Another Fine Week You’ve Gotten Me Into…

It has been a rather good week, all told. Here’s Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems for this week:
Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems # 328 – Uncle Yuji – February 19th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems # 329 – Brilliant Move – February 22nd, 2007

And on with the show….

As I said above, the week was rather a good one. Mostly because it started out with a 3-day weekend with DunDraCon in it. After the rocky start with getting a room that had a terrible reek of cigerette and getting that taken care of with a move to a different room, my room was quite a pleasent place. The bed was comfortable and there is NO ONE that could claim that they don’t give you enough pillows.

I saw a lot of that room, too, as I didn’t really feel like hunting down pick up games. I could have joined Steve Perrin’s Vanguard game on Friday night, but just didn’t feel in the mood for the level of population the Vanguard games get. Though it was VERY good to see Heather Mace at the con, and appearing to be doing well. So other than one game with my usual crew for some Dark Champions, I ventured forth only for Anime Room duty on Saturday and Sunday and for meals. BTW, any that got disappointed by the fare at the hotel resturant in 2006 and skipped it this year missed a treat. They got a new chef and the food was great. Especially the Pork Rips on Friday night… yum!

Sunday I took a break from the con and joined up with Mhari for our usual every-other-sunday trip to Dr. James’ wonderful hands. My back behaved itself quite well until I went and packed up Monday morning and wore my laptop-case-backpack for a little too long. *sigh* My shoulders just are not doing so great. And neither is my neck. But not for lack of Dr James getting them back in shape. It’s my fault for putting them out again.

I went home from the con Monday a little early, not staying around for Anime Room tear down like I had planned originally. I asked first to make sure that they would have the help they needed… but didn’t get a definative answer. If I let folks down any, then my apologies.

However, going home early worked out for me. Apparently I was TIRED in a major way as I laid down once home and napped the afternoon away.

Tuesday it was back to the work grind. But work is okay at present, and I have plenty to do to keep me busy so that the days go by fairly fast. None of the dragging out days that I had this time last year, or even just a few short months ago. I don’t miss them at the moment. I prefer having real work to do. It might not be on things I would prefer to be doing, but it pays the bills, and makes some of the days go by faster, weither I want them to go by or not.

In the realm of MMO playing, I got some City of Heroes playing done from the hotel room at the con. It was pleasent, though I did get dropped connections a lot. Rather normal for a hotel full of geeks and near-geeks. Not as bad as a Furrycon would be for net connections though. Just nearly so.

EQOA continues to just be a grind. Monday there were too many other players camping Giant Valley so we went back to our mammoth hunting grounds. And in one spot we got a little overconfident about the mobs that conned red and how we knew we could handle them. And those Light Blue HexBone Skeletons shouldn’t be a problem… yeah, riiiiight! Healer and rogue went down. The Tank and other rogue took care of it, but still… Problem was another Red coming up from behind and two of those HexBones doing quad-arcane damage attacks. The numbers may be small, but with 8 total 250+ pt attacks coming in and two reds with their burst damage in then 500-700 damge range… and healer in the middle of a greater heal on the tank… BOOM… I tried to pull the extra Red off of him, but just couldn’t generate the damage as I had gotten my big attacks off on the other Red already. So Healer went down and then I had all the extra Red’s agro… in spades. And the HexBones let off with a AoE attack each, I think. BOOM, I was out. No biggie though. What’s a little XP Debt between friends.

We stayed out about 20 mins more after the pounding, and then regathered on Thursday. Thursday Giant Valley wasn’t so crowded and we mostly ground out the XP (and worked off all debt) at ‘Cave 1’. Not a bad night, really.

EQ2 on Monday was playing the Fae again. It was to be the final gathering of this group for a while as Kacey and Noriko have other things to work on for a few months. Why pay for a game you won’t be playing at all. So they let their account lapse. They plan to be back. Whyaylooh and I continue to play. Thursday we teamed up in Nekleos Forrest to get some old stale quests of Filthi’s done. Got some things taken care of. Mostly they were quests that had gone grey that the game wouldn’t let me abandon. In one case we accidently killed my Quest Reward giver… luckily it was AFTER I was credited with completion. Not just have to go back there later when he has respawned and get the quest officially completed. No faction messages to tell me I can’t. Yay!

Spent a little time in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes again. Started a different character. A Dwarf this time after Bruce Harlick at DunDraCon had pointed out he had worked a little on that aspect of the game before leaving the company on ‘differences of vision’. Looks like they sort of half-way took his ideas and used them. The dwarves do NOT talk with a fake scottish accent or any of the other deep stereotypes that so plague the way dwarves are shown in other games. They seem to be an honorable people and do things for a fine reason. I’m playing a Warrior, so maybe playing a straightforward class is also helping. When I played one of the big feline people (I forget the stupid race name), I really didn’t like the way people acted nor the motivations that were being presented to my character. The big cats are not native to the world that the game takes place on, but are interlopers that want some sort of conquest and to hunt down some old enemy of their people, and that seems to be ALL that motivates them. Not vbery pleasent.

So, from this dwarven perspective the graphical design of the starting area is a little better. The starter quests a little more interesting. The graphics still are a pale grade in comparison to EQ2, or even to WoW. Where WoW is lush and uses simple graphics, VSH is dark and tries to be complex but all it manages is the dark and slow. EQ2 has better graphics and a richer game play. But I am still going to explore VSH for a while to learn more.

As to any World of Warcraft time… once again I didn’t really do anything here. Any time I might have spent inside WoW I spent on Vanguard. Or at DunDraCon (in the case of Sunday afternoon). I made sure my client was all up to date with all the latest patchs on my Laptop and that’s about it.

I did, however, spend some time in Second Life for a change. Some of that while I was at DunDraCon. I had a pleasent time exploring and socializing. SL is someplace I relax away from the grind of hunting for XP these days. Perhaps more than I should. I should be spending more time with Mhari. But she seems so busy with Post-FC things and Pre-Consonance things. I’m trying not to be in the way and keeping myself occupied. And Second Life is something I can just sign out of without interupting the latest battle or quest or mission. So I am spending some time there again.

And of course, the lion’s share of my MMO time is spent in City of Heroes and Villians. Didn’t do much advancement of Commander Kitty since she got to 45. And gads, Eric P’s Demon Voltage is 48 already and nearly 49!!! Yikes! And Amy/Free Ion is back on the city! Yay! Tuesday we spent/wasted a lot of time on getting Valentines Day quests done. They are just way, way, way too much like last year’s one. It’s definately the ‘Time Warp’ that they are promoting it with. Not worth the badge or costume pieces in my opinion. Though likely I will still try to take Diamond Paw (my other hero on Protector) and Commander Kitty through it sometime before it goes away on March 4th.

Wed night was a pleasent outting with Knight of Power and his Angels, with guest stars of Avengine Flame (Whyaylooh) and Mr. Adventure (Eric Z). Both Knight of Power and Mr. Adventure got levels. 29 and 20 respectivly, I believe.

Tonight I expect we will be doing the Villain thing full force. Maybe doing Commander Kitty’s Television missions or some such. Not sure. It depends on the mix of folks we get. But it is almost sure to be Trampling Time in the Rogue Isles.

In other non-MMO things, Mhari and I are about a week behind with Heroes. We might get a chance to see the Feb 19th episode tonight. We’ll see. We watched the Feb 12th one either Tue or Wed, I forget which. Somebody Flies, Somebody Dies it said at the end. And I explored some of the Heroes 360 Experience… go ahead, look it up on Wikipedia… its amusing.

Eeep… I better get going. Going to be late for work if I don’t go now… I’ll upload this from there.

P.S. From work: Forgot to mention… next week it will be time for Consonance in wonderful Milpitas, California!

Trying to keep it short

I’m running late, and it is DunDraCon weekend, so I need to get to work so I can finish there and get to the con. Here are Matt’s Modem Problems strips for the week:
Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems # 326 – What Do You Mean BABY? – February 12th, 2007
Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems # 327 – Iwo Jima – February 15th, 2007

Okay, keeping it short. I played EQOA, EQ2, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Second Life, and City of Heroes/Villains in this past week.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (VSH from here on) is rather lame.

VSH Good parts:

  • THREE (3) furry species. Wolf, Fox and Feline. They also have 2-4 flavors of Elf, 3 flavors of humans, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, etc.
  • Alternative Advancement paths: Not only is there Adventuring XP and Tradeskill XP. There is Diplomatic and Harvesting paths to take.
  • Part of Sony’s Station Access

    VSH Bad Parts:

  • Corpse Runs.
  • XP loss on death that subtracts from current XP totals until loss of level would occur, then it turns into XP debt you must work off before you can start earning XP again properly.
  • Very Poor Graphics – For all the power this game claims to need in order to run at all, it has very limited graphics on everything but the character models. It is barely above EQ1 standards in appearance. And FAR short of EQ2. It is also considerbly less lush and detailed than World of Warcraft, which needs WAY less power than VSH.
  • Slow/bad performance even on current systems.
  • Lackluster MOB AI that seems to consist of static spawn spots and lame limited pathing.

    I will report back more on VSH as time moves on. Since this is a Station Access game, And I already play 2 Station Access games, adding VSH is only the matter of the initial investment of buying the game retail, and spending time on it. Right now it has taken the place of World of Warcraft in my time assignments except for when I hear from a specific friend that they are getting on WoW. Then I get on WoW.

    My EQ2 time is about to likely take a hit soon, as both Kacey and Noriko seem to be taking a break from it for a while to do other things that will be taking their time for the next few months. They may return to the game later in the summer, or in the fall. Time will tell. They have a LOT on their plate in the coming monthes. And I quite understand. Whyaylooh and I will be continuing it, though likely doing earlier nights due to us both having to wake to go to jobs via public transit in our respective locals.

    My Second Life time saw a slight upswing this week, as at times it is relaxing to get on a system where it is all social interaction rather than the eternal grind of seeking the next level.

    On the health front I seem to be doing okay, but I am suffering from a reoccurance of an old RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) as well as back pain and lack of sleep. (The lack of sleep is from too many MMOs, in part. As may be the RSI flairup. I’ll be honest on that!) I am making plans to decrease my MMO time and improve the egonomics of my home computer space to try to help both conditions.

    Work is being stressful, but within the realms of what I can handle. Speaking of it. I gotta get going. This is already longer than I planned it to be.

  • Another work filled week…

    Things are really roaring at my place of work. I’m busy enough that I barely noticed the week going by.

    Here are Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems strips for this week:

    Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #324 – And What Did We Learn? – February 5th, 2007

    Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #325 – An Old Friend – February 8th, 2007

    So, with all my work, about the ‘high point’ of the week was when I was so busy working on stuff on Wednesday, I looked at the clock and saw it was 10am. I told myself I could put in another 30 mins and still make it to my 11am Doctor’s appointment since I was working from home. Next thing I knew, I was looking up and it was 11:27am… ACK!!!! So I made phone calls and got a rescheduled appointment for Thursday. Which meant asking for another Work from Home day… I don’t really feel comfortable asking for back-to-back work from home days as it is too close to looking like I want free days off.

    But my boss allowed it and I made the appointment properly on Thursday. And I will be back in the office today again, as I should be.

    Working from home is a privilage and not a right at work. It’s something we sort of earn and I pride myself with actually doing real work when I work from home. Some times I even put in MORE time working when working from home than I do when I am in at the office. But I will admit that I normally arrange WHAT it is I am working on when I am going to work from home to be things that require less direct attention.

    Usually I focus on writing testcases, or running long ‘jobs’ on the mainframe for those days.

    Anyways, that’s what’s broiling my neurons at present. I can’t go into any details as that would violate privacy issues and other security concerns. All that hush-hush stuff.

    So, what did I do with myself other than work? Well, not all that much else. And most of it was MMO stuff.

    EQOA – Nothing new here. We’re all still level 48, I think. Though we’re about half-way through the level. We get going to a place we have taken to calling Giant Valley. Usually there are at least 1 other four-team of other players out there, working the caves. But this week we mostly had it to ourselves. There are 3 caves there, within a short walk of each other, where from 3-4 Ice Giant Refugees or Ice Giant Renegades spawn. We work through one cave, clear it out, then go to the next. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For 2 hours. We get about 2-4 ‘pinks’ of XP out of this at our level with ourselves set at 50% XP (the other 50% goes to earning Mastery Points). The Mobs range at 20%/10%/50%/20% for Blue/White/Yellow/Reds. And the respawn rate has it so we are spending about 60-80% of the time in battle. Occasionally we have to take on 2 at a time, and rarely 4 at once. We managed a group of 4 with 2 being yellow and 1 Red not too badly. Not to say the healer wasn’t having to really burn the mana to heal us. But we’re getting good at either focusing all on one mob, or spreading ourselves just enough to keep mobs off the healer while he heals.

    EQ2 – Monday was a day for the Fae. And Thursday I sort of goofed off doing other things while Whyaylooh, Kacey and Noriko XPed with their mains up in the Realm of Sky. Filthi is level 48, and soon will be ready to join them up there, but I just am not interested in solo’ing her.

    My current assessment of EQ2 holds that for group play and general feel of the game, it is king of the ‘Fantasy MMOs’. But I don’t really just simply enjoy going out there and grinding solo. Filthi’s at a point where she can’t really solo anything greater than a single non-heroic white con’d mob. And the area she’s playing in (Sinking Sands) has lots of group mobs and areas where there are lots of heroics. Sure, there are areas where I could take her and fight blues and greens all night. But my XP meter isn’t going to advance all that quick against blues and greens. Not when I have gotten used to fighting Reds and Oranges with the group.

    But I can also understand how for the rest of the group playing their characters that have hit level 70 (for Kacey and Noriko) back in an area that they have long outgrew, mentored down to Whyaylooh’s character (who is level 59 and about to hit 60) isn’t all that much fun. I feel like Filthi is just dragging them all down. Keeping them from going to the parts of the game that will be interesting to them.

    That’s why I don’t mind playing the Fae. We’re all roughly the same level there (17-19 now). And it’s sort of cool being the one that is NOT lost for a change, as they get lost in Kethlin and I seem to find my way around just fine. Rather than as Filthi where they know everywhere they take me like the back of their hand and it is me that has to just travel on trust.

    I’m enjoying EQ2 because I get to play it with friends. I wish Mhari was interested in it. But I understand her not being. She had bad experiences with it back at launch when we both played it when it first went live. But I also understand not needing another game. Maybe if/when we stop playing EQOA she will be interested again. Or there may be some other game.

    WoW – Right now This is the game I am enjoying playing solo. I am playing hunters with the new species introduced with Burning Crusade. I have a blood elf on Hyjal that is now level 20. (I also have a Night Elf Hunter at level 20 over on Exec, but that’s a PvP server, and I got tired of being ganked when all I wanted to do was complete quests. Sorry Blackcypress, but PvP was annoying me.) My ‘D’ Hunter that is on Hyjal is only 13, but I will go back to her at some point. Another strange thing with my Blood Elf, for me, is that he’s a Male character. I don’t normally play those when I am playing a character I intend to play solo, for all the usual male reasons. (Having something good to look at, etc.) But who knows… maybe I am identifying with him some. *shrug* I am enjoying playing him. Though I think I have nearly exhausted the ‘newbie’ area for the Blood Elves and will be going into the areas that I already know and sort of dispise. (One of the reasons I stopped playing my Taurian Durid on Hyjal was that at level 33 the quests were getting… well… somewhat annoying and stretched all over creation rather than focused in a single geographical area… and I was getting lost a lot.)

    Wow, right now, feels good solo. And somewhat good when I can team with a friend, as I did last Sunday on Peranolde server with Eric Z. It was nice playing my little Gnome Wizzie opposite his Elven Rogue. We did well as a team, I think, mowing down undead at Raven Hill cemetary.

    City of H/V – This is still king for me. Just it’s too the point where with my Mastermind the solo play is grinding, and the group play is too crowded. It’s getting frustrating playing in a team of masterminds, and not being able to see through the mass of henchmen and power effects. On maps where the ceilings are high enough I can float above things and its not as bad. But in the little caverns and some of the office building maps… gah!

    I might need to solo more here. Sometimes with the cavern and office building based missions it’s easier solo than in a team. And there are some opponents that are just… easier to do if there are actually fewer people in the team. Malta is one of those. Sometimes Circle of Thorns is too. And Longbow can really be easier with fewer of you (as that makes fewer of them).

    Over on the Hero side I am starting to see that the Croatoa missions can get really painful. Against Cabal and Red Caps especially. Again, size of team and the size of the resulting spawn can make the missions a PAIN. We had one outdoor mission against Cabal that had so many mob groups it was stunning. And it seemed that EVERY mob group had a full Boss (orange to me) in it. And the whole group of witches have energy powers, and they use fly and keep distance tactics rather than closing with folks.

    But we are also exploring with the Bases at last. With the latest changes they made in the way that Base Rent is done, there is a size of base that does NOT cost monthly rent! So even a small supergroup can ‘afford’ at least a small base. And Commander Kitty went in and did one for Primal Darkness.

    But DAMN, the dialogs and interface for things is a pain. And the Salvage Storage item, with it’s ability to hold 999 pieces of salvage is painful. No sorting, no search function. Not even a duplicate of the functions that a personal salvage listing has. BLECH. This thing needs a LOT of refinement. It’s painfully obvious that the Crypic programmers are trying too hard to keep the interface simple, and in so doing they have made it almost impossible to use. I sure hope the upcoming Invention system comes with full refinement of these menus and UI. It needs it BADLY.

    Also, in general the Base design system is not intuitive. I am DAMN good with figuring out things without a manual. But lots of the things about base building is counter-intuitive.

    Example: I was setting up our ‘Teleporter Room’. This room says it is for Transporter stuff, and allows 2 portals, unlimited beacons, 1 battery, and unlimited cosmetic things. So, I put the Beacons we have in the room. They require 5 control and 10 energy. And must be ‘connected’ to operate. But what does ‘connected’ mean? And what do they need to be ‘connected’ to? And how do you ‘connect’ something.  I searched and searched in the items available to put into the room. No.. the raid transporter wasn’t it, besides, the raid transporter is too big for the room. What the hell is going on? What am I supposed to be doing?

    Finally I gave up and went looking at the other things. I tried out the ‘Forge’ to see what I could ‘craft’… and what’s this… a Transporter Pad… hmmmmm. So I stumbled through the semi-intuitive crafting menus and figured out how to turn the salvage I was carrying into ‘materials’ and ‘artifacts’. And from that I was able to make a Transporter Pad. Suddenly I had a Personal Item I could place… and it fit in the Transporter Room… and suddenly those Beacons were ‘connected’… but only 2 could connect to one of these pads…

    But finally I had figured it out… But should I have had to? Shouldn’t there have been something in the Transporter Beacons that told me what sort of item they needed to be ‘connected’ to? And shouldn’t there have been something that indicated that we had to ‘build’ that something from salvage? That really would have been helpful and I wouldn’t have spent more than 2 hours trying to figure out how to use those stupid things.

    And my other pet peeve with the base building… when I wanted to replace my small original Transporter Room with a larger one that would hold more than two Transporter pads (as we had 6 beacons, and to use them all would require 3 pads), I had to nearly deconstruct the whole of the base to be able to rearrange the rooms because it wouldn’t let me place/rearrange the rooms unless each room, as it was shifted around, always made for a valid configuration. I couldn’t simply slide a room over. And if there was a item against a wall, that made that wall invalid to arrange another room’s entrance near. So I had to take those items out of that room or away from that wall. And I couldn’t move the item into another room, as that other room didn’t allow an item of that sort. And if an item was a ‘Personal Item’ placed by someone (even myself), I could’t take it out of the only room it fit in, as doing so would ‘sell it’ and it wouldn’t be recoverable without fully building a new one from new salvage.


    Someone needs to take the City of Heroes/Villian Base building/editing system and redesign the UI for it with a fine tooth comb.

    It should allow all the items in a base to be placed in a ‘limbo space’ for storage while the base builder rearranges rooms and things. AND a room should be able to be replaced directly with a room of the same ‘purpose’. And if someone trys to arrange something in a manner that ‘can’t be done’, explain WHY that can’t be done like "There is an item on that wall preventing you from making a door there. Move or remove the item if you want a door there."

    And I also don’t like not being able to place rooms directly next to each other. Instead there has to be 10 foot thick walls between every room. And no room can have any overlap.

    My biggest gripe at the moment though has to do with those Personal Items. The base builder should be able to place those in ‘Virtual Storage’ (along with EVERYTHING ELSE bought for the base, for that matter) so that he can rebuild/upgrade the base to accomadate new items he wants to place in it.

    Also, shouldn’t some item that comes with the REQUIRED entrance room allow access to a On-Line Manual describing all the options for building a base.

    Ack! I gotta get to work… I’ll have to type this more another time…

    What? Oh, right!

    Forgot to post Friday… here’s what I should have posted.

    Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #322 – Relax! – January 29th, 2007
    Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #323 – Chow Hound – February 1st, 2007

    And my life for that week:
    I don’t remember much of it, really. I was busy. Work was really busy. I remember for CoX that it was Double XP weekend and Commander Kitty made level 44. I remember Demon Voltage made level 46 and both Pink Squirrel and Broulin also made level 44. Others got other levels. On EQ2 Filthi got level 47. We also played Fae rather than our mains on Monday. I started a Blood Elf Hunter on Hijal server on Wow, who is now level 14. On EQOA we did more giant hunting.

    On the TV front we watched another Season 2 episode of New Dr Who and enjoyed it. David Tennet is growing on us. We didn’t manage to watch Heroes, though it is on my machine.

    At work I am swampped with things that have burned all my brain cells.

    I visited my doctor for my regular visit and was told I am doing well.

    Mhari is still under the weather with the bad cold that has been going around. She’s just having a bad time with the cough, otherwise she’s doing much better. I am still suffering the post nasal stuff and occasional coughs and weezes. But am mostly over it. Our friend and neighbor Arpiean is really suffering from his edition of it. He’s been miserable since just before Further Confusion and is still that way. Poor guy.

    Nothing else to report. I’ll try to do my normal Friday post this coming week.

    Thanks for reading.