Category Archives: Path of Exile

Path of Exile Synthesis

I haven’t directly mentioned, much less played, Path of Exile is ages.  Back in 2012 it was the indie dark horse candidate in the ARPG competition to claim the mantle of heir to Diablo II.

Path of Exile – Original Edition

In 2013 when it left beta and went live is looked pretty good.  In the lineup of the three, Diablo III had story, Torchlight II had offline play and mods, and Path of Exile had the feel of Diablo II… and the giant skill tree from hell.

So many skills…

Oh, and it was free.  It is hard to argue with that price point.  So I went off to play it for a while.  Along the way I discovered that the game had a serious latency/desync problem that made it pretty much unplayable at random times.  That led me to walk away, never to return.  It wasn’t bad, but even without the network issues it was another ARPG on a list of ARPGs I had at my disposal.

But a couple weeks back in one of the online groups in which I hang out… at some point I am going to have to enumerate these various groups, if only to clarify it for myself… there was a call to come and play Path of Exile.  This was prompted by the coming of a new season… I guess Path of Exile has seasons like some other games… and the launch of the Path of Exile Synthesis update.

Synthesize This

Anyway, I am much more likely to go play something if people I know are going to go play it as well.  Playing with friends, misery loves company, whatever it is I am often willing to go if there will be somebody around to share the story.

The update was scheduled for last Friday, so I grabbed the installer and patched up in advance, then did one more patch up when Synthesis hit and I was ready to go.

I was a little uncertain as to what seasons really mean in PoE.  They seem to be fresh starts separated from any current characters you have akin to the seasons in Diablo III, with some new features and content beyond what Blizz offers for their seasons.  I managed to get into the right season with the right options with a new character.

I went with the Templar class.

I had considered going with Ranger, remembering the last time I played when melee classes were especially hard hit by the latency and desync issues.  However, PoE is influenced by old Diablo II in many ways, including the whole idea that choosing a class also means choosing the sex of your character.  That feels like something of an outdated idea these days, though that may be my MMORPG-centric sens of things speaking.  Anyway, since I am more engaged when I identify with my character… which usually means a male that looks somewhat like me… that left me out of the running for a couple of classes.

The Templar though… the Templar looks like I feel some days.

Looking old, feeling old, not wearing pants

Which is to say he looks like he might be an extra from the medieval version of Dad’s Army.

Things start off pretty much as I remembered, with the shipwreck scenario (rather than the jailbreak scenario) and picking up a few items on the beach with which to clobber the locals.  The Templar is all about beating things with blunt objects at the start.

I was in for a bit of a rough start as I had forgotten pretty much everything about how gems and sockets work and, frankly, beating stuff with blunt objects is long and tiring work.  But when I realized that gem mean skill, and skill mean kills, I was all over that.  And then I found the gem for thee holy fire totem.

Holy Fire Totem described

This baby basically does my killing for me.  And if there is an especially tough mob in the mix, I whack it with my stick.

Cleanse them with holy fire!

As for passive traits and the skill tree from hell… well, mine is chaos.  I’m all over the map.  I decided that the flame totem thing was so good that I had better stock up on mana.  Then I boosted strength.  Then I went down a path that made my defensive abilities more effective.  I guess I am sort of a tank, as I also have a gem for a healing totem.  We shall see.  My build my be complete comedy when we try to play as a group.  But for now, solo, I just abide while my totem burns stuff down.  And then it is time to loot!

Not every loot pile is this big… but some are

Of course, picking up PoE right now has led me into something of a crowded field of games I am currently trying to play.  I am still logging into WoW regularly and go on a few fleet ops every week in EVE Online.  I still have a game running in RimWorld and I spent a bit of time in Minecraft earlier this month. (I’ll get to that in another post.)  Also I just bought a copy of Diablo on GoG.com the day before the Sythesis expansion/season went live, and I want to play through that.  Then, of course, this coming weekend is the 20th anniversary for EverQuest. I plan to peek in on that.  And finally there is the unlock of The Mines of Moria expansion on the LOTRO Legendary server tomorrow.

Something is going to have to give here.

Can We Trust a Torchlight MMO?

…because of WoW, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.

-Rob Pardo, MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007

We’ll get to that quote in a bit, but first we must go back to 2012, back to the war to see who would be crowned the REAL successor to that most beloved ARPG Diablo II.

The claimants were Diablo III, which had the name and Blizzard’s might behind it, Torchlight II, which had some of the original Diablo development team on board, and Path of Exile, which was the dark horse indie candidate in the race.

The competition was a big enough deal that I made categories on the blog for all three of them.

In the end I think Path of Exile felt the most like Diablo II when it came to style and atmosphere.

Diablo III, after a bad start, eventually got fixed when Blizz removed the auction house and got the itemization lined up  correctly and went on to be the big money maker of the three.  It sold more that 30 million copies, got an expansion, and continues to get attention and updates from the company that we could only dream of during the Diablo II era.  A version was just announced for the Nintendo Switch even.  Still going!

And then there was Torchlight II.  It was good.  Cute.  Colorful.

But where Diablo III had story and Path of Exile had atmosphere, I am not sure what Torchlight II really had.

Not that it did poorly or anything.  According to that Steam leak thing I wrote about a few weeks ago it was in 57th place on the list with close to five million copies in play on the platform.  The is an impressive haul, well ahead of Civilization VI.  Nobody can fault you if you beat Sid Meier.

Granted, it took them a few years to get the promised Mac OS version out the door and at that point it sounded like those working on the game were done with Torchlight.  That seemed to be the end of plans for a Torchlight MMO, something that had been talked about since the original Torchlight came out.  The original talk was of going from single player to multiplayer and then to an MMO.

And then there were some of the founders leaving the studio along with the fact that Perfect World Entertainment bought them out, and it seemed like the Torchlight saga was done.

Again, not that it had gone badly, but maybe Torchlight II was enough.  I mean they never did any addon expansions or DLC or any of the usual things you do to keep something you want to remain a franchise in the public eye.  Sometimes you just reach the natural end of things, which was what seemed to have happened here.

So I was a bit taken aback when a couple weeks back there was an announcement that Perfect World was planning a Torchlight MMO.  What is the vision for Torchlight Frontiers here?

Torchlight Frontiers

Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but I couldn’t see the real point, at least not in MMO form.

And no, I am not going the Gevlon route about “productive MMOs.”  That is nothing but the usual gamer hubris where we project our own likes on the world and pretend that everybody thinks the same way or that it has some actual logic to it.  Wrapping your personal bias in a tissue thin layer of faux objectivity doesn’t change what it really is in the slightest.

My objection tries to get closer to objective reality, or so I would hope.

MMOs are not easy to make and they certainly are not cheap to make.  Also, the market is already crowded with competitors.  Meanwhile Perfect World has traditionally been a purveyor of Asian style MMOs that don’t really do all that well in the West along with titles that couldn’t keep their original studios alive and were no doubt scooped up at bargain basement prices to be milked via cash shops and lockboxes for every last farthing they can provide.

In that scenario it is difficult for me to see much in the way of hope for anything worthwhile coming out of this idea.  Instead of an attempt to meet some real world demand or cater to a specific demographic, this all smacks of the quote at the top of the post, except in 2018 we have to substitute in “pushing for that cash shop pie” in place of “pushing for that subscription pie.”

Yes, there is talk of there being some Diablo and Torchlight devs involved, but when they say it won’t be a generic MMO but a Torchlight MMO through and through it sounds almost like a contradiction, because if I were to fault Torchlight II on anything, it would be on its mild blandness.  There was nothing wrong with it, but despite playing through the game I barely remember any of it.  I am sure there must have been a story to it, but I cannot remember any of it.

I actually reinstalled it via Steam last week just to revisit it for a while to see if my memories of the game had just faded over time.  After a couple of hours of play my hazy impressions were pretty much reaffirmed.  It is a decent game, if a bit bland, with a story that never really gets much traction in my brain.  It feels more incidental than anything.  There are just several other ARPGs that I find more engaging, such as Grim Dawn, Diablo III, Path of Exile, or even the remastered version of Titan Quest.  So I am not really seeing this as a property that screams to be made into an MMO.  Of course, I could say the same for the other four titles I listed out.

I know, I know, you can say you’re going to make any sort of MMO and you’ll always get some people excited about it.  In spite of our constant and repeated experiences over the last decade the acronym “MMO” still retains some magical properties.  People still long for a shared, persistent world to travel.  People will project their memories and ideas on it and get all excited about an imaginary game that as like as not will bear no resemblance to reality.  That path leads to inevitable disappointment.

So given all of that I cannot help but draw back from this and ask if it is really a good idea.  Given the state of the market, the limits of the franchise, and the reputation of the publisher is this something to get emotionally invested in yet?

And that leaves aside the basic game play questions.  For example, is playing Torchlight II with more than the full party you can play with now really a worthwhile goal?  Are dozens or even hundreds of other people around in this click-fest really a benefit?

I think that the best possible outcome might be a setup like the original Guild Wars, where there were certain shared areas like towns but that the actual content was limited to you and your party.  That sounds a bit like what they are aiming for, though I think having the overworld all shared and only dungeons instanced out for parties might be too much shared space unless they plan on a lot of dungeons.

As for the worst outcome… the mind boggles at the possibilities.  I would not bet against something like a revival of the failed Diablo III real money auction house for starters.  But we know from history that you don’t even need a cash shop to get RMT in motion in an MMO.

Diablo II RMT site ad from back in the day

I mean, Path of Exile is there as an example of how not to get mired in RMT, but I suspect that that Perfect World would see that as limiting their revenue potential.

Meanwhile, the fact that it is targeted for next year (developer optimism is evergreen) and is planned for Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBox One makes me wonder if Torchlight Frontiers will in anyway resemble what made Torchlight and Torchlight II as popular as they were.

That is the problem with experience; it inevitably makes a skeptic out of you.

Anyway, we’ll see what comes of this.  Maybe we’ll even see it next year.

Others who have chimed in on the topic:

Too Late for Torchlight II?

Back to the wars of 2012, when Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile were vying for the mantle of heir to the mighty Diablo II.

Each game, in my opinion, managed to score well on very specific fronts.  What individuals found most important about the Diablo II legacy dictated which game they preferred.  If you wanted a dark, gritty atmosphere, Path of Exile was the winner.  If you wanted the continuation of the Diablo story line along with the Blizzard logo and all of its attendant polish, you had Diablo III.  And if you wanted something lighter on its feet that supported offline play and modding, there was Torchlight II.

Each did the “click things to death” thing well enough, you just needed to choose what toppings you wanted on your Action RPG sundae.  None were, however, quite as good as Diablo II was back in the day, though that is more likely a context of the times than any fault of the newer games.

That is, was, and probably will remain my synopsis of the way things played out.  You can argue about the details, but we ended up with three good but different attempts to remake what was great about Diablo II.  In the end however, as interested as I was in all three games, I have other things I would rather play these days.  It just isn’t 1999 anymore.

PoElogoThe games have not stood still though.  Or, at least two of them have not.  Path of Exile has continued to refine its game and has released new content.  There have been some rough spots for the game, with the always online aspect making for some annoying latency issues, but the developers carry on.

DiabloIIIBlizzard, slow but persistent, finally cleaned up their auction house and itemization issues in Diablo III, launched console versions of the game, and then came out with an expansion, all of which seem to have gone over quite well.  I enjoyed the revamped version of the original game, and friends I know who went with the expansion really liked it as well.

Torchlight2LogoAnd then there is Torchlight II.

In the last year before it went live, there was all sorts of wild talk about what Runic games would do after they launched Torchlight II.  There had been talk of the game being a stepping stone to a Torchlight MMO.  Also possible seemed to be official mods, user mods being picked up and sold as DLC with some sort of profit sharing, expansions to the game itself, and all of the usual sorts of rumors and nonsense that seem to catch fire from the spark of optimistic interpretations and wishful thinking when parsing every word the company and its devs utter in public or private.

And there was going to be a Macintosh OS version of the game available shortly after launch.  Based on that alone I bought a copy of Torchlight II for my daughter, who has to play her games on an iMac.

After the initial flurry of the Torchlight II launch though, the tone from Runic games changed.  The tone from the company seemed to indicate that they were burnt out after the big push to get the game out the door.  I’ve been there, once having gone through a five month crunch time stretch of 12 to 16 hour days seven days a week, when only our copy of NBA Jam kept us sane at times, after which the team was pretty much dead for months.

Runic was tired of the whole Torchlight thing.  There would be no MMO.  There would be no further Torchlight games.  There would be no expansions.  And due to some problems, it seemed unlikely that there would be any Macintosh OS version of the game.

I don’t miss the $20 so much as the opportunity to play the game with my daughter.

Some founders left the company after about a year to work on a new game (the premise of which sounds vaguely familiar), while Runic Games itself fell into an SOE-like silent mode, coming up for air only to note when the game was on sale at Steam for the most part.  And with Runic’s corporate masters complaining about US operations being a drag on earnings, the future for a studio with apparently nothing in play seems a bit grim.

And so it goes.

Of the three games, Torchlight II ended up being the one I played the least.  Play time is the only real measure of my preferences.  I often SAY I intend to play this or that, but what I actually play is the reflection of the deep truth.  You can my choice that how you like, but I guess in the end I wanted polish and story most, atmosphere second, and offline play and mods third.  Though, as noted above, none of the games became long term staples and I haven’t bothered to reinstall any of them since the great Thanksgiving computer blow out.

So the news that showed up last night indicating that Runic games would at last be releasing the Macintosh OS version of Torchlight II on February 2nd got something of a bemused look from me.

Steam only I guess?

Steam only I guess?

It is too late for me to care much.  My daughter is a couple years older, is interested in different things now, and doesn’t even have Steam installed on her system anymore.  The time has passed at our house.  Runic has a cute little video up making fun of the delay, but they have otherwise been so quiet that I wonder who will notice.  I am sure it will sell a few more copies of the game, and the Macintosh world is used to there being a delay on some game launches, but I wonder if this was more of a contractually obligated action as opposed to a push to sell more units.

Is this the last hurrah for Runic Games, or do they really something else for us?

Report from New Tristram

Wasn’t 2012 going to be the year of the heir to Diablo II?

We had multiple contenders.  There was the designated heir, Diablo III and all the weight Blizzard could bring to bear.  There was Torchlight II, from a team that included many of the people who actually made Diablo II back in the day.  And then there was the dark horse candidate, Path of Exile, planning on a free to play experience and the grandest skill tree ever seen.

So many skills...

Yet not really overwhelming…

Each of them managed to hit a few marks.  Diablo III carried on the Diablo story line and was polished in that Blizzard way.  Torchlight II clearly had the upper hand on price and play options.  And only Path of Exile managed to replicate the dark atmosphere of the past Diablo games.

However, in my opinion, each of them failed in some fundamental way.

Diablo III had always online problems at launch, but the real issue became itemization.  Gear drops, ever the life’s blood of a Diablo game, were huge in quantity and very bad in quality.  The only way to reliably find some gear close to your level was either via a higher level alt or through the auction house.  I didn’t really want to play via the auction house, but felt I pretty much had to when it came to end of act bosses.  Tired of being pulled out of the actual game to upgrade gear, I stopped playing.

Torchlight II was better on itemization.  It still had huge quantities, but quality wasn’t as universally awful, though without the auction house to fall back on, comparison of at-level gear wasn’t as obvious either.  However, colorful and well lit graphics hampered any feeling of atmosphere and the story line felt very weak to me.  I can give you a synopsis of the story line in all three Diablo games, but couldn’t begin to tell you what Torchligh II… or Torchlight… was really about.  That and the dev team punting on the Mac version of the game… and just about anything else it seems… thus killing off any chance of playing with my daughter, put the game pretty low on my play list and I haven’t been back to it in probably a year.

And then there was Path of Exile, which certainly won on price.  It is about a free as free to play can be I suppose, though a friend of mine who played a lot of the game says that there is a point after which you pretty much have to pay to progress the grind of leveling becomes unbearable.  That point is just much farther into the game than I managed to get.  While winning on atmosphere, it also had “always online” problems.  Basically, melee classes became pretty much unplayable at peak times, and I always play the melee classes and I apparently play at peak hours.  That ended that.

So three contenders, all of which I felt I was pretty much done with by the end of last year and none of which I could whole heartedly recommend for one reason or another.

But the dev teams were still working on at least two of the three games.  The Blizzard team, while slow to acknowledge that they had a problem, eventually owned up on the itemization front and last week those of us on the PC got Diablo III version 2.0.

It was time for a return to Diablo III.  I rolled up a new barbarian and played through act one.

The first thing I was looking at was gear drops.  And, hey presto, they did in fact seem to be better in quality and more likely to be relevant to my character.  Quest rewards for various stages of the story seemed to be better tuned, mini-bosses along the way seemed much more likely to drop something useful, and even the vendor in town seemed to be stocking a higher quality selection of goods.

In fact, that was going so well that the game started to seem a bit easy.  I was blowing through masses of undead or goatmen or whatever without much effort at all.  That looked to be the downside of the boost to itemization quality.

But I had another 2.0 feature available to me.  I was able to jump directly from Normal to Hard with my character.

This was actually a big win.  One of the 2.0 changes was to remove what was effectively level ranges for various areas of the game and, instead, make all of the content scale to your current level.  No more out running content and hitting a wall that could only be cured with a serious injection of new gear. (Itemization problem strikes again.)  And no more playing through the whole story in normal mode just to get to a higher level of challenge.

While loot quality, experience gained, and gold dropped all went up with this change, difficulty went up enough to more than offset those and made the game much more of a challenge.  Rather than cutting through mobs like butter, I actually had to start working for a living.  I couldn’t just rush into a room and collect everybody the way you can in a 1-60 dungeon finder group in WoW.  I found myself in trouble and in any number of close-run fights if I didn’t take care.

Still, I am not sure that “hard” is really the right term.  It is closer to “not easy” in feel.  While I got down to the red screen of limited health now and again, I never once died.  It is just the right level of resistance to keep the game interesting.

It was also fun rediscovering some of the cool bits of the game after a long absence.  While the atmosphere isn’t close to the play of light and shadows that was such a deep part of Diablo II at times… and honestly, none of the three games got all the way there… it isn’t the bright and colorful beast that some people were afraid it would be way back when.  The atmosphere is pretty good.

About as bright and colorful as Act I gets

About as bright and colorful as Act I gets

Then there was the dynamics of the game while playing the barbarian.  For a full on visceral experience, this is the class.  I love how elements of the world react when he is pounding out a big attack.  Furniture disintegrates, shelves tumble, tapestries whip and swirl, and corpses fly.  Oh, and how corpses fly.  Ending on a big pound can send multiple foes dead and sailing through the air, sometimes headed completely off screen. (Note the flying goatmen in the screen shot above.)  It never gets old.

And the game itself is as well put together as one would expect from a Blizzard product.  And the game is divided up into nice, bite size chunks via the waypoints, so you can get in and play for a bit while making it to the next stage of the story.  Of course, this can still lead to the “one more waypoint” urge.  Not nearly as strong as “just one more turn” is in a Civilization game, but it is there.

There were a few other small features added.  We now have a map for the various waypoints as opposed to the old listing that the game and its predecessor used.  I guess this adds a bit of immersion, or a sense of place, though it does also point out that I was traveling in a big circle as well.

Act I Map

Act I Map

I made it through to the final boss and remembered enough of it to get through the fight on the first try.

In this corner, The Butcher!

In this corner, The Butcher!

I had rather optimized myself, my skills, and my companion (the Templar this time) for healing, so it was more a matter of building up fury for big hits and staying out of the fire.  I did not end up using either of the health shrines in The Butcher’s room.  And then it was through to Tyreal and the wrap up of Act I.

Me, Tyreal, and the Templar

Me, Tyreal, and the Templar

So far, so good.  Now it is on to Act II.  We shall see how well the game sticks this time around.

I also managed to get quite a few levels in, as there was a pre-expansion experience boost in effect while I was playing.

D3CommBuff

That wasn’t a big deal to me.  I guess it will get me closer to the level cap sooner.  Is that a good thing?

And the question remain whether or not I will pick up the Reaper of Souls expansion given what it offers.

Reaper of Souls info

Reaper of Souls info

I like the idea of Act V, and the Crusader class feels much more like my favorite Diablo II class, the paladin.  But is that enough to justify the cost?  Has Diablo III version 2.0 changed things up enough that I will make it through Act IV?  I have time left to decide.  And to play.  We shall see.

October in Review

The Site

Not much has changed on the site and WordPress.com hasn’t mucked anything up of late, so I guess I will complain fruitlessly about Google a bit more.

I must remain in the bad graces of our friends over in Mountain View, as search engine related traffic continued to taper off this past month.  I think Bing is in danger of providing more traffic if this persists, and what does that say about the world? (Ha, ha, just kidding.  Who uses Bing here?  Raise your hand.  Even in decline, Google drives 50x the traffic to my site than Bing.)

Of course, Google continues to irk me on various fronts.  They will be making search private in the future, so say good-bye to the search terms of the month section of this post.  The Google+ interface continues to make Facebook look… well… not so bad in my eyes.  The Gmail interface only looks good when compared to the latest insanity taking over Yahoo’s mail interface.  And, of course, there was the demise of Google Reader and the impending end of iGoogle, which Google has reminded me about with a pop-up every single day this month.

So I've heard...

So I’ve heard…

With the demise of iGoogle I need a new default home page for my browser.  My start page was Yahoo for ages, before they turned their front page into a morass of ads and malformed JavaScript.  Remember those early days of Yahoo when the front page looked like this?

Yahoo, circa 1997

Yahoo, circa 1997

Then I moved to Google, which was the new thing.  And then came iGoogle, which let me put a couple of informational widgets on my start page… the calendar, headlines from a couple of news sources, and Google’s hilariously inaccurate weather widget… that struck a nice balance between minimalism and usefulness.

So I suppose it is back to just the main Google page as the default.  No more news headlines, I’ll just be aware of whatever obscure anniversary Google has chosen to commemorate in its logo.  Tomorrow is the 117th anniversary of the first bare female breasts shown on the pages of National Geographic Magazine.  That would make for an interesting doodle.

All of which is just me rambling, having little to do with this site… so carry on.

One Year Ago

The SF Giants won the World Series.  That makes twice in my lifetime, which was one more than I had any hope for.

Disney bought out Lucasfilm, claiming ownership of Star Wars.  Panic ensued.

Zynga was well into its troubles, leaving me to wonder how Lord British viewed his partnership with the imploding company.  Certainly the Zynga business plan seemed… childish?

I had a sudden crescendo of activity around World of Warcraft, culminating in Blizzard finally letting me cancel my subscription.  There was the Panda launch and people declaring success or failure.  I was off in the Emerald Dream attempting to relive what WoW was like back in 2006.  In involved a shovel.

The Project: Gorgon kickstarter kicked off.

I was invited on a pre-release tour of the Storm Legion expansion in Rift.  Then there was the big update to the soul system and some adventures in Lantern Hook.

In World of Tanks the word of the day was Sturmgeschütz.

Lord of the Rings Online launched the Rider of Rohan expansion.  I still don’t own it.

EVE-Kill was looking for donations to keep everybody’s favorite kill board up and running.  I was off on a CSAA killing mission that got me accused of cognitive dissonance.  I was feeling warm and cozy in null sec.  We were also pursuing our foes in Tribute and the Vale of the Silent.

I was wondering how EA Louse’s comments about Star Wars: The Old Republic were holding up two years later.

I was complaining about games (or, in my 30+ year old example, a game master) that try to impose their story on your character.   I don’t mind being a part of the overall story, but my characters have their own stories and motivations and I do not like it when games put their own words in my character’s mouth.

And, finally, there was the case for seat belts.

Five Years Ago

In one of the worst kept secrets, it was announced that BioWare’s MMO project was in fact Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Their subscription goals were, of course, quite modest.

I celebrated my 15 years of playing Sojourn/TorilMUD with the first in a series of posts.  Nostalgia FTW!  And I guess that makes this the 20 year mark.  My, how time flies!

And speaking of Nostalgia, Tipa was out looking for EverQuest blogs.  I’m not sure any were discovered.

The instance group formed up a guild and was running in Warhammer Online.  We had our best night and our worst night, plus a few that were somewhere in between.  All in all though, things were not as exciting as we had hoped.

Mythic was trying out incentives to get better server balance while starting to talk about new stuff coming soon.  Not a word about the quest log however.

In EVE Online Potshot, Gaff, and I were playing with fleets and I was flying a shiny new ship.  And the EVE Blog Pack was defined.

And I stared logging into World of Warcraft again to get things lined up for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  I managed to survive through the controversial scourge event and was intrigued by the shiny new achievements.

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 October

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. Steam and the Path of Exile
  3. Rift and the End of the Happy Time
  4. The End of the Road for EverQuest Mac
  5. Quote of the Day – Screwed by the Autopilot
  6. Archon Acquired
  7. Sneaking Into Curse
  8. CCP to Attempt to Explain EVE Online to New Players
  9. What You Get in the Absence of Actual Information…
  10. Going Bombing in War Thunder
  11. Hardware Updates – Headphones, Video Cards, and Connectivity
  12. Hallow’s End, Brewfest, and an Empty Feeling

Search Terms of the Month

a fake star system built on cheating people for one s own self satisfaction
[Welcome to EVE Online! Or Scientology! Whichever.]

martha stewart a mud shark pictures
[But is that a good thing?]

what causes tiny air bubbles to form on top of anaround the top edge of the water in a beta fish bowl
[The fish?]

my god its full on stars
[ I am so many pages into that search that I stopped looking. But I did make the reference.]

EVE Online

Well, there was the deployment to Curse and the return home, which I participated in, and the whole SOMERBlink thing, in which I completely declined to participate.  Meta game fail on my part I guess, but it didn’t stop some people from being a dick.  So it has been a relatively quiet month in New Eden for me.  There was a corp day where most of us got out and did some ice mining to gather fuel for our towers.  Potshot and I did a little mining on our own.  But not much else came to pass.  Null sec is like that.  Big wars for a bit, then some quiet while everybody adapts to what has changed.

Neverwinter

The various members of our regular instance group have continued to participate in Neverwinter in various combinations.  Sometimes there are three, sometimes there are four, but so far all five of us haven’t been on.  Still, we poke away at the game.  I think our overall group is close to level 20.

Path of Exile

This claimant to the Diablo II crown finally went live this past month, and it certainly has done a good job in that department, feeling more true to the original than either Diablo III or Torchlight II.  I have been enjoying it for its faithfulness to the source, but I do wonder how long that feeling can last.  It is clearly nostalgia and a desire to relive the joy of the original, and if you are a long term reader then you know how quickly nostalgia can evaporate around these parts.

War Thunder

Driven here by my annoyance with World of Warplanes… which stemmed mostly from my own ineptitude and choice of input devices… I have actually found something of a home here.  It is probably driven by Air Warrior nostalgia, and I am barely beyond terrible in my abilities in the game, but with the right settings and in the lowest tiers, I can occasionally look good relative to complete noobs on their first flight.  I am probably good for another month here on my desire to fly a variety of planes alone.

World of Warcraft

Blizzard’s main game has kept me interested, though I have clearly been distracted by some other titles this month.  I log on a few nights a week, but I haven’t done anything really exciting, hence the lack of posts about it.  Brewfest and Hallow’s End certainly didn’t do much for me.  Like the lonely asparagus, it seems that my hollandaise are behind me. (obscure reference alert)  But the game is still comfortable and enjoyable and accessible in small doses.  And at some point I will wrap up what I have been doing, as there is a story there that explains why I have been working on three different characters who are all now in the 40s.  Meanwhile my mom is almost level 60.

Coming Up

Some things are happening in November.

In EVE Online, the Rubicon expansion will drop.  A new expansion usually means a new conflict, so perhaps things will heat up in New Eden.  There are also expansions slated for Lord of the Rings Online and EverQuest II, neither of which interest me all that much.  They will both introduce content well beyond my levels.  Though the big class/skill/trait/whatever revamp that is coming in LOTRO will likely have some impact on me when I go back to visit Middle-earth.

There are more holidays coming up in just about every game.  At least I will be able to get my cooking skills up with Pilgrim’s Bounty in WoW.

There is BlizzCon coming up, so we might get some news.  I expect that there will be either an announcement about the next WoW expansion or some sort of “half-step towards F2P” change in the game’s business model.

Then there is the possibility that we might actually get something tangible around EverQuest Next Landmark.

And… and… hrmm, I thought there was something else.  It has probably slipped my mind.  Anyway, bring on the 11th month!

Steam and the Path of Exile

Path of Exile was sort of the third horse in the two horse race to find the true successor to Diablo II.  I got into the beta almost two years back and was pleasantly surprised by how well the game recreated some of what I felt were the defining essences of Diablo II.  Grinding Gear Games seemed to be on the right path.  I put it on my list of games I was looking to play in 2012.

Path of Exile

Path of Exile

2012 came and we saw the release of Diablo III in the first half of the year on what has become known internationally as Error 37 day.  Then towards the end of 2012 Torchlight II made it on the scene.  Neither of those games really captured me as neither really felt like true successors to the Diablo II crown.  Diablo III clearly got story right, but failed on itemization as well as with the “OMG we hate RMT so much!!1” auction house plan, which even they now grant didn’t work out quite as plannedTorchlight II got points on simplicity and itemization plus having real modding potential, but really didn’t have a story that was at all compelling to me, which meant that the game ended up feeling like a disjointed series of fetch and carry quests. (Plus I am still waiting for the promised Macintosh version so my daughter an I can play together.)

And neither game got many points when it came to atmosphere, one of the more compelling aspects of Diablo II.  It takes more than just making sure there is a desert zone and a jungle zone and so on.  The sense of atmosphere was spoiled because both games apparently took place on worlds where OSHA had mandated all subterranean lairs must be fully illuminated via a blanket installation of indirect lighting.  They successfully banished the dark and, with it, the prevailing sense of mood.  Go look at that YouTube clip in that Essence of Diablo II post I did a couple of years back to see what I mean.

Yes, some people did not like that.  I happened to think it was a vital element in setting the mood of the game.

Those two games launched, I played them both for a bit, and then let them fall by the wayside.  Meanwhile, Path of Exile remained in beta.  Earlier this year it went into open beta, so more people could pile in and give it a try, but otherwise remained an unfinished project.

More text and some screen shots after the cut.

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How Games Can Boost Their Raptr and Xfire Hours Played!

Just make sure your launcher/patcher counts as your game being played.

The other night I went to patch up Path of Exile.  It is going into open beta which, among other things, means that characters made from this point forward won’t be wiped.

And while it is really tough to build any enthusiasm for the third attempt to recapture the Diablo II spirit in less than nine months, it had been about a year since I last peeked into game, and so I thought it might be time to go back for a visit.

Of course, with that much time having passed, I was rightfully expecting a big patch.  So I waited until the end of the evening, kicked off the patch process, and went to bed.

And, in the morning, not only was the patching done, but I had two items in my inbox from Raptr.

Raptr was proud to tell me that I had earned the rank “Experienced” and the “Dedicated” for my playtime in Path of Exile.

Raptr Calls It

Raptr Calls It

Although I have to admit, Raptr does seem a bit confused as to what rank I really am.  Both of the messages are proud to tell me the rank I have achieved and what I have to do to get to the next rank, however they used the same name for both.  So am I experienced, or have I been experienced, or what?

Anyway, it ends up Raptr looking like I have played a lot more Path of Exile than I really have.

I am not sure how big of a benefit that really is, and I am almost completely sure that this sort of thing is the fault of the likes Raptr and Xfire as opposed to the developer.  But it did make me wonder what other games might be benefiting in the playtime number department due to this sort of thing.

I went through some of the other games I have installed and found that Star Trek Online’s launcher/patcher gives the same result.  I did not bother to try it with Xfire, as it would have meant re-installing Xfire again, but I have to imagine that the same thing happens with some games there as well.

Of course, the real question is, does it matter?  Does this make play time numbers from services like Raptr and Xfire any more dubious in your mind or not?

Now I wonder if anybody logged into my account by accident over the weekend.  Not that I need any more playtime credited…