A New Broom at Daybreak?

This past weekend I started the process of building up the usual end of year posts.  Those are less like the random creative writing assignments I churn out daily as they require some data collection.  The easiest of the lot is the review of my annual predictions.  You can find the 2016 batch here.

I was going down the list zeroing out the ones that were clearly wrong… start with the easy stuff… which included the fifth entry on the list.

5 – Daybreak will get a new head honcho who will be selected from another company and will have little or no experience with the fantasy MMORPG genre that has kept the team in San Diego funded for most of its existence.  Expect this person’s past experience to be the hammer and any Daybreak problem to be a nail.  They’ll be just like that VP we once hired from Oracle, for whom every solution required a database.  So if, for example, they have a history with first person shooters on the XBox, you’ll know what to expect.

I marked that as a miss.  I hadn’t seen any news pop up to indicate that long time SOE/Daybreak guy Russell Shanks wasn’t still running the show.  I mean, when Smed “left” there were stories everywhere.  No change meant no points for that prediction.  Daybreak abides.

It follows you as you move about the room!

The angry eye of Daybreak Game Company

A bit later I was looking for something else and hit the Wikipedia page for Daybreak and noticed that the summary side bar did not list Mr. Shanks as a key person.  So I ran down the article and found this buried in the lower text:

In October 2016, Russell Shanks left Daybreak. Ji Ham is the current acting president.

Oh ho, there was a change!  Maybe I was right in that prediction after all?

It also seemed I didn’t miss any headline articles about it in the gaming press as the supporting attribution for this was Russell Shank’s profile on LinkedIn.  You can go find it if you like, but this is the key item.

Long time COO of SOE and Daybreak

Long time COO of SOE and Daybreak

So Mr. Shanks was out in October, which leads us to the next question; who the hell is Ji Ham and where did he come from?  Well, I was already on LinkedIn for the first bit, might as well continue there.

As it turns out, Ji Ham is a Columbus Nova Prime operative and his profile lists him as being “Co-President” of Daybreak since the date of Smed’s departure.  From his profile.

Principal and Co-President

Principal and Co-President

Odd that we haven’t heard of him before.  Did I miss that somewhere along the line?  Has he been actively involved with Daybreak up to this point or has he been more behind the scenes?

And, of course, the bigger question is, what does it mean now that Russell Shanks is out and Ji Ham is in?  The Wikipedia article says he is the “current acting president,” which sounds temporary, but the article also has no source to back that up.  And given that Ji Ham is listed as having been Co-President since July 2015, it would not be a stretch to assume he has simply taken over the role rather than keeping the seat warm for some new hire.

So what does it mean to have Ji Ham in charge?  Googling him puts him with the Special Opportunities fund at Columbus Nova.  His Bloomberg profile says that he was head of Columbus Nova’s renewable fuels group at one point, which seems to connect into the Russian Renova Group.  Is Columbus Nova Prime now poised to frack Daybreak hard?

Or is Ji Ham just the watcher for Columbus Nova Prime, the on site enforcer, there to keep an eye on whoever they put in charge?  And, if so, can we expect a new leader with video game industry experience?

And, finally, how do I score my prediction?  Russell Shanks is out, so I don’t feel this is a complete miss, but is Ji Ham really a new head honcho?  He is certainly from a company different that Daybreak.  I’m allowed partial credit, so what should it be?  8 points?  2 points?

You can probably expect the prediction scoring post next week.

Addendum: And naturally the edits over a Wikipedia that I saw were done by Feldon of EQ2Wire.  It is a small world.

BB78 – Can The Slate Ever Be Made Clean Again?

After something of a vacation, it is time for another EVE Online Blog Banter entry.  This is number 78 in the series and it asks the following question:

Just for a moment engage your “willing suspension of disbelief”. Imagine that CCP, at downtime today, reset everything in Eve Online. Everything! When you logged in you were in a starter system with your character… but now with less than a million skill points, a mere 5000 ISK and a noob ship (now with civilian afterburner!). Markets are pretty empty other than a few seeded items. All Sov is gone. All player structures are gone. All PI infrastructure is gone. No corps or alliances exist. Nothing remains. New Eden is suddenly a completely level playing field and the next great gold-rush is on? Or is it? What happens now?

The great player wipe question.  I went directly there only a few months into the life of the blog, trying to split the difference between death and rebirth.  And I have been back there many times since.  It is a thorny question and not one easily dismissed, for each tired “obvious” response has its own set of counter arguments that you have to ignore in order to believe there is but one true path.

The pro-player wipe, or pwipe, side of things draws on a desire to relive the past.  Nostalgia is a more powerful force of nature… at least human nature… than people often believe.  Quoting Thomas Wolfe and declaring the very idea of being able to relive the past an impossibility ignores the flexibility of the human brain and memories.

I say this as one who has been on successful trips into the past.

TorilMUD, the Forgotten Realms based MUD I played for many years went through three distinct periods with pwipes in between and probably the best time I ever had in the game was after the third pwipe.  That was in early 2002 if I recall right, nearly a decade after I made my first character, so the game was not new to me.  There were no more feelings of first discovery to be had, no sense of wonder and anxiety in exploring the low level areas of the game.

But there was a huge rush of fun as everybody started out again at level one.  Many old players returned and there were lots of familiar names as we set out with our basic newbie equipment to slay orcs and kobolds and those buffalo outside of Waterdeep.  TorilMUD is very much a game that requires grouping and having ample low level groups to join is something that only happens at pwipe.  After enough time passes the usual thing happens and the regulars are all at the top of the level curve and those few lowbies you see online are often alts, twinked with good gear so they can solo.  If you start new then, low level zones tend to be dead and groups difficult to find.

The game had changed quite a bit since I started playing just after the 1993 pwipe.  But the mechanics do not matter as much as you might imagine.  There is a lot of fun/nostalgia to be had just being on a fresh server where everybody is starting over again.

As a follow on to that, I will point to the progression servers in EverQuest.  Back in the Fippy Darkpaw server era, Skronk and I had a great time running through old Norrath.  Granted, it helped that we started in Qeynos, the side of the world long in disfavor with SOE and so which still has old school graphics.  But even our runs to redone Freeport and The Commonlands were not spoiled by revamped visuals.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

And we were not bothered by the how much the mechanics of the game had changed over the years.  A few people were nit picking about how such and such a thing wasn’t like that back in 1999, but on the whole players seemed happy to just jump onto a fresh server with new players and old content in order pretend we were all young(er) again.

In the case of EverQuest, this is born out by the fact that of the three most popular servers running, two of them are nostalgia/progression servers, with the third being a community heavy role play server.

Not so many servers as the old days

Not so many servers as the old days

And, yes, the call of nostalgia is an emotional one, not a logical one.  But we are not logical beings.  I think the past election is proof of that.  I’ve certainly seen enough in life to support the assertion that people general make their decisions immediately and then find and weight facts to support that decision after the fact.  And I know I do it too.

So I can see the emotional appeal of just wiping that database and restarting Tranquility afresh.  Imagine New Eden with 40K rookie ships… erm, corvettes now… undocking.  A New Eden with now loyalty points yet banked, no faction yet earned, no huge piles of ISK socked away in wallets, no markets piled high with equipment, no sovereignty claimed, and not a tech II module or BPO to be found anywhere.  Everybody equal; the same starting equipment, the same amount of ISK, the same number of skill points.  A bright new universe of choices and second chances.  Alliances to be rebuilt, empires to be forged anew, fortunes to be sought once again.

It doesn’t have to be technically 2003 again… or 2006 for me… to feel at least some excitement at the prospect of a pwipe.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant docking back in the day

Of course, there is the flip side to all of that, wherein a pwipe would be very, very bad for CCP.

As human beings, we often get very attached to our “stuff,” and the distinction between real and virtual stuff is no distinction at all for some, regardless of what the EULA might say.  In fact, one of the draws of MMORPGs, the thing that keeps them going for beyond a decade, is often tied into our virtual inventories and accomplishments.

Stuff… be it bank tabs full of cosmetic gear and outdated crafting supplies or hangars full of ships and modules… is part of the link the tethers us to these games.  The sunk cost fallacy is alive and well as people will continue to play a game, even after it goes stale for them, simply because they have accumulated so much stuff.  And levels, experience, or skill points further cement that bond.

I don’t play EVE Online merely because I have 160 million skill points, but all those skill points and what they enable within the game do make me much more likely to log in.

And somewhere in between… at a different spot for everybody… is a balance, a spot where loss of stuff would break the tie between them and the game.  A good portion of people don’t want to start over again, and I am sure that some who do would find that wish challenged in the face of a rookie ship reality.

Of course, CCP knows this.  Every decent MMORPG company knows this.  This is the reason they don’t clean out the character database regularly, why you should worry too much about what it says in the EULA about when they CAN delete your account, because when they actually WILL delete it is a different story.

For CCP to do a pwipe, especially one as described, would be insanity given the current state of the game.  It would be throwing out a known situation in hopes that an unknown situation might be “better,” for whatever definition of the word you wish to choose.  “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens!” is not a viable business plan.

So it ain’t gonna happen in New Eden.  Or not any time soon.

And neither is a fresh server.  Leaving aside the cost of setting up and maintaining another live server, one of the lessons from the EverQuest and EverQuest II is that, while some people will come back for a fresh/retro/nostalgia server, a large part of those who will play them are already subscribers.  One of the forum complaints about the Stormhold server in EQII was that it stole enough players from live servers as to make forming groups for raids a much more difficult task.

Opening a fresh server would steal more players from Tranquility than it would bring in new players, and then we would end up with two servers with less players than the current one.

For a game that thrives on having a certain critical mass of players… any why else would you bring in Alpha clones than to try to keep the game above that level… a second live server (outside of China, which doesn’t count) looks like a non-starter as well.

So we shall plow on through space as before, all of us together aboard the SS Tranquility, for the foreseeable future.

Still, though, it is fun to imagine what we all might do if after some future downtime the whole thing came up fresh.  The reactions would range between sheer joy and utter rage I am sure.  I’d give it a shot.

Alternate titles I considered for this post:

  • You can sort of go home again
  • Playing with your old toys as an adult
  • Roll on rose colored glasses
  • Nostalgia is a can of worms
  • The clean slate
  • How to kill New Eden
  • Nostalgia is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell bad

Meanwhile, other bloggers tackling this month’s topic include:

November in Review

The Site

I got another WordPress.com achievement this month.

A thousand of you hit that button

A thousand of you hit that button

In the context of WordPress.com, a follower is somebody with a WP.com account that follows your blog so they can view updates in the WP.com reader.  This surprises me both because I am not all that fond of the WP.com reader and because I muted notifications about new followers a while back, so wasn’t really keeping track at all.  Also I turned off that little floating thing that has the “follow” button, so I am not sure how people even do the follow thing here at this point.

But now I have accrued 1,003 followers in the last 6 years, which is when “follow” became a thing on WP.com.  If you know how, you can find a list of all of your followers.  Mine is 51pages long and full of people I don’t recall.  But my third follower ever was Stargrace.  She has been pretty busy of late.  And follower 1,000 was Adam Harkus, who is a guitarist and travels.

Of course, a thousand isn’t all that many people and this month has actually seen another drop in page views.  The previous time I mentioned it, Google was the reason.  There was a date after which referrals from Google dropped by about 25% daily.

This month however Google has remained steady.  Instead the drop has come from referrals from other blogs and related sites.  I don’t know if the election and its aftermath has everybody otherwise occupied or if I am just wrote dull stuff this month… I certainly did not write much about WoW and haven’t been in a war in EVE… but on average a good 100 people a day simply aren’t clicking on links that lead to my site.  Life in blog lane.

One Year Ago

The launch of Fallout 4 caused a dip in porn viewing on the internet.

Nintendo announced they were re-releasing Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console.

BlizzCon was approaching and I laid out a “need vs greed” list of things I thought would happen at the event.  But before BlizzCon there had to be the Q3 quarterly results.  The big news was that World of Warcraft held steady and had 5.5 million subscribers.  However, Blizzard said they were not going to talk about subscription numbers any more.  They would be talking about Candy Crush Saga though, having purchased King for 5.9 billion dollars.

Then BlizzCon came and I had to score my list.

It also slipped out a bit early that the WoW Legion expansion would not hit until summer 2016, September 21 being the last possible date listed, which seemed a long ways off.  I wasn’t yet ready to return to the game.  I used gold to grab a WoW Token for 30 days of play time and spend the most of it just earning that money back running missions in my garrison.

I dipped my toe back in Lord of the Rings Online for a bit.

Still playing Minecraft, I finished up the Great Northern Road and highlighted the guardian farm that Aaron built.

In New Eden, the Parallax expansion was released, the last named monthly update in Syndicate to be released.  From then on names were reserved for big expansions while monthly updates were simply know by their date.

There was also the start of the ill-fated Fountain War Kickstarter campaign, which was plagued by hubris, gaffes, bad ideas, and “Grrr Goons” hostility.  Not that it didn’t deserve some of the latter as it was a clusterfuck and was not winning fast enough.  It was finally cancelled before the clock ran down, but it left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

There was also a Fountain War video which was better received… but then nobody was asking for $150,000 to produce it.

Meanwhile, another member of CSM X got cut.  Not a Goon.

CCP Quant took his EVE Vegas presentation and made it the first of the monthly EVE Economic reports to be publish.

And actually in the game, the Reavers were down in Wicked Creek to spar with TEST.  We were not there long, but it was one of those deployments that generated its own legends in the SIG.  We were called back because a small war was brewing in Cloud Ring against some foes, old and new.  Some had no sov and were hitting us from low sec.  We fell on them when we could in what was being dubbed the “Kickstarter War.”  Herein lay some of the seeds of what would be called the “Casino War” and, later, “World War Bee.”

Over at Daybreak, EverQuest II got the Terrors of Thalumbra of expansion while EverQuest got expansion number 22, The Broken Mirror.  There was the Phinigel “true box” progression server coming up for EverQuest.  The EverQuest II server consolidation was wrapping up, on Stormhold the Kingdom of Sky expansion was voted down, and the game turned 11, all of which I covered in a single post.

Daybreak also shut down Dragon’s Prophet, which lives on in Europe under another publisher.

Smed, gone from Daybreak, wanted to stop talking about money when it came to video games.

And finally, I had a test… a Star Wars test… for those wishing to date my daughter.

Five Years Ago

I looked back at the Star Wars Extended Universe novel Heir to Empire, which turned 20 years old. That might be my most coherent piece on the site.

In EVE Online, the upcoming Crucible expansion had a chance to remove the Incarna stink from the game. Oh, and ship trails were back. And Hulkageddon V was announced… about six months early it turns out.

I reviewed my 2011 MMO outlook. Rift appeared to be the unlikely winner, while DCUO had already gone F2P.

Speaking of going F2P in under a year, I had my first peek at Star Wars: The Old Republic in the beta. Pre-NDA drop, I used Star Wars Galaxies to describe the game as nothing new. Then the NDA dropped and I bitched some more. I did not find the game fun, cancelled my pre-order, and went back to Rift.

And then there was EverQuest II going free to play on all servers, which made me wonder what else in the SOE line up might follow suit.

Then, suddenly, Vanguard started showing inexplicable signs of life.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, the Scars of Velious was complete and the Luclin expansion went live. Also, breaking the retro aspect, Fippy Darkpaw players got the same new hot bars that all EverQuest players got with the new expansion. They actually worked like hot bars in other games.

In Rift, we made it to Meridian and then faced our first boss while learning the rules of their LFG tool. Oh, and the damn Yule rifts were up before Thanksgiving. I swear, it gets earlier every year.

We learned of the real money auction house in Diablo III. An auction house focus for the game? I’m sure that will work out great.

And also on the RMT front was the Guardian cub pet in World of Warcraft. I did a couple of price checks on those, but somebody should probably go back and see how prices look a year later.

Oh, and WoW had lost 2 million subscribers. Remember when that was a big deal?  But it was still insanely profitable.

Torchilght II was delayed because we had other things to play, right?

AOL shut down Wow.com. That doesn’t mean what you think.

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

Google was pissing me off by changing up Google Reader. I am still annoyed by some of the features they axed, but at least they fixed the layout so you could reduce the huge amount of white (read: wasted) space in the new default layout.

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Ten Years Ago

Our World of Warcraft Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group finished up Blackfathom Deeps,The Stockades, Shadowfang Keep, and started in on Razorfen Kraul.

In EverQuest, I picked up The Serpent’s Spine and tried running a new character though some of the new level 1-70 content.  I also set out a minor goal of taking screen shots to compare Faydwer in EQ and Faydwer in EQII that lead to posts about Kaladim and Kelethin.

And in EverQuest II, the Echoes of Faydwer expansion came out.  Once I found a copy and got past the patching process and into the game, I made a fae swashbuckler and went to town.

the Revelations expansion hit in New Eden, my first expansion update in EVE Online.  I followed the general wisdom and made sure I had a long skill training the night before.

The Wii and the PlayStation 3 were both released in the US.

And the maker of the ubiquitous ZMud client announced a replacement product called CMud.  I tried the demo version, but since ZMud continued to work for me, I stuck with that.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Make My Alpha Clone
  2. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  3. EVE Online Passes 50K Players Online Again
  4. Election Night in Fountain
  5. The Demise of BattleClinic
  6. WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches
  7. EVE Vegas – Like Finds Like and Other Things
  8. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  9. Pondering That Legion Level 100 Boost
  10. Projecting on BlizzCon 2016
  11. Ascension Day in EVE Online
  12. Scoring My BlizzCon Projections

Search Terms of the Month

why isn’t torchlight 2 more popular
[There is probably a long post in that. For me, it just wasn’t as compelling as Diablo III was]

eve online goonsquad war even when “alpha clone” -state
[I really want to know what they were looking for]

minecraft 1.11 were do you find the new woodland mansion
[I think I actually answered that one this month]

swg source code download for private use
[They try to limit that to just scoundrels]

Spam Comment of the Month

Thank you for sharing superb informations.
[I just like the plural at the end there. Give me all your datas!]

EVE Online

I did not end up playing very much EVE Online this past month, which is odd, because we got the Ascension expansion. That was a big deal, with Alpacas and new explosions and such.  But it was also a month where the Imperium was mostly at peace.  I went on a couple of ops into Fountain where we take pot shots at The-Culture.  But otherwise Delve has been pacified, Querious filled, and anybody who wanders into our space gets caps dropped on them.  Since I often only log in for strat ops, quite times can often lead to low play times.

Minecraft

The surprise entry this month, as my activity there of late had been rather listless.  But it too got an expansion which spurred an exploration drive as I sought out a woodland mansion of my own and then worked to link it up with the rest of our infrastructure.  It is a game where having a project can make all the difference.  Now what to do with that mansion?

Pokemon Go

The double experience holiday event helped push things along for me, as have the new daily first and seven day streak bonuses.  And I got a Snorlax from a 10km egg, which is now my highest CP Pokemon, ringing in currently at 2,185.

Current end of month stats:

  • Level: 24 (+2)
  • Pokedex status: 99 (+20) caught, 129 (+16) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Ditto
  • Current buddy: Ivysaur

Pokemon Sun & Moon

A new game for the core Pokemon RPG fans.  And a pretty decent entry in the field, as it walks the tightrope path between sticking to the core essentials and bringing new things to the franchise… besides new Pokemon.  My daughter and I have been playing it, though I think she is up on it because a couple of her friends at school play Pokemon as well.  My influence wains, but I’ll take any play time I can get with her.  And at least one of her friends has said it is so cool that her dad plays Pokemon too.  Hah!

Stellaris

I started out this month gangbusters on Stellaris.  And then I got past the hump and figured out the early game, only to fall into the abyss of the mid-to-end game that can really drag on as empires settle in and wrestle with each other over the scraps, form federations, and then stare at each other while the victory conditions remain way out of reach.  The Civilization end-game problem writ on a galactic scale.

World of Warcraft

Azeroth has been rapidly falling out of favor around here.  I certainly played less WoW than any other game I called out this month, and at least one I did not. (I played some Age of Kings at one point.)  Part of that has been something of a reaction to the pre-flying achievements needing mythic dungeon runs or a crazy rep grind, depriving me of the sort of longer term goal that might keep me going.  And then Blizzard has been breaking things.  I was getting back into pet battles, right up until a patch broke the PetBattle Teams addon.  Without that, sorting through 500+ pets to make a team for a given fight is just too annoying.  And for some reason, I can no longer send things via email to my alts, breaking a crafting thing I had going on.  So WoW may be on its way out for me very soon.

Coming Up

The final month of 2016, the year that will be that year for some time to come, looms.  There is still time for and additional disaster and a few beloved celebrity deaths.  But still, there is limited time left, though I am still predicting some sort of horrible New Year’s Eve ball dropping fiasco that will take out Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin, Carson Daly, and Ryan Seacrest live on national TV.  Guy Lombardo never faced such peril.

Otherwise, what have we got for December?  Probably a Steam holiday sale, even though we just had a Steam autumnal sale.  Steam sales have lost their edge.

I’ve got the usual five posts to write, looking forward and back, reviewing predictions and making new ones, and generally wrapping things up for the year.

There is a rumor that Pokemon Go will get new Pokemon in December.  No Man’s Sky is supposed to get an update to make things better, though the current $60 price makes it too pricey for me to gamble on just yet.  There will likely be the usual EVE Online monthly update, maybe with a holiday event.  Holiday events will be going on in all the usual games.

And for some of us it will be wet and cold out, which will give is a fine excuse to stay inside and play video games.

On the Run with Pokemon Sun (and Moon)

I’m not sure what that title really means, but there it is.

So, yes, there are a pair of new titles in the line of core Pokemon RPG games, Pokemon Sun & Moon.  They came out back on the 18th and my daughter and I got our copies from Amazon that day and immediately started playing.

Coming in Q4 2016

Now Playing at Our House

I let my daughter have first pick and she went with Moon, so I got Sun.  She was into the game right away, picking Litten as her starter.  As I sat down on the couch with her to start myself off, I announced that I, too, was going to choose Litten, the fire Pokemon always being the safest choice.

Which one will you choose?

The usual grass, fire, and water starter Pokemon

She objected strongly to this, pointing out that the house tradition was that we never, ever choose the same starter Pokemon.  I had to admit that this had been the case, which explains why I have never had the fire Pokemon as my starter, since that is always her choice.

Ah well.

Once again I was left with the choice of water or grass and, as I have generally done, I went with water.  Rowlet is cute and all, but grass always seems to be the weak option on the list as I recall from that time I chose Bulbasaur as my starter.  You choose grass and the Ponytas start coming out of the woodwork.

So I started off with Popplio, an escapee from an Italian circus act and the water starter.

As a starter he is cute enough, but the tradition for Pokemon starters is that they get strange as they evolve.  So he starts as a cute seal, then goes a bit further down the circus act.

Ongoing circus acts

Ongoing circus act

And the final evolutions for all three defy the cuteness they all started with.

An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump's anime wife

An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump’s anime wife

I think the final Litten evolution is the best looking of the group, though it still loses all the cuteness factor.  And so I have taken to hitting the B button every time Popplio, whom I named “The Popo,” starts to evolve.  I am far enough along with him in the game now that he should be in his final evolution, but I still have little Popplio with me.  I’ll have to evolve him at some point, you usually don’t get your best moves unless you evolve, but for now I’ll keep him cute.  I think I did the same thing with Piplup back in the day.

I was also quick to get a fire Pokemon into my party, having been denied one as a starter.  Fortunately Growlithes are easy enough to find early on.  And I also put the Munchlax, a download for those who purchase the game in the first couple months, into my party as well, starting off in the world with the following lineup:

  • Popplio – water
  • Growlithe – fire
  • Munchlax – normal
  • Drowzee – psychic
  • Ghastly – ghost
  • Magnemite – electric

So far that has given me a team that has somebody strong against whoever I am facing.

As for the game itself, I am enjoying it.  My daughter seems especially into it and actually finished the main story line last night. (There is still plenty of end-game content to go for her though.)

I saw a review of the game that described it as being very good for people new to the series, and I would have to agree.  The game guides you carefully to start off and does a good job of keeping you on track.  (Though, if you’re an old hand, the start can seem a bit slow.)

Your rival doesn’t even get the starter Pokemon yours is weak to anymore.  On choosing Popplio, I found that Hau, who fills the traditional rival role, though he isn’t as into the rivalry as some past players of that part, took Litten.  Water puts out fire.  It was actually planning for my rival that got me to add a Growlithe to my party as soon as I caught one.  I didn’t need him for that, though having a strong fire Pokemon in your party is never a bad thing.

And the game does its best to keep you supplied with various necessities as you start out and you get the experience share item early on, which favors lower level Pokemon, so keeps your party all around the same level.

There are also a whole host of quality of life improvements that showed up with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  Aywren has a post covering much of that.

If I had to pick one of the improvements, it would be the changes to storage management which, once I saw them, I wondered why they hadn’t done this already.  The whole storage system was still working about the same way it did back on the original GameBoy.  With Pokemon Sun & Moon it looks like Game Freak finally discovered drag and drop was an option with the 3DS touch screen.  I just hope this isn’t one of those features they do for one game and then don’t carry it forward to the next one.

Of course, there are some things that annoy me.  None of these are rage inducing game breakers, but rather little reminders that the world is not perfect.

Of course, there is the call for assistance that wild Pokemon get.  That seemed like a good idea when I first heard about it.  I even mentioned it as something I was looking forward to.  However, when you’re in a battle in the wild and you just want to capture that one Pokemon and they keep calling for help… and getting it… what was once an easy battle becomes this epic struggle to no great benefit.  I think it is probably good for the trial battles, where you fight one main opponent, but the battle is drawn out by the assistance, because those are supposed to be tough fights.  Fighting some wee Pokemon in the tall grass on your way somewhere shouldn’t be.

And speaking of things that I only expect in big fights, when did every trainer on the side of the road get handed a full restore?  Game Freak sought to extend those battles as well I guess, as if you knock their Pokemon down into the red, they’ll pop a potion and be full health again.

My daughter was a bit disappointed to find that the Pokemon Daycare of past games is now just for breeding.  It used to be a tradition to leave a couple Pokemon there while we moved on through the game, only to come back later and find them leveled up a bit.  Not a huge loss, but a change.

I’m also finding Team Skull to not be much of a force for evil in the world, acting more as comic relief.  Nice rhymes, but no threat.  But I am only about half way through the story, so maybe I haven’t gotten to their prime point yet.  Or maybe they are just a distraction from some other villains.

I’ve also found it awkward that the D-pad is no longer used for movement by default.  Yes, like the old Pokemon storage methods, the movement via the D-pad is something rooted in the ancient GameBoy history of the game  The analog Circle Pad, now your movement control, is just above the D-Pad has not only worked for movement over the 3DS era, but is arguably better for movement. (It is also quieter. My 3DS D-pad has an audible click to it.)  However, after getting out of a battle or a transaction, my thumb still falls naturally onto the D-pad and I spend a second or two wondering what is thwarting me from moving.  I’ll get used to it eventually, but for now my thumb just lands on the D-pad first almost every time.

But probably my biggest gripe and/or concern is about performance.  I have one of the original model 3DS XL units, as does my daughter, and the game gets noticeably laggy at points when there is a lot going on in the game or when it does a close up on a 3D rendered character. (Such a close up lags and lingers long enough for you too see how crude the texture over polygon looks up close.)  And load times seem to drag on much more so than they did with Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire.

The game is still playable.  In fact, most of the time there is no performance issue at all.  But when it happens, I see it.  It makes me wonder if this game, or future titles in the series, really need the updated version of the 3DS with the 804 MHz quad core processor that the new models have rather than the 268 MHz dual core processors of the original models.  Or maybe Game Freak just bit off more than they should have with some of the 3D stuff.

Anyway, we continue playing at our house.  While I haven’t been as diligent as my daughter… I have been moving at a slower pace, trying to fill up the Pokedex as much as possible as well as playing a lot of Minecraft… I am still going.  I finished the final challenge on the second island and just arrived on the Aether Foundation’s artificial island.

Alola Region Map

That white platform in the middle of the islands

I will carry on from there tonight.

More Minecraft Mansion Fun – Tunnels, Fires, Explosions, and Llamas

I kept on working around the mansion I had found last week over the weekend, both to make it more livable and to connect it to our nether transportation hub.

Livability meant expanding my farm, exploring a bit, marking trails, and taming some of the local llamas.

They look so festive when festooned

They look so festive when festooned

The latter was the larger effort.  As noted previously, I was into the nether and up into the roof after a couple of mishaps, but that still left the long dig to the nearest station or terminal on the nether rail line.  Just looking at the rendered map of the rail loop and dividing by 8, the portal and rail terminus in the nether for the Mesa Biome Station seemed to be my best bet.

The question was how many picks would I go through in order to make it there.

In dying and respawning far from home, I was well away from the Zombie Pigman harvesting machine which can be used to collect gold as well as experience.  Tools with the mending enchant on them can be repaired via experience gain with that machine, so tools rarely break for me as I just go top them up when I get low.  Or I do when I have access to it.  Now I would have to dig to get there.

I wore my enchanted diamond pick down to the very nub, eating through netherrak and an impressive pace, then stored it away to be repaired later, and started digging with the two diamond picks I had been able to make.  I had about 2,000 blocks to go southward, and another 200 westward to hit the portal if my calculations were correct, and my tunnel was 3 blocks high and 1 wide.  So a minimum of 6,600 blocks of netherrack to remove, though that number is low because I had to dig out waypoints along the run to store the netherrack.

As with every such infrastructure project I have done, having to run back and forth from your staging base begins to eat up more and more of your time the further along you get.  So I had a stack of chests with me (no shortage of wood up an the mansion) and would dig out rooms at points to put down a chest to store the netherrack when my inventory got full.  And then, once the second diamond pick was gone, to store the iron picks which wore out quickly and dug much slower to boot.

Eventually though I hit the point where I thought I needed to turn west.  Just two hundred meters to go.  And, as it turned out, my calculation was correct.  I hit the northeast corner of the room where the Mesa Biome portal and rail line were located.  But if I had cut west just two blocks earlier, I would have missed it completely.

That done, I rode a mine cart back to the hub, repaired my tools via the Zombie Pigman machine, and started scrounging about for material to make rails.  I had excess rails all over the rail loop, but remembering exactly where was a bit of a chore.  Once I had filled my inventory though, I rolled back out to the Mesa Biome portal and began laying track in the nether back along the tunnel I had dug.

Laying track goes quickly if the path has already been dug, though it helps if you do not forget to bring along the redstone torches necessary to light up the powered rails that actually propel mine carts down the line.  There was still some running back and forth and I eventually ran out of rails and excess iron, but Aaron said I could tap into the stock he kept at his base.  That was enough for me to finish the run.  As with the ride out to Aaron’s mansion, riding out to mine takes nearly 10 minutes by rail through the nether.  Still, much better than walking overland.

Aaron came out to take a look at my mansion, as it had some rooms his did not.  He also found a secret room on the second floor that I had missed.  But neither of us could find the secret location I knew existed.

In order for me to use the map tool to render a map of our world into Google map format, I have to download a backup of our world from Minecraft Realms. (And if I have to pick the best thing about Minecraft Realms, aside from price, it is the fact that they back up your world regularly with no fuss about disk space.  And you can roll back to a save pretty easily.)

When I download the backup from Minecraft Realms, it goes into the Minecraft saves directory, where it acts like a local world.  I can log into the save and tinker with things if I want, though I usually don’t.  But after I had burned the woods around the mansion, carefully keeping it from catching fire, I wondered what would happen if it did catch fire.

So I went into a recent local save, got out my flint and steel, and ran around the mansion setting it on fire, then let it burn itself out to see what remained.  Here is what I ended up with.

As you can see, fire is not efficient at spreading.  While it burned plenty of the mansion away, it still left odd gaps in the middle of otherwise quite flammable wood.  It also burned away part of another secret room, the one I was looking for when Aaron arrived.   In the burned out mansion on the save I found the key elements of it, which were a trapped chest with two blocks of TNT, one on either side.

Trapped chest

Trapped chest

Being in a destructive mood… I had just set fire to a mansion… I stood back and fired a flaming arrow into the TNT, which ignited the fuse and set off the charge.  *BOOM*

That was the end of that... sort of...

That was the end of that… sort of…

The charges broke the cobblestone blocks below the chest, which turned out to be infested with silverfish.  When freed from the blocks, they came straight for me and I had a running fight for a bit as I tried to slay them with my bow while keeping some distance between myself and the attacking mob.

I survived, but the chest had been obliterated.  I didn’t note down the coordinates, but recalled the general area of the chest and the fact that it was on green wool of all things.

The wool set me off in the wrong direction as close by where the chest room was there lay an Illager statue room, the statue made of wool.  I thought the chest might be buried in the giant head that fills much of that room.  So when Aaron arrived I had already been fruitlessly digging through the illager’s wool brain.  I mentioned the room to Aaron, but neither of us could find it.

Later, I went back to look at the screen shots I took of the burned mansion.  The picture of the chest exploding showed the area to be in a corner of the mansion.  That, along with the wool, had put me in the statue room, which was in a corner of the mansion.  However, the other picture showed a cobblestone wall, which gave me the bearing I needed.  The mansion had a notch so that there were two corners at the back of the mansion, one at the statue room and then another behind a cobblestone jail room. (You can see all the room types on the wiki.)  The wall in the picture with the chest had to be the back of that room, so I dug through the back wall of the cell and found the room.

Another chest with explosives

Another chest with explosives

Now, of course, the question is how to deal with this.  How to deal with TNT that has been placed is a long discussed topic, however many of the threads I have seen are somewhat vague and often so old as not to be trustworthy anymore.

So the chest abides for now, though I think I will go in and clear out the silverfish blocks one by one before I try anything.  No need to have an explosion AND get mobbed at the same time.

Meanwhile, back in the village where I spawned my cartographer, and where I went to collect rails and other materials once the nether tunnel was complete, I found that a second cartographer had been spawned in my rush to breed some new villagers.  I stuffed him with paper and compasses and, thus sated, he offered up for sale a map to a third woodland mansion, this one in the southeast.

The third map

The third map

I sent out a note to everybody about the map, placing it in a chest in the nether transit hub if anybody wanted to go off on their own mansion hunting adventure.  We shall see if Xydd or Skronk take the bait.

Bullet Points on Black Friday

No Black Friday deals here, but I am not much of a shopper.  Instead I am hunkered down with the TV, video games, and a large supply of turkey sandwiches as I sort through bits of news that were not worth a full post.

Pokemon Sun & Moon Scare

There was a story out earlier this week about a bug in Pokemon Sun & Moon that was causing players to lose their game saves.  That would be a miserable turn of affairs, especially since the bug seemed to be in the end game, specifically the Battle Tree competitive battle area.  I wasn’t that far along in the game, but it seemed like Nintendo was going to have to put out a patch. (A joy of the 3DS generation is that they can patch games even if you get them on a cartridge.)

And then a follow up came out that the problem was related to people using a hack to alter their game which was damaging their save file causing them to lose their saved game eventually.  Problem avoided for me, but I imagine that there are some people in the PKHex tool community that are pissed.

Pokemon Go Holiday Bonus

If you are still playing Pokemon Go (my wife and I still play daily, even if our daughter has moved to teen disdain when it comes to the game) then you have probably seen that, in addition to the daily “first catch” and “first pokestop” bonuses, for a limited time Niantic is also giving out double experience and double pokedust.  This event lasts through November 30th.  It might be time to crack a lucky egg and evolve all those Pokemon I have been saving up.

Death to The Mittani

Or, rather, death to the news site The Mittani Dot Com, as the team there transitions from the four year old Drupal based site to the shiny new WordPress based Imperium News Network site.  The INN site has been up for a while, but The Mittani announced the official cut-over this week.  The swap over has been accompanied by a resurgence in activity.

Of course, my first concern about the change was whether or not this change was going leave yet more dead links here on the blog.  I have been assured that the old links will route to the stories on the new site, though I won’t really believe it until the old site is gone.

New Ways to Mangle My Words

WordPress.com has added a Google Translate widget to the array of options for WordPress.com users.  So I put it up on the side bar.  However, your mileage may vary, as they say.  It will probably work okay when I stick to simple declarative sentences free of jargon, but I suspect that comedy will ensue when I start in on a post about EVE Online.

And that is all I could come up with.  Time for a turkey sandwich as I try to find my way back home in Minecraft.

 

Honest Game Trailers – Pokemon X & Y

It is Thanksgiving here and I am not writing a long post.  Instead, since Pokemon is a thing at our house at the moment with Pokemon Sun & Moon, a look back at the last original pair in the series, Pokemon X & Y.

 

And if that isn’t enough, HGT has videos up about past generations of Pokemon as well: