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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Customize Me

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Someone recently asked me if playing Everquest II was similar to the old paper and pencil D&D game. In many ways it is, but the first difference to jump to my mind (as a retired Dungeon Master) is that SOE is now the DM. What I mean by that is that there is basically one game for everyone and no one can customize a dungeon for friends the way I used to in D&D.

Now, there are some games which allow and encourage user customization. The online "game" Second Life
is an example. In Second Life, users makes clothes, vehicles, pets and other items for use by other players. In fact, as you can see from their home page, they are currently running a game design contest. And you never know: an in-game game called Tringo, created by a Second Life "resident" has actually been licensed by a real company, presumably for real cash.

So, as an EQII player with a creative bent what can you do? Well, you can satisfy your urge to customize by working on modifications to the user interface. Check out the
EQII Interface community. These modders have designed wonderful variations on the usual interface ranging from full-scale to just specific portions (i.e. a better pet window). You will even find tools to help you. And don't worry, you're not "hacking," this site is approved by SOE.

As for the rest of us, we get to reap the rewards by downloading these great mods and having an interface which suits our personal taste. One note: These mods may occasionally cause game problems after patches so use at your own risk.

Until the day you can design a wild dungeon adventure for your personal friends, you can at least make them a better map system. Which shouldn't be hard...considering the original.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Grab Your Umbrella of +4 AGI

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The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

-Charles Synge Christopher Bowen

Well in EQII it has rained up until now only upon the unjust.

The showers fall only in Freeport and not in Qeynos, regardless of the fact that Qeynos is situated in a grasslands area and Freeport is located in a desert-like environment.

My first time in Freeport (don't worry it was a sabotage mission) I was stunned. "WTF?" I said in group chat. My group thought I had been discovered by a guard or gotten lost. They asked me what I was talking about it. "It rains here?"

Turns out it does, and it's pretty cool looking too.

I've had conversations with people who like Freeport better and they usually go like this:

"Freeport is cooler looking."

"Qeynos is prettier looking."

"The NPC's in Qeynos are ridiculously happy."

"The NPC's in Freeport are nasty to you."

"Uh, we have a sewer we use for shortcuts."

"So do we."

Note: Every city in a game with a fantasy setting is required by federal law to have a sewer dungeon.

"We have rain."


Well, now the tides have turned and Qeynos will be getting weather effects of its own.

Moorgard states that "Rain is in the forecast for Qeynos!"

Is a weather effect a huge deal? No. But it's a nice, immersive touch. Some people are worried it will induce lag but I'm willing to wait and see.

And don't worry, even on a rainy day in Qeynos it won't be too depressing. You'll still find plenty of super-happy NPC's to blow sunshine up your...er, wizard robe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Chosen One

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Firiona Vie: High Elf Paladin, Chosen of the Godess Tunare, the hero sent to balance the forces of darkness and light, three month old baby from Colorado.

Yes, it finally happened.
EToychest is reporting that Firiona Vie Ayers, named after the Everquest character Firiona Vie, was born to mother Tabitha Ayers on January 6, 2005.

I read this story on
Kotaku, Joystiq and the Cesspit but I'll have to hand it to Joystiq for the best description: "...this may be the very first deliberate naming of a level one human after a level 60 high elf. [You have gotten better at drooling (1)]."

Here's hoping SOE gives this young lady a free lifetime Station Pass. Wait, maybe they better not encourage this...Firiona is a nice name but let's not start calling kids Fippy Darkpaw Smith okay?

In any case, on the scale of rational behavior this is far more reasonable than the guy who decided to
legally change his name to Optimus Prime.

For those curious about young Firiona's namesake and the woman who plays her at conventions, here is
a link.

As for me, I've been referring to my boss as Overlord Lucan D'Lere for years now. But that's only in my mind so it probably doesn't count.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Lore Bore?

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Well, I never thought I would regret xp but as I approach 50 on my wizard I find myself beginning to slow down a little to savor these last few levels. I guess I'm kind of afraid my wizzie won't be as much fun without the carrot stick of an upcoming level. In any case, I've been spending more time with alts. And even though I made fun of SOE's giving us additional character slots as a way to put off complaints about post 50 content, it turns out that seeing the game through the eyes of another class is a lot different. In my case those eyes are those of a bard.

So maybe it’s the bardic way rubbing off on me but I've been thinking more about the "lore" or back-story or meaning of EQII.

I have read a fairly large (read excessive) amount of fantasy and sci-fi novels in my time. I imagine that a decent percent of those who play EQII or other fantasy based MMORPG's also have at least some familiarity with the genre.

So, you would think we would like reading game "lore," being that it is really just fantasy writing based around a game (a game we devote a great deal of time to).

But to be honest I don't know much game lore. I know there is a huge dragon sitting amongst lizard men in the temple of Cazic-Thule, but I don't know why. I'm not sure what exactly the gnolls or orcs are up to (even though I know it's nothing good). And I'd wager most of the people I play with don't know either.

It would certainly benefit SOE to draw people more fully into the game with lore.

So what's the problem? Well for one, EQII is a sequel and building on previous lore has positives and negatives. For example, if you read
this Lore Q&A on Warcry, you'll see that six of seven questions relate to why things are different than EQ and the answers are creative ways of explaining why. So the "lore-creators" in EQII have to be careful they work within existing history.

But the problem is much deeper than that: It seems like most in game lore comes from npc dialogue or quests. For example, before you get a quest you usually have to go through a bit of a dialogue tree with npc's that gives you a bit of back-story. But if you group like me, getting a quest goes a little like this:

Group fighting its way through zone.

"Quest here."

Click on NPC. Click madly through dialogue tree.

"Got it."

"Cool. Let’s go."


So I don't usually read the dialogue. And okay, let's be fair - I rarely read it when I'm soloing. Why? The opportunity cost of time. Most of us have jobs or schools or families which come in the way of playing EQII twenty-four hours a day. It prevents some of us less than others of course (just ask these people). But still, we all want to utilize the time playing either: getting xp, socializing with friends, completing quests, getting guild xp, getting plat or all of the above. Reading long dialogue sequences does not fit into that equation.

Is there a solution? I think so. What people do remember are zones, mobs and items. Everyone knows Blackburrow is a mine and Permafrost is a chilly ice palace. Everyone has favorite or hated mobs (Billy Moppet?). And everyone knows the J-Boots make you go faster. So let’s use that to build awareness of lore.

My first example is with mobs and I'm kind of stealing this from City of Heroes. In COH, when you right click a mob and select info you get a little back-story about their history and affiliation.

It is not a question of visual space. EQII mobs already give you four generic sentences of information relating to the difficulty and aggressiveness of the mob. This could easily be replaced by two words or eliminated entirely (there are graphical clues after all). Why not change those four sentences to lore?

For instance, a Blackburrow Miner could say something like, "These hardworking gnolls labor for love - love of gold that is, and of the fabled gnollish treasure rumored to lie deep beneath the cold stone of the Blackburrow mines. They work day and night to find the next vein of precious minerals. Interrupt them at your own peril. Usually incensed already from partaking in the distilled spirits of Bucky's Brewery they are wary of all who would hamper their work and steal their treasure."

A named mob would give a less generic description.

The same could be true for items, perhaps just a sentence. "This hunting-knife is favored by the rangers of the Celestial Watch for both its light weight and ready blade."

For zones, a sentence or two in a corner of the concept art on the loading screen would do the trick. A rotating basis would be best, just as the art is cycled. "Permafrost: There be Giants here. Booming footsteps shake this castle of bitter ice as the giants sing of their valorous deeds and train their deadly wolf companions in the frost-bound halls."

Of course, my descriptions would be better if I knew the actual lore, which, as we have established, I don’t.

It would probably only take a good writer or two.

Hmm...now that I think about it...

SOE, you listening? I can be reached by e-mail. Let's talk platinum.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday Humor: The Great Scam

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I was a bit uneasy about posting this epic MMORPG story by "Nightfreeze" in the Friday Humor section because, while it inspires laughter from some, it inspires anger or even sadness in others.

For example, take one of my favorite lines from the tale: "I logged off AIM and ran like a starving coyote chasing down his dinner. I ran like Steve Prefontaine if he had had a second chance with the grim reaper to run home drunk instead of drive, the only condition being that he would have to make it back before the car did." Is it funny? Depressing? Mean? Thrilling?

It's a subjective matter I suppose, just as the author's description of a "nerf" might be considering "balancing" by others.

But, I believe it was written (and written well) with a humorous intent and I felt it worthy of sharing. It's also a long, engrossing, tale, best suited for a weekend.

The story involves the MMORPG Eve Online and the adventures of Nightfreeze, who goes from lowly miner to hard-working trader to the perpetrator of a tremendous scam only to...well, I'll let you read for yourself. What's especially fascinating is the relationship between the online game and real life. Again, how you feel about the scam is subjective. Is it griefing? Gamesmanship? Social Engineering?

The story can be found here.

This story has been passed around the net a lot, even appearing on a list of ten great examples of "New Games Journalism" (whatever that is).

I actually know where the story first came from. It was written by a member (or "goon" as they prefer to be called) of the Something Awful forums. I remember refreshing the discussion thread it was posted in over and over, waiting for the next installment.

Hmm...does that count as New Games Journalism?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Orcs Stole My Charge Card!

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I rarely do WOW stories because, well, I don't play WOW, but this one had me rolling. Apparently, according to this Guardian story, the subscription fees for WOW showed up on some European players' credit card statments as charges to "the Croydon Park Hotel in Croydon, Surrey or the Swallow St. George Hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire."

Can you imagine a person's spouse reading over the credit card bill:

"You said you were working late on the 14th didn't you?"

"Why, yes, I was. And?"

"So, you weren't at the Swallow St. George Hotel then with one of your flings?"

"No, no, I swear...it must have something to do with an online game!"

"Sure, an online game. And the charge is so small you must have been renting by the hour! You disgust me!"

Yeesh, Blizzard can't catch a break lately. WOW has gotten great reviews and has a much bigger player roll than EQII, but they've had their share of problems as well (server lines, downtime, lack of patches, rogue GM's, mass bannings). They must be asking themselves what else can go wrong. They probably should be asking themselves why they don't hire more staff.

Obviously, this wasn't Blizzard's fault - it was the card processing company's. But, with the
somewhat ridiculous anti-WOW advertisements SOE runs can we expect:

Come journey with us to the magical lands of Norrath! There's no waiting to log on to a server and we always clearly label all subscription fees on your monthly statements! Why be afraid you are a victim of identity theft when you can join the wonderful realm of Everquest II!

Cribs - EQ II Style

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Well, I received a few e-mails mocking my copper-pinching hobo lifestyle so I decided to see how the other half lives. Yes, come with me now on a journey to the classy realm of those folks who have actual residences!

Okay, I thought I was styling with the free table, painting and chandelier I got but apparently there is a
whole lot of furniture available!

You too can get a great night's sleep on the aptly named
Dirty Bedroll. Have some pretty spring daisies you need a place for? Just stick them in a A Lucanic Vase of Emnity. Bored? Why not get a Ruubika's Cryptic Cube? Wait, the people who make Rubik's Cubes just called - they're suing. Anyway, moving on, why not make your inn room look like SOE's offices and get a Tiki Statue? A painting with a pleasant subject can always brighten an abode - how about this cheery piece entitled "Remains of Honor"? Oh, sorry, no you can't have that one of the drunken halfling - you need guild level 30 for that.

Are you as tired of your useless familiar as I am? How about an equally useless pet to make that house a home! I'm going for the
Commonlands Gobbler myself. It's like dual-wielding: a pet and a meal.

Thanks to
EQII Knowledge Base for the great picture database.

Many players have done some absolutely amazing things with their residences. For a ton of screenshots worthy of MTV acclaim check out
this thread. I really enjoy those that went with a strong theme. This thread has shots of an excellent temple-like home and this place is a regular tavern. This manor house looks more like an adventure zone than a residence.

If you are curious about housing costs,
this is a good place to start. Remember, as well, that certain furniture reduces upkeep and may someday even increase vitality.

A final housing tip: you can now display heritage items in your home. Oh, you sold them to a vendor already, eh?

Welcome to my life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

MMORPG's Next Top Model

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Do you have what it takes to make it in the high-stress, high-stakes world of modeling? Character modeling that is?

Abalieno over at the
Cesspit recently posted some screenshots from Lineage II that are really worth checking out. More are available here.

Although Abalieno is not interested in the game itself he says, "Follow with your eyes the tiniest details. The hearts on the boots of the girl, the lines that shape her elbows. How carefully is used the color for the decorations, how everything fits together perfectly. The light reflections of the armor on the thighs of the girl on the right. The study of the posture of the man in the middle. And now think to the plastic Barbie in EverQuest 2."

I wouldn't go so far as to call the EQII models "plastic Barbies" but they sure don't look anything like those screenshots either.

Some help may be on the way. If you haven't already heard, EQII is working on different character models for certain parts of Asia. You can see some side by side comparisons of the current and new (Soga) models at
this site. Of course, nothing is simple in matters of taste and I believe the Soga humans look much better while the Soga elves look rather worse. For now, Moorgard has stated that that they are not finished with the Soga models yet. It is unclear whether they will ever be an option for players outside of Asia, but I'm guessing they will be.

To me, the biggest current problem with the art in EQII is the lack of variety in the armor models. Every wizard in a certain level range uses Liandran's Oracle Robe and every wizard in a higher level range uses the Robe of the Invoker. So you get the Attack of Clones. Even my master-chest drop robe (while providing much-needed variety at my level) looks like a robe I had in my twenties. And worse than the lack of variety is the lack of style. While style in clothing is certainly subjective I know, for example, that every female robe wearer I have talked to has complained about the hideous tube pants they are forced to wear. You can see some of the typical complaints in
this thread along with Moorgard's somewhat vague response.

Well, let us hope that the EQII models will soon be suitable for the approval of Tyra Banks and walking the runways in style.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Revisiting the Scooby-Doo Zone

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Well, in a fit of zeal (hubris?), SOE released not only the Adventure Pack yesterday, but also Live Update #5, which includes the in-game mail system.

In an attempt to quiet the clamors for more post level 50 content, the latest update includes a challenging new level 50 zone. The name of this zone? Nektropos Castle. That's right...it's a return to Nek Castle.

A contradiction of sorts, Nek Castle has been a favorite zone of some and also considered one of the buggiest zones in the game (Stormhold & CT are also in the running). In any given thread you will find those who both love and loath Nek. Personally, it always reminds me of one of those "spooooky castles" Scooby and the gang were always investigating.

And then there's Billy Moppet.

What's probably most frustrating, according to the people on test server, is that you must kill Lord Everling yet again within 24 hours of starting the new Nek Castle quest.

Now, most people have already killed Everling at least twice and I know I had over 4 failed attempts due to bugs (not inferior wizardry mind you). So, it's going to be as fun as going to the dentist to do it again.

Since it didn't seem to be even tested on the Test Server I would rate the chances of this quest being bug-free at roughly that of finding a master chest drop from a solo mob. But, if you have the courage to try, this thread has the comments of the brave souls who are already working on it.

Ah, the things we do for the promise of "lots of new high-end treasure."

Live from the front: Well, I wrote this update last night before logging on to EQII and wouldn't you know it - the guild wanted to return to Nek Castle. You do have to kill Everling first (annoying as I imagined but completed in about 40 minutes). It takes about another half hour after that to track down four graves in four zones (many thanks to those who posted locations in the forums). Side note: Lavastorm is still so laggy its basically unplayable - what a waste of content.

After turning in the quest you can then zone in to the new and improved Nek Castle with higher level mobs. The difficulty was manageable for a five person group of 50 Guardian, 50 Troubador, 50 Warden and two mid-40's Wizards. The only times we were nearly killed was when a named mob got stuck in a wall or when we received so many tells asking us how the new Nek Castle was we could barely fight. It was our bedtimes rather than the mobs that eventually sent us packing. The loot was fair: named mobs dropped a few items that were mild upgrades but nothing spectacular. No quests or additional content so far but on the whole a lot of fun.

Edit the Second: Well, after a second Nek run the following night I can report that my intial prediction of bugs was accurate. Three chests actually disappeared on my group. A more humorous bug was an item called a breastplate being a pair of pants. Must be a new style. This thread covers some similar problems with the new zone. To SOE's credit, there is a dev response to this thread. And the scripted events regarding the sisters are very well done. Scooby and the gang would be proud. Now if I could just hire them to solve the mystery of my missing loot...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

It's About Time

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Well, I haven't found much in the latest EQII news to blog about. They made the big announcement about the in-game mail system but, hey, I told you about that last week before it was official. Okay, I didn't know it would have the uber-clever name Norrathian Express, but still. Then there's the latest patch on test which tradeskillers seem interested in. Yawn.

I usually look forward to the
EQ2 Stratics Q & A with the devs but this installment was just more PR fluff for the adventure pack which, again, I already covered. The nadir was reached when "motivez" inquired, "About how much will it cost?" Wow, take it easy "motivez" - stop hammering the poor devs with your tough, hard-hitting questions. I mean, we wouldn't want you to have to check the website or anything.

But then, in the very last question of EQII Vault's
"Ask SOE #33", Moorgard broke the big one - Offline Selling. It's not coming for a while, and it's coming in phases, but it is coming. Phase I will allow you to sell items in your house vault even if your off adventuring or even, I suppose, cybering. Phase II will allow you to sell items in your house vault even if you are, gasp, offline.

I was honestly shocked when I first realized I would have to remain online in my apartment to sell goods. I just figured that some form of offline selling was just an obvious part of any new MMORPG and it seemed like EQII had taken a giant step backwards in this regard. I came to regret for the first time the blue LED's on my computer case as I left my poor adventure alone in an inn room all night only to discover in the morning I had been booted from the server. I bought gigantic boxes to stow the ever growing stash in my bank.

Now I know some people say this may destroy the economy. I'm not going to pretend I understand enough economics (try
terranova - they're smart) to comment on this. But, just because something causes problems doesn't mean you cut it out. Instead, you fix it. City of Heroes chose to deal with economy problems by basically not having an economy and I feel the game suffers for it. Offline selling will be expected in future MMORPG's so SOE better find a way to deal with it now. Basically, it's about time - offline selling allows me more time to enjoy the game (and real life).

This news has one unintended consequence. I will have to stop living as a virtual
hobo. You see, I hate to admit it but I actually don't have a home. That's right, I purchase an inn room when I want to sell and then hightail it into the night before the upkeep is due. Rinse, repeat. I have no trouble blowing a plat on a spell upgrade (for maximum nukage) but I hate paying 5 silver for that dingy inn room. But now that I need access to the house vault, I will be in need a residence.

Ah well, change is good, especially when it's the change I'm making selling my loot.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Humor: Go-Go Good Team!

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Well, as I posted last Friday, I will try to always bring you a humorous link on this most glorious of days.

For this week we are going to Everquest, more specifically to the Sullon Zek server.

It was a lawless, dark and deadly place where evil reigned supreme. But even in the greatest darkness, sometimes a light can arise. And with that light comes a hero...

That hero was
Fansy the Famous Bard!

From his first words Fansy won my heart:

"You say out of character, 'look out a train of monsters! AAAH
You say out of character, 'like a normal train but with monsters!'
You say out of character, 'instead of engines, cars, cabooses, etc."

Relying only on the protection of Mithaniel Marr, Fansy bravely dared to fight the "evil team." Well, he had the help, I suppose of a large number of his Sand Giant friends even if they "accidentally" stepped on him from time to time. Fansy even "found the end" to Everquest and won the game! Eventually, the server with no rules made an exception and made rules to prevent Fansy from helping the good guys out.

Fansy's replies to his detractors are consistently hilarious.

He is apparently associated with the
Flowers of Happiness PVP guild. Their website has some funny WOW stuff.

Try to enjoy Fansy the Famous Bard and not judge him. As he would say: "'SIR THIS IS MY PROFESSION, I DON'T JUDGE YOUR PUMA KILLING SKILLS'

Thursday, March 17, 2005

It Ain't Easy Being Green

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Did you hear about the gamer who came across a frog who said, "Kiss me, I will turn into a beautiful princess and be yours forever"?

He put it in his pocket.

The frog said, "Didn't you hear me?"

He smiled and looked at the frog, and put it back in his pocket.

After awhile, the frog said, "Excuse me, but why dont you kiss me and I'll be your girlfriend and do anything at all you desire as long as you live?"

The gamer said, "I'm an EQII player and I don't have time for that stuff, but a frog that talks is really neat!"

Well, that's an old joke - originally based on engineering students I believe - but it's my way of introducing the Froglok topic. Over three months since release and still no Froggies! SOE has said that it will be a server-wide unlocking.

Honestly, I find it hard to care that much, but it is interesting to speculate.

SOE does has a
page for the Froglok race up here. (Racial language: Froglokian? Okay.)

EQII Players thread has some good information and backstory on the matter. Or, if you would prefer, there is a whole forum dedicated to the plight of the Frogloks.

One of the best clues seems to be a line
Christopher Lee a.k.a Saruman a.k.a Count Dooku a.k.a Lucan says in this video (Official Movie #2). Listen carefully and you will hear the phrase, "The Avatar of Fear holds sway over an army of Frogloks."

My guess, as I mentioned previously, was that it was a level 30 guild raid. This was seemingly shot down when guild Bane reached 30 and found no raids. But it is possible I could still be correct if it is a Qeynos guild which has the raid.

The coolest rumor from the EQII Players thread was that it will take the perma-death sacrifice of a level 50 character to free the froggies. That is almost too good an idea to be true. It would be interesting to see who would sacrifice that much time and effort for the "good" of the server.

Funny exchange from the EQII thread:

Poster 1: Frogloks may be in a Expansion Pack.
Poster 2: Since SOE advertised Frogloks as a feature, they would be subject to a class action suit.
Poster 3: "I'd like to meet the nerd that would actually sue because they couldn't unlock the froglock character."

If I blog about the lawsuit does that make me an even bigger nerd?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

You've Got Mail!

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It is not my intention to constantly provide lists of patch notes on this site, as there are plenty of other sites which do that. This is especially true when the partial list for the next live update is as boring as this. I mean, there might be some fun to be had with the "house kick" command but that's about it.

However, an interesting feature which did not yet make it to the test servers but is intended to be part of the next live update is in-game mail. Moorgard
took the time to reply to this issue in a EQ2Vault thread (I give him credit for effort once again). He states that "in-game email will indeed be part of this update when the rest of it goes to Test server."

This will certainly make it easier to stay in touch with in-game friends and set up guild events. Rumor has it that items and coin may also be sent through the mail system, a handy feature.

However, it made me wonder...is EQII safe from spam? Can we expect e-mails like:

Get an ABSOLUTELY FREE Palladium Torque! That's right FREE! Simply get five of your guildmates to sign up at...

See Antonia Bayle like you've never seen her before! You may want to cast Freezing Wind before you click on the following link because it is just TOO HOT!!!

Are you built like an Ogre with the equipment of a Gnome? Our natural herbal supplements can help!

I'm kidding, of course, but the scary thing is I'm probably not far off the mark.

Where Can I Find A MMORPG that Will Let Me Play as a Hobo?

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All my life I've dreamed of riding the rails, sleeping under the stars, leaving cryptic hobo signs and perhaps even having a hobo dog to keep me company.

Well, now my dream can come true, at least in a MMORPG. I was casually reading
Stratics when my pulse suddenly quickened. They were breaking the exclusive and groundbreaking story we've all been waiting for! The title of 404gaming's upcoming hip-hop MMORPG is (drum roll)....Hip-Hop Legends!

I was instantly intrigued. I shot over to
404gaming's webpage for more information. Unfortunately, part of the allure of 404gaming's web design is its mysterious nature. I clicked on Media to find: "Gameplay --- coming soon. Rewards --- coming soon. Massive --- coming soon. Wallpapers --- coming soon." Under Trailers I found "E3...E3...E3..." Well, a challenge, eh? Luckily for me, there was one entire item in the news section, an interview. I jumped on it.

Finally, some details. Please, won't you give me an idea of the playable characters for this hip-hop MMORPG? "We will be focusing on the exciting, dangerous, and entertaining aspects of the following professions: DJ; Rapper; B-Boy; Car Customizer; Clothing Designer; Basketball Player; Hustler; Gambler; Interior Designer; Cop; Doctor; Lawyer; Bail Bondsman; Street Racer; Pilot; Hobo."

Man, I'm torn. The Hobo life is for me but the true essence of hip-hop is the dangerous and exciting career of the Interior Designer! What do I do?

If I play as a Lawyer do I get to review virtual documents and file long virtual briefs? Can I
represent NCSoft? Word.

Can I combine classes and play as Hobo Clothing Designer with a Gambling problem?

If I'm giving 404gaming a hard time, it's partly because the names of Jam Master Jay and Biggie Smalls are somehow associated with this game. I know Jam Master Jay had a positive influence on many people and Biggie was one of the greatest talents in hip-hop so I would hate to see their names be attached to a poorly planned and badly executed MMORPG.

However, I do always appreciate innovation and 404gaming has some nice ideas. I like the idea of actual real world DJ's appearing in in-game clubs to control the music. I believe we will see more of this type of thing in the future. EQII's use of celebrity voiceovers is something of a step in this direction (though I sometimes think it would be easier to get to meet the real life Heather Graham than it is to get an audience with Antonia Bayle).

Well, I'll be following the progress of Hip-Hop Legends closely. Until then you can find me at one of these
Hobo Gatherings, leveling up my freight hopping skills.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

All the Pretty Ponies!

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Are you thinking it's time to move up from your preorder j-boots to a fine Halasian steed? Want to impress that dark elf you've been chatting up with the size of your Elddarian charger? Step right up to the stables, friend. Have I got a deal for you...

Finally, someone (Warwick from the Mistmoore server) put together a
thorough guide of the various mounts available in EQII (via Stratics). Even better, pictures are included.

You want a pony that matches your armor, right?

Reached Level 50? Start Over

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SOE recently announced that all players will receive 2 additional character slots. Well, maybe it's the roughly 5.3 million banner adds for "Free I-Pods" I see on the internet every day, but I have learned never to trust anything free.

So, I read the press release with a cynical eye. "Seeing the game through the eyes of a wood elf Paladin who lives in Qeynos is a lot different than playing as an ogre Coercer from Freeport." If you read between the lines, you get: Listen, we know some of you are at level 50. So instead of
bugging us for more content, start over as a different class.

But still, it's a plus for those who like to have tradeskill or merchant alts or even, perhaps, those who have
worn out their welcome on a particular server. This makes for a total of six character slots, ten if you are a Station Access subscriber.

Of course, City of Heroes allows for
88 character slots, but, hey, who's counting?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Moorgard Aggros Bloggers

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I've always been a fan of EQII's Community Manager Moorgard. I mean seriously, anyone who takes the time to write a 10 paragraph response to a thread with the original title of "My I'm Leaving Thread" deserves an A+ for effort in my book.

However, in his post entitled "On Returning" he manages to irritate me. The post announces a new board where Moorgard will discuss random topics in a kind of freeform atmosphere. Sounds like a pretty good idea and I'm looking forward to it.

Still, he finds it necessary to take a shot at blogs in the section of his post aptly entitled "This is Not a Blog." He makes sure to state that his new board will not be a blog. He informs us that, "Nobody is that interested in what you ate for breakfast or how many fire hydrants your poodle visited on this morning's walk." Okay fair enough.

I refer to this web site as a blog because:

A. It is created using Google's Blogger.

B. The posts (or articles) I write appear in an order which is based upon the date I write them.

No one who reads this blog can safely say whether I am even a man or a woman, let alone what I ate for breakfast. It is a web site about Everquest II news and humor with some other MMORPG stuff from time to time.

Moorgard, on the other hand, in only his initial post, fills us in on his college major, his fascination with Star Trek message boards, the names of two of his friends and the path he took to his current job.

So save it.

"I'm writing," writes Moorgard. News flash, Moorgard - anyone who actually writes "(*giggle*)" is not writing, they are just being (*annoying*).

Friday, March 11, 2005

Reward for Guild Level 30 = Disapointment

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Congratulations to Guild Bane on the Blackburrow Server for going through what must have been a horrific writ grind to become the first guild (to my knowledge) to reach level 30.

Keldoth from Guild Bane kindly took the time to post information about Guild Level 30
in this thread.

The rewards: No new raids, no speaking to Lucan, no entrance to any new zones, no further experience gain possible. But, hey, you do get the option to purchase a sweet painting of a drunken halfling, some saucy formal wear (pictured above) or a cool nobility title. If you have 750,000 status points and 66 plat you could also get a horse of some kind. And hey, if you have 4 million status points laying around, a five room mansion could be yours!

On the whole, Keldoth seemed pretty disapointed with the results of all that hard work.

The thing that surprised me the most is that if you had asked me to bet on how the famous Frogloks were going to be unlocked in this game (remember it is a server-wide unlocking only) I would have bet pretty big money that it was related to a level 30 guild raid. Looks I was wrong.

To be fair, I’ll give it some more time and hopefully Keldoth will continue to update us on any new developments.

As for me, I better get going – I’ve got some writs to do! Until I get that halfling painting my life is pretty much meaningless…

Forget Half-Life 3 - I've Got the New Emily Dickinson Game!

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For this year's Game Designer Challenge, Clint Hocking, Peter Molyneux and Will Wright were challenged to create ideas for games based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson (both slashdot and gamespy have articles about it).

Clint Hocking's idea (utilizing the Nintendo DS) would allow you to pick up certain symbols or concepts as you follow Emily throughout her day. You would then connect these symbols at the end of the day to create a poem.

Molyneux, according to Gamespy at least, disapointed (
again?). He used a demo he had been working on for other uses to show how you could manipulate objects related to ideas from Dickinson's poetry.

Will Wright stuck to humor, describing an Emily Dickinson you could plug in to your USB port. She would communicate with you in a number of ways and change her behavior depending on how you interacted with her. She could also interact with other famous figures if you plugged them in as well.

Will Wright owned the competition for the second year in a row.

My idea (MMORPG based of course)?

PoetWars - Coming Soon. Level up your poet by questing for lost ancient sonnets! Raise your skill in such fields as Rhyming & Metaphors! Challenge other poets in verbal duels! Seek to woo noble lord or lady NPC's with a variety of actions such as "Recite Couplet" or "Sigh Pensively!" Gain Phat Loot like the "Quill of Fluidity" and the "Doublet of Onomatopoeia!"

Okay game companies, I'm listening...serious offers only please.

Friday Humor: Belan the Noble Looter

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Well, Friday is always the best day of the week (unless your work week starts on Saturday I suppose) so I will attempt to spread the cheer every Friday by making sure to post a MMORPG related link I find humorous.

To start it off we're going to get slightly old school by going back to the golden days of
Ultima Online in the 2000-2001 period. I've probably reread this entire site three times and it always makes me laugh.

I'm referring of course to the rousing exploits of
Belan the Noble Looter!

How can looting be noble you ask? Well, when you have a
written sell back policy and a standing offer to rez and gate your lootees of course! Why, at times, Belan even offers to let you win back your loot by gambling on walrus fights.

With all that looting it's not surprising that Belan has garnered a
nemesis as well as an imitator. Guilds have invited Belan to join even though she always makes sure first that the guild rules allow the killing and looting of other members.

While looting is her main interest, Belan has, at times, played the role of a
pirate, a general, a polar bear tamer and a rampaging killer. My personal favorite is when she ran her own event.

What makes these stories all the funnier is that Belan always roleplays, and the more she roleplays the madder people get.

Going from reading about the wilds of UO to playing in the "secure" (and some might say overly sanitized) lands of EQII is a stark contrast.

While I've been talking about UO like it is ancient history, I should note that it is actually still an ongoing game with a
recently released expansion.

So remember the farewell words of Belan the Noble Looter, "In the end though, everyone gets looted. The rich, the poor, the poor looters who get rich.. The great leveler takes us all...Looted by the grandmaster, he who is known to all.. eBay."

SOE Offers SAT Prep

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Well, whether you're sharpening your number two pencils in preparation for the upcoming SAT's or if like this guy you've already won them, SOE is here to help you skill-up your vocabulary levels.

A few days ago, I was hanging with a group in the Obelisk of Lost Souls. This zone is usually much less crowded than comparable zones and has a nice population of named mobs (note: only one person in your group needs access to the Obelisk). Anyway, I was half asleep when I ran into a mob called the "Senescent Lorekeeper." Drowsily, I did a double-take and took the above screenshot (horrible I know but hey I had aggro on me - what do you expect?)

Now, I knew senescent was an actual word but for the life of me, I couldn't remember what it meant. Being sleepy myself, I guessed it meant drowsy. But I guessed
wrong. Guess I'm getting to be a senescent wizzie myself.

I started wondering if there is a SOE "Naming Team" that sits around
drinking Red Bull with a thesaurus. "Okay, we called the last skeleton restless, now we need an S word."

Here are some of the more educational mobs I have seen recently:

A Fetid Goo: Hmmm...not just a Goo but a Goo with an "offensive odor." Poor goo.

A Weald Wolf Pup: SOE gets a little (Lord) British on us, using the Old English word for forest.

A Magmatic Golem: I don't think there are many occasions where you would use the adjectival form of the word magma, but apparently this is one.

And remember not to confuse your Pestilent Ratongas (infected with sickness) with your Petulant Forces (irritable).

If you need math help, I can't help you (it makes my head hurt) but try talking to the Curious Augur on the Enchanted Lands docks for a math brainteaser.

Who says you can't learn anything from video games?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Single Dark Elf Seeks Ogre who likes Moonlit Strolls and Pina Coladas

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I recently came across a site called MMODating which is apparently "the first, and only, dating site specifically designed for members of the online gaming community." (thanks a ton Joystiq)

Interestingly, the people who commented on the Joystiq entry equated this dating site with MMORPG marriages. MMORPG marriages are a fascinating phenomenon and Nick Yee has written an article on the subject titled "
An Ethnography of MMORPG Weddings" on his site The Daedalus Project. It's not as dry as it sounds but if you don't like articles here's a cartoon. These are a few of my favorite quotes (with comments added) from the narratives in Nick's article:

"Some people gave up raids with their guilds to attend [the wedding]." Wow, that is devotion.

"A guard came by and started to attack some guests as the vows were being said, it was pretty interesting."
Sounds like a Jerry Springer style wedding.

"The first wedding my husband got drunk and fell in some water and drowned."
Well, at least it was a short marriage.

"He [my ingame spouse] has another char that he role plays as my Mom, that is even more role play fun."
No comment.

Believe it or not, the MMORPG A Tale in the Desert even went so far as to actually incorporate marriage into the game itself making it a Trial. The description of the Trial is a lesson for real life - sure it's easy to get married but it's hard to find someone you trust with your life's savings.

But, the original website,
MMODating, is different than in game marriage because it is attempting to facilitate real life romance between people who play MMORPG's. I'm not going to sit here and make fun of the profiles of people who had the courage to put themselves out there on this website. But they do make for an interesting read.

I don't think this kind of thing is something I would be interested - wait, hold on a sec - I just noticed that a few of the people from my area on this site are actually hot. And it's only $19 for three months. I'll be right back...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Daytrip to Mordor

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Well, the SOE PR machine is working overtime to push their Adventure Pack as FileFront brings us a special look inside the SOE offices.

The article is the usual fluff piece about creative spirit and how all the parts of the team come together. However, I did find some of the
pictures quite entertaining and informative. It appears the EQII team really enjoys Red Bull and sacrifices EQII collectibles to the Tiki Gods. They are also apparently the first people on the planet outside of a college dorm to discover Rasterbater and think it is ever so amusing.

The only thing that caught my eye in the article is the quote, "He said that because they are continually trying to add new content for the 20-30 level players every few weeks, the same amount of stress still applies." So, if you're not in that level range, don't worry about new content, kids.

There is a
Part II to the article which focuses on Bloodlines. Again, there is no real mention of anything interesting outside of the ever exciting "destructible enviroments." Ah, but wait - you can soon expect the uber-est guild on your server to be even more uber because the first guild to slay some raid mob will get a "special aura that others will be able to notice wherever they go in the world of Norrath."

Oh, I can't wait for that.

Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith or PR Shill?

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When a lame television show is trying to sign on local affiliates, they often send a celebrity in to meet with the local network honchos. Often the starpower of a face-to-face with a celeb is enough to make people overlook actual content.

In completely unrelated news, SOE recently sent Darth Vader in to meet with a group of Empire players in Star Wars Galaxies. You can get a nice summary
here or check out the full thread here (via Joystiq).

Now, don't get me wrong, this is a really cool idea. Live events and personal touches will and should be a part of the evolving MMORPG game scene.

But, unfortunately, despite promise, SWG is not a good game. Some people resort to what some would call
griefing (and others, including the CSR, would call funny) to have a good time.

Methinks Lord Vader would approve.

Vampire the Masquerade - Everquest

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Well the devs have made it quite clear that the teams that work on "Adventure Packs" are separate from other teams. Which raises the question - did SOE make the team that worked on "Bloodline Chronicles" read Anne Rice novels, dress like Goths and watch Blade III? I guess they figured they had ripped off every idea in the high fantasy playbook so it was time to move on to a different genre. Be ready for future Adventure Packs like "Halfling Holmes and Dr. Woodelf's Magical Mystery," "Star Elves - Return of the Frogloks," and "Hello Kitty - the Patches Chronicles."

For those who don't know, Adventure Packs are kind of miniature, optional expansions. This one costs $4.99 (free with Station Access). Now, there's enough back and forth on the forums about whether or not SOE is greedy for charging for this that I don't need to discuss it here. I frankly don't find it that interesting. I scoured the info and the only actual gameplay element I really identified was the introduction of "destructible walls." Wow, how fascinating. Is this EQII or Duke Nukem? There has been some
vague mention of new spells but I'm not sure how these will actually be introduced.

One thing I do find interesting is that those who order the pack receive equipment, namely a ring (it's nice but not uber). Now, what if SOE introduced an Adventure Pack with very little content but a great piece of equipment. Then, how would paying cash for equipment be any different than what is done on the secondary market or in
Project Entropia?

Well, in any case, check out the movie on the
Bloodlines site. Although it doesn't seem to introduce anything of interest, it does look pretty. Of course don't expect your actual EQII display to look anything like that (see this thread for details).

I will be sure to update you when I actually check out the new content. Oh, is it too late to start an alt named Buffy?

COH goes PVP

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I love desserts. I'm not picky: Creme Brule, Tiramisu, Sorbet, Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies. You make it...I'll eat it. But there was one time I had a ton of dessert in my fridge but no actual food. Fine, I thought, I don't need to hit /pizza or anything. I'll just eat dessert today. Well, it doesn't work that way. By evening I was not only nauseous but at the same time hungry for a hot meal.

When I first got City of Heroes
I thought it was so delicious - gorgeous graphics, fantastic character creation and combat that is still twice as fun as EQII. But in two months I was completely sick of it. To be fair a part of that might be due to the fact that COH does something well which other MMORPG's don't. It actually allows you solo effectively.

You see I have soloist inertia. Unless I'm forced to, I gravitate a bit towards soloing. Now, in EQII soloing is so useless and dull I never do it. But in COH I soloed quite a bit. And it turns out it is the community, more than the graphics, that keep you involved with a game.

But, beyond that, the sweet COH lacks many of the basic nutrients a good MMORPG meal contains (equipment, housing, a feeling of depth).

For what it is though, COH is well executed. I logged on around Halloween to find trick-or-treating heroes being chased by pumpkin-headed monsters. I logged on near the winter holidays to find heroes hitting each other with snowballs. And you can find fun user created events like costume contests. Over at
Kill Ten Rats you can read nine great recent entries about what playing COH is like.

And now, COH is coming out with an
Arena update which will allow player vs. player combat for the first time. It was originally thought that PVP combat would not be introduced until the City of Villains expansion. And you can imagine that most companies would have made you pay for an expansion for such a dramatic gameplay change. But COH is doing it for free and I must admit they managed to pique my interest again.

And let's give credit where credit is due...EQII's recent "amazingly innovative"
mentor system innovation is really nothing more than the sidekick system COH had from day one.

Sometimes a hero is someone who just tries hard with the little things.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

This Couch May Save Your Love Life

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Have you tried Viagra or Levitra to increase your "vitality?" Well, you may actually be sitting on the answer to your problems. That's right. Your couch, chair, or other piece of furniture may be used to increase your vitality.

At least in EQII. In a recent interview with EQII Vault, Moorgard stated that a system is being planned in which a well-furnished home "will provide tangible benefits, such as enhanced regeneration of Vitality."

Since vitality increases the amount of xp gained in EQII and most "power" players usually have somewhere between .5 and zero percent vitality, such furniture is sure to be a hot commodity. I just hope SOE is aware that any system where gold is basically being exchanged for xp is sure to be the target of exploiters.

But for now, better befriend that furniture tradeskiller you've been laughing at. That couch they are making just might put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.

Heck, my talking Antonia Bayle statue has that effect on me and SOE hasn't even implemented the change yet.

Clock Ticking on SOE Downtime

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The Positive News: SOE is releasing major content patch #4. Not bad, eh?

Then Negative News: The servers are locked.

Rumors are flying as to what exactly happened, but the most reliable sources say the problem rests mainly with one item, the Stein of Moggok. Apparently, not only can it "be rebuilt," it can be resold to NPC vendors for mucho plat. In the neighborhood of thousands. SOE locked the servers as soon as this was discovered. In addition, rare harvest nodes were reportedly popping up like crazy.

Well, I figure SOE is racing against the clock to see if they can get the servers up before people start to get really negative. Remember, as you can see a few posts below, these are the guys who proclaimed "no waiting" to the world. Hmmm, if the servers are locked, that doesn't count as waiting does it? Uh, yeah.

Sometimes I wonder how downtime like this is really handled by MMORPG players. I imagine it's the full gauntlet from flat-out rage from the power players to relief from the guy who really wanted to just chill tonight but was afraid to get too far behind the rest of his guild. And then, perhaps, a few Everquest Widows are happily surprised to see their partners (for some strange reason) propose a quiet romantic dinner tonight.

And then there are those who just blog about it I guess.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I'd Rather Pull Venekor than Leonard J. Crabs

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If you clicked all the links in my last post then you ran across the website Something Awful. Known not only for its great frontpage updates but amazingly funny forums (if you are not easily offended), Something Awful recently had a run in with the company which is producing Mourning, the upcoming MMORPG.

Now, Mourning has some interesting concepts. The most interesting is that any character eventually dies a permanent death. Before this occurs you can pass down some of your character's abilities by mating with another character to produce a new, playable character. Interesting concepts - but what I've seen and heard so far of the actual game has left me unimpressed.

In any case, the company that is producing Mourning reacted to Something Awful's humorous preview of their game with threats of lawsuit (ensuring that I for one will never play their game). SA responded in kind by awakening the legal fury of the great Leonard J. Crabs.

My favorite quote from the article: "He additionally instructed me to tell you that his suit "adds +3 to his INT..." I am not exactly sure what an INT is, but I assume it's something completely awesome like your game about elves and kings and enchanted bras and whatnot."

Much like the Ceciliantas story, this one has a surprise ending as well.

If SA's sense of humor appeals to you, I advise you to poke around a bit more. There are several MMORPG articles such as:

The Hulkamaniac gets hit with the "Encrustment" spell in EQII

A look at the best of the best in WOW forum posts

Koffi Anan and Terra World Online

You may even want to consider registering for the forums. Even though I only lurk, it's seriously the best ten dollars I've ever spent.

Just make sure you don't raise the legal ire of Leonard J. Crabs, Esq.

Ceciliantas - Greatest Lover (and Tank) in EQII History

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You can expect this blog to get more recent as I clear out some of my favorite stories. But really how could you expect anyone to blog about EQII without at least a nod to the mighty and talented Ceciliantas?

For those that have never heard of this splendid fellow here's a quick synopsis: A screencap appeared on the forums showing Ceciliantas engaged in "cybering" with a female wood elf in his inn room while a rogue with invis on stood watching. This would probably have faded out after a few jokes if not for Ceciliantas' long and bizarre rants in the discussion thread.

I won't ruin the story for you. I've directed several people to this tale and the beauty of the Ceciliantas story is that each person finds a different part to laugh at. Some love the inital screencap, others the part when his supposed "online girlfriend" turns on him as well, and others love the surprise twist at the end. As for me, I always get the biggest laugh at how he talks about his tanking like he has created some type of masterwork which can never be reproduced.

The best place to start is by looking through this capture of the initial thread. Then, if you want the backstory and the twist, click here.

Fame has spread far and wide of Ceciliantas' mighty deeds - from an article at humor site Something Awful to an entry in Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary.

So, raise a glass of ale to Ceciliantas - the best there ever was.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Non-Press Release Part III - Revenge of of the Non-Press Release

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Heh, I can't seem to leave this Non-Press Release thing alone can I? Well, in reading it, I thought the list of changes made to EQII might be fun to comment on. So, following is the list with my notations.

Greatly increased solo and small group experience rewards - I solo a bit and this is true and very nice
Lots of new armor looks - I can't believe they put this down. The introduction of new armor looks was a disaster. And there are presently only about three or four wizzie robe models so my uber (heh) robe ends up looking the same as the one I had twenty levels ago. By the way, the above picture is SOE hard at work at new armor models.
Two new dungeons available for level 25 to 30 groups - Fine.
A dozen new level 50 epic raid zones have been added, including the Draconic quests - Not there yet so no comment but I hear the post 50 game is weak at the moment.
Eight new instanced dungeons for both soloers and groups - Great idea but very badly implemented. These dungeons are near impossible to find and some of the solo ones have group mobs outside.
More encounters added for soloers and small groups, including advanced solo encounters - Cool idea but I haven't really noticed a difference in the "advanced" encounters.
Tons of new quests, many for solo players - Nice.
Sabotage quests that allow you to strike at your rival city - Seem a bit buggy.
Training spells added as yet another way to personalize your character - Cool.
New examine information added to explain the benefits of spells, arts, food, drink, poisons, and potions - Excellent.
Brawlers get built-in shields - WTF? What does that even mean and why is it a "feature"?
Guild followers can now spend the status they earn at city merchants - Great
Easier to equip rings, wrist items, and weapons - It seems harder to me with the new everythings attunable philosophy but maybe I'm missing something.
Maps now show your current heading - The map interface has been horrible since day one.
Lots of UI tweaks and enhancements - Meh.
Revamped Heroic Opportunities, making them more fun and visually dynamic - Very good. HO's are worth doing now and kind of fun.
Vitality indicator added to your XP bar - Fine I suppose but possibly a bad idea from a psychological standpoint. Sometimes its better not to know. A lot of people also don't realize that vitality is not a new feature, you just didn't see it before.
Tabbed chat windows have been added to organize your conversations - Sweet.
See what your target is attacking with the new Implied Target window - Great.
More precise, informative AC values - Meh.
New heritage quests, including Golden Efreeti Boots and the Crown of King Tranix - Haven't done them yet.
A new con system that allows you to see important information on enemies before you attack - Seems much worse to me but I guess that's open for debate.
Longer durations for short-term group buffs and single-target buffs - Good idea, constant re-buffing makes me feel like I'm spinning plates.
Less fizzles on spells meaning more damage more often - Great.
Shorter timers and fewer restrictions on instanced zones - These shouldn't exist at all.
House pet naming - Patches the cat anyone? Cool idea - now apply it to familiars.
All tradeskill classes can now refine their own materials and components - Not sure how this is going to work out in the long run.
Wizards and Warlocks go nuke happy with more damage - Woot.
Tanks now tank better with increased mitigation - You still have to taunt once in a blue moon my meaty friends.
Easier search abilities so you can find potions, poisons, activated items, and food - Hmm...really?
Even more voiceover available for optional download - Okay.

Perhaps my comments are a bit snarky but remember I do love this game. On the whole I have found SOE to be trying hard and quite responsive so I give them a solid B thus far. That's an honest opinion.

Or, maybe I'm just a bit nuke happy.

Non-Press Release Part Deux - 350,000?

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Well, some of you astute readers may have noticed then number 350,000 in my last post. Is that really a large number of players? Is it an accurate number?

To answer the second question, apparently getting the player count to 350,000 requires a bit of Enron style accounting. Dev Blackguard
posts in the forums that the 350,000 also includes everyone who is registered in the "Trial of the Isle" free demo. Hmmm.

How does that number stack up against other MMORPG's anyway? Well, a good source of MMORPG subscription numbers is
mmogchart.com. It's a fun place to see some cool graphs and charts dealing with games' player bases. Nota bene though - due to the way they acquire data (well they don't have access to game subscription records so you can't fault them) don't take the numbers as gospel but more as educated guesses.

So, how does EQII stack up? Well, when you compare it to Lineage, not too well. When you compare it to American games, fairly respectable. But, the market share pie chart shows pretty dramatically that WOW is, at least for the moment, enjoying approximately three times the market share of EQII. I wonder if Blizzard would trade their massive market share advantage for EQII's cool "No Waiting" feature. Probably not...

I guess a third question is...who really cares? Does it matter to the player? Well, a small population server is a double-edged sword in my mind. On one hand, it can be tough to find groups. But on the other hand, you get more a small-town community feel. I always like it when I run into a guildie or a person I group with in a store in Castleview Hamlet or an out of the way dungeon. In the future, MMORPG servers will likely house much larger populations so enjoy the neighborhood feel while you can.

The Art of a Non-Press Release - Waiting and Baiting

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If a person was to read SOE's recent press release on EQII Players without ever having heard of a little game called World of Warcraft they might find it a tad confusing. There's not much in the way of actual news.

"350,000 Players Strong" it proclaims. "No Waiting." What? Is the fact a product functions as it is supposed to now worthy of a news item? Do we see press-releases like, "Pepsi - Now with NO Poision!!!" or "Toyota - Our Cars Don't Blow Up Often!" or "Vioxx - Our Medicine Doesn't Kill You!" Oh wait. Forget about that last one, okay?

But of course, we know what this about. The WOW queue is reportedly longer than that in the picture above and SOE is going on the offensive. Further perusal will uncover a description of how much EQII has changed since launch - a veiled reference to the dearth of major patches in WOW land.

This (somewhat ridiculous) animated ad spells it out more directly.

It's rare for Established Companies to so directly needle their rivals like this. For one, it draws attention to your competitor and any attention drawn to your competitior is a potential lost customer. But, hey, I kind of like the scrappy attitude SOE has lately. And if it inspires them to keep firing off major patches I'm all for it.


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Okay, let's it get it over with. Yeah, I know the /pizza thing is more played out than harvesting in Antonica for hours to get some lazy dwarf's rancid boots. I mean, once something is on Leno it's out of the province of your average everyday blogger.

Still, I couldn't help but comment. For those of you who haven't heard of this amazing innovation, typing /pizza into your chat window will open a window to Pizza Hut where you can order a pie.

On the serious side it raises the possibility of more intrusive ingame ads. Can you imagine "This quest was brought to you by Pepsi!" Or how about "26 paly looking for xp group in the BankAmerica dungeon?" FedEx billboards on the Griffon towers perhaps?

Also, if you were able to pay for your cheesy deliciousness in gold (which you can't) would that make Pizza Hut a player on the secondary market a la IGE?

It also plays into every MMORPG gamer stereotype - an overweight person who is too into a game to get out of their chair to order the damn pizza by phone.

On the humorous side, I found SOE's presentation hilarious. I mean the graphic of Lucan makes it look like he is going to disembowel you after you get your pie. I think Antonia Bayle would have been a stronger sell.

Of course, the jokes write themselves. Some examples of /pizza substitutes I've seen on the forums (none of them mine) are: /mountaindew; /life; /woman (forgetting of course as usual how many women play EQII); /toilet. Well, a cartoon at ctl+alt+del does a better job than I (check out /lazy under the archives).

Although this story is a tad old there are fresh developments. On the forums today we get a reminder from dev Blackguard that "the "/harry potter" and "/star wars" commands, those are entirely hypothetical and are not to be taken literally." My god, are you kidding me? Were there really that many middle-aged guys frantically typing /emmawatson over and over in their chat windows?

So, what do I think of the whole thing? Well, I've been typing /pizza into every computer keyboard since my Atari ST. Heck, I even tried it on a typewriter once. But this is the first time it did something.