Monthly Archives: February 2016

Pre-Ordering WoW Legion at a Discount

Amazon announced a while back that Prime members would get some sort of discount for game pre-orders.  I saw it… Keen posted about it even… but it sort of flitted past to be forgotten.

We have Amazon Prime.  While we get some benefit out of it on free shipping… which was the initial hook back in the day… we mostly keep it for the Amazon video.  It is sort of a backup to Netflix streaming and about the same price per year.  Just last night we watched Amy on Amazon, and I watched all of The Man in the High Castle series a little while back.

This past weekend my daughter and I took the coin jar, which we use to pay for video games, down to the Coin Star machine and dumped all our coins in exchange for an Amazon gift code.  You get full value for a gift code, as opposed to taking cash, from which they skim some off the top.

We ended up with a little over $120 on the gift code to match up against what we had on our list of games.

On the top of the list was LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is headed for release around June and which is actually going to be supported on the PlayStation 3, something I noted with some surprise a while back.  (Granted, the PS3 doesn’t get any of the bonus content that the PS4 gets, but whatever.  I don’t own a PS4.)

Look at all the platforms on which it will be released...

Look at all the platforms on which it will be released…

The other item on our list was a copy of the World of Warcraft Legion expansion for each of us.

Single word expansion title? Really stretching so far!

Coming at some point this summer…

However, each title was listed at $50 on Amazon, so we were a bit shy on funds.  But I figured we would have plenty of time to collect more coins before the WoW Legion ship date loomed.

So I just put in a pre-order for LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  But when I went to check out Amazon popped up with their Prime discount and took $10 off the price, 20% off being the pre-order benefit.

The discount appears

The discount appears

20% off would put all three titles within our grasp.  So I ordered two copies of WoW Legion next, which added up to $100, but then there was the 20% discount, dropping the price to $80.  Yes, I was a little over when the sales tax was added in, but I had some gift card money left over from the holidays which covered that.  The idea is to get out the door without putting anything on a credit card.

So that worked out pretty well.  We were going to buy all of that at full price anyway, so getting $30 back… especially when I didn’t even remember the Prime discount… pretty much off-set nearly a third of our yearly Amazon prime subscription.  And we still get to stream movies and TV shows.

Of course, I wonder who the discount hits.  In the case of LEGO Star Wars, the traditional retail channel was likely going to be the main source of revenue.  But for the WoW Legion expansion, getting 20% off a pre-order means that I will not be ordering it directly from Blizzard, which means that they don’t get to collect all the profit, having to share it with Amazon and having a bite taken out via cost of goods sold, since they will be shipping us two boxes with discs.

Of course, I don’t get my game code and level 100 boost RIGHT NOW.  There is that.  But I am not so interested in playing WoW right now either.  Come the expansion launch though I should be ready.

Setting Sail with Yacht Fleet

Things changed up a bit while we were down in Querious.

Before we headed down south for our deployment there was a small conflict boiling between the Imperium and some low sec residents over moons.  When fighting them we were often facing a ball of ships like this:

Machs at the POS shield

Tishu and friends at a POS

That is a batch of Machariels supported by a Nestor and a Bhaalgorn and some Guardians and what looks to be a Proteus maybe.  A lot of expensive ships piloted by people with slave implant sets.  The backbone of the fleet is the Machariel which, by general consensus, seems to be pretty much the best battleship in the game.  It moves fast, warps fast, can absorb a huge amount of damage, and with a Nestor on hand for refits, has a damage projection envelope second to none.

A tough nut to crack, and we sacrificed many ships to the welp Gods as part of the learning process.  Not that we didn’t win, both when it came to towers and the ISK war now and again, but as we were preparing for our deployment it was still an active conflict with victories and defeats.

That all started back in early December.  Then I was busy at work, then there were the holidays, then there was the deployment south, and then I was on vacation and then we got called back home, during which time I wasn’t paying much attention to the fight in the north.

Upon getting home and getting settled, a new fleet composition was announced.  The new doctrine, called Yacht Fleet, seemed to be the admission that we were going to beat Machariels by flying Machariels.  We would now be flying those and Nestors and Bhaalgorns and Vindicators and a few other things.

Including Abaddons pretending to be Bhaalgorns I guess...

Including Abaddons pretending to be Bhaalgorns I guess…

Supplies of the Angel Cartel ship seemed to be sufficient and I guess we had have the money to reimburse losses.  Why not go with the best?

New doctrines, especially with shiny new ships, are always exciting.  Granted, if you happened to invest heavily in a now defunct doctrine, you might be less than thrilled. (WTS: 8 Harpies)  But I wasn’t invested in anything but the logi ships, and Yacht Fleet will be using the same Guardian fit as our previous armor doctrine, so I was set on that front.

Guardian squeezed in amongst the battleships

Guardian squeezed in amongst the battleships

So that was new.  But so apparently was the situation in the north.  Somewhere along the way our Imperium allies, SpaceMonkey’s Alliance got into a conflict with the EVE Online based gambling site I Want ISK (who I mentioned earlier this week when they dropped 1.8 trillion ISK to max out a new character via skill injectors), something covered here, which lead to I Want ISK hiring Tishu to bring the war to SMA’s homeland in Fade.  So fights appear to be moving there.  Which is fine.  When it comes down to it, I don’t get involved in the politics I just go where the fleet goes.

Anyway, I was excited to see the first ping… well, the first one while I was at home… for Yacht Fleet.  I logged in, hopped in a guardian, got into fleet, and off we went.  The vulnerability window for SMA space was up and there were things to save and a rumor of a Tishu fleet in the vicinity.

So the first thing we had to do was undock, fly around frantically for a bit, then sit and wait for a while as Jay got updates from the intel channel.  Then there was more flying about, though it sounded like we might have a target.  I thought this was going to be great, seeing two Machariel fleets beat on each other.

And then we found Tishu in the form of a smaller fleet flying Cerberuses.  That wasn’t going to be nearly as interesting.  We managed to pin them down for a bit, pop some of their logi and a few Cerbs, before they decided to leave, after which we covered the ihub entosis effort then headed back for home.

Once more, Fozzie Sov in action...

Once more, Fozzie Sov in action as we all sit and watch…

There was word of a Pandemic Horde fleet in the area that was allegedly supposed to reinforce Tishu, but which did not arrive in time.  But aside from a couple of ships tailing the fleet looking to grab stragglers, the journey home was uneventful.

And so went my first op with what may be our most expensive subcap doctrine so far.  Flying Machariels as a mainline doctrine is a long way from where Goons started back in the day.

Once it was just Rifters...

Once it was just Rifters…

As for me and the Machariel… I am tempted to buy one to give it a try.  I like flying new ships and I am just a day of training away from having all the skills needed to get reimbursed. (I’m already there for the Bhaalgorn, but need Minmatar Battleship V for Vindicator reimbursement, which is about 20 days off.)  Then again, even with reimbursement, that is a lot of ISK for a ship.  I might be content just flying logi and watching the big ships brawl.

Quote of the Day – CSM members have no agency

CSM members have no agency.

-Sion Kumitomo, Now We Got Bad Blood

The quote was so small that I put it in the title of the post.  Saved you a click… unless you’re already here.  Ah well.

The post from which I took it however is somewhere in the 4,500 word range, or about double the number of words at which I start thinking that I might be rambling too much.  So many words in order to build up a context, set the story, explain the machinations, and try to tease out some of the nuances of the whole saga. (And then there is the comment section which seeks to compete on the total words front.)

The words of Citizen Sion

The words of Citizen Sion

Yes, the post was put out there to tell a story and justify an resulting action, and that can require many words.  Sion gets to have his say.  Yet, for me, the essence of the whole issue was delivered in five words nestled deep in the heart of that enormous post.  This all came about essentially because members of the CSM, for all their hard work and devotion to the game, cannot make things happen.  They cannot make CCP listen to them.  They cannot make CCP like them.  They cannot make CCP disclose information to them.  They cannot make CCP fly them to Iceland.  They cannot make CCP acknowledge their existence.

The members of the CSM hold almost no power in their relationship with CCP unless they take the game out of school, so to speak, and start getting players riled up directly.  And even that has worked exactly once, back during the Incarna brouhaha.  Going out of school mostly just gets you ignored or ridiculed or excluded from the proceedings so far as I can tell.

School is, of course, the apt metaphor.  I called the whole thing the Galactic Student Council back in 2008… and I am not going to let that piratical Rixx Javix steal my lead on that insight either with his 2011 observations!

Not that I begrudge CCP their hold over things.  They have a business to run, and adding a bunch of well meaning outsiders to the development process can be a hindrance to getting things done.

But CCP also set this whole CSM system up.  They have encouraged players to step up and pitch in, on their time, and generally work at what I once described as essentially a “horrible middle-management job,” all for the love of the game.  It is not unreasonable to expect that, if you’re going to ask people to put in the effort, that you not jerk them around.  You don’t tell people they matter, that the whole process matters, and then consistently prove to them that they really don’t without some blowback.

And so Sion boycotted the latest CSM summit.

Part of me doesn’t agree with his choice.  After all, what does a boycott of one accomplish?  And doubly so, how effective is a boycott when you’re alleged to be the member that CCP changed the whitepaper, without consulting the CSM, just to exclude from running for CSM again?  Staying away seems to be giving CCP exactly what they desire.  It would be better, to my mind, to show up and bang your shoe on the table like a latter day Khrushchev just to let people know you’re there and won’t be ignored.

Then again, I haven’t been in Sion’s shoes.  After his experiences, it may be that exercising about the only agency he has left within the confines of the CSM Whitepaper seemed like the better plan.  In the end, he made the choice and gets to live with the consequences.

Anyway, the management of the CSM at CCP has traded hands, with CCP Logibro, a friend to all fan sites, and the perennially popular CCP Guard taking over the helm.  Perhaps that will change things a bit for CSM 11.  Putting one of the most well known and well liked members of the CCP team on the case does send a message.  But CCP Guard also seems like one of the busier people on the CCP team, at least when looking in from the outside, so I hope he and CCP Logibro have the time to do something with the CSM.

Diablo III and my Great Leap Forward in Season 5

One of the quirks (and drivers) of a gear drop driven game like Diablo III is that sometimes you can go for ages and get little or no advancement in your gear… and then suddenly it rains upgrades on you.

After the last post, where I was wondering how to get through the Season 5 Chapter IV objectives, I was at Torment II and running Adventure Mode in hopes of picking up a drop or something that would boost me past that.  I needed to be at Torment IV to finish things off.

I got a couple small upgrades, enough that I tried to jump straight up to Torment IV, but that was too much.  So I went back to Torment III where I was still struggling a bit.  And then I got the drop that changed everything.

And it wasn’t even a piece of gear.

No, it was a recipe for a sword called Griswold’s Perfection.  Honestly, the recipe wasn’t all that great to look at, but I happened to have enough materials to make 10 swords, so I decided to see if I could get one worth upgrading to.  Nine of the resulting swords were so-so, not much of an upgrade over what I was already swinging, but there was one that stood out from the rest.  It had much higher damage than the rest, decent strength and vitality buffs, and a socket for a gem.

The Sword

The Sword

It doesn’t look like much, but once I had that in my hand, Torment III eased up so much that I went right to Torment IV.  Then my streak of “luck” began.  I was carving through adventure mode and ended up on a level with unicorns and flowers and teddy bears to kill.

Death to all that is cute!

Death to all that is cute!

I am not sure that was actually lucky, but it was something I hadn’t seen before.

Then I was able to kill a treasure goblin in another area and it left its portal open so I was able to enter The Vault for the first time.

Gold Everywhere!

Gold Everywhere!

My immediate gold problems were solved as I went from having about 4 million gold to having more than 40 million gold after that run. (Granted, I immediately burned almost half of it doing gem combines, but I was still way ahead.)

After that I decided to start in on the Greater Rift level 20 objective.  I had two tokens to enter greater rifts already, so headed on in.  The first run was a big success, I beat the timer by a large margin, and it opened me up all the way to Greater Rift level 18.  It also gave me a nice legendary ring and an interesting gem to mount in it.

The Nagelring with the Boon of the Hoarder gem

The Nagelring with the Boon of the Hoarder gem

I love me some “life per hit” bonus, and the gem pretty much has gold raining on me for adventure mode runs, so I won’t have to spend all my vault money.

The second run went equally well.  Again I was well ahead of the timer and got a nice ring drop and a gem to go in it.

Oculus Ring with Boyarsky's Chip

Oculus Ring with Boyarsky’s Chip

If there is something I like as much as “life per hit” it is more thorns damage.  That opened me up to Greater Rift level 24, but I was out of tokens.  So I ran a Nephalem rift to get another, then set off on the Greater Rift level 20.

I was a bit worried when it started off, as monsters were few and far between, so the hourglass line on the timer was getting ahead of my own progress bar.  It actually took me a while before I found a few elites and a boss or two before I was able to catch up.  By the time things got close to the end though I was out in front of the hourglass.  The final fight went well and I had cleared the GR20 objective.

Greater Rift 20 completed

Greater Rift 20 completed

That should have completed my Thorns of the Invoker set.

But I didn’t seem to have them.  I got a bit miffed at them going missing and logged off, thinking I must have missed something along the way.  And then I remembered that the set pieces show up in the mail, which is a pretty subtle icon down in the lower left corner.  So I logged back in and collected them.  I was now all suited up… and fearsome.  The bonuses for the set are pretty nice, especially since I had been working on getting thorns stats for my gear. [You can see all my gear here.]

Thorns of the Invoker set bonuses

Thorns of the Invoker set bonuses

I went out and tried it on a few bosses.  I hit Zoltun Kulle first and killed him so fast I got two achievements.  One was for killing him in less than 30 seconds, though I doubt I took more than six.  I upped the difficulty to Torment V and was still able to slay stuff crazy fast compared to what I was used to, trash going down in a hit or two, elites fading in half a dozen.  In fact, that efficiency actually lead to a couple of deaths.  Once in a while I will kill a group of elites that explode on death so quickly that I will end up eating all the death explosions in one blow and dying myself.  Problems of the powerful I suppose.

At that point I only had two objectives left for chapter IV.  One was equipping a legendary in every slot, and I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have that one yet.  And then I noticed that my belt was only a level 66 legendary and the slots all have to have level 70 items, so I quickly fixed that for just long enough to check it off the list.

That just left the set dungeon.   I looked up where that was located and ran off to give it a try.

Where the set dungeon starts...

Where the set dungeon starts…

There my power was not effective and things went very badly.

As I understand it, the set dungeons are all a bit… finicky I guess.  You have to go in and kill several things in a specified fashion without dying yourself.

So for this set I had to go in and kill five elites.  Five elites, which had to die while I was standing in my active consecrate circle, while I had iron skin active.  First I had to figure out how to get those two on my ability bar at the same time.  Google told me to go to Options and select Elective mode.  Once that was set, I gave it a try, and failed.  And tried again, and failed.  And over and over and over again.

I would put myself at 20+ attempts in about 15 minutes, as I was failing very quickly.  I would either die, which was pretty easy to do, since the elites could almost one-shot me, while the trash was hitting me for a quarter to half of my health… dying ends run… or kill an elite but either consecrate or iron skin would have faded… and killing an elite in the wrong way ends the run.

Basically, it seems like a very simple task, but I managed to mis-time things or die every single time.  I watch a couple of videos about the run, which both pretty much said, “This is easy, just kill the elites while in your consecrate while iron skin is up” without going into any further detail.  So I gave up for the moment.

So that is where I stand on Season 5 right now; one objective away from completing chapter IV.

Chapter IV - So close

Chapter IV – So close

I am going to have to find something more informative on that set dungeon, because I was clearly getting nowhere.

Anyway, I have the set from the season and I think I can bump myself up to Torment VI if I want to chase some achievements.  Or, I can lower it down and probably accomplish some of the speed run achievements.  I imagine at Torment I in story mode I would just have to run through things and watch mobs explode as I passed… which, I have to admit, is kind of fun for a while.

And this is as far as I have gotten with a character in Diablo III, so Season 5 has worked out for me on that front.

Further Anecdotes from the Skill Injector Front in New Eden

It has only been a week since the Madi Gras release, when skill injectors/skill extractors hit EVE Online, and already we have some of the usual stories.

My view on skill injectors was that they were perhaps a necessary evil in a game where skill advancement is a function of time subscribed.  You can argue as to whether new players really need to be able to “catch up” or if they should build up their skills the old fashioned way… by waiting… so that they grow into their abilities, but after more than a decade sometimes that skill point wall can seem pretty damn huge.

For lore reasons this may hurt a bit...

For lore reasons this may hurt a bit…

However I forgot one of the iron rules of MMOs in general, and of EVE Online in particular.  That rule says that there is almost nothing you can do to a game to help lift up new players that won’t benefit older players even more so.

And so it goes.

First we had the tales of Spaceman and Stromgren, alluded to over at TMC, who used skill injectors to get to the top of the skill points chart over at EVE Board, a site that lets you track and compare characters that register with the site and which is used as an adjunct to the character bazaar, so you can display what you’re selling or see what you’re buying.

Spaceman, a 2003 character, went for the “just a bit better” route to top the previous champion, and also of 2003 vintage, Dr Caymus.  Then Stromgren, a character also dating from 2003, decided to go for a decisive lead.

Neither of them stayed at the top of the list long when, as noted over at EN24, the gambling site I Want ISK took a brand new character named IronBank, created on February 11th of this year, and decided to learn all the skills available in the game.  That character had an average skill points per hour rate of 4,441,578.9 as I started writing this and has apparently “won” EVE Online or some such.

Also showing off with that wallet balance

Also showing off with that wallet balance

That leaves the skill point leader board at EVE Board looking like this for the moment:

Top 5 highest skill Points

  1. IronBank (473,344,000)
  2. Stromgren (400,795,578)
  3. Spaceman (291,817,863)
  4. Dr Caymus (291,375,384)
  5. Shaleen (278,343,002)

All of which goes to prove that nothing now stands in your way of getting the skills you want, or even all the skills available, if you have enough cash.  The total spent on IronBank was calculated at 1.8 trillion ISK, which if you acquired through the purchase of PLEX via real world money, would total up to something like $25,000. (You can see where I stand in the rankings.)

The secondary lesson is, of course, that if you make a leader board of some sort, somebody will try to get to the top of it for no other reason beyond being number one on that leader board.  Whee, internet fame!

Meanwhile, in the land of less ambitious immortals… for through the miracle of cybernetics and infomorph psychology all capsuleers are effectively immortal… skill injectors are now the answer to all problems.  Can’t fly a ship, new doctrine requirements got you down, want to fly something new without all of that waiting around, then skill injectors can help you out.  I have heard a fair share of comments in fleets over the last week about pilots boosting up to a skill they wanted via injectors or people being admonished to inject to be able to fly a given fit.

Which is fine I suppose, provided you have the ISK to buy them skill injectors.  If you’re setup to AFK carrier rat for hours on end our in a quiet null sec system, you can afford some.  If you are a new player… well, I have seen some injector hand outs for new bros and such.  But you’re unlikely to be able to afford an injector on your own… unless you go buy some PLEX.  And PLEX is moving pretty well since the introduction of skill trading.  So I am sure that, from the CCP end of things, this new feature is looking pretty good.

But I have a hard time seeing this as anything but the rich… those rich in ISK and skill points… simply getting richer while the average low skill point player continues to grind on.

I am also sort of surprised at how many people with more than 80 million skill points are willing to buy and use injectors at only 150,000 skill points a shot.  That is about three days of training.  For the 650 million ISK price I’ll just wait the three days.  But I am a notorious cheapskate, and also not a fan of waste.  Watching 350,000 skill points disappears doesn’t make me happy.

  • < 5 million total skill points = 500,000 skill points per injector
  • 5 million – 50 million total skill points = 400,000 skill points per injector
  • 50 million – 80 million total skill points = 300,000 skill points per injector
  • > 80 million skill points = 150,000 skill points per injector

I will be interested to see if CCP gets together some data on the whole skill trading scheme.  I’d like to hear how many skill injectors went into pilots in the various skill point ranges… and how many skill points disappeared from the game due to the built-in wastage.  How much did it off-set normal training?

Of course, I suspect if the data shows the whole thing ended up as a case of the rich getting richer that we won’t hear much about it.

Others still commenting on Skill Trading:

 

 

WoW and the Case for Subscription Numbers

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

-Oscar Wilde

Late last week Activision-Blizzard had their quarterly results conference call and presentation.

ActiBlizz450

This has always been a must-attend for WoW watchers because along with the dry financials and vague statements there were those subscription numbers.  That was always the real “health of the game” indicator, a number of substance, some hard data we could track and chart and argue about.

Then, of course, as part of the Q3 2015 results last year, at which point WoW seemed to be stable at 5.5 million subscribers, it was announced that they would no longer be providing subscription numbers.  Instead all we would get were revenue numbers, hand waving, and their completely fatuous “Monthly Average Users” or “MAUs” metric.

So I was curious as to how the earning call would go this time around, whether there would be some WoW news to go with things or not.  Because, if nothing else, Blizzard seemed to feel compelled to give us some news with every dip in the subscriber count.   I am pretty sure, for example, that we got the WoW Legion announcement early in order to counteract the big drop in subscribers announced that same week.

The whole thing was quite dull, at least if you were looking for any news about World of Warcraft.  There was a general statement about people buying lots of the current charity pet, granting the company a nice tax deduction I am sure.  There was some unsubstantiated statement about growth, but it was so vague that some fan sites put the word in apologetic quotes.  And there was some non-news said in a way to make it sound like news about the WoW Legion expansion.  We knew all of this already.

Blizzard Q4 2015 slide

Blizzard Q4 2015 slide

Seriously, telling people that the expansion was going to release this summer, after the Warcraft movie barely even qualified as a rehash of what we already knew.  It couldn’t release before the movie and be during the summer, since the movie releases on June 10th, ten days before the calendar declares the start of summer in North America.  And the data set contained by the parameters “after the movie release” and “Summer 2016” still extends out until September 21, 2016.  They could launch on that last date and still have told the straight up truth.

I even held off on this post through the weekend, just in case there was something else that Blizzard might want to throw out there.  But there was nothing further about WoW.

And so the earnings call was barely a blip on the WoW news front.  Many sites posted the obligatory “something was said” stories, but when you’re given nothing of substance, the story cannot be sustained.  One mention and sites moved on to other things.

However, if Blizz had given us a subscription number, up, down, or stable, I am sure we would have been bouncing that around for a week or more, discussing what it really means and whether or not this unprecedented for Blizzard alpha access to the expansion was helping to hold things together or not.

But maybe that is the way Blizzard wants things.

For the first five years after World of Warcraft launched, Blizzard was the company that made WoW and used to make some other games.  Then for a few years it was the company that made WoW and was remaking those games it used to make.  And then, finally, in the last couple of years, Blizzard has become the company that made WoW and a couple remakes AND a couple of new games.  Yes, World of Warcraft still brings in most of the revenue.  Without WoW I suspect the name of the company would just be “Activision” at this point.

The company clearly wants to talk about Hearthstone and Overwatch, which was reflected in the questions from the investment analysts on the call.  When question time came, nobody asked about WoW or StarCraft II or Diablo III or even Heroes of the Storm… which on could argue is something of a DOTA legacy remake in any case.  No, the questions, when it came to Blizzard products, were all about Hearthstone and Overwatch, the mobile game… and mobile is the current hawtness still, which even Blizzard seems to recognize… and the cartoon copy of Call of Duty… which is no doubt seen as part of the ongoing effort by Activision to cash in on its first person shooter dominance.

So the lack of WoW emphasis suits their needs.  It wasn’t quite that moment when john Riccitiello said that SWTOR wasn’t their most interesting property as a dodge when asked during an EA earnings call about subscription numbers, but it was clearly a step away from WoW.  The subscription number metric always overshadowed everything else, in part because WoW pretty much pays all the bills and then some, but also because of the assumed direct correlation between number of subscribers and total revenue for the game. (Though, as we can see, revenue is still pretty stable even with the big subscriber drop, so Blizz clearly has its ways of coping on that front.)

I do wonder though if, when the time comes to actually ship WoW Legion and the company actually wants us to focus on WoW again, if anything short of announcing a big jump in subscribers… which will be tough to do when you’ve banished that metric… will suffice.  Because if they think MEUs are something of substance, they are kidding themselves.

Basically, to get back around to the quote at the top, Blizzard has successfully gotten WoW to not be talked about… or at least talked about less outside of some very narrowly focused media outlets.  I wonder if they will end up regretting that some day.

The Defense of the 60M-TG Station and Our Return to the North

As noted in the last post, we were having a fun op then because we were preparing to go all out for a station defense op the next evening.  One of the quirks of Fozzie Sov is that stations are not linked directly to the sovereignty of a system in null sec any more.

Back during the Dominion sov era, a station was linked directly into the sovereignty, so to get a station, or to take a system, the station was part of the fight, as happened during the epic struggle last summer at ED-L9T.

Now we’re in Fozzie Sov though, so while Northern Army owned the system 60M-TG

Our favorite corner of Querious

Our favorite corner of Querious

We owned the station in the system… or KarmaFleet did, in any case.

KarmaFleet as landlords

KarmaFleet as landlords

This was taken as part of the six hour Fozzie Sov entosis tug-of-war with Northern Army while I was away.  Then they managed to reinforce the station when we didn’t put up much of a fight during a vulnerability window… you don’t have to own the sovereignty, but if you don’t the entosis time is pretty short.  So there was a question as to whether this would turn into another long struggle.  Asher was pinging for numbers early so that we could at least contest the station.  The status of our second home in Querious lay in the balance.

60M-TG Station acknowledging the patron saint of Reavers

60M-TG Station acknowledging the patron saint of Reavers

As the entosis window approached, the ping went out to form up for this.  We would be taking out a main fleet of Ishtars, beloved of our leader Asher Elias as they lend themselves well to his favored tactics, along with a second fleet of Cormorants to scour nodes of any hostile entosis operations.  However, Asher opted not to lead us, and Thomas Lear was the FC of the Ishtar fleet.  Asher was along for the ride in an Onyx.

Once we had number, we undocked and headed towards the constellation YB7B-8 where entosis command nodes for the action would spawn and where any fight would likely take place.

Piling out of the station...

Piling out of the station…

I joined up with the logi team in a Basilisk.  Asher had been calling for people to use SKINs for their Basilisks if they could afford them.  We ended up with a nice turnout, with half the Basis wearing the Raata Sunset or Blue Tiger SKIN.  You can see the red ships in the screen shot above.

We headed to 60M-TG and then ended up moving around the constellation as reports of a hostile fleet filtered in.  There was some running about and we eventually ended up pinning down a combined Brave/Northern Army fleet in 3-FKCZ.  They were outnumbered, so we picked them apart with relative ease, losing only two Sabres, which you expect to lose in such a fight, and one Ishtar that failed to broadcast for reps when it was made the primary.  Everybody else lived, even an Ishtar that broadcasted late and which only got reps just as damage was entering structure.  Battle report here.

Then it was back to entosis modules and command nodes.

This is the big deal in Fozzie Sov, the target for your entosis link module

This is the big deal in Fozzie Sov, the target for your entosis link module

We watched as the counter tipped towards our side.

Fozzie Sov in action...

Fozzie Sov in action…

That ran down without much further interference.  There were a couple of attempts to counter entosis individual nodes (I sacrificed my alt in a bomber to interrupt one) but otherwise it pretty much ran our way.  The station was saved.  We then took the time to then reinforce the TCU and the ihub while we were there.

With the evening still young-ish, we then headed over to a Northern Army R64 tower and set about reinforcing that as well.  This is what Asher calls putting something in the bank now that will yield a fight later.  Reinforcing is somewhat dull… and the tower had a lot of resist modules on it, so the shoot went slowly with just a small pile of Ishtars using sentry drones to hit it.

And the slow shoot was further delayed by word of another small fleet sitting astride our path home, which we ran over to kill.  I managed to launch a combat drone and get on a 1.2 billion ISK Vindicator kill mail.  I like to get on kill mails as logi.  Then it was back to the tower to finish putting it into its reinforcement state.  As its shields slowly ticked down there was a mix of anxiety as to whether the tower might be stront’d or not.  If not, we would get a kill, but the shoot would go on for quite a while longer.  If it was stront’d there would be no kill, but we could head home.

Down to 25% shields, the moment of truth at hand...

Down to 25% shields, the moment of truth at hand…

It was stront’d, which was a bit of a relief to some.  By this point the fleet had been formed up for over three hours, which entitled us to a second participation link, but which is also about the point when people start to tire of this sort of thing.  With the tower’s timer set, we returned to our staging system having completed all our objectives for the night.

Basilisk warping for our home station

Basilisk warping for our home station

The word came down the next day that we would be returning to the north.  While we had been having a good time down in Querious, things had been continuing to boil up in our homeland.  Draining off a group of active pilots when there seemed to be plenty of content at home struck somebody as a dissolution of resources, so convoys began heading back later in the day.

And so we bid farewell to Querious.  Northern Army has already reinforced the station at 60M-TG and will no doubt recover it before today ends.  I am leaving my stuff in our staging system.  I suspect that we will be back again.  It is too easy a place to which to deploy not to come back.

Last Flight of the Raven

We have a huge timer at 0230 tomorrow, so tonight we’re going to do a relaxing fun fleet.

FC: Asher Elias || Fleet name: Ferox Flun Feet || Op 8 || Peacetime
Ships: Feroxs + Ravens + support

FLeet departs in 20 minutes

~~~ This was a broadcast from asher_elias

When this ping popped up I hadn’t undocked for a fleet op so far this month.  Granted, a week in Hawaii took me out of the running for most of that, so it wasn’t like I was missing it much.

Being away also meant that I missed the six hour Entosis tug-of-war op versus Northern Army, where two small fleets could basically make no headway against one another until one side just gave up in exhaustion.  Fozzie Sov fun FTW!  Asher goes over some of that in his podcast this week where he covers our deployment down south.

Anyway, a relaxing fun fleet seemed a fine way to get back into fleet ops after a break, and all the more so since I could bring my Raven.

The Raven was left over from a doctrine we tried out last summer in Querious.  My own Raven had been saved after the fall of ED-L9T and stowed away safely in Khanid to await another deployment.

So I logged right in… waited for the launcher to verify and update yet again… is this any better with the new launcher… cloned jumped down to our staging station, got in my Raven and joined the fleet.

I also insured the Raven, since “fun fleet” often means we’re going to die.  But what better ship to sacrifice than this one, which had been gathering dust in a hangar for the last six months.  Sure, it had some history.  It was my ratting Raven as far back as 2007 and had, among other things, made the run up to Deklein and back for the Revenant kill.  But a ship is a ship, and in the zen of EVE Online, you must be prepared to let go of any possession which you undock.  Plus, you know, fun.

There was a minor fitting change; I had to remove the MJD and fit a MWD, but otherwise when I undocked it was pretty much the same ship I left in the station last summer… the same to the point that I should have looked in the cargo hold as I had clearly used it to haul some extra modules and a spare mobile depot back down from Deklein.  I might have cleared some of that out had I noticed.  Ah well.  And so it was we did undock.

Undocking in Khanid

Undocking in Khanid

Asher steered us towards Querious.  We also had Lazarus Telraven along for the op and he was streaming the whole thing on his Twitch channel, including our voice coms, so any hostile in the area would have all the intel they could want with just a 15 second delay.

As it happened, we were headed towards Pandemic Horde’s home at A2-V27, where we warped to the station and hung around on their stoop hoping that they might come out and play.  Eventually they obliged, undocking a sizable fleet relative to our own, including a triage carrier in support.

After a some initial losses we began to chip away at them, warping off and back as Asher tried to position us to play to our strengths versus their numbers.  Then again, Asher also warped us into an asteroid belt at one point, something he specifically mentioned had been an issue in past fights as big ships got caught and bounced off rocks, delaying align times and warps.

Ravens aligning out of an asteroid belt

Ravens aligning out of an asteroid belt

We shook off drones by activating the smart bombs that most of us had fit, which had the side benefit of getting us on some blue kill mails for fun, but at the final point of the fight it was clear that we were rapidly losing our ability to put enough damage on our foes to get kills.

The last point of the fight

The last point of the fight

My own Raven went down on that last grid as our logi gamely tried to save me.

I'm sure that tracking disruptor was really hurting me...

I’m sure that tracking disruptor was really hurting me…

As my ship exploded I warped off grid and then back at 100km to watch the remains of the fight.  We lost a few more ships, including Xenuria (See, he undocks! Xenuria for CSM 11!), as Asher got the remainder of the fleet headed outbound.  My staying alive a bit longer meant that my pod got on six kill mails, five of which were fleet members, due to damage I did before my Raven went down.  My pod is currently listed as the fourth most deadly ship for our corp this month… mostly because we kind of suck at PvP.  If I am the top killer for the month (I’m on 19 kill mails, seven of them blue, six of them in a pod) something is hilariously wrong.

Then somebody spotted my pod and I got popped and sent back to our staging station the quick way.  I listened on coms as the remains of the fleet extracted.  Pandemic Horde used a jump bridge to cut off the fleet’s escape, so Asher just had everybody safe up and log off when they could.  Not sitting still and dying made a few of our foes angry, and they went to Reddit to complain in the usual way.  The battle report shows we lost the ISK war, yet somehow we appear to have won on the rage front.  You would think people would be happy about us delivering some easy content to their doorstep.  Did we forget to say “gf” in local?

After a short time Asher had everybody log back in and brought people home.  We shall see if I can get on for the fight tonight to defend our station in 60M-TG.  Another Entosis struggle looms.

Below are the screen shots I took along the way in gallery form.  I also left the new camera on for the duration of the op to try it out. (You can see the new controls in that HUD screen shot.)  Once I changed the movement slider all the way to the fastest motion, it seemed to be okay.  And then, during the fight, I had the camera on a hostile as we warped off and it pretty much went crazy and wouldn’t stay pointed at anything, so I had to go turn it off to be able to keep space from flicking around me so fast it threatened to induce motion sickness.  Not quite ready for prime time.

 

 

Our Automated Farms in Minecraft

This is one of those posts I have been meaning to get around to for a while now.  I have written about this sort of thing in our Minecraft world before.  In fact, I actually built one of the automated resource generating machines in our world, the sugar cane harvester I put together quite a while back.

Automated Sugar Cane farm

Automated Sugar Cane farm

However, automation and redstone devices haven’t really been my thing.  In our world I tend to be the civil engineer, a builder of roads and bridges and stables and sundry roadside attractions.

When Xyd joined us he brought with him his own expertise and built his castle with automated resource hauling and sorting.

But it wasn’t until Aaron came along that the automation of resource production really became a thing in our world.  He was especially busy over the holidays and I have kept saying, “Oh, I should do a post about that latest thing he built!” over and over until I was far enough behind that now I am going to just try to summarize them in a brief tour.  I think I remember them all.

In His Base

Aaron has a few resource farming devices around his home.  Next to his livestock and collection of flora, he has an iron golem farm and a charged creeper farm.

Iron golem and charged creeper farm

Iron golem and charged creeper farm

The iron golem farm is the smaller pool in the middle of what is essentially a village.  It is arranged such that golem spawns in the water and gets washed down to a place where you can harvest him for iron.  That has been around for a while.

A more recent addition was the charged creeper farm, which is the large cobblestone platform with the red squares.  The red squares are netherrack, and in the middle of each of those is an empty square which contains a glassed in chamber.  At night, when things are spawning on the platform, Aaron lured creepers down each of those holes, then put a name tag on them so they would not despawn when he left the area.

Then, once all the holes had a creeper, he hung around the area waiting for a lightning storm to pass by and strike some of the creepers.  The lightning would also light the netherrack, so it was easy to tell which creeper had been charged.

Of course, the question is, why would he want a charged creeper?

When a charged creeper blows up… with much greater force than a normal creeper… and kills another creature, that other creature leaves behind a head.  So down below that platform his an area where he brings mobs and charged creepers together to collect heads.

Also, down in his mine Aaron has built a zombie farm where, at the flick of a switch, you can stand in a single spot and have zombies delivered to you to slay if you need to level up or require some zombie flesh, though the latter now has a more efficient option.

Guardian Farm

I have already written about the Guardian Farm, but since I am making a list I thought I have better at least mention it.

Guardian farm complete

Guardian farm complete

The String Farm

As with the zombie farm in his own base, this was built around a monster spawner.  In this case, it was a spider spawner.  As with the zombie farm, a flick of a switch turns out the lights, starts up the flow of water, and washes spawned spiders towards you.  However, in this case some cactus does the killing and you simply collect the resulting string drops.

String farm

String farm

String has its uses, but four can be combined to create wool.  This was his method of automated wool creation.

Blaze Farm

This is another experience generator built around a Blaze spawner in one of the Nether Fortresses we have discovered.  This uses mine carts to shove Blazes down a passage where they can be collected and slain for experience and a bit of loot.

The top of the Blaze farm

The top of the Blaze farm

This is, however, more sophisticated than the zombie or string farm.  There is a dial to select how many Blazes you wish to collect up to slay.

Dial-a-Blaze

Dial-a-Blaze

You then idle while they are collected, being alerted to the requested number being reached by a light being lit.  You can then press a button to crush them, reducing their hit points, and which point you can wade in and finished them off, collecting the resulting experience.

Zombie Pigman Farm

This was the one that needed some help from me.  The ideal way… or perhaps the only way… to do this is to poke a hole through the bedrock in the roof of the nether and build up there.  Aaron tried a couple of the hacks to break through, then asked me to look into it.

I spent a couple weeks looking up ways to do this, many of which were convoluted and required changing server jars or using buggy world editors, all of which was generally impractical.  After quite a bit of time passed Aaron finally suggested that I might just turn on creative mode and punch through.  He just assumed I knew about that option but that it wouldn’t work for some reason, grossly overestimating my Minecraft knowledge.

So I logged in, switched myself to creative mode, poked a sizable hole in the roof of the nether above our nether roof transportation hub, and that was that.  It took all of 30 seconds.  Then he took over and built a giant tower farm.

Looking up from the nether roof

Looking up from the nether roof

Up at the top there is series of mine carts that pick up spawning zombie pigmen, dropping them to their death.  The resulting gold nuggets and zombie flesh are collected and sorted and deposited in a series of chests on the lowest platform.  All of this can be observed from the safety of an observation tower where the player may safely idle while it continues to rain pigmen.

looking down at the zombie pigman farm

looking down at the zombie pigman farm

This, along with the iron golem farm, unleashed our ability to build long distance rail projects.  Aaron used this to build rail lines throughout the nether transportation system while I have used it back in the world.

Witch Farm

If I recall right, this was one Aaron did just because he could.  I am not even sure exactly how it works, having only visited it once.

Witch farm on the map

Witch farm on the map

But we now have a way to farm redstone, sticks, and the other items that witches drop when they die.

Enderman Farm

After Aaron and I defeated the End Dragon, we had also opened up free access to The End, the main population of which is Endermen.  So it was time to build a farm for them as well.

It is dark in The End

It is dark in The End

Another “falling to a collection floor” sort of farm which yields enough ender pearls that Aaron now gets around by throwing them freely.

Endless Production?

I think that is all of them.

So, with all that we have no resource constraints, right?

Well, no.  The thing about Minecraft is that you have to be logged in and close enough to the automated system for the game to load it up.  Nothing happens when nobody is logged in and when you get too far away, the game unloads things in order to manage memory and processor resources.  So to get these to run, you have to stand by and let them do their thing, which is why each has a safe room for you to idle, often positioned in an optimum location to encourage spawns just where you want them… or so I am told.

So, as long as we’re willing to log in and idle, we can collects some resources.  Our world still retains the friction of hostile mobs, the day/night cycle, and the fact that there are still many resources we simply have to collect ourselves.

First Night of Skill Point Trading in Jita

It was fast times in Jita last night as a mass of traders, speculators, scammers, and other interested parties descended on what one might call the Commonland’s Tunnel of New Eden, the economic capital of the game.  A record number of players were in the system, thanks in large part to the fact that the Brain in a Box feature, which came in back with the Parallax update last November (which was also the last named update in Syndicate), let CCP increase the hard cap they  have on the system to 5,000 players.

So there was room for more.

Still, ~3,600 pilots in the system is a lot of people.  At 6VDT-H, still the biggest battle in EVE history, we topped 4,000, but that was a special occasion and the system was heavily reinforced by CCP and we still ended up with time dilation so bad that the UI simply wouldn’t respond for extended periods of time.  But then, we were also shooting at each other too.

Anyway, lots of people were in the system, and they were there for skill trading, which went live with yesterday’s update.

That is 30 billion skill points extracted by 21:00 EVE time yesterday.  That is a lot of extractors purchased and used, considering each one only grabs half a million skill points. 16 billion skill points were applied with a reported wastage of 5 billion skill points… 10,000 skill extractors worth of skill points gone missing.

Of course, that was 60,000 skill extractors obtained through various means yesterday as well.  Since you have to buy them via Aurum, which somebody has to purchase through a straight up cash transaction at some point, it looks like something of an immediate, if minor, economic victory for CCP.

I can remember it for you retail...

You can even buy they for cash directly…

Of course, I had to log in and take a peek.  I had my alt sitting in Jita and when I logged in CCP was night enough to let me know right away that skill point injectors were available and how many skill points I could add to my character with each one.  However, since he is past the 110 million SP mark, that wasn’t very much per injector.

350K SP go to waste for me...

350K SP go to waste for me…

I also saw the scam du jour in Jita local, which was to offer a contract allegedly for a skill injector at 50 million under the current market price when, in fact, the contract was for a a skill extractor, hoping some anxious buyer looking for a bargain wouldn’t notice the difference until it was too late.  One can learn many lessons about unscrupulous behavior in Jita local.

The market price for skill injectors in Jita last night was up above 650 million ISK per, with plenty listed on the market.

Injectors on Feb. 10 ~05:00 EVE time

Injectors on Feb. 10 ~05:00 EVE time

Skill extractors were running at about 300 million ISK per unit at the same time.

Extractors on Feb. 10 ~05:00 EVE time

Extractors on Feb. 10 ~05:00 EVE time

So, at that moment at least, 500,000 skill points looked to be worth about 350 million ISK after costs.

Of course, this was the first night and the market was flooded with excess inventory, fresh demand, and a full of people trying to figure out how to make some ISK out of the whole deal.  Gevlon reported making 350 billion ISK yesterday on skill sales and extractor arbitrage  How the market will look in a week, a month, or a year may change, but last night was the crazy time.

JonnyPew emptied out a 121 million SP character to boost his main from 7 million to 80 million SP, letting 41 million SP disappear forever.  Some people do things just to say they have done them.

Noizy reported that PLEX sales in the first six hours of the day were way up and suspects that yesterday might have been a record day for sales overall.  The price of PLEX itself was up to the 1.3 billion ISK mark, making my six year old stock screen shot of PLEX on the market even more comically out of date.

Current prices are around 800 million ISK in Jita

If you had bought at this price in late 2009 you would have made a billion ISK

As for me, I neither extracted nor injected, I just watched the whole thing for a bit before going off to read a book.

Some day, if I need to boost up a cyno alt quickly or some such, I might buy an injector.  But for the moment I have no skill points I consider excess on either alt or main and both have so many skill points already that they are far end of the diminishing returns.  They can train an injector’s worth of skill points… 150K for either of them… in a little over three days, so I’ll just do it the old fashioned way.