jump to navigation

And Sometimes We are the Ones Outnumbered… September 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

GUARENTEED FIGHT IN FOUNTAIN TONIGHT

-Blawrf McTaggart, the broadcast some claim jinxed the whole thing

Black Legion still has a tower set up in Fountain.  We had put it into reinforce and the timer was set to come up last night.  We were going to go and try to finish it off.

Reagalan put up a broadcast about fifteen minutes in advance of the form up time for the fleet, but otherwise it wasn’t really on the calendar or anything, so when Blawrf finally sounded the horn there were already about 40 of us in the YA0-XJ station and in the fleet.  The follow up got another 50 or so people, putting us at 93 total.

Not bad for a week night without much in the way of advance warning.  Enough to cause trouble most days of the week.

The fleet composition had yet to be announced.  Reagalan wanted to take a Hawk fleet out, an experimental doctrine, but was overruled.  Neither were we destined to run out to Fountain in Tengus, which was probably a good thing as my Tengu is still down in F2OY-X.  The call from command said we were to go out as a Baltec fleet because this was serious business, a strat op, and not just some roam.

So we got out our Baltec ships.  I got into my Apocalypse, which had made it back from Delve, and joined everybody out at the staging POS so we could begin the part of every fleet op where we discover we do not have enough boosters or logistics.  I am still ages away from being able to fly a boosting ship and I wanted to get on a kill mail, it has been a slow month so far, so I was reluctant to give that up for logistics.

As it was, we had to escort somebody a couple of jumps to pick up a boosting ship in order to cover him from a hostile gang roaming the area.  We managed to land on them at one point and I was able to lock up and get on a kill mail, helping blot out a tackled interceptor.  I even got top damage.

My need for a kill mail satisfied, I volunteered to swap out for an Oneiros logistics ship.

Oneiros at a Cloud Ring POS

Oneiros at a Cloud Ring POS

Some other people swapped for logi and we ended up with a fleet composition worth taking out at last.  Then it was a quick warp to a titan to bridge us a little ways along before we picked up the well worn trail to Fountain.  The route was posted in fleet for us to free burn to B-DBYQ, the gateway system to Fountain from the north, where we spent so much time last year.  I barely needed to look at the route, as I can fly it by rote at this point.

We burned out way, spreading out along the route, light ships landing at the destination as the battleships slowly followed a few systems back.  Reagalan was trying to get the battleship pilots to hurry up by having them cycle their MWD modules before starting the process to warp to the next point in space.  This is supposed to speed up the transition to warp by bringing the ship up to the 75% of top speed threshold needed to engage.  Wags on coms were pointing out that this was shaving off about a second from the align and warp time, but that the extra second was pretty much being eaten up by the actually having to cycle the MWD.

As we arrived in B-DBYQ over time, Reagalan had us hole up at the POS where the jump bridge was located.  The battleships finally caught up and joined us within the protective shield.

Apocs burning for the POS

Apocs burning for the POS

There we sat for a bit, the force now consolidated again, when Reagalan, without preamble, warped us to the local customs office.  This was unusual as part of the doctrine is to keep everybody aligned so that we will all warp and land together.  As we were all spread out in the POS and facing this way or that, this lead to a long, ragged fleet warp.  I happened to be facing almost exactly 180 degrees from the destination, which meant I was one of the last to warp off, but which also meant I got a pretty good view of the new warp termination effect as the rest of the fleet landed in front of me.  A pity it is so faint and transitory that it is tough to capture effectively in a screen shot.  It looks very nice when you see it happen, but a single frame can’t seem to capture its essence.

Reagalan then had us align back in the direction from which we had just warped.  A we landed back at the jump bridge he told us to take it, which got a collective moan out of the fleet on coms.  Taking the jump bridge would send us in the wrong direction.  That was the way home.  That meant no fight for us.

Reagalan confirmed this.  While we managed to get a fleet of nearly one hundred together, Black Legion had a Tengu fleet up with a reported 150 members in fleet, roughly one third of them logistics.   That last bit is a key factor.

Logistics for sub caps is the new trend (well, new-ish at this point) in why null sec is broken.  Back in the old days, long before my time in null, apparently fights were often blood baths where winner and loser could wander off almost equally mauled.  Everybody got kill mails though, so even the losers in a fight where they were burned down to the last ship would feel that at least they had inflicted some losses on their foes.  They had some tangible effect and the fight was not in vain.  Some of the bad guys… and your foes are always bad guys… had to walk home too.

Now, however, if two fleets of roughly equal size square off, if one has better logistics support not only is it likely to win the engagement, it is likely to do so with minimal losses.  So, in the absence of other ways to win a fight, piling on logistics support has become a thing.  We no longer fly strat ops with just a couple logi ships.  Instead the FC has to chide people into support ships under the threat of standing down if we do not get sufficient numbers in the space priest column.  The same go for boosting ships, though calls for nerfing boosters has been going on for a while now, at least for off-grid boosting.

Anyway, so you can add “nerf logistics” to the “fixing null” sec bingo card along with “nerf jump bridges,” “nerf jump drives,” “nerf supers,” and “fix sovereignty.”  (“Grr Goons” is the center spot and everybody gets that as a freebie.)

The upshot of this was that we faced a formidable foe by the reports that were shared with us.  Spies on both sides mean that we all generally know what we are facing for this sort of timer fight unless somebody is very, very clever.  The Tengu fleet alone seemed very likely to chew us up unless handled badly.  Add in the fact that Black Legion’s allies had assembled an additional fleet of 100+ ships for the fight, and the decision was made not to give the enemy an easy victory by fighting them with the odds in their favor.  We headed back to the staging station in YA0-XJ to stand down.

We got our participation link for showing up.  While Dabigredboat took a bomber fleet down to harass the hostiles at about the same time we headed out, I am sure Black Legion saved their tower.  I am also equally sure that we will soon be headed down to reinforce it yet again, so there will be more timers and more possible fights.

Addendum: And there was a fight there again already.  Oops, sorry about that LAWN.

Nostalgia, Name Wipes, and the Next Expansion in Azeroth September 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
9 comments

Various World of Warcraft topics combined into a single post.

Timeline to Draenor

We are getting there.  There is now less than two months to go until until November 13, when Warlords of Draenor launches. (I’m still wondering if this was all foretold in the hint we got back in January)  And the reality of the situation means that some things have to start happening much sooner.

Well, at least one thing has to happen.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Coming Soon

At some point Blizzard is going to have to drop the 6.0 patch on the game, which will roll up all the Warlords of Draenor changes as they apply to the rest of the world.  The expansion is going to affect you even if you don’t but the expansion right away.  There will be lots of changes.  Some will happy or handy.  I am for anything that gets a few more things out of my bag, so the Toy Box will be welcome.

I am still a bit worried about the stat squish however, mostly because people have been in beta and 6.0.x is up on the public text realm and yet I haven’t seen a story out of WoW Insider with something like one of the following headlines:

  • Stat Squish Apocalypse – No More Solo Raids for You!
  • Stat Squish – Everything is Wonderful!

And I realize that people in the beta are interested in the new content, as opposed to checking to see if their level 90 can still solo Onyxia, but I would be interested to know if it worked out as Blizzard promised before the 6.0 patch drops.

Anyway, given how things have gone in the past, I would expect the 6.0 patch to drop 4-6 weeks before the expansion, so we are probably a month or less away from seeing what 6.0 really brings to the live realms.

Are They Serious About Nostalgia?

One of the big things coming up this November… in addition to the WoD launch and BlizzCon… is the World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary.  That is a pretty big deal, and it seems like Blizzard, after dropping more subscriptions (~5.2 million) than probably the next couple subscription games on the list ever had at their combined peaks, has decided to play the nostalgia card.

That can be a powerful play.  SOE has shown that even half-hearted, doomed to neglect nostalgia plans like their progression servers can get a couple servers worth of players back and paying for the game.  And even if nostalgia wears thin more quickly than you might imagine, because the reality of going back is almost always just a shadow of the past, as neither we nor the game are the same (that whole “everything flows” thing), such events do get people interested in your game.  Handled correctly, the nostalgia card can get some old players back into the game.

I’m just a little nonplussed about what Blizzard has chosen to emphasize.

There is the Molten Core raid.  This is a re-work of the original that you and 39 of your closest level 100 friends can take on for a limited time.  It goes away with the new year.  This one doesn’t grab me for obvious reasons.  I never raided.  I only once peeked into Molten Core.  And, to be honest, I am not sure I can commit to being level 100 by January 6th.

But I have no doubt that this will be a draw for some, at least until the reality… or the deadline… sets in.  Or until the special prizes are secured.

And then there is the Tarren Mill vs. Southshore battleground.  I suppose another battleground isn’t a bad thing.  And at least it will be available for levels 90 and up.  But as for re-creating the chaotic and often lopsided open world battles of the old days, I am not so sure.  Once you level constrain, set up equal teams, and put down clear victory conditions, the spontaneity of the original conflicts kind of melts away.  But I am sure there will be a set of special achievements for the whole thing, which will go away with the turn of the year, so it will no doubt be popular.  But is it nostalgia?

I suppose you could argue that the expansion itself, in returning to Outland and the Iron Horde and the various Orc war chiefs is a nostalgia move in and of itself.  It certainly does get straight back to the heart of the Warcraft franchise.  But the other bits… not sure they are grabbing me.

Of course, I am open to criticism on my WoW nostalgia credentials, as going through the oldest content in the game.. Outland… has driven me to play a lot more Pokemon.

Name Wipes

Yesterday Blizzard announced that they were doing a wipe to free up the pool of available names, and they took an interesting approach to this.

Over the years various publishers have hinted or even said straight up that if you unsubscribe your characters might get deleted.  That turned out to be a bluff in the long term, as those same developers eventually realized that players in a subscription MMO will come and go.  It turns out a decent number of people are like me and don’t like to pay when they are not playing.  $15 a month in isolation is cheap.  $15 a month when you might be interested in half a dozen games or have multiple accounts or have family members playing adds up to real money fast.

And so companies have attempted to tread softly on the whole character deletion thing.

Once in a while somebody will go purge characters that are under a certain level and beyond a certain age.  But for the most part, MMO companies live in hope of our return.

Blizzard won’t be deleting characters.  They want us all to come home to Azeroth at some point and are not too worried about the size of their database.

But they do appear worried about new players being able to pick a name.  Problems in that regard have become a punchline to some jokes.  So they are doing a name purge.

If you have not logged a character in since November 13, 2008, it will have its name wiped when the pending 6.0 patch goes live.  Whenever that is.  But it will be reasonably soon.

I probably have characters on some server somewhere that meet that criteria.  I don’t know how to check, but I suppose I should just log them all on.  Or maybe I won’t, just to see what happens.  I suspect that, should your name get wiped, you’ll just have to pick a new one when logging that character in again.

But I was curious about the date they chose.  Okay, November of 2008 was… the Wrath of the Lich King launch.  But it also happened to be the peak subscription point for non-China WoW players.

MMOG Charts 1 million Subs and above

MMOG Charts 1 million Subs and above

The total WoW subs went on to peak right after Cataclysm, but November 2008 looks like the last big spike in the west, though we lack the data to pin that down.  The fact that Blizzard chose that as the cut off though seems to be a hint that November 2008 is some sort of tipping date, at which point characters no longer being logged in started to add up to significant numbers.

Or maybe somebody in the office said, “If they haven’t logged in for six years, screw ‘em!  Take their name away!”

Why Should I  Watch BlizzCon?

Finally, BlizzCon is coming up (November 7-8), awkwardly shoved in between the 6.0 update and the Warlords of Draenor launch, a position that makes you wonder what they are going to talk about when it comes to Azeroth.

I am not one to say Blizzard shouldn’t have BlizzCon unless they have a big announcement.  I am sure that everybody who goes has a great time.  It is a fan event and that can be enough.

But if Blizzard wants me to spend $40 for the Virtual Ticket so I can watch along from home, I need a bit more enticement than an in-game pet and another StarCraft II forum avatar.

Available Now!

But why?

Last year was totally worth it, as the big Warlords of Draenor announcement was a highlight along with a bunch of good panels going into the gory details.  But now, a year later, with the Warlords of Draenor expansion showing up literally a week after BlizzCon, anything they have to say about that lands between “I’ll see it soon enough” and spoilers.  I’ve already bought the expansion, I’m a sure thing.

So what is in it for me?  Why should I want to watch BlizzCon?  What would tempt me?

I am not big on StarCraft II, their MOBA… well… I cannot even remember what it is called so that should tell you something,… isn’t a draw, and while I would be mildly interested in some Diablo III news, it isn’t that big of a deal.  I could wait for the day after press for any of that.

But there has been a bit of background noise about Blizzard getting itself in gear and not letting the game sit for more than a year without any sort of content again.  It has been a long, hot summer for Blizzard, and they have had to pull out some tricks to support subscription numbers, like insta-90s with pre-orders and “log in soon to get a corgi later” calls.  I am sure they would like to avoid that again and keep us all subscribed for longer stretches going forward.  So I am going to guess that we will hear about one of two things at BlizzCon.

The first option would be an updated and more aggressive post-expansion content schedule.  Basically, with their Mists of Panderia experience behind them, they should have better refined what works and what does not.  Arguing against that is the current state of affairs where it doesn’t sound like there will be a lot of post-expansion raids and such being added.  But that could change.  Maybe they are holding back just to have something to announce.

The second option would be Blizzard totally breaks with tradition and announces the next WoW expansion along with plans to get it out the door in something less than two years this time.  This would be a big win in the whole “sell more boxes and keep people subscribed” column.

Of course, Tom Chilton, who was hinting about content getting out faster, is also on record saying:

By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back.

WoW isn’t in the horror show of ~2005 EverQuest and the confusion of too may expansions to keep track of, but pumping out more expansions isn’t going to reduce that barrier or solve the “I haven’t played since Burning Crusade, what do I need to play now?” questions.  Yeah, I know the answer to that one, and you probably do to, but it likely isn’t obvious to somebody returning cold.

Of course, in that same article he also says that the insta-90 thing solves the barrier problem.  So does that mean we’re going to get a new flavor of insta-levels with each expansion?  Because I am not sure Blizzard is ready to do a WoW expansion with no increase in the level cap yet.

And there is a third option for BlizzCon, which is just the status quo.  We’ll get a few hints but there will be no WoW news for another year, until another BlizzCon rolls around, while Blizzard plays on our hopes of something new to get us to grab the Virtual Ticket this year.

So, aside from an all new property, what would make watching BlizzCon worthwhile?

 

Wrapping Up and Summing Up Pokemon White Version 2 September 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
Tags: ,
3 comments

I made it to through the final four and defeated Iris, the Unova champion, the evening after my last Pokemon post.

Iris awaits

Chamber of the final battle

It was pretty much inevitable that I would win sooner rather than.  I had already made it through the final four to Iris on my second attempt.  It was just a matter of tuning up my team a bit.

I used some of the stat increasing items I picked up along the way on my team, and bought a few more at the department store on Route 9.  I trained LazTel my Azurmarill the Ice Beam move, which was a key weakness in Iris’ lineup.  I used a few PP Ups to increase the number of times I could use key moves.  As an example my only grass attack, Giga Drain on Wibla my Verizion, only had five uses, which was not enough.  And I tossed out a couple Rare Candy level ups and made sure everybody was holding an item that would boost key aspects of their abilities.

All that, plus knowing now which abilities to use against which opponents meant that the run was pretty smooth.  My victory was not in doubt.

My winning team

My winning team

I still need to work out the best way to take pictures, but I think I am getting a little bit better.  There, from the 6 o’clock position, moving clockwise, are:

And there we are.  The last great battle, the main story arc is over, and roll the credits.

That last item is literal, when you finally defeat the regional champion, the game saves and then shows you the credits.  It is one of the conventions of the series.

Of course, the game is not done yet.  Not by a long shot.  Technically, you are not even done with the story yet.  There are still remnants of Team Plasma to encounter, some more key battles to fight, half a dozen key locations to visit, and legendary Pokemon to catch.  In regards to that last, Pokemon White Version 2 was a bit stingy compared to its immediate predecessor, which let you catch one of the legendary Pokemon before the championship battle.

This is generally where the official guide book for a given Pokemon game tends to become very useful to me, as a lot of the end game stuff can be… obscure, for lack of a better word.

I know with enough patience I could figure a lot of it out.  12 year old me would have had no problem, current me is no longer motivated enough for that sort of thing.  For example, in Pokemon X & Y, one of the legendary Pokemon you can catch post-story is Moltres, who has been around since the original games.  You run into him pretty readily if you are stomping around in the tall grass where Pokemon show up.  However, he flees immediately upon entering battle, so you cannot catch him.  The “figuring it out” bit is that you have to encounter and lose him eleven times… and you can only find him once per day… before you can go to a specific spot for a chance to catch him. (And I only get Moltres because I chose Froakie as my starter Pokemon.  It is convoluted, but that is part of the appeal of the series.)

I did not buy the official guide this time around, but the internet knows all.  You can find guides in plain text, HTML, pictures, and even in video format.  I just can’t sit over on the couch or in bed, away from my computer with the game in my hand and the book at my side, which is one of the aspects of the handheld console gaming I enjoy.  Well, I can with the iPad in tow I guess, but I find web navigation much more efficient with a keyboard and mouse.

The upshot of this is that there is still a pile of Pokemon in the game to be caught.

And then there is the moving of Pokemon from the older DS generation games into Pokemon White Version 2 so I can use the Poke Transporter to send various Pokemon on a one-way trip to Pokemon Bank, where the 3DS generation Pokemon games will be able to access them.

Pokemon Bank - $5.00 a year

Pokemon Bank – a deal at $5.00 a year

Getting the Pokemon out of Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, or SoulSilver is a process that requires two Nintendo DS consoles. (Not a problem in our house, where we have five)  You download a special game from the DS running one of the Pokemon Black and White series, pick six Pokemon you want to move over (usual restrictions apply, no Pokemon with hidden moves… never train hidden moves on your legendary Pokemon…), and then play a little game where you have to catch your chosen Pokemon before they will be moved over… because nothing is ever easy.

Aim and catch

Aim and catch

This involves shooting Pokeballs at the Pokemon who are hopping around the screen or hiding behind bushes.  There is a timer, and anything you don’t catch goes back, though you can load them up and try again.  It seemed like it might be a chore at first, especially since the more rare Pokemon seem to move a lot faster.  However, since I have never failed to catch all six in half the time allocated, it is probably okay.  And you can do it as many times a day as you like, unlike the .  Now I just have to figure out which Pokemon I really want to move over and where they are.

So Pokemon still to catch and Pokemon to move.

Along the way I think I also figured out why the DS generation Pokemon games are in short supply, with unopened copies selling for a premium most places.  One of the things that Nintendo did as part of the changing of hardware generations was turn off all of the back end services for those games back in May.  There is no Global Trade Station or other online content available for them any more.  If you try to access anything like that… and by the time they got to Pokemon Black & White Version 2 there were quite a few features that required back end support… you just get an error indicating that the service is no longer available.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, all of those online features are heavily advertised on the various retail boxes and the sites dedicated to the various titles.  So I suspect Nintendo decided to cut whatever liability it feels it might have in no longer supporting those online features by no longer shipping any of those titles.  That Amazon is blowing out their back stock of Pokemon White Version 2 hints, at least to me, that Nintendo might have future plans for those titles.  We shall see I suppose.  But if you want a new, in box copy of one of the other DS generation Pokemon games, be prepared to pay a premium.

Finally, I returned to Pokemon Y to pull some Pokemon over from the Poke Transporter app, which led to some odd moments.

I said a while back that the new rendered graphics style of Pokemon X & Y felt pretty natural when I picked up the game.  Then I went back to finish up Pokemon White and then Pokemon White Version 2, which involved a few weeks of binge playing.  That transition wasn’t too bad either.  I quickly got used to the sprite based graphics again.  Visual closure is a wonderful thing and their overly blocky look on the bigger XL screen soon seemed quite natural.

Then, after all of that, I went back to Pokemon Y and it really felt strange.  I think the most noticeable difference is that it just doesn’t feel like you see as much of the world around you as you do in the earlier games.  That and your character and everything else is so much bigger on screen.  It was a little disorienting upon my return.

However, after about 20 minutes my brain settled down and accepted the game as it was and I got back into that groove.

Now it is just the clean up and catching and breeding and such prep work while we wait around for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire to come out this November.  My daughter and I have already turned in our coin jar for an Amazon gift card and pre-ordered the titles.  We’ll just need to find time to play them.  November is going to be a busy month for releases.

Extra Credits – Free to Play Is Currently Broken September 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Gaming Industry Trends, MMO Design.
Tags: , ,
7 comments

Not really about MMOs, but certainly could be applicable in some cases, as it takes on the whole “whales” concept in free to play.

(Direct Link)

This goes well with their episode Doing Free to Play Wrong.

Eight Years of Link Rot September 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, entertainment.
Tags: , , , ,
18 comments

Years ago, back when the when we thought the World Wide Web was new and cool and we actually called it the World Wide Web and you had to have “www” in front of a web address because otherwise somebody might think you wanted Gopher access to their site for Christ’s sake, back then I read an interview with Douglas Engelbart.  Or maybe it was somebody else.  It could have been Ted Nelson.  Or maybe it was a dream.  I have learned that memory is unreliable which is why, in part, I write this blog.  Anyway, Douglas Engelbart is the guy who invented or bundled together the idea of just about everything you take for granted in computing today, only those ideas never quite came across as envisioned.  Basically, we messed it all up along the way.  It is what we do best.

And in this interview, some young reporter, gushing to be interviewing the person who came up with the very idea of Hypertext, asked him if this whole shiny new World Wide Web thing was the wonderful rainbow-streaked living embodiment of all he had foreseen.  Wasn’t this just what he beheld all those years back when he was given a nearly divine vision of the future?

And the response, from whoever it was… and I am paraphrasing here, because I cannot remember his actual withering retort… was approximately “Jesus Fuck No!”

And his objection didn’t even reference GeoCities.

No, he was pissed off that he had envisioned a vast interlinking of information systems that would allow the user to find all he needed smoothly and seamlessly, and what we had created was a mess of hand typed static URIs that would fail to connect the moment something in the path moved or changed.  We had taken his vision of Hypertext and created from it a living hell of link rot.  I don’t think he used the actual term “link rot,” though he might have.

And this was, as I said, during an earlier era of the web, before link rot was a really big deal.  Visionary that he was, he foresaw this as he foresaw so much else.  He could see the linkpocalypse coming.  Actually, it probably was Ted Nelson.  He literally hates HTML.  But it doesn’t matter, we’re still screwed, having been left with this sort of thing now.

The World Wide Web, as it turns out, is a place where we mostly used to be able to find stuff, but it keeps disappearing.  Often, the happiest result is getting the dread 404 errors, which have become common enough that we have taken to making them cute or pretty or different, so as to make the failure of one link or another more pleasant.

The EVE Online 404 error page

The EVE Online 404 error page

And 404 is good compared to the alternatives.  You are just as likely to get somebody cybersquatting on a URL with ads and malware.  This seems to be the common end for self-hosted blogs.  People stop updating, then stop paying the bill, and then the domain expires and the next day there is a spam page sitting there dispensing shit where once there was something of value.

Some days I hate the internet.

If it were not for the Internet Archive I am sure I would think myself crazy, remembering so many virtual things that have, for one reason or another, shed even their virtual existence and disappeared.

Basically, I am eight years down the road on the whole blogging thing today, and I can really see how annoying the whole link rot thing can be.  I can channel Engelbart’s rage… or whoever that was in the interview I cannot find… because internet.

I go back and look at old posts at least once a month, thanks to my month in review posts, and I end up running into more and more old posts with dead links.  I have always frowned upon posts with supporting arguments available only as links (the awful “go read this and come back” posts), but I am becoming more convinced that I need to quote as much as possible in blog posts, so as to make each post as self-contained as possible, that it might make sense five years down the road when the link to the source material has gone bad.  But I cannot copy things wholesale, as I do not want to steal the works of others.  So there is this middle ground of trying to include enough to support what I am saying, knowing whatever links I include may go away (as an example, SOE has a habit of just changing their web site hierarchy every two years because “fuck the web” I guess, so the data is generally still there, it just has a different URI), without actually stealing the works of other and actually encouraging people to visit other sites.  Community, yo.

All of which is something of an odd intro into my 8 year anniversary post (trivia: Blog created at 17:04 UTC on September 12, 2006), but here we are, eight years in and I am feeling the pain of being on the internet.  For those with more free time than sense, you can go back and look at past anniversary blog posts to see how I have held up over the years.

I had originally thought of going with Self-Portrait at Eight Years Old Wearing a Helm with Giant Horns as a post title, but I thought maybe I might be getting into references too obscure for mere mortals.  Plus I couldn’t come up with an decent image to go with that title, while images of 404 messages are legion.

Anyway, it is at this point I start trotting out various and sundry statistics and other bits of trivia, with some sort of forward looking message at the end.  If you are interested in that sort of thing, you will find it after the cut.  If not, well… there are plenty of happy destinations in the side bar.  And most of those links are still good!

(more…)

The Pokemon Binge Continues in Unova September 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
Tags: , ,
6 comments

Avoidance is a wonderful thing.  You can accomplish so much when you are trying to avoid doing what you are actually supposed to be doing.

I am not ready to admit defeat on my run for the Loremaster achievement, but I must admit that my current focus on the little Nintendo 3DS XL screen is related to my reluctance to face another round of questing in The Blade’s Edge Mountains.  Outland has worn me down some.  So, while I did log in to run through Darkmoon Faire, most of my gaming time lately has been spent in New Eden or the Unova region.

The Unova region is the setting for both Pokemon Black and White as well as Pokemon Black and White Version 2…. the latter I maintain are, if not the least creative game names ever in the Pokemon series, at least the most awkward.

I followed up on last week’s Pokemon post and used an Amazon gift card I had sitting around to pick up Pokemon White Version 2 which, as I mentioned, was much more reasonably priced than Pokemon Black Version 2.

Amazon Pricing Differential

Amazon Pricing Differential

In fact, looking quickly online, it seems like all of the DS series Pokemon games… except Pokemon White Version 2, are selling for well over original list price.  That seems odd.  Back when the Nintendo DS Lite was king, and had that Game Boy Advance cartridge slot in the front, all of the GBA versions of Pokemon games remained available in health supply at pretty much suggested retail price.  It actually sort of irked me that they weren’t marked down a bit back then.  That was last generation stuff!  But at least nobody was suggesting I pay a premium for them.

Now, however, the last generation stuff… which, as before, still works in the current 3DS hardware just fine… seems to be in short supply.  I am not sure what this means.  I haven’t walked by a GameStop to see what is on the shelves, but when everybody online is selling well over list price, it raises questions. Is Nintendo converting them all to sell directly in the Nintendo Store?  Is something else afoot?

Anyway, that is an investigation for another time (though if you know the answer, clue me in via the comments please!), I am here to talk about actually playing Pokemon.  Joy!

I got the game and started off.  As with its predecessor, it starts off with a rather direct and somewhat abbreviated introduction to the game.  That isn’t bad, but clearly somebody missed the slower unfolding of your own story, as they went back to that for Pokemon X & Y.   You start with your own name.  For me that is always Wilhelm.  And then you are asked to name the person who essentially becomes your rival in the game.  The default name is Hugh, but I always give it a more interesting name.

This time, because I happened to have just gotten done with a fleet op, I went with an EVE Online theme.  Actually, more of a CFC theme.

I named my rival Mittani.

More after the cut because of excess verbiage.

(more…)

The Notch Timeline September 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Facebook.
Tags: , ,
7 comments

Remember when Facebook announced they were buying Occulus Rift back in March?

Well, the outrage or discomfort or whatever passed with time it seems.

I am sure getting over that event had nothing to do with the current rumor that Notch is selling out to Microsoft for something like two billion dollars, something that surely must have been in play for at least a month now.  Mojang may soon be taking orders from Redmond.

Powered by Microsoft

Powered by Microsoft

This is why I mark these sorts of moment in time.  It is interesting to see how things change.  I am going to bet he is over his problems with Windows 8 as well.

I am not particularly concerned one way or another about Notch cashing out.  Big companies tend to destroy the little companies they buy more often than not, and that fate for Mojang wouldn’t make me happy.  And I am sure a legion of his fans are pissed, but they were pissed about his EULA already, calling him literally worse than EA at one point.  But it is his company, if he wants to cash out, he should go for it.  He can buy himself a whole bunch of new socks with that pile of dough.

I am mostly interested to see that his attitude seemed to soften a bit as a dump truck of money loomed in his direction.

Addendum: And Notch sells it all for 2.5 Billion.  Here is his statement, where he says it is not about the money but about his sanity… though I am betting the money helped a lot.

Quote of the Day – In Which 25 Million Equals Nothing September 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo.
Tags: , ,
3 comments

25 million people play Call of Duty monthly, but that pales in comparison to 2.5 billion people on the Internet. That’s 1 percent of the Internet, that’s nothing.

Michael Pachter, at Cloud Gaming USA

That is one of those quotes that boggles the mind as it lets so much slip by, to the point of being meaningless.  What percentage of that 2.5 billion plays video games, has hardware capable of playing something like Call of Duty, has an internet connection capable of playing the game, can afford the game, and can actually buy the game in their local market?  What should Activision have done differently?  What should their target audience have been?

And the irony here is that just a few paragraphs down the line he takes gaming companies to task for embracing the free to play model, which is all about increasing market penetration. Free-to-play should go away he says (and I have some bad news for him about his ad revenue idea) and the game companies are stupid for taking less than they should get.  And then further along he projecting 4 billion people playing games in the very near future.  Will they be on the internet?  How does it relate to that 2.5 billion number?  It is a mishmash, though that could be as much the reporting as the presentation itself.

Of course, Michael Pachter is an analyst, and the analyst’s bread and butter is in making outlandish, unsupported, attention getting statements like that.  All the better to get you to pay them for their deep insight.  You don’t get speaking gigs by being dull.  As Apple’s iPhone announcement today was nothing but an ad for Apple, this presentation was mostly an ad for Michael Pachter, and nobody should have expected otherwise.

Not that he is completely off base on things.  He frets about the future of consoles in the face of dropping physical game sales and the expanding smart phone market as well as where Nintendo will end up.

He really focuses on Nintendo.

But even I can see that Nintendo is especially vulnerable as its corporate culture is still tied up with the idea of them being a hardware company, while their real assets are in their software.  I like my Nintendo 3DS XL very much.  It is a fine piece of hardware.  But I bought it solely to play Pokemon.

Without Pokemon the 3DS XL is just like the Wii U, an interesting piece of hardware I don’t really need in a world where the iPhone and other such devices loom.  Nintendo’s goals may be in line with Corless, the Team Plasma Boss from Pokemon Black 2 & White 2.

Can't stay proprietary with that goal...

Can’t stay proprietary with that goal…

But they are not going to get there with the mindset of the 90s, where the software was there to sell hardware.

Anyway, the article that the quote came from at the top of the post has enough fodder for a dozen blog posts.  I can’t even get started on how much it irks when somebody stands up and speaks of “the cloud” that will solve all problems.  Put something in the mythical “cloud” and be prepared to do without it unless you control it.  Or, put another way:

But like Oscar the Grouch, I am often happiest railing against something like this.  Pachter is many things, but he isn’t boring.  I look forward to many more pronouncements.

Cleaning Up the Neighborhood Back in Deklein September 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

The return to Deklein seems to have been accomplished for most people over the weekend.  Somewhere I missed the broadcast about there being a channel set up for people looking to get ships brought north via excess hangar space in carriers.  By last night the channel was deserted, leading me to the conclusion that most people were done with their move.

I got on last night and clone jumped back up to Deklein to examine my own carrier, and Archon that has sat docked up for nearly two years since I bought it and made the one jump from where I purchased it to the system I generally think of as home in null sec.

Archon in 0P-F3K

Hangar Queen

As it turns out, I hadn’t even finished fitting it.  Of course, I managed to slap on the rigs, so I can’t just repackage it and bring it back to the store with a gift receipt… or just sell the hull on the market.  So the choices are to finish fitting it and sell it, finish fitting it and actually put some effort into using it, or let things roll as they are.  I don’t actually need the ISK invested in the hull for now, so there is no sense of urgency.  It is just something else gathering dust in a hangar, like those Drakes I have, waiting for a trigger event to get them into action.

Get thee behind me, Satan!

Anyway, the “let it roll” option was chosen because as I was staring at the half fit Archon, a fleet op came up over Jabber.  I was already online, I had the time, and I was avoiding making a decision, so it seemed like the optimum time to roll out.

The call was for a Baltec Fleet, with Lyris Nairn in the FC position.  The good news was that I had already gotten my Apocalypse up north over the weekend in the one convoy I managed to find.  The bad news was that I was in the wrong clone and I had just clone jumped.

First world space problems.

Jump clones are nifty and let you pre-position yourself around space so you can appear in a specific region without all that mucking about in space.  You have to have a ship waiting for you at the far end of your jump, otherwise it is just you and your pod, and there is a 24 hour cool down on jumps, which can be reduced to 19 hours by training one of those new skills… Xenomorph Info Compulsive Behavior of some such… up to level 5.  I went for level 4, which gives me a 20 hour cool down.

The thing is, ships are not the only thing that are independent of your clone jump.  Implants are also independent of your clone.  Implants are the skill and attribute enhancements that you can plug into your brain.  They stick with the clone you plugged them into, which up until now, hasn’t been an issue.  I have a clone in high sec with +5 attribute implants, so when I am going to be offline for a few days, I jump back there to speed up any training in progress.  Otherwise I have just been a line member sub cap pilot with no need for implants.  I have a set of cheap +3 implants in a clone I sometimes use when I am ratting, just to keep skills sped up a bit, but most of my clones are implant free.

Or they were.

When they introduced the Apocalypse to Baltec fleet, I was keen to fly it because… well… I wanted to play with pretty lasers.  I am always the guy at structure shoots now with multiple colors shooting forth.  I am easily amused.

However the fit for the Baltec Apoc was very tight, such that you need the EG-603 implant, which boosts your power grid 3%, in order to fly it and shoot all eight lasers.  And the implant itself runs 20 million ISK.  While I’m not poor, I intend to stay that way in part by not buying things I don’t need.  So I have an Apoc clone parked at our new staging system in Deklein.  I was not in that clone and I had a good 19 hours left until I could jump to it.

Instead I was sitting in my ratting clone.

Well, not a huge hairy deal.  I could fly logistics.  As it happened I even had an Oneiros sitting in the station with me ready to go.  But it did make me thing about this whole fleet booster training plan I have been working on.  That too depends on implants and having the right set for the right booster role for the right fleet.  I suspect that unless I go “all boosting all the time” I am going to end up in the wrong clone often enough to be annoying.

Problems for another day.

So I strapped on the Oneiros and flew on out to the staging station while listening to voice coms.  Somebody there was asking about convoys and getting their ships back up from Delve, which is where I first heard about the channel dedicated to finding space on carriers moving north.  At least I wasn’t alone in that.  I don’t mind being lost, unless I am the only one who is lost.  Misery loves company or some such.

Our mission for the night was to go reinforce a couple of towers in 5ZXX-K in Pure Blind, which is literally one titan bridge away from the staging system.  5ZXX-K is an NPC null sec system held by Mordu’s Legion (which has a nifty looking station) which is also home to the role-playing Mordus Angels.  They are also bitter foes of the CFC, having been a part of the coalition and then purged at some point before my time.  They are also pretty much in the middle of the southern flank of CFC space in the north.

Surrounded by CFC systems

Surrounded by CFC systems

While we were down in Delve they had something of a breather to put up towers and otherwise run around and make trouble.  They are the current favorites of Gevlon, who is soliciting donations to support their war against the CFC.  So our content for the night was sponsored by Gevlon.

We were headed down to 5ZXX-K in order to put a couple of towers into reinforce.  Since this would likely be a no kill mail tower shoot, logistics would be an easy enough role for the evening.  I would just have to orbit the logistics anchor, put reps on anybody who happened to get targeted by the POS guns, and take screen shots.  It seemed unlikely that Mordus Angels would come out to play.  We had over a hundred ships in Baltec fleet to cover the dreadnoughts jumping in to do the heavy lifting.  So we scooted around as the dreads showed up and quickly reinforced the tower.

First tower timer set...

First tower timer set…

Now we get into tower timers.  The actual tower kill comes when the timer runs down.  But being 1 day and 17 hours in the future, it will likely happen while I am still at the office, so it will fall to our Euro time zone brethren to blow it up and get the kill mail.

After that the dreads headed home while we sat covering them.  Then we were off to our next task, which was another tower in the same system.  However, it was a small tower and was thus deemed not worth dragging dreads out to put it in reinforce, so that was left to us.

The guns at the small tower were a bit more active.  For some reason they all decided to concentrate on a single Celestis cruiser in our fleet.  It flew too close to the shields or some such, but it was the most active moment of the evening as we actually had to be on the ball with reps to keep that poor ship alive.

Celestis taking fire and reps

Celestis taking fire and reps

The guns later switched to focus on various ships, so we kept moving our reps around to keep everybody safe.  I don’t know why the guns were more effective here.  A pilot with the right skills (I have them trained, but have never used them) can take over the POS guns and target them, which makes them much more effective, but there did not seem to be anybody in the POS doing so.  The AI was just having a good night.  So we had to keep the reps going.

The Logistics Ballet

The Logistics Ballet

We put the tower into reinforce… another one for the Euro TZ… as well as the warp disruption batteries to keep anybody scouting out the status safe.  Then it was time to go.  Lyris had even arranged a ride home for us just a couple systems over, so there was no need to take gates back to the jump bridge network.  We met up with our titan and got everybody collected as this was going to be one of those “make the first bridge or walk” events.  We had one straggler, a lone Apoc that somehow got hung up on something back in 5ZXX-K.  We waited for him then bridged home.  Mission accomplished.

We never did run into Mordus Angels, or their partners in the war on Goons, Triumvirate.  The report was that they couldn’t muster enough to take us on, so they went out to hunt ratters and ended up getting suckers by a bait carrier laid out for them.  Back in April, when Black Legion was working with them, we would get a fight now and again.  But with tower bashing fleets roaming the region and the US TZ based Freedom Squad group from the CFC camping them in their station to keep them from being able to go after ratters at will, it is looking like quiet structure shoots might be on the agenda for a while.

And since I had lots of free time spinning around the anchor, I have the usual allotment of screen shots after the cut.

(more…)

Leaving a Pile of Stuff Behind in Delve… September 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: ,
4 comments

Another Summer in Delves comes to an end.  The word came down on Friday that our deployment to Delve would be closing down and that there would be many… that was the term used… convoys heading back to Deklein so we could get various ships safely home to our new staging system.

Having piled up a number of ships, as I tend to on these deployments, I was looking to get a few of the more expensive ones home.  So I was keen to into one of these “many” convoys.  I made sure I had installed a jump clone down in F2OY-X so I could hop back and be ready to bring up the next ship after the first convoy.  I had a couple ships picked out to drive back up to Deklein.  All I needed was convoys to commence.

The first one came up Friday evening.  It was specifically called to get Tengu fleet ships back up north due to an op set to roll about an hour later.  However, we could only get about 20 ships in the fleet.  That turned out to be insufficient mass to gets us cleared to move out, so we stood down.  Due to other operations going on, no further convoys were called that night.

Saturday morning I managed to catch another call for a convoy op headed north.  I jumped into my Apocalypse this time, it being the most annoying of my vessels to get back to Deklein, shoveled any excess items from my hanger into the cargo hold, and joined the fleet.  This was about at the time when TNT was losing its match in the Alliance Tournament.  We managed to get about 35 people in the fleet, which was just enough to be cleared to head out.  And so a pack of battleships set off.

Getting aligned northward...

Getting aligned northward…

This ran like most convoys… actually, with so few people, it ran better than most… and we slowly moved from jump bridge to jump bridge through null sec, from about 7 to approximately 1 o’clock on the dial.  There was a point in Fountain where our scout spotted a 40+ fleet from the Battlement Coalition in our path.  That was enough to be a concern, as a convoy fleet is generally not fit to fight on equal terms, being a pretty random selection of ships, and depends on numbers to keep hostiles away.   An outnumbered convoy needs to be wary.

The hostiles were in a system where one of our jump bridges is anchored, so going around meant a long diversion off of our way.  But as we waited to see what they were up to, they left, missing out on a juicy target and never to be heard from again during the op.  We moved onward through Fountain, Cloud Ring, Pure Blind, and into Deklein.

The distinctive colors of the northwest

The distinctive colors of the northwest

A couple of jumps from our destination we were cleared to free burn to the staging systems.  A participation link was provided and the op was over.  I docked up, left my ship, a clone jumped right back down to F2OY-X in hopes of catching another convoy north.

However, no further convoys were announced while I was online on Saturday… or on Sunday.  And since I was logged into Jabber for most waking hours over the weekend, I am going to guess that it wasn’t just bad timing on my part.

The FC on the first convoy op, which stood down, speculated that with the push to get people into capital ships in the CFC, carriers were becoming pretty common.  And if you have a carrier deployed… and we had quite a pile… it is pretty easy just to shove a few sub caps into the hanger bay… yours or your friends… and hop home with the rest of the capital fleet.

Not being part of the capital fleet, and with most of the people I consider close enough friends that I would start asking for favors not playing EVE Online right now, I am somewhat dependent on the whole convoy thing to get bigger ships home safely.

I do own a carrier.  I bought it nearly two years back and then never really used it.  I am stuck in a chicken and egg thing on that front.  I am not confident enough in my ability to use it to sign up for capital fleets.  I literally have no clue as what to do, and while everybody is happy enough to answer questions in a frigate fleet, the more expensive the ships get the less tolerant of questions people get, or such is my observation.  And while I don’t mind being the idiot in fleet once in a while, when it starts putting people’s expensive toys at risk, I get really nervous.   But I cannot get any experience without joining up.

So, while theoretically I could fly my carrier down to Delve, pick up some ships and fly in back, the reality is that I lack the confidence to put my Archon at risk for a set of ships that cost significantly less than the carrier itself.  Meanwhile, over at DOTLAN, the route down and back they suggest is five jumps either way.

There and back...

Potentially there and back…

That means getting somebody in each of those systems with a cyno as a jump target for the Archon and being at risk for at least four of the five jumps.  Add in the fact that our alliance leader hates when people lose carriers in anything but strat ops, so a round of public humiliation and a quarter billion ISK fine are part of the bargain if I screw up, and I am seriously considering just selling the Archon.  I am just not invested enough in the game right now to want the complications it brings.

Meanwhile, I’ll just leave a jump clone and a collection of ships down in Delve.  It’s not like we won’t be back.