Category Archives: entertainment

EverQuest Announces The Broken Mirror Expansion

Part two of yesterday’s Norrathian live stream announcements was the big reveal of the upcoming EverQuest expansions, The Broken Mirror.

Mirror cracked... also boobs

Mirror cracked… also boobs

As with EverQuest II, classic EverQuest is moving away from the whole DLC idea that Daybreak put out earlier this year and is back in the long familiar territory of old fashioned content expansions to keep people busy for another year or so.

The copy for the expansion reads:

A goddess wakes and gazes into a looking glass. The reflection of her true nature fractures and breaks. Even as the looking glass shatters and the world around her dissolves, Anashti Sul only looks deeper still into the fragments as they drift away. When her fractured mind glimpses her surroundings, she discovers that she is adrift in an unknown time and place where gods and goddesses maintain direct influence over Norrath. A hunger for power wells within her, having passed many an age with no power at all and an upstart sitting in her place. With a whole new realm before her, she resolves to rule again!

Anashti Sul’s passage through a rift into this reality caused her to split into the two most dominant aspects of herself – life and decay. Fully aware of each aspect, she knows that both must command a plane of power lest she weaken entirely and crumble into the nothingness of The Void. And so she crafts a plot to infect the planes of Norrath with a war that threatens to collapse the balance of all life! Are you brave enough to face the might of a goddess who is ravenous to rule? Will you prevent the chaos she would unleash in all of Norrath?

The Broken Mirror is the 22nd EverQuest expansion. This expansion features new zones and dungeons, and must-have in-game items.

I think 22 expansions in, the team at Daybreak probably has their system down pretty well, so the content looks pretty standard:

  • Level Scaling Raids – Instanced versions of Plane of Hate and Plane of Fear that scale for level 75-105 raids.
  • 7 Expansion Zones – 4 completely new zones and 3 revamped zones.
  • Illusion Key Ring – Access your illusions in one easy location!
  • New Quests, Heroic Adventures, Missions, and Additional Raids
  • New Spells and AAs

Again, no new races, classes, or levels, but I am going to guess those are more labor intensive.  You do what you can with the resources you have.

The pre-order page is up, so you can give Daybreak your money today if you so desire.  And, as with the EverQuest II expansion, there are three options ranging from reasonable to outrageous.

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

$35 is at the fairly reasonable end of the spectrum for an solid MMORPG expansion, while $140 wanders well within the bounds of greed as far as I am concerned.  But, as with the the EverQuest II expansion, I am no longer invested in the game, and that Premium Edition is clearly not targeted at idly nostalgic players like myself.

They also have a Time Locked Server Adventure Pack offer as well, and like the EverQuest II version, I assume it includes the expansion, since the bag and potions clearly are not worth the $35 they are asking.

I have not seen a launch date listed anywhere, but I would predict it will be go live on a Tuesday in November that isn’t the 17th.  If I had to pick a date, I would go with November 10th.  We shall see.

Terrors of Thalumbra and Why Expansions Trump DLC

Yesterday Daybreak broke loose and finally gave out some details about the previously hinted at/mentioned/waved about behind a curtain full on expansion for EverQuest II.  And so we were shown the Terrors of Thalumbra in a live stream that I totally missed, but which Feldon at EQ2 Wire attempted to live blog.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Smed-thulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!!

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Smed-thulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

The copy for the expansion reads:

Deep underneath Norrath lies a realm on the edge of the Plane of the Underfoot, known as Thalumbra. This expansive, subterranean domain is home to fabled races and ancient terrors!

When the dark shroud upon this land is pierced by Lanys T’Vyl, the recently resurrected demigoddess of Malice, it spells doom for all! You are a hero on the stage of Norrath. Will you play your part and protect Norrath from those who seek to destroy it? What mysteries will your torch uncover deep beneath the surface? Can you withstand the terrors of Thalumbra?

Terrors of Thalumbra is the 12th EverQuest II expansion and brings new adventures to Norrath.

I keep thinking Cthulhu when I read about it and see the screen shots.  That can’t just be me, right?  Not that borrowing from Cthulhu is bad or hasn’t been done many times before. (Where do you think C’htun in WoW came from?)

As mentioned previously, this is a return to the classic expansion plan previously, and presumably successfully, followed by SOE for the game, and an overthrow of the adventure pack/DLC path that Daybreak set themselves on earlier this year with The Rum Cellar.

And it doesn’t take you much time to figure out why Daybreak might have headed back to the tried and true expansion path… it is tough to sell DLC for $140.


Terrors of Thalumbra Prices

The pre-order page is up and ready to take your money, with the price for the expansion ranging between $35 for the base package to $140 for the premium edition.  Past history shows that half of those buying the expansion, who represent the core following of the game, will opt for one of the two higher priced options.   All Access subscribers get a 10% discount on the prices, and they will make up a majority of the buyers I am sure, but going past $100 is still asking a lot.

Far be it from me to tell people what value they should put on virtual items, but it would take a lot more than what Daybreak is offering to get me into either of those packages.  But that is just me and I have long since admitted I am not really invested in the game anymore.  2004 is more than a decade in the past.  I might feel different if I had characters at level cap and was active and in a guild and so on and so forth.

And should I get back into things, the standard edition seems pretty reasonably priced for me.  The expansion content includes:

  • 1 large new (underground) Overland zone for level 100s
  • 13 Heroic Dungeons for level 100s (6 are event heroics!)
  • 6 Advanced Solo for level 100s
  • 1 Contested for level 100s
  • 5 Level Agnostic Heroic ToT Dungeons for levels 20 to 95 added to Dungeon Finder
  • 3 “X4” (or 4 group) Raid zones (AT LEAST 5 bosses each) for level 100s
  • 1 “X2” (or 2-group) Raid zone with 9 bosses for level 100s!
  • Over 80 quests including Signature line, tradeskills, locales, missions and more!
  • Over 50 Collection quests!

No new class, race, or level cap increase, but otherwise pretty standard fare for an expansion.  Basically giving the people what they want.

Finally, in what seems like an old school SOE move, Daybreak also announced a $35 “Time locked server adventure pack” which includes an 88-slot bag and a vitality potion bundle.  It is stuck there in the middle of the Terrors of Thalumbra order and info, but does not explicitly say that it includes the expansion, just the two items.  For that price, it is way too expensive for just those items, so I assume it includes the expansion, but since it doesn’t say that explicitly I wouldn’t put money down for it without some clarification.  Ambiguity for the win.

Anyway, expansions are well and truly back.  The proposed launch date for Terrors of Thalumbra is November 17th.

Desert of Flames Unlock Vote Passes on Stormhold and Deathtoll

Last week’s poll for the Desert of Flames unlock on the EverQuest II TLE servers had the tally pass the two thirds mark in favor of the new content.

Next Thursday it will be open season for flying carpets on both servers.

In the Pillars of Flame

I am still not fond of flying carpets…

I was against the unlock for the first vote, but had reached a point of indifference by last week when I realized I hadn’t been playing on the server as much as I thought I might.

Still, both of the TLE servers remain popular from the look of things.  The next vote, in ~30 days, will ask if the servers should advance to the Kingdom of Sky expansion.

Also, there was some blah blah blah about a new expansion.  I’ll get to that later once I catch up.

Mineserver – A Minecraft Hardware Solution

Having fled from the impending demise of NetherByte… which was still up and running the last I checked… and its “$22.50 for six months” pricing to find refuge at MCPro Hosting, which has a better reputation, but charges about that much a month if you add on the ability to do server backups, and for less RAM, the whole “buy or rent” question has surfaced in my head again.

At what point is it worth just buying some hardware and hosting the server myself?  Visions of Intel NUC boxes float through my head, but the cost even at that end puts the return on the investment a bit too far out in the future.  If I could just put together something that would handle our group, wasn’t a complete pain in the ass to manage, and had a ROI point of about 12 months, I would be very interested.

On to this fertile mental pasture… and remember, fertilizer is traditionally most shit… lands a post about the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign.

Mineserver, according to the campaign, is a hardware and software package that gives you a headless server that you can plug into your network, administer through a web interface, can be made accessible/discoverable outside your network (so your friends can play), and even has an Android/iOS admin app that allows parents to control access from their ever present phones and tablets.

For this, the three primaries in this operation Channing, Cole, and Fallon (ages 13, 11, and 9 if I have the names in the right order) want only $99 for a Mineserver capable of hosting 20 player, or $199 for a Mineserver Pro, which is billed as being able to host 50 players and still keep its cool.  Less if you order early.

Pull the other one, right?

The tale is more plausible when you bring their father into the picture, Mark Stephens, more commonly known as Robert X. Cringely.  A long time staple of Silicon Valley, his column in InfoWorld was a must-read though his primary claim to fame is his book Accidental Empires, a history of Silicon Valley and the early tech industry, very much a must read in my cranky old opinion (along with Rick Chapman’s In Search of Stupidity, which fills in some of the missing lore), which was turned into the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds.  His blog, I, Cringely, is a regular read of mine and is linked somewhere down in my blogroll.

Anyway, Cringely and his tech connections and knowledge and backing of the whole venture makes everything more plausible.  The kids have clearly had access to the right sources and mentoring from the right people in order to put this sort of project together.  This gives the project credibility.

Still, I look at it and I have a few doubts.  In this sort of venture it seems to me a good plan to emphasize your strengths and obscure your weaknesses.

The strengths they are running with are cost, ease of administration via their custom software, security and safety for your kids, and server speed.

However, on speed, they are focused almost entirely network speed because the Mineserver will be plugged into your local router. (Though there is a WiFi option for people who want the box to sit somewhere else.)  That is a speed boost for people in your house, maybe not so much for anybody remote.

Things they have not brought into the picture include any details about the admin software, the discoverability aspect, the Linux distro, the Minecraft server version, the long term viability when it comes to updates and support for ongoing Minecraft development, and most important to me, any hardware specs whatsoever.

The last to me is doubly vexing.  First, as I have learned fairly quickly that, at least for hosting services, saying a config will support X players is often hopelessly optimistic.  I refer back to MCPro Hosting where, during their setup I told them I wanted to be able to host 20 players for vanilla Minecraft and they immediately recommended a 30 player option where we are constantly at edge of processor and RAM usage with four players in-game.  So when they say a Mineserver can accommodate 20 players, whose measure are they using?

Second, hardware isn’t something this project should be competing on, yet when asked point blank about specs, Cringley has declined to answer because he says he doesn’t want to project to be reverse engineered. (Comment on his blog post.)  But the secret sauce on this burger is the software, the stuff that they clearly see as the strong part of their pitch.  Hardware is a commodity and ought to warrant two lines at the bottom of the page with basic specs simple to prove that the platform has the moxie to do what they say it does.  Doubly so because whenever I show the Kickstarter to anybody in tech, the first question they ask when they see the hardware is, “Oh, is that run on a Raspberry Pi?”

Screen grab from the project video

Screen grab from the project video

I hope it isn’t a Raspberry Pi, or if it is, that they have been able to really optimize their software as I am not sure that would run anything beyond 10 players very well.  Also, Raspberry Pi as a server has been tried and talked about before.

Still, the doubts I express might just be mine.  As somebody who works in enterprise software and frets about such details professionally, I tend to have a skewed outlook.  For somebody who wants a home server this may very well be an ideal solution.

The project itself looks like a slam dunk to fund.  They opted for just a three week campaign and here, a couple days in they are just inches from their funding goal of $15,000.  (The joy of having a father people listen to, something my daughter will never experience.)  That will get them cases to kick off production, as everything else is reported to be done, so that they can start shipping out units before Christmas.  That would have to be some sort of short turn-around record for a Kickstarter project more complicated than potato salad.

It looks cool, sounds cool, and I want to believe, all the more so because of the enthusiasm of the kids in their project video.

What do you think?  Worth a go or not?  Certainly something I will keep my eye on.

Mineserver Kickstarter page

I also wonder what the guy who did the Mineserver software distro thinks about the project.  So few good names to choose from.

Addendum: The project passed its goal somewhere between when I wrote this and when it posted, so congratulations to the team.  Now where will thing go with stretch goals and such?  I hope they stay focused where ever they head.

September in Review

The Site

Well, one thing I never quite got around to doing this month was some sort of final, post-Blaugust wrap up.  Of course, Belghast has already summed the whole thing up, listed everybody out, and handed out awards.  I got the right to display this logo.

Made it all the way, second year running

Made it all the way, second year running

I was also going to collect up and link to everybody else’s summary to merge it all into some sort of mega meta summary or some such… and then my wife said it was time for dinner and I forgot about the whole thing until I found it in my Drafts folder yesterday along with something I was writing for the NBI… back in 2014 judging from the date… and that idea I had for picking the most negatively influential games I have played.  Anyway, these are the links I collected before I got distracted:

Maybe next year I will remember to finish what I started.

One Year Ago

Blizzard said no to its Titan project.

ArcheAge went live, was overwhelmed, and pissed off some people.  But everybody is happy now, right?

Destiny also launched and though I went nowhere near that, I was interested in Bungie’s seven design point.

Project: Gorgon was coming to the end of its second Kickstarter campaign and it clearly wasn’t going to make it.  On the other hand Defense Grid 2 was headed for release even though Hidden Path didn’t make all of their Kickstarter stretch goals.

Also on the developer front, Notch sold Minecraft to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then sales have gone past the 20 million copies mark, which I am sure Michael Pachter thinks is nothing.

Rift was set to join the insta-levels club as part of their Nightmare Tide expansion announcement.

EVE Online had the Oceanus release.  We all remember that, right? Parlez-vous français?

Meanwhile the Lords of Null Sec put our their Null Deal proposal.  In actual space, we left Delve yet again to come home and clean up Deklein. We were out numbered at one point, but we ended up with a nice op at the end of the month.

As part of my Pokemon binge I finished up Pokemon White Version 2.  I still think that is a horrible name, but it was a good entry in the Pokemon RPG series.

In World of Warcraft I managed to get the Brewfest Kodo.  However, my Loremaster project started to fall apart in the Blade’s Edge mountains.  Well, we had more details about Warlords of Draenor to fuss over.

The strategy group was putting on a shameful display in Total War: Rome II.

I was wondering how long you had to be away before an MMO changed so much it became like a foreign country.

For the blog itself, I was on to the third iteration of my sidebar feed and it had been eight years since I started blogging.  And finally there was a review of the first Blaugust.

Five Years Ago

Well, there was that whole four year anniversary thing.

Planet Michael, the Michael Jackson virtual world, was announced.  How is that coming along?

The whole David Allen, Derek Smart, Quest Online public blame and shame fest ended when Quest Online gave David Allen some money and he went away.  Derek Smart could not help but throw in a couple final comments.  Good thing he’s been quiet since then… *cough*

CCP was talking about Public Fleets and such that were planned for their Incursions expansion.  That got delayed long enough for me to get tired of waiting.  Still, it was better than Incarna.

More interesting was a guide to suicide ganking in EVE Online put up by TooNuRacoon.

Meanwhile, I was kicking off my EVE Online screen shot contest.  All of the entries are now posted on my other site.

I tried turning an old joke into an MMO joke.  Some people got it.  Some did not.  Some got angry, because this is the internet and that is what people do on the internet.

I looked at cloaks in MMOs, and how little they resemble what we would call a cloak in the real world.

In World of Warcraft I finally got that Brewmaster achievement.

Lord of the Rings Online flipped the switch and went free to play.  We were truly among the free (to play) peoples Middle-earth then.  There were some issues with Turbine Points, though I did get my 5,000 point pay-off.

The instance group was still summering in Middle-earth.  The group was finally into the meat of the Lone Lands.  We also tried some skirmishes and talked about Anderson Cooper.

In LOTRO I also ran into somebody who was looking for a social environment similar to old EverQuest.  I wonder if he ended up on Fippy Darkpaw which, for a short time, had all the best aspects of early EverQuest.

New Linking Blogs

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  2. When is WoW Legion?
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. EverQuest Expansion Plans and Progression Server Polls
  5. Once Upon a Lifetime Subscription…
  6. EverQuest Next Five Years Down the Road
  7. Flying Comes to Draenor
  8. Nine is a Magic Number
  9. GuildWars 2 and What Free Really Means
  10. Minecraft – Our World
  11. The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds
  12. The Unusual Scent of Victory in Period Basis

Search Terms of the Month

i am getting adventurous dreams after wearing emerald
[You go… um… girl?]

pokemon x shot 3ds nintendo tea
[I like some Nintendo tea in the morning]

rerolled killed pantheon
[Not yet]

an ancient raft
[Like this one? I think that is an ArcheAge screen shot.]

эверквест Интор
[The EverQuest II Russian server lives I guess]

Diablo III

I spent some time playing this, far more time than I spent playing EQII, so swapped this in for the other on the side bar list of games I am playing.  It is fun, immersive, and I remain impressed with how good it looks every time I play.  It just isn’t a game that sparks much blogging interest in me.  Weeee, I followed the same linear path as everybody else and got some interesting somewhat randomized loot.

EVE Online

Just enough happened in New Eden to make me feel like I did something without me burning a lot of hours in the game.  A short deployment, a couple of fun roams, a couple of homeland defense ops, and here we are done with the month.  It wasn’t as interesting as a good war, but it was enjoyable.

EverQuest II

Post-cataclysmic Norrath fell off the end of the list.  I can only really play three ongoing video games at a time, and as noted above, Diablo III bumped EQII into the oblivion of fourth place.  A pity, as I was enjoying a bit of nostalgia on the Stormhold server… just not enough to actually play I guess.  Time to cancel that subscription.


Again this month, the game that eats up most of my gaming free time is Minecraft.  The game is definitely better with a few people playing in the world, so I am glad we have a hosted server so that the five regulars can play.  But with the bump in price due to changing hosts, I have again started thinking about the whole renting vs. owning calculation.  Expect a post again about that I suppose.

Coming Up

It is October and suddenly the end of the year looms as we rush towards Halloween and the blur of the holiday season that will inevitably spit us out at the far end in the bleak landscape of January.

And so much is coming up.  Daybreak is supposed to spill the beans on the EQ and EQII expansions… well, tomorrow… with an official reveal.  The GW2 expansion Heart of Thorns is coming out later this month.  SWTOR and UItima Online also have expansions slated for this month.  People will be passing judgement on the WildStar free to play conversion.  There is EVE Vegas, which signs indicate I may very well attend, and the reveals that CCP will have there.  And then there will be the run up to BlizzCon.  While that is actually in the first week of November, I am sure people will begin to speculate about what we might see there.

Which is all good because, as noted, I am not at all inspired to write about Diablo III, no matter how enjoyable it is, EVE Online content can rarely be predicted in advance, and I am not sure I have a lot to say about Minecraft at the moment besides server logistics and how I built yet another crude structure or fell off of some high place yet again.

So time to start thinking about the inevitable “hopes and expectations” post about BlizzCon I guess.  It is either that or take up the offer I got in email earlier to go review Aeria Games’ upcoming title Dragomon Hunter…. which would mean trying yet again to fit four games into a three game time budget.  Oh well,  I am going to bet that somebody Massively OP has that game covered already.

Vanguard in New Eden

Another month, another expansion bump from CCP.

I actually had to think for a moment about the title of this post as, not being an EVE Online blog, the name Vanguard might bring up the late and ever troubled (while it was around) Brad McQuaid project.

I am not sure I succeeded with that title, so let me just say now that there is no Brad McQuaid connection to New Eden… at least none that I have ever heard of.

Yes, CCP announced that full sized expansions would be returning, but they will also continue on with the scheduled smaller code drops to deliver smaller feature updates and fixes at regular intervals.

Today’s drop is Vanguard and I am going to say that the biggest item… there being no dev blogs or such on Vanguard features to indicate importance or scale… on the list of features it brings is the change for new characters.  Fresh characters in New Eden will show up with more skills and skill points.  You will essentially start 400,000 skill points into your lifetime of training, up from 50,000 previously.  That is maybe 10 days of training (and a bunch of ISK), but those first days in the game are important and can shape your destiny.

Neville Smit has posted before/after pictures of the skills being added while over at Th Nosy Gamer there is a far more detailed look at what skills are being added and what they mean to players.

The next up and probably most talked about change, at least in null sec, is the combat and Navy issue battlecruiser rebalance.

FC, can I bring my Drake now?

FC, can I bring my Drake now?

This has vets happy, since we remember a golden era of battlecruiser dominance where we flew Drake and Hurricane doctrines every day.  I miss my 2012 pera-MWD Drake of doom.

So these old hulls… old being defined as anything that was around when I started playing in 2006… are getting a buff.

The problem is that it just isn’t 2006… or 2012… anymore.  These ships can’t stand toe-to-toe with the strategic cruisers still, which can fit a battleship level tank if needs be, nor are they as versatile, not having a subsystem swap option to make them interdiction nullified or able to use black ops bridges or whatever.  And in the post-Phoebe world of jump fatigue battlecruisers are slow travelers when you have more than a few gates between you and your destination.

So they are a cheap… and now a little bit better… option on the home defense front or for nearby deployments, but if you’re going to go far my gut says that alliances will bring harder, more survivable, more expensive ships to fight.

But we’ll see.  Maybe Reavers will be drop Tengus and pick up Hurricanes.

(A run down of the changes over at Crossing Zebras.)

And then, also a big deal in null sec, the ability to fit Entosis Link modules has been removed from interceptors.  The trollceptor is dead, but I am sure something will rise to take its place.

After that, we have:

  • Physics based rendering (PBR) being applied to stations and Amarr and Minmatar strategic cruisers.  Make more shinier.
  • Jump invulnerability timer: You will now have a visual indicator as to how long your cloak will hold after you jump through a gate or wormhole.
  • Wormhole polarization timer: You can now see when you will be able to jump back through a wormhole.
  • A multi-buy option for the market, the flip side of the multi-sell option introduced previously. (Dev Blog up now.)
  • New Guristas burner missions.
  • Blue Tiger skins for a range of Minmatar ships.
  • Festival launchers no longer require a launcher hardpoint, just a free high slot.  Launchers for all your carriers!

Then there is the typical range of small fixes along for the ride on this particular release vehicle.  And new issues for new features…

There is a release page for Vanguard and a set of patch notes which tell most of the story of the release between them. (But never the whole story.)

That is what Vanguard brings us… well, all that a theme song.

WildStar Goes Free to Play

Two years ago I was wondering if The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar were throwing themselves under the bus by declaring for a monthly subscription model in an era when only a select few games seem able to hold enough customers to make that model work for their vision.


Back then the team doing TESO said that a subscription model was essential to deliver the experience they wanted while the WildStar team felt they could offer a PLEX-like option and declare themselves free to play already.

The subscription business model champions of 2013 have come around to free to play in 2015.

TESO went first, going free back in January, while WildStar, after a precipitous drop in revenue, reflected in the NCsoft quarterly results… I believe somebody said that WildStar might end up bringing in less revenue that City of Heroes when NCsoft shut that down… announced that they were going free to play back in May.  This staved off closure by the trigger happy team at NCsoft for the time being.

And today is the day.  WildStar is now officially free to play, another such title in a veritable forest of free to play MMORPGs.  I cannot name a single factor that would set it out from the crowd of other options.  We shall see if free is sufficient inducement for players to keep the game going.

The WildStar site has been updated and there is a FAQ spelling out what free to play means for the game.  As with the game itself, nothing in the FAQ stands out as new and different enough to separate it from the pack.