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180 Days for a BMW M3 June 25, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Need for Speed World.
Tags:
4 comments

In my last “passing through” review of the state of Need for Speed World, I mentioned my obsessive experiment with the daily gem hunt and the fact that they added achievements to the game.

The first part, the gem hunt, involved me trying to find out if the statement that “each consecutive day gives better rewards” was actually true or not.

It sort of was.

At about day 20 you start getting 4 star rewards, which are best-in-game items.  But you still continue to get 1 star rewards, which is of a level you can purchase outright from the in-game vendor, most of the time well past day 100.

112 Days for This?

112 Days for This?

At least you have the option of selling them back for some in-game cash, which so far can still be used to purchase some actual vehicles.

As for the second part, the addition of achievements… well, if ever a game needed them, Need for Speed World was that game.  Racing is a reasonable genre to have them.  And they did keep me playing for a while longer as they had me hooked for one particular achievement.  If you do the gem hunt every day for 180 days straight, you get a special car.  And since I was past 100 days already… they gave me credit for the part of my streak that pre-dated the achievement… I felt I might as well press on!

Last week I made it, I hit the 180 day mark and got the achievement.

DHAchi

Now it was time to collect my new car!  It turned out to be a BMW M3 E92 with special “Achievement Edition” vinyl.

New Car

New Car

Not a bad looking car.  I wasn’t big on the color for it, but NFSW has decent customization tools if nothing else., so I went for a blue color.

More my hue

More my hue

It isn’t a bad car.  I like the looks well enough.  It is a B class racer by default, with a “very low for its class” 508 rating.  Not outstanding by default, but decent.  I took it out for a few test races.

M3 in the race

M3 in the race

It handles nicely, though it lacks something in the acceleration department.  Handling can be an equalizer if you can carry your speed through corners, so I thought I would try to boost that a little bit.  However, no matter which 4-star parts I added to the car… such as a suspension upgrade that indicates it should improve handling by 19%… the handling stat got worse rather than better.

So I drove around somet more, swapped over to my Porsche 914 for a bit to compare (the Porsche wins), logged off and… aside from a quick exception to take a screen shot… stopped logging in.

Which sort of demonstrates the down side of daily quests and the like.  When you have dedicated a consistent effort to a goal like this… and the same thing happened to me after doing the Argent Tournament stuff… some level of burn out (heh) is often the result.

I will probably be back for a visit in a few months.  But for now I feel “done” with the game.

Further Mutterings about MMO Revenue Models May 15, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,
20 comments

A few years back, at the height of the housing boom, we decided to move.  We listed our house at the market price for our neighborhood, and the first day on the market we got an offer for roughly 60% of what we were asking.  Somebody sensed, as we all were beginning to at that point, that the bubble was going to burst soon, and wanted to know if we were desperate.

We were not, and actually sold the house for what we were asking a couple weeks later.  But there was no possibility that we were going to come to an arrangement with the person who made that first offer.  Their offer was so insultingly low that it made it completely unlikely to be able to negotiate any deal at all.

We have a garage sale at least once a year.  Often we have two, one in the spring and one in the fall.  Just the process of finding stuff to sell helps us keep the house clear of clutter, so that our home, with the exception of my office and my daughter’s room, feels clean, open, and spacious.

We tend to put out all manner of things on the driveway for sale.  I often have a pile of books that have made it into the category of “won’t read again” out on a table.  At one garage sale I had done a big purge and had 40+ paperbacks lined up, with the asking price was 25 cents each.  Cheap enough that anybody with an interest would pick them up, and it wouldn’t kill me if I decided to give a couple away to any kid who looked like they wanted to read one.  And, as always, quantity discounts are available.

A woman, who rolled up in an expensive car, offered me a dollar for all of the books, and then started gathering them up like it was a done deal.  A dollar turned out to be exactly the right price to start a fight.

In the cold logic of hindsight, it was just an offer I could freely reject.

In the reality and emotion of the moment, it was insulting.  I started with “no” and worked my way up to using them for kindling before I would sell her one at full cover price.  Her offer stayed at a dollar throughout, leavened with sneers and insults.  But we could have stopped after our first pass through offer and rejection, as no deal was possible after that point.  I cannot imagine she thought her negotiation technique was going to be effective.  It is always interesting to meet people who are worse at interpersonal relationships than I am.

What did those two little stories have to do with anything?  We’ll get to that.  First, a foundation of words needs to be built.

With the announcement that Rift is moving from the once traditional monthly subscription model to a cash shop driven free to play model, there have been the usual range of reactions, from feelings that no good will come of this to expressions of joy at the demise of yet another monthly subscription barrier to entry.  Some people really hate the subscription idea.

My own response is somewhere in between.

Good things will come of this change.  I know that.

More people will play Rift.  It won’t make it suddenly popular with people who wouldn’t play a fantasy MMORPG in the first place.  But people who wouldn’t otherwise commit to $15 a month will want to play.

An annoying amount of words, and some irrelevant pictures, after the cut:

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Need for Speed World – Porsches in Palmont May 2, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Need for Speed World.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

The instance group continued its streak, and it ended up being just Potshot and I on Saturday night.

On one hand, it is a pain that we have not yet made another run at Exodus of the Storm Queen.  On the other, with just Potshot and I, the possible alternative game choices are pretty large.

I threw out “Boom or Vroom,” putting up World of Tanks versus Need for Speed World as an opening bid.  Potshot said “vroom,” so we were off to race cars for the evening.

This is the upside of the free to play model, that we can just decided to play that night, patch up, and get going without having to worry about a subscription or anything.

Of course, the first item up for discussion was, what should we drive.

The last time we got out onto the streets we started of with a variety of different cars, but finally decided we should all buy the same car and leave it stock, so that there were no vehicular stats tilting the races.  Our decision back then was to all buy the Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione.

This time we thought we ought to get something new, so it was off to the car dealer.

We were tempted by the Ford Capri being offered.  That was a car we both grew up around as an import sold through Ford’s Mercury brand dealerships.  I still like the styling of the ’70-’73 models.  However, NFSW was only selling a very tricked out race version of the car.

Not Street Legal

Not Street Legal

Both Potshot and I lean towards vintage cars, but prefer street models, not the heavily modified race cars.  We grumbled a bit about the game not catering to our demographic with their more modern super cars and race prepped vehicles, and continued down the list.

I eyed the Jaguar E-Type for a minute.  If it had been the convertible or the 2+2 body styles, I might have insisted.  But they only had the 2 door coupe, which always looks odd to me.

Eventually Potshot found a car on which we could both agree.  It was vintage, a formidable racer, and not outrageously over-styled.

More after the cut.  Words, pictures, video, etc.

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April in Review April 30, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, Need for Speed World, Rift, World of Tanks.
Tags:
7 comments

The Site

A Google moment turned April into a record setting month for the blog pretty much out of the gate.  My quick coverage of April Fools at Blizzard for this year managed to get on the first page of results for a number of salient searches and… well… sent a lot of traffic this way.

Page Views Gone Wild

Page Views Gone Wild

The previous record was actually set last April, though that was driven by links to my Burn Jita posts.  This year, Burn Jita wasn’t a hot topic and page views were about at the average-ish line across the event.

If you look at the gap between the dark bar, which is unique visits, and the light bar, which is total page views, it seems like people actually stopped to look at the links I had in the post, which included the past few years of April Fools.  The “Most Viewed Posts” section below bears this out.

Upon seeing the sudden spike in traffic, I tried to incorporate as many links out to other blogs as I could in order to “share the wealth” such that is was.  So a few other blogs got some traffic out of this.

April 1st and 2nd were about equal the whole month of February, which was when the impact of the Google image search changes showed up.

The downside of such a moment of Google fame is that the traffic is not very… sticky.  I would be happy if out of all those people, one or two returned and left a comment now and again.  And, of course, those two days will now skew the default graph on the stats page for a full month.  Plus I keep looking at those two bars and feel like I should be reminded of some historical moment.

Never Forget... something...

Never Forget… something…

As with the big dip in page views in February, the big spike this month is essentially meaningless in the big picture. I like to try and figure out why these things happen, and they make the part of me that enjoys statistics thrill.  But it isn’t like I get paid for page views.

And, of course, I bet Google is going to kill off some more page views come July when they kill off Google Reader.

I haven’t switched to a replacement yet.  I am waiting for the other providers to accommodate the surge before I move.

One Year Ago

Last April set a daily page view record.  What is it about April?  I know you are going to say “April Fools,” but the record was actually set because of the Burn Jita event.

Yeah, the Burn Jita event.  It made for my most popular YouTube video ever.  And it lead right into Hulkageddon V and its OTEC connection.

Elsewhere in EVE, the LEGO Rifter got 10K votes, the War in the North seemed to be winding down with RAZOR back in Tenal and six fleets stalking Venal. Raiden managed to lose a bunch of sovereignty, by accident, which finished that up.  All that was left was to say we didn’t want that region anyways.  We also made conga lines, experience time dilation, and followed DBRB through high sec to kill some super caps.  And Seleene became the chairman of the Galactic Student Council.

I was also syndicated occasionally on EVE News 24.  I don’t think I got paid for all of that.

I also made a list of small features I wanted other MMOs to copy.

Lord of the Rings Online hit the five year mark.

Potshot and I were wandering around EverQuest again, looking for lost dungeons.  We were not buying any $25 bags though.

In Rift, the instance group was driven out of King’s Breach.  But Trion added in fishing, so we could do that instead.

And it was April Fools at Blizzard.

Five Years Ago

I made up something for April Fool’s Day.  I thought it was amusing.

Lord of the Rings Online celebrated a year of being live.  Book 13 introduced, among other things, fishing.  And my video problems with the game proved to be a bad video card, so I was actually able to get into the game.

Computer Gaming World/Games For Windows magazine ceased publishing as part of the ongoing demise of print media.

In EVE Online I made the big move from Caldari to Amarr space.  I also began producing Badger transports for fun and profit.  CCP introduced the whole Council of Stellar Management thing, which I dubbed The Galactic Student Council.  My opinion on it hasn’t changed much since.

Meanwhile in WoW one million people in China logged into WoW at the same time.  There is still no report on what would happen if they all pressed the space bar at the same time.  While that was going on, the instance group finished up the Slave Pens and the Underbog and began the long struggle with the Mana Tombs.

I was looking around for Tetris on the Nintendo DS.  You would think that would be easy, right?

And then it was Tipa’s turn to bang the EverQuest nostalgia drum, so I joined in yet again.

New Linking Sites

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 April

Per the top of the post, April Fools at Blizzard dominates the list this month.

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2013
  2. April Fools at Blizzard – 2012
  3. Blizzard Blindsided by Diablo III Auction House Popularity
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. April Fools at Blizzard – 2011
  6. WoW Dance Battle System!
  7. Ignore Burn Jita? Is That Your Plan?
  8. April Fools at Blizzard – 2010
  9. Burn Jita Held Over for an Extended Run
  10. Age of Empires II – HD Edition, That’s What I’m Talking About
  11. What is it with Me and Storm Legion?
  12. Camelot Unchained Kickstarter Unleashed!

Search Terms of the Month

animal jam: non fair membership abilities
[Welcome to free to play]

trion merge with blizzard
[Heh, copy Blizz, yes, merge with Blizz...]

brothers in arms or camo for arty?
[Camo]

world of warcraft bdr g1b good 4 money
[A BDR G1B would rule in WoW... in WoT, not so much]

Spam Comment of the Month

Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wanting to know your situation;
[From a spam comment linking to "genuine" Prada items]

EVE Online

A quiet month in New Eden for me.  Burn Jita was an exercise in precise, clinical destruction.  The fleet ops I went on all ended up with no action for me.  I made some money speculating on ice products.  A rumor went around before FanFest about ice changes, so I bought up half a billion ISK worth in Amarr and relisted it for double what I paid.  That sat until the announcement at FanFest, and which point it sold.  Easy money.  And then the price dropped back down.

Oh, yeah, and CSM8 elections.  Congratulations to the winners, which includes Jester, who will now have to suffer the fate of getting exactly what he asked for.

Need for Speed World

I have actually played this game every single day this year.  I log on, I do the gem hunt, I log off.  Elapsed time for each session is generally under 10 minutes.  It was part of my plan to see what sort of rewards you would get for the daily hunt as time went along.  I thought I would be done at that point.  But then they added achievements.  And for just another hundred or so gem hunts in a row, you get a special car.  So I am in for the long haul on that.

Rift

After sulking about Storm Legion for quite a while, I actually pressed on into it with a recommended solo build for my warrior.  It is okay.  Will I press on and finish though?  Meanwhile, the instance group… has failed to show up consistently since the beginning of the year.  So we still have yet to finish the first Storm Legion instance, Exodus of the Storm Queen.

World of Tanks

I continue working with my KV-4.  Tier 8 in a heavy has turned out to be pretty fun.  I do dread those matches with three or four SPGs on a side though.  You cannot hide under cover forever, and getting caught in the open is murder.

Coming Up

We will know how the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter saga ends in a couple days.  Success will mean City State Entertainment getting to work.  Failure will mean… well, we shall see what it means.

I have a blog anniversary coming up… for another blog.  But I am going to write about it here because nobody reads that blog.  Though, to be fair, it is all about pictures instead of words.

Neverwinter is going to show up.  I think it is open beta or pre-release or taking money from the general public as of today even.  I have been averting my gaze from it so as not to spoil anything in advance.  The call of Forgotten Realms will probably ensure that I will download that at some point, but I won’t be in for the day one rush.

Maybe… just maybe… the instance group will do Exodus of the Storm Queen this month.

Too Many Words and Pictures about Need for Speed: World April 15, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Need for Speed World.
Tags: , ,
3 comments

I fade in and out of Need for Speed: World.

In a way, that represents the upside of free to play.

As it tends to go, I start playing, have a run at it, tire, and move on for a while.  I think I am at the end of the cycle again.  The current run started on a new server when Potshot and Earl got into the game for a bit.  We had a really fun evening of races and goofing around and then never quite went back to it, except for a bit of holiday cheer.

I managed to get myself hooked on the NFSW version of the daily quest mechanic, then gem hunt.  This was primarily due to the explicit promise that the game has at the end of each such hunt.

NF3ConsecDay

Each consecutive day gives better rewards!  That is what it says.  So I decided to test that theory.  As you can see, I made it past the 100 day mark.  So I should have been getting some pretty awesome rewards, right?

Well, I will tell you about that, plus some other aspects of the game as I see them at this point after the cut.

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February in Review February 28, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Guild Wars 2, Month in Review, Need for Speed World, Rift, World of Tanks.
Tags:
12 comments

The Site

The site is dying!

Look at these monthly traffic numbers.  That last bar is February 2013.

Feb2013Decline2

I have lost a greater percentage of my readership than WoW has lost subscribers, and if WoW is dying, then I must be dying even more so!

This month saw the lowest number of page views since late 2009.  There has also been a corresponding drop in uniques, those are the dark blue bars, though WordPress.com hasn’t been measuring that for very long.

As for the cause, my theory is that it is related to Google.

A few weeks ago there was a change in how Google image search works.

2013WeeklyBars

Previously it was like any other search, where clicking on the item returned would send you to the page on the site hosting it.  Now though, Google will grab the image directly for you, allowing you to search, view full size, and copy/download without ever having to visit the site from which the image originated.  Nice if you want to avoid malware on those sites I KNOW you surf late at night.  Not such a good idea if you run the site and are counting page views.

This actually had a much more dramatic impact on page views at my other blog, EVE Online Pictures.  Since it depends on Google image search for vast majority of its traffic, the change caused page views to plummet.

EPFeb2013

All of which would be meaningful if I actually derived any income from page views from the site.

Since I don’t, the site isn’t really dying.  Certainly other metrics… number of posts, number of comments, the actual page views for the post of the day… are all steady.  WordPress.com just doesn’t put up a handy bar graph of things like that, so it doesn’t have the dramatic impact that page views do when I go to the stats page.  Things will continue on here as they have for the last 6+ years.

But I suspect that there are sites out there which are hurting now due to the change at Google, if my theory is correct.  Ad revenues are already dropping on the web, now Google is killing off some page views.  That has to be making somebody mad.

Of course, this is just my theory based on page view counts and the fact that Google image search changed.  It could just be WordPress.com screwing around with how it counts page views again (or how it doesn’t count views directly to images on your site).  Or it could be that I just wrote nothing interesting this month.  Certainly the weekly adventure tale of the instance group has gone missing, as have most references to my actually playing a fantasy based MMORPG.  So who knows.

Oh, and as I threatened, here are the results from last month’s poll, where I asked what section of the month in review posts people liked the best.

Poll Results - Click for Full Size

Poll Results – Click for Full Size

The top result was the One Year/Five Years Ago section, which is my favorite as well.  Game summaries came in second.  I like those too, as they let me cover bits I never got around to making a post out of.

The “Other” results were:

  • All of the above – Thanks mom!
  • the end – Which I am going to guess is like saying the best part of school is when I get to go home.
  • Avatars that I jerk off to – I am not even sure what to do with this, besides wash my hands again.

Nobody voted for most viewed post… which was a bit of a surprise.  I guess that section is just for me.  New linking sites garnered no votes either.  I guess that once I have linked to you, you’re done with that section.  And, finally, no votes for the “Coming Up” section, for which I can hardly blame people.  It tends to me a quick, last minute “more of the same” entry, plus it is at the end of the post by which point I am sure most people have moved on.

One Year Ago

I made a video celebrating the first year of the instance group, which formed up back in 2006.  It was focused on what was essentially vanilla WoW and had a serious nostalgia vibe to it.  It got some views.

Then I made a video about Sunken Temple in the same vein that pretty much nobody watched.  That instance always got mixed reviews.  (And my video of the EVE battle at EWN-2U was more popular than both combined.)

Somebody stole our guild on Lightninghoof.

And Blizzard was making money, optimizing clients, and selling new mounts.

In EVE, the war in the north had gone kind of quiet.  There were some big battles over tower (e.g. EWN-2U, which was my first epic fleet battle, and 92D-OI), but the sov grind had not begun.  There was some fun around VFK.  I also noted that a “green” kill board seemed to be the norm for individuals.  Meanwhile, CCP was making money and giving us the occasional fun statistics about the game.

Trion gave us actual loot pinatas as well as a check box to turn off exp in Rift.

And, probably most importantly, we got standardized build templates for common roles.  Rift’s soul system is still deep and complex for those who want to theory craft, but for mere mortals it became possible to just get a workable build and go play.

As a group in Rift we made it to the Darkening Deeps.

I also figured that, due to the way Rift was progressing, it wouldn’t go free to play unless WoW did.  I am beginning to feel less certain on that assessment, especially with the departure of Scott Hartsman from Trion.

On Fippy Darkpaw, the Planes of Power expansion opened up.  For many the PoP expansion marks the dividing line between what counts as “classic” EverQuest and what is considered “the new crap.”

And EverQuest Mac was saved from the chopping block, going free for… as long as it stays up I guess.

Five Years Ago

The month started out with our Pirates of the Burning Sea enthusiasm waning.

The instance group was kicking off its Outlands efforts, after running the required equipment upgrade quests, with Hellfire Ramparts, though first we ran through lower Blackrock Spire and got access to Upper Blackrock Spire.

Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online had extended its agreement with Tolkien Enterprises out until 2014, with an option to go to 2017.  As a lifetime member I applauded this extension.

I went to GDC up in San Francisco and had dinner some members of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective plus Alan “Brenlo” Crosby, and got pictures to prove it. (I had a beard then… and I have a beard now… this is becoming a winter routine for me.)

My daughter got a Nintendo DS for Valentine’s Day.

We played a little KartRider, which is still MIA here in North America.

I defended myself against some slander about me being a dwarf.

I summed up the annual EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.

And I found out my blog was worth $61,534.86,though I couldn’t figure out how to cash in.  Since then, the value of the site has gone down.  I blame the economy.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs… er blog… has linked this site in its blogroll, for which I offer my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit this site in return.

Most Viewed Posts in February

Kind of an odd mix of old and new posts on the list this month.  Nostalgia seems to be high on the list.  It is more powerful than some people can bring themselves to admit.

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. An Unfiltered (and Unfair) Impression of Wizardry Online
  3. Notes from the War in Delve
  4. The Real Problem with Levels…
  5. The Nostalgic Call of the Emerald Dream
  6. More Than 2,500 Ships Clash in Asakai
  7. Missing MMO Music Features – LOTRO Leads, Nobody Follows
  8. Side Notes About Used Games
  9. Not Your Father’s House of Cards
  10. More Unspent Virtual Currency
  11. Thrilling Internet Spaceship Stories!
  12. Air Warrior – Vague Memories from the Early Days of Virtual Flight

Search Terms of the Month

daenerys pov boring
[Ain't that the truth!]

lego minifigures tarot cards
[I'd buy that! But only if there was a Knave of Bricks or some such.]

what cool things you can buy for station cash for everquest
[Define "cool"]

anderson cooper look like elf
[Yeah, I will grant you that]

wizardly online is a joke
[Is this a wry comment on the game's Asian origin?]

is it normal to get scammed by the mittani, chairman of csm ???
[It's not unusual.]

Spam Comment of the Month

Check out [redacted] site if you want to see some funny second life blog videos
[There are no funny Second Life videos. Go to YouTube and search on 'Second Life Funny' and see.]

Oddest Spam Source

I got a few spam messages that linked to Ron & Barb McHugh’s Miniature Horse Ranch.

Has it come to this?  Spam comments to drive traffic to a miniature horse web site?

EVE Online

I managed to get into one fight over the course of the month.  Otherwise, things were mostly quiet.  Training continues as always.  I am set to get my 6+ million skill point boost when they break out the destroyer and battlecruiser skills, though in reality, that will just push me towards an even more expensive clone.  Grade Tau clones, at 30 million ISK a pop already inhibit me from small ship actions.  Losing a cheap frigate is all fine and good until your clone gets popped.

Guild Wars 2

So, I own it.  We shall see if it sticks.

Need for Speed: World

Stubbornness keeps me going here I think.  I have been doing the daily gem hunt… well… daily.  It takes 10 minutes or less and promises to reward players with better items with ever more consecutive daily runs.  At some point I will decide if this is really true or not and give up.  I am already past the 60 day mark.

Rift

The instance group successfully avoided Rift for another month.  Mrs. Potshot has actually been working on an alt, and I have logged in to collect my Rift Mobile app prizes now and again… I am almost capped out on planarite… but other than that, not much fantasy gaming going on of late.  Still, the Carnival of the Ass End of Telara is coming up.  At least that means a new scratcher game in the Rift Mobile app.  Go glass beads!

World of Tanks

All the boys in the Saturday night instance group are off playing tanks now… which brings up the “four of us, but only three can be in a platoon” issue… but we’re still having fun.

Coming Up

More tanks seems likely.  I am still a long way from my tier IX goal.  And probably a few more little tank videos.  I kind of like the under two minutes,”silly thing happened” video format.

More Rift… or Guild Wars 2… well… we shall see.

Potshot, who represents the pen and paper oriented wing of the Saturday night group has been looking for something closer to actual rolling of dice.  After being somewhat ignored during his online remote D&D campaign aspirations (sorry man), he has picked up Neverwinter Nights 2, which is at least more self contained.  I have that installed as well now, so something may come to pass in that department, if we can figure out how to get multiplayer working over the internet.

And GDC is coming back to San Francisco again late next month, but at $250 just for an expo pass, I am not likely to be attending.

Missing MMO Music Features – LOTRO Leads, Nobody Follows February 1, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
12 comments

Lord of the Rings Online can be a bit of a mixed bag.  Depending on your point of view, you can easily find much to like or dislike about the game.

On the plus side it brings to the table a lush and beautiful environment that brings alive the the world of Middle-earth in ways impossible in the books or the movies.  It is one thing to read about Frodo stumbling across the three trolls that had been turned to stone, or to see it projected up on a screen as Peter Jackson’s vision.   It is something else entirely to be wandering through the Trollshaws and to discover them on your own.  Being given free reign to wander Middle-earth is like a dream.

The game also has classes that do not all fit the standard RPG mold, a variety of different content options fit with various group sizes and skills, and, of course, many an NPC that looks like Anderson Cooper.

Anderson Cooper 360... and counting

Anderson Cooper 360… and counting

On the flip side, we have LOTRO the game, which suffers from many flaws.  It is showing its age, and it frankly was never put together as solid as a lot of other MMOs have been in any case.  It is another copy of the WoW quest hub model, and as is common in that model, the quests can be too “same-ish,” too repetitive, and too boring, so that even when the route through the game is wide enough for some choices on what to do next, it often ends up as being six of one and half a dozen of the other.  For all the beauty of the environment, the character models leave much to be desired.  And then there are the elements of its free to play business model which have become more and more intrusive as time has gone along.

And I am sure we as players could come up with more items for each side of the equation.

But do any of these, good or bad, make LOTRO stand out?

Leaving aside the Tolkien lore, we certainly have our choice of beautiful worlds to explore.  If that is your thing, you should probably be playing Guild Wars 2.  A non-standard, non-traditional class seems to be a line item requirement for the genre.  Even WoW had hunters, which were odd at the time, but have become extremely popular.  Scalable content and a variety of content options are likewise becoming pretty common.  And, frankly, clean shaven and close cropped, who doesn’t look like Anderson Cooper?

Of course, the complaints can find homes elsewhere as well.  A lot of games are showing their age and WoW has set a bar for fit and polish that few have reached.  The quest model is an issue because it is so damn common.  Character models are a bigger issue in other games for me, like Wizardry Online.  And the noxious tendrils of the free to play business model are the default in the industry now.

So LOTRO‘s stand out in the genre is the Tolkien lore, which nobody can take from it.  At least not until 2014 at the earliest.

But LOTRO has something else, something that sets it apart, something that makes it a joy, and that is its music system.

That your character can pick up a musical instrument and play notes is great.

That you can have your character play a song from a pre-made file, so you can essentially be a street musician is even better.

And that you can have multiple people in a group play different parts from a song that stays synchronized so that you can essential form your own band is a master stroke.

Back when we were last playing LOTRO, we began working with the music system and ended up spending a good chunk of each night just playing music as a group.  We would check The Fat Lute, a web site devoted to LOTRO music, ever week for new tunes.  Music was a lot of fun for us.

Music... and Anderson Cooper

Music… and Anderson Cooper

And we were hardly alone.  We would run into people playing music alone or in groups all the time on a Saturday night.  Bree was alive with music.   And this lead all the way up to events like Weatherstock, where bands in matching outfits perform, even bringing their own compositions to perform.

When I go back and log into LOTRO every month to make sure I get my 500 Turbine point Lifetime Memebership stipend (As Abe Simpson said, “I didn’t earn it, I don’t need it, but if they miss one payment I’ll raise hell!”) During my trip to pick up my check, I often spend a few minutes playing the Popeye theme on a horn at a busy street corner, which is often worth a chuckle.

And, as far as I know, no other MMORPG has copied, recreated, or outright stolen this feature.

Which is, frankly, amazing to me.  The easiest way to denigrate an MMO you don’t like is to dismiss it because they copied feature x from game y.  This is because, of course, they all copy features from each other incessantly.

Yet here is this music system, which has been around for year now, and still remains pretty much a LOTRO thing.

I have to wonder why.

If I were the Rift team, this would be high on my list.

If I were running EverQuest II, weapon smiths and woodworkers would have a huge piles of instrument recipes and New Halas would be a cacophony of music. (Or, if I were Smed, I would totally have this on the list for EverQuest Next.  Perfect sandbox feature.)

Hell, it would even fit into World of Warcraft, where their philosophy won’t let them do player or guild housing because it takes people out of the world.  A Music feature like this puts people into the world, into towns and other gathering places, and gives them something to do.

Honestly, I think music is a blind spot for most MMO developers.  It is graphics and mechanics and classes and skills and balance and… oh yeah, sound.

Yes, sure, there is always a sound track and incidental music.  But how many people turn that off or play without sound.  And for all of Syp’s Jukebox Heroes columns, the sound track is static thing, released but rarely revisited.

Even Star Was: The Old Republic and its vaunted sound work ends up being hours of (tedious) talking and relatively little music.

I cannot fathom why a game like Need for Speed World doesn’t have a dashboard radio interface to let you play some of the game music tracks as well as control and play music from your own computer.  When I was playing the game a lot a while back, I used to play driving music to go along with it.

Hell, in some games we are moving backwards.  One of the lesser known “features” of the Retribution expansion in EVE Online was the removal of their in-game music player.  They have gone to the more traditional MMO scheme of “you will listen to the music we want you to, when we want you to.”

Ah well.

So what do you think?  Does the industry have a blind spot when it comes to music?  Is the genre missing out by ignoring music features?  Would they help player retention and make games more “sticky” as it were?  Or would music be more of a distraction and take focus away from the core elements of such games?

January in Review January 31, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, Need for Speed World, polls, Rift, World of Tanks.
1 comment so far

The Site

I’ve got nothing.

Krusty

Really, the site hasn’t changed.  WordPress.com hasn’t screwed things up in any new and unusual ways.  I still haven’t changed the look of the site.  No unusual honors or attentions have come this way.

I haven’t even got any new linking sites this month.  This is only the second time in 77 month in review posts that has happened.  Time to run with some “classic” Krusty…  I mean links.

So I am going to go with my usual ruse and run a poll and pretend that it is content.

And so it goes, month in review #77.  But those poll results will probably be in #78.

One Year Ago

I asked 12 questions for 2012.

I updated the About Page to its current format.  I am not sure it is any more useful, but it certainly is… uh… longer!

There was that whole SOPA thing.  Are we safe yet?  Somehow I think not.

I struck a couple of games from my watch list, as it seemed I would never go back to play them again.

I bought an iPad for our cats… judging by the pictures.

LEGO Universe joined the ever increasing list of departed MMOs when its free to play conversion failed to save it from extinction.

SOE gave us the subscription matrix for the EverQuest free to play transition.  As part of that conversion, EQ Mac was targeted for extinction as well. (Spoiler: It survived.)  Meanwhile, somebody had an EverQuest cocktail shaker on eBay.

Prompted by comments from others, I asked why those who sought an old school MMO experience were not out playing Vanguard.

Blizzard said they were going to be too busy in 2012 for a BlizzCon.  Speaking of Blizzard, I hit level 85 at last in WoW.

Turbine announced that their fall expansion would be Rider of Rohan.

There was an odd divergent current about Star Wars: The Old Republic, with some declaring it dead already (one month in) while others were still in “best game ever” mode.

I was starting to moan… more loudly… about how free to play makes an MMO focus heavily on cash shop content… to the detriment of the game in my opinion.  This was prompted, no doubt, by those wings.  Smed, on the other hand, was very happy about free to play.

In EVE Online the war against White Noise came to a close, leading to a quiet time in the north.  But a conflict with Raiden was looming.  during the lull, I recalled my first PvP death in EVE and celebrated that Garde drones now actually went *pew* *pew*.  Boring no more!

In Rift, the instance group was kicked off its server.  We regrouped on a new server.  We were also warming up and starting to work as a group again in the Iron Tombs and the Darkening Deeps.  That last was a struggle.

The Type 59 tank was pulled from the cash shop in World of Tanks.

And, finally, there was Pop Muzik.

Five Years Ago

January 2008 saw me writing all sorts of stuff that came back to haunt me.

I started off with a helping of silly predictions.

Then, with Tabula Rasa dead to me since open beta, I started wondering if there was any hope at all for a Science Fiction MMORPG.  This ended up being one of my most responded to posts ever with, in addition to all the comments, Potshot, Tipa, Lemegeton, Gooney, and even Massively following up with response posts. This post still gets a lot of views every month. (And yes, I do think there is hope, I just don’t know when we’ll get what we’re looking for.)

And, along with that, I wrote about five LEGO Video Games I would like to see made, another post that made the monthly list of most viewed posts on a regular basis a year later. [And I got a couple of the games I asked for!]

Then there was the start of the run-up to Pirates of the Burning Sea which, among other things, required me to invest in a new router.

In WoW, the Saturday night instance group was hitting Scholomance, Stratholme, and level 60, getting us to the Outlands only a year after Burning Crusade shipped!

In EVE Online, after spending millions of ISK, I managed my first Tech II Blueprint, then I couldn’t afford to build it. Ah, life in EVE.  I also got my standing past 8.0 with the Caldari Navy and spent time hauling trash.

And, finally, in Lord of the Rings Online I was able to pick up my Bree Pony, the 2007 holiday gift to founders.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll since 2007 or so, for which they have my thanks, and are still up and running and being updated, which makes them pretty rare.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. More Than 2,500 Ships Clash in Asakai
  3. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  4. A Journey of One Hundred Deaths
  5. What The Hell Do You Spend Your Station Cash On?
  6. Bosses and Gimmicks and Nostalgia
  7. Wielding The Dead Rat
  8. Surviving the French Connection
  9. The Fate of the Mighty Mackinaw
  10. What to do in EVE Online – A Summary
  11. Big Guns, Slow Tanks, and Crew Training
  12. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II

Spam Comments of the Month

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[Because screw that non-adjustable coffee!]

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Search Term of the Month

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[That is "Gabe Newell" in Belorussian, according to Google. How I got on the first page of results for "Gabe Newell" is another mystery.]

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[Mafia Wars and MySpace? A match made... somewhere warm.]

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[The same reason people don't talk on the freeway, you cannot speak directly and texting distracts you from driving.]

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[This term brings you to the graphic for my New Year's post. Google remains a mystery.]

EVE Online

It looked like war… and then it didn’t… and then a bunch of capital ships got blown up.

And I missed it all.

Okay, I did go on one fleet op this month and was on two kill mails.  Plus I sealed my reputation with our new corp leadership by asking if there was a participation link after our rather over-long corp meeting this month.  So I have that going for me.

And I now have enough skill points that I need a Tau grade clone, which runs 30 million ISK.  That just reinforces my aversion to frigates and cruisers.  They are cheap to lose, but when I get podded it puts 30 million ISK on top of the price.  Won’t somebody save us from this regressive tax on the most successful (by at least one measurement) players in EVE?

Need for Speed World

I still play this a bit.  Actually, for about 8 minutes every day.  I do the gem hunt, which gives you a prize every day when you complete it.  But it says right on the prize reward tab that the prizes get better every consecutive day you complete the gem hunt.  I am testing this.  I am currently past the 30 day mark.  Expect a report on this some day when I am really bored.

Rift

Do I even play this game any more?  Do I even play fantasy MMORPGs any more?

Evidence is starting to suggest I do not.

Expect a long and angst ridden post at some point laying the blame squarely on Blizzard and World of Warcraft for destroying the genre.

That’s what you’re supposed to do when you hit this point, right?

Or is SOE to blame for ruining EverQuest?  Or for making EverQuest II?  Or the NGE? I can never remember.

But expect something once I figure it out!

World of Tanks

The instance group, or most of it, has gravitated to WoT, which is something of an “old man’s shooter” to my mind.  I like shooters, but when it comes down to it, I have never been very good at the run and gun and bunny hop routine, and my skills have not gotten better over the years.  So a tank shooter, where you move slowly… unless you are in one of those damn T-50s… and things like cover, aim points, and line of site matter fares well with me.

It is also light, can be played in small doses, and is fun as a team… though we have to start working more like a team.

Coming Up

I have a post brewing about the iPad.  I have had one for a year now, so it is probably time to explore how I thought I would use it with compared to what I actually ended doing with the thing.  And I will probably insult people who make 99 cent apps again.

Something will likely happen in EVE.  It always does.  I’ll get some new tanks I bet.  And some email to post about.

Meanwhile, the drought of posts about me actually playing a fantasy based MMORPG… there was exactly one this month… will probably continue.

December in Review December 31, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Month in Review, Need for Speed World, World of Tanks.
3 comments

The Site

WordPress.com continues to fiddle with the site interface.  They have very much the same attitude as Google on this sort of thing, where it often seems more important for them to get a cool new feature out than to check to see if it is actually better than what was in place… or even if it breaks what was already in place.  Oh, and they always implement features first then wait half a day or so before posting something to explain that whatever it is you are raging about was on purpose.  So it can be a matter of two steps forward, one step back, one step to the side, and cha cha cha.

So we got, for example, maps that do little to indicate anything.  My little flag counter widget in the side bar is much more informative.   They removed the ability to search on image files based on date… because screw searching by date I guess. They also broke, then later removed completely, RSS feeds that allowed you to follow tags and categories across all of WordPress.com, an incredible powerful feature that they let rot.

On the step forward side of things, they have decided to report unique visitors as well as page views as part of their standard statistics.  I don’t know why it took them so long, but as of December 3rd, they were there.  So the in the graph now, light blue is page views, dark blue is uniques.

Views and Uniques

I ran Site Meter here for a few months at one point just to see how unique visitors compared to page views, and the ratio back then was generally about 7-8 uniques per 10 page views.  Now looking at the new stats, it seems to be around 6 uniques per 10 page views, which I guess means that people are staying longer or clicking on more things.  I guess that is good.  It would probably matter if the site generated ad revenue or such.  For now it is just another bit of statistical trivia for me to mull over.

One Year Ago

There was the usual looking back at the Highs and Lows of 2011.  And, hand-in-hand with that, there was the look forward at games I might play in 2012.

One of those games was Diablo III and another Torchlight II.  They were both vying for the mantle of successor to Diablo II.  So I tried to define the essence of Diablo II.

I also had some demands for 2011 and had to look at how that worked out.

I began my journey into null sec appropriately, by killing myself.  Then I saw titans, lit cynos, and got blown up.  But hey, a ship blows up every six seconds in EVE.  There was a war on, and it was announced we were going to be driven from Deklein.  And there was something about ganking tourism and three flavors of ravens.

There was the end of Star Wars Galaxies, though people were saying it had been dead for years.

Star Wars: The Old Republic went live, completing the changing of the Star Wars MMO guard, for all the lack of actual change that brought about.

EverQuest II and its free to play twin, EverQuest II Extended, were merged into a single fighting force of extraordinary magnitude or something.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux went a little nuts talking about his Ultimate RPG, his great fondness for EA, and the failure of Tabula Rasa and Ultima 8.  He seemed to try to be getting EA to join with him by talking to the press… and not to EA.  And then it was the Mayans.

Closer to planet Earth, the instance group was in the Realm of the Fae.

And I proved my laser tag prowess against a bunch of little girls.

Five Years Ago

December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE.  First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha.  Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment.  And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan.  All of which I wrapped up in one post.

The yearly EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities.

I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” which I have yet to score.  I will have to get a post together comparing The Shadow Odyssey with my own guesses.

The Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group was finishing up Blackrock Depths.

Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.

I was interviewed over at World IV.  So far that is the only interview I have ever been asked to do.

I lost my first battlecruiser to pirates in EVE Online.  Meanwhile, after pissing away a lot of ISK on invention, I was not getting a lot of results.

And I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.

New Linking Sites

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 December

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  3. An Unfiltered (and Unfair) Impression of Wizardry Online
  4. A SWTOR F2P First Impression
  5. Travels with Commander Bond
  6. Love, Hate, and the T-28
  7. A Year in Null Sec
  8. Second Life Among Technology Fails?
  9. WoW Drops More Subscribers Than SWTOR Has Left
  10. In the Hardware Doldrums
  11. Tobold Prediction – CCP Bankrupt in 2012
  12. First Peek at Retribution

Search Terms of the Month

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[Okay, Rule 34 strikes again I suppose...]

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[Good fight to you too...]

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[About all we can ask for]

EVE Online

Things have been quiet in EVE Online this month.  I haven’t been on the kill board since October.  I have ratted now and again, which is something I can do while listening to the news or an audio book… or while writing checks.  But fleet ops haven’t been very frequent with the end of the war in Tribute and Vale.  Time to find some new activity in EVE I think.

EverQuest II

The nostalgia tour sputtered out basically when I made it past the original content.  At level 50, the Desert of Flames content seems to be the most interesting to tackle, and it isn’t all that interesting after a bit.  So Sigwerd made it from 42 to 53.  He is fully equipped in mastercrafted gear again, should I want to make the run to 62 at some future date.  But for now, EQII has petered out for me.  Nostalgia always has a short shelf life.

Need for Speed: World

We have spent a bit of time in NFSW, where we have played it as a networked racing game, ignoring the rest of the world for the most part.  That is actually pretty fun.

Rift

The holidays have kept the instance group from doing much in Telara.  We did finish off all of the pre-Storm Legion five person instances, at least in “normal” mode.  Now we are getting ourselves equipped in the expansion.  With the new year we ought to be able to take a run at the first instance.

World of Tanks

This has become something of my main game for the last few weeks.  Basically, it is a shooter that concentrates on vehicles, where I have always done better.  In PlanetSide 2 I am always just a target on the ground.  So it is probably best to just stay with the shooter where it is all vehicles all the time.  I have made it to tier VI on a couple branches of the tech tree.  But each higher tier becomes a bigger effort.  We’ll see if I get to VII.

Coming Up

A whole new year.

The instance group will return to Telara.  I will continue to play tanks.  We will see if Need for Speed World was more than a week or two of fun.

But otherwise it will be a cold, gray month.  Lots of time for games and writing about games I suppose.

The Long Lancia – More Fun in Need for Speed World December 27, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, Need for Speed World.
Tags:
1 comment so far

Not that Need for Speed World isn’t fun in and of itself.  I just think we have found a new source of even greater fun.

NFSW had been revamped yet again since I last played.  The cars have all be reclassified into new brackets based on their performance.  Levels have been rendered all but useless in the game, save for unlocking certain cosmetic items in the in-game store which, if you think about it, is kind of dumb.  Why would you restrict people from buying some of your vinyl decals until they hit level 20, 25, or 30?  They have added a new kind of event, drag racing.  And they have revamped the items and driver skills so that they have various stages of quality.

But the heart of the game remains the same.  It is a serious pay to win design.

The best cars are all for sale in the RMT currency, Speed Boost (or SB).  And while the best, four star parts and skill upgrades cannot be bought directly, you can buy an unlock that means you will win only the best items when you race.  You can still win such parts without the unlock, but they are exceedingly rare.  I have several dozen races in and I have only seen one three star item.  You can spin that as buying convenience, but it still smells like pay to win to me.

Probably the best thing they have done is the revamp of car classifications.  It used to be that a certain car was in a certain bracket no matter what you did to it.  Now each car has a numerical rating, and the rating is based on the performance of the car.  The rating is made up from the cars handling, acceleration, and top speed stats.  That rating then determines the bracket in which your car races.

The brackets are, best to worst, A to E, plus S for super cars I guess.  Your base starting car is likely in the E bracket but can be upgraded to the D bracket with just a few parts.  You can buy cars in better brackets and improve them further as well.

Ideally, what this should mean is that when you join a random race in the game, the match making process should group you with cars of the same bracket.  However, the match maker seems to be tuned to deliver more races over maintaining parity, so you will regularly end up in races that cover three brackets.  If you are the C bracket car in a race with a couple of A bracket competitors, you had better be very good or they had better suck.

And sometimes they do suck.

I have been the C bracket car and beaten the guy in the A bracket Porsche.  But it doesn’t happen very often.

So racing can be fun, but you really have to be ready for an uneven playing field.  And if your skills are otherwise modest like mine, you had best be ready for a mostly losing record.  Not that that has changed much over time, pre or post revamp.

And then Earl and Potshot joined the game.

More after the cut.  Pictures and long winded descriptions.

(more…)