matter when the big squish hits that I got close to 150 points in BFA engineering?

WoW Classic

This remains my Azeroth focus.  The instance group got out and finished up Maraudon and we are going to get ourselves ready for Sunken Temple and our class quests next.  We are all past level 50 now, but there is still a ways to go before we are done.  I remain surprised at how well we have done as a group of four.  I suppose it just indicates how bad we were back in the day as a group of five.

Coming Up

August means school is starting and our daughter will be off to college.  My wife and I will be without a common foe.  Not sure what this will mean for our home life.  It will be different.

The month usually hosts the Blaugust event as well.  But, since we had Blaugust in April… Blapril… Belghast came up with a different event, Promptapalooza.  Instead of everybody posting as much as possible, we will be putting up a chain of posts from a prompt list starting tomorrow.

We should be getting the Activision Blizzard Q2 results.  We will see how much the pandemic helped their bottom line and hurt their shipping schedule.

WoW Classic will celebrate a year since launch.  I still don’t have a character at level 60, and I likely won’t by then.  I do have two in their 50s though.  Not too far off.

The war will carry on in EVE Online, and the front lines are moving closer to home as we try to fight off most of null sec.  They want to stomp us out, we just need to survive.