The Adwulf’s Lair Patreon Launches on Friday!

The Patreon for Ardwulf’s Lair (my historical tabletop gaming YouTube channel, for those who don’t know) is live for pre-launch. It’s still a bit of a work in progress, so there may yet be some minor tweaks. Formal launch will be this Friday, 2/7.

Meanwhile, please share this around and you can even sign up as a Patron. There may be a tiny bonus for pre-launch Patrons!

Elsweyr Non-Review Thoughts

I returned to Elder Scrolls Online a little over a month ago. A couple of weeks later, I bought the recent Elsweyr expansion, wrapped up (pretty much) the area I was in, and then moved over to the new zone, Northern Elsweyr. It is, overall, pretty terrific, assuming one likes the core ESO gameplay, which the ‘Chapter’ (i.e. expansion) does not change.

There’s a main story questline, a good number of side quests, dailies to kill dragons and world bosses, plus a good-sized zone with all the usual stuff: skyshards, lorebooks, delves and public dungeons (a new raid (i.e. ‘Trial’) and world events. In the case of Northern Elsweyr these latter are dragon attacks rather than the Dolmen/Daedric Anchor things of the older content. As with Dolmens, however, the dragon attacks don’t really scale to the number of players, so they can go down like chumps if the number of players is very high. I’ve seen various people report this but have not personally seen a dragon be defeated all that quickly. From what I have experienced it usually takes somewhere between five and fifteen minutes, unless you fall in with the actual zerg for it. Even then, though, they hit HARD, easily one-shotting brittle PCs like my Sorcerer while not telegraphing all of their attacks in the usual red-on-the-ground way.

There’s also new gear sets along with the content, but that’s something I have explored in only the most cursory way, since I am still progressing and all my gear will end up replaced sooner rather than later. I may do something in the future on that. Elsweyr also brings back two fan favorite characters from the original release, with John Cleese returning as Cadwell and Alfred Molina coming back as Abnur Tharn.

It’s all very solid stuff. I do wish there were more folks running the public dungeons, which are tough to solo at least with most builds (and definitely with my build.) They are huge and contain multiple bosses, some of whom have real boss mechanics. But even then I haven’t had to wait around for too long for people to follow. I am shooting for (and am pretty close to) full map completion for Northern Elsweyr.

Sticking with ESO’s current expansion model, there will be two DLCs (which are not included in the expansion’s price, although unlike the Chapter they are included with ESO Plus, the monthly subscription deal. Scalebreaker, with an August release date, will contain a couple of additional dungeons, while Dragonhold, currently shooting for November, will bring in another Elseweyr zone, and bring back Sai Sahan from the original ESO main storyline. At the rate I’m currently progressing I’ll probably be at the gear cap by the time Scalebreaker comes out.

Back to ESO

This place started almost twelve years ago as a place to talk about MMORPGs. But as I drifted away from the genre I also drifted away from the blog and sought new avenues (primarily social media and my YouTube channel) to share my experiences with other types of games. While I made some efforts to write here about wargames and tabletop games, blogging about them never really caught fire for me.

The massively multiplayer space as we once knew it is stretched beyond recognition. Now almost everything is online and multiplayer, and where stuff’s not really massive, it often pretends to be. The state of what we might then call massive online ‘virtual world games’ has been dire for several years, with any number of shaky launches and disappointments and not a few embarrassing closures.

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Those folks already entrenched and happy in an older and well-established title like WoW or EVE or EQ2 (for example) had little reason to notice this deterioration in the larger space — although in all three examples there has been noticeable turmoil. But for those of us who never stayed attached to a single game, the prospects have grown thin indeed. That’s probably one reason that the MMORPG blogging community, prone to game-hopping and once quite robust, has largely evaporated or moved on to blogging about other things. But most of us are still here, lurking and waiting.

I spent a good chunk of May playing World of Warcraft, for the first time in a long while. This was in the current retail game, not the WoW Classic beta, and I had fun, but it certainly wasn’t social. Maybe three weeks in I felt the familiar drift. So I hemmed and hawed for a few days off and then stepped back into Elder Scrolls Online. Which, if it isn’t perfect, is maybe the best we’ve got right now.

ESO happens to be the only MMORPG right now that is growing (EDIT: Possibly also Final Fantasy XIV). After a shaky launch to tepid reviews, it did some things to address structural issues and has been relentlessly pounding new content ever since. At this point there is a crazy amount of stuff to do even without the shiny new Elswyr expansion, which I don’t have… although I did pony up for the sub, because the game is frankly hard to play beyond the first zone or so without it, due to the difficulty of managing an inventory with an enormous number of crafting materials, unless you just vendor everything.

ESO also has a number of incentives to sign in every day, from the daily login rewards to the daily crafting writs to the need to bump your riding skills every twenty hours. Some days that’s sign in and fart around on that stuff for fifteen minutes, and other times it’s like “well, I’m in, I might as well do some questing” and only sign out three hours later. Plus random daily PUG dungeons, except in ESO the PUGs actually talk to each other. It’s crazy.

Anyway. I’m, into the week three Death Zone. So check in on me in about a fortnight.

Lost in the Dark

Elite Dangerous: Beyond Chapter 4 released yesterday. It contains a host of things, all minor enhancements in the grand scheme of things. I left off in Elite some 5,000 light-years from the “bubble” of settled space, exploring. So the overhaul of exploration was of some concern. Would my existing exploration-related modules work or just disappear?

Inconveniently, returning to Elite after an extended absence (I’d been out more than a year) can be a little bit of a project. Updating the game is effortless thanks to Steam, but I also had to update Voice Attack and the voice pack (which I had to contact HMS to do) and do the tiresome HOTAS setup again. I’m flying with the relative cheapie Thrustmaster T-Flight, which lacks all the hats, switches and buttons you’d want for Elite but at $50 is priced at a level commensurate with my level of involvement in this type of game. It is probably more accurate and efficient to use a mouse and keyboard, but the HOTAS adds immensely to immersion, and immersion is what Elite does best.

All this done, I got back in before the patch but didn’t have enough playtime to get back to settled space before the update hit. So I was concerned that I’d just be stuck out there with no usable modules and nothing to do except head back.

This turns out not to be the case. It is a thorough overhaul, but the old Discovery Scanner functionality has become a general ship function (supposedly people with the module got refunded its cost, although I didn’t check that,) but that activity is radically different now.

System scanning pre-update was basically binding the scanner to a fire group and then holding the button down in the system. This revealed, assuming you had the most powerful scanner, all bodies in the system on the system map, which you could then look at to figure out which ones you wanted to fly out to and explore. This no longer happens at all.

Now one enters a special Discovery Scan mode, in which you get an overlay atop your surrounding space. You execute the system scan and learn the system ecliptic and some number of “signals,” which could be bodies or other weirder things. Scan waves pass over this space, briefly revealing highlighted patches, which you then have to match up to spectrograph signals to reveal the system’s planets and other bodies. Only stuff you have scanned in this way shows up on the system map, unless (maybe — I’m not totally clear on this) that system has already been explored by someone else.

The Detailed Surface Scanner still exists as a module, but it functions very differently. Used to be you get close enough to a body and point your ship in 9its direction and wait for the scan to finish. Now, at a presumably similar distance, you enter a surface scan mode in which you have a map of the planet in front of you and you launch micro-probes (of which you have an unlimited supply) at it. Each probe will map the planet’s surface near where it hits, and can reveal surface features that only seem to be present on some bodies. If your probes map 90% of the surface you’ll get a “mapped by” tag for the planet.

Particularly in systems that are either large or contain multiple interesting bodies, this takes much longer than the old push-the-button system scan. It will vastly slow down the speed of exploration, and will definitely change its tone, with explorers skipping over the abundant but genrally unprofitable M systems in favor of G and K starts that have a larger change of having interesting planets. Very probably some players will not like it, and players who aren’t (or who don’t aspire to be) fairly serious explorers probably won’t learn it.

Provisionally, though, I like it quite a bit sor far. Now, I haven’t really explored the Codex (another new feature,) have only monkeyed with surface scanning a little bit, and haven’t yet turned in my (fairly large) bank of current discoveries, so I reserve the right to change my mind, but right now it feels more like exploration and is more immersive. Which is, after all, the best part of Elite Dangerous.

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