The War in the North Ends with a Payoff

The news apparently leaked on Reddit from a disgruntled source so the official announcement is now out over at Imperium News: The war is over.  We have blown up enough stuff in the north and now we will be headed home.

Destruction in our wake

A deal has been struck between the Imperium and Guardians of the Galaxy.  The tale of how it came about, starting at the CSM summit in Iceland, is laid out by Aryth in the linked post.

The terms of the agreement are as follows:

  • The Imperium will withdraw main fleet, SIGs/squads, and cloaky campers from the northern territories* for 1 month, and from GOTG** space for 6 months, starting on Sep 29, 2018 if the following terms are fulfilled:
  • GOTG pays total of 40 faction fortizar equivalents
  • Within 72 hours of agreement, a payment of 10 faction fortizar equivalents or 500 Billion ISK which will be refunded when the 10 Faction Forts are delivered as the first payment to a highsec station with highsec only routes to Amarr.
  • Within 10 days of agreement, all 5 Moreau+30 other faction fortizars must be delivered to a to a highsec station with highsec only routes to Amarr.
  • For the purposes of this agreement Moreau fortizars count as 2 faction forizars. Example: 5 Moreaus and 30 other faction forts would satisfy this payment agreement.
  • GOTG will not attack any withdrawing Imperium forces or interfere with unanchoring Imperium structures or ships attempting to scoop unanchored structures.
  • GOTG will not attack Imperium structures*** during the period of this agreement.
  • Within 24 hours of this agreement, Imperium will cease creating new offensive timers outside Fade/Pure Blind. Existing offensive timers can be attacked until Sep 29. As a sign of good faith, the Imperium will not hit the 2 planned Ihubs on the night of Sep 16. Both parties will maintain the secrecy of the agreement as much as possible. Imperium will also attempt to reach a “natural stopping point” after the main Keepstar kills and use that as cover to withdraw.

Definitions:

  • * Northern territories (Tribute/Vale of the Silent/Geminate)
  • ** GOTG space (Deklein/Branch/Fade/Pure Blind/Venal) Venal blazers can do whatever still.
  • *** Any Imperium structures
  • Imperium Alliances (CONDI/BASTN (DUTCH)/B C C (RENTD)/INIT.(-IA-,IM)/LAWN/TNT/IMGAY/ME4U/MEX/PBLRD/SV./WI.) This means no structure hitting in Cloud Ring also during the 6 months for any structures belonging to IMP alliances. This does not apply to non-imp entities.
  • 500B down payment will go to “Aryth” who will refund it after 10 Faction Forts are delivered.
  • Faction Forts can be delivered to “Dj’s Retirement Fund”
  • Upon start of the 5th month both parties can come together to decide if an extension is needed if not both parties accept that by the end of the month this deal is completed.

So there it is.  The Imperium will be taking payment in the form of faction Fortizars to leave the north.  As I noted in a previous post, my impression was that we were pretty much done in the north for the time being once the CO2 Keepstar went down.

In a talk over at Talking in Stations last night (recording here) Sort Dragon spoke about the agreement.  Apparently Ayrth first asked for straight up payment of ISK, which GotG didn’t have handy.  But they had those Fortizars, many of which came from outposts that the CFC/Imperium planted back before we were kicked out of the north as a result of the Casino War.

On the Imperium side there was a fireside chat last night (recording here) where some additional details were spelled out.  The whole deal was supposed to remain secret, allowing GotG to save face.  However, RiotRick from Slyce decided to spin the narrative of the Imperium leaving on Reddit leading to the whole thing becoming public.  I am sure it would have leaked eventually, but you know who to thank for all of us getting the word early.

Asher spoke for a bit, specifically clarifying that while we have agreed to leave the north for a month, the only longer term arrangement is with GotG.  There is nothing longer term with NCDot, Pandemic Legion, Pandemic Horde, and certainly not with Circle of Two.  He also mentioned that, after some time in Delve to mine and rat, that there is another target in mind.

The war itself racked up an impressive amount of structure kills.  According to a tracking thread on the forums the citadel count was something like:

  • Fortizar : 47 (8 flipped and destroyed by hostiles)
  • Faction Fortizars : 6 (+1 stolen) (3 destroyed by hostiles)
  • Tatara : 6
  • Azbel : 6
  • Sotiyo : 3
  • Athanor : ~73 (9 flipped and destroyed by hostiles)
  • Astrahus : ~35
  • Raitaru : ~19

On top of that there were 10 Keepstar kills along with another one that was stolen:

  1. Aeschee – Essence (Shadow Cartel)
  2. Kinakka – Black Rise (WAFFLES.)
  3. X47-Q – Pure Blind (Northern Coalition)
  4. 46DP-O – Tenerifis (Fraternity)
  5. DW-T2I – Fade (Circle-Of-Two)
  6. 16AM-3 – Tenerifis (Blades of Grass)
  7. C4C-Z4 (Circle-Of-Two)
  8. 3V8-Lj (Corcle-Of-Two)
  9. DO6H-Q (Northern Coalition.)
  10. 7X-VKB (DARKNESS.)

Some of those bleed into the southern front, where activity largely died down after the the attack on TEST ground to a halt on the second Keepstar in ULAX-3.

And of course there were titans, supers, and hundreds of dreadnoughts lost on both sides as well, leading to a butcher’s bill in the trillions of ISK for the war.

The monthly economic reports for September and October should be interesting.  With the Imperium returning to Delve and the north free of our presence, I expect we will see a surge in mining, ratting, and production in a number of regions.

Now I have to figure out what I am going to do.  The Reavers SIG has been in the north since November of last  year, so while there is talk of the last two month, fighting in the north has been my reality for nearly a year, with only a few short breaks.  SIGs and squads are part of the agreement, so we will be headed home as well.

But according to Asher on that recording, we’ll have a new task soon enough.

Blizzard Will Give You a Mount if You Will Just Subscribe to WoW for Six Months

I think we’ve seen this before.

Back during Cataclysm Blizzard offered players a “free” copy of Diablo III if they would just commit to subscribing to World of Warcraft for a year.  The old Annual Pass gambit.  It seemed like a ploy back then to keep subscriber and revenue numbers up during the second year slump time of Cataclysm.  Is there a Battle for Azeroth slump already that they need to run this sort of deal again?

This time around you won’t be getting a video game with a $60 shelf price and a mount.  This time it is just a mount.  But you only have to commit for half the time.

For a limited time… between now and October 21, 2018… if you go to the Blizzard store… in game or at the web site… you can buy in on a special offer that gives you six months of game time for $77.94.

That is the usual price for a six month subscription, the longest time increment currently offered, coming out to $12.99 a month.  The bonus is the mount.

This is your bonus

The alleged reason for this is yesterday’s Talk Like a Pirate Day celebration, but I have to wonder if there isn’t another reason that Blizzard wants to lock players in for half a year.

If you were going to stay subscribed to WoW in any case, then this is basically a free mount.  If you are uncertain however, you might want to ask yourself how badly you really want this ride in Azeroth.

Others react:

A Five Keepstar Day

While I was at work the Keepstars I highlighted earlier in the week were destroyed.  The EU time zone team got some shiny kills.

The Keepstar lineup on zKillboard

While I only mentioned four in my post it turns out that there was a fifth ready to be knocked off down in Tenerifis which TEST took care of.  The five kill mails:

All told that is at least a trillion ISK in losses inflicted in a single day without much in the way of resistance.

The question is now what happens next in the war?

 

Quadratic Foundry Character Name Generator

In the grand tradition of the old WoW Guild Name Generator from Nick Yee, his organization, Quadratic Foundry, has created a Character Name Generator.

Rather than being completely random, the generator lets you specify a starting letter, an ending letter, or a string of letters you would like the name to contain.

Starts with ‘W’ and ends with ‘M’ gets you…

And it even gives you variants on the name with special characters if you simply must have a specific name but find that it has already been taken.

As with the WoW Guild Name Generator, the core of this was based on previous research done on World of Warcraft and the names harvested as part of that.

Anyway, if you’re stuck for a name you now have a new place to try.

Fall Movie League – Blogger Win

We’re now past week two of our Fall Fantasy Movie League, which means I have to start doing season scores as well as weekly.  One week of relative ease.

Week two saw a host of new films, five in all or a full third of the lineup, opening up a range of choices.  The list looked like:

The Predator         $408
The Nun              $338
A Simple Favor       $257
White Boy Rick       $137
Crazy Rich Asians    $131
Peppermint           $86
The Meg              $43
Unbroken 2           $40
Searching            $40
Christopher Robin    $31
Mission: Impossible  $28
BlacKkKlansman       $22
Operation Finale 2   $21
Alpha                $18
The Wife             $18

With five anchor options it was tough to nail down just how to start a lineup.  For the Monday Hot Takes league I decided that Anna Kendrick as a crime solving blogger was too much of a hint to pass on, so went with 3x A Simple Favor and 5x Searching.

And if I had copied that to all my leagues and just walked away, I’d have been better off.  Well, I would have beaten Corr and ended up in ninth place rather than tenth.

Instead I did research, and the research options for week two were all over the map.  Box Office Pro and Deadline have both given up on making predictions for the top ten, concentrating mostly on new releases or, when feeling generous, the top five, leaving me with at least ten price points to simply guess at.  Other sites are rather notoriously extreme in their picks, wishcasting as opposed to forecasting.  Then there was the hurricane battering the east coast, sure to diminish the box office.  No power and rising water do not a movie night make.

So I ended up with a bunch of options.  I can say that, at one point, I did have the perfect pick as one of my lineups.  But, in the end, I went with 1x The Nun, 1x CRA, and 6x Peppermint, the latter seeming like it might have a shot at best performer.

Instead the pick to go for was 3x A Simple Favor and 5x The Meg, which was the perfect pick for the week.

That left the week’s scores looking like this:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – $82,349,322
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – $68,053,892
  3. Joanie’s Joint – $65,202,555
  4. I HAS BAD TASTE – $65,202,555
  5. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $64,580,993
  6. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $64,507,781
  7. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $64,261,740
  8. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $64,261,740
  9. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $62,975,918
  10. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $62,951,994

Goat got the perfect pick which put them way ahead of the pack, while Bhagpuss secured a solid second anchoring on Predator and A Simple Favor.  7x White Boy Rick as an anchor claimed four spots out of the top ten, the dividing point being what went into that eighth screen.  And then there was Corr who slipped ahead of me by just about $24,000.

All of that left the season top ten looking like this:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – $166,930,575
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – $149,878,965
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $147,557,171
  4. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $145,107,210
  5. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $144,750,058
  6. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $142,709,003
  7. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $140,020,941
  8. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $139,324,840
  9. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $138,593,155
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $127,690,233

Goat, in a three way tie for first last week and all alone in first this week starts to open up a lead for the season.

Meanwhile, the alternative seasonal scoring looks like this at the end of week two.

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – 18
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – 16
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – 12
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 10
  5. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 9
  6. Joanie’s Joint – 8
  7. I HAS BAD TASTE – 7
  8. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 6
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – 6
  10. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – 5
  11. Ben’s X-Wing Express – 5
  12. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 5

I ended up listing out a dozen this week as there was a three-way tie for tenth place.  One thing missing from my plan is a tie-breaker, though if it turns out we need one at the end of the season I suppose the seaon box office total for each player will work.

As with the end of last season, the top three scores are the same people, but after that the group gets shuffled a bit.

But another week looms, with the choices being:

The House with a Clock   $476
The Predator             $216
A Simple Favor           $202
The Nun                  $173
Life Itself              $143
Crazy Rich Asians        $127
Fahrenheit 11/9          $115
White Boy Rick           $98
Peppermint               $75
Assassination Nation     $69
The Meg                  $49
Searching                $41
Christopher Robin        $25
Mission: Impossible      $25
Unbroken 2               $24

Week three sees four titles dropped from the list, BlacKkKlansman, Operation Finale, Alpha, and The Wife.

Replacing them are The House with a Clock in its Walls, Life Itself, Fahrenheit 11/9, and Assassination Nation.

The House with a Clock, because, like your local theater, I am dropping the last three words off the marquee, is a fantasy about a boy going to live with a loony relative who happens to be a warlock, so magical adventures ensue.  I have to assume some comedic nature to the film as it stars Jack Black.  Long range tracking has it good for about $22 million and if you go see it IMax you also get to see a 3D version of the Michael Jackson Thriller music video.

Life Itself is a tale of couples across generations tied together by a single event, though that event is left out of the description.  Sort of a couples Cloud Atlas maybe?  It is getting horrible reviews and nobody has bothered to cover it for long range tracking, so I am going to assume it is over-prices at $143.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is the one new film this week that I had some inkling of before I started writing this post.  I haven’t liked Michael Moore since Roger & Me, but he has a following and he plays to it once again, this time with Donald Trump and his election as the target.  And while that is a worthwhile target, I am not sure what he’ll deliver that hasn’t been beaten half to death or that I’m not getting from Last Week Tonight.  Long range tracking has it at $5 million.  Will play okay on the coasts, not so well in the heartland.

Finally there is Assassination Nation.  Described as a dark comedy, it is also a dark horse in the running this week with mediocre reviews and not much in the way of name recognition.  There isn’t even a theater count estimate for it yet.  I suppose it does have one of the Skarsgård clan in it, if one of the lesser members.  I’m not sure if that is enough to hang your hat on.

Overall, sitting at this end of the week, I don’t have a strong feeling as to which way things will go.  There are a lot of variables.  If Fahrenheit 11/9 does $7 million then seven screens of that with The Nun would be a winner.  It is, as of this writing, the least picked film of the week, so that would be a real outsider bet.   If The Nun or CRA manage another low drop week, then you might consider those as anchors.  I tried that last week and, while they did land softly, it wasn’t enough.  And maybe Jack Black is a big enough draw to make The House with a Clock a worthwhile choice.  However, his work tends to require a strong cast for him to play off of.

There is a temptation to run with a rework of last week’s perfect pick and go with 4x A Simple Favor, 3x The Meg, and 1x Searching, but the first two need to really hold on for that to be a winner and FML tends to punish best performers the week after.

In the end, my Monday Hot Takes league pick was 5x The Nun, 1x Peppermint, 2x Mission: Impossible.  We’ll see how I feel about that as the week goes on.

Can We Trust a Torchlight MMO?

…because of WoW, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.

-Rob Pardo, MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007

We’ll get to that quote in a bit, but first we must go back to 2012, back to the war to see who would be crowned the REAL successor to that most beloved ARPG Diablo II.

The claimants were Diablo III, which had the name and Blizzard’s might behind it, Torchlight II, which had some of the original Diablo development team on board, and Path of Exile, which was the dark horse indie candidate in the race.

The competition was a big enough deal that I made categories on the blog for all three of them.

In the end I think Path of Exile felt the most like Diablo II when it came to style and atmosphere.

Diablo III, after a bad start, eventually got fixed when Blizz removed the auction house and got the itemization lined up  correctly and went on to be the big money maker of the three.  It sold more that 30 million copies, got an expansion, and continues to get attention and updates from the company that we could only dream of during the Diablo II era.  A version was just announced for the Nintendo Switch even.  Still going!

And then there was Torchlight II.  It was good.  Cute.  Colorful.

But where Diablo III had story and Path of Exile had atmosphere, I am not sure what Torchlight II really had.

Not that it did poorly or anything.  According to that Steam leak thing I wrote about a few weeks ago it was in 57th place on the list with close to five million copies in play on the platform.  The is an impressive haul, well ahead of Civilization VI.  Nobody can fault you if you beat Sid Meier.

Granted, it took them a few years to get the promised Mac OS version out the door and at that point it sounded like those working on the game were done with Torchlight.  That seemed to be the end of plans for a Torchlight MMO, something that had been talked about since the original Torchlight came out.  The original talk was of going from single player to multiplayer and then to an MMO.

And then there were some of the founders leaving the studio along with the fact that Perfect World Entertainment bought them out, and it seemed like the Torchlight saga was done.

Again, not that it had gone badly, but maybe Torchlight II was enough.  I mean they never did any addon expansions or DLC or any of the usual things you do to keep something you want to remain a franchise in the public eye.  Sometimes you just reach the natural end of things, which was what seemed to have happened here.

So I was a bit taken aback when a couple weeks back there was an announcement that Perfect World was planning a Torchlight MMO.  What is the vision for Torchlight Frontiers here?

Torchlight Frontiers

Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but I couldn’t see the real point, at least not in MMO form.

And no, I am not going the Gevlon route about “productive MMOs.”  That is nothing but the usual gamer hubris where we project our own likes on the world and pretend that everybody thinks the same way or that it has some actual logic to it.  Wrapping your personal bias in a tissue thin layer of faux objectivity doesn’t change what it really is in the slightest.

My objection tries to get closer to objective reality, or so I would hope.

MMOs are not easy to make and they certainly are not cheap to make.  Also, the market is already crowded with competitors.  Meanwhile Perfect World has traditionally been a purveyor of Asian style MMOs that don’t really do all that well in the West along with titles that couldn’t keep their original studios alive and were no doubt scooped up at bargain basement prices to be milked via cash shops and lockboxes for every last farthing they can provide.

In that scenario it is difficult for me to see much in the way of hope for anything worthwhile coming out of this idea.  Instead of an attempt to meet some real world demand or cater to a specific demographic, this all smacks of the quote at the top of the post, except in 2018 we have to substitute in “pushing for that cash shop pie” in place of “pushing for that subscription pie.”

Yes, there is talk of there being some Diablo and Torchlight devs involved, but when they say it won’t be a generic MMO but a Torchlight MMO through and through it sounds almost like a contradiction, because if I were to fault Torchlight II on anything, it would be on its mild blandness.  There was nothing wrong with it, but despite playing through the game I barely remember any of it.  I am sure there must have been a story to it, but I cannot remember any of it.

I actually reinstalled it via Steam last week just to revisit it for a while to see if my memories of the game had just faded over time.  After a couple of hours of play my hazy impressions were pretty much reaffirmed.  It is a decent game, if a bit bland, with a story that never really gets much traction in my brain.  It feels more incidental than anything.  There are just several other ARPGs that I find more engaging, such as Grim Dawn, Diablo III, Path of Exile, or even the remastered version of Titan Quest.  So I am not really seeing this as a property that screams to be made into an MMO.  Of course, I could say the same for the other four titles I listed out.

I know, I know, you can say you’re going to make any sort of MMO and you’ll always get some people excited about it.  In spite of our constant and repeated experiences over the last decade the acronym “MMO” still retains some magical properties.  People still long for a shared, persistent world to travel.  People will project their memories and ideas on it and get all excited about an imaginary game that as like as not will bear no resemblance to reality.  That path leads to inevitable disappointment.

So given all of that I cannot help but draw back from this and ask if it is really a good idea.  Given the state of the market, the limits of the franchise, and the reputation of the publisher is this something to get emotionally invested in yet?

And that leaves aside the basic game play questions.  For example, is playing Torchlight II with more than the full party you can play with now really a worthwhile goal?  Are dozens or even hundreds of other people around in this click-fest really a benefit?

I think that the best possible outcome might be a setup like the original Guild Wars, where there were certain shared areas like towns but that the actual content was limited to you and your party.  That sounds a bit like what they are aiming for, though I think having the overworld all shared and only dungeons instanced out for parties might be too much shared space unless they plan on a lot of dungeons.

As for the worst outcome… the mind boggles at the possibilities.  I would not bet against something like a revival of the failed Diablo III real money auction house for starters.  But we know from history that you don’t even need a cash shop to get RMT in motion in an MMO.

Diablo II RMT site ad from back in the day

I mean, Path of Exile is there as an example of how not to get mired in RMT, but I suspect that that Perfect World would see that as limiting their revenue potential.

Meanwhile, the fact that it is targeted for next year (developer optimism is evergreen) and is planned for Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBox One makes me wonder if Torchlight Frontiers will in anyway resemble what made Torchlight and Torchlight II as popular as they were.

That is the problem with experience; it inevitably makes a skeptic out of you.

Anyway, we’ll see what comes of this.  Maybe we’ll even see it next year.

Others who have chimed in on the topic:

Another Studio Acquisition Story

Or a few stories really.

Acquisitions are much on my mind still and since Massively OP is still going on about the concept I’ll carry on as well.  Previously I meandered on about reasons for them and often how things can go bad.

Getting acquired can suck.

There can be a loss of prestige in not being able to make it on your own.  And, of course, there is always some loss of freedom and autonomy as you have to answer to the new owners.  Plus the company doing the buying doesn’t always know how to treat their acquisition.  Culture clash can be an issue and can lead to key developers heading for the exit.

But sometimes things do work out for the better.

For example, there was a company called Silicon & Synapse, Inc.  Founded in 1991, it did some platform ports to start off with, then moved on to a couple of original games that were published by Interplay.

A brain was their mascot, of course

The name of the company wasn’t as brilliant as the founders thought and they changed it to Chaos Studios, Inc.  However they were soon acquired by Davidson & Associates and ended up having to change their name again because somebody else held the rights to the name and they couldn’t afford to purchase them.  There was even a little story in the Technology section of the LA Times by one of the staff writers who probably drew the short end of the stick on that one.  It is short enough to quote in full. (Hopefully the LA Times won’t come after me for that.)

May 24, 1994|Times staff writer Dean Takahashi

From Chaos to Blizzard: Chaos Studios, a developer of video and computer games in Costa Mesa, has changed its name to Blizzard Entertainment.

Part of the reason is to reflect its new ownership. Davidson & Associates in Torrance, an education software company, bought Chaos Studios earlier this year in a $6.75-million stock deal.

The Costa Mesa game company, which formerly developed games for other publishers, will publish its own games as a result of an infusion of money from Davidson.

Another reason is that the rights to the Chaos name were owned by a small holding company in New York, Chaos Technologies, which also owns a video game company.

Allen Adham, president of Blizzard, said Chaos Studios couldn’t afford to pay for those rights, so the name was changed to Blizzard, which had a nice ring to it.

“We’re still the same lovable company,” he said.

We’re still the same lovable company!  That has to be one of the most low-key “before they were famous” news stories.

But look how things worked out.  Despite having been acquired just three years into their existence… and before they even had their name fully settled… Blizzard went on to be a powerhouse.  Blizzard has essentially never been a stand-alone company, not under that name.  Its success came after it was acquired.

Success grants you some power and Blizzard itself, having done well with Warcraft, was able to acquire Condor Games, renamed Blizzard North, which turned out Diablo and Diablo II.

While that turned out well initially, problems with then Blizzard owner Vivendi led key members of the Blizzard North team to leave and found Flagship Studios.  The studio was dissolved after  Hellgate: London failed to take off and some of the people from that venture ended up at Runic Games, the makers of Torchlight and Torchlight II, while key team member Bill Roper landed at Cryptic Studios.  Both Runic and Cryptic were later acquired by Perfect World Entertainment.

Some key people from Runic left PWE to form Double Damage games, and the whole dance continues on.  A few things succeed, others don’t pan out or make just enough to be of interest to another company.

And, just to bring this back to yet another small world story, Dean Takahashi, who wrote that little piece in the LA Times so long ago, is currently the lead writer for the Games Beat section of Venture Beat and was the author of three posts over there last week, one about CCP being acquired by Pearl Abyss as well as two key interviews interviews, one with Pearl Abyss CEO Robin Jung and the other with CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson.