Tag Archives: Diablo II Resurrected

Friday Bullet Points on a Chilly Spring Saturday

[This was supposed to be yesterday’s post, but then I woke up to a big news event, so it is a day late.]

It is cold out, considering it is spring here in California.  It has even rained here in the last 24 hours.  I am wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, which isn’t exactly the gear of arctic explorers, but by this late in April I have generally been well into the “I will wear shorts every day until I have finished off the Halloween candy” state of affairs that working from home forever has brought me to.

Not that the weather has anything to do with the rest of this post, but I needed a headline and the weather will serve when nothing else comes to mind.  So on with another bullet points post or items I thought worth noting but which weren’t worth a whole post on their own.

Enad Global 7

  • EG7 Dropping Russia

On the trend with western companies bailing from Russia after its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Enad Global 7 has announced that they will selling off their Innova subsidiary to the management of the team for a total of 32 million Euros, quite a haircut for the company considering they shelled out 109 million Euros for the company when they closed the deal for it a little over a year ago.  Innova was primarily acquired because they held the license to run a number of MMOs in the EU and Russia.  The current state of the Ukraine conflict puts Innova in a tough spot.

Meanwhile EG7 also announced that they would Toadman Interactive, another acquired studio, would be relocated from its current location in Russia to somewhere in the EU.

Database evolution

  • EVE Online Database History

CCP has posted another of the dev blogs that makes them a standout on the communications front in the industry.  Every time I think that they could do better, I have to remind myself how poorly the industry handles this sort of thing.

New database server upgrades have arrived and that has prompted the team to write a history of the databases of EVE Online, spanning from the early days when they had to solve lag problems with people just warping across systems, to being able to cope with 100 vs 100 fights, to the monster servers that they have today which make the original 2003 game look as powerful as a digital watch by comparison. (Though I still think digital watches wee a pretty neat idea.)

Anyway, if this is your sort of thing… and I am all over these sorts of posts… you can find the whole thing on CCPs news site here.

A new drama generator

  • RimWorld is Legal in Australia Again

It was noted previously that, after the Ideology expansion for RimWorld landed, it seemed like maybe the thought of feminist nudist cannibals was too much for the faint hearts in Canberra.

And that could have been it, though the whole thing came up due to the fact that there was a console version of the game on the horizon, which was what got the Classification Review Board taking a look at RimWorld again.  And they didn’t like what they saw, so flagged it as “Refused Classification” which made it unsalable down under.

That was undone earlier this week… on 4/20 if you think there is any significance in that… allowing the people of Australian to once again purchase RimWorld or redeem Steam keys for the game.

And, speaking of console support, RimWorld also announced that the game now has full support for Steam Deck, so perhaps that was what triggered the whole thing.

The return of the classic

  • Diablo II Resurrected Gets Ladders and more

Diablo II Resurrected has gotten its 2.4 patch, which is the biggest update the game has received in a long long time.

The lead story for the update is the unlock of the ladder seasons for those who want a competitive Diablo II experience, but there is so much more in the update such as class updates, mercenary fixes, new rune words, new Horadric Cube recipes, quality of life updates, and even some new levels of legacy graphics emulation for those who play with the old school look.

The great thing is that Blizzard has gone all in on this 22 year old game to make it better and fix things that has been problems for decades.  The sad thing is that this might be the peak of Diablo news this year unless Diablo Immortal is a lot better than I suspect it will be.

Playable Worlds

  • Playable Worlds gets $25 Million in Funding

Finally, news got out this week that Playable Worlds, Raph Koster’s sandbox cloud MMO venture, managed to pick up $25 million in financing for the project from a group that includes Korean video game publisher Kakao Games Corp.

That got Raph Koster to speak a bit more about the vision for the title:

“It’s about having environments that are more alive,” Koster said. “Players can affect things that evolve and change rather than being static. Most games build their maps out of static meshes. Ours are dynamic and come down on the fly from the server. It’s about enabling worlds to feel more alive. That’s really what it comes down to.”

“Offering truly and fully persistent shared environments and massive scale is something else that is really important to us,” Koster said. “These aren’t just theme parks that you ride through, right? Where the developers are the ones who are in control. Giving full persistence also unlocks the ability for players to have far more impact. If you chop down a tree, it is permanently gone from the world for everybody.”

Specifics about the project were not forthcoming.

And we have heard a vision like this before, with the EverQuest Next project, which was eventually shelved by Daybreak, in part because of the processing requirements such a dynamic and player changeable world entailed.

Blizzard Sinks Slightly in the Low Key 2021 Financial Results Announcement

Citing the planned Microsoft acquisition, Activision Blizzard did not feel the need to go through the full dog and pony show when announcing their Q4 2021 and full 2021 financial results.

No fun graphics, no fancy slide deck, and no investor call for questions.   The minimum financial reporting requirements were met and that was it, no time for awkward questions about unions, the ongoing problems with the state of California, Blizzard’s product roadmap, or exactly how much cash Bobby Kotick will walk away with when he hands over the keys to Phil Spencer.

It will all be Microsoft’s problem soon enough I suppose… if the FTC is good with that.

As I noted at the end of my month in review post, should Microsoft’s purchase go through, we’ll probably be getting even less detail about what is going on at Blizzard, as they’ll be a part of a much bigger organization.  I’m not sure it will be like SOE being completely invisible in Sony’s financial statements back in the day, but they probably won’t get their own slide in a presentation once it happens.

Anyway, over on the investor relations site… and that will go away once the deal is done, so somebody back that up… you can find a press release and a PDF file that has all the bits and pieces of information we usually get.  Just, as I noted, no snappy graphics.

Overall the company earned $2,163 billion in Q4 2021, down from the $2.413 billion earned in the same quarter in 2020, but that was still a bit more than the advisory they put out in Q3 2021.

Blizzard itself earned $419 million in Q4 2021, down noticeably from the $493 million posted in Q3.  That is also off from the $433 posted in Q2 and the $483 million posted in Q1, making the normally lucrative holiday season the lowest quarter for the division.  But that is what happens when you don’t have anything new to sell for the holidays.

Overall Activision Blizzard brought in $8.8 billion in 2021, up from the $8.09 billion they booked in 2020, largely on the back of Activision figuring out new ways to make the Call of Duty franchise pay.

By itself Blizzard brought in $1.827 billion of that in 2021, down from the $1.905 billion the division earned in 2020, but that is what you get when you ship zero new products and have to rely on remakes and remasters.  Over at Massively OP, where they have been tracking the Monthly Active User numbers (MAU), they reported that Blizz only pulled in 24 million MAUs in Q3, down again, with the long term trend showing 14 million monthly users fewer than back in Q1 2018.

The report had this to say for Blizzard and its prospects:

  • Within the Warcraft franchise, fourth quarter World of Warcraft reach and engagement continued to benefit from the combination of the Modern game and Classic under a single subscription. In 2021, World of Warcraft delivered its strongest engagement and net bookings outside of a Modern expansion year in a decade. Hearthstone fourth quarter net bookings grew year-over-year, driven by a steady cadence of new content.
  • Blizzard is planning substantial new content for the Warcraft franchise in 2022, including new experiences in World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, and getting all-new mobile Warcraft content into players’ hands for the first time.
  • In the Diablo franchise, Diablo II: Resurrected sold through more units from its September release until the year end than any other Activision Blizzard remaster over an equivalent period. On mobile, Diablo Immortal concluded its public testing with positive feedback.
  • Blizzard is making strong progress on its pipeline, including new experiences in Warcraft, ongoing development in Diablo and Overwatch, and an exciting new IP.

Basically, various flavors of WoW, along with Diablo II Resurrected, carried most of the water for the division, though the company does like to be coy and put Hearthstone under the Warcraft IP banner.  But WoW still probably brought in close to a billion dollars in 2021, even with a foundering retail experience.

Nostalgia has paid off as WoW Classic has turned out to be as popular as many of us thought it would be.  I know I said I’d lay off him on his famous quote, but I really want to ask J. Allen Brack where Blizz numbers would be today if we really didn’t want vanilla.

As for the future, Diablo Immortal is still being dangled out there, as is the threat of some sort of mobile Warcraft related experience. (Some speculation on that here.)  Wake me when they have something to ship.  And there is a reference to the unannounced survival game that Blizzard announced last week, but it is so far out in the future it doesn’t even have a name yet, putting it somewhere behind Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, neither of which will see the light of day in 2022.

Still, things went pretty well for Blizzard considering their legal problems and the fact that they spent much of 2021 living off of 15-20 year old content.  But I suspect they’ll need to ship something new in 2022.

November in Review

The Site

Spam comment bots will hate you if you know this one special trick!  Or they would if they had the capacity to hate.

Over the years I have mentioned how many spam comments that Askismet racks up and how many I end up having to clear out of the spam filter because it isn’t sure.  And then, in looking through yet another thousand spam comment day, hoping to find any false positives in the mix, I noticed that almost all of the spam comments were on old posts, in the 8-12 year old time frame.

Then I was hit by a blinding flash of the obvious and went and set WordPress to not allow comments on posts over a certain age.

The setting I was looking for

Once I clicked the check box it actually worked.

This was not an completely slam dunk idea for me as I don’t mind comments on old posts, and there are a few, like an old one about the Kesmai game Air Warrior that attracts somebody new now and then.  But eventually real people stop showing up.  So I set the timer to turn off comments on posts once they were up for 800 days.  That should give anybody looking to leave a comment plenty of time and I am now much more likely to find false positives in the spam bucket.

And then there are the ads.  Despite serving up only slightly more ads than last month, the total amount earned was over $20, up from $15 in October.  I won’t be able to give up my day job, but the Premium account option will at least pay for itself.  I also think the quality of the ads might be getting better, though I don’t check often enough to make a blanket statement on the topic.

As always, I encourage you to use some sort of ad blocker to keep your browsing safe.  I have on a number of occasions hit a site that demanded I turn off my ad blocker to be able to view their content, only to the have Malwarebytes, my virus protection software of choice, throw an alert that it had to block an ad due to malware.  I never want to be that site.  Be safe on the internet friends.

One Year Ago

EverQuest II celebrated its sweet sixteen with some unexpected downtime.  Oops.  EverQuest was getting ready for the Claws of Veeshan expansion.

World of Warcraft was spinning up for the Shadowlands expansion, and I was getting in a few tasks before it landed.  There was also the beta and something about multiboxing software and the fact that BlizzCon Online being free.  I was also wondering if anybody really needed a level booster after the big level squish.  The ride to 50 was pretty fast.

We were still playing around a bit in the level squished Northrend, trying to do a three person with Prince Keleseth.  That did not end well.  I also started a demon hunter to try the run to 50 in the level squish.  It was a quick run, though it got strange because I wasn’t in quite the right timeline.

Then there were the pre-events in Northrend… and I always love going to Northrend.  There was plenty to do up there.

And then there was the pre-launch calm before we were finally let into Shadowlands.  It seemed like a pretty smooth launch once you got past the crowd in Stormwind.  The zones were quick and fun and I was soon making my debut in the theater of pain. and then off into Ardenweald.

Meanwhile, in WoW Classic, we were working out way to the detention block in Blackrock Depths and then Shadowforge City after which we went walking with Marshal Windsor.

On the WoW Classic front Blizz was talking about plans and bans.

I hit level 40 in Pokemon Go.  I was also using Discord to get overseas raid invites to catch special legendaries.

There were some more shows to write about in the great pandemic binge watch.

And of course there was EVE Online and World War Bee, which I will just sum up in a list of posts:

And so it went.

Five Years Ago

I got back from EVE Vegas and reviewed a bit of what I saw including SKIN changes.  I also borrowed CCP Rise’s Vegas Alpha fit for a trial run.  Of course the Ascension expansion and Alpha Clones were the big deal.  Logging in when the expansion hit wasn’t always easy, but the PCU passed the long distant 50K user mark.

Then suddenly it was election night.  I was in a fleet during which the winner projections turned on their head.  At least we got a tower kill.

Meanwhile back in our old home in the north, the war in Tribute started to come alive.  Sort of.  A bit.  Well, there was some propaganda.

BlizzCon was underway a week after EVE Vegas, and I first projected what I wanted to see/thought I might see and then reconciled that with what I actually saw.  It took a while for me to see Weird Al though.

Project: Gorgon was back to crowd funding.

Pokemon Sun & Moon were coming and I got ready by wrapping up Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.  I took Pokemon Sun while my daughter went with Pokemon Moon.

In Minecraft Aaron was using the in-game maps to create art to hang on his walls.  Then there was the update with forest mansions… and llamas!  That meant going on an expedition to find my own mansion.  And once you have your own mansion, you have to do something with it.  Like burn it down.

Daybreak, in looking after Norrath new and old, launched the Kunark expansion twins, with Empires of Kunark going live for EverQuest and Kunark Ascending going live for EverQuest II.

And, finally, in a bullet points post on Black Friday it was death to The Mittani, a new Google widget in my side bar, and some Pokemon news.

Ten Years Ago

I looked back at the Star Wars Extended Universe novel Heir to Empire, which turned 20 years old. That might be my most coherent piece on the site.  Also, it is 30 years old now.

In EVE Online, the upcoming Crucible expansion had a chance to remove the Incarna stink from the game. Oh, and ship trails were back. And Hulkageddon V was announced… about six months early it turns out.

I reviewed my 2011 MMO outlook. Rift appeared to be the unlikely winner, while DCUO had already gone F2P.

Speaking of going F2P in under a year, I had my first peek at Star Wars: The Old Republic in the beta. Pre-NDA drop, I used Star Wars Galaxies to describe the game as nothing new. Then the NDA dropped and I bitched some more. I did not find the game fun, cancelled my pre-order, and went back to Rift.

And then there was EverQuest II going free to play on all servers, which made me wonder what else in the SOE line up might follow suit. (Turns out the answer was “everything,” or at least everything that they didn’t shut down.)

Vanguard started showing inexplicable signs of life.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Scars of Velious was complete and the Luclin expansion went live. Also, breaking the retro aspect, Fippy Darkpaw players got the same new hot bars that all EverQuest players got with the new Veil of Alaris expansion. They actually worked like hot bars in other games.  Amazing!

In Rift, we made it to Meridian and then faced our first boss while learning the rules of their LFG tool. Oh, and the damn Yule rifts were up before Thanksgiving. I swear, it gets earlier every year.

We learned of the real money auction house in Diablo III. Actually, the real money part wasn’t the bad bit, it was that there was an auction house at all… and crap itemization.

And also on the RMT front was the Guardian cub pet in World of Warcraft. I did a couple of price checks on those, but somebody should probably go back and see how prices look a year later.  Can you even find one on the market these days?

Oh, and WoW had lost 2 million subscribers. Remember when that was a big deal?

Torchilght II was delayed because we had other things to play, right?

AOL shut down Wow.com. That doesn’t mean what you think.

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

Google was pissing me off by changing up Google Reader. Still, I’d take bad UI Google reader over no Google Reader.

A little game called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim launched.  A pity nobody played it and it never got ported to very many platforms or got several remasters.

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Fifteen Years Ago

Our World of Warcraft Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group finished up Blackfathom Deeps,The Stockades, Shadowfang Keep, and started in on Razorfen Kraul.

In EverQuest, I picked up The Serpent’s Spine and tried running a new character though some of the new level 1-70 content.  I also set out a minor goal of taking screen shots to compare Faydwer in EQ and Faydwer in EQII that lead to posts about Kaladim and Kelethin.

In EverQuest II, the Echoes of Faydwer expansion came out.  Once I found a copy and got past the patching process and into the game, I made a fae swashbuckler and went to town.

The Revelations expansion hit in New Eden, my first expansion update in EVE Online.  I followed the general wisdom and made sure I had a long skill training the night before.

The Wii and the PlayStation 3 were both released in the US.

I was talking about Diablo II, because that comes up every few years.

And the maker of the ubiquitous ZMud client announced a replacement product called CMud.  I tried the demo version, but since ZMud continued to work for me, I stuck with that.

Also, I was apparently hosting my blog screen shots on Image Shack back in 2006 and they’re all gone from many of those posts now.  I went back and fixed all the WoW instance groups posts at some point… probably five or ten years ago… but the EQ and EQII posts are just going to require you to use your imagination.

Twenty Years Ago

EverQuest went to the moon with its third expansion Shadows of Luclin.

Nintendo released the Game Cube in North America.

Microsoft launched its first game console, the original XBox, also in North America.

IL-2 Sturmovik, one of the more important combat flight sims for flight sim nerds, launched.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. The Crimson Harvest Returns to EVE Online
  3. The EVE Online New Dawn Quadrant to Start With Mining Changes
  4. Life on the M2 Hellcamp
  5. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  6. A 64-bit EverQuest Client is Coming
  7. The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch
  8. Protests in Jita Over New Dawn Changes
  9. Robbing Some Space Banks
  10. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  11. Why Harry Potter Wizards Unite Failed
  12. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor

Search Terms of the Month

eve online [barghest]
[The flying griddle!]

defeat the lord of flies in this java game
[No, u]

is there supposed to be a fence with torch on top of it in minecraft in the savanna village
[An oddly specific question. Yes?]

гипер врата в космических играх
[There are jump gates in EVE, but they aren’t hyper]

(Google made some change and now so few search terms make it through that I am down to single digits to pick from.  This might be a dying feature, and just when I killed off spam comments as well!)

Game Time from ManicTime

For the first time in a long stretch there was no significant WoW or WoW Classic play time recorded.  Basically my six month subscription expired at the end of October and that was that.  I did log in quickly to get the 17th anniversary achievement with a level 18 character, so I guess I will boost their MAU for November, but I have spent my last cash on Blizzard for a while.

  1. New World – 35.56%
  2. Forza Horizon 5 – 30.95%
  3. EVE Online – 12.83%
  4. Diablo II – 9.68%
  5. World of Tanks – 8.76%
  6. EverQuest II – 2.20%
  7. World of Warcraft – 0.02%

Considering how far into the month I grabbed FH5, you can see I spent a lot of time on the road.

Diablo II

I managed to get a necromancer through nightmare and into hell difficulty, and the instance group carried through and defeated Diablo, before we ran out of steam on the game.  It is a solid game still, 20 years down the road, though it could use some improvements.  But for purposes of nostalgia I own it and can go back and play some more whenever I want.

EVE Online

I did not spend much time in EVE Online this past month.  I got in, went on a fleet op or three, got on my requisite kill mail for the month, and even lost a ship… which was fine because my hangar has more ships in it than I will ever fly unless PAPI invades Delve again.  So at least losing a ship meant SRP and some more ISK back in my wallet.  Otherwise I let all but my main account lapse into alpha status.

The CCP team however went through its periodic routine of setting themselves on fire, this time with the “New Dawn: Age of Prosperity” dev blog, then denying there was even smoke while the player base yelled at them.  They appeared to acknowledge that, perhaps, there was some sort of combustion, but we won’t know what they’re really thinking until we get the next dev blog.  The only thing that is sure is that “prosperity” won’t be on the agenda for any reasonable definition of the word.

Also, what is going on with the algorithmic false positive bans?  CCP seems to have it in for certain activities.

EverQuest II

I played a bit more of EQII, finished out the Days of Summer/Panda quests, did a little mucking about with some alts, and then drifted off to play something else.  Unless there is something seriously unexpected in the new expansion next month, my account there will likely lapse as well.

Forza Horizon 5

Bought this on a lark for a freaking dollar… well, I didn’t really buy it so much as rent it for three months via XBox Game Pass for PC… and have played the hell out of it at times over the month.  A fun driving game with a lot of different options to suit anybody from the casual to the hard core.

New World

The instance group has found its way into New World and we are trying to move through it as a group.  The game itself seems to be deep in a new crisis every week and more than a few of them could be on the list of “why does this happen with every MMO launch?” But it is good looking and the combat is different and the trade skills are… well, there is a lot there to be done.  We’re all at level 20 at this point, so we might be able to do some group things soon.

Pokemon Go

The big event in November for me was hitting level 42 at last.  A big enough deal that I am including a picture!

Level 42 level up graphic – what I did on my way from 41 to 42

The downside is that now the mountain of xp needed to get to level 43 seems all the taller.  9 million experience will take a while.

Level: 42 (+1, 1.5% of the way to 43 in xp, 1 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 673 (+3) caught, 695 (+1) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 13 of 17
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat, but not for long

World of Tanks

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I cranked this up again to have something quick to drop into and play.  I started in at the beginning of the month and played quite a bit… then I got Forza Horizon 5 and play time fell off a cliff as I binged on that.  But I have come back and played some more since.  I have enough coins and bennies that I can drop in and out for a few days at a time and still play in premium mode most days.

Zwift

Another month in with Zwift.  I am a bit surprised I have kept up as well as I have, as one of my defining attributes is laziness. I haven’t really lost any weight, though I have redistributed some of it.  I know this because I need to cinch my belt up one notch further.

My distance cycled at this point is almost exactly the distance between my house and the happiest place on Earth; Tijuana!

  • Level – 11 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 487.9 miles (+115.5 miles)
  • Time – 1d 1h 48m (+5h 48m)
  • Elevation climbed – 20,013 (+4,875 feet)
  • Calories burned – 16,141 (+3,845)

Coming Up

Last month I had a list of things that were due in November or seemed likely to arrive and… a few didn’t make it, so I guess I get to rerun them.  The FFXIV expansion is now set to land on December 7th, while EverQuest and EverQuest II have expansions that should land on the 7th and the 1st respectively.  You can probably foresee tomorrow’s post in that.

Also, for those who know the blog, December means a series of end of year posts to sum things up and check on things like predictions and all of that.  Those posts are coming.

Otherwise it seems like there will be more New World in the offing and maybe things will heat up a bit in EVE Online after the post-war slump.

Oh, and there is a a sequel to The Matrix landing in December, The Matrix Resurrections.  I might have to go see it.  That is probably one you need to see on the big screen.

Facing Diablo without our Skeletal Front Line

Having moved forward into Act IV in Diablo II Resurrected, the group was now on the path straight to Diablo himself.

The return of the classic

However, the shine was fading from the apple that is Diablo II for the group.  We had been talking about other games to play and the click action of D2R was coming up a bit shy on the challenge front in normal mode and I am not sure the group was willing to bet that Nightmare mode would improve things.

So our necromancer Kevin, who was going to be away last weekend, let us know that we could carry on and slay Diablo without him.  That seemed to be the sign that this would be the last hurrah for D2R for now, so the three of us around set out to at least finish off the boss whose name adorns the box.

The question was, were we up to it?

For the past runs we had always had Kevin and his army of skeletons there to bear the brunt of any fight, with the rest of us working behind the wall of bones that were our front line.  Now it would be just the paladin, the amazon, and the druid to face the boss fight.

Assembled in the Pandemonium Fortress

We had our mercenaries to help us along, and Ulfar the druid could summon three wolves, a pair of crows, and that glowing floaty squid thing to assist us, but it seemed like it might be a challenge.

And our first steps out of the fortress and into hell did not seem fortuitous.  We ended up in a fight at the bottom of the stairs that saw all of our minions and one of us fall, and we had barely set foot into the first zone of Act IV.

We revived, re-summoned, and regrouped after that first onslaught, then set out at a careful pace.  The theme of the mobs in Act IV are “Hey, surprise!” and a dozen or so of them suddenly run up at you.  We stayed together and managed to push through the first area, finding the steps down to the Plain of Despair fairly readily.

In the plains we were able to find Izual, the mob for the first of the three quests in Act IV.  He was tough, and ran around quite a bit, which invited his neighbors to join in the fight.  But we held on and managed to bring him down via persistence and judicious use of Ulfar’s fissue area attack spell.  Izual’s spirit gave us a message for Tyrael.

Izual’s spirit mocks us

We took a portal back to the fortress and got the quest update and reward.  Then it was back out into the field, where we found the steps down to the City of the Damned.

Our luck on maps seemed to be with us, as we were not there for very long before we spotted the waypoint and the path down to the river of flames, which was where the next quest lay.

Our goal was the hellforge to destroy Mephisto’s soul stone.  We pressed on and in what seemed like a very short run, managed to find and clear out the hellforge and the area around it.  The hellforge hammer dropped Hephasto, the guardian of the hellforge and Ulfar picked up to destroy the soul stone.

At the Hellforge

Then we had kind of a strange update.  Ulfar destroyed it, but only he got the quest update.  Both Talon and I got an odd message in the quest log indicating that we would have to complete it in a different game.

Sorry, the quest you have reached is disconnected or no longer in service…

I don’t recall this from the old days, but I barely recall anything from 20 years ago at this point, but it seemed like an odd oversight by somebody that only one person can do the Mehpisto soul stone quest per game instance.

Still, only one of us needed to do it to press on.  Back in town all of us, soul stone or not, got the quest to go forth and slay Diablo.

We returned to the river of flame fought our way onward, looking for Diablo’s sanctuary.  We did end up having to backtrack a bit, but eventually found our way to Hadriel, who is at the entry to the chaos sanctuary where Diablo lives.  He didn’t seem happy to see Talon or I due to the whole quest thing that we couldn’t complete.

Yes, we know, we didn’t do the quest

Fortunately Ulfar was able to get us through and we ventured in to find the big guy.  That involved some more clearing of mobs and a few fights with mini-bosses as we unlocked the five seals.  But with the fifth seal undone, Diablo was unleashed and looking for us.

At that point we took a minute to make sure everybody was full up on potions, had their minions to hand, and a portal up to get back from the fortress should they fall.  Three portals, just in case.  I decided to put up my fire resist aura, which I had put a few points into, since a couple of Diablo’s attacks are fire based.  And then we ran over to the big pentagram and got ourselves stuck into the fight.

Diablo engaged!

It started off pretty well.  The first resist aura seemed to shake off most of Diablo’s AOE fire attack, though Ulfar’s pets didn’t last long.  His other fire attack seemed to be stymied as well, and his melee wasn’t doing much to hurt me.

And then came the red lightning, always the worst of hist attacks and our mercenaries started to get swept away.  A full on hit from that was enough to take any of us down, so I tried to keep on him in melee range and, as soon as Diablo would start that attack, I would use a health potion and start running in a circle around him, as his tracking turn rate isn’t fast enough to keep up with you and you’ll be ahead of his attack… if you get an early enough start.

I kept getting froze by him, which made my movement slow, and a couple of times I got penned in against something and barely got away.  The fight took a while and we all ended up dying a couple of times.  Then it was back through a portal and back to a corpse to get back into the fight.

Diablo Poisoned as I keep him in melee range

Ulfar found a lightning enhanced crossbow at the vendor and swapped that in for his melee weapon and laid down his fissure spell and shot at Diablo with bolts.  Talon was throwing lightning enhanced javelins and dodging Diablo’s lightning as he sprayed it about the room as I circled him.

As the fight got close to the end, Ulfar and I both got a bit greedy and stayed in close to try and finish him, but Diablo has a lot of health and we both died one last time.  We ran back, retrieved our corpses, then went back to our more conservative attack style, staying safe until Diablo went down.

And that was it, we defeated Diablo.  I suspect it would have gone considerably smoother with Kevin’s army of skeletons, having done the fight with a necromancer myself, but we managed it.

Amazon, paladin, and druid at the end

Diablo didn’t drop anything special for us.  There were five items, but none of them worth keeping.  We went back to the fortress, wrapped up the last quest, then stepped through the portal into Act V.

On to Act V and the barbarians

Act IV hadn’t taken that much time, so we went in and finished up the first quest in Act V, getting the first waypoint out in the field.  But Baal will have to wait until we’re in the mood again.  Act V is a long one, being a whole expansion worth of content, and maybe we’ll get back to it some day.

But for now the group has its eye on another game.  But that will be tomorrow’s post.

 

Through Nightmare and into Hell in Diablo II Resurrected

As I posted previously, I have been running a necromancer through Diablo II Resurrected, to see how far I could get playing a class I had previously ignored.  And it has been going pretty well.

The return of the classic

Having made it through Normal mode I launched myself into Nightmare.  It is a pity that the difficulty modes are hard coded to your character progression… mobs don’t have visible levels, but under the covers the effectively do… so you have to play through normal mode before turning the notch up a bit.  I think the group run through Diablo II would have been better for that.

In addition to mobs being high level and hitting a bit harder, you also start running into a lot of mobs that have default resists to various magic damage types.

Among other things, he is also immune to fire

Meanwhile, your own resistance to lightning, poison, fire, and cold damage start at a deficit, a negative percentage, which means that you take even more damage from them.

Fortunately I had collected enough gear with resist bonuses that I wasn’t hit too hard by that.  Still, I did end up dying more often that in the pass through normal.

And the tab for dying keeps going up, plus the cost to ress your merc

Act I wasn’t too much tougher, and and I even got a bit of a boost going into later on because I remembered, kind of late, that in Nightmare mode you can hire a mercenary with the Might aura, which boosts skeleton damage.  That had a noticeable effect and, while mobs were tougher, my own pack of nine skeletons were able to cut a swathe through most groups that showed up.

Act II went fairly well, and going into Act III I had maxed out my skeleton skills and was raising hostile dead to help fill my ranks.  They don’t last for long, but they can add some heft to a fight in a pinch.

Taking on Mephisto… and I still have the rogue merc, hrmm

Act IV was its usual short self, and in facing off against Diablo my biggest problem was keeping my aura mercenary alive.  I had to go in with a wave of skeletons, let them battle Diablo until they were whittled down to just a few, then portal out to the Pandemonium Fortress, from where I would use the waypoint to go back to an earlier act to kill some mobs to raise more skeletons for a return fight.

Early on against Diablo, when there were still some dead to raise against him

That is the hook with the necromancer, he isn’t a lot of use until he has some skeletons backing him up.  And if you left them all die, it just makes it harder to go fill your ranks again because the golem isn’t all that tough and I was in danger of going broke raising the merc over and over.

I managed it, and moved on to Act V, where skeletons and the Might aura and the occasional raised dead kept me going.

In the ice caves in Act V

I also have a trio of skeletal mages in that shot.  I picked up a piece of gear that, in addition to other benefits, gave me +3 to skeletal mages.  They are weak, so die quickly, but add a little but of damage on top of everything else.

I think one of the things that drags me through Act V quickly is that the waypoints are a bit awkwardly placed.  You get to one and you’re still so far from the next objective, and the next waypoint, that I end up just pushing on in very much the Diablo II version of “just one more turn.”

So I ended up doing a bit of a marathon run through most of Act V, breaking in to fight Baal who, most annoyingly, comes at you in a room with no other mobs, which is quite inconvenient for a necromancer looking to raise some replacements.  There was, once again, portals out to use waypoints to raise another group of skeletons… and to pay to revive my mercenary yet again… as I used them to chip away at Baal.

This time around I did get the clone version of Baal, so was facing the pair for a bit.  But the clone was gone when I came back from one of my skeleton recruitment runs, so he still seems to be a bit bugged.  And so I persisted… it didn’t actually take that many runs at him… and brought down Baal.

Baal defeated so Tyrael is back to give his speech

That got me the end game screen for Nightmare mode and the title Champion.

Victory over Nightmare mode

That put me into the reach of Hell mode, which I immediately jumped in and tried… and immediately died in.  Seriously, the first group that I hit after leaving the rogue encampment killed me, my golem, and my mercenary.  Mobs were tougher, and all the more so when I was out there without and skeletons.

I took more care on my next venture out of camp, cornering single mobs if possible until I built up a few skeletons.  Once I hit critical mass of skeletons, mobs out in the field were generally manageable.  I was able to get on my way, clearing out the Den of Evil and chasing down Bloodraven.

Hell-o Bloodraven

But on Hell not only are the mobs harder and your base resists even lower, but mobs often have multiple resists and mini bosses can be very tough if they have the right (or is that wrong?) setup against your build.

A tough cookie indeed

That guy in the screen shot has Stone Skin, which deflects a large percent of physical damage and is immune to physical damage.  I have a curse that can reduce mob resists, so they are no longer immune, but with my physical damaged focused pack of skeletons, that combo was too much.  I burned through a few groups and barely chipped away at him.  I eventually called it a night on him.

But I have a necromancer in Hell mode now, which is honestly as far as I think I have ever gone in the game.  I played it a lot back in the day, but there were not nearly the resources about for builds as there are now.  We’ll see if that information is enough to get me through Hell.

The Group Rolls Through Act III and Mephisto in Diablo II

When it comes to Diablo II, Act III is kind of the misfit.

In coming from the original Diablo, Act I puts you back in the world and connects the two games.  Act II then raises the bar, showing you new places, while Act IV is the “Go directly to hell and slay Diablo” big finish.

And, in the middle, there is Act III and Kurast and jungle and a series of quests that are mostly skippable.  It feels like the team had to meet a quota for six quests and six waypoints, so kind of made some stuff up quickly and moved on.  Though, honestly, with Act IV only having three quests, it is as though a lot of work went into the first two acts and then time was running out and they had to get things ready to ship… which is, in fact, the story I have heard before.

The other thing that came up around Act III was we were starting to feel like things were a bit too easy.  The necro with nine skeletons and a golem, the paladin with the might aura buffing up the skeletons, the druid now featuring the “mobs be gone” spell that is fissure along with three wolves, the amazon stabbing like crazy, and two Act I mercenaries providing ranged support and two Act II mercenaries providing two additional auras was a group that went into Act III bowling over any groups of mobs that cared to show their faces.  We have forged our spirits in the traditions of our ancestors and built a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude.

As noted previously, our horde frequently outnumbered the locals as we moved through zones.  We looked a bit into difficulty settings, but to get to nightmare you have to make it through normal, so off we went.  I thought that at least Mephisto, the boss at the end of Act III would give us a challenge.

It isn’t that, as a group, we never die.  But when we do it is usually because somebody is off on their own or gets ahead to the skeleton flying wedge that clears our way through most situations.

On getting logged in we did a bit of work on our gear.  I found some mail and a helm upgrade at the vendor, allowing me to join Ulfar in the horned helm club.

I’m not just a member…

But the best thing we came up with was an actual piece of runeword gear.  I had been telling the group to be on the lookout for a chest piece with two sockets because I had found a Tal and an Eth rune along the way.  Despite having played the game on and off for years, I had never managed/bothered to actually make any runeword items.  But for most of the time I was playing seriously there were not the plethora of resources on the web to look all of that up.

But now even WoW Head has a page listing out all the runeword items you can make.  So we put all of that together and made the Stealth armor item.

The first I have ever seen

I am not sure it was the bestest best gear ever, but it was an upgrade for Talon, our Amazon.  She seems to have to run a lot to get in there and stab people with her spear.

Gear set, we headed out into Act III.

We had actually gone to the first waypoint when we were done with Act II, so we popped in there and began looking for the Spider Cavern, the first necessary stop on the way to Mephisto.

Thus began the wandering in the jungle part of Act III, which is not a favorite of mine.  Lots of up and down paths, across bridges and logs, only to find dead ends.  We did find the Great Marsh waypoint along the way, but never used it.  The layout this time made the Great Marsh completely optional.

We eventually found the Spider Cavern which was, as advertised, a cavern full of spiders.

In the spider cavern, look at all those skellies

From there it was another stumble through to find the Flayer Jungle.  More running up and down paths and storming through crowds of pygmies until we found the Flayer Jungle waypoint and then, finally, the Flayer Dunegon.

Many pygmies died trying to block our way

That got us the second pieces we needed… a brain, or maybe an eyeball… and set us looking for Kurast proper at the far end of the jungle paths.

Once you hit Kurast navigation becomes simple.  The three main sections are just rectangles laid out in a grid.  We made it through lower Kurast into the Kurast Bazaar where we found our way into the sewers to get the next piece on our quest shopping list.  We also made a couple of side trips into the smaller dungeons along the way.

Making a side trip

The loot drops, while as chaotic as they tend to be in the game, did yield us up a few good items.  You can see in the screen shot above that we found a barn door sized shield drop for a paladin.

Also along the way we managed to hit most of the side quests, which was a bit surprising, but it somehow worked out that way.

Then it was to Upper Kurast and then across the Kurast causeway into Travincal, which none of us could pronounce on comms.  Another one of those words I’ve seen many times over the years and have never once had the chance to say aloud… and when the chance finally came I stumbled.

Travincal is one of the places in the game that is always laid out the same, so after we broke through the first couple layers of defenders I led the group over to where I knew the waypoint to be.  Best to have that in our pocket in case something went wrong.

From there it was time to take on the city council there on the steps of the main government building in Kurast.

A vote of no confidence is in progress

Solo this fight can be chaos and usually involves my mercenary dying a few times.  As a group we pressed on through at the cost of a couple of skeletons.

At that point it was time to talk to Deckard Cain, use the cube to create the flail that would let us into Mephistos dungeon, and get started finding him.  We came back and beat on the orb to get in.

The orb awaits

We got into the Durance of Hate, the final dungeon for Act III and had our usual luck, finding our way through in what seemed like record time to me.  I have spend long stretches trying to find my way through that dungeon, but as a group we found our way to the waypoint and then down to level three, where we put up a portal in order to unload and resupply in town.

That done we put up two town portals, just in case, then launched ourselves into the main chamber, hacking our way through the restored town council again, then working our way around to Mephisto.

The Mephisto fight was soon on.

Fighting Mephisto

And, honestly, soon finished.  Once again the might and size of our group were more than a match for the final boss.  We lost five skeletons and my minion, but otherwise came through intact.  Having brought him down, we sorted through his loot.

The loot of Mephisto

From there it was through the portal and into the Pandemonium Fortress and Act VI.

We did use the waypoint to go back to Kurast to wrap up the sixth and final quest, so we managed to knock them all out, which is something I almost never bother with.

Then it was back to Act IV where we sold loot and went shopping for better gear.  Talon joined the horned helm club, finding a deal on one at the shop.

The might of our horns

Now just hell lays between us and Diablo.  We will see how tough he is.  The game is supposed to scale up in difficulty as your group size grows, but I think we might have picked a sent of complimentary classes that let us scale up more than the difficulty.

Nostalgia and the Legacy of Blizzard North Keeps Blizzard Strong in the Q3 2021 Results

For Diablo, our plan to enter an era of unprecedented content scale for the franchise has experienced a strong start with the September release of Diablo II: Resurrected, the return of one of the most acclaimed titles in PC gaming history. First week sales of the title were the highest recorded for a remaster from the company.

-Activision-Blizzard Q3 2021 Presentation

As anticipated, yesterday saw the Activision-Blizzard Q3 2021 financials announced, which covers the period from July 1 through September 30 2021.

I put those dates in there just to be clear as to why I expected at least a little drama on the Blizzard front being that is the timeline when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing hostile workplace lawsuit was headline news in the gaming community.

If players were really mad at Blizzard for being a horrible company, then it feels like there should have been some pain on their bottom line.  Instead, Blizzard posted its strongest quarter in 2021, bringing in $493 million, up $60 million from the $433 posted in Q2 and $10 million ahead of the $483 million posted in Q1.

Those were not “launch a new WoW expansion” numbers like Q4 2020, but they were still ahead of “its a pandemic and we’re all stuck at home playing video games” numbers.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 13

Margins were down a bit, 38% in Q3 compared to 43% in Q1, but still up when measured against Q2, when they dipped to 33%.

Overall, things were looking up for Blizzard in Q3, which might have been expected to have been the summer of their discontent.  What saved Blizzard’s bacon?

Apparently Diablo II Resurrected is a very popular title.  According to the earnings call it was a huge hit in South Korea, which might explain why I see Battle.net queues close to midnight Pacific time.  While people have been upset about BNet’s performance, it is apparently one of those problems related to being too successful.

That, however, was the extent of the good news at Blizzard as their achievements slide in the presentation deck shows.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 8

It opens with the quote I have at the top of the post, which honestly could have been taken as faint praise given how the Warcraft III remaster went.  Even the StarCraft remaster wasn’t a huge of a deal.  But Diablo II Resurrected, which launched on PC and consoles in September, was enough to carry the quarter, because the rest of that slide is excuses and qualified successes.

Diablo Immortal, which I keep reminding people had a playable demo at BlizzCon 2018, is now slated for some point in the first half of Q2 2022, while Diablo IV is nowhere in sight.  It seems unlikely for 2022.

The Overwatch 2 entry is likewise vague on when it might be a thing that can generate revenue.  2022 doesn’t seem to be the target anymore.

Hearthstone is hard to judge, so whatever “stable” means, that was what it was.  We’ll see if the new game mode warrants a big mention when they review Q4.

And World of Warcraft, which is running both retail and classic modes now, recorded the strongest engagement for a non-expansion year which, given the cliffs the subscriber base has been driven off of for some of those years, might not be as big of a brag as you might think, especially when they’re running Shadowlands and Burning Crusade Classic in parallel.  That the Monthly Active Users for Q3 2021 stayed stable at 26 million for Blizz while D2R was booming probably means WoW was down by quite a bit.

So I guess a qualified good quarter for the Blizzard side of the house, even if they are the third place studio, such that people are starting to refer to the company as “ABK,” for Activision Blizzard King.

It also seems that bad behavior didn’t harm them as much as it might have.  But gamers are not, as a larger group, an especially politically aware group I imagine.  I noted yesterday that Riot didn’t seem to suffer from bad behavior, with League of Legends remaining hugely popular even as headlines haunted them.  Maybe being a bad place to work doesn’t hurt your bottom line, which I am sure will make everybody toiling in the video games industry happy.

You can certainly argue that the lack of a strong plan for Shadowlands and having no other fresh titles on deck hurt them as much, if not more than, the investigation by the state of California did.

We will see have to see what Q4 looks like, with the new Hearthstone game mode, WoW Classic Season of Mastery, and the cat mount being the only big items visible.  I’m surprised the cat mount didn’t get a mention on the Blizzard slide.

But we won’t get the Q4 news until February, so we’ll see what happens then.

Related:

October in Review

The Site

It is the last day of the month and I know what you’re all dying to hear about.

You want to know how a month of ads went, right?  RIGHT?

Well, you’re going to hear about it anyway.  It is Halloween and that is my trick.  Treats come later, if at all.

For the month of October, up through yesterday, the ads on the blog earned a total of Fourteen Dollars and Eighteen Cents, not counting today, because the ad calculation for a given day only shows up the next day.

Results through October 30th

Not bad.  Better than I expected honestly.  It I can keep that going the Premium hosting plan will pay for itself.  Each ad served up is apparently worth about 0.0176 cents, so quantity matters.

I hope that all of the regulars have some sort of ad blocker running all the same, because some of the ads are a little too on the point relative to my writing I think.

This is an image of an ad, not an actual ad

Ula told me that she saw an ad for New World on the site at one point.  She even sent me a screen shot.

Once again, an image of an ad, not an actual ad

That sort of ad appearing here would greatly please me.

But I mostly see old people ads, which might be because the algorithm knows I am an old person.

Anyway, feedback on ads is always welcome.

In other site related news, after five weeks of going back and fourth with a random series of WordPress.com Happiness Engineers… they just put your email responses in a queue for whoever is up next… it looks like polls are working again and that the issues I pointed out have been mostly fixed.  Of course, the Happiness Engineers kept telling me I was wrong and everything was as it was supposed to be almost the whole time… when they were deigned to respond to my actual issue rather than just linking me to a help file that was not at all helpful… so I would send them an “I told you so,” but it would just go to some random person with no history on the topic.

Okay, one Happiness Engineer did, in fact, acknowledge the issue… actually multiple issues… I was bringing to them and even said they could reproduce them.  But my response went to somebody else and that was the end of all helpfulness.

Still, the whole experience was better service than I used to get when they just let rando unpaid volunteers do their support, which generally resulted in somebody giving an opinion about your blog rather than dealing with the actual issue.

One Year Ago

I started using that 34″ ultra-wide monitor.

Somebody at Google Stadia was ranting about making streamers pay.

Blizzard delayed the Shadowlands expansion.  But they were building up for the AQ war supply event in WoW Classic.  And we got a late November launch date before the month was out.  WoW seemed to be hanging on according to the Q3 2020 results.

I was also wondering if we were going to get a level squish with every WoW expansion going forward.  And then the big level squish patch hit and all our level 120 characters were suddenly level 60.  The only thing was to try it out, though it was a bit strange.  The new Exile’s Reach starter area was… new.  We put together a little group to try the level squished Northrend.

Ula made us an instance group video about our time in Sunken Temple.  Then there was the running of the Gnomes.  And then we started some prep for a little instance called Blackrock Depths.

Meanwhile, StarCraft II fell off of Blizzard’s active development list.

The EverQuest team announced the Claws of Veeshan expansion, the EverQuest II team announced the Reign of Shadows expansion, and the  Lord of the Rings Online launched their War of Three Peaks expansionette.

And in EVE Online World War Bee was in full swing, with PAPI finally trying to gain a foothold in Mother Delve.  That led to Guinness World Record setting battles, which CCP got us ready for by introducing a UI Only mode to the game.  That was some timing.  I’ll sum up the war as a list:

And outside of the war I did a bit of quiet mining in the new ore distribution plan.  The Reavers SIG turned six years old.  We got a Crimson Harvest event for Halloween.  The Howling Interdictors update gave us stasis bubbles.  And then there were the Triglavians.  They captured 27 empire systems and, with another update, they were yanked into a new Triglavian region named Pochven.  Farewell Niarja.

Sean Connery, the favorite James Bond of many, passed away.

Finally, there was the tale of the Canadian visitor.

Five Years Ago

Amazon’s game studio announced some games including the alleged MMO New World.  Being given almost no information about New World did not stop some people from banging the hype drum, boosting expectations, and generally setting themselves up for disappointment.  I wonder how that turned out?

Also announced was the Nintendo Switch, which would allow millennials to play video games at roof-top parties, if the trailer was to be take literally.

Civilization VI launched and became the first Civ title I did not acquire at the soonest opportunity.  It just didn’t excite me.  Instead I was getting my strategy game fix with Stellaris.

I reviewed the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign a year after its launch.  The units were nine months late at that point, with no end to the wait in sight.  The whole thing eventually failed to get off the ground.  Another Kickstarter crash and burn.

I made it to level 20 in Pokemon Go.  There was also a Halloween event.

Tom Chilton, of unfortunate quote fame, let out another one when he said that World of Warcraft had over 10 million subscribers again after the Legion expansion launch.  Blizzard, having taken a vow of silence on subscription numbers the year before, denied everything and claimed he was mis-quoted.

Over at Daybreak they were discontinuing game cards and taking H1Z1: King of the Kill off of Station Cash as an RMT currency.  They did give us firm dates for the two Kurnak based expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II.

In EVE Online, while we were fortifying Delve our foes in the Casino War began to turn on each other, with Pandemic Legion and their followers declaring their intention to take Tribute and Vale of the Silent away from Circle of Two and TEST.  All I could do was give a Nelson Muntz, “Haw-haw!” at that turn of events.

Still, that wasn’t half as much fun as CCP declaring casinos against the EULA with the coming of the Ascension expansion.  Our foes would have to actually earn ISK in-game.  I wondered what that would do to the economy.

We also got the YC118.9 update which, among other things, meant the death of the in-game browser.  We did get breast cancer awareness skins.  Yay, pink skins!

At our end of New Eden there was a lot to do.  I was fighting the Blood Raider menace with my Ishtar and looking for ways to help the coalition.  Reavers turned two years old and were blowing up citadels and fighting over timers in Querious.  The coalition itself was ranging up into Fountain with a new doctrine.

And in World of Warcraft the Legion got its first post-launch content drop while my own enthusiasm for the expansion was starting to wane.

Finally, I was at EVE Vegas, but since it lasted through Halloween I didn’t post about it until November.  Also, a new version of my blogger feed was operating in the side bar.

Ten Years Ago

We all said farewell to Steve Jobs.

Tobold was predicting that CCP would go bankrupt in 2012.  I am never going to let that one go.

I summed up what I liked and disliked about Need for Speed: World.

I got Civilization II running on Windows 7 64-bit.  People still come here for that article.  I managed to get it to run on Windows 10 since then.  But it didn’t work back then with my original 16-bit copy, I had to get the 32-bit version, Civilization II Gold Edition.

I started another contest, this time for Azerothian travel posters.

I recalled the start of the alien invasion!

EA was planning to unify all of its free to play online games to use the same in-game currency… something that never actually happened… also, I think all the games on the list are dead now.

Nintendo was talking about augmented reality on their new 3DS console.  Five years later we got Pokemon Go… on iOS and Android.

The announcement of their Unity release got Gaff and I back to TorilMUD to mess around with the Tako Demon.  I had to work to remember some MUD command syntax to get his corpse afterwards.

Then there was BlizzCon.  The instance group was already bemused by Cataclysm, and the mention of Pandas did not revive our spirits.  Pet Battles seemed interesting at the time.  In coming to grips with the Pandaria announcements, I assumed that I would end up buying the expansion.

And then there were other WoW related things, like the announcement of the Guardian Cub, which some people predicted would be like PLEX in EVE Online.  Not quite, but it probably provided test data for the eventual WoW Token idea.

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw server, after much complaining, SOE seemed to suddenly wake up and start doing things.  Problems were, you know, solved!  It was becoming a kinder, gentler server.  Sort of.

And then there was Rift.  We started scouting it as a potential home for in instance group after the disaster in EverQuest II.  The scouting went well enough that we all ended up in Telara.

Finally, I was sorting through many press releases and wondering where this so-called GDC Hall of Fame was.

Fifteen Years Ago

The site got a mention in VirginWorlds Podcast episode 33 while Blessing of Kings was telling me how to be a raider in World of Warcraft.

I was defending instancing and game company forums as well as moaning about the fact that I couldn’t find a decent video card for my AGP motherboard.  Also, Blizzard’s WoW patcher was pissing me off as well while Lore was mocking WoW groups. [Damn, that was done in Flash, so I guess it is gone now.]

Our Saturday night World of Warcraft instance group completed our first full dungeon run in the Deadmines.  That meant my first dungeon run write up.  And my second.  But we got it on our third try.  Then it was off to The Wailing Caverns.  Did anybody have a five player dungeon adventure path like WoW back then?

I decided in EVE Online that covert ops would be a good career choice.  It certainly sounds cool.  However, the effort was cut short when I got to some of the pricier skills.

When it came to the then upcoming Lord of the Rings Online, I was up in arms about pointy ears and monster play, while the approaching Age of Conan made me think more about Barsoom.

I felt that fall urge to run around in EverQuest,  no doubt prompted by another EQ nostalgia post, plus I wanted to take some pictures of Faydwer in order to compare them to the upcoming EverQuest II expansion, Echoes of Faydwer.

I also jumped into EverQuest II and got all confused (nothing new there) about the trade skill changes that occurred during the 10 months I was away.

And I spent some time carping about MMO pricing plans and wondering what pen and paper games might make good MMOs.

Twenty Years Ago

Dark Age of Camelot launched.  While I never played it… we were about to have a new baby in the house and we were having internet issues, and the world was falling apart due to 9/11… I had some friends who gave it a try.  I remember it being billed as “EverQuest without the suck” at some point.  Anyway, it is still alive, which is surprising because EA owns it.

Civilization III also showed up back in October of 2001, and I most definitely bought a copy of that.  I liked a lot of the ideas it brought, but it lost some of the raw simplicity of its predecessor.  I ended up playing a lot more Civ II even after Civ III was around.

Then there was Motor City Online, which was a bit of a precursor to Need for Speed: World.  I am kind of sad I missed it.  Of course, it was an EA MMO, so they scrapped it in less than two years, opting to go all in on The Sims Online.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Marathon Infinity, the last of the Marathon series of shooters from Bungie came out.  That was the era of the awkwardly shaped software boxes.  I owned a copy.

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. The Crimson Harvest Returns to EVE Online
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. A Week in New World
  8. Watching Dune Part One
  9. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  10. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  11. Word Ad Unleashed
  12. A Necromancer in Diablo II Resurrected

Search Terms of the Month

soe-game-today
[Not as many as there once were]

play civ 2 on windows 7
[Old OS and an older game]

ancient winter poncho
[I must insist, no Ponchos!]

всадник без головы 2.4.3
[Good luck with that, I never caught him]

Game Time from ManicTime

One game stands out on the list, and I will get to the reason why in its section below.  But it was generally a light month for me.  I did not play as little as I did last month, which was the least I played games since I started tracking my time, but it might be in contention for second place in that regard.

  1. Diablo II Resurrected – 83.52%
  2. EVE Online – 6.60%
  3. EverQuest II – 4.82%
  4. New World – 2.60%
  5. World of Warcraft – 1.07%
  6. Hearthstone – 0.76%
  7. WoW Classic – 0.44%
  8. EverQuest – 0.18%

I am not going to bother writing a section below about Hearthstone.  I played its new mode just long enough to earn the rat mount in WoW.  That is pretty much the sure fire way to get me to play.  And I really only logged into EverQuest to compare its version of the Overseer mini-game to the EverQuest II version.

Diablo II Resurrected

Clearly the game of the month for me.  That was in a large part because the inner ear infection I had after our trip to Hawaii just didn’t want to let go.  Even as I write this I still cannot hear very well out of my right ear, though the pain and most of the ringing has subsided.  The doc says it will get better over time, but you learn as you get older that your body takes a lot more time to recover from these sorts of things.

Anyway, with my head hurting I was really only good for a game that I could sit and click on, and that is where Diablo II Resurrected came in.  I am still playing it, even feeling better because it is still a game I enjoy, but at the start of the month it was all I could handle.

EVE Online

The post war quiet period continues.  I did actually get into a fleet and run off to a structure shoot late last week (kill here) just to keep up my record of getting on a kill mail every month for however many months I have managed that in a row.  If zKillboard is to be trusted, I have been on at least one kill mail every month since April of 2014.  That is kind of a streak.  Otherwise I have been logging in to check on events, get login rewards, and to keep up by PI stuff, though I have been pretty lax on that front.  Still, even with my low effort it netted me about 200 million ISK.

EverQuest II

As I mentioned in a post last week, I was suddenly filled with enthusiasm for EverQuest II, then I did the things I wanted to and kind of fell off.  I am still undecided about the next expansion, though that won’t come until late November or early December.  I also have to say that I still greatly prefer the EverQuest version of the Overseer mini-game.  I have no idea, for example, how to get new agents in the EQII version, while that is pretty much built in to the EQ version.

New World

The strange thing about New World is that I read a lot of news and blog posts about the game, and they almost all make me want to not play it.  That is generally the opposite of the norm, though I may very well have become more curmudgeonly with age.  Almost everything anybody writes about FFXIV makes me not want to play that either.

Still, I did log in a couple of times, if only to check out what Amazon gave me through their Prime Games program.  I haven’t even given a thought to transferring to a new realm or whatever.  At least there are no queues on my server, though the general lack of queues might point towards the direction the game is settling down into.

Pokemon Go

As with much else this month, I didn’t spend a lot of time with Pokemon Go, though I did go out and get a Pokestop daily, just to keep that streak bonus going.  It would have been a light month but last weekend our raid group binged on raiding and I ended up getting almost 150K xp out of that thanks to a timely luck egg.  I spent most of my Pokecoins on remote raid passes, but what else was I going to spend them on?

Level: 41 (92% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 670 (+5) caught, 694 (+5) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 13 of 15
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Magikarp because he earns candy in 1km which I need for a task

World of Warcraft

It was Hallow’s End so I once more put forth a desultory effort to try and get the Headless Horseman’s mount.  I wasn’t all that into it, but I ran that dungeon at least once a day looking for that long denied drop.  It did not drop.  And so my record of failure on that front remains pristine.

WoW Classic

Since I detailed the instance group off into Diablo II Resurrected I haven’t spent much time in Burning Crusade Classic.  Though, as I pointed out in the D2R section above, I was also not really up to playing it for some of the month.  We’ll get back to it at some point.  We have not yet hit the point where we cannot overcome instances as a four person group.

Zwift

My attempt to exercise regularly has carried on fairly well so far.  My minimum goal remains a 20 minute ride three days a week and I have not fallen below that, though I have depended on the weekend, my makeup days, when work has been too busy for me to break free for a ride and a shower.

My distance so far is almost exactly the same as the drive from our house in Silicon Valley to Disneyland, at least if you could ride your bike down Interstate 5.  My stat totals:

  • Level – 10 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 372.4 miles (+107.5 miles)
  • Time – 20h 0m (+5h 32m)
  • Elevation climbed – 15,138 feet (+3,786 feet)
  • Calories burned – 12,296 (+3,513)

Coming Up

The Activision-Blizzard Q3 2021 earning call is on Tuesday, which should be interesting.  Will they cop to their problems on the Blizzard front or will they go with the usual anodyne phrases about post-expansion cycles and something about people going outside finally?  That will no doubt lead to a post here on Wednesday to cover how hard Blizz has been hit.

Some things are launching.  There might be an EverQuest and EverQuest II expansion, though at least one of those will likely wait until December just for the sake of timing, and the November one will no doubt come late in the month to avoid stepping on the LOTRO expansion, which will hit on November 10th.

The WoW Classic Season of Mastery will launch on November 16th.  There is also something called Endwalker that is going live on the 23rd.  That will probably be pretty quiet, right?  There won’t be a million blog posts about that I am sure.

Then, probably most important in my book, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl lands on November 19th.

Also on the list for November are new Call of Duty and Battlefield titles and the remaster of the original Grand Theft Auto trilogy,

Finally, an Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim Anniversary Edition launches on November 11th to celebrate a decade of Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim being ported and remastered for every platform known to man.  It seriously feels like the game has been out much longer than that given how often something new comes out about it.  I’d better go make sure I note that launch in the “Ten Years Ago” section of next month’s review.

Oh, and I am reminded that it is also IntPiPoMo, or International Picture Posting Month, in November.  The idea is to post 50 images to your blog, which I’ll probably do by just continuing to operate as normal.  Take the wins where you can find them.

The Group Pushes on to Duriel in Diablo II

Having made it through the narrow tubes of the Maggot Lair previously, the group formed back up to tackle the back half of Act II.  The last waypoint we had found was in the Far Oasis, so we went there to get started again.  We just had to collect some corpses for Kevin so he could raise his skeleton army to support us.  This left quite a loot pile in the middle of the desert.

Starting to see more runes drop

From there it was the usual search around the edge of the Far Oasis looking for the path to the next zone, the Lost City, with its waypoint and connection to our next quest objective.

As tends to happen, we found our way back into the Dry Hills zone before finishing our circuit and finally finding the path that led in the right direction.  Entering the Lost City zone saw the lights go out as a new quest was triggered.  Moving in the darkness in the new zone seemed to get us more spread out than usual and we managed to lose first Talon then Ulfar to the groups of mobs lurking in the dark.

Covering Ulfar’s corpse

Portals back to town helped reunite us, as well as getting the quest update about the darkness from Drognan in town once we found the waypoint, but we kept on the run around the edge of the zone until we found the pathway down to the Valley of the Snakes where the Claw Viper temple is located.

Now enter the Valley of the Snakes

The valley is quite small and the temple is in the center.  The temple is also built out like most of the underground areas of Act II, with plenty of room to maneuver save for the occasional doorway.

Getting down to the second level we found our way to the room of the Tainted Sun Altar.  Once the room was cleared, clicking on the altar yielded up the Amulet of the Viper, one for each of us, and updated the quest from Drognan as well, restoring light to the zones of Act II.

The amulet obtained

Back in town we took the Staff of Kings from the Maggot Lair and the newly obtained Amulet of the Viper and combined them in the Horadric Cube to create the Horadric Staff, which we would need later.  Until then that went back into our respective stashes as we headed next to the palace, where Jerhyn wanted us to do something about an infestation issue.

Now he deigns to let us visit

The palace is kind of a quick pass most of the time when I play.  It looks nice, but the levels are small and there are two ways down at each level, so it is often very easy to just bypass most of the mobs loitering around waiting to surprise you.

Some stairs down in the palace

We managed to grab the waypoint in the palace cellar, but it is one that I often don’t mind missing.  There isn’t much reason to revisit the palace that I know of and when you get down to the bottom level you’re going to leave via a portal anyway.

We found the portal at the bottom floor, but had once again managed to get spread out enough that it took a minute to get everybody back together.

All over the map looking for the portal

Through the portal lays the strangest part of Act II, and perhaps the strangest location in the whole game, the Arcane Sanctuary.

Fortunately there is a waypoint right where you enter it from the portal, which is part of why the palace waypoint generally isn’t missed.

The Arcane Sanctuary waypoint

We took a minute to go back to town and get ourselves prepared.  We were on a bit of a time limit that afternoon and I was expecting that we might only just finish up the Arcane Sanctuary before we had to stop, the zone being a bit of a slog at times.  The place is made up of narrow paths and single file stairs and little portals.  It is also sizable, being laid out like a four leaf clover.  The waypoint is at the center, with four stems leading out, each of which split after a way, leading you around in loops that form the leaves of the clover, coming back around to the stem when you complete them.

At the tip of three of the leaves is a platform with several chests.  At the tip of the fourth is the lair of The Summoner, the target for this part of the adventure.

Clearing out all the loops can be a long task, and I seem to always pick the wrong stem to start with and often end up having to work through at least two of them before I find the right one.

We, however, were in luck.  We picked the right path on the first try and actually seemed to get the easy way through that loop, landing us at The Summoner in almost no time, at least relative to my usual experience in that zone.  I don’t think I have ever gotten it right on the first try.

We stormed his platform and took him down, our main problem being that of getting as many of our minions to bear in order to speed the fight.  They were all over the place.

The Summoner down as our minions mill about

That brought us to the Canyon of the Magi, the waypoint before us.  We were now close enough to the end of the act that we were going to press on, head directly to the correct tomb, and wrap things up.

In the old days I would sit and farm all the false tombs in the Valley of the Kings, but with time pressure on us, we went to the right tomb, as indicated by the symbol in our quest logs.

The symbol we sought

Inside we set about looking for the chamber where we could use the Horadric Staff to unlock access to the final boss of Act II.  The tomb is rather full up with mobs, but as a group we were able to cut through them until we found the right room, placing the staff in the orifice (literally what it is called) to crack through the wall and open a passage.

The lightning is the key

Then it was time for a bit of preparation, making sure everybody had enough potions on hand.  I changed over to the paladin frost resist aura to give us a bit of help on that front, though in hindsight the might aura might have just let the skeletons slay the boss faster.  Once we were set, it was through the opening and in to face Duriel.

Everybody on Duriel… except the necro

The Duriel fight is the first tough boss fight in the game.  It is often the point where I use the one respec you get per play through to get serious about my build.  Duriel does a lot of damage and I always open up a town portal as soon as I enter his chamber.

Our army of minions managed to take him down, though Kevin lost about half of his skeletons and his golem along the way, while a mercenary or two bit the dust as well.

Duriel down for the count… the post-fight maggots are an odd touch

From there were ran to the back of the chamber to find Tyrael and hear his speech about the story so far.

Tyrael admonishes us for our tardiness

I actually made a video of his speech from the game about ten years back if you want the original sound and graphics.

After that it was back to town to say goodbye to everybody, then find Meshif to sail off to the next part of the story.

The boat is ready to set sail

And so we will pick up next time in Kurast and Act III.

The Group Ventures Out from Lut Gholein

When last we left off the group  was headed into Act II of the game.

In case you were confused

We landed in Lut Gholein and ran about to get the measure of the place.

I always favor Act II.  The first act feels like a warm up, which it is naturally enough.  It has the mood of the original Diablo and felt very familiar when the game first launched.  The second act is where the game starts to come together with me, where it shows it can be different and better.

It is also a change up from the brooding darkness of the first act… at least some of the time.  When you’re out in the desert and the sun is up… again, there is a day/night cycle that I haven’t quite figured out yet… and sabrecats or leapers are chasing you around it feels like a different game.

There was also the option of some new mercenaries.

Ulfar and I opted to trade in our rogue archers… and I forgot to reclaim that nice bow I had given mine, but all loot is transitory in life I guess… for a couple of the polearm wielding local mercenaries.  They also have the advantage of having auras.  I opted for one with the prayer aura, which heals a bit, while Ulfar went with the defiance aura, which gives a boost to defense.

I couldn’t recall if the auras overlapped, and being a paladin favoring the might aura to boost Kevin’s skeleton army, we were going to have three running potentially.  But once we got out of town by dropping down into the sewers for the first quest, the aura effects at our feet showed we were getting multiple effects.

Down into the sewers via the trap door

The various guides to the game always seem to point out that going into the sewers to chase down Radament is optional and that act can be completed without doing so, but I always do it.  Act II flies by so fast that it feels like a positive to spend a bit more time there.

Having gone down the trap door into the sewers, we ended up having to explore a bit more to find the steps down to the second level.

We also started running into some narrow passages, which become more common ac the act goes along.  As a solo character these can often be useful to channel a group of mobs down to single file so you can dispatch them one by one.  With a mass of followers along though it can be a bit of a pain.  Getting your followers through and into a fight can take a bit of finesse and you start to learn about collision.  You can run through your followers, but no hostile mobs or other players.  Your followers, however, have collision among themselves, so you often have to lure them through a narrow bit in order to get your skeleton army into action.

We pressed on, found the third level and eventually bumped into Radament, who obliged us by being in a bit of an open area, so we were able to storm in and attack on a broad front to take him down.

After the battle

You can also see three auras at our feet in that screen shot, if you look close.

Radament done in, we returned to town for congratulations and our rewards, which is that the merchants in town won’t gouge you for things quite as hard.  A price break is always appreciated I guess.

Then it was out into the desert, which I always find fun.  The wide open spaces suited out group and followers and hangers on, which began to increase.  Kevin had leveled up enough to add some more skeletons to his entourage, while Ulfar found he found summon two ravens in addition to his three wolves… I think the hawk helm he got as a drop added that as a bonus… plus an orange, glowy, floating squid that did a bit of healing if I understood him correctly.

By the stash with wolves and the squid

We were also starting to look pretty smart as our armor got upgraded.  That your look changed with your armor choices was kind of a big deal back in 2000 and I am glad to see that they really honed in on that with the remaster.  Our characters look a bit careworn and aged in the select screen, but the gear helps hide that.

Anyway, we scoured the desert looking for our first goal, the Halls of the Dead, which is in the Dry Hills, the second desert zone.  We gabbed the waypoint, then found the dungeon.

As a dungeon it is nice and dark, but not that big and, while segmented into rooms, they are all wide enough to bring an army to bear on the hostiles, which served us well.

It is also the place where you find that most important piece of the game, the Horadric Cube.  After the big boss fight in the Halls of the Dead we ended up with four of them on the floor to loot.

Loot all over the place

I was wondering how that would work out with four of us.  It had been so long since I played with a group that I couldn’t remember, and in Act I there is a scroll drop that gives you the Carin Stone sequence, but you only get one of those among the group.  But here four cubes dropped, so we all got to pick one up.

Then it was back to town and time to explain a bit of the cube.  As Kevin summed it up, it is a bit like the crafting table in Minecraft. It does a whole bunch of things.

That secured in our stash, along with all of our loose coins, we headed back out to the Dry Hills and in search of the Far Oasis, where the next dungeon lay.

Once again, the wide open spaces lent themselves to a group that seemed to like to spread out.  We got a bit spread out, but nobody got into too much trouble.  There was yet another waypoint to be found, and then the next dungeon, the Maggot Lair.

Into the Maggot Lair

The Maggot Lair is neat because it has a very different look and feel than anything you have run into so far in the game.

It is also a challenge.  Playing through solo with my necromancer this was easily the slowest dungeon run of the game.  Remember up above where I wrote of narrow paths and collision in the sewers?  That was but a taste of the Maggot Lair.

As a dungeon it is made up of a series of single file tubes with rooms or intersections along the way.  Getting into the tube in the right order can be a bit critical, and your followers, who have their own collision properties to work through, can be a pain to get where they need to be.

Making our way through

In that screen shot above you can see Ulfar and I on the right, way ahead of the followers, though close enough to get auras, which are stuck in order because Kevin is back a ways and our followers cannot get past his followers.

The optimal ordering seemed to be to get me, the paladin, out in front, with Talon behind me with her spear.  She had the reach to attack with her spear from behind me.  Then Ulfar behind her ready to launch molten fire past us into mobs.  And, in the back, Kevin and the follower armor, ready to spill into any room or intersection when we had the chance.

Things working to plan for once

That was the ideal.  We often ended up stuck between people, or Kevin out in front and me in the back, unable to swap order without finding a room or an intersection.  And we kept leaving followers all over the place.

Followers left about the map

Still, we managed to muddle through and, once we found the final boss room, opened up a portal in the tube and went back to town, stocked up on supplies, the arranged ourselves in the optimum order to be able to storm the boss.

It went well, even if there were a lot of disgusting squelching sounds along the way.  It is that kind of place.

The room after the fight

That gave us each our next piece of the quest chain, the head piece to the staff of kings.

Then it was back to town to sell loot, repair, and resupply.  Along the way Ulfar traded in his hawk helm for a goat horned helm that looked pretty special.  All of our looks were still getting better, save for possibly Kevin, who was still a bit of the aging rocker in aspect.

The four of us in town, plus the squid again

That is a lot better looking that the original graphics, which the game lets you peek at.

The circa 2000 look

The funny thing is that my brain by this point has accepted the graphical update as the actual game.  As I play through now it feels like it has always been this way, that it is the natural order of things, the way it should be.  I guess I have to give some credit to Vicarious Visions, who did the remaster, some credit for that.  It all feels like the real deal to me and I am a bit shocked at how primitive it used to look.

Anyway, that was all we had in us for the afternoon.  The rest of Act II awaits.