Monthly Archives: January 2018

Winter Movie League – Thieves Steal the Week

Week eight of our Fantasy Movie League has now passed and it was one of those strange weeks.

The usual effort involves picking an anchor film that will bring in the most dollars, and then backing it up with something at the low end of the price range that will back it up, the optimum generally being the best price/performance film.  And this week started off no different than most with the following options.

Jumanji              $290
12 Strong            $251
The Post             $209
The Greatest Showman $156
Paddington 2         $110
Den of Thieves       $94
The Commuter         $90
Star Wars            $85
Insidious            $74
Proud Mary           $65
Phantom Thread       $52
Darkest Hour         $47
Pitch Perfect 3      $45
I, Tonya             $40
Coco                 $34

It seemed clear that Jumanji would be at the top of the box office, so on the anchor front it was more a question of whether or not one of the other possible anchors was cheap enough to offset that.  12 Strong didn’t seem like it would be worth the investment, so after my first gut pick early in the week I changed to anchor on three screens of The Post.  That left me enough room for a variety of fillers at the low end.

For filler I had my eye on The Commuter.  With my own estimates, where I usually just assume a 50% drop from the previous week for movies already in play, seemed pretty likely to get the best performer bonus.

As the week went on and more estimates came in from various sources, I started to think that maybe Insidious might be the better pick and swapped over to that.  Meanwhile the predictions for Jumanji were coming in higher than I expected and the forecasts for Den of Thieves, a potential filler, were all over the map, ranging from $5 million to over $11 million.  At the low number it wasn’t worth considering, but at the high number it was a must-have pick.

So I vacillated.  I made Jumanji my anchor, then kept changing up the filler.  But I wasn’t willing to commit to Po Huit’s Tuesday “Hail Mary” pick of Jumanji and seven screens of Den of Thieves.

I went back and forth on a couple of picks on Thursday night.  And then on Friday morning the number for the Thursday night previews came out.  For those who want to see these early, the Box Office section at the site Deadline generally posts them around 8am on Friday morning, which gives you an hour before picks are locked.

The previews showed Den of Thieves doing nearly a million dollars on Thursday night.  That was a very strong performance, making the high end estimates seem likely.  Not only that, but the Thursday night preview take counts towards the weekend box office totals, so Po Huit’s “Hail Mary” pick on Tuesday suddenly became the “well duh!” pick on Friday morning as I and nearly a thousand other Fantasy Movie League players jumped on board.

My Winter Week Eight Picks and the Perfect Pick

Included in the 981 people who got the perfect pick were six people in the Meta League, including the five of the top six contenders, so the scores ended up like this:

  1. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $144,947,926
  2. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $144,947,926
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $144,947,926
  4. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $144,947,926
  5. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $144,947,926
  6. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $144,947,926
  7. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $126,670,568
  8. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $121,553,968
  9. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $101,579,844
  10. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $101,579,844
  11. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $69,599,900
  12. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $66,917,547
  13. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $65,732,064
  14. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $65,663,644
  15. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $65,397,597
  16. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $65,026,990
  17. Kraut Screens (T) – $64,525,769
  18. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $59,748,952
  19. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $58,307,592

Meta League Legend

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Those who went with Den of Thieves topped the list while those who failed to get on board suffered, with the dividing line being about the $100 million mark.  Above that, you have Den of Thieves in your line up, below that and you did not.

The over all Meta League standings after Week Eight were:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $936,932,561
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $926,443,555
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $875,631,244
  4. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $863,905,925
  5. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $858,511,984
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $847,362,620
  7. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $818,958,132
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $793,368,709
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $779,256,658
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $752,756,746
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $714,914,429
  12. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $690,400,935
  13. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $669,741,531
  14. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $661,721,152
  15. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $686,033,235
  16. Kraut Screens (T) – $686,023,088
  17. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $672,441,442
  18. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $667,201,673
  19. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $334,926,516

The week ended up with something of a “the rich get richer” scenario as those five of the top six who went with the perfect pick pulled further away from the pack.  But it brought no joy to Corr in his attempt to catch Ben and, while I am now in contention for third place, first and second got no closer.

So that was the result of what ended up being a poorly priced week.  And Den of Thieves was not alone on the list.  Corr noted last week that the film Forever My Girl, a new film opening in over a thousand venues, was somehow missing from the list and ended up in 10th place in the US box office over the weekend.  Oops.

That was Week Eight.  Now we’re on to Week Nine and more potential comedy.  The movie options and pricing had to be up by Monday at 5pm Pacific Time, but the Oscar Nominees were only announced twelve hours later, early on Tuesday morning, and the nominee list may influence the weekend box office.

Sure, we all know Three Billboards is going to be nominated, as it already expanded onto more screens last week. (I went and saw it finally, and there was an ad for Fantasy Movie League before the showing.  Direct hit on the target audience I guess.)  Three Billboards made it to 17th place for the weekend box office, and might move up further, but what else might see a resurgence due to announcements?  Well, the price list for this week is:

 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

New to the list this week are The Maze Runner and Hostiles, while Forever My Girl, which should have been on the list last week since it placed 10th in the US box office, finally makes it. Then there is The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, both of which return to the list, being obvious Oscar nominees even before they were announced. There is also a Best of the Rest options, which I think is there to cover FML in case some nominee surges in the theater count.

Falling off the list was Darkest Hour, Pitch Perfect 3 , I, Tonya, Coco, Insidious, and Proud Mary.  Darkest Hour might be the only surprise there given that it also seemed likely to get an Oscar nod.  But it can come back via that Best of the Rest slot.

The assumption this week is that Jumanji will finally fall from first place, to be replace at the top of the box office by the third installment of the Maze Runner franchise… also the second one not to feature the maze.

Meanwhile, the following films still in release were nominated for the Best Picture award, so might be expected to see a boost at the box office: (full list here)

  • Darkest Hour
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Coco and Ferdinand (and Boss Baby!) were also nominated for animated feature.

My normal early week lack of direction is enhanced by the possibility of the nominations changing the game.  I will definitely be checking the theater counts over at Box Office Mojo when they show up on Thursday afternoon before making my final pick.

The Coming Battle in 9-4RP2

Not too long after this post goes live the first fleets will be forming up.  Fleets of ships, each as big as 255 pilots in size, will start to coalesce and begin their last minute preparations.  The final timer for a Pandemic Horde Keepstar in the system  9-4RP2 in Cloud Ring set to expire later today.

I logged in last night to take one last peek.  There were fewer than 40 people in system.  The Imperium citadels ringing the Keepstar sat in silent vigil, watching the timer tick down.

Less than a day to go at that point…

That was at about 04:00 New Eden time, which puts the the start of the Keepstar repair cycle at about 22:00.

In a bit of a quirk, a bunch of the citadels around the Keepstar hit their vulnerability window a few hours before the big fight, so there is the possibility of some early action, though Asher says that nobody defends on the shield timer, so it might just be some attackers and people gunning the citadels exchanging shots, but it will be a side show to the main event.

The PH 9-4RP2 Keepstar

As these things tend to go, the form up and the start of any fight will happen while I am still at the office.  The earliest I can possibly be home and logged in is about 23:00 New Eden time, which is a full hour after the timer.

That is still better than last week, as the times have crept later and later with each fight.  But, if nobody shows up to defend the Keepstar… or if nobody shows up to attack it… the whole thing will be over in 30 minutes and I won’t even be on the road home by then.

I’m pretty sure the attackers are going to show up.  Imperium Jabber has been full of pings about the coming battle over the last five days… which probably means half the coalition still doesn’t know about it.  There have been no end of move ops to get ships pre-positioned for the fight, while the capital ops have been opened up, and reimbursement offered, to people who can only qualify for CrapSwarm, to fill out as many capital fleets as possible.  We shall see if people will risk their ratting carriers.

Which leaves the defenders.

I suppose the easiest option for Pandemic Horde would be to play the “Didn’t want that Keepstar anyway, made you form!” card and just let the Keepstar die without forming.  That at least has a reliable result.  Other options involve more risk and may not save the Keepstar.  But if they go that route, the question then would be “What will they defend?”  The Imperium might just move forward and try their Keepstar at C4C-Z4 in Fade to see. (We were there recently.)

On grid with the PH Keepstar in C4C-Z4

Ideally for them, they and their allies would both save the Keepstar and destroy copious Imperium capitals and super caps.  Saving the Keepstar but losing a lot of supers would not bode well however.  I strongly suspect that the Imperium’s primary goal is to destroy as many super capitals belonging to the coalition of the north as possible, the Keepstar just being the bait to get them on the field.

The Imperium would happily trade titans with them all evening and consider themselves the winner based solely on their ability to replace losses.  You have seen the production numbers for Delve from the December Monthly Economic Report, right?

December 2017 – Production Values by Region – Bar Graph

I suspect that were not just building Rorquals and ratting carriers down there.

And, of course, there is the “good of EVE Online” aspect to this.  Big fights like this generate headlines in the wider gaming press and bring attention… and new players… to the game.  I wonder what is going on at CCP as the battle looms?

From my own selfish point of view, I hope for a big fight as well because then time dilation will kick in and the fight will drag out to the point that I can get home, get settled, and log in to see things unfold.

The view from the Fortizar where I am docked

Maybe I will even get on a few kill mails with my stealth bomber.  We shall see.

Anyway, the coming timer is the topic du jour over on Reddit, with plenty of speculation, advice, and memes to be had.  Elsewhere there are some reviews of what has happened so far and previews as to what may come.

Addendum:

The Keepstar lived, no titans were lost, no great super cap battle was had, but more than 6,700 people were in the fight at one point.

As the battle progressed, a couple of the mainstream gaming sites posted about the fight:

I am not sure where the whole “million dollar battle” came from, but sites were using that to get clicks, and the idea was enough to get the game on the news… or at least the Canadian news.

I cannot find a direct link to that video at the moment, so the Tweet will have to do.  If AdBlock eats the tweet for you, you can find it here.

Waiting for some final numbers on the fight before I do a follow up post.

Pet Battle Level Fest

I was going to just write a post about my daily pet leveling routine.  I start with a level 1 pet, because I seem to have a huge number of level 1 pets, and get them up to level 25 in a little less than 20 minutes, collecting some gold and experience along the way.

I guess that every pet you get through a quest reward or a drop or other method other than catching them is level 1.

The idea here was to have an easy daily task that would level up a pet and have some side benefits.  Having half a dozen level 100+ characters helped here, because to do this you need access to Draenor.  Also it helps to have the Safari Hat toy, which gives you a 10% boost to pet experience from battles.

I take one of my not-yet-level-110 alts and start them off in their Draenor garrison which, on the alliance side, happens to be very close to the first destination, the trainer Ashlei in Shadowmoon Valley.  Ashlei’s lineup is good because it includes an Elekk plushie, which has no attacks, so it is safe to bring in a level 1 pet into the fight.

Facing Ashlei with my Tauren, Safari Hat on!

With the Safari Hat on and a lesser pet treat consumed (25% bonus) the fight will boost a pet up to level 12 or 13, which is enough to make that pet safe to be swapped in on the other fights they will face.  There are plenty of viable, never fail teams for this fight.  I happen to use Grunty and Deathy, two BlizzCon reward pets, but those are hardly a requirement.  Just swap in your level 1 when only the Elekk Plushie is left on Ashlei’s team, stay a round, and they swap back to another pet to finish it off.

That’s the thing, a pet has to survive a full round in battle to get credit and experience.

From there I fly off to the the Spires of Aarak to face Vesharr.  I used to be on the hairy edge with this fight, where a couple of crits would cause me to lose, but have since found a safe team with Chromius and the Mechanical Pandaren Dragonling that works.  This fight can pump the leveling pet up to as much as 19 with the treat active.

From there I head to Talador and the trainer Tarelune for the third fight.  My team here isn’t optimal, featuring Rascal Bot and a Nether Faerie Dragon, but mostly works and, even when it fails, it comes close enough, and the leveling pet is high enough level by this point, that I can still finish it off and get the experience.

After Taralune I use my Dalaran hearth stone and from there use the portal to Pandaria.  There is a stable master right there after you use the portal to heal up pets, after which I fly out to Aki the Chosen, one of those fights where the Anubisath Idol makes all the difference.

Anubisath Idol up front in Pandaria, Safari Hat on!

After that fight, if I have a treat up, the pet I am carrying is well into level 24.  In order to get the maximum use out of the treat, which lasts for one hour, I recall back to my garrison and log off, having used less than 20 minutes of the treat’s time and saving the remainder for the next day.

I have a pile of those treats, but I like to conserve them because there is some effort to earn them.  I can used another character out in the world to get that last level, or just throw a one of the leveling tokens at it if I have one handy.  Either way, another pet to level 25.

If I did not have a treat up I will fly off to the Burning Pandaren Spirit in the Townlong Steppes for one more fight.  The spirit’s team can be taken by a snail or whelk, you just have to swap in the level pet at the right time.  Once the fight is done it will be level 24.

Taking on the burning Pandarian Spirit with snails

Each fight rewards gold, the last two also add in a bag of random items, and experience for the character who you’re using.  The experience is good enough that my rogue went from about 103 to 110 on it, when I then started using a level 100 mage, who is well on his way to 110 now too.

I could do more.  With some additional effort I could probably level up a second and even a third pet every day.  But the plan was to keep it from becoming a grind, and just four or five battles a day is easy and leaves me time to do other things.

Unless there is a pet battle event.

Last Tuesday after patch 7.3.5 hit I came home, interested in that, but started off doing my usual pet thing, only to find that my level 1 pet jumped to level 19, with only the Safari Hat giving any experience boost, after the first fight.  It was only then that I noticed that the week’s special was a 200% boost to pet battle experience.

Oh yeah, that helps

That seemed like an opportunity.  I wasn’t keen to burn myself out on pet battles, but I started looking up leveling pet strategies for the other NPC trainers in Draenor and Pandaria determined to not let this go to waste.  So rather than my usual 20 minutes or so I spent most of my play time working on pet battles.

Or at least as much time as I could stand.  I happened to have updated my standings over at Warcraft Pets just before the event, so I had a baseline of where I started.

Stats before the event

That showed me with 248 pets at level 25.  After six days of the event I had Warcraft Pets import my latest standings and found that I had leveled 61 pets up to 25.

Stats as of Monday morning

Again, I probably could have done more but I have a sense of how much I can really binge on something like this before burn-out becomes a possibility.  And I still have this evening to run through the trainers one more time.  I should probably use the last day to boost up as many level 1 pets as I can, as once they have a few levels the options for raising them further safely are greater.

Meanwhile, because pet battle yield experience, gold, items, and even faction in some cases, I had a number of other achievements pop up including hitting exalted with one of the WoW Legion factions I was still working on.

Exalted with the Nightfallen now

Of course, one of the things that made this all viable for me is the Rematch addon I wrote about previously.  Not only does it let you setup teams, but you can also create a queue of pets you want to level up and allows you to create teams with a placeholder that it will automatically fill with the pet at the top of the queue.  I still have to juggle the queue sometimes to make sure I have a pet appropriate to the battle I am facing (no level 1 pets for the Mana Trap battle above, as one of the foes has an attack that hits your back line pets as well) but otherwise it helps me keep things going quickly without a lot of fuss.

So I made some progress on leveling up.  I still haven’t found time to return to the Celestial Tournament in Pandaria, but I now have a big enough field of level 25 battle pets that I ought to be able to take it on successfully.

Friday Bullet Points Dipped in Nostalgia

It is raining again… which is a good thing in California… and a spate of different things have rolled across my screen, all of which interest me but which don’t quite warrant a full blog post yet, so we’re back to Friday bullet points.

Age of Empires Restrictive Edition

I was keen as mustard when it was announced last June that Microsoft was working on a remaster of the original Age of Empires.  While I was always more of an Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings fan… and I own the remaster of that already… I was still in for the original.

Age of Empires

After a long stretch of silence, there was finally some news about the game.

On the upside of things, the remaster will be available come February 20, 2018, so it will be here soon.

On the down side, the game will ONLY be available through the Microsoft Windows Store.  Leaving aside the whole “I don’t need another goddam Steam clone” and my lack of trust in Microsoft, the store itself tells me it won’t be available until the end of 2018 and that it won’t run on my device.

Also, it may require certain hardware

So I guess that pretty much lets the air out of any Age of Empires nostalgia I had as well as being a bad sign for any possible hope I had in their whole Age of Empires IV plan.

Rift’s Prime Number

From there we head over to Trion Worlds where their 2018 Rift On! producer’s letter.

Not a dye nor a floor wax

Trion looks to be eyeing the green fields of nostalgia as well, taking a card from Daybreak’s deck and promising something called Rift Prime, a subscription only version of the game that will come with a fresh server, reduced cash shop options, progressively unlocked content, and NO lockboxes.

I have said in the past that the one thing that would surely get me to roll on back to Telara was a retro server of some sort, so this sounds like it might be the time.  The instance group in pre-Storm Legion expansion Rift was one of my MMO high points.  Still, there are some mixed messages.

We plan to present RIFT at its roots as much as is possible to do, and look forward to sharing details over the coming weeks. The PRIME server will progress at a faster pace than the original launch and will eventually come to an end in spectacular fashion.

So back to the roots is good, and I expect that the servers will have to progress… by which I assume they mean unlock expansions… more rapidly that than the first time around.  I am curious as to what the spectacular end will be.

But then there is also this to wrestle with.

As a small teaser of what’s to come, dynamically matching characters to their current zone’s level, dungeons dropping loot specific to your character’s true level, caps on the number of professions available to a single character, and participation awards that carry over to your characters on existing servers.

Many upcoming live content changes that apply to existing servers will also apply to the new PRIME server, assuming they’re not restricted by progression locks.

That doesn’t sound very much like Rift at its roots.

Anyway, the current time frame is “spring” for Rift Prime which, as we recall from the Landmark launch, extends out to the first day of summer in the back half of June.  Syp goes on about the Rift Prime server idea at length, but I am waiting for more details before I crank up the thousand word minimum post-o-matic opinion machine.

Legendary Pokemon Return.. Again

It is an even numbered year so Nintendo is having Pokemon events to give away legendary Pokemon.

Didn’t we just get some of these?

Getting people to come to events to make Pokemon a more social game has always been part of the Game Freak/Nintendo plan, but didn’t we just spend 2016 having monthly legendary events?  And isn’t the ability to catch a bunch of these part of the sales pitch for Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon?

Oh well, if you missed out and don’t have the wherewithal for end game Pokemon, another series of events are coming for 2018 starting with a Dialga and Palkia event in February at your local GameStop.  In order to participate you must have a copy of Pokemon Sun, Moon, UltraSun, or UltraMoon.

Also coming up in February for Pokemon nostalgia buffs is Pokemon Crystal on the 3DS Virtual Console.

More on the Expense of Video Games

In something of a follow up on the raging discussion back at the end of November about how expensive it is to make video games, Raph Koster has returned with a new presentation and discussion about the cost of making video games.  So more charts and graphs and a list of suggestions await.  If nothing else you can bask in how little we pay per kilobyte of video game software these days I suppose, a measure which makes those old 143KB Apple II floppies seem like something of a gold mine.

Where Have All Our Video Cards Gone?

And finally, we can wistfully recall the glory days when we were able to go down to Best Buy and purchase a goddam video card.  Ars Technica has an article up about how all this Tulip bubble crypto currency boom is soaking up all the high end video cards.  I guess I will be stuck with a GeForce GTX 960 until this whole thing collapses.

Anyway, those were my bullet points for the week.  If you want more there are some over at Endgame Viable, most of which are not duplicates of items on my list.

Time and the TiDi Wait for No Man

So many pings.

Things have begun to stir in null sec here in the new year.  The Imperium has risen from its ratting and mining binge… krabbing is us… to focus on blowing something up.  It isn’t really a war.  We’re not off to conquer more territory.  Instead we are focusing on a Pandemic Horde Keepstar in the system 9-4RP2 in Cloud Ring.

And so the alerts have been going out to rally people to be ready to join the fight, even asking people to resubscribe their capital and super capital pilots.  This started in earnest after the first attack set a timer on the Keepstar, practically becoming the Jabber equivalent of the old “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! See “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney…” radio ads as the directorate tried to get the troops rallied and eager.

I was eager myself, ever keen to be part of a big fight, even if it was only to be a timer fight rather than a possible kill.  The problem was the time.  Form up for the fight on Tuesday was slated for 18:00 and the timer itself would come up a bit past 20:30.  Those are New Eden times, which runs on UTC, which puts those event at about 10am and 12:30pm on a week day out here on the left coast of the United States.  Even though I tend to be early into the office, I am never so early as to be able to be home by lunch time.

Still, I had a hope of seeing some of the action.  If the fight developed into a big enough brawl, if the goal expanded beyond the timer and became a slug fest between super fleets looking for titan kills, time dilation could help me out.  I couldn’t get into the game until 23:00 UTC at the earliest, but if everybody was running at 10% tidi then a fight might still be under way.

To get myself setup for that possibility, I hopped into a stealth bomber, made sure I had a couple of bombs and a stack of torpedoes, and flew out to Cloud Ring so as to be pre-positioned for any fight.

The flight out went without incident, it being late US/early AU time when things can be quiet, but when I arrived in 9-4RP2 I realized I had to find the Keepstar still.  It doesn’t show up on the overview and I hadn’t bothered to find out even a general location for it.  But I saw we had some citadels in the system as well… more than a dozen, including a Fortizar.  I figured I could just hole up in one of those and find the fight when the time came, so I warped to one only to find they were all still in the process of deploying.

That meant no docking up for me as well as an interesting angle to the coming fight.  In addition to the armor timer for the Keepstar there would be a range of Imperium citadels coming online and vulnerable just to confuse the issue.  If the locals stuck to the Keepstar, we would have a bunch of bases in the system.  If they attacked the vulnerable citadels, they might lose the Keepstar timer.

Anyway, warping to a deploying citadel did help me out, as I found that they were all on grid with the Keepstar.

The Pandemic Horde 9-4RP2 Keepstar

The timer was running down, but the event was still about 15 hours away.

Distant Keepstar timer running

I looked around for a bit, then went off to make myself a safe spot.  I did not want to log back in on grid with the fight lest I find myself in the midst of hostiles.  Once I had a nice location bookmarked I uncloaked and did a safe logoff.

That long 30 second wait to be safe

The next day at the office I watched the pings come in on my phone.  There were early form ups, late form ups, supers and sub-caps, battleships and destroyers, and all the sundry in between forming up and heading towards Cloud Ring.

I saw a report of two hostile titans having been blown up, another that we lost the timer, and a third that because the Keepstar was again vulnerable that we were going to re-do the shield timer yet again to start the event again.  Taking a quick peek at the INN stream it appeared that we were doing the shield timer via a  mass of fighters that had somehow formed themselves ala Voltron into an Avatar class titan. (Source: INN stream and Joe the Barbarian)

A titan and the fighter formation compared

The overwhelming fighter super capital assault was enough to drive off the enemy.

There were more than 3,000 people in local at the peak of the fight, but by the time I got home, logged int, and warped onto grid that number had dropped closer to 30.  We had set the shield timer again, so success on that front.

The timer running again… cloaked Purifier in the foreground

We also seemed to do very well with our own citadel array as there was now a constellation of CONDI citadels around the target, including a Fortizar in which we could hide dreads and carriers.

The view from the Fortizar

In addition there was another Fortizar going online, just to add to the collection.

Another Fortizar deploying

That left the a growing Imperium citadel count in system.

Imperium Citadel Count in 9-4RP2

Even though I missed the fight, there was some upside for me.  Because the shield timer got set later in the day, there was a greater likelihood of my being able to get home and online to see the next day’s fight.

However, yesterday’s fight went even more quickly that the previous one.  By the time I got home the system had again emptied out.  We did win the armor timer fight.  That meant a six day wait for the final fight.

I was more than 2 hours late…

That will put the battle for the destruction of the Keepstar early Tuesday afternoon next week when, naturally, I will be at work.

But I have hope.  Timers are timers and not so serious, so people slack off.

This fight though, this could mean the destruction of a significant Pandemic Horde asset, so I suspect the defenders will be pulling out all the stops in order to get people in system and on grid to defend the Keepstar.

And on our side there are already ‘”fight coming” pings going out in multiple languages to make people aware of this fight.

Then there are the third parties who will show up looking for kills, and maybe even a Keepstar kill.

With all of that I have high hopes that it will be everybody to the limit and time dilation at 10% and the system still lagging for a long fight into the night, leaving me plenty of time to get home, get logged in, and get on grid to see how it plays out.

In the mean time the Keepstar waits.

Look, it is an unsubtle metaphor!  Imperium surrounding Pandemic Horde!

Of course, that is just my story.  I’m still sitting in system waiting for the big fight.  For what actually happened this week the following stories have been posted:

There are also a number of posts on Reddit with good pictures of the first two fights.

Now to see if Tuesday brings a B-R5RB level blood bath.

Winter Movie League – A Wild Four Day Ride

With the four day MLK holiday weekend in the US, week seven of the winter Fantasy Movie League was quite a journey.

Any week is a bit of a crap shoot when it comes to picks as you have to find the studio and industry estimates and figure out who is on the ball and who is way off base and craft your selection based on that.  But this week went above and beyond for a few reasons.

To start with, as I noted last week, the pricing was such that you had seven possible anchors out of a list of fifteen movies.  The list of options:

Jumanji              $293
The Post             $210
Paddington 2         $201
Insidious            $179
Proud Mary           $169
The Commuter         $143
Star Wars            $139
The Greatest Showman $132
Pitch Perfect 3      $70
Darkest Hour         $64
Molly's Game         $59
Ferdinand            $58
Coco                 $44
The Shape of Water   $41
Best of the Rest     $41

Then the filler movies were a bit on the pricey side, the gap between the top and bottom of the list being fairly narrow.  So you had to have some care in your pick lest you run out of budget to fill your screens.  Not that you need to fill them all.  The perfect pick the previous week had one empty.  But more than one seems dicey.

Then there were the estimates, which were all over the board.  I mean, they often vary, but this week they seemed to be more varied than usual.  I saw a gap of over $8 million for Jumanji across the sites I check.  But then it was a holiday weekend and some sites were estimating for all four days while others held to just Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which just added to the mess.

And then there was the loss of the FML Nerd tool, everybody’s favorite lineup utility.  It was replaced by Moovee Picker, which has some upside.  It goes out and gets the weekend estimates from multiple sites, including a couple I did not know about, and puts them on the page for you and lets you weight them or ignore them completely.  But it is a bit quirky and was doing something very wrong in calculating early last week, though that was quickly resolved.  And, advanced though it is, it isn’t quite as clear and straightforward as FML Nerd yet.

Into this I waded, thinking I would eschew the old guard of movies and jump on the bandwagon with new flicks.  Surely The Post or Paddington 2 would deliver over a four day weekend.  Jumanji couldn’t hold on again, could it?

As the estimates started showing up I changed tack and started building up possible picks around an increasingly aged lineup.  As I fiddled with numbers strange selections seemed to keep coming up with as many as three empty screens.  That seemed like crazy talk to me.  It took all I had to leave one screen empty last week, three screens was asking too much.

Meanwhile the estimates seem to be fairly favorable for Star Wars and it seemed quite possible that it would be the best performer of the week, so I started messing around with that as an anchor.  Moovee Picker was telling me to go with seven screens of that and a single empty screen or to run with a screen of Jumanji, five screens of Star Wars, and two empty screens.

More empty screens!

So I was fiddling with various options and had picked six screens of Star Wars and two screens of Pitch Perfect just to see how it looked, then got distracted and forgot to go back and change it to a “real” pick until it was already too late.  So that was that.

My Winter Week Seven Picks

It didn’t turn into a bad pick.  What was odd was what turned into a good pick.  Watching the estimates come it, Jumanji quickly asserted itself as being under valued and looked to be the best performer of the week, making crazy picks like three screens of Jumanji, one screen of Coco, and one screen of Pitch Perfect 3, with three empty screens, viable candidates scoring well above my own picks.  And nobody appeared to have predicted the perfect pick.

Then the final results came in and, in a final surprise twist, The Greatest Showman surged ahead and took the best price/performance title away from Jumanji, throwing the previous perfect pick estimate out the window and turning some of those three empty screen picks back into the crazy they seemed… or at least they were no longer close to winning picks.

The perfect pick for the week turned out to be seven screens of The Greatest Showman and one screen of Pitch Perfect 3, a selection that only 70 people went with for week seven.

Winter Week Seven Perfect Pick

This was the second time The Greatest Showman featured in the perfect pick, as it was also the anchor of choice for week five.

Meanwhile, in the Meta League, picks were all over the map with only two people sharing the same pick.  In the MCats League I was the only one willing to touch Star Wars and ended up in third place there, while in the TAGN League I was down in fifth position, the overall Meta League scores for the week ending up as:

  1. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $113,562,167
  2. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $107,543,193
  3. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $107,354,619
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $105,892,743
  5. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $105,606,834
  6. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $105,147,520
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $102,420,226
  8. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $101,236,413
  9. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $91,155,606
  10. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $89,498,523
  11. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $87,467,774
  12. Kraut Screens (T) – $81,300,678
  13. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $78,487,588
  14. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $78,487,588
  15. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $74,014,283
  16. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $71,506,998
  17. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $71,262,455
  18. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $46,438,006 (did not pick)
  19. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $12,696,661 (did not pick)

Meta League Legend

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Except for Ben, who anchored on The Commuter, the split in the league seemed to be between those who bet on older titles and those who went with week seven’s new crop of options, the latter faring poorly as stuffed bears and blaxploitation failed to carry the day.

There were also three people who failed to pick in the TAGN league.  This was the third week for one, which I assume means they have called it quits, so Movies Movies Movies will no longer appear on the list.  The other two will soldier on until such time as they hit that threshold as well.

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $791,984,635
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $781,495,629
  3. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $745,782,776
  4. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $730,683,318
  5. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $718,957,999
  6. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $713,564,058
  7. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $709,656,758
  8. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $692,287,564
  9. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $649,887,439
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $648,420,783
  11. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $631,202,778
  12. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $624,668,871
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $621,497,319
  14. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $620,635,638
  15. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $611,433,939
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $607,452,721
  17. The Filthy Fleapit (T) – $605,523,895
  18. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $560,141,308
  19. The Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $269,262,872

While Ben and Corr stayed locked in combat for the top spot, with Corr gaining no ground this week, the rest of the standings were stirred up a bit.  Pak, in tight contention with Aure and Biyondios last week for third place, did well enough to pull away from his rivals while I, hoping last week to even be in contention for third place, managed to follow Pak up the ladder a bit.

Now we are past the half way point of the season with just six weeks left to go and all the big holiday releases behind us.  Just the grim gray of January and February remain.  Will there be enough action in the box office to allow anybody besides Corr vie with Ben for first place?

The week eight lineup looks like this:

Jumanji              $290
12 Strong            $251
The Post             $209
The Greatest Showman $156
Paddington 2         $110
Den of Thieves       $94
The Commuter         $90
Star Wars            $85
Insidious            $74
Proud Mary           $65
Phantom Thread       $52
Darkest Hour         $47
Pitch Perfect 3      $45
I, Tonya             $40
Coco                 $34

Molly’s Game, Ferdinand, and The Shape of Water all fell off the list as did the Best of the Rest option.

In their place we have new on the screen 12 Strong, Den of Thieves, and Phantom Thread as well as the return of I, Tonya, which ended up being the Best of the Rest filler last week.

But in that list there are no huge stand outs for anchor.  Jumanji remains on top mostly by virtue of nothing else big having come along to cast it down.  12 Strong has Chris Hemsworth, which means we’ll have to at least watch it on video at home at some point, but I am not sure how big of a box office draw the somewhat obscure war story will be.  And after that only The Post and The Greatest Showman seem viable as anchor choices and I don’t really like either for this week.

For the first time since it opened Star Wars is no longer a viable anchor, being too cheap at this point, so it is now an expensive mid-pack filler.

As happened last week, there is no nice cheap $13 fillers if you go overboard on your anchor, so you can go with three screens of Jumanji without leaving a screen empty.  Maybe Den of Thieves will surprise, though they don’t have a big name besides 50 Cent as a draw, while Phantom Thread seems to be more art house Oscar bait than something with significant mass appeal.

And with everybody back at school or back at work, and no holidays in sight save for Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it seems like it will be a weak week at the box office overall.  A good weekend to stay home and binge on Netflix.  I know we have the first season of Outlander to finish up.

A Bit More Bag Space with WoW Patch 7.3.5

I do not write about World of Warcraft patch updates the way I do the ones that come for EVE Online.  Maybe the changes, or the game itself, doesn’t mean as much to me, or maybe the changes in New Eden have more impact.

But this patch is different.  This one has a few items in which I am interested.  And, at the top of the list is something they mentioned in passing back at BlizzCon, that people who have an authentication scheme hooked up to their accounts will get a boost in the size of their default bag.

This grain of sand has been an irritant to many, that one bag slot has been eternally locked in at 16 slots.  It was a fine situation as recently as 2007, but certainly since Wrath of the Lich King and the advent of 20 slot player crafted bags, being stuck with that one sixteen slot bag has felt like a bit of a cruel joke.  I’m busy filling up the bank storage on alts with 30 slot bags, but I still have that 16 slot bag mocking me in slot number one.

So now Blizzard could turn that grain of sand into a pearl, to complete the metaphor I started a paragraph back.  Now they could make us all rejoice rather than grouse and glare at that archaic sixteen slot.

So imagine my reaction to this line in the patch notes:

Accounts protected by an Authenticator and Blizzard SMS Protect gain four extra backpack slots.

Four slots?  That’s it?  We now get a 20 slot bag instead of a 16 slot bag?  Did I mention how many 30 slot bags I have on hand already?

Plenty of 30 slot bags on hand since Draenor

Color me a bit disappointed at the paucity of this size increase.  If Blizzard wants to play the nostalgia card, 2009 bag sizes is not the way to go about it.  Or 2007 bag sizes if you want to count the Harris Pilton Gigantique bag from Burning Crusade.  The game is littered with larger bags, none of which you can put in that first bag slot.  Ugh!

I won’t grouse too much.  My main is literally hauling around so much stuff of late that four slots actually matters.  But don’t expect me to be too thankful given my overflowing supply of 30 slot bags.  I should have known Blizzard was off the mark when it came to bag size when they threw away the name “portable hole” on a 24 slot bag.

Anyway, enough of that.

Also part of the patch is something else I have had my eye on, which is the expanded zone level scaling.  Zones throughout World of Warcraft will now scale, withing set parameters, so you need not worry about out-leveling a zone you want to finish… at least not as quickly as before.

The basic story, which I am stealing from the Icy Veins post, is:

  • All starting zones scale up to level 10.
  • World of Warcraft Vanilla (Eastern Kingdoms & Kalimdor) scales up to level 60.
  • At level 58, players can choose between Outland or Northrend (capped at level 80).
  • At level 80, players can choose between Cataclysm or Pandaria (capped at level 90).
  • Zones still have a minimum level requirement.
  • Dungeons also scale
  • Quest rewards scale up to your level.

Further details, like the zone listing and minimum level requirements for specific zones are part of that post (or this one at Blizzard Watch which also has the dungeon levels) .

Why am I interested in that?  Well, on my long Azeroth “to do” list there are entries about running through some expansions on the Horde side of the world.  I’ve already done post-Cataclysm 1-60 and most of The Burning Crusade as Horde, but would like to run through Wrath of the Lich King and Mists of Pandaria on that side of the divide as well.  Being able to go straight to Northrend at 58 will be a big help, as will being able to spend 22 levels there.  I have a level 57 orc hunter ready to go on that front.

On the other hand, I am not sure how this will play out for anybody coming to the game for the first time.  There are still people who do that.  My daughter is trying to recruit a dungeon group from some of her friends, most of whom have never played WoW or any other MMORPG. (Still a niche market.)

This does change the nature of the leveling experience yet again and I am not sure if the freedom of action as to which zones you can play through will have enough structure to it to keep people on track.  But then the old “if you are level n to n+5 you must be in zone x!” system wasn’t always that great either, and Blizz has gotten better at telling you where you ought to go and all that.  We’ll see.  The only thing I know for sure is that somebody will hate the change because somebody always hates every change.

In addition to zone and dungeon scaling, all dungeons now use the “personal loot” option, where you no longer roll for loot… or have a master looter… instead the game picks people from the group at random and gives them a loot drop appropriate to their class and spec.  Again, I am sure somebody will hate this.

And with dungeon scaling all holiday dungeon events will now be available for anybody level 20 and up.  I will have even more shots at the headless horseman’s mount this year.

I was interested to see that, as part of this, Blizz also decided to simplify the whole “I have to buy yet another flying skill” issue by rolling all the simple, level gated flying options into the Expert Flying skill.  With that you’re good to go, no more Cold Weather Flying and what not.  You still need achievements for Draenor and the Broken Isles, but that unlock is account wide, so if you main has it you’re good with any alts.

With all of that there is also now Ulduar Timewalking and some achievement changes related to that, some class tweaks, a new battleground, updates to the S.E.L.F.I.E. toy (while some other toys have had their ability to cause other players to take actions restricted), and a new WoW Legion quest line that will take you to Silithus.

So that is another WoW update.  You can peruse the patch notes yourself and find analysis on all the sites that cover WoW.

I am still waiting for them to fix the spiral ramp up to the flight master in Thunder Bluff to stop it from dismounting you, the way they fixed that stretch in Stormwind that used to do the same when you were riding to the flight master, but I suspect my waiting for that will be in vain.

This being a WoW patch with some significant changes, other people in the neighborhood are also discussing it and what it portends.

Addendum: Bag space upgrade confirmed.

Four more slots

I want more, but I’ll take four.