EverQuest II Opens Up the Fallen Gate Progression Server

Daybreak is back to playing the nostalgia server card again, this time for EverQuest II.

The server was expected to go live at Noon yesterday.  However this is Daybreak, so unexpected issues are the order of the day..

That got extended for a bit.

But by late afternoon Daybreak announced that the server was up and people could log in.

This isn’t the first progression server that Daybreak has done for EverQuest II.  Back in the summer of 2015 they brought the Stormhold server online, springing the revised Isle of Refuge on us as part of the experience.

Since then there hasn’t been too much news about the server, aside from the expansion unlock votes and its PvP server twin Deathtoll being merged into Stormhold due to a lack of interest.  But that is the nature of these sorts of servers; there is often a fuss up front, but they excitement tends to fade over time, especially when they get many expansions out.

So after two years I suppose it is about time for a new one, and so we have the Fallen Gate progression server going live today, named for the dungeon zone that is sort-of the Commonlands version of Stormhold.

Outside Fallen Gate, which has a door that is still standing

As with the Stormhold server, you need a Daybreak All Access subscription to play.

The difference between Fallen Gate and the old Stormhold server appears to be that all races and classes will be available immediately on Fallen Gate and that expansion unlocks will come at regular 12 week intervals rather than being subject to the whims of a vote.  Voting just leads to bad feelings, especially if the vote is close.

There is also something of a theme for the server, which is focused on heritage quests.  Those quests are a nostalgic nod to the Norrath of the original EverQuest, proving that even 13 years back SOE hadn’t completely lost sight of the link the two games share.  You can earn some special achievements by completing such quests.

As usual, there are some incentives to come and play on the server, including a deplorable “mount” you can get if you reach level 10 on the server before July 11.  There is also a special Gateway to Adventure Pack you can buy in the cash shop that has a 66-slot bag, speed enhancing Journeyman’s Boots (not the ones from the heritage quest I assume), and some potions to help speed your progress in other ways.

 

There is an announcement page with the overview as well as a FAQ posted about the server.

My favorite item from the FAQ has to be this:

What will be available for Tradeskills?

Tradeskilling should look similar to the original EverQuest II launch.  Apprentices will not be made available until a later date.

I seriously doubt crafting will look anything at all like the interdependent tradeskill chaos that marked the launch of EverQuest II, but the thought of it amuses me.

As keen as I am on such servers being available, I do not think I will be joining in this time.  My nostalgia for the Norrath MMOs involves playing with a semi-regular group, so embarking on what would be a solo venture doesn’t have much appeal.

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week Four

We are about a third of the way through the 13 week summer Fantasy Movie League, but there are still a host of potential blockbuster movies out there.

This week saw most of our group making the decision between Transformers: About Last Night and Wonder Woman to anchor their picks.

As with last week, it seemed pretty clear who would take the top spot in the box office.  Transformers was set to win, but would it win by enough to make it a viable pick.  As noted previously, you have eight screens to fill and a $1,000 budget.  If you invest most of it in a big movie, it has to pay off.  The prices of the week four picks:

Transformers               $560
 Wonder Woman              $286
 Cars 3                    $278
 All Eyez On Me            $104
 The Mummy                 $73
 Pirates                   $58
 47 Meters Down            $55
 Captain Underpants        $45
 Rough Night               $39
 Tubelight                 $34
 Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $32
 Beatriz at Dinner         $17
 Megan Leavy               $16
 It Comes At Night         $13
 The Book of Henry         $11

As the week began, estimates for Transformers were up in the $70 million range, which made it a safe pick.  Grab that and a few good cheaper picks to back it up, and you’re set.  And then the reviews hit and the early opening numbers came in and estimates fell through the floor, with its weekend pull down at $45 million.

Meanwhile Cars 3 and Wonder Woman were both being estimated at around $27 million.  Pick two of those and you beat Transformers for about the same price.  It was something of a toss up between Cars 3 and Wonder Woman for me.  Wonder Woman was still going strong, but Cars 3 was still the big kids movie and only in its second week.

I decided to go with Cars 3 on three screens.  Then I started picking and choosing what the other five picks ought to be.  I ended up with this selection.

My selections and how they did

I wasn’t totally sold on this set, but I couldn’t come up with anything better and then I realized it was after 9am on Friday, selections were locked, and I was stuck with it.

9am is the big reveal, when you get to see what everybody else picked.  Nobody picked Cars 3 aside from me.  Everybody else was down with Transformers and Wonder Woman or else they picked Wonder Woman to fill two or three screens.

The closest mirror to my own picks was Liore, who went with three Wonder Woman, two Captain Underpants, and three Beatriz at Dinner.  Given her ringer status in the group, I felt a bit encouraged by at least the shared pattern.

As it turned out, Wonder Woman did about a million dollars more over the weekend than Cars 3.  However, my savior was 47 Meters Down, which not only clocked in at $7 million, but which got the nod as the best price/performance pick of the week, boosting my total by $2 million per screen showing it.  That was enough to put me at the top of the list for the week.

  1. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $95,679,946
  2. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $88,567,091
  3. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $87,759,467
  4. Void’s Awesomeplex – $87,244,395
  5. Ocho’s Octoplex – $85,011,942
  6. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $84,410,311
  7. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $81,825,392
  8. Bel’s House of Horrors – $81,603,369
  9. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $80,899,156
  10. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $76,460,030
  11. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $17,190,425

Clockwork apparently started to pick, filling in two screens, but then didn’t finish, leaving six empty screens.  Each empty screen comes with a $2 million penalty, so Wonder Woman and Captain Underpants teaming up were not enough to save the day.

Of course none of us picked the optimum selection, which was Transformers and seven screens of 47 Meters Down.

Week Four’s Optimum Picks

Weekly wins so far:

  1. Liore – 2
  2. Braxwolf – 1
  3. Wilhelm – 1

Liore not taking the week did not do much to shake her from her leading position in the overall season running.  At the end of week four the totals are:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $416,272,621
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $390,585,663
  3. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $382,306,139
  4. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $371,138,496
  5. Ocho’s Octoplex – $364,953,950
  6. Void’s Awesomeplex – $364,730,70
  7. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $358,166,372
  8. Bel’s House of Horrors – $342,072,780
  9. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $325,309,184
  10. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $284,246,625
  11. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $270,152,909

I am holding on to second place, but am $26 million behind Liore.  That means I need to beat her total by at least $3 million each week for the next nine weeks of the summer season.  Or I need a really big score one week… or she needs to go on vacation and forget to do her picks.

And those in the mid-pack need to beat her by double that every week to overtake.

One of the interesting side notes is how well Moderate Peril is doing, holding on to fourth place, all the while doing his picks like he is running an actual theater, showing each movie only once most weeks (he doubled up on a film once) and not min/max optimizing.

Anyway, we are on to week five and the options are:

Despicable Me 3           $840
Transformers              $175
The House                 $198
Cars 3                    $102
Wonder Woman              $131
Baby Driver               $110
47 Meters Down            $36
The Mummy                 $26
Pirates of the Caribbean  $26
All Eyez on Me            $19
Rough Night               $23
Captain Underpants        $19
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $15
Beguiled                  $32
Beatriz At Dinner         $12

Despicable Me 3 is tracking for a safe $90 million this coming weekend.  However, if you pick that, your other seven screens end up pretty weak.  Meanwhile, Baby Driver is getting some buzz and the the FML site stats show it is being picked heavily.  That might be the sign that those in the know feel it is going to be the optimum pick of the week.  So it might be a better plan to pick a lessor anchor film and pile on that.  But which title would you pick as an anchor?  And how deep do you go with Baby Driver?  Six screens?  Seven?  All eight?

We shall see how the week goes.

Mini Metro

Mini Metro had been on my Steam wish list for a while.

That isn’t saying much.  I put lots of things on my wish list to consider buying later, to look into, or just to remind myself that they exist.  Titles can linger there for ages, waiting for a something to push me either to buy them or drop them from the list.

Fortunately for me… or the game… or both… Zubon did a write-up about the game which tipped the balance in favor of my grabbing it as soon as the Steam Summer Sale hit.  And it is all he said it was, light and simple and elegant in design.

I was a little bit surprised when I first launched the game as it drops you straight into playing.  There is no mucking about in any menus or settings, you’re just on what is essentially the playing field playing the game.  It is a strategy that works with a game of such a spare interface.

At its heart it is the same game as Train Valley, of which I wrote previously.  The player sets up a transit network based on a set of stations which gradually increase over time, servicing a population that has destinations in mind.

Mini Metro sheds all of the non-essentials, paring away money and rewards and switches and collisions, leaving just the necessities.  Your passengers are simple shapes who want to travel to a station that matches them in stylized versions of major cities.

Four Lines running through London

You  passengers are not picky.  If they are circles, they just want to get to one of the likely many circle stations on your map.  Other shapes are more rare, some of them being one per map.  You draw out and change your transit lines by just dragging them.  Your rolling stock are little rectangles that move up and down the line, stopping at stations to pick up or drop off passengers.

There are, of course, constraints.  That is what makes it a game really.

There is a limit on the number of transit lines you can have and tunnels for crossing water and trains and carriages to which you have access.  When a new week starts up every Sunday you are given a new train and the option to add something else in a binary choice.  You might have the option add another line (which will require your train) or a couple of tunnels or a carriage that allows a a train to carry additional passengers, or a special station that loads and unloads passengers more quickly.  But the you only get two options each week and you only get to choose one.

And then there are the passengers, who get upset if your transit system leaves them piling up in stations for too long, with grumpy sounds and angry black timer circles forming if they are backed up.

Some unhappy Londoners south of the Thames

Passengers are the ultimate constraint, the one that will end your game.  If the timer circle sweeps through the full 360 degrees, your transit system fails and you are done.

Game over man!

Score is measured in how many passengers you have delivered and how long your transit system lasted.

There is a list of maps representing different international metropolitan environments from London to Paris to New York to Shanghai.  Each map has a simplified representation of the water obstacles the city presents, tunnels being a key constraint as your system expands.  There are also some variations on some of the maps.  In Cairo the trains only hold four passengers rather than the six on other maps, while in Osaka you get fast moving bullet trains to help move your population about.

Osaka on the list…

There is a hierarchy of maps and map difficulty, and to unlock the next map you have to deliver a certain number of passengers on your current map.  There is also a list of achievements for doing specific things on various maps, if you are looking for additional constraint.

The game reminds me of a software package I used back in college.  I took a class, the name of which I have long since forgotten, which was essentially holistic systems analysis.  The software, which I wish I still had, let you model processes as water flow, so you could lay out something like the DMV and see where the bottlenecks and the idle locations were.  By abstraction, you could see the flow of a system.  Mini Metro is like that, even to a real transit planner.

Anyway, the game, which is an inexpensive indy title to start with, is even cheaper with the coming of the Steam Summer Sale.  If you like this sort of system management I recommend picking it up.  There are even iOS and Android versions of the title in the respective app stores.

SuperData Recombines WoW Again for May Chart

The SuperData Research Top Ten chart for May 2017 is out.

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2017

The decision as to whether or not to split World of Warcraft into East/West or represent it as a single unit has swung back again.  Last month they were split, this month combined again.

The combined WoW number still dropped a notch, falling from 5th to 6th place, while Overwatch moved up a slot to 8th place on the PC chart.  The top four spots on the PC chart remain unchanged, while DOTA 2 landed on the charts in the 5th spot.  It was last seen on the chart back in February, where it was holding the 10th position… or 9th position when the chart was refactored to combine WoW yet again.

World of Tanks remains behind WoW for yet another month… though I do wonder where it would stand with WoW split into two.

Meanwhile, I am left wondering what the difference between Fantasy Westward Journey Online II and New Westward Journey Online II.  I suppose one might just be the original Fantasy Westward Journey.  SuperData needs to fix their shit I think.

On the mobile chart Pokemon Go dropped off the list for the first time since launch.  The game just deployed a revamp of gyms and added gym raids, so we shall see if that is enough to get it back on the list next month.  That Candy Crush Saga returned to the list should give them hope.

Other items from the SuperData report:

U.S. digital slows down but still shows year-over-year growth. U.S. digital revenue is up from April 2016 but down from March 2017. Free-to-play MMO, console and mobile all had high-single-digit revenue growth, more than offsetting slight declines in social and premium PC revenue.

U.S. digital revenue up year-over-year. Gamers spent over $1 billion across all platforms in May, up from April, during what is typically a lackluster point in the year. Growth came primarily from mobile revenue.

Overwatch shows continued growth. Overwatch digital revenues are up from April but down from May 2016, when it launched. Additional Content revenue hit a new high in May on the back of a one-year anniversary event.

Injustice 2 has a solid launch on consoles. We estimate Injustice 2 sold almost 500k digital units on console in May after launching mid-month. This puts it at number four in the top 10 console rankings this month in terms of digital revenue.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 gets another DLC release.  Black Ops 3 grew month-over-month and beating out Infinite Warfare. The jump, which vaulted the game past Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, came from the PS4 release of the “Zombie Chronicles” DLC.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds has another big month.  PUBG had another solid sales month in May with 791,000 units sold, bringing life to date digital sales above 2 million units through May. June looks to be another massive month for the game.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege breaks into console top 10 for the first time since January 2016, thanks to the continued “Year Two” support from Ubisoft.

The Steam Summer Sale 2017 Arrives

As predicted/expected/hoped, the Steam Summer Sale went live at 17:00 UTC today.

Summer Sale Comes Again

I have been much less ambivalent about the upcoming sale than I have been in past years.  I am feeling the itch for a new game or three.  So as soon as the sale went live I checked my wishlist and… nothing I added recently is on sale.

Ah well.

This year the activities are driven by quests to obtain sticker by performing various activities.  Going through your discover queue is the obvious one, but there are other tasks.

Sticker pack for checking my prefs

Of course, the immediate heavy load on the store meant that such tasks led to errors, but it will smooth out once the rush to find the inevitably comically mis-priced items has died down.

Since my wishlist let down my initial rush of enthusiasm, I’ll have to stalk the store to see what I can find.  Or maybe I will buy something I really want at full price.  It’s been known to happen.

How are you feeling about Steam this summer?

The Necromancer is Coming

Last year and BlizzCon Blizzard promised two things for Diablo III.

The first was the original Diablo experience mocked up in the Diablo III engine… with Diablo III assets.  The Darkening of Tristram event.  We got that in January, and while the experience was not very old school Diablo, it was, as I opined, at least some new content to play through in the game.

The second was the return of the necromancer class, which we will get next week in the form of the Rise of the Necromancer DLC.

The necromancer arrives soon

One of the questions unanswered at BlizzCon was how much the necromancer DLC would cost, because it was made clear it wouldn’t be free.

The answer is: $15

Not a bad price for DLC I guess.  For your fifteen bucks you get access to the necromancer class, a bunch of cosmetic fluff, two additional stash tabs (PC master race only), and two character slots. (details here)

But no content.

So if you miss the necromancer class from Diablo II and want to see it remastered in Diablo III, this is probably an easy choice.  A new class through the current content is likely draw enough for fifteen bucks.

But if you are indifferent to the class… I played it back during Diablo II and it was interesting, but not a class I finished the game with… it is also easy to pass on.  I thought Blizz might have a hook in there, something to attract those for whom the class and the fluff aren’t much of a draw.

And I know, I sound like I am expecting too much for that price, though I will point out that Blizz has added whole new areas for free in the past… and there was the Darkening of Tristram event I opened the post with, which was free as well.  So a bit of content would not have been wholly out of the question to my mind.

As it stands though, I’ll likely let this slide.  But if the necromancer is a must-have for you, look for it on Tuesday!

Is EVE Online a Gankbox?

Syp has been angsty about the “gank culture” of EVE Online this week.  He started on Twitter.

Then he turned that into a post on Massively OP where he declared EVE Online to have a “gankbox” culture.

I had to go look up “gankbox,” as this was a new term to me.  According to Massively OP:

Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.

As somebody coming up on eleven years of playing the game, that does not describe EVE Online to me at all.  New Eden is not a place of unrestricted, free-for-all PvP.  Sure, out in the wilds of null sec space or in wormholes you can shoot at other players without consequence, but in low security and high security space, where Neville Smit tells me most of New Eden plays, there certainly are restrictions on PvP.

In low sec you have guns on gates and stations that will shoot at people who initiate combat, there are suspect timers and kill rights that make people who shoot you vulnerable to attack even in high sec space, and the whole security status system that can make travel to high sec a dicey proposition if you sec status gets too low.

And that is low sec space, which hosts faction warfare, where people are alleged to be shooting each other all the time.

In high sec space, CONCORD lands on you and blows up your ship if you just start shooting at other people, something that I would call a pretty serious restriction on PvP.  Somebody has to declare war on you to shoot you without restriction in high sec, and they can’t do that if you’re still in an NPC corporation.

Which, of course, isn’t to say that people don’t get blown up in high sec space.  It happens all the time.  I’ve been on both ends of that.  I have been blown up traveling the space lanes of high sec.  And I have helped blow other people up as part of Burn Jita and Burn Amarr in the past.

An Obelisk freighter goes up

And suicide ganking is a thing in high sec space every day.  But it has restrictions and it can be avoided with some care.  People engage in it as a for-profit venture, so simply making sure it isn’t profitable to gank you goes a long way to making your journey a success.  You can start by getting the hell away from Jita.  As the center of commerce in New Eden, it attracts all the bad elements, so the further you go from it, the quieter and safer things tend to become.

But the term “gankbox” seems completely off base.  Ganking does not dominate the game.  I live in Delve, PvP barely dominates the game.  We mostly mine, shoot NPCs, build things, and sell them to each other, as the monthly economic report demonstrates.

I will cop to EVE Online have a bad reputation however.  It has provided some cringe worthy moments in gaming.  And even I called out the game’s reputation as one of the top five problems I feel the game has.

But a reputation isn’t reality, it is a perception.  You aren’t going to get ganked and scammed by Goons the moment you undock into the tutorial in your noob ship.  Syp couldn’t have “looked” and the gank culture, because it doesn’t exist as he describes it.  He just let one aspect of the game’s reputation color his point of view.

Sure, people get blown up and get mad, as in this classic Reddit post.  But you’ll note two things in that thread.  The first is the pilot’s disregard for security status, and thus his own safety.  Second is that down in the comments he eventually says he is over his moment of frustration.  Life in New Eden, and on Reddit, where flaws get magnified 100x.

For all of that though, I will predict that Syp wouldn’t like EVE Online.  He seemed to get a bit flustered by RuneScape, which at least follows some recognizable MMORPG conventions.  EVE is just plain right-angles to reality confusing if you’re coming from other games in the genre.

Back to my top five problems post, the game’s name, age, and reputation stop people from playing, but it is the the user interface, the complexity of gear, and (my bonus item) the horrible, mis-used, and sometimes arcane terminology common within the game are much more likely to be a real issue than the game’s reputation.

EVE Online is a place where veterans of the game learn about features by accident all the time.  I saw this gem just the other day.  I don’t have to undock to tinker with overview settings.  Who knew?  For a new user it can be confusing as hell.  And that doesn’t even get into the sandbox nature of the game where, once you’re done with the tutorial, the game leaves you to figure out what you want to do.

All of which is me picking on Syp, which he probably doesn’t deserve.  But I would like to see him try the game and reject it for one of it many real flaws rather than running away due to a flaw he thinks it might have. (Also, his posts on Massively OP about EVE might use the games terminology correctly more often.)

When I think of ganking and annoying player behavior, my mind always goes to WoW.  I have experienced a lot more direct bad user behavior in Azeroth than in New Eden.  But I play EVE and not WoW currently.

To round back to the post topic, do you think EVE Online is a “gankbox” or not?

Addendum: Inventory Full, Endgame Viable, and Contains Moderate Peril all have words on PvP as well.