Monthly Archives: November 2016

November in Review

The Site

I got another achievement this month.

A thousand of you hit that button

A thousand of you hit that button

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

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

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

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

One Year Ago

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

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

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

Then BlizzCon came and I had to score my list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I announced the winners of my Azeroth travel poster contest.

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

And we said farewell to LEGO Universe.

Ten Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most Viewed Posts in November

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

Search Terms of the Month

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

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

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

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

Spam Comment of the Month

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

EVE Online

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


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

Pokemon Go

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

Current end of month stats:

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

Pokemon Sun & Moon

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


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

World of Warcraft

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

Coming Up

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

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

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

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

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

On the Run with Pokemon Sun (and Moon)

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

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

Coming in Q4 2016

Now Playing at Our House

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

Which one will you choose?

The usual grass, fire, and water starter Pokemon

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

Ah well.

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

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

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

Ongoing circus acts

Ongoing circus act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alola Region Map

That white platform in the middle of the islands

I will carry on from there tonight.

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

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

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

They look so festive when festooned

They look so festive when festooned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trapped chest

Trapped chest

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

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

That was the end of that… sort of…

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

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

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

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

Another chest with explosives

Another chest with explosives

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

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

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

The third map

The third map

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

Bullet Points on Black Friday

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

Pokemon Sun & Moon Scare

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

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

Pokemon Go Holiday Bonus

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

Death to The Mittani

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

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

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

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


Honest Game Trailers – Pokemon X & Y

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


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

A Secluded Mansion in Minecraft

With the Ascension expansion in EVE Online and Pokemon Sun & Moon having landed last week, I was perhaps a bit surprised when I ended up playing more Minecraft than anything else over the weekend and since.

Of course, there was a Minecraft update and Aaron’ mansion adventure to inspire.  After that I decided I wanted to go find one as well.  That meant getting one of the new cartographer villagers to spawn, since each one only sells a map to a single woodland mansion.  I headed to one of the villages I had walled in, lit, and tended to, added a bunch of additional doors (as the number of doors dictates the maximum population of a village) and started feeding the current villagers their favorite things to get them to produce new villagers.  I managed to get a cartographer on the second try and, after he grew up and I stuffed him full of paper to encourage his trading, he offered me a new woodland mansion map.

The maps are somewhat generic looking, giving you a general sketch of the area where the mansion is placed.  It also puts a little marker representing the hold, which shows your position relative to the destination.  The marker gets bigger when you get close, and once you get on the actual map grid, it begins to fill in like a regular in-game map.  I forgot to take a screen shot of my initial map, so here are a couple of samples from the wiki.

A cartographer with woodland mansion and ocean monument maps

A cartographer with woodland mansion and ocean monument maps

Map in hand, I put together some supplies… a full stack of food, a set of tools, four stacks of torches because I like to light things, flint and tinder for when I really want to light thing up, a boat, 10 obsidian blocks, and a stack of wood.  I didn’t have any wool handy from where I set out, so I took a pair of clippers along as well, hoping to shear some sheep as I went.  That actually worked out well, as sheep were plentiful at various points.

My map showed the mansion I was seeking was northeast of where I was (Aaron’s mansion was to the west) so I set out to find it.  I left our explored area north of the prismarine bridge on the rail line.  North of there is ocean, so I was hoping to travel as far as I could by boat, which is both fast and doesn’t require you to stop at night.

And, as it happened, I did manage to make much of the trip by boat, though I did have to cross stretches of land at times, including the last stretch.  I moved northeast when I could, trying to get my little marker to move.  Eventually I found myself lined up on the east-west axis, and just had to travel north.  After a couple hours of travel I eventually found myself on the map grid and closing in on the mansion.  My path was a little more wandering than Aaron’s, as a render of the world after I arrived shows.

Aaron, straight west, me, northish...

Aaron, straight west, me, northish…

I was up past the -26,000 line on the x axis, though still lined up with our core area on the z axis.  But I had found the mansion.

The mansion in the woods

The mansion in the woods

Following Aaron’s example, I built a small house outside the front step of the mansion.  There was plenty of wood to hand, being in the middle of a canopy forest, so I was able to build all the amenities.  I also setup a furnace, fueled by wood, in order to turn wood into charcoal to resupply my torch supply, which had run short.  And even still there was so much forest about that I started setting fire to it just to get a some sky above me.  Slash and burn exploration.

Burn baby burn... also my wood hut

Burn baby burn… also my wood hut

I did managed to not burn down the mansion by removing trees that were up against it before I started setting things alight.

The mansion amid the burned woods

The mansion amid the burned woods… the remaining wood is easy to harvest

With more light shining everywhere, I was feeling better about diving into the mansion.  Aside from the usual monsters that spawn in the dark, there were some vindicators and evokers, the new “illagers,” to take care of.  Both seemed susceptible to ranged fire, so I stood back with my bow and killed them.  The vexes, summoned by the evokers, were the most difficult to deal with.

The mansion cleared, I explored its various rooms and stowed away my loot… including five totems of the undying.

That done, I was there, more than 20km from the nearest outpost, with a big mansion and dwindling supplies.  The mansion was a great place but, when it comes to the usual real estate litmus test, it failed on the top three items, “location, location, location.”  I was sort of stuck.

I did manage to pick up some additional supplies.  Along the way I found a desert temple, which I setup as a living station.  On clearing that out, I obtained some watermelon seeds and a saddle.  I also picked up a potato somewhere, probably from a zombie.

The saddle came in handy, as there were a lot of horses in the fields not too far from the mansion.  A lot of horses.  I think they must have really upped the spawn rate for horses.

A few of the horses within sight of the mansion

A few of the horses within sight of the mansion

I took the seeds and my one potato and started a farm to build up my food supply.  One potato became three, three became seven, and so on until I had a couple of rows growing.

The horse hanging about the farm

The horse hanging about the farm

I also had to dig the usual mine, so I began to tunnel down to level 12 in order to start collecting iron, diamonds, and cobblestone for the next project.  The next project was, of course, setting up some sort of link to home.

I had dragged along 10 blocks of obsidian in order to make a nether portal.  My idea was to do what we did with Aaron in reverse.  I would portal into the nether, get up into the roof, and start a transit tunnel headed south for the main hub.  That seemed easy enough.  I just needed a bunch of cobblestone for a tower up into the roof.

So I built the portal in the foyer of the mansion, lit it, and stepped through carefully.  It came out on a flat outcropping of netherrack, high up, but not too high, over the usual lake of lava.  I build a building of cobblestone around it, leaving a hole in the roof to start my climbing tower.

The tower went along easily enough, my main problem being cobblestone supplies.  I had to go back and mine more in the world.  And then I got to the roof of the nether and began to feel a bit of anxiety.  I didn’t want to bore straight up through the netherrack, lest I hit a lava patch and have it pour straight down on me.  So I expanded my current platform a bit and tried digging at an angle, just to poke up into things.  I was at about level 95 and I only needed to get up to around 119 to be level with our transit hub.

And, of course, I hit a lava bubble.  It wasn’t bad.  It was pouring down the side of my tower, all I had to do was plug it up.

And I missed.  And missed again, and then panicked as the lava flowed towards me, then dropped into the tower and plugged the top to keep any lava from pouring straight down into my portal room.

So now I was in a bit of a fix, with lava pouring all over my work.  So I got myself up on the roof of the portal building and started building a repair tower to get myself high enough to re-route and plug the lava leak.

Lava pouring down

Lava pouring down

After a couple of false starts, I was doing well getting up the side when I heard the cry of a ghast, followed quickly by the sound of it launching a missile at me.  I had fought off a couple of them already, but I was standing in a precarious spot at that moment and its shot knocked me right into the lava flow.

I quickly jumped out and off the side tower, heading down into the portal room and through into the world, hoping to be able to jump into the little pond by my farm before I died.  I did not make it, and my gear was strewn about the foyer as I died.

On the plus side, my gear was safe and close to hand.  On the downside, all my levels had disappeared, and with them my ability to repair my diamond pick, which was already showing yellow on its wear bar.  Levels are used to repair things, and without them my having the iron for an anvil and diamonds to the repair job were not much good.

Still, I was at least together.  I got back up on the repair tower and eventually plugged the lava flow at its source, then finished more drive up into the roof of the nether.  I hollowed out a room and moved the portal up there, by which point my diamond pick was into the red for wear.

I took some time to ride around and see if I could scout a good overland horse path to the ocean, from which I could sail back to our explored area.  That still might be viable, but it will take some time.  It will still likely be quicker to tunnel through the nether to our transit hub and then lay rail.  It just looks like I might end up doing it with iron picks, which mine slower and wear out much more quickly.

So there I am, stuck far from home, building a new one and a road in between the two.

Tribute Comes Alive!

Back in early October NCDot, Pandemic Legion, and the usual assortment of hangers on announced that they were going to invade Circle of Two’s space in Tribute and take it from them.  Pandemic Horde coveted the system of M-OEE8, which its easy access to Jita, so they and all their friends were going to go get it.

Horde has a vision

Horde has a vision

This was exciting news and seemed, in some ways, the final encore of the Casino War as the final pre-war resident of the region, Circle of Two, was set to be evicted.  Of those who invaded the north, TEST was CO2’s only major ally.

Of course, the only reason CO2 lasted that long in the north is that they sold our the Imperium before the first battle in their territory even began.  Stewing territorial grievances (among other things they resented having TNT, my alliance, in Tribute from the day we showed up) and bad cash management got them to switch sides, hand over intel, and actively join the fight against the Imperium.

As you can imagine, the thought of the Circle of Traitors getting their own comeuppance was a happy one.  I dubbed the whole thing the Schadenfreude War, as the two sides grinding against each other was going to be entertaining no matter who won, just so long as there was blood.

TMC and EN24 picked up the story right away.  War is always big news.


But rather than a supercapital blitzkrieg, it was more of a sitzkrieg, a phoney war in space.  There were a few skirmishes, but the greater effort seemed to be going into propaganda creation for Reddit. (Examples collected here and here.)  The TEST baby dino propaganda was especially good, I hope somebody has collected it all up somewhere.  And then there was the magnificent Be In NCDot piece.

So adorable

So adorable

Propaganda without a war… well, that pretty much defines the EVE Online subreddit most days, cesspit that it is.  At one point my going theory was that NCDot was attempting to slowly bankrupt CO2 by dropping bait titans in order to kill off all of CO2’s tackle ships.

The was was dull and other events overtook it.  The Alliance Tournament, the coming Ascension expansion, the end of gambling in New Eden, and EVE Vegas all took their turns in the spotlight as Tribute simmered away.  There were no headlines about it on the various EVE Online sites, though both the major news sites, EN24 and INN, seemed to be pretty quiet overall.  I didn’t so much give up hope for that comeuppance as forgot it was even an option.

But the war apparently ground on without me paying it any attention, so that this past week I was surprised to see NCDot talking up the war in their recent state of the alliance as well as a reports of a battle in M-OEE8.  I headed on over to DOTLAN to check the Tribute map, and it looks like the aggressors have been busy.

Tribute - November 22, 2016

Tribute – November 22, 2016

Pandemic Legion, Pandemic Horde, and NCDot now hold 16 former CO2 systems in Tribute, with more under siege including CO2’s capital system, M-OEE8, where NCDot has taken the ihub.

So the war has progressed, and that moment of schadenfreude for those of us in our new homes in Delve may come to pass.  There is also the usual null sec symmetry to the whole thing.  Back in 2012 I was there when we took UMI-KK in Tribute War of 2012 from NCDot, after which they pretty much gave up and moved south.  Now they are back again, invading down the same route we took, scooping up those very same systems the left behind four years back.

Minecraft, Llamas, and a Mansion

I mentioned in passing last week that the previous Monday saw the release of Minecraft 1.11, the Exploration Update.

Minecraft 1.11

Minecraft 1.11

Two of the new items that came in with this update were woodland mansions and llamas.

I was, of course, keen to find me some llamas.  You can tame them and then dress them up to give them a festive look.

Aaron, keen for a new challenge, was more interested in the woodland mansions.  Finding one, however, was the thing.  They are rare, they are reported to spawn at least 10K blocks away from the spawn point, and you need to find them in territory that has not been generated yet.

Fortunately, the 1.11 update also includes a new village NPC called the cartographer.  They wear the same white coat as the librarian in villages.  Once properly primed, they will sell you exploration maps.  There are two flavors of such maps, one that will guide you to an ocean monument (boring, I know where several of those are, not including the one Aaron took over and turned into a guardian farm), and the other will direct you to a woodland mansion.

Aaron got right on that, breeding a cartographer in his villager mall, though the first I heard of it was in an email from him to the group announcing that he had found a woodland mansion.  Since he was already there, I downloaded a copy of our world and rendered and updated map to see where it was.  Sure enough, I found his mansion.

Woodland Mansion on the map

Woodland Mansion on the map

That is the mansion, with a little dirt structure Aaron build outside the front door to act as his camp.  The mansions are pretty bit structures.

Of course, the other thing the newly rendered map showed was how far from our core explored area he had to venture to find this new structure.

Straight line to the Mansion

Straight line to the Mansion

That long, straight explored part jutting out from the west of the main map, that was path to the mansion.  It is admirably straight.  Of course, I wanted to go see the new thing in the world.  Getting there though…

Aaron reported that the mansion was at about the coordinates x -21,000 z -6,000.  The nearest easily traveled to spot in the explored world was the prismarine bridge on the great rail loop.  It stood at about x -1,000 z -6,300.  So just 20km to travel.  For perspective, the great rail loop is about 22.5 km, full round trip, and it takes a few day/night cycles while moving at minecart speeds.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk/row my way out to the new mansion.

So I started checking out our nether roof transportation network.  Traveling in the nether gets you 8 blocks forward on the surface for every block you move there.  I thought that the nether rail line to the prismarine bridge might be a good place to start down there.  But then I discovered a rail line Aaron had dug out to where he planned to create a wither farm at some point.  That line ended at x -754 z -710, which put it well on its way to the nether coordinates of x -2,650 z -750 where a nether portal would put any traveler close to the mansion.

I was there, had my diamond pick with the mend enchant, so started digging through the netherrack towards those coordinates.  I didn’t want to walk, but if I can build infrastructure, I guess that is a different story.  From where I was it was just about 2,000 blocks to go, digging a tunnel 2 blocks wide and 3 blocks high.

Actually, clearing the ~12,000 blocks to get there was less of a chore than doing something with those blocks once they had been dug.  The pile up in stacks of 64 in your inventory and, not liking to leave things cluttering the tunnel, I ended up having to run back to the start point of the dig, where there were a couple of chests, to dump the netherrack as it filled up my inventory.

I dug for quite a while, ending up close to the -1,600 line on the x axis, though I did have to travel back to the zombie pigmen harvesting farm to let experience repair my pick.  That is the joy of the mend enchant.  I also laid some track I found down there to start the line to the mansion and to make traveling back and forth to the dig easier.

At some point I called it a night, but Aaron had gotten back to out nether travel nexus and picked up where I left off, pushing the bore the rest of the way.  He also put up a portal about 250 blocks down the new line, with a stop, so that it came up where he had seen llamas during his trip to the mansion.

A family of llamas

A family of wild llamas in the high peaks

I caught him online the next day when he was just about done with the work.  I rolled down the line to its end point, found it empty, then started to roll back the other way when I ran into Aaron.  The problem with single track rail systems.  He was coming back with some obsidian blocks in order to make the portal.  So we rolled on back to the end again and he put together the blocks.

Aaron building the portal in the nether

Aaron building the portal in the nether

Once together he sparked it up and let me go through.  Of course it was night time, raining, and the portal was in a tree, out of which I promptly fell, leaving us to fight zombies, spiders, and skeletons.  The raid killed off the fire enchant on my bow making killing stuff all the more annoying.

The new portal in its tree

The new portal in its tree

But it was at the right location and on the surface rather than way down in some deep cavern.

during a lull in the fighting I built some steps up to the portal and went back into the nether while Aaron used the bed in his mud hut to advance the world to morning.  Then the sun came up… but since we were in a forest, there were still a few more things to kill.  But after that I was able to actually turn towards the mansion itself.

The entry

The entry

I have to say, that as an auto-generated structure in Minecraft, the woodland mansion is pretty impressive.  Aaron had already cleared out the resident bad guys, so I was able to explore the place relatively safely… there was a creeper hanging out, because there is always a creeper hidden somewhere.

Mansions have a variety of possible rooms according to the wiki, ranging from functional to silly.

The giant chicken room

The giant chicken room

There is even lighting and carpeting throughout, though there isn’t quite enough light by default to keep mobs from spawning.  As a structure it would be a fine place to make your base, especially now that it has rail access to our central hub. (Though even rail travel, moving 8x surface speed, it takes a good seven minutes to get out to the portal.)

Then the question was where to find the next one for those of us who wanted to try our hand with the new illager NPCs.  As it turns out, any given cartographer villager will only give out a map to a single woodland mansion.  In order to find another one, you need to buy it from a different villager.  Time to expand the villager population in hopes of getting another map… and go check out the llamas.

Meanwhile, as an update to the previous Minecraft post about map art, Aaron took what he learned and put together another piece.  Here it is when viewed from ground level.

Some colors in a field

Some colors in a field

Given that, can you guess what the end product looks like when on a map?

(Result here)

EVE Online Passes 50K Players Online Again

Today saw the concurrent user count in EVE Online pass the 50,000 mark, and the day is not over yet. (Though we are heading out of EUTZ prime time.)

Approximately 19:00 UTC

Approximately 19:00 UTC

Yesterday saw the count pass the 46K mark, surpassing the 2015 high water mark of 45,637 set back in January of that year.

The 2015 high watermark

The 2015 high watermark

We’re still 15K players shy of the all time high player count of 65,303 set back in May of 2013, but numbers are significantly higher than they have been, as the online peaks have been capping out just beyond the 30K mark on weekends since the Casino War wound down back in June.

This all comes because the Ascension expansion, launched this past Tuesday, added the “Alpha clone” option which allows players to play without subscribing, a feature which brought with it a spike in new character creation.

You can see when free hit this past week

You can see when free hit this past week

The catch is that Alpha clones only have access to a limited range of skills to work with, and they train those skills at half the rate of subscribers.

Of course, the question of the hour is whether or not all these new players… or returning old players… or current players just making alts and checking out the revised new player experience… will stick around and add some money to CCP’s bottom line.  I have noted in the past that every MMO free conversion is rewarded with a spike in players, but the “happy time” after such conversions can be limited unless the game in question continues to adapt in order to keep players.

Data, aside from the first screen shot, taken from EVE Offline, which keeps a historical record of user count and new user creation.

Pokemon Sun and Moon Arrive Today

We arrived at Friday and the fifth of five new expansions I planned to mention this week, Pokemon Sun & Moon.

Waiting for UPS deliver my copy

Waiting for UPS deliver my copy

You might take issue with that sentence at the top of the post.  First, I only mentioned the Minecraft update in passing on Monday and, second, Pokemon Sun & Moon are new games and not an expansion.

Well, I did mention the Minecraft update, along with the addition of llamas, and it depends on how you look at the Pokemon series of games.

On one hand, over the 20 year lifetime of the Pokemon series there have been seven distinct generations made up of twenty different titles, and whenever you buy a new one you start out from scratch.  There is no character continuity as in an MMORPG, where an expansion changes the world and its mechanics, but leaves your characters in place.  They are classic buy-to-play, forget when you’re done console titles.

On the other hand, you can make the argument, as I have in the past, that the Pokemon series has literally been the same damn game remade twenty times over with only minor updates along the way.  As I noted in my post about playing the Virtual Console version of Pokemon Blue, the game sprang into existence pretty much fully formed and the originals were completely familiar to somebody like me who only started playing Pokemon during the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era.

Basically, each successive generation can be said to be an expansion, bringing with them changes to mechanics, new zones, new story lines, and new NPCs along with updates to graphics and supported platforms.  The catch has been that a pwipe between each release.

Anyway, that is more food for thought than a point a view I will fight to defend.  I would rather just go and play the game.  And the game should be arriving on my doorstep today.

I am actually pretty interested to play the new title, enough that I went and played the demo earlier this week.

While Pokemon Sun & Moon brings some of the expected updates to the table… a new region, a new set of Pokemon, a new story line, and a new nefarious organization in the form of Team Skull… there are actually some other updates that are unexpected in the continuum of the franchise’s 20 year history.

Probably the biggest change is the end of Hidden Machines, or HMs, those Pokemon moves that you need to saddle your team with in order to be able to navigate the world.  Replacing surf, cut, rock smash, strength, fly, and the rest is an ability to call upon Pokemon that can do those moves for you, but which need not be in your party.  Given that HMs also prevented you from transferring Pokemon to other games… the HMs change up a bit each generation… this is actually a pretty big deal and an alteration of a mechanic that has been in place since day one.

Then there is a big quality of life change.  When in battle now, your moves will indicate how effective they will be against your opponent.  One of the reasons I played the demo was that I wanted to see how they were going to implement this.  No longer will you have to memorize the move vs. type chart, it will say on the move itself whether it is normal, super effective, or not very effective.  Or mostly it will, if the demo is an example of how things will work, as the indicators were missing occasionally as I played through.

That change actually sounds like Game Freak might have taken a peek at how Blizzard did pet battles in World of Warcraft.  The effectiveness indicator has been a thing in WoW pet battles since day one as simple green up arrows and red down arrows for super effective and not very effective.

And also something that sounds a bit like WoW pet battles, wild Pokemon can now call for assistance, so you may end up facing multiple Pokemon when walking through the ever present tall grass.

On the possibly disturbing side of the change coin, Pokemon Sun & Moon also does away with gym battles.  Again, another part of the foundation of any Pokemon game up until now has been the need to defeat the gym leader in every big town… eight in all generally, though I seem to recall that number being doubled in one game… as you move through the region where the game is set.  How many gym badges you have has been a measure of progress through the game.

Instead there will be trials on each island, and each trial will be different, or so I have read.  Can that replace the traditional gym system we’ve grown to love, with gym mazes often being an art themselves?  We shall see.

And then there is the region itself.  As with past games, the new region, Alola, is based off of a real world location.  In this case, it is the Hawiian islands.

Alola Region Map

Alola Region Map

That part is actually fine.  However, the tradition is to change up things in the region to make it different from the real world.  So in Alola they don’t say, “Aloha!” as a greeting, they say, “Alola!” which is going to grate on me… a lot… until I train my brain just to substitute in the word, “Aloha.”  That might just be a problem for me though.  I have family in Hawaii and have spent a good chunk of time there.

There are other, more standard new items.  There is the inevitable new battle mode, the Battle Royal.  There are new Global Link options, new ways to connect and battle your friends over the internet, a new type of attack in the form of Z-moves, and the usual enormous set of side tasks and end game things to do outside of the main story line.

Of course, these are all things I have yet to actually experience, save for the demo, which was brief. (Though playing the demo gets you a special Pokemon, as does ordering early, as noted here.)  All of that comes after the first big decision, choosing the starter Pokemon.

Which one will you choose?

The starter Pokemon choices

None of them thrill me, having seen their final evolutions.

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

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

So I will go with the safe bet, Litten, the fire Pokemon.  Fire always works well, water is generally okay, and grass is often hard mode.

Anyway, my weekend gaming plans are set.  Amazon should have my copy to me some time today.