Return of the Dark Age of Camelot

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Last night I resubscribed to a game that I hadn’t played in more than twelve years.  In gaming terms, that is a millennium of time.  I did not even think Dark Ages of Camelot was still in operation.   I thought the sun had set on this game, like so many other classic fantasy MMOs.  To my surprise the game is still active and there is a respected number of players.

I looked around on the web and found some statistics, with a general figure of 2000 active accounts.  No doubt some of these are dual or even tri-boxed.  There is also essentially one server now, Ywain.  You can freely move between the twelve shards so it is no longer an issue to debate what server you are going to join.

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The last time I played was in the Summer of 2003.  I think I may have played a few weeks over the years when I would get a free month but it has been at least five years since I seriously even looked at the game.  As I said, I was flummoxed when I discovered the game was still in operation.

New players get 2 week to try it out but then it is $15 a month to play.  As far as I can tell there is no real money transactions or micro transactions in the game.  Hooray!  There is also no stupid list of themed cosmetic crap to spoil the world — no ugly pink unicorns, no over sized penguin mercenaries, no ridiculous pets, etc…  Games such as Everquest I & II, World of Warcraft, and other games have been destroyed in my opinion by all this glitzy trash.  Players today seem drawn to this candy-coated shit.  When confronted with their outlandish prizes (always paid for) they get hot under the collar, yelping that they should be able to play any way they want and have their fantasy as they choose.  Well then, go have it it all these other horrible fantasy melee games.

call_to_armsThe graphics still hold up well after all these years. It is no Guild Wars by any means, but its not unplayable. Some older games just have such horrible controls and graphics, they are not worth even trying again. Not so with Dark Ages of Camelot.  The game can be clunky at times, often I notice when turning my character that it stutters.  Some graphics appear to have been updated, but even so its still at least 6 years old in graphics.

I simple revel in the old school fantasy rpg fun of Dark Ages of Camelot.  I would rather pay $15 a month (really 50 cents a day to play) then constantly be wooed and cajoled into spending more.  I have never found a player that strictly played for free in those RMT worlds — they say they do, but on closer examination they always have the glitzy adds.  Its like the gambler who says he never spends more than 50 bucks or the guy who says he wins all the time — Vegas was not built on winners.  MMO companies with RMT don’t stay in business from free players.  Stop the lies and just admit it.

Upon my return I found most of my old characters.  I also started in a new realm with a few new guys just to play the game from a different perspective.  I don’t recall much about the game. I remember older places but not much about them.  I am really going to enjoy all the zones again.

I need to find a good source of tactics, strategy, and hints.  I am woefully forgetful of how to play all of my toons. I have several pure melee characters, along with a fine array of magic users.  I was never much into the PvP or PvR aspects of the game. Back in the day I spent most of the time with PvE.  I look forward to trying all aspects of the game.

New players can get 2 weeks so why not try it and find me in game.  http://www.darkageofcamelot.com

The Fearful Heart, By: Cherry Christensen

Emerald Tablet:

Not normally something I put on the Emerald Tablet, but its my wife’s book and I am so proud of her.

Originally posted on cherylbbookblog:

Book Blurb:

The heart must be protected at all costs… but will Cassidy be able to afford the price? Cassidy has distanced herself from childhood friend, Tristan. She’s moved on from their days of best friend-hood and is attending college. And dating one of the most eligible males on campus. Life couldn’t be better. Really. Tristan has devoted himself to Cassidy since they were children together. But no matter what he did, she’s never treated him like more than her best friend. He knows they can have something deeper. If only he can find the key to unlocking her fearful heart.

Excerpt:

She grinned, remembering the time Tristan had seen her wearing her green off-the-shoulder peasant blouse. Draped softly against her sun-kissed skin, it had literally made his jaw drop. And for a brief moment, she’d suspected — even hoped — he was going to fling the packed silver and…

View original 270 more words

Top 10 Things I learned About Eve

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It is my belief that many players are scared away from playing Eve Online because of the very nature of the game.  It is also very much unlike other MMOs in that you rarely see your alternative self; your avatar.  I have actually seen my frozen body floating in space more than I have seen him lounging in a chair in the game.  Unlike fantasy MMOs that personify an alter ego, Eve disembodies you from an individual and puts you in command of various starships — these are the respected bodies you often play the game inside.

Eve is also represented as a PvP game and many players are scared away by this.  In fact, you can play the game without ever fighting another player.  Many Eve players will scoff at this insinuation, but it is true.  There will be times when you will have to defend yourself against another player, but if you are smart and not greedy those occasions are very few.

Here is a list that I compiled on the 10 things I have learned about the game.  They are in no particular order.

1.  You are going to die in the game.  Most often your death will be by the hands of another player.  Relax, the game has softened the loss of a death to only isk (money).  A bit of danger always enhances game play and with this fact, you will have so much more fun in the game.  The worst that will happen is you lose your ship, modules, cargo, and perhaps cybernetic implants — again only money.

2. The universe is huge but aside from from gaseous cloud backgrounds, the universe is pretty much the same everywhere.  You don’t have to travel great distances to do things.  Most solar systems, or collections of systems, have agents and asteroids to keep players content.

3. The game is not based on a twitch.  Eve is not a first person shooter nor does it take any skill at those sorts of games to be good at. I have a friend who has bad carpal issues and he could easily play this game.

4. Very easy to make isk (money) in the game.  There are innumerable ways to make money from mining, missions, pvp, pve, and even out right thievery.  A distinct set of rules in the game, this is by far the most open sand box allowing the player to do what he wants and how he wants.

5. You are forever learning in the game.  The learning curve at start is steep, but as you figure out Eve Online you’ll soon discover the game is not that hard.  Yet, you are always learning.  Real time progression is the only way to gain levels in skills, and in this method you are never going to run out of skills to learn. Besides the sheer number of skills in the game, you as a player will always be learning new tactics and methods to achieve your goals.  I learn something every time I load the game up.  It is so refreshing to find a game that isn’t dumbed down to a 10 year old’s mental acuity.

6. Find yourself a good corporation.  Get out f the start up corp as soon as you can — that is a one way street that will lead you only to dislike the game.  Find your strengths in Eve, then match that to a good corporation.

7. Never stop learning.  Sort of goes with point #5 but viewed from a different perspective. Like in any MMO if you get in a rut, you tend to close doors to other areas of the game.  There is so much to do in the game, never let yourself get complacent.  I have learned so much in two months of playing.  Things I never dreamed of when I first started, I now do without thought.  Don’t get in a gaming rut, but keep looking at new ways to gain isk and reward.

8. If you get good enough at the game, you can pay for your subscription.  I guess many games have this these days, but Eve pioneered the PLEX — the idea you can take ingame money and buy an item that rewards you with a month of free game time.   Currently a PLEX cost around 700 to 800 million isk.  It is very easy to make 10 million isk a day, closer to 30 million if you are diligent.  Towards the more aggressive side of playing you can make a billion isk a month, paying 800 million for a free month of playing and still have 200 million to buy stuff with.

9. Complacency kills. I don’t die often, because I don’t fight that much.  When I do die it is because I have become complacent with the game.  Eve Online is like electricity or fire — the moment you think you have control over it, you’ll end up dead. Focus at all times and learn the secrets of how to escape, how to fight, and even how to beg.  You should always be looking for that one little trick that will buy you 1 more second to do what you want, rather than allowing someone else to control that second. Pretty much everything is up for grabs, so utilize every little tip, secret, and gimmick to keep yourself alive.

10. The game is a lot of fun.  It took me a bit to get my head into the game.  I don’t know if it was because I was trained and nurtured by Daybreak games like Everquest, but Eve Online is a tough but rewarding game.  You start out in a flimsy little ship, but within days you are mastering the skills to fly larger and deadlier ships.  Soon you will have to juggle time to keep up with all the activities you want to get done: Mining Asteroids, Industry, Planetary Interaction, Fighting Pirates, Missions, Wars, Player Skirmishes, Exploring Wormholes, Finding new sources of Isk.  So much to do in the game.

Comic Books Awards for February

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February is a time when I may have the most absolute fun as a comic book fan and collector. The second month of the year marks the annual anniversary sale put on by my local comic shop (shout out to The Antiquarium!) and everything store wide is discounted, respectively – and what deals there were. So while I spent all of my spare cash on numerous back issue comics I probably won’t get around to reading for a very long time, my regular monthly stack of new release issues have all been read and the awards for February’s comics are here. A total of fifteen books filled this month’s quota, the lot of them steadily maintaining their more or less consistent level of quality.

Marvel is continuing its privilege of distributing Star Wars comics with Star Wars #2 and the debut of the all-new ongoing Star Wars: Darth Vader series by the pen of Kieron Gillen (known for his work on Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man, and more) and pencil of Salvador Larroca (The Invincible Iron Man). Anyone who would like to follow the machinations of the iconic Dark Lord of the Sith after the events of Episode IV: A New Hope ought to pick this up. Bringing with it a somber, energetic tone authentic to the heart of Vader and the Empire, the first two issues show much promise. Salvador Larroca’s technical preciseness in drawing Darth Vader is so true to his look that no one could have been a better choice for the project. If there was an award for funnest comic book of the month, Ant-Man #2 would hold that award high and proudly. Scott Lang’s challenges of starting up his new business in Miami affords laughs and action in such finesse. At first thought dead, Aquaman finds his hardened mother in #39 of his title and in Hulk #11, Doc Green’s desire to rid the world of gamma powered weapons (including fellow Hulks) sees with it a mysterious and unforeseen spin.

But out of these and other nominees, which came first for the award ceremony? These are the ones I regarded as the most deserving.

Cover of the Month Award: Ant-Man #2
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks

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It’s the idea of the cover for Ant-Man #2 that makes it not only so clever, but stand out amongst the droves of cover art you see on the comic book stands. The idea takes advantage of the nature involving the astonishing Ant-Man’s core characteristic – his ability to shrink – and puts him into an instant classic, earnest scenario as he is helplessly trapped within a…water globe featuring the city of Miami? Yep, that’s right, and the finished image is perfect. Mark Brooks successfully captures a genuinely memorable piece here. In great distress, Ant-Man attempts to break his way out of his unlucky predicament as his ant friends look upon in curious bewilderment. While we don’t know how, or even if, Scott Lang survives to tell of this atypical, but intellectually praiseworthy situation, the cover for Ant-Man #2 looks too gorgeous not to care for the little guy.

Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #5
Artists: Marco Rudy (PGS 4-19), Langdon Foss (PGS 1-3, 20)

BBTWS5_Coverbucky-barnes-the-winter-soldier-5-page-11(1)You probably don’t need any more convincing from me about how much I adore artist Marco Rudy’s paints in Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier; especially after the three times his work has effortlessly landed the award for Art of the Month for this title in the last four months. It’s safe to say he’s been making my job in deciding a winner for this category a whole lot more easier than it should be. Finding the right words to describe his almost transcendent style is difficult. I’ve always found the word “psychedelic” to be appropriate, but that tacked description may be taken the wrong way if you don’t explain further. In issue five of this series, we’re prescribed with additional reasons to explore Rudy’s beautiful artwork and respect him as one of the best artists in the business’s history.

The vibrancy, which screams on each page of Rudy’s, is addictive to take in. After I finished reading this issue, I instantly went back over it to study every page to see what new illustrative gems I could find. Page 4 is drawn from a first-person perspective reflecting the face of the Bucky from the future off the Pao’ree soldiers’ helmets; pages 6 and 7 parade a lustrous two-page spread exploring the Pao’ree and telepathy on their planet of Mer-Z-Bow; the following two pages is another two-page spread of Bucky and Crossbones in brutal combat presented in edgy, bold panels…and there’s so much more I could say. I do want to briefly bring out pages 10 and 13, which exhibit the panel dividers as Crossbones’ skull logo with The Winter Soldier’s red star dripping down the skull. That, to me, is remarkably creative, and all of this is just the tip of the iceberg for Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #5.

Story of the Month Award: New Avengers #30 (“Beyonders”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman

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The story told in New Avengers #30 investigates the multiversal trek superhero Hank Pym had begun to take. Sent out by Reed Richards and Tony Stark to search out and locate the Great Destroyer, Rabum Alal, Pym suddenly returned out of nowhere at the climax of New Avengers #29 to heed an alarming report not about the Great Destroyer, but of the frightening white lords from wild space, the Ivory Kings, now known as “The Beyonders”. The pages of New Avengers #30 unfold to reveal Pym’s journey and just who these Beyonders are and the universal threat they pose. As you might surmise, this is a pretty heavy and meaty issue. In Hickman’s high prose, we survey cosmic themes and a momentous battle between the Beyonders and lofty beings of existence. It’s straightforward, but so perplexing and unsettling. How will our heroes rise above the end of everything? Hank Pym’s final words on the last page leave us with no shade of comfort.

Issue of the Month Award: New Avengers #30 (“Beyonders”)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Dalibor Talajic
Inker: RIck Magyar
Color Artist: Frank Martin
Cover Art: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Matt Wilson

New_Avengers_Vol_3_30_TextlessNew Avengers #30 is an excellent comic book issue. It amps up the already grim, intense storyline of this series to another level, which is something I didn’t know could happen. The interior pencils by Dalibor Talajic won’t blow you away, and is in some measure slightly indistinguishable from other artists, yet Frank Martin’s explosive colors impart life to the pages (pages 17, 18, and 19 specifically). Also, if you’ve really been paying attention, a trait of Jonathan Hickman’s writing, there are two things in this issue that hark back to New Avengers #8 (no kidding). After keeping up with my favorite comic book series of all time, it’s not going to be any fun to say goodbye this April when the final issue of New Avengers ships.

Thank you again for checking out my awards and check back sometime next month for March’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics as Spring gradually sets in.

~Nandor Schaffer

EVEn MMOre: Issue 5

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I find it fascinating to look back over the course of several weeks and see my growth in the game.  Most of my long term goals, some of which is to pay for training with isk, is still out of reach.  I am getting closer to achieving this lofty goal, but need a bit more skill.  A number of short term goals have been reached and this is truly exciting.

My long term goal is still to generate 2 billion isk a month, with a more short term and realistic path to reach 1 billion isk; probable in the next 30 days. My hope is that with increased revenue I could take that and buy PLEX so as to allow my secondary and tertiary characters more training.  I am comfortable with the fact I will be paying a subscription for the foreseeable future. Most of my wealth at the present is coming from High Sec mining and Wormhole Planetary Interaction.

Generic_05_2500In mining, its really all about the acquisition of valdespar.  For someone new in the game, make that your goal.  Veldaspar is the easiest money.  Certainly other refined ores are rare and costly but everything either comes with risk or complication.  Get the biggest ship you can and hit High Security zones for the largest valdespar asteroids.  Rinse and repeat.   It is better to sit comfortably in High security mining valdespar than risking ship and life trying to mine higher prized ores.  Setup even on Ore Anomalies are often not worth it.  I can mine valdespar quicker, cycling thru the mineral, than roaming around trying to find Omber, Jaspet, or Krynite.

Planetary Interaction is pretty much awash in High and Low sec. The planets are just not that rich of materials to make it worth of the setup stations.  Secondly, the export tax on most of these worlds are at least 10%, which cuts deep into any profits.  I have seen some worlds 15% or more.  It would be different, or explainable, in Low sec space if they guaranteed a safe system but the owners of the orbital stations do nothing other than take your isk.  PI in wormhole space is a completely different matter — dangerous surely but your corporation owns the orbitals (and at least in my case) and charges very little to import or export materials.  This makes high end processed material very valuable.

Dust514My short term goal was to learn probing.  I had tried it the first time I played Eve two years ago and just could not get the hang of it.  Things have been simplified a bit over the years and with help from my corporation allies, I have learned how to do it now. This opens up another whole revenue stream for me.  The finds in these wormholes could catapult me further along in isk than anything I could mine or PI.  Time will tell on this, as I have yet to run more than a few of these sites.

I have brought more guys into the hole since the last time I posted.  For the most part I enjoy living in a wormhole and keep very busy doing my thing. Because of some issues, I still have two guys that live in High security space.  I cannot see them moving into the hole anytime soon, but we’ll see.

In the last week I also bought a number of cybernetic augmentations.  If you haven’t done this, I suggest you get the skill (Cybernetics) and then buy the +3, or at least the +2, bonus to all attributes.  Doing so for me took my learning from 19 days down to 14 days (roughly) or giving me a bonus of five entire days.  The only downside, aside from their cost, is if you die you’ll lose the augments too.

I am still trying to learn skills to perform Tech II industry.  I think that is at least 60 days away since I have so many other skills I want to get before the needed level 5s to make Tech II items.

Two of my characters did learn Cloaking level 5 so they can start to think about Covert Operation ships — I still need more skills in flying those ships however.

Very excited about learning how to probe. This is really huge!

Ebooks need to cost more than 99 cents

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Originally this post was meant simply as a rant on Facebook, but it grew into several paragraphs.  I am not an overly wordy person so this is an exceptionally long analysis of my thoughts on raising the price of an ebook from a measly 99 cents to something respectable, perhaps $4.99 or even $9.99.  I often see coworkers come into the office with a coffee cup from one of the many baristas.  Asking them how much the cup was I am astounded that many will say $4 or more.  Why is it that its so easy for a consumer to pay that much money for a single cup of coffee, but it is so hard for them to pay more than 99 cents for an ebook?

I got a check in the mail today for V&V modules I wrote in the 80s. I make more money through 30 year old game books than I do with my ebooks on Amazon. I truly can’t see a future for small authors on Amazon or other digital services if they can’t sell their books for more.

Amazon (and others) take 70% of the price of the book. So if I am forced to sell my book for 99 cents (which seems to be the current demand from consumers) I make 29 cents for each book.

A book is not just the creation of one person, but a collaboration of many. Although I am the author,I am often required to pay for a book cover and most importantly an editor. Again, most of these people want their money up front and usually costs hundreds of dollars.

So just putting a book up on Amazon costs the indie author perhaps $1000. I would have to sell 4000 books before I would see even a penny. Most indie authors sell half that much on a great book.

EVEn MMOre: Issue 4

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Another issue of Even More is upon us. This last week has been instrumental and galactic shattering for both my characters but also for the game Eve Online. The big news for me is that I have parked my retriever and now sit in a shiny mackinaw ore ship.  This week I finally finished up my last skill I needed to pilot this massive ore harvester and have been wreaking havoc on the mining fields. To use this mighty vessel requires learning Mining IV, Science IV, Astrogeology V, Industry V, Spaceship Command IV, and finally the key skill of Exhumers I. I had learned all of these skills, saving the longest and least useable for me until the last: Industry V.

Shalimar and Dag, using the Foreman skill, work well together. Each gains about 4% extra yield partnering together. Dag is still in his retriever as he is a bit behind Shalimar in learning. I also discovered that I can often make as much money mining ore and processing it, to just selling the raw ore itself. It’s a wash often, but I like selling raw ore because it’s a bit cleaner – processing ore leaves scraps behind that I have to collect and reprocess later.

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The other big milestone for me is reaching the 1 billion isk mark. This is on top of each of my characters having at least 80,000,000 isk in their banks and after purchasing the mackinaw and many expensive skills. It’s unsure how long it took me because upon returning to the game, I already had 350,000,000 isk in the bank. Just doing basic mining, the two can make 35,000,000 isk a night (although that is a bit tedious and boring). I am now weighing what I want to do with the 1,000,000,000 isk. Should I buy a PLEX with it (around 840 million) or save it for some really big purchase?

Last month I bought two PLEX which I used to get additional training for my four other alts. I juggled the additional 2 characters on each account with the learning queue and each gained respectable and needed skills. They each now desperately need a 20 day learning skill – that is a rough 3 weeks of waiting and would definitely require more PLEX.

Last week the girls brought to Amarr over 120,000,000 isk in Planetary Interaction cargo. This was a 100% increase from the week before and I can easily imagine this going up another 100% with a few more skills and further refinement of the mining and processing of the resources.

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Another big bit of news is with the help of my corporation mate, the two pilots that live in the hole can now win battles against the rats that stalk the mining fields. Up until this week, my hole miners had to run like school children from any battle. Now they can jump into their caracals and give those nasty rats a good thrashing – on their first battle with them they found two nano-threads which sold for 3,000,000 isk each.

The hole is continuing to gain prominence in my gaming in Eve and I hope this week to move 80% of my operation into the nebulous realm. I still need a few planets in high and low sec because of the limitations of the wormhole space, but these can be managed by Salbador and Pharkus, the two guys outside of the large corporations. They could desperately use another 20 days of learning each, at least. The achievement of a 6th planet or that top tier in command centers could push me into 200,000,000 isk mark.

My short term goal for my game is to reach 80 million isk a day, through a combination of mining, PI, rat loot, and of course at some point other players’ ships. My secondary short term goal is to move my main guys, Dag and Shalimar, into the hole permanently.

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Long term goal would be to make enough isk to pay for both accounts – I would have to make 2 billion isk a month for that.   I still like spending money and I don’t like to worry about isk either, so I need so much that I don’t fret over it.

As for the Eve Online news, they released their next installment.  CCP likes to call these expansions, but they are really just beefy patches.  In this release, called Tiamat, they have balanced guns, introduced a new ship design, and finally offered some shiny new graphics.

As for the last patch, I have already turned off the asteroid field graphics.  Although interesting, I found it far too busy for my miners to care.  It really added nothing to the game except it made it even more hectic and chaotic while in the asteroid fields.

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EVEn MMOre: Issue 3

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Once again I am at the controls of my trusty retriever christened the Nostromo.  Can you guess the reference? if so you are a science-fiction nerd.  My main character in Eve Online is Shalimar Yanumano, and he is primarily a miner by trade.  He has many other friends that specialize in other aspects of the game.  His buddy, Dag Sabor, is another miner but not as handy at the mining laser and the drone controls.  Both guys spend their days cutting up asteroids in search of the elusive ore that will bring them millions of isk (money in the game).  Each foray out into the rocky fields can yield the duo close to 8,000,000 isk and takes about 25 minutes — it is just one way to make money in the game, but for the two it is the most relaxing.

He also has some distant friends who own their own little corporation.  These guys have done nothing more than study the reference books on how to setup colonies, often referred to as Planetary Interaction (or PI for short).  The biggest problem for Pharkus and Salbador is they are stuck in a high sector system and the planets there are simply atrocious for producing high-end equipment used in the production of super computers.  Instead, these guys simply do the best they can harvesting needed minerals and biologicals such as Industrial Fibers, Silicon, and Electrolytes.  From there they ship it off to some girls they know who patrol the most unknown sectors of space.  It is often fraught with dangers but they then combine their resources with the guys and produce tier 5 equipment that can sell for a 1,000,000 isk each.  Just yesterday they got a shipment together and headed for Jita.  Their cargo and sales were:

Wetware computers: 5,600,000

Organic Mortar Applicators: 9,500,000

Recursive Computing Modules: 13,000,000

Self-Harmonizing Modules: 21,000,000

Nano-Factories: 17,500,000

At the end of the sale they made a cool 66,000,000 isk.  That is not pure profit as Pharkus and Salbador have to pay exorbitant fees to launch their products into space.  And of course these guys fly in low security space so they must factor in expenses lost due to ships and graft.

Shalimar knows these two wily young gals that live in the darkest and deepest parts of space too.  They call the wormhole their home.  Inside of these nebulous and mysterious spaces exist rich worlds to plunder, incredible asteroid fields filled with the most precious ores, and mysterious ancient sites littered with ancient technology.  This space is by no means safe….Sleepers are constantly warping into it searching for careless pilots.  And there are also other human pilots often finding new wormholes into the area.  That is why I do not name names or suggest locations of this — even though the holes constantly open and close it is best not to mention too many details.

The young girls have a wide range of skills, as they must mine and also perform PI.  They are building their skills up in combat skills too so that one day they can fly with the rest of the corporation as they hunt down poor fools who wander too close.

It happened just the other day, in fact.  I was in communication with the corporation when they spotted a large ship moving close to one of our controlled wormholes.  It was specced out with a ton of gear to probe ancient sites.  Like sharks, my buddies waited and trawled the area as the ship probed with scanners, found an ancient site, and retrieved metric tons of ancient mega-computers and unknown gadgets.  Then my friends pounced, letting loose rockets, energy beams, and warp bubbles to trap the soloing space archeologist.  It was a tough fight, for the explorer was equipped with the best combat drones known in the universe.  But in the end his ship was destroyed, and for good measure so too was his clone.  It looked like the poor fool lost close to 750,000,000 isk.  That was not a good day for him and surely he felt miserable for a long while.  I was momentarily sad for him, but that is the world we live in.  He could have just played it safe in the high security areas but he chose to come far out into the badlands — he knew the dangers!  The reward wouldn’t be so spectacular if it wasn’t balanced with the dire and dangerous roads that need to be traveled.  Perhaps next time he will fit another weapon in his hold or more armor.  Then again, he may just not venture back into the voids for lucrative treasure.

Each week I play Eve Online I learn so much more about the game.  This week was filled with suspense, intrigue, harrowing escapes, and even a bit of combat.

Then & Now

I don’t normally post comic strips here but this one particularly struck home to me.  Its a shame that companies today must offer games for free then charge for every tiny aspect in the a game.  In the MMO Star Wars of the Old Republic that actually make you pay so that your character can run.  If you don’t pay, your character shuffles around the giant world — ridiculous!

Instead of offering rewards for time or effort in the game, today it is nothing more than how much you are willing to spend — Remember this is supposed to be a FREE game?!?

I can see a basic argument that many people don’t have time to play endlessly in a game, but the doesn’t mean that everything should be for sale either.  Time and effort still must trump a credit card.  The argument for this falls apart when those players who have both the time, effort, and credit card rule the game.  One cannot sell achievements in a game, they must be earned to have value.  Offer a game that is FREE and that time in the game equates into better skills, equipment, and benefits.  Sell cosmetic gear or aspects of the game that make it easier without making it a Pay to Win.

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Comic Book Awards for January

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The new year is here and its first month has gone as quickly as it came, bringing with it the fresh artistic offerings from comic book publishers everywhere. A new year beckons the thrill of new beginnings which was taken advantage of in view of the fact that three brand new ongoing series’ made it into my monthly comic book purchases (as if I didn’t already have enough comics, mind you). Marvel finally had the motivation to give their tiniest – may I add greatly underrated – hero a chance with Ant-Man #1 in light of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man film hitting theaters this July, written by well-received writer Nick Spencer. As sad as it is to say that Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, is not the man under the costume, Scott Lang dons the insect-themed alias to very amiable results. That galaxy far, far away that we all know and love reunites with its first love at Marvel as well. Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday will make any Star Wars fan ecstatic, and you might even be hearing John Williams’ fantastical score in the back of your heads as you open up the respectful first issue. Picking up my first ever ongoing book from Image Comics, Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim’s The Dying & the Dead debuted this month with a staggering 60 pages for only $4.50. Regulars like Aquaman, Hulk, Avengers, and many others released whilst Fantastic Four took the bold move of going back to its true numbering with #642.

But out of these and other nominees, which were the best of the opening month of the year? This proved to be one of the most competitive months in recent memory.

Cover of the Month Award: Star Wars #1 

Cover Artists: John Cassaday & Laura Martin 

2For context’s sake, the first ever Star Wars comic was published by Marvel Comics back around the time Episode IV: A New Hope released in 1977. As time went on, Dark Horse eventually became the proud home of the greatest sci-fi fantasy universe, launching with Star Wars: Dark Empire in the ‘90s, and held the reigns for over twenty-five years, producing incredible titles exploring never before seen timelines and characters. When Disney, then already having bought Marvel a few years earlier, acquired the Star Wars property, the stars aligned and the teeming inevitability of new Star Wars comics back under the Marvel banner would be an historic event in the comic book world. Here we are, almost forty years later, and Marvel’s Star Wars #1 comes to us presenting a blasting cover from John Cassaday and color partner Laura Martin.

One look shouts out classic Star Wars. X-Wings and Tie Fighters zoom overhead the hearts and souls of the Rebel Alliance as Darth Vader’s helmet silhouette of hyperspace stands in the backdrop in capturing, modeled symmetry. The detailed touches on the ships and almost pitch-perfect faithfulness to the looks of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 from the beloved films is what you need to do to invoke the absorbing splendor of the Star Wars license. The cover for Star Wars #1 nails it.

Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3

Artists: Marco Rudy (PGS 1-12, 17-20), Michael Walsh (PGS 13-16)

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Two issues of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier came out in January (making up for no issue in December 2014), both exhibiting the talent of artist extraordinaire Marco Rudy. #4 mainly featured pencils and inks from Langdon Foss with just four pages given to Rudy, regrettably. However, #3’s seventeen magnificent pages from Marco Rudy more than make up for any disappointments, and still outweigh the artwork of the 10+ other comics on my reading list. That’s how remarkable this guy’s stuff is. Sublime is page after page of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3. Serene colors caress the full, wondrous space and alien bound issue and a few one pagers will pause you for a second or more. Unique, extravagant panel layouts return with pages one, two, eighteen and nineteen standing out in considerable efficacy. There’s even a glimmer of romance in #3 that is shown quite tastefully. Regardless of Michael Walsh’s simplistic but firm four pages, one panel of Marco Rudy’s paints carries with it a deep, memorable signature.

Story of the Month Award: Avengers #40 (“We Three Kings”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman 

4With Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars now only four months away and his run on both Avengers and New Avengers coming to an end this April, the time for closure is at hand after two-and-a-half years of spectacular buildup. The climactic events of New Avengers #28 left us at an unexpected standstill between Steve Rogers’ army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and heroes and the clever Illuminati. The opposing forces lightly agree to a legitimate truce for the moment as the entire multiverse hangs in the balance due to the curious incursions plaguing the Marvel universe. Our heroes plan to get rid of The Cabal – consisting of the mad titan Thanos, Black Swan, Terrax, Maximus, Corvus Glaive and his wife Proxima Midnight – while a grueling confrontation Black Panther has with Namor is something we’ve been waiting to see since the very early issues of New Avengers. There is no holding back now.

Issue of the Month Award: Avengers #40 (“We Three Kings”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Stefano Caselli

Color Artist: Frank Martin

Cover Art: Dale Keown & Jason Keith

5Avengers #40 is a comic book you don’t want to pass over. This story chapter of Hickman’s continuing dark drama epic is fluid and shocking. The endgame of his Avengers is rising to its boiling point in too many brilliant ways. Stefano Caselli is the featured artist of this extra-sized issue; his smooth but crisp style a caliber of excellence. Colorist Frank Martin, the underdog trooper of the book, is in great form, too. You’ll find a host of familiar faces in Avengers #40 and also witness once more heroes make decisions that will take a toll on relationships in addition to status of moral ground.

Thanks for checking out my awards and check back sometime next month for February’’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics in the dawn of this new year!