Disconnect Gift

Once upon a time, back in May 2005, I logged on my Paladin in World of Warcraft. I went to Silithus to grind Dust Stormers in the hopes of acquiring a few drops of Essence of Air for crafting. It was tedious business as I had to kill a lot of them for just a few measly drops of those, but that’s what I did back then and I actually enjoyed it.

But just as I started killing the umpteenth Dust Stormer, my World of Warcraft client froze. Oh no, I thought – it’s going to disconnect, and when I return, I bet the Dust Stormer finished the job. I was right. Disconnect, relog – and my Paladin was dead. Cursing and shouting commenced.

Being killed because of a disconnect was rare for me back then as it is today, as I usually make sure I have a stable computer and ditto internet connection. Not much I could do about it anyway, so I ran back, resurrected, and continued killing Dust Stormers. A few minutes later, something extraordinary happened; one of them dropped an epic item. This one, to be precise:

Jeweled Amulet of Cainwyn (WoW)

It doesn’t look like much today, but back in 2005 it was pretty good. It cheered me up and I instantly used it, but it also had me thinking. Was a GM looking over my shoulders, saw me disconnecting, felt sorry for me, then decided to make it up for me? Nah. Probably just a coincidence. Occam’s Razor and all that. I continued grinding and that was that.

6 Years Later

Fast forward to May 2011 – actually it was just yesterday. I logged on my Cleric in Rift. I went to Shimmersand to do some solo quests for XP, as I was only level 48 (still not quite there yet). Killed some basilisks around a pond and a few humans. I took another look in my quest log and saw that I needed to kill four Volcanic Flames, so I walked into the relevant canyon and spotted one.

Hm. It’s elite? Strange. Perhaps there’s a trick about finding a thing that will weaken them, so I didn’t think more of it and walked past a few of them. Then I took another close look at one of those fire elementals. It was indeed elite, but it didn’t look all that tough. Only about 11K health. I decided to give it a try and pulled it. It was a tough fight and I had to use a few potions, but I actually thought I was on top of it. I could have won it.

But then the game client froze. Oh no, I thought – it’s going to disconnect, and when I return, I bet the fire elemental finished the job. I was right. Disconnect, relog – and my Cleric was dead. Cursing and shouting commenced.

I thought this felt familiar, but never mind. I took a look in my quest log and only now I realized that the quest was for groups of three players. Bleh. I abandoned it and went back to the pond to kill some more basilisks and humans.

And then, just a few minutes later, this item dropped from an unimportant solo mob:

Gnawbone Staff (Rift)

Not only was it an item I could use for my class, it was also a pretty cool update. How convenient, wouldn’t you say? I’m not buying this anymore, developers. You have some kind of “Disconnect Gift” algorithm going on, don’t you? If someone is disconnected in the middle of a solo fight and dies, you activate a high chance of getting an epic item within the next few minutes. Just as some sort of apology and to make sure the player doesn’t do anything stupid like, say, rage quitting.

Actually, this could still all be a coincidence and I just got lucky both times and there really is no trick going on. But how about you? Have you ever had a suspiciously cool drop in an MMORPG shortly after a death due to e.g. a disconnect?

Fog of War

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I was reading the Bullroarer Release Notes for the upcoming Update 3 for LOTRO the other day, and one thing immediately caught my eye:

“Fog of War” on the world map no longer exists. You will now be able to see the world map in its entirety without having to visit every area.

I guess a lot of players would immediately find this to be a nice change. No more guessing, no more not knowing. It also fits with the latest trend of dumbing down our MMORPG bit by bit. But it actually saddened me, even if the “Fog of War” in LOTRO was only the crude version.

Fog of War (LOTRO)
A map in Lord of the Rings Online. Everything below Windfells is unknown.

Is “Fog of War” in MMORPG slowly becoming an endangered feature, soon to be extinct?

Cataclysmania

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Yesterday I finally completed the high-level zones in Cataclysm. The last zone, Twilight Highlands, has an almost dried-up river bed that reminded me a little of Thundering Steppes in EverQuest II. Still, I thought the atmosphere in Deepholm was clearly the best of them all. Mount Hyjal was a little bland, Vashj’ir refreshingly different with its undersea paradise (but in the end a bit too samey quest hubs) and Uldum had too many pop culture references for my taste. The Indiana Jones quests were imaginative but also an almost direct copy of numerous scenes out of the famous movies.

Twilight Highlands
The almost dried-up river bed in Twilight Highlands.

It took a bit longer to get through it this time because I felt a little burnt out (as mentioned in my previous blog post about the expansion) but when I finally completed the last zone, I was actually more inclined to do the dailies from then on. Maybe it’s because the dailies represent standard quests I quickly get used to, and because of that I can really relax. Without vehicles.

Clean as a Whistle and Still Got Hacked

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Finally it happened – my account in World of Warcraft got hacked. It was the usual stuff; gold missing, items missing, characters parked elsewhere and even a new level 1 Warrior created with a nonsense name (probably used for selling gold).

I’ve had a World of Warcraft account since I’ve started playing in 2005 as the game was released in Europe and I’ve never been hacked before. Sure, I read a few forum posts about the authenticator but always figured that if I was careful, I would never be hacked. I had AVG installed, scanned regularly, never visited any ominous web sites and never clicked links in questionable e-mails. I wasn’t always subscribing, but when I was (usually for several months after an expansion was released), I never had any problems and trusted my ability to avoid all attempts at keylogging. I didn’t use an authenticator and was confident I would never have to.

And then I got hacked anyway.

After having contacted a GM and replaced my passwords, I started reading various forum threads about other people being hacked. It dawned upon me that the hackers don’t even need keyloggers. I could be clean as a whistle (as described above) and still get hacked. I’m pretty sure I was; I scanned with both AVG 2011 and Spybot and they didn’t find anything at all.

Casual in Cataclysm

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Cataclysm for World of Warcraft arrived in December 2010, and just like all the previous releases I rushed to the local shop and bought the box so I could play on release day (I’m still a little old fashioned when it comes to software – I like to have a physical disc in my mitts). I played the original game in 2005 as it arrived and I was enthralled. I soloed, I grouped, I crafted, I raided. It was fascinating and I played regularly. This repeated itself as the next two expansion packs were released. Maybe the game was starting to grate a little, but I still soloed, grouped, crafted and raided. In other words, I was still dedicated.

Vashj'ir
Vashj’ir owes a lot to Pixar’s Finding Nemo.

This time around I just haven’t been able to capture that feeling again. I have been playing my Paladin in the high-level zones – Mount Hyjal, Vashj’ir, Deepholm and currently I’m level 84 in Uldum. It’s indeed very pretty and the quests are often hilarious and sometimes ingenious. The blocky low-polygon graphics annoys me, but it also did that in 2005 so that hasn’t changed. It looks like the textures have improved, however, which makes it a little easier to tolerate the lack of polygons. The underwater zone in Vashj’ir felt very different and the atmosphere in Deepholm was really good (it reminded me Mines of Moria in LOTRO, the best interior zones I have ever seen in an MMORPG).