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 (, the return of the Burning Legion.

To those who know little about World of Warcraft, the 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 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