Friday 30 December 2011

SWTOR: There's a lot to love

After being negative about SWTOR I thought it about time I concentrated on some of the positives in what is in many ways a beautifully made game

First of all I have to say I love the look. Many people don't so I've read, I do. Possibly it's because my first in-depth MMO was SWG and that's the standard by which I judge MMOs. And SWTOR does look very like SWG.

Star Wars is arguably the best game IP out there. It's immensely popular. It comprises both fantasy and sci fi so it covers all bases. If you want to be a sword-wielding Wizard you can, if you want to be a starfighter pilot you can. Droids and some of the animals and races are very charming. Or at least interesting even if technically I have to admit that Gungans aren't actually charming. It's more streetwise than Star Trek, more idealist than Battlestar Galactica.

Clothes and customisation are nicely done and I like the fact that your appearance gear isn't different from what you're actually wearing. It's a bit unimmersive if the plate-wearing tank is actually wearing 15 lbs of mithril-alloyed titanium on his head but appears to be wearing a top hat. So I'm glad they avoided going the route of appearance slots.

The music is very good. It's Star Wars style and occasionally directly from Star Wars as distinct from Galaxies which simply used film music for everything. I couldn't help but wonder about the economics. If you have access to the Star Wars IP why pay someone to compose new music? They're not going to do it better than John Williams. But if EA don't mind throwing some spare cash towards starving musicians who am I to quibble? And the new stuff is Star Wars style and nicely composed and played.

Combat is quite nicely done. On my Sniper I take cover, line up my shot and open up, with some snazzy area effect strafing, grenade tossing and pot shots to taste. My companion, when she can tear herself away from slicing missions, provides very decent support. She's Kaliyo, a somewhat paper tank of unpleasant temperament who, although she hits the deck a lot, tends to keep opponents busy long enough for me to win and then ress her. Plus she cheers enthusiastically when I do anything Evil.

The main storyline is excellent a twisty labyrinth of intrigue and double-dealing which I am scything through with the Direct Approach (tm). Conniving double agents seem to have issues when it comes to outwitting a bullet in the kneecap. The other stories are very nicely done too although sometimes when I'm tired it all gets a bit samey. Another long explanation of why I should Kill Ten Rebs? I think I'll spacebar through. I do feel that I should avoid doing too much of that though as I'm loathe to rush through too fast.

I love alting. The other classes feel very different and I enjoy picking a personality for a new alt. I have a Rude Sith Warrior who simply picks whatever conversation option seems rudest. He's very entertaining and it turns out you can be pretty cheeky to Sith Lords without getting your head stuck on a Force-pike. Who knew?

There's a space mission minigame which I really like. Now let me confess, I suck at space fighting games and flight sims. But this is really easy. Hold left mouse button down and try to keep the mouse pointer over the baddies. That's basically it. A space flight game that even I can play! (For reference SWG's Jump To Lightspeed was too hard for me).

Crafting is fun and I'm a big fan of time-based crafting. My main is primarily a Slicer, although I also have enough Armstech to load my Sniper Rifle with the latest Barrel. I have a Biochemist alt and I love that profession. I do suggest Slicing as first pick because even after they nerfed it it's still a constant stream of free money.

There's a nice account security feature. It collects data for 5 different security questions then sometimes asks you a random one when you log in. So even if you get key-logged the key-logger might well lack the answer needed to get into your account.

It's a good game and I'd thoroughly recommend it to any readers. I think sometimes there's a feeling that buying a MMO should be tantamount to getting married, that it should be an exclusive commitment involving dumping all previous games and avoiding at least 6 months worth of new releases. That's silly. It's worth a look and at £35 or so it's reasonably affordable. It's certainly a lot of content for your money even if one accepts Tobold's opinion that it's a game with lots of content but not much gameplay.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you have a pleasant day over-eating, getting sleepy, spending time with the family, getting drunk and possibly a little video game playing if it fits into the packed schedule!

Thursday 22 December 2011

SWTOR: the great subscription scam

From the official site:

You have 29 days of play time remaining. You must sign up for a recurring subscription plan or redeem a Game Time Code before you can play. If you sign up for a recurring subscription, you will be billed automatically at the end of your current remaining play time.

Let's check that again. I have 29 days of play time remaining. I can't actually play however. I can't play because even though it's in my free month I have to subscribe using a credit card or add game time using a game card.

It's a scam. I have a free month but I don't have a free month.

I don't quite frankly mind giving them my debit card number but sadly their site isn't working at the moment and I can't even get to the page where I would enter its details.

And of course anyone who pays by game cards must buy two months worth of game time even if you had only wanted to play your free month then decide later.

I'm sure whichever accountant thought this particular swindle up is chortling his way home with a fat Christmas bonus but these things always bite back in the long run. Blizzard leads the way in MMOs because people respect the name. EA is not adapting to its competitor's success.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

SWTOR: First impressions

I've started playing SWTOR and it has to be said it's a beautifully crafted game. I have Stabs, an Imperial Agent on the Red Eclipse EU server. Level 17 now, the highest level we know of on the server is 50 (the maximum) and someone in our guild is 41.

So in terms of leveling speed it's probably too fast. Arguably the game's great strength is its beautifully and expensively made quest content. For one player that seems to have lasted him about 4 days. Is the end-game going to be enough to retain hardcore players? We'll see in a month.

As someone who loves to alt and who isn't hardcore it will certainly retain me. I'm planning to level several alts and it will probably take me at least a month to level the first one. So perhaps what we have here is a game that isn't interested in the hardcore vocal minority that gobbles up content so fast?

And that brings the question, will it attract an alternative audience of more casual people, maybe players who've never even tried WoW? I think it could. It is rather like a movie with interactive prompts at times and the pacing between running around shooting stuff and stopping to watch another excellent cutscene is good.

The economy is mildly broken with the overpowered skill Slicing. It's a gathering skill that gathers money. It levels independently of your character and my henchperson is just about never not on a Slicing mission. She's doing level 40 content while I'm level 17. I've bought my first bag slot for 5k credits and have about 17k left. If I didn't have slicing I'd be broke.

The auction house assigns a default price which I rather like and which allows for a certain amount of predatory opportunism. You see, it seems to give price more or less on item type and level. A level 15 blue item will be about the same price as a level 15 green item. This means you can search by quality and pick up some bargains very easily.

I started with Slicing, Scavenging and Investigation but I've realised I'd never get a chance to use Investigation due to permanently running slicing missions so I've changed that one to Archaeology where there's at least a chance to find nodes you can gather from in the wild. All three of those allow you to hit nodes and as a result my minimap, which I keep zoomed out, is often festooned with stars like a little round Christmas tree.

The Imperial Agent is very cool, a gadget-based action spy with a suave British accent. James Bond in space, what's not to like? I went down the Sniper tree partly as a consequence of the game's early structure. Most classes it seems build you up well in one of the areas of speciality from 1-10 then ask you to choose an advanced class. At level 10 I was a superb shot, sometimes killing mobs in one hit but I also had a fairly weak dagger attack and no stealth nor healing. So when the game asked me if I wanted to shoot things for a living or be a rogue/healer it felt like a duh! question. Yes I want to easily one-shot and two-shot my way through the game. I expected though that I'd be respeccing later but the choice is permanent. Not a disaster but certainly a surprise.

Overall it's immensely fun and very charming. There's a very strong Star Wars feel and I'm getting flashbacks to Galaxies in 2003. While it lacks some of the features of Galaxies I'd say it's every bit as good, as fun. Whether I'll be quite so hooked in the longer term depends on how the game feels after I've consumed the content. There's a danger of an extended Tortage effect. Everyone who played Age of Conan loved Tortage then felt very let down by the bland game that came after you'd finished Tortage (the starting city). There's clearly a lot more than just a city but it's still consumable content and in some cases it's being consumed at astonishing speed. So will the game hold people who hit level 50 before Christmas and don't want to make an alt? It will be interesting to see.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Eve Online: a new home

A new home for my armada of PI alts. I'm sending a scanning ship and 5 cloaky haulers off to a new wormhole. This one has lots of lovely planets and is very quiet. According to DOTLAN there have only been 2 players ships and no pods killed in the last month. No jumps at all in the last couple of weeks and combat against NPC seems very occasional.

I check everyone has an up-to-date clone and an insured ship. In one case I repair the armour and half the structure of an exceptionally fortunate Badger. And launch 3 clients and have them all autopilot while I type this. I also send them 200 million isk each to cover set up costs and export taxes for the next several months.

Once I've placed my ships inside I'll scout their POS with my cov ops and get the corp ticker. I'll use that to work out their timezone with the idea of only exporting PI goods when they're all asleep. For good measure I'll add any name I can deduce to my watchlist for extra hauling safety.

At some point they may decide to put up POCOs at which point it will be time to move again. Until then I'll pay 17% tax and like it!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Eve Online: Poco wars, part 9 (this time it really is final)

I moved a fleet into the wormhole yesterday morning during a gap in their coverage. A Talos Tier 3 Battlecruiser, an Oracle Tier 3 Battlecruiser and a Rifter tackling Frigate. The ships were fitted to be able to pvp and to deliver sustained dps.

Late last night I noticed only one of my opponents was on. I decided to start killing pocos as I felt confident against a single opponent.

I spotted a Hound stealth bomber on D-scan, then a bit later spotted some core scan probes (he was scanning for the way out) and orbited the office shooting it, with orbits set to optimal range so if he tried bombing he'd be unlikely to catch all 3 ships.

He dropped in with a Drake battlecruiser at 60 km and started shooting the Talos.

I flubbed my response a little, not being used to coordinating alts in pvp. I sent the Talos towards him, alt tabbed sent the rifter in, back to the Talos, locked, scrammed and webbed him and started shooting, over to the Rifter, locked scrammed and webbed him and started shooting, alt tabbed to the Oracle, sent it towards him slowly (it wasn't fitted with a propulsion module). A ship started screaming, alt tabbed saw it was the Rifter, ok no worries it's a noob character in a cheapo frigate, he can have that one, went back to the oracle to see if I could lock him yet, another ship started screaming. My Talos was in trouble - doh! I'd left the microwarp drive on. By doing so I'd massively increased my signature radius which meant his missiles were hitting me super-hard. I watched for a few seconds to see if the armour repairer would cope with the incoming damage, it couldn't. OK, time to leave. I turned the MWD back on and burned toward a random point in space to get out of his warp disruption range and hit Warp. Unfortunately I hit warp too early and was still pointed, so nothing happened. I rather panicked and aligned to the Sun and left the MWD on. Unfortunately the sun was back past the Drake so my ship turned around, its MWD making it bulk up huge, and headed back into the enemy fire. Argghhh! I turned back around and tried to run off but the ship blew up. I warped off in my pod, alt tabbed to the Oracle, still 38km from the enemy and warped off in him.

I lost:
a T1 fit Rifter (about 40k isk value after insurance)
a pod (no implants no re-cloning costs)
a Talos Tier 3 Battlecruiser (about 60m isk value after insurance)

Big kudos to him. I might have misplayed my fleet but he took on 3 ships with one and played really well. It took both balls and skill to do what he did.

So I had a rethink. My pressure on their pocos was based on the idea that they'd need a few people to stop me because I have multiple accounts. If one person can beat me 1 vs 3 then I'm probably wasting my time. Also it means that I'd only be able to operate when none of them were on if I wished to continue my campaign of asymmetrical warfare. (I had anticipated being able to kill a poco one day when not enough of them were around). That now escalated to having to spend time reinforcing a poco then needing none of them to be on in order to kill it without getting my butt kicked.

Better to cut my losses, pull out, find another wormhole with its Interbus customs offices still up and farm that paying 17% tax. So I've decided to throw in the towel and pull out.

I'm not unhappy, it was enormous fun and the pvp fight was really exciting. I also learned important lessons about pvp, including my first ever attempt to coordinate 3 accounts in a fight at once. I'll evac late tonight or tomorrow night once all good Russians are tucked up in bed and then start scouting. I'm tempted to try to find a corp but with Star Wars starting and having just been rejected from one I wanted to join for "being a spy" it's probably best to aim for a low maintenance low profile Eve gaming style.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

SWTOR: my guild,

I recently applied to join a SWTOR guild which my friend Faylon has joined. I filled out the template then they asked me to tell them more. I rather liked what I ended up writing, it turned out to be a nostalgic review of a life in gaming. The guild is Rising Darkness, we're European (if Brits are still allowed to say that) and the server we're on is Red Eclipse. Recruitment is closed but will open up again when the game goes Live.

OK, let me expand.

I started gaming with Chess when I was about 4 and graduated, in those pre-home computer days, to crawling over the carpet with a tape measure moving lead armies about.

When I was about 15 video games were starting to become popular. We were supposed to volunteer to garden for old ladies on Wednesday afternoon but often they cancelled or we managed to bunk off and head up to Victoria for the amusement arcade and the magic of Space Invaders. Swarming mob-handed into the arcade, our pockets bulging with 10p pieces, in our school uniforms with our shirts hanging out and our ties loosened and flipped over our shoulders we saved this planet from countless swarms of implacable alien invaders.

In due time much more sophisticated games came out such as Asteroids where you could spin your shooty thing and Galaxian which had more than one colour!

Later in the 80s I worked professionally for a play by mail game company where you could send your panzers into France and patiently wait 3 days to find out how they got on. I got an Atari ST which had sophisticated Dungeons & Dragons style games like Bard's Tale and Dungeon Master. I even logged on to my first MMO, a text mud. All I remember about that game is I met someone who was in frikkin New Zealand. How awesome was that?

In the 90s I stayed with someone who actually owned a proper computer and I fell in love with a game called Master of Magic. I had to have my own computer, life would not be complete without access to Civilisation, Populous, and UFO: Enemy Unknown.

I went on to play online games being quite a mean Homm3 player and a very sociable Diablo 2 player. By this time I'd picked up Faylon at some dingy roleplaying club and he became my partner in crime in D2, achieving the impossible and amazing the people we played with. He once had a character with every possible speed buff that was so fast no one else could control it. Only him. (Until he drove him into a wall and splatted).

After Diablo 2 Faylon, a Star Wars nut, persuaded me to follow him into the new Star Wars game coming out in 2003. I played every class I think, as did any SWG vet who remembers the godawful hologrind. I also ran a fashion armour line that was in high demand, ran a guild, and destroyed the top pvp guild on the server after one of them spat at me (with a little help from my friends).

We tried EQ2 for a few months then WoW which we really liked. We played twin Rogues and were pretty hardcore levelers - there were 6 of us who were ahead of everyone else until about 55 when we slightly burned out (ie reduced our playing times to about 12 hours a day). We managed this despite rushing off to Stranglethorn Vale once every 3 hours for a chest that spawned in the arena there. You needed to win it 12 times in free for all pvp which was enormous fun and utter carnage. Eventually the top Alliance guild focused full time on stopping us at which point we called in a few favours, stomped them and Faylon (Waz as he was known then) became the first Arena Grand Master on the server. I was the second.

We co-founded the top Horde guild and did some raiding in Molten Core. Then we had to stop for RL reasons, came back a bit later and joined another guild which we helped get at far as Broodlord Lashslayer in BWL. Raided on and off after that with several guilds seeing most raid content up to 5/6 Sunwell in TBC and 3/12 Ulduar in WotlLK.

I began playing Eve about 3 years ago too which I like for its crazy stunts and incremental gameplay. I've also dabbled in loads of other MMOs.

At the moment I'm mainly playing Eve but the nice thing about Eve is if you dont have time to play much it doesn't really matter. Skills go up, planets grow cows, datacores accumulate and orders sell. Best of all by not playing you manage to avoid getting blown up.

What I'm looking for in SWTOR is to experience the game to the full. I'll probably level reasonably fast although I'm no longer up for the 16 hour a day playstyle we did in 2005. I love crafting. I like posting on forums and theorycrafting. I'm a pretty good rogue and think I'll get a good handle on the Imperial Agent. I'll probably try alts out at some point. I'm quite prepared to be flexible and help out if the guild needs me to take a different spec, I'm a very experienced healer and a competent tank.

Eve Online: CCP Christmas gift, a tip

[Edited after CCP diddled about with how remaps work]

The best thing to pick is probably the bonus remap. Bonus Remaps now work separately from the standard ones so it can just sit there for years if you like. If at some stage you sell the character it will add value. It could also be valuable for an area of study like Drones (MEM/PER) which don't really match any other skill groups.

If you don't need a neural remap, and are pretty sure you will never ever need one, pick the Aurum so long as you already have the 5500 free AU they've handed out over the last 6 months.

Aurums are quite a cunning choice. Analysis of the clothing market suggests that price tanks for anything that falls under the free AU threshhold (currently 5500). If you take your AU to 7500 and they introduce new stuff or give us more AU you will have access to things only a tiny handful of players can buy. That increases the value of your Aurum, not just the 2k you get as a Christmas present but all the other aurum too.

In other words it's very significant being 2k in front of the pack.

Suppose CCP give everyone 2000 AU at some future point. Going by the figures from this analysis, it would mean everyone else is able to cash in their AU for around 20 000 isk but you can cash in 9000 AU for 66k isk each by selling a Field Marshall Coat for 600k isk.

So you could pick random Christmas gift worth 60m + sell 7k aurum at 20k isk each for a total of 200m

Or you could sell a coat for 600m (slightly less perhaps as a few other will also pick AU as their gift diluting the market).

Still as CCP add more stuff to the store and particularly when DUST launches giving us a new market of players and a load of new stuff anything in the cash shop that is out of reach of the people who just accumulate the free points will sell at premium prices.

Monday 12 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 8

It's 11.24 in London. Which means my targets are tucked up in bed, 3.24 their time if they're around Moscow. Probably too cold to sit up in the small hours at least if their homes are as draughty as mine.

I go to work.

Step 1 is checking if they're on using my contacts list. One is. Not one of the industrial corp that live in the wormhole but one of their military friends. Talking to a Locator agent using my cheapskate tip reveals he's in w-space.

An internet search of killboards doesn't show him as having killed or lost in a different wormhole recently so he could be in mine. (Well, technically his mate's but I've decided now I own a stake in it).

I could be brave and scan down the exit and fly out to high sec to pass around bookmarks but there's no need to. My gameplan is to maximise their risk and minimise mine. If he's really good he'll be sitting by the exit with a drag bubble up and cans scattered around to decloak his opponents.

There's just no need to risk it.

So back to watching TV, as often in Eve the best move is not to move. I'll check again tomorrow night.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 7

Ah well, they didn't buy the negotiating in bad faith and destroyed my pocos. Which is a shame. They have, however, put up their own. Which is great.

You see, if the opponent is determined enough, these things aren't really defensible by small groups. I have these guys on contacts on watch list. If they all log off I'll put their pocos into reinforced. When the pocos come out of reinforced what will probably happen is about 10 of them wait for 2 hours to defend while I do something else (play SWTOR probably). Then the pocos will be ok. Until they all log off again and I put them back into reinforced.

So you see the only defence is having enough players that you always have someone online. They could possibly get me if they have characters I don't know about but my assault force is enough that they'll probably need at least 3 to win a fight and once they do that I add them to watch list. In other words they have to burn character names to beat me, once burned I'll never attack when that character is online while I only have to update my pods and get new ships if killed then I'll go back in with the same characters.

Eventually they'll stop defending them. At which point if they're online I'll still wait but someone else, passing through the system might think "hay I can kill this thing" and then do so. If the pocos are coming out of reinforced and these guys are offline then I'll blow them up.

This is the core of asymmetrical warfare. What I have to do is occasionally log on and if I can see my targets are undefended blow them up. What they have to do is always be online all the time forever. Asymmetrical.

Because my target is an industrial corporation who call in favours from friends when they need military power there's a definite limit on how long they can sustain a defensive campaign. Every time I put the pocos into reinforced they have to call in a favour and get their mates to drop what they're doing and come help, help consisting of 2 hours doing nothing.

On the other hand it means I may need to adjust my Eve play. What I've been doing is semi-afk missioning in high sec. However once I antagonise these guys I need to leave them no target. Possibly missioning will be ok, I don't know if it will be possible to suicide gank a battleship if I fit it to run missions while being hard to gank. It's probably best simply to avoid giving any target at all. I might focus on station trading in Eve and other games out of Eve.

Alternatively I could just walk away. But I think you have to do something in a game like Eve other than just farm money. And if I achieve the diplomatic result I want I'll be able to do PI in their wormhole in peace forever. And I can't see how they can stop me harassing them unless they get very lucky and I lose both of the cloaked ships I have in the wormhole as scanners.

Eve Online: locator agent tip for cheapskates

One thing I've picked up in the recent poco wars is a way to get intel on someone's whereabouts without paying.

Normally Locator agents charge 25k isk. However if the target is in a wormhole the agent tells you he won't be able to trace him before you pay the money.

So if you're in conflict with players and you want to know which of them are in W-space you can do so for free using a Locator agent. Just cancel if he offers to find them for you in return for payment - because that means they're not in a wormhole.

Eve Online: poco wars, part 6

3 hours to go until my pocos come out of reinforced and I'm scouting the wormhole. The static to high sec has a tengu and a tornado sitting on it with a medium warp bubble. The bubble is just to hold people coming through the hole, it's not a trap for cov ops like the last guys laid. So not as professional a bunch. (If they had caught my cov ops there would have been a realistic chance that I wouldn't be able to find the hole again.)

Still it's a problem. The names of these two pilots are different from the pilots who attacked my pocos the day before last. So there are now at least 6 players involved. It's too many to fight alone.

So I adjust my strategy. It's diplomacy time.

I got talking to them and eventually the guy I convoed managed to communicate I should use Google translate. I did and fired off random Russian. They dont want to put up their own pocos. I offered them 50m for the chance to take my pocos down.

While waiting for their responses (they were very slow) I did some research. The corp that lives there is almost completely pacifist, they have not killed anyone in the last 3 months despite some actions in their own wormhole. Their friends do their combat for them. The friends (the guy I was talking to was ex-Stain, a fairly strong nullsec pvp corp) have taken down 2 poses in the last 3 months and killed a few people. They're certainly out of my league.

However they only defend. Which means that potentially I could just close my PI facilities on the 2 planets I put pocos up at, open new ones at planets that still have the Interbus offices available and continue to ninja PI. I'd have to pay 17% tax but that's still 83% profit assuming average prices for my product. Also these guys won't allow anyone else to move in, effectively protecting me. Tourists are always a danger in a class 1 with a high sec static but no one will live there except some pure pacifists. Also I have all of them as contacts on watch list. So I can fly my PI stuff out when they're not on.

15 minutes to shut down and the conversation has stalled again. Did I mention they've VERY slow at responding. However that may work in my favour. After downtime they'll have to decide whether to kill my pocos or continue the negotiations.

Ah - they've offered 50m for each office. I've agreed. However I expect they'll want paying first which I won't agree to. (Because they'll just keep the money and nuke them anyway, well at least that's what I would do). And if they let the offices go out of reinforced I'll take them down and not pay.

9 minutes to shut down. I've agreed a deal with them and they haven't said anything about wanting the money now. If nothing else is said I think there's a good chance they won't demolish them after downtime. Well 50/50. Which is better than what it was an hour ago. If they demand money now I might try the "wait I need to sell something at jita first" stall.

I'm due to go out anyway in about an hour so no need to log on. They'll have a decision to make - do they kill the pocos or do they trust me to send 100m when I take them down if they leave them?

Ah, trust, there's not enough of it about.....

3 minutes to downtime and he just typed "waiting for the money". I told him "I need to sell something at Jita, on my way."

49 secs to downtime, he just told me "Hurry up". I replied "I don't think I'll get there before downtime".


Server down!

Now I'll head on out for some lunch and to watch a game of football and come back later to see if the pocos survived. If the timers are bugged like last time there'll probably only be 30 minutes for them to be attacked, they may not manage to get it done even if they decide they want to kill them.

Friday 9 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 5

These things were introduced into the game to promote conflict and they certainly seem to be doing that!

My pocos, after surviving the attentions of the high sec griefers, have now been attacked by the Russians who live in the wormhole. It took them more than 3 hours so they have about half the firepower of the other guys (who had 4 oracles). These lot do have a XL ship assembly array in the wormhole so they could potentially have very big ships available.

They wouldn't talk to me unfortunately. Requests for convos were ignored. Still the nice thing about the mails you get is that you get the first person to shoot each time and you get a lot of mails. So I got 4 names. Added to contact and watch list, allowing me to terrorise them when they're not online should they blow up my POCOs and put up their own.

Eve Online: poco wars, part 4 (final - I hope)

I logged on quickly after downtime and checked out the wormhole. I got the error message that the solar system is not loaded yet which I always love to see because it means you're first.

My POCOs were in reinforced but the timers were messed up. They should, according to the settings have been in reinforced from 11-1. Instead at 11.29 one was showing 30 minutes left and one was showing 6 minutes left.

I had a couple of ships by the way in with microwarp drives so I thought I'd have a go at collapsing the hole. I jumped in with MWD turned on for that fat signature rating boost. Found a mobile warp bubble deployed by the Russians who live there. I didn't like it being there so I nuked it, huzzah for T3 Battlecruiser dps! Jumped out. Jumped back in again.

One of the enemy logged on (I've added them as contacts on watch list) so I decided I didn't really fancy jumping in and out with an enemy fleet incoming. I'd not done much damage to the wormhole anyway, it was still registering above 45%. You get a timer if you jump through too much, in fact I had 2m 50s to kill before I could jump out again. I warped from safe to safe then left.

I then checked my enemy's killboard. They killed a couple of people in a different wormhole yesterday. That seems promising as you really need to commit at least one character to take down w-space pocos. Could they have got distracted? Even if they weren't were they too late because of the buggy timers? One poco was already out of reinforced by now, the other had 20 minutes left.

In the end all was pretty quiet as I watched the clock run down from a cov ops. (I'd made better bookmarks this time so I was able to move it much more safely, first to a spot 1000km below the poco then zooming in to 200 km below so as to be safer from drag bubbles).

And the clock ticked down, my pocos are safe and it's all a tad anti-climactic.

......... for now!

Eve Online: poco wars, part 3

With just over 3 hours to go on my 2 pocos I have just been emptying the planets they export to - well in advance of enemy preparations I hoped.

The high sec griefers weren't around but on my last hauler I bumped into an Iteron V leaving the wormhole as I re-entered. Oops. Fortunately he hadn't spotted me as I was still cloaked from the jump. I really like the new session timer as it gives you a ten second window where your cloak hasn't dropped yet but you can jump out if you get into trouble.

However, as so often with surprise pvp instinct takes the place of wit. As the Itty jumped out I warped to my safe. 2 ships landed and I quickly started taking damage. What I should have done is cancel warp and hit Jump. What I actually did was Warp to the Sun, assuming the ship was dead and I might as well save my pod. In fact they took me into structure on the first volley but I got away before their guns cycled. Must have been artillery or something. Never let people tell you tank on Tech 1 Haulers is wasted! Also always put something that stops people warping off if you think you may pvp.

Learning from a previous fiasco I didn't log him off once I'd got him safe. If I log off after being shot I think I can be found for a while now. That's what happened last time. He's sitting in a safe, cloaked, and he'll be quite happy there till downtime.

I identified one of them as from the Russian corp who are the real owners of this wormhole. They have a massive POS there with XL ship assembly plant - that potentially means they have carriers in a system where anyone else has at best battlecruisers or HACs. Unfortunately the person immediately logged off and I got no response when I talked to them in Local. Pity I don't speak Russian really.

Still I can't help but wonder if they'll turn up to contest the POCOs. If they get someone to talk to me I'll cheerfully blue them and set +10 tax rate to zero giving them free PI in return for their help.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Eve Online: poco wars, part 2

After a couple of hours busily blowing up my 2 pocos the enemy leader got back to me.

[19:09:23] E > hi
[19:09:47] E > larst charns or call in the fleet
[19:09:54] E > 6%
[19:10:01] E > thats not bad u have a lot mor to loos
[19:17:58] Me > sorry mate was afk
[19:18:03] E > np
[19:18:19] Me > yup, you go ahead I'll just move hole
[19:18:22] Me > good luck
[19:18:45] E > wow but u have a hell of a tol in there ...
[19:18:53] Me > tol?
[19:18:54] E > sham to blow it up
[19:19:00] E > lot
[19:19:05] Me > what's a tol?
[19:19:08] Me > oh
[19:19:16] Me > no, i just had the 2 pocos
[19:19:16] E > carnt speel for shit =/
[19:19:27] Me > the tower is some russian dude's
[19:19:34] Me > i've never seen him
[19:22:19] E > k i see
[19:22:57] Me > so what exactly do you guys do in game?
[19:23:09] Me > i thought TEARS were basically ninja salvagers
[19:23:45] E > they r
[19:24:15] Me > you're collecting tears blowing up pocos?
[he left]

I wonder how much money they make doing this. I guess a lot of people must fold at the first threat of violence.

Eve Online: poco wars

Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. A force of 4 oracle tier 3 battlecruisers and a purifier stealth bomber has paid a visit to one of my shiny new Customs Offices. It's from a high sec griefing guild and they started out with an extortion attempt.

[17:54:06] Me > hi
[17:54:06] E > hi
[17:54:49] Me > you convoed me :)
[17:54:58] E > your going to los your CO or hand them to us
[17:55:23] Me > ah
[17:55:39] Me > i'd prefer to negotiate a deal, want to be blue to us?
[17:55:48] E > is u do it b4 the ferst 1 gos into RF then ill do the tax at 4%
[17:56:18] Me > handing them over isnt an option
[17:56:38] Me > and if you nuke them I'll keep the wormhole clear of customs offices permanently
[17:56:53] E > if u do it arfter then they will b 6%
[17:57:06] Me > you're not listening :)
[17:57:21] E > and if u dont hand them over we bern ur system
[17:57:31] Me > that's fine, bring it
[17:59:08] E > if u transfer the u will blue to us
[17:59:16] Me > is there anything else I can help you with today? :)
[17:59:34] Me > no sorry, you can't have them
[17:59:51] E > you cood give us a fight if u whont

Proof you don't have to be a quick typer or a decent speller to do well in Eve.

My friend checked them out in a cov ops and got caught by a very professional drag bubble trap. I don't think I've got much chance of stopping them so it's just a matter of moving my extraction efforts.

Fair play to them. Blowing up people's customs offices could make them a lot of isk since I'm sure some people will prefer to hand over the customs office rather than lose it.

It might be a good time to look for a pack to join again.

Eve Online: Adventures in Crucible

Eve's had a dramatic year culminating in a Save The Game expansion which intends to put right a year of tepid development.

And it's really good.

Unlike some of the other good expansions there's no particular theme to this one - it's a collection of things they thought would be cool. We have a new Tier of battlecruisers specialised in damage, we have player-owned customs offices (part of the infrastructure development for upcoming partner game DUST514) and loads of little things and artistic improvements.

The game looks really pretty now. This patch is full of little artistic touches. My Amarr Impairor (noobship) mounts a cannon on top of its hull - it now retracts the cannon when going into warp. A little touch but very cool and very nice looking.

I have built some of the Customs Offices and placed them on sale for a rather expensive price. No one has bought one yet but I think they will. I don't think we've really seen the player run planetary materials economy supporting a time of major nullsec war. Nullsec war is largely about killing opponent structures and setting up your own. If the war that everyone is expecting occurs then we will see a lot of structures blown up. I don't think the player economy will cope which means that prices will spike. In the long run that encourages more people to enter planetary production but in the short term it means large profits for yours truly.

As well as gouging off other players I've also deployed two of them for my own planetary production efforts. I produce planet goo in a class 1 wormhole which is occupied by a Russian corporation with a large and impressive Player-Owned Station. However they never seem to be about and I've been happily farming their planets for several months.

I've gone a step further now and placed something that is both visible and attackable. I think what will happen is they will just use my Offices and pay me tax (a modest 7.5% as compared to the NPC default of 17%). Possibly they may contact me and talk to me in which case I'll try to negotiate blue standings. They may kill my offices in which case I'll simply nuke every Customs Office in the wormhole for weeks until they come back to the negotiating table. Essentially no one will be able to extract anything which will make it rather hard for them to run their POS. Hopefully we can work something out.

It's a class 1 wormhole which means it's difficult to bring force to bear. The low class means you can only enter with quite small ships, frigates cruisers and battlecruisers. Which brings me to my new toys: an Oracle Amarr Tier 3 battlecruiser and a Talos Galente Tier 3 Battlecruiser. In a class 1 wormhole, unless someone has actually constructed a powerful ship inside the wormhole from scratch these Tier 3 ships are effectively the Top Predators. A Tech 3 strategic cruiser is equally powerful but costs about half a billion isk, it doesn't make financial sense to risk them against Tier 3 battlecruisers. Hull plus fittings was about 90 million isk which for me is a very small amount - they are throwaway ships, I'm quite happy to risk them. Which is what I had to do because I had them shooting the NPC Customs offices for several hours yesterday.

Theoretically a Tier 3 battlecruiser can do over a thousand dps. However with my rather indifferent gun skills I was no where near that. My Oracle does about 500 dps with large pulse lasers, I'm training up for Tech 2 ones which will be a significant upgrade. However it can shoot for 8 hours without burning out a single crystal which is very useful in W-space. My Talos does about 550 with large neutron blasters plus can hold a flight of small drones which add another 100. However I used about 1400 cubic meters of ammo. It has a cargo hold of 600 cubic meters so I had to use its cargohold, the oracle's cargo hold and fly some extra in to supply it.

I really enjoyed using these ships and am looking forward to the skills for Tech 2 weapons. It's good to be eager about skill training again. Once I can handle some decent guns, who knows, I might even seek out some human opponents again.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

The fascination of passive gaming

I've realised that what I missed most about not being able to get online for a month in gaming terms are passive gameplay features. The skill queue in Eve, PI in Eve, spell research in EQ2.

That's partly because I'm in an unsociable phase. In a couple of weeks I'll be playing SWTOR with a close real life friend and a promising looking guild so I've avoided the commitment of other MMO guilds for the last several months. I like gaming with other people but I'm perfectly happy playing alone too and this happened to be a period when I was soloing (it would be very annoying to be cut off for a long period when a fresh game launches and everyone is in leveling frenzy).

But it has got me thinking about why I play and what I like. I really like the set something off and come back in a day gameplay. I loved it in Star Wars: Galaxies when running my harvesters. I suppose blogging is kinda similar, one reads or comments then comes back in a day to see if there's been a reaction. I think I'll enjoy SWTOR's companion resource collecting and crafting much more than I ever liked mining in WOW.

And of course other people like it too - it's the essence of most social Facebook games although they're gradually changing.

Yet I can't help but feel that it's not esteemed the same way by many players as active gameplay. Running about shooting someone, that's real gaming, setting a harvester running then coming back with a hauler a few days later is rarely championed.

I never played Farmville and don't think I'd like it because it's only passive gaming and seems a bit meaningless when isolated like that. But as part of a complex and sophisticated MMO? Yeah, give me passive gaming!

(In the time it took to write this my Eve character gained 1000 skill points and my planet farms churned out 30 Transmitters).

Friday 2 December 2011

I'm back!

Finally I have internet operational again. Operation Harangue Customer Support is over, now it's time for Operation Argue about the Bill. Anyway that's probably as tedious to everyone else as it was for me to spend a month without internet.

I'll post something more relevant to MMOs soon.

Monday 7 November 2011

Life without internet

I've been quiet for the last week and a half and part of it is that my internet access stopped unexpectedly.

I'd been having intermittent line faults so I canceled my ISP (British Telecom) and arranged a new one (Tesco). I was told they could cancel my old ISP for me when they set up the new one and that sounded fine.

It wasn't!

Learn from my mistake, never ever let anyone have permission to cancel your broadband. Get both up and running then cancel.

Instead I had to run a gamut of vague excuses, improbable promises and outright lies while I wait for a router to arrive through the post. Apparently the mail now is slower than it was in the 1st century BC. I think they deliver by sending out pack-snails which are preceded by a man waving a red flag. Ho hum.

What I'm writing about, as well as to explain my absence, is the rather fascinating psychological process I've undergone. At first I was quite angry and bullishly made phone call after phone call. I moved on from Anger to Desperation and tried to get my old BT router set up to carry my new provider (it appears to have been sabotaged by BT in case traitors like me attempt to do that though). Then I moved on to Calm. One doesn't really need the internet. There are other things to do. I've read a lot, phoned a number of friends who I was semi out of touch with and watched more TV in 10 days than I'd previously seen in a year.

I found games to be astonishingly thin on the ground. I thought I had tons of games: there's my MMOs, my Steam games, my old Win 95 and 98 games that need patching to run on modern machines - all completely useless without internet access. I played Warcraft 3 (and a big Ha! to people who claim the Warcraft series has always been frivolous, it's a sombre tale of obssession and betrayal told with utter sincerity). I played Diablo 2 although it took a little adjusting to not being online, especially not having banks of dummy characters for item storage. (Although I believe there are patches for that kind of thing - if one is online). And I played Minesweeper. A lot of Minesweeper, took me ages to clear the biggest map, my naval skills are sadly rusty.

All in all it's been quite a nice break, it's let me re-assess my leisure time rather than predictably running through the same motions over and over.

I do begrudge the missing Eve skill training time though.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Do any gamers act on principles?

I caved in yesterday on a stand I'd taken regarding SWTOR. I was annoyed they closed SWG  just to stop it competing so I had decided not to buy SWTOR. Yesterday an old friend phoned and told me he'll be playing SWTOR so I decided to pre-order it.

I feel in some ways like I've made a righteous decision to make a stand then ceded defeat partly because of the social tie, but also if I'm being very honest partly from greed for the new shiny.

How does everyone else feel about gamer ethics? Are we all just sluts, sleeping with whichever game promises the next gratification? Or are some of you out there headstrong determined people who often take a stance on a matter of principle and stick with it?

Monday 24 October 2011

Children's stories?

When I was 17 my English teacher said to the class: "The Hobbit is a great book for children and The Lord of the Rings is a great book - for children."

It was his attempt to steer us back to the established literary world of Shakespeare and Joyce and Orwell. And it was pretty successful, LOTR went from being wildly popular among us to being something we'd grown out of.

Looking back now I think he was wrong, that books aren't really for children or adults but there can be a childishness about them, an accessibility, an escapism that may appeal in general to a demographic but there's no hard and fast rule for individuals other than those which we form ourselves.

So what rules have I formed for me, myself and I?

The first is consistency. A story needs to operate in a world with clear principles. In a Tarantino film you know what will happen when people start losing it. And it's part of the story running through his oeuvre, his collection of work. In Tarantinoland when people get cross they shoot each other. It's kind of charming in its predictability, it's how his world works and it adds to the appeal.

In the latest Fry's Planet Word Stephen interviewed Peter Jackson who said this of Lord of the Rings:

What Tolkien did great with his stories and especially his use of language was that he treated them as historical.. that was a door that we entered when we went into the movies, that this isn't made up, it's not a piece of gobbledigook set on the planet Zog or some such thing. Every name, every place name, every plant name that Tolkien wrote about he based on some form of language. It was a language that sometimes he created himself it was an archaic old middle English form of language

F: like an oaken shield

J: yeah. Everything meant something, everything had a reality, it was almost like he did literally create history.

And of course he literally created a history, after his death his background notes on the fantasy world were published as a book almost as long as his trilogy.

I grew up reading heroic fiction. Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Gemmell, Cherryh, Nevyn, all full of wonderful heroes in lovingly realised worlds. Consistent worlds. Worlds that didn't make sense in relation to our world but which did make sense in relation to their own world.

To many people, including my English teacher those are worlds that are childish and trivial, but the power of stories is their effect on the hearer and everyone hears the same story differently. You can't tell another person they're wrong to be inspired by something, it's their call.

If any readers are inspired by Pandaren then good for you. Best of luck to you, I wish I was.

The reason I'm not is that, rightly or wrongly, I've seen WoW as a continuation of a story that began in my cot, a continuation of the bedtime fairy tales, the teenage sword and sorcery, a lifelong love of alternate escapist worlds. Each world varies but within itself it has consistency.

WoW has exhibited a tendency to play games with that consistency, to undermine it and surprise you. It's a gimmick that goes back to Warcraft 1. It's a gimmick that's actually quite pervasive in WoW but for the first time I think the gimmick has overtaken the world's consistency. If a quest giver in vanilla sent you to kill ten orcs with a Rolling Stones reference it didn't overpower the adventure of fighting to save the village. Nor do I think the Taurens were immersion-breaking, it's a fantasy trope that goes back to Theseus. But increasingly WoW has jettisoned the underlying theme of a fantasy world at war for more and more jokes and silliness. I don't like the holiday events, it's an intrusion of this world into the fantasy. I don't like panda-people as heroes. I don't like the purchasable My Little Pony or the children's TV zaniness of the goblin starter area.

And it's a shame that I don't because if I did I would have more fun.

Fortunately people are making games for me and people like me. Eve is rather dark, so are forthcoming titles Prime and This Secret World. Age of Conan and Lord of the Rings both do a great job of capturing the feel of their original authors' works.

So as the blogosphere draws lines in the sands over WoW's inclusion of pandas I respectfully wave to those capable of seeing the fun in head-kicking panda people in the bright shiny Azeroth future as I head towards grimmer shores.

Friday 21 October 2011

WoW: pandas... /facepalm

Well with 3 days left on my month's sub news comes in that the new Expansion will feature a new race Pandas and a new class Monks.

Too cute by far for me, it killed my will to play. I tried logging in and playing and actually got to an instance but I couldn't face it any more and logged off halfway through.

I feel like the Warhammer-based dark fantasy has become a game aimed at toddlers.

It's not the first sign of course, draenai are basically smurfs and the cash shop pony is My Little Pony, the Goblin starter area is very much designed to entertain young children.

But enough is enough. WoW is simply not a game for my demographic any more.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Eve Online: a harsh winter in Georgia

I was very sorry to see that Eve's owner CCP Games has had to lay off 20% of its staff. 120 people have lost their jobs mainly in Georgia, USA staff who were working on World Of Darkness. WoD is not canceled but its future must be in some doubt.

It's a horrible time of year to lose your job as it's tough to get a new one in the pre-Christmas period. My very best wishes to all the staff affected.

It must be a very bitter time for the former White Wolf staff. White Wolf was one of the top tabletop RPG companies. Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Forsaken and Mage: The Awakening are superb games that took the genre away from its high fantasy roots. They must have felt when they merged with CCP in 2006 that the titles were in safe and loving hands.

So what went wrong?

Basically CCP over-extended. Hiring more and more staff based on a tradition of exponential growth it ended up too bloated. It's not complete disaster, Eve is a cash cow and will I think have a favourably received Expansion this Winter. I expect it to push back to previous subscriber number and concurrent user highs. Hopefully they'll be a little more restrained with the extra cash if so.

In the longer term I have my doubts about DUST 514. It's a PS3 only shooter that affects the Eve power structure. I think it will attract some Eve power gamers (Something Awful for instance will encourage a strong DUST guild to support their very strong Eve guild) but generally speaking console players don't stick to one game for long. They need to attract both Eve players who don't usually console AND console players who don't usually play MMOs. I do think though there's some satisfaction to be had from the feeling that fragging a load of reds is contributing to carving out an empire somewhere. DUST may feel more significant than your average shooter.

Once DUST is released though they will be in a much stronger position. Games always need more staff to develop than they do to manage live. And even a disappointing launch will bring more revenue in than pre-launch when you don't get any.

Hopefully at that point investment in WoD will pick up again.

One of the casualties of the cuts has been the customer service team, including forum moderators CCP Fallout and CCP Zymurgist. A lot of players are confused by this as they see the cuts as a consequence of bad customer relations.

I don't think the cuts are really a consequence of bad customer relations although that didn't help. (And the players who in June urged everyone to unsub for "the good of Eve" certainly contributed). CCP was over-extended and was relying on growth to pay the bills. The disappointing summer expansion meant the subscriber base didn't grow. People haven't lost their jobs because there was a riot at Jita people have lost their jobs because the game failed to become more interesting.

The cut of the CS team is similar to something I saw when I was working in the City of London as a librarian. When companies are in trouble they cut peripheral staff. The banks kept bankers and sacked librarians (even though we were terrifically cost-effective). CCP has kept people who develop Eve and sacked people who manage the perception of Eve. Equally understandable, equally short-sighted.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?


This Winter's expansion looks like it will be really fun with a new problem for industrialists and a new target for pvpers in the form of player-owned customs offices. Popular re-balances are coming, particularly a capital ship nerf and a hybrid turret buff. I think it's an Expansion that will boost numbers. DUST, as I've said, will provide more money once launched than it does while in development, that's axiomatic. And WOD will eventually, unless complete disaster strikes, get back on track. There is room for a stylish, sinister Vampire roleplaying game in the MMO market.

Best wishes to CCP staff, present and former.

Monday 17 October 2011

What to play, what to play?

Like most of the bloggers I regularly read the last few months have seen something of a lull. The year started with Cataclysm which lured most of us back for a look. Rift was fun for a bit then palled. Since then it's been awfully quiet in MMOland.

Over the last couple of months I've played WoW, Eve, Titan Quest, Diablo 2 and Everquest 2.

I invested £9 in a month of WoW in anticipation of the LFR. I actually thought it was coming sooner than it really is. It seems unlikely it will be here before mid-November now as it's on the Public Test Realm and there's still a lot of work to be done.

So I pootled around with other characters, mostly doing PvE with the LFD system. I leveled a Warlock to 40. I liked the Goblin starter area, it has a lot of charm. Even so my tolerance for Kill Ten Rats quests is at an all time low. Even though the quests are now miles more varied and interesting than before I get fed up very quickly, I was struggling to stay interested till level 15 (which is achieved in a ludicrously short time). I think that's me, not WoW. After a decade of excessive MMO questing I'm just about quested out for this lifetime.

The low level dungeons were great fun and the queue time was incredibly short. We're talking 2-5 minutes wait as a dps. I played with a level 1-40, a level 35-44, 80-82 and a level 85 and in each case dps wait is really low. So much better than Rift where it was possible to queue for 5 hours without a group happening.

I tried tanking and burned out after about a dozen. The problem was that many in the WoW community are very rigid about how things should be done. My view is that if I'm tanking, I'm driving the bus and other people should just follow me. Unfortunately this seems to be everyone else's view too so you get shouted at for going the wrong way after picking Option B of two equally valid options. I followed up my game experiences by reading the forums and it's clear that tanks are expected to be "thick-skinned" and that screaming at the tank is normal, in much the same way that one might curse a jam jar lid that is reluctant to come off. OK, fair enough, I don't want to be anyone's jam jar lid. Dps on the other hand is more laid back than ever and the game actually plays like Diablo 2. Race to the monsters, unload with everything, grab what sparkles, race to the next lot. Occasionally the train falls off the track but while it's on the rails it's a lot of fun.

Unfortunately it becomes less fun at higher levels. The higher you go the more stressed people are, the more particular the monsters are. "Did you stand there to kill me, no no no, sorry, I absolutely refuse to be killed unless you stand 2 inches to your left." I did a ZulGurub with my 85 Death Knight and people were most put out they couldn't votekick me. I played just about every boss wrong and it didn't matter until the last one where we wiped after I didn't realise you have to stand under some domes. We got him at the second attempt though. It was a little unpleasant to feel my dps was terrible. Apparently 14k dps is borderline these days and I was doing 7k. Oddly the standards players impose have no relation to whether they are winning or losing. One shotting every boss is not enough these days, people expect specific metrics.

So that's WoW. I may have another month at some point next year when short of interesting games, sadly it's very low on my ranking of fun games (and not really more fun for me than EQ2 or Lotro, it's just the very short wait times for LFD make it a solid option).

Eve I play in a very passive way. I really like the routine of training skills and doing PI and market orders. Occasionally I'll have a burst of pvp enthusiasm. The issue I have with Eve pvp is that I'll inevitably get ordered to fly a ship I haven't trained and people will get pissy about low participation. It's annoying to be bollocked for not showing up in a Zealot when I can't fly a Zealot (nor can half the corp). Still Eve is a great second game as you feel like you're progressing along nicely even when you're not really playing it.

EQ2 has liberalised its gathering via a new AA tree. Historically rares really have been rare, there's now a AA skill you can take that gives +1% chance per harvest to find one. One per cent more when previously you were at 0.001% (or that's what it felt like) is awesome and I've been hoovering up resources to level up my stable of crafters. This I found surprisingly addictive. I probably did about 150 levels of crafter in September across several characters. There's also a LFD system imminent which I'm looking forward to trying after my WoW month runs out.

Diablo 2 and Titan Quest I've played in order to fend off my Diablo 3 angst. I stopped playing D2 for a bit as they're resetting the Ladder on 25th October and a new Ladder season is quite exciting. Titan Quest is a very fun and very Diablo 2-like game set in Ancient Greece. It's actually a little difficult. There are 3 difficulty settings and I'm on the easiest and getting absolutely mauled at about level 5. I've rolled up a different class however and that's probably the best way forward. I had a brief dip into multiplayer and the first mob I met utterly murdered my level 1 character, I think I'll stick to single player for the time being.

So that's it for me for now. The next few weeks hold WoW, TitanQuest and Eve. That's a 2004 game, a 2006 game and a 2003 game. Let's hope there's some gems in all the exciting unreleased games we're currently reading hype for.

Otherwise I'll probably be reduced to Facebook.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Eve Online: Game down, evegate down

Navigating to Eve's official forums gets you this message:

We were ganked

We'll counter-attack as soon as
we properly outnumber them


Attempting to log into the game gets you this message:


Proxy not connected to sol servers

I assume sol means shit outta luck. Good to see fanatical nerds everywhere are still raging at CCP. For one moment I thought all might have been forgiven.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Eve Online: End of an Ice Age?

Another interesting week in Eve.

The Goons have decided to strangle the production of an obscure fuel so that they can make large profits while upsetting a lot of other players - both very much in keeping with their stated Alliance aims.

The Ancient Gaming Noob reported it a couple of days ago and the Gallente Ice Interdiction is proceeding according to plan. Jita Oxygen Isotopes price is up from 400 a couple of days ago to 800 with a high point of 5000.03. Yesterday evening it was 1300. I sold some of mine for 1200 and some for 1000.

The detailed version of the plan is explained by Mittani but in simpler form this is how it works. Most asteroid belts have minerals but a small amount have ice, great big icebergs in space. These can be mined by players. Each of the 4 Empire powers have their own racial ice type that is found in their space and in nearby nullsec. No ice is found in W-space.

The Goons are trying to prevent anyone from mining Gallente ice in quantity. While some ice belts are in unfriendly nullsec even these can be interdicted by an afk cloaker. But nullsec ice is not significant to the market. The main concentration of effort is on 17 high sec Gallente systems.

Part of the strength of this move comes from the nature of ice mining. The gameplay is that you turn your lasers on and about 6-10 minutes later you find a couple of blocks of ice in your hold. Depending on your mining style you may click and drag it at that point. (I ice mine with a cargo expanded ship and just dock it when it's full). It requires no more attention than at most a glance and a drag n drop once every 10 minutes or so. It is essentially an afk playstyle, it's like watching paint dry.

Because no one pays attention when mining ice this makes the people who do it very vulnerable to gankers. What's more many ice miners are bots anyway.

It's perfectly feasible to gank people in high sec with a cheap insured ship. If you ferry ships out to a safe spot you can even do this with a character with negative 10 security status (nominally a game feature to stop people ganking infinitely, clearly not quite working as intended). It's the kind of gameplay that, like so much of Eve, has a lot of built-in downtime in this case partly because you have to wait out a 15 minute timer after each gank.

It seems perfectly feasible to me that Goons can keep this up practically forever. Even if they're fighting in nullsec on one account they can have an alt account or two locking down the ice belts in high sec. Out of 7000 players in their alliance they need just 17 to park an alt at each belt to watch for miners.  The only thing that might stop them is getting bored. And even if the Goons get bored someone else might gank the ice miners.

This means the fuel they are interdicted will rocket in price. I happened to have some on expensive sell orders, they've already been snapped up making me 1.5 billion isk. (The equivalent of about 4 months free game time).

Every commodity in Eve is extensively stockpiled as a general rule of thumb. So even if they completely stop supplies reaching the market it will still take a while to completely run out. But the price has already rocketed.

So how many kills have there been?

Well the Goonfleet killboard is here: It doesn't have a total but it credits the top ten killers with 174 kills. Over 75% are Mackinaws, a fitted Mackinaw was about 180m before this started (the price is soaring). So about 200 kills from Goonfleet plus more from allies not shown on that killboard (like Test Alliance).

That may only be the tip of the iceberg (ho ho!) however. In Deninard, an ice system in high sec Gallente, there have been 525 Ship Kills and 42 Pod kills in the last 24 hours. That's just one system out of 17! Brapelille has seen the deaths of 511 player ships and 22 pods.

A poster on Kugutsumen estimated it takes about 30 hours of ice mining for a Mackinaw to pay for itself. If the life expectancy of a Mack dips below 30 hours we can expect to see people stopping mining. Once some Macks stop the life expectancy of the brave few who continue decreases so with a little effort we could soon hit a point where just about no one mines ice in Gallente high sec and the few who try are almost instantly killed by hordes of bored gankers with nothing to gank.

Can the ice supply be replaced? Well stockpilers may be liquidating their stockpiles now as the price has already tripled. The Drone russians have access to nullsec Blue Ice, as of course do the Goons and their allies. Both I think can be expected to mine and sell. It is however relatively easy to interdict. Take a stealth bomber alt to an ice system and sit there cloaked. No one will mine and if they do you get a free kill. The miners aren't really defensible as it's so boring an activity. No one's going to sit there all day in a combat ship on the chance that the neutral in system is going to have a go at an ice miner.

To add to the intrigue Goons are using their position on the CSM and their influence with the development team to try to get ice further restricted. After some talk of removing it from high sec completely the devs are looking at depletable icebergs, at belts that can be exhausted.

So what lessons can be learned?

First there's probably a very good investment opportunity in Oxygen Isotopes even at the inflated Jita price. Some speculators are cashing in but it's very likely that it will keep going up. It may not seem true in the short term if a lot of people cash in but stockpiles are finite and many Oxytope consumers are locked into that fuel type (supercap pilots and Gallente POS managers).

Next there's a busy secondary market in Gallente space selling to both sides. Mackinaws and Brutixes are going to sell very nicely for the next week or two. The cheapest Mackinaw I saw in Essence Region was 199m (usual price about 125m). Likewise for modules and even implants - many miners are getting podded. Be careful supplying Macks though - at some point the market will crash as people realise there's no point undocking one.

Next if you're building a POS or training for capital ships if possible avoid the ones that use Gallente fuel (Gallente control towers, Erebus titan, Anshar jump freighter, Moros Dreadnought, Thanatos carrier, Nyx supercarrier). Fuel will get expensive and may simply not be available at all at times.

There may be knockon effects like a rise in the cost of moon minerals and T2 products but that's less dependable.

It hurts POS managers a lot more than supercap pilots. Most supercap pilots are very rich and all of them are backed by their alliances.

You may be able to ninja salvage in Gallente ice belts. There will be lots of nice dead ships. Be careful though - there will be loads of suicide gankers about!

Sunday 25 September 2011

Diablo 2: Ladder reset tomorrow?

EDIT: Apologies all, I didn't do my homework.

Blizzard posters have confirmed that nothing is imminent although they haven't forgotten about D2 players.

We're holding off on a reset to figure out some things. We'll let you know as soon as we do.  

Just wanted to let everyone know we haven't forgotten about you, we're still working some things out to determine when a reset may occur, and we'll let you know as soon as we do. 

If anyone else is passing the time until D3 with the older versions of the game then it may interest you to try the D2 Ladder if it resets tomorrow.

Ladder resets are due every 6 months, however there's been no official announcement. So it's a bit unclear whether we get one or not. Let's hope so.

It's been ages since I played the Ladder seriously but I remember it being fairly easy to place so you get to see your name. And it's quite fun to level up under a sense of time pressure. You see yourself as, say, 41st, play for an hour or two log off and bam, you're 38th when you log off.

I'm going to try the Hardcore ladder because that gives the additional spice of seeing your place rise because someone above you has exited the race (mwa ha ha). I'll play a Barb for the fun of it, a Druid if he takes an early bath.

While there's always a fair amount of cheating and duping in D2 this is a time when it's at its absolute minimum - people can't dupe until they've found something to copy in the first place.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Pacifism and video games

Pacifism, the philosophy of non-violence, has a long and distinguished tradition in human thought. Jesus Christ was a pacifist. Mahatma Ghandi. Compassion for all life, human and nonhuman, is central to Buddism and Jainism. The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century gave rise to a number of pacifists sects including the Quakers and the Amish. The Quaker province of Pennsylvania was essentially unarmed and experienced little or no warfare during the 75 years from 1681 to 1756. The nineteenth century saw more articulation of this position, including the thoughts of Russian author Tolstoy. The rise of socialism based on the theories of Marx saw an opposition to war which was seen by many socialists as exploitative of the working class for the benefit of capitalist profiteers.

The First World War featured "conchies", conscientious objectors, who refused to fight. 16 000 men were recorded as conscientious objectors in the UK of whom 6 000 were sent to prison. They were often despised by the general public, with a white feather being handed to them (signifying they were cowards). In World War Two there were 60 000 conscientious objectors of whom 5500 were imprisoned. Many conchies were given work in non-combatant military service such as the Royal Army Medical Corps. 350 of them even volunteered for bomb disposal work.

In real wars pacifism is an important consideration. In politics and diplomacy peace is often sought as a desirable goal. So why are games so bloodthirsty? And do they always have to be?

There are two main reasons that games are bloodthirsty. One is tradition, the other relates to game mechanics.

The traditional accent on war in games goes right back to ancient civilisations and is, I think, influenced by the availability of equipment. There are of course games with free or cheap equipment - any kid can grab a feather and run around tickling the other kids, any kid can find a stick and throw it. Dice are fairly cheap to carve from wood or bone. But more sophisticated games such as chess, go, and draughts required leisure to produce, leisure which was only available to those who could extract the labour surplus - the warlords. While the peasants toiled in the fields the warlords and their knights waited, bored, for a fight and devised ways to pass the time. These pastimes reflected their interest in war and were a way to pass their military wisdom to their heirs.

Computer games directly inherited this theme. The early uses of computer for gaming was a dream of building a computer so sophisticated that it could beat a human at chess, seen as one of the most intellectual of achievements during the 1950s and 1960s. The other big influence on computer gaming was Dungeons and Dragons, a combat game that evolved from tabletop wargaming.

Computers are particularly suited to game mechanics that are based around fighting. In life the alternative to fighting is talking, whether to playground bullies or around the diplomatic table. Talking was particularly difficult for early computers to handle as they were machines built to process numbers not language. I wonder if this is still true. While computers are based on numbers deep down we have so many sophisticated programs for dealing with language that this technological limitation may no longer apply to these tools. Google applies sophisticated algorithms to search phrases that may be linguistically inelegant and still finds relevant results even where the search is clumsily phrased. Virtual worlds are used for language learning with over 200 universities or academic institutions using Second Life.

So is it time for a pacifist game, specifically a pacifist MMO?

Here's a design framework.

The game world is based on modern society. Players start as young people entering the world of work and must develop careers as the main game play mechanism with pacifism as the goal for most players and war as the goal for a small minority. So advancing your career is how you play, completing your career without war is how you win if you're a pacifist, causing a war is how you win if you're a hawk. One possible way of motivating people would be Winners Play Free - if you win you get another go. This of course would mean that the company doesn't make much money when the pacifists win, that doesn't necessarily matter and shouldn't influence game design.

In the pacifist gameplay you have a role that is basically firefighting. So a journalist might need to write an article condemning a military solution to a crisis contrived by the game engine and exacerbated by the hawk players. The article could be tested using metrics software - how many people Like it, how long do people spend reading it? (If people glance at it for 2 seconds then hit Like that's not going to count for much). Hawks have career advantages in that they have dirty tricks options. So they can blackmail, bribe and beat up people to advance their careers.

The gameplay can be extended to real world social networks with the ability to make Youtube videos, to tweet, to create social media pages in game. So for example you could give a speech in game, upload it to Youtube, get a million hits and 100k likes in the real world and that would influence your character's success in game. Speeches and videos would also be matched against a google type algorithmic pattern searching program to see if the speech matches peaceful themes or warlike themes. If a speech is given that is warlike, even if given by a pacifist player then all those hits advance the cause of war.

Career paths that players could choose should reflect influence brokers and power in modern society. Politicians, political lobbyists; businessmen and women, military officers, secret agents, journalists, union leaders. Affiliation would be secret (although players might guess based on someone's actions). Most spots in the game would be doves. This may well not reflect what players want to do so two things would be needed to keep the matches balanced. First players don't have a choice - they pay their money they draw a card, if they get their preference great, if they don't they can pay to draw again if they want or play what they drew. Next activity needs to be monitored. If 40% of your doves are inactive you need to add more doves to the match. This is fine since it means that people in the game will be at different stages of their careers.

Everyone's allegiance is secret but there should be some solid advantages to being overt. A pacifist newspaper might be able to wrack up a lot of Peace Points. A hawk newpaper getting a lot of Likes and Time Spent Reading could be really dangerous.

The timeframe of a game is the length of someone's career. If we says they start at 20 and retire at 65 that gives us 45 years. A reasonable length of time for a match might be 9 months, so we have 5 years of career progression per month.

Working title? How about "Peace in our time?"

Friday 16 September 2011

Diablo 3: Item Affixes

Today I'm going to have a look at item affixes in Diablo 3.

Affixes are a bonus, usually to a single stat. +2% chance to crit is an example. The word affix means a word or phrase that goes before or after a word. If I'm Sir Stabs of Goldshire Sir is an affix and so is of Goldshire. An affix that comes before is called a prefix and an affix that comes after is called a suffix.

Magic items in the game will have a number of affixes determined by the item type. I'm expecting that rare and standard magic items will work similarly to Diablo 2. In D2 a blue item had 1 or 2 affixes and a rare item had 3-6. This generally meant that rares were better than blues. (There were some exceptions but as Jay Wilson said in an interview rares would be the best items we'll ignore those for the point of thinking about D3).

In this picture from D3 Beta we see two blue items. Both of them have two affixes, one each of suffix and prefix. So if we look at the names it breaks down to:

Prefix=Oak              Item type=wand                Suffix=of the Oracle
Prefix=Ferocious      Item type=Great Axe        Suffix=of Mutilation

Rares don't follow this naming convention, they have names that are not connected to their item properties.

In addition there are crafted items. Crafted items usually have some fixed properties and some affixes. (It will say random properties, which is a synonym for affixes).

In this instance there aren't any fixed properties. When you make this wand you get 4 random affixes. The damage probably varies a little as well.

This will change each time you make an item using the recipe. Even the same recipe will usually produce varying items.

In this picture we can see two pairs of gloves made using the Journeyman Chain Gloves (rare) recipe. The amount of armour clearly varies as do the properties. We've got some properties that are the same on both (eg Attacker takes damage) but it's not possible from this screenshot to say whether the recipe gives 4 random properties or a mixture of fixed and random since it's possible that the gloves have the same properties through chance. Note also that the exact numbers vary on most properties. Here one Attacker takes damage is 5 the other is 6. That's just luck.

Better affixes and different affixes are added into the mix as the level of the item rises. (Level of the item will usually be similar to the level of the area it was found or the level of the player crafting it). Some affixes won't be available at all at low levels and some will have relatively small numbers until later in the game.

And there are also legendary (unique) and set items. Legendary items are generally fairly strong and may have properties that aren't on the standard affix list. Set items are like legendaries but in addition have bonus properties when multiple items from the same set are worn. Most set items in D3 are I believe made by craftsmen using rare recipes dropped by monsters.

One of the many mathematical peculiarities of D2 was that some very similar sounding affixes worked in very different ways. For example + enhanced damage was miles better than + enhanced damage to demons even against demons. This is because the first one got factored into the equation at an earlier stage so it got multiplied by skills and stat bonuses rather than just being added at the end.

We won't know how D3 functions mathematically until people theorycraft by doing practical tests. But just bear in mind that many of the numbers in D2 did not do what they claimed to. +20% attack speed did not make you attack 20% faster, +100% magic find did not double your magic find chance.

For now my best advice is expect it to do something similar to what one would expect but maybe not exactly. I do expect D3 to be less inexact, the D2 mathematics felt rather botched together. I remember Peter Hu, one of the D2 designers explaining a system to us on a theorycraft site and he sounded almost embarrassed.

We have details of what affixes do in Diablo 3, some from beta screenshots and some from this site. Bashiok mentioned the gold find radius affix in passing a few days ago - from this screenshot we see it's not just gold but health globes too.

Looking at the datamined list we see that prefixes and suffixes unlike Diablo 2 are about the same list. I'm now going to classify addons into types:

+ stats
+ damage
+crit chance
+gold find
+gold and health globe pickup radius
+magic find
+ fast cast
+ improved attack speed
CC reduction
Damage reduction
+ defence
+ experience gained per monster kill
+ fury/spirit gain (as a leech effect possibly)
+ health/hatred/mana/spirit regen
+ health globe (drop chance?)
Life and mana leech
Item cost increase (appears to make the item vendor for more gold)
+mana/life per kill
+ maximum Discipline/Fury/Mana/Arcane power
+ run speed
+ salvage (chance for more mats?)
Attacker takes damage (very useful for zookeeper witchdoctors with the passive that extends this to their pets)
plus a few that I couldn't figure out

So there's a lot to choose from and when you find a rare you could luck out and get 6 good ones or you could be unlucky and get some of the turkeys and/or get less than 6. And don't forget that if you don't like what you see there legendary and set items may have properties not on that list.

One thing that does occur to me - I can certainly see myself having a +salvage alt or gear swap and melting everything with a character who has + salvage in every slot.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Diablo 3: Who's who in the economy?

The Buyers

The Veteran - Most buyers I think will be ambitious experienced players wanting to be a little bit stronger. Someone like me in fact - if I spot a good deal on a +magic find item I don't mind dropping a few pounds on it. Maybe it'll pay itself off. Some of the systems in the game seem very cleverly designed to get people to spend just a little. For example the skill planner I've been playing with recently uses level 7 runes which are ilvl 58 and presumably only drop in Inferno. Some of the builds I made need the full bonus of the rune to make the build work, my Teleport build would be much less good if a cheap rune was in the Teleport spell and that meant you had too short a window to find your next destination. So you can build something on the planner, get all excited, realise you can't make it work with what you're finding and be drawn to the RMAH to make your build work. People will get sucked in.

The Noobs - Tobold thinks the market will be driven by people who are not very good but want to disguise that by paying for success. He's right that it's a factor, I'm not sure this will be the biggest driver of the economy though. They can pay huge amounts. One DDO player spent $200 on mana pots from the cash shop in the first month of free-to-play. He could have kept them healed using wands bought from vendors cheaply for in-game gold. He didn't know about that and didn't want to tell the others he couldn't keep on healing them.

The Traders - some people will buy items they have no intention of using simply because they think they can sell at a higher price. Sometimes they will be right and make money, sometimes they'll get it wrong and lose out.

The Narcissists - some people will buy items because of the appearance. Dyes, flashy spell effects and cool looking armour will have value to them.

The Big Spender - anecdotes abound of That Guy. You know of him, you've heard about him. He's the guy who spent $6m on his house in planet Calypso; the guy who bought over $100k of plex in Eve or the celebrity whose wife owns a Spectral Tiger in WoW. Of course what these people are really buying is celebrity, the fact that they value owning something that other people can't afford is a phenomenon that gave rise to the unfortunate cash shop monocle in Eve. Count on hearing stories of spectacular extravagance in D3 (because the whole point of spending 1000 times more than anyone else is to have people notice "wow, that guy spent 1000 times more than me").

The pvper - competitive pvp generally forces people to min/max. While there is some scope for coming up with an original and powerful build early on the scene quickly becomes a matter of using cookie cutter builds with specific optimal gear. Anything on the gear list of the most successful cookie cutters will be in high demand.

The Sellers

The regular players - by far the biggest RMAH input will be from normal unremarkable players turning surplus loot into cash. Most of the time these people will never use the AH either to buy or sell but occasionally one of them will find an item that people tell him is worth a decent sum. And he doesn't want to use it. Not individually very economically busy but so many of them that they will dominate the market supply.

The amateur farmer - someone who farms and sells it because it's a minigame. The profits are a way of keeping score. This will be a popular playstyle and a significant source of supply. This is where I'd classify myself.

The trader - buying from other players and re-selling at a profit. I think this will start off quite popular but will burn a lot of people. There are players who think they're incredibly shrewd based on WoW or Eve who are going to get burned when they start playing for real money. It's like someone who usually beats the family at cards over Christmas thinking he'll be great at Poker in the casino. Some people will make money of course and quite possibly a handful of people will make a lot of money.

The Chinese gold farmer (blue collar) - traditionally MMO gold farming has been a low skill low status job in the Asian economies where this has become an industry. The worker moves his character to a zone with non-elite monsters intended for soloing, presses a couple of attacks and collects loot. For hours. At the end of his shift he sells off his loot for anything he can get and a replacement worker starts a shift (selling off anything his colleague failed to liquidate). I think this business model will fail in Diablo 3. Not completely, these guys can farm Nightmare or early Hell but late Hell and Inferno will be too hard for them. The way they share the characters in shifts means workers will sell off all of the character's gear at the end of their shifts which will really mess up the character's ability to farm. The tendency to solo hurts them and the tendency to view this as skillless menial work. There simply won't be much money in mindless farming. We may see these guys turn up in random pugs as magic find leeches.

The Chinese gold farmer (white collar) - currently white collar work in the industry includes things like customer service where the worker has to be a bit more switched on and clued up. (Especially if the exchange of goods is accompanied by social engineering aimed at getting the client's password). Diablo 3 will surely see a new era of professionalism in gold farming where gold farming teams start recruiting good players, where people have sole access to a character, where they keep some of their good gear, and where they play in synergistic teams. I don't think many such teams will be ready to go on Day One but I do think we will see a transition to this format during 2012 and 2013. A feature of this business will be that they trade through Blizzard's system, effectively they're real players who just farm all the time and don't do anything outside the EULA nor behave different from most other players.

The Chinese scammer - scamming, phishing and hacking is the fastest growing part of the RMT industry. This business model is dishonest all the way through. Typically they pay for an account with a stolen credit card number, offer item selling or power leveling that is mainly an attempt to get passwords, phish for passwords, then after a few months log onto their clients' accounts and strip them. These guys will sell D3 items cheaper than the RM auction house to get people to visit sites where they'll use trojans and keyloggers to steal player accounts. They'll get cleverer too so we'll start seeing informational websites and forums that look like they're done by an English-speaker which are actually attempts to steal people's information. Do be careful, I think this sector will get more sophisticated and more desperate because I think Blizzard's model marginalises them. A lot of people buy items in games, most of these will use the obvious in-game system. These businesses can't trade on that system if I'm right in assuming that Blizzard won't let you take real money out until your credit card has cleared. They have to lure people to third party sites.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Diablo 3: Thriving on chaos - a Barbarian build

I was intrigued by one of the runes for Wrath of the Berserker. Wrath of the Berserker is designed as a powerful short duration buff. Normally it buffs you for 15 seconds and has a cooldown of 120 seconds. Adding a golden runestone gives the following effect: Every 9 Fury gained while Wrath of the Berserker is active adds 1 second to the duration of the effect.

Here's the six million dollar question: can you perma-Wrath?

If we can gain 9 Fury every second all the time then this buff never runs out. That's +10% critical hit, +45% attack speed, +20% dodge and +20% movement speed always.

Let's start by looking at the passives.

There are quite a lot that improve Fury generation and I think the most intriguing is No Escape which improves the damage of Weapon Throw by 100% and gives us 20 Fury every time we kill an enemy with Weapon Throw. OK, so now to perma-wrath all we need to do is kill an enemy with Weapon Throw every 2 seconds or so. We'll add in another couple of Fury-generators: Animosity and Unforgiving. Now we get 22 Fury every time we kill an opponent with our double damage Weapon Throws and we regenerate 1.1 Fury every 2 seconds.

Now let's look at our actives. We already know two of them.

1) Wrath of the Berserker runed for perma-Wrath.

2) Weapon Throw runed with something that gives us more kills.

Mighty throw rune boosts its damage which is nice but there's two even better choices.

Ricochet allows it to hit 8 extra foes which is very strong but I think there's something even better than that.

Dread shot will spend all remaining Fury to do a huge aoe to all opponents in 22 yards. As long as that kills something we get 22 Fury back and can cast it again. We have a huge spammable AOE that keeps us in perma-Wrath for as long as there are things to kill. Assuming the passive applies this does 18% damage of weapon damage per Fury point and a full Fury globe on this character is 120. So OVER TWO THOUSAND PERCENT OF YOUR BIG TWOHANDER'S WEAPON DAMAGE TO EVERYTHING IN 22 YARDS. And if you kill 6 things you get another go with a full Fury bulb. In a Diablo series game where much of the combat is about fighting small weak creatures that's astonishingly good.

3-6) OK so we know how we want to kill things - Weapon Throw. As long as we keep killing with Weapon Throw we don't need to use Fury builders and we do massive aoe damage. So most of these extra skills I've picked for mobility. Staying in perma-rage will be a race against the clock, we have to be moving fast, killing fast all the time. Note too that we don't want to kill with these skills, it suits us much better if we set up Weapon Throw kills because they give us more Fury.

3) Furious charge glyphed for bonus Fury generation.

4) Leap Attack. Our signature mobility skill, it allows us to jump over obstacles like rivers without having to run round the long way.

5) Sprint. Because sometimes you do have to run round the long way and it's good to get to the next pack before Wrath drops off.

6) Frenzy. Decent Fury builder for times when we don't have any Fury plus we move faster when it's up.

Here's the link.