Tag Archives: Meaningless Milestones

Three Years of Random Waypoint

WordPress made sure to remind me that today is a special day:
Three years ago, I started Random Waypoint with my first post. I had just left my raiding guild, and for the first time in years, I felt directionless when it came to MMOs. Well, I guess that’s not completely true, because I had already started feeling like that for some time before I left the guild, but inertia kept me playing.

Since then, it’s been an up and down here, especially when it comes to posts. Phases of almost-daily posting or at least two-to-three-times weekly are separated by long periods of silence. So I’m happy even more about people who keep my blog on the back burner and continue reading when I pop up again. I’m not very good at writing regularly on a grand timescale, but I still enjoy doing it now and then. Every now and then, I even genuinely like posts that I have written!

Since it’s time to look back, and since wordpress provides some neat historical data, what better to do than show some plots?

More plots, more plots! (Click to enlarge; goes for all of them.)


postsRed diamonds on the timeline are posts. Since the beginning three years ago, I’ve written 186 posts, which means about 0.16 posts per day, or 1.2 per week. That only tells half the story, though. Since this blog goes through phases of activity and phases of silence, I identified them in the timeline: The grey areas are times of activity. You can see that I started enthusiastically, writing posts very regularly for about 10 months (from July 2011 to May 2012). I then had my first lull, and came back just in time for the first anniversary. It felt weird to write a “happy anniversary” post as the first one after two months of silence, though, so I didn’t that year. I went back to posting regularly for about 4 months, before I fell off the face of the earth for an extremely long time: my longest break up to now was from November 2012 to July 2013, a full eight months with only two posts in-between! Again, I came back just in time for the anniversary, and again, it didn’t feel appropriate to write a post about it. (It seems there is something about the dog days of summer that drives me to write blog posts. No idea why.) Since then, I’ve gotten into an on–off routine: 4 months of posting, 2 months of silence. Going by that rule, you’ll get some semi-regular reads until November! Even this time around, I only came back just in time for the anniversary, but this year, I was curious enough myself to crunch the data. Coming back to the beginning, while I wrote 1.2 posts per week over the lifetime of this blog, if you only take the active times, we get an average of 2.1 posts per week. That’s pretty close to the unofficial “2 posts per week” minimum that I have in my head.


OK, so we’ve seen what my posting behavior is. How does that influence views? In fact, how many views does this blog get, anyway?

It’s not a huge-volume affair, but it gets regular traffic: I’m close to 10,000 views now. As I’m writing this, the counter is up to 9,788 views. That’s about 9 views per day, or 52 views per posts. Of course, these are again distributed very unevenly. Time for another plot!

viewsFirst things first: writing posts produces views. Surprise! It would be very sad if it were otherwise. Because then I’d have to assume only bots came by. That said, even during times of inactivity, some low-volume traffic remains. I assume these must be bots that are not filtered out by the wordpress statistics, and people who prefer to check the blog directly every now and then instead of using an RSS reader (you can also use Twitter now to get notifications).

You can also see a good example of how it takes time for a blog to take off. Even though I posted a lot in the beginning, it took a few months to attract regular viewers. I’ve been considering selecting some of the better posts from that time and reblogging them as “reruns” during lulls, because some of them never got much attention.

The amount of traffic that a post produces is both very irregular and almost completely unpredictable. Posts you spend ages on tinkering to near-perfection don’t make any impression, while a fast throwaway comment makes your status updates blink like a Christmas tree. This is probably nothing that comes as any surprise to those who write themselves. Every now and then, a post can get 60, 70 views within a day. Even more rarely, things go crazy. There are two events that dwarf the rest of the daily-pageviews statistic: (a) marks my top day in views in the last three years. One of my posts got mentioned on the MMO Melting Pot, and directed a lot of viewers over here. This wasn’t the first time I got mentioned on the Melting Pot, and it wasn’t the last either, but something must’ve been special about this one. Maybe it was the right post at the right time, or maybe it was a windfall of something larger happening. Maybe the MMO Melting Pot, in turn, had just gotten mentioned on a very large site? We’ll never know. (I miss the Pot, by the way. It was a great way to find new blogs.) (b) is an event that puzzles me. I have no idea what happened. Checking the logs, it looks like just a lot of random pages being accessed. Maybe it was an unfiltered robot, or somebody got really interested and went through a lot of posts.

These days, every new posts gets around 20–30 views within the first 24 hours. On the downside, that means that, when I give a lecture, I have an audience 5–10 times as large. On the upside, I’m pretty sure that my readers are much more interested in what I say than most students. My readers even come voluntarily, and without an exam to guilt them into the lecture. (That would be a funny thought, though. An MMO blog exam. Hm….)

Speaking of my readers, I have to thank them for being so faithful, even during the times of silence, and always coming back. While I try to follow the rule of “write for yourself, not for others” (which is one of the reasons that, when I really don’t feel like it, I just don’t write for myself), it’s a great motivation to see people reading, and especially commenting.


To finish with the statistics, let’s have a look into the most viewed posts, popular search terms, and other random tidbits.

Top Posts

The most famous page on this blog is, obviously, the home page. Many people either surf directly to the blog, or they click the blog link (instead of a post link) when they see a new post has been published. 3,764, or 38.5%, of all page views are for the home page. Since this doesn’t say much about which posts are popular, let’s disregard that information. The Top 10 of posts, only counting views of the post pages themselvesm, from the last three years is:

1 EQ2: Simulating the Level Cap Experience Before the Level Cap 258
2 So I applied to EVE University… 239
3 The Totalitarianism of Progress-Focused MMO Gaming 235
4 PS Vita Test 217
5 No Heart for Shotacon 178
6 Pilgrimage to the EVE Gate 170
7 An Example of a Good Dungeon 158
8 Another one bites the F2P bullet 142
9 What I’m not playing: LotRO 119
10 So… It’s Kung Fu Panda After All? 115

Most of these posts are from 2012. That means they had enough time to collect extra page hits over the last 1–2 years, but they’re not from the very early time of the blog when there were little readers (and linkers). Again, the list shows that it’s hard to predict how popular a post will be: there are some longer and more “theoretic” posts in the mix (number 3 or 7), as well as some simpler “this is what I’m up to” posts (1, 2, 9). The largest surprise might be numbers 4 and 5: I wrote the PS Vita Test posts simply because I had played around with a Vita at Sony Building in Tokyo before the official release, and felt like I had to at least write something about that, even though I hadn’t followed news on the Vita at all. The “Shotacon” post was a short half-serious, half-tongue-in-cheek remark about TERA’s Elin, and why they only come in female versions. I wouldn’t consider either of these posts exceptionally good, but they both seemed to benefit from a buzzword in their title. Which gets me to…

Top Search Terms

This is actually less interesting than it sounds. Sadly, google has stopped giving search terms in their referral links, so these days, I don’t have much information about what people searched for to end up here. However, the top two search values were “PS Vita” and “shotacon”, which confirms my guess about why those two posts ended up in the Top 10. I also feel like a lot of people searching for the latter term left disappointed…

I don’t seem to attract any outrageously weird or funny search terms. Some of the more offbeat ones are:

the best swashbuckler ever in eq2 (you called?)
dead hooker juxtaposition (I’m… not even sure I want to know.)
blue öyster cult (Must be my user icon.)
flosch taste (refined! what else?)
is it possible to reach the eve gate (Be my guest and try, but you might not have enough time until the next server downtime.)
“can not/cannot” grammar (yes, that is one of my pet peeves.)
where can i find shotacon games? (not here. And yep, that one left especially disappointed, I bet.)
город гоблинов (Hey, I understand that! And I didn’t even need Wilhelm’s help! Here you go.)
panda hardcore (I really, really hope you don’t mean that kind of panda hardcore.)

Top Referrers

This one was actually quite tricky, mostly because blogspot uses ccTLDs and you end up with all sorts of referrers that look different, but are the same: http://www.bhagpuss.blogspot.com, www.bhagpuss.blogspot.de, and bhagpuss.blogspot.com.au all show up separately in the logs. With the help of some perl scripting magic, I came up with the following top referrers in the last 3 years: (note: I removed search engines from the list; they don’t count in my opinion.)

1 blessingofkings.blogspot.* 1325
2 mmomeltingpot.* 676
3 nilsmmoblog.blogspot.* 529
4 bhagpuss.blogspot.* 396
5 playervsdeveloper.blogspot.* 232
6 raging-monkeys.blogspot.* 216
7 Google Reader 80
8 tagn.wordpress.* 77
9 biobreak.wordpress.* 72
10 hzero.wordpress.* 55

It’s interesting how four dormant or defunct sites still managed to make it into the top ten: The MMO Melting Pot hasn’t been stirred in almost 10 months; Nils’ MMO Blog has had only 3 posts in the last 14 months; Syl has since renamed Raging Monkeys and moved to another domain; and Google Reader suffered a much-lamented death. Of course, that might have to do with my regular posting breaks. However, even dormant sites can still produce traffic: for example, Nils’ Blog still is used by many people as blogroll, it seems. It is still in the Top 10 referrers for the last quarter.

Overall, blogspot blogs seem to produce more referrals than wordpress ones; I assume this must have to do with their rotating blogroll that shows newest posts at the top, something that can’t be done with wordpress unless you host it on your own server (which is why you can enjoy it on my page, yay!).

Random Waypoints from Around the World

Since early 2012, wordpress also collects data about which countries viewers come from. This produces another nice figure:

3yearsblog_countriesI cut off at 10 views, because the picture got unwieldy enough with the white space to the right. What surprises me most, I think, is how high on the list Britain, Canada and Australia are. The UK even beats Germany! (A result you haven’t seen in football for a long time *rimshot*). I guess I just assumed I’d get more German hits because the domain ends in .de, but then again, all posts are in English, so it’s maybe not such a big surprise. Canada and Australia mainly surprise me because neither country, for all their land size, is all that populous. It’s also quite funny that I have 15 hits from Hong Kong, but only 1 from mainland China. I’m probably blocked or something. Also, Switzerland finishes on a strong 8th place. I have a hunch who’s responsible for that!

Final Random Stats

Longest post: 3871 words, Allegiance, Betrayal, and Oh So Many Warning Boxes!
Shortest posts: 18 words, “Homefront” on Steam…
Most commented: 12 comments, What I’m not playing: GW2
Most revisions before finally published: 91 revisions, Allegiance, Betrayal, and Oh So Many Warning Boxes!
Most revisions before finally published (and not also the longest post): 76 revisions, Authenticators! How Do They Work?
Most used category: General Game-Related Blathering
Least used category: City of Heroes (and that one isn’t going to grow any more, I’m afraid.)

Final Thought

Off to another three years! I wonder whether this blog will still be alive and kicking then. No other way to find out than to continue!

15 Games From 25 Years, Part 2

Yes, I am a horrible blogger. I do have some excuses why it took me more than a month to finish part 2 of this series, but they can’t really explain all the delay, so I won’t even start. So, let’s just ignore it took me 40 days to finish this post, and, without further ado, just dive in:

9. Starcraft (1998)

For being one of the few (and the last) RTS game I played through without getting bored.
starcraftRTS games came at a weird time for me. I was still attached to the old-style point-and-click adventures, and 2D platformers. But when Command & Conquer came around, I played it quite a bit. At least I played the single-player campaign. Because back then, in 1998, there wasn’t much multiplayer gaming around that didn’t involve split screens. But soon enough, RTS games bored me. Always the same: build up some structures, amass an overwhelming force, then attack and crush your enemy, and all of that wrapped in a repetitive story. Until Starcraft came around, that is.

Back then, the story-telling within an RTS was amazing to me. Every mission, every cut scene seemed to have an insane story turn. I’m sure that my memory is exaggerating this in hindsight, but I remember that I believed that the story was awesome. It was what kept me playing. Because, at its core, it was same-ol’-same-ol’: build up structures, amass an overwhelming force, crush your enemy. Except for the special missions. Those had an almost RPG-like feel and were quite fun. But after the single-player missions, I was done and moved on to other games. With fond memories, and a short return for Brood War, sure. But it seems RTS as a genre is not for me, if not even the game that was played professionally for over a decade could keep me interested long-term.

10. Half-Life (1998)

For being one of the few FPS games I played through, and for showing that FPS can tell a story.
halflifeIn the first part, I said that FPSs never interested me much. Partially because I didn’t like their twitch gameplay, partially because I sucked at said twitch gameplay. But mainly because most of them came with godawful single-player “storylines”. (I needed to put that in quotes, because, really.) Half-Life was different. It started with a normal work day (sure, in a very much non-normal work environment, but still), and there was no shooting at all in the first half hour; instead, the time was spent on telling a story. The hero was an unlikely candidate for an FPS (and, granted, required some suspension of disbelief to work), and to top it off, there was a sense of mystery with that suitcase man appearing and disappearing.

Thankfully, I could *cough* procure a US version of the game (statute of limitations! Plus, to cover my shame, I actually bought the game a couple of years later, when I got the chance to get an English version), because the release fell into the “Dark Ages” of German game publishing: Because the rules on computer game violence were so strict and well-enforced, and because game companies feared loss of sales more than changing their games for the German market, Half-Life was changed. Extensively. Basically, all enemies were changed into robots, because shooting robots is cool, obviously (won’t somebody please think of the poor robots?!), and all non-enemy humans “fainted” when you shot them. I don’t even know what story they came up with for the robot invasion… thankfully, it seems that these days, the overbearing censorship has been dialed back quite a bit. Haven’t heard of a game being changed for the German market in some time. Maybe the publishers realized that teenagers don’t buy games anyway if they want to play them, and being put on the index doesn’t hurt much.

11. Grim Fandango (1998)

For being one of the best stories in point+click adventure games and a swan song for the genre, and for its great visual style.
grimfandangoWith the 90ies coming to their end, the classic adventure style of point+click faded from the limelight, too. Lucasfilm Games and Sierra stopped producing their hallmark series, and it wasn’t until some time later that smaller studios surfaced to fill the gap with quality replacements. Grim Fandango was maybe the last jewel by one of the large players. The story of love, betrayal and financial and political scheming is set in the Land of the Dead, which (I was told) is modeled after Mexican folk tales of the afterlife. It was a captivating story, but that wasn’t everything. The game was so perfectly set in a mixture of only-possible-in-dreams architecture and real-world Art Deco, with a soundtrack to complement that setting, that for style alone, this game would’ve earned a place on the list of best adventure games of all times. I mean, just look at that wallpaper!

Grim Fandango may have come closer to perfection than any other adventure game I ever played. And in some way, it is fitting that the game is set in the Land of the Dead, and ends with the way from there into the underworld. Because after the swan song of Grim Fandango, the curtain for adventure games on the big stage fell for good.

12. Diablo II (2000)

For playing so excessively that it probably single-handedly cost me at least one undergrad semester.
diabloiiWhen I picked up Diablo II in the summer of 2000, I was underwhelmed at first. Sure, it looked like a nice game, but the graphics resolution was so low that it hurt, and it just felt very incremental, nothing new and shiny, just a bit more of everything that had been there in Diablo (and maybe I had played the first installment a bit too much in the late 90ies). For a year, the game spent most of its time on the shelf, until the expansion came around, which, among other things, featured higher-resolution graphics. That did it for me, and from that time I was hooked.

I spent endless nights (and sometimes days) bringing my mage up to high level, then my paladin, then… at some point, I started collecting unique items compulsively. I even had a list of every unique and set item in the game, and ticked off every new item I got. My goal was the “holy grail”: find one of each of these items. Needless to say, I never finished that. I spent a lot of time on it, though. (Fun fact: did you know that only a handful bosses could even drop unique versions of the Sacred Armor type, and to add insult to injury, there were two unique Sacred Armors, with one being 8 times rarer than the other? I must’ve been crazy back then, thinking I could ever finish the grail.) I probably spent half a year playing Diablo II most of my waking time. Only WoW came even close to that obsession later. I also never seriously played online. I tried once or twice, but it never appealed to me. I stayed a single player.

13. Ultima Online (1997)

For keeping me away from online gaming until WoW came around.ultimaonlineI was a latecomer to the MMORPG party. I found it unfathomable that, if I wanted to play a game, not only would I have to buy it, but then also have to pay a fee. Every month! The craziness! These days, there are many people who’d rather do that instead of getting interrupted by annoying advertisements, or by obviously disruptive game mechanics that try to have you pay at every corner.

My natural curiosity, however, made me try out one of those strange games when I moved out of my parents’ and into my first own home. For the first time, I had a sizable amount of money available to me every month, much larger than the pocket money I had before (yeah, I was lucky my parents financed me and I didn’t have to work while studying other than as research student assistant because it was interesting and to earn some nice-to-have extra money). Of course, I had to finance everything out of that, but I lived frugally and had leftover money to buy all sorts of entertainment crap if I lived off cheap food. So, which game would be better suited to an Ultima fan to try out an online game than Ultima Online? It sounded great: a living, breathing world to explore and live in!

Of course, my curiosity is only one of my natural traits. Another is a stubborn insistence to not to things the easy way and how everybody else does it, but to do them differently just for the sake of being different. So, obviously, I decided that I didn’t want to become a fighter in UO, because I could do fighting in most other games, right? (The fact that I was killed by a rat the first time I entered the Britain sewers might have helped with that decision.) I decided to become a merchant. To do that, I’d have to craft stuff to sell. And to do that, I’d have to gather materials. I thought smithing sounded nice, so off I went to mine. And I mined. And mined. And mined. And soon I was so horribly bored out of my mind that I couldn’t look at cave walls any more. I wasn’t used yet to what we call “grinding”. This was supposed to be the great online experience? In retrospect, I think I just did it completely wrong, but I didn’t know better back then.

I stopped playing within a week. I was not going to pay this outrageous monthly fee to play the most boring game I had seen in ages! And that was that for online games for me. I barely considered any other online titles for years. Until…

14. World of Warcraft (2004)

For prodigious reasons that, if it were to summarize them, this subheading would have to be as long as the following text itself, contrary to usage.
wow-iniquitous-nefarian-down…to adapt a quote by the amazing Umberto Eco.

Oh, World of Warcraft. Where do we start? You were an important part of my life for six years (as sappy, or pathetic, depending on your point of view, as that sounds), and to me, you are what Everquest is to the older generation (or to those that started playing online earlier): the first hit whose rush we’re chasing after, trying to find it elsewhere.

After the letdown of Ultima Online, I wasn’t convinced I’d ever try an MMO again. For several years, I ignored the genre, and it wasn’t until my year in Tokyo that I picked up a copy in a shop in Akihabara, the nerd nirvana. (The irony of starting to play WoW in Final Fantasy XI’s country of origin does not elude me.) To make a long story short, I found a great guild, we had lots of fun, guild broke up, guild partially reunited, people moved on, I moved on, game lost its charm some time during Cataclysm. So much, so normal and boring.

But there are so many things that I can’t forget, maybe similar to what other people experienced, maybe not. The first time I left the Valley of Trials, and I realized that that area was just a tiny part of a zone, which was just one of dozens; when it hit me that this world was seriously large. My first, utterly incompetent dungeon run. Being picked up by my later raiding guild around level 30 after a Scarlet Monastery run (“I don’t know if I want to commit, I might stop playing again soon” — “just try it out, no hard feelings if you leave”). The headrush when I finally killed my last demon for Rhok’delar. And of course our guild’s high point in Vanilla, killing Nefarian in the autumn of 2006 (the picture is from that night). And so on, and so on. I still have contact with some people from that first guild. But what am I telling you, half the blog is based on some memories from my WoW days. You find them peeking around every corner. And finally, without WoW, you couldn’t even read anything here: my leaving in 2011 was one of the reasons I created this blog. It says so in my very first post ever.

15. Portal (2007)

For showing that short and small games without lots of content can be great.portalFor a long time, I was stuck in the “blockbuster mindset”: the bigger and longer a game, the better it must be. That’s strange in a way, because I started shying away from the blandness of blockbuster movies early on. I was always more a Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch guy than a Steven Spielberg one. Nevertheless, there is a certain logic to the thinking: with a movie, the difference between a 90-minute and a 150-minute movie isn’t significant enough in time to make you consider the “money-per-hour spent” ratio too deeply. With a game, it can be quite important whether you’ll get 6 or 60 hours out of it, especially if the price is the same.

Portal was different, though. As far as I know, it was a lucky random occurrence, thought as a mere bonus to Valve’s orange box, a collector’s-edition-like version of Half-Life 2. But the game developed a life of its own, and I’m probably not the only one who bought the orange box specifically because of Portal. (I don’t think I ever played Half-Life 2 for more than two or three hours; though that might not be fair, because I heard the game is actually quite nice.)

The thing with Portal is that it is so good exactly because it is so short: you can easily finish it within one extended sitting on a weekend evening, maybe taking a short break in between, like they have at the extra-length movies, just without someone asking you whether you’d like an ice cream (it never hurts to have some in your freezer, of course). Being able to finish the game in one sitting and witnessing its story unfold in those few hours gives the game the sense of immersion and immediacy of a good movie. The story isn’t watered down because it’s frequently interrupted by those pesky work days that keep you from playing. You absorb it in one go, and then can ponder about it later, if you want to.

I still haven’t played Portal 2 (though it’s been in my Steam library for ages… story of my life, and everybody else’s, it seems), but I heard it’s not as condensed and takes longer to finish. I wonder whether it can still deliver the same feeling of immediacy that the original could.


And that’s it! Here we are. 15 games, 25 years. If I ever get around to it, I might make a small “bonus post” with a list of games that I wish had influenced me, but didn’t, because I didn’t get around to them until years down the road.

15 Games From 25 Years, Part 1

I think it’s been over a month since the idea first showed up in my feed reader: name the 15 games that you feel were most influential to you. I thought it was a really cute idea, but didn’t have time to get around to it. Then it showed up a second time. Then a third time. I liked the idea more and more, so I created a dummy draft post. Now, after everybody and their grandmother has done it, I finally get around to doing it. It seems to be my thing: writing about topics when others are done with it, playing games years after their release, and so on. If I fail my PhD, I probably should apply for a job at some magazine that runs these “What ever happened to X?” columns.

It actually was quite hard to pick 15. The first 10 or so were incredibly easy. Then the troubles began: should I pick game X or game Y? Which one was more worthy of a spot? Should I maybe just cut the list at a point that felt natural to me, or extend it? In the end, I decided such lists are there to make you pick and choose. I guess it’s what Sid Meier calls “interesting choices”.

Once I had done this, I had another choice to make: how to sort the games? I thought about ordering them from least to most influential, but ran into problems. Was SimCity more influential than Metroid II? Starcraft than Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? That didn’t work. I could have gone with chronological ordering. That works if you’re always at the vanguard of game development and releasing, or if you want to simply give a list of games in a historical overview. But this is about how influential games were to me. So, to me, the best way is to follow Rob Gordon and sort them autobiographically. Especially because, as I already said, I sometimes only get around to games months or years after their release. Because of this, while I give the release dates, they won’t be in order.

So, what then does “influential” mean? It can mean a lot of things, and there can be wildly varying reasons, big or small. A game can simply have been my first video game. It can be a game that opened up a genre to me. It can even be influential in that it kept me away from a popular genre for good. I’ll try to point that out for every game I list. So, let’s get this going, finally.

1. Battle Chess (1988)

For being the first game I had to hide from my parents.
battlechessI got my first computer, a PC, in 1990. Well, it wasn’t technically “my” computer. It was a family computer, so my parents used it for word processing, and I learned how to program QBasic on it. First steps towards becoming a computer scientist, I guess. It had been a hard fight. I had wanted a computer for a long time. All my friends had Amigas, or at least NESs. My parents, however, weren’t very interested in technology. It might be too harsh to call them Luddites, but they weren’t that far off. As the first child, I also had to fight for a lot of things that my brother got a lot easier later on. We had a TV, but I was only allowed to watch very limited program, and not much. My parents weren’t fans of computers, either. They didn’t feel like they needed a word processor, after all, they had a typewriter. (In their defense, the first word processors were barely better than a typewriter, so I can kinda see their point in hindsight.) So I had to beg for ages. When my parents finally relented and we got a PC, I held up my side of the bargain and worked seriously with it quite a bit. I did the programming that I mentioned, I tinkered until I destroyed the operating system install (probably several times).

And of course, I played games. Now, that hadn’t been part of the bargain, but my parents were no idiots. They knew it would happen. I had a couple of games like Sokoban, which I liked and my parents approved. Battle Chess was the first game that I had to hide from my parents. You see, they didn’t endorse violence. Violent computer games probably were the main reason they fought against getting a PC for so long. So Battle Chess was not approved of in our household. You killed the pieces when you captured them! Of course, it was all cartoon violence, in a way. But it was in a new medium, and who knows whether that wouldn’t turn me into a ruthless killer? I think I can now confidently say that it didn’t. But it was the first game out of a bunch that I hid from my parents for fear of disapproving frowns and maybe even groundings. As I said, my parents are no idiots: with time, their “no violence” doctrine softened. But I hid those “violent” games just as well as (a couple of years later) the pictures of scantily-clad (or not-at-all-clad) women. Oh, puberty! But that’s another story and shall be told another time. Or, come to think of it, maybe not.

2. Gargoyle’s Quest (1991)

For being the first game that showed me that games could tell a story, even a simplistic one in hindsight, and for pushing me to learn English as fast as I could.
gargoylesquestOnce we finally got a computer in our home, things progressed at breakneck speed. Just a couple of months later, I got a Game Boy for Christmas from my grandparents. (I hope I get the continuity right here, I’m can’t remember for sure which one was first, PC or Game Boy. But it fits the storytelling better this way, so I’ll go with this order.) Years later, my parents told me they hadn’t been happy with this at all, but what was done was done. My first games were the plain and simple type: beat a level, progress to the next one. Story? What’s that?

Gargoyle’s Quest was the first game I owned that told a story. It was a disaster in the beginning. I couldn’t beat the first stage, which was what we’d call “overtuned” today. (Every other stage felt simpler than that evil first one!) Thankfully, I got a one-year subscription for the Nintendo Magazine with the Game Boy, and a couple of months after I had gotten the game, they published a code that let you skip the first stage. From then on, it was smooth sailing. There was a world to explore! I had played games like Zelda before at a friend, but they don’t really work well for playing together, plus my friends were more into the simpler games, so this was the first time I was exposed to a deep story in a video game, or what passed for it in my mind those days. I was hooked, and from then on, games needed depth to interest me.

Of course, there was the tiny problem that the game was in English. I had to run to my parents all the time to have them translate for me, which they did dutifully, but I could tell they were immensely bored by it. Gargoyle’s Quest is probably the first time I felt like I needed to learn that strange language, and when English classes started in school the year after, I dug in.

3. SimCity (1989)

For learning to love the simulation genre, and for helping me figure out that I am no Richard Bartle.
SimCityI think this is the first simulation game that I played. It was easy enough so that a ten-year old with limited understanding of English could grasp the concepts. I loved planning my city, building it, and seeing it run. I loved it so much that, in fact, I tried to create a board game version of it for playing when my parents chased me off the computer. I created lots of tiles (residential, commercial, industrial, roads, etc.) to place on a map. I failed miserably trying to come up with a system to manage cash flow, though. All that behind-the-scenes management of revenues and expenses, which was done by the game engine, was voodoo to me. I’m still not all that good with money, but I blame part of that failure on being 10 years old and only having a very limited understanding of finances. But one good thing came out of it: my failure showed me that designing games is hard. SimCity 2000 came later, and expanded on the original. After that… let’s just not talk about it.

4. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992)

For having the greatest story I played up to that point, which would have been worthy of being the fourth Indy movie.
indy4Gargoyles Quest had showed me that games can tell a story more complicated than “your princess is in another castle”. Indy 4 taught me that those stories, told well within the limitations of the medium, could rival those of movies and even books. Having three distinct ways to finish the game, while probably less than impressive to someone who started their adventure career with Maniac Mansion, was something I loved. I learned that games not only have limitations in storytelling, but also tools available that books and films do not (except if you build everything around it like, e.g., in Run Lola Run). To this day, I think that Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis would have made a great movie, and it’s a shame it never was to be. And it’s obvious which of the three paths the movie should have picked: Team all the way! Sophia Hapgood rocked. I might’ve even had a prepubescent crush on a pixel character back then. While you had to rescue her more than once, she was still leagues above the typical cardboard cut-out damsels in distress of her time.

5. Metroid II (1992)

For understanding how a relatively small world can contain so many wonders to someone without access to playthrough guides or out-of-game maps.
metroid2Metroid II, the only installment of the series on the Game Boy, is often panned as the red-headed stepchild, only saved from being the bottom of the barrel by some later abysmal spinoffs, or so the story goes. Me? I had never played the original Metroid, so I had nothing to compare it to. I personally loved the sense of exploration in the game. The strange thing? Look at this map. Doesn’t look all that large, right? But without any in-game or out-of-game map available, I managed to lose my way so many times that it felt much, much larger. I think it took me months to complete the game, because I tried to search every nook and cranny for powerups and those elusive last metroids that triggered earthquakes to open up additional areas. When I saw that map for the first time, I couldn’t believe how small it was.

6. Final Fantasy Adventure / Mystic Quest (1993)

For being the first RPG I played, and for being engrossed in a great and long story (for a Game Boy game).
mysticquestThis was one of my all-time favorite Game Boy games. Many people seem to agree: it often features on “Top X Game Boy titles” lists. And it’s easy to see why: for a Game Boy game at that time, the story was captivating. There was a real sense of progress by leveling and weapon/armor upgrades. There were cities, deserts, woods and dungeons to explore. Of course, it was still a Game Boy game from the 90ies: if you play it today, you can finish it in a weekend (which still isn’t all that shabby compared to its contemporaries). It wasn’t all that nonlinear, either: most areas were cordoned off until you finished a story line part that awarded you the special ability to clear those trees, crush those boulders, and so on. In fact, it even cordoned off areas behind you at times. Nevertheless, at that time, it was great. While I never played all that many classic RPGs, Mystic Quest (as it was called in Europe) was the game that warmed me to the concept of number-based progression. And then there was the music, of course. Somehow it seems the Japanese producers understood best what to make with the limitations of the 8-bit age.

7. Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988)

For showing me that a zany story beats dated graphics.
zakmckrackenI think we’re seeing a trend here. I favor games that tell a story, because that is what I tend to remember. Zak McKracken was the first “vintage” game I can remember playing and having lots of fun. Now, don’t get me wrong, at the time of release, the graphics weren’t all that shabby. But by the mid-90ies, it looked very dated. I loved the humor at the time, though. I think I was old enough by then to get a good deal of the cultural references in the game, something that would’ve gone over my head back when the game was released. It also was the first time that I beat a copy protection on my own. Back when we are were poor teens and games were traded back and forth between us, those copy protections always proved pesky. You either needed a “warez” version or become creative. With ZakMcKracken, I borrowed the black-on-dark-brown copy protection sheets, used the school scanner and Paint Shop Pro’s “levels” tool to make a high-contrast copy, and printed it out. I felt extremely wily that day. Good thing there’s statutes of limitation and I can now write about that. These days, I have money to buy my games, and Steam makes that a lot easier, too.

8. Quake (1996)

For showing me that I suck at FPSs and that I didn’t like their paper-thin story.
quakeThis is the first game on my list that influenced to me in a negative way. In effect, it soured me on most FPSs to come after it.

Quake was one of those games that the cool kids played. Well, that’s actually not quite true. At least in my area, all computer gamers were nerds. So playing quake made you something of a cool nerd, which is more the equivalent of the one-eyed amongst the blind. The game had a bit of a reputation because not only was it all about shooting things, it was mostly about shooting people. Or their characters, in deathmatches. I remember playing it in the school computer room. One upside of not having any competent computer science teachers was that the administration fo the computers was mostly done by a select group of school nerds. And with that power, who could prevent them from installing Quake on those machines? Pirated copies, of course, because even if we had had the money to buy multiple copies, none of us was old enough at that time to legally buy the game (it was on the German index, so no sales to minors).

The problem was that I sucked at the game. I was truly, genuinely horrible. Around that time, User Friendly was a big thing in web comics, and I felt like I was Stef: always getting killed, spending half my time in some lava pool, and so on. So I tried to get better, brought home a copy, and tried to play the single-player campaign. That was a horrible letdown. I’m not even sure it had any story to speak of. I realized that I didn’t want to train to stay competitive, because in the end, the concept of FPSs just bored me. Quake was the game that once and for all put me off FPS deathmatches.

Alright, that’s it for now. Because this is already one of my longer posts, I’ll talk about the other half next time!

35 Million Skill Points

Good thing that Wilhelm keeps track of his skill points. When I saw his post, I realized hadn’t checked my SP total in some time. It had just rolled over to 35 million, so you’re out of luck and have to endure another pointless numbers post:

Spaceship Command               11,702,768 (*)
Gunnery                          7,752,860 (*)
Engineering                      2,978,040 (*)
Missiles                         2,745,062 (*)
Shields                          1,553,335
Armor                            1,290,305 (*)
Navigation                       1,265,805
Targeting                        1,048,000
Trade                            1,338,235
Drones                             911,217
Resource Processing                471,680
Electronic Systems                 444,776
Rigging                            436,774
Leadership                         421,824
Production                         222,767
Social                             198,935
Neural Enhancement                 159,765 (*)
Science                             45,255
Scanning                            20,729
Corporation Management               1,000
Total                          ~35,000,000

Since EVE recategorized its skills, there are now a lot more categories than before. Some of them make sense: for example, you don’t have to remember any more that armor and rigging skills are under (the now defunct) “Mechanics” and shield skills under “Engineering”. Some categories are a bit more dubious: why Scanning was split off Electronics for a mere seven skills… who knows.

The downside is that it is a lot harder to compare the areas in which I earned additional skills. For the most part, the asterisks are educated guesses on what I remember training. Basically, it’s been another 5 million in mostly gunnery, missiles, and spaceship command. The other categories are short trains for skills that were added to the game with the recent Odyssey expansion: “Infomorph Synchronizing” for reduced jump clone timers, and “Armor Layering” to fly faster with heavy armor. The latter one has already been renamed once in its short life. I have no idea what was wrong with the original “Armor Honeycombing”, I liked it a lot better…. However, most skill progress is still done in The Big Three, with a bunch of long-running skills. That works well with my current play time: I don’t play at all, I just let my pilot sit in his ship, waiting for the subscription to time out.

The Mandatory Titan Test

I’m still 128 days from flying a Titan. That number hasn’t changed a bit in the last 5 million SP. Gunnery skills are not required to get into a Titan, so they don’t get me any closer to one. They do get me closer to actually fit weapon on the theoretical Titan, though, so there’s something.

Plans for the Future

Sit in a station. Log in to train skills. See the subscription timer tick down. Unless something unexpected happens, this might be the last round-number skill point post for a long time. I’ll train a couple more extra-long skills until then. Next up: Advanced Weapon Upgrades V. Getting that out of the way would, in theory, allow me to fly dreadnaughts, the smallest capital class of ships, within a month, and only a couple more days for their guns. Not that I think that’s very likely to happen… ever. But AWU also gives you some other benefits, so it’s probably good to finally get that done. It’s not a fun skill to watch train for weeks while you’re actually playing.

Thirty Million Skill Points

Don’t ask me how it happened. I was weak. For reasons I still cannot figure out myself, I resubscribed to EVE some time ago. And so the 30 million skillpoint mark came and went some time ago. Short look:

Spaceship Command           11,061,943 (*) 
Gunnery                      6,271,210 (*)
Engineering                  2,939,845 (*)
Missile Launcher Operation   1,670,950
Electronics                  1,623,756 (*)
Trade                        1,338,235
Navigation                   1,265,805
Mechanics                    1,719,079 (*)
Drones                         911,217 (*)
Industry                       690,204
Leadership                     421,824
Science                        225,749
Social                         198,435
Corporation Management           1,000
Total                      ~30,300,000

Asterisks denote categories that changed from last time. Unsurprisingly, since I am still in my Perception/Willpower remap, Gunnery and especially Spaceship command have seen the largest increase since last time. Sadly, since it’s been so long that I paid attention to my skills, I cannot really say what I picked up since last time. I think it was T2 Large Hybrids, so I can now fly Caldari and Gallente Battleships (or at least a good part of them) properly. I can also fly the Oneiros now, and other than that, made a decent spread across all the T1 hulls for the different races. I guess the idea was that, since I didn’t know where I’d end up, I better train a wide spread, so whatever they ask me to fly wouldn’t be too much of a train from what I got. Sadly, I didn’t take a snapshot of my skill level distribution this time around, but it seems I picked up a fair bunch of IVs and Vs.

What I’m Currently (Not) Doing

I’m at a total roadblock with EVE at the moment. I’m not with the UNI any more, because they kicked me after a long period of inactivity and when my API key ran out (can’t blame them for that, really can’t). I can’t do anything on my own, except maybe run missions, which gets boring fast. I have a couple of people on my friends list from the EVE university days, but I haven’t talked to them in months because I’ve been offline for so long, so I kinda don’t want to start the conversation with “Heeeeeyyyy… remember me? No? Well, damn. Anyway, can you vouch me into your alliance?” Even worse, I don’t even know what I want to do. Null? Low? Wormhole? it actually all sounds ok, everything would be better than what I’m currently doing. Which is a whole lot of nothing. I log in, stare at my chat windows and friends list (typically people are offline), then jet around in my interceptor from point A to point B, then queue another skill and log off. It’s basically Farmville in Space. Then again, I’m also worried that even if I ended up getting someone to help me with getting back into the groove, I’d have to bail out again eventually. I remember EVE being a good time-sink, and the rest of the year will probably be a lot of work for me. I basically want to finish a first version of my thesis document until the end of the year, and that might mean a lot of long working hours. Plus, there are other games around, too…

So yeah, enough of the morose attitude. If anybody has suggestions, shoot please. Otherwise, I’ll probably just let my subscription time out again.

The Mandatory Titan Test

Funny enough (and fitting for my whole love-hate relationship with the game), my “time until I can fly a Titan” has actually gone up from last time. I mean, what? How is that even possible? I guess it must have something to do with the skill reorganization, and the Titans must’ve picked up different prerequisites. I can’t figure out what they are, though. Jump Portal Generation maybe? In any case, if I won a Titan today, it would now take me another 128 days until I could fly it (difference between the four Titans is only about a day).

Plans for the Future

I think I covered the lack of those quite well. It’s been a year since my last neural remap, so I could, in theory, go for Int/Mem and pick up lots and lots of support skills. That would be perfect for a time in the game where I’m not doing much anything. On the other hand, if I end up doing anything in eve again, Perc/Will will probably be valuable, because it’ll allow me to train for ships and guns much faster. Then again, using my free remap now means the next free remap will come again sooner, and I have 3 bonus remaps available still. Decisions, decisions… Anyway, if I keep playing (or at least paying), and stay in Perc/Will, then I expect to pick up even more guns/missiles/ships. If I go for Int/Mem, most of the skills until the next milestone will go into Engineering, Electronics, and Mechanics.

Twenty Million Skill Points

While I was on vacation, I passed another milestone in EVE skill points. Last time I looked at my skills, I had just passed the 15 million mark. Now, two months and 5 million skill points later, the distribution looks like this:

Spaceship Command            4,783,925 (*) 
Gunnery                      3,443,574 (*)
Engineering                  2,924,345
Missile Launcher Operation   1,670,950 (*)
Electronics                  1,389,011 (*)
Trade                        1,338,235
Navigation                   1,265,805 (*)
Mechanics                    1,211,517 (*)
Drones                         887,217 (*)
Industry                       690,204
Leadership                     421,824
Science                        225,749 (*)
Social                         198,435
Corporation Management           1,000
Total                      ~20,000,000

Asterisks denote categories that changed from last time. Of those, Missile Launcher Operation, Navigation, Drones, and Science only saw minimal changes. I can’t even remember what exactly it was I trained there. On the other hand, Spaceship Command, Gunnery, and Mechanics saw the largest increase since last time, just as I had predicted.

The longest train in this period was Gallente Cruisers V, which took most of my vacation. (The first week I was gone was for a conference, so I had net and could train some shorter skills during that time.) That it’s Gallente after all, and not Caldari, comes as a bit as a surprise to me. I’ve always liked the Caldari ships, and Tengus are simply awesome. On the other hand, I caught up on armor tanking and hybrid weapons recently, and the leader of my battle group in EVE University wants to experiment with setups that bear some similarity to TWEED gangs, so I decided to train Gallente before Caldari for this one.

That means I picked up skills to fly a couple more Tech2 ships. Together with Gallente Cruisers V, I trained up Heavy Assault Ships IV and Logistics IV, so I can now fly the Deimos, Ishtar, and Oneiros. I cannot fly Recons because I’m missing the CovOps prerequisites, nor can I fly the Phobos Heavy Interdictor.

I can also equip those more expensive ships properly, because since the last milestone, I picked up skills for T2 medium hybrid weapons, and a bunch of Gunnery support skills, as well as decent (if not great) armor tanking skills; enough to fit T2 armor tanks, a very very good idea for every ship armor-tanked anyway.

Looking at the skill level distribution:

Level 0:  1
Level 1: 15
Level 2: 24
Level 3: 37
Level 4: 48
Level 5: 29

Quite a spread. It follows the old adage of “everything worth training is worth training to level IV”, though. I just lose interest in a lot of skills early. When it comes to training skills, I go through two-phase cycles. Either I don’t know what to train at all, and just put in something long, or I have so many things I want to train as soon as possible that I stop training at level II or III as soon as the bare requirements are met. I guess I should round off some skills soon.

The skill at level 0 is a bit odd. It means I injected the skill, but then never trained it up at all. That rarely happens if I buy a skill before I head out somewhere where skill book supply is scarce, but want to finish training something else first. The skill in question is Nanite Operation. Whoops! Totally forgot about that one! That might be worth training, definitely!

The Mandatory Titan Test

All of this training, however, has not brought me closer to a Titan by even a single day. I am still 118 days away from the closest Titan (the Leviathan), of which 77 days are for training Advanced Spaceship Command and Capital Ships to V, and another 30 for Caldari Battleship V. Not that I have any intention of flying a titan anyway, but there. 2 months of training, and not a day shaved off.

Future Plans

I am in a bit of a slump again with EVE at the moment. Back when I was still a Sophomore, I had something to work towards. After becoming an EVE Uni graduate, my play time has gradually decreased, though. I did not play all that much in the month before I went on vacation, and I’m not even really sure what the ILN is up to these days. I hope I can find something fun to do, because I have lots of memories of just sitting around, waiting for anything to happen (like just some sort of fleet, even one that doesn’t do much), and nothing happening at all. In the last months, TSW has been released, LotRO has been calling out to me again, and RIFT’s one-year-plus-expansion-soon deal has rekindled my interest in the game. Competition has become more fierce again. Let’s see how EVE will hold up against that.

Fifteen Million Skill Points

One of the things I like about Wilhelm’s posts at the Ancient Gaming Noob is that they work very well for historical reference. For EVE, he has posted for years his skill point distribution at every 10-million milestone.

When I picked up EVE again 4 months ago, I was above the 10 million mark, and I didn’t even think of logging my skill points either. On the other hand, even at optimum training speed, it will take more than another two months before I hit the 20 million mark. So I’ll do an intermediate step and look at my skill point distribution when I hit 15 million skill points three weeks ago. Here we go, in decreasing order of points:

Engineering                  2,924,345
Spaceship Command            2,637,897
Missile Launcher Operation   1,664,365
Gunnery                      1,599,645
Trade                        1,338,235
Navigation                   1,117,391
Drones                         774,741
Electronics                    756,776
Industry                       690,204
Mechanics                      659,598
Leadership                     421,824
Science                        213,770
Social                         198,435
Corporation Management           1,000
Total                      ~15,000,000

A look at my current skills

The first thing you might notice is the large amount spent in Engineering, even more than Spaceship Command. This is mostly due to shield tanking skills that I trained mostly without playing during one of the previous 2-months-for-the-price-of-1 offers. It ties in really well with one of my favorite ships, the Drake, which I like to fly both in PvE and PvP. Another hefty contributor are capacitor skills – the “Core Capacitor” certificate is the only one I have at Elite level, actually.

The Harpy is the most recent ship I learned to fly on my way to 15 million SP. It’s a tough assault frigate (and the first T2 combat ship I can fly!). I really like flying Harpies, they can take a beating and dish them out. If only they were a bit faster… I can also fly their sister ship, the Hawks, but I don’t have appropriate rocket skills to make them worth it.

Next up, Spaceship command. Not a big surprise here. I’m still mostly invested into Caldari, which means I can fly everything T1 up to battleships, and currently branching into T2 frigates. At the point of that snapshot, I could fly Caldari assault frigates and was just about to finish training for interceptors. The odd-non-Caldari-out is Gallente Industrial, which I trained to V early on during my aborted industrial career. At least it means I can fly the largest T1 hauler there is.

Missile Launcher Operations: also not a big surprise, considering I was exclusively a PvEer until a short while ago. Most of these are missile support skills and the training for T2 heavy missiles. (for my Drake – maybe the fact that I have all the cool skills for it is the reason I like that ship so much?)

Gunnery would’ve been really interesting to watch since the 10 million mark. I’ll go out on a limb and claim that of the 5 million difference from 10 to 15, I spent half my skill points in gunnery. (Nevermind that this isn’t even possible because then I would’ve started at -900,000 skill points in that category. Details!) Until I joined the uni, I was all about missiles. There was no motivation for me to train guns, because missiles are just so much better in PvE. I started investing in gunnery support skills quite heavily recently though, and now can use T2 small hybrid weapons, and am now working towards T2 medium hybrids.

Trade: Of the 1.34 million skill points, 1.28 million are spent in Accounting and Broker Relations V. I trained those very early on, because I was looking into an industrial and trade career, and these meant more money made on trading. They are still kinda useful… I guess. I don’t expect to see any changes in that category any time soon.

Navigation: This is mostly support skills. Until I start using jump drives (read: not any time soon, potentially never), I don’t expect to invest a lot more points here. I got almost everything I want, except High Speed Maneuvering V. Oh. Right. Yeah. This one is really nice, but the train is soooooo long. I’ll get back to that at some point.

Drones: I can fly T2 light and medium drones of every race now, and I don’t have any plans to train up to T2 heavies any time soon. Takes so long. I really should get to work on my support skills in that category at some point, though. I’ve been very negligent there.

Electronics: I’m surprised how few points I have in that category, even though it felt to me like I trained many different things there. It’s probably because I trained almost nothing to level V, which is where the skill points ramp up.

Industry: Mostly from my early industrial days. Skills to get to perfect refining of minerals, which my alt would mine and I would pick up in my Iteron V.

Mechanics: Even though I know that my armor tanking skills suck, I’m still shocked at the low number of points invested here. I will really need to work on that soon. Only being able to fly shield tanked ships and no armor tanked ships restricts me a lot when fleets go out, because they often ask for a specific tank type.

Leadership: These were trained up in two surges. The first one occurred when I trained this character to become a competent mining foreman two years ago. The second time I touched skills in this category was recently, to be able to be a squad commander for Uni fleets, and pass on bonuses properly.

Science: I guess I’m not gud with ze science. Maybe I should reconsider my real-world occupation? I am very thankful I at least have an alt with all those scanning skills that I know I will need at some point.

Social: So not only am I too dumb for science, I’m also antisocial. Go me!

Corporation Management: I’m not even sure why I trained that. I guess I needed that one skill to anchor containers in space?

The Mandatory Titan Test

Every post with meaningless statistics needs an equally meaningless goal to measure progress to. Thankfully, Wilhelm already came up with one: How long does it take me, from my current point in time, to gather the skills to fly a Caldari Titan? EVEMon tells me it’s 118 days. So if I wanted, I could fly around in a Titan by Christmas. Well, and if I had the money. And a nullsec alliance that would allow me to fly around in a multi-billion ship without proper support skills.

Future Plans

A short while ago, I used my first neural remap ever. I’m now set up with very high Perception and Willpower skills. This means that I am very fast at training Spaceship Command and Gunnery skills, but slower at a lot of other things. Most notably, training armor tanking skills will take longer than before. Maybe I should’ve thought of that before. Oh well. But with the remap the way it is, I expect to pick up skills for a lot more guns and ships in the next few million skill points. By the end of the year, I should be a competent pilot in several races’ ships and their preferred weapons. Though, it’s hard to plan that far ahead. If I decide to join a corp, they will probably ask me to train skills that benefit them or fit with their fleet doctrines. Which hopefully should still mean mostly Perc/Will skills, so I’m not too worried. My prediction for the 20 million skill point mark: Gunnery and Spaceship Command will see the most development, with Mechanics (for armor tanking) coming third. The rest will be a smattering here and there to round off stuff.

We’ll see how right or wrong I am in about 2-3 months.