Opportunities… in… SPAAAAACE!!!

Recurring opportunities… the New Eden version of a daily quest, with a 10K skill point reward… went into the game earlier this week.  The plan to introduce them was announced some time back though, and I had considered writing about them at the time, but pushed it off.

In part I pushed it off because my gut reaction contained more than a bit of the bitter vet in the form of, “Back in my day nobody handed you skill points, you logged off and played something else until that skill you really needed finished!  And then you logged the fuck back in as soon as it finished, because there was no skill queue either!  Kid theses days!” and there was more than enough of that to go around.

Instead I decided to see how much 10,000 skill points might matter to a new player.

It has been a long time since I was a new player in New Eden, almost ten years at this point.  I still sort of remember how things were… kind of.  I have a post about running through the 2006 version of the tutorial and still have nightmares about trying to run “Worlds Collide” in an stock fit Ibis because that was what my first agent gave me.

Scratch one frigate!

A Cormorant solved that problem eventually

It was a harsh environment, back then.  Everything was a hazard.

Dammit!

Dammit!

But a lot has changed since then.

Not everything has changed though...

Bait cans though, still a thing I hear…

Of course, one of the things that has changed over that time was me.  The last alt I made for anything but running a cyno in a noob ship I let skill up for almost two months before I bothered undocking.  But even that was back in 2007, and new characters get a lot more skill points to start with these days.  Surely it couldn’t be that bad still, right?

So I logged in with a character I rolled up just before EVE Vegas last year (a female character for my wife, in case CCP wanted a character names on badges, though that turned out to not be an issue) with the intent of seeing if I couldn’t just use all those skills you get now to fit something besides the noob frigate to run a few level 1 missions.

Since the character was Gallente, I decided to go with the Incursus, a frigate with hybrid weapon bonuses that could also carry a light drone and which ought to be armor tanked, as being somewhat representative of the Gallente ship design strengths.

Of course, herein lay part of the problem of me trying to recreate the noob experience; I wasn’t going to be content fitting just anything to the ship and flying off.  While I am in no way a ship fitting grognard, nearly a decade of flying ships fit by other people has at least given me a sense of what I ought to be carrying.

I decided I wanted to put out as much damage as possible… quick kill, best kill… so I fit three small blasters.  Those are short range, so I had to have an afterburner to close with things.  And, just in case a target tried to run away I figured I had better fit a web.  Of course, with an armor tank on missions I needed an armor repper in the lows, along with a Damage Control module, because one low slot ALWAYS has to have a Damage Control module according to chapter 17, paragraph 43, subsection f or the bible on this sort of thing.  Then I probably needed something to help me keep cap, and I couldn’t been seen in public without rigs…

Pretty soon I had a nice little ship, mostly fit, that I totally couldn’t use because I needed one skill or another to use almost everything.  And this was all tech I modules.

I could fire the guns and, if I recall right, I could also run the afterburner, but doing both together would run down my capacitor in about 30 seconds. I couldn’t launch the drone, I couldn’t web anything, and I couldn’t run the armor repper.  They were all in their slots but offline as I lacked the right skill.  And, of course, I couldn’t fit the rigs because I didn’t have any skills in the area.

So I jotted down a list of skills I had to have, then some support skills that I probably should have… things that helped with cap usage being high on the list… and flew off to the nearest school station to buy skill.

It was at about this point that I figured it I had been serious about this I would have just bought a skill injector and made all these problems go away.  But, while I was fine sending this character some cash for skills and to buy a ship, I wasn’t going to go that far.  So I bought and injected the skills I thought I needed and queued them all up.

Then I bought my proposed fit into EFT and checked to see how it looked if Wilhelm was flying it.  With his skills it was a mission running killing machine, fast, hard hitting for its modest fit, and cap stable with everything running.

Then I made an API for the new character, put that into EFT, and checked how things looked, only to realize that I needed a couple more skills just to put everything online and that capacitor was still a possible issue.  A ship doesn’t HAVE to be cap stable, but it is nice for it to be so if you’re going to run missions.

I add in a few more skills, put all that into EVE Mon, and let the queue run for a couple days until I had at least the bare minimum skills to put everything online and at least run it for a bit.  Then I went out and ran a mission, which was “op success.”

Shooting things in my wee frigate

Shooting things in my wee frigate

I was actually running a mission for Quafe, which I was surprised to find had agents that gave out security (kill things) missions.  The cola wars are real.  I was also reminded as to how dull mission running can be.  Some of that is the residuals of having run enough missions to get 8+ standing with a range of Caldari and Amarr corporations, which you used to need back in the day to make jump clones in their stations… until CCP broke that and decided to leave it that way.  But there was also a feeling of being overpowered and just shooting sitting ducks because the missions have to be doable by players who have even less fitting sense that I have.

So maybe my fitting plan and skill was overblown.  Or maybe not.  It is hard to tell.

And yet I was still feeling the pinch of not having enough skills.  I could only target two hostiles because I hadn’t trained Target Management yet.  I was close, but not quite, cap stable.  I had a long enough run time to not worry about it.  And I actually had to swap a named tech I web and a named tech I battery to get there and be within the CPU constraints of the hull.

So I was a few days of training into the ship, mostly knowing what I was doing and how to figure out what I needed to train (I had EFT and EVE Mon handy) and I was still looking for skills.  And I hadn’t yet looked into any of the additional skills that improve gunnery or drones.

That was all last week.  I ran a few missions and let the training queue carry on.

The Tuesday hit and the patch to add in Recurring Opportunities hit.

I logged in with my wee frigate pilot to give it a try.  There it was, up on my screen.

The offer...

The offer…

I immediately undocked and warped to an asteroid belt… well, the asteroid belt… in the system where I had last docked up.  I was in luck.  There were a few wrecks in the belt already, but a new NPC had spawned and nobody was about, so I sped in for the kill.

More frigate shooting...

More frigate shooting…

On the kill, it was mission accomplished.

Checked that box

Checked that box

I had my 10K skill points and a 22 hour timer until I could do that again.

I kind of wonder at the choice of time.  20 hours seemed to be the better choice for such things.  For me there tend to be about a four hour window in the evening when I might play, and I hate to have a late session one evening, then an early session the next, only to find I have another hour or so before my opportunity will recur.  I am sure there was some debate about this at CCP, and if it is every 20 hours, that would allow the obsessive amongst us to gain just that many more free skill points over the course of a year.

Perhaps it should CCP should just reset opportunities every down time, though they would then have to account for unscheduled down time as well I suppose.

Anyway, I immediately applied my skill points to a skill I had injected.

Apply skill points now

Apply skill points now

That got me to cap stability.

Notifications

Notifications

I was happy to see that apply skill points was easy and that you didn’t have to stop your skill queue to do it… unless, of course, you wanted to apply skill points to the skill you were currently training.  Then you have to open up the queue window and pause your skill queue.

10K skill points seems to be about enough to get you two levels of a low multiplier skill.  The next day I got another 10K skill points and applied it to the injected, but untrained skill Target Management, and it got me two levels and a fair bite into the third.  I think the estimate was that this would boost you by about 5 hours of training, depending on your attributes and implants and what not.

So, from that perspective, it does look to be something that would be meaningful to a new player.

The objections are, of course, that any player can do this, newbie or bitter vet, and gain nearly 4 million skill points over the course of a year.  Give that skill injectors are a thing now though, I am not sure that this is really all that worrisome.  I certainly haven’t started undocking my main to shoot a belt rat a day, and not just because PL is camping all the belts in Saranen to catch people doing that.  At nearly 160 million skill points, I just don’t feel the compulsion.

Of course, compulsion is the other argument against.  This is a daily quest, something that generates strong feelings in the MMO community.  I know that pain.  You don’t HAVE to do daily quests, but it can feel like you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t.  I don’t mind dailies when I am working towards a goal.  I ran through a whole range of dailies for the factions during the Mists of Pandaria expansion in WoW and enjoyed myself.  But I didn’t run them after I had hit my goal.

But if dailies don’t have a specific end goal, yet provide a good reward, they can lead to compulsion and burn out.  This is what happened with me and garrisons in WoW during Warlords of Draenor.  The follow missions were simply too lucrative to NOT do every day, on every character, so I ended up spending most of my play time servicing the garrison, which wasn’t all that much fun.

Yes, I could have NOT done that.  But then, as noted, you feel like you are missing an opportunity.  As that quote from Edward Castronova, which I trot out whenever we speak of such things, goes,

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

We will tend to do things in order to maximize our progress.  There are always exceptions, but that tends to be the way of things.  Think of Warhammer Online.  Open world PvP and keep battles were where the best fun was in the game, but people overwhelming favored battlegrounds because that was the better choice for player progress.  And you see it in New Eden as well.  People run anomalies for ISK for a reason, it is efficient.

So I suppose the question will have to be whether or not 10K SP is enough for people to feel compulsive about collecting it daily or not.  If I were a new player I would undock every day for this.  But where from where I stand now, I am not sure it is enough to tempt me, though I bet there will now be a race to shoot rats on gates to get the killing blow, which gets you the 10K SP, when we are out on fleet ops now.

I’ll also be interested to see if CCP Quant can come up with some data comparing the number of skill points lost to the game through skill injectors and the number of skill points added to the game through recurring opportunities.

Anyway, I am not wed to the idea, but it feels harmless enough and seems to benefit new players more proportionately than most such plans.  We shall see.

A Murder of Fax Machines

9:22 PM directorbot@goonfleet.com: Why do you spell pandemic legion with all lowercase? Cause they can’t use any caps!

~~~ This was a broadcast from asher_elias to opt-all at 2016-05-25 04:22:07.447156 EVE ~~~

I was having one of those weeks where, on Sunday night, I wondered what I would write about.  I had finished the post for Monday, knew Overwatch would cover me for Tuesday, and and item from Tuesday’s EVE Online patch for Wednesday, if I could make something out of it.  But after that, it seemed to be a quiet week.  We’d lost all our sovereignty and were sitting in our soda warehouse in Saranen fiddling with citadels and towers.

But war will bring opportunity.  We took back a bit of sovereignty last night.  And then, just as I posted that tidbit and was finishing up a post about recurring opportunities, a Jabber ping showed up saying that there were hostiles in system and we needed more Hurricane’s on Thomas Lear.

I almost didn’t go, but the standing defense fleet tends to be easy come, easy go, so I figured I could run off soon enough if nothing was going on.

And it didn’t seem like things were going to go on.  I joined the fleet in my Hurricane, undocked, and anchored up, because the fleet was hanging about the station.  On our overviews we could see the enemy forming up around Pandemic Legion’s Fozitar citadel on grid with the station.

The Fortizar looms

The Fortizar looms still

They were bringing Abaddons, the Amarr battleship which is supposed to be the cure for the artillery fit Hurricane menace that The Imperium has been bringing to bear over the last week.  Meanwhile, we were still stumbling around, trying to get people in fleet, trying to get some boosters, and warping around to find an angle on our foes.

The enemy got off the citadel and we tried to close, got chewed up a bit, looked at the numbers, and warped back to the station where we docked up even as more hostiles were being cyno’d into system.  We were not going to take the fight.

But people were still showing up in fleet and clearly something was going on in the intel channel, as we did not stand down, but undocked and sat on the station for a bit as the fleet filled in more.  Other forces were around to work with us.  White Legion was about, I even saw Talvorian Dex, who still hates us but joined WL to get in on the kills, in local.  Asher had a fleet of his own spun up and was supposed to be off doing something else, but the opportunity was right there in Saranen.

We started trying to take the enemy at the end of our range, warping in at about 70km and aligning out and trying to pick off what we could.  It was a narrow envelope of engagement as we were still lacking boosts so our lock range was less than the falloff of our guns and we kept moving beyond that limit.  We were able to volley off a couple of Abaddons, but we were losing Hurricanes pretty quickly as well.  An Abaddon is worth a little more than two Hurricanes, so we couldn’t exchange too many of ours for theirs and come out ahead.

Meanwhile there were also some Hurricane Fleet Issues on the field and some Machariels being cyno’d in to the fight.  We took a couple more runs and had some success.  The arty-caine’s strength is in its high single shot damage.  A sufficiently large fleet of them, all firing at once, can volley a ship off the field even if it is getting repair reps from its logi.  After several miserable attempts to do this, we actually started almost firing as one, letting off ragged volleys into the hostiles that would often destroy a ship in one go, or at least leave them so deep in structure that the next volley would take care of them.

We were still trying to operate at range, warping in, aligning out, picking a few targets while losing some Hurricanes.  We finally got our boosts setup and running after a while, and the fleet kept growing in size as people logged in, while those who lost ships were just warping back to the station to grab another Hurricane and rejoin the fight.

By that point the fight had moved to the tower we had on the station grid.  The enemy was arrayed about it and had six force auxiliaries, fax machines, in support.   By then though we had a full fleet of Hurricanes, other fleets in support, and things rapidly swung in our favor.

Thomas Lear had us load medium range ammunition at that point and we warped in much closer to the enemy and stood toe-to-toe and hit them with everything we had.  Time dilation kicked in, and for a while it was a slow motion fight.  A target would be called, locked up, volley’d off the field, and then the next one would be called.  Abaddon, Machariels, Bhaalgorns were all popped in succession.  We managed to knock off one of the fax machines, then continued killing off battleships.

I ended up on a lot of kill mails… looks like about 60 now that the kill board appears to have caught up… and I could barely keep up with the cycle of lock and shoot.  I did get one final blow, which means that my Hurricane has a kill mark on it… somewhere… I forgot to look after the fight.

At that point the enemy started to bug out and it was a scramble to lock some of them down and hold them on the field to be destroyed.  Most of their sub cap logi got away, but the five remaining fax machines were priority targets and were destroyed in turn.

And then it was over.  Tidi had lifted towards the end as we raced to slaughter the remains.  The tower had been saved and the enemy driven off.

We lost a lot of ships, 40 more than the enemy.  But as noted, Hurricanes are cheaper than Abaddons, much cheaper than Machariels, and you can expend a lot of Hurricanes for each fax machine kill and still come out ahead on the ISK war, which we clearly did according to the battle report.

Battle Report Summary

Battle Report Summary

Curiously missing from the match was Pandemic Horde, which usually provides some bulk in Feroxes to help out.  Of course, there is some speculation on Reddit as to what may have happened there.

As we lolled about on grid looting and laughing, Mittens showed up on coms wondering what was going on.  He had missed the whole show.  A bit of command chat was rebroadcast over Jabber for us, which included this:

(11:25:13 PM) the_mittani: i asked you to kill a tower asher_elias did you kill pl instead
(11:25:25 PM) asher_elias: sorry :(

Apparently Asher was neglecting his duties in order to destroy hostile capital ships.

I did not know it at the time, but this was the second batch of fax machines to go down in Saranen, as PL had lost five earlier in the day in exchange for a few Hurricanes.  We do like bashing fax machines.  At least somebody at TMC actually woke up and posted something about the war, though still no post about us losing all our sov.

On top of that, some intrepid spirits managed to take back another system in Pure Blind, doubling our holdings since my last post, with EWOK-K falling to us.

Asher pinged for his tower busting op, and I was tempted to go along, but it was getting late for me so I passed, logged off, and headed to bed… though not before a flurry of writing.  Asher got his tower kill without my help in any case.  Another op success.

All in all, a pretty good day for The Imperium.  The sort of day that keeps us logging in and joining fleets.  And just before all this kicked off a B-24 from the Collings Foundation (this one), which is out at Moffett Field with a B-17, a B-25, and a P-51 for the week, flew low over our house as I stood on the front lawn.  That certainly put me in the mood for a fight.  A good day indeed.

And, as I noted previously, our prodigious appetite for Hurricanes is probably stimulating the market in Jita.  I haven’t checked, but I wonder if prices are climbing or if production is ramping up, but it seems like an opportunity for a producer out there somewhere.  If you look at some of our Hurricane kill mails (like this one), they will show you the modules we are using, which are also be in demand.

The Hurricane op was pretty busy, but I did managed to get a few screen shots along the way.  I guess I can save that recurring opportunities post until tomorrow.  The week seems to be filling up on its own.

 

And We’re Back in Null Sec… For The Moment

Is this a real war?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a fleet op
No escape from enotsising
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sovereignty
Because it’s easy come, easy go
index high, index low
Any place the FC goes, doesn’t really matter to me
to me

-Opening lyrics, Fozzie Sov Rhapsody

So this just happened, two jumps from Pandemic Legion’s main staging system, 93PI-4, in the cross over between EU and US prime time, which is basically the peak of activity on any give day in New Eden.

Goons own sov again

Goons own sov again

Somehow we took a system back.  Maybe PL was all off playing Overwatch today?

EC-P8R is actually kind of an important system, being a gate between null sec and low high sec.  I know our foes made a big deal out of capturing it from us the first time.  But it has changed hands a couple of times now.  Being such a gateway probably makes it harder to hold.

Who will own it tomorrow

Popular place

Of course, we’ll probably lose it tomorrow, or the next day, or this weekend, and will probably retake it again at some date after that.

I don’t want to diminish the achievements of the coalition that formed to chase us out of null sec, but this is a reminder that Fozzie Sov, and its changing from favoring defense to favoring offense, was one of their allies.

Also, we clearly haven’t given up yet.  The war goes on.

Overwatch Goes Live

Blizzard’s new game, Overwatch, launches today, or yesterday depending on where you live.  May 24, 2016 is listed everywhere on the promotional material, though the worldwide launch schedule was a bit more complicated than that.

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

I think it is live everywhere it is supposed to be on launch day as of the time this post goes up.  There is a press release from Blizz about it and everything.

I had to be educated on this worldwide go-live because, I must admit, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the game.  Not that my not paying attention is in any way indicative of what other people have been up to.  The open beta was such a success that it got an infographic.

So many players in the open beta

So many players in the open beta

The reason I haven’t been paying much attention is… well… I suppose three out of four Google responses can help me out with that:

Back to this game...

Back to this game…

I wonder if people search on “Overwatch is bad” are looking for reasons to dislike the title or searching out people who don’t like the game?  I suppose that at least Overwatch isn’t dead yet.  Give it a few weeks.

Anyway, the game being bad isn’t one of the reasons.  I suspect the game is actually good, given what I have seen people writing about it.

No, it is more of the other three, where it feels something like Team Fortress 2, cast as a MOBA, for which somebody expects me to pay $40/$60/$130, depending on which edition, which adds up to totally not worth it in my book.  But, as noted previously, I am long past my FPS days.  If I don’t care enough to play the free ones, I am not going to pay to play one.

And then there is the fact that it is one of the few Blizzard titles not to appear on Mac OS.  That is a factor in our house because my daughter has a nice iMac.  She has been into TF2 off and on, which is available on Mac OS, so had her eye on Overwatch… right up until Blizzard said support for Mac OS was off the table.  Then she was pissed and will hear no more of this game.  She feels let down by Blizz.

Then there is the MOBA aspect.  Blizz has been making a big deal about playing heroes rather than classes for Overwatch.  So you choose a hero with a special set of skills and abilities, which sounds very MOBA-like.  I think I said something about that back when the game was announced at BlizzCon 2014.

But then there is also the MOBA monetization coming as well.  They haven’t started selling new heroes… yet… but skins are already available for purchase along with my least favorite aspect of free to play, called Loot Boxes this time around, where in you can pay money… and Blizz doesn’t go for that microtransaction currency stuff, they straight up value things in real world currency and bill your credit card directly… for random items.  I didn’t like that system when I was a kid and tried collecting baseball cards and nothing has changed my mind about it ever since.

Ah well, that might just be me.

So I won’t be playing Overwatch.  But it is a major launch from a developer who also happens to run an MMORPG, so seemed worthy of note, and doubly so since bits of Overwatch were salvaged from the wreckage of Titan, the MMO project from Blizzard that was cancelled a while back.  Also, it seems to be dominating the gaming news cycle right about now.

So will you be playing Overwatch today?

[A multiple choice poll appears above this line which gets blocked by some browsers]

Citadels in Saranen

Last week The Imperium changed its sovereignty timers to run in EUTZ.  Previously they had been running in AUS TZ, where we had had considerable success on defense for a while.  The changes to EUTZ was billed as a way to catch hostiles running entosis links during a time when we could put more pilots on the field.

I supposed this worked to a certain extent.  The primary bit of evidence is the kill boards, and Pandemic Legion’s stats in particular, whose killboard ISK efficiency is lower this month than even January 2014, when the battle at B-R5RB took place. (They were at 68% efficiency for that month, though the amount destroyed, as measured in ISK, was much, much larger.)

Efficiency down for May

Efficiency down for May

The flip side of this is that our foes are also strong in EUTZ and still out number us.  So this strategy lasted for about a week after which we were fresh out of sovereignty to attract targets.  Last night the few remaining systems in the constellation around D2-HOS fell and that was that.

The last corner of Pure Blind falls

The last corner of Pure Blind falls

We have now reached one of those possible victory conditions I mentioned previously.  The Imperium holds no sovereignty, so we’ve lost.  Right?

GSF sovereignty now officially zero

GSF sovereignty now officially zero

Reddit, the official forum of the MBC, is certainly celebrating victory right now.

But are we defeated?

Judging from pings and ops going out and systems being reinforced and numbers showing up for fleets, it certainly does not look like it.  We are currently dug into Saranen and even managed to drop a citadel on grid with our station the other night.

In response to this PL dropped a large citadel, a Fortizar, on the same grid as our home station in Saranen.

The Fortizar looms

The Fortizar looms

We are in a state where the game as a whole is still figuring out what to do with citadels.  At first glance, and this is my guess as to motivation, this gives PL a station that overlooks our undock.  PL even declared war on all of the remaining Imperium alliances, so that NPC station and gate guns in low sec space wouldn’t fire on them any more when they shot at us.

However, this turned into one of those “tracers work in both directions” sort of things, where the fact that they could sit and watch our undock meant that we could also sit and watch them, either by undocking or by sitting on our of medium citadel, safely tethered and waiting for something to happen.

Hurricanes tethered

Hurricanes tethered

Meanwhile, our response to actually getting a citadel anchored and running was to immediately drop another citadel on the station grid in hopes of drawing more hostile fax machines into the system to kill with Hurricanes.

SACCitadel3

Another medium citadel freshly dropped and spinning up

The Hurricane has become the backbone of our defense and any time hostiles show up in force in capitals or T3s or other expensive ships, we undocked in them in order to trade cheap, well insured T1 battlecruisers for whatever they choose to bring.

Saturday, when that second citadel was coming online we formed up in Hurricanes again to see if there would be another brawl like the ones we saw last week.  As the citadel finishes building there is a period of vulnerability during which it has no defenses of its own, so anybody can show up and pop it if you do not defend it.

Citadel vulnerability as it deploys

Citadel vulnerability as it deploys… it kept getting renamed

We were again up in Hurricanes and trolling around the station grid as the time counted down to the vulnerability window.  However, aside from some hostiles playing station undock games with us… which included a PL Nidhoggur that managed to aggro and get caught by us, which was a surprise as we expected him to dock up pretty much right until he exploded… all was pretty much quiet.

Hurricanes cruising the station grid

Hurricanes cruising the station grid

Our foes decided to try something different.  They had some carriers sitting off their citadel. When the vulnerability window hit, those carriers launched fighter squadrons to attack the citadel.

PL Thanatos tethered on the Fortizar

PL Thanatos tethered on the Fortizar

The big grid meant that we could see the carriers launch and the fighters on their way.  (Also, the new camera nicely lets you look at anything on grid now, the 100km limit having been removed.)

We warped over to the citadel and destroyed most of the fighter squadrons as they arrived.  Out of about 30 squadrons sent against the citadel, 26 were destroyed completely… something that, unlike drones, generates a kill mail, which might be helping to weigh down PL’s efficiency this month… with the remaining ones withdrawing before the citadel finished its cycle.  That was the extent of the operation.  We won another minor economic victory.

The response to getting a second citadel anchored and running on the station grid was to… deploy a third one.  I suppose we will have a set of safe spots on grid now, because as long are you aren’t aggro’d you can get within range of these citadels and be safe as well as getting repaired while you wait.

Then on Sunday there was a ping for a fast form as PL had destroyed an allied POS that was on the station grid and then dropped their own tower there to replace it.  However, they did not hang around to defend the stick as it went online, so we ended up forming more than 400 people in two Hurricane fleets to shoot that.

Shooting the PL tower

Shooting the PL tower

Nobody showed up to get in the way of that and so the tower went boom.

A tower kill

A tower kill

Then GSF dropped their own tower back in the location of the original tower and we hung about making sure that it anchored, went online, and got fully fueled.

Tower onlining

Tower Anchoring

Meanwhile, that third citadel kept on moving through its deployment cycle.  The model fills in as the timer gets closer to the end of its count down.

Citadel 3 in Saranen

Citadel three in Saranen

I wasn’t around when that third citadel went live.  However, in scrolling back through Jabber, I do not see a defense fleet being called for it and there were no citadel kills reported in Saranen, so I am going to take a guess that it went online and is now on grid with its two siblings. [Edit: Or maybe not.]

I suppose the question is now “Where does the war go from here?”  We’ve been removed from sov null, but still form up to harass our foes nightly and to fight when the odds aren’t stacked against us.  Meanwhile, PL and NCDot, who have been sovless for quite a while, now hold sovereignty within easy reach of our staging station.  A modest role swap there.  Who will tire of this state of affairs first?

Rise of Kunark Vote on Stormhold

Over on the EverQuest II nostalgia server, Stormhold, the march of expansion unlocks continues.  The unlock vote for the Rise of Kunark expansion… I keep typing Ruins of Kunark, because the original EverQuest expansion is much more meaningful to me… and the names are so similar… has been sent out to players.

Yes or No on Kunark

Yes or No on Kunark

Of course, this brings us to one of those nostalgia server issues which I alluded to last week in that, even if a company decides to go down that path, it is tough to please all of those interested or to find a pace that doesn’t alienate some chunk of your audience.

In this case the Rise of Kunark expansion… the subject of perhaps the only spot-on prediction I have ever made on the blog… which, among its other features, raises the level cap to 80, doesn’t do a lot for me as I am still pottering about in the low 20s.

And I haven't hit 23 yet

And I haven’t hit 23 yet

Now, this is mostly my problem.  Since the Stormhold server launched I haven’t played very much, and even when I have been playing the game has been in third place behind EVE Online and Minecraft. Which isn’t to say I haven’t played at all.  If I had rolled up a fresh character in WoW and put the same amount of time into him, he’d be into Mists of Pandaria by now.

I am not sure on which game that reflects the most poorly.

And the fact that I have been playing solo hasn’t helped.  Unlike the live servers, unnamed heroic mobs are not soloable on Stormhold, but a lot of the quests I have been running drive you straight into their arms.

So close to me goal...

So close to my goal…

Stormhold would have been an excellent opportunity to play with a small group.  Even a healer and a tank together would have owned.  But solo and playing a Shadow Knight, a brand new class for me, has made things a challenge and kept progress down.  I run into quests I cannot finish at level solo often enough, then I have to go find another path to level up on, so I can return later when I can overpower my way through the original.

On the other hand, putting expansion unlocks to a vote every 60 days seems like a fairly brisk pace.  Well, to me in any case.  And so far, only one expansion unlock has been voted down, a vote that led to the usual amount of acrimony in the forums.  No matter which way the vote goes, somebody is unhappy and wants to share.  The forever war between those who want a classic environment that sits static and unmoving and those who want to race to the top and unlock the next bit of content goes on.

Of course, I was happy enough to seen Echoes of Faydwer show up after the last vote.  That added some more 1-70 content, the emphasis for being on the late teens and early twenties, didn’t raise the level cap, and represented an important change in the history of the game.

Now though, with Rise of Kunark, we’re getting into content I didn’t even finish the first time around… even though it went live back in late 2007.

I may not be enthusiastic for the expansion to unlock, but it won’t change my play style at this point.  I am way too far behind the pack to catch up so I will continue to meander along at my own pace, dying to heroic mobs until I am at least a few levels above them.

Finding the Northeast Passage in Minecraft

Theoretically, this should be easy.  I just need to lay rails starting at location ABC and ending at location XYZ and my mighty rail loop project will be complete.  Actually, it would probably be north from location ABC to JKL, then turn east until I hit XYZ, because Minecraft, like early Pokemon titles, just doesn’t do diagonals very well.

Unfortunately, mere coordinates do not tell the full tale.  Terrain has a pretty big influence on where I lay my track.  Some days I look at a mountain range before me and decided to simply tunnel on through.  Other days I might try to go around if I can.  And sometimes I just go up and over.  The view is better when you go over, but I have to use a lot more powered rail to get up the side and it messes up my planned rail production ratios.

And then there are the wide open bodies of water.

That is the situation I am in now.  Between my current location and the link up point in the mesa biome there is a considerable amount of wet.

The water situation

The water situation

From the looks of it, there are two possible routes, both of which are going to require a bridge.

The southern route (red line on the map) is the most direct and, as such, will require the least amount of rail to complete, and rail is a limiting factor for me.  Right now I am on another mining binge to collect up iron for the next big building push.

The southern route will also likely only require me to build one more major supply and mining base.  Such bases aren’t a big deal, really.  In fact, I tend to enjoy building them up.  Skronk has noted my tendency to go overboard on them.  However, they are a distraction and use up more rail since part of any major supply base is a nether portal connected to the transit hub in the roof of the nether.

On the downside, the southern route will require a lot of bridging.

Again, it isn’t like I haven’t built bridges before.

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Mesa Biome Channel Bridge

Bridge at the south end of the Great Northern Road

Bridge at the south end of the Great Northern Road, before rails

I even put in bridges occasionally where I might not strictly need them.

A wooden bridge to cross a valley

A wooden bridge to cross a valley

But I have gotten a bit picky about them.  I hate to do just a two-wide platform across a gap.  I want something that is a bit of the scenery in its own right.  And the longer the gap to cover, the more materials the bridge will need.

In addition, the south route also goes through a watery area, so I will be building bridges or platforms just to get to the bridge.  Finally, the long water gap where the bridge will need to go is a bit dull when it comes to scenery.

The northern route (the purple line on the map) will require a lot more rail as it goes the long way around the top before cutting back to the mesa biome.  That means a lot more mining for iron to build rails.  I have been pretty lucky in that regard so far though.  Iron has been reasonably abundant.

The northern route will also require a bridge, but not nearly as long as the southern route.  Actually, with my current plan, the route will need two bridges before it hits the mesa biome, but the second one will be very short.  (The mesa biome is another story.  I will be building bridges… or digging tunnels… there no matter which direction I choose.)

I also estimate that I will need two, or possibly three, major supply bases on the northern route.  Fun to build, and I persist in the fantasy that we’ll get a few more players on the server who might use those bases as start points for their own projects, but they are a distraction from the main project.

However, the northern route also offers some better scenery judging from my initial scouting, something that counts for a lot.

Waterfalls where my bridge will likely end up

Waterfalls where my bridge will likely end up

So I am leaning towards the northern route, mostly based on aesthetics.

However, while I am building up supplies, I also have a bit more scouting to do.   There is a potential third route north of the peninsula on which I am building.  I have to get in a boat and go explore further north to see if there is a closer land connection possible.

Fortunately, contrary to some rumors I hears, boats are still excellent scouting vehicles in Minecraft 1.9.