One of those moments

One of the things that I really enjoy about MMOs in general is their overall complexity. The games themselves are so large, so involved, and so varied, that the details and intricacies of each separate game are a bit like a fingerprint as to the identity of the game itself. This complex system of rules and laws can seem quick to decipher at first, but even veteran players can find themselves finding out something new on occasion. When the light of discovery shines on the realization, my response ranges from joy and elation to shame and embarrassment. A tangled web of emotional processes that helps feed my continual appreciation for the genre. Last evening, I was thrust in to just such a situation while playing Everquest 2.

Since I picked up my dirge on my return to the game, I have really wanted to get his crafting level up close to his adventuring level. For those unaware – EQ2 has probably the best crafting system of any themepark MMO out there currently. It’s a fully fleshed out, deep and broad part of the game that’s difficult to find a parallel to in other games out there. In any matter, my desire to maintain the proximity of equivalence between the two is something I had never been able to maintain in any previous endeavor with the game. Killing things has always just been much more fun – but I was resolved this time around.

To that end, almost all of last weekend, I had cranked my experience distribution to go 95% towards my AA and 5% towards my actual adventuring level. This is part of how I was able to skyrocket from 32 AA to 78 AA in a week – which is in and of itself a very useful result, so my distribution is not wasted in the slightest. What I did over the weekend of play, and since, is travel between the zones intended for the 40-50 level ranges, harvesting everything in site, and doing as many quests and timelines as I could. After I felt I needed a break from mindless quest/kill grind, I would go back and grind out recipes to level.

Anyone who actively plays EQ2 is shaking their head in perplexed wonder at this point. The thing that I was not aware of, and that I just found out about last night, is that there are quests in tradeskill halls called “work orders”. These quests don’t give adventure experience like I had initially thought – they reward tradeskill experience – and a LOT of it. To give you  numbers for concrete comparisons: if completing a recipe of like level gave me 150 experience, that would be about 1% of a level. Finishing a “rush order” – a timed set of items I needed to craft – I would get in return about 4000 experience, about 20% of a level. That would be in addition to the experience for crafting the individual items themselves. As you can expect, these put afterburners on my tradeskill leveling. It also left me thrilled that I no longer would have to slave away hunting thousands of mats for crafting, and spend painful hours reproducing the same product ad nauseam. Of course, there is the embarrassment and shame I felt toward myself for being so foolish as to have missed this integral part of the game for so long. This small revelation has completely shifted my entire outlook on a portion of the game – what was formerly a painful and time-consuming chore has turned into an enjoyable side-experience.

It’s hard to remember at times, but no matter how much we may learn about any one game, there is almost always more to discover and find out – and some of it is probably even obvious.

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Crossing the line

My wife pounded three Pabst and said I had to use this one.

If you follow me on twitter, you may have already read snippets about what I’m going to say here. If not, a quick refresher: last Thursday I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and was given pain meds for afterwards. Because of this, I had Friday off from work, and have been more-or-less excused/denied from doing anything of real import around the house. Apparently, we don’t need a person hopped up on narcotics driving a vehicle, operating sharp yard tools, or given babies a bath. This meant that I basically had a weekend free to do whatever gaming I wanted. Happily, SOE released their much-enjoyed welcome-back campaign at roughly the same time, in response to the hack-hear-around-the-world.

I played Everquest 2 extensively in my past. It was probably the first MMO I put a huge chunk (over a year) of continuous time into. The welcome back campaign was a great way to entice me back to the game to see how things are going. I didn’t play my level 80 Shadowknight like I expected I would. For some reason, I jumped onto my (adventure/artisan) level 39/35 with low 30 AA’s, and started playing him. I played the crap out of him. All my vitality has been burned for a while, and I’m seeing the game in a whole new way – literally.

When I gave the game a good try, I didn’t have my current video card, and I don’t think I ever tuned my graphics to take advantage of the rig I had, so the world looked a bit like it did to me back in 2006. Now, the game is gorgeous, the textures and lighting that are still in this game continue to impress me, and I actually noticed backdrops and the far-off world around me. Lavastorm in particular has been amazing, in part because it received a bit of an overhaul to accommodate new expansions. Beyond the world itself though, is the character models. I was seeing amazing looking gear and items on players, stuff that made me instantly say to myself, “That’s freakin’ cool!”. There’s a “wow” factor that wasn’t quite there before.

And that’s where it hit me. I saw some gear on Kerra, and when I inspected him, it was all in his appearance slot, and the stats were junk. So in short order of hunting around, I found armor sets for sale on the market place. Oh, the dreaded market place of RMT – the cesspool of MMOs that I disagree with on a fundamental moral foundation. But damn that armor looked awesome…

So I crossed the line. I dropped $5 on a game, that I’m not even officially subscribed to, and bought a whole outfit for my Bard. I’m playing virtual dress-up in my MMOs now. But damnit, I don’t think I care.

Evidence of my betrayal after the jump.

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WAR UI questions

Werit tipped me into this questionnaire from Mr. Casey.

1.  What method do you use to move around in game.  (ex. WASD, Arrow Keys, Mouse Button 1+2, etc.)

I also use a N52te game pad and had the d-pad mapped to the arrow keys. However, I also sometimes use the right+left mouse buttons to steer when my left hand is too busy.

2.  What method do you use to control your camera movement. (ex. 1st person mode, mouse RB, etc.)

Right mouse.

3.  What method do you use to fire off your abilities (ex. Click on abilities, click on number corresponding to hotbar, mouse buttons, etc.)

I have all my buttons mapped on my n52te.

4.  What method do you use to target your enemy targets (ex. Tab, click, combination, etc.)

I have a button mapped to cycle enemy targets. Very rarely, would I click on them, and when I had to, it made me angry every time.

5.  What method do you use to target your friendly targets (ex. Hotkey, click on person, click on group/warband, Function keys, etc.)

Click their name in group/warband.

6.  What method do you use to fire off your tactics/morales. (ex. Hotkey, click, etc.)

Mouse click – I always meant to bind them, but could never find the room for them on my game pad.

7.  What mods do you use to assist in any of the above and how do they benefit you? (ex. Squared, etc.)

Group icons for sure and unit frames (Pure) are a necessity. The actual method of  clicking and targeting was all done through base game functionality. I didn’t use any special assist mod or anything of that nature.

8.  Breakdown of your play sessions. (ex. 50% ORVR, 30% Scenarios, 20% PVE, etc.)

It was usually about 20% ORvR and 80% Scenarios.

9.  What one thing would improve your ability to control, target, or interact with the game? (please limit it one specific item)

Increasing the targeting range with tab/cycle target/etc… As I said above, I would get incredibly frustrated when trying to pick one guy out of a crowd from 100′ away on a ranged character. From that distance, the target to click was small, and usually jumbled with a bunch of other targets around them – and you could not cycle through targets to get them because the range on that function was about 65′ or so. It made me fume every time.

Nomnomnom

My actual teeth.

I’m getting the last 3 of my wisdom teeth yanked out today! It means a short sedation, and mushy soft foods for the next three days or so. I will also, most probably, be not partaking in any blogging-ish activities. However, I may get the loratab in me and just go nuts on here, you never know. I was REALLY hoping that with the removal of my wisdom teeth, Sony would have updated their PS Store in time for me to get my freebies and play them, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Instead, I’ll be playing along on some other older games I need to finish from the comfort of bed. Or, if I can do it without the overly-protective wife finding out, I may just hop on to one of the many MMOs in SOE’s stable I can now play for free.

Have a good weekend!

Hm? Really? That’s interesting. Pass the jam.

Atari and Cryptic are seperating.

I’ve been noticing a handful of posts about this around on some blogs. Oddly though, I’m getting the impression these posts are being made because it “should be a big deal”, but really, noone seems to overly care, or be too invested. Which is kinda what I’m doing here myself – but I’m honest about my disinterest!

Something new every day

This one better fit.

Edit: You may notice a change in picture, the previous one resisted all attempts at editing, or formating, so I killed it.

I spent yesterday as an internet spaceship mover/liquidator. The null space area that my current corp resides in, is about 30 jumps away from the region I had been calling home before. The end of last week, and yesterday even more, saw me going about the grueling process of transporting my ships to my new home. The amount of stuff that you accumulate over time in EVE can be impressive, and I’m not the type who likes to horde – I stand over the garbage can when I go through my mail. Having a scroll bar on my assets list bugs my inherent sense of order, so last night I spent the beginning of my evening liquidating goods to cut down on transportation – going so far as to strip and sell one of my drakes. I’m sure I took a bit of a hit on my net worth – maybe 15-20% of the sold goods, but I got a Drake for free from the corps, so it’s a wash.

It’s taken me over a week to get this move wrapped up, because the travel aspect is torturous to me. 30 jumps isn’t a whole lot, but it’s still a good chunk of time just in going from point A to point B – at least 45 min, to an hour. Which is about half of a typical play session for me (one more reason I decided to sell the drake). However, my talking about this with my new corps, the clued me in on an aspect of the game I had no idea even existed: jump bridges.

The universe of New Eden is connected by stargates. Each solar system is connected by these technological wonders that were previously hauled there by explorers to connect different parts of space. Some regions, like Old Man Star, have interesting back-stories for the construction of the stargate. However, stargates are all NPC created and static objects. Which, on the whole, isn’t very interesting. Jump bridges are the player version of stargates – only better. From a pure function view, they jump longer distances, and the path to my corps home is one that would normally take about 40 jumps from the hi-sec access point, but with these jump bridges, it’s about ten. Additionally, it’s all player created content. They are created and placed by corporations. Their access is limited to those with the password, so usability is restricted. Having a network of jump bridges is tactically advantageous, as well as a huge relief to players making a long trip – for allowing them to avoid both the repetition of jump, warp, jump; but also because it makes them more safe by cutting down on total exposed time on a trip.

Travel in MMOs is a concept that, with the rest of the genre intricacies, been reduced to novel and simplistic tasks. Warping, flying, and recalls have all made most MMOs space a negligible issue. EVE, has some ways to relieve that (jump clones), but all of them are limited and restricted in some sort of significant manner (passwords, real-time limits). So, as much as I hate to do the travel myself, I appreciate it for what it means to the game, and what it creates as a by-product. A move should not be considered lightly, or something done on a whim – just as in real life, you set down roots and leaving a place you’ve become established in becomes more difficult as time goes on.

Social Groups are Segregation

It keeps the group tight, but also keeps others out.

News at 11 – MMOs are not like the real world.

Except they are. Sort of.

Sweeping generalizations have their place, and can be used to effect at times. This was not one of them. The problem lies in just how frequently the statement is wrong. This statement about a genre of game that grew from the attempt to realize virtual worlds, started off way off base. Some MMOs are games, and some are worlds, but even in the MMO that is “just” a game, they share a lot of similarities with the real world. Particularly in regards to the social groups that arise in them that Tobold seems to want to force together, as he attested in a contrary post to a couple of pro-segregation bloggings.

The biggest problem that I have with Tobold’s assertions, is that any social group, in any setting, has imposed a form of segregation on the world around them. A group of friends who get together and watch movies and talk about them afterward won’t create a welcoming environment for someone who wants to turn their hobby into a book club. A team of people who play softball aren’t going to welcome someone coming in and trying to play baseball instead. There’s the entire gamut of examples that could apply to this from extreme to subtle, and the result would be a collection of person’s who only include those with similar goals and drives. A devout Baptist won’t attend a Latin mass. Segregation doesn’t need to be a dirty word that indicates a separation based on inapplicable reasons. It’s a reality of something that we all do in our own social lives, and it makes sense that the social behaviors would extend to our gaming activities as well.

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So, this is null space

My corporation in EVE has gone through a restructuring process. It was formerly two separate corporations, not in an alliance, that worked with each other and helped out where needed, one corp was PvE focus, the other was PvP. This allowed the PvPers to go around war-deccing other corps, and let our miners be left in safety, or as safe as you can be in EVE. It also let us fly as protection if needed and engage a target early without giving out rights to kill the asset under our wing. There were some negatives to the relationship, but on the whole it worked out pretty well. However, recently the decision was made to merge the two together, as attendance had been falling drastically on our PvP side, and they were unsure what else to do.

I took the opportunity to extricate myself from their association.

So, I went around looking for another corporation, and I have found my way into one in a good-sized alliance. My first night in, I made the 30-jump trip in my PvP drake to the stargate that lead to their base of operations. In null sec, -0.1 to be precise. Of course, I got there only to be told that someone had set up a blockade on the other side of the entrance. So… no go for me that night. That was Friday night. I haven’t been able to play since, between mother’s day, a friend’s birthday, a sick daughter, and finishing of Uncharted, I haven’t been able to log on for more than two minutes – just squeezing in this morning before work to update my skill queue.

I’m getting frustrated and anxious to get back in-game, start moving my assets, and really get in deep with these guys, because they have been around for a long time, and I think I have a lot that I can learn from them. My next console play-through may be put on hold a bit while I get to know this new corp and the ways of null-sec space.

FINALLY!

I remember a number of years ago, making a post somewhere in the vast expanses of the intertubes, making a comment about how in movies villains always have some uber-powerful acid that burns through anything. Yet, they display it sitting benignly in a glass beaker, unconcerned on it’s affect on tempered glass. Finally, a comic has expressed this impossibility in something quite humorous, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has been bugged by this.

Late to the Game – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

This is going to be the first in what may, but probably won’t, become a theme of reviewing older games that everyone other than myself has already played. You may have picked up on this fact from reading previous entries, but when it comes to console gaming, I very rarely play recent or new games. Buying them new is too expensive, and unless a game allegedly has a stellar multiplayer that I shouldn’t miss – I avoid it. Single player games experience is not going to change that much. This means that I often miss out on “hot” games that everyone needs to play, and to public ridicule when meeting other gamers. For instance – when I was in Virginia meeting with Mythic, I received incredulous responses from my fellow bloggers and developers when I admitted I had yet to finish Portal. As the title gives away, this post I’m going to talk about the first Uncharted, a game I finished a scant 12 hours previous. There will be spoilers.

If you don’t want to read further, here’s the synopsis:

Decent game: good story, splashy controls, crisp graphics, Tomb Raider meets Indian Jones.

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