Minecraft Rail Plans

Quite a while back I had a post about my Great Northern Road project on our Minecraft server.  I wanted to lay down a horse compatible path… meaning any tunnel had to be at least two blocks wide and three blocks tall… from our populated area around the spawn point for our world up to the Mesa biome that had been discovered quite a ways north of us.

The whole thing involved digging tunnels, burning forests, leveling terrain, and building three bridges to cross some wide stretches of water along the way.

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

They “why” of it all can only be answered with “because,” as we already had a nether portal up in the Mesa biome which provided a considerably shorter path for those wanting to collect hardened clay of various colors for construction projects.  The “why” of Minecraft itself only has the answer “because” when it comes down to it.

Having built it, I decided to create some attractions along the road.  One of them developed into a base that I started living out of most of the time, with a town nearby.  Of course, traveling up and down the road to build things became a chore, so I started laying rails.  Then I linked those rails up to my base at the southern end of the road.  With that done, I started pushing the rails north to the Mesa biome.

That ended up being quite a stretch of rails, which used up a lot of my stored up iron.  Of all the things we have automated, iron collection turns out to be the one I use the least and is the one I need the most.  I have gold in excess, enough redstone to build a castle out of redstone blocks, and I use diamond tools to avoid wasting iron.  Still, I had enough to finish that and then start building south.

Riding the rails on one of my bridges

Riding the rails on one of my bridges

South was a bit easier.  I put up a rail line from my base at the south end of the road to hook up to my previous base.  That base already had a rail line that ran out to the spawn point, so I was able to hook those up.  And, at the south side of the spawn point was another rail line that ran down to Skronk and Enaldi’s Firenze, which I also hooked into the line.

Once complete, you could get in a minecart at the Mesa biome terminus…

Mesa biome

Mesa biome

…travel south down the line past my then current base…

Where I build up my supplies

Where I build up my supplies

…down the line past Aaron and Xydd’s bases…

You can see Aaron's charged creeper grid...

You can see Aaron’s charged creeper grid

…past the spawn point and down south through Skronkholm and into the station under Firenze.

Firenze continues to grow

Firenze continues to grow

The run ended up being just about 10km in game and takes a full day/night cycle to complete.

In order to accommodate travel between points along the line, I decided I needed to build stations along the way.  I looked into a few different designs, but opted for simplicity.  If somebody wants a more complicated station at their stop, they can build it.  Mine just stops the minecart at each point and sends you on your way with the push of a button.

Simple station

Simple station

I also put an override switch on most of the stations so that they could be flagged to simply pass people through.  That became useful when moving between distant stations regularly.

So there we had it, the Great Northern Road turned into the Great Northern Railroad.  I finished that up a couple of months back, at which point I was out of iron and most other supplies and ready for a bit of a break.  I meant to do a post about it back then, but never quite got around to it.

I didn’t stop playing Minecraft, but I spent a while pottering around, improving things, building small things, and moving the server to a new host.

As an aside, for general performance, Minecraft Realms has been a big improvement over MC Pro Hosting.  The downside is lack of ability to tweak some server settings I was able to previously and the idle timeout, which means no more over night automated harvesting for some of us.

As I did that, I also started building up my supplies again, especially iron.

Even with automation, I still mine a lot in Minecraft.  There is a certain peacefulness to it, a regularity in driving a shaft down to level 12, setting up a central open area, and then mining off of it at every third block, and digging to see what you will find.  I can do that and listen to podcasts or audio books and relax.

As my iron supplies built up again, I started building more track.  I also started seeking out abandoned mine shafts underground to strip them of all the track they contained.  I had found quite a few of them previously, but now went back to strip them bare.  I decided that I was not yet done with my rail project.

I had noticed on the map… as I mentioned in a previous post, I occasionally create a map of our world using a utility called Minecraft Overviewer, which takes the world data and renders it into Google Maps format… that on the western side of our explored world there were a few nether portals hanging about on their own.  They were left over from some early explorations done by Xydd, where he would go to some point in the nether and build a portal just to see where it came up.

I decided that those portals would be good anchor points for an expansion of the rail line.  I wanted to bring the line around through the unsettled and largely unexplored western reaches of the map and then turn right at some point and link back up at the Mesa biome to create a large loop.  So I moved a bunch of supplies to Firenze and started building a roadbed and laying track west from there.

Supply is probably the biggest challenge.  Inventory management comes into play, as it always does, in that you can only carry so much stuff with you.  That means you either have to go back to your supply depot when you run out or setup a new base and start building up supplies there.  The further you get from your current supply base, the more time you spend moving back and forth between that base and where you are working.

This is exacerbated by day night cycle, which can seem both cruelly short and extremely long depending on what you are up to.  With the Minecraft 1.9 combat changes, it has become much more difficult for me to deal with the spawns at night, in part because you can no longer just swing wildly and chop all those zombies and skeletons to pieces and also because the spawn rates at night seem to have been notched up noticeably.  Creepers especially seem to boom in abundance now and have blown up a lot of my track.

While finally getting the infinity arrow enchant on a bow has been a boon… I spent a lot of time trying for that… because I can hand back and murder stuff at range, I still have to get to shelter at night to sleep and start the day fresh.  The distance between the work site at the supply base makes that take up time.  And even if I build little overnight shelters, I still end up having to travel back and forth for more supplies.  So, even if I had infinite resources, there is a bunch of work to be done.

And I did not have infinite resources.  And it isn’t just rail I run out of in the field.  If I have to bridge some gap I need cobblestone.  It my tools wear out I need fresh ones… or I need to go back and repair the ones I have.  I need torches to light the way.  And I need food.  A stack of 64 baked potatoes seems like it should last a long time, and then you get caught out at night and have to fight, then eat to keep your healing up, and then fight some more.

So at some point I get far enough down the line that I have to build a base with all the amenities.  In my quest to finish the western run of the rail line, I am on my third base.

The world map currently

The world map currently

As with most of the screen shots in this post, this one is from Minecraft Overviewer, though zoomed out to give a sense of where the rail line has run so far.  You probably need to click on it and view it full size to be able to see any of the detail.

Mesa to Firenze was the original 10km rail line.  Supply Base A was chosen because of its proximity to one of Xydd’s portals.

Supply Base A

Supply Base A

I built a mine there, sent up a bit of farming, got an auto-furnace setup to smelt, and put in a bunch of chests to hold things.  That base didn’t end up too big because it wasn’t all that far from Firenze and I was still pretty flush with supplies when I got there.  I barely mined at all, though I did find two abandoned mines in the area, which helped build up my track supply.

Supply Base B ended up being more complete.  By the time I got there I was having supply problems, not to mention being far from home.  It was also the location of another Xydd nether portal, but not one he had built a road to in the nether, so I had to mine some to get some cobblestone in order to pave a path down in the nether so I could find my way there and back if I needed to.

At this point supplies were dwindling, but both Aaron and Skronk donated to the cause and I was able to drive north to what is my current supply base.  Supply Base C is where I have sat for over a week now.

Supply Base C

Supply Base C

I stopped here because it was a town, so there was already shelter and a food supply.  I used some of my cobblestone stockpile to wall it off, built a mine, and started hording supplies.

I also went down to the nether, to our transport hub in the roof of the nether, and dug a tunnel from there to a point where I could build a portal that would come up in the town.  I miscalculated by a bit and the portal ended up on the roof of the town well.  At least it wasn’t deep under ground I suppose.

One of the advantages of this town was that a whole family of horses had spawned in the area, so I was able to tame one to use for exploration.  And I needed to explore, because the other reason I stopped here was I was beginning to reach the point where I couldn’t just head north.  I have to find a path to route the rail line to get back to the Mesa biome.

So that is where I sit, at the far end of a long rail line, scouting for a way forward and building up my supplies for my push to close the circle.

I will say that without rendered maps of the world, this would be a lot more difficult.  I could plot a route with the F3 option open so I could see coordinates to note down a possible path, but it is a lot easier to head out and explore for a while, then download the world, render it, and see what the lay of the land really is.

It just takes a bit to do that some time.  Our world is now over 1GB in size in its raw form, it takes about 45 minutes to render, and the output is about 12GB in size.

Industrial Revolution

Yesterday afternoon The Mittani held another of his fireside chats which, along with The Meta show on Saturday’s, is part of his weekly one-two propaganda punch.  Both are streamed live on Twitch and our foes log in to watch and rage in chat.  It seems to make them angry.

Among the announcements during the chat (which you can replay here) were some new doctrine fits for entosis work.  They were the Cysknife, the FiestaCat, the Clownshoe, and the Max Tank Maller… the latter seeming to indicate that somebody ran out of cute names.

Of those, the Clownshoe was going to go directly into service after the chat, with a limited number of free ships being handed out by Jay Amazingness for this first official fleet.

Free ships!  Who could say no to that?  And so I was literally the first person in after Jay had formed the fleet.  Not that I was going to get a very valuable ship for me effort.

The Clownshoe, named after a term used by Sapporo Jones, the leader of TEST, in an angry rant about Imperium doctrines (available somewhere on YouTube), is a tanked Nereus, the T1 Gallente hauler that used to be at the wee end of the Iteron line of ships; the former shortest sausage in the pack, if you will.

The tank itself isn’t exceptional, though the fact that the shield regenerates 800 hit points a second helps a lot.  That means anybody hitting one needs to be doing at least 800 DPS, plus the resists, to start breaking the tank.  And then the Nereus also has a drone bay, so can carry some ECM drones to launch and break lock on any attacker, giving it some survivability in the wild.  So it might get away, or at least survive until help can show up.  The fit also has a cloak, so the idea is to be able to hack, fight off any small stuff that might come get you, then run off and cloak up if you need.

So we got into fleet and Jay started handing them out to the first 50 people who joined the fleet.  I got mine and bought a skin for it with some Aurum I had sitting around, just because this seemed to be a comically special event.  Since it was a freebie fleet, there were people who joined up before checking if they had the skills, including one pilot who had to train Gallente industrial.

Then, once everybody had something to fly, we had to sit around and wait for the standing fleet to clear off the undock as CO2 has showed up with some Svipuls.  When we finally got the okay to undock, they were still on grid with us, though far out of range.  I do wonder what they must have thought seeing a pack of T1 industrials coming out of the station.

Confirmed! Goons evacuating Saranen!

Confirmed! Goons evacuating Saranen!

Jay warped us off to the Tartoken gate and the CO2 Svipuls followed us there, though didn’t come through with us.  It was announced on coms, “The first transport is away!”

Jay, however, was being a bad and told us all to jump while forgetting to do so himself, so got himself blown up, not once, but twice getting to us.  After lingering in Tatroken for a bit, he finally caught up to us and led us off to a waiting titan that was ready to bridge us into Fade.

Nerueus' in warp

Nerueus’ in warp

We got there and were bridged in.  Another benefit of going out in industrial ships is the 90% reduction in jump fatigue accrued.

Bridge up, industrials away!

Bridge up, industrials away!

Once into Fade we headed to the VNX-P0 constellation where a capture event was going on for the TCU in MPPA-A.

Along the way we came through a gate and found ourselves face with a 9 ship NCDot gang.  I expected that we were going to get mauled by the mix of Svipuls and Kirins.

A wild NCDot gang appears!

A wild NCDot gang appears!

They locked several of us up and pointed us.  I was on the list of those pointed.

I'm doomed!

I’m doomed!

So we launched our EC-3000 ECM drones, anchored up on Jay, and waited to see how things went.  The droned proceeded to break locks.  The Svipuls hit one Nereus for a bit and got it down to about 50% shield.  I took a few hits myself from one of the Svipuls, but my shield regen kept things happy for me. After about a minute of that, they gave up and warped off, deciding we were not worth the effort.  Industrial success!

From there we continued on to MPPA-A where we split up and succeeded in the capture event.

Hacking my node

Hacking my node

Somebody from my alliance ended up planting the new TCU, so TNT now holds one system for the moment.

Flag found in Fade

Flag found in Fade

We then carried on and reinforced whatever else we could find in the area.  As this was going on, Asher and Boat were taking on Pandemic Horde in O1Y-ED where, despite PH numbers, they managed to hack the station cloning services, which meant that anybody who got podded was sent back to their designated home system or their default system if O1Y-ED had been so set.

That kept PH busy so we kept on hacking whatever we could find.

A couple of us on an ihub

A couple of us on an ihub

After a while of that, PH finally convinced Pandemic Legion that they had to come out and save them, so a PL fleet showed up and we all cloaked up in safe spots and let them fly around trying to find a target.

Cloaked Nereus

Cloaked Nereus

After they wandered off, Jay took us up into Deklein.  Up until that point the Clownshoes has carried on without loss.  In Deklein we would be on our own without Boat and Asher keeping the locals busy.

Wandering into the space of The Blood Covenant, we began spreading out some to reinforce sovereignty objects and station services.

Entosis all the services

Entosis all the services

While that started off well enough, we did eventually provoke a reaction from the locals who can swarming out to chase us off.  Clownshoes began to get blown up.  Those of us who could cloaked up again in safe spots while a Sword fleet showed up to help us, only to get mauled in the process.

Safe and cloaked, the rest of us hung about waiting for things to cool down.  At that point it was getting towards dinner time at our house and, since we didn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, I told the fleet I needed to go AFK in order to fire up the BBQ and cook something for dinner.  Salmon patties for my daughter and some bockwurst for her friend, my wife, and myself.

That ended up taking longer than I thought, so by the time I got back the remains fleet had made its way back to Saranen and docked up.  Left out along in Deklein, I decided to try a bit of “solo yolo” hacking and picked a non-station system to try and hit.  With ADMs low, I only needed 10 minutes alone after the warm-up cycled to reinforce a TCU.

However, the locals were still stirred up and before my fist post-warm-up cycle had finished a small gang landed on me.  Unfortunately, they brought more DPS than my Clownshoe Nereus could tank, so it went pop.  Then I got podded and was back in Saranen.  Still, a free ship, a quick trip home, and a new adventure, I don’t have anything to complain about.

So that is our new thing for now, Clownshoes.  It might be a good time to ramp up a bit of Nereus production, because losses of this T1 industrial are probably going to go up dramatically for now.

April in Review

The Site

Well, the MMO Bloggers Feed in my side bar got a last minute reprieve when IFTTT decided not to cut off Pinboard support on April 4th.

FeedlyPinboard

Pretty much the synopsis…

That was probably a good thing as my experiments with Delicious created RSS feeds have been a complete flop.  Not only do they have ads injected into the feed… which I get, they have to make money somehow… but something between Delicious and WordPress.com isn’t picking up the feed as it updates.  So while I look at the raw RSS and see new things being added, the feed just sits with the first couple of items.  Bleh.

Meanwhile, nobody has suggested anything about the Google+ syndication issue I mentioned last month, which I am going to take as a sign that either nobody really cares about Google+ syndication or nobody noticed that my posts stopped appearing there.  Probably the latter.

In addition, because I have a Google login that I use to comment on Blogger sites, I made a blog over there to point to this one since my Google profile only likes blogs they host.  But as I was tinkering with various RSS and feed options, I thought I figured out how to get anything that posted here to also post straight to that site as well.  I put that in place but never actually tested it.

Imagine my surprise when I passed by the blog half way into the month and found that it worked.  So I renamed the site The Redundant Ancient Gaming Noob.  The only problem is that it takes the post as published and never picks up any revisions, so all my original typos are there. (And I am too lazy to go fix them… though it takes a while to poll, so if I fix them right after I hit the “Publish” button… which, due to some lesser known physical property of the universe,  is the only time I can actually see my own typos… then I can catch them in time.)  Still, it seems to work.  Not sure it is much use and I figured the whole thing our about nine and a half years too late for me to jump ship to the Blogger platform.

And, finally, I thought I might not have anything to complain about when it came to WordPress.com this month, and then they decided to change the interface for doing inline links in such a way that they are more annoying AND you can easily delete them by accident.  Since that is a feature I use constantly… just look at them all in this post… that bit of nonsense has had me fuming for days.  It is like they never think things through.

One Year Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right?

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  They also had a beta for the Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot longer than just a year ago.

Five Years Ago

Of course, there was some April foolery both here and at Blizzard.

I also wrote something about magic quadrants.

Sanya Weathers had one of the best quotes about MMO gamers ever, made all the more amusing by its truth.

Battlefront.com released a completely new version of their original WWII Combat Mission series.

Wargaming.net released World of Tanks.

SOE’s spy themed MMO, The Agency, was officially cancelled.

We got a PlayStation 3.  And then the PlayStation Network got hacked.  At least I could still play Blu-Ray disks and stream Netflix.

The instance group got together and decided to try out EverQuest II Extended, the one-time separate free to play version of EverQuest II.  However, the game immediately began to kick us in the teeth for daring to do solo content as a group.

Being there in EQIIx also meant looking at what the cash store had to offer.  Some of this stuff is gone now in the post merger era of EQIIFlying mounts are still around.  And some idea, like selling max-level characters, would have to wait a while to come back.

And Potshot and I were still playing EverQuest.  We moved on from Unrest to Lake Rathetear and spent an evening there.  Then it was on to Kerra Island and finally we made it to Runnyeye, at which point SOE also went down due to the PSN hacking.  That pretty much ended our EverQuest adventures for 2011.

I did have to explain EverQuest to my daughter.  Her foundation in MMOs is World of Warcraft.

Ten Years Ago

ANet releases its first post-launch Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Factions. It only took them a year, too.  Right, Blizzard?  See?

Auto Assault went live, perhaps the first “troubled at launch” MMO I am personally aware of that fails to get past its issues.  The game ends up being shuttered by NCsoft 19 months down the road.  It is, for a while, the poster child for MMO launch failures.

Nintendo announced the name of their new console, slated to replace the GameCube.  Known up to that point only by its code name “Revolution,” Nintendo said it was going to call it the “Wii.”

Viacom spent $102 million to purchase Xfire.  According to Viacom: “Xfire and its users fit squarely into the Company’s multiplatform strategy to build an engaging universe of music, gaming, entertainment, news, networking and interactivity for focused audiences.”  They also thought NeoPets were worth splurging on as well.

Featured Sites of the Month

For this month’s featured MMO Blog I want to bring your attention to:

Kirith Kodachi has been plugging away for more than a decade at his blog.  While not initially about MMOs, he fell into EVE Online at about the same time I did (I beat him by 10 days), at which point it began to take over his blog, a situation that persists through to today.  EVE is just a crazy game that is fun to write about, and it has been interesting to watch our parallel, yet very different, trajectories through New Eden.

Then of the “other” site of the month, I want to point you at is:

While zKillboard now gives you something of a battle report with its related kills option, I much prefer the output from the Battle Report Tool.  It draws data from zKillboard to piece together the raw details about who shot whom and which ships got blown up and how much ISK it was all worth.  While I am not all about the kill mails, I do like looking at battle reports this site generates in order to understand what happened.  I often have a sense in a battle if we’re doing well or not, but this helps quantify what just happened.

Most Viewed Posts in April

Well, I can write every day of the week about EVE Online, but nothing brings in traffic like a World of Warcraft post.

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2016
  2. Blizzard, Nostalrius, and the Classic Server Question
  3. Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?
  4. War Footing, War Fever
  5. FCON Leaves The Imperium
  6. SMA Leaves The Imperium
  7. World War Bee – What’s in a Name?
  8. WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers
  9. Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead
  10. The Russian Complication
  11. FCON Shows Up in Immensea
  12. CSM 11 Announced – Xenuria Wins at Last

Search Terms of the Month

Claude Ring
[Once I saw that, I made an alt with that name]

origin unifies your gaming life
[The way your mom organizes your trading cards]

legion gonna suck
[And haters gonna hate]

if you change world of warcraft payment plan do you get a refund
[no]

lotro level store
[I don’t think the cash shop is quite there yet]

what do you get after you complete the national pokedex
[Your life back?]

Diablo III

I haven’t really played much Diablo III this past month, except to go in once Season 5 ended to clean up my storage situation.  It is nice to have everything combined into the common storage, but the fact that the game mails you all of your seasonal stuff was kind of a pain.  Okay, maybe I should have recycled some of those legendary items I held onto, because it took a while to collect all the items and then sort them out into different boxes.

EVE Online

The war goes on.  On the down side, we’ve lost almost all our sovereignty.  On the up side, we don’t have to go very far to find fun.  There has been an almost continuous supply of fleet ops from Saranen for the last few weeks.  I am starting to think the war effort depends mostly on Boat holding out.  He has been running fleets every day for hours at a stretch.  Best fleets to be on though.

Oh, and there was the Citadel expansion that has the potential to change everything in New Eden.

EverQuest II

I have pottered around on the Stormhold nostalgia server off and on this month.  EQII is less of a solo game for me than others.  I don’t think I have ever played for more than a week or so without ending up in a guild with at least a few people I know.  But it is fun.  The pace is slow and it is relaxing if I have a couple of free hours.  My shadow knight is level 22 and fumbling around between Nek forest and Butcherblock.

Minecraft

I swear I meant to do a Minecraft post this month.  Actually I have a few.  But I never quite got there.  News of the moment from the war in New Eden and Blizzard managed to preempt tales of building.  Still, if I look at Raptr, I spent more time in Minecraft than any other game in April… though that might be because Raptr stopped tracking EVE Online when I upgraded to the new launcher.  Doh!  I have to remember to manually enter that time, and I forget more often than I remember.

Pokemon

I have been carrying on with Pokemon Blue.  Another gym badge down.  Progress has been slow in part because it remains the fourth item on my list of things to play of late, and because it is a game I don’t play sitting at my desk in front of my computer.  As such, I never launch Pokemon by default, I have to actively want to play it.  Still, I have time to finish.  Pokemon Sun & Moon are not due until winter.

World of Warcraft

I did not actually PLAY WoW in April, aside from logging in to check something out on a level 20 character.  But I did write about it.  I didn’t even write that much, but if you look at the top posts for the month, WoW was definitely a big topic.  The whole vanilla/classic/special server thing opened up a lot of emotions and I am sure we are not done with it yet.  I know I am not.

Coming Up

Summer is coming, and May is its harbinger… at least out here in Silicon Valley where despite what the calendar says it can feel like Summer from some point in April through until November.  Not sure that means much for the blog, aside from the fact that I might write more with the window open in the evenings.

The war in New Eden will carry on and we shall see who has the greater endurance.  CCP though, I am going to bet we are going to see a lot of post-Citadel patches in May.

The Warcraft movie is just a month and ten days away, so I expect to see Blizzard ramping up on that pretty strongly while trying to go back to ignoring the whole vanilla server drama it stirred up by shutting down Nostalrius.

Speaking of Blizzard, their latest title, Overwatch, will go live this month.  I am not really interested in playing myself… and my daughter, who wants to play, is fuming about the lack of MacOS support… but another game from Anaheim means that much less focus on WoW.  It isn’t a zero sum thing, but a company can only put out so much PR before it is trying to talk over itself.

Also, isn’t Daybreak supposed to ship Landmark this spring?  May is the last full month of spring left this year… well, that and 20 days of June.  That will be a thing.

I will write something… or finish writing something… about Minecraft.

And… what else is coming up in May?

Friday Bullet Points from Beyond the Blog

Or just some tidbits I want to bring up which didn’t quite justify posts of their own.

Nintendo and More Nostalgia Validation

As part of the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, Nintendo released Virtual Console version of the original Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on February 27th of this year.

Old games come to the Virtual Console

Old games come to the Virtual Console

They just reported some sales numbers, which included more 1.5 million copies of those three titles.  Not bad for 20 year old games.  Of course, as I noted, vanilla Pokemon, if you will, plays pretty well.

EverQuest II hits Game Update 100

I can’t recall if EQII has gone through every number, 1-99, with updates, but still, hitting 100 is something of note.  And this update has a bit of a nostalgia twist to it.  While I’m not exactly thrilled about the owl mounts, the re-use of Zek, the orcish wastes zone for additional content has me happy.  It has always been one of my favorites among the original zones, probably for its consistent/coherent “orcs, orcs, orcs” theme.

I won’t be playing it however.  For openers, I think my highest level characters are still in Kunark… which is late 2007 content.  And then there is the fact that I am still pottering around on the Stormhold nostalgia server, where I am level 22.

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Nostalgia on Wayne!  Often the theme of this blog.

However, Stormhold still seems to be lively enough.  There aren’t five versions of The Commonlands running any more, but Freeport always has a couple versions running due to population.  Still, it is nostalgia one way or the other.  That seems to be a theme of late.

Blizzard Might Give You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor

Way back after Blizz announced the Warlords of Draenor expansion, I had a post about phishing attempt offering a free version of the expansion.  One of the key tells was Blizz giving you a free copy of… well… anything.

Of course, things change.  As Keen reports, Blizz now has an offer out to long lapsed subscribers offering them some free game time as well as a FREE copy of Warlords of Draenor.

Nostalgic old WoW logo, image swiped from Keen and cropped

Nostalgic old WoW logo, image swiped from Keen and cropped

Blizz must be staring at the reality of a long spring/summer until WoW Legion hits.  They stopped announcing subscription numbers last year, but it would be hard to imagine they have gone up from 5.5 million in the last six months.

Of course, this offer has only gone out to people who didn’t purchase Warlords of Draenor, which is making me think about my pre-order of WoW Legion.  Given that my post-Cataclysm experiences in WoW have generally been best when I am late to the expansion party… being a year late to Mists of Panderia was excellent timing… I am tempt to just cancel my pre-order and wait a year or so until Blizz is ready to give me a free copy of WoW Legion.  Or until they open a retro server.  One or the other.

DC Universe Online and on XBox One

Well, the first title for the company formerly known as SOE has made it to the XBox.  As promised earlier this year, the five year old DC Universe Online has gone live on the Microsoft console platform.

XBox One! Would you like to know more?

XBox One! Would you like to know more?

Back during the Daybreak transition, this was one of Smed’s selling points, the ability to get titles on to XBox.  We shall see if it was worth the effort.  But at least they made their “Spring 2016” target.  Making dates is generally a good sign.

Diablo III Season 6 Starts Tonight

Just a passing note on this.  I had a lot of fun with Diablo III and Season 5… right up until the moment I got that last achievement and stopped logging in.  Goal driven much?  Still, the Season thing seems to work well, especially for those of us who are goal drive.  And here comes Season 6.

It has a 6 on a leaf, because leaves are seasons or something

It has a 6 on a leaf, because leaves are seasons or something

However I am not sure at this point if Season 6 is in the cards for me.  I might need to skip a season to keep it fresh.  I would want to play a fresh character again, but not another crusader, so I would have to figure that out.  And I would have to see if the rewards appeal to me at all.

EVE Vegas is Coming

One of the final announcement at EVE Fanfest this past weekend was the date for EVE Vegas this year, which has sort of become the US EVE Fanfest.   The official EVE Vegas site has all the details.

The would be Halloween weekend

The would be Halloween weekend

Tickets went on sale while players were still in Iceland and the early bird discount tickets were gone in a flash.  I am tempted to go.  I had a good time last year.  However, Halloween weekend seems like an awkward time to plan such an event.  It will definitely not be an “off” weekend for the strip, which means prices for everything will be up and venues will be crowded.  Not a problem for the party animals I am sure, but for a grumpy old guy who prefers discussion groups with maybe four or five people, this might not be the ideal date.  Anyway, tickets are going fast so my decision to go or not might be made for me.

Anyway, those are all the items that I had on my list of notes.  Tomorrow there will be an end of month post and then we will be in May.

BB74 – Bump and Grind

This month’s blog banter , 74th in the series, asks the following:

So when this Blog Banter goes live Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a “nerd-boner”. What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

The most important item for me, personally?  That is a tough question.

First of all, there was a lot of stuff brought up at Fanfest.  CCP has a summary page of topics posted for each day (day one, day two, and day three) which gives you a nice list to choose from.  And from those posts I could probably justify at least half a dozen as important or interesting or just plain fun.

I particularly liked CCP Quant noting in his presentation during the keynote that the ratio of player assets in the game, 3,070 trillion ISK worth, to liquid ISK in the game, 978 trillion ISK, comes out to just about 3.14, or pi.  (Also, CCP Quant is NOT having your PLEX market manipulation theories, which might be the most amusing post-Fanfest read.)

And there were plenty of things that were important to the game, not the least of which was the new producer, CCP Ghost, giving us a vision of a better new player experience that might actually engage players rather than drive them away. (Also during the keynote, official video of which is now up.)

But given all those choices, I am going to pluck a small item off the list, one that showed up on day two of Fanfest and which did not take up much time.  It was, however, big enough to make it to the day two summary page.

  • Ship bumping – at maximum for 3 minutes
    A small, but important change is coming. A ship will get into warp no later than 3 minutes after the warp was initiated, regardless of any bumping, as long as the warp engines aren’t disabled (warp scrambled, bubble etc.).

When this has been implemented, a ship will enter warp after three minutes even if it is being bumped out of alignment.   Right now a ship, especially a big ship like a freighter that takes some time to align, can be bumped off its alignment indefinitely and without consequence, holding it in place until it can be blown up.

Clearly this is a swipe at suicide ganking in high sec, where somebody bumping a freighter on a gate in Niarja, a prime ganking system between Jita and Amarr, isn’t any sort of news.  Happens every day.

But why pick this particular item?

Yes, I have been on both sides of the coin.  I have lost a ship to gankers, back before I knew that was even a thing, when I blithely auto-piloted my way through Niarja with a valuable cargo.  And, during Burn Amarr, I tried my hand at the ganker side, joining the catalyst swarm to kill three freighters.

A Dead Obelisk

A Dead Obelisk with a bumping Machariel flying past…

Fair to say that suicide ganking isn’t really my thing in New Eden, so what brought me to this upcoming change?

For me, this change illustrates the intersection of a few threads that permeate the game.

First, there is the desire for CCP to not restrict how players play the game.  They want a wild west sandbox where we can create the content rather than trying to force us into some standard roles.  There is no playing EVE Online wrong, though you can still play it badly.

From that point of view, suicide ganking is completely legitimate and CCP is on record as such.  It is emergent game play and they will not do anything that will kill it off completely.   There will be no “safe” high sec.

Second, there is the desire by CCP to keep things in some state of balance.  If something is too easy, if some ship is too strong, if some aspect of the game seems to be killing off others, CCP is motivated to tinker with the game to try and fix that.  They have to, because while there is no “wrong” way to play EVE Online, people will flock to anything that presents itself as an optimal choice.  As Edward Catronova, something of a fan of EVE, once said,

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

Or, in this case, being an immortal space pilot from the future doesn’t turn that off.  When drone assist was the was to win battles, fleets of carriers and Dominixes and Ishtars ruled the space lanes.  When heavy missile spewing battlecruisers were over powered, Drakes were everywhere.  When insta-locking Svipuls are totally too good, guess what is a feature of every half decent gate camp?

So CCP steps in… or, in the case of Svipuls, will hopefully step in soon… and changes things up, nerfs one thing or boosts another.

And, thus, when suicide ganking seems too easy, CCP feels compelled to ratchet up the difficulty, as they have done on a number of occasions over the years.  They don’t want to kill it, they just want to make it more of a challenge.

Of course, how well they have manage that leads me to the third thread, which is are unexpected consequences.  CCP is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to making changes to the game.  There are a couple hundred people at CCP at most looking at game mechanics, and many less on any given change, while there are tens of thousands of players looking for the optimum fit or tactic or whatever.

The mental processing power alone favors the players who will optimize after any change… something that isn’t improved when CCP won’t listen when players, or the CSM, point out the obvious flaws.

So we have, once again, CCP attempting to tweak things against suicide ganking, hoping to tamp it down some.  But we have yet to see how players will respond.  Will this make things more difficult for suicide gankers and cut back on kills, or will things simply settle down on a new optimum path?  Will it be as easy as just having a sacrificial warp scrambler hit the target every two minutes and fifty seconds to keep it in place?

And what else will come from this?  How many capital ships in low or null sec will escape now because somebody is holding them down on a gate by bumping, but the three minute timer lets them go?  What other ripples will come from this particular pebble being tossed into the pond that is New Eden?

I always find this sort of thing interesting or amusing or important because it is, in its way, the essence of the interaction between CCP and its players, the give and take, the friction, the way things develop and progress.  It isn’t anything unique to EVE Online, but these little items feel like they have more impact in New Eden than in places like Azeroth or Norrath.

Anyway, it was is a small thing, but one that jumped out at me.  And the question didn’t demand the biggest reveal or most dramatic new feature, just what was important to me.

That is my response to BB74.  Here are some of the other submissions:

 

Citadels Arrive in New Eden

The long awaited, anticipated, feared, speculated over, and otherwise examined Citadel expansion arrives on the Tranquility server today.  Seriously, we’ve been all over this since EVE Vegas last year.

Coming Spring 2016

Now Available

Citadels, the new structures in New Eden are here and will likely change the game in unexpected ways.  There are four citadel types:

  • Astrahus (Medium)
  • Fortizar (Large)
  • Keepstar (Extra Large)
  • Upwell Palatine Keepstar (Extra Large, Extra Special, one per New Eden)

And there are all sorts of details that players will need to sort out as time goes along.

For me, one of the more interesting items is how players will attack citadels.  In what I can only see as something of a rebuke of Fozzie Sov, players will actually shoot things rather than fly around them in circles running an entosis link module.  To my mind, shooting something is always the best option.  CCP has tried to give us a feel for shooting them in its cinematic trailer.

So a huge change there, with CCP relenting somewhat at the last minute on the whole tax thing meant to drive people to use citadels.  I expect the unexpected and for comedy to ensue.

And, if that were not enough, there are a range of capital ship changes going in today as well.  Starting off there is the introduction of the Force Auxiliary capitals, already commonly called “Fax Machines.”

Fax Machines

Fax Machines are all Vertical

They come in four flavors, one for each major NPC faction, and replace the triage role that carriers used to perform.  They are:

  • Apostle (Amarr)
  • Minokawa (Caldari)
  • Lif (Minmatar)
  • Ninazu (Gallente)

Carriers and super carriers will no longer use drones, but will restricted to fighters.  Fighters themselves will have new functionality and controls.  A lot of things will transform with the expansion drop, triage carriers into fax machines, old fighters into new, and drones into some location you may not have considered.  The transition is covered in a forum post.

I have a carrier that will still be a carrier after the update and which will be pretty empty since all the drones will get dumped out and I never bought any fighters for it.  But, then, I have only ever used it to haul around subcaps.

In addition, dreadnoughts are getting rebalanced in order to turn them into the gun platforms they ought to be.  Titans are getting a rebalance and new doomsday weapons.  Carriers are getting a rebalance too, and so are supercarriers.  There are also pirate faction capital ships and capital level escalations for anomalies and new anti-sub cap weapons for capitals and the removal of ewar immunity for supers.

And then there is the usual round of fixes and updates and changes to various aspects of the game, most of which (but never all) are summed in the patch notes and on the updates page.

There are enough things going on with this expansion that if it were the old days I would have started training a long skill.  Even CCP is running long on just the deployment.

But, since my skill queue already goes out past 500 days right now, I am not so worried about that.  Still, I suspect there will be issues and some patches coming pretty quickly given the scale of things.

Wait, there it is, the announcement… the expansion is live and the server is up… for now.

The official launch announcement, complete with links for feedback, is up on the CCP site.

But even if the server goes down we will at least have a new theme song to listen to.

Will Nostalrius Drama Shift the Sleeping WoW Giant?

The developers however prefer to see the game continuously evolve and progress, and as such we have no plans to open classic realms or limited expansion content realms.

February 2011 repost of an earlier Blizzard response

People have been asking for a Vanilla server for a long time now.  That quote is from the old forums, which are no longer available.  When Tom Chilton stands up and loudly declares a vanilla server can’t be done and, even if it could be, that nobody would really want it, I believe his real motivation is encapsulated above. That has always been the sense of things that I have taken from the company and its statements.  They want to move forward, that today is always better than yesterday, and that tomorrow will be better still.

That quote at the top was posted less than three months after the Cataclysm expansion removed the original 1-60 game content of Azeroth.  But it was brought forward from the old forums, so it certainly pre-dates Cataclysm.  The whole vanilla server idea isn’t new.  It didn’t just come up this month.  Customers asking for it isn’t new.  Blizzard saying “no” isn’t new.  Even this reminder that Blizzard knew people wanted the old world back when it was still current and available, yet decided to do nothing with it until enough time passed to allow Tom Chilton to say it is too hard isn’t even that new.

A day that will live in infamy...

A day that will live in infamy…

What is new, what has sparked this constant smoldering hum of people asking for some sort of classic server… probably since The Burning Crusade launched… into an actual conflagration was Blizzard going after a private/pirate vanilla server that was an outlet for 150K players looking for that old school experience.

Serving the Nostalrius server with a cease and desist notice got people stirred up and brought the question of classic servers, long simmering, to a full boil.  We got a few choice blog posts in our corner of the internet when this kicked off:

Blizzard immediately tried to dismiss the whole thing in the way they always have.  However, the tide was already rushing in and, in a world where 5 million subscriptions, down from 10 million a little over a year ago, is the new normal somebody, and the game missed bringing in a billion dollars in revenue for the first time in a long stretch, somebody at Blizzard apparently decided that they might want to listen to that increasingly loud segment of the World of Warcraft fan base.

And so there was a blue post in the forums this morning, which I will quote in full at the end of the post.

It starts out with a statement that Blizzard’s silence on the subject shouldn’t be taken as a lack of attention on their part.  After years of silence, punctuated by terse and glib dismissals of the idea, that seems a bit disingenuous.  I mean, I have your pre-Cataclysm quotes handy if you want them.  So I will take it as read that there has suddenly been enough noise of late that they are actually taking the idea seriously for the first time.

That is followed up by a statement that Blizzard has to protect its IP and doesn’t know how to grant Nostalrius any sort of license to operate that would also protect the World of Warcraft brand.  I might suggest they check out what SOE did with Project 1999, but Blizzard hasn’t been interested in copying EverQuest since 2005 or so.  So Nostalrius will likely remain dead.

Then there is the return to why Blizzard won’t do a classic server; because it is hard.  If it were easy, of course they would do it, but it isn’t, so they won’t.  Pre-Cataclysm Azeroth is forever gone from Blizzard servers.

The post then offers up the idea of some sort of special, fresh start server that sounds remarkably like something I outlined in a comment over at SynCaine’s blog and what Rohan wrote about at Blessing of Kings. (And refined in a follow up post.) My own statement from about two weeks back:

Blizz has never been a company to take a step in a direction that hasn’t been well trod or to take big steps when little steps would do. So them jumping to a Vanilla server, even if they could get past the mental block and do it without too much cost, seems unlikely.

I think they would first venture into an alternate rules server test, something like a “hard mode” server. Crank up MOB damage and hit points, tone down exp gain, normal mode dungeons tuned up to not be face rolls, no transfers or insta-level characters, no heirlooms, flying restricted to only in Outland after 60 70 and Northrend after 68, 78 and some bits and pieces like that. Throw in some special achievements… or maybe just a gold border on current achievements that you get when you do them in hard mode, and I bet that would be a draw.

That is, after all, pretty much all SOE is doing with their nostalgia servers.

I think there is some merit in that option.  A fresh server experience with some differences and greater difficulty with everybody starting off at level 1 would be a draw for some.  Bhagpuss has said in the past that he wouldn’t want to play what would be simply a more difficult version of the same content available on live servers.  And that is a legitimate point of view, certainly.  But some people would.  I bet a lot of people would.

Yes, I know, that isn’t vanilla.  While I actually like some of the 1-60 Cataclysm content myself, having run through every zone now for my attempt at the Loremaster achievement, it still isn’t the same.  It isn’t old Westfall, old Deadmines, old Stranglethorn Vale with its myriad of pages to collect, or old Sunken Temple with its long series of challenges.

But it might be a start, a step in the right direction, an admission by Blizzard that their same old routine of the last eleven years of an expansion every two years with a one year content drought can’t just go on indefinitely.  Maybe they are finally feeling the need to do something different, to offer up a server that isn’t PvE, PvP, PvE-RP, or PvP-RP.

World of Warcraft is still the cash cow at Blizzard.  It still has a big team.  It still could make a billion dollars a year in revenue if it could attract back some of the lapsed player base with something a little different.  Maybe this is the first step to vanilla.

I doubt it.  I think that so long as Tom Chilton is calling the shots, Blizzard will continue down its standard path. (He is becoming the Blizzard version of Smed when it comes to quotes, especially after calling Garrisons the WoW version of housing.)  But it could happen.

Is today’s post a sign of a shift at Blizzard, or an attempt to calm people down and hope the whole issue goes away once the Warcraft movie premiers and the WoW Legion expansion launches?

Others writing on the topic, updated as they pop up:

Today’s blue post quoted in full after the cut:

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