Dueling Drakes

What is it about the holidays and the end of the year that makes everyone suddenly to start a project that just has to get done by year end?  Couple that with some family travel/events and that’s been my life this month, hence the dearth of posts.

Despite an otherwise busy month, I have been keeping up with Eve.  As I’ve alluded to many times, I seem to be a two mmo max guy.  I’ve been juggling EQ2, WoW and Eve for the last month or so, but a number of things have conspired to keep me out of one or more.

I had been goofing around in EQ2 with Wilhelm and Mrs. P until Mrs. P’s RL project deadline kept her offline for a bit.  The idea was to try to keep a small group around the same level, so I found myself sidelining EQ2.

As a result, I had a bit more time for Eve.  Eve, the game you can play when you can’t play.  There is something to be learned here for other MMOs.  The ability to “progress” and remain connected to the game when even offline is a powerful hook.  Even when I was playing more EQ2, I still was working toward skill based goals in Eve.  Even when I was busy in RL, I could still manage a few minutes to requeue skills, manage market orders, etc. and feel like I’m still participating.

With Eve, there is always something else.  With two accounts, you can square that, so there are probably at least four other things I need to focus on as well.  I got my miner Hulk-capable, then opted for a Covetor to conserve isk.

On a parallel path, I had developed my Drake capable combat pilot to be the hauler extraordinaire getting him to Iteron V capability and able to haul more than a jet can in each load.  My hair brained scheme was that I’d get his mining skills up so he could use a hand me down covetor when I upgraded to a Hulk so I could tag team massive amounts of ore.

The fly in the ointment was that I had neglected my mission running (especially on my minor) so when it came to refining, taxes were taking a bite when I had to refine.  Kernite, when it is flowing is by far the best option for making money, but in the absence of the rocks or market movement, lowly veldspar and its tritanium yield has proven to be the best isk/m3 option in my portion of high sec space.

Improving faction became my goal and that meant mission running as well as some social skills.  Be it ever so with Eve, a side track becomes its own goal.  In my case, I saw that I could get my miner into a Drake battlecruiser and start tag teaming missions with my combat pilot.

I hopped on today just to check on progress and see if there was any kernite in my local system to be found.  Alas there was none.  Scarcely even any other rock to be found.  So I thought, what the heck, I’ll run some missions, but I really didn’t want to run anything with my miner in a destroyer.

The miner’s skills had caught up to the point where he could capably pilot a drake.  A quick search of the market, a few key purchases and voila, I’m the proud admiral of a fleet of two Drakes.

Two Drakes make quite a few missions fairly trivial, but I still need faction on both pilots, so I figured at worst it would be a learning experience of how to fly them both in combat.  Of course, the first mission I pulled took place in a room with some of the most massive veldspar asteroids I’d seen.  Seemed a shame to leave them.

It took me quite a while to clear the room of roids (maybe 3 jet cans worth).  Not a bad haul when you don’t have to compete against other miners.  There were even a few respawns that prompted me to bug out and go get a Drake to clean up the room again but I managed to mine out the room with little additional drama.

I pulled a few more missions and a couple of them had some too tempting mining opportunities in them.  Not being that much of a mission runner before, I gotta say the combined mission/mining ops is a satisfying way to play.  Often ores not usually found in a particular area spawn (such as Omber or Plagioclase in Amarr space).

As my faction has risen and the level of the missions I’m able to run has increased, the rewards both from the missions and the incidental mining are less than trivial.  Being able to combine modalities of gameplay suits my gameplay style well.

Eve seems to be making a pretty strong case to be my 2d MMO which means I suspect I’ll let EQ2 go by the wayside for a while.  There is just something about Eve in the wintertime that fits.

MMO Stuffing

Gobble gobble.

The long Thanksgiving weekend saw no shortage of gaming.  No travel and a relatively low key holiday meant there was some time to sample all that was new this month.

Wrath of the Lich King

So far, the expansion has delivered and reignited my interest in WoW.  I note that Keen recently resubbed and this post pretty much sums up my experience with TBC.  As a matter of fact, having Outland to slog through is the reason I’m not playing a Death Knight right now.

I did manage to grit my teeth and recently get my hunter into Northrend.  Having a solo character (as opposed to my static group toon which we try to keep in synch with the group) is a great boon to explore, reconnoiter and generally see another aspect of the game without fear of level creep.  I’ve been working on getting fishing up to snuff and running through the quest lines in both Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra.  After this weekend, he sits just shy of 71 (having hit Northrend at 68).

EQ2

Spent sometime in Norrath working on my arasai bruiser.  The leveling curve is frighteningly shallow now and I’m considering doing a little two boxing with my wife’s account.  Her RL project has taken priority over our group activities, so I didn’t spend too much time in game overall.

LotRO

I haven’t been actively playing LotRO in quite a while, but the recent Moria expansion has me intrigued even though I have no characters near the level cap.  I haven’t bought the expansion yet, but I did manage to clear on character slot (only 5 allowed pre-expansion!) and toyed with the idea of rolling a Warden or Rune Keeper.

Of course, not having been on in a while meant a big patch job.  The other thing I was interested in was whether the game’s performance has improved any.  Despite having more than adequate hardware, it still tends to be hitchy and laggy.  After finding a few video voodoo resources with tips to reduce hitching, etc. I did get some significant improvement though I’m still hard pressed to get the framerate consistently north of the thirties in town.

Nothing accomplished other than checking in, but now that I’m patched, I may venture forth a bit.  I still enjoy the environment and look forward to seeing the game evolve.

Eve Online

Eve took a backseat to WoW and EQ2 recently but managed to make a resurgence this weekend.  I’m making steady progress toward my modest goals and though I hadn’t been in game in a bit other than to queue skills, it didn’t feel like I was picking it back up cold.

Warming up the mining lasers and digging out the spreadsheets felt comfortable and familiar.  And Eve is the game you can play when you’re not playing it…

I really am a two MMO max kind of guy, so I’m not quite sure what I’ll do at this point.  WoW is certainly at the forefront because of the group’s ongoing activity.  I suspect that I’ll keep Eve going since its one of those things I can do on a laptop sitting on the couch when I don’t feel like diving into WoW or EQ2.

So many games, so little time…

Bearasai

Alt-itis being what it is, I’m still exploring races and classes in EQ2.  Since a few of us jumped back into EQ2 on the evil side, I’ve rolled a dark elf shadowknight, a ratonga coercer, an ogre berserker and now an arasai bruiser.

We seem to have a defacto trinity rolling and I guess I ended up in the tank roll which is a nice diversion from my usual healer duties.  With the forgiving leveling curve now in the low levels, the cost of switching or rerolling and catching up is minimal.

As a result, I’ve been diligently working on my arasai bruiser which satisfies my sense of comic irony.  As I mentioned to Wilhelm last night, “Nothing says ‘Fantasy’ like an evil ninja fairy riding around on a bear.”  To which he replied, “you mean an evil EMO ninja fairy riding around on a bear.”  Touche.

So, among bouts of pie baking and laundry, I managed to get him to level 20 so he can use his dire bear mount that came with the TSO expansion.  Without further adieu, I give you Bearasai:

We are building a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude
We are building a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude

Silly indeed, but fun nonetheless.  Now if I could only use the fae glide with the bear, I’d give a whole new meaning to the phrase “a bear in the air“.

Road to The Shadow Odyssey

Unlike Tipa’s nearly fruitless search, Fry’s had plenty of copies of Everquest 2’s latest expansion, The Shadow Odyssey.  Despite the one per customer limitation, I was able to wrangle two copies (one for me, one for my wife).

I did note SoE’s continuing nonsensical pricing when it comes to these expansions.  TSO is comprehensive, including all previous expansions and the original Everquest 2 all for a reasonable $34.99.  I believe they still had the previous expansion Rise of Kunark for $19.99 and the next-to-last Echoes of Faydwer for $29.99, both of which included all the then-previous expansions.  I guess it never pays to buy a la carte.

Since returning to EQ2 with Wilhelm, Gaff and Mrs. P a few weeks ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this expansion.  Why, you ask, when I’ve barely got any characters above level 20 and most of the content is aimed toward the Level 80 crowd?  I wont bore you unless you want to jump to the section following my initial impressions to hear of my saga.

Initial Impressions

The install went smoothly, the patching proceeded at a reasonable pace (under an hour start to finish) and the noob areas around Freeport where my lowbie characters are was generally lag free.  Win.

Dire Bear Mount

Having my main over 20 the new Dire Bear pet/mount was a big win.  He looks cool if a bit slow, but what’s not to love about being an evil character riding a bad ass bear?  And the pewter figurine is a bit bigger than a Monopoly game piece, but you wont need to clear off any desk space for it…

New Minimap

The first thing I noticed was the addition of the new minimap.  Another example of convergent evolution as most MMOs have some form of mini or “radar” map to aid navigation in your local area.  Not content to just implement a feature present in most other MMOs, the new minimap is both freely zoomable and sizeable.

I love this.  Best improved feature I’ve seen in a game in a long time.  Still not perfect, but pretty darned good.  Give me the ability to toggle different landmarks and I’d be a happy camper.  The one weak spot was the actual icons used to indicate vendors, trainers, etc.– they are done in EXACTLY the same style as the minimap and as a result blend almost perfectly into the map itself.  So well blended as to be really hard to tell apart from the map itself.

New Zone Map

With the new minimap came a revamp of all the zone maps and it was about time.  Gone are the horrible all but useless old ones, replaced by something akin to a more realistic, less abstracted map.  I’m sure some will say its dangerously cartoon-ish, but its such a functional improvement that I can only say good things.  You can add points of interest, the entire zone is on one map, its freely zoomable and resizeable while retaining the ability to make transparent, etc.

Lots of win for a noob and an explorer like myself.  I saw a bug or two (griffon towers not showing up on the big map, etc.) but overall, I like.

Graphical Enhancements?

Might have just been me, but after the installer forced a Direct X upgrade on me, my impression was that the scenery was more lush.  Could just be me, but it sure seemed like there was more vegetation, etc. as I roamed around the Commonlands.  Anyone else notice this?

I didn’t check the options labyrinth to see if there were new settings, but I know that I didn’t tweak anything.

Being a lowbie an EQ2 noob, I didn’t get much chance to check anything else out, but sure seemed like another well executed expansion.

On to the saga if you dare…

Well, an interesting thing happened to me on the way to the expansion…

Long story of memory failure and stupidity to followProceed at your own risk.

Once upon a time I had an Everquest account.  I had that account for a while, and then canceled, moved, changed ISPs and emails, etc.  The earth cooled, single cell life evolved and eventually, I found myself lured into Kelethin with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion which conveniently came with all the previous expansions.

Well, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what my (or Mrs. P’s) old station account name was (or what old emails and passwords might have been associated with them) from the Everquest days, so I just made a new account for each of us, installed EoF and played for a while until getting sucked into other games.

Time passed, the dinosaurs went extinct, and then this summer, SoE launched its Living Legacy promotion, so Mrs. P and I dabbled a bit more.  I, however, was having trouble with my installation so I decided to delete it and reinstall.  Fading memory and infrequent access to my account conspired to make me forget which account name I used for my most recent EoF installation.

To complicate things, at some point, I had mystically remembered my old EQ account name and password and evidently subbed to PotBS on that account.  So when I reinstalled EoF and tried to access the game with the EQ/PotBS account to no avail.  In frustration, I think I just installed a trial account to play with Mrs. P with the idea that “I’ll get this sorted sometime in the future if I stay with the game.”

With the recent return to Norrath, I was yet again perplexed how I could have Fae and Arasai characters, but not be able to create them.  The game told me that I didn’t have the expansions installed.  I could play the Arasai, but not the Fae, but he started in Darklight Wood… Curious.

Furthermore, when I tried to put my account key into my account, assuming that it just didn’t know who it was dealing with, it told me that the account key had already been used. Doh.

This all wouldn’t have been a big deal, except, noob that I am, I noticed that I didn’t have access to any AA points, nor could I even voyage to Kelethin which was a pain for our little group chasing heritage quests.  Time to deal with it.

Based on my interactions with the SoE account site and the infamous patcher, I was not hopeful of any contact with customer service.  Jaded too, by Blizzard’s utterly opaque, but somewhat effective email-only customer service, I was not looking forward to contacting SoE.

Gaff, however, has apparently contacted them several times by phone and had great results.  On his encouragement I decided to try and fix this thing Once and For All.  Being at work, I went for live chat.

After a brief conversation, the kind CSR was able to determine a few things.  First, my account key was associated with another account.  To my surprise, the CSR was able to tell me what that account name was which is when it hit me…

I tend to recycle a number of account names for my online games.  This time, I had managed to cleverly misspell one of my usual suspect names which explains my inability to either access or retrieve the account information for it when I was trying to reinstall.

Facepalm.

That said, my only key was associated with this other account and all my new characters were all on the keyless account.  So I had a couple of solutions– buy another key, transfer the new characters to the account with the existing key, or simply sit tight for a week or so and get the new TSO all-inclusive key.  The answer was simple.  Go get the new expansion.

Simply put, SoE customer service was prompt, polite, helpful and got to the bottom of my problem which ultimately was the result of my own stupidity.  Go them.  I wont hesitate to contact them live again.

SO, TSO in hand, I gleefully plugged in my new cd key and now had access to my AA trees, the previous expansions and most importantly my new Dire Bear mount.  Since you can still get AA experience for old grey quests, I can backfill to catch up.

Apparently I have an account death wish, because I nearly repeated the same mistake when updating Mrs. P’s account.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember which of the usual suspect names she’s been using to log on to her EQ2 account (she was running errands at the time).  I went to the SoE account site, entered what I thought was here usual account and usual password and got in.  When I went to put in her account key however, there was no EQ2 listed only an old EQ subscription…

Facepalm.

Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, her original EQ account name and password– the one lost and forgotten for years– flowed from my subconscious to my fingers.  Fortunately, I launched EQ2 and saw the account name she had been using lately which we set up for EoF now long ago.  Same reasons, forgotten account names, old inactive emails, etc.

I quickly realized the error and logged to the correct account, entered the cd code and she had her Dire Bear as well.  Believe me, if I had screwed that up, I wouldn’t be writing this.

So, despite having four station accounts, we actually have two fully functional updated subscriptions to EQ2 now…

Race of the Lich King

Seems the Race of the Lich King was in full swing this weekend.  Ordinarily, you’d hear through blogs and chat rumors and such that “a dude [somewhere] hit 80 in [some almost unbelievably small number of] hours by [utilizing some technique the speaker scorns]”.

With WoW’s new Achievement system, all those firsts (by realm anyway) are now broadcast.

wotlk1

Go Brick.

… and Cabby,

wotlk3

…and Dado,

wotlk4

… and Baklaka.  Looks like Dado got snookered on his class first.

Saturday seems to have been the day for the casual power levelers to be out in force.

Not to be outdone, I was engaged in my own race.  In my case, a race to the start.  In the case of my hunter, that means to level 68 so he can begin questing in Northrend.

I honestly hadn’t “power leveled” a toon (certainly not at this level) in quite some time.  Keep in mind, “power leveling” as applied to me and my ilk is probably quite unrecognizable compared to the efforts of Brick, Cabby, Dado and Baklaka.

Nonetheless, I felt like I was in a speeded up film version of TBC with the Zones of Outland whizzing by.  I spent Friday evening in Terrokar and Nagrand.  After all but the last of the Nesingwary quests, I’m starting to agree with D.E.T.H.A’s perspective…

Saturday I wrapped up Nagrand, switched to Blade’s Edge Mountains until I was able to get to Netherstorm when I finally ran out of rested XP just into level 67 (starting well into 64 on Friday).

I’ve gotta say, even though I don’t really like Outland (what I jeeringly refer to as the Land of the Flying Space Monkeys), there is a pile of content.  Some more and some less inspired, and most of which anyone racing to the “finish” is bound to skip completely.

Sad really because no doubt so much work went into it.  I wish WoW had three things that EQ2 has– some alternate AA-type achievement system, the ability to shut off normal XP, and the ability to down level or down mentor.

Add those three things, and I would no doubt spend a goodly portion of time in game exploring and experiencing content as it was intended, at-level (or at least, down levelled) and I’d be much more likely to pug up for lower level group quests if there were an alternate progression mechanic that rewarded doing that.

Instead, bored with the Land of the Flying Space Monkeys, I’m racing at breakneck speed so I can explore and enjoy Northrend as intended.

What little exploring I’ve been able to do with our instance group and otherwise since Thursday leaves me impressed.  I guess I’m old school, but everything I’ve seen screams “place”.  As in a unified sense of a virtual world done in seemless Blizzard fashion.

Aside from a couple jarring environmental transitions (i.e. heavy snow to verdant boreal forest without much transition), the world seems beautifully done.  Call me old school, but this is really what I expected WoW’s first expansion to look like.