Pro Bowl Weekend in Vegas

We’re in Las Vegas this weekend and so is the Pro Bowl, somewhat to our surprise.

We’re here for a weekend getaway for my wife’s birthday, something we booked a while back. Vegas is an easy, cheap, and short flight for us and, while we don’t gamble it is a fun place to hang out for a couple of days… at least until the cigarette smoke and seedy underbelly of the place starts to become too much.

Faux Venice and The Beatles on Las Vegas Blvd.

And, of course, we thought it would be a quiet weekend here in the dead week between the end of the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. I knew the Pro Bowl was this weekend, but it is traditionally played in Hawaii where the weather is nice and the players can relax.

I mean, nobody knocks themselves out for the Pro Bowl.

Back in the day they used to have the Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl… which meant nobody cared. Now it is before the Super Bowl… and I’m still not sure anybody cares.

I mean, none of the players from the teams playing in the Super Bowl will be there. And, as I noted, nobody goes all out for the Pro Bowl. In a full contact sport like American football where injuries are common, who wants to get hurt for a game that doesn’t really mean much besides a chance to showcase some of the players in the league who didn’t make it to the last game.

When the flight was full getting to Vegas, we were a bit surprised. And then as we passed by Allegiant Stadium on the way to the hotel we saw plastered to the side of the place a big banner about the Pro Bowl.

So it is a bit more crowded here than it might have been otherwise… though it is still just the Pro Bowl.

All of which made me reflect a bit on the term “gaming” and what it means to different people. I tend to mean video games on consoles or the PC when I use the term, or maybe mobile gaming when my wife and I are playing Pokémon Go.

Here in Vegas the term very much means gambling. Everything else here is just meant to drive gambling.

And then there is sports gaming, which Vegas is now a part of having secured an NHL franchise and lured the NFL’s Raiders away from the shambles of the Oakland Coliseum to the second most expensive stadium in the world.

This year it is the Pro Bowl in Vegas, but next year they will be hosting the Super Bowl. We won’t be here for that weekend for sure.

What were Pokemon Go Postcards for Anyway?

I mentioned the Vivillon event in Pokemon Go the other day.  The primary mechanic of the event is to pin… basically save… postcards.  When a friend sends you a gift you can click the pin button and save the location… all gifts are from the specific location of a Pokestop you’ve spun… which saves it to your postcard collection.

A gift from Taiwan, the pin button next to the open button

The feature has been around for at least a year at this point and seemed like a quaint idea.  I saved a few postcards over time from interesting looking distant Pokestops.

And then the Vivillon event hit, and now I save a postcard from every gift I get.  After a bit you need 15 postcards from a specific region to get another scatterbug to show up.  And since you need 2,250 scatterbug candies and get six from each if you throw the right berry (seven if you have some silver pinap berries around) you end up needing to pin a lot of postcards.

If you go entirely the postcard saving route, I think you need about 5K postcards to get all of the scatterbug candies to evolve all 18 Vivillon types.

And the postcard book holds 350.

So the postcard book has gone, for me, from a quaint little feature to a choke point.  Screw those interesting or exotic postcards!  I need to delete them by the hundreds to make room for my insatiable postcard needs.  Postcards are just now a vehicle that can get me to a specific goal.

So Niantic has managed to blow away that feature by introducing this mechanic without actually beefing it up to be able to handle the obvious through math potential need.  At a minimum it seems like a boost in size and a “delete all” button would be appropriate.

I am sure this is another case of devs not quite understanding how obsessive their customers can be.

What do Twitch Drops do for Video Games?

I was reminded of Twitch drops once again because Blizzard had an event that would reward you with something if you spent four hours on Twitch watching designated streamers playing the Dragonflight expansion.  You can read about it here.  It runs through Monday, so there is still time.

I am always in favor of free things, so I went to Twitch, found a streamer with the drops enabled, got them on screen, muted them, put them in the background, then went back to my work computer and completely ignored the whole thing for a couple of hours.

That streamer eventually logged off, so when I checked I as on some other stream that didn’t count, so I found another stream with drops enabled and did the same thing.

Making progress

Eventually I hit the magic time mark and earned my drop.

Drop Success!

I went to the inventory page and was looking at some of the other drops I had claimed and started wondering what was really gained by anybody by this.

My past Twitch loot drops

It is hard to read, but there is an Albion Online loot drop in that mix, and I don’t even play Albion Online.  I think I made an account at one point, but never got beyond that.  But I got a Twitch drop!

The others are from Lost Ark, which we were playing last year at this time.  I did the same thing for those, found a Twitch channel that had drops enabled and left it on in the background muted and stayed there until the timer was done.

I got some things, some streamers got some more viewers briefly, and some video games go a little more attention… but did anything really change?

The Twitch streamers with drops enabled got a boost to their viewership numbers, and probably got a some more people following their channel, but I suspect that there wasn’t much of a change to subscribers.  My relationship with them was strictly transactional; I will have your stream on my screen for a set amount of time for in exchange for whatever the company was offering.  I wasn’t going to follow or subscribe or mash any other further buttons.

The game company itself got a bit of attention for their product.  But the target audience was really people who already owned the game and were playing it.  I did the Lost Ark drops because we were active in the game at the time, but haven’t done any since.

And I only did the WoW drop because I was already subscribed and playing WoW Classic.  Blizzard didn’t get anything further from me save a login to retail WoW.  I guess that will help them with their MAU metric, but that is such a bullshit measurement the way they use it across all their titles that it would be strictly masturbatory if that was what they were after.

In the end this feels like it barely adds up to a “tear drops in the rain” level of effect.

I guess it could be a bid by Blizzard to keep their streamers engaged with the Dragonflight expansion.  There is some level of correlation between having the focus of some major streamers and the level of attention a game can hold onto.  But I suspect that that influence is grossly over estimated as often as it is completely dismissed.  It is a thing, but nobody can quantify how much impact it really has on an already popular title.  WoW isn’t Among Us, a hidden gem to be discovered.  We’ve all heard about WoW at this point.

Or I supposed it could be just good will, but that is a tough call to make given what we have heard about Blizzard over the last couple of years.  I would be more readily convinced that some marketing VP is desperate to keep engagement with Dragonflight up lest it become another Shadowlands, so is willing to throw resources into anything with a chance to help.

Anyway, Twitch drop events are a thing, I am just not sure what level of impact they have on the streamers or the games that promote them.

Searching for the Elder Title in Wrath Classic

The Lunar Festival arrived in WoW on January 20th and the group decided to divert from its current trajectory to do some work on getting the meta achievement for the event, which includes getting the Elder title.

That meant moving from doing dungeons to… doing some different dungeons.

The core mechanic of the Lunar Festival is an Azeroth-wide game of “Find the Elders.”  There are some other tasks for the meta achievement, including just being lucky and walking through the corpse of a boss in Moonglade.

Grabbing the Blessing of Elune

But most of the work goes into running down each of the elders.

Some are out in the open world, so there is little risk in getting to them.  They are just scattered, so travel will be required… and flight is needed for some of the ones in Northrend.  But that is mostly a time sink and not so difficult… at least if you know where they are.

My last elder for the Eastern Kingdom

My main gripe is that, once again, the draw distance limitation for character models is so short in WoW Classic that you cannot depend on seeing that light of Elune on them from any range.  You have to be able to see their quest marker to find them.

Six are in the major capitol cities, three alliance and three horde.  So three are easy and three have a bit of risk.  The Undercity was quick.  Orgrimmar was pretty the same run we did to Ragefire Chasm back in vanilla Classic, though much easier at level 77.

The elder in the Valley of Wisdom, outside of Thrall’s place

Thunder Bluff was the most annoying, but I managed to escape thanks to engineer skills.

Parachuting out of Thunder Bluff

And then there are the elders of the dungeons.  They are 13 elders who have been dropped into various dungeon settings, so you have to work your way to them.  Six of those are in vanilla instances, so fairly soloable for anybody geared up in Northrend.  Seven of them, however, are in Northrend.

That meant running seven mostly at level instances.  Fortunately, we had done four of them already and getting to the elder in them doesn’t require a dungeon clear.  You generally have to get past at least the first boss in an instance, but not even that in some.

So we set out and did the four we knew, The Nexus, Azjol-Nerub, Drak’Tharon Keep, and Utgarde Keep.

The Nexus didn’t require us to even fight a boss, just some trash, to get to the elder. Azjol-Nerub had us fight two bosses, including Hadronox, the boss event that was so problematic to us on our first run.  He was bugged… pun intended… this time as well, to the point that he died without any intervention on our part.  We just sat and watched, then jumped down the hole and found the elder.  Drak’Tharon meant two bosses as well and just staying clear of King Dredd when we found the elder.

While King Dredd is at the other end of his pen

Having worked from west to east, we ended up at Utgarde Keep, where we just had to dispatch Prince Keleseth.

That left the three dungeons hadn’t done before, and the closest, and hardest, Utgarde Pinnacle, was right there, so we thought we should give that a try.

UP is a level 80 instance and our group was all level 77, which meant we couldn’t even get the quests for the instance.  Oh well, we’ll save that for later.  It is also an instance I think we did exactly once and never looked back, so my memories are pretty vague.

So not only were we a bit under level… all the mobs are 79 or 80… but the elder is deep in the instance.  We would have to get past three of the four bosses to get to the elder.

The Map of Utgarde Pinnacle

This was going to be some effort.  And it was, though it wasn’t as bad as we might have feared.

We managed to get through the trash without too much drama, and took down the first boss, Svala Sorrowgrave, who is downstairs on that map, on the first try.  Go us.  We then worked our way around to the trophy hall and the second boss, Gortok Palehoof.

Gortok Palehoof’s trophy room I guess… or is he a trophy too?

We managed to defeat that event… just barely… though found out after the fact that we didn’t have to.  You can just walk past it.  But it did drop a nice chest upgrade for me… I just needed to get to level 78 to put it on.

The last boss however, Skadi the Ruthless, which is that blue streak on the east side of the map… that stopped us.

Skadi is an event and you have to fight your way up that ally against a constant stream of oncoming mobs while collecting harpoons and… it just wasn’t happening.  We took a few runs at it, even trying a work around that somebody suggest but which turned out to not be valid.  (If you collect harpoons, then restart the event, your harpoons go away.)

One of the critical items in the event was mana.  WoW Classic has another… bug, feature, change… where you can only use one potion per combat cycle.  No 2 minute timer, just one potion and you’re done.  This was easily a 5+ minute even for us the way it was working and we were hoping to be able to use multiple potions, but no luck on that front.

So we fell back to fight another day.  Utgarde Pinnacle is the barrier between us and getting that last achievement for the holiday.

Just dungeons left undone

We’re looking for a better plan because we have to get it done before the evening of February 9th, because the lunar festival shuts down on the morning of the 10th.

Musing on the Walls that Age Brings to MMOs

You can’t go home again.

-Thomas Wolfe, title of one of his posthumously published novels

That quote, expanded on at the end of the novel, is meant to warn that you cannot return to a previous time in your life, that the pull of nostalgia is a false promise tainted by the fact that memory tends to emphasize the good and diminish the bad.  There is no happy past state to return to, just a different set of problems.

It is an argument against dwelling in the past.  And yet here I am, headed down that path again.

Today, however, I am going to try to avoid pining for some past idyllic state of vanilla WoW or launch day EverQuest or EVE Online before warp to zero was a thing.  Instead, I was thinking more about the barrier that change and progression and expansions and the long term effects of an economy of endless faucets does to a game over time.

I’ve bemoaned at times Blizzard’s inability to launch and expansion in anything less than a two year cycle, but sometimes it seems like as much a blessing as a curse.

At the end of last year WoW launched its 9th expansion.  But EverQuest, which is just five and a half years older than WoW, will kick off its 30th expansion by the end of 2023.

Thirty expansions.

And even though the EQ team doesn’t throw every class and mechanic in the air with every expansion the way WoW tends to, every expansion, every new layer of content, changes the game.  EQ has such a giant mountain of content and such a vast world that it is difficult to even figure out where to go.

That is a lot of walking

Norrath has expanded to such an extent that even the in-game guides that try to direct players where to go can barely communicate how to reach your destination.  See my adventures trying to reach the Scarlet Desert a couple of years back.

Meanwhile the game has to make some concessions to new players, so the climb to level 50 or 60 or 90 no longer take as long as they did when those were the caps on the game.  So the play through is… not very much like it was back in the day.

That can be both good and bad.  EQ has added a tutorial for new player, which I rather enjoy when I go back to the game.  The problem is that after you leave it the game doesn’t live up to the promise of the tutorial.  While the experience can be much more directed than it used to be back in the day, it is still isn’t a well lit path, so it being speedier is probably something.

And, on top of all of that, there is the economy.  I always laugh when I go back to EQ to try and play because you get copper coins as drops, but more than 20 years of mudflation has had its impact on the economy so it is like, say, minimum wage staying where stuck in time while prices rise constantly.  The players at that end of the scale aren’t able to afford much.

Okay, EverQuest (and Ultima Online) are probably the extreme examples in this scenario, titles with more than two decades under their belts.  They still carry on, but they feel like places that cater to a very specific and entrenched installed base who will stick with the games until either it or they pass away.

And WoW isn’t that far behind, coming up on 19 later this year.  Standing in 2023 it is objectively not that much younger than those other two titles.  And Blizzard has tried to fight that eventual barrier to entry that is created by longevity, though not always successfully.

A slower expansion cadence helps.  You can take a year off and not feel completely out of touch with the game.  But other things they have done… I remain mixed about the level squish that came in before Shadowlands.  I will grant that it provides a less chaotic path to level cap, at least potentially, than the past need to climb through each expansion, though the constant adjusting down of the level curve meant you barely got very far in any old expansion before the next one was within range.

These are example of older titles, but no title is getting any younger.  Any MMO that lasts beyond a few years seems destined to either hang on for decades, even if it means getting bought out and milked for the last few ounces of profit it can provide.

So, while I am just meandering in text at the moment, I do wonder what lessons newer titles, maybe Lost Ark or New World, if the latter can hold itself together, should learn… or probably should have learned before they launched… to be more sustainable over time.

Is there something EQ or UO or WoW could have done along the way that would have made them more approachable in their second decade?  Are retro or or progression or fresh start servers the sort of renewal process that helps maintain longevity?

Or am I fighting against the quote I threw in at the top of the post?  I put it there more as a warning to myself, but I always somehow manage to bypass my own advice.

January in Review

The Site

It was a bit of an erratic month.  For the past year or so I’ve been trucking along with about 500 page views per day with an occasional spike if somebody links an old post on Reddit or something.  I had a couple of those days this month,

January 16th was amusing

(I made a 666 reference in the last January in review as well.  This isn’t going to be a running bit.)

However, as the month wore on traffic started to taper off noticeably.  While I am sure Bing no longer completely embargoing me helped a bit, Google seemed to be giving me the cold shoulder in the back half of January with traffic from there dropping 20%.  Given that the bulk of my traffic is from Google, that has an impact on my stats.

Overall though, the core of traffic, which is about 200 views a day from direct sources, remained about the same.  So my daily traffic is generally 200 + Google + other search engines and social media + random links on Reddit.

In other items, for no good reason aside from inertia… well, and the fact that I know the day I stop the counter goes back to zero… I carried on with my posting streak and this is now the 1,039th day in a row.  At some point the madness will end.

One Year Ago

Microsoft said they were going to buy Activision Blizzard for 69 billion dollars.  That was kind of a surprise.  Blizzard also announced an unannounced survival game.  And then Sony said they were going to buy Bungie for 3 billion dollars, which was all kind of odd because Microsoft used to own Bungie.  I don’t know.

It is hardly a January unless I open up with some sort of predictions post.  That and the end of the Steam Winter Sale are practically constants in the universe.

I also reviewed what I played in 2021 and looked forward into 2022.  World of Tanks also told me how I did there in 2021, which wasn’t very well.

Harry Potter Wizards Unite shut down.

Square Enix said they were all in on crypto, something they doubled down on a year later.  They seemed convinced some people would trade fun for earnings potential… or scam potential if we’re talking about crypto.

Daybreak put out roadmaps for EverQuest and EverQuest II… and stuck to them!  There was also a community resource council being set up for EverQuest.  Over in EQII I had hit the level cap in Visions of Vertovia.

I was playing Pokemon Shining Pearl on the Switch Lite.  I managed to catch Palkia and then went on to fight the Pokemon League.

Then there was Forza Horizon 4 with a controller on my PC.

I was also fiddling around with Stellaris once more.  Judging from the month in review play time numbers, I actually spent some time with it.

The instance group was still in New World, seeking out salt and other crafting goods.  We were also trying to get to the Starstone Barrows.

Then there was the whole EVE Online + Doctor Who cross-over event in New Eden, which seemed a very strange venture.  The event kicked off with some fanfare.  There were definitely a series of steps to get to shooting the promised Daleks.

Out in Null Sec The Army of Mango Alliance messed up their attempt to back their way into Imperium membership.  That led to blowing up their Keepstar after letting it run out of fuel, so it dumped all the contents out like a giant loot pinata.

Also Progodlegend stepped down from CSM16 and CCP was having problems with the December MER, summed up in a bullet points post.  CCP eventually dropped the MERs with some new measurements near the end of the month.

Somebody asked how many games people had spent at least 500 hours playing.  I had a list for that one.  Being old helps.

Venture Beat, our top source of cypto hype news, held a metaverse summit, where much was said… and I tried to explain how garbage crypto really is.

There was my five books of 2021.  I did some headlines from the mail bag.

And I summed up some of our binge watching during the holidays and then a few more shows we watched in the new year.

Five Years Ago

There were the usual predictions and outlook and Steam Winter Sale posts for the year.  I am consistent, you have to give me that.

Satan was speaking to us about lockboxes.

played Anarchy Online for a few hours.

There was Trogday.

I was looking into the Legion expansion in World of Warcraft for the new year.

Blizzard gave us four more bag slots… if we had our account security setup correctly.  A year later that little notification about the bag slots still comes up every once in a while.

I was on to pet battles again, collecting themleveling them up, and looking into the Celestial Tournament.

Blizzard also gave us a target season (summer) for Battle for Azeroth and opened up pre-orders.

In EVE Online the January update moved the Agent Finder fully into The Agency.

But the big news in New Eden was brewing in the system 9-4PR2.  Pandemic Horde was anchoring a Keepstar there and the hype for the battle over it built pretty fast.  Dubbed the “Million Dollar Battle” in advance, it didn’t quite get there, though there were over 6,000 players in the system at one point.  INN spent time reviewing the whole thing.  Still, it was good enough for a Guinness Book World Record. (Yeah, that was in April, but I figured I would tie the whole event together here.)

I moved all of my games and data from my old Nintendo 3DS XL to a new 2DS XL.

In a bullet points post I was on about the Age of Empires remaster, which you could only get through the Microsoft store, Rift Prime plans, legendary Pokemon, the cost of making video games, and how BitCoin miners were buying up all the video cards.

And, finally, I was kind of bummed because, in this age of streaming, if you want to see recent movie releases at home, disks were still the most reliable method for the price… short of pirating the movies, of course.

Ten Years Ago

Firefly Universe Online.  Was that a hoax or not?  I still don’t know.  And does the acronym FUO seem mildly obscene?

Wizardry Online joined the SOE stable while Pirates of the Burning Sea was sent packing.  Who is laughing now?

We got our full group together in Rift and did our first instance of the year, dying at least 100 times combined.  This lead to a side post about bosses and gimmicks and what makes a challenge.

In World of Tanks the instance group was scooting around. We even created our own little clan.  Potshot and I were totally going French.

In EVE Online, after a sudden burst of war fever died down, there was a surprise battle where more than 2,500 ships clashed in Asakai when CFC FC Dabigredboat led a supercap fleet in to rescue a stray titan.  The battle was so big that CCP did a Dev Blog about it.  Meanwhile, we were to be denied LEGO Rifters.

The DUST 514 open beta was officially open.  I never ended up bombing anything from orbit.

Path of Exile went into full open beta as well.

Krono made its way from EverQuest II to EverQuest while I was wondering what people were spending their Station Cash on.

I was musing about MUDs again, and vendors who wouldn’t simply buy any crap you had for sale and dead rats.

There was a list of 20 games that defined the Apple II.  That remains an evergreen traffic generator.

And I wrote out my yearly list.  This time it was goals, mostly because I was on vacation when I was supposed to be writing it.

Fifteen Years Ago

I started off with a helping of silly predictions.

I was bemoaning my inability to be a fan boy and parrying claims that PvE players were going to ruin Warhammer Online.

There were some pictures from my daughter’s LEGO birthday party.  Those seem to get linked on Pintrest quite often.

Then, with Tabula Rasa dead to me since open beta, I started wondering if there was any hope at all for a Science Fiction MMORPG.  This ended up being one of my most responded to posts of the time.  Plus, in addition to all the comments, PotshotTipaLemegeton, Gooney, and even Massively following up with response posts. This post still gets a lot of views every month. (And yes, I do think there is hope, I just don’t know when we’ll get what we’re looking for.)

And, along with that, I wrote about five LEGO Video Games I would like to see made.  And a few of those ended up getting made.  Imagine!

Then there was the start of the run-up to Pirates of the Burning Sea which, among other things, required me to invest in a new router as well as reviewing how to pick a server in a new game.  The latter was from a time when we assumed servers would stay crowded like they did in WoW.

In World of Warcraft the Saturday night instance group was hitting ScholomanceDire Maul West and Scholomance again as part of the Paladin mount quest, Stratholme, then Dire Maul West once more for the Warlock mount quest, and then Scholomance for the third and final time to get all the epic mounts straight.  By then we were all level 60 which meant we could head  to the Outlands only a year after The Burning Crusade shipped!

In EVE Online, after spending millions of ISK, I managed my first Tech II Blueprint, then I couldn’t afford to build it. Ah, life in New Eden.  I also got my standing past 8.0 with the Caldari Navy and spent time hauling trash.

And, finally, in Lord of the Rings Online I was able to pick up my Bree Pony, the 2007 holiday gift to founders.

Twenty Years Ago

The game now known as Entropia Universe launches.  Riding the virtual world craze and being early on monetizing digital goods, it set some world records for most expensive virtual items.  It is also the title you should bring up when some Web3 blockchain bozo starts talking about how they have revolutionary ideas about ownership in the metaverse.  Entropia Universe is, from what I have heard, a crap game, which both tells you what you should expect from Web3 ideas and also that they are not anything new.

Thirty Five Years Ago

Electronic Arts launches Wasteland which holds a special place in my own gaming timeline as it is the last title I bought for my Apple //e.

Also, Tetris arrived in North America.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. Honest Game Trailers does Pokemon Violet and Scarlet
  4. Flight in Pre-Patch Outland
  5. Making the Grey Pit in Valheim
  6. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  7. The EverQuest Team Expands on their UI Engine Roadmap Update
  8. Stuck in the Gym in Pokemon Go
  9. Corpse Spam in Stormwind
  10. New Eden and China
  11. CCP Lets EVE Online Players with Multiple Accounts Subscribe Secondary Accounts at a Lower Price
  12. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor

Search Terms of the Month

my character has no server new world select world
[You and me both friend]

palmont police department (world)
[feeling some need for speed?]

star wars empire guild name generator
[Vader’s Fist?]

gay games emulator
[I see this every month, and they never find it here]

Game Time by ManicTime

I ended up playing three titles in January.  I also ended up spending half as much time playing games as I did in December.  The holidays were over and the new year was busy.

  • WoW Classic – 57.58%
  • EVE Online – 39.98%
  • LEGO Star Wars – 2.44%

There was something of a resurgence of time in New Eden.  I probably did the most things there.  As I always say, I spend so much of my time playing EVE Online tabbed out of the game that it never really gets tracked properly.

EVE Online

Kind of a lively month in New Eden for me.  I was in four good fights, there was some null sec political news, I made some ISK, and did some exploring.  On the combat side of things I was on more kill mails this past month than I was in any three months of 2022 combined.  The collapse of FI.RE in the face of the Pandemic Horde onslaught got us some political drama and speculation about who will live in that space: Will it be left fallow for new groups or become tributaries to PanFam?  And I went to Pochven.  Twice.  Which means I have been there three times now.

LEGO Star Wars

I meant to play a lot more of this than I did.  The problem, really, seems to be the heavy focus commitment it needs as a game.  The thing about MMOs, and especially EVE, is that despite there being no pause button, they are pretty interruptible.  I can listen to a podcast when I am just running quests or doing tasks in WoW Classic.  I can get up and go to the bathroom in a tidi fleet fight in EVE and not be too worried about what I’ll miss.  In fact, I am serious that ManicTime doesn’t capture how much time I spend playing EVE because I spend so much of that time tabbed out of the game looking at intel and reference material about the game.  LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga needs my hands on the controller and me focused on it alone.

Pokemon Go

The hunt for Vivillon dominated the month, with my wife and I both looking for new friends to fill out the list of 18 zones required to catch them all.

  • Level: 43 (21% of the way to 44 in xp, 1 of 4 tasks complete)
  • Pokedex status: 750 (+4) caught, 767 (+3) seen
  • Mega Evolutions obtained: 21 of 30
  • Pokemon I want: All the other Vivillons it seems
  • Current buddy: High Plains Vivillon

WoW Classic

We were a bit slow getting back into things after the holidays, but did get through Drak’Tharon and into Violet Hold.  And then the Lunar Festival came along and we spent a couple of weekends chasing achievements for that.  We still have one blocker between us and the meta achievement and title, but I will get to that tomorrow I think.

Zwift

I did managed to keep on riding.  I even did some pretty long rides.  Occasionally I get in the groove and go beyond my minimum quota.

  • Level – 18 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 1,493 miles (+94 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 57,838 (+3,429 feet)
  • Calories burned – 46,834 (+3,694)

Coming Up

“Is it February already?” said all the old people like myself, as they seem to at the end of every month.

What will we get next month?

February is the butt end of winter, at least in California.  We’ve had a bunch of rain, we might get a bit more, but it will return to warmer temperatures here near the coast.

As for gaming… I guess we’ll move from lunar new year to Valentine’s Day related events.  And we’ll get some abbreviated earnings statement from Activision Blizzard.  But I am not sure what else is coming.  No big new releases for me in any case, so I guess I’ll carry on with the same stuff as before.

The Imperium Begins Buying Back War Bonds

The echoes of World War Bee (or Beeitnam, if you prefer) continue to reverberate throughout null sec.  No matter what you thought about it or any of the participants or who won, its influence continues to influence events.  The roots of the recent evacuation of FI.RE, one time PAPI member coalition, from the southeast can no doubt traced back to the war and how it fell out in the end.

History is not a series of discreet dates but a continuum of connected events.

So we’re back to talking about the war today because of an announcement that the Imperium has made over the last couple of weeks regarding the bonds it issued during the war.

The war was expensive, and all the more so at the end of 2020 and the beginning to 2021 when the Imperium was not just losing structures, but had been involved in the first battle at M2-XFE which saw about 250 titans destroyed, split about evenly between the PAPI and the Imperium, which represented something close to 30 trillion ISK destroyed in an evening.

The opening shots of the first battle of M2-XFE

The Imperium needed to replace those titans.

It also needed to buy quantum cores, the new addition to dockable Upwell structures that CCP added in order to combat proliferation and to incentivize the destruction of those player owned structures by making them not only more expensive, but but giving them a valuable guaranteed drop when they were blown up.

The Quantum Core Price List

All structures would require cores starting on January 12, 2021.

So the grind of war, the loss of titans, the need to core structures, along with the suppression of income with hostiles invading our space but an enormous amount of financial pressure on the coalition.  In order to cope with that, the Imperium chose to issue war bonds to keep any ISK liquidity issues at bay.

The coalition used the corporation shares system in the game to setup an offering with the following parameters.

  • Each share had a face value of 1 billion ISK
  • Each share would pay a dividend of 10% of the share’s value per year, paid in monthly installments due on the 1st of each month (8.33M per share per month)
  • Repurchase of a share by the coalition would be equal to its initial sale price
  • The alliance reserved the right to mature bonds and pay out the face value of shares at any time after the 12th payment, which was due on 1 January, 2022

Members were being asked to loan the coalition ISK in increments of 1 billion for a minimum of one year at a 10% interest rate.

At the time this was roundly mocked by our foes as a desperation move by the Imperium and those investing ISK were cast as suckers being fleeced by leadership who they suggested would simply take the ISK and run.

Within the Imperium the war bonds campaign was reported to be wildly successful.  I personally bought five shares and received my first dividend payment during the 31st week of the war.

War Bond Dividend #1 plus a 1.25 ISK test payment to check the system

On Wednesday of this week, February 1st, I will receive my 24th dividend payment, which will push the sum total of payments I have banked just past the 1 billion ISK mark.

I should do so well in the real world.

The success of the Imperium war bond campaign even inspired some of our foes to attempt similar offerings to bolster their finances in the face of CCP’s economic austerity plan for New Eden.

The war ended, having petered out over a year back.  Delve has been rebuilt and with CCP finally seeing sense and loosening up the ISK faucets again, there is a sense of prosperity in some quarters.  Even I have been out ratting some, feeling like it was worth my time to earn some ISK.

The Imperium too must be feeling more prosperous, because two weeks back it was announced that the coalition would begin to mature and buy back war bonds for their full face value.

The call went out on the weekly fireside to investors who had purchased a single share to step up and arrange to sell them back for 1 billion ISK each.  A week later that was expanded to investors who held two shares.  It was explained that the program would continue to expand to those who held more shares.

Sitting on five shares I suspect I will be able to get my initial investment back at some point.  Again, in a little over two years I will have turned 5 billion ISK into 6 billion ISK with no effort on my part.

I am not eager to get paid out.  I don’t need the ISK this minute and it will likely just sit in my wallet earning zero interest when I do get paid.  But I understand that the finance team might be keen to use a period of relative peace and prosperity to reduce the financial burden on the coalition.

Because, of course, we need to have everything as ready as possible for the next war… because there will no doubt be a next war at some point.

This is not exactly an exciting bit of EVE Online trivia.  Bonds and investments and dividends seem more like something part of the mundane real world rather than a futuristic internet spaceship games featuring immortal capsuleers fighting battles in the stars.  But it does speak to the complexity of the game, and the game’s economy, that there is a team in the Imperium that handles financial transactions like that.  This is somebody’s virtual space job.

And not being exciting, it isn’t something you’ll likely see written about very often.  I am curious how the bonds issued by other groups during the war turned out.  I’d like to which organizations kept to their commitments and who took the money and ran leaving investors in the lurch.

Another day in New Eden.

The Return of Bing?

I noticed something strange in my blog stats for this month.  I was getting some search engine traffic from Bing.

Those just showing up might think, “So what? Bing is the second largest search engine after Google with… um… 5% of the market to Google’s 85-90%”

And for a long stretch Bing, and the search engines that use Bing to deliver their results (I wrote a post about that), used to deliver a trickle of traffic to me.  But then back in June of 2022 something happened and Bing cut off the tap.  They seemed to have it in for all blogs on the WordPress.com domain.

Bing stats running into June 2022

On these charts, blue is impressions, using the scale on the right, and purple is actual clicks, which uses a scale one eighth the range.

And it wasn’t just “nobody is clicking on your link” or being a couple of pages into the rankings, I could literally not force Bing to find my blog.

I had a Bing console account and had fed it my site map and RSS feed data, so it wasn’t like they lost track of me.  I seemed to be on some wide blacklist of sites.

I did persist for a while.  I would return to the Bing console about once a month and re-submit my site map, and the console indicated they did in fact oblige my submission and crawled by site.  But traffic was not forthcoming.

But now, six months later… traffic has resumed.  I see traffic from Bing, and a couple of the sites that use Bing, like Duck Duck Go and Yahoo.

Which is nice.  I still don’t have the top search result for TAGN there, like I used to and as I still have with Google.

In fact, it is quite an effort to get Bing to cough up a link for my site even with some very directed search terms.  Typing in the full name of the blog into the search field yields what I can only describe as epic level avoidance.  Bing will send you to the Tumblr feed for my blog, my Twitter account, my YouTube channel, the Flipboard page for the blog, mentions of my blog on other sites (but not Massively OP, because both Google and Bing seem to have it in for Bree’s crew, though it does find links to the old AOL Massively site, now archived under the Engadget banner), links to sites that have scraped my content, and even the Blogger site I had been using as a hot backup of this site until If This Then That broke the connection somehow.

You have to work to find me.  But it is some progress I suppose.

Another 40 people made their way here so far in January because of it.

Bing comes alive in Jan 2023

Once again, blue is impressions and purple is clicks, and I cropped the left side scale for links in this time.

Bing also says that it is sending more people my way that WordPress.com tells me about, but web stats not matching up is pretty much a way of life on the internet.  You can only really compare stats from the same source using the same methodology… like the EVE Online monthly economic report.

A far cry from the 500 people directed my way by Bing and its associates in January of last year, but we take what we can get.  I’ll keep resubmitting my feed… which is what somebody recommended… once a month until morale improves.

A Lunch Time Keepstar Kill in R-ARKN

Sometimes things just line up.

It was about 15 minutes before I could in good conscience start taking lunch, even on a Friday, when I saw the first ping about a fleet forming to go and blow up a Keepstar.  I wanted go blow up a Keepstar.  I always want to go see structures blow up.  But I have gained a no doubt undeserved reputation as a solid worker who doesn’t slack off such that I feel the need to reinforce that illusion by not disappearing for lunch at 11:15 am.

Oh well.  I can’t be there for all of them.  And it isn’t like there haven’t been a lot of Keepstar kills in the last few years.  We’re long past the days when I managed to be on more than half of those kill mails.

A while late there was a call for a second fleet, but I figured they would be off before I could break away.  I was also pairing with another team member and didn’t really have an excuse to drop off.  Then a little past 11:30 am she had to drop off and I immediately turned to my home computer, a 90 degree turn of the chair from my work setup, and logged into EVE Online to see if any of the fleets… a third had been called by this point… were around or had any room left.

I jumped into the third fleet, which was the Imperium’s Stormbringer doctrine.  But then I thought about how long a Keepstar shoot can go and figured I had better fly in something I could dock up or safe up somewhere without missing.  A Stormbringer is a pricey ride and I only had one hanging around in my hangar.

I dropped that fleet to see if I could get in the Eagle fleet.  I have half a dozen Eagles sitting in my hangar, war surplus, and if I had to dock one of those up in an NPC station far from home because I had to get back to work, that would be no real loss.

Then I was in the fleet, led by AcidF, hanging around waiting for us to get going then, because these sort of ops get called early.  I had no idea how far we might have to travel, but I had some time now.  And then the order to undock was given and the destination announced in fleet chat:  R-ARKN.

That wasn’t very far at all.  It was also the location of the great loot pinata structure shoot a year back with the Army of Mango Alliance debacle.  I had been on a Keepstar kill mail in that system before.

Taking the Eye of Terror Ansiblex highway eastward, it was just nine jumps to Esoteria and the destination, thanks to our new allies in Sigma Grindset who have set up shop in Paragon Soul.  So we were there pretty quickly.  And on arrival I could see that the timer for the Keepstar didn’t have long to count down.

The WR0NG Keepstar and not the wrong Keepstar

We got ourselves into position and lolled about a bit while waiting the final minutes before the timer finished its run and we could begin to shoot the structure.

Waiting for the timer at a safe distance

At first I thought we might be getting in on a FI.RE coalition structure timers, but we were outside of their old zone of influence.  This Keepstar belonged to What Could Possibly Go Wr0ng, a member of what was the Cockroach Coalition down south, some tolerated unaligned groups living in space that was otherwise not considered prime real estate.

Indeed, what could?

I wasn’t sure why we were after them, but we were there and setup and ready to go with three fleets when the timer ended.  We got in closer and started shooting.

Fleet’s arrayed about the Keepstar

You can see the warp formations in use there as we closed up in the wall position, spreading ships out the avoid being easy, clustered targets for the structure to throw bombs at.

I was interested to see if anybody else would show up to the shoot.  We were in the middle of some contested space, so it was possible that some FI.RE remnants or Pandemic Horde might wander in on the whole thing.  But aside from a couple of individuals, it was mostly just us in the system.  I think the Stormbringers were counting on some hostiles to show up, their thing being to bounce lightning off of ten targets.  They had to make due with the standup fighters from the Keepstar.

Strombringers getting up to whatever they were doing

The shoot was otherwise uneventful.  Sure, the PDS zapped some droned and bombs flew and fighters were launched, but for the most part we all say around cycling our guns to keep the damage inbound.  The fact that nobody was around to fight with on grid and that we capped out at under a thousand characters in the system meant that tidi stayed manageable, speeding up the whole thing.

Eventually, as the remaining hull counted down, we got in close to cover the drop of the quantum core, that bit that CCP added to dockable Upwell structures which became mandatory about two years back.  That is a 30 billion ISK item that is required to power up a Keepstar and which is a guaranteed drop.  We were all up close as the Keepstar blew up.

Another one blows up

You can see the defensive bubbles near the center of the model to guard against somebody swooping in and making off with the core.

The kill mail showed 854 involved parties.

We hung around for a bit to cover GSOL doing their thing, then the three fleets started their move back to Delve.

Taking the Ansiblex highway home

It was during the trip home we got a bit of story time about what we had been up to.  Apparently WR0NG had made a deal to sell the Keepstar to Pandemic Horde. (Edit: Reference here)  We found out about the deal, because everybody has spies everywhere, and put a stop to it by removing the structure.

I mentioned earlier in the week in the post about FI.RE’s flight from the southeast that there was a possibility of friction as Pandemic Horde and the Imperium began to butt up against each other along a common boarder.  I suspect this won’t be the last structure we go after on the periphery of our holdings.

Meanwhile, we got back home to 1DQ1-A with some time to spare so I could make myself a sandwich and actually had some lunch during my lunch break.

The Search for Vivillon

My wife and I are kind of late to the party on this.  We depend on a friend of ours to keep us up to date on Pokemon Go, but she wasn’t up on this one… or was holding out on us maybe.

While my wife and I play Pokemon Go regularly, I don’t follow the news of it as closely as I do, say, EVE Online.  So my first hint that something was going on was when I noticed people on my friend’s list were saving a lot of my daily gifts as postcards, a little used feature of the game up until this point… so far as I can tell anyway.

I ignored this for a bit, thinking it odd but whatever… however, when in persisted for a couple of weeks I went out to look it up and found out we had completely blown by the Vivillon launch back in December and Niantic’s plan for it.

Vivillon, which also happens to occupy position #666 in the national pokedex, is a seventh generation Pokemon that came in with Pokemon Sun & Moon and is one of those
“gotta catch em all” specials that doesn’t just have a couple of evolutions, but also comes in 20 different color variations.  I forget how they worked that in Sun & Moon, but I am sure the online trading post was hot with exchanges across the world to get the versions people were missing.

Pokemon Go is more “real time” than the core RPG series, lacking a Pokemon auction house of sorts.  So the plan was to make the various Vivillon versions available via gift exchanges.

When you get a gift from a friend you save it as a postcard… hence the behavior I noticed… and when you collect enough you get a Scatterbug that appears.  That is the larval state of the Vivillon and you need 125 candies to get it into its full splendor.

The trick is that the location of the postcard dictates which color variation of the Vivillon you end up with if you evolve that particular Scatterbug.  They even have a map that shows you where in the world you need to have friends send you gifts if you want that particular flavor of Vivillon.

Where to find Vivillon… sort of… also, no China, no Russia

You should probably click on that to see if full size.

The 18 variations of Vivillon that are currently available… they are holding two in reserve I guess… are the following locales:

  • Archipelago
  • Continental
  • Elegant
  • Garden
  • High Plains
  • Icy Snow
  • Jungle
  • Marine
  • Meadow
  • Modern
  • Monsoon
  • Ocean
  • Polar
  • River
  • Sandstorm
  • Savanna
  • Sun
  • Tundra

So now you don’t just need Pokemon Go friends around the world to help level you up or get regional raid targets, you also need them for Vivillon.

There is probably a Discord server somewhere that broker’s friendships to fill that obsessive need to collect them all.  I just haven’t looked yet.

Instead, I am making friends the old fashioned way… by hooking up with random strangers on the internet.  Or on Twitter, in my case.  But the internet has paid off so far and I have managed to get at least the base level Scatterbug for 11 of the 18 Vivillon variations.

My success so far

But that leaves me with 7 more to collect.. leaving aside the couple thousand Vivillon candy I’ll need to evolve the whole lot… for which I need to get at least one Scatterbug.

I am currently missing:

  • Garden
  • Icy Snow
  • Meadow
  • Ocean
  • River
  • Sandstorm
  • Sun

You’d think, being in California, I would have Sun covered… but we’re a High Plains area.  So I have to work on finding some friends in those areas. (My trainer code is 3216 2939 2424 if you happen to be in one of those places… or if you need some High Plains gifts.)

And, of course, I need more gifts to feed the maw of this mild Pokemon Go obsession.