State of Ingress, September 2016

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In some ways Ingress is a funny game.   It’s very rewarding to play, quite literally, one action a day – take a portal, blow one up, throw a field, throw a blocking link.    And because one action is fun, two would be more fun right ??????   So the game pushes you to spend more and more time in it.

Recently I am trying more to moderate the amount of time that I’m spending playing the game.    It’s a team game.    I don’t have to do it all myself, I can’t anyway, and the more that I play in Burbank the more my nemesis does, so I’m not exactly accomplishing that much.    Core Ingress concept – maximize your team’s actions while minimizing the other team’s actions.

So I drive past portals now, rather than take them, link them up, etc.    I try to kill key portals, or just do things when I have spare time rather than take up time I could spend for other purposes.

I have a new enemy player with a daytime job in Downtown Burbank.    I haven’t tried to say hi yet; I probably should.    We knock each other’s stuff down, and between the two of us and all the travelers on both sides, Downtown stays unfielded most of the time.

I’ve been playing a fair amount in the SCV, which is where I get my fielding points anyway, and enjoying either creating 3k point fields when possible, or wrecking the greens farm in Newhall.

37 million AP – getting close to 16 – and almost platinum with trekker at 2,389 of 2,500 kilometers walked.

Returning to Everquest 2, 2016 edition

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I was browsing Steam games awhile back (and refusing to buy anything; have to play all the dreck I have already bought and never played) when I noticed a different entry – Everquest 2.

Having played the game forever, and seeing it on Steam, meant that it was time to download it and give it a try once again.   Same with Lord of the Rings Online.    So I let Steam do its thing over the next couple of days and download both games and update them.   Lord of the Rings, however, has yet to be opened.

EQ2 is quite a bit of fun still, the game that I needed at the moment.   It’s very familiar, thoroughly polished, and I know it backwards and forwards.   So I dived in and tried to figure out all the mammoth changes; I keep an eye on things via TAGN posts but otherwise I haven’t thought about the game for (checks blog) right about 3 years.

The current incarnation of EQ2, run by Daybreak instead of Sony (To the extent that’s its a real change and not just a name) includes three levels of account access.   I think.    That’s part of the reason for this post, the actual rules do not appear to be published somewhere I can access them.

It appears there are 3 levels of accounts in EQ2.    Free, Silver, and Gold.    Free is anyone signing up for the first time – makes sense.   Silver appears to be anyone previously in a Gold account, or former subscriber from back in the old days.    Gold is anyone paying $15 a month.

allaccesss

Why would you want to get a Gold account ?   One would think this would be an obvious, and clear choice; one would be wrong.    A few features are prominently displayed whenever I log in :

  • 500 Daybreak cash (DBC) currency per month (Nice)
  • Ability to sell items on the broker (SUPER NICE!)
  • 10% Discount on the premium store items (Feh)
  • Five additional character slots (Hmmm)
  • Exclusive In Game Items ! (???)

I have not been able to figure out what the “Exclusive In Game Items” are.   The character slots are a mixed bag, since if you let your gold account lapse, those five characters are now lost to you until you resubscribe.   Plus, I have plenty of characters already (7 unlocked, 1 locked).   It feels like the character slot unlocks are a better deal.

The broker, now.   I love the broker.   Always did, always will.   It’s a fun marketplace for items and gives you the chance to make money with enough effort, or a few coins with very little effort; and of course you can buy most anything your heart desires – and your wallet can afford.    So for me, the broker is the real draw for Gold access.

Other reasons are not displayed.  I could only find one.

  • Ability to change the XP / AA slider

This is more useful than it might first appear.   Number one, I forget how all the AA’s work and the additional ones that have appeared after I quit; and number two, I’d like to get Tez up to level 100 (the new max level).   The slider, for Silver accounts, is set at 50/50.

But I have resisted.   I usually subscribe to EQ2, then quit playing, and waste my money.   I hate doing that.   But what I did note is the price of plat, and therefore wondered about the wisdom of paying to sell on the broker.

It costs $15 to place items for sale on the broker for one month; that is, for that month you can place items to sell.   They can sit there forever after and not sell, finally selling after six months, but you cannot place new ones after the month.    Plat prices on the grey / illegal market however are around $15 for 300k platinum.    I could not resist, and I am now sitting on a hoard of plat.   More than I could ever have gathered playing the game.

But prices are inflated too.   These used to go for less than 10 plat.

But prices are inflated too. These used to go for less than 10 plat.

I burned 2,000 DBC on unlocking two additional slots; everyone is unlocked except for my Heroic character from 3 years ago, who I never played – Level 85 Dwarf Guardian.   The tradeskill XP comes fast and furious; with Vitality you can gain a level from a single writ, without it will take maybe 5.   I seem to recall it taking a lot longer back in the day.

So I play, and enjoy.    Tez is still questing; I want him to ding 100 so that a +20% XP bonus kicks in; same for Tlaloc the provisioner; and I’ll continue to look for the reasons / or not reasons/ why one would purchase a gold account.

The Unstated Rules

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Vikings 101 : You have five resources that are critical to advancement.

  • Food
  • Wood
  • Iron
  • Stone
  • Silver

You also have a building in your town called a Vault, which will protect your resources in case of attack – your troops are not so lucky.   The Vault does not protect any silver though.

The game is heavily stacked towards pay-to-win.   Check out the statistics on any attack happening on my town from a typical high-“level” player :

A massive quality boost in just about everything.

A massive quality boost in just about everything.

To overcome that you would need massive numbers of troops, and guess who has the advantage in building troops ?

Given the following :

  1. Most building and knowledge upgrades cost much more than your vault can hold; especially silver, since it is not protected.
  2. The game features clans of players, and peace shields that grant your town 100% immunity from attack.
  3. You cannot defend your town if you are a low “level” player.

The way to advance in the game is to acquire resources, by either attacking other players (preferably, inactive ones, they don’t fight back), waiting for your town to generate resources, or by farming the tiled resources that appear around your town.   But since you don’t want other (high level) players to take yours from you, you instead send them to a clan member who acts as a bank.

The bank player has a shield up at all times; he can’t be attacked.   You send him your resources, and when enough are available they send them back to you so you can kick off a building upgrade.   Did I mention that building upgrades take some time ?    The current times to upgrade most of my buildings range from 24 hours to 10 days.   I have a knowledge upgrade unlocked that would take 40 weeks to complete.   Not to worry though; you can boost items with time boosts, available at random intervals or as usual you can buy them.

The game works well if you have a group of clanmates who intelligently share their resources with one another.   You want to avoid too much movement; as you’d expect, each time you send resources some of them disappear.    But you need to help each other out.    You can also send your troops to a clanmate, leaving an enemy with a town empty of troops and resources to attack; in other words, there is no damage.

The give and take of getting resources; then sending them to the bank; then actually getting them back from your clanmate; and kicking off the upgrade process; is actually pretty fun.

Just watch your wallet.

Fishing for Whales

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I continue to play the Vikings War of Clans android game.

The fun part for me is the paranoid chase to get the next building built; the next knowledge researched; before some guy with more money than sense can come by and smash my town.    Each building at the higher levels costs far more than can be safely stored even though your town is attacked, so the only method of turtling is to use the peace shields.   I have found these to be prohibitively expensive and so don’t use them much.   Many players use them extensively.   Then again, I think most of the players of the game are real whales for the Devs.

Fifty Bucks

Fifty Bucks

Ten Bucks

Ten Bucks

There are even $100 purchase packs available.    The social engineering on these is impressive, even if ….. disgusting.   The first level is that there are no fixed costs for anything.    You would think I could simply tell you how much gold costs, but no, there is no way to buy the game’s gold for a fixed price in the game.   It costs whatever the current offer says it costs.   But it gets worse (better?).

You start out seeing a selection of $10, $5 packages that you can buy.   They slowly move towards a list of $2 and $5, with one $20 package always available.   I am looking for only $2 packages which is about what I pay for a cold Coke at the convenience store; if it will help me, why not spend at that level.   So when I see one that I like, I buy it.

The game instantly recalculates all of its offer formulas the second you buy one.    Did you see a second offer you wanted to buy ?   Too bad, it’s gone.   Now, a bunch of more expensive offers are on the table, such as the $50 packages shown above.    Now, I find myself waiting again until the $2 offers appear and something I want to buy is shown.

But……. it gets even worse !   The truly disgusting thing is, the offers are MORE EXPENSIVE for each package, the more money you spend.   You get the best value for the gold portion of your purchase, the less you spend.    It seems like you don’t get that much more of the “other stuff” like troops and bonuses, but it’s less easy to see.   Still, I think it’s clear.   I’ve been playing this thing for months, I should know.

Concerns about games being pay-to-win are thrown to the hills in this game; you simply do pay-to-win.    Want to be a tough player on your server ?   Better get smart about your purchases and whip out your credit card.

Now, the mechanics of the game include strange rules about attacking.    It all makes sense in context of a fun game, but it’s a bit weird from a step back.   You can attack special tiles which have resources; your troops sit there and collect them, and are vulnerable to destructive attack if they get caught by another player.    Any attack means that your defending troops that lose, are gone forever.

Attack – your lost troops are gone.    Unless you want to spend gold, of course.   Defend a tile – your lost troops are gone.   Defend your town, and….. your lost troops can be “healed”, just for ingame resources.   This makes “tile hits” something devastating for your enemies, while if your town is hit your troops are kind of safe.     And, guess what happens when you suffer a tile hit ?   Why, of course, an offer to spend money and “Take your revenge !”

Take your revenge !   Just costs a little bit of money....

Take your revenge ! Just costs a little bit of money….

Me, I try to play the cheapskates way.   I still have a $4 credit from a Google Play card I received for my birthday or something, so I dumpster dive for $2 packages.    Maybe I’ll cut loose with $5.   I don’t know.   But the way I enjoy the game mechanics had better wait for another post.

Hello, DCL. Goodbye, Marvel Heroes.

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The DCL (Dynamic Combat Level) update has gone live for Marvel Heroes, among other changes.

The new "Avengers Tower"

The new “Avengers Tower”

The new layout and overhaul of Avengers Tower is nice.   The hub characters are in logical places, it’s more compact, and the dumb stuff (A huge room for terminals that no one uses anymore, etc) is all gone.   I like it.

The new Story Mode leveling plan is supposedly broken and will be patched tomorrow morning – Instead of making the story mode XP be less, they seem to have made it way too high.   There are reports of players reaching 1 – 60 in a few hours.   I reset Colossus to green prestige, but my heart just isn’t in it for racing from 1 – 60.

The actual DCL however, is underwhelming.    This is due to the changes made to the Cosmic Trial – or not made.

One of the biggest changes is the Blessing of Hela – the only blessing anyone ever used – is now nerfed hard.   It made things “too easy”, which I can sympathize with, but yet this was one of the two key ingredients making surviving the Cosmic Trial possible.   And the Cosmic Trial has kept me in the game all this time.   Until now.

I tried out the Trial on Cable, the hero I was trying to pass it with next, and immediately got flattened.  Not by the bosses – by the “trash mobs”, the first waves that you fight.   I then tried on all my heroes that already passed it, with the same result.   So somehow, the mobs in the Trial are tougher (probably because of DCL), your character is weaker offensively, and the trial is now laughably hard and completely out of reach.   I doubt anyone could pass it now, even with 10,000 omega points.

I suppose I will want to try and rejigger my Omega points into survivability and retry, but the thought of grinding up somewhere near 10,000 just bores me.   It “feels” like that is the level that will be necessary to have a chance to pass it.   That really sucks.

This could, quite literally, be the end of Marvel Heroes for me.   It’s been a fun run, but I am not excited about playing the other aspects of the game.   I don’t believe I’ve ever quit a game because of mechanics changes before.   Here’s hoping they tone down the difficulty of the Trial.

Statistics, July 2016

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I’m a little bit late for this statistical review having just returned from Yosemite and parts nearby.    Even in 2016 the Internet coverage for Verizon in the area is really bad.

Vernal Falls. No Internet nearby either.

Vernal Falls. No Internet nearby.

Ingress

Got a bunch of Ingress in and it remains my traveling game.

  • 35,284,000 AP.   1.2 million for the month, not bad considering I spent a week in Sketchy Internet Land.
  • 2,307 walking kilometers (IE, 1,434 miles), so I added 64 to this badge.   That’s going to take a while yet.
  • 1,712 Unique Captures and 3,438 Unique Hacks.   Added a bunch as I traveled.   And yet, not even halfway to platinum for either.
  • 1,823,000 MU scored.   That’s 28k for the month, which is really low.

Pokemon Go

In the one month the game’s been out I find myself kind of bored with it, but still playing it.   Great way to kill time while waiting for an Ingress hack timer to refresh.    Level 15; Caught 60 Unique Pokemon, and seen 61.

AdVenture Capitalist

They’ve changed up the game somehow – I think they’ve added additional spots for you to buy higher % efficiency for your angels.   Whatever it is, it’s working – I’m at 4600 newspapers on both Desktop and Mobile, looking forward to 5000 coming at some actual reachable point in the future.

Marvel Heroes

31 heroes at level 60, and passing the cosmic trial on more of them ; Hawkeye has passed as has Black Panther.    It’s all about two things to pass the trial – Good artifacts with Blessing of Hela; and Omegas.    With DCL not having gone live yet I am going to try and pass as many heroes as possible and see where that comes up.    The odd thing is, if they all pass it, I feel like I’ll be done with the game.    And if the trial disappears I might also be done with it.

Now that would have been a BAF

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Sunday, 7/17

I make a bunch of fields.   The usual stuff.    And I get communication about “Can you NOT make those links please ?” which of course tells me that someone is planning a field.    I ask to be invited in, but they take a while to do it, and I hit the sack.

Monday, 7/18

I wake up to an invite and a request for help clearing the blockers.    It’s a good field – covering Los Angeles and San Diego.   The organization level is staggering; these people know what they’re doing.

Plans are discussed, agents are recruited, portals are assigned.  The plan is for the field to go up Saturday night.   Rats.   I am leaving for Summer vacation on Saturday Morning, pulling the trailer up to Yosemite.    But I can help set the table, so to speak.

Tue – Thur

I help clear blockers for the next couple of days.    This is mostly the usual stuff – I have a set of portals I always take, and the ENL and RES trade them back and forth.    I can make a lot of 2-3k fields with them as well as protect against a SCV-covering field with them, so this can’t look suspicious to anyone paying attention.   But we’ve apparently also got a gift – The Bad Man appears to be in Hawaii.   He can’t screw this up for us, sorta like the RES and I screwed up some similar field the ENL were trying to throw.

This is the first major field I’m aware of during Pokemon-time.   It will be interesting to see if it’s easier or harder, because the agents in the game are shifting due to Pokemon.   Recruiting the newbs, and seeing experienced agents leaving; it’s not clear which is more dominant at the moment.

I also throw my longest link ever, 106 km, as a rail for the operation.    How I have been itching to use these long-distance keys that I’m holding.     The way is always blocked, but Tuesday I see an opening and fire off the long link.

Friday, 7/22

Getting ready for Yosemite.    The rail goes down – someone rumored to be from Ventura comes out to kill it.   I can’t get out and rethrow.    I tell the team, good luck.

Monday, 8/1

I return from the land of sketchy internet and find out that they got the northern link thrown, but the field didn’t go up for whatever reason.

The Northern Link went !

The Northern Link went !

The subsidiary fields over the Pacific Ocean also got thrown successfully.

Nice, large fish field.

Nice, large fish field.

Maybe I’m going to have to plan another field sometime, or get involved in the next one that someone does – it’s sure a lot of fun !

Have they Ruined Ingress ?

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Work is very busy.   But Friday wasn’t bad.   I spent a lot of time cleaning up the messes and documenting, and finally got finished.   So that meant, I felt good at last about taking a 20-30 minute Ingress walk again; haven’t done that in two weeks or so.

Ie, Before Pokemon.

Outside the Story Tavern

Outside the Story Tavern Portal/Pokestop

Downtown Burbank is transformed.    3 pm on a Friday saw so many Pokemon players.   A group of four 20ish men playing in front of the Fuddruckers.    Three 15ish teenage boys pounding on the Chinese restaurant’s pokestops.   Solo 18ish teenage girl awkwardly walking along and searching for Pokemon.    Two 30ish men walking along with a tablet out and trying to decide where to go next.

Now me, I’m good.   I have been walking the streets of Downtown Burbank for 18 months or so, trying to avoid detection by anyone I know.    If they see me, I don’t want them to see me playing Ingress.   Ingress players are very thin on the ground and tend to be invisible; it helps you to play the game well.    Yet I’m sure some of them looked at me and said “He’s gaming”.   The stupid half-smile on my face as I spotted people might have tipped them off.   My walking straight to the portals/pokestops would have helped too.

My overriding reaction is – They’ve ruined Ingress !   How am I supposed to wander around invisible now ?    Anyone paying attention knows that these groups of people are playing a game, and I’ll be seen the same way.    I may be good, but I’m not THAT good; people are still going to make the connection, especially with all these other hamfisted players staggering around or sitting staring at their phones.

I remember my noobness in Ingress, oh yes, I was the same as you once young trainer.

Downtown Burbank, Saturday Morn 7/16

Downtown Burbank, Saturday Morn 7/16

The Ingress traffic is lighter.   No doubt about it, either Pokemon, or summer vacation, is making the turnover a lot less.   I did a lot of this, and cleaned out a bunch of green, and it’s still standing after Friday night.    So that’s good, as far as I’m concerned.

Not once did I start the Pokemon app during the walk – too much Ingress to do.   But I now have 230 pokemon and will need to evolve them soon.  Not much to do today, so I’ll be AR gaming if I can manage it.

I’m sure Ingress isn’t ruined, but I’m not welcoming the change in the game.

When you launch a game but don’t tell anyone how it works

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What is the maximum level for Pokemon Go ?    Not disclosed.   My previous certainty of knowing the answer – based on a CNET article – has been unsettled after multiple trainers report 20-ish levels achieved.

What is the maximum number of Pokemon in the game ?    It is suggested by my game that there are 133, but rumors of higher figures exist.

What is your inventory limit ?   Not disclosed.   I currently have a 350 item limit – which used to be 250 – and a 250 pokemon limit.

What do you get by owning a gym ?   “Stardust and Pokecoins”.   How much ?   Not disclosed.

What is the maximum level of a gym ?   Not disclosed.   How many gyms can you control ?  Not disclosed.

There is a real vacuum of information about this game.   Apparently the most important Pokemon is Gyarados.  Maybe I’m supposed to know based on Internet lore and from the past game wikis, but I never played a different Pokemon game.   I don’t trust a wiki for a different game, for my current game.

Fear my deadliest Pokemon.

Fear my deadliest Pokemon.

After one week of enjoying this, I’ve settled into Pokemon Collector mode.    I’m waiting until I get to “Max Pokemon Inventory”, then I plan to pop a lucky egg and evolve as many beasties as I can, keeping the top three survivors in CP for each Pokemon.    What remains to be seen is if it’s worth keeping any of the “Lower Tier” Pokemon.

For example, Machop evolves into Machoke.   If I have a Machoke, should I keep any Machops ?   It’s difficult to say.   I discovered that they both share the same pool of candy currency, suggesting I should just dump the little guys.

Niantic and Nintendo don’t seem to be trying to enlighten us, and I don’t have the programming savvy to take the app apart.   I’m sure someone is working on it right now.    Niantic is working on expanding the global launch, which in all fairness is a good thing for them to do too.    Given that I read one estimate of $1.6 million a day in Pokecoins purchased – and ONLY ON APPLE DEVICES – it sounds like they’ll be raking the cash in.

From what I can tell, the gym battles seem to be twitch based contests instead of the more cerebral/nerdy types of battles I prefer.   It doesn’t help that most gyms I see have 600+ CP Pokemon sitting on them that would lay waste to Pinsir.   I’ve even seen one beast with over 1000 CP daring us all to go after him.    So based on all of that I’m not really battling at gyms.   The first things to go to free space in inventory are healing and revive items since I don’t use them.

The nearest gym

The nearest gym

This gym changes hands several times a day, suggesting that the kids are much better at the gym battles than a “barely senior citizen” like myself.

How long can/will I find it interesting to grab more of the same 40 pokemon available in my area of SoCal ?   Not disclosed.

Poke-car plus Halfway To Max

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My favorite thing about Pokemon Go is, I now have something to write about.   Suck it, Writer’s Block !

Some of the mechanics of Pokemon Go are getting figured out.

  • It’s all about your level, and the maximum level is 20.    The level of your trainer controls what creatures you will see out there, so the higher level you are the better.    This makes me want to spin the wheel at every Pokestop (50xp each) as well as catching all the little creatures.
  • There do not have to be portals/pokestops nearby for you to find Pokemon.   I am finding them everywhere.   This is actually an important game improvement over Ingress, which if you wanted to play, you could only do it at a portal.
  • I hear a lot about people trying to find the little buggers.   The nearby ones show up on the bottom right, hinting that you should wander around and look for them.  I’ve not bothered with that yet, and I’ve reached level 10.   If one pops up, great.   If not, I’ll keep moving.
  • I do not think the Pokestops have a burnout time.   You can spin the wheel every five minutes and sit there forever.    So of course, my inventory is full and I keep discarding items.   I have a desktop pokestop.
  • The Gyms can probably have 10 levels – the 30 levels in the Beta changed.

Then there’s cargressing – that’s the term for playing Ingress in the car.   I suppose this is Carpoking or Poke-Car instead.   How does Pokemon play in a moving vehicle ?   I set out to find the answer since I got into these games because I crawl in traffic for hours every day.

The Pokemon show up on your phone even if you’re going 60 mph.   Good luck tapping one in time if you’re doing that, to start the capture battle.   If you’re moving at a reasonable 15 mph or even less, it’s much easier to tap them.   And that’s all you need to control that Pokemon – at that point, it will either be captured or it will disappear.

I’ve driven 10 miles with a pokemon in “combat mode” ready to throw balls at it, then stopped, then captured the thing.    I’ve done this multiple times too, driving along and catching one, then continuing to drive and catching another.    This leads me to the conclusion that Pokemon does not have a speed lock.

Pokestops seem to be the same, but the spinning mechanic pretty much guarantees you can’t spin many while driving past.    Add in the huge connectivity issues and you can forget it – this is a monstrously laggy game.

So one thing is very enjoyable about this – no matter where I am, a Pokemon might pop up on my phone to be captured.   So I’m finding the app is staying open now, instead of Ingress.    You keep Ingress open all the time for XM capture, which is not really that important anyway.

Now we're talking.

Now we’re talking.

Now, it does not bode well for longevity in the game if I’m halfway to maximum level after a few days.   Other than filling out my pokedex with all 133 beasties, I’m not sure I’d want to do anything else in the game.