Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh My God, They Decked Chribba!

On Tuesday CONCORD Preservation and Recovery wardec'd Otherworld Empire. Otherworld Empire is owned and operated by Chribba, a beloved member of the Eve community. If you have ever used Eve Files to host a graphic for a forum signature, Eve Search to search the Eve Online forums, Eve Agents to locate an agent to do some mission running, or Eve Offline to track announcements about downtimes or server population, you have used a site created and run by Chribba. Throw in his 16 ship capital fleet devoted to mining Veldspar, the most common ore in New Eden, and you have a character sure to attract affection.

Now, when Chribba was wardec'd, he knew he couldn't defeat his adversaries himself. Due to CCP's rules, he cannot use his capital fleet to defend his high-sec player-owned stations. So instead of hiring mercenaries to defend the POS (which he has enough money to do), he decided to make a little stop in the Crime and Punishment forums, post the wardec, and then offer up the chance to have a little fun.

Naturally, the denizens and pirates of the C&P forums decided to run off and help Chribba. This should be fun to watch. The thread is already turning into an epic.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Faction Warfare Footage

Fresh from YouTube comes some footage of some faction warfare between the Gallente and Caldari militias (with some pirates mixed in) in the BlackRise war zone. For those of you unfamiliar with Eve Online's faction warfare, FW is CCP's version of realm vs. realm (RvR) made popular by games like Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online. The difference is that Eve's faction warfare is a stepping stone to playing the Great Game (to use an analogy from European history) in 0.0 space while in DAoC and Warhammer the games are all about the conflict between NPC empires.

I'm posting this video because it is extremely well done. In most pew-pew videos made by players in Eve (and most other games) the UI is usually visable, and in Eve, the UI will take up half the space. Not so in this video. I highly recommend watching this one.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Spirit In Eve

Here's a story from the Interstellar Correspondents that's in the spirit of Christmas. Merry Christmas and enjoy!

Free Jump Clone Access Service Celebrates First Anniversary
reported by: ISD Aarosin Pazuli | 2009.12.24 20:03:07
New Eden - Estel Arador Corp Services [EACS] recently celebrated its first year of providing free jump clone access to capsuleers from all over New Eden.

During the year, EACS has helped provide over 4000 capsuleers with free jump clone access, "There were 4032 clients in the first year, which is way more than I expected before I started the service," said Estel Arador the man behind this venture. The service currently provides access to approximately 447 jump clone facilities scattered throughout many regions in New Eden. EACS provides free jump clone access to capsuleers who otherwise would be unable to obtain them due to the high personal or corporate standings required.

To use EACS or any other jump clone service is simple; train the skill Infomorph Psychology to the appropriate level depending on how many jump clones are desired, join the service corporation, fly to a station they have high standings with that provide jump clones, pay the 100,000ISK charge to the clone providing corporation and the clone is now available.

EACS currently employs Estel himself, being in charge of management and policies and his "little nephew, who is CEO and handles the day to day operation." In the past capsuleers were allowed to join the corporation and stay long enough for them to effectively raise the EACS standings but in recent time Estel has stopped doing this, stating "It's increasingly difficult to find people who can raise more standings than they drop". Now Estel personally works through a great deal of missions with low level agents to build standings. Currently EACS are working on raising their standings with the Caldari, they will then be able to provide jump clone services at even more stations.

Unlike most of their competitors EACS provides their access service free of charge. So far the industry has made little response to the EACS. One of his colleagues "Genji Ancient" Estel says, "wished me luck and said it was noble to offer it for free." As of right now Estel has no plans to create any other free capsuleer services. Previous plans to create a free public blueprint library were scrapped when he realized that "people would be able to cancel each others production jobs. If there would be a way to solve that, I'd start such a service immediately."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Change In Direction

I haven't posted for awhile. Partly because things got crazy at work. Just to give you some sort of idea, I've got 15 days of vacation I haven't been able to take and will lose because my company doesn't roll unused vacation over into the next year. Hey, stuff happens and I partially did this to myself. Next year I'll just have to make sure I plan my vacation time well in advance.

But another reason for not posting is I've been playing Eve Online. I've discovered that playing Eve isn't just about sitting in front of a computer logged into the game pushing buttons. I've spent hours playing with EveMon planning out skill queues for characters on both my accounts. And I've spent a few hours more using the Eve Fitting Tool trying to get the most out of the ships I fly. I've even opened up some spreadsheets trying to figure out profitable trade routes.

But I just don't spend a lot of time doing solo things. The writing I have done lately has been on the Eve University forums. One of the requirements for getting titles and roles is to post on the forums and I've been trying to put some quality work out there. I think I can get the "Student" title now but I've got an idea for a forum post that I think I'll submit as soon as I've written it. But it wouldn't be correct to say I write just for the titles. I'm actually learning more about how to play the game by reading and participating in the forum debates.

So am I just going to fade away into New Eden. I don't think so. One of the things that attracted me to Eve Online were the in-game stories. So what I think I'm going to do is post the stories, both the totally fictional role-playing back stories as well as the news reports of what players are actually doing, that are produced by the volunteers of the Interstellar Correspondents of the Interstellar Services Department. Occasionally I'll try to post something intelligent, but right now I'm just going to school on one character and flying a hauler around with another. The stories I find on the login page to Eve are a lot more interesting. I'll post one of the Chronicle stories below just to give you an idea. I hope you enjoy it.

ISD: Interstellar Services Department A Department of CONCORD
The Admiral closed the holo-conference connection and glanced out the window. Darkness had fallen and two of New Caldari’s moons had risen.

“Continue personal journal,” the Admiral said. A small flashing icon appeared in the bottom corner of the holographic display.

“The divisional leaders’ meeting this evening was productive, not all good news, but productive. STAR is reporting an increase in new pilots coming out of the various academies and an increased workload. I wish the academies would give a bit more real-life training instead of simulations. Piloting a Mammoth in a system with a lower CONCORD presence is much different than racing a souped-up Burst between here and Matigu. STAR needs more personnel to give these new pilots the assistance they need.”

‘The Communications Relay Commission is reporting an increase in faster-than-light message traffic. Their fluid routers are handling the load fine, but a slight increase in funding and resources may need to be considered in the near future. Spurious and illegal traffic is declining due to their efforts and some activity has been turned over to the SCC for further action. There are going to be some very annoyed CEOs and CFOs enjoying some time in the penal colonies.”

There was a knock at the door. The icon on the screen remained steady at the Admiral’s “Pause recording” prompt. “Enter,” the Admiral called out. An aide de camp walked into the room carrying a black striped folder.

“Sir, AURORA is reporting an increase in Angel Cartel activity in Curse.” The aide passed the folder over to the Admiral to look through. Graphs of souls lost, ships and cargo destroyed, projected economic impact to trade in the region and other information was dispersed through dossiers of Cartel agents, activity reports and intelligence.

“Forward AURORA’s sanitized findings to DED for action. Make sure the intelligence is clean. We don’t want to lose another AURORA agent. Don’t make the same mistake your predecessor made.” The Admiral handed the folder back.

“No, Sir! The information will be clean with no possible ties to our sources.” The aide tucked the folder under his arm, saluted and left the room.


The record icon on the holo-screen started flashing again. “The boys in the Technology Division want a closer look at the Transcranial Microcontrollers and see if there are any manufacturing ties to the Sansha devices. I have to agree with the Bug Hunters, the Inner Circle made too quick a decision on their usage. The Bug Hunters are also working on some other issues, the notification after a successful jump installed in the last pod flightware upgrade caused some pilots migraines and they got that removed quick enough. They bust some major butt working on these things.”

The Admiral paused for a moment and rubbed his eyes. The record icon continued to flash next to the clock. “End personal journal, bookmark and close all files, shut down. Time to head home.” The holo-projectors blinked and went dark.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's Happened To My Corp Over The Past 2 Weeks

Not a lot has happened in my gaming life since the last time I posted. I haven't listened to gaming podcasts and I canceled my SOE Station Pass account yesterday. All I've done gaming related is play Eve Online.

I'm discovering that a good corporation makes all the difference in the game. Eve University is one of the good ones. If you are new to Eve I highly recommend making it your first corporation. Here's a quick update on what occurred to the Uni between November 1-11.

Nov 1 - Was war-dec'd by a corporation called Warsmiths. A war-dec means that a corporation has declared war on you and thus can attack your corporation's ships anyplace in New Eden. Without that war-dec (or other similar mechanic in place) the NPC police force called CONCORD will destroy your ship if you attack someone.

Nov 2 - A Unista fleet locates the CEO of the Warsmiths in his corporation's home system and destroys his heavy assault cruiser.

Nov 3 - A member of Warsmiths enters Eve University's home system and a merry chase ensues with Unista fleets chasing the Warsmith. After a few hours he lets a fleet catch up with him and proceeds to use smartbombs to destroy 1 destroyer, 21 frigates, and pods (kills the pilot) 22 pilots before the rest of the fleet destroys his Dominix battleship. I get home from work after the smartbombing and am part of a fleet that chases the Dominix pilot (in another Dominix) around the system until he logs off.

Nov 4-5 - The pilot of the Dominix posts the destruction of the Uni frigates and pods on YouTube. (He put up a more polished version on Nov 11). Over the course of two days, Eve Uni fleets camp in the Warsmiths home system and the Dominix pilot loses a Rupture (cruiser) and Crow (interceptor) while the University loses an Atron (frigate), Rupture, Caracal (both cruisers) and Harbinger (battlecruiser).

Nov 6-7 - No action for the blockading Unista fleets as the Warsmiths either stay in their stations or avoid the Uni fleets. (On Nov 6 I take part in one of the blockading fleets.) The Warsmiths retract their war declaration on Nov 7, ending the war early. The war doesn't officially end until 0:22 GMT on Nov 9.

More importantly, while searching for possible Warsmiths POS (player owned stations) located in wormholes, University intelligence assets discover 2 POS owned by the Dynaverse Corporation. Dynaverse Corporation is one of the corporations who took a mercenary contract to fight Eve University back in April & May and destroyed the Uni POS in the Uni's old home system of Korsiki. Plans are formed to give Dynaverse a little payback.

Nov 8 - Two Unista fleets totaling more than 130 ships invade the Dynaverse-controlled wormhole and quickly put both Dynaverse Corporation POS into reinforced.

Nov 9 - Seeing that the Unistas have the entrance to the wormhole solidly camped across all time zones and with no hope of escape, the Dynaverse Corporation forces inside the wormhole surrender. The Eve University commander allows the Dynaverse pilots to keep one ship each and whatever the ships can carry in exchange for unanchoring the two POS so that the Unistas can carry the POS, all the modules, and all the leftover ships and odds and ends back to the University.

Nov 11 - The operation ends with University scouts staying behind to help people in the U.S. and Canadian time zones home. I took part in the initial fleet and was one of those who needed to be guided out of the wormhole since I was at work when the main fleet pulled out of the wormhole.

I've written a better account of this period, but because it uses material from the private parts of the Eve University forums I can't post the article here. Let's just say that Eve is an interesting place.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Odds And Ends

I'm back to posting. Hopefully work will settle down, but the less said about work, the better. I probably will not post every day, but that just depends on time.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been listening to more game radio and not too many podcasts. Online Gaming Radio's Tuesday night EverQuest 2 block has been a staple of mine for a long time, but I'm also listening to Eve Radio and New Eden Radio. Except for the classic rock it is not exactly my kind of music, but the music does fit Eve Online. And quite frankly, I'm more interested in the on-air talent anyway.

In Eve Online, I've joined Eve University and attended a couple of classes. So far I'm liking it although the Uni has enjoyed peace since I've been in. I'm a carebear, but I've got a couple of Rifters fitted for tackling and am training up my EWar skills to be effective in Vigils. Okay, as a Minmatar player that means target painting, but hey, pilots flying missile boats will like me.

In EverQuest 2, I'm seriously considering canceling my account. I don't really have time to play a lot and I'm getting bored with crafting in the game. I've been doing it for over 3 years and industry and trade in Eve is new and fresh. Last night I was playing EQ2 and I wasn't having fun. I'm paid up through the end of the month, but I don't really see myself playing anymore. The hardest part of giving up the game will be giving up a character I've played so much, so I'll see if I can really give it up.

UPDATE: Eve University was wardec'd at 11:56 GMT today. Looks like it's time to prepare for war.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Witty Ranter Under New Management

In podcast news, Adam has given up hosting duties of The Witty Ranter to the hosts of the Free Play podcast, Riknas and Andras. The first episode was released yesterday on VirginWorlds with Adam and Virgin Worlds own Brent as the guests. The subject was MMO closures and the discussion ranged from recently closed games to those who are in trouble with a few detours in between. I'd suggest giving episode 17 a listen and I'm looking forward to where Riknas and Andras will take the podcast.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Article on Virtual Economies

I was doing a little web surfing today and ran across an article in The Guardian about virtual economies. The article talked about Second Life, China, and Eve Online. Yes, the article made the mandatory mention of an Eve scandal, in this case the Eve Bank scandal from July. But the article did mention CCP's chief economist Eyjólfur Guðmundsson. While a lot of talk centered around Second Life's $600 million economy, there is a reason Eve gets so much coverage. While the economy in EverQuest 2 is receiving some academic study, Eve is a very sophisticated economy that is seriously studied by the game developer. You can read the Q2 2009 Economic newsletter that came out in August for some examples or just watch the video from Dr. Guðmundsson's presentation below.

But I'm not just using The Guardian article as an excuse to post another Eve video. I was also reminded of an episode of Shut Up We're Talking from 2008 that also discussed owning items in games and what that could mean to players. Some of those fears of politicians looking to our games as another method of taxing us continue on as an article on Ars Technica discussed how proposals to institute taxes were posted on the official U.S. Internal Revenue Service back in January.

So virtual economies have been attracting attention for a while now. The question is how much is the real world going to intrude into our games? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gate Camp Escape Trick

Ever since I started playing Eve Online I've heard that using the autopilot will get you killed. Yesterday I learned a technique to use if a pilot encounters a gate camp that requires using the autopilot to escape back through the gate, especially if your ship is equipped with a micro warp drive (MWD).

If a player encounters a gate camp and attempts to immediately jump back through the gate, a message appears on screen telling the player that he is between phases and can't pass through the gate. This message can be bypassed by using the autopilot. Just follow the below steps.
  1. Stay calm. You're cloaked. Use the time wisely.
  2. Open "People And Places"
  3. Under "Search Type" select "Solar System"
  4. Under "Search String" type the name or first few characters of the system you want to jump back through.
  5. In the results window that pops up, right click on the name of the system and select "Set Destination"
  6. Click on the autopilot button.
  7. Once the ship decloaks, activate any speed boosting modules, preferably an MWD, and make a run for the gate.
This technique does not guarantee a pilot will escape a gate camp, but it will give you a fighting chance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Odds And Ends

I'm writing and posting this a little earlier than usual because I have to go to class. Class on a Sunday morning? That means only one thing; I've joined Eve University in Eve Online. I'll be writing more about this in the days and weeks to come, but I really like the idea of learning how to play the game right.

On the podcast front, Massively Speaking #72 was a first in that Shawn Schuster did not appear on the podcast. However Sera Brennan and Kyle Horton filled in ably for the ailing Shawn. On another front, the Van Hemlock podcast has re-introduced the topic show. I really enjoyed Van Hemlock #72 in which Tim and Jon talked about the role of stories in computer games. My schedule has been a bit hectic this week, but I am listening to No Prisoners, No Mercy #46 featuring a look at Aion and interviews with Giskard of The Engineering Guild modding site and MMO pioneer Richard Bartle as I write this. Sister Julie really has a thing about shooting Teletubbies.

As I mentioned before, in Eve I've joined Eve University. No more just flying around the galaxy for me. Now I have to follow some rules. That's okay, because one of the things new students are encouraged to do is set up their overviews properly. Hmm, that's something I've wanted to learn how to do since the first day I logged in, so I've already managed to accomplish one thing on my first day. And because I'm a natural carebear, I've made the decision I'm going to participate in all the corporations wars. Wait, what was that? A carebear going to war? That's right. I gotta learn sometime, and in the middle of a war seems to be the best place. That does mean following the war policy which will interfere with my carebear industrial ways. Of course, I have a second account so I can get around those restrictions to get more isk if needed.

In EverQuest 2, I'm still suffering from the blahs after reaching max level on my ranger. At this point Eve is new and shiny and I'm learning new things while in EQ2 I'm basically killing time until the next expansion. I'm still logging in and my woodworker is still making good plat selling ammunition. I've stopped making totems as the competition is willing to take less of a profit on them than I am. But I'm getting the itch to run some more quests so hopefully sometime this week I'll find the time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What To Do In EQ2?

I have to admit that after this weekend I had a bit of a letdown in EverQuest 2. I earned my 200th AA point on my ranger and now have what I consider a max level character. Level 80 ranger, level 80 alchemist, 400 transmuter and 200 AA points and is a member of a level 80 guild. So after working for over 3 years toward this moment, I asked myself, “What now?” The crafting options are a bit limited for me since all of my 8 crafting alts have reached level 80 in their respective occupations. I don't have time to raid, even if I wanted to leave my guild, which I don't. So I decided to make a list of things I can still would like to do.

On my main:

  • Raise my safe fall to 400. Currently I’m at 380.
  • Raise my slashing to 400. Remarkably I’ve been at 395 for the last year. Something I really need to take care of!
  • Buy a house in South Qeynos. I’ve always wanted a five or six room house. I have a level 80 carpenter and a whole lot of mahogany lumber to use to build furniture.
  • Buy my level 80 guild mount. I have the 40 plat.
  • Buy the Order of Rime mount. I have another 40 plat to buy that too.
  • Reach max faction with all the city factions in Qeynos. Yes, I’ve played for 3 years and am not even close.

On my crafting alts:

  • Run through the Ship Out! quest so I can do the Far Seas Supply Division content.
  • Get all the crafting gear that gives XP gain bonuses for the next expansion. I really would like to make that grind go a bit faster.
  • Get the crafting armor sets for my characters.
  • Do the crafting adventure quests found in the cities. I’d like all my crafters to have the cool formal wear. Getting some of the other crafting clothes would be cool too.
  • Try to get the Cloak of the Harvester and the pack unicorn for my characters who will adventure in the world.

Sounds like I still have a lot to do, doesn’t it. Not that exciting, but a lot to do. I haven’t even brought up the idea of leveling one of my crafters as an adventurer. Do I level my sage who is a level 50 necromancer? Or how about my armorer who is a level 32 paladin? Um, scratch that idea. But should I level a character that will be wanted in groups like my carpenter who happens to be a level 12 illusionist? Or how about my provisioner who is also a level 12 warden? I hear druids are going to get worked on in the next expansion. Or maybe I should concentrate on content I've never done before. My weaponsmith is a level 12 inquisitor and the Commonlands is just waiting for me.

So much to do. The question is do I really want to do it? I did spend a lot of time equipping my warden for adventuring and it was fun. So much fun that I stayed up late Tuesday night and wound up not posting yesterday. So I still may be a two-game player for a few more months.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tanking MMO Subscription and RMT Fees

"Tanking MMO Subscription and RMT Fees." What kind of title is that? Well, the title doesn’t refer to bloggers ability to draw aggro from their readers by writing about what players receive for their subscription fees or what they pay for items in the RMT shops in free-to-play (F2P) games. But I think Syncaine at Hardcore Casual in his WoW vs. Eve subscription comparison and Darrin at The Common Sense Gamer in his $10 Runes of Magic horse posts do bring up some good points. The major point both bring up is what should we expect game publishers to give us for the money we give them?

Instead of me trying to explain all of this in dry terms, think of the MMORPG genre of games as one big meta-game. Players wander around this world going from game to game (or perhaps just staying in one) trying to choose the game world that offers them the most rewards. Players’ wallets serve as their armor, health, tank, or whatever term your favorite game uses to represent the amount of damage a player can take before dying. Game companies are in a constant battle to extract as much money as they can from your wallet while players fight to mitigate the damage. This amount varies greatly since players’ ability to tank (absorb) the damage to their wallets depends on their economic conditions in real life. I’m beginning to think of this amount as damage per month (DPM) with your favorite local currency the measure of the damage.

The amount of DPM a player is willing or able to tank does not just depend on the overall amount of DPM a game publisher dishes out. The type of damage also comes into play. For example, some players are able to handle a large alpha strike (a rather apt phrase from Eve Online meaning the initial damage inflicted by an attack) on their wallets as long as they do not have to worry about suffering under the pain of DOTs (dollars over time) in the form of subscription fees. Guild Wars comes to mind as an example of this pricing model in which players buy expansions and don’t have to worry about monthly subscriptions.

Other players don’t have big enough wallets (or have the desire to open them to play an on-line game) to tank either a large alpha strike or DOTs but can tank smaller alpha strikes. For those players, F2P games like Runes of Magic and Wizards 101 fit the bill nicely. In EQ2 terms, these players are avoidance tanking and only pay money if they choose to do so. Other players can not only tank small alpha strikes but a small DOT as well. For those players I expect to see the emergence of more games like Free Realms that offers players, to use a WoW analogy, the option of normal F2P payment schemes without DOTs or heroic payment schemes with DOTs.

When the subject of the so-called triple-A MMO is concerned, the question of money becomes more complex as players have to tank both alpha strikes in the forms of purchasing expansions and DOTs in the form of monthly subscription fees. Well, some games are exceptions, but in general players have to tank both types of damage from the big bosses at corporations like Blizzard, SOE, Turbine, EA/Mythic and NCSoft. An indy game publisher out of Iceland called CCP has developed another strategy in which they forgo the alpha strikes of expansions (all content additions are free) and lure their player base into tanking more DOTs by enticing them into purchasing multiple accounts.

So where do bloggers like Darrin and Syncaine fit into this picture? Why, they are the theory crafters and min/maxers! If people can get past Darrin’s outrage at paying $10 for a horse, the point he was trying to make was that game companies can be taught certain financial facts of life. For instance, how long have MMO subscriptions held at $15 per month? The game companies learned from the players that $15 is the highest amount they can charge for a subscription and attract players. Darrin wants players in F2P games to resist purchasing expensive items in RMT stores in order to get the F2P game industry to lower their prices on those items. If game developers in the early games learn they can only charge $5 for an in-game mount, then that becomes the standard for all other games that will follow. Or in gaming terms, Darrin is trying to mitigate the incoming DPM.

Syncaine’s point I think was lost due to his well-known hatred of WoW. What should players demand from the big game publishers who insist we tank both big alpha strikes and DOTs? Is it okay for a game company to just keep the servers running with just enough content release to keep the player base happy, as Syncaine contends Blizzard does in WoW? Or should a company be like CCP and see its game, in this case Eve, as a service and be continuously trying to improve that service? If you are a min/maxer looking for the phat loot, the answer is obvious. More thinking like CCP’s, less like Blizzard’s.

But most players are not min/maxers and theory crafters. Instead they are looking for something a lot more intangible. Those players just take the games as they come and as long as the attacks on their wallets are bearable they'll allow the developer of their favorite game a great degree of freedom of action as long as they deliver the phat loot. And in the case of games, the greatest loot of all is fun.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Devs and Community Management

My favorite EverQuest 2 developer is the tradeskill dev Emily "Domino" Taylor. One of the reasons is that she keeps us tradeskillers informed of what's going on and is actively seeking our feedback. She does this many different ways; from posts on the forums to hanging out on Test server and popping into the OGR chat channel during Online Gaming Radio's Tuesday night EQ2 program block from 4pm - 10pm PDT. Hmmm ... do you think that is where she got the idea for the Cloak of the Harvester shapechanging users into rocks? Yay Rock!

On Friday she posted on her blog about community management and some of the do's and don'ts of how to behave toward the player base. I thought about her post last night when I watched the video of the PvE panel at the Eve Online Fan Fest. Did they follow the rules? Do the rules change slightly when people are face to face instead of on a forum? Or possibly are Eve players just a bit unusual and require different handling? I'll post the video below for you to decide.

Yes, I know. Another CCP video. But I'm just fascinated by the devs and CCP's attitude toward the game and the players. In most games, if a dev came right out and told players they did something to make sure the players don't cheat, the players would take offense and the trolls would come out in force. In Eve, players take that kind of thinking in stride. New Eden doesn't just look like a dark cruel place; it is a dark cruel place and the players have developed that mindset.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Odds And Ends

Swine flu and firings at work overshadowed most of the events of last week. But thanks to writing this blog Sundays are becoming a day of reflection on the week. So while what's happening at work isn't the greatest, I can look back on my hobby and find some good things.

Last week I went back on a music video/YouTube kick triggered by The Instance's Scott Johnson & Randy Jordan's open letter to Blizzard asking for more podcast content from the official BlizzCast podcast. While looking around I found a lot of the coverage of CCP's FanFest 2009 made it to their channel on YouTube and I have had some fun watching them. CCP really makes a point of informing the player base of the basics of what they are attempting to do.

SOE and my home game EverQuest 2 don't really have a great presence on YouTube, so when I want some good EQ2 music videos, I turn to the musical ranger and Online Gaming Radio personality Jethal Silverwing and his guild's website I really like what he's done with the site and have added a link to it. Looks like I may have to set up another category on the blog for web radio sites/personalities.

Speaking of EverQuest 2, not only is the Halloween event, Nights of the Dead, beginning on October 16, but the CSMs are holding a special live event, The Norrathian Rat Race, on each server from October 13-November 6 (Hat tip to Feldon at EQ2 Wire for both pieces of news). And ZAM has the latest developer chat logs from the session they hosted on October 8.

And while the news swirls around EQ2, I finally managed to get my ranger her 200th AA point. Aside from the achievements which I am not going to do, I still need to raise 2 more skills, safe fall and slashing, to 400. Alcohol tolerance does not count; I'm still at 5 points and have no plans on leveling that skill. Once those are done, my ranger is pretty much finished developing until the next expansion hits the shelves in February.

Back in New Eden, I had a blast yesterday running missions. Both accounts had the skills queue set up for a couple of days so I just jumped in my Rifter and started doing missions. I thought I'd do a couple and move on to something else. Well, with videos from Fan Fest playing on my second computer and only taking breaks for lunch and to do laundry, I ran missions for 8 hours. Yipes! Time flies when you're having fun.

Now to turn on some football and do a little dual-box mining in Eve for the first time. I'm really interested to see how it turns out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Real Life, Aargh!

Yesterday was not a good day. In the afternoon we found out one of the people at work had the H1N1 virus, otherwise known as the swine flu. A bunch of people who sat near the young lady wound up getting sent to the doctor and quarantined.

Near the end of the day, someone I worked with was fired. Not laid off with a nice severance package; fired for not doing a good job. I understand why. I'm just not all that happy with another person losing his job.

Needless to say I haven't really felt like writing about games. But I thought I better at least get something posted just to keep the habit going.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thoughts on MMO Subscription Numbers

Subscription numbers for MMOs are a funny thing. When free-to-play (F2P) games like Free Realms boast about 5 million registered users or Runes of Magic celebrates 2 million users, people complain that the numbers should be ignored because that is not how many people are actually playing. Other people want to know how many accounts are actually paying to play and how much money the game is making to judge it's success or failure.

But when CCP came out with the announcement that Eve Online had reached 300,000 active accounts, many people down played that success because Eve is a game in which a lot of players (including myself as of this week) have multiple accounts. But they do have 300,000 active accounts which allows them to do some amazing things.

Sometimes I wonder what the people who spout these numbers think about World of Warcraft. Blizzard claims 11.5 million users, but what should we think when half the users play in Asia but only contribute 10% of the revenue Blizzard gets from WoW? Sounds like the F2P business model where some players play most of the money to me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eve FanFest Keynote Now Posted on YouTube

CCP released the Eve FanFest 2009 keynote video yesterday. So instead of trying to write about all up CCP's upcoming plans, from the Cosmos social network site, Incarna, Dominion and Dust 514, I'll just post the video.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

World of Warcraft and Web 2.0

I have one last thing to mention about The Instance #164. Scott and Randy covered some of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft Web 2.0 community outreach efforts. I’m still a little unclear about the definition, but I think podcasting, Twitter and YouTube count as Web 2.0. According to the hosts, those efforts are pretty weak. They wrote an open letter to Blizzard asking for some more support for producing BlizzCast podcasts. They mentioned that the World of Warcraft Twitter account is becoming a joke. “Let me hear your battlecry,” anyone? And while they have hopes for the new Blizzard page on YouTube, they wonder if the page will become stale over time.

Randy said that if Blizzard would come out with a podcast every 15 days that would be industry leading. Not really. Sony Online Entertainment has a three year-old podcast co-hosted by former Community Manager and current EverQuest 2 Executive Producer Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee Rekoske that already comes out about every two weeks. Now, the problem with having a regular podcast is what to do when there is no news. At the SOE Fan Faire this summer that was one of the issues brought up on the podcast panel. The SOE podcast has an advantage over BlizzCast; they cover many games so usually have something to talk about. And when they do have a problem, they fall back to mini-casts that follow the adventures of the SOE server hamsters. Maybe once Blizzard comes out with a second MMO and the new StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 they will have enough content for a really good podcast.

I don’t know about Twitter since I’ve never gotten into the concept, but YouTube? I love CCP’s page on YouTube. Besides showing trailers for Eve expansions, CCP has all the matches from Alliance Tournament 7 posted plus the Eve TV commentary and Dominion previews. And over the next couple of days CCP is scheduled to post videos from some of the events from their “Party at the Top of the World” held last weekend. If Blizzard did something like that, the site would be everything Scott and Randy are hoping for. And if Blizzard were to corral the creative genius already creating great videos on YouTube into contributing content, the page would be awesome.

I think I’m going to go out on a limb about Blizzard’s internet community outreach efforts. I look at their efforts like I do SOE’s efforts with Station Cash inside EverQuest and EverQuest 2. EQ and EQ2 were guinea pigs for working out the bugs so Station Cash could be used in the company’s new games like Free Realms. I don’t think Blizzard is really focusing on their player base in World of Warcraft. Instead, I think they are working on plans for attracting players to their new games and the loyal WoW fan base will server as the beta testers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Video Preview of Eve's Dominion

CCP has not had a chance to post their videos from their fanfest, but while watching the Eve TV coverage on Saturday I noticed that some of the videos shown during Alliance Tournament 7 were also shown. So until the fanfare coverage is posted on the CCP YouTube channel, here is some information about Dominion. And as an added bonus, I'm linking to the Pandemic Legion vs. Manifest Destiny match from AT7 just because Minmatar ships are that cool.

Part 1

Part 2

Pandemic Legion vs. Manifest Destiny

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Odds And Ends

I haven't listened to as many podcasts as I usually do, although I had a couple of thoughts while listening to The Instance #164. The one I'll address today is the presence of developers on the forums. Scott and Randy's take on the story of Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street's latest actions on the World of Warcraft forums is priceless for everyone who has ever gotten irritated at the negativity on official forums.

The problem that many point out is that while many players want an official word about changes or problems in a game, the nature of official forums tends to drive developers out of them. As Sister Julie Whitefeather from No Prisoners, No Mercy likes to point out, Mythic Entertainment head Mark Jacobs opposed having official forums for Warhammer Online because of the abuse that forum users heap on developers. For those who don't want to wade through pages of posts looking for word from their game's developers, dev trackers are available. Eve Online is unusual as they actually have a dev tracker on their forums because CCP wants to get their word out. In an extreme form of irony, in order to find dev posts on the official EverQuest 2 forums I go to a pretty vile forum, EQ2Flames.

In what I'm playing, I actually was drawn back into Runes of Magic because of the introduction of elves and the druid and warden classes. From what I can tell druids replace priests and wardens replace knights as playable classes for elves. I played for a couple of hours last night and got a druid up to level 6. Not enough time to evaluate the druid class, but the tradeskilling is still as grindy as I remember.

I haven't done too much in EverQuest 2. I am at 199.3 AA points and I should have 200 by the end of next weekend. At that point I can really concentrate on my tradeskillers, although I'm thinking of leveling another adventurer up. I hear that druids are going to be receiving some healing love from the devs, so I may work on my warden. Druid? Warden? Yes, in EQ2, unlike RoM, a warden is a type of druid.

Finally, in Eve Online I'm starting to move from newbie checking out the game to someone who intends on playing for awhile. I'm now seriously looking at joining a corporation. The first corp I'm looking at is Eve University. I've been lurking in the Eve-Uni chat channel asking questions occasionally. I've also found the Eve University Class Library and I've been listening to a couple of classes instead of my usual podcasts. Now all I have to do is actually apply. I should probably hurry up because it looks like the upcoming change to create an 11% NPC corp tax rate are pushing people to find a corp.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Paying For DPS

When players compare MMORPGs, a lot of them look at the differences between games. I tend to look at the similarities, especially if the games appear to be much different on the surface. Take for example EverQuest 2 and Eve Online. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of my limited weekday playtime on setting up a small manufacturing business to supply all of my ammunition needs in Eve.

Okay, what does EverQuest 2 have to do with making ammunition for my Rifter? To answer that question requires examining some of the game mechanics of playing a ranger in EQ2. The single biggest source of damage for a ranger (in my case typically 35-45%) is his/her ranged auto attack, which requires a bow and arrows. Unlike Warhammer Online, where arrows magically appear, players need to supply and carry their arrows around with them. Another large source of damage is poison. Even after the recent poison nerf for predators, I still get between 6-10% of my damage from my caustic poison, and the other poisons I use contribute to even more damage. Other items rangers use include potions that increase ranged double attack or ranged crit chances, temporary weapon adornments that give bonuses to damage that last 30 minutes, and the ever popular food and drink.

Now, players can complain (and post on the forums) about having to pay large amounts of money on the broker so they can produce a large amount of DPS. I refuse to do so. Instead, I craft. A lot. My ranger is also a master alchemist who makes her own poisons and potions. I also have a woodworker to make arrows, a weaponsmith for the temporary adornments for my weapons, and a provisioner for food and drink. Having 9 characters in EQ2 who have earned the title “Master” in their tradeskill wasn’t just a way to kill time because I ran out of things to do. No, playing EQ2 for three years has drilled into my head the value of being as self-sufficient as possible. Not only do place get rich by killing mobs, completing quests and selling items on the broker, but by not spending a lot on equipment, spells, ammo, etc. The fact that I can make those skills available to my guildies is a very pleasant side effect.

I don’t just make items for myself and my guild in EQ2. My main crafting character is my woodworker Yonger (who I’ve featured in a series of posts I’ll finish one day). Besides making totems, the main items he sells are arrows, throwing axes and throwing daggers. That’s right, ammunition.

Hmm … so let’s review. A player (me) from EQ2 who plays a class heavily dependent on ammunition for DPS and makes a lot of platinum selling ammunition plops himself down in Eve playing a faction heavily dependent on auto-cannons for DPS. Naturally, I go back to my roots and want to make ammunition.

Before doing so, however, I checked out the market to see if making my own ammunition was a cost-effective thing to do. I found the cost savings on a percentage basis is much lower in Eve than it is in EQ2. But the real savings is in an area I don’t worry too much about in EQ2: time. The event that really sparked me into action involved a buy order I placed for some Bloodclaw missiles. I was flying around to several stations in a few systems picking up my missiles and thought to myself, “What am I doing?” I don’t have that much time to play and I really don’t want to spend a lot of it picking up penny-packets of ammunition. Flying around in my Mammoth picking up the Rifters I bought was cool. Picking up missiles? Not so much. So while the savings in isk won’t be huge, the savings in time since I can pick up all my ammunition from my hanger will make the effort worth it.

I started off this post by stating that I like to look at the similarities in games. I mean, anyone can find the differences between a single-shard, PvP-centric sandbox sci-fi game with a harsh death penalty like Eve Online and a multi-shard, PvE-centric theme park fantasy game like EverQuest 2. But both games are MMORPGs and I figure that games in that genre will have some similarities. One of them is that in both EQ2 and Eve I am paying in-game currency for the ability to do damage and that my reaction to that fact is the same in both games.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Still Listening To Podcasts

Although I don't write about them much, I'm still listening to podcasts. Sometimes they come up with some wacky ideas. For example, on Van Hemlock #70.5, after an insightful look at Flying Labs' Pirates of the Burning Seas, the Twitter question asked "Champions Online's Twitter Notifications a bit samey after a while. Spice things up with better ones! What would your MMO Tweet?" Would you believe someone actually suggested that Eve kill mails be tweeted? At least no one suggested that EQ2 offer any tweets.

Of course, that was fairly tame compared to the latest happenings on No Prisoners, No Mercy #45. You would think that a show on modding would be fairly tame, but Sister Julie found a mod she loves for Left 4 Dead. I've inserted a video preview of the mod below.

That's right. Teletubbie zombies. What's next, Barney as a raid boss?

I finished off yesterday listening to Channel Massive #106. I plan on finish listening today. I haven't gotten to the Blog-O-Steria, but the Blameful Gecko rant was good and the Aion release gave Mark and Jason another opportunity to puncture the bubble of NCSoft.

And finally I read last night that a podcast planned for launch at the end of the year has been put on hold due to real life issues. Congrats to Kirith Kodachi who's wife is expecting another baby in March.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Having Two Accounts

I had a discussion last weekend with a guildie about having two accounts in EverQuest 2. She is one of those players who wants to experience all the content and her main after all her years playing EQ2 is level 55 but, counting collection turn-ins, has completed over 2500 quests. Three months ago she created a second account to take advantage of SOE’s recruit-a-friend offer and loves dual boxing. She recommended that if I ever got the money that I should try it myself.

The one thing that holds me back from dual-boxing in EQ2 is the fact that I have the SOE Station Access. A long time ago I looked at the Station Access as being the perfect solution to my desire to have all 9 crafting classes, since at the time I got it Station Access holders could have 10 EQ2 characters on an account. I never thought about dual-boxing because at the time I had never heard of it. Even after I heard of the concept, I never had the desire to because I only had one computer. That is until I bought my new computer this past spring and kept my old one up and running. Hmmm … two computers.

Now, I still want to keep my Station Access account. Not only because every so often I have an urge to poke around in Vanguard, but because with it I have member’s access in Free Realms. Okay, I haven’t played FR in awhile, but I have it. And if SOE’s upcoming games DC Universe Online and The Agency both wind up on Station Access, I have the feeling I’ll be very glad I have it.

If I want to dual box, I still have a couple of options available to me. The first is to play a free-to-play title like Runes of Magic. I still have a level 15/15 character in the game; although I have the feeling if I do start to dual-box that I should start from scratch. But I’m already involved in two worlds and trying out a third, especially another fantasy game, just isn’t appealing to me right now.

So that leaves my second gaming home, Eve Online, as an option. While I know a lot of players have two accounts so they can do cool stuff like scout out gate camps or have one for combat and the other for industry, the attraction to dual-box for me would be for mining. Now that I have all my EQ2 crafters up to max level with their epics, I can see myself mining in a Scythe (and later on a mining barge) and depositing the ore directly into a Mammoth, especially during football games. Kind of boring, I know. And if I actually purchase a second account I would probably come up with some creative ways of using the accounts than just mining. But for now I’m just starting out and mining still has a bit of an attraction.

Looking down the road a bit I hear there is the possibility of SOE adding character slots to the regular EQ2 accounts. What happens if they add 2 slots so the basic account has 9 characters? Do I drop the Station Access account and pick up a second account in either EQ2 or Eve? If SOE only adds one slot and offers character transfers between accounts, do I pay the money and start a second account with one of my crafters?

Or do I just give in and get a second Eve account while the difference in skill points isn’t too great? The question becomes important because when I logged in last night I was presented with the "Power of 2" promotion. I first heard of this during the Alliance Tournament 7 coverage on Eve TV but didn't really think about it at the time. CCP is marketing to players looking for a second (or third, fourth, or fifth) account a six month deal for $49.95. I'm really considering a deal that gets me a sub for less than $9 a month. But I only have until October 17th to decide.

So many choices; so little playtime.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Achievements and Chronomagic

This past weekend SOE held a bonus XP weekend in EverQuest 2 in which players gained a 40% bonus to all combat, AA, and tradeskill experience. What a perfect time to explore two of the new systems introduced into the game with GU 53, achievements and chronomagic.

The first thing I gave a good look at was the achievement system. Players can check out their status with achievements by opening the new and improved quest journal and going to the achievement tab. The interface is pretty basic, with a menu of categories that you can click on to view specific achievements. Flipping through the achievements I saw that completing some of the achievements gave appearance armor or plushies to put in homes. The prizes that I saw awarded were for clearing all the heroic or raid quests in a zone.

Now, when first opening the achievements tab don’t be surprised if all of the achievements you think you have accomplished are not recorded. The obvious one is if you accomplished something before the old AA system was put in place with Kingdom of Sky or if you ever hit the AA points cap where the game stopped recording your actions. But if a player is able to accomplish something in the future, past accomplishments were ignored and the counts set to zero. For example, my ranger is also a master alchemist who not only leveled almost exclusively doing tradeskill writs but got up to 30,000 faction with both Bathezid’s Watch and Riliss by doing those factions’ tradeskill writs. Imagine my disappointment when I opened the tradeskill achievements window and found my tradeskill combine count was zero. Well, I was planning on doing the tradeskill instances again to gear up my crafters for the expansion in February. I guess I know which toon I’m going to use to do it.

The achievements tab has another benefit I was glad to see. By looking at the tab I could see which zones I still had a lot of undone quests in. That was very important to me since I started the weekend with 197 AA points and wanted to know where to go to best take advantage of the bonus XP weekend. I noticed two things right away. The first was that I had only done a handful of quests in both The Thundering Steppes and in Nek Forest. I was a little surprised at that, especially given all the time I had spent in the Thundering Steppes. The second was that I did not have the achievement for doing all the quests in Everfrost. That surprised me until I remembered that Everfrost had undergone a revamp after I out leveled the zone and I never went back to do the new content with my ranger.

With the achievement tab giving me some ideas of places to visit, I proceeded to visit the chronomagic NPCs in Qeynos Harbor. On Saturday I decided to visit Nek Forest, so I decided to turn myself into a level 30 ranger because I didn’t want to give the mobs a break. Let me say that a mentored down level 80 ranger wearing tier 2 armor and using a fabled bow makes mobs die very fast. I’d say something was wrong with mentoring but I had the same experience with green tier 8 mobs in the Fens when I was doing the Order of Rime quest line. If anything is wrong, the problem lies in the itemization in The Shadow Odyssey, not the mentoring mechanic in chronomagic. With the ability to kill things at will, I went ahead and killed named mobs and completed quests until I finished up the last 30% of the AA point I was working on. Logging out with 198 AA points was a nice way to finish up the day.

On Sunday I decided I wanted to actually accomplish an achievement so I switched my attention to Everfrost, where I only needed 8 more quests to get the Everfrost Espionage achievement. So I spent my 5 gold pieces and 100 status points to set my level to 50 and headed off to Everfrost. Once again I felt overpowered as I did the quests. That is until I stumbled into both The Brood Mother and Snowflake in the same fight. Oh my gosh, what I fight! Yes, I won, which definitely proved I was overpowered, but I was starting to worry with the length of the fight and how I kept getting adds. I wound up getting the Everfrost achievement at the same time I got my 199th AA point.

I know for those who want to get their achievements, mentoring to a high level and waltzing through a zone sounds very attractive. But something tells me I’m going to wind up playing with the various mentor levels to find a more challenging experience. While going through a zone like a god smiting green mobs makes getting achievements easier, I’d really like to find out if I could walk into an instance full of yellow mobs and come out on top.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lost And Found

This past weekend was a bonus XP weekend in EverQuest 2 but I did manage to do a little mission running in Eve Online as well. I decided to continue with the level 1 epic mission arc which is 14 jumps from my home base in Minmatar space. Saturday went well, but on Sunday I ran into a mission I just couldn't handle. I should have known the mission was a little too hard for me after the first three times I failed to kill a drone in the room, but I went in a fourth time a little too recklessly and lost my Rifter.

Did I mention I was 14 jumps from my home base? I flew back in my pod to the local base where I was storing my extra ammo, salvage gear, cargo extenders and loot, picked up the Reaper you receive when you lose your ship, and flew back to Minmatar space with my tail between my legs.

Eve has a pretty harsh death penalty and it took some time to buy another Rifter and equip it the way I like. My budgeted time for Eve mission running time ran out doing the running around and it was time to move on to EQ2.

Just because I was playing EQ2 doesn't mean I wasn't also logged into Eve. I took my Mammoth to an out of the way asteroid belt and set it up for a little AFK mining. Well, I don't know if you can really call it AFK mining because I was reading the NPC corp chat while I was filling up my sales crates in EQ2. I'm glad I did because for some strange reason someone had a Rupture he didn't want and put it up for sale for 1 million isk. One million isk for the best non-faction tech 1 Minmatar cruiser? I'd been looking at cruisers and the Rupture was priced between 6-7 million isk in my local region. While others in the chat talked about the offer, I clicked on the link the seller pasted into corp chat, saw the offer was legit, and immediately bought the ship.

I have the skills to fly the Rupture, but not well. I know because I had already set up a skill plan using EveMon so I could properly equip and fly the ship. I still have a long way to go before I fly the ship into harm's way, but at least that's one expense I don't have to worry about.

Eve Online. I start the day doing well, lose my ship, then finish by practically stealing a cruiser because I maintain a sizable cash reserve and kept my eyes open while mining. Just another day in the sandbox.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Odds And Ends

Another Sunday, another collection of thoughts. The first is that it's nice to see Brent over at Virgin Worlds making an appearance again. Yes, he does a lot behind the scenes to keep Virgin Worlds up and running, but I've missed the Virgin Worlds podcast. His appearances on Gary Gannon's new video podcast GameBreakr at the Austin Game Developers' Conference were very welcome.

More Austin GDC coverage, at least of the Blizzard presentation, was discussed on The Instance #163. Randy also talked about getting into Eve Online and didn't like it too much. Here's a comment from the show thread from a listener named Pexxle:
"Great show over all, Completely agreed on the view of Eve Online, beautiful game-completely retarded. Being a PC gamer as well as Console, Eve caught my eye looking some thing akin to a “HomeWorld”…

During a WoW extended patch I began download which led to my 1rst experience of EO. It was like throwing a special-ed student into a calculus class. I think the UI is trash and overall control scheme is way too techy and wonky, Over kill…

So sad..

HomeWorld (”online”) it is not." (emphasis mine)

The only thing I'll say is that I'm enjoying my time in Eve, I'm starting to appreciate the UI as I continue to play with it, and that I didn't make that quote from a WoW player up.

Speaking of convention coverage, I'd been remiss in not listening to the post-apocalyptic coverage of this year's DragonCon on Through The Aftermath #19. At least Shaun was able to find out that the developers of Fallen Earth really aren't aliens.

From Channel Massive #105 came these words of wisdom from Mark on building a gaming computer:
"I get whatever I can to give me rock solid stability because at the end of the day I don't have a lot of time for gaming and I don't want to spend a lot of it sorting out technical problems.

If you become the definitive source for the latest NVIDIA GAGX 280 video card and all the problems that have ever occurred with it, you're probably not getting a lot of gaming time in. You should never be a definite source for any of this except for the games you're playing."
While the M Team was talking about building PCs, I also feel that way about games. If I hear I'm going to have to play around a lot with the settings, I'm probably not buying the game. Having to remember that I have to run EQ2 as administrator after I switched to Vista is about as technical as I want to get. I play techie at work; I play MMOs to get away from that world.

Speaking of EQ2, I'm still playing around with all the features that came with GU 53. I'm really liking the plastering of the heirloom tag on all those items and that some of the items that I had attuned and no longer use are now available to pass on to my alts. Next on the agenda is playing around with achievements and chronomagic.

On the guild front, our guild leaders appear to be happy in Aion. Reading Gordon's Aion post over at We Fly Spitfires gives me a little hope on reporting on the grind in the game, but the class archetype class progression that Gordon complains about would appeal to them. Also, they're Australian, so they probably haven't had to deal with the long queues I've heard others complain about. But I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope although we'll keep their characters in the guild just in case.

In Eve, I'm not playing as much as I'm really enjoying GU 53. I've done a couple more missions in tier 1 epic mission line available to new players after they complete the newbie missions. All I can say is I love my Rifter. The one thing I'm worrying about is that I am still in the NPC corporation. I don't know how long I can safely stay in the NPC corp without it looking strange. But I don't want to commit to a player-run corp with the guild situation the way it is in EQ2. Maybe I'll go ahead and join Eve University. While shooting things up in my Rifter is fun, I think I need to start thinking about setting up my industry now that I've got the skills to decently fly a Mammoth.

That's all for now. Have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reading Dialog: Repairing Spires in GU 53

I was making another visit to the Moors of Ykesha when I found a couple of new Quellithulians near the shard merchants. Something new? I thought I'd find out so I approached the leader of the little group.

"Hail, Suel A'jilbir," I greeted the Quellithulian.

"Ah, greetings my friend," Suel replied. "I am pleased you have come to see me. I am hoping I can borrow a moment of your time to provide me a service."

"Perhaps, what is it you are looking to have done?" I replied.

"I am pleased you asked!" Suel exclaimed. "You see, I need a shipment delivered to one of the material processors at the broken Ulteran Spires. They are in need of these materials, and I believe this would be a fine way for me to get what they need to them, and for you to contribute to the effort of fixing the spires."

"Materials?" I asked. "What are these?"

"Indeed! These are crates of prepared Kaborite - the material that provides the spires with their magical properties. They will need to infuse this into the spires to get them fully functional," Suel explained.

"Kaborite?" I asked, puzzled. "Where did this all come from?"

"Why, you adventurers brought them, of course. What did you think these Void Shards were?" the Quellithulian asked.

"Wait... what?" I stammered. "The Void Shards were Kaborite?" I usually sound more intelligent. Really.

"Indeed. I could discuss it in more detail, but the prepared Kaborite must be delivered," he said. "Would you be willing to take this to one of the broken spires in either Everfrost, Lavastorm, the Orcish Wastes, or the Loping Plains?" Suel inquired. "Just give it to the materials processor, and they will know what to do with it."

"Very well. I will take the Kaborite to the materials processor," I told him and left for the spire in Everfrost.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

First Impressions of GU 53

A game update day and I was stuck working late at work! Just my luck, although I did get to look at the forums and I saw people having problems logging in. Feldon over at EQ2 Wire had some coverage of that. But getting home at 9pm PDT gave me hope that I would be able to log in and do some adventuring. Or at least a little looking around.

I logged in as my woodworker Yonger and the first thing that greeted me was a screen telling me that my Character Development choices had been cleared and I needed to reselect them all again. I was anxious to check them out, but I really needed to check out my room in the inn. Sure enough I had a third room. I had to move a table and chair because they were blocking the door, but now I have three rooms. I'll have to do a little redecorating later, but the place has some new possibilities.

I then logged onto my level 80 ranger Rosemarie. Sure enough, all of my shard gear was in my inventory overflow, along with a couple of other pieces of jewelry. Another nice surprise was my Bloodwood Bow of Sternum Piercing was now unattuned again. That's one expensive bow I can pass onto an alt. For those crafters who may be wondering, none of my Far Seas crafting gear became attunable again.

I finally opened up my character development tab and reselected my grandmaster spells. Only two of them, Focus Aim IV and Crippling Arrow V, were critical. Focus Aim IV especially since if I didn't re-select that I would be left with an apprentice spell. Aargh!

For the Character Traits, I tried to make up for some deficiencies, like wisdom and divine resists. The traditions and innate abilities are a real improvement. A 5% run speed increase, tracking for my non-scout wood elves, and then stealth movement speed and poison proc increases. I'm liking it a lot.

I looked at my achievements, and to my horror I only have 9 of 20 completed! Oh the shame! How can I call myself a master crafts-elf? But I guess that's okay. I know have some more things to shoot for. Although going back through all 4 of the crafting instances might be a pain. Then again, I do need to gear up my alts for the crafting grind in the next expansion.

For the explorer, there is a list of places to visit. I thought I've travelled all over Norrath but there is a lot I've missed. In other words, I've missed a lot of discovery xp.

I still have to pick up the Rebuilding the Spires quests and figure out Chronomagic. Hopefully I can get out of work at a decent time to do some real exploring.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

EQ2's GU 53 Is Almost Here

If the schedule Kiara released on the forums is accurate, GU 53 will be live in a couple of more hours. I was talking to one of our newer guildies last night who didn't know about the game update (yes, not everyone reads eq2players or any other site) and he was pretty excited as I started to tell him what is in it.

I'm actually pretty excited myself. With any luck I can get out of work at a decent hour and start playing. The new racial traits for wood elves sound like a vast improvement on the old ones and a change has been made to targeting that sounds like it will make it safer to use my ranger macros that automatically switch me to ranged auto-attack after I use a melee combat art.

The only things I'm really worried about is a change to the range of my combat arts and the housing change of adding one room to some homes. I hope my ranged CAs are not getting nerfed and that I'm not going to walk into a home where everything is packed up. I hope it is a new room attached to the old setup.

I know with new things like the achievement system and self-mentoring there are bound to be bugs introduced with GU 53, but as long as the game works better than some of the servers where I work did last night, I'll be happy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

GDC 2009 Now Appearing In Podcasts

I'm in the brief period between the end of Eve's Alliance Tournament 7 and the launch of EverQuest 2's Game Update 53. I almost forgot that the Game Developer's Conference was taking place in Austin until I heard Jason, Mark and Noah making fun of Blizzard's keynote address on Channel Massive #105. So I headed over to Virgin Worlds and sure enough, Brent has come out of hiding and is doing some video coverage of the conference. He already has posted some puttering around on day 1 winding up with Gary Gannon as well as Darren Love's (Common Sense Gamer, Shut Up We're Talking) interviews with Eve Online's Senior Producer Torfi Frans Olafsson and KingsIsle Entertainment, the makers of Wizard 101.

I am a little disappointed that I can't find SOE Chief John Smedley's keynote address at GDC. If anyone knows where to find it, please let me know.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pandemic Legion Wins AT7

The news is a little late, but Pandemic Legion won Eve Online's Alliance Tournament 7. My favorite match was Pandemic Legion's semi-final match against Manifest Destiny. Pandemic Legion had run a stealth bomber set-up in the previous two rounds and would again in the finals, but in this match the champions came out with a Minmatar speed set-up. I wish that CCP had the videos posted because the sheer speed at which Pandemic Legion fought was awesome to behold.

The Minmatar setup wasn't just a gimmick, either, Pandemic Legion's Shamis Orzoz's explained:
"There was no one single team we were worried about, but we worried about somebody bringing a strong counter to the bombers. The best counter to the bombers was revealed by us in the semi-finals; the Minmatar team we fielded defeats the bombers 95% of the time. Also, the team we fielded in Match 2 beats the bombers about 70% of the time, so I was mildly concerned that somebody would find the counter in our own setups. Admiral Goberius came up with the bomber team and it took me nearly 2 weeks to come up with a counter, which is what I used in Match 2. Goberius has been running bomber fleets for months and months in regular combat, which is why he favoured them for the tourney as well. They are the most DPS per point you can get as long as you have the primary webbed/painted."
Congrats Pandemic Legion!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Odds And Ends

I'm watching the finals of Eve Online's Alliance Tournament 7 on Eve Tv and I love it. One thing I have to say after watching Pandemic Legion is Oh. My. God. I'm sure that Dillon Arklight and War Childe from the PODDED Podcast are very happy watching that setup. CCP is also trying to get a peak currency record on the Tranquility server and Eve TV is on its way to a record as well. I heard that Eve TV hit over 10,000 viewers during the round of 16.

The one thing about watching and listening to the tournament is I may decide to fly a Thrasher instead of trying to go straight to a Stabber or Rupture. I keep hearing that a Thrasher is a good mission running ship.

In EverQuest 2, the guildie I wrote about leaving the game let his account expire on the 17th and now the two guild leaders who were in the game when I joined my guild are now playing Aion. I can see interesting times ahead.

But the news out of EQ2 isn't all bad. I managed to hit the level cap on my carpenter, giving me a level 80 crafter for each tradeskill class. I'm hoping to finish the epic tradeskill quest line on my last three crafters by the end of the day. Just in time for the deployment of GU 53 on the live servers Tuesday.

Not much else. Just watch the round of 16 in AT7. Wow! I hope the rest of the tourney is this good.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On The Eve Of GU53

Rumor has it that SOE is going to deploy EverQuest 2's Game Update 53 on September 22. Once that happens I can stop the holding pattern I've been in and start adventuring again. Yes, because GU 53 will introduce an achievement system, I have pretty much stopped adventuring on my own to avoid hitting 200 AA points. The problem with being so close to 200 points (I'm now up to 197) is that once a character hits 200 points, some achievements I would get credit for, like killing named mobs, stop being recorded. I really don't want to have to go back and kill things a second time just for the achievement. Not solo adventuring allows me to go out with guild groups with no fear of reaching 200 points.

So does that mean I have nothing to do in EQ2 this weekend? Of course not! My carpenter is now up to level 77 and I plan to get to 80 this weekend. And my armorsmith needs to start the tradeskill epic quest line. My sage has reached the Proof of the Pudding quest and if I can get the other two toons to that point, I'll be able to make all of the items for all three characters. I've got all the rares now except two ebon clusters.

Does this mean I won't do any adventuring this weekend? Not at all. The monthly Moonlight Enchantments live quest will be on the servers from 2am Pacific time Sunday to 2am Pacific time Monday. (That's the scheduled end of server maintenance Sunday to the end of scheduled server maintenance Monday for those of you who fly internet spaceships.) I'm thinking about running all eight of my crafting toons through the instances to get them some AA. Yes, guild tacticians are a wonderful thing.

Sounds like a full schedule. And I still need to run missions in Eve for some isk. I need to buy the Focus and Clarity skill books. According to EVEMon, I can shave 8 days off my training schedule if I improve my learning skills. Focus and Clarity are the last two I need to train up. If I run a couple more missions for local agents plus continue doing the newbie epic mission arc, I should have enough is to buy the books and have a comfortable reserve against unexpected losses.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: Danelak Hosfoak

The story Master Woodworker Yonger Celli continues...

When I left Taskmaster Greeblentus’ tent near the bank, I had two new opportunities before me: Bathezid’s Watch or Riliss. Because of Greeblentus’ little restocking expedition, at least I had some first-hand information to go on. You can learn a lot about a society by the way they equip their forces. Riliss’ heavily armed and armored rhino cavalry indicated that the iksar city held more riches than Bathezid’s Watch.

But as I discovered, Riliss needed those forces for more than protection from the sarnaks. The iksars are slavers who make their money off the sweat of the frogloks who sheltered me. Did I want to work in the city that enslaves the only folk who showed me any kindness in the Fens? No. While I couldn’t fight the iksar, I could aid those that did.

But while being altruistic helps me sleep at night, aiding the sarnaks would also give me some tangible benefits as well. The chief benefit was the chance to learn the secret of making the Di’Zok long bow. As a woodworker, I was really interested in a bow that could defeat the kind of heavy plate the Riliss forces wore. Besides, although Rosemarie loved her Raincaller bow, my daughter really needed a new one.

So with the decision in place, I made the trip up to Bathezid’s Watch. Greeblentus’ pass got me past the sentries and into the crafting hall where I found Anuhadux supervising the activity. He was ready for me to help and gave me a recipe book to aid in making the things the sarnak needed, but no one would sell me the fuel I needed to make the items. So I decided a trip back to Qeynos was called for. You don’t think I was going to give my business to those crooks in Dreg’s Landing, did you?

So I went back to Qeynos, arranged for my family to take care of the business while I was away, loaded up my packs with all the materials and fuel I could carry, and headed back to Bathezid’s Watch. The trip was a lot quicker than before since not only could I fly from Dreg’s Landing to the entrance to the Fens, but from the Riliss guard tower just inside the Fens to the sokokar post at Bathezid’s Watch.

Let me tell you, Anuhadux kept me busy! But I did my work quickly and without complaint and eventually became accepted among the Di’Zok. One day I needed to use the forge and encountered one of the higher ranking sarnak crafters.

"Hail, Danelak Hosfoak," I said, greeting the sarnak at the forge.

"Greetings, are you interested in helping the Bathezid's Watch?” asked Danelak. Just because I was gaining a reputation with the lower level crafters didn’t mean I was well known yet. Another reminder I wasn’t in Qeynos anymore. “I'm just crafting some equipment to supply the encampment here, and I could use a hand with a few things. We're still struggling to supply enough goods to meet our needs. You look like an experienced crafter, I'm sure you know how it is," he said.

"I certainly know what you mean! Anything I can do to help?" I asked. I hope I didn’t sound too anxious to do something new.

"Oh, I don't like to complain, we'll manage, we Sarnak are a self-sufficient race,” he said proudly. “If you wouldn't mind, though, I could use a few items created. Doesn't really matter what, we're running short of everything! What's your specialty?"

"I'm a Woodworker," I told him.

"Excellent,” Danelak said, “then perhaps you could make me a few staves and wands, to supply our troops?" Notice how he didn’t ask for bows. Those Di’Zok long bows are good.

"I'll be right back with them!" I called as I headed to the woodworking table.

I’ll say this much. I like those Di’Zok merchants a lot better than those crooks down at Dreg’s Landing. Sure, they don’t talk to strangers but if they deal with you they’re honest. And after making Di’Zok items for so long, making Qeynos-style staves and wands was like a touch of home. After making ten of each I returned to Danelak.

"Hail, Danelak Hosfoak," I called out.

"Do you have the goods?" Danelak asked.

"I do,” I replied. “Here you are."

"Excellent!” he exclaimed. “These will be of much use."

"No trouble at all,” I told him. “Anything else I can do?"

"Not at the moment, I'm pretty busy finishing up this order and distributing the supplies you brought,” the sarnak replied. “Tell me a little bit about the rest of the Shattered Lands, though. We've been cut off from the other continents for so long, can you tell me what remains of the great old cities and crafting centers?" he asked.

"Ak'Anon has been overrun by clockworks who have renamed it Klak'Anon. Gnomish forces have withdrawn to a Gnomeland Security outpost in Steamfont," I said.

"Really? So many changes!” Danelak exclaimed. “What else have you heard?"

"Kaladim was sealed for many years and now it is overrun with kobolds and other sinister influences from the Underfoot," I told him.

"Really? So many changes! What else have you heard?" the sarnak asked.

"The gods begin to return to the world at last, surely you have felt their influence?" I asked.

"Really? So many changes! What else have you heard?" Danelak asked. I was beginning to think that while Danelak was a good craftsman, he wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

"Felwithe was perhaps isolated for too many years,” I continued. “The Queen has renamed it New Tunaria, and will not admit any deemed to be impure."

"Really? So many changes! What else have you heard?" Danelak asked.

"Rivervale and the Misty Thicket fell after the Zek wars and have been corrupted by evil forces,” I told him. “The halflings are struggling to rebuild their city but much of the land is still cursed."

"Really? How tragic!” Danelak exclaimed. “I have always wanted to visit Rivervale some day."

"Why on Norrath would a Sarnak want to visit Rivervale?" I asked.

"All the stories I've heard about the halflings mention their ability to craft fine items. It's said that they've always had quite an inclination towards tradeskills, you know,” the sarnak exclaimed. “Some say it's their natural fondness for food that leads them into fine cooking, and then other forms of crafting!"

"It certainly leads them into a lot of kitchens and taverns, anyway," I chuckled.

"There's one story I heard, about the Cabbageleaf family and some of the remarkable jewelry they learned to create,” he continued. “Perhaps if you're ever in Rivervale you should look them up. If you do learn more, please let me know."

"Maybe I'll do that if I happen to be passing by," I told the sarnak. I then bid him goodbye to finish the last of Anuhadux’s latest work order.

Previous posts
EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: Yonger's Vacation
EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: Working for Teren's Grasp
EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: Yonger Gets a Sokokar
EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: New Lands, New Profits

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thoughts on Speculators in EQ2

Last week I wrote how SOE’s handling of broker speculators who engage in a practice that former EverQuest 2 producer Scott Hartsman has referred to as degenerate game play was one of several reasons a guild mate of mine is planning to leave EQ2. My guildie's view of SOE’s lack of desire or sheer inability to keep harm from coming to the game helped lead him to a complete loss of faith in the devs. Notice I say helped; when he was in a mood he could go on for 30 minutes about how the devs don’t get things right. But I’m going to concentrate on speculators because of the second MMO I play, Eve Online.

I’ve only played Eve for 5 weeks but as far as I can tell, unless you do something monumentally stupid like get elected to the Council of Stellar Management and then try to use insider information to make money, just about everything is fair in the marketplace. While some players take their combat to 0.0 space or become low-sec pirates, others stay in high-sec and conduct their fights in the corporate boardrooms and on the market. While EA/Mythic likes to say that war is everywhere in Warhammer Online, player vs. player action IS everywhere in New Eden. The only difference is some players use missiles and others use isk.

Now maybe that kind of thinking has corrupted me, but I’m not terribly bothered by the speculators. Yes, I complain when some slimeball jacks up the price of a rare I need to make a spell or an item needed to complete the Proof of the Pudding quest. Really though, that’s the game; live with it. If you don’t like it, go out and harvest your own crafting materials.

But EQ2 is not Eve and for a lot of players this type of play is comparable to griefing an entire server. For the longer term players, the game has changed greatly. It wasn’t until GU 37 when players could sell items from more than one character on an account at a time that some of the current practices became possible. Yes, a player could monopolize a small segment of the market, but I know of one player on my server who has used the max number of characters on three accounts (that my guild was able to identify) in his speculating activity. If a player were determined, having 100 broker boxes spread out over 3 accounts is not out of the realm of possibility if the speculator is willing to shell out 150-200 gold per week plus the cost of setting up 21 houses.

I guess if massive amounts of players go running to the developers and cry about how unfair the situation is, perhaps action will be taken. But something tells me that is not going to work. As I see it, the best solution available to the devs is to go back to the good-old-days when Scott Hartsman was still EQ2’s producer and only allow one toon at a time on an account to sell items on the broker. I can hear the howls of outrage from the player base in my head now. But that solution, while hurting the big speculators, will still result in prices staying high as the amount of goods sold on the broker declines. In fact, the prices may go even higher as reducing the number of broker slots will just result in a reduction in, not elimination of, market speculation. Do you really think SOE is going to risk a major uproar if the solution will not result in lower prices?

What might work is to import a little bit of Eve Online attitude into Norrath and for some guilds to turn into economic enterprises. While most servers in EQ2 are player vs. environment servers for combat, if a large guild or a guild alliance got together, they could use tens, even hundreds of players to engage in a little economic PvP on the broker. Why not? SOE has already introduced research assistants to add Eve-type time based skill advancement to EQ2. And with the introduction of mythical weapons, some guilds turned into mercenary units. Why not go the next step and introduce economic warfare against the broker speculators?