Category Archives: New World

What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?

Over at Massively OP they had a daily grind question about which MMO housing was the most “usefless.”  That elicited a lot of opinions, many of which with I agree, and even another blogger response, but I still felt like there was some cross purposes in some answers, because “useless” is something of a loaded description.  We all know at least one pedant who will argue that it is all useless by definition because video games have no practical use or some such.  But even among the more sensible, there is a wide range things that make housing something they will use in an MMO, so I thought I would explore some of the items that came to my mind on that front.

Personalization

Basically, can you make the housing your own, or will it always look like everybody else’s place?  This can mean a lot to some, but doesn’t necessarily influence the other items on the list.

I would put Rift and EverQuest II at the top of the list, as both allow free form decor and have crafting that can create house items.  EQII would be my top choice because it allows you to convert things from some special quests into trophies for your home, which is what I tend to display.  Also, there is a ton of wall art.  But Rift gets the nod for overall flexibility and being able to go nuts constructing things.

New World isn’t too far behind, mostly because it doesn’t feel like there as many general “things” in the world for basic decor.  The housing options also feel a bit more constrained.  But it is also new, so it may catch up.

Then there is EverQuest… my list is not exhaustive, I am just going through the titles I know personally… which has borrowed a lot of ideas from its younger sibling and has free form placement, including out in your yard.

Lord of the Rings Online is a bit behind that, largely due to limited items and the fixed hook system that puts a rather low cap on the things you can actually put in your house.

Then we get down to WoW and Warlords of Draenor garrisons, which I am declaring housing for the purposes of this discussion, and not simply to dunk on it because it ranks highly in some regards.  But for personalization it had a very limited range of pre-set options you could unlock, so every garrison felt very much like every other one.

Then, finally, I am going to bring in the captain’s quarters from the EVE Online Incarna expansion, specifically to dunk on it and provide a bottom end of the range for comparison.  The only thing that made the captain’s quarters unique was the presence of your avatar shambling about it awkwardly or sitting on the couch.

Captain’s Quarters

It was otherwise identical to every single other one until they introduced a couple of basic faction options, and then they were identical to everybody who chose the same faction as you.  Not that you could tell, because you were the only one who could enter.  We can argue over whether or now a POS or a station or a citadel counts as housing, but this actual attempt at player housing in the game was absolutely the suck.

Asthetics

Is it pretty?

I am going to be down on LOTRO housing in a number of these categories, but I will say that if you like the art style of the game, then their housing is very nice.  And the limited customization that I mentioned above means that in the neighborhood housing concept that the game uses, you can’t really end up living next to that horrible person who fills their yard with crap that spells out obscene words or political symbols.  The Valar giveth, and the Valar taketh away.

I am going to put New World up high on the list too.  Again, despite its limitations, the housing looks good and is well integrated into the settlements.

Since I brought WoW into the mix, I will say that garrisons look find, fit in to the game, and actually have some fun aspects in their look.  Once more, huge limitations on how much you can customize, but it doesn’t look like crap relative to the rest of the game.

I am a bit iffy on EQII on this front.  It isn’t that there are not some wonderful, pretty housing in the game.  But there are also a lot of dingy little spaces.  If you are a new player and get your first house anywhere save Halas, it probably sucks.  I remember my first one room cracke rbox apartment in Qeynos.

Likewise, Rift has so much potential, but a lot of the new player starting dimensions just look like work rather than a place you want to own.

I am also going to put EQ down here.  While it uses the neighborhood concept like LOTRO, its neighborhoods are kind of shabby and there is always the person who has their decorations for their favorite holiday out in the front yard all year around.  Plus vacancies are very obvious.

And the, finally, just to see if Bree at MOP reads this, I am going to drag the Tatooine trailer park that was SWG housing into the mix as an example of ugly housing in an MMO.

Looks like they had used YT-1300s on sale at QVC

I will grand practicality and integration into the game, however they looked like ass and in places stretched for as far as your draw distance would allow.

Practicality

Can I actually do something useful to the game in my home?

Or, perhaps more to the point, if I can do things in my home would I bother doing them there rather than in town or a guild hall or some other location in the game?

Warlords of Draenor garrisons could barely be personalized at all, and aesthetically it was basically part of the game, which could be good or bad, but you could do stuff there.  So much stuff.  Too much stuff in the end really, as it managed to deliver on the prophecy about housing that Blizz had used as an excuse previously, that it takes people out of the shared gaming world..  I still visit my base when I play retail WoW to craft some 30 slot bags for alts and that sort of thing.  It remains useful.

So, for all of the other knocks on garrisons, they are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to integration with the game.  I mean, you had a flight point, a special hearthstone for the place, and could have a bank and transmog vendor.  I kind of want to dig through Reddit to see if anybody wrote a post about playing the expansion without building their garrison.  Is it even possible?

And after that I guess I would put EQII which, while far behind in function, is integrated into the game in that you have to setup your store front for the broker in your home.  That was a day one item, and no doubt something influenced by SWG, so if you were looking for a compliment on that front after ripping it on aesthetics, there you go.  You can also set up crafting stations, mail boxes, and all sorts of other things in your home that may be of use.  Crafting stations in a home used to be a sure fire sign of somebody who botted their crafting back in the day, but it is still something you can do… craft, not bot.

Then maybe LOTRO, because at least the neighborhoods have a crafting hall.  I found them less than convenient to use, but they are there and you could commit yourself to them I guess.

After that… well, I think the bare minimum, the low bar, is to provide some additional storage space, or access to your bank storage in absence of that.  I think all the usual suspects and a few more that I have yet to mentions, like Rune of Magic, at least give you that.

Viability

I don’t think that is the right word, but it is the one I am running with.  Still, I will explain what I mean.

What I am driving at is whether or not any player, new or old, who wants to engage in housing as part of their play can do so without too much effort or cost.  I supposed “accessibility” might be a better word, but it is also a word weighted down with its own baggage, so I try to avoid it.

So, for example, EQII ranks highly in this regard in my estimation.  The game guides you to player housing in the first ten levels of the intro, gives you some instruction in it, and the rent for basic housing is very reasonable at 5 silver pieces a week.  That was a price that didn’t even bother me back in 2004 when SOE was trying to keep a very tight lid on the economy such that mobs did not drop coin and when I finally got my first platinum coin it felt like a huge achievement.

EQII even hands you some furniture as part of the intro.  Everybody gets that same table and mirror that they have been handing out since launch, back when having an in-game mirror that actually reflected was kind of impressive.

Rift as well, once they introduced dimensions, gave new players a shove in that direction and a basic location right off the bat, though it was not very inviting in my estimation.

Dimension by the Sea with my free items strewn about

Lost Ark, which I haven’t mentioned up to this point, also gets right in there and requires you to take on a stronghold as part of progressing in the story.   You may or may not like it, but you’re getting one… also, it is shared by all your characters on the same server, which I view somewhat favorably.

Runes of Magic also gets you into some housing pretty quickly as a new player, though it was pretty dull and pointless housing as I recall, so I set it up and never returned.

New World throws housing at you as well… but then  makes it too expensive for low level players.  Without grinding for coin specifically I could have bought a house, but upkeep would have been too expensive with all of the other day to day costs of the game.

LOTRO throws housing at you at some point… you get a quest about seeing somebody about a deed or a house or something.  But housing has so little practical purpose in the game and is so out of the way and… at least back in the day… used to be a bit pricey for any new player that it falls way behind.

Then there is EQ, which I am not even sure ever tells you directly that housing is a thing.  I think the only in-game notification I can recall is getting a reward that was marked as something to put in your house, which at least strongly implied there was housing.  I have a whole post from 2010 about the effort I went through to get a house.

Some EQ housing

Also, the EQ housing is very reasonably priced… so long as you’re a veteran playing in the current content.  If you’re a new player still selling rat whiskers to the vendor for 18 copper, housing is way out of your reach.

And then, way down at the non-viable end of the list for me sits any game where your home exists in the actual game world on real estate that only one person on the server can occupy.  So I am looking at you SWG and Ultima Online and FFXIV and a few other title that escape me at the moment.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say if you think that kind of housing is great.  I get that it is very cool that your house, and yours alone is there in that spot and everybody can see it.  But as soon as you make real estate scarcity a thing and put specific locations in demand, housing shakes out into winners and loser and most players will be on the losing end of things.  The argument that it makes the game more “real” doesn’t wash with me.  If I wanted a game with the same pain as real life I’d go play EVE Online…. wait….  Anyway that is my opinion and you are free to disagree, just know that you are unlikely to sway me.  I live in Silicon Valley where real estate PvP is a thing already.

Location, Location, Location

The tired old joke of real estate is that the top three considerations are “location, location, and location.”

In this case I am not referring to the whole “instanced vs in the world” housing which I was going on about in the previous section, though I will say that if new players can’t get a house some place useful, your game fails on this front… which means instanced housing rules for location generally.

For the purposes of this section I mean whether or not housing is some place useful, like in town or near services you might need as a player.  EQII is pretty good on this front, though some locations are better than others.  As a new player in Halas everything you might need is right outside your door, which is great… if you chose Halas.  If not, your mileage may vary.

New World is also pretty good on this front.  Housing is all in settlements.  There is some vagaries around what level facilities will be available, but you will be in town.  That makes it feel like you live somewhere worth living.

Other titles seem a bit more dicey.  EQ puts you kind of off of the Plane of Knowledge, through the guild staging area, if you know where that is.  LOTRO puts you out in the middle of nowhere, though there are fast travel options.  But I seem to recall there also being some mithril coin or other cash shop currency relation options is you need it on demand.

So What?

I’ve gotten this far kind of riffing on memories and old screen shots of housing, and have probably mislaid my point along the way.

Oh yeah, housing being worthwhile.

In this reflection, it sure seems like the genre can be all over the map on the various aspects I have picked out.  In general I am in favor of having housing in our MMOs, but I also feel like if the developers don’t have time to do it well, have it look good, be useful and integrated into the game, and have it available to users in general, then maybe they should spend their development time on other tasks.

February in Review

The Site

Another month flies by and we are at the 186th month in review post.  Part of getting older is wondering how time goes by so fast.

I did, however, get another meaningless achievement this month.

700 Days in a Row

We’ll see if I keep going.  If I get to the end of March I will have gone two years straight.

February was also a light month for traffic.  It is already a short month and world events seemed to draw people away over the last week.  I get that.

The odd bit is that ad revenue was way down relative to the dip in traffic, barely cracking the $10 mark.  And it seems a different problem from last month, where ads served was way up but revenue was down, reflecting low quality ads being pushed.

This time around ads served was way down as well, much more so than the down turn in page views might suggest.  Either more core audience all has adblock loaded up… and I commend your good sense in that… or ads simply aren’t being served up.  Some checking showed that there was at least some of the latter going on.

Checking from my iPad with Safari, which is not set up to block ads, I was seeing nothing come up for a couple of days.  I don’t know if that is WordPress.com’s problem or the ad broker they are using, but the well of ads was running dry at times in February.  That never seems to happen with Words with Friends.

We’ll see how next month goes.  I’m still on track with my goals even at $10 a month from ad revenue.  That is enough to pay for the premium hosting package.

One Year Ago

It had been a year since the first documented death in the United States from Covid-19.

It was also the end of Silicon Valley retail staple Fry’s Electronics.

Nintendo announced that they were going to finally do a remake of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl.

Out of nowhere, so far as I could tell, Valheim showed up.  I took a look and very soon our group was playing together.  We went out hunting deer, along with the first boss, set sail to find the Black Forest, stormed ashore and setup a base, fought trolls and smelted bronze, then set sail to find the Elder, the second boss, fought an epic battle with that, and wandered into the plains and died to deathsquitoes.  It was quite a time.

Then there was BlizzConline (and Blizzard’s 30th anniversary), which was spoiled a bit by leaks, but which featured the Burning Crusade Classic announcement along with Diablo II Resurrected and other news items.

The Activision Blizzard Q4 2020 earnings call showed WoW was carrying the ball for Blizzard, while SuperData Research showed WoW up on the Shadowlands launch and ongoing WoW Classic momentum.

Actually in WoW Classic, I was working on my paladin, who was catching up to the group, we spent some time getting materials for enchanting, and we were still working on Blackrock Depths, though we got down to the final quest there.

In EVE Online, World War Bee carried on, with PAPI starting to come out of their post M2-XFE slump and CCP’s economic changes sending mineral prices climbing.

And I went on a bit about the difficulty of entering the MMORPG market.

Five Years Ago

Daybreak shut down Landmark less than a year after it officially went “live.”  That’s what extended early access will do to you.

In EVE Online applications to run for CSM12 opened up.  The CSM itself was reduced from 12 members to just 10.  That allowed CCP to potentially fly all members to summits, but also reduced the likelihood of more voices outside of null sec being elected.

Blog Banter #79 explored the benefits and pitfalls of being a long time veteran of New Eden, while CCP posted a nice graph tracking the 25 largest corporations over time.  The graph only had starting numbers, so I provided the ending numbers.

We also got an update that introduced insurance to citadels and kicked off the Guardian’s Gala event.

Actually in game I was blown up by battle Rorquals as well as spending time moving my stuff to a new home system, sitting on a titan, sitting on a Keepstar, survived my first capital op, and dipped my toe into the spectacle that was Burn Jita 2017.  I also had a new favorite EVE Online screen shot.

I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find information about it in Activision Blizzard’s annual financial report.  Good luck there.  I didn’t even bother this year.  Meanwhile, in an unexplained turn, SuperData Research divided WoW into East and West on its monthly Top Ten chart.  I still suspect that was an attempt to make Overwatch look better.

Not only was I not playing WoW, I wasn’t playing any fantasy MMORPGs.  Standing Stone was trying to get me to log into Lord of the Rings Online with the promise of a new mount.

I was confronted by a metaphor for a MMO Kickstarter projects when somebody decided they wanted to make an Apocalypse Now based MMO.

I was still working on the mansion road in Minecraft.  I hit a setback along the way… fell into lava surrounded by creepers… but still made it past the half way point.

And finally, after taking a bit of a break, I was back into Pokemon Sun, working my way towards filling the Alola Pokedex.

Ten Years 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 Online, 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 rolesRift’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.  Wrong on that in the long term I guess, it went free to play ages ago now.

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.

Fifteen Years Ago

I wrote a lot of posts.  Not the 59 posts of the month before, but 41 is still a lot of posts.  Half of them seem to relate to stages of heritage quests in EverQuest II.

Back then Kendricke (remember him?) dropped by with the news that Sony Online Entertainment applied for a trademark for “EVERQUEST II RISE OF KUNARK,” thus confirming my guess from December that Kunark would be location of the EverQuest II expansion due near the end of 2007.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site did not show anything for my guess for the 2008 expansion. (Return to the Planes of Power FTW!) The USPTO did show that SOE at one time had the trademark for, “EVERQUEST: THE DEMISE OF ARADUNE,” which was mildly ironic from a Vanguard point of view. I wonder what they had planned for that title?

Of course, SOE also announced a price increase for Station Access shortly thereafter, always a buzz killer. This was immediately blamed on Vanguard.

Meanwhile, SOE launched The Buried Sea expansion for EverQuest.

I also started off in the Lord of the Rings Online open beta which eventually lead to the instance group spending the spring and summer in Middle-earth before returning to Azeroth.

And speaking of Azeroth, a year ago we were just starting to get into the fun that is Uldaman. And somewhere along the line I swapped out my rogue Blintz for my paladin Vikund, who has remained with the instance group ever since.

I also compared how long it took me to level a swashbuckler up to level 40 in EverQuest II versus how long it took me to get a hunter to the same level in WoW. 

Also, Gaff got flight form in WoW and was really happy with it.  There is flying in WoW, and then there is druid flight form, which is in a league of its own.

I listed out five insane MMO things I wanted, which were not all that insane.  Includes the first time mentioning that I wanted EverQuest redone using WoW’s engine.  I was also on about people picking famous names for their characters, how WASD was messing with my typing, and something else about modelling stealth.

I was looking into the distance to see what Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising might offer.

Peggle launched.  Do you remember Peggle?  It was from PopCap.  Do you remember PopCap?  The game was all the rage on the GFW Radio podcast.  Do you remember the GFW Radio podcast?  Do you remember GFW?  How about Jeff Green?  You know I met him once, way back when he covered modems for MacWeek.  Anyway, it all ended up at EA, including Jeff.

And, finally, my wife got me a Wii for Valentine’s day that I couldn’t use until Easter!

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Mario Kart 64 launches, the second version and maybe the first truly great entry in the Mario Kart series of games.  This one is worth buying whenever Nintendo revives it on later platforms.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Guardians Gala Returns to EVE Online for YC124
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  5. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  6. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  7. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  8. Pearl Abyss Promises a Blockchain Economy while CCP Prepares for EVE Fanfest
  9. The CCP World War Bee Press Briefing
  10. Off to Another New World in New World
  11. Looking Into Lost Ark
  12. Opening Weekend with Lost Ark

Search Terms of the Month

john carmack create facebook horizon world
[I don’t think you can lay that all on him]

Разработчики установили в eve online стальной памятник девушке
[I’m not sure they were really a “girl” technically]

огромный дом в майнкрафте локация
[Where ever you want to build it]

everquest ruins of kunark back of box
[I don’t think I have that here]

Game Time from Manic Time

Well, there was a bit of a change up in the list this month.  Two weeks ago EQII was at the top and Lost Ark wouldn’t have made the list.  I did, at one point, think about playing Crusader Kings III.  There was an update, and I like the stories that come out of it for other people.  I even patched it up and got it ready, but didn’t end up playing.

  1. Lost Ark – 42.78%
  2. EverQuest II – 37.23%
  3. New World – 10.61%
  4. EVE Online – 5.92%
  5. Pokemon Pearl 1.80%
  6. EverQuest – 1.65%

EVE Online

The month started out with my account lapsing and me spending some time figuring out what I could do as an Alpha clone.  That developed into me mostly not logging on at all once the Guardian’s Gala login rewards were over.  I suspect there is a message in that.  Like many other aspects of the game, free to play hard mode is much harder in New Eden than it is in other MMOs.

EverQuest

The game turned 64-bit, which was a thing I guess.  It was enough to get me to update the client, create a new character, and play through some of the tutorial again.  I kind of enjoy that once in a while.  I had some mad vision of doing a year long event to run a character from creation to level cap, all in the 64-bit era… and then I wandered off and did something else.

EverQuest II

I came into February very strong on EQII, playing it more than anything else for the first half of the month.  I got several character up to the new level cap for both adventure and crafting and started working on the adventure signature quest line… and kind off fell off there.  Expect a post about that this coming week.

Lost Ark

This sort of came out of nowhere for me, and was a bit of a slow burn at that.  With EQII tapering off and not logging into EVE, I had a hole in my play time just when Lost Ark showed up.  I tried it on a lark, kind of liked it a bit, kept playing, and started getting into it.  Here, at the end of the month, it was my most played title.  I had to convert it from a tag to a category here on the blog because the instance group started playing it.

New World

Ah, New World… I don’t hate it, but it does manage to disappoint on such a regular basis.  Amazon games is working on it still, but their list of fixes for February was a bit underwhelming.  That, and being dropped into a new server where the bad things people have been talking about started affecting our game play… and it was time for a break.

Pokemon Go

The month ended with the Johto Tour, which was a good day’s fun.  My wife and I did the free part of the event, because $12.00 is kind of a big ask for a bit of content, and were happy enough with that as it took us nearly all afternoon to finish up.  The downside of the event was that it very much focused on past content, so was a good catch-up for newer players, but there were no new Pokemon out there for us.  I did get a shiny Raikou though.

Level: 42 ( 27.9% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 685 (+5) caught, 705 (+5) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 18
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Floette

Pokemon Shining Pearl

Playing this remake was a good time, but I have to admit that once I got through the Elite Four and Cynthia, I was kind of done playing.  That is the culmination of the story, the basic win scenario, and after that everything is somewhat self-directed.  I’ll do a final thoughts write up on the game at some point.  Overall though, I quite enjoyed it.

Zwift

Much to my surprise, I am still doing this regularly… three or four times a week… six month down the road.  It would be very easy to just stop, and there are times when I want to skip even my rather minimal routine.  But somehow I have carried on.  This must be what adulthood is like.

Meanwhile, my distance cycled puts me about from my driveway into the middle of Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where the Winter Olympics were held 20 years ago.  I didn’t watch them then, and I didn’t watch them this past month in China either.  Keep on peddling.

  • Level – 13 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 774.8 miles (+90.3 miles)
  • Time – 1d 16h 55m (+4h 45m)
  • Elevation climbed – 33,855 (+4,354 feet)
  • Calories burned – 25,924 (+3,113)

Coming Up

March is upon us and it is Mardi Gras tomorrow.  Most people won’t care, but a branch of my family is from New Orleans, so it will be jambalaya, red beans and rice, and king cake at our house tomorrow.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

March also brings my birthday.  Pokemon Legends: Arceus is on my list, so I might be playing that later on this month.

Then there is Lost Ark.  No doubt this will come up a few more times on the blog.

There is a possibility that CCP will makes some changes that might loosen up the economy and make larger scale warfare viable again in null sec.  I’ll go back to Omega for something interesting.  The battleship changes look interesting to a lot of people.  But EVE Online is still in kind of a messy state.

I might try to figure out what Elden Ring is.  A lot of people are suddenly into that in my Twitter feed, but telling me it is like Lost Souls doesn’t help me, because I never played that.  Also, it is $60, has some issues, and I don’t get how the co-op works, so I can wait.

Moving to Lost Ark

The instance group decided this past weekend to give Lost Ark a try.  This had less to do with Lost Ark being seen as an awesome destination well suited to our play style and more to do with our ongoing bemusement with New World.

Welcome to Lost Ark

While there has been no shortage of issues with New World since its launch, we have spent most of our time on lower population servers where we were not feeling the full weight of Amazon’s incompetence.

That changed with the latest round of server merges that pushed us onto a much more active server.  Last week there server saw a number of PvP battles over the territories in the game and it quickly became clear than the defenders were using some sort of exploit to crash the server in order to fend off attacks.  Ula reported on Discord a particularly miserable time on Friday with constant disconnects as the Marauder defenders were doing things to bring down the game.

And, as with every other exploit so far Amazon seems to think this is fine and no penalties are levied on those breaking the game for their own benefit.  New World feels more and more like a failed experiment.

Don’t mind if we do

Lost Ark, on the other hand, seems to be thriving for now.  It is not without its problems, especially if you’re trying to get into the game in Europe, where they had to create a whole new play region.  (Note to Amazon, more people actually live in the EU than the US, so if you think you need to divide the US into east/west regions, then that might apply to the EU as well.)

It is also free, on Steam, and different enough from previous games we’ve played… WoW Classic, Diablo II, and New World being the recent list… to not feel like we’re just playing a reskin or a WoW clone.  Say what you will about Lost Ark, it has its own thing going on right now.  And it does, in fact, have fat, colorful pinata mounts in the cash shop if you so desire.

That meant getting us all together, which is always a task.  I started playing early and was on one of the original US West servers, which was overloaded and wasn’t accepting new characters.  Ula came along shortly after me, but after that server was locked out, so rolled up on another server.  Potshot soon followed and we convinced Tankerbell to download the game on Saturday, and were soon all playing characters on the same server.

Names were kind of an issue.  Amazon, with an eye towards server merges again I guess, made naming at least regionally unique, and possibly unique across their entire version of the game, so finding a name took as much time in character creation as anything else.  I was on early enough to get a couple of my standard names, but it was a chore.

We were, of course, all at different levels doing different things, so there was talk about making a new set of characters to play together.  I blurted out that we should all make gunner class characters, which seemed ripe for comedy, and everybody said yes and suddenly we had four gunners running around.  Specifically:

  • Ulajoon – Gunslinger
  • Nandru – Artillerist
  • Sneetch – Sharpshooter
  • Tistann – Deadeye

With characters set, we had to find each other.  We exchanged friend invites, then I created a guild, which only cost 2,000 coins and was more straightforward than I expected.

Do you seek the font of knowledge?

The name itself is a rerun from the EverQuest guild we created when the Vox server went live back in… oh my, was that all the way back in 2012?  Time does fly.

Way back in the day

I started inviting people, though there seems to be a 2 day cool down period after accepting an invite during which you are stuck at the newbie rank.  Or at least that is what I think the message means.

But, I also found that you can apply to join a guild, which doesn’t require somebody to be on and able to accept before a timer runs out, so I was able to get a couple of alts in.  Once the timer runs down I can promote people and we can have officers able to invite alts on the fly and all of that.

There is actually a lot going on with guilds in Lost Ark, with tasks and levels and research and weekly tasks and bloodstones all mentioned in the guild UI.  And there isn’t a lot of information out there, so we’ll have to figure all of that out as we go.

Also, the guild history is running on a clock other than either of the western US time zones it seems… and maybe a day behind as well.  Not a big deal, but odd.

And then I created a chat tab for just guild communications because the general area chat, which was garbage early on has now progressed to be almost completely gold seller spam.

Welcome to every free to play MMO launch ever

Area chat is pretty much useless now in any popular area.  Amazon has said they plan to limit access to area chat to characters level 35 and above at some point, but they have yet to specify when that will happen.  It is on their list of top issues.  Of course, Amazon has been contributing to chat spam in its own way, so go figure.

Then we started trying to get together in a single location, which is how we all learned about channels.

Lost Ark has consistently been passing the one million concurrent player mark since launch according to Steam DB, which is fairly impressive, since the total player base is likely multiple times that amount since we don’t all log on at once.

Downward slope! Everybody panic!

When Ulajoon, Tistann, and Sneetch first got into a group together we were all in Pridehome and could see the markers for the others on the mini-map… also, cheers for a mini-map after playing New World… but couldn’t see each other.  The group display on the right showed the others in the group grayed out and a channel number next to each.

As one might expect with a game hosting a million people concurrently but with not that many servers per region… compare it to something like the number of New World servers we ended up with… the game runs multiple versions of the same zone in parallel.  And, for whatever reason, they decided to call them “channels” as opposed to “phases” or “instances” or whatever.  I guess that is a good enough name once you know what it means, but I always think of a “channel” as a dedicated communications conduit rather than a plane of existence.  Maybe I am just thinking too small.

Anyway, after some thrashing about, we found that you could “change channels” using a drop-down located above the mini-map.

No remote needed to change channels

That deciphered, we were able to actually see each other for the first time in game.

Ulajoon, Sneetch, and Tistann together

Sneetch wasn’t yet in the guild at that point.  Also, it took a couple minutes to decipher what the blue bar was above the heads of others in the group was.  It turns out to be a health bar, which is fine, it is just aqua blue isn’t the usual color for such things… and I would point to the the group listing on the side of the screen where everybody also has a health bar colored in red.

Group listing

Anyway, we were now set to venture out in the world together.  We will see how bad of an idea an all gunner group is going to be.  At least you can have alts in Lost Ark, so we can swap out if the balance is wrong.

And, despite being different sub-classes of gunners, all of the male characters sport the same look.

Gunners Sneetch and Tistann

The shako hat is fine, reminiscent of the old rifle regiments of the British Army, but I am not sure about the whole skin tight sleeveless top look.  I mean, I wish I had abs like that.

Anyway, we’re all grouped up and ready for adventure.

We Finally Step Foot in Starstone Barrow

Or is it the Shattered Obelisk?  I think part of the problem with New World content is that they seem to have two or three names for the instances.  But after weeks of thrashing about and having to do the previous instance one more time we had finally made it there.

Welcome to a New World

Well, first we made it on to our new server, then we made it up to Everfall where we had one last check to make sure that everybody was on the right quest and had a tuning orb and was ready to go.  Then we ran on down the road to the Shattered Obelisk and went around back to the stairs down into the Starstone Barrow expedition.

Tradesmen and adventurers around back…

Our group for this run was:

  • Ulalu – level 38 fire staff and ice gauntlet
  • Stannislav – level 38 sword/shield and great axe
  • Oswald – level 37 healing staff and void gauntlet
  • Mudstone – level 37 hatchet and great axe

While there were only four of us, we were at least not going in below level, as we had done with the Amrine Excavation.  We got in, got the promise of rewards, and set about our business.

You could win one of these fabulous prizes if you live!

I am a fan of the maps in the instances, which show you the basic layout and then populate as you move further in.  We were, of course, at the very beginning.

Welcome to Starstone Barrows

We had a little warm up trouble as we got back into the swing of things, not a wipe but a couple of deaths.  But you do get straight into it with the instance, there being a minor boss waiting not far from the front door.

Centimas, bigger than Millimas, but smaller than Decimas I guess…

We managed to get past him and unlock the seal on the door behind him, which introduced us to the pink beams, a theme of this instance.

Stan does not like the look of those

There were a couple of sets of beams in the first room.  Getting past one of them was easy.  It moved up and down slowly, going up high enough that you could walk through if you timed your movement right.  Pieces of cake.

The other set, the triple beams with Stan there, did not move.  I tried walking into them, just to see what sort of damage they would do… it seemed obvious they would at least hurt a bit… only to find that touching the pink beams meant instant death from which there is no revival.

That would actually come into play later.

We were at a bit of a loss as to how to get past this triple stack of pink beams, and search for buttons or switches or the mural referred to in the document in the other room, all to no avail.

It was Oswald who remembered that the Z key let you crawl around on your belly, and used that to slip under the pink menace, and the rest of us followed his lead.

If you can’t go over or around, go under I guess…

Of course, that was just a taste of things to come.  Around the corner, through some mobs, and up another corridor and we found ourselves in the Forbidden Passage, a whole room dedicated to avoiding the pink beams… and falling do your death.  All the fun of jumping puzzles with instant death if you touch the wrong thing or miss a step.

Pink beams. Why did it have to be pink beams?

I will say that, all things considered, we did pretty well.  We only had two deaths as we navigated down, around, up, over, and across various parts of the room without having to Google anything.  We were also introduced to the altar that gives your staff of Azoth the pink beam protection bubble, which was required to get past the last part of the puzzle and into the next room with a waypoint.

That was not the end of the pink beams, nor our troubles with them.

Ulalu mis-times a fast-fast-slow beam…

But at least they were a known, if annoying, quantity at that point.

We managed the next couple of bosses well enough.  I mean, there were deaths, but generally due to mistakes or not realizing that there was a host of mobs around a corner we should avoid.  So we made it past Ioane.

Ignited but not implacable.

And we managed Erine on the second try, having thinned out the additional mobs around the corner on the first run.

In close with Erine

Our first bit of trouble came down the line where we ran into a double boss fight, facing Erebas and Limos.  After two wipes we stopped to look that one up, only to find that there really isn’t a lot of useful information about boss fights in a lot of the coverage of the game.

We eventually found a site that said to focus on Erebas first, as he puts out the most damage and summons adds.  I also learned, via trial and error, to put my back up against a wall as tank to avoid getting pushed all over during the fight.  That seemed to work out and on the next try we got Erebas down then had to chase Limos all over before bringing him down as well.

Limos at his end

Behind them was another altar with a pink beam nullifier, which got us through into the next section.

That brought us up to Alectos, who was a real pain in the posterior.  But he was also right next to the waypoint we had just reached, which mean we could release during the right and jump right back in.  After some hesitation, we just cheesed that fight, dying and running back in, one of us always managing to keep him in combat so he wouldn’t reset.

Cheesing the Alectos fight

That got us through.  It was fortunate that we had all be collecting up repair parts, as gear damage was starting to add up.  We also salvaged everything we picked up because, unless we could wear it right away.

After that there were some tasks to complete.  We had passed a big locked door which obviously led to the final boss and were sent on a loop around the other direction to find items to bless the key to get us through.

There is a lot of red tape in Aeternum

There was another mini-boss to slay, a puzzle to figure out, and then when we had things set the easy way back was closed to us while the route in we had cleared had another set of mobs spawn in it just to make sure we had to work to get back to the door.

But we did, at last, open that door, got the last waypoint, and were facing the final boss, Greundgul the Regent.

Looks kind of quiet in there right now

We were now at the final area on the map.

The end was in sight

The last boss, as with Amrine, is an event.  When you go in and start the fight, the way in and out is blocked off.  If you cannot be revived during the fight, which is always an option, then there is no releasing and running back in.

We died a lot here.

I’m dead again in the middle of the fight

As with Simon in Amrine, Greundgul is a bit too tough to just stand and tank, so I was doing a lot of running around.  Also, every so often Greundgul throws a bone out in the arena and it makes a purple patch that spawns skeleton adds.

The adds are not a big deal individually, but they add up.  On our first try we ignored them and were soon swarmed.

We read about the fight, learned to go after the bones right away, but still had problems.

For starters, pink beams are what closes off the fight once it starts, and we have learned what happens when you run into pink beams; instant, unrevivable death.  I was knocked back into the pink beams in one fight and found myself on the outside looking in when I revived.

On the sidelines

You actually have to slay Greundgul once, after which she revives, and then you have to slay her again, only she has a new attack in the second round.  We got to the second round a couple of times, and even got her about half way down, but we didn’t have quite enough oomph to close the deal and slay her.

After more than half a dozen runs, we decided to call it.  Being a four person group, and thus short that extra DPS a fifth would bring, it was clear we weren’t going to make it over the hump on this one yet.

So we called it.  We did finish the quest for Barkimedes, so we had a reward coming, and a couple of us had faction quests related to the instance that we had completed.  We need to work on a few more levels, maybe get the whole group up to 40, and some upgraded gear before we ready to finish up.

Off to Another New World in New World

In contrast to how Lost Ark was doing on Friday, New World spent the morning trimming down its server list, merging 60 struggling low population servers into more active servers in order create a more viable experience.

Welcome to another New World

And Amazon does have a game on its hands that requires a minimum population in order to be viable.  Otherwise, crafting stations and such drop down to tier 1 and the whole thing sort of falls apart.

I will give Amazon some credit.  They did at least design well for server merges.  They knocked out the merges Friday morning and people were on their new servers and ready to go long before Lost Ark was up and running for its launch.

Of course, our server was once again on the merge list, so I was interested to see where we had landed.

If 60 is a few, what is a lot?

Our company appeared to have landed intact when I checked on Friday.  Now to see what sort of situation we would have to deal with.

Now playing on Diranda

We started on a server where the Syndicate held the center territories, then were merged into a server where the Covenant held most of the areas.  As time went by the Syndicate managed to wrest a few of the central zones from the Covenant, so we had some cheap travel.

This time around it was time to throw us in the pool with a Marauder dominated server.

Welcome to Diranda

Actually, that is pretty balanced.  I have, after a few months, come to associate Cutlass Keys with the booby prize; the group that holds it is generally in third place on the server.  But we will have to see how things shake out over time with the influx of new players.

Of course, the locals were all set to welcome us to their server.

Turn the screws as tight as they will go!

The taxes were later reduced, but that was my welcome to the server.

As long as the servers are up, stable, and they haven’t broken or lost anything as part of the merge, I suppose it doesn’t matter to much to our group where we land.  It would be nice if the instant travel was cheaper, but it doesn’t take forever to walk anywhere if you’re short on Azoth.  They are actually handing out some more free server transfer tokens today, but where would we go that was any better?

I am also probably not as invested in the game as might be were circumstances different.  Once again, the whole “one character per server” thing, which makes some sense in a PvP only title, but less in one where PvE is a major component of play, means that my one guy needs to do all the things, including staying on track with the rest of the group.  Even harvesting and crafting nets adventure experience, so I have had to lay off play at times because even working on trade skills can get you out in front of the pack.

But you do start to wonder where the game is headed and what Amazon is going to be able to do about it.  Nobody expected it to stay anywhere close to its 900K concurrent player peak at launch, but after rolling out servers and giving away free transfers to get that under control, we’re down to where 50K concurrent players is a good day.

That still isn’t a number to sniff at.  Those numbers likely put it ahead of, or in the zone with, most of the Daybreak titles, save for DC Universe Online, when it comes to MAUs.  And EVE Online is happy when it breaks 30K concurrent users these days, but still runs along.  So there is a business model to be made with that level of user engagement.

But can they hold on to those numbers and, more importantly, monetize the game to keep it viable without driving many of them away?  Daybreak numbers for even their lower population games, like EverQuest II, still include a large percentage of people paying the monthly subscription fee.

And then there are the problems.  PCRedbeard mentioned a John Strife Hayes video about the problems New World has had since launch… and watching it was somewhat staggering.

 

The funny thing about that video is that I remember most of the problems coming up, and can even remember what I was up to when some of them came up (the instance group started playing when they turned off all trade between players at one point) but the unexpected results of many of these issues and the knee-jerk fixes that Amazon applied, that was eye opening.

And the state of the game and how Amazon has seen fit to try and make it last longer seems pretty shaky.  It isn’t a lost cause, but I will be interested to see how they plan to turn this around.

Through Amrine towards the Starstone Barrows in New World

As I wrote about last time, following the main story line quest led us straight past the next dungeon in New World.  We spent a couple of play sessions back tracking in order to find the right quest line and then begin running it down, none of which was explained well on any of the sites focused on the game, much less by the game itself.

Welcome to a New World

Of course there was some patching to be done.  For some reason the Easy Anti-Cheat was looming, demanding to be installed with every launch, which is a bit annoying.

We ended up last time with all of us finally unlocking the right quest line and then going about to scout out a dozen towers around Everfall for William Heron before finally being sent off towards something different with the quest Center of the Stars.

Where we were supposed to end up…

We managed to get back together in game this past weekend to carry on towards the next dungeon.  But first we would have to do the previous dungeon just one more time.

Our group, having grown in levels since I last tallied us up, was:

  • Ulalu – level 37 fire staff and ice gauntlet
  • Stannislav – level 36 sword/shield and great axe
  • Oswald – level 36 healing staff and void gauntlet
  • Mudstone – level 35 hatchet and great axe

We assembled up in Everfall, which had been retaken by the Syndicate since we last met up, as the map on our new server continues in its state of flux.

We’ve held on to Windsward at least

That made the teleport to Everfall a bit cheaper in Azoth.

Once we were assembled, it was time to make sure that everybody was on the same quest so we could carry forward.  New World group and company tools are somewhat primitive, even when compared to WoW of a decade ago.

And, of course, we were not all on the same quest.  After a bit of mild swearing, it looked like Mudstone might have moved a quest ahead, so we all went to do Center of the Stars just to see if that would get us in sync.

The quest itself sent us down to where the Starstone Barrows dungeon is located, underneath the Shattered Obelisk.

It does indeed seem to be shattered

We were there in order to kill some guys, find some things, and futz around with some of the local magic.  The usual list of objectives for adventurers these days I guess.

Hit E to update the quest and move on

We managed that and ran back to Everfall and William Heron again who, once we updated out quests, were all finally on the same quest.  I think it took us three play sessions to achieve this.

Unfortunately, one does not simply walk into the Starstone Barrows… or any other instance.  I should have put on my list of predictions for 2022 that Amazon would remove the key mechanic that locks people out… and for us to get into the next dungeon we had one more quest to run, which involved going into the previous dungeon in order to fetch some paperwork.

So much red tape in Aeternum.

We were on our way back to the Amrine Excavation for one last visit with Simon and the crew.  We were also almost ten levels beyond where we were on our first successful run.  So it was time to see if being in our mid 30s would make a dungeon where the mobs are all level 25 would make the whole thing a faceroll.

The short answer is no.

I mean, sure, things were easier to kill.  We had a lot larger margin of error running around as we unlocked the various seals in order to get to the heart of the instance.

Oswald, standing too far back, got aggro on that unlock

But we also had built up some knowledge of the place as a group over the previous runs, so there were comments like, “Oh, this guy” as we moved through the instance, remembering past encounters.

We knew how to handle fights, like the one with Foreman Nakashima.

Don’t walk through the edge of the circle

But things didn’t just fall over with a hard look the way they might have if we had gone into something like the Deadmines ten levels over that of Van Cleef.

And that was especially true with the final boss, Simon.

They say his name is Simon, and the things he draws come true…

We got him on the first go, but it was still something of a near run thing even ten levels over and with foreknowledge of the fight.  The mechanics of running away and holding aggro and staying in motion still resist your desire to get the hell out of the way of his toxic spew.

And he hits hard.  Oswald was kept busy healing me and I had to take some potions along the way just to keep going.  In the end, we won, but it still felt like a fight.  I still had to kite him all over and I would have been in trouble if I had tried to just stand and tank him.

With that we picked up the the foreman’s ledger, the bit that William Heron was pestering us to grab.  In return he gave us the tuning orb for the Starstone Barrows.

Orb in hand

We are now ready to hit the next dungeon at last.

January in Review

The Site

Well, I got this achievement at least.

They said I had a satanic streak…

Otherwise is was mostly life as usual for the blog.  WordPress.com broke links, waffled about it for a couple of days, then fixed them again.  Pretty good for them, as they still sort of worked while they were broken.

And then there was the ad revenue.  This month the site served up more ads than ever, coming close to 125K ads displayed compared to 99K last month.  However, revenue was down.  December’s 99K ads were worth a little over $23, while the 125K ads this past month were worth just about $16.  Ad quality clearly plays into the revenue side of things, and I didn’t get high quality ads this time around.  Still, $16 keeps me on track to pay the annual hosting for the blog at the Premium service level, which runs $99 a year.

One Year Ago

For my new year’s post I chose to ask questions rather than make predictions.  I’ve always been told that there are no bad questions, though that statement usually precedes attempts to prove it wrong.

I also reviewed the games I played in 2020 and attempted to guess what I might play in 2021.

Twitch told me what I watched there in 2020 and I did that Quantic Foundry gamer profile thing again.

SuperData Research also did their review of 2020 which, along with its penultimate monthly chart, as their end was on the horizon.

There was that GameStop stock craziness.

I wrote a timeline of SOE/Daybreak Games.

The Steam Winter Sale ended with awards and stats.

I was wondering what LOTRO needed, since it clearly needed something.

People were wondering when we were going to get Burning Crusade Classic, with the current rumor being early May, which seemed too early to me.  But we ended up getting it in early June, so I guess it wasn’t that far off.

The instance group was still working on Blackrock Depths, this time for a love potion.  Then we went off to Dire Maul East for a change of scenery.  Dire Maul North proved too much for just the four of us.  We also hunted for recipes out in the Burning Steppes.  Meanwhile, my paladin was catching up to the group in levels.

And then there was World War Bee, which kicked off the new year with the another huge titan battle, though this time the results were much more one-sided.  The war bullet points:

Somewhere along the way I hit a year in KarmaFleet and the 230 million skill point mark.

There was also more binge watching and we had HBO max finally, so I took a look at it and its app.

And, finally, January 20th was a happy day.

Five Years Ago

As with most years here at the blog, it began with predictions.

Nintendo was telling us all about the Switch console, due in March.

I barely had predictions post before Daybreak announced they were closing Landmark, ticking one off the list for me.  That got people freaked out about other Daybreak titles, so I reviewed the list.

That also led me off onto a semi-sarcastic rant about an EverQuest successor.

It was also high noon for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2.

With a new iPad I lost all my progress on Candy Crush Saga, so forswore the title forever.

I was also tallying up the results of my purchases from the Steam Winter Sale.  I don’t get why people like Stardew Valley so much.  Just not my thing I guess.  I did play a stretch of Train Valley however.

The long mansion road project was starting to hit home with me, but I kept on moving forward village by village.

In EVE Online I hit the 170 million skill point mark.  All those skill points and I still don’t use my capital ships.  After a false start we got the first update of YC119.  It had music.  It was also the kick off of the CSM election season.

In null sec there was a big battle at F4R2-Q that seemed to herald a new war.  However coordination problems with the local defenders saw us pulling back to Catch.

And in Diablo III we were waiting for the Darkening of Tristram event.  I ran through it quickly once, and then again to get some more achievements.  It was kind of neat, but it wasn’t the original Diablo.

Ten Years Ago

I asked 12 questions for 2012. Some of those questions are still pretty legit.  I also did what was for a while the annual LEGO minifigure round up.

I updated the About Page to its “Infrequently Asked Questions” format.  Has it really been like that for five years already?  It is probably due for an update.

There was that whole SOPA thing.  We still live in peril of its return.

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, EverQuest Mac was targeted for extinction as well. (Spoiler: It survived… for a while)  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 WoWAnd then there was a panic about Diablo III maybe launching in February. (It didn’t)

Turbine announced that their fall LOTRO expansion would be Riders 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.  My favorite (now deleted, but still on the Internet Archive) angry post called it a hate crime.

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.

Fifteen Years Ago

I wrote 59 blog posts, which remains a monthly record here at TAGN.  Of course, that was before Twitter, so I was more likely to do shorter posts.  If I had the patience I would track the average word count per post per month over the life of the blog to see how I changed from short posts to more of a long form/long winded approach.

I gave a brief recount of 2006 in what I find is my first high/low post on the blog.  I had forgotten that I had done that post.  I also uninstalled some games I was no longer playing.  I was also looking forward towards Lord of the Rings Online.

The MMO blogesphere starting talking about generations of MMOs, and I asked if we had even gotten past the first generation, then quoted Wikipedia’s take on the generation debate.

The instance group in World of Warcraft finished up the Scarlet Monestary and rolled through Razorfen Downs.

Blintz, my fae swashbuckler in EverQuest II was just digging into Zek, The Orcish Wastes, one of my favorite zones in post-cataclysm Norrath, as well as hunting for Blood Talon in order to get my dwarven work boots.

Scott Hartsman described some of the goals for the EverQuest II expansion that would eventually become The Rise of Kunark.  I also discovered that Sony slipped a promo for the Transformers movie in with the Echoes of Faydwer installation.  That was back when SOE was under Sony Pictures.

I played in some of the Vanguard open beta, once I got it downloaded.  The team was still working on a lot of polishing and features. The launch date was announced somewhat late, but when the game actually launched (on the same day as the much maligned Microsoft Vista), I declined to buy the box even though it was on Station Access.  I thought one of the game’s potential flaws might be the inability to make a “hot” character. A female half-elf was the best I could manage.  The character models were not pretty despite a profusion of sliders and options in the creation process.

Blizzard launched The Burning Crusade without the usual first day disasters that generally accompanied expansions back in the day, though I couldn’t figure out why I bothered to buy a copy.  I was wondering how long it would hold its $40 price tag.  It stayed at that price for quite a long time.  These days we sometimes get a discount before a game even goes live.

Given that expansions were on my mind, I was wondering what the best timing for expansions really was.  EverQuest was still doing two a year back then, while Blizzard took more than two years to get to its first one.

I gave a brief review of Massive Magazine issue #2.

And I found that SOE had provided the industry standard definition for the word “soon.”

Twenty Five Years Ago

The original Diablo shipped, stirring up a new genre in its wake, the ARPG.  You can still find a playable version of the original at GoG.com.

Thirty Years Ago

Atari Corporation, as it then existed, dropped production, sales, and support for the Atari 2600, the Atari 7800, and the Atari 8-bit computer family.  The 2600 series was supported for 15 years from launch, and has since been renewed in emulators in software and hardware form many times.

Forty Years Ago

Sega launches Zaxxon, with modeled a 3D environment with an isometric perspective and was, as I recall at the time, amazing looking.  I could just sit and watch the demo run in the arcade.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Probing and Hacking for Fun and Profit in the EVE Online Doctor Who Interstellar Convergence Event
  3. Doctor Who and Daleks Invade EVE Online with the Interstellar Convergence
  4. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  5. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  8. Microsoft Plans to Acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion, Promises Joy and Community
  9. Daleks are Coming to EVE Online
  10. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  11. Predictions in the Face of 2022
  12. The Army of Mango Alliance Attempts a Self Destruct to Flee Fraternity

Search Terms of the Month

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[I mean, it is pretty damn good at times]

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[Yes, though without the special paper]

eve minokawa
[See ‘eve fax’]

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[Not anymore]

usnavy marauders
[Those are not like EVE Online marauders]

Game Time from ManicTime

The month saw New Eden back on top as I ran the Doctor Who event to see what it was all about.  I had a bit of a Stellaris binge and EverQuest II were not far behind.

  1. EVE Online – 26.29%
  2. Stellaris – 22.95%
  3. EverQuest II – 21.56%
  4. Pokemon Pearl – 19.10%
  5. New World – 9.11%
  6. Forza Horizon 4 – 0.66%
  7. World of Tanks – 0.34%

EVE Online

Things continue to churn in New Eden.  Even in peace there is always some destruction and drama going on.  I saw somebody complaining on /r/eve that null sec wasn’t warring hard enough to keep them entertained, but we blew up and looted a staging Keepstar that might have been the biggest loot pinata in video game history.  You just can’t please some people.

There was also the Doctor Who event, which I ran through.  I’ll have a write up on it as it ends at downtime tomorrow.  Safe to say, like the game itself, it had its ups and downs and was likely inscrutable to any outsider.

EverQuest II

I hit the level cap again playing through the Visions of Vetrovia expansion.  It actually wasn’t that hard, as I wrote late last week.  It was, however, very much an EQII experience, which is neither a good nor a bad thing necessarily, but it is a thing.  I also managed to touch very little of the actual expansion content, because the game is focused on instanced play.  However, they do tend to offer solo versions, so there is still more to explore.

Forza Horizon 4

Some driving was indeed done, but I have hit a point where I got the driving need out of my system for a bit and where I have done a lot of the easy things in the game and the map is such a mess of things to do now that when I do log in I spend too much time trying to figure out where I should even go next.  And then I drive around way too fast and crash through fences, hedges, trees, and whatever else gets in my way.  At least that never gets old.

New World

The holidays finally ended there last week.  Some people leave the tree up too long I think.  The groups spent a few play sessions trying to get to the next dungeon in the game, the one at level 35.  We’re not exactly speeding out way through the game, but we’re not in a big hurry either.

Pokemon Shining Pearl

I made it through to the Elite Four and defeated Champion Cynthia, thus pretty much completing the central story of the game.  But, in Pokemon, there is always more to be done.  I still have more to catch before I can even begin to claim I have caught them all.

Pokemon Go

Another month climbing the long, long road to level 50.  I didn’t really do much out of the ordinary, a few raids, spun a Pokestop daily, and managed to get in one of the local gyms to earn some coins regularly.  I also managed to miss a day and got my daily catch and daily spin cycles out of sync, which always annoys me.  But I have them aligned again now.

Level: 42 ( 19w.7% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 680 (+3) caught, 700 (+3) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 18
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Inkay

Stellaris

Having purchased some of the latest DLC for the game, I dove in and played.  As I noted, I would consider it a classic “one more turn” game that can keep you up past your bedtime, but technically it doesn’t have turns.  But it will keep you up late dealing with each new update or event that comes in.  And if they’re coming in too slowly, you can just speed the game up.

World of Tanks

I poked about in this for a bit at the beginning of the month, so I have some stats for 2022 I suppose.  But once I got on the Stellaris binge in the evenings, my tank time sort of dried up.

Zwift

I have been at making sure I get on the bike 3-4 times a week.  I think the fact that I post this here is a motivator because, even though I am sure I am the only one that pays attention to my numbers, that they’re out in the open makes me self-conscious about them.

As for distance, I have now essentially gone from our house, though Portland, Oregon, and just over the Columbia river into Washington state.

  • Level – 12 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 684.5 miles (+100,1 miles)
  • Time – 1d 12h 8m (+5h 12m)
  • Elevation climbed – 29,501 (+5,088 feet)
  • Calories burned – 22,811 (+3,385)

Coming Up

We’re already a month into 2022 and, while it is cliche to say so, what the hell?  Time goes by too fast.

February should bring us the Activision Blizzard Q4 2021 and 2021 overall financials.  We’re all eager to see that I am sure… though with Microsoft buying them, I am not sure how much they really matter anymore.  And once Microsoft swallows them I doubt they’ll be more than an obscure line item on the MSFT financials.  Enjoy it while it lasts I guess.

Daybreak has a few things going on, including an odd new Lore & Legend special server for EverQuest II and a 64-bit upgrade for EverQuest.   Also, they’ll no doubt be picking the EverQuest Community Resource Council, but that is all hush hush.

Guild Wars 2 has the End of Dragons expansion slated to launch last I checked, and it will include fishing.  So keep an eye open for that.

Searching for the Starstone Barrows in New World

Having had a successful Amrine Excavation run, played around with the Winter Convergence event (which ended today), and run around looking for crafting supplies, we had found ourselves up into the 30s in level.  That, in turn, made us think about what might be next on the dungeon agenda.

Welcome to a New World

Lacking any other hints… nobody knew where the next dungeon was or what we needed to do to get there really… we decided to do what we did previously and go back to the main story line quests.  That would surely get us there, upgrading our Staff of Azoth along the way.

And the main story line provided.  We ran thither and yon, fighting this and talking to various people all over the map.  And the Staff of Azoth we all carried did indeed get upgraded.

New and improved

Yonas, the focal point of the main quest line, kept sending us off on tasks, never mentioning the next expedition or anything, and eventually moved up to Fort Alazar in Brightwood.  We followed suit.  His new digs, named after himself I guess, had a nice view.

Pardon me while I wipe my feet on the map…

From there we were sent out on a series of quests to unify the three factions in the game in their efforts against the corruption overtaking the world.  That sent us off on a series of colorful adventures.

New World offers grittier, more realistic poop jokes than WoW

We carried on with that until we had arm wrestled with each faction, done a few tasks for them, and got them all around the table.  At that point, when we got back to Yonas, the quest reward was yet another upgrade to our Staff of Azoth.

Cool mint uncommon flavored tier III

Then the next quest on Yonas’ agenda involved us getting to level 40.

Get to level 40 and get back to me…

It was about here that we started to think that maybe we had missed our exit, that the turn off for the next dungeon, was somewhere in the rear view mirror at this point.

I mean, we were on our way towards 40.  Oswald and Ulalu had both hit 36 and I landed at 35 just before we were headed back to Yonas.

Hitting level 35 down in Cutlass Keys

But it was my understanding that the next dungeon should be available around level 35, and thus getting to level 40 seemed like a bit of overkill.

It was then time to tab out and get on Google to look up the situation.  And, sure enough, the very first search we did revealed that the next expedition was the Starstone Barrows and that it was indeed targeted for a group around level 35.

The dungeon itself was located down in the Everfall, so we headed down there.  The brief summary I saw said that William Heron, who is upstairs at the tavern in Everfall, will give you a quest that will start you on your way towards the Starstone Barrows.

After some searching around… because the tavern and the inn are two distinctly different things in Everfall… we did indeed find William Heron hanging about, mug of ale in hand, and not much else on his mind.

Bottom up Bill!

While he had a mug to hand and a jaunty feather in his hat, what he did not have was any sort of quest for us.  And this is where things get kind of vague.

We started using Google for search terms like, “quest chain for Starstone Barrows” and didn’t find much useful.  There were a few posts that described getting to the dungeon, but they tended to yadda yadda over the whole lead-in quest chain aspect of it.

There seemed to be a general opinion that you needed to do some quests in Everfall in order to get on the William Heron quest chain, but which quests specifically was left unstated… though judging from the tone of some of the posts, that was because the author didn’t actually know.

This ambiguity was not helped by the fact that each of us had done some quests in Everfall at past points, including one of the core intro quests, so it wasn’t as though we could all find the same quests available.

So we set out to do quests that we could find.  Mudstone and I seemed to be the furthest behind on Everfall quests, but they were all low level, so we were able to get through them fairly quickly, though it just burned through more Azot to travel around even more.

Eventually we got to a point where three out of four of us had a quest from William Heron.  It wasn’t the quest that was mentioned in our online searches, but at least it was a quest.

Unfortunately, Mudstone could not get the quest, and we were trying to figure out why.  The first theory was standing with Everfall, but Ulalu was the lowest standing-wise and she got the quest.

It seemed possible that Mudstone wasn’t high enough level, as he was only level 32, but then I looked at the quest and saw that it was level 17.

Ancient Contemplations indeed

So there was some more grabbing of quests in Everfall until Mudstone happened to hit on the right one.

And then we were in a whole string of quests which involved us visiting what seemed to be every freaking structure in the Everfall region, three at a time… who built all these towers and why did they both… until, at last we had Center for the Stars, which seemed to be the one that would get us into… the Amrine Excavation again.

It doesn’t say that, but I think we end up there…

But I was already expecting that.  That was one thing most of the sites seemed to agree about, that we would have to go run that one more time before we got out invite to the Starstone Barrows.  But at least, after three and a half play sessions, we seem to be on track.

Map Updates and Seeking Salt in New World

We are still playing some New World, though I did not play all that much over the holidays when everybody was away.  I mean, I did get to the highest level of the Winter Convergence, though as an event it has been going so well that Amazon has extended it until January 25th, so everybody has time to join me as a Holiday Regent.

Why stop the party if everybody is still having a good time?

But still, between Pokemon Shining Pearl and a fresh round of Stellaris playtime, I wasn’t spending much time in New World.  So when we logged in this past weekend, the first surprise was the map.  I had mentioned that the Syndicate’s claims on the map were pretty small when our server was merged into another back before Christmas.  And, while the Syndicate immediately go busy assaulting the two other groups, the Covenant seemed to have the upper hand and the map turned more orange than before.

The Covenant spreads out further

But when we returned after New Years, the Syndicate seemed to have rebounded somewhat, grabbing a few more areas including the key central town of Windsward.

The Syndicate resurgent

We will have to see how that plays out.  The Covenant has been working to retake Windsward and the last time I was on the fortress in the region was changing hands back and forth between the Syndicate and the Covenant every half hour or so.

The only group that seems left out in the cold are the Marauders, who have been relegated to Cutlass Keys for a while now.

Our company is still too low level to get involved in any of that right now.  Instead three of us, Mudstone, Oswald, and myself set out on Saturday in search of one of the rarest of cooking ingredients… salt.

Yes, we’re on an island in the ocean, which is salt water, and you can literally make salt from that, but in New World salt can only be obtained from provision crates in certain zones.

There is a lot to complain about when it comes to crafting in New World, but cooking is in its own special zone of annoyance.  Advanced recipes, ones that give you stat boosts, all require some rare in the world ingredients where you can, say, harvest a couple dozen sets of herbs and maybe have one show up.  But salt, you cannot even harvest that, despite the ocean being close at hand.  And salt is used several recipes that would add con and str, which would help me out.

So having a nice tier 5 kitchen in Windsward doesn’t help us much if we’re chronically short on ingredients.

The kitchen… also, the Winter Convergence Tree

In our division of labor, Oswald has taken on the primary cooking role, so we have been handing him rare ingredients when we come across them.  But salt has been the hardest, so on Saturday he announced that he was off on a quest to find salt.  He had looked it up, came up with a map of provisions crates that yield salt, and was going to go run the loop of them.

Mudstone and I both offered to come along as the planned loop was in Everfall and Brightwood, so we thought we could at least speed the journey by helping cut down mobs.  And then we realized that crates are not competitive for looting, and that for each provisions crate we found we would get three bites at the apple, so to speak, in our search for salt.  So off we went.

Setting out for salt

There were some issues finding the right locations.  The map is vague enough that you can be close and still out of sight of what you are looking for.  But the provisions crates tend to be in similar locations… also, we weren’t going to ignore other supply crates.  I never have enough sand flux for armor working, so we were grabbing everything we saw in passing, going into every structure and looking behind every wall.

We did hit a bit of comedy when we stumbled into the location Daybreak Borough.  There are more than a few mobs and items in there that will no doubt make for video game humor in the days to come.

EverQuest fans now that EG7 is all about licensed IPs

And I’ll be saving this one for a particularly rainy day.

I do feel like I’ve already read this

Meanwhile, our salt quest was going slowly.  We had hit a few crates that yielded up salt for one or two of us, but it wasn’t very consistent.  I seemed to have the worst luck with the salt, though I had quite a stack of green beans by the time we were done.

Still, we carried on, moving from spot to spot, clearing out buildings in our search.  But it was quick enough work, at least until we got into Brightwood.  There were supposed to be a few choice crates around the location Brightwood Island.  However, not only were the mobs higher level in Brightwood, but the area we were looking around seemed to be a haven for some especially tough mobs.

A bad area of Brightwood

I haven’t sat down and figured out the difficulty levels indicated by the name plates of various mobs, but the system doesn’t seem to be anywhere as complicated as EverQuest II was back in the day.  And the only place I can recall seeing mobs with two gold bars on either side of their level marker was in the Amrine Expedition instance.  So we were getting into some tough mobs for overland content.

We managed to get through the area and hit all of the crates, but it was some work and we lost Mudstone at one point, though the revive system in the game meant that wasn’t too much trouble.  But I had been lolling about with my great axe for funsies up until then.  In Brightwood I had to get out my sword and shield and Oswald his staff of life because tanking and heals were suddenly a thing for us.

In the end we did manage to collect up a few dozen units of salt along with some other ingredients.  After making a big loop we recalled back to Windsward to divide up the loot.

While we got some cooking supplies, the stuff I needed for armor work seemed to be more prevalent.  I ended up with so much sand flux, crossweave, and tanin that I had to go store some in another town.  But we should have some good food handy for our next full group outing.

My Games Played for 2021 and Looking Forward into 2022

It is that time again, time to look back at what I played last year and maybe try to get an idea as to what I might play in the coming year.

2020 plus 1

Past Entries

Last year I wasn’t really feeling it for what I might play, probably because the list I made didn’t really pan out, so when I made the call for 2021 I kept it short and sweet.

The likely candidates were:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW
  • Burning Crusade Classic

I also threw out RimWorld, Civilzation V, and maybe World of Tanks as possible candidates to which I might return.

So now is when I look at what I actually played.  I don’t go as into as much detail as Belghast, but my chart is more colorful!  The top ten titles, which represent the games I spent 10 or more hours with in 2021, were:

2021 in gaming for me

Overall I tracked time for 20 games, so the bottom half of the list did not make it to the ten hour mark.

  1. WoW Classic – 29.61%
  2. Valheim – 23.10%
  3. EVE Online – 18.73%
  4. Diablo II – 7.18%
  5. New World – 6.67%
  6. Forza Horizon 4 – 3.68%
  7. Forza Horizon 5 – 2.36%
  8. RimWorld – 2.21%
  9. EverQuest II – 1.77%
  10. Pokemon Pearl – 1.21%
  11. World of Tanks – 0.92%
  12. War in the Pacific – 0.56%
  13. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.49%
  14. The Fermi Paradox – 0.48%
  15. World of Warcraft – 0.38%
  16. Flashing Lights – 0.36%
  17. Runes of Magic – 0.18%
  18. Art of Rally – 0.13%
  19. Hearthstone – 0.05%
  20. LOTRO – 0.05%

EVE Online was the only title I played through all year, and even that was fairly light once World War Bee ended, which explains why it ranked in third in overall time played.

WoW Classic, which includes Burning Crusade Classic, topped the total time played, but petered out when we were reminded that we did not exactly love The Burning Crusade the first time around.  Our WoW Classic time probably peaked in Blackrock Depths, which we ran into a dozen times at least.  Leaving was made easier by having Blizzard’s behavior exposed.

Valheim, which came out of nowhere to become our obsession for a few months managed to come in second.  We got our money’s worth out of that title, though the content ran out of steam for us and the small team working on it was overwhelmed trying to just keep things going.

Diablo II Resurrected was also a good time for a bit.  New World showed up in September, but we didn’t really start playing it in earnest until more than a month had gone by and the login queues began to subside.

The two flavors of Forza Horizon were in there as well.  I combined them into one row on the chart, though they would have easily both made it on their own.

RimWorld made the cut when the Ideology expansion hit, giving your colonists their own belief systems to work around.

I wandered into EverQuest II for a bit, as I tend to do, but didn’t make a big commitment.

Once it arrived, Pokemon Shining Pearl was a hit for me, making it into the top ten for time played in just the last five days of the year.

And then there was World of Tanks, after which time played starts to drop off rather quickly on the chart.  I suppose my one regret was not being able to get into War in the Pacific, though honestly the biggest hurdle was how tiny the print was on my 34″ monitor.  It is a war game from an earlier age of small monitors with large pixels.

So of the four likely candidates, I did end up playing three of them.  Retail WoW quickly fell off the rotation for me in 2021 as the Shadowlands expansion turned into a repetitive grind for somebody not interested in raiding.  Technically I logged in for quiet a while into the year, but I am not sure you should count the monthly run at Darkmoon Faire as really “playing” the game.  I only did that because I was already subscribed and playing WoW Classic.

Which I guess brings us to the 2022 outlook.

2022 is what we get

Here is what I can see from where I sit this week.

Sure Things

  • EVE Online
  • Forza Horizon
  • New World
  • Pokemon Shining Pearl
  • Stellaris

I already have time logged for all of those this year.  I might give up on them sooner rather than later, but they will be somewhere on the list.  I certainly have much still to do in Shining Pearl and the group seems committed to New World for the time being.  And I just bought some of the DLC for Stellaris, so I’ll play a bit of that I am sure.

Likely Candidates

  • EverQuest II
  • RimWorld
  • World of Tanks
  • WoW Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I own the latest expansion for EQII and am subscribed for another two months, I’ll probably play some.  Likewise, it is easy enough to pick up World of Tanks whenever.

And, naturally,l I started thinking about RimWorld again since I started writing this, which makes it more likely that I will go back and play it.  It happens.

WotLK Classic though, that depends on Blizzard actually shipping it this year, though it feels like that is all the WoW team will manage in 2022, and Blizzard not being a complete shit show that makes me feel bad handing them money.  I am biased towards playing it, that expansion representing what is my likely peak in Azeroth, but I am also wary of Blizz and how they might screw it up or just make doing business with them so unpalatable that I’d rather just stick with the memories.

Maybe, Maybe Not

  • Age of Empires IV
  • LOTRO
  • Valheim

AOE4 is part of the XBox PC subscription, so I just need to download it.  I am just wary of another 100 megabyte download for a title that might not pan out for me.  I haven’t liked anything in the series since AOE2.

LOTRO I want to go back and play now and again, but it looks so bad on my big monitor that they have to do something for wide screen support before I will commit.  If they do that I’ll give it a shot, otherwise I’ll pass.

And then there is Valheim.  I am wary of this because any updates they ship will only apply to unexplored areas, and on the world we build up we explored a lot, including into biomes that should be getting content.  So going back for new content means started over again on a new world, abandoning all of our work.  That might be too much to ask.

Unlikely

  • World of Warcraft
  • Burning Crusade Classic
  • WoW Season of Mastery
  • Diablo Immortal

Okay, I might  try Diablo: Immortal when it arrives, having a phone and all that… though I’ll likely play it on the iPad instead.  But otherwise the theme here is clearly Blizzard games I would be likely to play in past years not drawing much appeal from me in 2021… and honestly it is as much because of their own lack of merit as much as because of anything Blizzard is up to.

And then there are the new games that might show up.  As I have noted in the past, in January of 2021 I wouldn’t have called Valheim, New World, or Pokemon Shining Pearl even being options, yet they all made the cut.  So I am open to some new things, but I cannot see far enough into the future to tell what might show up and tickle my fancy.