Thursday, January 14, 2016

Return to Rust


By Bixyl Shuftan

It was about two years ago when my gaming friend Nydia Tungsten and I found out about "Rust." For those whom haven't read our previous articles on the game, it is a survival game developed by Facepunch Studios in early 2014 that at the time was loosely compared to "Minecraft," and "Day Z." The game had no "score," rather the player woke up naked with nothing but a rock and a torch in the middle of a wilderness marked by a road with occasional abandoned buildings along the way. Standing in the player's immediate goal of survival were bears, wolves, zombies, and other players. The players could use the rock they started out with to gather wood, stone, metal, and sulphur to make tools, harvest meat and skins from animals to build up health, get food, weapons, and blueprints to make things from containers in buildings. On occasion, there would be an airdrop that potentially had valuable goods, such as metal building parts and automatic weapons. To help them stay alive and preserve their stuff, players built bases, either their own or a few getting together to make one. People had to log in at least every couple days or their buildings would slowly decay, or "rust," away.

The biggest obstacle of the game were hostile gamers. While many, perhaps most, were content to just go about their way, there were some whom seemed inclined to shoot anyone on sight and raid any place they could rather than work and harvest stuff on their own, whom Nydia named the "PvP kiddies."

Still in open alpha development, Nydia and I and our friends gave it a try. We had fun for a while, building up our combined base. There were a few changes over time. Early on, the zombies were dropped, replaced with mutant red bears and wolves. Some players complained, but the developers stated they didn't want their game to be just another "zombie MMO." Over time, we saw some creative builds by other players. But unfortunately, we were having to spend more and more time rebuilding from our bases being broken into and finding resources to replace what was stolen. Eventually, Nydia and her friends got tired of dealing with the "PvP kiddies" and left Rust behind for other games.

A few months later, I heard the game was updating. So I gave it another look. On the plus side, there was less of a danger of starving if you couldn't find food on the first day. There were also rivers and streams introduced. But the roads were gone, and there weren't much structures around (so I noticed), so finding one's way about was pretty hard. I couldn't find any crates or other containers, so I couldn't find any cloth to make even a pair of pants for my naked character. One also couldn't make building parts at the start. So it was time to abandon the game and go with the games my friends had taken up. Rust did make gaming news some months later when they introduced black skins to some of the players. But there was some controversy as the choice was taken away from the players, "just like in real life, you are who you are - you can't change your skin color or your face." While there was "a definite uptick in overly racist language," the big issue seemed to be that some people "have a strange need to play someone similar to themselves in games." While female skins were eventually made, so far they are limited to members of the development team.

It was in the tail end of December 2015 when Nydia's friend Brandi Streussel decided to take a peek at the game. So I decided to check things out. The first thing I noticed was it was taking much longer to load than last time. Once in, I began looking around for resources, and it wasn't long before I found there had been further changes to the game. The roads were back, and not only were the containers back, there were a greater variety of them, sometimes appearing as metal drums, trash cans, and half-torn boxes, but they could appear away from buildings. There were "hemp plants," which could be harvested for cloth. It was a welcome addition as there had been times in the old Rust it took a while before I found a container or critter to clobber.

Going about, there was more marking the terrain than just roads. There were power lines and towers dotting the landscape, which were a help in finding my way around. The smaller ones by the road had an occasional "Lost dog" ad, and the roads had signs by them, ones that were a bit weathered and sometimes spray painted. Like in the early Rust, there were groups of abandoned structures. They were not always buildings, one group being a pair of no longer active huge radio reception receivers. They are a little more detailed than before. Some with electric lights that provide illumination at night. There are also sewers residents can go down into and look around for supplies. Radioactive areas are less of a problem as I have yet to come across any, though as I have come across anti-radiation pills that presumably suggests there's one or more around somewhere. With rivers and rain now a feature, one  can now get wet, showing up as a percentage on the HUD. It doesn't usually affect you, aside from making it more likely to get cold.

Building your own structures has changed. You use some wood to make piece of paper, then use the paper to make a floorplan. Once you have the floorplan, just put it in your inventory bar at the bottom, activate it, and move it to the spot where you want to build. If it's red, move to another spot. if it's blue, just click and you have a foundation, which you can add to by moving it to adjacent sides and as long as the marker's still blue and you have the wood, you can build. To get walls, doorways, stairs, ceilings, and other sections, just press the Shift button while the marker is up, and you get a menu of which kind of section you want next. Doors, window bars, and shutters are not part of this system, but are created like other items and placed by putting them in your action bar, activating it, and placing it where you want the part to go.

When first set up though, building parts are rather flimsy and won't take much punishment from other players before they collapse. To strengthen them, build a wooden hammer. And when it's active in your action bar, the building part it's near will be highlighted green and can be upgraded. There are five levels for building structures: wood, stone, metal, and armored. At the beginning, stone is the strongest you can make the walls of a sizable structure, but it should keep out raiders whom have yet to get explosives. Judging from the abandoned buildings I saw while exploring, players need to keep logging in, or their structures will decay, or "Rust" back into the wilderness.

There's a greater variety of tools, clothes, and other items one can make. As before, you'll need blueprints to learn to make some, such as machetes, helmets, and metal hatchets. Also as before, to make use of the metal and sulfur you get from harvestable boulders, in addition to the high quality metal that's been added to the game, you'll need a furnace. Getting the low grade fuel to make one, you'll either need animal fat from clobbered critters, or refine crude oil found at certain containers at certain buildings and refined in furnaces. So now one can get fuel without "killing Bambi." As before, items wear out over time from use. To fix them, one needs a workbench and certain materials, such as wood and metal fragments in the case of repairing wooden hatchets. Once one gets the blueprints, one can build larger furnaces to smelt more metal at once. Once you get the blueprints, one can also build mining quarries to harvest ores and rock directly from a piece of land instead of looking around for harvestable boulders. But the ratio of what can be harvested varies from place to place. So it's best to use a survey charge first and examine the chunks of rock that result.

As in the old Rust, there are things out there that want to eat you, the bears and wolves. Gone are the red critters, so no special goodies beyond meat and leather if you clobber one. Instead, it's one less thing that's out to get you. One difference in the game is in the old Rust, you could outrun a bear, and keep away from a wolf if you kept running. This time, they run faster than you do. if you run into one going through a bush and are armed with only a bow and arrow, it's goodbye as they catch up to you and chow down on your screaming body. There's also a NPC helicopter that flies from place to place. If it sees you, it will fire it's machine guns, and possibly rockets, at you. So far with the chopper, I have yet to find a weapon that offers an alternative to running and hiding. Like the old Rust, there is still the plane occasionally flying overhead and doing a drop. And there are still the pigs you can hunt down on foot with just an axe. After all this time, it's still satisfying to chase and take down a piggy (at least for me). Besides the deer, there are now horses trotting about. If one can harvest things different things from them from deer, I don't know as I didn't have the heart to take one down, preferring to wait longer for a stag or pig.

It should also be noted as a "Survival MMO," some servers are listed as PvP active or "Player versus Player." So far, my experience with the game has been with one server marked PvE or "Player versus Environment." Unlike Ark, in which players can't directly hurt anyone in a server where PvP combat is disallowed, a server's PvE status is supposed to be enforced by administrators. In the old Rust, we had trouble when some players ignored that and kept going after us. In this one, we've had a little trouble with people breaking in and stealing things. It hasn't quite reached the level we had in the old Rust yet. But it does leave me, and others, to wonder a little if there's truly such a thing as a true public PvE server in Rust.

It should be noted the game is still in development and still changing, officially described as in "early access." When Brandi and I first started, besides the harvestable boulders, there were smaller rocks and chunks of iron and sulfur on the ground one could simply pick up. But after the update in early January, they were gone. At Christmastime, there was a treat for the players in the form of presents that would occasional appear, "Ho ho ho!"

In developer Gary Newman's 2015 review, he's described himself as learning some lessons over time. Among them, "Don’t be afraid of the reaction of people on the Internet. The first reaction is always outrage, and is usually from people who haven’t played the game for months." He also has a few plans for further developments, such as Experience, Blueprint, and Skills systems, things to add variety to experiences, such as the occasional apple or birds nest with eggs when chopping trees, and being able to throw meat to distract bears and wolves.

So two years later, Rust is still around and has life in it.

As I was finishing up this article, Nydia told me she was getting a private server for her friends. So there may be some more "Return to Rust" tales in the future.

Sources: playrust.com, kotaku, wiki.facepunch.com

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, January 8, 2016

Game Review: Fallout 4


By Nydia Tungsten (and Brandi Streusel)

 We have all heard the hype on the game Fallout 4, when it was finally released. Everyone called in sick to work just to play this game. Hell, even Pornhub.com released a chart showing a major dip in their site traffic for THREE straight days, so I was starting to think just maybe there was something to this game. 

   I received this game as a gift. I had received “Fallout New Vegas” from my brother when he thought it was a multiplayer game, and I wasn’t that impressed with it. So, I wasn’t sure how I would like this one also, but since Freewilly187 gifted a sixty dollars game to me, I felt obligated to try it out.

  When I started to play, I remembered that this is from the same people who made Skyrim and I loved that game. I loved it even more when my dear friend Lomgren bought me the DLC’s for it. “They game so much better with them,” he told me. Well Lom, you were right. Then I found http://www.nexusmods.com  and I was in heaven.

  So, it was with this kind of hope that I went into Fallout 4 and I was not disappointed. I went in knowing very little about the story line or game play. I will not spoil it for you by going into too many game spoiling details and ruining it for you (I hate it when people do that) so I will just give you my general opinion about the game play and story.

  The story starts with a dark turn as expected, and then takes another dark turn that hits you in the gut like a heavy weight prize fighter. From there, it is an emotional rollercoaster ride that you would expect from an award winning movie writer. You actually connect with your character and most of the NPC’s around you as you journey through the Commonwealth. I beat the main story in less than 4 days because I wanted to see how the main story played out. And again, I was not disappointed. I grabbed hold of it like I would a well written book and I had to know what happens next.

  As of the time of this game I had achieved over eight days of game play, that’s over 192 hours into this game. So yeah… a LOT of time in it and to me, it was worth every second. Personally, I can’t recommend this game enough, but there is a down side to this game that some have found out the hard way. It is a graphics intensive game and a lot of older systems just can’t handle it.

   But don’t despair. I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel for you with older systems. The game hasn’t been out very long and there is already over 5000 mods for it at (http://www.nexusmods.com). There are a few that turn down the 4K graphics to something more useful for those with older systems, so if you don’t mind lowered graphics, you can still enjoy the game thoroughly.

    The next hurdle is the price. $60USD is a lot of money to pay for a game for most people. I was lucky that someone got it for me, but the game is worth saving every penny in the penny jar for it. I cannot recommend this game enough.

  So, if you haven’t played it yet and enjoy a good book or movie, make sure to avoid this game until you can get it for yourself, and just dive in. If you have Fallout 4, let me know what your thoughts are on it. Or, if you’re planning on getting it, let me know if this was helpful in your decision. Until then, you can find me in the waste land when not in Second Life.

  We’re starting a new year and some great games are coming out. What new games would you like to see me play and write about in the upcoming year? Let me know and I will do my best to get it done for you.
And as always… GOOD GAMING TO YOU!!

Nydia Tungsten

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Game Review: World of Warships


By Nydia (and Brandi) Tungsten

I started playing World of Warships when it came out of closed Beta to open Beta and I cannot say I was disappointed. It shared a few things with its predecessor , World of Tanks (WoT), and yet they are “worlds” apart.

I think the best part about the game for me is the PvE game play. They introduced it where it is you and a few other people against the AI.  Just because it is you against the computer, don’t think the game will be easy.  I have been on a few human teams that have been absolutely waffle-stomped.  The AI is good, not as unpredictable as a real player, but it can still get the job done.  And in this mode, you don’t really run into the “uber players” that always blame their deaths on their own teammates rather than the foolish things they did.  So, before any of you start telling me I won’t get the XP or money rewards there, I already know.  That is how I tend to play now, but to me, the tradeoff is worth it.  Every now and then, I will pop in to a PvP match and quickly remember why I prefer PvE.

    But, I will say this about the ship captains; they are nowhere near as bad as the players are in WoT. That is one of the reasons why I don’t play WoT that much anymore.  I really hope they do this with WoT and introduce a PvE game mode, but we’ll see.

      Like using the natural terrain of hills in WoT as defenses, there are islands in the ocean you can get behind. There are a few other similarities between the two games of tanks and ships, but only to the extent of their roles. Battle ships are the heavies, aircraft carriers are the artillery units, cruisers are the mediums, but with the destroyers, you combine two of the tank classes: the light tank and tank destroyers.  The gaming developers are still filling out the tech trees for all the countries by adding more ships.  New countries are in the works as well.

And last, but not least, like WoT, this game is free to play, which is amazing for the graphics and details it has in it.  The developers worked overtime on this one.

   So personally, I will be giving this game a BIG thumbs up and recommend it.  It is bit of a download so make sure you read the requirements for it. Some of the specs are 19.5 GB free hard drive space and 2 GB RAM with at least a dual core CPU.  So, it isn’t really that heavy of a load for a system to run, you just need to have the space for it.

  In closing, give it a try, play a few rounds, and let me know what you think.  Give me your opinion because I want to know what you all like, so I can bring you what you want to read about, but most of all, as with any game, there is one secret, HAVE FUN!

Screenshots from Bixyl Shuftan

Nydia Tungsten

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Prometheus Grid.


By Bixyl Shuftan

Besides Second Life, there's a number of much smaller virtual worlds. Inworldz and Avination are the best known, but there are others with just a few people and high hopes for future growth. Among the new ones is a grid named Prometheus. The name comes from the prequel to the "Aliens" movie.

Being sent an invitation, I was able to access the world through the OS version of Firestorm. One can also use versions of Singularity and Kokua. Starting out, I was in a basic "Ruth" avatar with a grey shirt and red trousers. Shortly thereafter, I was sent a teleport request to a huge platform over Angel Island by someone calling herself "Central Linden," one of the staff. When I asked about the name, I was told it was done as a tribute to Linden Lab. Prometheus has no affiliation with the owners of Second Life in any way. She handed me a furry feline avatar, which she told me had been copied and transfered from Second Life with the content creator's permission.

Chatting with Central, she told me this was the third version of the Grid, the previous two ruined. Pictures and patterns can be uploaded for free by those on the world, "We're technically ready now. Just need more people and more SIMs." As of now, there are four sims currently operational on the grid: Angel Island, Prometheus, Tail Raisers and Luna Lobo, "We're currently working on more Linden regions and people can buy SIMs." The number of people who are on is also small, about sixteen as of the writing of this article.

Stepping down from the skybox later, there was a build on ground level, named the "Emerald Temple."  In the other three, there wasn't much built at the moment. The Tail Raisers sim is for a club to be build in the near future for "inter-personal actions between players and staff in a relaxed atmosphere." At least one of the sims was in Skybox mode, in which I planted a tree, then used my limited building skills to make a small cubic shelter and a table.

Those interested in getting on can contact Central Linden or Artisan Sunspot via Skype. One can find a page about the grid here.

Bixyl Shuftan

*Update* Less than two weeks after this article was written, one of the staff informed the Newser that Prometheus was offline, possibly for good

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

SL Universe in Ark


While the Second Life "Furry Gamers" have been walking with dinosaurs in "Ark Survival Evolved" (when not riding or running from), it seems another group of residents from the grid has given the game a try. Readers may be familiar with the Second Life Universe Forums, the most widely used forums aimed at Second Life residents besides the official Linden ones. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes very useful, one thing they seldom are is boring, having a cast of posters whom have been at it for as long as ten years.

Well, as it turns out, they have their own Ark server. Nytewitch, as she's known on the forums, invited any forum user access to her server, though they needed to ask her for the password. Known as the SLUvivors, they've created a main base overlooking the middle of the island's east coast, and several smaller bases some distance to the north and south. Interested on checking things for myself, I asked Nytewitch, or Wytch as she's called in the game, for the password, and got it.

Logging in, I had some minor trouble getting started, but was soon going about my business on this server for the first time. As it turned out, Wytch happened to be on. After some chat, she invited me to her base. She found me just after I found the water pipe to it and beat off an attack by two dilos. She had come over on a pteradactyl with another following, and invited me to fly over. So I did, but apparently I attracted the attention of a dragonfly. Maybe it smelled the blood from the fight, but it went after me.

The SLUvivors' main base had a building, a garden, and a yard full of dinos from trikes to raptors and others, including a sabertooth tiger. I landed, and the bug attacked me. And the dinos all went after it. It was quite a scene, described in the forums:

Yesterday when Bixyl was in, a dragonfly flew in the base and started a dino riot. Took ages to untangle them and a dilo jumped the fence, the T Rex got outside, and Miss Horny laid an egg. After that I put them on passive except for my nasties.

As Wytch later put it, worthy of a country music song. Guess I make quite an entrance where I go.

I didn't see the Rex until later. And when I did, I'd gotten my first T-Rex ride outside of Second Life.

* * * * *

Back in Lomgren's server, the Second Life microkitty continues to make progress on his own server. He leveled enough to learn how to make a generator, and before long there were electric lights around his base as well as refrigerators. "We're almost civilized," the 6 inch microkitty turned 5 foot human commented. It wasn't hard to imagine survivors having spent months in primitive conditions being overwhelmed at the sight of electric power.

But electricity takes power. And the source of power for modern equipment is oil. While some can be gathered from the trilobites that occasionally make their way onto the beach, the real source is oil deposits from the sea. To get at those, you need water based mounts, such as the dolphin-like Ichthyosaurus and the huge Megalodon sharks. To house them, Lom made a water base that looked like a pier area. To stay underwater for long, one needs to have a serving of "Lazarus chow," which slows down the need of oxygen.

So what have I done? Mostly level up by making narcotics (for the dinos, not us). But I have started work on a bridge from the Footpaw where the base is to the Southern Jungle. Lom and I sometimes notice drops way off to across the wide river, and are miffed at not being able to get the high ones because water has sharks and phirana. So far, the bridge is  almost halfway across (progress made since the picture to the left, with no interruptions by sharks (yet). But eventually we'll have our feat of engineering.

As for the two public servers I was in, I kept dying off in the Player vs Environment one, so have OC Official Server 160 another try. I made my way to the Footpaw and found the place where Lom set his base unoccupied, and started work on a base there. So far, most of my encounters with neighbors have been friendly ones, but there have been a couple of raids, so there are some pirates out there, and more work to do on the base.

The adventures continue.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 14, 2015

Further Adventures in Ark Survival Evolved


By Bixyl Shuftan

Since we last wrote about Ark, there's been a few more goings on with the game. The game has been updated some, plus me and my Second Life friends have been having a few adventures with it.

One thing I should have known early on but didn't notice was that just as in real life, leather armor, as well as chittin armor, has the downside of making you overheat on a hot day. So you'll likely want to carry around some cloth clothes in addition to better protective ones to wear once it gets hot and you're not about to get into a fight.

A few more creatures have been added, or are just about to be. One a kind of monkey whose only practical function is making a lot of noise when hostiles show up, but some feel they make a cute pet. Another is a kind of trilobite that is a good source of chittin for making armor, and gives a little oil, which can be used to make gasoline for higher tech machines, at least the one I clobbered did. The new creatures that I have encountered the most are the giant bugs, dragonflies and the Titanomyra, or giant ant. Dragonflies are described as not normally attacking players, but it's my experience they sometimes do.

The giant ants are the bigger threat to players and come in two varieties, drones and soldiers. Drones scurry about on the ground while the soldiers are winged. Both will attack a player if he/she strays near, and their bites will poison, lowering the stamina. An attack by just a few drones is easily dealt with an axe or pickaxe if that's the only threat, but an assault by a number of soldiers, often in combination with drones, can be a real problem. If an axe or pickaxe is your only weapon, you can quickly become tired from swinging it around, and a few bites will put you asleep, rendering you helpless as the bugs slowly eat you alive. Backing away with a spear, or even better a pike, seems to be the best method for dealing with their assaults. But being overwhelmed by a swarm of a dozen, especially in the dark, can really hurt you, if not kill you. Once dispatched, they can be harvested for chitin and meat. In one server I had a survivor in, it took a while to get resources from them. Maybe they are hard to harvest, or perhaps it was a "bug" in the system. Someone in chat thought that chopping at them when crouched makes harvesting slightly faster, but I haven't noticed a difference. Still, there are rewards from these killer insects once dispatched.

The bugs are usually encountered in the forest, so making a run to a supply drop into the woods at night just became extra hazardous. It isn't just players they go after. I've seen them attack raptors, which became increasingly red from blood from their bites as they struggled against the bugs, then died and were eaten up before the attackers went after me. I've also encountered a T-Rex corpse in which investigating it, was attacked by ants that were around it. The mighty T-Rex felled by bugs? Perhaps a little more tweaking with these fearsome insects is needed.

Speaking of bugs, one of my pet peeves in the game is how the quirky physics act on a dino once you've killed it. Dilo and dodo bodies can sometimes be hurled a good distance away once the killing blow is made. There have been times, especially at night, when I've had to give up looking for one of their corpses and move on. So if you're hunting at night, be sure after your killing blow (or last killing blow if you ran into a pack) switch to your torch immediately. On the plus side, the bug can work in your favor in the water as I've seen megaphirana jump out of the water near the shore, and just hang in the air. Often they're dead. Did my spear deliver the killing blow, or did the bug hurt them. I have yet to find out.

My first exploration into the game was in "The OC Official Server 160," which turned out to be a PvP server, not knowing what "OC" meant. After learning more about the game, I avoided the more populated eastern coast and settled into a couple spots in the west, eventually making a good-sized base made of stone walls. After I'd gotten it a decent size, I went to concentrate on a Player vs Environment server I found in case friends wanted to try that. But I would still log on briefly every day or two to make sure nothing decayed. Then one day, I logged in to fin out I'd been killed and had to respawn elsewhere. Heading back to the base site, I found it was gone with nothing left, and I mean *nothing.* Not even a single floor section, or even the campfire that was nearby.

Confused, I entered group chat, asking if there was a bug in the game erasing people's builds. I was told that there wasn't, that what happened was likely the Method of Operation of a particularly ruthless tribe using demo charges (apparently one can make those when they get high enough). They didn't just break in and raid, but would blow up a base *completely.*

A tribe could rebuild pretty quickly. Not so much a lone wolf like me. So I dropped off that server for a while. Nydia's advice of "STAY AWAY FROM PVP SERVERS, THE KIDDIES WILL KEEP KNOCKING YOU DOWN" seemed to be confirmed. But then one gaming review I came across described a PvP enabled server in which the players didn't have the stomach for it, instead greeting everyone hello and even giving newcomers a few things to help them out. Another reviewer got a much more hostile response. Half the people he encountered while knew knocked him out and stole what little he had on him. Different servers seem to have different casts of characters, it seems. Even in the PvP servers, my biggest problem were the dinos and bugs, not other players. But it took just one tribe of hostiles to take down hours of work on my base.

There was still Nydia's server, but the problem with private servers is they go offline when the owner's computer does. So I hung around the PvE server some more, "PVE Official Server 37." I had set camp a mile up the river on a spot in the southeast, and began building up the base as it was close to a few crate drop areas. By now, it sports a smelter and blacksmith table, out in the open for anyone to use, and a crate near a door to drop shirts and simple tools newcomers dropping by might need. Exploring further, building a few secondary bases. But even PvE servers aren't without troublemakers. Once when I left a door open, I returned and saw a newbie run out. He'd raided my preserving bin!! Another time, the would be thief wasn't so lucky. I closed the doors before she got out, and I wouldn't let her out until I was sure nothing was gone from the bin.

Lomgren also decided to get a private server. Taking a look at the southern part of the island, which has rivers cutting through it to form smaller islands, he found a spot near the mid southern coast in what some call "The Footpaw" (see map near the end). on a hill overlooking a bluff next to an inlet that was relatively safe from the big predators. Below we set up a small farm to raise crops such as narcoberries, and nearby a small coop for dodo birds, which were good for eggs. The riding dinos were parked nearby, which doubled as a source of manure for fertilizer for the crops. Lomgren would later modify the top as a landing bay for tamed pteras. As this was the floor with the beds, it's not hard to imagine the characters trying to sleep while the "birds" make a racket.

As Lomgren was a much higher level than I was when I first came to his server, I looked for something to do besides build his base. Scouting around, I found a tiny island in a riverway not too far inland from Lom's base. So I began making one of my own, there. One complication was as it was further inland, larger carnivores would on occasion come near, notably the huge spinosaurs, distinguished by their huge size and sails on their backs. Once I took one down, though it took a lot of arrows and my base getting roughed up a bit. And the yield was only a few scraps of leather. Probably a fluke, but quite a disappointment. Another time, a Spino got too close to the farm area of the main base. From the safety of the bluff, we brought it down with tranquilizer arrows, then proceeded to tame it. Without the prized "prime meat," it took a long time and lots of meats and narcotics to tame. But the result was a guard dino that would keep watch over our farm (as well as helping to fertilize it a bit).

One of the most interesting times in Lom's server was when a few people were on at once, and  someone took down a T-Rex with tranq arrows. So others flew over on tamed Pteras and began the process of taming the huge beast, with lots of narcotics and meats. We also tranqed a couple other pteras, so we had a "triple taming." Unfortunately, while two of us went back for more meat and narcotics, a second T-Rex showed up. The two of us remaining had to run for it, and when it lost interest in us, it went back to chow down on the sleeping pteras. The others returned to take care of it, so we were able to finish taming our own T-Rex. Once that was done, we were able to walk it home, it making a meal out of any dilo that went after us.

After Lomgren leveled up his best Pteranodon, or "pteras" as they've come to be called in the game, he began exploring around. Finding a good source of ore on a volcano in the middle of the island, with a little crystal and obsidian, he established a small mining base. Flying to it takes a ptera that's been leveled up in weight and stamina. Yours truly has been trying to overcome his nervousness of flying, often by flying over a river in case I accidentally press the "E" button, which for mounts is the mount/dismount action. But the view is spectacular.

Going about, I've been noticing the value of having a tamed dino help you out. So in Lomgren's private server I helped things out by taming a raptor when the opportunity came about. As mounts, raptors are pretty quick and can hold a little before slowing down. But theyre not unbeatable, so when having one at your side be careful when engaging packs of carnivores. I might have been a little lucky when taming the dino in the private server as I had plenty of narcotics on hand and was able to get plenty of fish. When I tried taming something in the PvE server, I only had a little meat on me and wasn't able to find any fish or prey animals nearby.

After this happened three times, I came across a triceratops that had been knocked unconscious by a giant scorpion. Feeding that one berries, I tamed it after a bit more than half an hour. But as it was still a bit low on HP, it was still a bit vulnerable. Getting it to home base, we were attacked by giant ants, not a few but about a dozen. They killed the trike and went after me. Then I found a raptor that was so busy going after a herbivorous dino, it didn't notice me sneak up on it, and after a few tranquilizer arrows, it was down. It took over an hour, but I had finally tamed a raptor after three unsuccessful times! I then took it home, and going after a nearby "piggy" for meat, we were attacked by more bugs. We got all of them, but one of the flying soldier ants had bitten the raptor to death before I could get it.

So five taming attempts with nothing to show for it. Maybe some lone wolves are just meant to go about on foot.

In the past few days, I've been hearing about a few other creatures introduced. One is the gigantosaurus, a huge carnivorous beast described as having a rage makes it more difficult to tame than a T-Rex or Spinosaur, and if tamed can be difficult to control in a PvP fight. Then there's the dung beetle, which supposedly when tamed can be a source of fertilizer and oil. Then there are the "Alphas," which are dinosaurs that are much stronger than normal, and more difficult to take down, identified by the red cloud among them. They also can inflict more damage to buildings, including stone and metal. So far, all that I've heard about in game chat are carnivores, T-Rexes, carnies, raptors, etc.

Nydia's been starting her own server up again, so I may soon have some adventures to write about there. In the meantime, still building up that secondary base in Lom's server, and still trying to tame a beastie of my own in PvE 37. If anyone wants to be in Lomgren Small's server, ask him. If you want to see my main base in PVE Official Server 37, it's around 78 Latitude, 64.5 Longitude in the Southern Inlets (see below). If you go about on the coast, it's on the river with a sign marking the original base of one of the server's tribes. If I'm not there, you may want to stop by anyway to use the forge and smithy. But I may move to the shore once I've tamed something again. Those killer bugs are proving to be just too much. And then there's OC Official Server 160. Would taming something be easier there?


To help you get around, here's a map of the various regions and underwater caves, created by "Felski." You can see a larger image of the map (here). For those starting out, here's a map of the starting locations (here). Having been to Craggs Island, it's appropriately named as not much grows there. I have yet to head to "Dead Island" as without a water or flying mount, you're shark bait, and once you get there, word has it the high level predators will make short work out of any player whom isn't also high level, unless he had plenty of help.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, August 10, 2015

World of Warcraft's Next Expansion Announced As Subscriptions Drop to Nine Year Low


By Bixyl Shuftan

On Thursday August 6, Blizzard announced details of World of Warcraft's next expansion: "Legion." While the full details of the plot have not been announced, the trailers announced the big detail (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6CWue7voA0), the return of the Burning Legion.

To those who know little about World of Warcraft, the Burning Legion (http://wowwiki.wikia.com/wiki/Burning_legion) is an army of demonic creatures whom invade and destroy world after world in their lust to consume magical their magical energies which has twice invaded Azeroth and have been the source of many of it's problems. Now once again, they are back, and it will be up to the players of the Horde and Alliance to stop them.

There are a number of details known about the expansion. There will be a new continent: The Broken Isles. There's also a new class, the Demon Hunter. Players can now level up to Level 110. There will be Class Order Halls and followers. Promised are Artifacts, customizable weapons that can grow in power as you level up. Promised are a redesigned "Honor system" for PvPers, improved transmorgification, and "improved social features." Those buying the expansion get a free character boost to raise one character to Level 100 (almost certainly the minimum to get to the new zone. And there will be new dungeons and new bosses.

Demon Hunters can only be from one race of each faction: Night Elves for Alliance, Blood Elves for Horde. They are the second "hero class" of the game, the first being the Death Knights introduced in "Cataclysm." So they will have unique features that make them stand apart from other classes, possibly including a higher starting level, a unique power bar, and a unique mount. But if the Death Knight is a guide, that means anyone wanting to create a Demon Hunter character would need to already have at least one character close to Level 100.

"Dominate your foes as a Demon Hunter, an elven outcast shunned for daring to wield the terrible powers of the Legion," Blizzard said. "Exhibiting superior mobility and a preternatural sense of awareness, Demon Hunters can tap into forbidden powers at times of dire need, metamorphosing into terrifying fel forms. Focus on Havoc to demolish any who stand in your way with fiery demonic attacks, or specialize in Vengeance and go toe to toe with even the most powerful demons, withstanding massive punishment as their attacks fuel your hatred."

 While some World of Warcraft fans are happy to hear of the expansion, the announcement comes after less than happy news about the game. One of the game's staff recently left the company for NCSoft, which works on a number of games, including Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar. But the big news is the number of players in the game are becoming fewer and fewer. According to an article in Gamezone, the number of subscribers was last counted at 5.6 million. While this still makes them the most popular of all MORPGs, this is a sharp plummet from their slightly more than ten million in November 2014.

When one looks at their numbers over time, their current expansion brought a short term boost to subscriptions which had been slowly declining over time from twelve million in 2010 to 6.8 million in June 2014. But it didn't last as just a few months later in March 2015, the statistics showed a plummet to 7.1 million. The game had fallen as fast as it has risen, and resumed it's slide to a number not seen since December 2005, a nine year low.

So why are the numbers still falling? Opinions vary as to why. Perhaps after over a decade people are starting to get a little tired of the game. But there are other points of view. Eliot Lefebvre of Massivelyop.com was rather critical of Blizzard in it's development of World of Warcraft in recent years, "Blizzard has a track record that is ... let's be generous and say 'not great' at the moment. ... this expansion is delivering a lot of things that players have said they want for quite some time, but it's also doing so at a time when player confidence in the development team is at a pretty low pulse. ... 'Legion,' at this point, is inheriting a mess." Like others I've heard complain about, once they saw Hellscream meet his end, for many non PvPers there just didn't seem to be much to do, "(The) Endgame for non-raiders is an unpleasant punchline."

"What we need in the next few months are details," Lefebvre stated, "and the more we know, the more we can decide this is reversing the trend of the last three expansion, or another step down."

Leif Johnson of PC Gamer was also critical of Blizzard, beginning his article, "We're about nine months into World of Warcraft's 'Warlords of Draenor' expansion, and I can't remember what any of my guildmates look like. ... We've stopped raiding, and we're all too 'busy' when we're online together. We're picking herbs or mining ore. We're preparing work orders. We're finishing quests with NPC 'bodyguards' to get more oil to launch naval missions for gear. And the worst part? We're all doing the same things on our alts. This is what much of World of Warcraft consists of these days, and it's awful. As a while, it's easily the worst expansion for Blizzard's beast to date." The title of the article summed up his feelings, "World of Warcraft Desperately Needs It's Next Expansion."

So is Blizzard panicking over it's cash cow not making so much? Maybe not. Their quarterly report showed that between three of their other games, "Hearthstone," Heroes of the Storm," and "Destiny" have a combined 70 million registered players, and have made 1.25 billion dollars. "Blizzard is demonstrating that they're able to adapt to the new world order pretty well."

No date has yet been given for the release of "Legion," but it's a good bet it won't be for at least several months. In the meantime, there are no signs of World of Warcraft's decline stopping, and the game is likely to looks hundreds of thousands of players between now and then.


Sources: Blizzard, Forbes, Massively Overpowered, PC Gamer, Gamezone

Bixyl Shuftan