Friday Bullet Points Once Again from Space

It is Friday and there are a few EVE Online items I want to bring up but that don’t quite merit a full post at this time.  Not included in this is the September Monthly Economic Report, which I’ll get to on Monday.  That I can string out into 1,500 words easy.  Meanwhile, CCP it trying to outdo me with their own Community Beat post today.

  • Introducing Quasar

CCP posted a dev blog this week titled Introducing Quasar, which is a look at the changes CCP has made, and further changes that they are contemplating, to improve server performance of EVE Online by getting around Python’s Global Interpreter Lock that keeps the game running on a single thread.  Basically, if you take some housekeeping items off of the server’s to-do list, like skill plans, there is more bandwidth to track ships in space.  As put in the post the goals are to “dodge the GIL and clear the table for moar lasers.”

There is some additional insight into this over at TNG.

  • Totality Day Celebration

Come October 13th it will have been a year since the Triglavian Collective took the 27 systems they had conquered from the four empires and disconnected them from the previous gate network to for the new region of Pochven.  (Which, among other things changed the shape of travel in empire space with the removal of Niarja.)

So… time for an anniversary celebration I guess?  CCP thinks so and has some events planned according to this dev blog.

The Triglavians are still behind the other empires of New Eden as they don’t seem ready to offer login rewards for their event.  Maybe contact with the other empires will lead them to this technology at a later date.

  • Faction Warfare Report

Faction Warfare is often mentioned as one of the neglected aspects of low sec space in New Eden.  You don’t hear much about it unless somebody is complaining that it is broken… or noting CCP’s neglect.  But a group of Gallente pilots have started up a podcast, the Federation Frontline Report, to give some insight into that aspect of EVE Online.  They also have a guest post up on INN about their efforts and what Faction Warfare is.

  • SSO Endpoint Deprecation

For those who use the CCP APIs for various things, they are deprecating the old security authorization token interface, so if you are connecting to the using ESI or using the EVE SSO for user authentication, you need to update to the v2 versions of the API by November 1st.  Details are available in a third party developer blog post.

  • Mega Skill Point Packages

There was a post over in r/eve this week from a player with an account that had been dormant since 2010 who received an offer from CCP to buy 50 million skill points for the low low price of $999.99.  Another user reported an offer for 12.9 million skill points for 229.99 GBP.

I didn’t get an offer, but I dug around in an account that was last Omega maybe three years ago and found I had a special offer for 8.1 million skill points for $199.

Skill Point Offer

I am sure we could find a few other data points and figure out how many skill points you get offered based on how long your account has been dormant.

  • Monocle Offer

It has been a little over a decade since the Incarna expansion, which got the player base to explode over a variety of issues.  Often referred to as the “summer of rage,” the name that stuck for a lot of people outside of the game was “monocle-gate.”  I covered the anniversary in a post earlier this year, including the fallout, resolution, and how things went forward from there.  But monocles became the symbol due to a pricey eye piece that was added to the in-game store with the expansion.

While the monocle stuck around long after things simmered down, it remained a trigger for some, which is why it was a bit of a surprise to find CCP offering special monocles again in the in-store ten years down the road.

Monocular times are here again

I can’t tell if this is CCP just looking for some new cosmetic item to sell or if they’re just trolling us a decade after their first monocle.  And the monocles are only available until downtime on October 14th, so they’re trying to push the FOMO button as well… if anybody has any actual fear of missing out on a monocle I guess.

  • New Player Experience Explored

Shintar sent this video to me, so credit to her.  CCP apparently went out looking for streamers who had never played EVE Online to go through the recently revamped new player experience and give their response.  They were supposed to go in without reading up or getting external help and just let the game guide them.  Preach Gaming took on the challenge and put together a video about the experience.

It is kind of fun to watch as somebody who knows the answers.  There are a few places where I don’t know how he ended up with a particular idea, but otherwise it seemed to go pretty well.  Something that will come as a surprised to exactly nobody is that the problems began when he hit the now very out of date career agents, but I remain impressed that he figured out how to use probes and scan something down in under two hours with no external help.

Anyway, that is what was on my list.

A Necromancer in Diablo II Resurrected

In thinking about my initial lack of enthusiasm for Diablo II Resurrected back during the beta, I suspected that part of my problem was that I went and played the same class in the same way as I generally have over the years, which contributing the the feeling of sameness.  So I decided for my first post-launch play through I would try something new.

Having watched Potshot play a Necromancer as part of our first group adventure in the game, I thought that might be a good place to start, so I rolled one up for myself.

And I managed to bumble my way through the first act doing my usual routine of just putting skill points wherever they might feel good.  I put some into skeletons, some into skeleton mages, some into teeth to give me a ranged attack, then put my stat points into making sure I had enough mana, and it kind of worked.

With my first follower mix

I died a few times in the first act, and the final boss, Andariel I struggled a bit.  And end of act boss should be a bit of a challenge, but the first act is kind of a warm up and I’ve always been able to slouch my way past her.

Go myself a little too deep into the fight

I had to make a few trips back to town through a portal, but eventually managed to finish her off and wrap up the act.

At Andariel’s throne

My normal mode of operation is to continue to half ass my way through Act II until I am facing Duriel at the end and then use my re-spec to fix my setup because he is usually too tough for whatever nonsense picks I have made.

My problem with talent trees, and especially the Diablo II talent tree, is that I see a smorgasbord of choices available and I want to serve myself up a little bit of everything.  I have some vision of flexibility, but anybody who crunches the numbers will tell me I am an idiot.  The game doesn’t care about flexibility, it cares about damage on target and killing mobs dead.

So when I looked up necromancer builds I found that going all-in on skeletons was the optimal path.  20 points into skeletons, which gets you 8 followers, and 20 points into skeleton mastery, which makes them tough and hit hard.  They have you put a point into golems early on, just to get something a bit tankie when you’re starting out, but after that it is all skeletons all the time until you’ve gone 40 points in.

Meanwhile, on the stats front, the guide was to put enough into strength to be able to wear gear you need, but otherwise to put everything into vitality so that your health is enough to survive.  As a side benefit, your stamina is also huge so you can go everywhere at a run when you get enough levels behind you.

So I went all-in as suggested and headed into the sewers of Lut Gholein with six skeletons, a golem, and my rogue archer from Act I and the results were… pretty funny.  The skeletons are all over the place, though they do try to go where you are going.  As a group they mobbed most everything that showed up and, when I lost one now and then I just raised a fresh skeleton from a corpse.  Ranament was no problem.

No match for Skeleton patrol

The main problem is that every time you start the game to play again you have to go out and find some corpses, which are required to raise skeletons.

My little army stormed the desert and made it through very well.  It is a little tough in tight corridors, as the skeletons follow you and won’t run ahead until they seem something to attack.  There are times when you have to act like a SWAT team with a no-knock warrant, kicking in the door to a room and rushing it to beat down anything that moves.

The most troublesome bit was probably the Arcane Sanctuary… Act II has the widest variety of locations, which is part of why it is my favorite… but that was largely due to pathing, skeletons lagging behind me, and the general narrowness of the ways through the zone.

All the melee is out in front for once

I did ignore the advice to get one of the Act II followers which have auras that can boost your skeleton army, but I had found a very nice bow for my rogue and she was killing it, so I stayed with her.

I managed to get through Duriel at the end of Act II in two passes, jumping back to town through a portal to restock my skeleton army.

Act III was a cake walk.  The paths are wide enough for skeletons to roam ahead and they just chewed up any mobs that happened by.  I had enough points in skeletons by the time I got to Mephisto to do him in one go without having to head back to town.  I was light on skeletons when I was done, but I was done.

Act IV saw me swarming through the first part pretty well.  When you’re going through as a single character the game tries to get you with the big “Ah ha! Here comes a pack of a dozen mobs! Fight for your life!” routine.  But by the time I was into Act IV I had 8 skeletons, a golem, my rogue, and a skeleton mage because I picked up a wand that gave me +1 to that skill, along with myself, which gave me a dozen on my own team as well, so the scrum was pretty even with me just needing to replace a skeleton now and then or summon a fresh golem.

You have an army? Hey, me too!

Pretty soon it was time to face Diablo.

That turned into a bit of a challenge.  Actually, the groups that came as I unlocked the five seals cost me some skeletons and a surprise attack actually brought me down.  But once the seals were undone and Diablo appeared, then the real challenge began.

Diablo had my number when it came to skeletons.  I would get on the floor with him and he’d do his big AOE attack and my rogue, my skeleton mage, and my golem would be down and my skeletons would all be fairly weak.  They would beat on him for a bit before dying off and I would have to run around and find more corpses.  That became the real issue for me, as corpses don’t last very long on the floor, so despite slaying hundred on the way in I was scrounging for corpses after expending three waves of skeletons.

I also decided to get in and do some damage of my own.  The wand I had, which gave me a skeleton mage, also gave me +3 to the spell Bone Spear.  And while my mana pool was pretty small, it isn’t a high cost spell, so I loaded up on mana potions and got in there with my skeletons to hit at the boss.

I finally brought him down with my seventh full wave of skeletons, five remaining alive when Diablo died.

Diablo defeated

I got the big pat on the back and collected my rewards and moved on to Act V.

Not being a huge fan of Act V, I was going to write this post ending with the death of Diablo.  And then me and my skeletons stormed through the final act in a single evening where I kept saying that I was going to stop at the next waypoint, but then the waypoint seemed awkwardly far from where I would need to go next, so I just kept rolling along until I was at the final waypoint in the Worldstone Keep.  And once you’re there you might as well finish the tour.

I had a bit of a problem with the last group that Baal summons before the final fight.  For whatever reason my skeletons were not biting very hard on that round, even with curse applied, which doubles their damage.  I had to get out the mana potions and Bone Spear again to push them along.

Then it was time for Baal.  I had no idea how this would go.  I went in, opened a portal to town, then headed straight at Baal, letting my skeletons get at him.  As with Diablo, my golem, rogue, and skeleton mage were having a tough time of it, but the skeletons seemed pretty durable.  By this point I was level 35 and had 20 points in skeletons and 15 points in skeletal mastery, so they were pretty tough.  They just were not doing much damage.

So when I lost the first wave of skeletons I went back to town, want to the first waypoint and scrounged some more mobs to rebuild my skeleton force.  Then, back in town, I filled up on more mana potions and went in to assist my skeletons with Bone Spear once more.

Facing Baal with Bone Spear

That seemed to tip the balance again and I only had to assemble one more pack of skeletons before I was able to bring Baal down and finish Act V.

Baal down with six skeletons, a golem, and my rogue still alive

Now, there was something odd with the fight in retrospective.  There was no second, fake Baal in the fight.  I don’t know if the fight is bugged, but I only had to chase down the one Baal, which made it go a lot more smoothly.  And, thinking on that, I recalled that Diablo had gone a bit soft as well, not putting up the bone prisons on the town portals like he used to.  Maybe they softened up normal mode because they were afraid kids these days couldn’t handle the truth as it was back in 2000.  Or maybe it is just bugged.

Either way I finished my first play through of Diablo II Resurrected.

There is something amusing about being Slayer Siddartha

On the way through I managed to collect a whole bunch of gear and gems and jewels and runes and what not such that I have already managed to fill up all three shared stash tabs, so I am going to have to make a storage mule or two after all.

I am on such a roll that I will have to jump in and see how I do on Nightmare mode.  I know I have played through Normal mode multiple times over the years, including my play through last year, but I cannot recall if I have ever finished on Nightmare.  We shall see.

Also, I once again forgot to do the cow level.  Still things to do.

Blizzard Goes Back to the Vanilla well with the WoW Classic Season of Mastery

With the team spending their time scrubbing questionable content while Shadowlands founders and their legal problems continue, Blizzard has decided to play the nostalgia card again, returning to the WoW Classic well that got them out of the doldrums of Battle for Azeroth.

Classic is as classic does

Last week Blizzard announced WoW Classic Season of Mastery, which will be their second run at a vanilla experience.

That means some new fresh start WoW Classic servers will be coming our way at some as yet unspecified future date.

But wait, there is more.

Taking lessons from the original WoW Classic run Blizzard has decided to move the dials a bit when it comes to how the game plays.

To start with, players will level up faster.  Per the announcement:

We’re planning on increasing experience gains from what they were in the first iteration of WoW Classic. Our current plan is to set them close to what the 1-60 XP rates are in Burning Crusade Classic with a bigger focus on quest XP increases.

That should flatten out the slump from the late 30s to the late 40s when it comes to the leveling curve, or at least keep players from having to scrounge for every single quest in every zone before moving on.  I do like the pace of the Burning Crusade Classic 1-60 leveling, but I somehow managed it with three characters before that hit.

There are also a couple of “quality of life” changes mentioned in the announcement:

  • Meeting Stones converted to Summoning Stones
  • Increased Mining and Herbalism nodes

The former seems like a bit of a cheat, though I suppose I am biased having gone through WoW Classic without summoning, but mining and herbalism nodes did seem to be a bit of a choke point.  As Blizz points out, more players are on classic servers than were back with the original launch, so maybe that deserves a review.

Blizzard is also going to introduce honor system and battlegrounds right away rather than trying to simulate the progressions (and problems) that were seen both back in the day and with the WoW Classic phases.

But the big focus of this appears to be on raiders and raiding guilds.  Do I once again detect the hand of Holly Longdale guiding this?  Certainly raiders were a key demographic for the EverQuest retro servers.

While the new servers will go through the same six phase plan that WoW Classic did originally, the goal is to roll them all out at an every other month cadence, so the final phase will be available in less than a year.

Meanwhile, the team is concerned that the raid bosses seemed a little bit too easy in WoW Classic, so they are making some adjustments to increase the challenge in order to make groups wipe at something closed to the 2004 rate rather than the 2019 rate.  Those include:

  • World buffs (like Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer and others) disabled in Raid instances
  • Restoring mechanics that were removed early on to some Raid bosses
  • No boss debuff limit (up from 16 debuffs in WoW Classic)
  • Increased health on bosses, to offset player buffs and the removed debuff limit

So get set your raid calendar I guess and get ready for tougher fights.

Now I wonder how popular round two of WoW Classic will be.  There was at least a decade of pent up demand to see the content that had been missing since Cataclysm when it first launched in 2019.  Who will be queuing up this time around?

Somebody will, I am sure.  If the EverQuest progression server experience has taught us anything, is is that there is always SOME demand for a fresh start retro server experience.  Daybreak seemed to be able to swamp a server and have queues throwing a fresh one out there every other year.

But Blizzard and WoW… well, they have their own complications.  Leaving aside that the company is in bad odor due to its own bad behavior, they haven’t had Burning Crusade Classic running for all that long at this point, which has a lot of draw for raiders as well.  I am certainly not feeling any huge draw for the vanilla experience… or a slightly reformed version there of… right now.

As noted, the launch date for this new round of servers has yet to be mentioned, though beta testing for them started yesterday.  My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.  Blizz has tried to address some of the outstanding questions, but we’ll have to see how this rolls out going forward.

Immersion in the Blocks of Minecraft

This one should be fun.  I am back on the immersion hobby horse and I am going to dive into Minecraft next… survival mode… which I am sure is going to be a breaking point for somebody because… well… the game looks like this:

fountain time

Villagers congregate at the town center in a world made up of one meter cubes

That was kind of a random screen shot I had to hand, but there are plenty more on this site and the web in general, that will illustrate that nobody in their right mind is going to be fooled into thinking that is the real world or anything like it.

And yet… and yet… I have experience various physiological reactions to the game that indicates that my brain can indeed be fooled into reacting to a world made up of unconvincing one meter cubes.  That, for me, is the purest form of immersion.  My body taking the input from my eyes and reacting cannot be faked.

So when I feel a tinge of acrophobia when I unwittingly walk up to the edge of a high cliff and realize how far up I am or when I am digging around in the roof of the nether and find myself in a thin portion and break through to find myself many meters above a lake of lava and just shy of stepping into this air, that means my brain is somehow convinced at a base level that this might be real, even if at higher level my brain knows this is all just images rendered on a screen and isn’t a threat at all.

But what gets my brain there?

I am going to skip ahead a bit on this one and, rather than meandering through a half a dozen tales… most of which I have probably written about here already in any case if you’re interested… and jump straight on what has become the through line for this series, which is a sense of place.  I think that is what helps convince my brain that it should flutter up my guts a bit when I loom over a cliff.

Now, “sense of place” is its own can of worms.  I’m in my fourth post and I am going to spin that in a fourth way.  With LOTRO is was the familiarity of Middle-earth.  With EverQuest it was the sense of worldliness and danger.  With EVE Online it was the overlay of player events on locations in the game that gave then meaning and history… and danger.

So what is it with Minecraft?

Well, it certainly has worldliness going for it.  There is all the world you could care to find and more over the next hill or across the next ocean.  Procedural generation for the win.

And, naturally, there is a sense of danger at night, where the world presses back against you.  You don’t get it all your own way and eventually some creeper is going to slip in and you’ll just hear that dreaded “hissssss” sound before it blows up and wrecks something you’re been working on… or kills you.

But I think more than either of those, there is the mutability of the world, the fact that you can make it your own, shape it as you will… if you have the time and patience… to be what you want.  You can build a house, a castle, or an Italian city.

The work of Skronk and Enaldi

The fact that you have changed the world, created something within it, transforms it and gives it a sense of place that the bare wilderness lacked.  And the effort of gathering the resources and building something grand or complex only ads to that.

In that was Minecraft is different from LOTRO or EQ.  Those worlds are essentially immutable.  You must take them as they are and find the place that they offer.

And EVE Online, where you can own space, build structures, influence resources, and fight wars over territory, even that only lets you build essentially temporary little sand castles in the vastness of space.  I live in Delve now, and the system of 1DQ1-A, the capital of the Imperium, shows the influence and power of that coalition, with Keepstars and Fortizars strewn about a grid as a show of power.

But we haven’t always lived there and we won’t always live there.  The tides of diplomacy and war have washed over Delve many times, scouring clean any sign of past residents.  And someday we too will no doubt decline and be washed away.  So goes the history of New Eden.

So Minecraft has a more permanent state of change.  I mean sure, somebody can come by and undo what you have done.  Creepers can blow up your stuff.  But it takes a lot of time and even in destruction the land remains changed.  Your impact remains even in ruins or a hole in the ground.

But Minecraft has its downside as well.  Having built castles, fortified towns, thrown up towers, build water spanning bridges, and laid down many kilometers of minecart track to create a transportation network both in the nether and on the main world, in the end I always end up feeling a bit empty at the end of a project.  The joy and the purpose is in the creation, but when you build a huge structure you quickly find yourself with not much left to do when it is done.

You have changed the face of the world, but then what?  There just isn’t a lot to “do” in Minecraft once you’ve built all your structures, explored as far as you care to, made your way through the nether and the end.

I have often felt pride in what I have built and, at the same time, a sense of emptiness in being done.  You only need one room and a bed and a bit of storage, so I’ll have a multi-story castle and all my stuff in one room off the main door.  It feels like there should be more.  Mojang has tried to address that a bit.  We have the ravagers now wandering the world.  But that becomes more of a maintenance routine after a while.

And then there is the world itself.  While there is a variety of biomes and no two places are exactly the same, there remains a tiring sameness in the world all the same.  There are only so many types of trees and hills and mountains all have similar essential elements.

Finally, there is the day/night cycle, which gives you the sense of danger in the world, but also becomes quite oppressive over time.  When you’re working on a big project, especially a rail project where you are moving along the world, leveling terrain, digging tunnels, laying track, and carrying supplies forward from your most recent base, the daytime starts to feel very short.

You get up and start working and soon that big square sun is past its zenith and you have to start planning what you’re going to do when night comes.  Do you roll on back down to your last camp?  Do you start working on a new camp?  Do you dig a quick hole in the side of a hill and set up a bed and carry on?

It really cuts both ways.  I wouldn’t want to do away with the night cycle.  It is part of the game pushing back on you which makes your accomplishments fulfilling.  But even with the night quickly over when you hit your bed, I still find the day too short to the point that it hinders getting things done.

Pro immersion:

  • Feeling of place within the world
  • A wide world to explore with many biomes
  • New things being added regularly
  • Ability to change the world, to leave your mark
  • Able to share your creation with friends in a shared world
  • A sense of danger, or the world pushing back against your efforts
  • The fulfillment of effort in creation

Immersion breaking:

  • A world of sameness until you’ve made your mark
  • New things usually don’t apply to areas already generated
  • Few real “game like” things to do
  • Having created feels less fulfilling than it should
  • Lack of a sense of purpose
  • Resource management can become a grind
  • The world pushes back in a very “samey” way
  • The oppression of the day/night cycle

And some of those latter are not unique to Minecraft.  There isn’t a lot you can “do” with towns or towers or encampments in LOTRO or EQ.  But there is also a game with a story and advancement and other activity built into the mix.  I can admire the Bree or the run down Forsaken Inn out in the Lone Lands or Hobbiton, but I also have a series of tasks to take care of, levels to gain, monsters to slay who drop loot and coin and which earn me status and what not.

If I went and created Bree in Minecraft I’d just have a town where not much was happening.  It would be neat to look at, but once I was done it wouldn’t be useful for much and I’d go on to work on something else.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Minecraft, which reflect the way I have chosen to play it.  I prefer survival mode and haven’t done anything with mods.  I just explore and build and farm and mine in the randomly generated world and look for meaning.

So four posts and four variations on a feeling or sense of place.  I suppose, ideally, this series would end with me finding the ideal mix of ingredients when it comes to that.  I think that will be a long journey though as no such destination is anywhere on my map so far.

The immersion series so far:

A Week in the New World

It has been quite a week for Amazon Games and New World.  There was clearly quite a bit of pent up demand for a new MMORPG launch.

Welcome to a New World

I was digging through lists of MMO titles to see when the last big launch really was.

WoW Classic was huge when it hit in 2019, reviving Blizzards fortunes as they shambled about with Battle for Azeroth.  But that was a nostalgia play, and while it did stand out, it was delivering something old.

I suppose there was Black Desert Online in 2015.  That got a lot of attention.  And there was Guild Wars 2 in 2012, which shares a business model with New World.

But I really thing that the last big budget, major studio, all eyes on the launch event might have been Star Wars: The Old Republic in late 2011.  At least that is the way it feels to me.  I mean, you could make an argument for WildStar perhaps or, more convincingly, The Elder Scrolls Online, both 2014 launches, but they feel a bit short of the mark.

No matter which mark you choose, it has been a while and New World is reaping the benefits of that thirst for a new experience.  And it manages to deliver, bringing on board things like skill based classless advancement and a more active combat paradigm for which a some players have been loudly asking loudly for year.  Even the setting feels different.

This combination of a hunger in the market along with getting something fresh, or different enough for the norm to feel fresh, led to success beyond expectations.

I logged on early on Tuesday and created a character and there were already queues for some of the popular servers, with the Valhalla served in US East running up to the 25K mark by the early afternoon.

Server queues on Tuesday

Over on US West the El Dorado server pushed past the 17K mark.

Servers were said to be setup to allow only 2,000 players in at once, so for Valhalla there were 12.5 times as many people trying to get in as the server could hold.  The game quickly began to be called Queue World as Amazon rushed to open more servers.

The irony is that the servers were setup in groups that were clearly designed to be collapsed down into a single server should populations dwindle.

Server groups detail

A classic “plan for failure” mode, which given how the MMORPG market has gone over the years where many a title has seen a huge surge at launch only to have their player base dwindle in months, or even weeks, when the fresh game smell has worn off, is a wise move.  They may yet need that option.  We’re still in the fresh moment of discovery.

Over on the SteamDB charts, New World was vying with CS:GO as the most popular title on Steam.  During the week the game surged past 700K concurrent players, getting into the 900K range with the weekend.  As with EVE Online, the peak concurrent time seemed to hit around 19:00 UTC, when Europe is still online, North American is in full swing, and a few early risers in the Pacific are on and playing.

SteamDB numbers at 19:04 UTC on Sunday Oct 3rd

The queues quickly spread to all the servers.  I thought I had been clever, rolling up on a low population server, but by Tuesday night my character was locked behind a 4 digit queue and I honestly didn’t care that much about the game to wait.  I went and played more Diablo II Resurrected.

As the week went on, some more friends got interested in the title and jumped in.  The plan seemed to be just to get into a server in the same region and work out getting together when the free server transfers Amazon promised came into being.

I gave up on my first character and went to roll up a new one on a server without a queue.  There were plenty of new ones to choose from so it seemed like my problems might be over.  But it was not to be.  I was able to create characters on new servers, but whenever I tried to connect I got a connection error trying to get into the game.

No queue does not mean no problems

My guess is that the starter zones on various servers were full up with new players so the game wouldn’t load me in.  I tried on half a dozen otherwise low population and zero queue servers before giving up.

So by Thursday evening there were a lot of people upset at the game.  Amazon put out a statement that they were working hard to address the situation.

Posted Thursday evening

But promises and good intentions only buy so much.  Belghast summarized the situation and mood very well in his Friday morning post.

But Friday morning also saw an update from Amazon.

At lunch I opened up Steam and went to log into New World, just to see how deep the queue was on my first character and had that awkward moment of suddenly being in the game when I didn’t have any time to play.  I was almost in a bit of panic.  I had better do something while I was able to log in lest I not get another opportunity any time soon.

But I need not have been in a state.  As it turned out Amazon pushed a number of changes into the game including raising the cap on the number of players allowed on a server, adding a much more aggressive idle timeout, and designating some servers as “full” so that new characters could no longer be created on them.  That and more new servers seemed to settle things down quite a bit.

Of course, it isn’t perfection yet.  While in US West as I write this the server queues are all in single or double digits and most servers have no queue, US East still has a dozen servers with four digit queues.  EU Central, which is at its peak time as I write, has four digit queues on a lot of servers and it looks like about two thirds of servers have a queue over 100 deep. But there are still a pile of servers with zero queue.

And Amazon still has work to do on idle timeout.  They’re going after those people you see doing things like running against walls to appear active while they’re AFK.

Meanwhile, the impact of simply allowing more players onto servers has yet to be assessed.  There is already a bit of harvest competition going on as people vie for rare resources and settlements are very crowded.

But overall they seem to have at least momentarily improved the situation.  In these circumstance you fight the battle in front of your and worry about tomorrow when it arrives.

Jeff Bezos was out in the press declaring the game a success.  And with probably a couple million boxes sold at $40 a pop, it has no doubt been a nice payday for Amazon.  Those are some enviable first week numbers.  But, as we know, an MMORPG is a marathon and not a sprint.  We’ll see how it goes in the long term.

Related:

Carbot’s Diablo II Lord of Destruction Trailer

Carbot Animations has been a bit down on World of Warcraft lately, even following the trend into Final Fantasy XIV, but the Diablo II series carries on.

Having covered the defeat of Diablo and the cow level, it was time to move on to the Lord of Destruction expansion and the Act V content.  Bring on LOD!

Make way for LOD

All of which is summed up in this trailer set to a tune you may recognize.

My memories of the Lord of Destruction expansion mostly revolve around two new classes and an upgrade in video resolution from 640×480 to 800×600, the latter being the more important of the two.

But the pile of other things added to the game… charms, gems, runes, the ability to ad sockets, and all the gear… had a huge impact on the game as well.  And it all gets summed up pretty well in this video.  LOD was kind of a big deal.

WordAds Unleashed

As mentioned/promised/threatened previously, I turned on ads for the blog on October 1st.

For those just catching up, WP.com announced that they were going to start injecting “sponsored” posts into blogs that were on the free plan, and while I was technically on a grandfathered “No Ads” plan, my plan was still listed as “free,” so I opted to upgrade to the Premium plan.

Premium features

Among the features of the Premium plan is to be able to earn ad revenue.  So, in a swap of no small irony, I went from paying to have no ads on the blog to paying more to allow ads on the blog.  The hope is to offset the price of the premium plan.

The WordAds feature in WP.com… not to be confused with Google’s AdWords I guess, though I think Google changed that name a while ago… is easy enough to turn on when you have Premium.  You flick a switch, fill out a form, get processed for eligibility, and then you’re in.   Or I was in, anyway, the bar being low enough to allow that.

Having turned it on I went to my work laptop where I have browsers setup without Ad Block to see what happened.

For a while, there was nothing.  It takes some time to get going.  And then, suddenly, there were ads.  Ads in the side bar, ads anchored to the scroll bar, ads around posts, ads in posts every three paragraphs… the place was quickly swimming in ads.  Too many ads.

So I went back to the settings and dialed that back some.  The meanings of the settings are a bit… vague.  I mean, I know what “Display ads below posts…” means in my head, but what toggling that setting on and off did was not lining up with my expectations.

The ads, as most places, are served up based on what you, the reader, have been snooped on doing on the internet.  I thought it was pretty funny that one of the first ads I was served was about blocking ads.

Know your audience I guess – this is not an ad but an image of an ad

I also found it amusing that it injected an ad for hearing aids below the group picture in yesterday’s post about the group playing Diablo II where I identified us as an aging rock act.

Now it is showing me ads for Macy’s because my wife was looking at their online ad, which just shows they’re lumping us together in the same IP address.

Apparently I even earned some money my first day out, netting 8 cents towards my eventual payout, which comes at the $100 mark.  I also get a new stats tab on my admin page that tells me about revenue and number of ads served.  Something new for the annual blog review post I guess.  Another horrible metric to report on.

Anyway, if you see ads, this is why.  But if you have an ad blocker setup, which I do recommend, you won’t see any.   You also, so far as I can tell, won’t see any ads if you view my posts in a reader like Feedly.

As always, your feedback on this change is welcome.

Diablo II Resurrected as a Group

For all my talk and nostalgia around Diablo II Resurrected, one thing I have not done in probably 18 years was play with anybody else.  Early on in the Diablo II era we played together at the office and I played with some friends from home via BNet, but since then the game has been a solo venture.

The return of the classic

Last weekend however we were a bit at loose ends with Beanpole away and were looking for something to do.  With Outland or Brewfest as options in WoW Classic, we turned to the newly released Diablo II Resurrected to occupy some time on Sunday afternoon.

All of us had played Diablo II.  Some of us had played it more recently than others however, so we got off to a bit of a slow start as everybody got settled into the 2000 era design that is the game.

Actually having somebody asking questions was good for me because I’ve certainly forgotten more about the game than I remember even if I played in beta and did a run through the game last year.  I, for whatever reason, always forget about being able to bind skills to function keys for quick swaps when you need them.

We started off by picking classes.  Ula went with the sorceress and Skronk, playing under the handle Daugrim, went with the necromancer.  I avoided my usual pattern, which is to play paladin or barbarian, and went with a druid.  I cannot recall having played a druid before, though surely at some point in the last two decades I must have at least tried one out.

And then we had to get together in a game, which is another thing I have forgotten to do over the years.  The UI at least implies that people on your friends list ought to be able to simply join a game you start, but that didn’t seem to be coming together.  I ended up going into the BNet lobby, a place I have avoided since 2001, to create a game with a password which I then said aloud on voice coms so we could all get in the game together.

I don’t mind the updated character models, but it feels like somebody decided that they all needed to be aged 20 years to go with the age of the game.  They feel a bit old and weathered compared to the original graphics… though those were so low res I am not sure how much you could really tell.  But we got the band together .

Aging rock act reunited

That accomplished, we spent some time getting oriented, wandering around the camp, getting keys setup, and grabbing that first quest.  And then it was out into the Blood Moors, the first area, to warm up.  We slayed a few things, Daugrim brought forth his first skeleton follower, and we hit a level pretty quickly.

With three of us sticking together we seemed to level on the same kill pretty consistently.

Once we got a level though it was time to look at those Diablo II skill trees.  I passed on my general philosophy of the skill tree, which is that you can screw around with points, assigning them to things that look interesting until late in Act II, at which point you will probably want to look up a usable build and then turn in you one respec to run with that.  Ula went with more damage, Daugrim more skeletons, and I started down the werewolf path.  We’ll see.

Then we managed to find our way into the Den of Evil, the first destination in the game.

Quite a well lit den… also, skeletons in motion

There we managed to mostly stick together… the tendency to wander off or away is strong, and all the more so when you have skeleton pets that run around like sugared up eight year olds… and cleared the den, returning to the surface to head back to camp for our reward.

Respec in our pockets for later, we got the next quest from Kashya, which was to go find Blood Raven in the cemetery over in the Cold Plains.  As we explored we found the road into the next zone beyond, the Stony Fields, and I led us in there in hopes of finding the next waypoint, as it is sometimes just there inside the zone, easy to grab.  That would save us a bit of walking later.

However, as we probed into the Stony Fields rather than finding the waypoint we found the cairn stones, which come into play later, and in the midst of them was the familiar mini-boss Rakanishu.  He is memorable both because the carvers shout his name every so often when attacking and because he is likely the first lightning enhanced boss that you run into in the game and that is generally when you learn that lightning enhanced means handle with care.

We were quickly in over our heads as the skeletons began beating on the boss, summoning forth waves of lightning.  We started to run away but Ula and Daugrim were down for their first deaths in the game.  I kept running and chugging health pots, dropping a town portal when I had a moment.

I managed to get safe, but when they came through the portal it was quickly obvious that it was too close to the cairn stones leading to more deaths.  At this point I tried to kite Rakanishu away from the area, which surprisingly worked.  Once I had him off in the Cold Plains… he just kept following… Ula and Daugrim came through and collected their stuff.

Kiting the lightning

I ran Rakanishu around Flavie, the rogue who guards the bridge between the Blood Moors and Stony Field… I was really on a tour with him in tow… hoping she might kill him off for us.  Flavie took some potshots, but didn’t really seem invested in the killing.  After running around her a few times, I headed back across the Cold Plains for the Stony Fields and the group.

Maybe Flavie helped more than it seemed, because once I got back and kited Rakanishu past the rest of the group a couple of times we were able to take him down.  A warm up for when we have to get him next time.

After some extended searching, the waypoint was found.  We were then able to hop back to the Cold Plains to look for Blood Raven.

After some wandering about I went back to my usual pattern, which is to follow the paths in the zones, they are generally there for a reason.  The one towards Stony Fields was obvious, so I figured that the branch off from that would take us to the cemetery, and I was correct.

Having some ranged attacks with skeleton and werewolf druid melee, we were able to chase down Blood Raven and dispatch her without straying too far.

Going after Blood Raven

After that we took a turn in one of the crypts before returning to camp.

That was about all we had in us for one session.  But there was some learning and warm up along the way.  All in all, it was fun and a good change from my usual solo mode.  We’ll keep these characters as group characters and see if we can get back together again for the next round, which includes rescuing Deckard Cain.

Loot drops were a bit stingy on our run, even considering splitting three ways.  But on another BNet character I rolled… a necro because the skeleton thing seemed like a lot of fun… it was practically raining gems, jewels, charms, and gold level gear.  But I can always put that in the shared stash.

September in Review

The Site

And we’re now at the fifteenth anniversary of the first month in review post.  So there is that.

The state of the blog – Sep 2006

In the categories drop down there shows 182 Month in Review posts, one more than there should be because I wrote a post about Month in Review posts a while back.  It even had a poll.  But we’ll get to polls in a bit.

Otherwise it has been quite a month.

I mean, I can’t really complain about the first ten days.  I was in Hawaii for most of that.  But less than a week after I came back I came down with the dreaded “flu-like” symptoms, which was just in the COVID incubation period, so I ran down to get tested and started isolating at home… or tried to, it is harder than you think when your life is intertwined with another person… while my wife cancelled all her in-person appointments.

Luckily, it wasn’t COVID… it took a couple days to get that result… just a cold that has been going around.  I was sick, but just normal-ass sick, not plague sick.

And then the cold developed into an inner ear infection, a malady I could not recommend.  That started almost two weeks ago and I am still recovering, still feeling the effects.  At its peak it was an sharp and constant pain along with my tinnitus cranked to 11 at all times, plus gunk oozing out of my ear, and bouts of motion sickness as it messed with my inner ear functions.

That meant antibiotics.  But, having had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin a few decades back, I have to have the azithromycin based alternative, which makes one prone to stomach upset and what I refer to as “turbo diarrhea” as everything I at seemed to be very much in a rush to exit my body at its earliest opportunity.

At this point you might be saying, “Wow, that sucks… but what does all of this have to do with “The Site,” which is the name of this section?”

Well, all of that has certainly affected the quality of content.  The first eleven days of the month were all pre-written in advance.  I started to catch up a bit, then got sick, and the level of effort devolved to “look, a thing happened” without much in the was of my usual attempts to tie things into a greater theme or the historical context of the genre… though I am kind of curious if anybody actually noticed that or the fact that words per post dropped rather significantly.  Probably not.

All of that added up to the lowest monthly page view count since mid-2007.  It was a slow month here.

Somehow though I kept my post streak going and I still have a stack of things I meant to get to in September that I now mean to get to in October.  I still haven’t even watched that Ji Ham EG7 video.  But here we are.

Oh, and in other news, WP.com broke polls in their attempt to monetize them through their Crowdsignal brand.  My fourth email finally got somebody to look at the problem (the first three happiness engineers just tossed aside everything I said and sent me a link about using the new Poll Block in the awful block editor… which is broken as well so WTF?) and now… they’re looking into it.  I wasn’t planning on creating another poll any time soon, but now it seems I cannot and when I eventually can I will have to buy credits.  So look forward to no more polls I guess.  Yay?

One Year Ago

The blog turned fourteen and I made my usual post about stats and the passing of time.

Nintendo announced the end of their long running DS hardware line.

Chris Roberts was annoyed because people are so cynical online, threatening to unleash an irony-quake.

With no BlizzCon planned for 2020, Blizzard announced BlizzConline for February of 2021.

My third entry in the ongoing binge watching series was posted.  I was also looking at the main streaming channels I was viewing as well as some secondary channels.

In my play through of Diablo II on its 20th anniversary I wrapped up Act II, then launched myself into the somewhat forgettable Act IIIWhen it came to Act IV I had to go use that one time respec to finish Diablo.  On finishing Act V I summed up with some thoughts about the game.

In WoW Classic we were taking on the upstairs portion of Sunken Temple, though it took a third run to get to the Avatar of Hakkar.  I was also still plugging away with some alts.

In EVE Online CCP introduced quantum cores for Upwell structures.  Abyssal sites also got some updates, with T0 and T6 sites opening up with the Depths of the Abyss update.  They also tried to breath some life into the EDENCOM ship lineup.

Meanwhile, metaliminal storms were doing whatever it is they really do.  There was the GM Week bot bash in Yulai, where high sec players got to blow up some capital ships, including two titans.

My own main character hit 220 million skill points in the game.

And then there was World War Bee, which I will just list as bullet points:

Then, in a final Friday Bullet Points post for the month I looked at LOTRO’s mini-expansion, Microsoft buying Zemimax, PlayStaion 5 pre-orders, the end of FarmVille, EA being dumb about lock boxes again, EVE Online ship models, and something about CCP planning to do some sort of resource redistribution thing in New Eden, which became the whole economic starvation plan of the last year.   Kind of a lot for one post.

Five Years Ago

It was the tenth anniversary of the blog.

I was looking back at day/night cycles and full zone respawns of yore.

My wife’s Pokemon Go account was hacked, but I recovered it pretty quickly.  That post brings in a lot of search engine traffic looking for ways to hack Pokemon Go accounts.  So many bad people.

Daybreak announced that both EverQuest and EverQuest II would be launching Kunark focused expansions, with Empires of Kunark slated for the former and Kunark Ascending for the latter.

Smed was taking his Hero’s Song project back to the crowdfunding arena again, this time via Indiegogo which, unlike Kickstarter, lets you keep the money even if you don’t meet your goal.

I was going on about problems EVE Online has getting new players to stick with the game… again.  We also had the YC118.8 Update which revamped a the look of mining barges and some frigates, among other thing.  It also launched the Purity of the Throne event that had me chasing white skins for Amarr ships.

There was also the ascension of Caitiz of House Tash-Murkon to the Amarr throne.  All those ships are still lined up in Amarr for some reason.  Did they have to wait a year for the first Jubilee?

And Alpha Clones would soon be a thing, so I was wondering what you could do with one.

In post-Casino War events the Imperium finished conquering Delve and a state of normalcy was starting to come to pass.  I also got my last ship out of Deklein.

And then there was World of Warcraft where the Legion expansion was off and running.  There was even an app for it.  I started off slowly as I figured things out and moved clockwise around the Broken Isles.  That didn’t stop me from checking up on my Draenor garrison though.

And then in one of those bullet point posts that I always hate a year later when it comes time to do the summary I covered Star Trek Online going to consoles, Legends of Norrath card packs, rewards for Omega players in EVE Online, and the then upcoming EVE Vegas.

Finally, No Man’s Sky launched, capping off yet another dismal episode of fan behavior.  After getting death threats for delaying the launch, Hello Games finally shipped the game only to have the fan base explode even more so when it was discovered that features that were straight up said to be in the product… multiplayer being the prime suspect… were not.  Still, it made a lot of money and features have since been added and it got its own Honest Game Trailers video.  There are, no doubt, lessons to be learned here.

Ten Years Ago

I did the great survey of blogs that had, at one time or another, included this site in their blog roll over the last five years.  Only 28% of them were still up and active.  There was also the five year anniversary post and all that it entailed.

implied that Tobold’s mother a llama.  This had NOTHING to do with him not having a blog roll.

I was totally going to resist Steam selling me Rift for cheap.  That didn’t work, and I ended up playing for about a year or so.

Star Trek Online announced it was going free to play, though I couldn’t imagine how it wasn’t already.

In LOTRO, the Rise of Isengard expansion came out and I almost didn’t notice.  Which was odd, because we were kind of playing LOTRO still.

The Goons were going to wreck the EVE economy by blowing up high sec ice miners.  Another vast Goon conspiracy.  I was being nostalgic for my earlier days in EVE.

GameSpy had a post about re-imagining Diablo as a first person perspective game, which was met with much derision.  Me, I liked the idea and even had suggestions for further topics in that vein to explore.  Meanwhile, Diablo III was pushed out to the middle of 2012.

In other Blizzard news, the Official World of Warcraft Magazine went belly up after just five issues.  And then there was a drop in WoW subscribers.  They lost 600,000 players, though I wasn’t one of them… yet.  Good thing they never lost more than that…

I was still playing Need for Speed: World pretty regularly.  I was filming police chases, avoiding police chases, and buying the squarest ride in the game.

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw server, the retro experience was made complete by “guilds behaving badly” when it came to contested content.  Some GMs came up with unorthodox ways to resolve conflicts.  Somewhere along the way I got my SOE Authenticator, which I never use.

ArenaNet said something about private GuildWars 2 PvP servers.  I wonder how that would play today?

EA/BioWare gave us a release date for SWTOR at last, so I could start fretting about pre-orders and grace periods.  While I wasn’t in beta yet, BioWare was asking how I was enjoying it.

There was no word about life on Planet Michael.

And, finally, I was wondering how 9/11, which took place just a couple months before the birth of my daughter, would influence her view of the world relative to my own.  This was triggered by her trip to New York, where she visited the Nintendo Store.

Fifteen Years Ago

Here we are, able to at last dip into the blog archives for fifteen year old items.

There was the first post.  I still haven’t covered all of the topics I promised 15 years back.

After that I was straight into the EverQuest nostalgia, an oft recurring topic here.  The Serpent’s Spine expansion came out for the game.  I would get to that in a bit.

LEGO Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy launched, setting the casual path for future Traveller’s Tales LEGO based games.  My daughter and I would later play this on the Wii, but that was still out in the future.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, the first core Pokemon RPG titles for the Nintendo DS platform shipped in Japan.  They wouldn’t reach US shores for another six months.  Again, another series that would show up here as time moved on.

Green Monster Games, later 38 Studios, was unveiled to the public by founder Curt Schilling with R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane as part of the creative team.

Roblox launched.  I didn’t know about it at the time, but the title has grown to be many things, including controversial.

I was into EVE Online, which I began playing just about two weeks before I started the blog.  My first post about it concerned the tutorial, then I went on to my impressions.  I already had EVEMon up and running, because you cannot play EVE Online without it.  And, while I was hardly aware of it, the first titan had been built in New Eden.

I was musing about games slated for the future, including Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online I had reservations about both.

I kicked off my old school gaming reminiscences with a post about Stellar Emperor as it was back in 1986.  That was 30 years ago.  Damn continuous motion of time.

The instance group formed up for adventures in Azeroth.

I wrote the first “Month in Review” post.  I am not sure WHY I decided to do that, but it became a thing as here I am doing the 181st such post a decade and a half later. (About nine years ago I decided month in review should have its own category, so I went back and edited each and every last one to put them all in that category.  Fortunately, being a once a month thing, it was easy to figure out if I missed any or not.)

I also wrote something about Saga of Ryzom in that month in review post, which might be the one of the few times I ever wrote anything about it.  It had launched two years before and people were talking about it, but my play time with it was very short and unfulfilling.

But the smartest thing I probably did in that first month was link out to Brent at VirginWorlds in a post, which got him to notice my brand new blog, which kind of got me into the club pretty quickly as well as getting me my first comment.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Meridian 59 by 3DO launched.  It remains part of the perennial discussion as to what was the first “real” MMORPG.

Forty Years Ago

Wizardry for the Apple II launched, one of the early influential titles for me.  I still have graph paper maps of the levels in a drawer in my office.  Robert Woodhead, one of the creators of the title would later serve four terms on the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management.

Apple ][+ back in 1983

Castle Wolfenstein, another influential Apple II title, launched as well.  I needed that two button joystick to play that for sure!

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. Robbing Some Space Banks
  4. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Twenty Years
  7. Enad Global 7 Q2 2021 Financials and Concerning News
  8. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  9. My Blogging Quinceanera
  10. Getting Setup with Zwift
  11. New World Blues
  12. Dealing with Mudflation

Search Terms of the Month

nantworks h1z1
[That didn’t really work out]

is lotro dead 2021
[I mean, it’s been better…]

eve meta 2021
[HACs in null sec]

eve cv-composite molecular condenser
[I’m not going to be much help with gas mining]

eve online jedi gas
[I think you meant “ninja” there, right?]

Game Time from ManicTime

This month we get kind of a Bizarro world “what year is this?” list for my game play time:

  • EverQuest II – 35.06%
  • EVE Online – 24.37%
  • Diablo II – 22.55%
  • WoW Classic – 14.42%
  • New World – 3.61%

If not for New World I might convince you this was from a decade back or more.  Of course, it was, as noted in the opening, an odd month and my total play time was roughly a third of the average month in 2021 and less than a quarter of the month with the most hours played… which was March.  I guess it was all Valheim all the time that month.

Diablo II Resurrected

The last week of the month saw this nostalgia blast arrive and I managed to find some time for it.  I am still not into Act II with any characters, but I am also not in a big hurry.  Some rides don’t need to go fast to be enjoyable.

EVE Online

I went on exactly one strategic operation in September.  The war is over and I was away for one week and sick for another and in the middle there wasn’t a lot going on.  My planetary industry plans kind of crashed when oversupply of what I was producing hit and I didn’t really have it in me to re-do all of that to pursue some other PI goal.  I did, however, get on one Fortizar and two Keepstar kill mails.  Not a bad month for that.

EverQuest II

The announcement of the next expansion got me thinking about post-cataclysm Norrath and whether it might be time for a return to the old game.  After all, Pandas were on the horizon and there wasn’t really much else going on mid-month.  I subscribed, ran the 2020 Days of Summer event and did the intro quests for the next expansion.  Then Diablo II and New World showed up and now… maybe.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.

New World

New World, the new game under the sun.  I’d play more if I could log in.  Unfortunately, while I managed to slip in during the afternoon of day one, since then the queue on the server I chose… which had no queue at that point… has been mid-three to four figures and honestly I don’t want to play the game that badly.  But I am also not keep to toss ten levels overboard just to avoid the queue.  This isn’t working out so well I guess.

Pokemon Go

If you’re one of my friends I might have sent you a gift from Hawaii… and if you’re one of those people who actually look at the gifts you get, you might even have noticed!  I got in a lot of steps with my buddy while traveling, then had to send my wife with my phone out to get me a Pokestop while I was sick.  Not a lot of progress made overall.

Level: 41 (83% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 665 (+3) caught, 689 (+3) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 12 of 14
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

WoW Classic

My avoidance of Outland overland content continues on.  The instance group did the Blood Furnace in one go, so we have that going for us.  I also did a bit of Brewfest, but honestly I wasn’t up to grinding out the tasks for a mount.  I got the mug and went on to other things.

Zwift

I am going to put my Zwift progress here in the monthly update.  I’ve written a couple of posts about it and I have a few more brewing.  It is now Wilhelm canon.  I did not make my modest monthly goal of 75 miles but, as I have repeated ad nauseum by this point, vacation and illness.  Leave me alone.  Anyway, my standings right now:

  • Level – 9
  • Distanced cycled – 264.9 miles
  • Time – 14h 28m
  • Elevation climbed – 11,352 feet
  • Calories burned – 8,783

Coming Up

Welcome to Q4 2021 as of tomorrow I guess.  Last year ActiBlizz gave us their Q3 financials at the end of October rather than sliding into November.  We’ll see if they’re as eager this year.  The will probably be eager to get players back to their games, so we’ll see what incentives and updates they throw out.

I imagine we’ll get more info about the EverQuest II expansion as well as the announcement for whatever EverQuest has in store for players as well.  Maybe those perks will go live too.  They were delayed due to technical issues.

The instance group will be headed towards Zangarmarsh in WoW Classic.

I will carry on with Diablo II Resurrected.

And then there is New World, where my mild indifference is both a blessing and a curse.  I’ll play it if I am enjoying it, but I am not interested in queues.  I guess we’ll see how that settled down as time goes on.

Finally, I am thinking about turning on ads for the site for Q4 just to see how that plays out.  Your feedback on them is welcome, though I clearly won’t be putting up a poll about it.  We’ll see if they can offset the extra I am paying for the premium plan.

The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch

SSG has announced the date for the next Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Fate of Gundabad, which is set to go on November 10th, 2021.

The fate is per-determined by the quest chain I’m sure

The expansion boasts of the following features:

  • New Brawler class
  • Level cap raised from 130 to 140
  • New mobs to face, new zones to explore
  • New instances and raids
  • A new run at the Legendary Item system

The expansion is available for pre-purchase now and comes in three different flavors:

Standard Edition – $40

  • Fate of Gundabad Content
  • Brawler Class
  • Extra Character Slot
  • Standard Expedition Supplies

Collector’s Edition – $80

  • Fate of Gundabad Content
  • Brawler Class
  • Extra Character Slot
  • Improved Expedition Supplies
  • Brawler Gauntlet Box
  • Level boost to 130
  • Gundabad Cosmetics
  • Gundabad Mount & War-steed
  • And more bonus items!

Ultimate Fan Bundle – $130

  • Fate of Gundabad Content
  • Brawler Class
  • Extra Character Slot
  • Ultimate Expedition Supplies
  • Brawler Gauntlet Box
  • Level boost to 130
  • Gundabad Cosmetics
  • Gundabad Mount & War-steed
  • Fateful Gundabad Cosmetics
  • Thunder Boar & War-steed Appearance
  • Dye Carry-all
  • 10,000 Virtue XP
  • And more bonus items!

I do find it a bit amusing that the Expedition Supplies include various accelerators, because nothing says your game is grindy like handing out XP boosters with the expansion pack.

All of which seems to be standard fare for an MMO expansion; level cap increase, more stuff to do, a new class to play, and some changes to a key system here and there.  As pointed out elsewhere, not exactly earth shattering stuff.

More interesting to me is where the game is heading.

Lord of the Rings Online is in an odd position in that it cannot just make up new content.  It cannot follow in the footsteps of its Norrathian siblings and just go to the moon for a couple of expansions or decide to go on a sea voyage to discover some new content.

SSG is stuck with the books of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  As I recall they cannot even stray into The Hobbit, which seems like it would be a nice time travel expansion, much less the lore dense Silmarillion.

And when it comes to the main story line of the trilogy, we’re kind of done.  The ring has been destroyed, Sauron has been thrown down, we’ve tidied up Mordor a bit, had a wedding, scourged the Shire, and have generally wrapped up all of the great moments of the Third Age. [edit: or at least I thought we had done all those things… I’m still back in Mirkwood]

So the team at SSG has been working on what I call “plundering the appendix” of the trilogy.  Dr. Tolkien, bless his soul, crammed in more than 150 pages of appendices with all sorts of bits of history, family trees, pronunciation guides and language primers, and other items of tangential interest to the main tale including a timeline of events of the world.

In that condensed history of Middle-earth you will find the tale of Gundabad in the Misty Mountains, where the dwarves first awoke when the world was young and their struggles with the orcs over it.  This has been picked up for the latest expansion.

And that makes me wonder what else is buried in the appendix that they can farm for more expansions.  Where else might they go?  I mean, technically, there is a lot of stuff mentioned in the appendix of the trilogy.  Is something being there an opening to include it in the game, because they do retell a tale of one Thorin Oakenshield and an expedition to the Lonely Mountain… I’m just saying.