Monthly Archives: April 2013

April in Review

The Site

A Google moment turned April into a record setting month for the blog pretty much out of the gate.  My quick coverage of April Fools at Blizzard for this year managed to get on the first page of results for a number of salient searches and… well… sent a lot of traffic this way.

Page Views Gone Wild

Page Views Gone Wild

The previous record was actually set last April, though that was driven by links to my Burn Jita posts.  This year, Burn Jita wasn’t a hot topic and page views were about at the average-ish line across the event.

If you look at the gap between the dark bar, which is unique visits, and the light bar, which is total page views, it seems like people actually stopped to look at the links I had in the post, which included the past few years of April Fools.  The “Most Viewed Posts” section below bears this out.

Upon seeing the sudden spike in traffic, I tried to incorporate as many links out to other blogs as I could in order to “share the wealth” such that is was.  So a few other blogs got some traffic out of this.

April 1st and 2nd were about equal the whole month of February, which was when the impact of the Google image search changes showed up.

The downside of such a moment of Google fame is that the traffic is not very… sticky.  I would be happy if out of all those people, one or two returned and left a comment now and again.  And, of course, those two days will now skew the default graph on the stats page for a full month.  Plus I keep looking at those two bars and feel like I should be reminded of some historical moment.

Never Forget... something...

Never Forget… something…

As with the big dip in page views in February, the big spike this month is essentially meaningless in the big picture. I like to try and figure out why these things happen, and they make the part of me that enjoys statistics thrill.  But it isn’t like I get paid for page views.

And, of course, I bet Google is going to kill off some more page views come July when they kill off Google Reader.

I haven’t switched to a replacement yet.  I am waiting for the other providers to accommodate the surge before I move.

One Year Ago

Last April set a daily page view record.  What is it about April?  I know you are going to say “April Fools,” but the record was actually set because of the Burn Jita event.

Yeah, the Burn Jita event.  It made for my most popular YouTube video ever.  And it lead right into Hulkageddon V and its OTEC connection.

Elsewhere in EVE, the LEGO Rifter got 10K votes, the War in the North seemed to be winding down with RAZOR back in Tenal and six fleets stalking Venal. Raiden managed to lose a bunch of sovereignty, by accident, which finished that up.  All that was left was to say we didn’t want that region anyways.  We also made conga lines, experience time dilation, and followed DBRB through high sec to kill some super caps.  And Seleene became the chairman of the Galactic Student Council.

I was also syndicated occasionally on EVE News 24.  I don’t think I got paid for all of that.

I also made a list of small features I wanted other MMOs to copy.

Lord of the Rings Online hit the five year mark.

Potshot and I were wandering around EverQuest again, looking for lost dungeons.  We were not buying any $25 bags though.

In Rift, the instance group was driven out of King’s Breach.  But Trion added in fishing, so we could do that instead.

And it was April Fools at Blizzard.

Five Years Ago

I made up something for April Fool’s Day.  I thought it was amusing.

Lord of the Rings Online celebrated a year of being live.  Book 13 introduced, among other things, fishing.  And my video problems with the game proved to be a bad video card, so I was actually able to get into the game.

Computer Gaming World/Games For Windows magazine ceased publishing as part of the ongoing demise of print media.

In EVE Online I made the big move from Caldari to Amarr space.  I also began producing Badger transports for fun and profit.  CCP introduced the whole Council of Stellar Management thing, which I dubbed The Galactic Student Council.  My opinion on it hasn’t changed much since.

Meanwhile in WoW one million people in China logged into WoW at the same time.  There is still no report on what would happen if they all pressed the space bar at the same time.  While that was going on, the instance group finished up the Slave Pens and the Underbog and began the long struggle with the Mana Tombs.

I was looking around for Tetris on the Nintendo DS.  You would think that would be easy, right?

And then it was Tipa’s turn to bang the EverQuest nostalgia drum, so I joined in yet again.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in April

Per the top of the post, April Fools at Blizzard dominates the list this month.

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2013
  2. April Fools at Blizzard – 2012
  3. Blizzard Blindsided by Diablo III Auction House Popularity
  4. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  5. April Fools at Blizzard – 2011
  6. WoW Dance Battle System!
  7. Ignore Burn Jita? Is That Your Plan?
  8. April Fools at Blizzard – 2010
  9. Burn Jita Held Over for an Extended Run
  10. Age of Empires II – HD Edition, That’s What I’m Talking About
  11. What is it with Me and Storm Legion?
  12. Camelot Unchained Kickstarter Unleashed!

Search Terms of the Month

animal jam: non fair membership abilities
[Welcome to free to play]

trion merge with blizzard
[Heh, copy Blizz, yes, merge with Blizz…]

brothers in arms or camo for arty?
[Camo]

world of warcraft bdr g1b good 4 money
[A BDR G1B would rule in WoW… in WoT, not so much]

Spam Comment of the Month

Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wanting to know your situation;
[From a spam comment linking to “genuine” Prada items]

EVE Online

A quiet month in New Eden for me.  Burn Jita was an exercise in precise, clinical destruction.  The fleet ops I went on all ended up with no action for me.  I made some money speculating on ice products.  A rumor went around before FanFest about ice changes, so I bought up half a billion ISK worth in Amarr and relisted it for double what I paid.  That sat until the announcement at FanFest, and which point it sold.  Easy money.  And then the price dropped back down.

Oh, yeah, and CSM8 elections.  Congratulations to the winners, which includes Jester, who will now have to suffer the fate of getting exactly what he asked for.

Need for Speed World

I have actually played this game every single day this year.  I log on, I do the gem hunt, I log off.  Elapsed time for each session is generally under 10 minutes.  It was part of my plan to see what sort of rewards you would get for the daily hunt as time went along.  I thought I would be done at that point.  But then they added achievements.  And for just another hundred or so gem hunts in a row, you get a special car.  So I am in for the long haul on that.

Rift

After sulking about Storm Legion for quite a while, I actually pressed on into it with a recommended solo build for my warrior.  It is okay.  Will I press on and finish though?  Meanwhile, the instance group… has failed to show up consistently since the beginning of the year.  So we still have yet to finish the first Storm Legion instance, Exodus of the Storm Queen.

World of Tanks

I continue working with my KV-4.  Tier 8 in a heavy has turned out to be pretty fun.  I do dread those matches with three or four SPGs on a side though.  You cannot hide under cover forever, and getting caught in the open is murder.

Coming Up

We will know how the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter saga ends in a couple days.  Success will mean City State Entertainment getting to work.  Failure will mean… well, we shall see what it means.

I have a blog anniversary coming up… for another blog.  But I am going to write about it here because nobody reads that blog.  Though, to be fair, it is all about pictures instead of words.

Neverwinter is going to show up.  I think it is open beta or pre-release or taking money from the general public as of today even.  I have been averting my gaze from it so as not to spoil anything in advance.  The call of Forgotten Realms will probably ensure that I will download that at some point, but I won’t be in for the day one rush.

Maybe… just maybe… the instance group will do Exodus of the Storm Queen this month.

Camelot Unchained – 3 Days and $400K To Go

Okay, maybe a little less than $400K, but the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter campaign is coming down to the wire.

Morning of April 29

Morning of April 29

It could happen.  In looking at the records of similar campaigns on the various sites that track them, projects can pick up as many pledges in the last two days as they did on the opening day.  Camelot Unchained had a $550K opening day.  You can see a pledges and backers by day chart here.  So it is well within the realm of possibility.

I wonder, in a general Kickstarter campaign way, how certain aspects of the way things have been done have helped or hurt them.  Mark Jacobs has been very forthright about the niche appeal of the game, and certainly the “No PvE content” aspect is sending some people away.  But that is to be expected.

Other things though, like tiers that allow limited backers, do not appear to have been used… well? correctly? efficiently?  To my mind, that is supposed to create a sense of artificial scarcity to get people to pledge right away.

The first four limited tiers ($25, $50, $55, $110) have a combined total of 25,000 “limited” slots, which is roughly 2.5 times the total number of backers up to this point.  If your limited tiers are still open and available with only three days left to go on the campaign, I have to think they are not working as designed.

The tier price points also seem to be a bit confusing.  In past campaigns, there has been a pattern of regular price points ($25, $50, $75, $100) which are often the limited tiers, and then a slightly more expensive unlimited tier above each that gives just a little bit less than the limited tier, to encourage people to pledge right away.

Instead, it is a bit of a muddle.  Why would you have competing $50 and $55 limited tiers, for example?  Why nothing at the magic price point of $100?  I know $110 is just a bit more, but in my experience, $$100 is often a mental threshold.

And then there is what you get for each tier, which I find to be unnecessarily complex.  The $50 and $55 price points mentioned above differ on so few points as to make me wonder why you would make them two separate tiers.

Ah well, brighter minds than my own no doubt have a narrative to explain the complexity.  And they certainly did well selling the higher level tiers.  Of the 75 pledge slots at $2,500 and above, only 6 are still available.

And it is too late to change any of that in any case.  The next three days will tell the tale.

WoW Private Server Review Video

My experience with WoW private servers has been pretty much limited to the Emerald Dream server, about which I have posted a few times.

So I am always surprised when I run into things that indicate that not only are there more such servers out there, but there are enough that somebody would have found and played enough that, when listing out their favorites, it can be made into a top ten list.

Basically, this person has a YouTube channel that looks to be dedicated to looking into a reviewing WoW private servers.

I suppose a game as popular as WoW lends itself to this sort of proliferation.

Sega Genesis Jams – 1992

Dammit, I meant to pick Mullen, not Hardaway!

-Heard in the test lab, circa 1994

After last week, I figured it was time to fill in the gap in my posts about consoles I have owned.

Is It The Shoes?

I started off in video game arcades and such, with Pong and Tank, Space Wars, and the great invasion from outer space.

Then there was the Atari 2600, which brought video games home one Christmas many years ago and probably saved me a mountain of quarters.

And then, in 1983, after much longing, I made the jump to gaming on the personal computer.

While there are no hard lines between these events… I did not throw my Atari 2600 away the day the Apple ][+ showed up, and I still went to arcades with my friends well into the mid 80s… these were points of transition.  My main focus moved from one to another.  And by the time I was playing online games like Stellar Emperor or Stellar Warrior in 1986, arcades were a thing of the past and I had given away my Atari 2600.

The depth and complexity of games on a personal computer surpassed what was possible in the previous two mediums and I paid little attention to them.

From Downtown!

Time moved on, as it insists on doing.  There was college and a job and then another job and then a layoff and a job in a computer store where the employee discount caused be to spend more than I actually earned, and then finally the job which, when viewed from more than 20 years down the line, begins a haphazard chain of events events, populated by unlikely set of interconnected characters, that somehow looks like a career when I put it on a resume.

And I don’t even have to fudge things, except to make them all fit on two pages in a typeface readable without a magnifying glass.

It is like I MEANT to do all that… like I sat down and planned it out in advance.

But back to 1992.

At this new company I was immediately involved with a project that ended up quite successfully, made the company a bunch of money, and put us in a new market.  As a reward, everybody in engineering involved with the project was given a card.  Each card had either an “N” or a “G” on it.  The letter was an indication of what present you would be given at the company Holiday party.  (My temptation was to title this post “Christmas 1992,” but I relented.  Unlike the other two posts, the bulk of this happens after Christmas.)

Our boss, one of the key founders and an insanely dynamic and inspirational character, thought it would be great fun to keep things a mystery and taunt us with possible meanings for the two letters in the build up to the party.

Eventually it was the night of the party.  There was a big pile of wrapped boxes.  Each box had either an “N” or a “G” on it.  And, after dragging out the announcement as long as possible, our boss finally handed out the first two boxes, one of each letter.

Those who had an “N” got a Super Nintendo.  Those with a “G” got a Sega Genesis.

I had a card with a “G” on it, and I was disappointed.

I had, at that point, never really heard of Sega.  Nintendo was at least a name I recognized.

SNESlogo

I offered up mine in trade for a Nintendo, but there were no takers, which just confirmed my theory that I had gotten the lesser of two choices.

I was totally unaware of the console wars that were raging, where Nintendo was the 800 lb. gorilla and Sega was the plucky upstart.

Puts Up A Brick!

I took the unit home and set it up.  It came with Sonic the Hedgehog which was a bright and colorful game.  It was a huge way forward from my Atari 2600 days.  But Sonic was not really my style.    I pressed on with it for a while, but never really got engaged.

Sonic gives the finger

Sonic gives the finger

I purchased a few other games for the system, but of them I can only recall Desert Strike and F-15 Strike Eagle II.  And even those two are only hazy memories.  Sonic is more vivid in my mind, though that might be because I bought the Virtual Console version for our Wii. (And it turns out I had only gotten worse at.)

The Sega Genesis languished in the family room while I went back to my computer.  The games looked good and played well.  But I had Civilization to play obsessively.  What did I need with shiny by shallow arcade games?

Can’t Buy A Bucket!

Meanwhile at work we kicked off a big project for an iconic fruit flavored computer maker just up the road.  Our boss had used his contacts to crash a party and get us in on their upcoming laptops, one ultra-light and one ultra-cool.  Basically, he talked us up while denigrating the internal team in Paris that was slated to do the project for the company.  The icing on the cake was claiming we had a working prototype for the required device.

In the end, this all worked out and became one of the most lucrative projects ever for the company.

In the short term it was a scramble, starting with making a prototype.  There were actually two deliverable, one critical and one slightly less critical.  We worked all summer and delivered the first one on time, but we had an issue with the second.

In November, when we looked to be within striking distance of finishing the second phase, I declared I would not shave or get a haircut until we shipped.  We were in serious crunch mode, with long days and weekends being the norm.  We just needed to power through and finish.

Is It The Shoes?

To cut to the punch line, I shaved off my very thick beard the following May.

In the mean time, a group of us were at the office pretty much all waking hours.  However, it wasn’t like there was always something to do.  We would run tests trying to capture this one catastrophic failure scenario that would not allow us to ship.  We would find one way to make it happen, then it would stop happening.  Then another way would be found.  And when it would happen, we would have to analyze what was happening on the machine, which was difficult as the “catastrophic” end of things really meant that the power manager would shut the system down.  So there was a laptop hooked to a logic analyzer where, once we had a scenario, we had to repeat it.  And it wouldn’t happen.  Or it would happen, but the logic analyzer would fail to capture it, having reset itself to another mode or some such.  How I hated that damn thing.

So there was a lot of waiting involved.  At one point one of the devs said we needed a video game or something.  I mention the Sega and knew that my girlfriend at the time had a 13″ TV sitting around doing nothing.  I said I would bring them in.

He’s Heating Up!

I brought in the Sega and TV.  We found a spot on one of the racks in the back of the lab where the TV fit in.  The Sega sat on the rack below.

I only had the RF connector that came with it.  Somebody noticed that the TV had an S-video port on the back and brought in a cable for it, at which point the video quality took a huge leap.

While I had two controllers, the games I had were all single player focused.  Sonic would allow two players, but you had to take turns.  But there wasn’t much interest in that.  The Sega sat there and got occasional use, though it mostly just went through the Sonic demo mode.

And then somebody brought in the game.

Boomshakalaka!

At this point in time, I cannot even remember who brought it in.  But one day we had NBA Jam in the lab.

And everything changed.

That game was the savior of our sanity.  We were there, in the office, in the lab, every single day from January 2 through to the end of May in what became the never-ending crunch time.  In at 9am, break for dinner at 6pm, back at work at 8pm, home at mightnight.  Sleep and repeat.

And whenever possible, play NBA Jam.

I am not a basketball fan and rarely indulge in sports based video games.  But there was something very special about NBA Jam.  It was an interesting, funny, engaging, over-the-top game.

He's on fire

He’s on fire

The graphics were very good for the time and the controls were simple, leading to that “minutes to learn, ages to master” magic that keeps people engaged.

We all ended up with specific “claimed” players.  Mine was the Warriors player Chris Mullen whose in-game version could hit a 3-pointer from the sideline with incredible regularity.  I had to fight to keep hold of him.  And was I ever pained when, in a hurry or just blurry from the long days, I accidentally ended up with Tim Hardaway instead.  I have no idea how he played in real life, but he was the suck in the game.

We became very good.  And very competitive.

We played no other game on the system.  It was NBA Jam all the time.

And the catch phrases from the game, done in a very Marv Albert voice, became the catch phrases for the project.  The key ones are in bold in this post.  We would shout them out all the time.

There is a picture of the team at the end of the project.

Most of the team

Most of the team

We look tired but happy.  I am down front with the long hair and a thick beard.  We have beers in our hands and the device itself, problem solved after all those months, front and center.  One of the special, durable Sega Genesis controllers somebody bought… we had worn out the originals… and the NBA Jam cartridge appear as well, having been deemed vital to the project.

He’s On Fire!

And then we went outside, looked around at the mid-day light, and wandered home to see what was left of our personal lives.

My girlfriend had been asking pointedly about when I was going to be done with her TV.  When I asked why she needed it, I was told that wasn’t the point.

The point was that she had checked out of the relationship and was seeing somebody else (which given my almost continuous absence for all those months was pretty reasonable) and was collecting things up before announcing it.  I gave her back the TV and we went our separate ways.  Somehow I ended up with her cat.

Meanwhile, nobody had a spare TV to replace the one now missing in the lab.  We stopped playing the game.

We stopped doing almost anything.

We were slated to work on a new project almost immediately.  However everybody was so burned out that project status meetings all summer long were basically announcements of no progress.  The lead developer took a weeks vacation after the project and didn’t show back up in the office for almost two months.  He would call in every Monday and apologize, saying he just couldn’t come to work.

This is what happens when the idea of crunch time is abused.  You pay for it later.  I have carried that lesson with me ever since and have fought back against every project manager notion around “couldn’t we bring in the ship date if we assumed people were working Saturday?”  Weekends are often the only slack time you have to make up slips, so if you schedule them, you lose that buffer.  I have also categorically refused to let myself or my team ever work seven days a week again.

Back at the office, work was shuffled around.  Despite our dazed lethargy, sales went so well that we were able to hire new people, so we brought in some new faces to actually get some work done that summer.

Then we moved buildings.  A lot of the team moved on to other jobs.  I hung around for a while.  Those who remained were eventually all as productive as before.  I sold the Genesis to a co-worker, having gone back to PC games.  One of the new kids would bring in his shiny Sega Saturn so we could play Virtua Fighter on the overhead in the cafeteria.  That was pretty cool.  But I didn’t want to actually own one.  And since the move included a network upgrade so that we had Ethernet in all the cubes (a serious upgrade from all those PhoneNet connectors strewn about the old place), we moved on to playing Marathon and Bolo at the office.

And thus ended my second video game console era.  It was short, but it left an impression.  For years afterwards if I ran into anybody on the project team, saying something like, “Is it the shoes?” in that right tone of voice would bring up laughs and memories of those days.

Pressing into Cape Jule and Pelladane

Earlier in the month I was moaning about the Storm Legion expansion for Rift.

I had not been actively avoiding the game.  But whenever I was looking for a game to play, I would get to Rift, give a little dejected moan internally, and move on to something else.

I just wasn’t that into it, and I was trying to figure out why.

Whole lot of gray

A lot of unexplored land

Thinking on it, I came up with three possible factors.  They were, put simply, the character/class/soul revamp that went in just before the expansions, the change in how quests and story flow were handled, and the general increase in landmass that came with the expansion.

Nice theories.  They seem reasonable.

And certainly the first one, the class revamp, was a big pain in the ass.  Having to go back and relearn how to play your character… and the multiple roles on your character… was a big deal to me.  I have managed to get healing sorted out on Hillmar, my cleric, and I think I have his DPS soul working.  But my warrior and rogue characters are still pretty opaque and my mage is probably dead to me at this point.

But still, are these the things that were keeping me from logging in?

I decided to push the point, force myself to log in, and get through the first zones and levels just to see what I could see.

What I did after the cut.

Continue reading

Jita… Burnt to the Tune of $27K

Well, the party did not last too much longer.

There was apparently some attempt at deception in declaring the Burn Jita event over before everybody went home in hopes of luring some more freighters back into the system.  But things now appear really over, with some of the key players off to Iceland and FanFest.

Mission Complete

Mission Complete

Image source: the internet… I forget where exactly.  Sorry.

The tally posted over at The Mittani shows that 142 freighters, 13 jump freighters, 10 basic industrials, and 2 Orcas were blown up in the event, along with a few choice targets of opportunity. (A best/worst kills lineup is available.)  That is a considerable increase over last year’s totals.  Jita remains the most violent system in the game this month. (It was in third place for the month of April last year with the first Burn Jita, which is where it usually sits most months.)

April Stats as of Today...

April Stats as of Today…

The victim count sums up to around 573 billion ISK destroyed, which using the current in-game valuation of PLEX (515 million ISK per) rolls out to about $27,000 worth of destruction, given the only real world to in-game currency conversion mechanism we have.  Nobody literally lost that much, but all of that ISK could have been used to buy that much in PLEX.

In all, the event felt, as was received, differently than the last time around.  The lack of fuss surrounding the pending event has been attributed to the CFC not making a big deal before hand in hopes of catching people unawares.  Not that I think that was really necessary.  Anybody who were paying attention knew it was coming.

Those who did not pay attention… well… surprise… and confusion!

On the confusion front, a newer member of our corp sent out a corp-wide email letting us all know that The Goons were going to attack Jita and that we all ought to steer clear.  I hope somebody explained to him that we were invited to the party.

The reaction from CCP was particularly muted.  Last year they were giving interviews and playing up a huge player driven event as being exactly the sort of thing they want happening in EVE Online.  They also took the time to put up a banner on the login page to warn people that the event was taking place.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

This year there was no talk and no banner.  I do not know if the whole thing was no big deal to CCP this time around, or if they were simply too busy wrapping up the CSM elections and preparing for FanFest, but things sure were quiet on that front.

On the blog front, it was pretty quiet as well.  No calls to action, either to get people out to blow things up or to defend Jita against the CFC.  There were some posts about Goon conspiracies, Goon contempt, and what happens to morons.  But it wasn’t treated as a big deal.

Over at The Mittani, the summing up post includes an interview with Warr Akini about what it took to setup the event.

I expect that anything which remains to be said will be overshadowed by Fanfest posts and announcements, which will include what we can expect from the Odyssey expansion this June and who will be sitting on CSM8.

And so we move on.  Ships blew up.  Some people are angry.  Some people are happy.

Just another day in New Eden really.

On the iPad – Vinylize Me

Apps for editing and modifying pictures seem to abound in Apple’s App Store.  You can spend a long time wandering through that section.

But while I find many of these apps interesting, I don’t actually use my iPad to take pictures.  To start with, the iPad is kind of bulky.  And then there is the fact that it takes pictures in 720p, which would have seemed like fine resolution for a digital camera… about 12 years ago.

So who needs photo editing on a device when you don’t use it to take photos?

But every once in a while I notice an editing app… in this case because it came up in the Apps Gone Free app, which I recommend to all my fellow cheapskates out there… that does pique my interest.

In this case, the app was Vinylize Me.

This app lets you create vintage looking album covers, into which you can incorporate your own photos.

That sounded pretty neat, so I grabbed it.  But then I didn’t have any photos on my iPad.  So I took some screen shots of pictures from the blog in Safari and used them to make a few samples.  Click on them to view as a larger gallery.

Not the best work in the world, but I think it shows some potential.  I have to figure out a good use for the app, but I like the idea of it very much.  You can change most of the text, tint your photos, swap out the “stereophonic” banners, manipulate the colors, and even add aging affects to make it look like an old LP that has seen some use.

The images in the gallery above are actually one quarter size of the output the app gives you.  The pictures I used were low resolution… they came from iPad screen shots after all… and looked very grainy at full resolution.  They would look better if I just imported the pictures from my computer rather than being lazy and taking a few screen shots.

Full resolution is 2448 by 2448 pixels, which seems to be about the size of an actual LP sleeve.

The main downside to the app is that you are limited to the templates they have provided.  You cannot add your own or edit the basics of what you are given.

Technically, this is an iPhone app, which means that it is half size on the iPad screen by default.  But unlike some iPhone apps, it looks okay when set to fill the screen.  (Unlike, say, that World of Tanks app.)

Anyway, another goofy app that amuses me.  And the results look better than the last such app I played with, Halftone.

I don’t think I quite have the hang of that one.