Monthly Archives: February 2018

February in Review

The Site

I do not have much to complain about when it comes to WP.com this month.  Okay, I hate the new comment editor, the way I hate all the new tools they shove at us claiming they are “better” when they are verifiably not, but at least there still a way to use the old one to correct my typos and insert links after the fact because I am too lazy for format HTML on the fly.

Instead I will just take a few lines to bring up followers.  I hit a milestone a while back.

2018 and “1337” is still a funny joke… also, what was I doing up taking that screen shot?

The site continues to get followers.  The count, as of this writing, is 1386.  Followers are a strange metric.  Some of them are clearly in the “if I follow everybody then maybe somebody will follow me back and actually look at my horrible click-bait advertising blog” category.  But not all of them.

As far as I can tell the only use for following another blog is that you then see the blog in the WordPress.com reader which, I will admit, has improved over the years.  I am not going to dump Feedly for it any time soon, but it has its uses and I want to do a post about it and some of its features at a later date.  But for now, followers continue on.

One Year Ago

Daybreak shut down Landmark less than a year after it officially went “live.”  That’s what extended early access will do to you.

In EVE Online applications to run for CSM12 opened up.  The CSM itself was reduced from 12 members to just 10.  That allowed CCP to potentially fly all members to summits, but also reduced the likelihood of more voices outside of null sec being elected.

Blog Banter #79 explored the benefits and pitfalls of being a long time veteran of New Eden, while CCP posted a nice graph tracking the 25 largest corporations over time.  The graph only had starting numbers, so I provided the ending numbers.

We also got an update that introduced insurance to citadels and kicked off the Guardian’s Gala event.

Actually in game I was blown up by battle Rorquals as well as spending time moving my stuff to a new home system, sitting on a titan, sitting on a Keepstar, survived my first capital op, and dipped my toe into the spectacle that was Burn Jita 2017.  I also had a new favorite EVE Online screen shot.

I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find information about it in Activision Blizzard’s annual financial report.  Good luck there.  I didn’t even bother this year.  Meanwhile, in an unexplained turn, SuperData Research divided WoW into East and West on its monthly Top Ten chart.  I still suspect that was an attempt to make Overwatch look better.

Not only was I not playing WoW, I wasn’t playing any fantasy MMORPGs.  Standing Stone was trying to get me to log into Lord of the Rings Online with the promise of a new mount.

I was confronted by a metaphor for a MMO Kickstarter projects when somebody decided they wanted to make an Apocalypse Now based MMO.

I was still working on the mansion road in Minecraft.  I hit a setback along the way… fell into lava surrounded by creepers… but still made it past the half way point.

And finally, after taking a bit of a break, I was back into Pokemon Sun, working my way towards filling the Alola Pokedex.

Five Years Ago

Raptr sent me a summary of my 2012 gaming.

Google changed how image search worked, causing a precipitous drop in page views.  Google giveth, and Google taketh away… though they have been heavy on the taketh front for the last couple of years.

I wrote of the problem with Bond villains.  And it wasn’t that they failed to drive Jags.  I also looked at the Netflix remake of House of Cards.

RuneScape joined the rare breed of MMOs with an old rules, nostalgia focused server.

I tinkered with Prose with Bros on the iPad.  That was amusing for about two weeks.

In something of a breath of fresh air in an argument dedicated to absolutes and bad analogies, with some game devs equating buying used games with piracy, EA admitted that the used game market wasn’t all bad and that the ability to trade in games might be propping up new game sales.  They still wanted to kill used games like everybody else in the industry, but at least they were attempting a moment of honesty about it.

The MOBA version of Warhammer Online was declared dead before it even left beta.  The good metacritic score for Warhammer Online remained of little value.

A group got together to create an Age of Empires II: Age of Kings expansion called Forgotten Empires.  This was before it was announced that Age of Kings would be updated and brought to Steam.

Blizzard and ArenaNet were both offering deep discounts on their MMOs.  I opted for Guild Wars 2, which had an awkward start for me.

The instance group was still without a quorum and a fantasy title to call its own.  We were playing a bit of World of Tanks, which gets awkward with four.  I also made some short videos about Crushing your VK and a cliff diving BDR GB1.  And I was working on my Soviet heavies as well as the French heavy tree.

In EVE Online we went back to EWN-2U, the scene of my first real epic null sec battle.  But null sec was pretty quiet, so we also spent time just flying in circles.  The Goons did produce a nice guide to EVE Online in the form of a .pdf called Thrilling Internet Spaceship Stories.

I was considering the REAL problem with levels and was wondering why nobody else did in-game music the way Lord of the Rings Online did.

And I answered the magic question, just how many times do you have to sign or initial things when closing escrow on a home refinance?

Ten Years Ago

The month started out with our Pirates of the Burning Sea enthusiasm waning.

The instance group was kicking off its Outlands efforts, after running the required equipment upgrade quests, with Hellfire Ramparts, though first we ran through lower Blackrock Spire and got access to Upper Blackrock Spire.

In EVE Online I lost my Drake to pirates in Rancer.  I wasn’t going to pay any ransom.  And I managed to make a tech II blueprint as I was getting invention going.  I was also wishing for a few things from the game.

Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online had extended its agreement with Tolkien Enterprises out until 2014, with an option to go to 2017.  As a lifetime member I applauded this extension.

I went to GDC up in San Francisco and had dinner some members of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective plus Alan “Brenlo” Crosby, and got pictures to prove it. (I had a beard then… and I have a beard now… this is becoming a winter routine for me.)

My daughter got a Nintendo DS for Valentine’s Day.

We played a little KartRider, which is still never made it to North America.

I defended myself against some slander about me being a dwarf.

I summed up the annual EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.

I decided that there was hope for a real science fiction MMORPG.

And I found out my blog was worth $61,534.86,though I couldn’t figure out how to cash in.  Since then, the value of the site has gone down.  I blame the economy.

Twenty Years Ago

We’re in a dead zone in my personal history where nothing really stands out from 20 years ago. It was probably RTS stuff, StarCraft and Total Annihilation and lots of Civilization II.  I recall having setup a series of custom empires.  And, of course, there was TorilMUD.  But we’re slowly moving into to a time of new titles.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  3. Delta Force – A Memory of Voxels
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. SuperData and the Curious Case of the Missing WoW Money
  6. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  7. The Demise of BattleClinic
  8. Trying Out the Guardians Gala Sites
  9. Extra Credits – Why Do Games Cost So Much To Make?
  10. Falling into Battle for Azeroth Mania
  11. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  12. Would EA Be Better if Microsoft Owned Them?

Search Terms of the Month

is candy crush sexual 2018
[Not by any measure I can imagine]

war thunder getting boring
[That was my issue]

sexy star trek character graphic
[Sure, I guess]

star trek online pregnant
[See where sexy gets you]

EVE Online

I played the game, went on a few fleets, blew some things up, but nothing was exciting enough to get me to write a post.  Just the usual friction in null sec.  I got on the killboard for the month and got in my required PAP links.  I did do some of the Guardian’s Gala event, picked up a few SKINs I didn’t have along with a few cerebral accelerators and a ton of fireworks.  But if I had just ratted for the same amount of time I spent doing that I could have bought all of it off the market and had ISK left over. Aryth asked CCP about the payout for effort I and they said they meant to do that.  So there you go.  Otherwise most of my posting about the game was about changes, both those that showed up this month and the ones planned for next month.

Minecraft

I wandered back into Minecraft for a bit to work on the long overland mine cart track to the forest mansion I found.  I finished the road ages ago, but then started working on laying tracks the whole length.  I got bored with that, but came back to it over the last couple of weeks mostly because Minecraft is a good game to play when you want to just work away at something while listening to an audiobook or podcast.  Not a huge endorsement I suppose, but it fit into a niche I needed filled.

Pokemon Go

More Hoenn Pokemon were released into the wild, so we all had new things to catch and evolve.  There was also an event this past Saturday where for a short window you could catch the elusive Dratini.  I totally missed that.  But I would have needed to catch 33 of them in order to get the final evolution, a Dragonite.  Ah well.

  • Level: 31 (+0)
  • Pokedex status: 284 (+22) caught, 323 (+22) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Lapras, but it is unlikely I’ll see one again any time soon
  • Current buddy: Doduo, just needs four candies to evolve

World of Warcraft

I have managed to unlock all the world quest options and follower missions for Argus.  I also have both factions there into revered and am on the way to exalted, which will unlock the two remaining allied races for me.

Other Games

Played some more Stellaris, then picked up the expansion, but haven’t played enough since then to have a good feel for how things changed.  I also played a few rounds of Age of Empires II just because.

Coming Up

March looks like it will be a double retro MMO month with Trion launching its Rift Prime server and Daybreak launching yet another EverQuest progression server.  I am still on the fence a bit about Rift.  I suspect that, as with so many things, my memories of playing the game in the past will not line up with the reality of playing it again today.

In WoW… well… I’ll carry on until I am exalted all around in Legion.  But what happens after that is up in the air.

On the Minecraft front the rail line I have been working on is close enough to being done that I’m probably just going to put on an audiobook and finish that up.

In EVE Online we’re getting a bunch of stuff with the March update, the CSM election process promises to kick off,  plus, and you might be hearing it here first, but Burn Jita is returning soon.  Be wary.

And on the blog… we’re having some work done on our house which might get in the way of gaming or writing, so there might be more gaps that usual when it comes to posting if I find there is a couch and a desk stored in front of my computer.

H1Z1 – Going Live in Time to be a Zombie

Daybreak’s one-time H1Z1, then H1Z1: King of the Kill, then just King of the Kill, and finally just H1Z1 again, is reported to be leaving Early Access today.  There is a Producer’s Letter on the official site full of enthusiasm for this monumental day.

H1Z1 2015 Logo

At least they are trying to own the whole naming thing.

You missed one I think…

Starting as the Battle Royale mode of their zombie survival game first announced almost four years ago was a surprise success, selling in the seven figures and dominating the Steam charts.  Rightly wanting to reinforce success, the rest of the game was partitioned off as the aptly named Just Survive while the company focused on the bit that was getting attention.

I don’t think we’re here anymore…

Of course, what it also did was spawn imitators.  We hear all about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds these days, a title that leapfrogged H1Z1’s success in a way reminiscent of what WoW did to EverQuest, and which spawned its own imitator and competitor, Fortnite and its Battle Royale module.

Meanwhile H1Z1 has slid down the charts, having lost a reported 91% of its player base.  Once things looked rosy and there was a deal with Tencent to bring the game to China.  Now I wonder if that is in jeopardy.

So it seems like exactly the right moment to leave Early Access I guess.  Not that leaving Early Access means anything at all these days.  The game was supposed to leave Early Access last year, but then didn’t.  Now it has and it doesn’t mean much of anything.  There is no launch day bump when you’ve been acting like a shipping product for a couple of years already.

They do have some new features that come with launch, the main one being a car based Battle Royale mode.

Zombies in cars getting coffee

Of course, in what I can only see as an ironic twist, they announced a beta feature on launch day.  We will see if the updates that Daybreak are bringing to the game with its long past due launch will stem the tide of its fleeing player base.  Is it too little, too late?

Winter Movie League – Denouement

The last week of our Fantasy Movie League is now in the rear view mirror of life and it is time, as the title suggests, to wrap up the tale of the season.

This thirteenth and final week should have been a dramatic one.  The gaps between the top six players should have been enough for some changes to occur.  The problem was that as far as the week went, there were not a lot of surprises in store.  Upsets only come with surprises, films exceeding, or failing to meet, expectations.

There were some new films on the list, but Black Panther was expected to dominate still into its second weekend, and so was split into three days again, leaving the lineup looking like this.

Black Panther (SAT)  $534
Black Panther (SUN)  $395
Black Panther (FRI)  $334
Game Night           $201
Peter Rabbit         $167
Annihilation         $154
Fifty Shades Freed   $100
Jumanji              $87
The 15:17 to Paris   $62
The Greatest Showman $55 
Every Day            $45
Early Man            $26
The Maze Runner      $17 
The Post             $16
The Shape of Water   $15

I think it was pretty universally agreed that a screen or two of Black Panther was the safe pick.  Game Night seemed to have some potential, but you had to be a bit of a contrarian to run with it.  Likewise, if you hoped against hope, Annihilation might have seemed viable, though the reviews out before screens locked seemed to make that unlikely.

I went what seemed to be the safe route and rode on Black Panther, anchoring on two screens of Friday, slotting in a screen of Game Night, and then back filling with Early Man in my ongoing mistaken belief that everybody has fond memories of Wallace and Grommit and that this will make Early Man succeed during a time when even the title seems to be working against it.

I tinkered with various other options, but kept going back to that, locking it in on Friday.

My Winter Week Thirteen Picks

That turned out to be the most popular lineup for the week, and in the Meta League, with four of us going that route.

There was some variation across the league, and some radicals went with four screens of Game Night, but most of us anchored on Black Panther.

Black Panther turned out to be the anchor for the perfect pick of the week, but it was a pair of Sundays that were needed, coupled with a screen of Fifty Shades, a screen of Every Day, and four screens of The Post, a set of picks I wouldn’t have touched.  A set of picks a lot of people wouldn’t have touched I guess, since only six people got the perfect pick.

Winter Week Thirteen Perfect Pick

If somebody in the Meta League had gone that route, it could have changed the final lineup.  Corr could have come in first.  I could have been bumped out of third.  But none of our picks were all that radical as the scores for the week show.

  1. Kraut Screens (T) – $85,854,487
  2. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $85,388,127
  3. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $85,206,009
  4. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $84,648,305
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $83,454,901
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $83,454,901
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $83,454,901
  8. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $83,454,901
  9. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $83,213,170
  10. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $80,631,400
  11. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $80,085,924
  12. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $80,005,525
  13. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $79,299,436
  14. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $78,049,648
  15. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $71,219,616
  16. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $71,219,616

The Meta League Legend:

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

Kraut Screens took the week, but overall there is barely a $15 million gap between first and last place, and the gap between the upper half of the scores this week is a mere $3 million.

That left the overall scores for the season looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $1,353,892,212
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $1,346,243,354
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $1,297,477,638
  4. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $1,280,673,691
  5. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $1,277,791,402
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $1,257,578,055
  7. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $1,253,528,836
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $1,215,941,564
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $1,193,133,908
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $1,173,221,457
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $1,121,506,158
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $1,115,224,163
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $1,105,530,778
  14. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $1,082,946,408
  15. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $1,080,494,353
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $1,066,304,533

The only change in that list over last week was Vigo Grimborne overtaking I HAS BAD TASTE.  Everybody else held their spots.

And so it goes.  For comparison House Harkonnen, who won the Season Showdown, clocked in with a total of $1,469,103,137 over the last thirteen weeks.

Congrats to Ben for winning the Meta League as well as the MCats Mulitplex League!

Against my own prediction, in which I declared that Pak and Po Huit would put me to shame this time around, I managed to eke out the win in the TAGN league and held third place overall in the Meta League.

Overall, weekly wins were fairly spread out.  Corr and Ben both won three weeks in the MCats League, but only one person there did not win at least one week.

Likewise, in the TAGN league only one person who was in for the whole season did not win a week, with SynCaine winning three of those weeks.

That pretty much wraps up the season.  The front end was dominated by Star Wars, while the back end was owned by Black Panther.  But I think the film that surprised me the most was Jumanji, which has been in the running for week after week and is carrying on into the first week of the Spring season.  I have to give The Greatest Showman in nod in that regard as well.  I don’t know how it keeps hanging on, but there it is yet again alive for another week as other contenders have come and gone.

Star Wars, while it opened strong, was a bit of a disappointment over time at the box office.  You cannot argue with the money it made initially, but it did not last as long in the hunt as the two I mentioned above or Wonder Woman or Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. II from the summer season.  Fans of Star Wars had to see it… once.  But it seemed to leave what I would consider the core fan base a bit underwhelmed, which led to the usual arguments over to whom the series should cater; kids or the long time supporters.  I think the How It Should Have Ended episode of the film sums things up quite nicely… especially the little bit after the end credits.

There were a some cool things the movie could have done, or should have done, but avoided.  Oh well, at least there was no pod racing.

As for next season, I am mostly in favor of carrying on posting.  I was a little bit worried about the poll I took last time, not because it came out against the idea, but because it garnered so few votes.  That seemed like a sign that, at best, people were not reading the posts and, at worst, they were actively driving people away.

However, the poll I took the next day about an actual MMORPG got about the same number of responses, so it looks more like I have about 40 regular readers, having driven everybody else away already, though it could still be possible that various forms of ad block and browser filtering could be eating the polls.  I mean, it doesn’t take much to click on two freakin’ buttons, does it?  People wouldn’t read the poll and say, “I don’t feel like I have enough information or experience to answer that” would they?  That seems like behavior completely contrary to the ethos of the internet.

So I will likely carry on.  A few new people have signed up for the TAGN League, Pak and Po Huit are plotting my downfall, and the regular posting cycle keeps me going in its own way.  You can join the league as well.  I will provide a fresh link in the comments after this goes live.  Look for the post for the first week of the Spring Season on Thursday, just to get it into next month, which is a bit late, so don’t wait to do your picks until then.

SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite

As we roll on down to the final hours of February, SuperData Research has their digital revenue numbers for January available at last.

SuperData Research Top 10 – January 2018

The standard top four, League of Legends and the three Chinese MMORPGs, maintain their hold on the top of the list, with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fornite: Battle Royale and World of Warcraft hanging on to the next three slots as they did in December.  The only change was CS:GO popping up into 8th place, edging out World of Tanks while Overwatch hung onto the last spot as the cyclical ROBLOX dropped off yet again.

So not much change there, with PUBG and Fortnite holding on, having scavenged most of the remaining customers that H1Z1 was living off of.

It is on consoles where the battle between those two continues.  In December PUBG jumped onto the list, taking third position with its release on XBox, while Fortnite lingered down in eighth.  With the coming of January though, Fortnite, available on both XBox and PS4, rose in the ranks as PUBG disappeared from the list.  The questions is, will Fortnite’s edge on consoles help it overtake PUBG on the PC as well?

Also missing from the console list is the much beleaguered Star Wars Battlefront II.

And over on the mobile list my two touchstone products, Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go, made the list at fourth and tenth place.  Not bad in such a crowded market.  Meanwhile Lineage M, the big mobile money maker for NCsoft these days, remained on the list, though it dropped two spots.  Since that appears to have scavenged a big segment of the legacy Lineage user base, long the company financial bedrock, I hope that the mobile version holds on for their sake.

Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More

The whole lockbox thing continues to meander down the road, hoving in and out of view as various politicians try to hitch their name to some aspect of this debacle.  Again, you can thank EA and their gross mishandling of Star Wars Battlefront II for this being in the public eye.

And while those seeking government intervention were buoyed by the Don Quixote-like tilting at lockboxes via bad legislation of a single Hawaiian legislator, they seem to have missed the part where an actual US Senator reached out to the ESRB in order to get the industry to self-police the whole lockbox thing.  The ESRB itself is a creation of the ESA, the video game lobbying group, who will no doubt be throwing money at key politicians to make sure any legislation goes nowhere.  Like the sign in the background in Thank You for Smoking said, “The best damn government money can buy!” and asking the ESRB to self-police is essentially a politician with their hand out looking for campaign donations.  I have seen nothing so far to make me waver from my prediction at the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile the team at Extra Credits devoted some time to the lockbox thing, taking what I would guess is a more industry insider view.

Building on their previous two episodes about why video games should cost more than $60 and why video games are so expensive to make, which I previously referenced, they espouse the view that lockboxes are, at their heart, a good thing.

They take the stance that lockboxes are not gambling, echoing my own past statements, that under the laws, as currently written, they do not meet the requirements to be considered as such lacking, as they do, a real world payout mechanism.

But they move a step farther by declaring the lack of a real world payout makes lockboxes completely unlike gambling in any emotional or psychological sense, not something at all that would feed on the compulsive nature weakness that some people have.  They back this up by mentioning a study that says it is totally not a thing, failing to link to or otherwise reference the study so you can’t check up on it.  And then they hedge a hell of a lot even after that, undermining their belief in this alleged study, by saying that more work needs to be done on the topic and that should it come to pass that lockboxes are similar to gambling psychologically, then that would be a red warning light for the industry or something.

It struck me a bit like somebody speaking about addiction without having any experience with somebody in its grip, with a bit of denial sprinkled on top.  Grandpa’s not an alcoholic, he just likes a drink or six in the evening to help shed the stress of the day.

Or perhaps it is the view of somebody with a vested interest in lockboxes.  You cannot watch that video and not think they see lockboxes as good for the industry, a way to get past the pricing barrier of $60 via the time honored tradition of making whales do the monetary heavy lifting.

They will allow that, if lockboxes were being marketed to children, that would be “evil.”  That is one of the aspects around lockboxes that the legislator in Hawaii is going after.  However, they don’t seem to think that is really a thing.

I suppose the value of the video is the industry insider aspect of it.  Lockboxes are pretty much a necessity in that mind set, a requirement to sustain their otherwise untenable business model.  They don’t think companies should be unleashing every trick in the book to make players feel the MUST buy in to play, but admit that some companies will go to far and that the industry should self-regulate.

Of course, with yet another school shooting in the US, the industry has a bigger issue as a predictable demographic seeks to blame violence in movies and video games for the tragedy.  Our president even suggested that perhaps a rating system for such entertainment would be appropriate.  Such are the times in which we live.

Addendum:

They have done a lockboxes part II video covering the legislation things:

This goes down the gambling path, decided that if they are gambling then virtual goods have real world value and so you could, in that world, never ban an abusive user who spent money on your game or close down a server because that would separate people from their legally obtain virtual goods with real world worth.  They also try to hold out an olive branch to the legislator in Hawaii who, in the mean time, proposed legislation that made them throw their hands in the air at the end.

They do, however, rightly call out EA for ruining things for other devs with Star Wars Battlefront II. 

The Coming March Update in New Eden

CCP is pretty good about telegraphing what they are going to do with their expansions and updates.  They have a long history of dev blogs and forum posts about proposed features and have shown themselves to be responsive to feedback.  Of course, the latter is always a hazard, because if CCP bows to somebody’s logic then somebody else with a different view of things will start crying “foul!” or “favoritism” or “fake news!” or whatever the term du jour is.

I tend to believe CCP operates in good faith, in part because changing your mind in front of a live studio audience tends to be a painful experience and, as noted, makes people mad.  It would be much easier to do this in a smoke filled back room and announce the results as edicts not up for discussion. It works for Blizzard.

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things now, CCP has month updates which tend to tune a few things and maybe add a feature, and expansions, which are the vehicle for big changes and spanking new features.  Citadels and Alpha accounts go with expansions, ship re-balancing and in-game events and changes to how you blow up a citadel go with updates.

But now I am looking at the mounting number of things planned for the March update and it seems like a lot.  There isn’t any single item that seems out of scope for the above rules.  Rather, there are so many things with such impact that it is starting to feel like more than an update.

First there was a dev blog about ship balance changes that opened with these two points that came out of the recent CSM summit:

  1. More change is better, even if it’s small
  2. The meta is feeling stagnant, particularly around Feroxes and the Marchariel

So, yes, both the Mach and the Ferox are taking a hit.  I always feel a bit sad for the Ferox when it gets knocked down as it was, for a long stretch, completely nonviable in the fleet meta where Drakes and Hurricanes ruled back in the day.  But now it is on the decline.

Meanwhile CCP has been trying to beat down the Mach for a while now, reducing the blueprint copy drops and boosting the cost to make them.  But the Russians have been farming those blueprints for so long that the supply is effectively endless.  As for raising the cost to make… do you even read the monthly economic report bro?  So CCP is now set to clip its wings a bit hoping to push this faction battleship back towards being a rare bling-mobile rather than its current status as a ship of the line for nearly every major coalition.

There were other ships getting specific tweaks while tech 1 battleships got an across the board boost:

  • +25% to cargo capacity
  • +20% to maximum lock range

Because why not I guess.

The dev blog also introduced the Flag cruiser concept, a hardened FC ship, in response to the ongoing drone about FC headshotting. (A topic covered for Blog Banter 76 a couple years back.)

The Monitor Flag Cruiser concept

You can see the proposed stats, as well as the community response, in this forum thread.   The debate is heated and one common item that keeps coming up is the lack of a way for an FC on this ship to get on kill mails.  We shall see where this ends up.  Right now it seems like a niche ship for very specific circumstances.

While that was still in the air another note came from CCP about removing the built-in voice chat from EVE Online.  This is apparently another item in the way of a 64-bit client.  Built-in voice chat was very much the thing a decade back and CCP, like SOE and a few others, went to Vivox for an integration. (I found out at GDC that the Vivox people came from the same speech/voice corner of tech I have dwelt in for most of my career.)  EVE Voice came in with the Revelations expansion back in November 2006 (high level list of features on the EVE Uni Wiki, but the actual Revelations 1.0 patch notes for the release went missing with the update to the community site) and has been lightly used ever since, with CCP declaring that only 0.4% of the players giving it a shot.  Of course, we’re finding out now who depends on it, but for the most part you were more likely to use the captain’s quarters than EVE Voice.

Then there was word of a new chat back end coming with the March update.  CCP will move to a centralized independent chat service that should make things better for somebody.  Currently one of the ways to improve your client performance in a big fleet fight is to close Local, even when TEST isn’t involved.  Maybe this will help with that, though it sounds like it won’t change anything you dislike about the in-game part of the chat system.

Then a huge dev blog dropped… huge if you’re in null sec at least… about changes to entosis, tethering, and a 95% reduction in jump fatigue.  This was greeted with both cheers and speculation as to whether or not all of CCP had been replaced by pod people or something, this being a heady and unexpected change.

The jump fatigue change, a game mechanic introduced with the Phoebe update in late 2014 because null sec was stagnant and needed a change, will drop the cap for overall fatigue (blue timer) from 4 days to 5 hours and the jump clock (orange timer) from a maximum of 9.6 hours to 30 minutes… because, no doubt, null sec is stagnant and needs a change.

Will 30 minutes be enough of a roadblock to keep titan fleets from ranging across the map, moving from citadel to citadel in great packs?  Or will the jump range limitations that came in with jump fatigue be enough?  As I tend to say, we shall see.

Finally, in what I suspect is the final package of things for the March release, there was also a forum post of “little things” to be addressed.  The list, as it stands right now:

  • Color coding in Fleet watchlist window
  • Targeting bracket on Fleet mates is purple (the fleet color) rather than yellow
  • Text for broadcasts for reps now include what ship type the broadcast came from
  • Fleet tags are now displayed on the targets in the target bar
  • It’s now possible to remove a Fleet tags (from whatever was tagged before)
  • The results from ship scans are now organized by slots
  • The Show Info window for a solar system now has a special tab for structures in the system. Please note that like before, it only lists those structures you have docking access at.
  • The HQ listed in Show Info windows for corporation will now be a link
  • A tooltip has been added to the standing icon in the show info window to show what that icon is based on (player to player, player to corp, alliance to corp etc).
  • If your security status is -2 or lower, the tooltip on your security status in the Character sheet will tell you in which systems the faction police will attack
  • There’s now an option to have the Compare tool only list those attributes that differ for the items currently being compared
  • The height of the “Duration” drop down in market orders have been increased, so all entries fit without scrolling
  • The Salvage option for salvage drones has been moved to the top of the right click menu
  • Volume information has been added to the “material input” and “output” tooltips in the Industry window
  • The right click options that have been categorized as potentially especially destructive will now have a red ! in front of them. Among other things, we hope this helps to make it easier to differentiate between “Reprocess” and “Repackage”.

My favorite on the list is the ability to see the ship type that broadcasts for reps.  It isn’t that I don’t love you support frigates in the fleet, but I really need to keep DPS, my fellow logi, and the FC alive, after which I might have time to spare a couple of rep cycles for you.

Color coding the watch list will be good as well.  Currently I have a stack order for FC, main anchor, snowflakes, logi anchor, and cap chain partners that can get a little mixed up when things go sideways.

Anyway, as I was getting at a thousand words or so back, this seems like a lot for a monthly update.  It lacks a big anchor feature to make it an expansion, but for an update it has a lot of chewy goodness packed in.

Finally, I suspect that these updates coming now, after the winter CSM summit, are not a coincidence.  Good job CSM12!  I suspect that this update will feature in a few re-election campaigns.  But my real question is, does this mean having Sort Dragon speak up constantly during meetings is a good thing?  His name comes up a lot in the minutes.