Tag Archives: Meaningless Milestones

LOTRO – The War of the Ring as an Eight Year Long Quagmire

Lord of the Rings Online officially went live eight years ago today.  I had been in the late beta, but made sure to note the first day that it was officially a going concern back in 2007.

Yahoo Headline 2007

Yahoo Headline 2007

Of course, one of the ongoing jokes about the game is how long it has take it to move through the story relative to how long the events in the books were reported to take.  Even allowed a generous spread of dates, say from when Gandalf warns Frodo to get out of the Shire (April 11, 3018 TA, or five months before Frodo gets off his ass and goes… hobbits…) through to when Sam Gamgee arrives back from the Grey Havens (October 6, 3021 TA) after Frodo and Bilbo depart Middle-earth, still only comes up to three and a half years.  The old LOTRO news site A Casual Stroll to Mordor came by its name honestly,

It wasn’t so bad at first.  The game only took about a year longer to get to The Mines of Moria than it took the fellowship to get through to the other side, though that still put the expansion out longer than it took to Frodo to throw down Sauron, celebrate with the new king, meander back to The Shire, fight the last battle, and start complaining about his PTSD.

But here we are, eight years in, and still in The Two Towers, with Minas Tirith still over the horizon.  I like to try to imagine the story playing out over a longer stretch, the war of the ring as an ongoing quagmire, though it requires both sides to move at a pretty lethargic pace.  Vast armies slow to form then lumbering about at a snails pace as Frodo… I don’t know what Frodo is up to.  He and Sam seem to have found something to do.

Anyway, Turbine’s vision of Middle-earth is still here to explore.  Things do not look promising, at least if you were holding out hope against hope of seeing Mount Doom or the gates of Mordor.  The look forward into 2015 seemed rather modest, and then we had all those tales of woe about Turbine itself leak.  But we are also unlikely to see as ambitious an attempt to recreate Middle-earth any time soon, so enjoy it while we have it.

 

Sweet Sixteen for Norrath

It was sixteen years ago today that I picked up a copy of EverQuest at Fry’s on my way home to work, only to get completely hooked on the game almost immediately.

EverQuestHere it is, many years, many changes, and twenty one expansions down the road and thinking about that first evening of discovery still strikes a chord within me.

I haven’t played the game by any definition of the word for over a year now, but I still might at some future date, if Daybreak takes a run at another round of progression servers.

So, without much to say, I’ll point you at Bhagpuss who is reliving some EverQuest moments in Neverwinter, thanks to Tipa’s hard work.

Of course, if you are still actively playing EverQuest, there are a whole series of events going on for the anniversary.

Has Rift Only Been Around for Four Years?

I ask because in my gut it feels like Rift has been around longer, that it has joined the pantheon of elder games, that it has traveled a long, long road to get where it is today.

I think Rift has just lived life at an accelerated pace, having gone through various stages of its existence at a run.  I mean, we had the game show up and receive accolades in beta.  Then there was the “aimed straight at World of Warcraft” marketing campaign just as WoW subscription numbers were flagging.

No, not Azeroth!

No, not Azeroth!

David “Triple-A and Here To Stay” Reid was quick to claim that those missing citizens of Azeroth were swarming into Telara, boasting of the game having one million subscribers… I mean customers… or maybe it was just a million boxes sold.

Meanwhile, the open beta finished up and the game went live to the immediate cries that the game was better in beta, thus punching that ticket on the game’s journey.  No transition to live is complete without that!

Then there was the inevitable “dumbing down” and solo play focus, the initial drop in subscribers and server consolidation, the Raptr deals, and a raft of updates and features like mentoring and instant adventures.

That rolled into the first expansion, Storm Legion, which seemed to be missing some element that made the original game so compelling.  I ran four characters to level 50 but couldn’t bring myself to get those next ten levels.  Something just didn’t click.  Maybe bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Storm Legion so far

About as far as I got in Storm Legion

After the expansion failed to bring subscriptions back to the game’s peak, there was the inevitable descent into the free to play model.

RiftFreeThat changed things.  There were no more individual vendors, just a store window you could invoke to purchase things with the various currencies available.

Welcome to every store in the game

Welcome to every store in the game

Free, being a price anybody can theoretically afford, brought a pile of players back, but every surge tide must ebb at some point.  The server count was reduced again, the game shut down in China, and Trion closed its office in San Diego.

The game carried on.  A new expansion, The Nightmare Tide, was announced and Trion joined the insta-level craze, allowing players to boost a character to level 60, effectively past the Storm Legion expansion.  Somewhere along the line Trion decided that they needed to compete with Steam and Origin and forced their Glyph game service on all of their customers.  I mean, even EA had the good sense not to force Origin on their SWTOR customers.  Anyway, the Glyph requirement, along with Trion’s cavalier attitude to what they feel they can install (but not uninstall) on my computer, now pretty much blocks my ever returning to Rift or trying any other game they might publish.

Such is life.

Still, it wasn’t a bad game.  For a season or three it served as a home to our regular group, giving us a place to play during our crisis of confidence with Blizzard and World of Warcraft.  We enjoyed our time there, adapting as the game changed beneath us.

Freemarch before us

Freemarch before us

That was enough to put Rift at the top of the list of games I spent time playing in 2012. (It fell well down the list in 2013 and, if Raptr publishes a report for me for 2014, it likely won’t be visible at all.)

All of that in four years.  It hardly seems possible.  It is like a compressed timeline of the genre in a way, having passed through so many familiar phases.

Anyway, the team at Trion has put together an infographic about the game to celebrate four years of Rift.  A crop of the very top of the 976×7223 pixel document is below.  Clicking on it will bring up the whole thing.

Top of the Rift Infographic

Top of the Rift Infographic – Note “pretty” race bias

More than a billion quests completed and nearly a quarter of a billion rifts closed in four years.

At this point the game has probably hit that foreign country status for me… more so than other, much older games such as EverQuest II.  Too much has probably changed at this point and I hadn’t even finished up what was on my plate before I left.  But it was fun while it lasted.

A Decade of Dual Screens – 10 Years of the Nintendo DS

I remember seeing the original GameBoy back in the early 90s.

Display Case #3

GameBoy units at the Nintendo Store

My youngest cousin, some 22 years my junior (which is about the same age difference as between my father and I) had one back then.  While I was mildly interested in it due to the fact that she had the Elevator Action cartridge, which faithfully reproduced the arcade game of the same name that I played in my own youth, overall my reaction was tepid.  I had a computer with a 17″ color monitor that played a myriad of deeper, more interesting, and much more colorful video games than the chubby little monochromatic brick battery hog from Nintendo.

But I had made the jump from arcades and consoles ages before the GameBoy showed up.  I dribbled a bit with a Sega Genesis when somebody gave it to me, but other than that I was strictly a computer gamer.  So the GameBoy was something off in the periphery.  I have vague recollections about changes in form factor, the arrival of color, and the advent of what might be the defining game for the platform, the Pokemon series of games.  Though the latter first came to my attention via the trading card game, which brought me to the TV show, and the finally to the realization that it all started as a video game.  That was at approximately the Pokemon Yellow stage of the series.  One of my nieces had a GameBoy Advance SP, which seemed like a flimsy bit of hardware.

And it still wasn’t of much interest.  The internet and online gaming was where it was at for me.

Then, on November 21, 2004 Nintendo officially launched the Nintendo DS in North America.

Again, something on the periphery of my gaming.  It was a big deal and, thus, hard to ignore.  The news bled through and I remember wondering how a two screen system would work and what advantage it would provide.  I think the fact that the unit had more buttons on it that its predecessors made a bigger impression on me.

Of course, by that time I had a daughter of my own, though she was far too young for that sort of thing.  But time passed.  I remember us being at Toys R Us one day when she started playing with one of the DS units on display.  It had Pokemon Diamond running on it and my daughter was transfixed by the idea of wandering the countryside in the game.

Not too long after that, we were preparing for a flight to Hawaii to visit family (my daughter has been to Hawaii more times in her few years than most people will go in their whole lives), when we discovered that the video player, used to maintain our sanity by keep our daughter busy, was no longer holding a charge.  It would not be an option for this trip.  Faced with six hours of “are we there yet?” my wife sent me out specifically to buy a Nintendo DS and a few games in order to keep our daughter busy during the flight.

And it had to be pink.  This was the era of the Nintendo DS Lite, the overhaul of the original hardware and maybe the best packaging Nintendo ever did.

I remember the bit about the color, because when I got to the store, they only had blue units.  So I bought a blue one because, what the hell, right?  My wife wasn’t having that, and when I arrived home with the wrong item she called around, found a pink unit, and sent me out to exchange the red unit for the pink.  That was a little over six and a half years ago.

The whole thing was a big hit, and I was as interested in the Nintendo DS Lite unit and the Pokemon game running on it as my daughter.  Within a few weeks I had my own cobalt blue Nintendo DS Lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond as well.  I remain impressed with the unit to this day.  It is solid, the screen is crisp and clear and colorful (though a bit small for my aging eyes these days), the battery life is excellent, and the built in WiFi and connectivity with the Wii was a master stroke.

And, of course, Pokemon.

There have been a few other games we have enjoyed on the DS hardware at our house.  The Mario Kart games have been good, and my daughter has played a lot of Animal Crossing.  But the mainline Pokemon RPG games have been the mainstay of the hardware for us, the reason for having the units.  There are now five DS models in our home, all of which still function.  We have the original two DS Lite units, a DSi XL unit my daughter got as a present, and then a pair of 3DS XL units, which followed the same pattern as the originals, as once my daughter got one… and started playing Pokemon X… I had to have one too.

Overall, I have to say I remain impressed with the design and functionality of the hardware.  I have had the DS Lite out in order to transfer Pokemon between versions of the game as well as to withdraw quite a herd of Pokemon from Pokemon Ranch, and it was still a solid, comfortable device to use.

And I am clearly not alone in my admiration of Nintendo’s dual screen handheld.  Over 150 million units of the original DS line sold during its life, making second only to the PlayStation 2 in console hardware sales, and another 45 million 3DS generation units have sold as well.  That is nearly 200 million units, or nearly 400 million screens.

Nintendo seems to run hot and cold with its living room consoles.  The NES and SNES were both hot, but the GameCube was not.  The Wii was on fire, but the Wii U hasn’t found its killer app.  The game pad controller seems like a weight around the console’s neck.  They should have left that sort of thing to the handheld side of the team, as they did with the Wii.

But on the handheld front, Nintendo has been dominant for years.  How much of it was hardware and how much of it was the games… especially Pokemon… I couldn’t say, but the combination has been a winner for Nintendo for a long time now.  And there is a new 3DS unit on its way to consumers next year.

The New 3DS

Colorful buttons and a second analog control

Over at The Verge they have a timeline of Nintendo portable devices, most of them hot, a few of them… well… not.

A Decade in Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We are in the midst of a few different EverQuest II moments, and I am going to mash them together into one post as they are all mildly related.

The first is that today EverQuest II is launching a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion is only launching for All Access subscribers.  You can literally buy the expansion but be unable to play it until November 25th while subscribers can play today.  This seems at best a transparent “subscribe dammit!” move and at worst just dumb, another round of SOE being SOE.  But what are you going to do?  I suspect that there is considerable overlap between people invested enough in the game to buy the expansion and subscribers, so this will probably just annoy a few corner cases.

The expansion is either the 10th or the 14th… or maybe the 11th… EverQuest II expansion.  At this point I am not sure how to count the three adventure packs… Bloodline Chronicles felt tiny, the Splitpaw Saga was huge, while Fallen Dynasty was just strange… and then there was the expansion (but not really an expansion) that was the so-called Age of Discovery.

Anyway, over the years SOE has kept EQII alive and expanding, and the Altar of Malice expansion builds on all of that with its feature list (and patch notes), including a boost in the level cap to 100.  It is landing at that number as a level cap just two days before World of Warcraft hits the same number.  Say what you will about SOE and its game, but they have kept it evolving over the years.  Not always in directions in which I have approved, but not everything has to be about me.

So congrats to SOE and the EverQuest II team for keeping it going for however many expansions we’re talking about.

Ignore those smug bastards on the EverQuest team (who also pushed an expansion today) when they start in on however many expansions they have shipped.

The second is the 10 year anniversary of the launch of EverQuest II.  That was either November 4th or November 9th, depending on which source I look at.  Did SOE do a head start or something?  Anyway, it has been a decade at this point.

A decade in and launching a new expansion!  That is getting along in gaming years.  There have been a lot of games that have come and gone while things have been cranking along in Norrath, both new and old.

The third item, which rambles on, is after the cut.

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One Hundred and Thirty Million Skill Points

I missed the big battle at CCP-US, where we traded a titan for 60 dreadnoughts, and the pipe-boming fiasco of Sunday afternoon, so all I really have at the end of the weekend is another round number to write about.  I have hit another meaningless milestone in the eternal quest for skill points in EVE Online.

I think the skill point thing was perhaps one of the best moves CCP made in designing EVE Online.  It is practically money in the bank, as some people will stay subscribed for ages because they are making progress on that front, even if they aren’t really playing.  And with the new limitless skill queue coming… money.

Anyway, the milestones so far, which act sort of my progress chart through New Eden as I have bounced from one thing to another over the years:

The pattern of milestones is a bit odd, though that too reflects to a certain respect my engagement with the game.  And, of course, I never hit 100 million skill points because CCP broke out Battlecruisers and Destroyers into racial skill with the Odyssey expansion, giving those of us who had them trained to five an instant boost of about six million skill points.  That jumped me from around 99 million to 105 million skill points, and spared you all one of these numbers blog posts.

Anyway, here we are at the next round number and here are how my skill point distribution stands.  Those categories marked with an asterisk changed since the last milestone, so that is where my training time went, while the numbers in parenthesis show how many skills out of the total number I have for each category.

Spaceship Cmd   35,466,680 (42 of 67)*
Gunnery         13,915,745 (36 of 39)*
Missiles        10,311,505 (21 of 24)*
Navigation       9,362,039 (12 of 13)*
Drones           9,309,104 (17 of 20)*
Leadership       8,507,855 (13 of 14)*
Armor            6,899,137 (14 of 14)*
Engineering      5,748,120 (12 of 14)*
Shields          5,643,314 (11 of 12)
Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
Science          4,408,426 (21 of 39)
Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 13)
Electronic Sys   2,458,519 (6 of 15)
Targeting        1,521,805 (8 of 8)*
Scanning         1,412,995 (7 of 7)*
Neural Enhance.  1,384,785 (5 of 8)*
Subsystems       1,320,000 (10 of 20)
Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12)
Corp Mgmt        1,108,784 (4 of 7)
Social             943,765 (5 of 9)
Planet Mgmt        769,335 (5 of 5)
Rigging            580,275 (10 of 10)*

Total         ~130,000,000 (295 of 398)

I am clearly guilty of trying to have one character do everything over the years.  I will recycle, once again, Jester’s skill point chart that gives a general view of the whole.

Skill Points Mapped Out

Skill Points Mapped Out

There are, as always, chunks of training time spent around optimizing for fleet doctrines.  But far and away the majority of my training time over the last cycle has been devoted to Leadership skills, with more than 6.1 million skill points accrued.

This was due to me decision back in June to train to be a fleet booster.  Getting Leadership maxed out, which means all the way up to the Fleet Commander V skill, has been described as a year-long process that you just have to buckle down and dedicate your training to.  Certainly there are not a lot of happy, useful mid-points, at least not in our fleet doctrines.  You have to have a lot of level V skills to take on the role.  My first plateau, the point at which I might actually be useful, will probably come by the end of this year, at which point I will Wing Command V and the appropriate Warefare Link specialist roles trained up, along with the Command Ships skill, so that I can fly the Damnation command ship as an on-grid wing booster in Baltec fleets.

Damnation in a POS

Damnation in a POS

Let’s hope Baltec fleet is still a doctrine by then.  Given that leadership is shown as ~12 million skill points over all, my next milestone will no doubt feature mostly an increase in that category again.

All told, my character knows 295 different skills, up from 283 at the last milestone.

Level 1  - 4
Level 2  - 23 
Level 3  - 48
Level 4  - 71 
Level 5  - 149

Only four of the new skills were in the Leadership category, while another four went into Rigging, while the final four were in Targeting where I discovered I was missing the racial sensor compensation skills.  That discovery was largely because of the skill review at the 120 million skill point level, so I suppose these milestones are not entirely meaningless.

At the end of these posts I have traditionally put in a calculation about how far I am from flying a Titan.  Way back in time that tended to be a hilariously large number, to the point of seeming unlikely to ever come about.  As time has marched forward, I have managed to edge closer and closer to that ability, to the point that I last reported that I was about 50 days of training shy of being able to fly (but not fully equip) a Titan.  49 out of those 50 days were tied up in Capital Ships V, something I am unlikely to be training in the near future.  And so that number seemed to be static.

However, in the CFC, we have a utility that shows you where you stand on your skill progression if you want to fly in one of the capital fleets.  This shows you what skills you are missing and the minimum training level that the CFC will accept, so I can now list out how long it will take me to fly a fully operation titan.  In this case, the shortest path is to a Ragnarok, the Minmatar titan. (See its doomsday weapon in action. Not a super laser like the Avatar or Erebus.)

Free wheeling Ragnarok

Free wheeling Ragnarok outside the POS

This is largely due to the fact that I have trained up the skills to fly the Minmatar Naglfar dreadnought, and the capital ship level weapons skills apply in both cases.  The training plan to fly this beast looks like this:

1. Capital Ships V
2. Astrometrics V
3. Jump Portal Generation I
4. Jump Portal Generation II
5. Jump Portal Generation III
6. Energy Pulse Weapons II
7. Energy Pulse Weapons III
8. Energy Pulse Weapons IV
9. Energy Pulse Weapons V
10. Doomsday Operation I
11. Doomsday Operation II
12. Doomsday Operation III
13. Doomsday Operation IV
14. Minmatar Titan I
15. Minmatar Titan II
16. Minmatar Titan III
17. Minmatar Titan IV

According to EVE Mon, that is 6 unique skills, 17 skill levels, with a total time training time of 130 days, 17 hours, 44 minutes, 40 seconds.  The training time number was generated when I was in a clone without implants, and my attributes are sub-optimal, so I could cut that time down some if I so desired.  Any of the other titans would add another two days to the training time, which isn’t very significant.

Meanwhile, if I went the super carrier route, I could be flying an Aeon in about 105 days, thanks to the Amarr carrier skills I trained up for the Archon.

The Aeon looks half finished

The Aeon looks half finished

Of course, this is just an amusing numbers exercise.  I won’t be flying either a titan or a super carrier in the foreseeable future.  In part, that is because I do not have the patience to actually earn enough ISK to buy either class of ship.  I would be stretched to fork out the 3 billion ISK required for the Naglfar I have already trained to fly.  But mostly it is because titans and avatars pretty much require you to dedicate a character full time to them.  There is no docking up and swapping ships.  Once you are in your giant space coffin, you are stuck with it.

So, while an amusing metric, super capitals aren’t really a goal for me.

Anyway, off for the 140 million mark.  At least I don’t have to upgrade my clone until the 150 million mark.  Maybe I will be “done” training by then.

Sometimes you can even catch me in high sec buying skills or just sitting in my training implants clone.

Eight Years of Link Rot

Years ago, back when we thought the World Wide Web was new and cool and we actually called it the World Wide Web and you had to have “www” in front of a web address because otherwise somebody might think you wanted Gopher access to their site for Christ’s sake, back then I read an interview with Douglas Engelbart.  Or maybe it was somebody else.  It could have been Ted Nelson.  Or maybe it was a dream.  I have learned that memory is unreliable which is why, in part, I write this blog.  Anyway, Douglas Engelbart is the guy who invented or bundled together the idea of just about everything you take for granted in computing today, only those ideas never quite came across as envisioned.  Basically, we messed it all up along the way.  It is what we do best.

And in this interview, some young reporter, gushing to be interviewing the person who came up with the very idea of Hypertext, asked him if this whole shiny new World Wide Web thing was the wonderful rainbow-streaked living embodiment of all he had foreseen.  Wasn’t this just what he beheld all those years back when he was given a nearly divine vision of the future?

And the response, from whoever it was… and I am paraphrasing here, because I cannot remember his actual withering retort… was approximately “Jesus Fuck No!”

And his objection didn’t even reference GeoCities.

No, he was pissed off that he had envisioned a vast interlinking of information systems that would allow the user to find all he needed smoothly and seamlessly, and what we had created was a mess of hand typed static URIs that would fail to connect the moment something in the path moved or changed.  We had taken his vision of Hypertext and created from it a living hell of link rot.  I don’t think he used the actual term “link rot,” though he might have.

And this was, as I said, during an earlier era of the web, before link rot was a really big deal.  Visionary that he was, he foresaw this as he foresaw so much else.  He could see the linkpocalypse coming.  Actually, it probably was Ted Nelson.  He literally hates HTML.  But it doesn’t matter, we’re still screwed, having been left with this sort of thing now.

The World Wide Web, as it turns out, is a place where we mostly used to be able to find stuff, but it keeps disappearing.  Often, the happiest result is getting the dread 404 errors, which have become common enough that we have taken to making them cute or pretty or different, so as to make the failure of one link or another more pleasant.

The EVE Online 404 error page

The EVE Online 404 error page

And 404 is good compared to the alternatives.  You are just as likely to get somebody cybersquatting on a URL with ads and malware.  This seems to be the common end for self-hosted blogs.  People stop updating, then stop paying the bill, and then the domain expires and the next day there is a spam page sitting there dispensing shit where once there was something of value.

Some days I hate the internet.

If it were not for the Internet Archive I am sure I would think myself crazy, remembering so many virtual things that have, for one reason or another, shed even their virtual existence and disappeared.

Basically, I am eight years down the road on the whole blogging thing today, and I can really see how annoying the whole link rot thing can be.  I can channel Engelbart’s rage… or whoever that was in the interview I cannot find… because internet.

I go back and look at old posts at least once a month, thanks to my month in review posts, and I end up running into more and more old posts with dead links.  I have always frowned upon posts with supporting arguments available only as links (the awful “go read this and come back” posts), but I am becoming more convinced that I need to quote as much as possible in blog posts, so as to make each post as self-contained as possible, that it might make sense five years down the road when the link to the source material has gone bad.  But I cannot copy things wholesale, as I do not want to steal the works of others.  So there is this middle ground of trying to include enough to support what I am saying, knowing whatever links I include may go away (as an example, SOE has a habit of just changing their web site hierarchy every two years because “fuck the web” I guess, so the data is generally still there, it just has a different URI), without actually stealing the works of other and actually encouraging people to visit other sites.  Community, yo.

All of which is something of an odd intro into my 8 year anniversary post (trivia: Blog created at 17:04 UTC on September 12, 2006), but here we are, eight years in and I am feeling the pain of being on the internet.  For those with more free time than sense, you can go back and look at past anniversary blog posts to see how I have held up over the years.

I had originally thought of going with Self-Portrait at Eight Years Old Wearing a Helm with Giant Horns as a post title, but I thought maybe I might be getting into references too obscure for mere mortals.  Plus I couldn’t come up with an decent image to go with that title, while images of 404 messages are legion.

Anyway, it is at this point I start trotting out various and sundry statistics and other bits of trivia, with some sort of forward looking message at the end.  If you are interested in that sort of thing, you will find it after the cut.  If not, well… there are plenty of happy destinations in the side bar.  And most of those links are still good!

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