Monthly Archives: August 2017

August in Review

The Site

Despite there being no official Blaugust event this year, I went through and posted every single day this month all the same, sometimes more than once a day, ending up with 38 posts this month, the most I have done in a single month in the last few years.  Does Blaugust bring quality as well as quantity however?

Meanwhile, I managed to get a double hit this month from CCP Phantom’s This Week in EVE post.  The weekly post is linked in the EVE Online launcher and you should be clicking on it every week if you want to keep up with the game.  Plus it includes links out to the community.   In issue #163 a couple of weeks back there was a link to both a post I wrote here and one from my EVE Online Pictures blog

One interesting bit about getting the link is that the new EVE Online forums shows how many people clicked on a given link in a post.  So, for example, the link to the picture post on EVE Online Pictures showed 752 people had clicked on it at some point.

Link click counter… with mouse over text that also says 752

This represents something of an opportunity to check WP.com blog stats.  If the EVE forums say 752 people clicked on it then I can match that up with what the WP.com stats say for that post.

Of course, in attempting to reconcile this, we’re back to usual disconnect when it comes to web stats.  At the time I took that screen shot indicating 752 clicks WP.com was telling me that the post in question had a total of 1,032 page views, leaving a 280 click-wide gap between the two numbers.

Now, not everybody who clicked on the post came from the forums.  My posts there get linked over on EVE Bloggers and Total EVE.  And even in the forums there is the German version of the post where it was linked as well.  Still, I couldn’t make the numbers add up, or even come close.  So we remain stuck with the premise “all web stats are lies.”

One Year Ago

It was really Blaugust, so I was posting every… single… day even though it was supposed to be the “super relaxed” version of the event.

After spilling Mr. Yoshida’s delicious sauce over my ancient cell phone, I finally joined the smart phone boom with an iPhone 5S.  Of course, that meant playing Pokemon Go, something my wife does better than I do.

I tried to come to grips with the constant whine that every MMORPG should cater to every single play style by asking if any MMORPG had ever managed to find a new audience after launch.  I remain unconvinced that it has ever worked.

Blizzard was telling people that World of Warcraft was still the number one subscription MMORPG. But after their vow of silence on subscription numbers, that brag seemed a bit empty.

In the game though things were looking up as the pre-Legion expansion event , the demon invasions, proved to be a boon to leveling up alts as they built up momentum.  And I still had that level 100 boost with the expansion to look forward to.

And then WoW Legion launched and it was on to the Broken Isles and class halls and what not.

I speculated what WoW expansions would look like if they were done like Pokemon games.

The Stormhold server in EverQuest II was facing a unlock voting crisis over the Rise of Kunark expansion.  It failed the first two votes, and failing a third would put votes in a moratorium for a while.  However, it passed on the third try.  I also shared my secret EQII shame.  Of course, with the coming of WoW Legion I was out of the game… like Legends of Norrath… just in time to miss some deals.

In EVE Online we had the YC118.7 update.  I was wondering if better PvE could save the game, though I remain unsure as to what “better” would really look like.

I was also celebrating my ten year anniversary with EVE Online.  Meanwhile CCP had a free to play plan lined up for New Eden.  It looked like it had some holes in it though… which we later learned it did.

Down in the southwest of New Eden the Imperium had set up shop in Sakht and was banging on the door of Delve, dropping citadels, blowing up citadels, and fighting LUMPY over sov timers.  Despite threats to keep the Imperium down for good, the locals in Delve got very little support in their fight and we were into the region shortly.

Back up north I was able to slip my last belongings out of the newly quiet system of Saranen.  Meanwhile, Executive Outcomes, which rode out the struggle as part of the Imperium, parted ways once the Casino War was over.

And somewhere along the line I found the time to get out Half-Life 2 and give it another spin.

Five Years Ago

Star Trek Online was totally not dying and Star Wars: The Old Republic was totally not a failure as it shed more customers and announced it was going free to play.

Then Vanguard suddenly went free to play ahead of schedule, no doubt trying to get in early and avoid the crowd.

It was announced that NCsoft would be closing down City of Heroes.

Torchlight II gave us a launch date.  But not before giving us a date for a date.  But there was no date for the promised MacOS version.

Turbine delayed Riders of Rohan, but continued pushing the crazy stuff you would see.

SOE decided that you can afford integrity only after you pay the bills, and threw in with lockboxes.  What happened to the implied social contract?

Guild Wars 2 went live at last, thwarting Blizzard’s nefarious scheme.

I was paid up on my 1 year subscription for World of Warcraft, but Blizzard wouldn’t let me cancel further payment.  They must have been concerned about subscribers, having dropped more subs than SWTOR had left.

Speaking of year long commitments, Trion liked that Blizzard idea so much, they did it themselves and gave us an ugly mount for it right away.  Oh, and they got rid of faction group restrictions.  What population problems?  The instance group started on its attendance slide, with just four of us trying Runic Descent.  At least we had instant adventures.  Or was that instant levels?

In EVE Online, there was a revamp of mining ships.  I listed them out and wondered which would become the most popular.  In the end, the Mackinaw won I think.  All the while CSM7 seemed intent on proving that the thing they loved most in EVEOnline was themselves.

Meanwhile, having been asked by TEST to leave the war down in Delve, the CFC got into a scrap with Northern Coalition over moons.  We fought in Venal and some monkeys lost a titan.  We were staging in QPO for a thrust into Tribute with the goal of taking a forward base at UMI-KK.

AWESOMESAUCE.LIVE was announced.  Only the fact that it was later cancelled preserved my faith in humanity.

Finally, I took the crazy train out of Barstow and threw out a few movie reviews.

Ten Years Ago

I won something in a contest!  A Warp Drive Active Shirt!

And speaking of EVE Online, I started down the training path to get my alt flying a Hulk.  As with most such ventures, it began with mining in the modest Bantam frigate and the oddly shaped Osprey cruiser.  Also, our corp, the Twilight Cadre was founded.  I also wrote up a piece on how to find an agent in EVE Online (without external resources) that was one of the most viewed posts on this site for quite a stretch. It only took CCP four years to make the whole thing less convoluted.

I also had a wish list for the game that included ship skins and a training queue.  Got those… eventually!  And I was deep into learning skills. Then there was a post about RMT and how CCP was already selling ISK, if indirectly. And I was still doing the Revelations expansion new player tutorial.

The instance group was still in Lord of the Rings Online.  There were updates expanding the game and all sorts of offers to get people to subscribe.  I was more annoyed by that horse dialog you get when mounted and how understated leveling up could be.

I received a copy of the first issue of EQuinox, the official EverQuest II magazine.  It was… thin.  And it had a dark elf on the cover.  You would think there were no other races in Norrath with all the play dark elves get.

Meanwhile, Qeynos harbor was full of rumors about Sarnak!

Legends of Norrath was announced at SOE Fan Faire 2007.  I was not there, but I listened to the presentation live while IM’ing with Darren about what we heard.  I never actually played LoN.  I am just not the collectible card game kind of person.

I purchased the Richard Garriot’s Tabula Rasa Pre-Order box, only to find that getting into the beta, as was promised on the outside of the box, was not as easy as I had hoped.  You had to get access to the beta forum to get the information, and the beta forum was not letting people in!

In a strange turn of fate, I happened to take a look at PlayOn on the very day they posted their WoW Random Guild Name Generator.  So I posted a quick link to it, which in turn became my most viewed post for a long, long time.  The popularity was related to some Google algorithm which put up this site on the first page of searches related to guild name generators.

CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson stirred up the “why so much fantasy?” discussion about MMOs and I put out my own views, to which I now just link back whenever the discussion comes back up again.

I listed out five signs that would herald World of Warcraft becoming truly mainstream.  We did get an Azeroth version of Monopoly eventually.

On the Guild Wars front, the final expansion for the game, Eye of the North, launched.  It differed from the previous two expansions in that you did not need to own any of the Guild Wars boxes in order to play.  Yes, everything came in boxes back then.  I still have the Eye of the North box.

And, finally, it was ten years ago when TAGN hit the 100,000 page view milestone.  We have had a few more since then.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Covering another Keepstar Deployment
  3. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  4. The August 2017 EVE Online Update brings the Lucky Clash Event
  5. In Search of the Thousand Dollar Video Game
  6. Marching North to War in New Eden
  7. Is Raptr Dead or What?
  8. Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire Expansion Announced
  9. Fortizar Down in Hakonen
  10. Replacing the G15
  11. Delve – Still Ratting, Still Mining, Still Manufacturing
  12. Alpha Strike in New Eden

Search Terms of the Month

why did i get plex on my eve account
[The Aurum conversion man!]

how to get back to draenor
[Can’t you just recall to your garrison?]

why dont i like raspberries
[Because they taste bad]

hull tanking 2017
[Yes, it is still a thing]

eve online biomass female
[I am not sure I want to know…]

EVE Online

There was a deployment up north.  We spent a couple weeks in Hakonen stripping the local markets clear of things we need and supporting the in-game economy by seeing to it that many ships were destroyed.  A pity that, on balance, they were mostly our ships.  It wasn’t really a war though, just a way to go get some fights and do something as a coalition.  Keeping the troops entertained is part of the job of leadership.  And then the situation changed in the south and we came home again.

Lord of the Rings Online

Gosh, I started off all gang busters on the Mordor expansion this month, didn’t I?  I got my characters in shape, bought the expansion, pondered the Aria of the Valar boost, and then didn’t do much.  I have logged in a couple of times to sort of stare at the boost and to tinker around, but I am still nowhere near Mordor yet.  Maybe next month.

Minecraft

There was a bit of a resurgence in Minecraft this past month.  I got back on and continued working on the rail line from the northern mansion back to the main settlement.  Probably more interesting on the server was that Panadar took on making some rather epic monuments in our world.  There was a threat/promise from my daughter that her and a couple of her more trustworthy pals might come and play on the server.  And then they decided to play Escapist 2 instead.

Pokemon Go

I carry on with the game, having passed the one year mark.

  • Level: 29 (+0)
  • Pokedex status: 188 (+3) caught, 219 (+5) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Gyrados, since the new legendaries are nigh on impossible
  • Current buddy: Magikarp… only 123km more to get enough candies for a Gyrados

War Thunder

As noted, I was getting the flight sim urge, so I patched up War Thunder and let myself get thrashed soundly and repeatedly until I could stand it no more.  I did unlock a couple of revisions of the IL-2 Sturmovik (the plane, not the game) so I could go do ground attack.  Mostly though I got shot down a lot.

Coming Up

September and anniversaries loom, the most important of which is my wedding anniversary.  The lesser of the anniversaries will involve me posting a bunch of statistics which we know, if the lessons of the top of this post are heeded, are dubious at best.

Events are heating up in the south of New Eden.  Once Delve has been cleaned up I am sure we will be getting involved in that somehow.

While we have to wait until November for Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, we will be able to play Pokemon Gold & Silver on the 3DS via the Virtual Console before the end of the month.

We’ll probably get some hint as to what the 2017 expansions will be for EverQuest and EverQuest II if things follow the usual pattern.

In LOTRO maybe I will actually set foot in Mordor.

We’ve reached the end of the Fantasy Movie League season, so there will be no more of that for a while… unless you join my league and help me make it a thing.  That might convince me to carry on, though you have to hurry and do your first week picks by tomorrow at 9am PDT.

And my daughter is trying to convince me to come play Escapist 2.

Otherwise I cannot think of anything new launching or other events or updates that might interest me.

Alpha Strike in New Eden

The Agency event structure continues.  It started initially with The Agency event back in July, carried on with the Lucky Strikes event that showed up with the August update, and has been re-upped again with the new Alpha Strike event.

Alpha Strike

CCP is being a little coy with this event, the announcement lacking in any details.

New Player? Like flying spaceships?

The Alpha Strike in-game event has started and is great for pilots who are new to EVE Online.

Click the Agency icon on your Neocom in game, and start earning those rewards today!

“Fine,” I said to myself,  “I’ll bite.”  So I logged in a wee Alpha alt over in Amarr space, the same one I went mining with in a Venture previously, just to see what the Alpha Strike event really was.

As noted, it comes up in the window used for The Agency, and is pretty much the same sort of thing.  The difference seems to be that some of the ways to earn reward points are a bit more diverse (running a mining mission is an option, for example) and the rewards themselves are ship packages.

Two ship packages are available, industrial and destroyer

The one odd bit is the descriptions of the packages when you click on them.

Wait, what does that mean?

This wording, which was noted over at The Nosy Gamer after he saw it on the test server a couple weeks back, began some speculation as to whether or not CCP was going to introduce the dread scourge of lock boxes to New Eden.  That seemed like a dubious idea, and doubly so when coupled with a player event.  What sort of monster would make people earn reward points then hand them a lock box?

Well, no sort of monster at CCP currently.

I ran out with my wee alt and earned the twelve points muy pronto by doing a mining mission and then killing some of the local NPC pirates.  That got me the item redemption pop up which put the A3 Industrial Package in my item hangar.  Clicking on it didn’t demand a key.  Instead, the description was somewhat different.

The package arrives

Being packed “really really well” isn’t the same as missing the instruction manual or needed a key.  In fact, all you have to do is press the “open container” button.

Hey look, a ship and a module!

I assume that the “A” in the “A3” designation stands for “Amarr,” that if I were Caldari, Gallente, or Minmatar it would be “C3,” “G3,” or “M3” and would deliver the corresponding racial hauler so an Alpha Clone could use it, since they are limited to the ships of their respective empires. (And, while we’re here, I guess the “3” is for the third event using the framework of The Agency.)

Anyway, that is the current event in New Eden.  It does seem suited to Alpha clone characters, which is probably why it was named “Alpha Strike.”

CCP Launches Sparc Today

Sparc is a virtual sport, or vSport – a unique physical sport only possible in virtual reality, in which players compete in full-body VR gameplay and connect in an online community.

-What is Sparc, from the Sparc FAQ

CCP launched their latest title today, a VR game called Sparc.

Sparc – Virtual Sports

The press release from CCP says that it is available for the PlayStation 4 with PlayStation VR from the PlayStation Store for $29.99.  There is also a launch trailer.

There is a mention of a version for PC in the FAQ, but no firm date as yet.

The game itself has been compared to Wii Sports, the extremely popular game that was bundled with the Wii in many countries.  Wii Sports was an excellent demonstration of the potential of the Wii motion controllers, a potential that the controllers never really achieved.  Wii Sports was a selling point for the Wii.

That is a pretty high bar for Sparc, which is not bundled with anything and requires potential players to have invested in the PlayStation VR hardware.  Add in the fact that you cannot play locally against another player, having to connect to opponents over the internet, thus any match requires two PlayStation 4s and two PlayStation VR sets.

Still, a simple, fun, and not-too-expensive VR sports game might do well within the VR niche, even if it isn’t the killer app that Wii Sports was for the Wii.

The game has been controversial with a few EVE Online players since it was announced back in February of this year.

There is, of course, the usual outrage at EVE Online funding other games.  For all of the recurring “EVE is dying!” sentiment, it still pays the bills for CCP.  However, any business funds new projects from the profits of current projects.  That is just the way things work.  EVE Online itself was funded, in part, by profits from the board game Hættuspil.  What goes around comes around.  The problem is that, being an MMORPG, EVE Online never feels “done,” so taking money from a game that clearly still needs work (and will forever need work) does not sit well.

And then there is the fact that Sparc, unlike Valkyrie, Gunjack, or the late DUST 514, does not glorify the universe of New Eden.  A VR spaceship game might at least bring some attention to our internet spaceship game.  A cartoony virtual sports game doesn’t even do that.

My own view is a bit mixed.  I’ve worked on projects that basically paid all the bills in the past, and have been irked by resources being siphoned off to build new things.  And as an EVE Online player I always want CCP to pay more attention to the game.  But I also know that in business not expanding is often equated with dying, and the days of growth for EVE Online seem to be in the past.  The game has too much baggage and is far too niche to expect to reach new heights now.

So the best hope for EVE Online going forward is a healthy and prosperous CCP, and we get that by CCP doing well with other products, or so it seems to me.  We shall see.

Anyway, I have neither a PlayStation 4 nor any VR hardware, so Sparc clearly isn’t for me.  But if it does do well I suspect we will hear about it from CCP.

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – The Final Score Summer 2017

Here we are at the end of the thirteenth week and it is time to see how things shook out for our summer fantasy movie league.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of drama or any sort surprises in the results, something capped off by the fact that the past weekend was the slowest box office of the year so far. (This coming weekend could be even slower however, with nothing new opening, though being a holiday weekend might help.)

We came into the final week with these options on the table:

 Hitman's Bodyguard  $203
 Annabelle Creation  $143
 Birth of the Dragon $99
 Dunkirk             $74
 Logan Lucky         $73
 Leap!               $68
 All Saints          $67
 The Nut Job 2       $58
 Emoji Movie         $53
 Spider-Man          $52
 Wonder Woman        $50
 Girls Trip          $40
 The Dark Tower      $33
 Baby Driver         $32
 Kidnap              $30

Those titles are ranked by expected box office, so when the new titles for the week only rank 3rd, 5th, and 6th on the list, it isn’t going to be a hot week.

Hitman’s Bodyguard, which was the top earner for week twelve was fully expected to hang on to the top position for week thirteen even if its take was estimated to drop by half.  That made it the obvious anchor for any serious lineup.  The question was how deep to go with it.  Liore, Ocho, and I went for three screens while the remaining contestants still standing, save Braxwolf, were in for two screens.

With parity on that front, the question of who would win the week was based solely on what people chose to support their anchor pick.  I went all-in on Leap! as it was getting some last minute buzz causing box-office expectations for the title to jump from $3.5 million to $5 million, something that not only made it a contender but also made it a show-in for best price/performance title of the week and the $2 million per screen bonus for picking it.

My Week 13 Picks… yes, it says Ballerina, but the US title is Leap!

Ocho went all-in on Dunkirk while Liore split the difference with three screens Dunkirk and two screens Leap!.  Those picks made sense in the “spend as much of your budget as possible” strategy, since going all-in with Leap! left me with $51 of my grand unspent.

Meanwhile, in a rare moment of symmetry, Void and Pasduil both went for two screens of Hitman’s Bodyguard and six screens of Birth of the Dragon.

And then there was Braxwolf who was all-in on The Nut Job 2 as another comedic entry.  If only he had gone all-in on Leap! he might have done pretty well.

On Saturday, with the Friday night estimates came in, my bet on Leap! seemed to be paying off, and when the Saturday night updates came in the next day, my selections looked like they would be the perfect pick of the week.  Finally we got the official number and the week shook out like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $70,227,500
  2. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $56,031,000
  3. Ocho’s Octoplex – $49,900,000
  4. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $46,767,994
  5. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $37,850,682
  6. Void’s Awesomeplex – $35,106,600
  7. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $35,106,600
  8. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $17,671,008

So I won the week!  Go me!  And I got the perfect pick, an honor I shared with 1,550 other individuals.  It was the most popular pick of the week as well.

Perfect Pick for Week 13

That still didn’t change the final standings.  While I was able to close the gap between Liore and myself over the last two weeks, I remained over $30 million behind at the final counting.  Liore, who has been in first place since week one, maintained her dominance and won the overall season:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $1,280,117,213
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $1,249,236,020
  3. Ocho’s Octoplex – $1,124,432,158
  4. Void’s Awesomeplex – $1,094,582,400
  5. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $1,079,963,459
  6. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $1,055,255,483
  7. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $995,627,210
  8. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $956,452,366
  9. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $833,121,646 (dropped out Week 11)
  10. Bel’s House of Horrors – $803,362,573 (dropped out Week 11)
  11. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $274,973,532 (dropped out Week 4)

Congrats to Liore for winning.  I understand she also won in her other, more competitive league, edging out the second place contestant by a very slim margin.

Ocho held on to third place… and… well… everybody mostly held onto the positions they likely occupied for most of the season.  Syl climbed up over those who dropped out, but otherwise the ladder remained fairly well fixed in place.

Liore won of course because she won most of the individual weeks.  The standings for weeks won were:

  • Liore – 7 weeks
  • Wilhelm – 5 weeks
  • Braxwolf – 1 week

Winning weeks… which means getting the top score… means winning the season and Liore managed that.

Technically I “won” seven weeks as well, since I tied with Liore on two occasions, but the weeks I did not win Liore managed a much larger leading gap than I could muster on the weeks I won.  So I was a solid second place, but could never get within striking range of first.

Just to beat this to death, I made a chart showing the week by week results of Liore, Ocho, and myself.  I made a chart with everybody, but it had too many lines to be clear, so I just went with the top three.  All of the weekly data is posted here if you want to make you’re own chart.

Week by Week result chart

Liore opened up a big lead on the first week, for which she got some grief.  That wasn’t wholly undeserved.  When you suggest a game to some friends and beat the tar out of them in the first round, they might rightfully suspect something is amiss.  I think if we had had a couple of warm-up weeks, the race might have been closer in the end.

Maybe.

I was $25 million behind on the first week, but fell as far as $87 million behind after my horrible showing in week ten.  I only closed the gap because Liore forgot to pick in week twelve.  So Liore forgetting offsets her first week domination.  In the end, she was the most skilled at picking and deserved to win.

Overall, out of all of the people who played this season, about 17K individuals, I came in 988th place.

The overall winner of the season was “20th Century Plopstar: Never Stop Never Flopping” who rang up a total score of $1,407,976,016.  So there we are.

I’m still a bit dubious on the bonus for getting the perfect pick of the week.  That does seem to extend the lead for somebody who already won.  Likewise, while I see how the bonus for best price/performance title each week leads to considering a titles you might otherwise ignore, it also feels like it distorts the process a bit.  Then again, in a contest like this, being able to min/max to get to the winning pick is going to happen regardless of the bonuses, so I am not sure removing either would really change things.

I suppose that the award for the person who ran their cineplex most like a real theater throughout the season goes to Contains Moderate Peril.  He only went the min/max route for the week of the Spider-Man debut.

Meanwhile, the film of the season has to be Wonder Woman, which launched on the first week of the season and was still available as a $50 pick on the final week, upstaging even the long lasting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Here at the end of the season I would say that I enjoyed the experience.  I certainly paid more attention than usual to what movies were coming out.  Unfortunately, we did not actually go and see that many movies during the summer.  That was more a matter of circumstances at home… my wife has been really busy on weekends so going to see a movie hasn’t really been an option as often as one would like… so I believe we only saw Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and Hitman’s Bodyguard which were, in that order, excellent, excellent, excellent, and exactly what was expected so very funny if not all that surprising.

So now what?

A new Fantasy Movie League season starts this week.  I will probably make weekly picks and watch how things go.  I’ll stay in Liore’s league.  However, I am unlikely to blog about it every week the way I have done.

Come next summer though, I would be up for another run, either in Liore’s league or in a new one that I or somebody else rolls up.

Anyway, thanks to Liore for inviting us along for this summer run!

Cleaning Up Delve

After spending a couple of weeks staged in Hakonen in order to make a mess in and around Tribute and Vale we were now mostly home and ready to clean up the mess in our own region.  Not only were we not mining and ratting as usual… though some intrepid souls stayed behind to rat and mine, which led to a string of carriers and Rorquals being blown up… but the interlopers had laid down structures about the place.  So it was time to start fixing all of that.

Back in the Capital of Delve

On the sovereignty front the reduced mining and ratting had lowered the activity defense multiplier in many systems (all of that sov stuff explained over here) to the point where there were now systems when the industrial index, a measure of how much mining has been going on in a system, dropped below 1.

At that level mining anomalies stop spawning, so to get that back up there was a call for people to go back to belt mining in those systems so that ore sites would start appearing again.  People got on that and ADMs are already up.

Meanwhile it was time to grind down some structures that he been left in our space.  There were plenty of ops going out to shoot things.  I went on a couple, including one that generated a kill mail.  It is always good to be there to see something blown up.

In this case it was a Raitaru left behind by a Pandemic Horde alt corp.  Laying as it did near NPC null space in the region a full scale op was laid down with a Machariel fleet heading out to do the shoot with capitals on alert in case anybody came to contest the shoot in numbers.

We bridged in from the staging Keepstar to a Fortizar in the target system.

Machariels landing at the Fort

From there we warped on grid with the Raitaru.  It had just come out of its timer and we locked it up, launched drones… why waste ammo… and set on it, pausing the repair timer and hitting the damage cap almost immediately.

The Timer paused

As I have noted in the past, the damage cap is there to keep people from blitzing structures.  Instead there is a minimum amount of time it takes to kill one, somewhere in the 25 minute range if I recall correctly.

Machariels anchoring up

It didn’t look like any hostiles were going to show up to defend it, so we just anchored up on the FC and let the drones do the work.

Machs just loafing about the Raitaru

Since this looked to be a milk run, I logged my alt in, got him in an Ibis, the Caldari rookie ship that you get for free any time you dock up in a station in a capsule and have no ships available, and gated him out to the target system.  It was only six gates away and nobody seemed to be camping us very hard since we got back from the north.

Once there I joined the fleet for long enough to get a warp in… the Raitaru wasn’t on grid with a celestial… then dropped fleet, targeted the structure, and added the minuscule firepower of the default Ibis to the assault.

The mighty Ibis fires on the Raitaru

I was mildly surprise/bemused that I didn’t have a skin for the ship.  Last year’s Yoiul Festival had skins for many ships, including the rookie ships, and I thought I had picked up an appropriate one for all of my characters.  Have to go check up on that, I might have forgotten to activate it.

Anyway, for some reason it is always a bit of fun to get one of the most modest ships in the game on a kill mail.  I left him orbiting and shooting as the structure was eventually worn down and began brewing up to explode.

Raitaru death throes

The Ibis wasn’t in the lowest damage spot on the kill mail even having arrived late and having single, low power weapon.  It is near the bottom, but not at the bottom, though I am sure the vagaries of the damage cap and people warping in at the last minute to get on the kill account for the elevated position.

And that was that.  We took gates back to the Keepstar and stood down to wait for the next call to help clean up the region.  Soon things should be back to normal.

I will be interested to see the August edition of the monthly economic report to see how much change a couple weeks away from the region changed the mining and ratting numbers.

Replacing the G15

In what will probably come as no surprise to any regular reader of the site that I have had my current keyboard for more than a decade.  The keyboard, a Logitech G15, appears in a picture I posted of my desk back in middle of 2007, while Amazon says I purchased it in 2006.

The table is unusually clear in this picture

As noted every time I use this picture, not much has changed.  The headphones have been updated, the iPod dock is gone, a second, even smaller monitor has appeared, and a lot more crap has managed to accumulate.  But the monitor, keyboard, trackball, and speakers are all pretty much as they were ten years back.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The G15 has been a solid keyboard and, while I haven’t taken full advantage of every feature of it, I have grown used to some unique aspects of the keyboard.  Chief among them is the LCD display.

In the picture above you can see the LCD display, nicely back-lit with a blue-ish tint, at the top center of the keyboard.  Not a huge piece of display real estate, but I have grown used to having it there.  As it turns out, quite a few games and applications wrote out to Logitech’s display API.

Not that everybody uses the LCD well.  I posted back in 2007 asking what would be useful to put on the LCD display.  You can’t put anything there that won’t otherwise be available in game, but you ought to put something useful on it.  Games, like WoW, LOTRO, and EQ2 default to putting your character attributes, hit points, and maybe mana/power/whatever on the screen.  But things like hit points are already better represented in the main UI, while your stats like strength and what not aren’t generally something you need to be updated on constantly.

Still, some games, like World of Tanks, use the display well.  And I can always swap the LCD back to the default clock display, which is handy when playing games that do not have real world time somewhere in their UI.  Or it can show me what I have playing in iTunes currently.

EVE Online does not support the display, but Mumble and TeamSpeak do, showing on the display who is currently speaking.  That is probably more useful than any in-game data I might want.  I know many people by the sound of their voice on coms, but there are still a lot of strangers out there, or people who sound very much like other people, so having that name up without having to use the wonky (and, to me, annoying) in-game overlay running is of value.

Basically, I’ve gotten used to having that display.

However, wear and tear has worn down the keyboard.  After more than a decade of heavy use, the back lighting on the LCD has failed, I’ve worn through a couple of the key caps, the back lighting on the right half of the main keyboard flickers and goes out regularly, and I have to hit the space bar at the left end because the senor doesn’t register if I hit it on the right.

So I went to the Logitech site to find a replacement.  I knew the G15 itself was long gone, supplanted by new models and, as I recalled, even a color LCD display.  But I was sure the LCD display would still be a thing, given how many apps support it.

However, the LCD display on keyboards seems to be a thing of the past at Logitech.  Technically it is still supported via their G13 Gameboard accessory, but the keyboard they offer are all LCD free these days.  I suppose the list of titles supporting their game panel LCD is a bit of a clue as to how long gone the display might me.  Some selected historically interesting entries:

  • America’s Army
  • Duke Nukem Forever
  • Everquest II: Extended
  • Hellgate London
  • Neverwinter Nights 2
  • Star Wars Galaxies
  • Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

I think you could pin down when that list was written based on when those titles were all viable.

Logitech does have some new technology called Arx Control, which can put up a panel on your smart phone or tablet.  I tinkered with that for an evening, wondering if they would be able to  just pipe things from their older game panel API to it.  I have seen posts saying that this is possible.

However, most of those posts are a couple of years old, so if it was once the case it does not seem to be that way any more.  Arx only appears to work with items specifically built for it, which appear to be few and far between.  World of Warcraft was the only supported title I could find, and I couldn’t get it to do anything that made WoW appear to actually connect and display something via Arx.  All it could do was launch WoW, which isn’t all that useful a feature, especially since it launches it directly and not through Battle.net.

So Arx seems to be a complete bust.

If I want the Logitech game panel support, it looks like I have to go shopping for a vintage Logitech keyboard with an LCD.  However, I distrust used ones and the few new-in-box- models I have seen are priced pretty high.

And if I am willing to let go of the LCD panel, then I have a plethora of keyboard choices to wade through.

For now though, the G15 on my desk continues to soldier on. The back lighting flickers, and I can feel the “a” and “e” keys due to their tops being worn off, but it still does what it needs to do.

 

Fighting the Flight Sim Urge

Every so often I start feeling the urge to get into combat flight simulators.  Something triggers a wave of desire to go spend time trying to fly a plane in order to shoot down other people flying planes.

I’ve been feeling this lately due to the fact I started watching videos on YouTube by Bismark.  He does a variety of different videos, but many of them focus on the game IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, one of the more recent entries in the long running IL-2 Sturmovik series of games.

I am pretty sure I have owned a couple of the titles from the series in the past.  I was never any good at them.

Rather, watching these videos fans the long quiet embers of a time when I played games like Air Warrior or Falcon or Hellcats over the Pacific, an era of my gaming that runs from the late 80s into the mid 90s… which is to say, a long time ago.

Spitfire Artwork from Air Warrior on the Mac, circa 1989

I was young, had the time, energy, and patience to get… if not good, at least past bad and into the range of somewhat competent… with these titles.  And then I sort of stopped focusing on that.  Things like TorilMUD and Diablo and various incarnations of Civilization became more my thing, and then EverQuest came along and we get to where I am today.

But I have never quite lost that flight sim urge.  Every so often I buy or try some flight sim title, realize I don’t really have the patience to get into it again, and move on.

Fortunately we live in the free to play age, so I no longer have to buy to douse that urge.  Since the urge is back, I have been back to tinkering around with War Thunder.  And since the urge was stoked by IL-2 Sturmovik, I have been playing the Russian tree and the ground attack portion thereof.

An early model IL-2 in War Thunder

Doing ground attack has less of a learning curve than air to air combat.  However, it also means you’re meat for the enemy if you’re caught alone, and since games like War Thunder tend to be chaos for the most part anyway, sticking with others or finding targets where fighter cover exists can be problematic.  Situations are fleeting and people will run off after any opportunity.

Then the urge to take a fighter up and reply in kind comes through and how bad I am shines through.  My copy of Fighter Combat glowers at me from the bookshelf as I make all the rookie mistakes, even though I know as I do them that they are mistakes.

I tell myself that trying to do this with mouse and keyboard… and not even a mouse, but a trackball… is just wrong and that I really need a new flight stick because I got rid of my old one when it became so old that the company dropped driver support for it.

And then I spend some time looking at flight sticks… I think I would go with the Thrustmaster T.1600M at this point, based on what I have read… and I think some more, put something on my wish list, take it back off, then put it back on again as the urge fights with the more detached knowledge of myself.  I know, if I can step back from whatever passion there is, that I don’t really have the patience to get up to speed, much less good.

Meanwhile, the urge counters with the fact that I already own some games like Elite: Dangerous where the flight stick might be useful.  I could get use out of something I already own.  Looking in my Steam library, at some point I even bought IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946, during a sale no doubt.

Meanwhile the detached side starts going on about the sunk costs fallacy.

The likely end result is that I’ll just play War Thunder with my current setup until I get tired of being shot down constantly and go back to things that are now more my speed.  But there is always a battle within me.