Monthly Archives: June 2016

Reflecting on a Year with Minecraft

In which I write a lot of words about a game… again.

As of today I have spent a full year playing Minecraft.  It was on Father’s Day last year that my daughter suggested we play together, a suggestion she has come to regret in that dismissive way that only teens can manage.

“Are you still playing that?” she says with that eye-rolling world weariness that she gives all such parental endeavors.  But I still remember our first little house in the game, and remind her of it.

A house on the hill

A house on the hill

A lot of time has passed in the world since.

According to Raptr I have spent more time playing Minecraft than any other game besides EVE Online and World of Warcraft.  Considering that I have been tracking with Raptr for five and a half years and I have only been playing Minecraft for one year, that says something.  My top five games on Raptr, as a percentage of time tracked, are:

  1. World of Warcraft 24.5%
  2. EVE Online 20%
  3. Minecraft 9%
  4. Rift 8%
  5. EverQuest II 7%

There are reasons that Minecraft has gone up the list so fast.  We’ll get to that.  But needless to say, I have spent some time with the game over the past year.  Bang for the buck, even with server hosting, has been pretty high.

And I have a pile of blog posts that follow what I have done, which I will just list out here as a retrospective, in case you want to catch up with the story so far.  In order from oldest to newest:

  1. Father’s Day Minecraft
  2. Further Exploration in Minecraft
  3. Minecraft and the Importance of Not Falling off of Things
  4. Minecraft and Bringing Light to Dark Places
  5. Sheep Stole My Mining Cart
  6. Minecraft and the Accumulation of Material
  7. Minecraft and the Gift of Fire
  8. Minecraft and the Hosted Life
  9. Paving the Nether
  10. Minecraft and Another Vision in the World
  11. Minecraft and Dungeon Making
  12. Major Minecraft Setback with NetherByte
  13. Don’t Throw Eggs at the Zombie Pigmen
  14. Minecraft – Our World
  15. Minecraft and a New Age of Exploration
  16. The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds
  17. Into the Roof of the Nether
  18. So Close to Taming an Ocelot…
  19. The Barad-dûr in Minecraft – First Attempt
  20. Minecraft, Bases, and the Urge to Explore
  21. Minecraft – Under the Sea
  22. Minecraft and the Great Northern Road
  23. Finishing the Great Northern Road
  24. Minecraft and The Guardian Farm
  25. Prismarine Towers and Horse Field Dreams
  26. Minecraft – This is The End
  27. Our Automated Farms in Minecraft
  28. Upgrading to Minecraft 1.9
  29. Just Another Pig in the Wall
  30. The Move to Minecraft Realms
  31. Minecraft Rail Plans
  32. Collecting Tears…
  33. Finding the Northeast Passage in Minecraft
  34. One Hundred Million Copies of Minecraft
  35. Abandoned Mines and Prismarine Spans
  36. Minecraft 1.10 The Frostburn Update
  37. Minecraft and Closing the Rail Loop

So, after a year of this, I figured it was time to reflect on the game, the good bits and the bits that maybe aren’t so good… because I have to have that whole dichotomy thing I insist on bringing with me wherever I go.  Bear with me.

The Good

The game really scratches the whole “wordly” itch, something that used to be the domain of MMORPGs like EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft.  Your Minecraft world is a place to explore and live in.  That has, no doubt, reduced the time I have spent in what I would consider my more traditional domain, fantasy based MMORPGs.

In addition, the whole persistence aspect of the MMO genre is also covered.  We’re still working with the same world my daughter and I started a year ago today.  A work in progress.  It has been hosted at home and on three different hosting services so far, so not only does it persist, it is portable as well.

The multiplayer aspect is a big deal and, again scratches an itch that was otherwise the exclusive domain of the aforementioned MMORPGs.  That I was able to setup a server and have friends along to play in the same world was a big draw, one that keeps me coming back.  Going to see what other people have done in the world is a treat.

Then there is how each of us tackle the world.  Everybody has their own vision and things they like to do, and that makes looking in on everybody else all the more interesting.

And, of course, the variety of hosting options out there make sharing your world easy.

The sandbox nature, the ability to not just explore, but change the world factors in my enjoyment.  I spend most of my time either building things, or collecting resources to build things.  Crafting and farming enter into this as well.

There are still some nice things to find in game, like villages, desert temples, abandoned mines, dungeons, along with the whole nether and end experience that give you something to work with in the sandbox.

Survival mode provides the requisite friction to make building, exploring, and whatever seem… game like maybe?  If I set the world to creative mode and could just create things out of thin air and build whatever I wanted, flying around and placing blocks, I would have likely tired of the whole thing fairly quickly.

Which is not to disparage creative mode in general.  A lot of people like that, my daughter included, and that is great for them.  But for myself, in order to scratch that itch that video games satisfy, the environment has to impose constraints to work against.  In Minecraft survival mode that manifests itself in the day/night cycle, hostile mobs, the need to gather resources and move them to the site where I want to use them, the time it takes to travel places, and even little things like falling damage, food requirements, and the need to work around things in the environment like water and lava.  Certainly the possibility of death brings spice to things, but even things like item wear and inventory management forces you to adapt.

The requirement to collect raw materials is actually one of my favorite bits of the game.  I spend a lot of time mining in Minecraft.  Funny that.  I dig down to level 12, set up a central area with storage and an auto-furnace, and start throwing out shafts every third block.  I put on an audio book or a podcast and I can mine away for hours.  It can be quite relaxing… or exciting if I dig my way into something under ground.

There is a certain joy in the simplicity of the game, from graphics to actions.  I am not a fan of pixelated graphics for their own sake, but Minecraft has hit a happy balance for me.  The simple nature of the basic game “feels” in accord with the graphics.  The game itself is an odd mix of sophistication and doing things in what I might unfairly call “the easy way.”  The game graphically looks like something from a past era of video games, but in ways couldn’t exist outside of the current era.  Our world currently occupies about 1.2GB of drive space and requires fast internet to load and play effectively on the server.

So it looks like it could be from the 80s, but needs resources that have only become generally available… things like high speed internet and cheap 1TB hard drives… much more recently.  You couldn’t do this on an Apple ][ or a 486 Windows 3.1 PC or probably even that 400MHz Pentium II Windows 98 box with a TNT2 card I had around the turn of the century.  However, even with those requirements, its simplicity makes it feel happily retro.

Finally, there is the whole mod situation, which extends from simple client mods like texture packs, to handy additions like a mini-map, to server mods to change the very nature of the game.  There is a wide world of choices out there which I have yet to scratch the surface of at this point.  All I have really used is Minecraft Overviewer, which renders your world into Google Maps format so you can see it all.  I love this.  And it even has a UI now, so you don’t have to learn the command line if you don’t want.

The Downsides

The world in Minecraft can be a repetitive place.  For every interesting bit of scenery there is another plain or forest or desert or ocean that looks very much like the last one I saw.  Exploration can end up being very much a race to find something, anything interesting in a world of sameness.  I feel like I am most likely to get lost because any stretch of forest looks pretty much like any other, causing me to work out my frustration by setting things on fire.  Burn, forest, burn.  I’ll find another just like you over the next hill.

The downside of persistence is that sense of wanting to hang on to your work.  There are times when I want to just start another world, but then I look at all the work done on ours… and I don’t want to redo that.  I don’t even want to play on other worlds because if I want to play Minecraft, I want to spend the time improving our world… for specific definitions of “improving.”

Sharing your world with others is very cool, but actually doing things with other people can be annoying.  It can be surprisingly difficult to do simple things like travel overland together.  The whole first person view thing makes keeping and eye on other people a chore.  And, in this sandbox which is focused so much on building, we do tend to just build away on our own little projects.  I did get significant help on resources for the rail project from both Skronk and Aaron.  But you tend to let people do what they’re doing because it is their project.

Sharing is also… complicated.  Now and again I want more people to join in on what we have, but who can I really trust?  Who will be compatible and who will just come in and just blow up our stuff.  The joys of a destructible world!  Doubly so since a couple of us have our kids on the server now and again, so there are minors to protect, which lets out almost anybody who plays EVE Online as a possibility, because we’re all horrible people.

The weight of the sandbox nature of the game can be a burden.  When you have a project, all systems are go.  But when you have finished it… well, you have to come up with another project or else just potter around with what you have already setup.  And, frankly, pottering around mostly involves waiting; waiting for crops to grow, waiting for villagers to get something interesting up for trade, waiting for your automated production marvel to make the stuff it makes, or just waiting for the sun to come back up again.

I feel a bit of emptiness in some of my projects.  When my daughter and I first started, she built us a shelter that was just what we needed and no more.  It was pretty cramped.  Then she built the house we moved to, which was nice.  It had a few rooms, but there was something going in on each room.  Then I went and built a castle.  I had a vision of many rooms, each with a function.

However, as I completed the castle, I noticed that I really only used the room that I had setup initially to shelter in over night, plus some empty space around it where I put in chests for storage and built an auto furnace.  That and the automated farm on the roof are about all that the castle has in it.  The problem is that there is nothing to “do” in the castle.  I don’t need any rooms outside of the one where I sleep.  Likewise, in the area I refer to as The Kremlin, I have built several towers, a stable, and a large two story building, all of which are starkly empty inside because I still just sleep at night in the little room I dug in the side of the mountain when I first arrived.

Enaldi and Skronk have built the most amazing Italian town in our world.  Great buildings decorated inside and out.  They set it up with NPC villagers so that they go about their business around the town square.   It is the most wonderfully alive place in our world.  I love it.  But, in the end, there still isn’t anything to “do,” it is just decorative.  Enaldi and Skronk, to my knowledge, don’t log in to “play” in their creation.  They just add more to it.  Just building more and more can feel a little Sarah Winchester now and again.  (I live not far from her house.)

And, without that sense of function, I have stopped putting up large buildings for the most part.  Bridges I like, because they have a function.  But putting up a castle or the like doesn’t appeal to me now because they just end up feeling empty and lonely.  So I work out my anger by marring the landscape with giant public works projects.  I have seriously considered making the rail project double tracked.  Or maybe a six lane highway right through the middle of the continent.

Meanwhile, the friction which keeps the world interesting can also make it annoying at times.  The day/night cycle especially.   If you are on alone, you just hit a bed when the sun goes down and then the day begins anew.  But if other people are on and in the middle of something… nobody cares about day or night deep in a mine, nor when they are AFK waiting for their automated device to crank out some supplied… you have to coordinate or interrupt them or just deal with the night side of the cycle.  And, in the way of things, the day always feels too short because you’re getting things done, while the night feels like it goes on forever because you’re stuck inside or you’re fighting zombies, skeletons, and the seemingly endless supply of creepers the game loves to spawn.

I am unhappy with the behavior of water in the game.  Lava too, but I don’t want to create rivers of lava in the world.  Okay, that’s a lie, I would totally create rivers of lava as well if I could.  But working with water to create anything like a river just involves too many runs with a bucket.  I could just turn on creative mode and do that, but then there goes the magic of friction in the world.  And I want water to flow.  I want to drain lakes and flood mines.  Instead water just sits there or, at best, runs off for a few blocks, gets tired, and gives up.  It does make very nice waterfalls at times though.  I will give it that.

I have also had some poor experiences with hosting services.  There are so many to choose from and there is no real way to tell how things are going to work out.  Who knew NetherByte would fold up shop suddenly?  I suspect that our problems with MC Pro Hosting were related to them co-hosting us on an over taxed machine, so performance went to hell during peak hours.  I understand that problem, but for what we were paying I expected more.  Minecraft Realms has been good, and it is probably the simplest solution, certainly it is the one most integrated into the product, and the price is right, but you give up a lot of control options there.  So I remain vaguely dissatisfied on that front.

Finally, I have, to this point, spent exactly zero time with mods.  Part of that is because in my long history with video games I have developed a love/hate relationship with player developed mods and extensions to games.  I like them, but I have been burned enough times that I also try to keep them to a minimum.  Part of it is a desire not to screw up our world based on experiences related to the former.  Part of it is that it is nice just to be working with the simplest possible set of rules.  And, finally, since we now host on Minecraft Realms, we cannot have any server mods, and even if we could, they would all be broken right now because Realms is always running the latest release version.  There are still mods out there that haven’t been brought up to version 1.8 and we’re now at version 1.10.

Also, totally off the farm here, but I hate when versions don’t get zero padded and the plan is to change the digit count.  For me the sequence should be either this:

1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 2.0

or

1.07. 1.08, 1.09, 1.10

Where I grew up, 1.1 = 1.10.  But that might just be me.  I still like monospace fonts too.

Summary

If you are reading this and just love Minecraft beyond life itself, don’t take my comments too much to heart.  The day I cannot find something to complain about is probably the day I show up dead.

For me, understanding what I do not like about a game, and why, is as important as understanding what I do like.  No, I cannot just play the game.  It just isn’t in me.  And, I will add a the long standing policy here at TAGN is that I almost never bother to write about games I simply do not like, and certainly not at depth.  This is just a bit of my collected thoughts after a year of playing the game.

I logged in and played yesterday, I will likely log in and play again tomorrow or the next day.

Minecraft and Closing the Rail Loop

After finishing up the Prismarine Bridge and under water glass tunnel… and screwing around with that huge series of abandoned mines which I still haven’t finished clearing out… I took the rail supplies I had accumulated and started building that last stretch of rail line to cut across the north of the rail loop and bring me to the mesa biome where I could start angling to join the whole thing together.

I made one base along the way in order to have a place to hole up at night.  The day/night cycle can be a burden.  You can either commute to and from your base every time the sun goes down or you can stay in the field and fight stuff all night.  Commuting is safer, but it eats up valuable daylight hours the further you get from your base.

From that point I kept pressing forward across plains, through a forest, into a savannah, until there, in the distance, I got my first glimpse of the mesa biome from this end of the tracks.

That bit of color there past all the sand

That bit of color there past all the sand

Seeing that put my goal in sight.  Also visible there is a desert temple, one of those naturally generated bits of the game.  When I reached it I found that it had, of course, been looted by Xydd already.  All of the hallmarks of his work were on the place.

But that was fine.  I didn’t need any more luggage, though I was happy enough to reuse the empty chests he left behind.  I sealed the place up, putting doors on the openings, lit the interior and the surroundings, and ran the rail line right up next to it, creating a station stop there.  This was to be my base at the north end of the mesa biome.

Desert temple becomes base

Desert temple becomes base

I needed a base because I still had to build a rail line across most of the mesa biome which, as its name implies, is made up of a lot of flat topped mountains.

There I had to make a choice as to how to proceed.  I could stay at about sea level and tunnel through mesas at need, or I could run rails up to the top of the first mesa and build bridges between them.

Tunnels would certainly let me collect plenty of colored clay, but I had already got to the top of a mesa at the south end of the biome, so going upwards seemed to be the better choice.  Plus the view is better from up there.

Also, using some extra powered golden rails was a benefit, as I have an excess of gold and redstone, while I am always looking for more iron.  I actually started laying golden rails more often as I went along.  You only need 1 every 30 iron rails to keep a mine cart up at full speed, but I cut that back to about 1 in 20 to reduce iron usage a bit and because, if you get stopped by something on the track that 1 in 30 plan won’t get you back up to full speed unless you hit a hill or a station.

I had also hauled along a lot of stone brick.  I have furnaces all along the rail line smelting cobblestone back into stone in order to make stone bricks, which is my current preferred building material.

So I pushed the rail line into the mesa biome and ran it up to the top of the first mesa that seemed to connect to a line of mesas that formed an arc along the eastern shore of the biome.

After I had gotten that side settled in, I went back down the rail line to the portal at the prismarine bridge, took the nether transit system to the portal already in the mesa biome, and came up there to start building the rail line from the other direction.  This was because there was going to be more work at that end of the line.  I had built the original rail terminus where there happened to be a portal and not with an eye to extending the line further along.  So I had to turn the terminus into a station and start building eastward to catch the southern end of that same arc of mesas.  From there I pushed northward until I got the other end in sight.

At that point I ran a bit ahead to build a last bridge on the northern end of the line so as to bring the two ends together at a point where I could build a little marker.  And so the circle was complete.

On this spot, the golden rail was laid...

On this spot, the golden rail was laid…

So what have I wrought with all of this work?

Well, there is a great loop railroad.  Single track I am afraid, and no sidings.  But there isn’t much traffic on it, so collisions are unlikely, unless we are talking about wildlife.  I’ve run into a few pigs.

The line is horse compatible, which means the right of way, as railroad people refer to it, is two blocks wide and three blocks high.  That is the size you need to be able to ride a horse through, so it can act as a road for those in the saddle.  The only exception is the line between Skronkholm and Firenze, but there is an alternate surface path there.

There are 19 main stations along the line, spread out thus:

Stations... you may want to click to enlarge that...

Stations… you may want to click to enlarge that…

The stations that are at each of those numbers:

  1. Desert Temple Station – North end of the mesa biome, lodging and storage only.
  2. Mesa Biome Station – Former terminus of the rail line, has a portal and the beginnings of a mine. (screen shot when it was just the terminus)
  3. Bridge Portal Station – A quick tower to spend the night in and a portal.
  4. Horse Fields Station – A prismarine rest stop with a stable and a portal.
  5. Farm Station – A large base of mine with a portal, a large series of mines, and a farm.  Additional building projects and a town nearby. (screen shot)
  6. Schloss Adler Station – A base I made in a mountain, with a mine and a portal.
  7. The Kremlin Station – A sprawling, walled base at the end of my second major rail line.  Has a portal, a farm, livestock, a mine, and paths off to a town and other structures.  Has several experiments in tower building and an ender portal off one of the mine shafts.
  8. Aaron & Xydd Station – The stop that leads off to both of their bases.  There is a rail line to either, though Aaron’s has grown such that it has crossed over the main line.  Portals and all sorts of buildings and machinery there. (screen shot of the vicinity)
  9. Spawn Point North Station – The stop at my first castle north of the spawn point.  A portal, a mine, and a farm are nearby.
  10. Spawn Point South Station – The stop south of the spawn point that used to be the end of the rail line to Skronk’s holdings.  Our first base in the game is nearby.
  11. Skronkholm Station – Skonk’s first works.  Includes a farm, a portal, and mining.
  12. Firenze Station – Skronk and Enadli’s elaborate base that has about everything.  Voted a world historical site by unanimous acclaim. (screen shot)
  13. Southwest Station – A minor base on the southern end of the west line, a quick place to sleep.
  14. West Plains Station – A small base located near a portal with a mine.  Food is available. (screen shot)
  15. Stone Mountain Station – A more elaborate base near a portal, with a mine and a small farm.
  16. Fire Town Station – A station I built adjacent to an NPC town, which I then walled in, expanded, and added a portal and a mine to.  So called because I built a two story red building that looks a bit like a fire station.  Horses are nearby as well. (screen shot before I built the fire station)
  17. Desert Town Station – A convenient stopping place during the build. Only lightly improved with an unfinished wall, no portal and no mine.
  18. Prismarine Bridge Station – A long time resting point for me, with a portal, small farm, dock, and a mine that leads down to a series of abandoned mines that were a source for much of my iron rail in the last push.
  19. North Point Station – The last station built on the line, used primarily as an overnight spot so I did not have to roll all the way back to the bridge.  Has a stable, as I rode a horse up there to use to scout the way.

Of course, that isn’t nearly obsessive enough.  After finishing off the line I had to go and travel the whole thing.  I decided to go from station to station and chart the distance between each, noting my odometer setting in the statistics panel as I hit each station.

  • Desert Temple to Mesa Biome – 1.58km
  • Mesa Biome to Bridge Portal – 1.12km
  • Bridge Portal to Horse Fields – 1.71km
  • Horse Fields to Farm – 1.70km
  • Farm to Schloss Adler – 1.43km
  • Schloss Adler to The Kremlin – 1.03km
  • The Kremlin to Aaron & Xydd – 0.50km
  • Aaron & Xydd to Spawn Point North – 0.41km
  • Spawn Point North to Spawn Point South – 0.36km
  • Spawn Point South to Skronkholm – 0.53km
  • Skronkholm to Firenze – 0.59km
  • Firenze to Southwest – 1.31km
  • Southwest to West Plains – 0.46km
  • West Plains to Stone Mountain – 2.52km
  • Stone Mountain to Fire Town – 1.61km
  • Fire Town to Desert Town – 1.57km
  • Desert Town to Prismarine Bridge – 1.67km
  • Prismarine Bridge to North Point – 1.30km
  • North Point to Desert Temple – 1.07km

That ends up totally to a 22.47km rail loop.  Of course, I opened up Excel and put that data into a two dimensional grid so I can expand it out to have a table that shows the distance along the rail line between any two stations.

I also timed the runs between each station, though that was a bit more problematic.  That required me to start and stop a stopwatch, which introduces some error.  Then I ran into animals at a couple points, which put off the time.  And then there are a couple of stretches of the line where I need to go back and inject a few more golden rails to keep mine carts at full speed.  I was stingy with those rails early on.

The times were off, but they seemed to indicate that a minecart, kept at top speed, moves about a half a km a minute.  That jibes with the wiki, which says the top speed is 8 blocks a second, and blocks in the game are a meter on each side. (Speeds of various things in Minecraft if you are interested.)

So that is a rail line that is 22,470 meters long… or, if you prefer, 22,470 sections of track… which, if you kept at top speed, would take 2,808.75 seconds to travel, or a bit more than 45 minutes.  I was considering how to showcase the rail line and thought about taking a video of a trip around the loop, but I don’t think a 45 minute video would be a big winner.  I’d have to speed it up.

And, as one additional bit of semi-related trivia, the explored area of our world… which admittedly still has some holes in it… is about 15km by 8km, which makes it about the same as the estimated size of the Kalimdor continent, as measured by somebody who attempted to apply some science to the topic.

So that is a major project completed in Minecraft.  I still want to go back and spruce up the bridges I build in the mesa biome.  I was in a bit of a hurry towards the end, so they are mostly just flat platforms between mesas.

So what was The Great Northern Road back in October, finished up in November, which later became the Great Northern Railroad ,and then plans for the great loop were hatched, which I did not post about until early May, when I was already pretty far along (14 of 19 stations in place by that point), is finished.  And that brings us to the eternal Minecraft question, “What next?”

Warcraft – Watching the Movie

Worst. Cinematic. Ever.

-My Daughter, on leaving the theater

We went to go see the Warcraft movie last weekend.

Coming June 10, 2016

Really, no need to reserve, plenty of seats available

Looking at the movie times I could see that the poor reviews the movie was getting was starting to influence the theater operators.  The movie was showing in almost every single first-run theater in Silicon Valley, the exceptions being a couple venues that tend towards art house sorts of releases.

But the show times were… sparse.  It seemed that the big multi-screen theaters were shuffling their options and cutting back on Warcraft showings.  The big AMC theater near us only had three showings on Saturday for the standard version of the movie.  There were four showings for the 3D version and five for the 3D IMax version, both of which come with a surcharge that boosts the box office take.

Any real summer season blockbuster would have had standard version showings starting every hour and as many 3D running…. which is what Finding Dory has running this weekend.  This weekend Warcraft has two showings each for standard and 3D, but still five for IMax.  I guess if you want to see if, they want to get the most money they can out of you.

And so the movie was a bit of a damp squib on its opening weekend, bringing in $24 million.

That sounds like a lot of money, but lets put this in perspective with other recent opening weekends.

  • Captain America: Civil War – $179 million
  • Finding Dory – $136 million
  • The Jungle Book – $103 million
  • X-Men Apocalypse – $65.7 million
  • The Conjuring 2 – $40.4 million (opened against Warcraft)
  • The Angry Birds Movie – $38.1 million
  • TMNT: Out of the Shadows – $35.3 million
  • Central Intelligence – $35.5 million (opened against Finding Dory)
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass – $26.8 million (opened against X-Men)
  • Warcraft – $24.1 million
  • Now You See Me 2 – $22.3 million (opened against Warcraft)
  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – $21.7 million (opened against Angry Birds)

Warcraft isn’t setting any records, and is down more than 70% this weekend, looking to bring in a meager $6.5 million.  It won’t catch The Angry Birds Movie.  There is a metaphor in that I am sure.  So not a big success.

But look how well it did in China!

-Every over-invested fan trying to distract from the US Box office

You tell me what percentage of the Chinese theater revenues the studio gets to repatriate and we’ll talk about that.  A dollar earned in China isn’t the same as a dollar earned in the US.  The China success is an interesting side story, but not much else.

But how was the actual movie?

We went with a mixed group, myself, my wife, my mother, my daughter, and her boyfriend. (Lord help me.)  Of the five of us (out of a total of 10 in the theater, so it wasn’t going to well already), only my wife had never played the game, so she was our disinterested outsider.  The rest of us were in what I would consider the sweet spot target audience, we had all played the game, had a generally positive view of it, and were not immersed enough in the lore to nit pick anything that might come up.

The Good

The film looked good.  Stormwind looked really good.  The brief glimpse we got of Ironforge looked great.  Lorthar’s griffon mount looked very good.  Orcs looked good.  Magic effects looked good.  Even the fel taint looked good.  Visually, I approve.  This is the main argument for seeing it on the big screen.

Lothar’s griffon fought like a badass.  That was awesome.

That murloc we see in a stream early on.  He was the best.

Also, some amusing asides.

The Bad

Don’t see the movie in 3D.  The action includes a lot of camera shake and jumping around that will make you regret your 3D choice, as it just blurs things and will likely give you a bit of motion sickness.

The story they chose to tell is so distant from the current game as to be confusing.  I had one friend comment later about the portal not being in the Blasted Lands, and I had to point out that the portal in the movie was a DIFFERENT portal… we’re up to three portals now I think.  The one in the movie is the one from the Cavern’s of Time mission The Black Morass, which is in the Swamp of Sorrows if I recall right.  They had done that run before, but had forgotten.

The passage of time is not handled well in the film.  I could not tell you if the events in the film took place over a week, a month, or a year.  Travel takes exactly as long as the plot requires it in order to setup the next set piece, and not one second longer.

For a movie that is set in the what is now the distant back story for the current game, it made a lot of jumps and assumptions.  Even the scene with the portal opening for the orcs is pretty much, “Our world is screwed, let’s get another one by burning these unexplained blue people to power a portal.”  I came out of there with more questions than answers.

The story, despite jumping about, still seems to plods along in between the action so I felt every minute of the two hour journey.

Character motivation is pretty scant at times.  Still not sure why Medivh did what he did.

While the story correctly leaves the other races out of the events… it being Orcs and Humans like the box said… the brief glimpses of elves and dwarves were not pretty.  Do not want.

What the hell was Lothar’s griffon doing while he was unconscious?  Did he just give up and go have drinks with the orcs?  He was hanging around, ready to fly him home afterwards.  I expected the orcs to have eaten him at a minimum.

They just had to use the fucking Wilhelm scream.

Summary

Not a good movie.  It deserved the reviews it got.  The viewer ratings are just fan boy backlash.

It isn’t even bad enough to have a hope of being “so bad it’s good” after a while.  It was bland.

There were no real stand-out performances.  Nobody was horrible, but I didn’t come away with a new appreciation for any of the actors.  The plot was muddled and did not do anybody any favors.  Yes, the plots of video games are convoluted to start with, but this just made things worse, not better.  I feel no compulsion to watch it again.

They should have cut this down to a 20 minute cinematic for people to watch before the REAL movie, which should start somewhere between Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, if not later.

Seriously, Warcraft III was considered a huge success because it moved 4.5 million copies back in 2002.  WoW has that many people playing it right now, and has sold many, many more copies, falling only behind Minecraft for best selling PC game ever.  The prime target audience cares about Azeroth in the WoW timeline.

This was highlighted by questions my wife asked about how this related to WoW, wherein I had explain that the green orc baby and the teen mage have to grow into middle and old age respectively before we get to the actual game we started playing in 2004.

The whole enterprise covered production costs, but that doesn’t include marketing and other expenses, as anybody who has every had a “percentage of net profits” deal in such a venture will tell you.  I would guess that any result under half a billion in gross receipts guarantees no sequel, and it would have to somehow climb beyond three quarters of a billion to have a good chance of one.

So if you are a fan, go see it in the theater, if only to take in the scenery.

The End is Nigh for PlanetSide and Legends of Norrath

More Friday afternoon announcements from Daybreak, spotted by Feldon over at EQ2 Wire.

The first to go will be PlanetSide, which will be shut down as of July 1, 2016.

PlanetSide back in the day...

PlanetSide back in the day…

Unsupported and basically free for ages now, its continued existence was largely due to the grace of Smed, who championed the game and its successor, the troubled PlanetSide 2, and a sense of nostalgia.

Smed is gone and nostalgia without financial support only gets you so far, and so the following was posted to the PlanetSide 2 site… because PlanetSide doesn’t have its own anymore.

April and May were really exciting months for us with the release of the new Construction System, base revamp of Indar, and new population caps to improve battle flow. It’s been exciting to watch all of you experiment with base design and shift battles in new directions. A big thanks to all of you who have jumped in to try it out and given us feedback.

While we hope you are as excited as we are about the recent changes, we do have to make a more solemn announcement. On July 1st, at 4:00 PM PT, we will be closing the PlanetSide 1 server. PlanetSide 1 has a very important history with Daybreak Games and a special place in the hearts of those who work on its successor. While we have run the game for free since 2014, due to evolving business needs and technical requirements it has become necessary to conclude this service.

We hope you will take this opportunity to enjoy the remaining time available with each other and please help us give PlanetSide 1 the sendoff it deserves.

And so it goes.  I was never a fan myself, but the game had a dedicated, if small, following.

The next item is Legends of Norrath, which was removed from the EverQuest and EverQuest II clients recently, followed by loot packs from the card game becoming available in the cash shop.  That seemed to be a sign of things to come.  Today there was a post in the forums and on the Legends of Norrath site, accompanied by email notification to subscribers, indicating that the collectable card game would no longer be available after noon on August 17, 2016.  The email notification says:

IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING LEGENDS OF NORRATH

On Aug‌ust 1‌7, 20‌16 at no‌on pac‌ific, the Legends of Norrath Trading Card game server will close.
The monthly All Access Membership claim of Legends of Norrath booster packs and the ability to purchase Legends of Norrath booster packs will no longer be available after Ju‌ly 1‌8, 20‌16 at 10‌AM paci‌fic. Legends of Norrath packs will need to be opened in the LON client and all loot rewards will need to be claimed prior to Aug‌ust 1‌7, 20‌16 at no‌on pacific to ensure your loot rewards are available in EverQuest or EverQuest II.

For more information regarding this announcement, please see the Legends of Norrath website.

Daybreak Game Company LLC

Again, the writing seemed to be on the wall recently.  The forum post indicates that the game has not had an active development for some time.

At one point, just before the announcement of the Daybreak acquisition, Smed seemed to have taken inspiration from Blizzard’s Hearthstone and indicated that SOE might do something with the game.  That clearly never came to pass.

I was never a fan of this game either, and only tinkered with it because as an All Access member I was given free card packs.  The last time I checked I had ~70 unopened packs waiting for my attention.  Now they aren’t even in the EQ or EQII client and I am not sure it is worth the effort to grab the stand alone LON client just to see what they may hold.  And hell, if there was anything I really wanted I will be able to buy it in the cash shop eventually I suppose… if I am willing to buy a pig in a poke.

Random... I hate random...

Random… I hate random…

I will mostly remember LON for using members of the community as models for some of the cards.  I was pretty happy when I finally got the card that had Brent from VirginWorlds on it.

Brent from VirginWorlds got a card

Brent from VirginWorlds

Daybreak continues to trim down.  I do wonder at times if they are planning anything new, or just riding out an extended end game on the few assets of value they have left.

 

Blizzard Admits that WoW Expansions are Just Going to Take Time

I don’t think yearly expansions would be the best things for our players.

-Ion Hazzikostas, Blizzard Dev Q&A Stream, June 16, 2016

My daughter and I were just discussing the possible timing of our inevitable return to Azeroth this week.  WoW Legion is coming at the end of August, the WoW 7.0 patch and pre-expansion events will drop a bit before that (that just went up on the PTR this week), the Warcraft movie just came out, Blizzard is pushing some new player items on their web site, so the time seemed ripe for that discussion.

My daughter thought this coming weekend, which includes Father’s Day here in the US, might be the time.  We could get back on and play together in Azeroth.  I thought that might be a bit too early for us to re-up.

Experience shows that both of us have something of a limited to how long we can play WoW before we wander off to other things.  I am generally good for something between 12 to 18 months before I need a break, while my daughter tends to clock in at about half that.  So I don’t want to start too early.  Waiting a few weeks, maybe for the US Independence Day holiday next month, seemed appropriate.

It was, as I explained to my daughter, about knowing your limitations, an idea brought home early on in yesterday’s Blizzard WoW Legion Live Developer Q&A stream.  You can find the recording of the stream here, though you need to jump ahead to just past the 17 minute mark before anything happens.  The joy of Twitch stream recording.

The stream, which features Assistant Game Director Ion Hazzikostas and Community Manager Josh Allen, delves into all sort of questions from the community.

Ion and Josh live on Twitch

Ion and Josh live on Twitch

If you’re really into the game… well, you’ve probably watched it.  But if you haven’t, there is a lot of decent information about plans and changes and what not.  They can’t tell you when the WoW 7.0 patch will hit… because they don’t know yet… but other details abound.  There will be flying in WoW Legion, for example.

For me though, the stream gets straight to the meat of the elephant in the room, just to screw up a metaphor, with a question about content droughts, which comes in at just about the 23 minute mark.

Seriously, what is the plan?

Seriously, what is the plan?

With this Ion has to come up with a mea culpa as they admit live, on Twitch, that there was such a post-Warlords of Draenor drought because they thought WoW Legion was going to be out a lot sooner.  They admit that, in hindsight, with five expansions worth of experience behind them, that they probably should of known this wasn’t a viable plan.

There is a philosophical moment in there where Ion says that they could do a drop with some new content much sooner, but what distinguishes a WoW expansions, what we have come to expect, are things like to systems, new races, new classes, and things like that which simply take more time to get right.  An expansion every year wouldn’t be what we we expect out of a WoW expansion.

So the plan is to have a lot more post-launch content drops for the WoW Legion expansion.

I have already seen an assumption about this based on the belief that, with the pressure removed to get expansions out more quickly that the cadence of such releases might thus slow down, leading to fewer expansions.

I guess I could see that, but there is still the economic incentive to get expansions out as they still represent a significant pay day for Blizzard.  I doubt they will be letting expansions slip to, say, one every three to four years for that reason alone.

And that payday is multiplied by the fact that expansions tend to be community revival events that bring lapsed subscribers back to the fold.  Expansions need to stay on their current track.

Of course, all of this will mean different things to different people.  I am not sure I have ever stopped playing WoW because I lacked for content, simply because I am pretty sure I have ever lacked for content.  There has always been something else to do in the game.  The limiting factor has generally been my attention span and my desire for a change of scenery now and again.  But that is just me… well, me and my daughter, chip off the old block head that she is.

Anyway, if you are into it, you should probably go watch the video for the same reason I did, which is the reason Ion would like you to as well.

It can be very different hearing somebody actually talk about something in context than reading a summary of that discussion after the fact.  You often end up with trolling, inexplicable quotes like that one I put up at the top of the post just to make this point.

Addendum: We’ll see who else picks up this topic.  Currently there is:

NBI 2016 – The Worst Question Ever and Other Bits of Filler

Here we are, half way through June and I have finally gotten around to writing something for this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative event.

NBI_Logo_450Why the delay?

Well, I’m lazy.  The event is being handled… differently this year.  Everybody was supposed to get on something called Discord for the event, which I declined to do because at this point I don’t want yet another communication channel.  We are also in the fifth turn around the NBI mulberry bush, and every year I think I have dispensed all the dubious advice I can come up with already.  Also, did I mention I am lazy?

Oh, and a bunch of people have already written some excellent stuff, which I would link to if that information wasn’t locked up in Discord or whatever.  I guess it is all in the Twitter stream, but I am not going to go pick out every post from that.  Laziness has already been mentioned.

But then I received a summons.   I got an email notification that there was a message waiting for me over at secret underground NBI headquarters.  Could this be the call to action?  The moment of inspiration that gets me to join in the event?  So I went there immediately and found this:

Houston, we have a permissions problem...

Houston, we have a permissions problem…

That at least woke me up however, and here I am.  So what do I have to add besides a bit of curmudgeonly bile?

Um… sorry, that’s all I’ve got.  But let me direct it onto a specific topic.  I want to talk about what I consider to be the worst question you’ll get as a blogger, gamer, podcaster, streamer, or the like.  And that question is:

Where do you find the time?

You’ll know you’ve truly arrived when you have been asked that question, or one of its many variations.

Part of what I hate about it is that, as questions go, it seems pretty innocuous.  Or it can.  As I noted, the question (sometimes presented as an implied question with a statement) can come in many forms, such as:

  • I wish I had as much free time as you.
  • I wish I had time to do that.
  • Do you have a social life outside of this?
  • How do you do all this and still have a job?
  • I would have to neglect my wife and children to do all this.
  • Don’t you have a life?
  • Are you some sort of basement dwelling troglodyte that you have time for this?

Those are all variations on the same question.  Some are more aggressive than others, but they all sum up to the same thing, that there is something different or wrong with you.  The implication is that you either possess some secret to having extra free time (which you are not sharing) or that you are neglecting some part of your life that you should not.

It is, when you think about it, a somewhat hostile question.  It annoys me when people ask this question, in all its variations, because I see the implications even if the person asking doesn’t.

What makes that question even worse is that it pops into my mind all the time.

I read about somebody who runs an alliance in EVE or leads a raiding guild in WoW or who plays multiple MMOs or even somebody who has a regular weekly group , something I used to be able to manage but which is off the table now, and I seem to automatically think, “I wish I had the time…”

I think that even though I know both the implications and the real answer.  The question still pops into my head unbidden.

But at least knowing the real answer keeps me from putting it on comments on other people’s blogs… most of the time.

So my meager contribution to NBI 2016 is sharing the answer with you.

Everybody finds time for the things they really want to do.

It is that simple.

In our world of the 24 hour clock and life and responsibilities, time is a constraint and, because of that, we will pick the things that are important to us and prioritize them.  There is no magical way to extend the day, so we use the free time we have to do the things we want to do most.

You will find the time to do anything you really, really want to do, and all the more so if it is something you enjoy and that makes you happy.  If all you can do is wish you had the time to do something, you’ve prioritized that something already and it didn’t make the cut.  The “fucks budget,” if you will.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t people who neglect important aspects of their lives, but if your assumption is that anybody who has time to do something that isn’t important to you is doing so, then you are wrong.

Let’s see, what can I tack on to the end of this post to distract from that rather bland bit of so-called wisdom.

Hey, there is this post about why you should read blogs.  It is short.

Bhagpuss has a post about blogging that links out to other NBI posts.  Go read that.

Oh, and there are the actually new bloggers in this year’s NBI.  I had better link to them… I was at least able to find that list… so go visit them.  Now!

Hrmm, this year’s list isn’t all that long, is it?  And no EVE Online bloggers, and I know there have been a few new EVE blogs that have popped up lately.  I guess the word didn’t spread far.

Well, go click on everybody on the list twice I guess.  It won’t take you long.

And, since I haven’t even crossed the thousand word mark yet in this unisightly ramble, how about I link back to all my previous NBI posts from past years so you can wade into the shallow puddle that is my wisdom on the topic.  Here we go:

My dedication to the event over these last four years has been pretty low, but there are a few bits of sage advice in all of that… and links to other blogs.

In the end, I really only have the same advice I hand out every year.

Be the blog you want to read

And even that seems a bit “duh” to me.  Why would you be anything else?

Anyway, who else should I link to here?  It is, in the end, all about the link whoring.

Addendum: See, even Syp doesn’t have all the time in the world.

BB76 – The Sanctity of the Fleet Commander

This month’s EVE Online Blog Banter, number 76 in the series, asks the following:

At fanfest CCP Fozzie proposed a potential new ship class. Let’s call it the fleet commander’s flagship for now. This is to try and prevent “FC Headshotting” where the opposing fleet knows who the FC is and alpha’s them off the field leaving the rest of the fleet in confusion and disarray. Fozzie mentioned a ship with a great tank but no offensive abilities. Is this a good idea? Is FC head-shotting a legitimate tactic? If CCP do go down the route of a “flagship” how might this work? Also is a new ship the answer or is there another way of giving an FC the ability not to be assassinated 12 seconds into the fight without letting players exploit it?

There are a bunch of arguments and assumptions in that package, and I am going to peel out the ones I want and leave the rest behind by asking and answering a few questions.

Do people head shot FCs?

Yes.  As an example, in the currently running Casino War, shooting the opposing FC is pretty much the go-to first move for both sides.  As an example, we went up to Fade to shoot Pandemic Horde and they shot DBRB’s ship repeatedly.  They didn’t manage to pod him however, so people kept giving him ships so we could keep going.  It happens all the time and, we have so many spies in each others fleets that we know FCs are being called specifically.

Is head shotting FCs a problem?

In my opinion, no.

If you are doing fun fights or honor brawls or whatever, like that one Reavers did against Ron Mexxico late last year, then killing the FC first is frowned upon as being unsportsmanlike conduct.  Plus, when you blow up the enemy FC, the other side is likely to leave, so it tends to be a fight ending move.  If you want fights and fun and kill mails, you don’t shoot the enemy FC first.

But in other circumstance, like a war where you have objectives beyond shooting some dudes, the FC is just another potential avenue of attack, just like logi, boosters, tackle, or whatever.  And, as with those other roles, there are already precautions a fleet can take to keep their FC alive.

Should FCs get a special ship?

They have special ships.  They are called command ships, and they come in eight fun flavors, two from each empire faction.  EVE University has a nice article about them.  And they are tough birds already.

Asher's Damnation attracting all sorts of attention

A Damnation command ship attracting all sorts of attention

For example, yesterday’s post was about how our Hurricane fleet got massacred in a fight.  90% of the line ships were blown up.  But you know who got away?  The battle report has them right there at the top, the two FCs… well known and always targeted… in the battle, Thomas Lear and Asher Elias.

Hail to the FCs

Hail to the FCs

Good for them and their shiny command ships.  I know that Thomas was targeted and had both armor and structure damage still as we rode out of the POS shield into the final battle.  So command ships, and fleet precautions, can work to keep FCs alive.

In addition to command ships, which are battlecruisers, CCP gave us command destroyers a while back, so FCs of fleets made up of smaller ships have a tougher option as well.

A Pontifex command destroyer

A Pontifex command destroyer

But are those ships really meant for FCs?

Maybe not… not for the role that FCs actually play in the game.  Command ships seem more focused on providing boosts for a fleet.  Like many ships, they were designed for a role CCP thought we should use, and then have been used for other roles instead.

And since CCP gave command destroyers that extra fun AOE MJD option, they get targeted and shot with extreme prejudice.  An FC flying one of those is waving a red flag and asking for a head shot most days of the week.

So FCs should get a special ship, a flagship or some such, right?

Maybe.

I mean, on the one hand, I love new ships.  New ships attract attention, stir the pot, change the meta, or whatever other metaphor you want to throw in there.  And a special new ship would give CCP a chance to introduce a few new annoying, long skills to train… that people will have trained to V via skill injectors in about 15 minutes.

But CCP’s track record on keeping Genie’s in bottles isn’t so good.  Anybody want to dig up that quote about how many titans they thought would ever be in the game?  I am pretty sure that number was lower than the number lost at B-R5RB.

Players in EVE Online are ingenious, and they end up using things in unintended ways all the time.  So putting a super hardened special FC ship in the game invites abuse.  And putting up a barrier, like making them expensive, is just an invite for the rich to get richer.  We already see fleets setup around Vulture or Slepnir command ships.

NCDot Slepnirs in a bubble

NCDot Slepnir fleet in a bubble

And we have had a demonstration of how ISK translates into power during the current war.

So, while I can come up with any number of suggestions… bigger tank with less weapon mounts, special FC siege mode, nerfs to damage and a boost to target painters or some such… I would be reluctant to endorse anything specific knowing how things have gone in the past.

So no FC Flagship?

I wouldn’t discount the idea entirely, but you would really have to convince me it was a good idea.  And then CCP would have to make four flavors, one for each empire faction, two shield tanked and two armor tanked, only one of which would be the obvious right choice and so on.

Such a thing wouldn’t even have to be a ship.  There could be a fleet commander module that, when fit or activated, boosted shield/armor/hull resists, disabled weapons mounts, and acted as an unjammable target designator or some such.  Just be careful about what it does, because it will be used for things you cannot imagine later on.  Even now I am thinking about fitting such a module on a hauler to make it more gank resistant, so maybe a module isn’t a good idea.

And, as I said up near the top, I don’t think this is a big problem in any case.  Certainly it is not one that CCP needs to divert a lot of development cycles to in order to “solve” it for whatever definition of “solved” you care to choose.

In the end, if somebody tries to head shot your FC, they are sending you a message about what sort of fight they are looking for, and you should respond as you feel fit.

But, I am also not an FC and I fly in fleets that tend to be objective oriented most days of the week, so what doesn’t look like a problem in my corner of New Eden might come with a different perspective elsewhere.

And speaking of different perspectives, here are some other bloggers who have taken a shot at this month’s topic:

Hurricane Massacre

Expecting another run with Nagas again, I logged into EVE Online early to grab two off of the contracts available in Saranen.  There seemed to be plenty available, so somebody had worked to restock the market over night.  Pick your favorite quote about logistics and war.

But when the ping went out to form up for the 02:00 op, the call was for Hurricanes alone.  No Nagas would undock, so I had to grab a Hurricane off contracts in order to go along.  Plenty of those were available as well. Thomas Lear was the FC and, by way of indicating what we might be up to, the message of the day in the fleet window asked that we bring extra T1 ammo.

We were going to shoot a structure.

Thomas would neither confirm nor deny this allegation, just telling people to bring extra ammo.  I had shipped out plenty of cheap ammo for Hurricanes, so I was covered, but people who went to the market in Saranen were faced with some very expensive choices.  Somebody had bought up the T1 ammo and priced it way above market, making faction ammo cheaper by comparison.  A bit of economic warfare.  So people bought faction ammo instead.  I listed some of my T1 ammo and mentioned it in fleet chat, however nobody seemed to notice and I wasn’t wearing my headset with a mic, so couldn’t shout about it in voice coms.  Ah well, somebody will buy it at some point… it was still listed last I checked.

After boosters were setup the fleet, approximately 100 people, undocked through the cloud of Abaddons sitting on the undock and warped off to a gate.  A couple people got tagged and had to dock back up, but most of us had no problem.

We traveled a few jumps to pick up a titan that bridged us up into Pure Blind where we did indeed setup and start shooting a tower.  It was an NCdot money moon in U-INPD in a MOA owned system.  So we went into orbit of the tower and started shooting it while sending drones after the offensive modules to incapacitate them.

Hurricane fleet blazing away at the stick

Hurricane fleet blazing away at the stick

We had a couple of hostiles in system scouting us, but things were quiet for a while until a group of hostiles showed up in local.  NCDot had put together a small bomber fleet to disrupt our POS shot, and disrupt us they did.

When the NCDot bomber force uncloaked and launched against us, the call went out to overheat hardeners.  That I did overheat saved my ship, as I was square in the middle of where they had aimed.  I saw my shields stripped away, then my armor burned off, and finally the very structure of my ship began absorbing the incoming explosions.  I thought I was done for, but the damage stopped with 8% of my structure remaining.  A couple of Hurricanes went down in that run, but most survived.  However, like my ship, the survivors were still heavily damaged.

Meanwhile, reinforcements were coming in to help our foes.  NCDot had put out the call to the other members of the We-Are-Not-A-Coalition Coalition and they were showing up in system.  Thomas warped us off, then brought us to a GSF POS in the system.

However, the POS password wasn’t the standard one you can find by googling “Goon POS password” and he did not know what the actual password was.  So anybody who was in GSF, which was most of the fleet, could safely hole up in the POS while those of us in other alliances had to go make safe spots and bounce around.

While Thomas was trying to get somebody from GSOL maintenance out to reset the POS PIN to let us in, a Guardians of the Galaxy T3 fleet showed up at the POS and started shooting our tower.

A blob of T3s outside of our POS

A blob of T3s outside of our POS

Meanwhile, somebody woke up MOA and told them they had an Imperium POS in one of their systems, so they dragged out a couple of Revelation dreadnoughts to join in the shoot.  Things had turned around and our own tower was the focus.

MOA Revelations exist

MOA Revelations exist

Pandemic Horde also filtered into the system with a mixed frigate and interceptor fleet.  All sorts of people were showing up.

I saw Hendrink Collie again

I saw Hendrink Collie again

In the mean time, the GSOL service tech had made it out to the POS and had set a temporary password so those of us warping between safe spots could rejoin the fleet.  Soon we were all huddled together, orbiting the stick at 500m, and wondering how long it would take our foes to get bored and go away.

Sitting in the POS

Sitting in the POS

At that point we were out numbered and out gunned, but in addition to that we were all still heavily damaged.  Ships orbiting the POS tower all showed visible armor damage.  We looked like a fleet of the undead shambling about the stick, giant patches of burned armor exposed.

Skins can't hide the damage

Skins can’t hide the damage

We were a shield tanked fleet, and shields do regenerate.  However, we still often count on armor and hull to act as a buffer while we hope that logi can get to us and start repping our shields.  And, for me, that secondary buffer was mighty thin indeed.

No armor, 8% hull, and heat damage on the hardeners

No armor, 8% hull, and heat damage on the hardeners

So we sat in orbit for a while inside the POS shields and waited.

Then Thomas told us all to wake up.  Asher Elias had pinged for a reinforcement fleet and was going to be arriving shortly.  At that point we were going to leave the POS shields and engage the enemy.

We stopped orbiting the stick on our own and anchored up on Thomas.  He made a few turns back and forth as we waited, then headed for the edge of the shields, then end of safety, and started calling targets.

I had managed to lock up and hit a Guardian before it exploded, then moved on to a Devoter where I scored the final blow, giving my Hurricane a temporary kill mark.  Very temporary indeed, as the NCDot bomber fleet had uncloaked already and bombs were on their way.

I overheated my hardeners again, annoyed that my ship hadn’t come with any nanite repair paste and that I hadn’t bothered to check and grab some before we left, and waited for the hammer to fall as I started shooting the next target.  My shields went down by leaps as each bomb hit.  There was a short pause in the pulses of the attack as my shields lingered at the hairy end of being gone.  I thought for a brief second that maybe I might survive a bit longer.  And then another bomb pulsed and the ship disintegrated around me and I was in my pod.

I am sure I was not alone.  Those who did not go with me on that round no doubt went soon thereafter, as the bombs were not done hitting and my pod was destroyed with the next explosion, putting me back in the station in Saranen.

There were calls on coms to reship and be ready to return, but I doubted that we were going to go back.  The bulk of our fleet, damaged earlier by a well aimed bomb run, had been finished off by the same bombers.

The battle report shows that we lost almost all of our ships in the engagement, totaling up to 15.3 billion ISK while only inflicting 4.43 billion ISK in damage on our foe, a ratio of almost 3.5 to 1.

Not a good day for the USTZ 02:00 op.  And the daily Astrahus in Saranen was destroyed as well.

We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Not Enough Nagas

One of the recent changes in The Imperium, announced publicly on the Meta Show this past weekend, is a plan to run a number of fleet ops at standard times every night, each one having a regular doctrine and mission.  I strongly suspect that this is mostly to boost participation in fleets by allowing people to plan their time in advance, as opposed to waiting for a Jabber ping to show up (or not show up) when you have some free time and are able to play.

As it turns out, this totally works for me, as one of the standard op times is 02:00 EVE time (UTC), which translates to 7pm local time here in California.  As an early riser (the alarm goes off at 5:30 am for me) 7pm is about the point in the evening when I have enough time left to commit to one more hour-or-more thing before starting to wrap things up and head to bed.

While I am not going to commit to being in that fleet every night, if you want to shoot me, 02:00 in Saranen seems a good bet.

This fleet op is set to accompany an Astrahus citadel finishing up its build cycle and going into its initial vulnerability time, so as to incent our foes to show up as well.  We’re kind of looking for things to keep us busy during later US prime time I guess… attacking sovereignty is left up to Euro and Aus time zones… so we’re sacrificing a citadel nightly for the sake of entertainment and a chance to shoot some foes.

We also have a new doctrine, which we plan to use during that op, centered on the Naga battlecruiser with a long range sniping fit.  I am told it can hit out to 300km with optimal skills.

My Naga in the fleet

My Naga in the fleet

I was keen to try that out, having about optimum skills for this amongst my nearly 160 million skill points, and doubly so since Asher was going to be leading this fleet.  I got on early and bought a Naga off contract in anticipation.

It is a good thing I did so, as the remaining Naga contracts went quickly.  One of the problems with the doctrine is that the Naga is a specialized ship… a lightly tanked long range sniper battlecruiser that can fit battleship rail guns… that isn’t all that popular, so stock in Jita was limited and sold out quickly.

So, while production gets sorted out to meet demand, the doctrine has to run with both Nagas and artillery fit Hurricanes in order to fill out a fleet.  As you can see in the screen shot above, there were a lot of Hurricanes along for the ride.

The tactics are essentially the same as our hit and run Hurricane fleet.  We land on grid, align out, lock up the designated target and shoot, when they are about to go down we are already building up to warp out in order to limit our exposure.  We have done this a bunch of times in Hurricanes.

Landing in an asteroid belt as a turn-around point

Landing in an asteroid belt as a turn-around point

The enemy knows this and has adapted as well.  The have their long range, beam fit Abaddons together with a screen of tacklers ready to burn into range where ever we land in order to grab a few of us before we can warp off.  Those so stuck get zapped in short order by the Abaddons.

So last night’s battle was largely between us and hostile tackle in Devoter heavy interdictors.  With the Hurricanes along, we had to land close enough for them to shoot, under 90km or so, which is a lot closer than the Nagas would generally want to land.

In some ways this was a boon for the Nagas.  We got to run scan resolution scripts in our sensor boosters and our shortest range, highest damage ammunition in our guns, so we could lock fast and hit hard.  The kill mails tell the tale in the regard.  As an example, with this kill mail you can see Nagas top the list for damage done.  I am at the top of the list and did three times as much damage as the top Hurricane, which had to fit lower damage, long range ammo.

Unfortunately, as noted, that put us within reach of enemy tackle, so on each run we were trading a Devoter for 3-6 Hurricanes.  Three is a sustainable trade, six is a losing deal.

We were probably lucky that they seemed to favor grabbing Hurricanes over Nagas.  Reshipping into another Hurricane was easy enough.  There were lots on contract.  And Hurricanes were both cheaper and doing less damage against the Nagas as individual ships.  But when I finally got tackled and blown up on a pass, I warped back to the station to find no Nagas left to buy.

I had a Hurricane handy though, so I refit that to meet fleet requirements and rejoined the fight, only to get potted again on the first pass.  Somebody opted to pod me which, since I had no implants, just got me back to the station faster.  Having lost two battlecruisers, I decided to head out again in a Crucifier in order to put range damps on the heavy interdictors, hoping to thwart their tackle attempts.

However, by that point the op was being wound down.  There were a couple more warps and then we docked up.  The ISK was was heavily slanted against us, with us losing almost 2.5 times in value compared to our foes per the battle report.

Helping weigh the balance against use was a group of smart bombing Rokhs that DBRB flew into the hostiles, an action that, if understood coms correctly, did not go as planned and yielded zero kills.

But it looked pretty on the field

But the smart bombs looked pretty on the field

And, of course, the Astrahus was blown up as well, adding to the ISK count against us.

Still, it was a quick, fun, and exciting operation, and fellow TNT and Black Sheep Down pilot Zurvon Starr came out of it better than I did, getting on twice as many kill mails during the fight and earning two kill marks on his Naga, which survived.

Anyway, I applied for my SRP, which was in my account when I checked this morning, so I remain ISK rich and able to come back for the next fleet.  We shall see how the Naga situation plays out.  I will be sure to check in early to grab one before the contracts disappear.

I also suspect that we will have to adapt our own tactics as the enemy has adapted theirs.