Reflecting on Diablo II at Twenty

Despite my writing what might be accurately called a video game oriented blog, I can be remarkably narrow in focus when it comes to the breadth of video games out there… except maybe when I am complaining about how much crap there is on Steam.

But there are some games that I am just into, that mean something to me, and that I will carry a torch for long past when said games have faded from the mainstream.  Diablo II is definitely on that list, and the 20 year anniversary is this past Monday, which means it is time to reflect.

Blizzard has their own set of celebrations to commemorate the anniversary, but we’re still missing the Diablo II remaster.  It could still be coming.  Some news has leaked, but the problems facing such a remaster loom still as well.

The last time I checked Diablo II still ran on current machines.  That was a while ago, but there is still a good chance I could install it and play.  The problem is that 20 years back monitor sizes were much smaller.  The game shipped with 640×480 as its maximum resolution, though that was bumped up to e 800 x 600 with the Lord of Destruction expansion.

My current main monitor runs as 1,920 x 1200, which means I could fit four screens of Diablo II on it, with some space left over.  And if I go full screen , the graphics get almost Minecraft blocky and the image is distorted as we’ve gone from 4:3 as the standard screen ratio to 16:9 or 16:10.

So Diablo II today does not deliver the best experience.

And why am I so interested in Diablo II?  As noted above, it is one of those games that I was just really into back in the day.

The original Diablo set the stage.  That was amazing in its time, and I enjoyed player the GoG.com remaster when that came out last year.

So when Blizzard announced Diablo II back in the late 90s, I was all over that.  It was one of the few games I paid attention to before it shipped.  I remember staring at their web site.  I recall the original specs, which included the requirement to have a 3dfx Interactive video card if you wanted the full graphical effects.

That was later dropped as a requirement, but it caused some serious discussions with my friends.  Were we going to have to get a Voodoo 2 card just for this game? (One friend got himself setup with dual Voodoo 2 cards… early SLI… which worked out well when EverQuest hit, though hardware was changing so much back then that I am sure we were all running GeForce TNT cards not long after that. It was a crazy market for video cards back then with several competing brands rather than the two we have now.)

The wait was long… at least it felt long at the time… and there were delays… but when it did ship, it lived up to our expectations.  Rare for me is a sequel that outshines an original I really enjoyed.  My attempt at an objective measure on that front is, once the sequel shipped, did I ever feel like going back and playing the original?

For example, when Civilization II shipped, I never played Civilization again.

And when it came to Diablo II, I never had the urge to go back to the original until GoG.com released their version last year in conjunction with Blizzard.  And by that point Diablo II wasn’t all that interesting, it being in such need of a rework itself.

But back in 2000 we played a lot of it.  People dropped out of EverQuest and TorilMUD to devote time to the game.  I ended up owning two copies because we would play it at the office after hours together and you only have to forget your disk and miss a game night once to feel the need to have a second copy.  It was, for its time, so engaging.  I still marvel at the use of lighting, something that the games successors have really never matched.

In the end, I have enjoyed Diablo III, it official successor, and have played pretty much every other claimants to its ARPG mantle, from Titan Quest to the recent Minecraft Dungeons, but I have never enjoyed or been as into any of them as much as I did Diablo II at its peak.

There are a lot of nit-picky reasons why that might be the case, related to game play, graphics, story, and that always online thing.

But I wonder if Diablo II just happened along at the right moment for me.

I still want a remaster though.  I’ll buy it.  I might not end up liking it as much as I did back in the day, but there is enough memories there to make it a must have.

Finishing Zul’Farrak and Returning to Jintha’alor

We were back to finish off Zul’Farrak.  We had made our mistakes, explored the mechanics, and run through most of the challenges, and now we just wanted to punch that “final boss” ticket and get the last two quests out of the way.  It was back to Tanaris for the run.

The general vicinity in Tanaris

Last time Moronae rolled over to level 50.  I was close, so went out and got there as well.  And Skronk and Ula got on during the week to put in some work on leveling, so when we met up our group was:

  • Moronae – level 50 night elf druid
  • Viniki – level 50 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 50 dwarf priest
  • Ula – level 49 gnome mage

Level 50 was an expensive one for us.  Moronae and Skronk spent a bunch on new spells, while Viniki upgraded a bit of his gear, including grabbing Julie’s Dagger from the auction house.  It is fast, so my sharpening stones will be all the more effective.

Once we met up, we rode on over to the instance and started moving through it fairly quickly.

Back in ZF again

Being on a mission, we bypassed even more mobs that usual, slipping by the fountain area where the two routes through branch without bothering to clear it out.

The fountain stands unscathed

We did end up getting a patrol while we were on that little hill, but otherwise killed as few trolls as possible as we worked our way around to the stairs once again.

Once again, we cleared out everybody in the area, then ascended the stairs and took down the executioner.  Then we did a round of buffs, got full mana up, then unlocked Sergeant Bly and his companions and started off the event one more time.

Here they come… again!

We followed the same plan as before, concentrating on elites when they came up.  The non-elites threatened to get out of hand for a bit as heals and AOE drew some onto Skronk and Ula, but we managed to keep that under control.

When Bly began the march down the stairs, we followed, and at the base killed off Shadowpriest Sezz’ziz and Nekrum Gutchewer and the few remaining non-elites without much issue.

That done, I immediately went to Weegli Blastfuse and spoke to him, so he would blast open the doors to the final boss.  Skronk and Ula looted Nekrum for his necklace.  And then I spoke to Sergeant Bly, aggroing him for the fight over the Divino-matic Rod.

We slew him and his companions, looted the rod, and were successfully done with the event… on the third try.

Event done, all hostiles down

From there it was over to the big gate, which now lay open for us.

The gates are open

The fight beyond was something I could recall almost nothing about, save a sense that it was a bit of a let down after all the energy of the stairs event.  And that sense was about right.

There are three groups of mobs you need to pull first, then it is time for Chief Ukorz Sandscalp and Ruuzlu.  They actually summon some non-elites during the fight, but we killed them so quickly that the two non-elites they called only managed to get to use after both bosses were dead.  We lined up for a screen shot.

Where the chief once stood

The chief did drop the Ripsaw axe, which would have been a great weapon for Viniki… except that he had already upgraded to Julie’s Dagger, which I mentioned earlier.  Still, a could gold it a couple gold.

The best bit from the final boss was that, on our way out, a couple of stealthed trolls had spawned and attacked us.  An actual post fight surprise mechanic!  I love those!

After that though, we were pretty much done.  We went over to the one area we had bypassed the last three runs, just to see if there was anything to be found… a rare spawn… some loot… whatever.  But there wasn’t much to be had.

The only time we made it to this area

After that we fought our way out, killing a few extra mobs on the way as Ula was closing in on level 50.  Once out we rode back to Gadgetzan to turn in one quest.  Then we recalled and flew on down to the Blasted Lands for another quest turn in.  That, in turn with another quest, sent us up to the Hinterlands again where we needed to go into Jintha’alor once more.

Blue X, Us – Red X, Destination again

We rode on out to finish up The Ancient Egg and Saving Sharpbeak.

The in-game map is still a reasonable guide to getting there.  When we got to the foot of Jintha’alor Moronae was only about 30 minutes from a hard stop deadline he had.  But we felt we could get through in time.  We had just done ZF so quickly, why not?

Well, as we had forgotten, Jintha’alor actually ramps up to level 50 elites pretty quickly, which is higher level than most of ZF.  Still, we were level 44 or so when we last went up, so it was still easier than before.  We were able to bypass a lot of mobs and got to the top pretty quickly, all things considered.

Up at the altar again

We managed to clear around the altar and then knocked out Vile Priestess Hexx and got her key.  That unlocks Sharpbeak’s cage.  We went into the cave to get Sharpbeak and the ancient egg.

Fortunately, the layout for the cave at the top of Jintha’alor is the same as the kobold cave in Arathi Highlands, which I had just been questing in with an alt, so I knew which route was a dead end.  We fought our way quickly into the cave, spotting the egg about where I expected it.

The Ancient Egg!

We managed to collect that… slowly, because when one person takes it the egg has to respawn… but Sharpbeak was nowhere to be seen.  I had to go look up the quest and realized that we needed to get back out and go somewhere else for Sharpbeak.  That was another cave.  Time was ticking down for Moronae.

Unfortunately, things were fast to respawn, so we had to fight our way out again.  Ula hit level 50 along the way in the cave, which was good.  Skronk dying in one battle as we tried to rush was less so, though Moronae’s combat ress came in handy there.

We managed to get out of the cave, away from the altar, and back down the path to the other cave.  Through that and a couple of guards and we were on a plateau where Sharpbeak’s cage was located.

We let him out… everybody gets the update from the same action… and we were able to see him off.

Sharpbeak rescued!

At that point Moronae recalled and logged off, a couple minutes over time.

The rest of us decided to run down the quest turn ins.  From Sharpbeaks plateau you can safely jump off… if you’re careful… and use the terrain to basically climb down the back of Jintha’alor.  That would have been handy to remember previously.

We rode off back to Aerie Peak to turn in Saving Sharpbeak.  The we took the flight path to Menethil Harbor to get back over to Theremore.  It was apparently rush hour on the dock.

Quite the boat crowd on a Sunday afternoon

From there it was back down to Gadgetzen then over to Steamwheedle and Yeh’kinya, where we turned in the quest.  Yeh’kinya then gave us our first quest for Sunken Temple, The God Hakkar.

I think Maraudon is actually next on our list, but we’ll get to Sunken Temple eventually.  Some of us get class quests at level 50 and they seem to all require you to get something from there.

That done, we recalled home once again.

Leaving Steamwheedle

Zul’Farrak is done at last.  Now the four of us are off to Desolace and Maraudon.

Our past adventures in Zul’Farrak listed out:

June in Review

The Site

I think I fixed the MMO Blog Feed in the side bar that shows the blog name, though I am keeping the alternate one on hand at the bottom of the side bar in case my changes do not prove resilient.

I also had an odd call back to the past via Twitch this month.

Twitch is Twitch

A bunch of things have been going on around Twitch, including them… Amazon… selling the game mods part of Twitch (which used to be Curse) to another company, their competitor Mixer basically giving up, a Twitch blackout protest, Trump’s Twitch account getting banned (he had a Twitch account?), and Twitch getting sued.

It is that latter that came up here as I noticed a sudden surge in hits on a post about Erik Estavillo, from when he sued Blizzard because World of Warcraft was too difficult.  As it turns out, he is also the person who is suing Twitch because they allow women to use their sexuality to exploit sex addicts like himself.  First WoW was too hard and now he is too hard.

It had been a decade or so since his name popped up and you think that maybe people change and get on with their lives.  But I guess not.  Now I wonder who will pop up next?  Is it time for another Jack Thompson headline?  Who will 2020 inflict upon us next?

One Year Ago

I had declared that there were three problems MMORPGs were never going to solve.  I remain pretty solid on that.

I was also mocking the purity of leveling.  People be mad if you don’t do it right.

After waiting for it to finally drop, the Rise of Azshara update finally hit, bringing the flying unlock to Battle for Azeroth.

Over on the WoW Classic front, Blizzard had a load test that went pretty well.

In EVE Online the CSM14 elections kicked off.  The results were probably not surprising, though the last candidate squeaked into the tenth spot by a mere dozen votes.

New Player retention was very much on CCP’s mind.  I am not sure selling skill points in the Starter Pack was going to fix that, though it looked good to old handsThe June update though was more about shadows and putting repair services in every NPC station.

Actually in the game the Imperium was well into its plan to “glass” Pure Blind, Tribute, and parts of Vale of the Silent and drive PanFam from those regions.  I have a series of posts about that campaign:

We were poised to keep pushing, with The Mittani suggesting we might go as far as Malpais, when there were suddenly reports of Drifters attacking null sec citadels.  The Chaos Era was about to arrive.

The Spring FML season ended and we rolled into the Summer FML blockbuster season with a few new rules.  Remember back when we had movies and theaters and such?

I was also trying to figure out where the Age of Empires II Definitive Edition fit into the scheme of things.

There was a Steam Summer Sale.  There always is.

I had a Friday Bullet Points post about Stadia, Google, esports, and something Blizzard cancelled.

Five Years Ago

There was a cheer for the NBI class of 2015.

I was wondering what Turbine would do after they cancelled Infinite Crisis.  I was also looking for a summer game to play.

After waffling before a live audience, Blizzard finally caved and said there would be flying in Draenor.

Remember that time we killed a Mordus Angels Revenant?  It seems like everybody has killed one by now.

Also in EVE Online we got the Carnyx expansion, which had some of the initial Fozzie Sov features.  So we were out sov-wanding station services, though Dominion sov quirks still ruled the day in our fight at ED-9LT.  We then headed back north thinking maybe our friends in Querious would come visit us some day… *cough*

The coming of Fozzie Sov also meant further consolidation of holdings to make sure we could defend our space.  TNT got pushed out to Tribute to share space with the Circle of Two.  Tensions between the two alliances started almost right away.

And then there was Burn Amarr.  I took some screen shots.  And I splurged on ship skins.

Over at Daybreak they were talking about special servers for EverQuest II at last.  It looked like we might get some sort of progression server, for which there was a poll.  And then another poll, looking for a name.

Meanwhile, over in EverQuest, they were still working on how to deal with raiding on the Ragefire server, and the Ruins of Kunark unlock vote was upon us.

I was playing Neko Atsume on the iPad… back when it was only in Japanese!  I was also going on about 64-bit OS requirements finally coming to video games and an old grievance of mine.

My daughter suddenly wanted to play The Sims.  That lasted for about three days.  This is why I make her wait a week on any sudden new fad she want to follow.

The Steam Summer sale came and went and I bought nothing.  That turned out to be the last sale with the traditional daily specials format.

I brought up the F2P business model yet again based on a quote over at Massively OP which, if nothing else, got a long comment from Brad McQuaid on the subject.

And, finally, I played Minecraft with my daughter for Father’s Day, which led to a whole new adventure in gaming.

Ten Years Ago

Warhammer Online, whose game tips I previously mocked, was out soliciting user written game tips with the most boring video game related video ever.  Really, I was embarrassed for them.

Meanwhile, there were comical tips to be found in another game.

CCP was telling people that the steep learning curve in EVE Online was just part of the game, and Hulkageddon III was on the way.

FrontierVille came along, evoking the whole Oregon Trail thing… for which they recently were sued.  And a good thing to, as they are a bunch of lying bastards there at Zynga.  They never sent me my FarmVille magnet.

There was the big news from Turbine with Lord of the Rings Online going Free to Play.  I wondered is Lifetime Subscribers like myself would get the shaft in this transition.  But Turbine made me a perm VIP instead and put out one of those charts that seems to accompany these multi-level subscription scams structures.  But I was winning LOTRO lotteries, so I was happy for the moment.

In Pokemon SoulSilver I had beat all the gym leaders, but we were having Pokewalker problems.

Then there was Blizzard.  Where to start?

They were selling WoW Gold straight from the main page.  Really.  It just isn’t what you think.

They screwed up the parental controls interface… in my opinion… along with compromising the security of it.

The whole RealID thing was just getting warmed up.

One of the accounts in our guild was compromised and the guild bank was looted.  That has happened so many times to so many people that isn’t news any more.

And during all this, the instance group was working its way through The Burning Crusade content with our Horde alts, but we weren’t really feeling it.  Ennui had set in and our only hope was Cataclysm.  And there were plenty of offers to get us into the beta.

Fifteen Years Ago

In EverQuest II we got the Splitpaw Saga adventure pack.  Those of us with Station Access got it as part of the package, while those without had to pay… ten bucks I think.  I actually ended up playing through that quite a bit.  As early experiment with content that scaled with your levels, it was good from level 20 to level 50.  Unfortunately, it never progressed and now every time I end up in the Thundering Steppes with my newer characters the intro quest pops up.

In EVE Online the Cold War expansion hit, bringing freighters, dreadnoughts, and player owned stations in null sec.  The latter are gone, but remembered via special faction Fortizars.

Twenty Years Ago

Diablo II launched. It enlarged on its predecessor with more classes and a four act storyline that played out over different environments.  A pre-digital distribution title, it was awarded a Guinness Book record as the fastest selling video game ever, having shipped and sold one million boxes over the course of the first month.  For comparison its 2012 successor, Diablo III, sold 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours, also setting a Guinness Book record.

Shogun: Total War launched, setting down a template that would become the Total War series that is still getting new titles.

[I mistakenly put these two in the May post, but the anniversaries are actually in June.]

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. EQ Aradune Server Remains Over Crowded
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. EQ Aradune and Rizlona Servers off to the Usual Rocky Start
  6. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  7. Darkpaw Announces and Adjusts Plans for the Rizlona and Aradune Time Locked Progression Servers
  8. EQ Aradune Server and Trading One Problem for Another
  9. Why We Had Asset Safety in the First Place
  10. EVE Online Gets New Ships and COVID-19 Research with the June Update
  11. Hints of a Diablo II Remaster
  12. Ruled by Discord

Search Terms of the Month

play eve the way it’s meant to be played “eve online”
[Good luck with that!]

eq full servers wtf
[IKR!]

rizlona vs aradune server
[boxing versus queues]

heritage quests everquest 1
[Not so much]

jintha’alor altar solo run
[Be level 60]

Game Time from ManicTime

WoW Classic turned out to be the game of the month, though it was off to a slow start.  Even two weeks into the month it was in no better than third place.

  • WoW Classic – 37.41%
  • EVE Online – 31.81%
  • Minecraft – 14.62%
  • Minecraft Dungeons – 8.58%
  • EverQuest – 7.07%

EVE Online

The GEF deployment ended as we began ramping up for war in null sec.  The other two blocs, PandaFam and Legacy Coalition, might be coming for us.  Or maybe just Legacy.  We shall see.

We also got those new EDENCOM ships.  I’m training up the skills.  We shall see if the ships are any good.  And CCP finally made it so you can swap characters without exiting the game and logging back in.

EverQuest

I let my Daybreak Access account lapse.  I wasn’t doing anything that required it, except checking to see if the Aradune server still had a queue.  But I have still been logging on to play with the Overseer feature.  It does not require a subscription and I just log in once or twice a day for a bit to check up on missions.  I’d play this as an iPad game I guess.

Minecraft

The month started out strong on Minecraft.  I think in the first week I played much more of that than all things combined.  Then things started to pop a bit in EVE Online and I started getting back into WoW Classic outside of the instance group and Minecraft began to slip.

Minecraft Dungeons

This was the other game I started off strong with early on.  I played through the story and started playing through it again at the harder level… and then I sort of stopped.  As I said, the game isn’t bad, but unless you want to play the same content through over and over, there is only 4-7 hours of game there depending how you play.

Pokemon Go

My wife and I edged ever closer to level 40.  The remote raid pass option has meant we have been able to catch a few Pokemon that we might have otherwise missed out on.  But the social distancing and the hot weather have combined to make our Pokemon walks somewhat rare.  Nobody needs that when it is 95 degrees out.

Level: 39 (38% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 545 (+4) caught, 576 (+7) seen
Pokemon I want: Some of these Unova Pokemon where I only have one
Current buddy: Fraxure

World of Warcraft

I did Darkmoon Faire on my main to get my trade skills up a bit and that was pretty much it.

WoW Classic

Old Azeroth was resurgent this month as the group got back into dungeons once again.  I also started working on alts once more.  After a bit of a break it was nice to get back into the old game again.  There will no doubt be more posts coming on it.

Coming Up

It is going to be a long, hot summer, made agonizing by a presidential election failing presidency and we won’t even have NBC’s Olympics coverage to complain about as a distraction.

So staying home will remain a thing.  Fortunately, we have video games.

We will see if there is to be war in EVE Online between the Imperium and Legacy Coalition.  We still have a few days of prep.

The instance group might actually run a dungeon besides Zul’Farrak.

It remains ever a temptation to go back into WoW and Battle for Azeroth to play through the Horde story while the double xp lasts.  It doesn’t seem likely, but it could happen.

There is another weekend of the Steam Summer Sale.  I might buy something.  It is always a possibility.

The May MER and Mineral Starvation in New Eden

CCP released the Monthly Economic Report for May 2020 so we can see how the mineral starvation plan has progressed.

EVE Online nerds harder

With CCP’s mineral starvation measures all in place for two months now we can see if we’re getting anywhere close to a new normal.  Mineral prices continued to rise.

May 2020 – Economic Indices

The slope of the price climb for ore and minerals isn’t as steep as it has been for the last few months, but it continues to go up.  We are still short of the all time mineral index high, which occurred back in 2012 with the Escalation expansion, when CCP changed the drones in the drone regions to have bounties rather than dropping minerals.

May 2020 – Economic Indices – All Time

However, with a war brewing in null sec, prices might see a boost based on demand alone.

The Primary Producers Price Index (PPPI) did not rise as sharply.  Though ore and minerals make up part of that index, so does Planetary Interaction materials, and the market for that has been flooded lately as it turns out Upwell structures provide those when salvaged, and a whole bunch of Upwell structures have died since CCP introduced the “abandoned” state with the Forsaken Fortress update and turned them into a loot pinata free for all.  So that probably help keep the PPPI from rising.

The Secondary Producers Price Index (SPPI) though, that is made up largely of PI items, and you can see that it just kept on falling.  Hope you weren’t trying to make some money on PI the way I was.

And the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is made up of finished goods, remained flat.  Again, we shall see if war has any impact on that.

As for where mining is happening, the top ten regions for May were:

  1. Delve – 1.78 trillion  (Imperium)
  2. Domain – 1.44 trillion (High Sec)
  3. The Forge – 1.39 trillion (High Sec)
  4. Sinq Laison – 1.34 trillion (High Sec)
  5. Lonetrek – 1.13 trillion (High Sec)
  6. Oasa – 1.07 trillion (PandaFam)
  7. Metropolis – 919 billion (High Sec)
  8. Fountain – 864 billion (Imperium)
  9. Malpais – 857 billion (PandaFam)
  10. Perrigen Falls – 832 billion (PandaFam)

I decided to just mark each region with its owner.  PandaFam is the name coined by Jin’taan to cover the coalition that includes Pandemic Horde, Pandemic Legion, NCDot, and Fraternity as its major players.

There was 29.54 trillion ISK mined all told in May, down from 31.58 trillion mined in April.  This probably means less was mined in May as the price, on which these numbers pivot, were up.  Last month the top ten was:

  1. Delve – 1.81 trillion (Imperium)
  2. Domain – 1.64 trillion (High Sec)
  3. The Forge – 1.59 trillion (High Sec)
  4. Oasa – 1.35 trillion (PandaFam)
  5. Sinq Laison – 1.34 trillion (High Sec)
  6. Lonetrek – 1.15 trillion (High Sec)
  7. Fountain – 911 billion (Imperium)
  8. Metropolis – 888 billion (High Sec)
  9. Genesis – 878 billion (High Sec)
  10. Tash-Murkon – 869 billion (High Sec)

Null sec has upped its game somewhat since May, or at least PandaFam has.  They must be planning for a war or something.

And then there is the bounties front.

May 2020 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

We saw a dip in bounties when the Surgical Strike update hit the game and nerfed damage resistance modules.  That looks to have bounced back once people adjusted their fits.  It is still down from where it was earlier this year though.

A total of 47 trillion ISK in bounties was paid out, with the top ten regions being:

  1. Oasa – 4.06 trillion (PandaFam)
  2. Delve – 3.75 trillion (Imperium)
  3. Cobalt Edge – 2.92 trillion (PandaFam)
  4. Fountain – 2.71 trillion (Imperium)
  5. Perrigen Falls – 2.69 trillion (PandaFam)
  6. Branch – 1.88 trillion (PandaFam)
  7. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.73 trillion (PandaFam)
  8. Esoteria – 1.66 trillion (Legacy)
  9. Feythabolis – 1.59 trillion (Legacy)
  10. Insmother – 1.58 trillion (Legacy)

The big three null sec blocs did most of the ratting, with Oasa topping the list.  Last month Delve was at the top:

  1. Delve – 5.79 trillion (Imperium)
  2. Oasa – 4.47 trillion (PandaFam)
  3. Perrigen Falls – 3.02 trillion (PandaFam)
  4. Fountain – 2.54 trillion (Imperium)
  5. Cobalt Edge – 2.50 trillion (PandaFam)
  6. Branch – 1.91 trillion (PandaFam)
  7. Esoteria – 1.90 trillion (Legacy)
  8. Omist – 1.87 trillion (Legacy)
  9. Tenal – 1.62 trillion (PandaFam)
  10. Malpais – 1.58 trillion (PandaFam)

There was a general order against super carrier ratting in Delve when the Surgical Strikes update hit, and that remains in place.

So it goes.

Next month, when we seen the June MER, we will get a glimpse of post-change stability again, plus a look at the economy before the big war starts on July 5.  We will have to wait until August to see what impact that really has, though the focus on ADMs in the Imperium might see bounties jump some all the same.

In addition to the MER, CCP put out a look at the Q1 2020 New Eden economy, which covers what is important to their point of view, including things not covered by the MER, like the PLEX price trend.  CCP seems to be happy that the price is going down for PLEX, though that also means people buying PLEX to get ISK are getting less for their real world cash.  I suppose there is a happy medium in there.

Anyway, the MER and all of the data is available at the usual location.

Pokemon Go and Remote Raid Passes

I will say that Niantic has worked pretty hard to keep Pokemon Go viable and interesting during this era of pandemic, when people are spending a lot more time at home.

They have thrown a lot of small changes against the wall to see what sticks and have not been afraid to change them up as time has gone on.  My personal favorites have been having eggs hatch in half their usual distance walked and for allowing double the amount of gifts to be stored in your inventory.  Also, they made incense actually useful for now.

At least another month of these

But the best new item so far for me has been the remote raid pass.

My wife and I together can handle 1-3 star raids, and maybe a 4 star raid if we’re doing pretty well, but a 5 star raid needs more people and, of course, five star raids are where the legendary Pokemon show up.

We had managed a few in the past.  We’ve been at the mall… remember the mall… when a 5 star raid hit and have been able to join in with a larger group.  But you have to be there at the right moment or it just isn’t going to happen.

With the remote raid pass we can now jump into raids that are within range of our location.  Given that there are six gyms within range of the couch in our living room, that means more opportunities than ever.  We have both been able to catch the latest legendary Pokemon in the rotation.

Reshiram and Zekrom from Pokemon Black & White

As somebody who has always been more of a “Gotta Catch ’em All!” player, this has been something of a boon when it comes to filling out the Pokedex.

Of course, remote raid passes cost coins.

Remote Raid Passes in the Store

But I am willing to spend coins on things that are useful.  Generally I save up and buy whatever the latest box is that has the most incubators for the price, but now I am good with remote raid passes as well.

Now we just have to wait for the rotation of featured Pokemon in the 5 star raids.  There are a lot of them I had missed in the past, so I have a chance at them if Niantic puts them back in the lineup.

The Last Keepstar out of Cloud Ring

Yesterday the Imperium formed up again to cover the removal of the last of our Keepstars from Cloud Ring.  It was another big form up, a display of strength, a “filthy blob,” as streamer EVELog called it back when we dropped a huge force to cover the Keepstar deployment to 6RCQ-V two years ago.  I wish that clip was still available.

It wasn’t quite that big of a blob, but there were still a lot of big ships on grid and over 2,000 of us logged in and moving to cover the operation.  Fortunately the last Keepstar was only in B-DBYQ, on the other side of the gate from our staging in J5A-IX, so the move to get there was the least painful of the three operations.  The Mittani was even spotted undocked in a Revelation.

Over the Keepstar logo

He had to have chosen that spot on purpose.

The movement of the fleets followed the usual plan, with subcap fleets warping ahead to cover both sides of the gate, then capital ships gating through by fleet, aligning to the Keepstar, the warping off to tether up on it.

There was word that PanFam might make a move to interfere with this last Keepstar removal, but that apparently meant a small interceptor gang hanging around for a bit before being chased off once the subcaps were stationed around the gate.

The final Keepstar from the J5A gate

A few other people did show up, either by accident or in order to watch the spectacle.  Those that got too close were shot pretty quickly.  A rather surprised Tengu pilot managed to get shot by a titan… op success maybe?  They were carrying a covert cyno though, so they were up to no good.  I managed to get paints on a Stiletto that wasn’t quite fast enough to get away.  Nothing slowed us down and the pile on the Keepstar began.

There we are

There were some stragglers who missed previous withdrawal ops who jumped their capitals into the system, but before the Keepstar removal began the cyno jammers were turned on to keep any hostile capitals from showing up.

Getting our jam on in 1 second

And then, once things settled down and everybody was on the Keepstar, we sat and waited for a bit.  I put my camera at a set angle and managed to get a before and after shot.

Keepstar is there

Keepstar is gone

So it goes.  I even managed to slip into a fleet with my alt Claude Ring, which I created about four years ago and held onto for just such an opportunity.  He asked in Local why the Imperium was leaving him.  Then, when he spoke up back in J5A, people said they thought they were done with him.

That was pretty much all I created that character to do.  He has barely enough skills to fly T1 logi in newbie fleets, just so he could be there.

Meanwhile, we started running the whole op in reverse, with subcaps on the gate and capitals aligning back out.

Capitals aligning to the J5A gate

Some warps and a lot of tidi later, everybody was back at the Keepstar in J5A.  After that, there were move ops to reposition forces.

Flight of the Faxes

Later on today, at the regular Saturday fireside, The Mittani will be giving us a war planning update and is expected to announce some new ops coming up.  We still have a week to go before the NIP between the Imperium and Legacy Coalition expires.  We are still working on bring up ADMs and getting supplies laid in.  If nothing else happens it will be a long week of waiting.

Consolidation and Preparations for World War Bee

The official Imperium line is that the upcoming conflict, should it come to pass, is going to be called “World War Bee” in order to distinguish it/blur it with the “Casino War” of 2016.  A write up of the Imperium’s narrative is over at INN.  There is even a video.

Propaganda is always a big part of these wars, and r/eve is filling up with entries.

Meanwhile, out in null sec, things are in motion.  As I mentioned on Monday, the weekend saw capital ships moving north.

That was in preparation for covering the unanchoring of several Keepstars that north of our Fountain frontier.  Two in Pure Blind had already been taken down, with one destroyed along the way.  This week the pull back has focused on the Keepstars in Cloud Ring.  Those were timed to get the furthest, the one out in 6RCQ-V, first, then work back towards J5A-IX.

Kirkland Protein Star unanchoring

While the Pure Blind removals were attempts to slip in and yank the structures without raising any fuss, the Cloud Ring operations were to be marked with a complete lack of subtlety.  These were to be maximum ship efforts, displays of power, so of course I had to go along for the ride.  I am all about seeing the game at its extremes, and more than 2,000 ships in motion and sitting on a Keepstar certainly qualifies.

Fleets hanging on the Keepstar

I was also interested to see what happens when you take down a structure.  I had never seen that before, so I tried to keep a close eye on things.  However, it turns out that the structure just goes away without much in the way of fanfare.  One moment it is there, the next it is gone.

And then we’re all just hanging in space

The only notice was a notification that popped up announcing that the Keepstar had been moved to asset safety, no doubt the quickest way to whisk it away.

That was all

So most of what I got to watch was the effort it takes to move 2,000 ships safely from J5A-IX to 6RCQ-V and back, which took about three hours to make the journey.  It would probably take five minutes in an interceptor, but an interceptor doesn’t generate 10% tidi simply by taking a gate.  It is an elaborate dance with subcaps going ahead a bit to shepherd the capitals through a gate, then the caps jumping by type, then the subcaps repositioning while the jump timer runs down for the caps so we can do it all again.

Kind of a pain in the butt, and all the more so when you have to count on at least 5% of the operation being distracted by something in real life at any given moment, so ships just sit there when told to jump or take a gate or align.  And it is all the more comical when we are all in the same voice coms channel.  It was a good day to be in the No Chatter sub-channel, where you can only hear FC commands… and swears when people aren’t paying attention at the wrong moment.

That was the longest of the ops.

Pulling the Keepstar from F7C-H0 went much more quickly, it being just a gate and a jump away from our staging, so there was no downtime during the trip, just lots of big ships moving in the same direction.

Colorful titans

That led again to a mass of ships sitting on the Keepstar while we waited for it to disappear and get carted off to safety.

Waiting on another Keepstar

Once it went away… and it belong to The Initiative, so if they used asset safety there was no notification for me… it was time to jump back.  This time there were only 1,700 ships on grid for the final watch, more than a fleet less, which made things a little easier for somebody I am sure.  Still, it was a lot of ships.

Faxes and dreads moving

That op only took about an hour to get through.  Now only one Keepstar remains in Cloud Ring, and that will be going away soon.  We shall see if it is another quiet op or if somebody tries to snatch it.

Meanwhile, back inside the perimeter, a different set of ops has been going on.  In order to prepare for invasion the coalition has been working to raise the ADMs for systems up to level 4, which will prevent hostiles from dropping anything smaller than a Fortizar.  The usual plan is to drop a bunch of small structures, Raitarus usually, to give your fleets a safe spot in the midst of enemy territory.

You do that by ratting and mining, so PvE fleets have been a thing.  A gaggle of ratting and mining ships with some cover will blitz through a constellation taking down the anomalies in order to try and boost the ADMs.  I’ve been out trying to do my part on that front.

Fighting the Blood Raider menace in my Myrmidon

It has been over a year since I last went out and ratted, but the fundamentals haven’t changed all that much.  A fit Myrmidon with platinum insurance ran me just shy of 95 million ISK and I have collected 250 million ISK in bounties so far, so it will be a profitable venture for me at least when I eventually get caught and blown up.  I haven’t joined in on the ADM fleets, even though they count as strategic ops for PAP credit.  I have been just tooling around on my own in pipe systems that are often ignored, watching people come and go.

The war itself is not supposed to start until July 5th, the date that the non-invasion pact between Legacy Coalition and the Imperium is set to expire.  With more than a week left to prepare, it seems to me that there is a distinct possibility that no war will come to us.  We shall see if it comes to pass and what we will end up doing should it not.

Steam Summer Sale 2020 Starts Today

The regular Steam Summer event kicked off earlier today and will run through until July 9th.

Summer 2020

Once again most everything on your wishlist is likely to be on sale… if you can get to your wishlist.

Oops indeed!

But it wouldn’t be a Steam Summer Sale without some problems.  The whole site is pretty slow every time a big sale like this starts.

Still, there are lots of things marked down, some more than usual.  Even as jaded as I have been over the last couple of years I do look down the list and feel the temptation to buy.  Unfortunately, the one thing that seems to be loading quickly is my library where many unplayed games stare at me, making me less likely to grab something new.

We shall see if I can overcome that hurdle.

SuperData Says Video Games Still Doing Very Well in the Pandemic

SuperData Research has released their digital revenue numbers for May 2020 and the video game market still looks strong.  Not as strong as April, but still way over last year.

  • Digital games revenue totaled $10.2B in May, down 3% from April’s record-breaking total of $10.5B. Games continued their lucrative streak in May even though the month had few major game releases and an easing of COVID-19 lockdowns. Digital console revenue fell 27% from April to May due to fewer new releases, but a 3% growth in mobile earnings offset this gap. Overall spending was still up 14% over May 2019 ($8.9B), with PC up 8%, mobile up 14% and console up 23%.

The chart itself shows that many of the usual suspects remained strong in May.

Digital Revenue only

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2020

On the PC end of the chart, the same top four titles remained in their usual positions.  But in fifth place Roblox suddenly appeared, jumping up from ninth position in April, followed closely by World of Warcraft, now  in sixth.

Then there is CS:Go, Fortnite, and COD:MW, with World of Tanks making it back on to the list month in tenth position.  Nine our of ten on the list were there last month, with only Doom Eternal dropping off, allowing World of Tanks back on.

On the console front, FIFA 20 climbs back to the top of the list, followed by perennial list member Grand Theft Auto V, which no doubt got a boost from the Epic Store giving it away for a stretch.  Then there is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which holds on to third position, staying at or near the top of the list for three months running now.

Minecraft Dunegons, which did not make the PC list, did break into the console chart in ninth spot, no doubt due to it being available for all major platforms… and having the Minecraft name associated with it.

On the mobile end of the chart Peacekeeper Elite, the rebranded version of PUBG Mobile for China, held on to the top spot, keeping the past champion, Honour of Kings, at bay.  Roblox, strong on this front too, grabbed third spot while Pokemon Go, which fell off the list last month, surged back up into fourth, while long time list member Candy Crush Saga held on in seventh spot.

Then there is NPD, which is finally back after not updating for a couple of months as they adapted to the new reality of Covid-19.  As always, NPD numbers are US only, combine PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales (where noted).

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. Grand Theft Auto V
  3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  4. NBA 2K20
  5. Mortal Kombat 11
  6. Red Dead Redemption II
  7. Minecraft*
  8. Final Fantasy VII: Remake
  9. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  10. Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order

* Digital sales on Nintendo eShop not included

Comparing that list to SuperData is a bit more interesting this month as the overlap isn’t quite the same.  COD:MW is on top and a few titles that didn’t register with SuperData made the cut.

So it goes.  Video games remain strong during our new abnormal.

SuperData also put up another report earlier this month that took a look at the remaster gravy train that seems to be hitting with things like Final Fantasy VII Remake doing very well.  Those of us who watch the MMO sphere know that, done right, nostalgia can be an evergreen proposition.

The remaining bullet points from SuperData’s digital revenue report for May:

A free giveaway of Grand Theft Auto V on the Epic Games Store caused PC player numbers to jump 245% from April to May. Launched seven years ago, the title continues to be a major draw, and the traffic from the promotion crashed the Epic Games Store. PC player numbers were only a quarter lower than the console version and PC revenue more than doubled as players purchased in-game content. Despite the surge in revenue, however, the console version continues to outearn its PC counterpart 4-to-1.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, another Take-Two Interactive title, was also given away for free on the Epic Games Store and PC player numbers surged 477%. PC revenue grew by 52% thanks to the promotion and the release of new in-game content, including a season pass.

May’s biggest new release, Minecraft Dungeons, attracted 1.8M players — but elements of its business model limited its revenue potential. The Microsoft title, an action role-playing game (RPG) spinoff, did not earn enough to make it to the top 10 PC games of the month and was only number nine on console. The title had a low upfront price ($19.99), and players on Xbox One and PC did not have to purchase the game directly, since it was available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers.

Peacekeeper Elite from Tencent hit an all-time revenue high and was the highest-earning game overall. The game is a China-localized version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile, which also hit a revenue high during May and is especially popular in markets like India and Southeast Asia. The success of the titles shows there is strong demand for fast-paced multiplayer titles on smartphones. Gamers in North America and Europe may prefer to play these types of games on PC or console, but mobile is the platform of choice for hardcore gamers throughout much of the world.

Pokemon GO spending rose 60% month-over-month to thanks to a combination of warm weather and even more options for playing at home. Earnings for the game typically rise during the summer months, and May 2020 was no exception. Earnings reached their highest point since September 2019 and were up 45% year-over-year. Due to COVID-19, developer Niantic began selling remote raid passes at the end of April, which allowed players to join in-game battles without the need to travel to certain physical locations.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive earnings and player numbers fell from an April all-time-high as competing title Valorant prepared to launch. After months of upward momentum, CS:GO revenue shrank by 9% and user numbers fell 6%. During this time, Valorant, the rival tactical shooter from League of Legends maker Riot Games, was in beta and potentially siphoned away CS:GO players.

Sergeant Bly Leaves Us at the Altar

We go together for a Father’s Day run at Zul’Farrak, though we were time constrained with a hard stop time, so when we got online we made a plan as to what we would do in the instance.

ZF is an odd instance in that you have path choices and can bypass some of the bosses.

We met up in Gadgetzan and got lined up.

The stable master there has the same staff as Ula

Our lineup for the run was:

  • Moronae – level 49 night elf druid
  • Viniki – level 49 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 48 dwarf priest
  • Ula – level 48 gnome mage

We grouped up and rode on out to the instance where we got ourselves buffed up and ready to go.

Inside the instance

Since we last met up, Moronae had made the run to Feralas and finished up the Screecher Spirits quest, so our first goal was to get him the two tablets needed for the follow on quest.  That meant turning right at the fountain to take that path to Theka the Martyr who holds the first of the two tablets.

While there is some mandatory trash to clear all the way to the fountain, once you get past that you can bypass quite a bit of the mobs.  There is a little set of huts through the first doorway in the wall past the fountain that we have cleared on past runs, but this time we just walked on by.  There were three walkers in the corridor to Theka, but after that there is just him and the scarabs.

Theka and his friends

Theka isn’t particularly difficult, you just have to make sure you don’t do any AOE or the nearby scarabs will join in, so we had the first tablet in no time.

After that we bypassed Antu’sul and Witch Doctor Zum’rah, with all his zombie fun, heading straight for the stairway.

Those stairs again

Finishing the stairs event was our second goal for the run.  We learned last time that we really ought to clear out everything in the area, lest they become complications for us later.  Having a few extra elites pile on us is likely what made us wipe.

Once that was done it was up to the top of the stairs to get Bly and his companions out of their cages.

Bly and friends uncaged

From there we followed pretty much the same plan as last time.  Bly and his crew are pretty strong and the non-elites don’t really do much to them, so we focused on the elites coming up the steps, pausing to drink or bandage at need. That went well and we cleared the lot and started down to the bottom again.

All done on the steps

Down at the bottom we were able to dispatch the two named trolls and their non-elite helpers without much problem, thanks to Bly and his companions.

And then we got distracted for a bit.

Both Moronae and I announced that we had gotten Nekrum’s medallion, which updated a quest we had.  Neither Ula nor Skronk got the medallion.  As it turned out, they did not have the quest.

Only two of us had the quest

So there was some discussion as to where the quest came from, was it shareable, and then some research online as to where to get it.  And while that was going on Sergeant Bly and his companions all went into a crouch and started the animation that one associates with a player using their hearthstone to recall.  And then they disappeared.

They’re gone now

Which left us with the event incomplete.

We still had to kill Bly in order to get the Divino-matic Rod for the other quest… which we all had… and, I believe, to unlock the gates to the final boss.  But the quest remained unfinished and the gates remained firmly locked.

A gnome should be able to get under that!

Had we done this right and killed Bly, we could have closed out Zul’Farrak and been ready to move on.  The final boss, to my recollection, is pretty quick, so we had the time.  But now we will have a return trip.

We then went up the side path to the area around Gahz’rilla and grabbed the mob that dropped the other tablet that Moronae needed.  Then, seeing we had some time left and that Moronae was very close to level 50, we cleared out the area around the pool, getting him his level.

Then, since we were there, we summoned Gahz’rilla again just to kill him again.

You rang?

After that we mounted up and rode on out of the instance… successfully this time… and headed back to Gadgetzan.  Moronae and I both had the Nekrum’s Medallion quest to turn in while Skronk and Ula had to go figure out what they needed to do to pick it up.

In the course of things Viniki was also very close to level 50, so I ground out some mobs until he leveled up as well.

So we will be back for at least one more run at ZF.  We’ll see if we can get it right this time.