Monday, August 31, 2009

Space Dragons

I listened to PODDED Podcast #17 yesterday and once again titans were in the news. One of the hosts made the comment that when titans first were introduced to Eve Online that they were feared but now everyone wants to take them on. Titans are now considered trophies to the player base.

When I heard that, the first thing to pop into my mind was dragons. Whether the game is a paper and pencil game like Dungeons & Dragons or a MMORPG like World of Warcraft or EverQuest/EverQuest 2, everyone likes to kill dragons. Now, that kind of attitude is kind of insane. Dragons are the biggest, nastiest creatures around. You would think that players would want to stay far away. Instead, they fight for the privilege (sometimes literally on PvP servers) for the chance to kill them.

The same holds true for Eve's titans. Giant machines hosting the most powerful weapons designed to sweep away whole fleets with one attack, you would think players would be terrified of facing one. But players always want to face and defeat the biggest challenge. In fantasy games, those are dragons. In Eve, that challenge is the titan.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My First Unscheduled Eve Downtime

I just experienced my first downtime in Eve Online. Apparently the node containing Jita went down and required a reboot of the whole shard. I thought there might be problems when I logged in since there were almost 49,000 pilots logged in when I logged in around GMT. I know that Eve is famous for the amount of players it can support, but I kind of wondered.

Once I logged out at 2230 GMT, I logged onto Eve Radio and listened to the Eve-Radio Mega Lottery. Not quite my type of music, but it helped pass the time.

I was able to get into the game about 2311 GMT, which was 11 minutes after the original time given to be able to get back into the game. I didn't think that was too bad.

I did learn one thing from the downtime. It looks like asteroids respawned after the reboot. At least it did in the asteroid belt I was mining in. So unscheduled reboots = more mining opportunities.

Sunday Odds and Ends

I posted a little more frequently last week and I may keep it up if the ideas keep coming to me. But I had a couple of things I didn't have time to mention.

First, Beau Turkey (a.k.a. Beau Realmscaster) is continuing his experimental podcast work and hit a home run with RealmsCast #4, a vidcast concerning the new racing content in Free Realms. Beau's avatar actually is narrating the vidcast and I think that Beau just did a really good job putting it all together.

Next are a couple of podcasts that feature interviews with industry professionals. First, Sister Julie and Sister Fran posted the second half of the Scott Hartsman interview in No Prisoners, No Mercy #42. Next week the pair will interview Total Biscuit from WoW Radio. The other podcast is Beau's interview with Acclaim's Community Manager "The Historian" in Spouse Aggro #87. No Leala this week; just Beau conducting the interview.

I haven't expanded on the topic, but I really think that World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2 are slowly becoming the same game, and not because SOE is desparately copying WoW trying to keep the game alive. I think that The Instance's coverage of Blizzcon pointed out a couple of things that WoW is borrowing from other games, including EQ2. The biggest items in Cataclysm are the guild advancement system, finally revisiting old zones and making higher level versions of their instances (EQ2's recent Lavastorm revamp in GU51 and last year's introduction of Runnyeye 2 comes to mind) and the raising of the level cap only 5 levels to match EverQuest's level cap increase introduced in last year's Seeds of Destruction expansion. But is the new path system going to be Blizzard's way of copying EQ & EQ2's alternate advancement trees?

While Blizzard was busy announcing the new WoW expansion at Blizzcon, SOE has been working on Game Update 53, which was released onto the Test server last week. Feldon over on EQ2 Wire has been all over the subject and anyone who plays EQ2 should be visiting his site on a regular basis to stay up to date with all the GU53 news. Another site to watch is MmoQuests as Stargrace is currently posting about her experiences on the Test server. She reminds us all in her post about the new achievements system that the system is a lot like WoW's. Yes, the merge toward the creation of World Of Everquest: The Shadow Cataclysm is a two-way street. I'll be following her posts next week with great anticipation.

I did have one initial thought about all the items that will be tagged with the heirloom flag. Does this mean that the EQ2 devs are going to crack down on the practice of selling "loot rights"?

Finally I get to Eve Online. I've been playing for 3 weeks now and am really enjoying the game. Now that I have some more skills trained up I'm really enjoying flying the Rifter and I plan on being able to start flying cruisers next week. I figure I'll need to start flying a Scythe to start doing some serious mining in areas I can use secure cans. Believe it or not, I also am looking at industrial ships and would really like to own a Mammoth and eventually a Prowler to do a little blockade running. Now that I feel a bit better about my knowledge of the skills system, I'm thinking of writing an article on certificates based on a newbie's experience. I'm glad they were around to help me pick my skills for my Rifter, but they just provide a base and sometimes you have to figure out what's more important, a piece of paper or a more efficient use of skill points. That's a point I just discovered this weekend while playing around with EveMon.

I don't know if I'm going to write a post like this every Sunday, but it was a lot of fun to write, so who knows :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Initial Thought on WoW Guild Advancement

I finished listening to The Instance’s coverage of Blizzcon (episodes #159 & #160) and I have to admit that the changes Blizzard is planning for World of Warcraft sound exciting. I’m actually tempted to buy Cataclysm (did I just write that?) when it comes out just to see what happens to Hogger and if the devs take the opportunity to clean up the quests in Stranglethorn Vale. But the part of the podcasts I found most interesting was the introduction of guild advancement.

As a player of EverQuest 2 who for three years has lived with a guild system that involves guilds having levels, I’ll be very interested in how Blizzard chooses to implement its guild system. One interesting design issue is how to equalize the leveling of small and large guilds. I see a different design philosophy between WoW and EQ2. From what I heard on the podcasts, in WoW only the top 20 contributors in a guild each day can contribute to the guild’s advancement.

In EQ2, all guild members efforts have always contributed to a guild’s advancement. When I started playing in 2006, SOE did try to normalize guild advancement between large and small guilds by adjusting the amount of a player’s status converted into guild status for doing writs (quests that reward personal status), heritage quests and turning in status items. The formula that determined how much status a guild would gain from a member completing a writ or heritage quest was personal status rewarded divided by the number of characters in the guild, with the maximum number of the divisor set to 24, the maximum size of an EQ2 raid force. But this system did cause a couple of issues. The lesser issue was that one of the items on the leaderboards on EQ2players.com is guild status contributed and players in small guilds had an advantage on rising on the leaderboard over the ones in large guilds. The larger issue to me was that players in small guilds (less than 24 accounts) actually had an incentive to not allow their members to have alts in the guild. Both of these issues (plus others I’ve forgotten about) went away when the guild status conversion was set to a fixed 10% of all personal status gained from writs and heritage quests for all players.

Looking at the two systems, I prefer EQ2’s everyone’s contribution counts philosophy over Blizzard’s idea of only having the top 20 players in a guild have their contributions count and then the rest have theirs thrown away. I think that all members in a guild, be they level 10 or level 80, should be able to see their efforts, however small, advance their guild. I realize that Blizzard’s guild system is still in development, but since WoW is a level-based game, I don’t see how a high level character will not have an easier time contributing to the guild than a lower level player. Maybe the WoW devs will avoid that trap, because if they don’t, the lower level player in large guilds will rarely see their efforts contribute to their guild’s advancement. I’m not sure what kind of drama will entail from that effect, but knowing guilds, someone will make an issue out of someone who never seems to do enough to contribute to their guild’s advancement.

I should add one additional qualifier to what I have written. I am writing as someone who stopped playing WoW before the first expansion came out and has been immersed in the community of EQ2 ever since. The Blizzard developers know their player base a lot better than I do. Perhaps some sort of way to slow down the progression of large guilds so small guilds are not left in the dust is an absolute requirement to have the concept accepted. I can’t argue with that idea; SOE did it in EverQuest 2 for years. I just hate the fact that, according to what I was presented with on the podcasts, Blizzard is willing to deem the efforts of some players as not worthy of being counted.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: The Quests Before Level 80

With the completion of the New Lands, New Profits quest, the story of how Master Woodworker Yonger Celli wound up with a sokokar, a master woodworker’s cloak, and the Earring of the Solstice comes to a natural break as everything done up until this time can be done by tradeskill characters who are levels 70-79. So while we leave Yonger in Teren’s Grasp having just received the pass needed to gain the faction he will need to receive the actual tradeskiller’s epic quest line, let’s look at the quests covered in the first four episode’s of the tale.

In “Yonger’s Vacation”, a lot of time was spent not only covering Yonger’s background but in quest dialog explaining what awaited adventurers in the Kylong Plains. Part of the reason for so much text is that Jones and his boss, who gives a different sokokar quest line to high-level adventurers, are usually the first NPCs that players encounter when entering the Rise of Kunark expansion lands. In the midst of all the story development one quest was covered: Fang’s Away. The only game play pointer I hope you come away with is to bring your own fuel and materials. The entire sokokar quest line requires 32 ferrite clusters, 28 redwood lumber and 70 smoldering coUnless you are a high level harvester as well as a high level crafter and low-level adventurer, you will not be able to harvest the materials needed. If you do have the necessary gathering skills (possibly aided by things like the pack unicorn), there are safe places to harvest the materials needed to make the arrows.

The post “Working for Teren’s Grasp” covers two quests, An Eye in the Sky and Sticking My Ore In. When I ran this quest with Yonger, he was level 8 and managed to release the hawk and return as I described. The one piece of dramatic license I took concerned the part about sitting on the makeshift bridge. As of this writing I’ve done the quest on 8 different characters and I’ve never seen a mob get on the bridge. But if you have never done the quest before, you wouldn’t know that. And at the end of the post I complained about paying for fuel from the vendor at the forge. In reality I always brought my own coal.

The episode titled “Yonger Gets a Sokokar” covers the final two quests in the five quest tradeskillers’ sokokar quest line, Preparations for the Rescue and Is It Good News?. Doing the quests is pretty much exactly as described in the story. I even included a couple of good tips to do along the way. The one point I should make is about the trip from Dreg’s Landing to Teren’s Grasp. I’m not sure exactly how to describe the place where you get off the road and start heading cross-country, but I think that you will recognize it when you see it.

The last episode takes its name from the quest, New Lands, New Profits. For low-level adventurers first doing this quest, I have a couple pieces of advice. First, don’t try to use stealth, the mobs will be able to see through it. If possible, get a mount, preferably 40% or faster, although my level 50 necromancer managed to get through the entire questline without dying riding on the direbear that I got by purchasing the box edition of The Shadow Odyssey. Speed really pays off when trying to get from Kunzar’s Edge to the entrance to the Fens. I tried to sneak Yonger between the two points on foot and he died once past the makeshift bridge. The second easiest way to get between the two points is to race between the points on a mount, training the mobs as you go by. But the easiest way is to travel on the road north of Kunzar’s Edge and get killed by one of the iksar. The spawn point is the graveyard at the entrance to the Fens I write about in the story.

The second point is that I managed to get my provisioner, a level 10 warden, to each of the cache points in the Fens without dying. Of course, it was my 5th character to do the quest, but I was able to do it. The secret was that you had to go past the second and fourth caches and then double back. The devs placed a lot of mobs in the direct paths to those two locations.

The final point is once you get to the final cache (and you have to do them in order) call to either your home city or your guild hall. After all the tension of finally getting a level 10-12 toon through the zone, I was wiped and didn’t mind the extra time travelling from Qeynos back to Kylong Plains.

I have to add one administrative point concerning the blog and the story. In order to continue writing the story with the game dialog, I discovered I will have to level up my carpenter, who currently is level 65. In order to get all the appropriate quest dialog for a woodworker, I have to do the quest as an artisan since I don’t have the dialog captured from when Yonger actually did the quest line. I’ve got a lot of xp potions left from my veterans’ rewards and I want to get my master for my carpenter as soon as possible. However, there will probably be a delay of 2-3 weeks until I can continue the story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fallout 3 Podcast Love for Jason

I finished listening to Channel Massive #101 yesterday and heard Jason say that he was done talking about and playing Fallout 3. I guess massive game-love for Fallout 3 he displayed in the massive round-table discussion on games on Channel Massive #100 may have embarrassed him a bit, especially after all the emails from listeners mentioning it. But after that episode, we at least know the standard that Jason is looking at when rating games, so it wasn't a bad thing.

Jason also made the comment that there is nothing left to see in the game. I think Jason is forgetting that Mothership Zeta just came out a couple of weeks ago. And if he has finished all the main storylines, I doubt he found all the interesting spots in the Capital Wasteland. On episode 17 of Through The Aftermath, Shawn and Jonathan read through an article from Crispy Gamer titled 50 Things to Do in the Capital Wasteland. Listening to Shawn and Jonathan read through and discuss the article was a lot better than reading the article alone. I almost wanted to start up Fallout 3 again, but I was on the train going to work so the feeling passed.

Just a note to everyone that wishes that their favorite MMORPG contain hidden quests and things to discover in tucked away locations. Yes, those are nice to have, but the game developer needs to make sure that the basic game features are rock solid. I can think of one game off the top of my head that featured hidden content but failed to deliver on a solid product on launch: Vanguard.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mobs I Love to Hate

In Van Hemlock #65, Van Hemlock’s Twitter question was “Help me do my homework this week! What is your favourite and/or most hated MMO Monster and/or Foe?”. I try not to take having a bunch of pixels run by an AI trying and sometimes killing my avatar personally. But sometimes those mobs just get under my skin. Looking back on my time playing MMOs, the mobs I hate are the ones I first had a problem dealing with. In World of Warcraft, that race was the murlocs. Not only did I have problems doing the quests they were involved around Goldshire, but they made that crazy noise when they charged. The hatred turned into annoyance at higher levels though as I learned the methods to kill them without dying myself.

In EverQuest 2 I don’t hate an entire race. Instead I hate the scarecrows and skeletons that inhabit the fields near the Antonica entrance to The Thundering Steppes. I spent so much time on my main harvesting in those fields for tier 3 materials and those mobs were a pain to deal with. Did I type “were”? They still are. You see, there is a tradeskill quest that requires harvesting tier 3 materials in The Thundering Steppes and those fields are some of the safer places to harvest for my level 10-12 crafting alts. But safer doesn’t mean safe and I’ve done my fair share of running away from them. I still have to take some of my crafters over there to finish the quest. Fortunately all the ones I need to take over there are master crafters and with the Earring of the Solstice they can easily outrun the bad guys. While over the course of time my feelings toward murlocs changed, I still hate the denizens of those fields because even after 3 years of playing the game, those stupid level 20-23 mobs still give me problems.

But the mob I hate most of all from all the games I’ve played has to be Hogger from World of Warcraft. He is the first named mob I ran across in the first MMO I ever played and I never had a notion that a mob with a name would be harder than other mobs to kill. In other words, he was severely underconned. Hogger is the first and only mob I have ever repeatedly killed not to farm but for the sheer pleasure of watching him fall. In fact, the first thing I did once I hit level 60 (the pre-Burning Crusades level cap) in WoW was to go back and kill Hogger one more time.

Are there any mobs I like? My favorite mobs are ones that don't attack me. My next favorite mobs are the ones that are dead. But if I have to pick a mob that will attack me, then I would say my favorite mobs are the griffins flying over the fields in The Thundering Steppes in EQ2. I just like seeing something that big flying around.

My answers here won't help Van Hemlock with his homework. He has already turned it in and you can read his post over on Massively.com.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Domino's Proposed Transmuting Changes

A while back I posted how to level up your transmuting in EverQuest 2 without breaking the bank. Looks like that advise will become outdated with the new expansion. Domino the tradeskill dev has posted a proposed change to transmuting in the forums to gain some player feedback. Below is the original post in the forum.


First, what are the overall goals here?
  1. to make transmuting less painful to level up, it should be about on a similar difficulty level as tinkering in terms of speed and expense
  2. to make transmuting products more useful and better distributed in terms of which stats on what slot and what rarity
  3. to make it less confusing for adventurers to figure out how to get adornments made and who to go to
  4. to make it less confusing for crafters to learn how to be transmuters

So, what are the problems with the current system that need to be addressed in order to meet these goals? In no particular order, here are the complaints I've seen most in game and in this forum:

  1. The first recipes you get are red difficulty, which can be scary to beginner transmuters.
  2. It is annoying to not be able to break down components above your transmuting level. It is confusing and unintuitive that you only get transmuting skill-ups from breaking stuff down up to skill 100.
  3. Transmuters don’t get the majority of the adornment recipes, or even the best ones consistently. It is ununtuitive which class gets which recipe.
  4. The RNG can mean long streaks of no skill ups when making adornments, which is frustrating.
  5. Higher level recipes require huge numbers of components, which gets very expensive.
  6. There are not enough items readily available to break down to produce all the components you need.
  7. The availability of different components is imbalanced (e.g. some levels you have hundreds of fragments but no powders).
  8. The adornments available are inconsistent, lacking in many slots, and very mixed desirability (some overpowered, some stupidly useless).

And here are some proposed solutions to each of the above points. Once again, these are still under consideration, not yet set in stone.

  1. Levels of the first recipes will be adjusted down a bit so there are at least a couple yellow or white.
  2. We will separate the "transmuting" (breaking stuff down) skill from the "adorning" (making adornments) skill. The transmuting (breaking stuff down) skill will be granted when you choose to become a transmuter, and will level up to max from breaking stuff down, just like mining rocks levels you up in your mining skill. Adorning (making adornments) will skill up separately and will only level up by making adornments, just like making armor levels up your armoring. The breaking-stuff-down skill will level up as fast as any other harvest skill as you break stuff down. The adorning skill will level up similarly to tinkering speed. This point is probably the biggest change, but seems to make the most sense as this makes the transmuting system consistent with our other systems, as breaking stuff down has always been intended to be the "harvesting" skill for the transmuter, and making adornments their primary function. This will also allow people to break stuff down even if they're not interested in levelling up in adornment making, which should make components more available on the broker, since everyone could learn to break down their own attuned old gear.
  3. Transmuters will get all adornment recipes. At the same time, we will allow anybody to become a transmuter, even if they are already a tinkerer, so that any class that loses the ability to make adornments will be able to get it again if they wish. Nobody will therefore permanently lose the ability to make adornments. The adornment recipes will be all new ones, the old ones will be removed entirely as we don’t want to support two separate systems.
  4. The frustration in leveling transmuting at present mainly arises from the difficulty in obtaining components. Adorning skill levels up at the same speed as tinkering, and if we correctly address the lack of availability of components, it should be equivalent, and much less frustrating. However, we could tweak this curve a little for both if necessary - probably a subject for discussion during beta.
  5. The number of items required will be fixed across all levels. So if a level 5 item might require 3 fragments, 2 powders, and 1 infusion, the equivalent level 85 item will also require 3 fragments, 2 powders, and 1 infusion.
  6. We will address the shortage of items in a number of ways. See #5 - reducing the numbers of items required so that you don’t need as many. And see #2 - more people able to transmute will also reduce the cost of the components on the broker, and make more items available as people not interested in making adornments can still break down their old gear. We will also make more transmutable items available if necessary, one option we are considering is to make some of the items that are discovered from scrying stones transmutable.
  7. We will add recipes to convert a number of lower rarity items (e.g. fragments) into fewer higher rarity items of the same level (e.g. powders). Note: this will only work within a level range, you will not be able to convert lower level items to higher level items.
  8. This will be addressed separately with a complete revision of which adornments are available with which stats. This is a different discussion; more on this at a later date.

If you've read this far, you probably have some opinions already, so please take your time to think them through and post any feedback (positive or negative) in this thread. If you don't like the ideas, it would be helpful if you can explain why and what a better solution would be, of course!

Edit to add a couple answers posted later in the thread:

To answer a couple of the questions raised:

Yes, if we do this the intention is that existing transmuters would maintain their current skill level. So a 350 transmuter now would end up with 350 transmuting and adorning skill.

Yes, it is intended you can both tinker and make adornments.

Yes, we can look at automatically granting you the tradeskill arts when you sign up to be a transmuter (or tinkerer).

Yes, we can look at having a less annoying spell effect when you break stuff down.



This will definitely be something to think about. I may even have to try to get into the expansion beta or get onto the test server just to see how this will work. As a level 400 transmuter I've got a pretty big stake in this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The End of The Sunday "What I've Been Listening To" Posts

Over the last 6 months I've kept almost all my writings about podcasts confined to a weekly Sunday post. Part of the reason is that I was afraid of turning The Nosy Gamer into a blog about podcasts instead of a blog about MMORPGs. But another thing that I wanted to avoid was turning the blog into a job. That blog-as-job feeling turned me away from blogging a few years ago, and writing the Sunday podcast post was starting to feel like a job and not like fun.

Instead of just giving a brief summary of the podcasts, I'd like to start referring to what podcasters are saying. For example, The Instance #158 offered a couple of items I could have written about. Scott and Randy discussed the speculation over Cataclysm, the next World of Warcraft expansion which has largely turned out to be true. I could have written about how some changes were inspired by SOE games (EverQuest has a level cap of 85 and EverQuest 2 already has guild progression) and how World of Warcraft seems to slowly be making its way to becoming World of EverQuest 2: Cataclysm.

Another subject ripe for a post is some advice that Randy and Scott gave to a listener who's parents let him play WoW up to level 70 but then did not let him continue on with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Here is a comment from the show notes from a poster named ohcray that I fully agree with.

"Just wanted to express my appreciation and say a big THANK YOU for the great response to the kid whose parents wouldn’t allow him to play WOW. The advice you gave was objective, wise, and respectful. As a parent, I love that Randy acknowledged that if the parents have made a rule, for whatever reason, then sorry – that’s just the way it is. But Scott was dead on in encouraging more open rational dialogue and understanding between the parents and their kid. It would’ve been easy to urge him to buck the system, sneak in a game or two when the parents are away, plead and kick and scream till you get your way, etc. It also would’ve been easy to accuse the parents of being uptight right-wing fundamentalists that just need to be more open-minded. Instead, you gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, and in the end, respected the integrity of family, authority, and intelligent communication. You have my respect. THANKS!"

Giving the subject some thought I remembered a controversy that may have influenced the young man's parents when WotLK first came out. Anyone remember what Richard Bartle wrote about the torture in the shadowknight quest line? Here is an excerpt from another post in which Dr. Bartle respondend to some of the criticism of his first post.

"What's vaguely dispiriting about this is that I was basically making an obscure design point. I wasn't making a moral point — I'd have blogged on Terra Nova for that. I was saying:

  1. Giving people a quest to torture someone for no good reason is going to shock some people; not everyone, but a good number.
  2. Shocking people in a work of art such as an MMO is fine, you're allowed to do it. It's making an artistic statement.
  3. If you do decide to shock people, you need to flag up that you know you're shocking them. This is so they know it's an artistic statement and not that you think the shocking thing isn't shocking.
  4. Blizzard didn't flag up that they knew they were doing something that would shock people. The prisoner gave good information, your reputation with the Kirin Tor rose, and you got to continue with the quest chain.
  5. This gives the impression that Blizzard thinks it's OK to torture prisoners, and that torture actually works.
  6. It also means the shock remains. People who thought they were playing a game with cartoon-level violence and evil in context now find they bought into the wrong fiction. This is not what WoW is about any more. (emphasis mine)
It's this last point — the breaking of the covenant between designer and player — that I was raising. Either Blizzard didn't know torture would be problematical for some people, or they did know but didn't acknowledge it. Neither of these is satisfactory."
I think if the young player's parents were looking at information like this then I think it is perfectly reasonable for parents to change their minds about the appropriateness of a game. As a society, we do want parents more involved in what their children are doing, right? I think most people will want parents to do research into games and not just listen to a nut-job like Jack Thompson.

To tell the truth, putting together this post and just taking a brief look at The Instance #158 has been a lot more fun to do than just putting out lists of reviews. So I'm going to be a bit selfish and stop doing a weekly podcast review. Given that listening to podcasts is a big part of my MMORPG gaming life, I'll still reference podcasts a lot. I'll just be doing it a different way.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An AA XP Weekend in EQ2

Sometimes catching up on sleep just doesn't pay. I woke up this morning to find that EverQuest 2 is holding an AA experience weekend. The bonus ends at 10 AM PDT Monday August 24th.

I am 1% away from having 196. Looks like I need to spend some quality time in game. Maybe I can get close to 197.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: New Lands, New Profits

Since the old wood elf was in such a talkative mood, I decided to press my luck and I asked him where he bought his earring and cloak. Here is the tale he spun about those two items.



Bought? Well, I guess you could say I bought them, although not with platinum. Remember how I got my sokokar Naggy here? After we flew back to Dreg’s Landing in the Kylong Plains I remembered that I still hadn’t made it to the bank in Teren’s Grasp to arrange for my king prawn to be transported back to Qeynos. But with Naggy, flying up to the outpost was a snap. I left my young sokokar at the post and started asking for directions. The people in Teren’s Grasp are not a terribly friendly group to strangers, although the guards will give you directions. I guess that’s part of the job, so I finally got directions to the bank. On my way I encountered an ogre named Taskmaster Greeblentus hawking his wares.

"Welcome to Teren's Grasp Yonger!” Greeblentus called out from his tent. “You look to be highly skilled in your craft and by the looks of it, looking for something to do. Perhaps I can point you in the right direction when you are ready for some serious work."

"Serious work?” I asked. “You have my attention..." I know, I know. I was on vacation. Maybe my kids are right and I think too much about work. But it wasn’t my idea to come to a place with so much work to do; it was my daughter’s.

"Before I can give you the details, I will require you to complete a minor task for me,” the Taskmaster continued. “The task will serve two purposes, it will help you get to know the area and let me know you are skilled enough to stay alive and be of use to those that I represent."

"That sounds fair, tell me more," I said.

"The task is simple, take the following provisions to Fens of Nathsar and deposit them in the correct provisions cache found there,” Greeblentus explained. “I have marked the locations for you but it will still be dangerous and you may die. Return only when you are done!"

"Danger?” I asked. I know that not more than an hour before I swore off any more adventures, but sneaking around isn’t THAT hard. “That sounds different,” I continued. “I will do what you ask!"

"Our scouts rely on these provisions and it is one of my jobs to make sure these are stocked. If you return alive, I will tell you more about the job I mentioned earlier," Greeblentus concluded.

"I will return to you as soon as possible," I told the ogre.

The directions the ogre taskmaster gave me led to the Fens of Nathsar. If danger was involved I didn’t want to risk my catch so I continued on and arranged for the First Kunark Savings and Loan to ship my king prawn to my bank in Qeynos.

I knew I could fly fairly close to the entrance of the Fens so I rode down to the sokokar post, hopped on Naggy and flew to Kunzar’s Edge, stopping by Dreg’s Landing because poor Naggy didn’t know a direct path through the mountains.

Once I got to Kunzar’s Edge, the map Rosemarie had given me showed I needed to take a path to a river. It didn’t look very safe and looked like it ran through a community of iksar. Well, to be fair, I did make her give me the map, and she did warn me not to come here if I could at all help it.

I walked down the path like I belonged, although I did make sure I didn’t get too close to the iksar so they wouldn’t realize I was a stranger. I went through the village with no problem and then dodged patrols until I got to the river. I found a post stretched across the river that was being used as a makeshift bridge and snuck across it. After crossing the river I dodged patrols until I eventually reached the entrance to the Fens. Across from an old graveyard just outside the Fens was a sokokar post and I gladly bound Naggy to it. I really didn’t want to make that journey again.

Once inside the Fens I encountered a border tower run by Riliss soldiers. I don’t think they were very friendly, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying, so I just kept smiling and bound Naggy to the sokokar post outside the tower and kept moving.

The directions said that the first provisions cache was northwest along the mountain pass that leads to Bathezid’s Watch. The sarnak were actively patrolling the road and didn’t look too friendly. Travel on the road is never good in these situations and this time I hugged the cliffs on the side of the road, using boulders as cover. That tactic worked until I reached a bottle neck on the road. The directions told me I needed to get past the bottleneck. It took a long time but I was finally figured out that I needed to let the sarnak wearing the sword to go past me on his patrol toward the Riliss border fort before sneaking past the guard at the bottleneck.

Once I placed the emergency rations in the first cache, I looked at the directions Greeblentus gave me again. I needed to travel to a cache located east of Sathir’s Span located on the south bank of the ravine in the Swamp of No Hope.

Faced with Riliss patrols on the road and Bathezid Watch scouts in the countryside, I decided to travel down the main road toward Sathir’s Span, darting off to the side of the road whenever I spotted a Riliss patrol. With the increase in Riliss activity the farther into the Fens I went, I decided to enter the swamp via a dirt road instead of trying to get directly to the ravine.

I travelled along the road past where the cache was located until I spotted a clear path through the swamp denizens to the ravine. I dashed to a ridge as fast as my leg would let me to a ridge that would offer some protection from the creepy-crawlies on the ground. I scrambled up to the top of the ridge and saw a large greenish glowing sokokar flying towards me. I jumped down the other side of the ridge smack into the middle of a bunch of frogloks. Fortunately I had found the only creatures in the swamp who didn’t want to kill me and we hid until the giant sokokar, which the frogloks called Thrasunre, passed.

I continued on and after dodging a swampet, I reached the second cache and refilled it with the emergency potion and looked at Greeblentus directions again. The instructions for the third cache said it was further south along the ravine a few steps before reaching the second bridge by a huge boulder.

So I retraced my steps back to the froglok encampment and made it back to the road. I then travelled east along the road until I reached the cache where I deposited the emergency exit scroll that would allow the user to transport back to Teren’s Grasp.

The instructions to the fourth cache said to cross the bridge and head northwest just before you reach The Crystal Grove behind two huge boulders. Rosemarie’s map showed that I probably shouldn’t travel directly to the cache. Instead I travelled along the edge of the ravine whenever possible to avoid the slavers, whose camps lay on the north side of the road. Once past the camps I travelled on the road unless I saw a Riliss patrol, then I would scurry into hiding. During one of these dashes to safety I ran into another group of frogloks with whom I rested in safety.

I resumed my journey along the road until I found a field of young wild sokokar. Seeing nothing that wanted to eat me, I crossed the field until I reached another ridgeline. I travelled along the ridgeline until I found the last cache and filled it. By this time I was tired, my leg hurt and I just couldn’t face playing hide-and-seek anymore, so I pulled out a talisman and used it to return to my guild’s hall. After resting up, the guild druid sent me back to the druid ring outside Teren’s Grasp. From there I walked back into the outpost.

"Hail, Taskmaster Greeblentus," I called out to the ogre in this tent.

"You have done well, I cannot lie that I am surprised,” Greeblentus told me. “Now that you have passed that test let me tell you about the opportunities available for you in this land. Both the Riliss and Bathezid Watch seek crafters to help them in their war preparations."

"Continue...," I prompted.

"Zekilius in Riliss and Anuhadux in Bathezid are the ones in charge of the crafters tasks,” the oger continued. “I have made arrangements to let you enter their camps and you will not be harmed unless you do something to anger them..."

"Tell me more," I said.

"The more orders you fill the more favor you will gain with them, but it will take a good amount of service before they trust you,” Greeblentus informed me. “Work hard and you will be rewarded, return to me when you have learned more and I will share with you another contact you may be interested in. Farewell Yonger!"

"I will do my best! Thank you," I said.

To be continued…

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My First Week In Eve

I survived my first week in New Eden and the experience was not as tough as I feared. Eve Online does have some features not found in other games, but I think I am adapting fairly well. I went ahead and purchased the game and now have a regular account. I thought I would go ahead and put down some more of my impressions of the game after a week. If some of the comments seem curious, they are based on things I’ve read in the Rookie chat channel.

The trial account – No, the trial accounts do not give full access to the game. For instance, you cannot train in industrial ships. A totally reasonable restriction, in my opinion. Why give gold, er, I mean isk, farmers the ability to make a ton of isk to sell for free?

Movement – Unlike most western MMOs, movement is not performed with the WASD keys. Instead, you select an object, like a station, asteroid belt, cargo container or a bookmark if you have set one up already, and move to it.

Tutorials – Take advantage of the tutorials and newbie missions. In addition to giving you a lot of ships (I received a Rifter, a Slasher, 2 Bursts and 2 Wreathes) tutorials will also appear during the missions to give you aid with some of the mechanics. Some of the tutorials gave me skill books, so I didn’t have to purchase all my skills on the broker. Just be careful while doing the tutorials. One of the missions lured me into an ambush, which I didn’t recognize in time. I was warping out when all of a sudden my Slasher was in pieces and I was in a pod. Of course, learning about what happens when your ship explodes may have been part of the learning experience for that mission. I was a little upset with myself, but at least I had …

Insurance – Insurance is not mandatory, but I’m glad I buy it. In addition to the Slasher, I lost the Rifter while attempting to do the epic arc. I always buy the premium insurance for my ships and I haven’t regretted it.

Level 1 missions – The biggest question I had after deciding that I wasn’t ready for the epic arc was where to find level 1 missions. One of the volunteers in the Rookie channel gave instructions on how to use the map to find agents who will talk with you. After some of the things I’ve read in the Rookie channel, I’ve determined that I’ll only listen to a red, blue, or green (i.e. a GM or CCP volunteer) answer.

So far I’ve only done two level 1 missions. I did not know the missions were part of faction warfare. I might be wrong about that, but I was getting faction points for completing the missions. The first one was a FedEx run delivering advanced weapons to a Minmatar base.

The second mission was a bit more difficult. Pirates, probably with the encouragement of the evil Amarr, were encroaching into Minmatar space. I was sent out to deal with the threat. No problem, right? Well, no problem with the ones at the end of the first acceleration gate. The second acceleration gate? Well, I did pick the Minmatar because they practice hit and run tactics. Good thing I had that mindset going in because the pirates were a bit smarter than the mobs I’m used to. For instance, after I destroyed 3 out of 4 pirates in a group, the last one took off looking for help. He got to a group of 4 more pirates before I could kill him. I eventually did kill the fleeing pirate, but with four bogies on my tail chasing me I figured it was a good time to warp out of the area. Clearing that area took a long time and I wound up warping out of the area five times before I was able to destroy the last pirate.

Salvage – I had heard before playing that salvage was a good way to make money. So I made sure that my training included the skills to use a salvager. I don’t know if I can get back to the acceleration gate areas once I’ve killed all of the enemy ships, so I have been bringing the salvager with me on the missions instead of training up for a missile launcher. I don’t know what the items I salvage are used for, but I know they sell for some good isk. Yesterday I sold all the valuable items for 1.7 million isk.

Mining – What would a week in Eve be without mining? I stayed in a nice .9 security zone so I wouldn’t have to worry about any pirates. I trained up enough so I can use a Miner II. Much faster than using the basic Miner I. I have fitted out a Burst and used jet cans once, but normally I have been just using a Wreathe. With one hard point the mining is much slower, but I only mine with the Wreathe when I’m playing EverQuest 2. I have purchased a Probe and trained up my drone skills and I’m looking forward to mining with drones.

Certificates – I found something called certificates that I found fascinating. When I looked at my new Rifter, I found a recommendation to obtain 3 certificates; core competency, armor tanking, and small projectile gunnery. I’m taking the skills recommendations to heart and in addition to the other nice skills I’m working on getting all three certificates. I heard in the Rookie channel that certificates are a waste of time, but I didn’t hear that from the GMs or volunteers, so I’m going to continue aiming for them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What I've Been Listening To: August 9-15, 2009

This is a vacation edition of the weekly review. I should say "staycation" as I just stayed at home and started to learn to play Eve Online. I discovered that learning Eve requires a bit of attention so I didn't listen to very many podcasts. But I was still able to find three highlights that I think people may be interested in.

Highlights

Goodbye Matrix Online. SOE finally closed down The Matrix Online August 1st and on Massively Speaking #63 Colin Brennan talked about his experiences in the game. While I never played MxO even though I have SOE's Station Pass, the closing of a game should never go unnoticed and Colin does a good job of pointing out the positives and negatives of the game.

Part 1 of the Scott Hartsman interview on No Prisoners, No Mercy #41. The sisters scored another big interview, this time with the former producer of both EverQuest and EverQuest 2, Scott Hartsman. One of the topics in part 1 of the 2 part interview is Scott's views on emergent and degenerate game play in MMOs. The example Scott uses in the interview, broker speculation, is a hot topic in my guild as we have a player on our server who fits the description.

Leala goes wild over Second Skin. If you want to hear an entertaining rant over Second Skin, the documentary look at MMO gamers, listen to Spouse Aggro #85. Leala usually comes across as the rational member of the Turkey family, but in this episode the roles are reversed.

General Gaming

No Prisoners, No Mercy #41 (Hosts: Sister Julie and Sister Fran) - In addition to the Scott Hartsman interview (see above), the sisters also talked with Total Biscuit from WoW Radio. For those who would like to hear more from Scott Hartsman, he was interviewed on Massively Speaking #13. Length: 88 minutes.

Massively Speaking #63 (Host: Shawn Schuster) - Massively.com bloggers Colin Brennan and Kyle Horner joined the boss to discuss the latest on Champions Online and the closing of The Matrix Online. A nice little discussion about being fanbois started off the podcast. Length: 68 minutes.

Massively Speaking #64 (Host: Shawn Schuster) - Shawn's guests were Spouse Aggro co-hosts Beau and Leala Turkey who discussed the movie Second Skin, the rumored launch date for the new Star Wars MMO and the departure of Jeff Strain and David Reid from NCSoft. Length: 61 minutes.

Spouse Aggro #85 (Hosts: Beau and Leala Turkey) - Leala goes on a rant about Second Skin and Beau tries his hand at being the calm and rational member of the family. Given the nature of the movie and the quality of the rant, I highly recommend this episode. Length: 53 minutes.

Van Hemlock #63 (Hosts: Tim Dale and Jon Shute) - As much as I love this podcast, I couldn't listen to this episode. Literally. The pair attempted to do a podcast from a moving vehicle and I couldn't really hear them while the car was moving. I gave up trying. Length: 67 minutes.

Game Specific Podcasts

EQ2

EQ2's-day broadcast on July 28, 2009 (Hosts: Dellmon and Zanadi) - The pair discussed the Tinkerfest live event and where to go for easy raiding. Dellmon does a bit of roleplay as he tries to play a calm and level-headed podcaster while Zanadi rants about doing the Cloak of the Harvester quests. Length: 77 minutes.

Eve Online

PODDED podcast Season 2, Episode 14 (Hosts: Dillon Arklight and War Childe) - The pair discussed the new copyrighted logo "Dust 514" and interceptor scouting. Storytime with Dillon made another appearance as Dillon discussed a recent battle that resulted in the loss of over 100 capital ships. Length: 96 minutes.

World of Warcraft

The Instance #157 (Hosts: Scott Johnson and Randy Jordan) - The hosts gave a long review of the new 3.2 patch, the pet choices of hunters and the effect of allowing players to have toons in both factions on PvP servers. Length: 113 minutes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Academic Look at EQ2's Economy - Q1 to Q2 2006

Over at Kill Ten Rats Zubon has a post about the first economics paper that has emerged that used the data Sony Online Entertainment made available to the academic community. One of the authors of the paper, Dmitri Williams from the University of Southern California, posted an article about the paper, complete with a link, at Terra Nova.

While the researchers may have come up with some interesting results either proving or disproving certain theories, I found some interesting things of my own. For one thing, the period studied was from January to May 2006. I understand why that period was selected; the researchers wanted to view a new server's economy compared to a mature server's. But one of their hypothesis may have been slightly off:

"In a sense, a new server launch is a new draw from the population of all possible servers, in Monte Carlo style, but done with thousands of real people flowing into an unreal world. For the analysis here, the Antonia Bayle server had been operating since the launch of EQ2 in February 2004 and so represents the baseline condition. The Nagafen server opened in February 2006 and players were given the opportunity to transfer their characters there to alleviate population pressures elsewhere. Therefore, the test of the research question was whether the new population of Nagafen – presumably made up of no different kinds of people than that of Antonia Bayle – would generate the same GDP and price levels as Antonia Bayle. An affirmative answer to the research question would require the Nagafen GDP and price level to start at zero, but then approach and eventually match Antonia Bayle’s." (emphasis mine)

Actually, the Nagafen server was not opened up to alleviate population pressures on other servers. Nagafen was one of the six new player verses player (PvP) servers opened up on February 21, 2006 in conjunction with the release of the Kingdom of Sky expansion. As such, a specific type of player moved from all the other servers onto Nagafen. Most players experienced with MMORPGs would consider the players on a server with a role-play (RP) rules set (Antonia Bayle) to be different from those on a server with a PvP rules set. I'm not sure this affected any of the results, but I found the assumption amusing.

The major thing I found interesting was the description of the economy from January to May.

"Second, the indicators of aggregate production and prices followed directly from the item categories. It was possible to calculate GDP and price levels and track their change through time. These changes suggested that while GDP did not go to zero or completely explode, there were fairly abrupt and unusual changes in this figure across time. The fluctuations were more dramatic than are seen normally in a real economy. In the real world, it is not typical for nominal GDP to rise by more than 50 percent in a month, as happened on Antonia Bayle from February to March. Specifically, the data showed that much of this jump in nominal GDP was caused by a rapid inflation of prices. On this server, in just five months there was a 50 percent increase in the price level: that is, 50 percent inflation. What appeared to be a dramatic increase in the amount of real goods that EQ2 players were producing turned out to be mostly an increase in the prices that these goods were commanding in the marketplace. This is an unusual pattern, if not unheard of (Paarlberg, 1992), but monetary economists do not characterize it as a ‘normal’ economic situation."

Remember when I mentioned the Kingdom of Sky expansion earlier? That expansion raised the level cap from 60 to 70. Along with the raise in the level cap came a brand new tier of products that players began crafting and selling to each other in all the product categories the researchers looked at. In short, what the researchers were looking at was a quantum leap in the level of technology combined with the discovery of new raw materials introduced into the world of EverQuest 2 compressed into a single day (February 21). The prices in the individual categories rose as a result.

Now, please don't think I am disparaging the researchers for not knowing what was happening in the game at the time. Maybe I would if I knew the article (Paarlberg, 1992) the researchers were referencing, but the next paragraph in the paper shows that maybe they figured out SOE did something to the virtual world they were examining.

"Taken altogether, this is evidence that virtual economies are not perfect analogs of real economies at the aggregate level. They seem to be less stable. This conclusion is tempered by a number of factors which can be explored in future research. The rapid changes in GDP may not be a function of the fact that the economy is virtual, but because it is being managed in a certain way. Certainly, evidence of rapid changes in the money supply from Figure 5 points out the source of the fluctuations. Thus, the practical application for mapping from virtual to real (or vice versa) might be most useful when comparing the virtual to volatile real-world conditions. After all, the implicit real-world benchmark in this study has been a developed post-industrial economy. Perhaps virtual economies are very precise analog for other kinds of real-world economies, such as frontier, developing or black market economies." (emphasis mine)

The last item I found interesting was the look the researchers took at the number of active accounts on Antonia Bayle during the period of the study. The researchers found the population on the Antonia Bayle server rose in February, fell greatly in March, fell a bit more in April and stayed constant in May. But since the server logs don't show the number of active accounts, the researchers had to come up with a way of measuring population.

"It was assumed that an active character either had to earn at least one experience point, or to conduct at least one economic activity. In other words, a character had to have at least one record in the experience log or the economy log in order to be considered ‘active’. Following this logic, the number of unique active characters was counted for each month for each server, providing a population count."

The problem for the researchers was the introduction of the expansion. From my experience, I would say that the rise in characters in February was not only a result of players returning to experience the new content but new players being drawn into the game because of a new expansion. The March drop-off in number of characters (avatars) played could be explained by a lot of people not playing alts (alternate characters) while they level up their main characters to the new level cap. The sustained lower numbers of characters played probably indicates that the new content was extensive enough that players were still playing their main characters and not playing their alts.

Now, if I'm right and the numbers don't indicate a mass exodus of players from EQ2 (which is possible), then I wonder what that does to the calculations and conclusions in the paper. Still, an interesting read and I'd urge everyone to go over and read the paper. I didn't link directly to it because the link is to a pdf file so I'll let everyone go to Terra Nova to read it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: Yonger Gets a Sokokar

I brought the chest full of imbued ore the Teren’s Grasp officials needed for sealing a pact with the mountain giants to Jones. Okay, I dropped it someplace close to him. Maybe that wasn’t polite to do, but I was tired and my leg hurt.

"Hail, Jones," I said.

"Thanks so much for your hard work, this should be perfect for the job," the halfling official said. "I'll let Borbin know we're all ready to arrange the deal. I hope I can get his attention, he's been very distracted since he heard the bad news this afternoon."

"What news was that?" I asked, letting my curiosity get the better of me.

Jones replied, "Lynchpin, one of our sokokar, was captured today by a drolvarg ambush. She's one of our best breeding stock and I imagine the drolvarg are planning to get a high price for her from the Sathirians. Everyone in Teren's Grasp and Dreg's Landing alike absolutely adore her, so the whole outpost is talking about it and making plans to get her back."

"What can be done about it?" I asked.

"We sent out a few more hawks to gather information, and we think they have her chained up inside one of the hollow trees near Karnor's Castle," Jones told me. "They're probably awaiting further orders on where to take her. We probably don't have a lot of time before they move her again, so we're sending out a few adventurers to try and get her free. Actually, I was rather hoping you might be able to make some sturdy chain cutters they could take with them, just in case they're needed. Are you good enough at the forge to wangle up something like that?" he asked.

"I've never tried making that sort of thing before, but I'll certainly give it a try!" I told Jones with a little more enthusiasm than I really felt. I was tired and sore, but I’ve got a soft spot for animals, so I’d do my best.

"I appreciate it, please hurry," the halfling said.

"I will," I reassured him.

So back to the forge I went. The fact that no experienced metal smiths capable of making the bolt cutters worked at the port really made me wonder about how well organized this Teren fella really was. Then I dealt with the merchants again and realized that maybe the problem was that the merchants had chased away all of the crafters. Even after the dickering I did with them, the prices were much higher than I would have normally willingly paid. If Lynchpin didn’t need help, I would have just walked away.

Any crafter would really have to bring their own supplies to Dreg’s Landing with them if they wanted to make any kind of profit off their work. You can be sure I mentioned that to the gang back at the Ironforge Exchange!

So after another aggravating session figuring out how to make something, I returned to Jones. At least the chain cutters were lighter than the chest of ore.

"Hail, Jones," I called.

"Thank you so much for working on those chain cutters for me," the Teren’s Grasp official told me as I handed over the chain cutters.

"You're welcome," I said. "I hope she gets back safely."

"As do I! I'll hand these out straight away, there's a party just about to leave now."

A party about to depart? Looks like I finished just in time. "Let me know how it goes!" I said.

"If they're successful, the party will most likely return to the main Teren's Grasp outpost where they can keep her safe and check her for any injuries," Jones advised. "Next time you're in that area, look for Stewlin Vincent at the sokokar post up there. He'll be able to let you know how it goes!"

"Thanks, I'll ask Stewlin next time I pass through," I told him.

"I hope the news will be good!" Jones exclaimed.

"I'm sure it will be," I assured the halfling.

So I finally got to go fishing. I have to say that the fishing around Dreg’s Landing is pretty good and within a few days I had caught my fill of king prawn. Instead of returning to Qeynos though, I decided to head up to the main Teren’s Grasp outpost. I figured that the bank there had a relationship with my bank in Qeynos and I could arrange to have my goods shipped back to the city while I continued my vacation.

The trip wasn’t too bad, if you don’t mind the cold. I headed up the road out of Dreg’s Landing to the mountains and followed it until it seemed to end. I then headed cross-country, avoiding the yeti I saw in the distance. After a time the road looked safe so I followed it to the outpost, stopping to pay my respects at the druid ring just outside the entrance.

Did I say outpost? A small city is a better description. I entered Teren’s Grasp looking for directions when I spotted a figure next to a post accompanied by a sokokar. As I got closer, he fit the description of Stewlin Vincent that Jones gave me.

"Hail, Stewlin Vincent," I called out.

"Lynchpin is back safe and sound!!!" Stewlin exclaimed.

"She is?” I replied. “Wonderful news, congratulations."

"Thank you so much, Jones told me all the help you've been,” Stewlin told me. “I'd like to thank you with this young sokokar I've been training. He's one of Lynchpin's offspring. Not quite as fast as Lynchpin, but he's got good blood!"

"Thank you very much," I told the sokokar trainer, touched. I really wasn’t expecting that.

"Listen,” Stewlin continued. "I wonder if you have time to take the good news up to our folks up at Kunzar's Edge. I haven't had the time to send a message yet, and I know they'll want to know Lynchpin is safe. Would you mind?" Stewlin asked.

"Sure, if I can get there safely," I replied. I remembered my daughter’s tales of travelling through the Kylong Plains. I’m a woodworker, not a hero. The little scouting trip I took to Karnor’s Castle was as much excitement as I really wanted. "Can I take the sokokar there?"

"The sokokars can only take you to landing points they've already visited," Stewlin explained, "so you won't be able to fly your young sokokar there directly yet, he hasn't traveled that far. However, I can teleport you directly there. Let Hroar know the good news and he'll spread the word. Oh, and there should be a sokokar post nearby that you can use to get back safely."

After making sure my new sokokar knew the landing point in Teren’s Grasp, I told the trainer, "Sure, I'm ready to go."

One second I was in Teren’s Grasp, the next I was on top of a watch tower at Kunzar’s Edge next to a figure in a suit of black plate armor watching a road headed north.

"What do you mean by suddenly appearing here?" the suit of armor growled, the breath visable in the cold. I had found Hroar.

"Sorry to drop in so suddenly," I said hurriedly. "Stewlin Vincent in Teren's Grasp sent me to let you know that Lynchpin has been recovered."

"Oh, working for Teren's Grasp are you?" Hroar asked, his tone changing to something sounding more friendly. "Well, that's different. Thanks for the news, I'll pass on the word. Make yourself at home here, and you'll find the sokokar post on the coast up by the west wall there. And watch your step climbing down the tower, we don't need to be scraping up any more clumsy crafters who think they can fly," he added.

I think Hroar might have done something to make those crafters clumsy. "Er, thanks, I think," I told him and proceeded to make my way carefully down the tower.

I followed Hroar’s directions to the sokokar post, bound my young sokokar to it, and flew off to Dreg’s Landing. The sokokar took a route that led us past Karnor’s Castle and over a sea of drolvargs that I had earlier wove a path through to release a scouting hawk. Looking down at the scene, I thought to myself I’d never do anything that again!

To be continued…

Related 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

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Taking The Plunge Into Eve Online

Yesterday after getting my carpenter up to level 60 and my main her 194th AA point in EverQuest 2, I returned to the world of New Eden. Here are some more thoughts I have on the game.

First, I love the login screen. I get to see my corp status (I'm in an NPC corporation right now), the location where I left my character, and how much money I have. The page also has a window on the right-hand side that displays news, both of the NPC, corporation, and CCP/maintenance variety. The window also has a link to a new player guide to help give some tips.

One thing I have to tell any new player is do the tutorial missions. I've done the 10 military missions and 5 of the industry missions. So far I have received three ships: a Burst, Rifter, and Slasher. And I would suggest doing the military missions first. The loot you get from the pirates will help equip your ships. I'm gotten lots of mining lasers and some nice guns.

From the tutorial missions, you also get books that allow you to train skills. This method is kind of similar to what I'm used to in EQ2, so the whole skill learning process isn't that foreign. Actually, the system reminds me more of Civilization than of EQ2, but EQ2 is an MMO so that is what I usually compare games to. Either way, it's always nice to see something familiar in a new game.

Speaking of the skills system, I like the fact that you improve your character using a skills system instead of a level system. I've never done that in a game before so the system is fresh and new to me. Right now I'm mixing in the learning skills in with the fun skills (like Minmatar Frigate 3) so when the bonus to my training speed ends I'll have the learning in place to make learning skills go faster.

The one thing with skills that I discovered is something called certificates. I'm going to have to look into this further, but I have the feeling these may be important in getting employment in a corporation. In games like EQ2, people can look at a player's weapons and armor but can't tell if that player skimped on updating his/her combat arts and spells. In Eve, I don't think that is the case.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about Eve in the future. So far I'm having a blast.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What I've Been Listening To: August 2-8, 2009

Just a quick note about the format for these posts before I tell you all about the podcast goodness I listened to last week. I'm going to add a section called "Highlights" to point out the things I found profound or amusing during the last week. I didn't listen to any new podcasts last week so the full format is yet to come.

Here's what I listened to last week.

Highlights

Part 3 of the Paul Barnett interview on No Prisoners, No Mercy #40. Okay, this one is an obvious choice, but this was my favorite segment of the interview Sister Julie and Sister Fran did with Paul Barnett. Love him or hate him, Paul is a very interesting man and I think it came out more in this segment. If the sisters were hoping to save the best of the interview for last, they succeeded.

Not because they are easy, but because they are hard. On the EQ2's-day show on July 22nd, two days after the 40th anniversary of man first landing on the moon, Dellmon used this quote from John F. Kennedy's famous moon speech to lead into a discussion of the nerfing of Venril Sathir, one of the tougher boss fights in EverQuest 2. While the specifics of the argument pertain to EQ2, I have listened to or read about the same issues in other games, particularly World of Warcraft. The discussion between the raider Dellmon and Zanadi, the non-raiding role-player, gave voice to the points of view of both sides of the argument about making content more accessible to the player base. One of the better discussions on the topic that I've heard and thus something that maybe non-EQ2 players might enjoy listening to.

Fly Reckless and Podded aren't such a bad combination after all. Flying reckless will get you podded in Eve Online, which is a bad thing. The combination of Atraxerxes from Fly Reckless and the Podded Podcast's Dillon Arklight and War Childe for a two hour show was, to use a technical term, a good thing. Besides being a good podcast, the joint venture is making my highlights because it helped finalize some things in my mind about how I wanted to enter Eve when I started playing the free trial yesterday. Influence = highlight.

Camp New Eden? Continuing the Eve theme, I thought the intro to Warp Drive Active #49 pretty funny. The intro was based on the old Alan Sherman Grammy-award winning song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter From Camp)". Yes, it's Eve specific, but I've heard similar complaints in any game I've played for any length of time. And do the Gallente really whine that much?

General Gaming

No Prisoners, No Mercy #40 (Hosts: Sister Julie and Sister Fran) - Although nominally a Warhammer Online podcast, the sister's gaming interests rate putting NPNM in the general category. In addition to the Paul Barnett interview, the sister's talked with Keen from Keen and Graev's Gaming Blog about writing and add their two cents to the controversy over the Dante's Inferno booth babe contest at the San Diego Comi-Con. Length: 85 minutes.

Channel Massive #99 (Hosts: Noah, Mark, and Jason) - The Channel Massive podcast is always defined by Blog-O-Steria, although for me the Week In Gaming segment is a can't miss reason for listening to the podcast. This episode's Blog-O-Steria concerned the booth babe contest and gave another look at the controversy. Listening to both No Prisoner, No Mercy #40 & Channel Massive #99 will give both sides of the issue. But does the Dante's Inferno team represent a third side? Length: 110 minutes.

Through The Aftermath #14 (Hosts: Shawn Schuster and Jonathan Morris) - Today is the 44th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, so I thought today would be a good day to review this episode of TTAM, since episode 14 looked at the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anyone looking for a scholarly look at the events will be disappointed, but I think the look into the events that basically created the post-apocolyptic genre from the eyes of two podcasters immersed in that world was enlightening. Length: 69 minutes.

Game Specific Podcasts

EQ2:

EQ2's-day OGR Broadcast on July 22, 2009 (Hosts: Dellmon and Zanadi) - In addition to the discussion about the nerfing of Venril Sathir (see Highlights section), the hosts continued the "Dwarf on the Moon" theme by talking about the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon and the monthly moonlight enchantment events. Length: 72 minutes.

Eve Online:

Podded Podcast #13/Fly Reckless #35 (Hosts: Atraxerxes, Dillon Arklight and War Childe) - If you have read the highlights section, you know I liked this podcast. A good discussion of faction warfare, the Eve University move to Minmatar space, dev blogs and the best and worst changes to the game ensued. Also the team made first mention of 6 motherships being destroyed in an action, but didn't have many details. Oh, and of course, stealth bombers. Length: 142 minutes.

Warp Drive Active #49 (Hosts: Urban Mongral and Winterbeak) - Oh my, podcasts only a week apart! Seriously though, in addition to a hilarious opening, Urban and Winterbeak finished the story about the destruction of the 6 motherships that Atraxerxes, Dillon Arklight and War Childe began. The hosts have been accused of not having all the facts, so they have solicited listener content and have been taken up on the subject. Krutoj gives an update on the eastern regions of New Eden while LaVista Vista gave an economics update. Plus fail mail! Length: 113 minutes.

Free Realms:

RealmsCast #3 (Host: Beau Turkey) - In addition to giving a good account of changes in racing in Free Realms (which is also mentioned favorably in Channel Massive #99), Beau scored an interview with SOE's Mark Tuttle, the global brand manager not only for the Free Realms TCG but all of SOE's TCGs. Length: 35 minutes.

World of Warcraft:

The Instance #156 (Hosts: Scott Johnson and Randy Jordan) - The podcast once again shines as Scott and Randy brought in Mean Gene as the talk on the first part of the episode focused on PvP. I also liked the discussion about what to do when a player is going to leave WoW and plays an integral part of his/her guild's leadership. Length: 110 minutes.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Warp Drive Active

After working a grueling 31 out of 34 hours (with 1 hour of sleep) I'm finally on vacation. If you have read the blog, you know that I've always said that I would need to take a week to learn how to play Eve Online. Well, that week has arrived. Early this morning when I woke up from the crash I always go through whenever I work the crazy hours, I remembered to download the game from Steam (which has a 21-day free trial) and then went back to sleep. Just a warning to everyone about the trial account. The trial period begins when you set up the account, not when you first enter the game.

EverQuest 2 is still my main game, so I logged into Eve after filling up my sales crates in Norrath. First thing I noticed is that at the login screen the game shows the players how many people are logged on. When I logged on, 40,996 players were currently in New Eden. After logging in came the usual cinematic, which I thought was very good.

Then came character creation. Oh my god! I loved it. There is some voice work that describes each of the four empires/races along with text. After some last minute intelligence I gathered from Atraxerxes, Dillon Arklight and War Childe on their joint podcast plus information about ship types I gleaned from Eve Wiki, I chose to roll up a Minmatar character. I actually chose to roll up a Minmatar Vherokior mystic. That's right, I'm playing a shaman. I didn't play one in World of Warcraft. I haven't rolled one up in EQ2, and EQ2 actually has a character class called mystic. I picked the space game to play one in. After checking with Google and finding a guide to Minmater clans, I thought the stats wouldn't be bad (Intelligence 8, Charisma 8, Perception 4, Memory 8, Willpower 6) so I gave in to temptation and created one.

My first attempts at moving around were pretty laughable. I stumbled through killing the first pirate, taking a lot of damage I didn't have to because I was learning how to turn on my guns. I said to myself, "Noizy, you're not in Norrath anymore."

So far I've gone through the absolute minimum tutorials and have skills in the skills queue. Right now I've lined up Mining 3, Repair Systems 1, Repair Systems 2, Minmatar Frigate 3, Gunnery 3, and Hull Upgrades 2.

The chat channels did catch my eye. I haven't really paid attention to the chat, but there is a "Rookie Help" channel. And you can easily make the text larger or smaller. Of course, maybe all my MMO experience helps and it wouldn't be so obvious to a brand new MMO player, but I don't think so. And you get numbers for the number of people in each channel. You'd think CCP was proud of how many people they can handle in their game at one time.

A piece of intelligence did come through for me. Because I chose to play a Minmatar, I am currently making the Republic Military School at Ammold V my home base. When I looked at the corp recruiting tab (and why can't EQ2 have something like this for guilds?) I see that Eve University has moved to the Ammold V station. I plan on joining Eve University sometime after finishing the tutorials and starting up a paying account and this makes joining up very convenient.

One other thing of note. Eve is not like EQ2 where the bank is a world bank. If you accept something in a station it is in the item vault for that station. Do not expect to see it when you go to another station. The one fault I see with Eve right now is that I do not have a history of completed missions I can look back on. I think that would come in handy in trying to track down where I may have misplaced something. Also a history might come in handy when trying to help out others with missions. But maybe that is just an EQ2 thing.

I know that these are pretty random thoughts, but I wanted to get something posted on my first day of playing Eve.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

EQ2 Tradeskill Epic: Working for Teren’s Grasp

"It was nothing, really,” I bragged. “All in a day's work for a crafter."

My daughter Rosemarie tells me that I get a little full of myself sometimes. I might have gone a little too far this time, because as my thoughts started to turn to fishing and king prawn, Jones brought me back to reality.

"Really, thanks again for the help, I know I couldn't have done it anyway!” the little halfling told me. “I tell you what though, Borbin's been talking with Hailena Hoss, who trains the native essarr hawks. She dropped one of them off this morning, Borbin was planning to ask one of the adventurers to release it near Karnor's Castle to do some surveillance."

"And ...?" I asked.

"Well, the thing is, they're all still busy killing drolvargs, you'd think they're enjoying it or something,” Jones said, then paused like he was steeling himself up to ask another favor. He was. “So I was thinking, you're clearly resourceful and fast moving, I'm sure you could do it just as well. Plus, you're here! Just sneak up close to the castle and release the hawk, it's trained to do the rest."

Fast moving? I know the ranger training I received before the accident helps hide my limp, but not so much that it’s not noticeable. He must be getting desperate. "And where exactly is this castle?" I asked.

"You can just about see it from here,” the little official said, pointing to the north-east. “Head north between the hills and the river till you pass the ruins, then turn east, you should see it from there easily enough."

"Well, I'll give it a try!" I told him, sounding a lot more confident that I felt. Rosemarie did warn me about entering the Dreadlands, and the directions sounded like I’d be coming real close.

Jones handed me the essarr hawk. "It'll be a bit dangerous for you I'm afraid,” Jones began, “but since Borbin has all the adventurers busy collecting more fangs, I don't think we want to wait around for them to get back. I do appreciate your help, and good luck!"

"Thank you," I told the halfling and started off down the path.

I headed north down the path past the ruins almost to the mountains when I looked to the east. Sure enough, I could see a castle on a hill through the trees. But as I walked east getting closer to the river I could see why Jones told me this was dangerous. On the other side were drolvargs lining the banks and I didn’t like what I saw in the water. The only way across looked like a fallen pillar that fell across the river where it feeds into Ryjesium Lake. To get to it required getting close to the ruins, which I could see were occupied by some unfriendly-looking skeletons.

By staying on the riverbank I was able to avoid the skeletons and stopped halfway across the makeshift bridge. Looking back, it was a pretty stupid thing to do because I didn’t know what might happen by, but I used the position to observe the drolvargs as they patrolled around the castle. Fortunately the drolvargs were even dumber than I was being at the moment, as after a couple of minutes I could discern their patrol paths. I snuck through the route I had picked out and released the hawk near the castle. I then snuck back through the drolvarg lines and returned to the docks of Dreg’s Landing.

“Hail, Jones,” I said as I reached his usual duty post.

"Did you release the essarr hawk?" he asked.

"Yes, I did," I replied.

"Oh, great!” the halfling exclaimed. “Well done, I hope it wasn't too dangerous for you. Erm... say ...” Jones continued with one of those pauses I was coming to associate with another request. “I don't suppose you happen to know anything about mountain giant metalsmithing?"

I’m a woodworker, not an armorer or a weaponsmith, but I do work with small amounts of metal in my craft. "Er ... what exactly about it?"

Jones explained, "The mountain giants have been at war with the drolvargs for a long time. Borbin has been trying to negotiate with the giants to help us fighting the drolvargs, and it looks as if he might finally be making some progress. Apparently they use some kind of magically imbued ore to forge special weapons that give their fighters an edge in combat. If we can provide them with enough ore, I think the deal will be sealed."

I was afraid of where this conversation was going. Making friends with the local authorities is good for business. Getting killed isn’t. "And where do I come in?" I asked.

"Well, seeing how you did such a good job with those arrows, I was hoping you could make up some imbued ore for us to trade,” Jones said. “What do you think?"

"I'll give it a try," I told the little official, sounding more confident that I felt. I’m pretty good at that, if I do say so myself. Raising three kids gave me a lot of practice.

"Thanks, you're a lifesaver!” Jones exclaimed, his smile widening. “And don't worry, we'll send some burly axe-wielding type out to actually do the trade, just bring it back here when you're done."

"I'll get right on it," I replied.

My leg was still aching from all the sneaking around I did around Kanor’s Castle, but I figured I’d better make the ore before those axe-wielding types left and Jones figured that I should be the one to deliver the chest. So back to the forge and those price-gouging merchants I went to make a chestfull of imbued ore. I really need to go back and thank Kezlack Cogturner for all the lessons he gave me when I started out my career in Wayfarer's Stockpilers.

When I finished I picked up the chest and headed to drop off this last request to Jones. I had some serious fishing to do!

To be continued…

Related 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