BLEAH! Why can’t the day be over already?

(Tried to post this at the beginning of the day via Foxfire browser… but no Microsoft site is working with that browser all day. Is Microsoft blocking the Foxfire browser??? Any way, here’s the post that I meant to post this morning.)

I want my three-day weekend NOW!!!! *whine* *whimper*

Okay, that’s out of the way. But I really WILL be glad when this day is done and I can get going with the relaxation. Here are Matthew McAndrews’ strips for the week to start us out:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #382 – How To Create A Monster – August 27th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #383 – Possession Is 9/10ths – August 30th, 2007

Okay… I’m doing fine. Little aches and pains that go with being alive. Not quite as much sleep as I want. It’s been hot enough to make us uncomfortable enough to turn on the air conditioning dispite the cost. But in our home that only really, really helps for downstairs, and all the bedrooms are upstairs. So it’s all fans in the sleeping areas and the downstairs is NOT set up to sleep in. So not enough good sleep. Which makes Jethric a grumpy beast at best. But this weekend I plan to make up for it. Big time. Especially on Monday when I would normal have been working if not for the holiday.

EQOA: Nearly done with this game. We got in one session this week. And we are one ‘mob kill’ away from completing the third level 47 sidequest. And we have all decided that when this is done and we get our experience… we are DONE. We will hang up our PS2 controllers and stop playing. After all, if we continued, we would either spend the last 7 sessions mindlessly grinding experience… or we would start the level 49 path quests… which are long and would NOT be done in 7 90min sessions. So we are just going to stop. I’ll mildly miss the game. But only because I have been playing it since the beta. That was 4+ years ago.

Eve Online: Two of the people I play this with will be away for the next two weeks. So it will only be the other two of us for these two weeks. We’ll see if, at the end of those two weeks, wether we will still be playing it when the other two get back. Is it worth it? The last game the four of us played the two that will be away left the game when they reached the top level of 70. Eve’s top level is defined as having every skill in the game at level V. And the way the skill system works, even if you train the learning skills all up to V first, that will take 3+ years. So there’s still lots left to the game before I expect them to give up because they reached the top like they did on the last one. So maybe it’s safe. I don’t know. I just know that there is stryfe right now between one of those staying these next 2 weeks, and one of those that will be away. The other two of us are caught in the middle. And none of the four (though I can’t talk for one of us, as I don’t understand her a lot of the time. She comes from a different way of speech and thought) seem to be having the fun we had once before. Is this game worth sticking with and paying $15 a month for. I need to think this over.

Everquest 2: Haven’t talked about this one since I stopped playing at the beginning of the summer. I stopped playing because the two people mentioned above left the game after achieving level 70 and wanted to do other things. The two of us left tried to carry on because they had not made vocal weither they would be coming back or not. When they decided that they likely wouldn’t be returning… we left it, too. After all, it wasn’t as much fun with 2 that it was with 4.

I bring all this up because I found out that EQ2 will be coming out with its fourth expansion in November. This expansion will be adding all the usual things of new places, a new character race to play and that sort of thing. But it also is increasing the level cap to 80… so it has me wondering if the two that left will want to go back… will we be going back to EQ2 this winter. Do the two of us that left last WANT to return. I don’t know.

City of Heroes/Villains: It really looks like I will soon be down to this one game under MMOs. Funny how just at the beginning of the year I was listing five or six MMOs that I was playing. I’m at 3 right now, and about to be down to 2… which could become 1. And you know what? I don’t mind in the least. CoH/V is one of the best all around MMOs I’ve played. I keep playing it year after year and love it. My lovely wife plays it, and we spend a lot of hours with it. Yeah… this is the game that will keep going. Thank you, Cryptic! And thank you Ron and Mel for letting me start it before it launched. I’m still having a BLAST! Oh… and tonight’s an Invasion night!!!

Second Life: I actually signed in to SL the other day. Lost Creatures released a Lion Feral that is wonderful. Wish I enjoyed the politics and realities of SL more. Or that there was more to do there than shopping and partying (and maybe Cybering, if someone special is on). There’s just no There There. (Not to say that there is any There over at There, either.) This place is already a left behind place as far as my wife is concerned. We were big in this place a couple of years ago. Back then there was BINGO, SL-INGO, TRINGO (see a trend?) and so many other things to do. Ways to make L$ abounded. Now it’s become too filled with laws and regulations because the legal authorties are starting to take notice of the place. And the fact that you can turn real money into L$ and L$ into real money makes it become… a liability for the makers of the place to let some things go on. But it was those things, and the fact that you could explore with them in a fictional and ‘safe’ landscape where it wasn’t illegal or impossible… that was part of the charm of the place. No limits other than those you made for yourselves. Well, that’s gone. There are now so many limits on what you can do without feeling either guilty or having to ‘hide’ it from others… it’s just isn’t fun any more.

In light of the stuff in the MMO section, does all this mean that CoH/V is all I’m going to do any more? Hell, no! I’m a gamer, I always like to take a look at what else is out there. I plan to look at LOTROL and Warhammer. I expect sometime to return to EQ2 and WoW, though hopefully no time soon. I will look to see what Tabla Rasa is like when it goes live. (I’ve seen it in Beta… and no, I’m not telling until the NDA is fully lifted… if then.) I might peak in on whatever the ‘Next thing’ is from NCSoft after TR. I’m interested in seeing what EA is going to do with it’s MMO properties now, past and future (I STILL miss Earth and Beyond!). Will SOE ever find a new IP that is worth spending $$ on to play? (Even EQ2 is now growing old… they need something new. Something that ‘clicks’ with the MMO players out there. They ruined SWG, they gave wanna-be Vanguard a place to try… and die. They are turning into the place where lost MMOs go to fade. Look at Matrix Online, or PlanetSide.) The world is ready for something to compeate SUCESSFULLY with WoW. CoH/V doesn’t compeate. It just HOLDS it’s spot and keeps healthy and slightly growing.

Thinking on that, I look at the successful games. The EQ franchise is solid. Hell, the original is STILL going. It’s sad to see EQOA fading. But without a update to take it to the PS3 (or the XBox 360 or Wii), where it could have true downloadable expansions, it’s going to sunset SOMETIME soon. EQ2 seems to be holding it’s own. I don’t see it going away. But it’s not growing much. And if the fae didn’t make them grow, the dragon/lizardmen aren’t either.

And there is City of Heroes/Villains. It’s going strong. And growing some. It’s solid and good. It will likely still be around for years.

And, of course, there is the current monster of the MMO world… World of Warcraft. I don’t know how they are going to keep their reported millions of players going for that much longer. I see they, like EQ2, have an expansion coming that extends the level cap to 80. Is that how they are going to keep things going? I don’t see that working for that much longer. Though I think they can survive two more level cap expansions after that before it’s not going to be enough and there will either be another game pulling away their players, or people will finally start loosing interest… It -is- going to happen one day. And I personally expect it to happen around the time they expand the level cap to 100. And there is likely going to be a COMPLETE game engine rewrite by then… And a complete rewrite of the first 25 levels of gameplay. Maybe the first 50.

Something american players don’t remember is WoW wasn’t always king. An NCSoft game, called Lineage, held that crown before it. Just not in the USA. In the USA and Europe it was EverQuest that ruled as king. And before that it was Ultima Online. The crown does not stay with the same game for long. UO is still going out there.

And there are games that ALMOST meet the power of WoW… one of them is NCSoft’s Guild Wars. With it’s ‘no monthly fee’ model… it counts itself as having HUGE numbers. Again… not as many in the USA as elsewhere.

Then there are those that SHOULD have made it to the levels of WoW. Star Wars Galaxies is the biggest example. With the hoards of loyal Star Wars fans it had the promise to be the biggest ever. It just… failed. And when SOE changed it to try and make it more ‘accessable’ for the mystical ‘mainstream’ of game players… they alienated so many loyal MMO players that the game faltered BIG time… and other games got the players, and it’s an almost forgotten game… that lives on through SOE’s ‘Station Access’. It SHOULD have been more… could have been. But it is not.

Another that SHOULD be big… and still might be, if it can survive the growing pains and start pulling in players… thats Lord of the Rings Online… it SHOULD be bigger than it is. It really should. But no one seems to be able to budge the giant of WoW and steal away the players. And it hasn’t got the appeal to the masses of ‘mainstream’ gamers.

But another game WILL appear that will either topple World of Warcraft from its spot of King of the Hill… OR someone’s going to figure out how to get those fabled ‘mainstream’ gamers to flock to them… we just don’t know what it will be. Yet.

Does anyone out there that happens to read this have some MMO that I should try? Something coming up to tell me about that I should take a look at? If so, please, comment and let me know about it. Thanks!

Well, that’s enough for me. I need to get off to work so that the work day can be done and I can have my precious three-day weekend! Take care, all!

What? Another week? Already?!!

Yup, another week has gone by…. so here are Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems strips for the week:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #380 – Well BLOG Me – August 20th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #381 – Trash Day – August 23rd, 2007

Speaking of Modem Problems, I am going to be making some changes in the comic’s site in the near future. Right now when I update the site it requires that a new html file be uploaded for every single strip (as each is it’s own page) and new editions of the index files that let you browse through them. What I am doing is changing the layout so that each year’s worth of strips is in it’s own folder. This will allow me to not have to re upload changed html files for the older years strips and only deal with the current years files. Right now there are 443 files being uploaded twice a week, with the number increasing by a few each time, and by another 1 ever 25 strips for the index pages… this will change that number down to 100 or so at year’s end and much less earlier on in a year.

I am also hoping to be able to implement a ‘calendar style’ browsing tool like is seen on other comic strip websites. Unlike other comic strip websites, all the files and whatnot are stored outside of any sort of database and all updates are done manually. This is because we are not using any server-side processes other than a little javascript and html.

In addition, I am hoping to get Matt to provide us with some character background files, and ‘wrapper’ artwork for banners and the like so that we can spruce up the look of the site.

In other boring personal news…

Health – I am doing fine.


EQOA – Only about 4 weeks to go on this for us. We had our Monday session and got to down into Guk near the ‘king’ and are waiting and working at getting a durned blasted dark elf to spawn. We waited for about an hour of slaughtering his placeholder and not being sure we were in the right place before he finally spawned. He only carries 2 of what we are after, and there are 4 of us after it. So we need him to spawn again. However, the hint notes we are following indicate that he can take anywere from 1-10 hours to show up. So we may or may not get to see him again before we give up on this game. We didn’t have a Thursday session as Whyaylooh’s buses were running late and he didn’t get home in time to play. And trying to do this thing without a healer is madness most foul. 😉 (Let alone the fact that we really don’t care much.) So there are only 9 potentional play dates left (with the one on 9/24 being iffy. We don’t know if Mhari’s 9/24 end date comes at the end of the day or the beginning, logistically).

Eve Online – I got side-tracked a lot this week at the regular play times. Monday I was doing some of the website work that will end up in the changes to the Modem Problems website and by the time I was done I really didn’t feel like doing a whole lot of things on the computer. My mind was muddled and I just needed to veg. On Thursday it was one of the rare ‘Invasion encore’ days on City of Heroes, so I was on there for helping out with that, while one of my characters just did mining on Eve for some income.

City of Heroes/Villains – Lots going on here. Various people’s characters are getting more levels. I got to play Purple Moose some more. Though it was kinda strange not to have Zefel and Nightwind along side us. They were having ISP issues which finally got resolved late this week. I did work on the hero base and all sorts of other things.

All in all… a very normal week. Soon EQOA will be off the list and I might use the gained time either for more Eve on Mon and Thursday, or I might just veg or use the time for other non-MMO things… like I really should do.

Plans for this weekend involve the regular bi-weekly sit-down pen-and-paper gaming session. I am looking forward to playing Doc Justice some more. He’s going to be an interesting character as he gets settled into his reality, assuming the campaign lasts long enough for that to happen. Not unusual for these games to sort of fall appart around the holidays and the like. We’ll see.

That’s all from me, this week… nothing really interesting to talk about… oh, there’s a new Riley Jensen novel by Keri Arthur called Embraced By Darkness. I am enjoying it. It is Book 5 of an on-going series.

Work, Work, Work…

Its slowly taking me over… But first, Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems for the week:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #378 – The Critic – August 13th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #379 – The Brick – August 16th, 2007

Okay, so what have I done this week that I haven’t done any other week…

EQOA – We completed the second batch of Grimm’s level 47 sidequests and started the third set. Other than that, we kept wishing this game would get a facelift and other such wishes. But the countdown to no longer playing this continues. I almost wonder why we bother.

Eve Online – Only 15 some days left until I have Amarr Frigate V. Assuming I don’t sidetrack to learn other things again. I think I am almost to 10Mil ISK. So I -might- be able to afford the next starship I want. But the game is being less boring to me now.

City of Heroes – They brought back the Invasions for ‘special engagements’ for about 10 days over the next 2 months. One of those days was Tuesday. The next will be Saturday. Other than that and some work I have been putting in on the Hero base, things are the normal stretch of missions and the like. I still love this game. However I am deeply considering buying a very high end video card. I am waffling between a not-so-high-end of a 7900 GS KO, a wonderful 7950 GX2 (expensive) or a 8800 of one flavor or another (also potentially expensive). Likely I will go for the 7900 GS OC or KO or whatever. I just want to enjoy my favorite game in full rich detail. But I am very resistant to spending money on computer things.

Nope… other than the mild varients on old themes, I didn’t really do anything new. I -am- enjoying David Weber’s In Fury Born. But then I have found that I enjoy most of Weber’s work.

Work is absorbing me. My time spent not working is spent desperately putting my head in the sand in the form of reading or the above MMO’s. I do a little tiny amount of other things, like things for the Further Confusion Dealer Room and Furry Market Place. But that isn’t taking a lot of bandwidth right now. It’s in ‘maintenance mode’ right now. It will get busy in that part of my life in November (when I select who sits where) and then again in December (mailing the final confirmations and making last minute changes) and finally at con in January. But its easy right now. So… life goes on.

Of course… I do have a wonderful wife… who make going home a very, very pleasent thing. I love her so much!

Speaking of work… I better get out of the house and to it…

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men…

No, it doesn’t mean anything in relation to my past week. At least not as far as I know. It’s just a quote from one of my favorite radio shows. So, before I get into my week, here are this week’s Modem Problems strips from Matthew McAndrews:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #376 – Fishermen Always Lie – August 6th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems #377 – Take the 5th – August 9th, 2007

Okay, so… the week…

Health – Monday I did very poorly. So poorly that it was scary for me living through it. But not so poorly that I had to do anything other than slow down and take it as a possible warning sign. And even if it wasn’t anything serious, I am taking it seriously and getting a little more rest (though last night I didn’t, stupid me). This morning I was very spacey and had the damnest time waking up. But it was just my systems telling me I really needed more than six hours of sleep. It’s almost 3 hours later now, and I am feeling just fine. And according to my blood sugar meter, I am fine in that department.

MMOsEQOA – Well, we did more of the level 47 side quest. Finished with a LONG round of ‘kill the placeholder until you get the proper spawn’ on Monday. It took us about an hour past our normal end time for the durned Excavator to spawn twice. In that time we killed off door guards, roamer, ramp guards and the placeholder and it’s guard numerous times. It’s a real sign of the age of the game’s design that it has this sort of quests in it. Nothing we couldn’t handle, just tedious. And Thursday we went after the Ice Goblin Melder up in Castle Vox in Permafrost. Another one of those long time to spawn mobs that could have a place holder. However we only had to wait about 20 minutes for the second one to pop up. And we didn’t have to deal with any placeholder mobs, which was a relief. So all told we only went about 30 mins over time on that one. Next week it will be the other half of this stage of the quest. And we now know from Mhari’s account listing what our last day of Everquest Online Adventures will be. It will be Monday, September 24th, 2007. That’s when her account will run out (she canceled and it lets her play until the renewal date). After that I will be canceling my Station Access and that will be that.

SOE’s big announcement for the EQ Fan Faire last weekend was about Legends of Norath for the PC. It is an online trading card game. It’s gimmick is that it can be played on it’s own client, OR through the EQ and EQII games, WHILE you are playing those other games. And some cards that you can get with the LoN game can be redeemed inside EQ and EQII for items in the game. Guess they want to both milk their most successful games (EQ and EQII) AND try to get the success that the World of Warcraft Trading Card game has gotten… without the physical cards… and just have them electronic. Bleah. NOT my sort of game. I was SO hoping that at least they would announce an EQ MMO for the PS3 or the 360 or something. But no. Oh, well. Their loss. I wish them luck.

Eve Online – Had some fun over here this week. My newest character is coming right along. Starting to have enough skill and power to properly take on Level 1 foes without getting my butt handed to me in a sling all the time. It’s making the game a little more enjoyable now. And whyaylooh made the long trek from mimintar space to Amarr space to bring me some improved weapons and toys for my ship. I think I’m going to be doing better. And as soon as I can I will ship him 1Mil ISK for his troubles. We also did a mission together. If I can get this character trained up a bit more to where I feel comfortable with her, I will take her over to Mimintar space and join the others in some of their missions. Or I may rejuvenate one of my other characters over there to join them in their fun. But I am finally starting to enjoy some of this now. It’s still not a game I would have normally taken to, but the time and effort is slowly paying off.

City of Heroes/Villains – Well, thanks to the efforts of all the paranormals of earth, it looks like the Rikti Invasion has been beaten off. We might have one this round of battles. The aliens still have their toehold with a mother ship over in the Rikti War Zone, but the worst of the invasion is over. In otherwords the ‘world event’ that has been going on in the game is over. Things will get back to ‘normal’ now. As part of all this I (as Commander Kitty, on Protector) got to join in on one of the raids on the mothership. And Black Maria (Mhari’s current Mastermind she is playing) was able to grab the last of the exploration badges needed while the mothership shields were down, while I was off helping the raid by keeping my forcefields covering the healers at the back of the raid group. It was a blast.

Our regular scheduled villain and hero nights have resumed, and we had a good night with Knight and the Angels on Wednesday with Knight of Power hitting level 34 and I know that Katrianna (Nightwind’s character) hit level 34 as well. Likely we will do some more with the villain side, tonight. I’m trying to get Purple Moose up to level 35 so he can join Vanguard and burn up more Rikti.

Second Life – I think I connected once for maybe 10 minutes this week. Just not worth it to spend the time right now. What Linden Labs has done in the name of ‘right’ and ‘the law’ has just taken most of my interest in the world away. I would love to go back there and spend more time roleplaying. But most of the time that I have had to do that has been when no one else happened to be on to roleplay with. Other than my dear Pat. But that was weeks ago now. I miss some of my friends over there, like Aio and Yokio. And the folks at Faded Lotus had just welcomed me into their staff when all this went down and I lost interest. Oh, well. I will likely revert my one premium account into a basic (free) one when it comes up for renewal next year. *shrug* Or maybe not. We’ll see.

So… soon I will be down to just Eve and the City. It’s going to ease things a great deal at that point. And I don’t really miss the games I have left behind.

Nothing else I can really thin… oh, wait. I just HAVE to recommend Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. It’s just come out on DvD (it’s direct to DvD) and it is really good. The first half of it might have you wondering a little what JMS is up to, but it’s a good solid Science Fiction tale. Then the second half is true Babylon 5 to the core. Both of them all, really. And all the little behind the scenes things are good… other than JMS’s sock puppet running joke. That was rather lame. I really, really liked the behind the scenes with Tracy Scoggins, who plays Colonel Elizabeth Lochley. I am convinced that Ms. Scoggins could do a wonderful job of playing Honor Harrington should they ever make a movie of those books while she is looking like she looks now. She’d be perfect for the role. She does great returning to her role as Lochley, and seeing the behind the scenes footage convinces me that she could play the very human side of Harrington as well as the military woman side. Not that I expect an Honor Harrington movie, just the whole picture of the role and the actress reminds me of the character from Webber’s books.

BTW, just as an aside, it appears that there is a David Webber homepage under construction. There is nothing there at the moment other than a wonderful piece of art by Carol Heyer that was the cover of Changer of Worlds featuring the treecats of Honor Harrington’s homeworld.

Okay… now I am done. Have a good weekend folks, and thanks for reading my drivel.

Yet another week gone by

I wasn’t quite sure I was going to make it through this one…

But first, the comics from Matthew McAndrews’ for this week are:

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems # 374 – The Splash Effect – July 30th, 2007

Matthew McAndrews’ Modem Problems # 375 – Life Improvement – August 2nd, 2007

This has been both a ‘blah’ week and a rough week for me.

Blah part

EQOA – We got the first 25% of the first third of the level 47 side quests done. We have 2 of 4 needed (1 for each of us) drops from The Tunneler in Cazak Thule. Then we nearly suffered a party wipe when we were overwhelmed by 4 light blues and a white mob when one of our number chose to urge us to take on a wanderer that was coming our way at the same second that all the mobs at the other side of the area (the ones we were standing around waiting for) spawned. This meant that said party member got killed for his misjudgment as he didn’t have the support of the rest of us. And our healer was overloaded in trying to keep him and the rest of us alive rather than the normal thing of focusing just on the tank in our party that would normally pull all the agro with a taunt. So rather than see more of us pass away as his resources were whittled away, he evac’d the survivors in a wise move that likely saved the rest of the party. But the travel needed to get back to where we had been would take too long to continue the that night. We planned to return Thursday. But on Thursday neither I nor Whyaylooh we able to get home in time to play so we may resume this coming Monday. Maybe. There is a strong feeling amongst 3 of the 4 of us to drop the game. We’ll see. SOE has some sort of announcement at the Fan Faire tonight… I want to hear what that is before I make my final push one way or another.

Eve Online – I continued with my new character and I am having a little fun with her. As she was created from the Executive Leader path of character creation, she does not come out of the gate with as many combat abilities up front. I don’t intend her to be a big combat god, but rather covert and support. But still, the best path to ISK in the game early on is the combat missions that Agents can give you. And I have come across one mission (from a slightly more advanced contact, so I am not surprised) that I had to drop as it was too much for my skills, and another from my ‘recommended’ agent (one that should be right for my skills) that is flustering me. I just don’t have the firepower solo to handle them. Not surprising, as the character’s innate strength is as someone that should be leading a team in against the mission, not mavericking it solo. But I have a week to complete this one (it was 26 hours to complete it to get the bonus), and I am training up for missile us which will turn the tide more to my favor again.

For our Monday session I chose to go off and do my own thing while the rest did theirs. Then Thursday I skipped out to get more sleep rather than game. I’ll be back to this tonight or this weekend.

City of Heroes/Villains – The Invasion continues. Thrillseeker got his accolade (gotten by defeating 100 Rikti during invasions, taking out 25 UXB’s and defeating 10 of the Elite Boss combat suits). Commander Kitty, Purple Moose, Stand In and Knight of Power are each well on their way to doing so. (I think they all have Sentry (100 Rikti) and Chief (10 Combat Suits) and just need the UXBs in varying amounts. I am sure they will be able to get those during this weekend with ease. Stand In got her 2 badges in just two zones of invasions (about 30-40 mins of play) by joining a ‘Invasion Pick-Up-Group’ and performing a support healing role.

Second Life – Yes, I am still barely interested in this. They did a crack down on the online gambling that was going on in the game and banned it. If it is a game of chance based on random numbers for the means of determining who gets the pay out or not, then it is banned. This has included random money balls and the ‘free money’ machines that reward a random person on a plot of land money for just being there. So there went the only remaining income method someone that doesn’t have the time to focus on the game with had to earn L$ enough to participate in the only remaining thing I found interesting (other than social interaction) in the game: shopping. So my time in Second Life has gone from 1-5 active hours and 40-80 inactive/idle ones to maybe 2 hours a week at all.

I -was- gearing up to be a game host for Devil May Care (SL-ingo) or BINGO in support of the in-world FC presence, but the legality of those games in Second Life has been brought into question as both are based on random chance with only minor amounts of skill. And BINGO, at least, is a rather recognized form of gambling in the real world and thus lumped in with the ban in Second Life. So it is highly likely that I won’t be doing that, either. Oh comma well.


This week was rough on the health side. I just plain felt poorly. Hardly any energy and a fair amount of leg (left) and back pain. I was having strange episodes around 10am, 3pm and 7pm of extreme lethargy, drowsiness and just downright feeling icky. I suspected a number of things. Most of them serious. But from the way I feel today, I’m much better. We’ll see as the day goes by.

What’s different? Well, last night when I got home late from work (part of the reason no EQOA last night, the other half was Whyaylooh also at work late), I had dinner, took my nighttime medications and just went to bed. I skipped my normal EQOA and Eve Online and didn’t even turn on the upstairs computers to do email or play any City of Heroes. I. Just. Went. To Bed. Period. And slept fairly well for a change.

So… if I do well for the balance of the day, I will be able to strongly point at the lack of proper sleep over the past 2 weeks as the main contributor to my discomfort this past week. And based on prior experience, I strongly think that’s what happened. It’s not the first time that my short nights have caught up with me and forced me into some down time. And before anyone comments with something akin to ‘I told you so’… go right on telling me! I know I don’t get enough proper sleep. Sometimes it’s due to external issues like the nights being unduly warm (as have been some of the nights over the past few weeks), but most of the time it’s my own damn fault. I stay up to read, or to play ‘one last mission’ or sit and browse something on the web because I want to figure out something or just because I’ve gotten ‘stuck in a rut’.

So, mostly to remind myself… I am saying it here. I need to get more sleep. So, friends… if I sign off early from one or more games we share.. please accept it. I want to feel better so that I don’t feel like I have this past week. And to do that I need to get the sleep I should be getting. The game will still be there tomorrow.

Good Stuff

Gaming (pen and paper Fantasy Hero and Champions) with friends last weekend. Good games. Good company.

Watching movies with my wife. The Last Mimsy was very good. Looking forward to watching the first episodes of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales this weekend.

Meeting Jasper Fforde at Stacey’s Bookstore on Monday and getting him to sign his new book First Among Sequels – A Thursday Next Novel.

Fighting off the Rikti Invaders time and again all over Paragon City and the Rogue Isles with my wife and friends.

On other thoughts

Early on in this week I was having a discussion about some of my reactions to Eve Online in regards to the comparisons between Real Life and MMO worlds. Namely that Eve Online seems to have fewer of the things that I personally associate with the Positive Feedbacks of the other MMO worlds. Eve shares with Real Life the fact that there are few obvious indicators of personal advancement outside of the building of wealth. Yes, there are skills that one can develop, and yes one can aquire things through combat that one didn’t have to buy, but rather get as a ‘drop’. But Eve Online lacks ‘Levels’ and the other positive feedback reward systems that I have come to love in most MMOs.

Each and every MMO (Eve included) contain Grinding. My use of the word Grinding is to describe the sorts of activities that you do in the game that are repetitive and boring. Things that you do again and again. Examples include fighting rats in many of the games, boars in World of Warcraft, and veldspar mining or low-level pirate missions in Eve Online. Real Life contains ‘the daily grind’ of work.

Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft (as well as other games) mask the amount of grinding you do through the mechanic of ‘quests’. Both games do an excellent job of giving the player purpose for their actions, guiding them to different parts of the world, leading them to the areas where their skills (most of which come from the ‘level’ of the character, not any player choice, or few player choices) will fit the things they can fight in the area. This act of always having new things to do lessens the grinding through new sights and activities. And more importantly it REWARDS the player for doing things, with things that the player can use in their adventures. World of Warcraft is especially good in this for the first 25 if its 70 levels of play. In those first 25 levels, if you are doing all the quests you can take, make it so you ‘level’ as a side effect of doing the quests. Rather than the action in older mmos where you would go out and kill your level-specific mobs again and again to get that next level. The levels just ‘happen’ while you are doing quests.

City of Heroes is also good with this in it’s missions. The hero side of the game with some mission or ‘story’ driven zones (The Hallows, Faultline, Striga and Croatia and now the Rikti War Zone) is especially good with this. And ‘newspaper’ (Villain) and ‘Scanner’ (Hero) missions fill in some other gaps. But in the high level game those, too, become ‘grinding’ just to get that next level. In personal experience, around level 40 on both sides (Hero and Villain) the missions quit being done for any reason other in the quest for that Next Level. Though the Rikti War Zone might change that. I will see when I get my next character there.

On the subject of Rewards… A player that is often rewarded is one that is getting told ‘good job’ and having something to show for it that he can use in his play. In most MMO games this takes the form of experience(XP) to help one build towards the next level, Gold/Money($) to buy things with, and Treasure(loot) that one gets off the fallen, and the various special rewards from completing assigned tasks.

In the older games it’s all XP, $ and Loot.

In EQ2 and WoW they add the special rewards.

In City of Heroes they have their own take on things. XP is there. $ is INF (Influence on the hero side, Infamy on the villain side), and the Loot started out as Enhancements (Items that have a long-term improvement on your powers – sort of like getting a better sword in fantasy games) and Inspirations (a short-term improvement on powers akin to potions or buff spells). Then when they added ‘Bases’ they also added ‘salvage’ which were bits and pieces of things the foes had that could be used to make other things for those bases. And then, most recently they added ‘Inventions’. These are a new twist on the Enhancements idea and is best compared to having magic weapons in other games, as they can add additional effects when used in the right way. And they are build using another drop called Invention Salvage. And yet another drop called recipes, which were needed with the Invention Salvage to allow the making of the Inventions. And they added a way to trade with other players on the same ‘side’ with the Black Market (for villains) and Wentworth’s (for heroes). Then with Issue 10 they added yet another drop called Vanguard Merrits.

Why do I mention all these things? Well, it’s like this. Each time you gain a Level, receive a Enhancement Drop, a piece of Salvage, Invention Salvage, Recipe or Merrit, you get a sound and a message. (or just a sound for Inspirations.) A Level gained generates a big visual effect and a sound that the other players near you can see, and a big message on the screen. An Enhancement drop generates a sound and a big message only you see. As does Salvage, and the other drops (except inspirations, which only have a sound). Sometimes in an especially long battle you may get a lot of these messages going by. Each time this is telling you ‘Good Boy!’, you are doing good.
Positive Enforcement of behavior.

Those of you that have read some of my text from a while back will remember that it is this and the various displayed forms that the games tell you about your progress (the XP bar that most MMOs have) are the things I wish Real Life had. All Real Life has is Money (and for some, there is also Power and Property), your bank statement and perhaps a job evaluation form and a bonus from your job once a year (or less often).

Eve Online lacks many of the things that other MMOs have for awarding a player for their time spent in game. XP doesn’t exist. It’s the player that gains it in the form of Real Life knowledge of the game. And while you can build your skills, this isn’t a reward for actions within the game, but rather just as a reward for monitoring the game enough to assign your character to learning things with the passage of time… wither you are connected and playing the game or not. The rewards in the game are ISK (as the money, and there can be a LOT of it for even small expenditures of time doing some of the missions in the game or doing mining), Drops (in the form of equipment gotten off of kills, and even more from salvaging the wrecks of your kills if you have the right skill and spend the time on it) and ‘Standing’, which you get by doing missions for the Agents of various corporations in the game. The rewards are there. Just they are often too similar to those in Real Life (money and influence/standing) or are not played up very well, lessoning their effect as a Pavlovian positive reinforcement of behavior. I personally think the rewards made to you need more exposure in Eve Online. Something as simple as exposing your bank balance better on the control display and having it flash a little whenever it went up. And some other way to show the player the positive effects of their actions. If the game had those, I would be a little happier with the game. I also wish that in the early part of the game they had a little more guidance. Yes, some players get off on discovering things on their own. I happen to be one of those… when I have the time and positive reward for my actions to encourage me to spend that time.

The friend I was discussing all this was trying to point out to me that I tended to snap at them for their attempts to warn me that the ways I was going about things wasn’t going to result in the outcome that I thought they were. That perhaps I was going in a direction with the game that they expected I wasn’t going to enjoy. And yes, I did snap at them and ‘bite their head off’ when they attempted to ‘help’ me. … Pure and simple I didn’t want the help. I was expecting certain things from the game and in the way it would work that just don’t exist in the game. There are no classes, no defined roles beyond slightly different starting skill values that come from the character creation decisions of race, social class and education paths. Outside of those choices and how they affect what you will be good at out the gate and the pros/cons of the starting ships and weapons that come from those choices.

What this friend wanted to do was help me avoid the frustrations that they had already seen in the system and thus improve my enjoyment of the game. I applaud the attempt. But I didn’t (and still don’t) want to be told what to do. I don’t really want the ‘shortcuts’ at this point in my exploration of the game. I need to learn things about the game in my own way. Yes, I am going to be frustrated. It took me TWO YEARS to get to level 50 in City of Heroes because I explored a LOT of the low level play and all the different ways you CAN play before I stuck with one character and got to the top of the game. Others I know took less time because they stuck with one character from the get go. I played World of Warcraft for those same two years and never got any character past level 34 (of 70) because I was doing the same thing with the time I had to play in the game… exploring all the low level stuff before starting to focus down onto one character. In Everquest (the original) in four years of play I never got to the top level for the same reasons. I play many different characters searching for what I like best. I had a character in the 40’s in that game when I left (a bard, if anyone wonders). In EQ2 I was doing the same thing when I stopped. In EQOA the same. Time and again I play many different characters before settling on the one that I will try to see towards the top. I’ll do the same with Eve… except Eve limits me to 3 characters… and to have more I have to throw away one of those three. I can’t just set them aside and come back to them. I have to start again from the ground floor every time. Another strike against the game, really. (The same strike, by the way, that caused me to drop the Final Fantasy MMO right from the beginning. Extra characters there cost extra $. So no playing it for me. It doesn’t fit my playstyle with such a limitation.)

I plan to play Eve for a while yet. Likely for as long as my friends are still interested in it. I may even grow to like it.

But something I want to say to game developers… if I wanted a game to be like Real Life… I wouldn’t be playing their game. I would be off doing things in Real Life instead. If your game is too much like Real Life, It is not going to hold my interest for long. I’ll go do something else that is more fun.

Some things I don’t like about real life: Being punished for the things that feel good. So very few of the things in real life that feel good are things that if we spend time doing them we will die. All the food that really, really tastes good is bad for me. If I spend all the time doing the things that feel good, I won’t earn enough $ to keep a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes to protect me from the elements. I get rewarded (earn money, mostly) for doing the grind. And there are very few things that ‘Mask’ the grind like in games. I would much prefer to be home with my wife, playing CoH or walking along a beach or reading a good book or watching a movie with my wife or friends than spending time sitting at a desk hunting down other people’s mistakes in their work.

I have no plans to stop ‘playing’ First Life(tm). I’m a Level 45 Computer Geek. And I am about to ding 46 in January if things go the way they are. 🙂 I have the Job Quest again today to head off for, then it will be the Weekend Mission for the next 2 days. Woot!