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Stellar Emperor Remake October 9, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment.
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4 comments

I have written a bit in the past about the Kesmai game MegaWars III, which ran on CompuServe, and its twin on GEnie, Stellar Emperor.

It always raise somebody’s ire when I call them twins.  They were, in fact, as close as twins when I was playing Stellar Emperor back in 1986, back when I was actually winning in online games.  (It has been all down hill for me since then.)

Once they called ME emperor!

However, Stellar Emperor began to diverge from MegaWars III not too long after that, and by around 1990 they were as different as chalk and some sort of dairy product.

MegaWars III basically sat still in time and remained pretty much the same through to the end of its run… and the end of CompuServe’s run… in 1999, thus spanning about 15 years online.  So when, a couple of years back, Crimson Leaf Games decided to recreate MegaWars III, it was pretty recognizable to those who played the original.

I'm in space! Can you even tell?

I’m in space! Can you even tell?

Meanwhile Stellar Emperor changed.  GEnie seemed much more interested in getting graphic front ends into their online game offerings.  Things like Air Warrior were the direction they wanted to go, and Kesmai seemed keen to oblige them, bringing Stellar Emperor along for the ride.  By about 1990 Stellar Emperor would have been practically unrecognizable to a MegaWars III player.  Game mechanics were changed, ships were slimmed down to a series of pre-set sizes, not unlike what Kesmai did in Stellar Warrior (which is the game some MegaWars III players think I am referring to at times when I write about Stellar Emperor), commands were changed or simplified.

And then there was the front end software.

If I recall right, you could still play the game from the terminal interface like the original… at least you could the last time I tried, which would have been in the 1990/1991 time frame.  But the front end client could be used and was there to make the game both more visually interesting and accessible.  And given the state of gaming as viewed from the command line interface these days… what do we have, MUDs, some Roguelikes, and maybe a few other retro experiences hiding in various corners… it was the way to go.  Friendlier graphical user interfaces were the way to go.

And that is about where my personal timeline with GEnie and CompuServe ends.  Oddly, that is about the time where I started dealing with them professionally, but that is another tale altogether and does not involve any online games.

So my memories are of a time when these games were as about as sophisticated as minimal vt52 terminal emulation would allow.  I think of the blinking cursor and arcane commands like “imp 200,100″ and text scrolling off the top of the screen, never to be seen again.  And it seemed quite natural, from a nostalgia perspective, to recreate such games from that era with a command line interface, though with the web you can always put in buttons for those of us who cannot remember all of those old commands.

Buttons!  I need something to help with scouting though

Crimson Leaf Games added buttons

And who wants to create a new GUI client for this sort of thing which must have a pretty small audience?

Well, somebody does.  I managed to wrest a message from the horrible new Yahoo web mail interface sent to me to announce that there is a remake of Stellar Emperor under way.  And it is not an attempt to redo the original, 1986 vintage command line version either.  This will be a shot at the GUI client version of the game that ran through the 1990s until the game was shut down by Electronic Arts in 2000. (Electronic Arts motto: We buy game studios and kill them.)

Cosmic Ray Games, LLC is the name of the group working on this project.  They have a site up, the game is in beta, there is a client you can download, and a reasonable amount of detail is available.  Their FAQ describes Stellar Emperor as:

Stellar Emperor is an online 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) MMORTS strategy game. It maintains a periodically (usually 4 weeks) persistent universe in which a player colonizes planets and forms teams to compete against others real players. You Explore the galaxy to find planets to manage and build your resources, form teams or alliances to help further your survival, gather intelligence on your enemies, and use your resources to defend yourself or to weaken or eliminate your enemies.

There are several elements that make Stellar Emperor a fun and unique gaming experience, which include:

  • You only play against other real people, no NPCs to waste time on grinding.
  • A periodically persistent universe.
  • All events occur in real-time, whether you are online or not, no waiting for turns.
  • The world has a strict time limit in which you have to earn your way to winning any of the various titles.
  • All players start each war on an even basis. The game can only become uneven for the duration of an individual war, not eternally.
  • You command several planets to do your bidding.
  • You can build for growth and score, or you can build for war to take from others.
  • Build ships or supplies to defend yourself, attack others, or gain an advantage in combat.

You can win a specific title in a war:

  • Emperor – Leader of the winning team.
  • President – Player with the highest planetary score.
  • Warlord – The player with the best overall adjusted combat score.
  • Ravager – The player most successful and attacking other player’s planets.

Combined, these elements create an environment where players must work together to achieve their goals and overcome adversities presented by the other players vying for the same goals, winning the game! You will see expansive battles, strategy execution, conflict, and teamwork as all players battle their way for the top spots.

Given the speed of the game, I might not describe Stellar Emperor using the “RTS” acronym.  It may literally be true, but when you think of an RTS game, you are more likely to imagine StarCraft, which takes minutes to hours to play as opposed to a game that runs out over a four week time frame.  But then it isn’t like an ongoing, persistent universe MMO like EVE Online either, since it does reset every four weeks.

The update I received reported that the game was at about 95% functionality.   There are some screen shots, which I stole, and guides to playing the game on the media page of their site.

While I am interested in general about this sort of nostalgic revival of older games, I am probably not going to jump on this one quite yet.  As noted above, this is really a poke at something that was after my time with the game.  And EVE Online seems to be filling my need for internet spaceships at the moment.  But I will keep an eye on this and will be interested to hear if anybody else gives it a try.

Quote of the Day – Commandments of Online Worlds August 30, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, MMO Design.
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7 comments

Thou shalt not mistake online worlds for games, for they encompass far more; nor shalt thou forget that play is noble, and game is no epithet.

Raph Koster, The Commandments of Online Worlds

A little over seven years ago Raph wrote his commandments post.  It, and the resulting discussion in comments, feels like it is from another era.  Of course, it is from before Zynga and gamification and free to play as the default revenue model, back when the idea of a virtual world had meaning to a lot more people.

I was reminded of this post because I was listening to VirginWorlds postcast #17 this morning.  The show itself is a nice time capsule, having gone live back in July 2006.  Brent talks about DarkFall, EA buying Mythic and what that could portend, The Burning Crusade expansion that was set to come out six months later, along with a discussion of subscription numbers and what they mean.  Or meant.

Five Games I Want to See Revamped March 15, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest.
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23 comments

The announcement that Hidden Path is doing a revamp of Age of Empires II, along with such refreshes as Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, naturally made me think about what other games ought to get cleaned up and brought forward into the current age.

Here are the five that I want to see.

1 – Civilization II

Civilization II remains my favorite version of Civilization.  I have continued playing this through all the follow up versions.  There is a simplicity to it that gets lost in the later games that I find quite endearing.  And by reports I am not alone in continuing to play.  One of the most popular posts on the blog is about how to get Civ II to run on Windows 7 64-bit.

Which, of course, brings up the question of why it even needs an update if it runs already.  It doesn’t even look horrible and thanks to the Microsoft programming doctrines of the time, it runs in a window that resizes to whatever screen resolution you need.

A simpler time...

A simpler time…

Well, it runs, but not without difficulty at times.  You have to get the right version of the game and use somebody’s home grown patch to get it to run on 64-bit.  And you still need the CD in the drive to play, and I’ll admit right now that I managed to lose mine… again.  And there are a number of long standing AI issues that could be cleared up along the way.

Basically, I would like to buy a fresh copy that works on my machine.  I don’t care if it comes from Steam or GOG.com, I will make that purchase.

Why It Won’t Happen

The game was published back when Sid Meier was doing games for the now defunct MicroProse, so I am not even sure who owns the rights to the code itself, though Sid did manage to wrest the Civ name from them.  Sort of.  There were issues.  And even if Sid and Firaxis owned the rights free and clear, they would much rather you buy Civilization V and some of their DLC than some code that is going on 20 years old here.

2 – Diablo

Again, back to a simpler time.  My first thought was Diablo II, but that actually runs on my system okay and doesn’t look that bad.  So no work to be done there.  But the first game in the series?

I can almost get the original Diablo running on my machine.  There are a couple of tricks to getting the palettes to load correctly.  The game loads, you can play for a bit, but it is about as happy as a summoned demon about the whole thing.  The palettes are muddy, the lighting clearly has another agenda, and things lock up at inopportune moments.  And the whole thing is presented in a very chunky 640×480 on my big monitor.

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

But it is nearly there.  You can just get a taste.  You can hear the sound effects.  You get a sense for a moment how dark and moody the caverns under Tristam were.  I think a rework of this would do well.  And, of course, Blizzard owns it all and could roll a fresh version is the desired.  I would subscribe to another year of WoW to get it.

Why It Won’t Happen

I see a vision of Mike Morhaime explaining how Diablo III is really the superior product while dismissing the idea of a rework of the original.  Blizzard never moves backwards.  Old products get some support, but once a new version is out, the old one is pretty much dead to them.  This is why there will never be an official version of the WoW Emerald Dream server.  Blizzard just doesn’t do that.

Plus, I am not sure I would trust Blizzard with this.  They didn’t even make the original.  That was the long-gone team at Blizzard North.

3 – Bolo

At this point I suspect that most of you are going, “Huh?  What is Bolo?”

Bolo was a fun little networked tank game on the Mac back when adding network capabilities to your typical DOS box took an expensive package from Novell.  Created by brilliant networking programmer Stuart Cheshire, we used to play this for hours on Friday nights at the office.  There was an interface that allowed people to create AIs to drive players, and we would set up a series of AI boxes in the lab and have horrible, bloody, never ending battles.  Great stuff.

WinBolo

WinBolo

Why It Won’t Happen

Nobody could make any money from it.  Mr. Cheshire said he was done with it ages ago, but I don’t think that means he’ll let other people take it over.  And, honestly, as a game, it had some issues with coming to a final resolution.  It was hard to win.  Basically, one team generally grew tired first and gave up.  And if it was AIs versus humans, well, the AIs never got tired.

4 – Auto Duel

Autoduel was the great mid-80s computer game manifestation of Car Wars from Steve Jackson Games.  It took the vehicular combat game and forced it into the computer RPG mold quite successfully.  There was an unfolding story and goals and side tasks and character development and buying new crap to bolt onto your car all wrapped into one game.

Autoduel

Autoduel

I spent hours sitting in front of my Apple II playing this game.  It was great.  What could possibly go wrong.

Why It Won’t Happen

Well, to start with, it was an Apple ][ game. (Along with other such now defunct 80s computer platforms.)  You cannot, would not, should not literally translate it to a version that runs on today's machines.  Which means that you would need to re-imagine it in the way that the Wasteland 2 group is trying to redo Wasteland.  But I have my doubts on that.  It might be that this (and Wasteland) were only great in the context of the limited computer hardware we had at the time.  And... you know... Auto Assault.

Plus, if that weren't enough, Steve Jackson Games owns the rights and doesn't seem to have any interest in such a venture, seeming content to work on their own board game nostalgia instead.

5 - EverQuest

This one is probably the least realistic as well as being the one to which people are most likely to take offense.

Here we are, the day before EverQuest's 14th birthday.  The game has a huge amount of content added in over 19 different expansions.  It has grown, expanded, and adapted over time, first setting trends and later following them.  It has gone free to play, so money isn't even a barrier to playing the game.

SOE has worked to remove many barriers to getting people to play one of the great MMORPGs of the 20th century.  But one huge barrier still remains.

The client.

I don't mind the bad linoleum textures, the primitive animations, the intermittent sounds, the decrepit character models, or some of the crazy, grindy game play.

Never an immersion breaking name in EQ!

Textures gone wild

But every time I go back to play the game, wrestling with the damn client is a royal pain.  They have tried to bring it up to date or to adhere to conventions that came into fashion for MMOs after it shipped.  Things like WASD movement keys as a default.

And they have managed it quite well.  But the client feels like it has too many features stuffed into it, while still showing some of the flaws it had back in 1999.  For example, how frickin’ big does the contact area around my character need to be.  I am constantly trying to click on something off to one side of him and ending up with him as the selection.

So I dream of an all new client, designed and built from scratch that delivers a smooth and modern user experience.  And it pains me to say that, as the cardinal sin of every young, and many old, programmers is the heartfelt need to reject anybody elses code, opting to rewrite things from scratch.  But I cannot get to my desired state by continuing to pile on to the old code base.  A fresh start is needed.

In my mind, I see what is essentially EQ running with WoW’s client.

But I would accept the EverQuest II client frankly.

Why It Won’t Happen

There is no money in it.  Having gone free to play, if it doesn’t come from the cash shop, it doesn’t bring in any money.  The only exceptions are subscriptions and expansions.  The client is free to download.

And, of course, even if there were money in it, it would be a huge operation and many a company has gone under rewriting code rather than pushing forward with new features on top of old spaghetti.  See Netscape.   The costs would be huge, and the benefits likely marginal at best.  And I may want a better EQ client, but I suspect I am in a slim minority.  Plus, how well did such revamps serve other games in the past?

Other Games

Of course, there were other games that came to mind.  I was tempted to list any version of SimCity besides the current one, just becauseGetFudgedPopulation FTW!  But we already have SimCity 4 on Steam.

I was also wondering about Ultima III and the original Wizardry.  But I suspect that neither would make good games today.  Or they might make fine iOS/Android games, but not something that would compare favorably to what we have available now on our desktops.  Basically, almost anything from the pre-Macintosh or pre-Windows era is likely mired in the time before GUI and has to be re-imagined to be brought forward.  Only dedicated hobbyists are likely to show any interest in games from that time.

Still, that does leave a good gap in time, and a whole pile of games that do adhere to at least some of the standards to which we have become accustomed and which could be reworked, polished up, and re-released.

What else should be on the list?  What would you like to see reworked and brought up to date?

RuneScape Embraces Nostalgia February 22, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Misc MMOs.
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5 comments

RuneScape, a popular (200 million accounts created is their claim to fame metric) browser-based fantasy MMORPG, has decided to farm the nostalgia sector by opening up servers aimed at those who want to relive RuneScape’s past.

Officially called “Old School RuneScape,” the setting will be August 2007 version of RuneScape.

RuneScape

Jagex, the game’s developer, has taken an interesting approach to bringing these servers to the community.  They have a poll up to gauge how much interest there is in the servers, with more interest by the player base yielding more focus by the studio itself.

The poll approaches 250K

The poll approaches 250K

Omali has some condensed details over at MMO Fallout about what happens at given result levels. (There is an update to go along with the final results.)  There is also an official FAQ up about the servers.

Interesting to me is that by default… with the likely poll results… is that people interested in playing the classic version of this free-to-play game will have to pay for a subscription.  That seems right to me.  I don’t think people looking to relive a “classic” experience do so because it might be cheaper.

Certainly I did not run off an play on the Emerald Dream server in order to dodge the WoW subscription price, and I doubt Keen or SynCaine were so influenced with the Ultima Online Forever.

And that is how SOE has handled things with the Fippy Darkpaw server in the post free to play EverQuest world, making it available only to subscribers.

So RuneScape joins the rather short list of MMOs offering official “old school” versions of their game.  I only know of two others.  There is SOE with its EverQuest progression servers and Mythic with its past classic Dark Age of Camelot server (and its never to see the light of day Origin server).

And while there will always be arguments about what point in time is the “best” and whether such a server should be stuck in time or move forward, I think this sort of exercise is a good way to reach out and revive interest in your game with a big chunk of your current and former player base.

Of course, this sort of things probably works with some games better than others.  World of Warcraft is an obvious target.  Few expansions and slow improvement over time gives it a series of identifiable eras.  EVE Online, on the other hand… their whole single server approach pretty much precludes such a nostalgia path… plus who wants to go back to the days before “jump to zero?”

What MMOs would you like to see embrace nostalgia?  Or does that even have any appeal for you?

Turbine Time Machine – Asheron’s Call 2 Returns December 14, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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15 comments

Be careful what you ask for, because people will take note of what you do if you get it.

Turbine has announced in their forums that they are going to bring Asheron’s Call 2 back from the dead.

It has been seven years since it was shut down.  I never played it, nor its predecessor, but I have seen more than a few posts over the years bemoaning its demise.

Google Image Search Finds All...

Google Image Search Finds All…

Now, I can hardly criticize people for being nostalgic for a game like this.  I run back to EverQuest just about every autumn, which is when the nostalgia bug seems to bite.  But the whole act of reviving a game seven years gone does raise some questions.

I would assume that Turbine has done some work on the game in the interim.  But I suspect it will still represent the state of the art at Turbine circa 2004.  And while AC2 may have done some things right,  is that going to be enough of a draw for any but the nostalgic and those with an archaeological bent?  Has what made people leave AC2 been addresses, or is this just hope against hope?

What will be the business model this time around?   For the beta you need an Asheron’s Call subscription.  I am sure that the nostalgia bug will make for a spike in subscribers just to get in on it.  But this was a game that was shut down seven years back because of a paucity of subscribers.  And Asheron’s Call itself was always a distant third in the UO/EQ/AC triumvirate when it came to subscribers.  Is Turbine planning to make this another free to play title?  And are there enough interested parties out there to make this a viable venture either way?

And finally, what does this say about Turbine itself?  It has been more than five years since they last launched a new game, which was Lord of the Rings Online in the first half of 2007.  In all the time since then, the best they could come up with was to pull a game they shut down out of cold storage?  That is a big bet on the nostalgia card with a game that purportedly peaked at 50K subscribers and had dwindled to less than a third of that by the end.  Is this a love letter to long time fans or a desperation move?

Like I said, I can hardly criticize anybody for nostalgia, since it drives much of my own gaming patterns.  I can never fully answer the question about reliving the past.  But there is a lot to this that makes me raise a quizzical eyebrow.

Anyway, Turbine has set the WABAC Machine to 2005.  Are you going to go for a ride?

Norrathian Tourism 2012 December 3, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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8 comments

There is clearly a difference between me playing an MMORPG… well, I will say “seriously” for lack of a better word… and me going back to play one for the sake of my annual autumnal nostalgia drive.

In the so-called serious mode, it can be a somewhat OCD-like drive to see and experience the world, to chase down the last quest in a zone, to peek into every corner, run dungeons, fight in events, and so on and so forth.  And a key aspect to this is that the world must resist my efforts.  If things are too easy, I will lose interest.  I should not be able to do everything correctly on the first try every single time.

In fact, I think making things too hard is better than making things too easy, at least to a certain point.  Walking out into a the world only to be insta-killed by the first set of mobs is turning the knob too far for most games.  And I am not sure how soon you want to transition over from learning how to play the game to the game making things difficult.

In my experiences on the Emerald Dream server, for example, I replayed how WoW used to turn from the playing slaying easy, non-aggro mobs in Elwynn Forest to facing packs of Defias with overlapping aggro zones in the vineyard in one very short step.

But in nostalgia mode, I am not interested in a lot of such thing.  I am not interested in grinding my way through a zone’s storyline, I do not want to work hard.  I want to run around, visit interesting places, and kill the local boss.

In this, I think EverQuest II might be perfectly arranged for me.

It helps that I left myself a character perfectly setup for a nostalgia tour.  I cannot remember if I did this on purpose or not, but my barbarian berserker Sigwerd hit level 42, at which point I outfitted him with a full set of master crafted gear… that probably translates to very good blue items or base level purple in the WoW scale of things… upgraded all his skills, and then parked him.

So, when I did come back to roam I had the maximum amount of time to run around before running into to the “you must completely replace all your equipment every 10 levels” barrier.  Add in mercenaries so I can hire a healer and become pretty much invincible to heroic named encounters, and I was set.

So, I ran around visiting places, slaying named mobs, and wrapping up the occasional quest.  The slaying named mobs seemed to be helped by the fact that named mobs seem to be up a lot more frequently.  Or less people are out there slaying them.

And, like all tourists, I took a series of pictures along the way.  I posted some previously, but here are some more.

Of course, some came out blurry.  And the JPEG compression is pretty harsh.  And half the time I forgot to take a picture.  Such a tourist.

Now though Sigwerd has hit level 52.  And while I was able to harvest enough rares to re-equip him for another 10 level jaunt, I am wondering where he should head next.  What should be on the tourist map for 53-62 in EverQuest II?

Fippy Darkpaw – Dragons of Norrath and The Story Going Forward November 23, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Sony Online Entertainment.
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7 comments

*** Progression Servers ***

- Fixed a problem that could cause an expansion to open without a vote.

From the EQ Test Server Patch Notes

From what I have seen, the Dragons of Norrath expansion was fully unlocked and accessible on the Fippy Darkpaw server by the morning of November 13th, so I will mark that for my unofficial timeline.  As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, no unlock vote was taken for the expansion, and no word has come from SOE about what happened, but it looks like the unlock will stand and there will be no roll back for a vote.

Open by whatever means necessary…

Meanwhile, it was reported in the forums that the pre-unlock message for the next expansion, Depths of Darkhollow, had been seen on the Vulak server.  There had been no vote up for that and I have no idea if it went any further than just a message.

Depths of Darkhollow is coming…

There was, however, a poll taken on Vulak and Fippy Darkpaw about the unlock timer settings.  Currently unlock votes are set to be taken 60 days after specific content from an expansion has been defeated for the first time.  The result of the poll was that a majority of respondents wanted that 60 day time frame increased.  There has been no word on when that will come to pass, though there will likely be another poll to determine how long the delay between content complete and a vote should be.

Of course, this is likely to please very few.

Voices from the raider factions claim that the repeated no votes on the Gates of Discord expansion unlock sent a good chunk of their population away, never to return.  Longer delays between expansions will not make their lot in life any better.

On the flip side, the constantly posting and ever unrealistic “I want to turn the progression server into a classic server” faction has been trying to slow down votes since day one.  And while there are many sub-factions within that group that want things to stop at one expansion or another, I am pretty sure that Dragons of Norrath is not high on anybody’s list as a classic server setting.

And in the midst of all of this, SOE has been saying… nothing.

There hasn’t been a word from anybody about what is going on.  The only thing approaching an official response has been from SOE-MOD-02, who comes in to shut down duplicate threads on subjects being discussed.

This is something of an irksome bit for me because, while I realize that the EQ team is in the midst of launching the Rain of Fear expansion, which is slated to come out next week, the population of the time locked progression servers represents paying customers.  You have to have a gold account in order to play on the TLP servers, so this is a population of SOE’s best customers, and they are being left to stew and squabble amongst themselves.

Must mishandled customer relations ever be the SOE hallmark?

So, with a great big sigh and a rolling of eyes skyward, I am going to call to a halt my attempts to try and track the progress of the second round of time locked progression servers.  It has been difficult to do since I stopped playing on the servers, which honestly happened back during Ruins of Kunark, and has gotten more so as time has gone on and the population on the servers has dwindled.

I am not going to renounce doing any more posts on the subject of these servers.  In fact, I can foresee at least two more such posts.  One will be when the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers get merged, and the other will be when the remaining server, which will likely be the more populous Fippy Darkpaw server, gets merged into one of the standard EverQuest Live servers, thus ending this round of progression servers.

I suspect that both of those events will be easy enough to spot and will help me round out my timeline.

But I am not going to spend time watching forums, emailing people, asking people to log onto the server to check polls, or otherwise spend time trying to tease out information that simply does not get posted anywhere.

But even with the community squabbles and the opportunities that SOE missed to use this server as a community building tool, it has been a grand experiment to my mind.  A flawed, irksome, neglected, forgotten in the back of the closet for months at a time experiment that often represented the triumph of reality over dreams and nostalgia, but a worthwhile one none the less.

For what really turned out to be just a few weeks for Potshot and I, it was a misty water colored reflection of the game we played in 1999 that brought out both its benefits and its flaws.

I played in the snow.  We read graffiti the Qeynos sewers.  We went to Blackburrow.  We camped bandits in West Karana.  We ran to Freeport.  We delved in Najena.  I got stuck in the Ocean of Tears.  We died in Unrest.  We sailed on Lake Rathetear.  And we ended up on Kerra Island and then in Runnyeye.

It was a decent nostalgia tour that let us relive many fond memories.

All of the posts related to this are under the Fippy Darkpaw tag if you want to review.

So, with that, I give you my timeline of the Fippy Darkpaw server so far with, as I said, the intent of updating it at least two more times.

I expect in a few years we will see the EverQuest Progression servers, round three.  Despite the problems, nostalgia pays.

Will you be there?

An EverQuest II Chains of Eternity First Impression November 20, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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7 comments

Actually, that title is pretty much a lie.  I was just on a roll with “First Impression” posts.

While the post is something of a first impression about returning to the game, it isn’t about the expansion.

I have not purchased the Chains of Eternity expansion for EQII, mostly because it is focused on characters well beyond the highest level of any of my own.  I think my characters cap out in the 60s for adventure levels and in the 80s for crafting levels.  So even had I purchased it, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with the content.  Life in the level based MMO lane.

Still, the launch of the Chains of Eternity expansion and my own minor reflections about the past eight years of EQII did kick off a bit of a nostalgia vibe.  My post I got Gaff nostalgic for the game.  And then he started chatting to me about it, which got me more interested in going back for a peek.

Such is the power of the blog.  What I do influences what I write.  What I write influences what I do.

I am told that the screen shots really sell the nostalgia angle.

Anyway, I patched up the game and opted in for Gold level, which means the traditional subscription.  More blathering aboutthat after the cut.

(more…)

Some Dragons of Norrath Features Unlocked on Fippy Darkpaw Without a Vote November 12, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

One of my worries about trying to report on expansions unlocking on the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server while not subscribed and actively playing is that at some point an unlock will go off without a hitch, thus keeping the forums from lighting up with complaints.

Those complaints are the trip-wire that alerts me to unlocks, because I certainly cannot count on the Fippy Darkpaw timeline they have on the EverQuest site.  That has been broken since March, when the game went free to play.

So it is a good thing that SOE seems to have my back on this!

Today is about the right time frame for the Dragons of Norrath expansion to unlock.  The past estimate was November 19th, next Monday, but that is only a week off.

Firiona Vie gets a solo cover

And so this morning there is a post in the forums reporting that features from the Dragons of Norrath expansion (of which Giant Bomb has a great summary) such as Guild Halls and faction NPCs and bandoliers and such are now available on the Fippy Darkpaw server. (But not on Vulak.)

However, none of the actual content, the zones that make up the bulk of the expansion, appear to be available. [Update: The zones appear to be in and live, but are blocked off.]

Oh, and the vote for the Dragons of Norrath has not come up yet.

Details, details.

There was a rogue poll that showed up just after Omens of War was unlocked, so maybe that masked the need for an unlock vote?  Or maybe the unlock vote was supposed to go up today?  Or maybe whatever changes SOE is putting in for the Rain of Fear expansion that is supposed to go live this month broke something?

Or maybe it is just another day on the Fippy Darkpaw server.

The Final Achievement October 23, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , , ,
7 comments

For now.

With Blizzard letting me cancel my account outside the short window between the expiration of my annual pass and the point of automated billing, I was off the hook.  The account was cancelled and would no longer be a worry.  Around 5am today it was closed.

But last night, when there were still a few more hours left to go, I decided to log in one more time and bang out one last achievement.

The Hallow’s End event was running.  As the blog tag will indicate, I as an individual, and we as the instance group, have spent a chunk of time doing things around Hallow’s End over the last few years.

A year ago I was left hanging on the “A Mask for All Occasions” achievement, not having noticed that there was a vendor selling the damn things.   Back in my day, you earned you masks by hitting up an inn keeper every sixty minutes and hoping against hope you would get something you needed.

Anyway, the achievement was undone.  I needed two more masks.

Which is actually kind of funny, because two years ago I started  Hallow’s End two masks short.  Back then it was the two blood elf masks.  And I ended still missing one.  But since then they added worgen and goblin masks, setting me back to six masks.

As I logged on, I was a bit worried.  Were there going to be more masks to collect?  Was this going to go from an amusing whim to a chore?

Fortunately, there were no new masks on the list.  I found the vendor outside the gates of Stormwind.  He needed some candy for currency, but the Hallow’s End daily quests are also right there as well.  I grabbed the stink bomb related set, cleaned up Stormwind and bombed the Undercity, collected my quest rewards, took about four steps and bought the masks.

Achievement complete.  Ironic that it should feature a blood elf mask.

That left my achievement balance… and I think these are now combined achievements if I understand the changes that came with Pandaria… as such.

Achievement Totals

Clearly I am not challenging anybody for achievement supremacy, but it does indicate where I spent my time.  A lot of it was spent with world events.  I would probably have even more there if the Children’s Week activities did not include those battle ground achievements.

Exploration is everything up through Wrath of the Lich King and some of Cataclysm.  Dungeons are all the standard five person instances through WotLK, not including the final three they added after we complete Utgarde Pinnacle… just a little over three years ago.

I regret that we never got back together and ran those final three dungeons.  That would have nicely capped off what was clearly our peak in Azeroth.  But there is no going back.  Well, at least not on Blizzard’s servers.

I finished that final achievement so quickly that I fished around a bit to see if there was another one I ought to knock off.  And certainly I was close on a few.

This Way Lies Madness…

In then end though, I decided to leave it with the masks achievement.  That was one I had been struggling to get, so it seemed fitting to end on that.

My annual pass was at an end.

Green Armadillo and Anjin both spent a post summing up their annual pass experience, viewed through hindsight.

For me, it was a wash.  My math is like Green Armadillo’s, I paid for the year in the most economical way possible.  I would have purchased Diablo III on day one at full price if it had not been for the pass.  I probably would have spent about as much on WoW, though I would have likely cancelled earlier.  And I got a mount.  So aside from Blizzard annoying me with their cancellation policy, it was a net neutral.

Honestly, how many things in life even turn out that well in the end?

And what of Azeroth going forward?

I think, fittingly enough, that WoW is now about in the same position that EverQuest was when I started this blog.  EverQuest was seven and a half years old back then, Blizzard is just shy of eight now.

I have fond memories of both games, and those memories are about a time when the game was considerably different from the way they are today.  And, with both, I have looked for ways to go back and recapture a bit of that past; Fippy Darkpaw for one, Emerald Dream for the other.  I can get a taste of things there, revive and relive old memories, and wander among the ghosts of the past.  But it is, in the end, still all in the past.

Azeroth is officially a place of nostalgia here.

And so I bid Stormwind farewell and flew off into the sunset.

The Sun Was Cooperating For Once…

I will be back to visit I am sure.

I just do not think I will ever really be a part of the game again.