Monthly Archives: January 2018

January in Review

The Site

Just trivia for the site this month.  A week or so back my phone buzzed with this announcement.

A New Record!

I found that amusing, though since I have turned off the alert for when somebody clicks “like” on a post, I am not sure who went through and clicked the button on a bunch of posts.  None of the recent posts at that point had more than three or four likes, so I assume it was somebody serially reading and liking posts.

Meanwhile, back in the day, WordPress.com used to give bloggers some end of year stats around New Years, but stopped doing that a couple of years back.  On the stats page there is an Insights tab that shows various meta details about your blog which now includes some annual details.  For 2017 my stats were:

  • Total Posts: 350
  • Total Comments: 1,429
  • avg comments per post: 4
  • total likes: 1,398
  • avg likes per post: 4
  • total words: 326,343
  • avg words per post: 932

It also tells me that so far for 2018 I am averaging over one thousand words per post, so the bloviation continues.  Also, the likes per post stat confirms that 21 in a day is an outlier event which has increased my average likes per day for 2018 to 5.

One Year Ago

As with most years here at the blog, it began with predictions.

Nintendo was telling us all about the Switch console, due in March.

I barely had predictions post before Daybreak announced they were closing Landmark, ticking one off the list for me.  That got people freaked out about other Daybreak titles, so I reviewed the list.

That also led me off onto a semi-sarcastic rant about an EverQuest successor.

It was also high noon for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2.

With a new iPad I lost all my progress on Candy Crush Saga, so forswore the title forever.

I was also tallying up the results of my purchases from the Steam Winter Sale.  I don’t get why people like Stardew Valley so much.  Just not my thing I guess.  I did play a stretch of Train Valley however.

The long mansion road project was starting to hit home with me, but I kept on moving forward village by village.

In EVE Online I hit the 170 million skill point mark.  All those skill points and I still don’t use my capital ships.  After a false start we got the first update of YC119.  It had music.  It was also the kick off of the CSM election season.

In null sec there was a big battle at F4R2-Q that seemed to herald a new war.  However coordination problems with the local defenders saw us pulling back to Catch.

And in Diablo III we were waiting for the Darkening of Tristram event.  I ran through it quickly once, and then again to get some more achievements.  It was kind of neat, but it wasn’t the original Diablo.

Five Years Ago

Firefly Universe Online.  Was that a hoax or not?  I still don’t know.  And does the acronym FUO seem mildly obscene?

Wizardry Online joined the SOE stable while Pirates of the Burning Sea was sent packing.  Who is laughing now?

We got our full group together in Rift and did our first instance of the year, dying at least 100 times combined.  This lead to a side post about bosses and gimmicks and what makes a challenge.

In World of Tanks the instance group was scooting around. We even created our own little clan.  Potshot and I were totally going French.

In EVE Online, after a sudden burst of war fever died down, there was a surprise battle where more than 2,500 ships clashed in Asakai when CFC FC Dabigredboat led a supercap fleet in to rescue a stray titan.  The battle was so big that CCP did a Dev Blog about it.  Meanwhile, we were to be denied LEGO Rifters.

The DUST 514 open beta was officially open.  I still haven’t bombed anything from orbit yet.

Path of Exile went into full open beta as well.

Krono made its way from EverQuest II to EverQuest while I was wondering what people were spending their Station Cash on.

I was musing about MUDs again, and vendors who wouldn’t simply buy any crap you had for sale and dead rats.

There was a list of 20 games that defined the Apple II.

And I wrote out my yearly list.  This time it was goals, mostly because I was on vacation when I was supposed to be writing it.

Ten Years Ago

I started off with a helping of silly predictions.

I was bemoaning my inability to be a fan boy and parrying claims that PvE players were going to ruin Warhammer Online.

There were some pictures from my daughter’s LEGO birthday party.  Those seem to get linked on Pintrest quite often.

Then, with Tabula Rasa dead to me since open beta, I started wondering if there was any hope at all for a Science Fiction MMORPG.  This ended up being one of my most responded to posts of the time.  Plus, in addition to all the comments, PotshotTipaLemegeton, Gooney, and even Massively following up with response posts. This post still gets a lot of views every month. (And yes, I do think there is hope, I just don’t know when we’ll get what we’re looking for.)

And, along with that, I wrote about five LEGO Video Games I would like to see made.  And a few of those ended up getting made.  Imagine!

Then there was the start of the run-up to Pirates of the Burning Sea which, among other things, required me to invest in a new router as well as reviewing how to pick a server in a new game.  The latter was from a time when we assumed servers would stay crowded like they did in WoW.

In World of Warcraft the Saturday night instance group was hitting Scholomance, Dire Maul West and Scholomance again as part of the Paladin mount quest, Stratholme, then Dire Maul West once more for the Warlock mount quest, and then Scholomance for the third and final time to get all the epic mounts straight.  By then we were all level 60 which meant we could head  to the Outlands only a year after The Burning Crusade shipped!

In EVE Online, after spending millions of ISK, I managed my first Tech II Blueprint, then I couldn’t afford to build it. Ah, life in New Eden.  I also got my standing past 8.0 with the Caldari Navy and spent time hauling trash.

And, finally, in Lord of the Rings Online I was able to pick up my Bree Pony, the 2007 holiday gift to founders.

Twenty Years Ago

I got nothing.  I think we were all still playing Warcraft II and waiting for StarCraft to come out.  I remember a lot of people I knew being anxious for it to ship.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  5. The Coming Battle in 9-4RP2
  6. My 2018 MMO Outlook – Mining for Old Gold
  7. A Bit More Bag Space with WoW Patch 7.3.5
  8. The Million Dollar Battle Hangover
  9. 2018 – Predictions for a New Year
  10. A Return to Physical Netflix
  11. Quote of the Day – Satan Speaks on Lockboxes
  12. Delve – How Does One Value Minerals?

Search Terms of the Month

pokemon battle on middle earth.jar
[Heresy, both the concept and it being in Java]

swtor-digipass@go6
[Somebody knows their VASCO products]

everquest 3
[Dream on]

pokemon sun and moon solo run
[It is a single player game, so I guess that is any run]

what is the name of the third warcraft expansion
[That is the one we do not name]

war thunder plane with most bombs
[I think it is the He-111, at least for lower tier planes]

EVE Online

Early in the month I was in as part of our small deployment to the north, dropping citadels and making the locals come up to fight over timers, which went well enough for us until the locals finally got their act together and blobbed up.  We’d have done the same around Delve, just a lot sooner.

Then came the build up for the big battle at 9-4RP2, which distracted us from other efforts in the north.  When I finally came back to our staging system I found that the locals had been busy removing all of our citadels.  So I guess we’ll be starting from scratch on that front.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go saw the releases of more Hoenn Pokemon towards the end of the month, so my captured and caught numbers went up noticeably again.  I also finally got the last candy I needed to evolve my Slowepoke into a Slowbro.  I also managed to squeak into level 31.

Heartbreak moment of the month was finally seeing a Lapras in the wild, then being cheap and not using one of my few sure catch candies on the first throw and having it flee.

  • Level: 31 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 262 (+23) caught, 301 (+25) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Seaking
  • Current buddy: Horsea to earn candies to get that Seaking evolution.

World of Warcraft

I spent a lot of time with Pet Battles, right up to the end of the month finish of the Celestial Tournament.  I am also edging my way up to the 700 pet mark, for which there is no achievement.

I also carried on in Argus rather halfheartedly with my main and then worked on some alts.  I potentially will have quite a pile of level 110 characters when Battle for Azeroth ships, so I am not sure what I will do with the level 110 boost that will come with the expansion.  I am certainly not running out right this second to pre-order because of that.  The allied race thing however…

Other Games

I watched The Mittani playing Stellaris for a bit on the INN stream and then went back and played that for a bit.  That is my problem with watching people stream games, I just want to go play them rather than watch.  Meanwhile, Stellaris is still a good game in which you can get lost for hours.

I got fed up with War Thunder and uninstalled it.  I just got tired of high skill players haunting the lower tiers for easy kills.  Or maybe I am just horrible.  Meanwhile the interface that combines the game’s aerial aspect with tank combat and sea combat… I think that is in there… is confusing enough that I stopped bothering to pursue it.  I’ll have to get my flight sim fix elsewhere. (Also I had to use regedit to remove all of War Thunder, which makes it less likely that I will ever install it again.)

I was invited to play a couple of Jack Pack 3 games with Liore’s club, specifically Trivia Murder Party and Tee K.O., both of which were a lot of fun.  There is also an interesting “watch things on your computer screen, provide answer and/or draw things on your phone/tablet” dynamic to the whole thing.

Coming Up

Well, I would take a guess that there won’t be another huge battle next month in EVE Online.  Null sec needs time to ponder before another 6,000+ player conflict happens.  But there will be updates to citadels with the February release, some of which will make them easier to attack, especially if they are just sitting around out of fuel and unused.

Also we should start hearing something about the CSM election campaign season.

In World of Warcraft I have my eye on the level scaling changes that came in with patch 7.3.5.  Specifically, I want to see what going to Northrend at level 58 and spending 22 levels there is like.  Can I get through all the content before I out level it?  Will I need to take off my heirloom gear?  The latter idea bugs me only because I like not having to worry about gear as I play through the story.  Also, I want to do it as Horde to see if there is much difference between that and the Alliance campaign.

I will also keep running the Celestial Tournament every week until I have all the pets from that.  I’m starting to wind down a bit on the obsessive pet leveling binge… the week with 200% exp where I went nuts burned me out a bit… but there are still some key pets I want to get to 25.  Also I should finish up Argus and run all the instances I need to in order to wrap up crafting.  Doing LFG isn’t that much of a pain, I am just not fond of the “rush rush” nature of it.

We’ll see if I keep with Stellaris or wander off after a couple of games.

Also there are a couple of major sports events coming up, Super Bowl 52, which mostly serves to remind me how old I am since a couple of east coast teams are in it, and the Winter Olympics, so I can look forward to people complaining about how NBC has screwed up the coverage.  Somewhere in between the two is my wife’s birthday, better not forget that!

And, finally, for those interested in blog stats, I also have the 2017 blog stats for my other blog, EVE Online Pictures:

  • Total Posts: 183
  • Total Comments: 7
  • Avg Comments Per Post: 0
  • Total Likes: 19
  • Avg Likes Per Post: 0
  • Total Words: 381
  • Avg Words Per Post: 2

I am actually a bit surprised there were that many words, since the count does not include titles.  I guess I can’t keep quiet even on a blog that is supposed to be pictures.  The comments were split, 3 telling me I misidentified a ship, 3 of my copping to my mistake, and one “nice.”  Very few people click the like button or rate the posts there.  I thought the rating feature would be a thing, but it isn’t.  Ah well.  I’ll write more about all of that when it turns ten years old later this year.

Winter Movie League – A Fear of Hostiles

LET…US…NEVER…SPEAK…OF…IT…AGAIN.

-Po Huit, TAGN FML Chatter

Week nine of our Fantasy Movie League has passed, and it was a week of disappointment for many, some more than others.  The available picks were.

 The Maze Runner      $358
 Jumanji              $222
 The Greatest Showman $134
 The Post             $129
 12 Strong            $128
 Den of Thieves       $127
 Hostiles             $126
 Paddington 2         $93
 The Shape of Water   $86
 Phantom Thread       $81
 Three Billboards     $68
 Best of the Rest     $67
 Forever My Girl      $64
 The Commuter         $58
 Star Wars            $57

Week eight was one of those weeks where those who pay close attention to the last minute data were granted insight into an obvious winner.  Week nine, on the other hand, was a week where the eventual correct pick, Hostiles, had mixed projections from various sources and so we seemed to have all talked ourselves out of going with it.

This was especially painful for Po Huit who, in missing a week, has been prone to gambling on outlying options in order to catch up.  On Monday night last week he declared he was going with seven screens of Hostiles and one screen of Paddington in the TAGN chatter forum on the FML site.

I have to admit that I considered Hostiles as well at a couple of points over the course of the week.  At the high end of the projections I saw it would have been a winner, but the low end was really low, at which point it was a non-starter.  Meanwhile the projections for The Post were pretty consistent and seemed to indicate that it was a strong candidate for the best performer bonus.

In the MCats slack channel a group of us came to the same conclusion and, sharing our cards at one point, it seemed that most of us were going with seven screens of The Post and one screen of Paddington.  In an effort to not have a stagnant week I changed to The Shape of Water while Aure abandoned The Post for another lineup.

My Winter Week Nine Picks

Meanwhile Po Huit lost his nerve by Thursday and also joined so many of us on the bandwagon for The Post.  Even the last minute Thursday night numbers were not very informative.  Hostiles did okay, but not as well as Den of Thieves did the previous week.  Furthermore, since Hostiles has been out in limited release for a while now, Thursday night previews wouldn’t count towards its weekend, so there was nothing there to make me change from The Post.

The lockout time came and revealed that nobody in the Meta League bet heavily on Hostiles.  The only person to pick it was Liore, who had a single screen of it in her lineup.

And then the first set of estimates came out late Saturday morning that indicated that projections for The Post were overly optimistic while the high end forecasts for the Hostiles were on the money, so the perfect pick for the week ended up being Po Huit’s initial pick, much to his dismay, as the quote at the top might indicate.

However, there was one minor upset, when The Shape of Water managed to eke out a win over Paddington in the box office, something I was betting on, so in the end Po didn’t miss out on the perfect pick, which ended up being worth about $95 million.  A mere 107 people got the perfect pick, down from 981 last week.

Winter Week Nine Perfect Pick

However, his original Hostiles heavy pick would have been worth $90 million.  Instead he ended up slumming with the rest of us down the chart rather than gaining on anybody.  So the week nine results for the Meta League ended up as:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $73,692,629
  2. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $71,132,257
  3. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $71,106,570
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $70,705,742
  5. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $69,723,620
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $69,672,540
  7. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $69,672,540
  8. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $69,672,540
  9. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $69,418,420
  10. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $69,418,420
  11. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $69,418,420
  12. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $69,418,420
  13. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $66,893,415
  14. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $66,444,870
  15. Kraut Screens (T) – $65,589,752
  16. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $63,784,347
  17. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $62,517,054
  18. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $40,033,732
  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

There wasn’t a huge gap between the top and bottom this week.  If it hadn’t been for Elly, the gap between first and last would have been about $11 million.

Liore took the week, being the only one to even have a screen of Hostiles, Biyondios managed second on a slate of Maze Runner, Jumanji, Greatest Showman, and Star Wars, while Aure came in third, validating her abandonment of the over-player lineup with The Post.    And then there was everybody who went heavy on The Post followed by other assorted picks.

Of the seven people all-in on The Post, the top three, who went with The Shape of Water, beat the bottom four, who went with Paddington, by a mere $254,120.  Corr moved that much closer to Ben this week. You take every advantage you get I guess.  Elly was the outlier, going with Jumanji and seven screens of The Commuter.

And a side surprise was that the film Padmaavat popped up to 10th place for the weekend, despite being in only 324 theaters, making it the Best of the Rest.  It is the most expensive Hindi film ever produced, but it is the controversy that got it up the list.  It has been banned in a number of places overseas.

So after an middling performance across the board the Meta League ended up looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $1,006,350,981
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $996,116,095
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $945,303,784
  4. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $935,038,182
  5. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $929,618,554
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $913,807,490
  7. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $888,630,672
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $862,787,129
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $843,041,005
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $823,462,488
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $784,332,849
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $752,926,650
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $751,612,840
  14. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $742,165,062
  15. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $739,159,951
  16. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $735,413,781
  17. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $730,434,667
  18. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $729,718,727

The only change in that list was Elly dropping down two slots.  I did drop Bean Movie Burrito from the list.  Not only did they start late, but they missed picking three weeks now, so it seems unfair to keep listing them.

And so it goes as we move into week eleven with the following choices:

Winchester           $274
Jumanji              $261
The Maze Runner      $230 
The Greatest Showman $167
The Post             $126
The Shape of Water   $114
Hostiles             $113
Den of Thieves       $90
12 Strong            $89
Paddington 2         $75
Three Billboards     $71
I, Tonya             $61
Phantom Thread       $56
Star Wars            $46
Forever My Girl      $45

The Commuter dropped from the list and there is no Best of the Rest choice this week.

The new movie this week is Winchester, which takes place in a house about two miles from where I live, while I, Tonya returns to the list this week despite having only hit 16th place in the box office for week nine.  I guess it is on more screens this week.  Still, it seems like another shot for Best of the Rest would be better, even if you keep I, Tonya on the list, but what do I know?  I bet on The Post.

So Winchester has Helen Mirren, which speaks to its merits in my book, but is the world ready for a crazy lady in San Jose who made her contractor rich with constant additions to her house?  I lived down the street from essentially that situation at our last house, and that didn’t get a film.  Okay, I guess it is supposed to be a horror film… historical horror drama maybe… and I regularly and consistently under estimate how they will do.  I suppose I should marvel that they got Helen Mirren for it.

Meanwhile, Jumanji still seems to be strong and there is the question as to whether or not films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year will continue to see a boost in ticket sales.  The only thing my gut says is, “Stay away from The Post!”  It has failed to meet forecasts every week.

Battle for Azeroth before Fall, Pre-Orders Now

World of Warcraft news is always big news.

Today Blizzard put up the next WoW expansion, Battle for Azeroth, up for pre-orders at the usual price points, $50 for normal and $70 for digital deluxe, which generally nets you a mount and a battle pet.  With my current battle pet mania going on I know where I might be headed.

Battle for Azeroth

Of course, it is always the details that capture my attention, especially anything that might indicate a ship date, and the pre-order page delivers with this line:

Pre-purchase: Battle for Azeroth will be released on or before September 21, 2018.

September 21, 2018 just happens to be the last day of summer on the calendar here in the temperate northern hemisphere.  It will still be warm where I live in any case.

Next on this list is, “Why should I pre-order this today?”

Well, you get that level 110 boost.  Given how long it took me to use the level 100 boost I got with WoW Legion… I think I used it finally in December… that isn’t a big draw for me.  I wouldn’t begin to know which character to boost at this point.  I already have four characters at level 110, and two more fairly close.

The battle pet and mount may take a while to show up.

Digital Deluxe items will be available on or before the release date of the game.

That is a bit vague.  Ah well, some day.

Gilded Ravasaur and Seabraid Stallion mount plus the Baby Tortollan Pet

So the only possible draw is really the promised Allied Races.

Pre-purchase of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth makes available the questlines which enable players to access the Highmountain tauren, Lightforged draenei, Nightborne, and Void elves. To unlock Allied Races quest lines, players must have a level 110 character and have met specific questing and reputation requirements on the factions that each Allied Race is aligned with.

Currently I am ready to go on the Lightforged Draenei, not that I need another alt.  The one I am interested in, the Highmountain Tauren require me to get all that rep again with a Horde character.  Fortunately, for my first time in WoW, I actually have a Horde character at the level cap, so it is doable.  More on that later.

As noted, the pre-order page is up and ready to take your money, though beware there is one small hitch.

Requires World of Warcraft and Legion.

Since WoW Legion is still the current live expansion, and has links right into Battle for Azeroth, you can’t just skip ahead if you do not have WoW Legion yet.

Anyway, you can pre-order today though, as with any Blizzard release, there might be a queue.

And for those keeping score, if the release goes on the last day that will put the time between that and the WoW Legion release at 752 days, which puts it pretty much mid-pack for duration.

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 778 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 670 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 752 days (estimated)

I suspect that Battle for Azeroth will ship sooner than that however, maybe another August release.  My prediction was that they would get that shipped and be done far enough ahead of BlizzCon 2018 that they could safely talk about WoW Classic with stealing any of the spotlight from the expansion.  We shall see.

Meanwhile the Battle for Azeroth Q&A broadcast has been going on, so I expect all sorts of additional details to pop up today.

INN Shows Explore the 9-4RP2 Fight

Naturally, even after the big battle was over, there was still much to talk about.  If you want to immerse yourself in the gritty details of what was going on INN ran three shows over the weekend that could help fill you in what went on.  The links below are all to the replays on Twitch, though the recordings will eventually also be available on the INN YouTube channel and, in some cases, Sound Cloud.

The Open Comms Show – January 26, 2018

The Open Comms show can be a bit of acquired taste, at least when the Tito’s vodka is flowing, and it comes on at an awkward time for me, but I try to catch it whenever I can, and I feel lucky to have seen Friday’s show.

The Open Comms Show Advisory, Not Mentioned: Alcohol Consumption

The usual cast of the show, Dirk MacGirk, Dreydan, Rahne, Drunk Canadian, and Blastem2hell, were joined by Arrendis (Goonswarm), Elise Randolph (Pandemic Legion), Jin’taan (Provi Bloc and CSM member), and Progodlegend (TEST) to discuss the fight at 9-4RP2 and the hype beforehand.

Of course, the hype was due to the Reddit post by Progodlegend which went viral and ended up with him on Canadian television talking about internet spaceships.

To Canada, this is now the face of EVE Online

But the real meat of the show is the discussion of the battle itself, helped along by Elise Randolph who remains one of the best and most thoughtful speakers on the game.  One of his insights was that the Imperium essentially won by losing the battle at 9-4RP2 because who is going to attempt an assault on a defended Keepstar now, and Delve has more than 15 deployed already.

The whole show, which can be a sprawling venture over its two hours some weeks, stayed nicely on topic and was worth the time to listen through.

The Meta Show – January 27, 2018

If you are more interested in fight details than the null sec meta, this might be the show to skip I suppose.  With DBRB still in Australia The Mittani was hosting solo with guests Asher Elias (Goonswarm), Vily (TEST), and CCP_Falcon.

There are good details about the fight.  Having Asher along, who organized the effort for the Keepstar campaign, means another view on how things went down.  And getting to hear CCP Falcon speak about the day, including waking up to find that the “million dollar battle” Reddit post had gone viral, was interesting.

However a good chunk of the middle of the show devolved into exploring the relationship between the Imperium and TEST surrounding the fight, with some time aside to rail against CCP for both benefiting from such fights yet setting up a sovereignty system that avoids them, all of which was largely The Mittani speaking, with a few comments from Vily and nary a peep from Asher or Falcon, arguably the two most interesting guests, for long stretches.

It was also made clear that the Imperium would not be coming back for another fight at the Keepstar.  After the one fight all of the Imperium forces returned home.

Still, it is just an hour and if you’re dying to know if TEST and the Imperium can stay united against the coalition of the north, the answer is in there.

Talking in Stations – January 28, 2018

The ever thoughtful Matterall brought the trifecta of shows about the battle home with the Sunday morning Talking in Stations episode.  Joined by Dirk MacGirk (TNT), Avery Lewis (Pandemic Legion), Keskora Yaari (Ember Sands, WH space), KillahBee (NCDot), MacCloud, PlexedLive (Goonswarm), Qicia (Goonswarm), and Qicia (Goonswarm) along with special guest CCP Fozzie to discuss both the battle as well as the changes coming for Citadels in February, to which there was an update before the show.

Again, more good tales of the fight, with CCP Fozzie saying that over 6,200 people were in system and that, by CCP’s reckoning, more than 10,000 accounts were clearly logged in and either in the system or the various staging systems and ready to jump into the fight if called upon.

There was also discussion of the changes to the Upwell 2.0 plan for February, which hit the forums just before the show.  Among them is the removal of the Gravitational Transportation Field Oscillator (GTFO) defensive module and increasing the final, last ditch repair time from 15 to 30 minutes, something that might have made a difference in the big fight.  There is also a discussion of the citadel tethering mechanic and its abuse as well as what it enables. (On the latter, in the old days you couldn’t get 200 titans in a POS shield without a lot of them being bumped out into space, but you can stack 200 safely on a citadel without any issue at all.)

Anyway, if you feel the need to wallow in more after action reports about the big fight at 9-4RP2, there is almost five hours of audio to entertain you.

The Celestial Tournament

I have mentioned the Celestial Tournament before.  It is a pet battle challenge in World of Warcraft on Timeless Ilse in Pandaria.  You go there and speak to Master Li to join in.

Master Li on the Timeless Isle

Master Li has a simple description of the event.  The tournament is an instance with its own rules.

To be able to enter it you first need to have at least 15 battle pets at level 25.  That probably isn’t enough, but that is the bar.  You can only do the tournament once per week, a lock out that resets every Tuesday.  Once you enter you have to defeat all of the challengers to win and you cannot use the pet heal skill or pet bandages to heal up any of your pets.  You have to get through with the pets you have with you.

Now, there is a work around on the healing thing.  There are some of the fights where the first pet the foe uses does a self-buff, so you have a free round to cast a heal.  Also, there is no penalty for quitting a fight, unlike the 10% health hit you suffer if you surrender in the wild, so you can get out a pet with a group heal, make them your first pet in a group, and heal on the first round, then surrender, until your injured pets are healed up.  That is a bit tedious and it requires that you not let your pets die in battle.  If you do, you’ll have to get along without them.

The challenge itself is divided into two parts.  The first part is a set of three Master Pet Tamers, each with a team of three.  There are nine total, three groups of three, that rotate each week.

The initial three are not all that tough of a challenge.  I was able to come up with winning teams for the various tamers soon enough.  My main problem was creating independent teams to fight each one.  If you read advice or comments about fighting any individual master pet tamer, the same usual suspects always seem to come up.  If you go over to Warcraft Pets and look at their Top 20 List of highest rated pets, most of that list comes up again and again.

I have duplicates of some of them… the Iron Starlette and the Emerald Proto-Drake for example… but not all of them, so to make independent teams I have to find substitutes.

Fortunately, for those first three, there are substitutes possible, so those teams were setup.

It was the second set, the legendary battle pets, that was the difficult part for me.  After the three pet tamers, you have to fight the four legendaries, Chi-Chi, Xu-Fu, Yu’la, and Zao, who also happen to be the four pets standing around Master Li in the screen shot up at the top of the post.

For those fights your team of three goes up against a single pet which generally has a lot more hit points and hits harder while having a buff that reduces your own attacks and often a self-heal skill that will undo all your efforts.  Over at WoW Head they have a pretty extensive guide to the whole thing.

My problem was two-fold.  First, back when I was first giving this a shot, I lacked a lot of the pets on the guide, so was having to wing it and roll up my own teams.  That led to the second problem, which was it is a pain in the ass to experiment with teams.  You have to go into the tournament, defeat the first three, then use your experimental team to see how it does.  If it fails, you have to leave the instance, heal up your pets, then go back and do it again with whatever your adjustments might be.

After a long evening of doing that I said, “screw it!” and set about just collecting more of the battle pets suggested and then leveling them up.  Basically, I went away for almost two months and only returned over the weekend to finally give it a go again.

And with a bevy of new pets to form teams around, I beat it on the first try.

Well, that was suddenly easy

There was, of course, an achievement that went with the victory.  But the real reason to do the Celestial Tournament is to ear Celestial Coins.

The coins, I want the coins

With the Celestial Coins you can purchase items from Master Li, including four battle pets representing each of the four legendary pets you have to fight.

The pets for sale

Fortunately, when you with the Celestial Tournament for the first time Master Li gives you a quick quest that gives you two more coins, so that you have a total of three and can purchase one of the pets right then.

It’s a gimme, but you won’t pass it up

I went for Xu-Fu, who is one of those pets on that Top 20 list I linked above and comes up regularly in strategy guides for various fights.

Xu-Fu obtained

Of course he is level 1, so I put him at the top of the leveling queue in Rematch to get him up to level 25 on my next leveling cycle.

Now I just need to win the tournament nine more times… which means nine more weeks… to complete the set.

For those interested, these are my teams for each of the for legendary battle pets.

Final Four Teams

You can click on that picture to make it readable.

The general strategies for each were:

  • Chi-Chi – Snails!  Keep Chi-Chi poisoned with your two DOTs and use dive when it is off cool-down.  Two snails should be enough, but bring three just in case.
  • Xu-Fu – Cast lightning with the Whelpling, switch to the Clockwork Gnome and have him put down a turret. When he dies, which he will do quickly, in with the Chicken and Flock until Xu-Fu goes down.
  • Yu’la – Dodge when Yu’la does lift off, burrow, then a cycle of attacks around that.  A set of regular rabbits can do this, but the Dust Bunny from Dalaran has a more powerful base attack, so speeds things up.  Now glad I got two of those.
  • Zao – Get lightning up with the moth before it dies, then go to the raptor, do expose wounds and then batter until Zao goes down.

Those teams I picked up while searching around.  They were generally not the top strategies I came across, but they all seemed to work and, most importantly, had no overlap in pets so I didn’t have to worry about keeping pets alive from battle to battle.

Anyway, another battle pet collected.  Back to working on the various Raiding with Leashes pets.

The Million Dollar Battle Hangover

Some things are better read about after the fact rather than experienced live.

Or watched live.

The timer has come and gone and the Pandemic Horde Keepstar in 9-4RP2 still stands.

I was hoping that CCP would do a Dev Blog about the fight.  They might still I suppose.  But so far all they have is a promotional video using the battle to sell the game.

What the video says is technically correct, but it really doesn’t express the nature of the fight.

One thing I would like to see out of CCP is an official number for people in local for the battle.  CCP has mentioned the number “6,000,” which has been picked up by the press, but the video description says “over 6,000” and CCP said “more than 6,000” on Twitter.

On the INN stream I heard them calling out the number of people in local, 6,700 being the number I thought I heard, since somebody expressed a desire to see it go past 7,000 at that point, so I don’t think I mis-heard “5,700” on the stream but I’m not willing to go listen to the stream again (which Matterall has posted to Sound Cloud).  And shortly after that the system dumped over a thousand people, so maybe local was wrong, messed up by the stress on the server.

Anyway, an official number would be nice.  We know it beat the 5,337 number for the M-OEE8 Keepstar fight a little over a year ago, but where is the bar set today?

The INN stream itself, which I listened to at various points throughout the battle, was interesting.  Or, it was interesting to somebody who knew the game and some of the various alliance personalities.  Watching the stream was… less interesting, and doubly so if you knew nothing about the game, as it was mostly just colored brackets on the screen.

Orange defenders waiting for the battle, blue attackers in the distance

With about 20 minutes left to go before the Keepstar timer ended, the group on the stream was ready to declare the citadel saved.  The Imperium had jumped in a Nyx fleet and launched fighters to attack the Keepstar, but they were so far away and moving so slowly in TiDi that they were not going to get there in time to hit the structure.  A command destroyer group that was supposed to use their AOE microjump drives to speed the fighters along failed, leaving the fighters swimming on their own towards the Keepstar.

And when the defenders launched space superiority fighter… anti-fighter fighters… to take on the coming blob, things seemed lost for the attackers.

But the Imperium dropped in sub caps, a Jackdaw fleet and a Machariel fleet, to start hitting the Keepstar, feeding in new ships as losses in those fleets mounted, allowing the fighters to arrive.

The Keepstar structure started to get whittled away, and by the time it was down to 70% the discussion on the stream had flipped and was now talking about when the defenders would have to start pulling out.  It was estimated that they would need to start withdrawing supers by the 40% mark to keep them from being massacred when the defending Keepstar blew up, removing the protective cover.

Then the Imperium attack began to run out of steam.  The fighter force had been removed as a threat and the sub cap fleets were losing ships faster than they would be replaced.  I was home by about that point and saw the calls for Jackdaws and Machariels to form up in Delve to be flown to our staging system and jumped in.  When the Imperium firepower waned the repair timer, which runs in real time and is not affect by time dilation, began to count down again.  Soon the battle was over, the Keepstar being saved.

Despite getting home about an hour before that point, I never got in system during the conflict.  The login server wasn’t having it and I just got errors every five minutes or so until the game finally reset me and made me try again.

I’ve been on hold for more than 30 minutes here…

Eventually I got on.  There were about 2,500 people in the system at that point and time dilation was still pretty heavy.

11% actually means the server is working

The TiDi was lifting though, and was gone before I logged off about 30 minutes later.  I undocked from one of our Fortizars and surveyed the scene.  I cloaked up and warped around looking for looters or MTUs to shoot.

MTU pulling wrecks with the Keepstar in the background

People were being paranoid… and rightfully so… so MTUs didn’t get left hanging about for very long.  I did get a shot at a Coercer once I saw he was fully armed with salvage beams.

Coercer salvaging

However once I decloaked my Purifier caught the eye of a couple of other hostiles and I had to warp off after a few salvos.  Maybe I should have let them shoot me.  It would have gotten me home more quickly.  Instead I docked back up and called it a night.

Looking at a battle report, the Imperium lost about 1,200 ships and fighters totaling up to nearly $300 billion ISK.  There were a lot of Machariels on that list.  Meanwhile the defenders lot about 800 ships, but they were mostly small ships and fighters, so they didn’t even pass the 40 billion ISK mark.

A clear win for the defenders.

Of course, as with any battle that doesn’t live up to the hype, a lot of people seem to be unhappy and there is no end of people those infused with the wisdom of hindsight willing to tell people what everybody should have done.

There is a group that is mad at CCP because their servers can’t handle that many players, though anybody paying attention knew that this was going to be an issue.  It always has been.

There are people mad because the fight did not entertain sufficiently.  Somebody is always mad when Goons refused to suicide their titans by jumping them into a fight.

And then there are the people who hate when null sec gets any attention.

Some of the press, who eagerly snatched up the whole “million dollar battle” theme that was the brainchild of one person on Reddit, followed up with sad trombone posts about how the game let them down by failing to live up to that promise.

I like that we can’t agree on the alleged cost of the battle.  Over at The Nosy Gamer there is a calculation as to how much a titan costs in real world money using the spurious Dollars to PLEX and back again method.  Nothing being simple, he has four answers.  My own back of the envelope math says that, pulling from those headlines above, $3,300 is bit low, $10,000 is probably too high, and half a million is clearly from some other dimension of reality.  But it doesn’t matter anyway since no matter what answer you get, it was all virtual goods in the end, which we know lack any real world value.

And then there is the review of the game mechanics involved.  There is an interesting thread on Reddit, written by one of the defender, exploring how the balance favors the defenders in such battles.  That should actually make the Imperium happy, what with our “a Keepstar in every system, a Fortizar on every gate” plan.

Over at INN Arrendis explored the mechanics of the battle compared to B-R5RB and speculated as to how things could be mad better.  Maybe CCP will look into that.  They seem to like the attention such big battles bring to the game, so it would be good if they were not hamstrung by the mechanics when players show up in huge numbers.

A few people gave props to the Imperium for actually leaving fortress Delve to try to take down the Keepstar.  But not many.  As ever, Goons are bullies when they attack anybody and cowards when they don’t.  CCP says in their video that the “war is not over,” but I suspect that was the last fight over that particular Keepstar unless somebody has a plan that won’t collapse when more than six thousand capsuleers show up.  Instead, convoys of Imperium pilots have been shuttling they ships home since the battle.  We’ll see if GSOL slips in and takes down the Fortizars.  That’ll be the sign we’re not coming back.

Anyway, we all seem to prefer the static state of null sec currently, where we hunt each others ratters and miners but not much else, a scenario that has never dislodged anybody from their sovereignty ever.  I guess that meets the twin goals of safety and fun in some way.

SuperData Shows PUBG Slipping on PC but Gaining on Consoles

SuperData Research released their numbers for December 2017.

SuperData Research Top 10 – December 2017

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which was in second place on the PC chart for November, slipped down to fifth place.  Still, anybody who can say, “Made more money that WoW this month!” is probably not going to complain too loudly.  And they can always point to the console chart where PUBG made it up to third position via its release on XBox.

That move saw the Chinese trio of Dungeon Fighter Online, Crossfire, and Fantasy Westward Journey Online II return to slots 2, 3, and 4, with League of Legends undisturbed in first place yet again.  Some day it will fall.

Fortnite, having dropped all that co-op game play that was their initial pitch to jump on the Battle Royale bandwagon, jumped to sixth place, above WoW, which held on to seventh position for another month.

World of Tanks moved up to eighth, while Roblox and Overwatch returned to the bottom list.  Displaced from the PC chart were Destiny 2, Call of Duty: WWII, and Star Wars Battlefront II, which were 6, 8, and 10 on the list last month.

On the console list, as noted, PUBG arrived on XBox and vaulted into third spot, while Fortnite, which came to consoles the month before, held on to eighth position.

And on the mobile chart Pokemon Go made it back onto the list, slotting into ninth, while Candy Crush Saga held on at sixth position.

Other items from the monthly report:

  • Global digital games market saw an incredible holiday quarter, up 19% from 2016.
  • Worldwide digital spending grew 17% in December. Gamers spent almost $10 billion digitally on games across all platforms in December. Growth came primarily from an increase in Premium PC, Console, and Mobile.
  • Destiny 2’s new DLC release, Curse of Osiris, failed to make a significant impact on the game. MAU and digital revenue were generally flat month-over-month.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds’ success continues and competitors respond. XBox owners waited patiently for PUBG to make its way on console and responded by buying more than 2 million digital units during launch month. Meanwhile, mobile PUBG clones Knives Out and Rules of Survival both have had successful launches.
  • Call of Duty WW2 ended the year on a high note. The new Call of Duty had the best quarter of digital unit sales ever for a console title.
  • Grand Theft Auto V set another record month. GTA V Online broke its previous revenue record back in June 2017, making it the title’s best month to date for its multiplayer segment.
  • Fortnite Battle Royale earned $89 million in December.  Epic Games’ entry into the Battle Royale arena continues to reach new heights on both console and PC, with a close-to-even audience split on both platforms.