Category Archives: entertainment

A Decade on the Road to Mordor

Ten years ago today Lord of the Rings Online officially went live.

Happy Anniversary

LOTRO was one of the first MMORPGs to go through beta and launch while I was blogging, and certainly the first one I jumped into at launch during the reign of the blog. (I was watching Vanguard during beta as well, but was dissuaded by my experiences there.)  One of my earliest posts was a response to the idea of such a game trying to tell the story of the books.

Yahoo Headline 2007, before Yahoo became malware

The path for LOTRO from beta through launch and to today has been somewhat symbolic of the post-World of Warcraft era for MMORPGs.  It was driven along initially on the wave of WoW-subscription number induced euphoria, where the sky seemed to be the limit.

Then there was launch and the rush to play and the problem of the game simultaneously being too much and not enough like WoW.  There were some fun little quirky features, like titles you could earn for actions… though the fact that those were secret (or at least not documented or traceable anywhere in the UI) meant most players never knew about them.  It is hard to sell yourself as different when you hide things I suppose, and a decade later I don’t think I have a single one of those special titles yet.

Meanwhile, for those who rushed ahead, there was bemusement as content fell of a good ten levels before the cap.  Subscriptions fell off, complaints mounted, changes and updates went in, and Turbine went forward with plans for an expansion; The Mines of Moria.  That was an amazing and ambitious expansion.  I pre-ordered that as well back in 2008, though I did not actually get into the content for a few years and it was several years after that before I was out of the far side of those caverns.

LOTRO was also a leader in the conversion to a free to play model citing a huge boost in players and revenue to accompany the change.  They were also ahead of the curve when it came to the grim reality of such conversions.  Player expectations as to what “free” really means can be harsh, that initial surge of new players never lasts, and once you start down the cash shop path, forever will it dominate your destiny and development time.

More expansions came and again Turbine was in the lead with pre-orders and special editions with cosmetic fluff thrown in to entice more money out of players.  But eventually expansions stopped and all revenue focus went into the cash shop and new items and new currencies showed up.

Then they began to fall behind the curve of the industry.  They were not too late to the game with insta-level boosts, but they failed to grasp that people want such boost to get to the latest content, the NEW stuff.  Turbine thought boosting people to the first expansion and level 50 was enough.  That was a worst of all possibilities idea for me.  Moria was nowhere near the current content and the first 50 levels that get you there are some of the best, most charming, most memorable content in the game.  Skipping The Shire and Bree and the Forsaken Inn and Weathertop and Rivendell and the beautiful scenery of Middle-earth to head down into a cave for ten levels seems like insanity.

Eventually they figured that out and now you get jumped to Rohan with your insta-level boost, but I remain dubious about the idea as a general plan.  A seasoned player advancing an alt might take full advantage of the jump, but a new player is likely to be out of their depth.

And then there was the spin-off, where LOTRO and its sister, Dungeons & Dragons Online were folded into their own company by Warner.  Spinning of MMORPG divisions has been a thing, from Daybreak Games and its Norrathian legacy to Broadsword Games which keeps Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot going.

It has been a strange trip these last ten years.

But all of that was in the future back in April of 2007.  Ten years ago today I was in Middle-earth playing the game, having pre-ordered it.  That was back when pre-ordering could be done by buying a pre-order box off the shelf at Fry’s.  I still had to follow up and buy a retail box, but the pre-order box got me a head start and kept my account active for a while until I got the real game key.

And then, of course, there was the choice to be made as to which founder’s bonus to take.

Founders Choices

I went with the $199 lifetime subscription over the $9.99 reduced monthly subscription price which, looking back over a decade and more of MMORPG time, was probably the most sound investment I have ever made.  I have received more value for that money than I ever expected.

At the eight year anniversary I mocked the game a bit, pointing out that even by the longest measure… Frodo is warned by Gandalf to leave the Shire through to Bilbo and Frodo departing from the Grey Havens… the events of end of the Third Age in Middle-earth being reproduced in the game only took three and a half years.

At that point Minis Tirith was on the horizon still.  Two years later… again, more time than it took Frodo to get from the Shire to Mount Doom… and Mordor is in sight.  Update 20 brings players to the battle of the Black Gate.

Gandalf blazing in bleached white

I read about that and the tenth anniversary events and such and I feel like I should log in and take a look.  But then I read about the mix of joy and frustration with the anniversary events and remember that I am, as always, stuck behind several layers of content and I pass on to something else.

Look, could you just point me towards Mordor? I’m a bit behind.

This is ever the problem with MMORPGs that evolve through expansions and updates and levels and rigid layers of content.  I think I have patched up a few times since I opted for the Blessing of the Valar level boost, but every time I log in I look in my bags and cannot figure out what half the stuff in there is (the icons haven’t gotten any clearer in ten years while my eyesight has gotten worse) and the legendary weapon that the boost handed me… which isn’t ready to use, you have to find a vendor and go through some gyrations to make it work… and I wonder if I might just be better off rolling up yet another new character and playing through the first 30-40 levels yet again.  I think I must be close to 20 characters past level 30 at this point.

But Middle-earth yet abides, waiting for my return.  Some day that ring will be tossed into Mount Doom.  Of course, then we will have to get back to the Shire.  The tale isn’t done until the Shire has been scoured.

The EverQuest Agnarr Progression Server to Remain Locked in Time

Daybreak is no stranger to special servers.  On the EverQuest side of the house they have had quite a few over the years.  The nostalgia progression server idea itself is a decade old, having first come to pass with The Sleeper and The Combine way back when.

Those were followed by Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak about six years ago, then Ragefire and Lockjaw a couple of years back, and then Phinigel which went live about a year and a half back.

Each has been a refinement on the attempt to capture “the good old days” of early EverQuest, when graphics were raw, groups were required, and spawns were camped.

Back in March, the Producer’s Letter at the game’s 18th anniversary mentioned a new progression server would be on its way this year, and Daybreak has now announced the timing and some details.

The server name will be Angarr, as previously mentioned, named for Angarr the Stormlord, a raid boss from back in the day.

Agnarr the Stormlord approves… I think…

This fifth generation progression server will carry on with the improvements from the past, including being a “true box” server, which is Daybreak’s way of saying that the are going to try to keep you from multi-boxing your way through the game, an innovation brought in with the Phinigel server.

But the key new feature for Agnarr is how it will progress… or, rather, how it will NOT progress.

The Agnarr server will, as always, kick off in the original March 1999 EverQuest content, such that it is.  Then every 12 weeks Daybreak will unlock an expansion, following the usual path forward with Ruins of Kunark then Scars of Velious and so on.  However, the unlocks will stop with the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion and no further expansions will come to the server, leaving the server to run on with content introduced in late 2003.

The Agnarr server is set to launch on May 24th, and given the “every 12 weeks” plan, the server cycle should look something like this.

  • May 24, 2017 – Agnarr server opens with original EverQuest content
  • August 16, 2017 – Ruins of Kunark expansion unlocked
  • November 8, 2017 – Scars of Velious expansion unlocked
  • January 31, 2018 – Shadows of Luclin expansion unlocked
  • April 25, 2018 – Planes of Power expansion unlocked
  • July 18, 2018 – Legacy of Ykesha expansion unlocked
  • October 10, 2018 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath unlocked

Unlike past progression servers the last two expansions, Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath, will not unlock semi-concurrently with the Planes of Power expansion.  There will be full 12 week gaps between each.

And then the server will stay like that, at least as long as there is sufficient population to warrant keeping it around.

This will/should/may satisfy the long standing calls that come with the launch of every progression server that Daybreak create a permanent “classic” server which sits still in time and never advances.  These calls have grown all the more common since the closure of EverQuest Macintosh Edition back in late 2013.

I am mildly skeptical about the prospects for the server.  EverQuest Mac was a magical place locked in time, but it was also made up of a community that evolved naturally over a decade, forged by a shared feeling of isolation and neglect, and started at a point when it was running current content.  Can Daybreak recreate that by just rolling a new server?  While they can restrain the march of expansions the servers will, by necessity, be tainted by changes made over the years like revamped zone graphics and updated user interface.

Meanwhile, progression servers themselves have been shown in the past to be very content unlock oriented, with populations rising with each new expansion and the dwindling off as time with that content ages.

And then there is the “what is classic EverQuest?” question.  The expansion after Lost Dungeons of Norrath, the aptly named Gates of Discord, is pretty much accepted as being “post-classic,” if you will.  So no point in going there.  But is Lost Dungeons of Norrath, where the game becomes focused on instanced content, really classic?

Of course, like anybody from the old school, I have my own view.  For me, everything after Ruins of Kunark is “that new shit,” but I might be more conservative than most and I have said in the past that I think Kunark is the only truly good expansion ever released for an MMORPG.

And where does Project 1999 stand in all of this?  It was blessed by Daybreak as a legitimate place to go explore your retro EverQuest nostalgia, and it is an attempt to create a real “classic” experience, untainted by many of the updates that have gone into the game over the years.  The problem is that Project 1999 requires you to have a specific, out-of-date, no longer available at retail version of EverQuest and can’t tell you how to find it otherwise.

Anyway, the launch is coming on May 24th.  As always, access to the Agnarr server will require a Daybreak All Access subscription.  We shall see how it progresses.

StarCraft Goes Free to Play

And, as usual, the term “free to play” has certain restrictions.

StaCraft II is not free and neither will the upcoming 4K remaster of StarCraft, which Blizzard confirmed a while back, be free.

Coming some time this summer we’re told

But the original StarCraft, along with the essential StarCraft: Brood War expansion, those are now available to play without giving Blizzard any money at all.  You too can play the 19 year old classic game that pretty much became the national sport of South Korea and which pretty much made esports a thing in all of its 1998 technical glory.

Build order? What is a build order?

That screen shot is a full size grab of the actual resolution supported by the game; 640×480. In 2017 the full StarCraft screen fits in a window within a window on your monitor.

Yes, the game will scale up to your monitor, but even back in 1998 I had a 19″ multi-sync CRT monitor that supported double that resolution and remained crisp and readable (at least to my 1998 eyes), so jumping to the smaller resolution made everything… big.  Likewise, playing it on my now twelve year old 20″ LCD monitor, which supports 1600×1200 as its native resolution, makes everything seem very big as the game scales up to 2.5x to fill the screen.

And I have an archaic old monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio.  I am not sure what happens if you try it at the now more common 16:9 ratio.

But at least it was fast.  It is all sprites, with no 3D rendering required, and doesn’t need to move that many pixels around, which is one of the reasons it became an after hours game of choice at the office back when most of us still had 200MHz Pentium Pro processor based machines with basic Matrox or S3 graphics cards.  The game ran like a champ with those specs, even with a mass of units on screen.

Blizzard even threw in a few fixes and updates according to the 1.1.8 patch notes.  Links to download the game are in the patch notes as well.

I don’t really need to download the game as I have the CDs sitting around somewhere… probably two sets… but it is likely easier.  The installer is tiny.

In the mean time, Blizzard has been showing off what the art for the upcoming 4K remastered version… which, again, you will have to buy separately… will look like.  It is sort of like everything is coming into focus.  I am still waiting to see what the price will be for the remastered version and whether or not it will be accepted by the still thriving StarCraft community and whether or not having the classic units and game play in high definition… along with LAN support… will scavenge players from StarCraft II.

Of course, some minor irony clings to this remaster effort.  While the World of Warcraft team says they can’t do a classic server and that it would be bad and that nobody would want one anyway, other parts of Blizzard are actively mining the power of nostalgia.

An Hour on the Road in Minecraft

Having finished the road, it was time to ride the road from end to end.

I had horse travel in mind when I was building the road, and it offers clearance at least 3 blocks high and 3 blocks wide its entire length.  While there is variability in the speed of horses in Minecraft, most are as fast or faster than a mine cart, with the fastest horses going almost 60% faster than the 8 blocks a second that a cart travels.

As I built the road I had with me a fairly fast horse, the one that kept trying to escape from me.  My plan, once the road was complete, was to ride him back north the whole length of the road.

Attempting to escape me by jumping down a well

Unfortunately he was the victim of one of those Minecraft accidents before I got around to the ride back north and all that was left was his saddle and diamond armor.  That left me sitting at the Ankh/Desert Temple station on the great rail loop, which also marks the southern end of the road, without a horse.

As it was, I knew I had horses at the other end of the road.  So I took the rail line to the next station, which was the Mesa Biome station, where there was a portal that linked up to the nether transit system.  From there I was able to take a ride through the nether to arrive at the portal I built at the mansion.

There I picked up one of the horses I had stabled in order to start my ride.

On my horse in front of the forest mansion

At that point I hit the ESC key and went to statistics to note the number for distance ridden on a horse.  I then returned to the game and started on down the road.  The time had just changed to 7:52pm local on the Windows task bar.

One of the purposes of the ride was to figure out just how long the road really was.  I already knew that it was at least 20km by just checking the coordinates at the start and finish points.

More than 20km between the two points

However, that was the direct route.  When building the road I often went around obstacles in the terrain or avoided building long bridges over water preferring, at least in the beginning, a more scenic land route.  At the end I was more inclined to bridge the last ocean gap, if only because the way around the ocean would have sent me a long ways off course.

Bridging the last gap

The horse seemed a bit slower than my old mount.  I will have to build one of those red stone devices to measure the speed of your horse at some point to quantify my mounts.  Maybe I can put it on the road as a speed trap.  Anyway, I kept on with the horse since even early into the ride I didn’t want to start over.

It was sunset when set out, which quickly turned to night as I road through the early portions of the road.  A lot of that went through forests and jungle biomes, areas that I often cleared by fire, an act that often leaves behind an eerie light.

The glow remaining from burned trees… also, spiders!

One of the things I noticed on the ride, which I have probably mentioned already, is the abundance of horses on the plains I passed through while making the road.  I believe they upped the spawn rate for horses, as I have never seen so many hanging about in the fields of our original core territory.

Wild horses along the way

I passed into daylight and through again into night as I rode on down the road, passing various camps and bases I made while building the road.  I tried not to spend a lot of time building structures as I worked on the road, and so there are a lot of simple doors stuck in the sides of hills or cliffs, each a simple rectangular room with a chest or two, a crafting table, and a bed.

In order to avoid spending time building, I attempted to use villages and other spawned structures along the route as bases.  Of course, that occasionally led me to route the road in specific directions to hit a village rather than taking the absolute shortest route forward.

And, of course, I couldn’t help but try to “fix” villages that were spawned awkwardly and often found myself spending quite a bit of time improving and building.

A fixed up village with a non-essential lava trimmed tower because I got carried away

Villages were far and away my favorite stopping points and I must have fixed up at least a dozen, including a couple that were not strictly on the path south.

As the road moved south, jungle and forest biomes gave way to savanna and desert variations, which let me use desert temples as way points and bases.  There were a few of those along the way.

A desert temple with corral, anvil, and jungle trees planted in the background

There was also a point along the way where I rather insisted on building wooden bridges across gaps of water rather than bland cobblestone causeways.  Of course, the proximity of a lot of wood helped out on that front.

Crossing a wooden causeway, village ahead on the right

Once the terrain was mostly desert water crossings went back to all cobblestone affairs.  I might go back and spruce some of them up later, but for now they are all simple 3 block wide paths with a 1 block lip on either side.

The day/night cycle is 20 minutes long in Minecraft, and I was passing through the third night as I started getting into some of my more recent locations.

The desert hill village at dawn

Then it was through the desert, across the last, long causeway (and the ocean monument that is currently being cleared) across a bit more desert, some savanna, and back into desert and the end of the road at the desert temple where the rail line passes.

The station at the end of the ride, horse in the corral

Upon reaching the end of the road I hit the ESC key again, went to statistics, and grabbed the current reading for distance ridden on a horse.  I subtracted the first number from the second and ended up with 25.82km.

That is almost 6km of zig-zagging as the road proceeded south.  The time was 8:50pm, so the trip took just shy of an hour.  That also makes the speed of my horse just about 26km per hour, a bit short of the 28.8km per hour that a mine cart travels when boosted to full speed.

Then again, riding is a bit of a manual process, steering isn’t perfect, and along the way I places nearly two stacks of torches to further light the road in spots where it was dark.  But I did try to stick diligently to the cobblestone path, which is unbroken the full length of the road save for a few points where I was putting sea lanterns into the center line in order to light the way.  (I ran out of sea lanterns long before I ran out of road, so it is mostly lit by torches.)  All of which may have added a bit of time to the journey.  Still, I want a faster horse.

Now that I have been down the road I built, the inevitable “what next?” question arises.  There are still some villages along the way that I could spruce up.  I might want to improve some of the bridges, or at least make them look like they obey physics in some way.  I have a few very long unsupported cobblestone causeways out there.  I also want to collect up some saddles, tame some horses, and stock some of the corrals along the way.  But maybe I will work on that horsey speed trap first.

Then again, I might eschew horse travel altogether and run rails down the whole thing.

While I consider that, here is the tale of the mansion and the road it spawned:

Refresher in the Hoenn Region

Pokemon Omega Ruby was pretty much the only video game I spent any real time playing this past weekend.  I did log into EVE Online to keep my planetary interaction operations going, and I updated and played a match in World of Tanks, but that was about it.

Of course, part of that was because my wife and I have been binge-watching Breaking Bad over the last week or so.  Binge watching TV means sitting on the couch, away from my computer.  But the 3DS handheld and Pokemon can sit with me on the couch.  I listen to the dialog from the TV as I play, putting the game down to watch the show when talking leads to action.

The combined activities meant I was able to get through the first six gyms in Pokemon Omega Ruby as well as resolving the main Team Magma/Team Aqua plot point.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

That is one of the differentiation between the two games.  In Omega Ruby you fight Team Magma and are somewhat assisted by Team Aqua, while in Alpha Sapphire the reverse is true.  Both teams have a Bond villain scale plan for exploiting the powers of a legendary Pokemon in order to change the world and both realize the folly of their ways and come to you, the young hero, to resolve the problems they have wrought, all before you’ve even finished the last two city gyms.

It does feel a bit odd… or maybe anti-climactic, though since you the Hoenn region was facing a cataclysm, that term might be a bit too on the nose… to resolve what is ostensibly the main story line so far ahead of facing the elite four and winning the Hoenn league championship.

Then again, the real story line is, as ever in Pokemon, your own.

The whole thing has been a good refresher for the pair of games.  When they came out back in late 2014 I was coming off of the binge cycle and only played part way through, so when Pokemon Sun & Moon were looming I quickly picked up my copy of Alpha Sapphire and finished off the last essential bits… story line, elite four, and championship… before putting the game down to pick up Pokemon Sun.

Having run through it again I now know where I stand in the context of both games and can probably go chase down the post-championship legendary Pokemon in the pair.

Of course, going back to Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire meant doing without some of the game improvements that came in with Sun & Moon.  I do miss the simplicity of storage box management in the new games and it is a pain to have to return to gimping your team by having to make them learn specific HM moves like Surf and Fly in order to be able to move around the world. (Teaching a Pokemon an HM also used to lock it into that game.)  I also keenly miss the ability to remove status conditions after battle via the refresh option (have to drop a potion instead) and being able to put eggs into the Poke Pelago to hatch them.

On the flip side, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire have some nice features of their own.  The built in region map is good and the local map that tells you whether or not you have caught all the Pokemon types that spawn in the vicinity is very handy.  The ability to soar over the landscape on Latios/Latias is  pretty spiff, and the Pokemon stats training is nice, though not as convenient as the Poke Pelago.

The one thing Nintendo does do is kill most of the back end support for a Pokemon title once a successor has been shipped.  While download events still happen, all the title specific special items have been turned off as has the social connectivity and the Global Trade Station access.  So if I want to wheel and deal and trade Pokemon I get from the game I need to use Pokemon Bank to get them into Pokemon Sun, at which point I can use the GTS there.

Anyway, I am still plugging away at Pokemon for now.

Nintendo and the NES Classic Edition

I cannot decide if Nintendo is stubborn, crazy, or just knows something we all don’t.

Yesterday’s “WTF Nintendo!” news was that they were killing off the NES Classic Edition console.

NES Nostalgia for only $60… if you can find one

If you have tried buying one of these consoles in the fives months that they have been for sale… well, you’re probably at least a bit angry.  They have been selling out like crazy and the short supply has led to speculators snapping up all they can find to resell them for 3x or more their list price on the gray market.

As a company, what do you do when you have a product that is so popular that you cannot keep it on store shelves?  At a minimum you keep producing it to exploit that demand.  Maybe you even refine the product or make some minor addition that allows you to charge more for it.  I mean, how many variations of Atari 2600 classic consoles and game packs for various platforms have there been over the years?  Atari has been milking that nearly 40 year old cow for at least 30 past its peak.

While I am not at all in the classic Nintendo fan club… I was on my third or fourth computer by the time the NES came to the US… this sort of nostalgia console and how it plays in the market still grabs my attention.  I figured it was popular enough to have a nice long run.

But Nintendo cancelled it, with this statement going out to the Americas market:

Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product.

I do not understand.

I have seen a number of theories as to why Nintendo has cancelled the NES Classic console.  They include:

  1. It isn’t profitable, or profitable enough
  2. Licensing issue with one of the non-Nintendo games
  3. It is taking attention/resources/shelf space from the Switch
  4. More profitable to sell these games a la carte on Virtual Console
  5. The fact that it can be hacked for other uses
  6. They have something else planned (SNES Classic?)
  7. Some other Nintendo reason we cannot imagine

The reason could be any one of those, some combination of them, or some reason not on the list including, as Ars Technica put it, Nintendo hates money.

When I think of Nintendo, three different things come to mind.

Nostalgia farmers – They have worked and re-worked Zelda, Metroid, Pokemon, and, above all else, Mario for decades now.  You buy Nintendo hardware to play these franchises.

Hardware focused – As somebody who has worked for hardware companies before, from the outside at least they betray all the signs of a firm that measures it value in terms of hardware units shipped.  It was a huge break with tradition for Mario and Pokemon to appear on smart phones.

Bad at Forecasting – Having demand exceed supply is a good problem, but only if you handle it well.  And Nintendo has had the reverse problem as well.

Odd Man Out – In the console wars if often seems like Sony and Microsoft are battling each other while Nintendo is over in the corner wondering what Mario should do next, unaware that it has competitors.

Unfortunately, these characteristics can be mixed and matched to come up with almost any of the suggested reasons for why Nintendo decided it was time to cancel the NES Classic Edition.

Why do you think Nintendo made this move?

Finishing the Mansion Road in Minecraft

I have finished the road north to the mansion at last.  I have been working on that since November in bursts, but now it is done.  I have linked the mansion up with the rail loop via a road that covers 20km as the crow flies and probably closer to 25km in actual travel due to zig-zagging around terrain obstacles.

More than a 20km gap

If you compare that to some of the earlier maps in this series, you will see that the route I took up was a very narrow path, but when building the road back I had to do quite a bit of exploring in order to find a path south that would not require too much effort to pave through.

The road itself is, much of the way, just a single thread of cobblestone, widening out when needed.  That was my goal, to have a one-block wide band of cobblestone that went unbroken all the was from the front of the mansion all the way to the great rail loop I built last year.

In crossing that last couple of kilometers I faced a fairly wide gap of water.  Rather than trying to find a way around, and creating yet another zig or zag to lengthen the road, I opted to just bridge the gap, using a couple of islands as anchors.

Bridging the last gap

While building that long bridge meant mining a lot of cobblestone and building a base nearby (mine and base are on the northern island) the actual work wasn’t a bother.  There is something relaxing about just doing essentially repetitive block placement at times.  I just turn on a podcast or an audio book to keep part of my brain occupied and start placing blocks.

This has led to some odd associations, where I will ride back up the road to get something or get to a portal and will recall what I was listening to as I pass certain landmarks.

The bridge itself is pretty plain, with the road bed three blocks wide and a cobblestone lip to either side, making the whole thing five blocks across most of the way.  However, it does have a couple of features.

Half way across the southern span there is an ocean monument.  It is nice and close to shore, so I may go back and clean it out.  There is plenty of sand close to hand to drop on it.  The bridge is tall enough that if you ride a horse across it, you won’t notice the monument, but if you are walking you will get a 5 minute mining debuff that will make breaking stone very annoying while it is on you.

I also lost two horses while working on the bridge, but not in the usual way.

One nice thing about working on a bridge is that it is pretty safe to work at night, so long as you light it up as you go.  So I let my horse wander, and it promptly fell off the bridge.  This was a new horse, one I had tamed and road up from the south, not the obstinate old horse I have been using most of the way. (I still have that horse.)

The a thunderstorm came up and, as far as I can tell, the horse got struck by lightening and spawned a skeleton trap, a troop of mounted skeletons.  This happened in the water down below where I was working, so I never saw the skeletons.  But later, when passing over in daylight, I saw the remains.  The skeletons fell by the wayside in daylight eventually, but their mounts are not harmed by the sun, and were bobbing in the water below the bridge.

Swimming skeleton horses

While I didn’t see any of this happen, I remember the thunderstorms while working on the bridge, I am missing two horses, and there are two groups of skeleton horses bobbing in the water under the bridge, so logic dictates what must have happened.

Now I just have to figure out how to tame them.  I read something about needing to hold a golden carrot while taming them, but it hasn’t worked yet.  I can’t tell if I am doing it wrong, being in the water is a complication, or if they are just stubborn and take a long time to tame.

So that is on my list of tasks.

Also on my list is to actually ride the road from end to end, mark down the actual distance, note how many bases I have made along the way, and ensure that I did not leave any gaps in the cobblestone along the way.  So I still have some tasks, but the main building aspect of the project is set for now… unless I decide I really need to run a rail line all the way north as well.

Meanwhile, the server itself has seen a bit more life of late.  The original crew has worn themselves out for the time being.  That happens.  But a couple of members of my corp in EVE Online have been building away and my daughter suddenly had the urge to get on and play a bit over the weekend, so things are still happening.