SoE, I Am Disappoint

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Everquest 2, MMORPGs

So I woke up this morning, and my Twitter followers, who have more discipline than I do by waking up early (I decided to sleep in. Day off and all.), were all abuzz over over Destiny of Velious beta forums. In case you’re one of the last to know like I was, or you don’t play EQ2 at all, here is a post describing SoE’s latest faux pas:

Beta Moves to EQ2X, Dev Comments in Tracker

In plain English, SoE deleted the Destiny of Velious beta forums on the live (monthly subscription) forums, created new ones under the Extended (“free” to play model) forums, thus losing all the data and posts collected from the original forums. Oh, and it was viewable to the public aka non-beta testers not bound by an NDA.

This whole situation just reeks of unprofessionalism, blatant stupidity, and, above all else, the push of $med bucks and EQ2X.

Look, I love Everquest 2. Please don’t confuse my love for the actual game itself with the disappointment and hatred for the current team running the operation. The game itself is a masterpiece of the MMORPG genre, in my opinion. I find that it has a great balance of things to do, no matter what kind of gamer you are. Casual, hardcore, progression, crafter, lore-nut, collection king/queen, house decorator ect. This game has it all, honestly. It’s just a god damn shame it never got the respect it deserved from the WoW hungry media.

However, (and this is really big “however” here folks) the current team running Everquest 2 is running it straight into the ground.

The Exchange servers was the first step. SoE saw money to be made via the method of RMT (real money trade aka buying plat/characters with real money). RMT is highly illegal in almost every online game with currency, resulting in harsh punishments such as permanent bans from said game. They enabled Exchange servers, where people could do that at will, without fear of persecution from the community (because they’re all doing it) and without fear of getting banned from SoE’s GMs. Indeed, a smart business move by SoE because they get a cut of whatever is sold, however, it is a slap in the face for us old school gamers who grew up to detest RMT in every form. Those of us who have played games for well over a decade realize that RMT destroys game economies, making whatever the currency of that game (in this case, platinum) obsolete. Why spend all this time farming currency when you can just buy it off some RMT website? The urge to resist was too much for many people (in my experiences, kids with unlimited access to their parent’s credit cards or 20-somethings who enjoyed the fruits of an early career success) and RMT became one of the highest growing businesses. The demand was obviously there. The disappointing thing is that SoE played right into that demand, forgetting about what honest and ethical gamers want.

The Station Marketplace (cash shop) was the second step. After many broken promises that the items on the Marketplace would just be fluff items, we’re seeing more and more items that actually affect gameplay, even if it’s minor. Even after Smedley wrote, in 2007, that Everquest 2 would never, EVER implement RMT into the game, we find out he was only talking about the “other guys.” The ones that supposedly use stolen credit cards and whatnot. (C’mon, Smed, even you’re smart enough to know that companies who use stolen credit cards don’t stay in business long. And sites like IGE have been in business a very long time.)

Then they put EQ2X into effect. EQ2X is the “extended” version of Everquest 2 Live. It’s the joy of EQ2, without the monthly subscription fee. Or is it? Check out their absolutely ridiculous business model for their self-proclaimed F2P version of Everquest 2. EVERYTHING has some sort of restriction. EVERYTHING has some sort of “pay us more money, and you can get less restricted access.” It’s mind boggling how one company can nickel and dime potential consumers and still act like this is some great thing to gaming.

Look, it’s probably because I’m old school, but this type of attitude is seriously pissing me off. I remember when expansion packs cost 20-30 bucks and gave you easily a year’s+ worth of content. Now they cost 40 bucks and you’re lucky to get 3-4 months worth of content. I remember when “game updates” were actually updates to fix really bad problems and give new content and it was all covered by your monthly subscription fee. Now they are nothing more than to fix minor issues easily detected with proper beta testing (which companies don’t do anymore) and add one quest or one item. You seriously spent 6 months on that? Give me a break! I remember a time when developers actually had a passion in what they were making, stuck around for years to see their little “baby” grow up, and things were consistent in story lines, lore, class balance ect. Now a developer does one thing, quits, and moves on to the next game, which causes major plot holes, class imbalance, and an overall feeling of dread as we, the players of the game, realize that said developer really didn’t give a shit about the game that we love at all. They just wanted to make a quick buck and move on.

So this whole thing with EQ2 Live forums moving to EQ2X forums has really pissed off a large portion of the Live community. We’re slowing seeing our beloved game pushed towards the 2 dollar hooker version (where 2 bucks can give you a nice high, but it doesn’t last long, so you have to purchase another 2 dollar hooker to keep the high going). Now people will Live accounts need to make an Extended account to post on the Destiny of Velious beta forums. Doesn’t that seem ass-backwards? Just a bit? It used to be Extended and Live were separate entities, as quoted by Smokejumper himself:

We did not change your subscription service. Everquest II Extended (EQ2X) is a completely separate service.

Different forums. Different servers. If you want to keep playing the way you wish to play, then there is no difference whatsoever. You don’t even have to be aware of it (well…after today anyway).

We’re not changing the existing EQII Live subscription service at all.

I guess because Destiny of Velious is “free” for the moment, that means it should go on the “free” forums?

I’m guessing that’s how Smokejumper will play it.

I don’t know. If I have to log on extended forums to post any DoV bugs, it’s kind of hard to “not even be aware of it.”

SoE, I am disappoint. Truly. You’re not fooling anyone anymore. Just kill off Live servers and be done with it. Then you can fire Smokejumper, who said no one wants to see live servers wither and die, so you can keep your conscious clean of this whole mess.

Situations like these make me miss private server development…

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Jeff Vogel: This Is Me Trolling You

Posted: January 6, 2011 in Misc.

Thanks to Twitter, I stumbled upon a blog post written by indie game developer, Jeff Vogel. The post was titled “Three Reasons Creators Should Never Read Their Forums.

Go ahead and read it. If anything, you’ll have the same reaction I did: You’ll laugh.

Ok you done?

Good.

I think Jeff here has a skewed point of view. On one hand, he has a forum where people can discuss his games and whatnot. But he doesn’t read it. In fact, the whole post is about why creators should NEVER read their forums!

I was about to write him a comment, but I figure I would just post my thoughts on here, since he will probably auto-delete my comment for “trolling.”

Customer service is the same, in ANY industry. Veterinary medicine (my field) is a hell of a lot different than software development, but the premise of customer service is exactly the same: Keep your customers happy, and they will keep paying you.

Of course, there will be trolls. Trolls exist in all forms of business. Here are my common troll complaints, in the veterinary field:

On Pricing: “You charge HOW MUCH for neutering?
On The Fact We Have The Word “Clinic” In Our Business Name: “You mean, you’re not free?
or
What do you mean I have to make an appointment?!
On Boarding: “What do you mean my pet needs to be vaccinated?
On Coming In For A Visit: “You mean I have to actually bring in my pet for you to diagnose him? THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS!
On Wearing Gloved For Aggressive Animals: “Fluffy doesn’t bite so you don’t need to use those!
On Vaccinating Pets: “Fluffy doesn’t go outside, so therefore, she doesn’t need to be vaccinated.
On Allergies: “My pet doesn’t go outside!
On Getting Medication Even Though We Haven’t Seen The Pet In 8 Years: “Why do you need to see my pet yearly to prescribe medication????

The list goes on and on and on, and people use more colorful ways to piss us off, make us feel like shit at the end of the day, or leave an image of their beet-red face in our head for the rest of the week.

Despite all this, I still love what I do. Everyday I have a new client to complain about, someone who was idiotic or stupid. But I still love what I do.

We have a print-out hanging up in the back, where clients can’t see it. It’s this image:

This is the inside joke of practically every veterinary office. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to deal with some pissed off customer, because they want to know why their cat is vomiting. They don’t want to be charged for anything, they don’t want any tests run, they don’t want me (the technician…a nurse for animals if you will) to restrain their animal while the doctor examines them. Oh, and the cat is extremely aggressive! It’s almost like they expect us to wave a magic wand and determine what the problem is, fix it (9 out of 10 times, without medication), and then not charge them for our services.

Seem a little skewed to you? Yep, I thought so.

What in the hell does this have to do with my original point, you ask? I’m getting there.

Do we get mad at our clients? Ok, we get mad, but not to their faces. Do we tell them how we secretly wish they never were our clients? Well, not to their faces. Do we sit them down and bluntly tell them “Because you couldn’t be bothered to clean out your cat’s litter box in a month, you failed to notice the signs of a urinary obstruction which caused the death of Fluffy. GREAT JOB ASSWIPE!” No, we don’t. (At least, not to their faces.)

In plain English: We don’t treat our customers like shit, and we don’t publicly proclaim that their ranting, raving, and nonsensical logic isn’t our concern. In fact, we LIE. We tell them we care, even if we don’t. We look interested, even if we aren’t. If we let them rant and rave, and keep a straight face, they are more likely to give us business in the future. If we fight fire with fire, they will turn around and find someone else to abuse…and give their money to. In the famous words of Dr. Gregory House: “Everybody lies.”

But Jeff Vogel, in his post titled “Three Reasons Why Creators Should NEVER Read Their Forums” does exactly that.

This is why you should always word your posts thoughtfully, especially if you’re the face of something like a game. The word “never” is a very strong word. It evokes something strong. If the blog was titled “Three Reasons Why Creators Shouldn’t Obsessively Hit F5 On Their Own Forums” I wouldn’t have an issue. But it specifically stated “NEVER Read.”

So, as a gamer myself, I am in that realm of possibilities called “a potential customer.” Would I honestly want to pay money to a developer who writes such a condescending, arrogant, and disrespectful blog stating why developers should never read their own forums?

The answer is, obviously, no. I wouldn’t expect someone to come to my business after I told them, basically, I don’t give a fuck about what they have to say.

I’m going to use Square-Enix as an example here. Now before you start saying things like “Comparing SE to an indie developer is like comparing the local hamburger joint to McDonalds” I’m going to stop you.

When SE developed Final Fantasy XI, there were no official forums. There was no way to interact with the development team. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Now this could be taken one of two ways. The glass-half-empty says “SE doesn’t give a shit what we have to say, so why bother playing their game?” The glass-half-full says “SE doesn’t give a shit what we have to say, but at least they aren’t deceptive assholes about it by giving us forums they don’t even bother to read.”

I’m in the glass-half-full camp. While there weren’t official channels to communicate with the development team, I at least admired the honesty exhibited by SE by NOT giving us forums. FFXI players knew for years SE didn’t care what we had to say. It played out with every update, every expansion pack. But they didn’t hand us a forum under the premise that they did care. They simply didn’t have one.

So while Mr. Vogel here is complaining about trolls (hi, welcome to the internet. I’m trolling you right now, sir.) he is leaving up his forums for people to whine, moan, piss, and bitch about his games but not even reading them. It’s damaging to his “psyche” or whatever. He’s essentially ignoring the problem, which is NEVER good in business, especially with the internet where people can complain about you under the guise of anonymity. But even if 1 in 10 posts are good ideas, or even 1 in 100, Mr. Vogel will completely skip over that one post because he doesn’t believe he should read his own forum. He will leave that to “community managers,” because they obviously have the best track record with that sort of thing. (Should I even bother bringing up Kiara and EQ2? I thought not.)

That’s another thing: Community Managers. While they are a good idea (in theory), Mr. Vogel seems to think that a community manager is some fool-proof idea. Basically, they are a PR agent, and nothing more. They’re known to say things like “I’ll forward that to the developer” but never do. Basically, they’re hired (in some cases, volunteered) bullshitters. He thinks because HE isn’t thick skinned enough (despite the fact he says he is, we know he isn’t based on his cry-fest of a post) to deal with the masses, it should be someone else’s job. He also seems to have this grandiose idea that him and his community manager will think exactly alike 100% of the time. If a fantastic idea makes its way to the forums, he believes the community manager will report it to him, guaranteed 100%. He seems to forget the margin of error here: No two humans think exactly alike. So while the idea might seem awesome to Mr. Vogel, the community manager might think it’s absolute garbage, and skip over the post, even though this could be a major breakthrough in development, or become a key part of the game itself.

I’ll bring up SE again: They had a forum for FFXIV beta. Bugs were reported. They ignored it. Now look at the state of that game. (If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s free-to-play until further notice, the original development team was fired for poor performance, and the PS3 version is delayed indefinitely.)

Mr. Vogel seems very jaded in his post. It almost seems as if he wants his dissatisfied customers to praise him and his game, despite the fact they aren’t satisfied. I mean, the whole reason why he is stating he doesn’t read his own forums is because there are trolls.

I’m positive that the average 4chan, lolcat retard troll makes it onto the forum. Those are easily ignored, like World of Warcraft’s Trade chat channel, Everquest 2’s Level 1-9 chat channel, or Final Fantasy XI’s Whitegate chat channel. If you can’t ignore that, then you DON’T have a thick skin. But sometimes, there are just people who aren’t satisfied. If they paid you for a product, you owe them the decency of listening to them, even if they are telling you to fuck your mother. Then again, I’m old school like that. Despite the mantra that repeats in my head “The customer is always an asshole” the customer thinks I’m thinking “The customer is always right.”

If average people can do it every single day with a customer face-to-face, WHILE keeping a straight face, then you, sir, can do it from the comfort of your computer chair.

tl;dr version: Quit whining. Grow a pair. If someone is dissatisfied with you and/or your product, suck it up then walk away. If the troll persists, refuse their business then ban them from the forums. This is how real business works. If you’re making money off a product, it’s best you learn that now.

PC only, so don’t whine. I only play consoles circa 1998 or earlier. Then I realized that PC gaming was the way to go.

1) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda announced the 5th installment of The Elder Scrolls just recently. As an Elder Scrolls FANATIC since Daggerfall, I’m really looking forward to a whole new world to explore, and eventually break. (I broke Oblivion and Morrowind using various cheats and mods. It was pretty great.)

This Game Will Be Awesome If…

– Bethesda goes back to the totally open-world aspect they had in Morrowind. While Oblivion was a great game, it was too linear. It was too “Go here and do this. You can’t do anything else until you complete this step.” In Morrowind, you could do a couple steps of one thing, and move on to something completely different with the snap of a finger.
– More voice acting. I’m sure Bethesda paid a lot of money for Patrick Stewart as the role of Emperor Uriel Septim VII, but for God’s sake, he was in only the first 10 minutes of the game! While he was awesome in that 10 minutes (his voice is just incredible and fit so well with the role), it became obvious throughout the rest of Oblivion that Bethesda blew practically their entire voice acting budget on Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean (who voiced Brother Martin, Uriel Septim VII’s only living heir to the throne), and Terence Stamp (who voiced Mankar Cameron, the so-called “leader” of the Deadric Cult, the evil villain responsible for bring Oblivion to Cyrodill) and had hardly any money left for decent voice actors or even dialogue that made sense. (Please note, I do not count Lynda Carter, who voiced all the Nord and Orc NPC women, because she is married to Bethesda CEO Robert Altmen, so I’m sure she did the work for free.)
– Dialogue that makes sense. It seemed whenever my character wandered around NPCs, they would start a conversation with each other. While this added to the realism of the game, the dialogue made absolutely no sense half the time. If they could write and voice actual conversations that made sense, it would give a whole new level of depth to the game.
– Fast Travel. I’m one of those people that hates to waste time traveling with little-to-nothing to do for more than 5 minutes. I admit, I’m a bit ADD when it comes to wandering aimlessly. The vibrant and realistic atmospheres in the Elder Scrolls series is great to look at, but when you’re spending 10s (or hundreds) of hours playing the game, that scenery gets dull, boring, and overplayed. Fast travel in Oblivion was awesome. Many Elder Scroll freaks disagree, stating it takes the immersion out of the game. I say screw em. I don’t want to spend 20 real life minutes walking somewhere and not encounter a single thing, just like I don’t want to watch my character sleep for 8 real life hours. (Ironically, the Elder Scrolls freaks who have issues with fast travel have no issues pressing a button to go to sleep, pick however many hours to sleep, wait 5 seconds, and see their character wake up. I guess that doesn’t fiddle with the immersion of the game. Sounds like a cop out to me, but that’s a complaint for a different day.)
– An ending battle I, as in my character, actually gets to participate in. Oblivion was the biggest (excuse the bluntness) cock tease in the world. SPOILER ALERT: You get to the end of the main story line. You’re in the Imperial City. Your goal is to get Brother Martin safely to the Dragonfires in the heart of the city so he can light them and finally put a stop to Oblivion entering the realm of Cyrodill. The only problem is, the city is infested with Deadra. You get Martin there, he lights the Dragonfires, and the large dragon statue inside comes to life. You get so excited to fight this fearsome beast. Then, it turns into a cutscene, as you watch Martin fight the dragon, sacrifice himself, and the main story line ends. (And they didn’t even make you Emperor afterwards!) BIGGEST COCK TEASE EVER! I want to actually participate in the final battle. This is the battle of all battles, and despite the fact I’ve done ALL the legwork in the game (closing the Oblivion gates, saving all the towns, defeating Mankar Cameron, retrieving the Emperor’s Amulet ect.), my reward is watching a cutscene?! FUCK THAT!
– User-friendly User-interface. I love the Elder Scrolls series, but the user interfaces are just flat out horrible. Bethesda really needs to take cues from other companies. The UI in Morrowind and Oblivion are very…choppy. It almost seems like the UI was an after thought in both games. I shouldn’t need a mod to correct something as crucial as the UI.
– Expansion packs. You know, those things that add tons of content on an already existing game that’s become a dying breed thanks to something called DLC?
– No DLC for stupid shit. Horse armor. Need I say more?

This Game Will Suck If…

– Bethesda goes the route of so many companies nowadays and releases stupid DLC for practically everything. If I buy a game, I expect it to be complete. Period. No Ifs, Ands or Buts about it. Don’t make me waste 50-60 bucks on a game, only to have it half-way completed and I have to purchase patches or downloads in the form of DLC in order to get the full experience of the game. And please, do NOT use a business model like Sony Online Entertainment does for Everquest II Extended.
– The ending is super anti-climactic and/or I can’t participate in the final battle. DO. NOT. DO. THIS. AGAIN!
– Specs are too high for current computers. I have an i5, 8 gigs of RAM, and an ATI Radeon HD 5770. Those aren’t beastly specs, but they’re decent. If the game exceeds even that, Bethesda is really going to be pushing out the majority of their players. They need to keep in mind who the majority of their players are: American adults on a budget affected by a recession. Not even a new Elder Scrolls game is enough to make me purchase a new PC.
– Bethesda gives in to the Fallout crowd. In my opinion, they are 2 completely separate games in 2 separate genres. The shooter community had their fun with New Vegas just released. Let the RPG nuts have our fun with The Elder Scrolls V. Leave elements of Fallout completely out of it. Work with what has worked in the past for THE ELDER SCROLLS. I don’t care about Fallout.
– A quest line even more linear than Oblivion. Don’t become Square-Enix.
– Steam-Only purchase. While Steam is a nice, nifty tool, it’s not my preferred method to play games. I prefer NOT having to subscribe to a separate EULA and ToS. I prefer NOT having to download on such slow speed. I prefer NOT having to subscribe to online service to play an offline video game. I don’t give a crap about achievements outside of WoW. I don’t need to play via Steam.

2) Everquest 2: Destiny of Velious

Everquest 2’s upteenth expansion. While it will offer nothing new or game-breaking (let’s hope, at least), it’ll be cool to see how it prevails after Senior Producer Alan “Brenlo” Crosby was fired after having inter-office affairs (allegedly) with then-Community Manager “Kiara.” (Kiara has been since moved to the position of Everquest Community Manager.) Brenlo always thought his shit didn’t stink, and with Kiara riding his…erm…. “coat-tails” (haha, get it?), the state of Everquest 2 severely declined while they were both in power. In fact, it’s the reason I quit Everquest 2 last time. (I recently went back after hearing of Brenlo’s “departure.”) Also, it’ll be interesting to see if “$med-bucks” (aka Station Cash) will have an even bigger impact on the expansion than it did for The Sentinel’s Fate.

This Expansion Will Be Awesome If…

– SoE didn’t emphasize too much on $med bucks, although my hopes aren’t high. If you read anything about the whole Freeblood race debacle, you’d know why.
– SoE focuses on PvE progression, not PvP. PvP is fun (I even play on a WoW PvP server), but the game’s mechanics are designed around PvE. No matter how much Brenlo tried to force the issue of Battlegrounds, the gear obtained from there is pretty useless in comparison to PvE gear. Not to mention, whenever they “balance” classes for PvP progression, it totally fucks with PvE. If SoE focuses on PvE, and centers their updates for this expansion around PvE, this could be a very sucessful expansion.
– Less mental retardation from special abilities/spells used by raid bosses. TSO was a nightmare. SF wasn’t so bad. Focus less on the retardation and focus more on creating difficult, but fun, bosses.
– A reason to go back to Qeynos and Freeport, the cities that started it all. If SoE really wants to be a WoW clone, then they should already be thinking up ideas to bring people back to the 2 main cities, the same way Blizzard did with their starter cities.
– The end of Station Cash and the Marketplace. I know this won’t happen, because it’s their cash cow at the moment, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Since the implementation of the Marketplace, SoE has less morals than a 15 dollar hooker. Everything is for the benefit of $med bucks. The implementation of EQ2 Extended only furthered the point.

This Game Will Suck If…

– The issues above aren’t addressed. I really don’t need to go any further than that.

3) The Sims: Medieval

I must admit, I’m far behind on the whole Sims: Medieval thing. I only found out about it fairly recently. But I loved building medieval neighborhoods, and I relished over the modthesims medieval challenge a few years back. The medieval era is one of my favorites to read about, so it will be lots of fun to see what EA has in store for us medieval geeks out there.

This Game Will Be Awesome If….

– There are no more rabbit holes. In the Sims 3, if you went to a pre-built community lot, it was a rabbit hole most likely. It was annoying to go to the book store and not actually be in the book store, but outside of it and click through a menu to buy something. Lame, lame LAME!
– Seamless neighborhood. I loved being able to walk/drive anywhere within in neighborhood in the Sims 3. Unfortunately, annoying rabbit holes and impatience of downloading a mod, then recreating all the areas to my liking ruined the game for me.
– No spyware embedded on the discs. Remember Spore?
– Create-A-Style. Create-A-Style is amazing. You can create everything to match. See a chair style you like, but hate the color? No problem! Just re-skin it!
– Medieval-esque community lots. Apothecary shop, Ye Olde Bookstore, Blacksmith ect.
– Live in my house, but don’t expect me to be responsible for you. If I’m to be a queen of a kingdom, I want a royal court. I don’t want to make them my family and have to play them and cater to their needs, too. I don’t need to be worrying about the fact that my Ladies In Wait need to take a bath or eat when I’m enjoying a performance by the court bard.
– If I purchase this game, it better be mine for keeps. I don’t want to worry about only having 5 installs on it. Otherwise, EA, you best believe I WILL pirate it.

This Game Will Suck If…

– There are rabbit holes. I hate them.
– EA attempts to nickel and dime all of us with new furniture. Isn’t nickel and diming us with “Stuff” packs enough to pad your wallets?
– They try to modernize it. I never heard of cell phones, televisions, or cars in the medieval era. I already know modders will make this possible, but I swear if EA gives that to us, I’ll be super pissed.
– EA tries to shove DLC down my throat. I have like 5-6k Sims Points I never spent. Why? Because I detest the idea of buying overpriced furniture and hairstyles when I get better ones for FREE from the hard work of modders.
– EA tries to push out the modding community even more. Modthesims was awesome for The Sims 2. The Sims 3 came out, and the modding community has taken a nose dive. Creativity is gone, it seems. I haven’t found a single worthwhile house or hairstyle download for that game, but I can find plenty of archived ones for the Sims 2 no problem. Part of the reason is CAS (Create-A-Style), and part of the reason is because of the whole Sims Points bullshit.

No Rift? SW:TOR? WTF?!

Nope. And here’s why:

Rift- Completely and totally not interested. Looks like a WoW clone through and through. And honestly, I have enough on my plate in terms of MMOs and The Elder Scrolls. (I put over 600 hours into Oblivion over the course of 4 years.)

SW: TOR – Meh. LucasArts once again trying to bring in the dough with yet ANOTHER Star Wars game. I love Star Wars, don’t get me wrong. I just can’t be bothered to support George Lucas in any of his endeavors after the atrocity that was known as Star Wars Episodes 1-3. Gerogie managed to take one of my favorite sagas of all time and ruin it. Yes, I’m still bitter about it. I grew up on Star Wars. It was my first PG movie! Not to mention SoE’s bastardization of Star Wars Galaxies….wait nevermind. Let’s not even go there. Star Wars games, in general, are hit and miss. Tie Fighter (Win 95…HA! Old school!) was awesome. Rogue Squadron (N64) was awesome. Knights of the Old Republic was decent enough. But Bounty Hunter, the rehash of every movie, and fucking LEGO Star Wars? No, no thank you Georgie!

I’ve pretty much given up on Final Fantasy XIV. I have no hope for that game, and the more I delve into World of Warcraft, the more I realize Square-Enix has absolutely no idea what their playerbase wants. Unless SE gets their act together, I’m betting FFXIV will end mid-late 2012 (along with the rest of the world, haha!)

That’s it for me. Between Twittering all evening, digging up old tunes, and talking to my boss over Facebook, this post took me most of the evening. Time to play some games!

The Expanded Walk-In Freezer

Posted: January 2, 2011 in MMORPGs

I expanded my walk-in freezer. It’s located at Michayla’s 2 Bayle Court in South Qeynos, Unrest server.

I’m slowly working on the house. The freezer is the only thing that it has right now.

Here are some updated pics for your viewing pleasure.


World of Warcraft Memories

Posted: January 1, 2011 in MMORPGs

I was telling Zerky (you may remember him from my previous post) about my delve back into World of Warcraft. We started talking about our old times on the private servers. I wanted to share some fond memories with you all.

1) Siamese Cockroaches

Once upon a time, in Undercity, we were all hanging out. There was an update on the private server we were on, and we found a cockroach vendor. (He wasn’t previously available to us.) We all thought it was odd someone would actually WANT a cockroach pet. But that didn’t stop Zerky. He was determined to find homes for all these cockroaches! Surely, they couldn’t have had a good home with the NPC, who was stationed on the floor of the Trade Quarter, never moving. I mean, the guy didn’t even have a cardboard box, for god’s sake!

So Zerky made it his mission to find homes for all these homeless cockroaches. Within a few short hours, the server erupted. “Why is Berzerk sending me cockroaches???” Alliance and Horde alike were wondering if Zerky’s account got hacked. Soon, people were getting angry.

Defeated in his plight, Zerky got a most fabulous idea: Why not just send ALL the cockroaches to his friends! Soon, my mailbox was full of cockroaches. My boyfriend’s was full as well. One by one, our guild chat is erupting with “lols” and “lmaos” as our mailboxes are filled one by one with cockroaches.

The story is that the cockroaches are siamese, and can’t be separated. So we took our cockroaches and gave them homes. (Mostly via the Delete button but don’t tell him I told you that!)

2) Invisible Caribou

After WotLK was released, we were running around discovering new areas, trying to find places to level up. (The good places were taken by the server admin’s guild. Go figure.) My boyfriend was leveling somewhere in one of the WotLK areas. All of a sudden, he is attacked. He’s being attacked by a caribou, but he can’t see it. I happen to be near where he is, and run over to him to see this so-called “Invisible Caribou.” He died right as I got there.

Now, to his defense, the caribou WAS, in fact, invisible. It was some kind of server bug. But that didn’t stop the poking fun. Zerky, in all his Zerky-ness, kept the joke going for months. He changed my boyfriend’s rank in the guild to “Caribou Pwned.” He made a “motivational poster” and posted it on the server website. We all got a good laugh, and my boyfriend, in his awesomeness, took it in stride. He became kind of a celebrity on the server after that. And here we are, about 3-4 years later, and the joke is still going. There were many lulz.

3) Finwe

Finwe was a (his words) “14 year old faggot.” To be completely PC, he was 14 years old and gay. He was also some Alliance (I think gnome?) Mage.

We got a group together to do Halls of Lightning or some crap like that. Finwe was in our party. It was me, my boyfriend, Zerky, Suntress (our awesome healer), Danty (a warrior in our guild), and Finwe. Keep in mind, everyone but Finwe was in our guild. So general banter back and fourth was expected. Finwe was either going to join in the fun, or simply shut up.

That’s not exactly how it went down.

Danty called Zerky a faggot, not because they were fighting, but because that’s how we were. It was a term of endearment. And since Finwe has already called himself a faggot in world chat, there was no reason to think he would be offended, right?

Wrong.

Finwe, literally, flipped out. As he was ranting how the term “faggot” is offensive to the gay community, and how we’re going to hell for being bigots, I imagined this little gnome (I’m pretty sure he was a gnome) doing backflips as he was lecturing us (while calling us inconsiderate pricks).

Now you would think we would get all offended and kick him from the party (which is in full swing by now). But nah, we kept him around for entertainment value. Did we NEED him? No. I was doing the majority of ranged DPS (as a warlock) because he was too busy raging at his keyboard. It was entertaining, to say the least.

Then he finally figured out A) We weren’t going to kick him and B) We weren’t going to report him. So he proceeded to pull everything in the zone in an attempt to kill us. It backfired. We ended up killing everything, and I’m imagining the smoke coming out of this guy’s ears like an old Elmer Fudd cartoon.

Finwe ended up getting himself banned for calling the admin a “communist nazi” for not banning us for Danty calling Zerky a faggot. But it was epic lulz all the way around.

4) For The Horde

Back on the old server (the one I went in great lengths about last entry), there was yet another Gnome Mage who thought it would be wicked awesome to use hacks for PvP. I was still a GM at the time, so when I got tickets concerning this, I went invisible and followed him. Sure enough, he was in Stormwind, killing Horde players fron behind walls, in the sky, wherever.

So just for fun, Zerky and I made completely new characters on our GM accounts, leveled them up to 70, and infiltrated Stormwind. We went there and sat in the middle of everything. We didn’t attempt to kill anyone (it was against the GM’s Code of Conduct, afterall.)

Soon, the gnome mage (whose name evades me at this point, it’s been so long), hones in on us. He starts attacking Zerky, who was a Priest. Noticing his health isn’t going down at all, and he’s naked, he starts cursing Zerky out, claiming he’s hacking. Then he hones in on me, and the same result. My health isn’t moving. So he sends a GM ticket, claiming that me and Zerky are hacking, how he tried to kill us and our health stayed the same. Zerky and I got a good laugh about this in GM chat.

I laugh. I say to Zerky in /say “Hey Zerky, did you see this ticket? How stupid is this guy!”

The gnome mage finally realizes that he just reported 2 GMs for being GMs. Then we kill him.

Now I should say, the GM Code of Conduct DID say you can’t kill PCs, BUT it also said if you are attacked, or someone gets the bright idea that they can use you as a skill up dummy, that you have every right to kill them.

You would think the mage got the message, but nope. He kept attacking us. And we kept killing him. He reported us to the admin (which wasn’t me at the time) and the admin laughed at him. Not only that, but the admin disabled his hacks. The gnome mage disappeared. I guess he was only good cause of his hacks.

I think it’s once again time to embark on my Sims 2 project that I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

My goal is to create a fully customized (no pre-fab EA houses), fully functional town with all the “anemities.” That means a university, a city, a shopping district, and vacation spots.

Basically, I want to create my own little “utopia,” if you will. I did create the ultimate city setting many years ago, complete with streets that had high end lofts, and then across town was the run-down section with crack houses, strip clubs and the like. Unfortunately, I lost this ultimate city due to a harddrive crash, and never found a reason to remake it.

But now is the perfect time to do so, and expand on that.

Why don’t I use the Sims 3? The rabbit holes piss me off, and The Sims 2 is a complete game, unlike the Sims 3.

So, I’m off. I have a 3 day weekend (thanks New Years!) to get a head start.

I recently gave into the pressure and took the plunge back into World of Warcraft last week. I must say, I’m quite impressed with the amount of sheer fun I’ve been having.

Before I go any further, I want to discuss why I gave up on WoW to begin with.

The year was 2004, a year that I remember as being a great year for MMORPG releases. Unfortunately, the novelty of these new games fizzled out for me real quick. As I was taking yet another break from Final Fantasy XI, I was looking forward to two highly revered titles: Everquest II and World of Warcraft.

Everquest II came first, and unfortunately, my PC couldn’t run it. As soon as I got off of Queen’s Colony, I found it hard to navigate. The lag was unbearable. The game was released with too high standards for its time. And to a 17 year old kid who was still in high school making a paltry 150 bucks a week at a part-time job, a brand new PC to replace the one I received as a gift just one year prior was out of the question. So it went back in the box, never to be seen until late 2009 (actually, it’s still in the box, because Steam had everything up to TSO on sale for 5 bucks.).

Shortly after Everquest II’s failure to captivate me (Ok, so it’s not totally the game’s fault, but SoE shares some of the blame in my opinion), I moved on to World of Warcraft. By the time WoW was released, I was already getting back in the groove of FFXI. I found my reason to play that game again, and was spending most of my free time on it. But this shiny new toy caught my attention, and like a typical kid with a new toy, I dove right in.

Unfortunately, like the kid with a new toy, the novelty wore off quickly. My stint in retail WoW only lasted 3 months, and in that time period I had amassed 2 level 60 characters (the level cap back then.) I had nothing to do. My Warlock and Rogue had reached the end of their journeys, and I was sick of sitting in the Undercity or Orgrimmar watching the text fly by my screen. PvP wasn’t much better. I always managed to find the 12 year old brats who cuss you and your mother if you killed them, and on the rare occasion I got killed, they decided to gloat like a 5 year old child. I can handle profanity and insults just fine, but I could not stand these people. They were annoying, arrogant, and ignorant. I hate children to begin with, and the fact that they were infiltrating online gaming pissed me off even more.

Of course, that isn’t to say I’m completely jaded. I was a kid when I was exposed to online gaming. At the ripe age of 12, I was exposed to my first online FPS. But it was my uncle who took me under his wing. He taught me an etiquette to online gaming. Friendly banter between opponents was ok. Telling them their mothers should’ve aborted them because they sniped them in mid-air is not ok. You always said “gg” (good game) once the match ended. And if you didn’t like the person, you settled it on the battlefield, not on their personal clan websites. And, finally, “You’re always, ALWAYS gracious to your server host, even if he is a complete dickhead.”

But these kids, kids not much older than I was, didn’t get it. Maybe I was lucky to have someone like my uncle at my side and teach me the ways of online gaming etiquette. I think the thing that pissed me off the most was these kids weren’t even willing to learn. I love to learn new things. In fact, in my every day life, I learn new things. I’m praised in my real life profession for my willingness and eagerness to learn something new. But these….children…didn’t even want to learn. And quite frankly, it pissed me off.

So I quit.

It wasn’t until 2007-2008 when I got back into World of Warcraft. Only this time, it wasn’t retail. Once again, I was disgruntled with FFXI, the way SE was handling things. My account was raided and looted, and despite the fact I had a request in to roll it back, it was taking them forever. (5 months, actually) I was bored and needed something to do. My buddy Ryan, whom I was in a linkshell in FFXI with, suggested we try WoW, on private realms.

WTF is a private realm, I wondered.

He basically explained to me that private realms were the equivalent of servers in Tribes, my first ever online FPS. They are privately run by people, like us. The obvious upside to this is no subscription fee. The downside? Well, since MMORPGs are constantly evolving, it’s practically impossible to have a completely up-to-date game. Not to mention that most private servers are run by script kiddies who couldn’t code their way out of a paper bag. (Not knocking it, just calling it like I see it.) So a lot of stuff is half-finished or completely not working.

So anyway, my buddy Ryan had a buddy that ran one of these private servers. We installed the game and signed up for the server.

What a mess.

The server, itself, was broken. The majority of the quests were auto-complete, so you could be level 70 within less than an hour. But we played and we had fun. We raided Black Temple most of the time. I met a lot of cool people on there that I still talk to to this day. We had a guild and everything. For being completely and utterly broken, it was a lot of fun.

Then the shitstorm happened. The GMs of the server started getting cocky, and the admin, Ryan’s friend, had finally had enough. He demoted them all. But now he needed a new team. At the suggestion of Ryan, I quickly became the new Junior GM.

Being a GM is not all its cracked up to be. First of all, it requires you to have 2 accounts. Secondly, actually “playing” on your GM account is strictly not allowed. And since our personal accounts were published on the website, you never had a moment’s peace, because as soon as you logged into your personal account, you had to answer yet another ticket about something stupid.

My work hours prevented me from being on during normal play hours. I worked mostly late evenings/early nights (6pm-2am), so I was on from 3am onwards. A lot of Europeans played during that time, and their lack of English made it tough for them to read forums. So I had to answer tons of tickets, written in different languages. Soon, I gave up, and begged the admin to include somewhere that this was an English speaking server.

Soon, I was promoted to Senior GM, and eventually admin. I hired my own team of GMs, and that server was in top shape GM wise. (Coding-wise, it was still a mess.) Unfortunately, none of us had coding experience, nor was I allowed to give up server database access at whim. So it left me in a predicament. Broken server with awesome GM staff.

But people wanted the server to succeed. I wanted the server to succeed. Donations were flying in, to the tune of 5 grand a month. We were hoping for updated, faster servers. We were hoping for working code. We got none of the above.

A short time before the shitstorm, the admin promoted his BFF as server admin. On the spot. No application, no background check, not even a courtesy heads up to the rest of the team who has been doing his work for months. But we survived, for a bit. Until things started becoming fishy.

My one buddy, also a GM, Bezerk (we often called him Zerky), rang me up on Ventrilo one day. His account was no longer in existence. I start looking through the database, only to find his account was deleted. The logs showed that this newly appointed admin deleted this guy’s account. Zerky was the 3rd person to ever join the server. And his account was gone.

I reversed the damage, and sat and waited. Zerky logged in. We played for a bit. New admin logged in, saw Zerky logged in, deleted his account, and kicked him from the server. (Deletion won’t take affect until you’re kicked.) This went on for a few hours. Him deleting Zerky’s account, me restoring it. Until finally, I had enough and revoked his database access and banned his IP address from accessing it.

Apparently, this didn’t sit well with the admin, because he got into Ventrilo the very next day and attempted to rip me a new asshole. How dare I revoke his friend’s access? What right did I have? I was just a GM! I corrected him and said “No, I’m an admin. You made me an admin and this guy has been abusing his power since the day you made him admin.” (Turns out he kept deleting Zerky’s account because Zerky wiped the floor with him in a duel.) He told me not to revoke his power again, and reinstated him. Zerky got banned, for no reason whatsoever. And the shitstorm started.

My buddy Ryan started slipping me information about where the donation money was going. (He and the server admin were friends in real life.) The money, as it turned out, was going towards cocaine, heroine, alcohol, and a 16 grand engagement ring for the admin’s now ex-fiance.

I was livid. I spent many hours panhandling WoW style in game for those donations. I spent many hours trying to fix things, or create workarounds so the players would be happy. Hours upon hours I spent chasing down speed hackers the right way, instead of banning them on the spot.

I exposed the son-of-a-bitch on his server forums. I let everyone know where everyone’s hard-earned donation money went. I explained to them why they weren’t getting server upgrades, or updated code, or even Wrath of the Lich King. Because the admin and his girlfriend were snorting up their donation money up their noses. I asked the general question “How does a guy who works at a GAS STATION afford a 16 thousand dollar engagement ring for his girlfriend?” and backed it up with Facebook photos and posts. Not only that, but I had screenshots of the whole Zerky fiasco saved for a rainy day. And I pulled those out as the final “fuck you Kyle.” (The admin’s name is Kyle.)

I was banned, naturally, but not instantly. My post was erased. But it was too late, the damage was done. It was up a full 3 weeks before the admin finally logged into the website. It didn’t matter, though, because I went into the database and deleted my accounts. The admin’s friend was never given moderator access to the website (oops) and never bothered to inform the admin of the shit I posted (double oops). So everyone who logged in the website for the 3 weeks the post stayed up saw it.

The population of the server diminished. Soon, Kyle couldn’t afford the server and his coke/alcohol/heroine habit. Care to guess which one faded into obscurity? The server, of course.

Last I heard, Kyle and his fiance broke up, and he is still working at a gas station.

Anyway….

My retail and private experience in WoW flat out sucked. I don’t blame Blizzard for all of it, certainly not for my private server experience. It’s not Blizzard’s, or even World of Warcraft’s fault. But it still left a bad taste in my mouth. A really bad taste. Kind of like the taste you have in your mouth after you scarf a bag of Doritos and drink lots of alcohol, then vomit. That kind of taste. I just could never get back into World of Warcraft.

It wasn’t until early last week I got a text message from a near and dear friend of mine. We played FFXI together. We used to roleplay together (not THAT kind of roleplay. We were adventurers, afterall). Eventually, real life got too complicated for him and his wife (who was expecting their first child at the time). But we kept in contact through the years. (His wife eventually became one of my most closest girlfriends, actually.) He texted me with the great news that his wife, who is now expecting their third child, had her ultrasound today and it was a girl. I was at work, and knew that she was having her ultrasound (thank you, Facebook), but I didn’t expect to hear the results of it until after I came home. I congratulated him (especially since I knew they both wanted another girl), and the conversation turned towards video games.

“So Jam told me you’re not too excited about us playing wow?”

A couple of months ago, I jokingly made fun of his wife on Facebook about playing WoW. Apparently, she told him and he remembered.

I told him I was actually considering going back with Cataclysm. The conversation turned into the usual. What server are you on? Horde or Alliance? Is there a recruit-a-friend program? Ect. He asked for my e-mail address and sent me a recruit-a-friend code. I downloaded the game, created my character (a Blood Elf Mage, of course), and started to play.

Honestly, I’m impressed.

People make fun of the “cartoony” graphics all the time. I used to be one of those people, until I realized the graphics in other games, games that looked more realistic (FFXI/FFXIV) weren’t that awesome, either. Everything in those games (FFXI, especially) was drab. Boring. Dull. The graphics in WoW are cartoony, yes, but isn’t it a FANTASY game? What’s wrong if a FANTASY world is colorful? Is it a crime if everything is bright, cheery, and in-your-face? No, not at all. It’s a fantasy world. No one argued with Bethesda when Mania in Oblivion was bright and in-your-face. (The Shivering Isles expansion pack. If you haven’t played it, go buy it. Now.)

As far as gameplay goes, people (aka haters) complain it’s too easy. Yes, it’s easy. The days of hardcore MMORPGs died with the original Everquest. People claim FFXI is hardcore. I disagree. Everything about FFXI is a timesink, and to me, timesink doesn’t mean hardcore. Doing the same instanced zone everyday for a straight year, and completing it, but never getting the one item I need (because drop rates are atrocious) is not “hard.” Needing a party of 5 other players to complete anything, and never getting one because you’re not playing the right class is not “hard.” Farming for hours on end for money because the “hardcore” linkshells drove up the prices of the one item you need is not “hard.” Leveling a craft to level 100 is not “hard.” None of these things are “hard.” They are just extremely time consuming. And that is how SE made their money, by creating a game of nothing but timesinks.

Blizzard takes a different approach. They actually give you content, which I like. I like being able to explore new areas. Completely new areas. Unlike SE, who rehashes the same areas over and over again, with harder mobs using the same design but different colors (Dynamis, Abyssea, the entire Wings of the Goddess expansion pack), and tries to call it “new content.” I like being able to get new pieces of gear. NEW pieces of gear. Not camp the same fucking mob since Rise of the Zilart (which was released in 2003) to get a fucking sword because the developer was too lazy to release anything remotely better.

The population doesn’t hurt, either. I’m constantly meeting new people. I like meeting new people.

There’s also something that Blizzard does that a lot of other developers don’t do: They give you reasons to return to your starting cities. With FFXI, the starter cities were a barren wasteland. Everyone hung out in Jeuno until Treasures of Aht Urghan was released, and then everyone and their mother was hanging out in Whitegate. In Everquest II, everyone hangs out in Paineel. Qeynos and Freeport are barren, except for World Events. There’s no reason to go there, really. But in WoW, I see loads of people in Silvermoon City, and there’s even more in Orgrimmar, the unofficial hangout spot for the Horde. Yea, there’s newer cities, like Shattrath, and Dalaran, but there’s still a population in the starter cities. These are the cities that started it all. There SHOULD be reasons to go back to them. But Blizzard is really the only developer I’ve seen that made a genuine effort to bring people back to those cities.

The simplicity of crafting in WoW is what I missed the most, probably. I don’t need to press a million buttons (Everquest II), and I don’t need to check my in-game clock to see if it’s the right day/moon phase and make sure I face the right direction to complete the craft (FFXI). Also, there’s no way to fail. In FFXI, the price for failing a craft can cost you MILLIONS of gil. Everquest II, it’s not as bad, but still equally frustrating. In WoW, you just need the materials. Is it unrealistic? Absolutely. Afterall, who successfully makes something 100% of the time? But does it avoid dreaded timesinks, a staple in most MMORPGs today? Yes, yes, and yes. The materials, for the most part, are easy to find, too, at least in the lower levels. (Unlike FFXI, where even low level materials were rare.) And I can level TWO crafts?! Sweet!

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun in WoW. It’s such a relief to log in for half an hour and actually get something accomplished. I can play in quick spurts and get quite a bit done. It’s such a change from FFXI, where you had to dedicate hours upon hours to get one thing accomplished, even if it was just attaining a level. Everquest II, while still near and dear to my heart, is starting to wear thin on me. (Mostly due to SoE’s push on the F2P business model of “milk the consumer for every penny they got via the Marketplace” and not due to the actual game mechanics themselves.)

One final note: The biggest benefit of WoW probably is the fact that both my boyfriend and I are enjoying it. It’s been almost a year since we played an online game together. (Not including the very short-lived FFXIV.) I quit FFXI over a year ago. He still plays, rarely, but I could never get him into Everquest II. But not we’re both enjoying WoW, which is great, because I don’t enjoy Bad Company 2 or World of Tanks all that much.

Merry Christmahannakwanzaka!

Posted: December 24, 2010 in Misc.

Whether you know my boyfriend and I as Kata & Nata, Goddess & Wolfei, Tary & Eli, Mich & Natt, Kay & Jay, or Kat and Joe, we both wish you the happiest and safest holiday.

As a long time player and fan of FFXI, I was really, REALLY looking forward to Square Enix’s next installment, FFXIV. However, mistakes SE made in the past with FFXI seemed to trickle down into FFXIV all too quickly. I left the game as soon as I started, disgruntled at the fact I actually paid for the Collector’s Edition. I had hoped this would be the new MMORPG of the era. I wasn’t expecting it to topple the colossal giant that is World of Warcraft, but I at least hoped it would be a contender.

I soon realized that wasn’t the case.

FFXIV, at release, is a failure. Yup, I said it. I expect the following flame comments, so if you’re included in this, don’t bother. Trust me, I’m already well aware:

“The game has only been out X amount of months! How dare you demand it be perfect!”
“SE is just gearing up for PS3 release.” (Don’t you feel like a fool now?)
“No MMO is ever complete. Why would you expect this one to be?”

Truth is, I DON’T expect this MMO to be complete.

But god-fucking-damnit, I expected it to be playable.

This is what pre-launch week was like, in case you’ve forgotten:

– Skill points you earned in battle weren’t going towards your level/rank.
– Enmity was non-existent. It didn’t exist. Period. Don’t argue with me on this one.
– The servers couldn’t even stay online for the pre-launch week 24/7. Keep in mind, SE had pre-order numbers in already.
– Click and Buy. My boyfriend calls it Dick and Screw.
– Conjurers reaching Physical 50 within a week because of a “bug” that allowed them to generate massive amounts of skill points by curing themselves until they run out of MP, clicking the Aetheryte crystal to regenerate MP, and do it all over again.
– No MP regeneration. At all.
– No Auction House or Broker of any kind.
– Menu lag.
– Unable to mute ambient sounds. (wind, rain, footsteps, ect. Personally, this was very annoying to me.)
– SE’s failure to code anything for a PC or DirectX. (Can’t tell ya how many DirectX errors I got because I opened up task manager.)

And that’s just pulling shit off the top of my head at 4:30am.

No, I don’t expect a game on release day to be complete. I expect the basic mechanics to simply work. EXP gain, enmity, menu lag. They had how many betas and alphas to fix this, and didn’t? Rumors were going around that Closed Beta 3 and Open Beta testers were simply there to test out SE’s hardware for the servers. What did they call them? Oh yea, “hardware slaves.” Simply put: Those testers’ only job is to log in and congest the servers. That’s it. Way to go, SE!

So it was no surprise to me to see the articles that flooded the internet early Friday morning that Tanaka has been fired from FFXIV and replaced by some dude who can’t make it any worse than it already is. Tanaka has ruined this game. Period. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This game is so terrible that I actually considered going back to FFXI. And anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of FFXI anymore.

Oh, and did I mention PS3 version is delayed indefinitely? Yes, this game is so crappy, SE is putting the brakes on the PS3 version until the PC version meets the standards.

And here’s the biggest kicker of all: FFXIV will continue to be free.

I’m a fan of free games, but I’m not a fan of having absolute crap on my harddrive.

I just completed my walk in freezer at 2 Bayle Court in South Qeynos. Check out these pictures!