Daybreak Posts 2022 Roadmaps for EverQuest and EverQuest II

In a bit of a surprise, yesterday Daybreak posted their 2022 plans for their two remaining Norrath based titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II.

EverQuest was, of course, the foundation of SOE and its success, launching back in 1999, and was a benchmark for success before WoW came along.

EverQuest II came along five and a half years late as their heir presumptive, though the original game never ended up going away, so there has been a bit of a Queen Elizabeth/Prince Charles relationship going on here, with the newer title never really growing out of the original’s shadow.

Anyway, the real surprise was Daybreak being so forthcoming about their plans for 2022.  Daybreak’s reputation has not been one of “over communicating.”  There have been years when we have know that some things are coming, like new special servers, and we have assumed that things like Q4 expansions would be a thing because they always are.  But getting a plan up front is a rather drastic departure, and one I would like to encourage.

I just hope that fans remember that any roadmap is subject to change,  something that grows more likely past the six month mark.  But as long as Daybreak communicates changes, we should be fine.  People generally get more angry when a date comes and goes without a word than if they get notification that things have had to change.

A lot of the roadmap items are pretty common fare, things we expect from the company, like expansions and updates and events.

One standout item for both games is the migration to 64-bit clients and servers, something required to ensure the long term viability of both games.  EverQuest, which got an announcement about this back in November, is slated for 64-bit next month, while EverQuest II has July on its timeline.  With one team handling both games, the titles being done individually is probably a requirement.

EverQuest, the classic

EverQuest

EverQuest has a couple of big items on its list, including finally updating Heroic Characters, which is their level boost option, to be level 100 rather than level 85.  Level 100 still seems a bit stingy for a game where the level cap is 120 and expansions tend to jump only 5 levels, but it is still better than 85, where the boost has been stuck for the last seven years or so.

Mercenaries are also getting a rework to simplify them, a new progression server is slated for May, and the 29th expansion for the game will arrive in December.

Then, tacked on at the end, there is a promise of a new UI engine at some point beyond 2022.  Again, another item that might help preserve the game for a new generation of players.  What that really means and the actual timing will be something for the future, but it is nice to see it on the roadmap at least.

Oh, and then they are attempting to reboot their community council thing again.  I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly represents a new direction for the Daybreak era of the game.

But SOE had guild and community groups in the past and their influence has always been a bit of a mixed blessing.  They have tended to be drawn from the rarefied high end raiding elements of the game, because that group tends to be the most engaged with the game.  As with EVE Online’s CSM or the WoW Community Council, over representation of high engagement groups tends to toss more casual elements by the wayside.  We’ll see how it goes… maybe…. maybe Daybreak will remain communicative… once this comes together.  I haven’t seen how you can apply to be on the council or any other details about it and it is already the 20th.  This could be the first item to slip.

The full posted 2022 timeline for EverQuest is:

  • January:
    • Community Resource Council Application Relaunch – Your chance to help advise on the future of EverQuest.
  • February:
    • 64-Bit Servers and Clients Release to Live Servers
  • March:
    • 23rd Anniversary – New quests, missions, and a new raid.
    • New Content for Bristlebane’s Day
    • New Content for Stomple’s Day
  • April:
    • New Classic Achievements – Adding achievements for many original quests in EverQuest’s starting cities.
  • May:
    • New Progression Servers – Rulesets to be announced at a later date.
    • Mercenary Rank Simplification – Simplify mercenaries down to the two ranks primarily in use and remove the quest line requirements for obtaining them.
    • New Tempest Festival Event
  • June:
    • Server Merge – Merging the Phinigel and Miragul servers to Vox.
  • July:
    • New Scorched Skies Event
    • New Overseer Achievements and Reward Improvements
  • September:
    • Heroic Characters Update – New Heroic Characters will start at level 100.
  • October:
    • 2022’s Expansion Beta + Preorder
    • New Content for Nights of the Dead
  • November:
    • Extra Life – Help us raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network.
    • New Content for Feast of Giving
  • December:
    • 2022’s Expansion Launch
    • New Content for the New Year’s Event
  • Throughout the Year:
    • Raid Zone Performance Improvements
    • Class Tuning and Balancing
    • Anti-Cheat Improvements
  • Beyond 2022:
    • New UI Engine

The aging second entry, no longer so young compared to the original

EverQuest II

The younger sibling doesn’t have as much big stuff on its list as EverQuest, but it is also in a better state when it come to things like level boost options and mercenaries.

As noted above, the 64-bit update for client and server is slated for July, and the game will be getting a new special rules server along with the annual expansion in December.

The one item I am interested to see is Heroic Opportunities getting a rework.  Those were a thing back at launch, but like Fellowship Maneuvers in LOTRO, fell out of favor as time went on.  They are still in there, and I still kick them off when I play, but I couldn’t tell you if they were worth the effort.  From the timing, it looks like the HO update will be part of the expansion in December.

The full EverQuest II timeline as posted:

    • January:
      • Kaladim Unlocking Age of Discovery – Opening up the Withered Lands and Skyshrine zones.
      • Improvements to the Test Server – Recipe books from old expansions added to the bookworm and level boosts setup to scale correctly to max level.
    • February:
      • Server Merge – Rivervale into Antonia Bayle
      • Lore and Legend Server – Every piece of content in the game is appropriate for your character.
    • March:
      • Chronoportal Phenomenon Updates – The annual commemoration of EverQuest’s anniversary will bring a new throwback dungeon as well as new items to attain during this timely event.
    • April:
      • Game Update 119 – Includes a new Overseer season, an Overseer Inventory system, new raid dungeons, new heroic dungeons, and new collections.
      • Stat/Number Wrappers – In game combat numbers (damage and heals) are visually abbreviated and commas are added into damage logs.
    • May:
      • New Time Locked Expansion Server – A brand new server called Varsoon that will be very similar to the Kaladim ruleset plus the Free Trade ruleset.
      • Tinkerfest Updates – The gears of time have been wound a little tighter, bringing the celebration of all things gnomish and clockwork a little earlier than in previous years. A new dungeon, new rewards, and new merchant items will be available exclusively during this event. You’ll also start earning Jubilation Medals, coins that can be earned and exchanged during the three summertime events for desirable items!
    • June:
      • Scorched Sky Celebration Updates – A red-hot new dungeon and new items will be available for those looking to join the devotees of Flame in their annual fiery festivities. Get more Jubilation Medals!
      • New Patches of Pride Items – New LGBTQIA pride familiars arrive!
    • July:
      • 64-Bit Servers and Clients Port Launch
    • August:
      • Game Update 120
      • Oceansfull Festival Updates – Join the loveable othmir as they give thanks to Prexus with this annual celebration. A new dungeon will be cracked open and new items will be available during the event. Get more Jubilation Medals to exchange for desirable items!
    • September:
      • Swag Store
      • 2022’s Expansion Prelude – A new expansion deserves a new prelude, complete with new items and new quests!
      • Panda, Panda, Panda Updates – The Hua Mein event of the year returns! You never know what they’ll ask of you, or where it’ll require you to go.
    • October:
      • 2022’s Expansion Beta + Preorder – Preorder of EverQuest II’s 19th expansion begins! Purchase your copy and join us in beta.
    • November:
      • Heroes’ Festival – Celebrate our 18th Anniversary!
      • Extra Life – Help us raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network.
    • December:
      • 2022’s Expansion Launch – EverQuest II’s 19th expansion launches, bringing new zones, new quests, and new adventures to Norrath!
      • Heroic Opportunity System Update – Making heroic opportunities fun and relevant again!
    • Throughout the Year:
      • Item Reward and Merchant Updates to Events – Your favorite live event wasn’t listed above? Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten it. It’ll get new items and a bit of a refresh, too.

It is nice to see the company being out in front with this sort of information, it being, as I noted above, a rather radical change from the days of Daybreak when the company seemed to fret about providing any information.

I just hope they don’t get burned for it.  Players remember company promises, and anything said in public counts.  Roadmaps are plans, and plans don’t always come together.  We’ll see if we get updates when something inevitably slips and if that will build trust with the community.

Related

The Battle of the Loot Pinata at R-ARKN

As I posted last week, the Army of Mango Alliance (AOM) got themselves into a bind and tried to escape it by transferring a couple Keepstars, including their main staging Keepstar, to the GSF in an attempt to reverse merge themselves into the protective arms of the Imperium by joining Ranger Regiment, which they may or may not have controlled. (More null sec spy drama.)

This did not work out well for AOM as the Imperium was not favorably disposed to being dragged into their war with Fraternity.  Again, lots of back story there which I at least briefly covered last week.

So the Imperium agreed to allow AOM 48 hours to get the stuff out of the main Keepstar before the cloning serviced were turned off and the fuel removed, the latter putting the structure on a 7 day timer to the abandoned state.

The abandoned state was introduced by CCP as part of the Forsaken Fortress update back in May of 2020, which streamlined the ability to kill unfueled structures.  The abandoned state also removed asset safety, a feature they had said was very important to have if players were going to trust Upwell structures.  And then CCP changed their mind.  Without asset safety, all items in hangars, personal, corp, or otherwise, get ejected into space in containers when the structure is destroyed.

This led to an orgy of structure killing, where some organizations were killing structures on the test server, where most everything is unfueled, to find the ones with the best loot so they could target their efforts.  The Imperium went around its own territory shooting friendly structures to keep outsiders from looting neglected corp help citadels.

So lots of loot has spilled from abandoned structures in New Eden, but there had yet to be a staging Keepstar in abandoned state show up.

Okay, there were a couple of Keepstars in wormhole space.  The J115404 wormhole adventures saw not one, but two Keepstars blown up.  But even as packed as they were, being in W space limits what can get to the and how much can be carried off… and if you have control of the hole, who can even participate.

But a staging Keepstar in normal space, packed full of stuff and in a location that any determined group could reach… that was a new set of circumstances.  And the time for this event was Sunday morning USTZ, late afternoon EUTZ.

Waiting on the abandoned Keepstar for the order to shoot

Fraternity had been out in R-ARKN helping us camp the Keepstar once the fuel had been removed, as they were very interested in keeping AOM from extracting anything once their evacuation window had closed.  They were still on scene in great numbers, despite the early hour for them, when I arrived.  We had a truce with them for the camp, though that was set to end as soon as the Keepstar shoot began.  We did not want to share loot with them.

Also, due to organization shifts due to the AOM shenanigans, Fraternity had a war declaration against us, so their members were easy to spot as they were all flashing red in my overview.  Frat had attempted to end the war, according to my notifications, but it was still in effect when I got to R-ARKN, for all that mattered in null sec space.

Frat says, “Let’s call the whole thing off”

I ran out to R-ARKN in an Ares interceptor most out of habit.  I was several jumps along the route when somebody said I should use a shuttle as they now have warp bubble nullification, but I carried on.  The Ares would end up having some use later.

I was joining up with some Reavers in system who had been given a special task.  We were to fly some jamming Scorpions and do… something.  I wasn’t quite clear on the plan, which was expressed in a hand-waving sort of way.  But I got on the target Keepstar and minded the hostiles coming and going, trying to get on the kill mail.

Just hanging out mostly

I had some drones, so I put one on the Keepstar to get on the kill mail myself and mostly just watched.  I set off the ECM burst jammer once, when I was in the middle of a bunch of Frat shuttles and rookie ships, and got a scolding because the 71km range of it meant that I broke lock for a lot of Imperium pilots.  But I got on a few small kill mails, because I was too slow to lock up anything otherwise.  We had a Cormorant fleet hovering around picking off small stuff.

The shoot itself was just another structure shoot really.  It took a lot longer than normal as we had to go from shield through structure in one sitting.  Usually you make three trips for shield, armor, and structure.  And time dilation was kicking in.  There were about 2,500 people in system when it started, but the number kept growing as people tried to squeeze in for the big loot fest.

I’ve done this a few times before

You can see that The Initiative brought some titans in to helps speed things along.

Somebody bought a Doctor Who SKIN for their Avatar

All told it took about three hours from when shooting started until we got a kill mail… which was good, because sometimes we don’t get a kill mail if too many people are involved.

And then the fun began as the structure disappeared and hangar containers began popping out into space in a ball around the wreck.

Cans appearing as the explosion starts

By then we were past 3,500 people in system and headed to the peak of about 4,100, and everybody was crowding in to the loot field.

The ball of chaos

You can barely see the containers due to so many people being on grid around the wreck, digging through ones that appears, ejecting ships… which added to the bracket chaos… and trying to grab what they could.  I did have an overview setup for objects, and got a better screen shot once I found it.

The ball of hangar containers

And, more amazingly, the node did not crash.  The belief is that this was because the system only loads hangar containers when it has the capacity to do so, which meant that the containers were spawning for a couple of hours after the kill, but it kept the system stable… if at 10% time dilation.

Past 4K in system

It was actually a busy day in New Eden, with 35,479 logged in at the peak on Sunday.  While there was the Doctor Who event going on, more than 11% of those logged in were in system with us.

The loot frenzy turned out to be the high point of the whole event.  Several groups including TEST, NCDot, and Fraternity, attempted to get away with valuable items.  Frat, who had a structure nearby, was especially persistent, warping in shuttles or rookie ships and then abandoning them to jump in more valuable hulls.

Our group of Scorpions had been told we could stand down, so I went back to the Fortizar we had on grid and contracted mine back.  Then I got in my Ares and went flying around to see what I could see.  I didn’t have any room for loot really, and people were grabbing with both hands, so unless I was dying for a cargo hold full of cap batteries, I wasn’t going to find much.

But I had a fast interceptor and could go tackle some bads trying to make off with loot.  The first I managed to grab a Kikimorra and help hold him down.  Then I put up my capital overview and saw a Frat pilot trying to make off with a Rorqual.  I flew over there at full speed and help shut him down.

A Rorqual tackled

Then I saw somebody board a Nyx and try to warp off.  I went after him.

A Nyx being stolen from the loot pile

I did not get there in time, but he ended up getting trapped in a bubble on the way out, eating some doomsdays for his trouble.

A Nyx caught and shot

I chased a few others around, but the titans in the center of the ball had the range and firepower to zap most capitals that were being stolen.

Another Rorqual being hit

The battle report run up for the event shows nearly half a trillion ISK in ships and such destroyed, with lots of capitals blown up as non-Imperium groups tried to swipe them.

With the in-game map set to highlight ship kills it wasn’t hard at all to spot the system way down in Esoteria.

It kind of stands out there at the bottom

The map put the last 24 hours of kills at over 9K

That is ships in the last 24 hours

Meanwhile, over at DOTLAN EVE Maps, R-ARKN topped the charts.

Ships and capsules destroyed

I think the difference is that the in-game map counts ships currently being flown while DOTLAN may include unoccupied ships that were destroyed, and there were a lot of those on the field getting blown up.

It looks like both sides lost a lot of stuff, but the thing to remember is that it was all a giant slap fight mostly using AOM’s assets.  They are the ones who are out that half a trillion, plus whatever people got away with.

And people got away with plenty.  I saw a couple of supers grabbed by hostiles warp off or jump out successfully.  The Imperium is still counting its loot, but it looks like the state, which claimed all caps and structures, got a titan, a dozen and a half supers, more than 30 other capital ships, a Sotiyo, four Fortizars, and piles of fuel and related stuff.

Then there are the individual hauls.  Some people did quite well.  There were plenty of nice items on the field if you could grab them in time.  I saw quite a few faction ships get scooped up.  It was quite the event and not your every day structure shoot.

Backlit Keepstar being shot

I personally made off with nothing, save for screen shots.  But I was there for the spectacle, to be there when another New Eden player event came off.  Maybe not one for the record books, but it was quite the sight all the same.

Related:

Microsoft Plans to Acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 Billion, Promises Joy and Community

The news that will be dominating the video games headlines this week will be this morning’s announcement that Microsoft intends to purchase Activision Blizzard for, as the headline says, $68.7 billion.

XBox plus Activision Blizzard equals something

That’s it, that’s the joke.

It will also be an opportunity to see which online media sites even understand how public companies work or how the merger dance is performed.  I have already seen headlines and stories that say that the deal is already done.  But if those sites had bothered to even read the official Microsoft press release on the subject, the might have seen:

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review and Activision Blizzard’s shareholder approval. The deal is expected to close in fiscal year 2023 and will be accretive to non-GAAP earnings per share upon close. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.

The boards can approve what they want, but a lot of people have to get involved before it is done, and even Microsoft is putting the close of the deal out in fiscal year 2023.

The price, which has been reported as being “all cash” is no doubt subject to some performance incentives, so Bobby Kotick and crew will have to keep things going… and likely “solve” their problems with the state of California and their disgruntles employees… if they want the full, big bucks payout.  It isn’t the announced number that matters, it is what the final price is when the deal closes.

Remember CCP?  Pearl Abyss was set to acquire them for $425 million, but the final price ended up being $225 million because CCP fumbled their performance requirements.

As for why this acquisition… well, Microsoft’s biggest problem for the last 25 years has been what to do with the giant pile of money that its twin behemoths, Windows and Office, earn for it every year through almost complete domination of the desktop market.  You can’t just stick it all in a bank account, and for a long stretch tech companies were loathe to pay dividends as they felt they could earn more money by just re-investing.  And while they have had to pay dividends since, or buy back stock to inflate share prices, companies like Apple and Microsoft are still sitting on huge war chests of cash they hold aside for such opportunities.

So Microsoft needed to spend some money and they have been big on XBox and video games of late, so that was the direction they went.  That’s my initial take.  I am not sure if the state of affairs at Activision-Blizzard helped or hurt the idea.

Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s XBox group, which owns all video gaming at the company, and who has been publicly critical of Activision-Blizzard’s behavior, will get his chance to run that show as the company will report up into him when acquired.

Microsoft says it wants to bring the joy and community of gaming across all devices, though I am sure the XBox console will be first among equals should a list of devices actually be ranked.

More specifically, the press release says:

This acquisition will accelerate the growth in Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC, console and cloud and will provide building blocks for the metaverse.

Growth and getting into mobile are probably the key items here.  King’s Candy Crush Saga will mean a Microsoft product on a lot of mobile devices.  Nothing about the deal helps along cloud gaming… Micrsoft already has Azure for cloud… the “metaverse” is just a buzzword that makes investors happy but which has no substantial meaning when a company like Microsoft uses it.

No, the reality seems to be Microsoft seeking to bulk up their gaming portfolio and getting deeper into mobile… which makes business sense.  For all of its troubles, Activision Blizzard brings a lot of brand heft with it.

At least they didn’t throw in crypto and NFTs just to get attention.

For those of us who have been paying attention to what has been going on at Blizzard for more than half a year now, the fate of Bobby Kotick seems set; he will be sent packing.

Granted, he will get to walk away dragging a giant sack of money like the goblin he is… sorry, that might be unfair to goblins… but he will still be gone in the end.

Yes, I know the press release says he will stay in place for now, but the deal isn’t done yet and Microsoft can’t send him away until they own his company.  So my New Years prediction about him still being in the company seems secure… even more secure than it was before.  He has just effectively boosted the stock price to $95 a share.  he is a shareholder hero.  Hell, even if the deal falls through Micrsoft might have to pay them $3 billion for the effort.  So if he is still there on December 15th I’ll have made at least one accurate guess… erm, prediction for 2022.

In 2023 though, if the deal goes through, he is out for being as useful as a nipple on a bull in the Microsoft organization. (Available as needed I guess, which means he’ll probably have to stay on the shelf somewhere rather than jumping in to form a competitor.)  Until then though he has to make sure the company performs, so I am still looking forward to that Q4 2021 earnings call next month.

Anyway, lots of people have been writing up wildly inaccurate assessments of the deal this morning, obviously having to get to work before their first cup of coffee.  We’ll probably have to wait a few days before somebody somebody finds something truly insightful to say about the proposed deal.  Until then, I have a few links.

Related:

The 500 Hour Mark

I saw a question going around Twitter last week asking people to list out video games that they had played for 500+ hours.

Artwork provided by my daughter

This apparently stemmed from the developers of Dying Light II saying that the game would require 20 hours to play through the main story, 80 hours to finish the main story and all side quests, and 500 hours to “max out” the game by going down all possible choices and whatever, which generated some minor controversy and whatever.  Articles have been written, posted, and probably forgotten by this point.

I honestly don’t even know what the game is about.

But, as tends to happen, a side discussion about time spent with games came up with people listing out games they have spent 500+ hours playing.

And that is where I want to go with this.  After playing video games for more than 45 years I have to have more that a few titles with which I have hit the 500 hour mark.

Here is the thing.  I kind of want to be sure about it.  There are a lot of games I have spent a lot of time playing, but have I really spent 500 hours?  That is equal to a full time, 40 hour a week job for about three months.  And people, myself included, often wildly overestimate how much time they really spent with a game.

For example, I figured that Civilization V would make the cut.  I played a ton of that in the last decade.  But Steam clocks me in at just 425 hours played.  That is a lot, but it isn’t 500 hours.

And Civ V is the game I have the most time with on the Steam platform.  I have several games there I feel I have played thoroughly which only have 20-40 hours recorded.

But then there is something like Valheim.  I played that for a few months just a year ago.  I have 280 hours played on it, which still isn’t 500 hours, but is over half way there in under a year.  So it doesn’t have to be a title that I have played for a decade, it can be a title I focused on a lot in a limited time frame.

So I am going to break my titles out into confidence levels.  Some things I have numbers for.  My monthly ManicTime measurements enter into things as well.  I started using that to measure game play time back at the start of 2019, and there are titles I have hit 500 hours with since then.

Verifiably Have 500+ Hours Played

  • TorilMUD

I played this regularly, with a few breaks, from 1993 until late 2004.  The current running version, which represents the third one I have played, shows I have over 100 days played, which gives me 2,400 hours played at least, and that came after the last pwipe in 2002.  So there could easily be more than double that invested in the game.  Would I bet on having played 5,000 hours?  Maybe not, but it seems possible.

  • World of Warcraft

Yeah, pretty easy on this one.  Given all the time spent with the instance group, having played through WotLK from launch until Cataclysm, and time devoted to later expansions like Mists of Pandaria and Legion, I am probably past the 500 hour mark at least four times over, if not more.

  • WoW Classic

I am going to differentiate this from WoW, in part because they have different clients, but also because all of my WoW Classic time has been tracked by ManicTime.  And ManicTime puts me in at 775 hours played.  Yikes.

  • EVE Online

After fifteen years, this is pretty easy.  Once again, even my ManicTime measurement for the last three years puts me past 500 hours, and that is impressive given how much time I spend tabbed out of the game when I play.  I swear I am logged in twice as long as ManicTime tracks.

Almost Assuredly have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest II

I could probably get EQII into the above category if I went in and did /played on half a dozen characters.  I played it a lot in the first year and then have come back to it at various times.  I have a lot of alts spread over the few remaining servers at this point.

  • Civilization II

I have absolutely played more Civ II than Civ V, and since I have a benchmark for Civ V via Steam, it stands to reason that I have the hours in for it.

  • Minecraft

Have you seen how much time I spent building roads and rail systems?  Minecraft had the advantage of being something I could play for hours while listening to podcasts or audio books.

Pretty Sure I have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest

I mean, come on, I must have 500 hours in for this.  This one gets into the mists of time though.  I did play a lot back in 1999 and 2000.  But  I no longer have the account I used back then and I am fairly confident I haven’t put in that much time with my current account.  So I feel like it is over 500 hours, but I don’t have anything to really anchor it to.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

While I really never get far beyond Moria, I have been back into the game enough times now that I must be well past the 500 hour mark.  I have played through the original content many times at this point.

 

It is Quite Possible I have 500 Hours Played

  • Rift

I wasn’t even thinking about this, then I went back and looked at some old posts about Raptr and the time tracking it did, and I hit Elite in Rift for hours played.  It was the WoW replacement for quite a stretch.  Add in the Rift Classic experiment and I feel pretty sure I am there.

  • Civilization

I played the original pretty obsessively back when it came out.  I never went back after Civ II came out, but it was a few years before that happened.

  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

This came after Civ II and there was quite a stretch between that and Civ III where this was the big strategy game.  I liked this a lot more than Civ III and a bit more than Civ II, but it had problems in the long term as it was locked into a few full screen resolution sizes from the 90s, while Civ II was just a window that even today resizes to the fit my current huge monitor

  • Age of Empires II

I think I make the cut on this one just due to longevity.  I have played this off and on since it came out more than 20 years ago.  It used to be a staple at work on a Friday night back in the day, and Steam say I have about 100 hours played with the HD remaster.

  • Pokemon Go

The math works here for the most part.  My wife and I have been playing for almost five and a half years at this point, so 500 hours requires less than 15 minutes a day on average.  The only thing keeping me from being completely on board with this is figuring out what really constitutes “playing.”  Me tapping on my phone screen, yes.  But how about me going for a walk to get steps?  Does the walk require intent?  Does spinning a Pokestop make the whole duration of the walk count as playing, or just when I have eyes on the screen?

The Mists of Time are Thick, but I think I made 500 Hours

  • Wizardry

Have I mentioned the annotated, hand drawn maps I made of the game back in the day?  I have a couple of Apple II titles that probably make the cut, but this one left behind physical evidence.

  • Ultima III

The last in the Ultima series before Lord British got all moody and introspective.  I played this to death, and then bought an editor that let me make my own modded version of the game, which I then played some more.  Also, my girlfriend at the time wore makeup with the Ultima III brand, completely unrelated.

  • Lode Runner

There are a lot of Apple II games that I played for a bit, and then there are a few that I played for ages.  I played a lot of Lode Runner, solving all those levels and then making my own levels.

  • Stellar Emperor

I spent a lot of time… and money… playing this back in the day.  I won the game once.

  • Klondike

This was the first really good solitaire game that I found on the Mac back in the day.  I used to play it obsessively at times.  It had a scoring system that rewarded smart, efficient play, and I developed a whole philosophy of play to adapt to it.

  • NetHack

Maybe, sort of, if you count the time I spent digging through the code and modifying it to see if I could make the game better… better for me at least.  It was a bit of an obsession for me in the early 90s.

Missing From the List

  • Diablo Series

While I have played all the titles from the Diablo series, often intensely at times, it has tended to be in short bursts.  I might have played them all for a combined total of 500 hours, but no single title has hit that mark.

  • Pokemon

Again, my combined time playing Pokemon, by which I mean the core Pokemon RPG games on the GameBoy, DS, and Switch, no doubt adds up to more than 500 hours.  But I have not spent 500 hours on any single title.  The champion was probably Pokemon SoulSilver, when I caught them all.  My blog post of that shows I invested 243 hours getting there.  Nearly half way to 500, but half way doesn’t count.  I probably spent closer to 50 hours on most of the ones I finished.

  • Atari 2600 Games

From 1977 to 1983 the Atari 2600 was my only real home video game outlet, so I am sure I played many more than 500 hours.  But did I play any one game that much?  Maybe Adventure or the Indiana Jones game… but most likely the Blackjack cartridge.  The fourth game on that was Poker Solitaire, and I could sit and play that for ages.  But that was so long ago, I really can’t commit to saying I have 500 hour into any of those cartridges.  They were not deep games.

So that is my guess at the games I have invested 500 hours into.  But when you’re into the back half of your 50s, you’ve had a lot of time to get there.

Map Updates and Seeking Salt in New World

We are still playing some New World, though I did not play all that much over the holidays when everybody was away.  I mean, I did get to the highest level of the Winter Convergence, though as an event it has been going so well that Amazon has extended it until January 25th, so everybody has time to join me as a Holiday Regent.

Why stop the party if everybody is still having a good time?

But still, between Pokemon Shining Pearl and a fresh round of Stellaris playtime, I wasn’t spending much time in New World.  So when we logged in this past weekend, the first surprise was the map.  I had mentioned that the Syndicate’s claims on the map were pretty small when our server was merged into another back before Christmas.  And, while the Syndicate immediately go busy assaulting the two other groups, the Covenant seemed to have the upper hand and the map turned more orange than before.

The Covenant spreads out further

But when we returned after New Years, the Syndicate seemed to have rebounded somewhat, grabbing a few more areas including the key central town of Windsward.

The Syndicate resurgent

We will have to see how that plays out.  The Covenant has been working to retake Windsward and the last time I was on the fortress in the region was changing hands back and forth between the Syndicate and the Covenant every half hour or so.

The only group that seems left out in the cold are the Marauders, who have been relegated to Cutlass Keys for a while now.

Our company is still too low level to get involved in any of that right now.  Instead three of us, Mudstone, Oswald, and myself set out on Saturday in search of one of the rarest of cooking ingredients… salt.

Yes, we’re on an island in the ocean, which is salt water, and you can literally make salt from that, but in New World salt can only be obtained from provision crates in certain zones.

There is a lot to complain about when it comes to crafting in New World, but cooking is in its own special zone of annoyance.  Advanced recipes, ones that give you stat boosts, all require some rare in the world ingredients where you can, say, harvest a couple dozen sets of herbs and maybe have one show up.  But salt, you cannot even harvest that, despite the ocean being close at hand.  And salt is used several recipes that would add con and str, which would help me out.

So having a nice tier 5 kitchen in Windsward doesn’t help us much if we’re chronically short on ingredients.

The kitchen… also, the Winter Convergence Tree

In our division of labor, Oswald has taken on the primary cooking role, so we have been handing him rare ingredients when we come across them.  But salt has been the hardest, so on Saturday he announced that he was off on a quest to find salt.  He had looked it up, came up with a map of provisions crates that yield salt, and was going to go run the loop of them.

Mudstone and I both offered to come along as the planned loop was in Everfall and Brightwood, so we thought we could at least speed the journey by helping cut down mobs.  And then we realized that crates are not competitive for looting, and that for each provisions crate we found we would get three bites at the apple, so to speak, in our search for salt.  So off we went.

Setting out for salt

There were some issues finding the right locations.  The map is vague enough that you can be close and still out of sight of what you are looking for.  But the provisions crates tend to be in similar locations… also, we weren’t going to ignore other supply crates.  I never have enough sand flux for armor working, so we were grabbing everything we saw in passing, going into every structure and looking behind every wall.

We did hit a bit of comedy when we stumbled into the location Daybreak Borough.  There are more than a few mobs and items in there that will no doubt make for video game humor in the days to come.

EverQuest fans now that EG7 is all about licensed IPs

And I’ll be saving this one for a particularly rainy day.

I do feel like I’ve already read this

Meanwhile, our salt quest was going slowly.  We had hit a few crates that yielded up salt for one or two of us, but it wasn’t very consistent.  I seemed to have the worst luck with the salt, though I had quite a stack of green beans by the time we were done.

Still, we carried on, moving from spot to spot, clearing out buildings in our search.  But it was quick enough work, at least until we got into Brightwood.  There were supposed to be a few choice crates around the location Brightwood Island.  However, not only were the mobs higher level in Brightwood, but the area we were looking around seemed to be a haven for some especially tough mobs.

A bad area of Brightwood

I haven’t sat down and figured out the difficulty levels indicated by the name plates of various mobs, but the system doesn’t seem to be anywhere as complicated as EverQuest II was back in the day.  And the only place I can recall seeing mobs with two gold bars on either side of their level marker was in the Amrine Expedition instance.  So we were getting into some tough mobs for overland content.

We managed to get through the area and hit all of the crates, but it was some work and we lost Mudstone at one point, though the revive system in the game meant that wasn’t too much trouble.  But I had been lolling about with my great axe for funsies up until then.  In Brightwood I had to get out my sword and shield and Oswald his staff of life because tanking and heals were suddenly a thing for us.

In the end we did manage to collect up a few dozen units of salt along with some other ingredients.  After making a big loop we recalled back to Windsward to divide up the loot.

While we got some cooking supplies, the stuff I needed for armor work seemed to be more prevalent.  I ended up with so much sand flux, crossweave, and tanin that I had to go store some in another town.  But we should have some good food handy for our next full group outing.

Probing and Hacking for Fun and Profit in the EVE Online Doctor Who Interstellar Convergence Event

Executive summary:  If you enjoy the probing and hacking mini games in EVE Online, the Interstellar Convergence is the event for you.  If, however, that gets old after a you’ve done it a couple dozen times… welcome to the reality of EVE Online PvE.  But there are some alternatives.

The event kicked off on Thursday and I went far enough into the Interstellar Convergence to blow up some Daleks, collect a few screen shots, and say that I had given the whole thing a shot.  But I have now probed down more cosmic signatures in a couple of days than I probably have done in quite a stretch and I have easily done the hacking mini game more times during the first two days of the event than I have done over all of my previous career in New Eden.

I did, however, see a Dalek.  You can too if you have the patience to probe and hack until you cannot stand it anymore.

Dalek spotted in New Eden

There are a few different paths you can take through the event.  The first is, of course, to do it all yourself.  Be the rugged individualist capsuleer and experience the full breadth of the event.  That flow looks a bit like this:

1 – Fit out a probing ship

I went with a Heron due to using a low skill point high sec alt.  This probably would have gone a bit faster with my max probing skills main in a Buzzard or Astero, but it wasn’t a lot worse in the Heron.  The community fitting example Heron worked for me, but you can roll your own so long as you can launch probes and have a Relic Analyzer fit.

Actually, first, make sure you have the skill training they recommend.  I covered that in a previous post.

2 – Probe down cosmic signatures in search of Warp Matrix Convergence Relic Sites

They are somewhat rare and often already in progress in high sec.

A site found

They are reported to be more plentiful in low sec, but you have to weigh the likelihood of being blown up.  The sites seem like a place pirates would haunt in search of easy prey.

3 – Hack the Peculiar Debris Fragments

On the bright side, you get 6 to 12 fragments per site, so even if somebody else shows up, you can still grab a few.  Out in regular space they come in small, medium, and large sizes, which represent the complexity of the hack.  There are also huge fragments, but those come later.

In one of the sites

The hacking game is random, sometimes unwinnable, but at least you get two shots at each fragment.  And sometimes it is an easy win.

Straight to the System Core this time

But either way you want the relevant skills as trained up as possible, as they influence your success quite heavily.

Just keep hacking until you are done.

4 – Loot the Fragments and Pray for Blueprints

The fragments contain a variety of items including collectible trash (I got my sonic screwdriver), things that can be sold to NPCs for ISK (the February MER will show this no doubt), filament blueprints, and components for building the filaments.

The blueprints seemed fairly rare on day one, though a little easier to find over the weekend after CCP adjusted things a bit.

5 – Build some Filaments

Go back to a station, preferably Jita, and use the blueprints you have found to build filaments.  I say Jita because you probably won’t have all the components you need and at Jita 4-4 they will be for sale at likely the lowest price you will find.

Also, you need to have some minimal industry skills to do this part.  The blueprint you have is likely for a Curious Warp Matrix Filament.

6 – Use the Filament

Undock in your probing ship and use the filament.  There are no Daleks or other hostiles at this point.

Ready to activate

This will send you into a single Abyssal pocket with an exit gate.  The pocket has a 30 minute timer before it collapses and destroys you and your ship.

7 – Gawk at the Scenery

It is pretty.  Congrats to the art team.

Dude, colors

Be sure to SKIN you ship for the maximum color effects.  The Biosecurity Responders SKINs are awesome, but not the only option.

The orange burst highlights my orange stripe

But don’t hang about doing that for too long.

8 – Hack Some More!

The main point of the pocket is yet more things to hack.  These will yield things that you don’t get out in regular space, including blueprints for more advanced filaments.

9 – Make Some More Filaments

If you’re like me you probably didn’t get much on your first try.  I did get a blueprint for another filament, built it, went back, and got a couple more blueprints, including one for a level 2 filament.

10 – Use More Filaments

The level 2 filament will put you in a 30 minute pocket with medium, large, and huge relics to hack.

Level 2 must be better

The scenery is a little different, so gawk some more, then get working on hacking.  The level 2 pocket has enough stuff that you might feel the time limit weighing on you.

11 – Eventually Build a Combat Filament

I received a combat filament on the first night, but one of the components for it wasn’t dropping, so I had to postpone any fighting for a bit.

But by the evening of the second day I had enough stuff that I wasn’t going to break the bank buying the items I was short on.  I built the filament and got my ship ready for combat.

12 – Enter the Precarious Warp Matrix

The level 1 combat filament sends you off into a single Abyssal pocket for a fight.  Once again, the pocket will last for 30 minutes, giving you time to fight and gawk a bit.

Ticket to Dalek City

You will note that the ship restrictions limit you to a set of T1 cruisers, though two people can fly together into the pocket, so you can bring along a friend.

I used the T1 Abyssal Caracal fit from the community fittings, which use heavy assault missiles.  I went with Caldari Navy Scourge missiles because back in the day the Caracal was damage locked to kinetic.  It no longer is, but I saw that after I bought the missiles.

Also, buy extra missiles and put them in your cargo hold.  The community fit only has enough for one full weapons load and it would be embarrassing to run out of them.  Also, your drones are going to die.  Accept that and move on.

13 – Blow Up Some Motherfucking Daleks

There are Daleks on the other side, including the quite recognizable to me saucer shaped Dalek combat ship.

Missiles Away!

In addition there were a couple of Daleks in their armored suits flying about as well.  I don’t recall from the Whovian lore if them flying about is a thing or if the event wanted you to see the classic Dalek form, but there they were.

Space Dalek One

I did need to run my shield booster a bit, but otherwise wasn’t in much danger.  They shot at me and were draining my capacitor, but I was never close to being low on power.  I blew up all three targets, looted the one wreck left after the fight, and went on my way.

14 – Do It All Again and Again

After all of that over the course of two days I earned a total of 110 points towards the event, leaving me 790 to go to claim all the prizes.

Such Progress

Something was borked with the event though and on the second day it wasn’t counting my actions, so that was all from the first day’s progress.  Welcome to EVE Online.  But they might have fixed that issue today.  I am not sure I care enough, having spent about 10 hours on the event so far, to carry on.

Alternate Paths

You naturally don’t have to do it all yourself.  You can just buy the components or the blueprints or the finished filaments.  There are entrepreneurs in Jita willing to sell them to you.  You can go straight to Dalek bashing right away if you have the ISK handy.

And, of course, you can make some money off of the event by being one of those entrepreneurs.  That is a bit more work, but there is ISK to be made, though the most lucrative point in the event in the first day or two when demand is high and supply is low.  Sell now while you have the chance.

Likewise, if you want to just buy filaments, waiting until next weekend when the market is saturated might be a cheaper path forward.

The team over at the New Eden Post has done a more detailed look into the mechanics and the fits if you are seeking more detailed information.

Friday Bullet Points for EVE Online about the CSM, the December MER, and Doctor Who

I am going to have to go back and check, but I think EVE Online has gotten the most Friday Bullet Points entries over the life of this particular feature.  No doubt at some point I’ll be bored and go back and do a summary of these summary posts, but not today.  Today, with the 59th edition of Friday Bullet points, we’ll just go straight to New Eden.

  • Progodlegend Steps Down from the CSM

In a surprise turn yesterday, Progodlegend (PGL) posted an announcement that he would be stepping down from the Council of Stellar Management, EVE Online’s elected player council.  The CSM has seen its share of membership drama, and there was a stretch where somebody got booted by CCP at least once a term.

This time however personal reasons were listed for the departure.  PGL has certainly had a full year.  He and Vily both led TEST into World War Bee and are often seen as the prime instigators of the war.  While the initial stages of the war went fine, the whole thing bogged down into a stalemate for months and led to the PAPI coalition tiring of the whole thing.  As a result TEST lost its old territory in null sec in addition to its captured holdings and ended up having to retreat to Outer Passage in the distant northeast of null sec, as far from the Imperium as they could go.  If you had to pick an alliance that lost the war, TEST would be a prime candidate.

Since then the alliance has struggled to find its way, with some key groups leaving the alliance.  Vily abandoned the alliance to join Pandemic Horde and now PGL is stepping away from the game for a while as well.

As PGL has served most of his term, this cycle will count towards his eligibility if he chooses to run again for CSM17.

Arsia Elkin is the next in line for a seat based on the CSM16 election results, being the final candidate eliminated, and has been brought on board the council.

Coverage:

We should be coming up to the point where we’re talking about the CSM17 elections soon.

  • CCP Disavows the December MER

CCP released the Monthly Economic Reports for November and December this week, claiming that technical issues had delayed them.

The MER is this odd labor of CCP, where they care enough to post it every month, but don’t care enough to check it for errors before they do so.  So there are issues almost every month.  Often whole regions are missing from the regional data.

While the November MER had the usual spate of issues, the December MER was problematic enough for CCP to actually sit up and take notice after many complaints.

December 7th saw the imposition of the New Dawn Quadrant permanent scarcity plan mining changes… the economic beatings will continue until morale improves… so many eyes were on it to see just what impact the update would have.

The December MER, as published, showed an almost catastrophic drop in mining done in New Eden, undermining CCP’s “prosperity” promises yet again.  Again, I am not sure why CCP doesn’t even glance at the MER before they post it, but now they are promising an updated version.

Just a quick MER update!

The Mining Values in the December MER are inaccurate. Attached is a graph comparing Volume of Ore mined – that is ore that is successfully mined (aka after residue). Intentionally absent is the Winter Nexus Event Ice, so that a proper comparison can be made to previous months.

The teams are looking at what caused the issue for the December MER Mining Values and will have an updated MER with more accurate information as soon as it is available.

Included with that note was a graph showing mining was up in December, though no data or further context was provided.

CCP says mining was great in December

CCP’s performance on the economy and absolute determination to implement their plan while ignoring any feedback has led to mistrust on the part of many players.  We will see if we actually do get an updated MER.  CCP’s track record on that is fairly unsubstantial as well… I think they have done so once, and only because they included the wrong month’s graphs in the archive.

  • Updates for the Interstellar Convergence

The Doctor Who / EVE Online crossover event, the Interstellar Convergence, kicked off yesterday.

I actually got out there right away and… the going was a bit rough.  The event sites, which you need to scan down, were fairly rare on the ground and people were tackling those that appeared rapidly.  Since components and blueprints from these sites are required in order to advance into the event… as well as being part of the event that new players can access… their scarcity seemed like an odd design choice. (So does making new players learn how to probe down sites, but that is another story.)

I did manage to get a couple of blueprint drops and was able to get into the next level of the event twice.  It was very pretty, if elusive.

Out in one of the second level sites in my Heron

In addition, while I managed to grab three blueprints for the filament that brings players to the third round of the event, I was not able to manufacture any because the drop rate for one of the components, the Strange Matter Component Y-79, was so low as to make them almost unobtainable.  I say “almost” because somebody was finding them now and then, and they were going for a mint on the market in Jita.  I declined to spend a few hundred million ISK on the filament.

However, today’s patch notes promises some relief for those attempting to participate in the event.

  • Small miscellaneous balance updates have been implemented for the Interstellar Convergence combat filament encounters.
  • Improved the text describing the difficulty levels in the Show Info descriptions of the Warp Matrix Filaments.
  • Increased the spawn rates of the Warp Matrix Convergence relic signature for the weekend to help accommodate the initial rush in the event.
  • Fixed an issue that caused the Strange Matter Component Y-79 drop rate to be far too low, causing bottlenecks in Warp Matrix Filament manufacturing.

As always, we hope today will be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better still.  I just hope they are not in a hurry to dial back the relic sites too quickly.  If you want new players in that part of the event, making them a pain to even find does not seem to be a winning strategy.

Then again, making them more available might not be representative of the reality of the game.

Doctor Who and Daleks Invade EVE Online with the Interstellar Convergence

The Doctor Who/EVE Online cross-over event, the Interstellar Convergence, begins today.

When galaxies collide

I went over some of the problematic aspects of the event last week, ranging from small items like lore problems, to the pernicious sense that CCP is like a cell phone company from 20 years back and only cares about new customers, to the as yet unproven drawing power of Doctor Who as an incentive to come and play EVE Online.

But that is all water under the bridge at this point as the event is live as of this morning, Daleks are in New Eden, and we will just have to see how it all plays out.

As with any EVE Online event there are the usual list of included items.  There are daily login rewards.

Skills are a good start to the event

There are also a few special SKINs in the New Eden Store.

SKINs only for expensive ships

And there is, of course, a set of special packs from the web store that range from $5 to $60 in price and offer up cosmetics, PLEX, skill points, SKINs, and event filaments that you might otherwise be scrounging around to find in game.  These are prominently displayed on the launcher.

Since the announcement CCP has started to take more seriously the new player aspects of the event.  CCP Swift stated earlier in the week that new players would have some access to it:

Great news! There will be elements of the event open to players who are just starting, as well as the option to join a more seasoned player in the more difficult areas.

This was reiterated at the top of the patch notes for the event:

  • The Interstellar Convergence event has begun! This limited time Doctor Who crossover event runs until downtime on February 1st.
    • This event includes significant elements designed to be accessible for new players, as well as advanced challenges for veterans. The main focus of the event is exploration, with significant elements of combat and industry gameplay.
    • The “Warp Matrix Convergence” relic signature is appearing all over New Eden, and probing it down is the starting point for this event.
    • Use a relic analyzer module to collect materials and blueprints to build new limited time jump filaments capable of bridging realities.
    • Explore peaceful and bountiful relic fields with the Curious, Enigmatic, and Mysterious Warp Matrix Filaments.
    • Face off against deadly biomechanoid adversaries with the Precarious, Hazardous, Dangerous, and Perilous Warp Matrix Filaments.
    • Special agency challenges and daily login gifts are available during this event.
    • Rewards include items that can be sold for ISK, new SKINs, unique character clothing, boosters and cerebral accelerators, fireworks, and special Doctor Who easter egg trinket items for collectors.

Saying it over and over doesn’t make it so however, and new players are still going to have to get through the intro story invested enough in what is, by all accounts, a complex and often unintuitive MMORPG.

On Tuesday of this week CCP put up a dev blog about how to prepare for the event, something clearly aimed at newer players.  It brings together some of the past informational videos along with suggestions as to what ships a new player might aspire to and training plans available in the new training UI.  I suppose this will be a real test of the latter.

Because this event is going to be so high profile, I figured I ought to at least give it a shot.  I only have one account subscribed right now and am not really sure about the viability of Alpha clones, so that gives me three characters to play with.  Two of the character on my account, my main and a combat alt, are in the Imperium and, as such, subject to enough war decs in high sec as to not be useful for the event.

That left me with a third, a character I created back in 2008 on a whim and did nothing with for over a decade.  I eventually trained him up to do some hauling and PI in high sec and to be able to fly a couple doctrine frigates that we use.  He had close to 6 million skill points trained and I was able to throw another million skill points at him from login rewards and such I had hanging around.

CCP’s post recommends finishing the explorer and enforcer skill plans.  Those will get you scanning skills, which are required for the event, and a jump on combat skills for one of the tier 1 abyssal cruiser fits that are in the community fitting selection that they are recommending for the event.  There is one for each faction:

  • Rupture: T1 Abyssal Rupture
  • Omen: T1 Abyssal Omen
  • Caracal: T1 Abyssal Caracal
  • Vexor: T1 Abyssal Vexor

My pilot is Caldari, so the Caracal will be my goal.  Getting there, however…

I realize that as a character rolled up in 2008, my pilot started out somewhat behind the curve when it came to skills available when created.  I ran him through the previous NPE and had to stop and buy a couple skills because the tutorial wasn’t built for characters with that old build.  He probably had to spend more ISK on skills to get rolling on these plans.

But I still ended up spending a fit cruiser’s worth of ISK on skills, and the plans as laid out end to end would have put me well into next week… and I have an Omega clone, so I train at double the speed of an Alpha.

As I said, I had the advantage of having a million skill points laying around, so I sped him up a bit with an eye to being able to dig into the event this weekend.  I got the enforcer plans run through and most of the explorer skills done.

The skill planning window

Then I looked at the recommended Caracal fit and realized that the skill plans suggested were not enough to get me there.  So I bought some more skills threw them on the queue, including a couple just to deal with the CPU needs of the fit.  And then I added a few more to the end of the list just to make the fit a little more viable.  I could technically fly it with only Caldari Cruiser I trained, but I figured I ought to follow the old rule and get it to at least III before undocking in it.

At some point I will be done, at some point we all have to undock or give up.  It is always strange for me, with my main sitting at 230 million skill points, having to try to make things work on a new character.  I just have it all in the bag already on Wilhelm.  Rare is the subcap skill he doesn’t have at V already.

Leaving aside the knowledge aspect of all of this, I do wonder where a new player is going to come up with the ISK to acquire skills and buy a ship.  The Caracal fit runs 24 million ISK in Jita as I write this on Tuesday night which, while not an insurmountable amount of currency, is still a chunk for a new play.

A more cynical person than myself might suggest that the company is setting this up to sell some PLEX to eager newbies wanting to shoot Daleks.

At least the scanning ship is free if know to go run the career agent for exploration.  I won’t have the Magnet they recommend, but a Heron will suffice I hope.

Addendum:  Now that the event is live, CCP has put it up the, their solution to all PvE questions, though it doesn’t even begin to tell you how to accomplish the tasks.

It is in the Agency, so no further info is needed

I remain quite interested to see how brand new players in their rookie ships will participate in the event when it isn’t clear to somebody who has been around for 15 years.  I’ve been at it for over an hour and have yet to find a single “Warp Matrix Convergence” signature.

Related:

Forza Horizon with a Controller

Playing Forza Horizon 4 & 5 on the PC with the keyboard comes with its own special challenges, which I have mentioned in previous posts.  But, to summarize, there are no half measures on the keyboard.  If you press the W key for the throttle, it is full throttle.  If you press S to brake, it is slamming on the brakes.  And steering is a an exercise in yanking the wheel all the way in one direction or another and then letting go.

Forza Horizon 4

Which honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds.  I played Mario Kart on the DS, which had just a d-pad for steering and a button for acceleration and did well enough, learning the “Mario Kart tap” method to stay on course.  But Forza Horizon has been designed with analog input in mind, so while I wasn’t horrible at the game, and did improve over time, the keyboard as a controller was always going to be a barrier.  Drifting, for example, requires a subtlety of control not possible with the keyboard, so far as I can tell… though we cannot discount me simply being bad.

Analog sticks, with their variable range of input, make a difference… or such was my theory.

I have/had a UBS game pad controller around the house somewhere, a Logitech Dual Action that was $4.99 back in 2011 when the offer for it came up.  I used it a couple of times over the years, but with no great success.  And, since I couldn’t find it after some desultory searching, I decided to buy a new game pad.  XBox compatible seemed to assure compatibility with Windows, so I went to Amazon and…

Well, there are a lot of choices, enough to thwart any decision on my part.  I faced the paralysis of too many choices and not enough information.

And then Belghast tweeted something a few days later recommending the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ Blluetooth gamepad being on sale at Amazon and I jumped on that, getting the black model.

The gamepad in question

Since it was already December, this became a gift from my wife under the tree, to match the Lancome La Vie Este Belle gift set she bought as a present that I could give her.  This is sort of where things end up after 25 years together, though we both still cheated and bought something else for each other, as we do every year.

Anyway, once I had the time to play with my gift, I got it connected to my system via Bluetooth and Forza Horizon 4 recognized it right away when I launched it.  So off I went, to try driving with a controller.

And boy did I suck.

Imagine that, a new controller didn’t magically make me better at the game.  In fact, it made me quite a bit worse.

The thing is, there were bad habits to unlearn.

When you’ve been playing on the keyboard with its binary on/off control mode you have no opportunity to learn any finesse in control, or at least not the control that an analog input gives you.  So it took a couple hours of play to learn to not just jam the throttle all the way down with the R2 button and to not just jam the left analog stick back and forth to its extreme positions while driving.

And then it took a bit longer to grow past my abilities with the keyboard while using the controller.  But it wasn’t bad.  I was already used to driving wildly off the road, through trees, fences, hedges, front yards, construction sites, and whatever other bits of destructible terrain was in the game.  Forza Horizon supports bad game skills quite well really.

So learning some control meant playing no worse that I was used to playing and occasionally getting better.

It was also nice to see how transparently the game moves from controller to keyboard input, depending on what I am doing.  There are still some things that are easier done on the keyboard.  Sometimes it is just quicker to reach up and hit the big Enter key that try to remember which key I need on the controller.

The physical controller itself is nice and solid, if a bit small for me.  I have big hands, so it isn’t like that doesn’t apply to almost any gamepad I pick up.  As I have said in the past, I thought the Wii Remote system was kind of goofy, but it was very good for a big guy like me.

The only odd or objectionable thing about the unit is that, unlike the pictures of it I have included above, which came from the 8BitDo web site, the markings on my controller are completely unreadable.  They are flat black characters in a black font on a black background that it the same texture, lettering or not.  If I hold the controller under a very bright light at an angle I can see lettering in the light reflected off of the places where there is supposed to be writing, though it is still too much black on black to discern what any given section is supposed to say.

I thought for a while that maybe the unit I got was missing its face plate.  But, as I noted, I could discern writing under close, well lit examination.

This was actually a bit of a problem for me for a while, as I don’t use a controller very often, so I had to put up a key layout on my second monitor until I got used to where they buttons were.

Still, if I were to buy another one, I might opt for one of the models in a lighter color with dark lettering.

Anyway, I now have a controller to play Forza Horizon, and it has made me a bit better at the game.  I still haven’t figured out drifting, but you cannot expect hardware to perform miracles I suppose.

The Army of Mango Alliance Attempts a Self Destruct to Flee Fraternity

World War Bee has been in the past for months now, but that doesn’t mean null sec space is quiet.  Nobody is assaulting Delve at the moment, but there are still many stories unfolding in the space noir epic that is the wilds of null sec as we settle into the post war reality.  Brave has been trying to establish a home, TEST has been falling apart in Outer Passage, and for some reason we’re fighting with Triumvirate in Cloud Ring.

It has all been relatively low key, at least when compared to the war, and out away from Delve, which means I haven’t seen much of it in person.

And then this past weekend The Army of Mango Alliance got caught trying to reverse merge themselves into the Imperium and… well… I’ve read the reporting over at the New Eden Post and have heard The Mittani try to explain it twice, once on the Meta Show and once at our weekly fireside and I am not sure I understand how the plan was supposed to work or who exactly they thought it was going to fool.

But let me reel that back in for a minute to set up the situation.  One of the post war events that had comes to pass recently was a war breaking out between Fraternity and Army of Mango.

This was not a huge surprise to anybody paying attention… or even people like me who were simply not asleep that day in class.

Faternity and Army of Mango are, along with a few other corps and alliances, part of the great exodus from Serenity, the mainland Chinese EVE Online server, which occurred when one group, the Pan-Intergalactic Business Community, won the game by becoming the single unassailable dominate power in null sec.  The influence map was them and those who paid tribute to them.

Some of life on the Serenity server was covered by the Rooks & Kings videos Message in a Bottle and First Light on the Fifth Day, the latter covering a final battle in wormhole space.  But the end of the war led many to exit the server… though, as I understand it, the Chinese company that had been running it at the time wasn’t helping much.

And many pilots who liked the game on Serenity came here, where there was not a single dominant power.  (So, among other things, the player count on Tranquility was boosted by players from Serenity.)

Those players brought with them the grudges from Serenity and can generally be sorted out into the winners and losers camp if you know who is who.  Fraternity and Army of Mango have generally been the two groups most at odds, and while they managed to cooperate during World War Bee, joining the PAPI coalition against the Imperium, things have been tense and some wondered if they might start fighting each other there on the front lines.

But at week seventeen of the war Army of Mango stepped back from the front lines to assume stewardship of the Legacy Coalition’s backfield, trying to tamp down the then incipient harassment as The Bastion rolled into Esoteria to take a few systems and be an annoyance.

When PAPI gave up the invasion and turned for home, Army of Mango managed to scoop up much of the territory TEST left behind as Vily and PGL sought shelter as far away from angry Goons as they could.  There AOM began to form a new coalition with some remnants of Legacy, bringing back the Pan-Intergalactic Business Community name from the Serenity server, which was pretty much the same as waving a red flag and shouting “come get me” at Fraternity.

Once alliances were settled and rested, Fraternity went straight for Army of Mango and, though they were rebuffed on their first assault, the writing seemed to be on the wall that Frat was going to win over time.

Army of Mango decided they needed an out and sought to sneak into the Imperium.  They transferred some structures, including their main staging Keepstar, to GSF and told their members that they were going to disband the alliance and fold themselves into Ranger Regiment, another of the Chinese diaspora groups from the Serenity server.

Ranger Regiment, which joined the Imperium as a candidate member back in February of 2020 when they were driven out of their space by Fraternity, was already in a bad odor in the Imperium for low participation in the war.  To hear the leadership of Army of Mango go on about it to their members, it seems that Ranger Regiment was at least aligned with, and possibly being run by, Army of Mango.  Kind of a bit of interesting post war news.

So the plan, as explained by the leadership of Army of Mango, was to ditch their alliance and move their existing structure, including their leadership, into Ranger Regiment, taking over the alliance and carrying on from there, safe from Fraternity.  How very sneaky.

Unfortunately for Army of Mango, the leadership of the Imperium did not just fall off the back of a turnip truck, so this did not go unnoticed as the structure transfers were noticed and spies reported back with with what was going on and, soon enough, full translations of what was said.

Pancake Wolf got a medal for work on intel

Once the attention of the Imperium was focused on what was happening, updates began flowing back in near real time as Army of Mango tried to carry on, then found themselves in a bind as the Imperium wasn’t having it.  We were not going to be a patsy for Army of Mango or allow ourselves to be dragged into the middle of their war with Fraternity.

The Imperium honored a short period that had been negotiated to allow Army of Mango line members to evacuate from their staging, and then the hammer fell, zapping the clones left in the Keepstar.

3,277 clones about to be destroyed

(image courtesy of The Mittani, who pressed the “yes” button.)

Meanwhile, Ranger Regiment is being kicked from the Imperium for their part in this.  They were already in trouble, but being involved in this scheme was too much.  This has led to a scramble for homes for a large number of players from both alliances.

Army of Mango down 3,800 and counting

Dracarys, another Chinese alliance in the Imperium, has picked up quite a few new members due to this shift.  They put in a strong performance in World War Bee and hold some former Legacy Coalition space in Catch along with connecting space in Querious.  However, the word is that groups coming into the Imperium must be vetted thoroughly and nobody in the Army of Mango or Ranger Regiment leadership team is welcome.

So there looks to be a shake up coming on who owns what in the south end of null sec as it does not seem like Army of Mango and Ranger Regiment are going to be able to hold onto that space.

South null sec – Jan 10, 2022

Ranger Regiment is set to disband and Army of Mango, which now has no place to land so has to carry on existing, is planning to head to low sec space for now.  The Pan-Intergalactic Business Community coalition has effectively been destroyed. Fraternity wins this round.

This has also led to what is set to be a major null sec event.

The Imperium pulled the fuel from the Keepstar in R-ARKN so it will go into an abandoned state and will be blowing it up this coming weekend.  Unlike an normal Keepstar destruction in null sec, this will lead to everything left in people’s hangars being ejected into space when the structure blows up.

This could turn out to be the ultimate New Eden loot pinata.  Every player’s stuff gets launched into space in a station hangar and people will be rummaging through them looking for ships and modules and anything of value.

I’ve seen something like this before in wormhole space when we got to go along with The Initiative to blow up a couple Hard Knocks Keepstars back in 2018.  There, in the J115405 wormhole, sometimes known as Rage, we first blew up Fort Knocks.

The loot ball with markers on

Then we blew up Unassailable Wealth.

The Initiative showing off with their logo in spaceships

That was a huge amount of loot on the field, and it was a crazy time.

I suspect that the Keepstar in R-ARKN will throw a few times as many station containers into space when it blows.  It seems likely that the server will just crash when it happens.  But if the server holds, we’ll be out there scooping loot for a long time.  Imperium leadership is already planning out how to deal with it.

Of course, other groups might want some of that loot as well, so the whole thing could simply devolve into an ongoing slap fight over who gets what.

I wonder if CCP should contact Guinness Book for this.  Is there a world record category for most loot on the field in a video game?

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