Monthly Archives: April 2018

April in Review

The Site

April first is the one day of the year that Google remembers I have a blog and sends me traffic in numbers reminiscent of the “good old days” of blogging, before the likes of Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit hove into view.  So my page views tend to spike a bit.

Who doesn’t love April Fools?

I get a bit of a compound boost from this as well.  Since I have covered Blizzard at April Fools regularly for a while now, I include a list of past posts which, unlike almost every other such list or link in any other article I put up, people actually click on these.  So my Top Posts list gets a bit skewed towards April Fools early in the month as well.

What you get at the start of every April

That reflects itself again in this post down the page in the most viewed posts section.  Rare is the item that can break into the dirty dozen every April, but a couple of posts made it.

Of course it is all downhill from here for the rest of the year on the page view front.

One Year Ago

There was, of course, April Fools, but Blizzard didn’t seem up to its usual level of effort.

Blizzard did make the original StarCraft free to play, no April Fools there.

I was wondering if the plan to make mobs scale with your ilevel was going to make going back to World of Warcraft a chore.  It seemed like a bad idea, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter much.

I was going on about the 3K Blissey problem in Pokemon Go.

Meanwhile I was finishing up Pokemon Sun and still felt like playing Pokemon, so went back to Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.

There was the Lord of the Rings Online ten year launch anniversary.   We would finally get to Mordor later that year.

Daybreak announced the Agnarr server for EverQuest, a retro server designed to stay retro as it would not progress beyond the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion.

In EVE Online Reavers were out camping Circle of Two in Impass, shooting their ratters and such.  Asher later told us that this was to have us in place as they had a CO2 director ready defect.  This was before The Judge did his thing.  However that did not come to pass.

I was going on about corpses in New Eden, which have their own special place in the game.  I was also on about force auxiliaries and titan losses.

In Iceland EVE Fanfest was under way.  They had a presentation that gave some interesting data about what happened in New Eden over the last year.  CCP also announced the winners of the CSM12 election and when/where EVE Vegas would take place.  And there was a talk on the plan to convert Null Sec stations into citadels.  We’re still waiting on that last bit.

I also started looking at the New Eden Monthly Economic Report as a regular monthly item, something set off by how much ratting and mining was being done in null sec.

I sharpened up my scanning skills, all the better to hunt MTUs.  Also, according to CCP I lost 5 billion ISK in space wealth since the month before.

In Minecraft I finished up the long road to the northern forest mansion; it took an hour to ride it on a fast horse.

And then there was the crazy story of the Nintendo NES Classic, which they stopped producing even though it remained sold out everywhere.

Five Years Ago

I was remembering the SEGA Genesis and NBA Jams

Our Wii seemed to be collecting dust and destined for retirement.  Maybe one more round of Wii Bowling?

On the iPad I was fiddling around with Vinylize Me.

The Camelot Unchained Kickstarter had kicked off with a steep $2 million goal.  With only three days left to go the campaign was $400K short.  Not sure if Mark Jacobs’ dire vision of the future of F2P helped or hurt.

Meanwhile, Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar wrapped up its Kickstarter campaign over the $2 million mark, having doubled its $1 million initial goal.

LOTRO turned 6 years old and I was wondering what lay it its future.

World of Tanks hit 2 years and I was pondering tank crew skills and finally driving the KV-4 along with some other new tanks.

Age of Empires II – HD Edition launched on Steam.

I took another run at Need for Speed: World, which had added achievements.

In Rift, I was wondering why the Storm Legion expansion just wasn’t grabbing me.  I tried to press on.  Meanwhile, the instance group spent evenings one person short trying to find something to do.

The Burn Jita 2 event kicked off.  People didn’t seem to be paying much attention to it before it started, but it got extended and ended up bagging 573 billion ISK worth of ships.

CCP launched its EVE Online timeline as part of its prep for the 10th anniversary of the game.  They’ve since thrown all of that away.  But the Dev Blog about it is still there.

I also had items from the mail bag about Darkfall: Unholy Wars, MegaWars IV, and World of Tanks Blitz.

And it was kind of a quiet April Fools at Blizzard.

Ten Years Ago

I made up something for April Fool’s Day, SOE’s Graphite Realms!  I thought it was amusing.

Homstar Runner was getting a game on the Wii.

Lord of the Rings Online celebrated a year of being live.  Book 13 introduced, among other things, fishing.  And my video problems with the game proved to be a bad video card, so I was actually able to get into the game.

Computer Gaming World/Games For Windows magazine ceased publishing as part of the ongoing demise of print media.

In EVE Online I made the big move from Caldari to Amarr space.  I also began producing Badger transports for fun and profit.  CCP introduced the whole Council of Stellar Management thing, which I dubbed The Galactic Student Council.  My opinion on it hasn’t changed much since.

I also managed to get my hauling rigged Mammoth blown up in low sec space, which got me thinking at the recent profusion of those new heavy interdictors.

Meanwhile in World of Warcraft one million people in China logged into the game at the same time.  There is still no report on what would happen if they all pressed the space bar at the same time.  While that was going on, the instance group finished up the Slave Pens and the Underbog and began the long struggle with the Mana Tombs.

I was looking around for Tetris on the Nintendo DS.  You would think that would be easy, right?

And then it was Tipa’s turn to bang the EverQuest nostalgia drum, so I joined in yet again.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2018 is Mostly Just World of Warcraft
  2. April Fools at Blizzard 2017 – Not Much to Talk About
  3. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  4. WoW Dance Battle System!
  5. April Fools at Blizzard – 2016
  6. April Fools at Blizzard – 2015
  7. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  8. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  9. April Fools at Blizzard – 2010
  10. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  11. Into the Abyss and Our Triglavian Future
  12. April Fools at Blizzard – 2014

Search Terms of the Month

do people still play everquest in 2018?
[You would be surprised]

palkia and dialga memes
[probably a thing]

daybreak games news april 24 2018
[According to Daybreak, there was no news that day]

“columbus nova” “daybreak”
[That’s not news!]

game with large armored “white tiger” creature
[Rift maybe?]

EVE Online

I watch some of EVE Fanfest live, and more of it as videos recorded while I was still sleeping.  Some big news out of Iceland this year.  But we’re in the gap between hopes and reality now.

In the game the deployment in the north carried on.  With Pandemic Horde gone the Guardians of the Galaxy coalition in Fade, Pure Blind, and Deklein seemed to struggle with how to face an every growing guerilla war brewing in their space.  Some interesting defections occurred when they decided to just not fight us.  Now there is talk of GotG hiring mercenaries to fight us.  Stay tuned.

Basically, EVE Online ate up most of my gaming time this month.  I even tried out the abyssal pocket content on the test server just to see what that was about.

Minecraft

I have been pottering around in Minecraft.  It remains a good game to play when you want to do something while listening to an audio book or serious podcast.  I completed the long rail line to from the northern mansion and have just been tinkering around with other projects I’ve left around.  I need to do a couple of posts about our server.

Pokemon Go

I remain at level 32, but I have been doing some of the research tasks.  As I noted earlier in the month, those are a nice bit of structure to keep people playing.  I have ended up collecting a bunch of new Pokemon along the way.

My current state of affairs:

  • Level: 32 (+0)
  • Pokedex status: 312 (+18) caught, 342 (+7) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Lapras, but it remains elusive
  • Current buddy: Grovyle

Rift

I kept on with Rift Prime this month, but did not spend as much time there as I planned.  EVE Online, as noted above, ate up most of my gaming time.  Still, I plan to carry on for another month at least, so I will go use some of my Rift funny money to buy another 30 Day ticket.

Shroud of the Avatar

After a weekend of focusing on this I haven’t really been back.  Like I said, space battles called.  I do want to continue with it some, or so I tell myself, but since it isn’t a subscription it sort of falls back in the queue most nights.  Even Minecraft has a monthly server hosting fee.

World of Warcraft

I petered out on Azeroth for the most part last month, so I let my subscription lapse in April, and that was that.  I did get an invite to the Battle for Azeroth beta, but like the alpha, I have no real interest in spoiling the content before it goes live.  I will be back when the pre-expansion events start to hit.

Coming Up

We’ll all be watching Daybreak in May to see what else might bubble up now that they’ve stirred the pot enough to get everybody staring at them.  We’re all waiting on the current rumor that Daybreak owns Standing Stone Games via Jason Epstein’s cat or some such.

On the internet spaceships front it will be a big month for EVE Online.  The list of items include:

  • 15 year anniversary events and player gifts
  • Operation: Conscious Interruption event
  • The Into the Abyss expansion
  • The death of the the old API and the 3rd party app holocaust
  • The run to grab null sec stations before they become faction citadels
  • CSM elections, or at least a date for them

And then there is the ongoing deployment in the north to keep GotG from being able to do their day to day ratting and mining.  They are hiring Black Legion to fight us and there is a rumor that MOA is going to pull back from Fade and Pure Blind altogether, though not until the June 5th null sec station conversion, so we’ll see how that plays out.

There is a huge update for Minecraft in the offing that will introduce a lot of new sea life.  I’d be happy to see that in May.

The Spring Season of Fantasy Movie League will wrap up this month, and the season ending on the Memorial Day weekend holiday and the launch of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Other than that, carrying on with whatever else it is I play these days.

The EverQuest Agnarr Server Hits the Planes of Power

About a year back Daybreak announced yet another retro/progression server.  This was the Agnarr server and it was to have a feature to make it stand out from its numerous predecessors.

Agnarr the Stormlord for whom the server was named

The Agnarr server would be “PoP locked,” that is it would progress only to the Planes of Power expansion and then stop, remaining for its existence at that point.

Planes of Power – Hope you like it!

Actually, “PoP locked” is incorrect.  The FAQ for the server indicates that the Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansions, which came after Planes of Power, would also be unlocked.  The schedule was for an expansion to be unlocked every twelve weeks, so the timeline ought to be as follows:

  • May 24, 2017 – Agnarr server opens with original EverQuest content
  • August 16, 2017 – Ruins of Kunark expansion unlocked
  • November 8, 2017 – Scars of Velious expansion unlocked
  • January 31, 2018 – Shadows of Luclin expansion unlocked
  • April 25, 2018 – Planes of Power expansion unlocked
  • July 18, 2018 – Legacy of Ykesha expansion unlocked
  • October 10, 2018 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath unlocked

Things were right on track with Planes of Power opening up this past Wednesday. (Though most of us were consumed with other drama at the time.)  So while there is more content to be unlocked, the Planes of Power expansion is the last big raid focused update for the server.  With past progression servers the follow-on pair of LoY and LDoN were opened up semi-concurrently with Planes of Power.

Released Together?  Not this time

LoY, which was only called an “extension” rather than an “expansion” back then introduced the Froglock race which evicted the trolls from their home, sending them to Neriak.  Tales of races seeking the ancestral homes are common in MMORPGs, but have we ever had somebody driven from theirs (or returning to theirs if you take the frog side of the conflict) as part of an expansion?

Meanwhile LDON is notable for introducing instanced, small group dungeons that attempted some level of randomness in layout to increase replayability.

That is where things will stop on Agnarr come October, at which point the plan is for the server to remain static.  This is the “forever classic” server that many have pined for, though I am sure there is still heated debate over what really constitutes “classic.”  It may also be an attempt to recreate the long passed EverQuest for Macintosh server Al’Kabor which stayed locked in time for so many years as a time capsule representing the game as it was back in 2002. (Officially shut down on November 2013)

The Gates of Discord expansion, the next in line on the long list of EverQuest expansions, which introduced instancing for raids as well as small group content, won’t be seen.  The Gates of Discord expansion remains controversial for using instancing, though that very idea would be picked up by Blizzard for World of Warcraft, set to launch a little more than a year later.

Not for Agnarr

The irony is that in order to keep player complaints down and keep the servers from needing direct GM intervention with things like raid schedules due to bad player behavior, Daybreak has put instancing in for all of the old raids already.  In the end the Gates of Discord expansion was the path forward.

But now the Agnarr server, the progression server that will soon cease to progress, has hit its crown jewel, the Planes of Power expansion.  It is an expansion of legend in the history of EverQuest, both for its breadth and ambition as well as for its level of brokenness at launch.

Firiona Vie casts in the expansion graphic

Daybreak has even put up a guide on their site that highlights what you can find in the Planes of Power expansion.

What will become of the server once the final expansion has been unlocked and it is left to drift on its own?  We shall see.  There are some who predict the growth a vibrant community, others who expect it to end up a ghost town.  But to play on it you have to subscribe, so it had best offer something that can’t be had for free on the live servers.

Daybreak and All Their Sins Remembered

What a week it has been for Daybreak.

That eye should be crying after this week…

First they get caught in a pretty big lie.  And it was a lie nobody expected so when they said it people immediately questioned it.

There is absolutely no question they were lying, it is just a matter of what they were lying about.

Either Columbus Nova was part of the purchase of Daybreak back in 2015, or the company has been misrepresenting that material fact repeatedly for the last three years.  Either there was some financial benefit for them lying over and over for three years or they have chosen to start lying now as a measure of expediency due to sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

And honestly I can’t decide which is correct, mostly because I can’t figure out who they might have tricked by lying for three years.  (As a side note, somehow the same “mistake” was made with Harmonix back in 2010 when press releases announced Columbus Nova was purchasing them, but now they also say it was Jason Epstein all along.)

And Daybreak can’t manage to fully close the door even with its own definitive, we’ve said all were going to say statement posted to all of the forums.  Quoting for truth, since they’ve gone in to edit this statement already like it was on Wikipedia:

Dear Daybreak Community,

There has been some confusion concerning Daybreak’s ownership and rumors about the state of the company that have circulated from a few online game websites, and we want to set the record straight. We assure you that these rumors are entirely false and that there’s no impact on our business or games in any way whatsoever.

From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein, a longtime investor who also has investments in a variety of media properties. Jason acquired Daybreak (formerly SOE) in February 2015 and has been the executive chairman and majority owner of the company since that time.

We’re well aware of prior statements from Daybreak indicating our company was acquired by Columbus Nova. We have since clarified that the company was acquired by Jason Epstein when he was a partner at Columbus Nova, which he left in 2017. We’ve also taken steps to clarify those facts on our website and on third-party internet sites to ensure that all of the information currently made available is consistent and accurate.

We apologize for the previous miscommunication and hope that this clears up any confusion. As always, we greatly appreciate your continued support for our games, and we’ll continue to work hard to bring the best experiences to you.

So that settles it, right?  Maybe.  I just trip over the first sentence of the second paragraph:

From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein…

When you feel the need to throw in the word “primarily” it does suggest that there were other owners.  Maybe it was Columbus Nova!  Maybe that was the bit Sony held onto.  Maybe it was a couple old ladies from Sheboygan.  We don’t know and Daybreak doesn’t seem in a mood to offer anything beyond a lame understatement of their actions over the last three years.

By the way, after Daybreak edited their Wikipedia article to take out any mention of Columbus Nova, somebody went back and added this:

Evidently wanting to distance itself from Columbus Nova, Daybreak started claiming in April of 2018 that the original press release was in error and that Jason Epstein purchased the company personally. It is not clear when exactly Columbus Nova, Daybreak, and Jason Epstein severed ties.

So yeah, their efforts haven’t exactly born the fruit for which they were likely hoping.

And the kicker is that it probably doesn’t matter.  Lying to us is futile and, as you can see, even counter-productive.  A wasted effort.  If the FBI wants to know who bought them they’ll find out.  I am sure they can subpoena Sony to see who signed the check and where the funds came from.  So the lesson here is, if somebody asks you if you’re going to be affected by sanctions on Russia, just say, “No.”  Don’t use that moment to bring up a tale about how you’ve never been owned by the company you’ve been telling everybody was the owner for the last three years.  It clearly will not turn out well.

That was enough silliness on Tuesday and I figured once Daybreak got their story straight and stopped trying to gaslight the internet we’d all wander off to fret about lockboxes or whatever the next story of the moment turned out to be.

But then yesterday another blow landed as we found out that Daybreak had a significant layoff, with a reported 70 or more people being let go.  Sure, that probably had more to do with how the company has been doing rather than anything related to Russian sanctions, but could the timing be any worse?  We’ve never been owned by that Russian company, Russian sanctions won’t have any effect on us, but we’re laying off a huge chunk of our staff.

And MMORPG.com threw a bit more fuel on that fire with a rumor about Daybreak possibly being acquired by another company… at which point Jason Epstein would drop out of the picture… maybe… he might be there as well.  That story felt really thin, and given that the author also said that Daybreak acquired Standing Stone Games, I wouldn’t give it much credence.  After all, we know that it was Jason Epstein who acquired Standing Stone… erm… no… Daybreak got into a deal to be Standing Stone’s publisher, a deal that seemed to bring almost no benefit to Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons & Dragons Online so far as I could tell.  But Daybreak didn’t buy them.  I don’t know who actually owns Standing Stone Games though.  It could be Jason Epstein though.  I wouldn’t cross him off the list.  He is a busy guy.

Anyway, it was enough to make a long time fan of the Norrath feel more than a bit defeated.

I mean, I am used to having the weight of SOE and then Daybreak’s foibles drag me down.  To be a fan of theirs is to suffer.  So instead of posting a piece I already had written about the EverQuest Agnarr server launching the Planes of Power expansion and how that is the centerpiece of their locked-in-time plans for this retro server, I am spewing out text about yet another bad turn in the life of this company and its games.

What is going to happen?  What does the future hold?

My gut says that there is value in the EverQuest franchise and that, run properly, EQ and EQII could be a nice little niche money spinners wherever they end up.  I had been feeling that Norrath was doing better than anybody had a right to expect under Daybreak, with yearly expansions and content updates in between.  But with layoffs is that at an end?

I guess DC Universe Online is safe, being that it is said to bring in a reliable revenue stream.  But PlanetSide 2 has been troublesome in the past and H1Z1… or whatever name it has now… was looking pretty good, right up until the point that it got trampled in the fight between PUBG and Fortnite over the battle royale space.  Now it is going onto the PS4, but will they bother bringing it to China?  And it feels like Just Survive just won’t.

And this one-two punch of lies and layoffs has brought up all the old resentments and recriminations in the rather close knit world of MMORPG gamers.  So it seems to be the time for some to replay every grievance from the past, from the NGE and the fall of SWG to the false hopes of The Agency to the replay of false hopes and the faked demos of EverQuest Next to the early death of Landmark and every foible big and small in between.

There is a lot of resentment and feelings of betrayal when you look back down the road the company has traveled.  Every game shut down, every bad decision they had to reverse on after announcing, every upbeat demo or announcement followed by months of silence, every update that didn’t meet expectations, every bug that lingers for year after year, every nutty side project that ate up dev time only to be abandoned… it all adds up.  Also, that ProSieben thing.  How could I forget that?

Games don’t last forever.  Mistakes happen.  Bad decisions get made.  Every feature, no matter how bad, is somebody’s favorite.  You’re always going to piss somebody off no matter what you do.  But Daybreak over the years feels like it has done more than its share of all of that, and it isn’t a big company like EA or Blizzard where they can piss people off and get past it by launching another Battlefront title or WoW expansion that will sell millions of copies.

It feels like we’re getting to the end of the story of SOE and Daybreak.  Maybe not today, or even this year, but things are headed in that direction.  They’re maintaining the old titles, but the only hope from the new was H1Z1 and it seems to have fallen by the wayside in the genre it helped spark.  There might be a new title in the works, but having to lay off so many people is going to impact something.

What do you do?  Do you cut back on supporting the old base?  No more expansions for EQ and EQII?  That brings in money and keeps the old base there.  But if you don’t work on something new then the future is set as an ever dwindling player base will lead to an every smaller staff and an eventual shut down.

Not a good week to be a fan of any of Daybreak’s remaining products.

Maybe I’ll feel better about all of this tomorrow and put up that Agnarr post.

Other coverage:

A Return to Quiet in Fade

After the thousand ship battle of the previous night I wondered if GotG would keep that up to clear our structures from their space.  However, it seems that level of effort two nights running wasn’t going to happen as we formed up again and headed to DO6H-Q.

We went back to their staging system again, this time with less than a hundred ships, to cover a couple of things.  We were, once again, dropping a pair of Raitarus on their Keepstar grid.  In addition, the remaining Raitaru was coming into its final timer, so if GotG wanted to destroy it, this would be the time.

The Keepstar from the active Raitaru

The GotG response, however, was desultory.

We arrived in system and not much was going on.  We roamed around the grid where the two new Raitarus were deploying, but no forces were forming up to meet us, much less chase us off.

Two Raitarus deploying

To pass the time we went off to one of their towers to shoot their jump bridge module.  This, as before, meant more work for logi as the tower on which the jump bridge had been anchored was armed.  Lots of calls for reps.

Shooting a jump bridge module again

As we did that a few of the locals headed out to the structures to hit them as a way to annoy us.  We warped back a couple of times and caught a few after which they became a bit more wary.  Back on the jump bridge a couple of game pilots tried to bomb us.

It was at the jump bridge that we suffered our only loss, a Vigil that got popped by the tower.

A Raitaru deploying

The Raitarus take six days to come online due to being in space owned by somebody else.  Those will be future fights.  After we popped the jump bridge, deciding to make them spend the ISK to replace it rather than making them repair it, we were back to the online Raitaru to watch its timer tick down.

Just two minutes or so to go…

That went without issue and the Raitaru was saved, leaving GotG to start over again on the cycle to destroy it.  I understand that they got out a small fleet of bombers and Eagles to shoot it this morning to get that under way.

After that we had a Raitaru in a system next door to watch as it came online, leaving us another place to tether and dock up.  As we roamed around I noticed another Raitaru coming online in their space.

Another location coming soon

Overall as we did that we managed to pick off enough of the locals to make it worth generating a battle report to get the tally.

Battle Report Header

We ended up blowing up a few pilots multiple times, and got the pods on some, which is how the number ends up with 48 ships but only 23 pilots.

Meanwhile, as we did that in one fleet I had an alt in another fleet that was cruising around and blowing up leftover Pandemic Horde structures.

Astrahus going up

Aside from running into some Caldari faction warfare pilots, who chased us off, but then killed the Astrahus we were shooting, so goal accomplished, it was an easy op delivering torpedoes on one target after another.  And while PH is no longer in the area, these being gone means less places for any of the locals to tether up.

And so it goes.  One night a thousand people in local.  The next night almost nobody is there to resist us.  So we laid the groundwork for further fights.  We shall see when GotG chooses to rise up and defend again.

SuperData Shows League of Legends Dethroned and Fortnite Still Booming

SuperData Research has their numbers for March out and it shows an unexpected (at least to me) change with some of the usual suspected.

SuperData Research Top 10 – March 2018

League of Legends lost its first place spot on the PC list.  If you go to the SuperData tag here and scroll down the past posts, you will see that League of Legends has held that spot since the list was a thing.  It has been there for so long it seemed like it was just locked in place.

Of course, it was supplanted by Dungeon Fighter Online, a Korean game big in the China market that has been hanging around second or third position for as long as LoL has been in first place.

I’m not sure if League of Legends is sagging a bit or if the Season 4 release for Dungeon Fighter Online was that popular, but we have a new player in first position for now.

Further down the list Fortnite pushed into fifth spot while PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, fifth last month, dropped down to seventh place behind World of Warcraft.  World of Tanks held on to the eighth slot while Far Cry 5 joined at ninth, taking that spot from Hearthstone, and CS:GO held on to tenth.

On the console list Fortnite broke into the number one spot in March, followed by popular new comer Far Cry 5, pushing down FIFA 18, Call of Duty WWII, and the long in the tooth GTA VSea of Thieves also hove into view on the list while Monster Hunter: World fell from fourth to tenth spot.

And on the mobile list Pokemon Go and Candy Crush Saga swapped positions compared to the February list.

It seems like things are still full speed ahead for Fortnite and their conquest of the battle royale genre.

Other items from their update:

  • Dungeon Fighter Online has generated the highest revenue of any Free-to-Play PC game in March on the back of their third anniversary celebration and a limited event that challenged players to level up new characters for special items.
  • Tencent’s mobile kart-racing game, QQ Speed, has generated over $100M in revenue for its third month in a row.
  • 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III continues to hold an impressive audience despite being two iterations behind this year’s Call of Duty: WWII. Developer Activision is continuing support for the game, releasing a new mode and map this month.
  • Fortnite had quite a March. The game has overtaken the previous “king of battle royale,” PUBG, in terms of revenue generated and monthly active users across all platforms. It also hit the #1 spot by revenue on iOS in the United States in its launch month and has the highest conversion rate of any free-to-play PC game in March. There’s no other way to say it: the game is a phenomenon. Fortnite generated $223 million across all platforms (console, PC, Mobile) in March, up a whopping 73% from February. Drake, a new season of the Battle Pass, and a John Wick skin all contributed to the massive growth.
  • Far Cry 5 marks a strong return for the franchise. Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 sold an estimated 2.5 million digital units across console and PC. On console, Far Cry 5‘s digital launch was up nearly 500% compared to Far Cry Primal two years ago. This points to not only the underlying health of the Far Cry series, but also to growing digital download rates for AAA console games in 2018.
  • Sea of Thieves has early success but with a caveat. Sea of Thieves had 1.7 million monthly active users on console and 283,000 on PC during its launch month. However – more than half of these users obtained the game through the limited free trial offered as part of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. This leaves some unanswered questions concerning the long-term success of the title.
  • Candy Crush hits another multi-year high on mobile. Candy Crush had its most successful month since 2014. King’s flagship mobile title has been showing double-digit year-over-year growth since mid-2017.

Escalating Battle Sizes in Fade

Asher always warns us to not talk to much about our deployments while they are in progress.  Talking about them… especially on Reddit… brings attention to the fact that there are decent, small scale fights happening somewhere in null sec regularly which gets other people to considering flying over to join in on the fun.  Then things escalate as more people show up and sooner or later you’re back to time dilation sized fights, which are fun once in a while but not something you want to face every night.

So our deployment up into Pure Blind to hound Pandemic Horde and Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t get a lot of mention for a while.  We’ve been up there since November and for most of that time we’ve done our thing with small fleets, occasionally teaming up with TNT, who have a had a fun times deployment like our own going in Lonetrek, but mostly keeping things light.  We prod the locals, drop on their ratters and miners, and dock up when things get too hot for our band.

Then Pandemic Horde moved to Geminate and Guardians of the Galaxy started coming apart under the pressure of our presence, pulling back from trying to camp us, letting us drop structures in their staging, and letting us get away with things an organization that size ought to be able to stomp on given their local capital and super capital dominance.  One of their FCs quit the game while a number of high level defections hit their moral, while some of their internal reactions embarrassed them in public, all of which was documented over on the /r/eve section of Reddit.

Anyway, enough preamble.  GotG’s leader Sort Dragon is back from vacation and knows he is facing a crisis that requires the coalition to stand up and win some fights, while all of this passing through Reddit means that more outsiders will be showing up for battles.

And so it was last night.  One of the Raitaru’s we had anchored on grid with their Keepstar in DO6H-Q was in its final timer and GotG was keen to kill it.  Removing us from line of sight of their staging point would be a good start towards boosting moral.

The Raitaru in question as seen from the Darkness Keepstar

To make sure that they won GotG enlisted the help of their allies NCDot, Mercenary Coalition, and Pandemic Horde for the fight.

At our end Asher was pinging about a big fight to get as many of us on as well as getting the TNT deployment to come over and join us.  In addition TEST, stepping beyond just watching and spamming local in DO6H-Q, brought over a fleet to help us.  We also got a fleet of Jackdaws from Federation Uprising (FEDUP), a faction warfare group that took some space in Cloud Ring on a lark a while back in September and are still there more than six months later. (Kirith Kodachi is part of FEDUP.)

At our end we formed up with the TNT group and were bridged up into Fade to get into position.

Bridging into Fade yet again

There we hung out on the Raitaru with TEST, led by Vily, who once long ago was an FC for the CFC.  They had brought a Cerberus fleet.

Vily in his command ship

There we watched the enemy form.  GotG was forming up a Loki fleet with Hendrink Collie as the FC, flying one of the new Monitor FC ships.  That was the first one I had seen on the live server.

Hendrinks new ride

GotG also had carriers out and were sending fighters towards the Raitaru as the timer counted down.  Also on the field were NCDot in Cerbs, MC in Feroxes, and PH in Jackdaws.

The timer was already in play and the fighters were slow boating towards it before anything happened.  It was not obvious as to whether or not the fighters would get there in time to hit the Raitaru when Asher had the Ishtars spread out around the structure, drop sentry drones, and then led us off tether and into combat.

The Ishtar Train speeds along

Our formation was pretty simple.  We all follow Asher with prop modules on.  The Ishtars shoot the targets called, the support ships bubble, boost, paint, or apply ewar, and the logi tries to keep up with calls for reps.  As with the last fight, life in the logi channel was very busy right off the bat as the enemy tried to trim us back so they could kill off the Ishtars.

That was also when things began to slow down.  Time dilation began to rear its ugly head, so what seemed like a long and busy fight from my own subjective view did not last too long in game time as it was moving at about 20% of normal.  More than a thousand people in local will do that.

Popular Fight

We seemed to be fixed mostly on the Loki fleet which was following Hendrink around in a tight ball.

Monitor and Lokis

They had an advantage on their side.  Being in their staging system they could replace losses very quickly and more than once I heard a target called that we had blown up once already.

A Loki going, only to return again

Our losses ended up jumps away in our staging system with a hazardous path back to the fight.  However our Ishtar fleet was big enough this time around to take down Lokis while we hand substantially more logi than last time so were able to save many ships.  In this the tidi helped with that.  When the game is moving slowly it becomes easier to lock up and get reps on people because the pace becomes leisurely.  The only frustration is that it does take time for modules to spin down, so it can feel like you’re not going to get reps on somebody in time.  But we did pretty well, saving people deep in armor (or sometimes in structure) before they blew up.

The haze of the cap chain and reps in the battle

Meanwhile we kept in contact with the Loki fleet, chipping away at them.

Inside the Loki ball

At one point GotG dropped an Apostle force auxiliary on grid with us and the Raitaru to help rep the Loki fleet.  This became a priority target and was blown up before too long.

The Apostle coming apart

Somewhere along the line I had launched the Warrior IIs in my drone bay and then lost track of them.  They were likely done in by smart bombs in the Loki fleet.  But that meant not having anything to send towards the Apostle to get on that kill.  Ah well.

Meanwhile I am not sure how much the fax helped GotG.  Their fleet zoomed by the wreck not long after the Apostle was lost.

Lokis near the Apostle wreck

As this was all going on the fighters from the carriers had arrived on the Raitaru with about a minute left on its timer and were able to stop it as they chewed away at its structure.

The Raitaru in the middle of all of this

There came a moment of decision.  There was a mass of fighters on the Raitaru.  We could try to shoot them and maybe save the citadel, though it was not certain we could do it, or we could shoot GotG ships some more.  Asher opted for the latter and among the eventual victims was Hendrink Collie’s Monitor, aptly named, “Asher NOOOOOOOOO.”

Target the Monitor

That was the first Monitor kill for almost everybody though again, having lost my drones somewhere, I missed out.

By that point the Raitaru had exploded, fighters were being recalled, and our reason for being there had expired.  It was time to go.  Asher sent the Ishtars off to scoop up their drones, sentry drones being stationary, long range models.  That actually led to a series of Ishtar losses.  There were still hostiles on grid with us and they started picking off lone Ishtars.  They would broadcast for armor but were mostly out of range of reps and sometimes out of lock range, so we took some last minute losses that might have been avoided.  Nothing like being on top of broadcasts for a long stretch and then getting a string where you can’t help.

We then headed out, keeping together so as to prevent stragglers from being picked off.  The tidi outside of DO6H-Q was worse than inside the system as several fleets pushed through gates.  Asher told us we needed to get back to our staging and reload drones as there was another objective to hit.  But by the time we got back to the station that event had already played out and we were done for the night.

On the GotG side of things they managed to complete their main objective in DO6H-Q.  They destroyed the Raitaru in question and another without any resistance.  The battle report shows they paid a price for that objective.

Battle Report Header

The ISK war clearly went in our favor.

Furthermore, as Asher notes in his after action report post on Reddit, while this was going on other forces were able to go out and kill a Tatara and an Athanor, so you can understand why we might feel pretty good about how the night turned out. (Also his AAR explains the broader fight as opposed to my narrow logi view.)

There is also a video of the fight up on YouTube now that shows a few items I mentioned above.

And a thousand ships is a sizable fight.  It seems like we might be past the time of 60-80 person fleets going out for objectives.  The fights are growing in size as the nature of the conflict escalates for GotG into a need to prove they can defend their own space.

 Addendum: Another video of the fight, this one with some of our coms, including bad puns.

Spring Movie League – Who is Laughing Meow?

Week eight of our Spring Fantasy Movie League saw a surprise that was no surprise at all I guess.

Well, it was no surprise if you believed my post from last week where I was declaring for Super Troopers 2.  The lineup for the week looked like this:

 A Quiet Place            $361
 Rampage                  $258
 I Feel Pretty            $251
 Truth or Dare            $126
 Blockers                 $98
 Ready Player One         $95
 Super Troopers 2         $84
 Black Panther            $72
 Traffik                  $68
 Isle of Dogs             $47
 I Can Only Imagine       $33
 Tyler Perry's Acrimony   $26
 Chappaquiddick           $25
 The Miracle Season       $19
 Sherlock Gnomes          $18

On Monday night when I wrote my post the long range forecast for ST2 was just $5 million, but that felt like too little even then.  I started my estimates thinking that maybe $7 million would be a more likely number.

And as the week moved along each new estimate that came out seemed to move higher and higher, capping on Thursday with Box Office Report calling the film at $11.8 million over the weekend.

Meanwhile I Feel Pretty didn’t seem to be getting much love, hovering around $15-17 million in the estimates.  Not a bad number, but not something that would top the week.  It could, however, be a film to consider since it still seemed likely to be worth more in your lineup than ST2.

On Tuesday I thought I was being clever and going with 1x A Quiet Place and 7x Super Troopers 2.  It seemed like a bit of a risk, but being back in the pack I figured I should go all in on ST2 in case it went big.

Clever on Tuesday seemed pretty obvious on Thursday, and when the preview numbers came out on Friday morning, with ST2 pulling in $1.35 million to I Feel Pretty’s $1 million, anybody on the fence knew which way to jump.  It wasn’t exactly like the opening week for Baby Driver last summer, but it was reminiscent.

Spring Week Eight – My Picks

My clever pick became the most popular pick, with 402 of the Top 500 cineplexes going with my lineup.  Six of Seven people in the MCats League went with that pick, as did three people in the TAGN League.  And outside of that, the weekly summary email from FML said that a lot of other people played that pick.

Dude, we hit a record this week. 2367 played the same thing! That’s the most since, like… ever. EVER! Do you understand that?!?!?! Ever! I don’t think you’re getting this. Like, there’s NEVER been a Cineplex more played than “A Quiet Place” x1/”Super Troopers 2″ x7.

I was so clever I was in the biggest pick pack ever.

But with the first weekend estimates on Saturday, that lineup was the perfect pick, a position it held onto with the Sunday estimates.  And it was still the perfect pick when the final numbers came in Monday afternoon.

Spring Week Eight – Perfect Pick

People who hedged their bets with some films expected to do better, like Truth or Dare, ended up disappointed as Super Troopers 2 exceeded even some of the crazy optimistic estimates to rake in $15.18 million.  With the $2 million per screen best performer bonus, a screen of Super Troopers 2 was worth more than a screen of I Feel Pretty, which managed just over $16 million for the weekend.  It was the fourth best performer for the weekend.

Basically, the more screens of ST2 you had, the better you did.  That was the one and only filler worth having so the choice, as I said last week, was one of anchors.  The problem was that to max our ST2 you really only had one anchor choice, A Quiet Place.

Theoretically Rampage could have been the pick.  It came in close to AQP.  The problem was that it was priced low enough that it left too much money on the table, so people felt the need to spend that.  So people who went with Rampage tended to have two screens of that which left room for only 5x ST2 and a lesser filler.  You didn’t get killed if you went that route, but you were out of the running for first.

Anyway, the dominance of Super Troopers 2 left the Meta League looking like this:

  1. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $146,183,177
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $146,183,177
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $146,183,177
  4. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $146,183,177
  5. Goat Water Picture Palace (T) – $146,183,177
  6. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $146,183,177
  7. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $146,183,177
  8. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $146,183,177
  9. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $136,301,586
  10. DumCheese’s Cineplex (T) – $131,794,978
  11. Kraut Screens (T) – $131,794,978
  12. JHW’s Cineplex (T) – $130,977,463
  13. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $129,558,341
  14. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $129,558,341
  15. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $129,558,341
  16. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $122,901,183
  17. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $112,201,065
  18. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies (T) – $109,221,138
  19. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex (T) – $72,339,442
  20. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $62,043,617
  21. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $61,755,838
  22. Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $44,881,286

The Meta League Legend:

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

And there we have it, an 8-way tie for first place.  One of those weeks.  The new tie breaker method was used to pick who won the week.  With the Sunday estimates I was in 15th place on that front and winning both leagues, but come the final numbers I fell back about 500 places overall and dropped to second in both of our leagues.  Oh well.

For everybody else, the more screens of ST2 you went with, the higher up you were, with the bottom three places reserved for those who went with no screens of this week’s darling.

That left the season scores looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $833,745,375
  2. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $812,394,881
  3. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $809,835,649
  4. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $778,714,154
  5. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes (M) – $769,894,194
  6. Goat Water Picture Palace (T) – $768,763,971
  7. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $768,563,492
  8. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $765,333,153
  9. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $760,264,576
  10. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $759,971,281
  11. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $751,335,800
  12. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $688,020,548
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $668,667,883
  14. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $654,906,795
  15. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $644,572,684
  16. DumCheese’s Cineplex (T) – $628,561,108
  17. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $624,541,265
  18. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $600,543,549
  19. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies (T) – $596,083,240
  20. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex (T) – $572,686,075
  21. JHW’s Cineplex (T) – $557,869,887
  22. Bean Movie Burrito (T) – $459,291,113

Not a lot of change at the top half of the list.  Ben pulled a little further away from Po, while Biyondios closed in on second place.  After that is Corr and then a whole group of us who could end up in fifth position, we’re all so close in score.

The bottom half of the list though… as I said, if you didn’t pick any screens of Super Troopers 2 then you suffered.  Ride the wave or get swamped.

So there we are.  But the age of Super Troopers 2 is over.  It was a crowd-funded, front loaded run, with half of its weekend revenue coming from Thursday night previews (which featured a number of Super Troopers & Super Troopers 2 double features) and the Friday night box office.  I expect it will fade more than 50% week over week along with the usual price punishment that run-away best performers tend to get.

Instead, this week is all about the Marvel universe, with Avengers: Infinity Wars, a film that ropes in what feels like every member of said universe that has a big screen success in one of the most expensive films ever produced.  So it will be on a lot of screens.  The price list for week nine looks like this:

Avengers FRI       $620
Avengers SAT       $411
Avengers SUN       $334
A Quiet Place      $70
Rampage            $55
I Feel Pretty      $47 
Super Troopers 2   $33
Black Panther      $32
Truth or Dare      $21
Blockers           $21
Ready Player One   $21
Isle of Dogs       $13
Traffik            $11
I Can Only Imagine $8
Chappaquiddick     $6

Avengers: Infinity Wars is the only new film on the list, but it is expected to do something in the neighborhood of $250 million over the three day weekend, so it is split into three, pushing Tyler Perry’s Acrimony , The Miracle Season, and Sherlock Gnomes off the list this week.  I won’t miss the gnomes, they under performed every time I picked them.

So this week we’re back to the anchors being the most important aspect of your line up.  With as much as $250 million on the line you want as much Avengers as you can get, which pretty much means going with Friday/Sunday or Saturday/Saturday as your anchors.  To my mind any other pick leaves too much on the table.

When it comes to filler, you can make either of those picks without leaving an empty screen as due to the scale of Avengers this week everything else fades into insignificance.  We have a $6 option this week with Chappaquiddick, so there should be no empty screens.

But also means that all but maybe the bottom four filler options are off the table as well.  I guess I could come up with a scenario where picking A Quiet Place would be worth a couple empty screens, but I need to think hard on that.

Anyway, another week another puzzle to solve.  We’ll see if 2,367 people get it dead on again this week.