Monthly Archives: June 2018

June in Review

The Site

I was away for more than a quarter of the month and yet still managed more than a post a day.  I got a little carried away working up posts for the week or so I was gone and ended up with more than I needed for that time.  I also expected I might be slow to restart when I returned, but CCP and the EVE Online community kept that from being an issue.  If this was an EVE-only blog I could come up with something to write about every day.

Meanwhile, just after I wrote up the ten year anniversary post about my other blog, noting that you could follow it (and this blog) on various services including Facebook, the integration piece I had been using for Facebook died.  Networked Blogs, which did this quietly and without issue for years stopped working and when I went to check I found out that Networked Blogs was now some other thing that did something else.  Scratch that.

But has direct integration with Facebook, so I fell back on that… which didn’t seem to work either.  At least not reliably.  So if you follow the blog on Facebook, you may never see this.

Also, I forgot to mention that you can subscribe to EVE Online Pictures on FlipBoard as well, the handy dandy news reading app I use on my iPad.  I don’t recall exactly HOW I got the blog on there as an option to which you can subscribe, but it is there.  And sometimes FlipBoard takes liberties in labeling my screen shots.

That citadel is woke

So there it is, another way to look at pictures of internet spaceships.

One Year Ago

Nintendo announced Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon as well as Pokemon Gold & Silver for the Nintendo 2DS/3DS Virtual Console.  Now it seems that the former were to be the last bit of Pokemon for the Nintendo handheld lineup.

Daybreak opened up the Fallen Gate progression server for EverQuest II.

There were Sega Genesis and Atari 2600 retro consoles being promoted, trying to milk a bit of that NES Classic magic.  I was not impressed, as there had been many Atari 2600 hardware and software retro options for ever.

Meanwhile Microsoft announced the Age of Empires Definitive Edition.  Nostalgia everywhere!

The Ashes of Creation Kickstarter campaign closed with a big take.

I tried out Atlantic Fleet, a ship combat simulator.  I also played some Mini Metro, which I picked up from the Steam Summer Sale.

Following my retro-flavor-of-the-month plan, I went back to give Guild Wars 2 a try.  Is GW2 old enough to be retro yet?  Anyway I rolled up a new character and followed the zone path, that being the most obvious thing to do.  I made it into the Harathi Hinterlands and level 40 before I wore out on the game.

Minecraft had its World of Color update, version 1.12 for those who like numbers.  Microsoft was talking about unifying all of the versions of Minecraft… except for the original, now called the Minecraft: Java Edition.  I was looking back at two years of playing Minecraft.

CCP released the June 2017 update for EVE Online, changing the naming scheme once again.  That update nerfed null sec mining some more, tried to reign in super carrier ratting without nerfing fighter PvP capabilities, launched the Rogue Swarm event, and gave the game a colorblind mode.  Also, it had music.  We would soon lose music with updates.

The New Eden Monthly Economic Report showed that Delve not only ratted and mined more than most, but also had a big market and a lot of production going on as well.  Aryth called the MER the best recruiting tool the Imperium ever had.  If you wanted to make ISK, the MER told you where you wanted to be.

In space I was there to shoot a Raitaru, get in on a Keepstar kill, and cover some tower repairs in Fountain.  My alliance joined the Keepstar club.    And I opened a controversial topic in asking whether or not EVE Online was a gank box or not. (My observation after that is, for some people, any PvP is too much.)

And that whole Blogger Fantasy Movie League thing started, initiated by Liore the ringer.  I sort of set a format in that first week that I carried on with.

Finally, Blizzard gave us a date for the Necromaner mini-expansion for Diablo III.

Five Years Ago

At E3 Sony certainly seemed to have won the marketing war against Microsoft and the XBox One.

CCP faced a DDoS attack that kept us from logging in.  They still managed to release the Odyssey expansion a couple of days later.

In EVE Online, the war for Fountain began, as the CFC invaded the Fountain region to take it from former member TEST in order control its economically valuable moons, which ended up there as part of the Odyssey expansion.  A side effect of all of this was that the “blue donut” chanting peanut gallery was shown yet again that war was possible. That did not stop them from moving straight to “not winning fast enough” as their next chant.  I suppose that gave TEST some comfort though.  Anyway, rather than try to fit all the links into a narrative, here are the related June 2013 posts from the war:

I got a special BMW in Need for Speed World.  That 180 day journey about finished that game for me.  I have had no real urge to go back, and with a couple of auto based MMOs coming this year, the next time I want to drive online I will have other options.

TorilMUD offered its own web client to connect to one of the older MUDs left on the internet.  They also made my old fumble trigger obsolete.

Rift went free to play, and the instance group met up to give it a try.

I was wondering about feedback that MMOs give about equipment, wondering if we could use that as opposed to lots and lots of stats.  Also, something about equity.

finished up the Evendim zone in LOTRO for the nth time and sat, as usual, wondering how to bridge that awkward gap between levels 40 and 50.

And Richard Bartle told us there was nothing before MUD1, Tesh was offering Tinker Dice, I wondered whether we still hated 60% of our dungeon groups, and, in a tidbits post, I wondered what SOE was up to with EverQuest Next, noted XBox One policy changes, and followed how worked up EVE Online players go when they tried to change up the Minmatar hauler lineup.

Ten Years Ago

The big news was Blizzard announcing Diablo III.  Of course, they didn’t announce a ship date.  Still, we were all primed for the announcement, there having been a surge in Diablo II nostalgia at the time.

The Empyrean Age was upon us in EVE Onlineif you could stay logged in.  CCP went looking for a fix and found one eventually.  When I could get a break on connectivity I went out to try a factional warfare mission.  It did not go well.

After that I moved back to Amarr space again and started in on level 4 missions.  The move did not go well either as I managed to lose two ships at once.  Damn suicide gankers!  I didn’t even know that was a thing until it happened to me.  While that was going on, the skill point meter rolled over to 20 million and explored the training differential between guns and missiles.

Meanwhile, around the house, Summer began and it found us playing with LEGO and Pokemons.

Norrath was calling as SOE launched their huge Living Legacy marketing campaign.  I picked up some nifty stuff in EverQuest, but never really got rolling with EverQuest II during the promotion.  Of course, not everybody was happy about the campaign.  The phrase “a slap in the face” was used by some. I never got around to a post about that involving the prodigal son (I still have the notes) though I did wonder what sparked this campaign.  Also, I was still annoyed by their then lack of a real time server status page.

And in Azeroth the instance group struggled through the Mana Tombs and started in on the Auchenai Crypts.  We were struggling, this being long before the great re-spec of 2009.

Fifteen Years Ago

SOE launched Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided. Gone but not forgotten.

Linden Lab launched Second Life. It is still around, but it is no longer the future we’ve all been promised.  And their ads these days… are they’re trying for Third Life maybe?

Disney Virtual Reality Studios and Schell Games launched Toontown Online.  It has been gone for almost five years, but is available in emulator form as Toontown Rewritten.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. What is EVE Project Galaxy?
  3. Quote of the Day – We Just Work Here
  4. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  7. Quote of the Day – The Dumbest Thing Ever Said About PvP
  8. When the Steam Summer Sale Hits While You Are on Vacation
  9. WoW Classic – Blizzard Picks a Vanilla Point
  10. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  11. The Return of the Mystery Code
  12. The Demise of BattleClinic

Search Terms of the Month

kids with guns rent feythabolis
[If you have a gun, why not just take?]

when you put all your stats in strength and charisma
[You get Kronk?]

eve brave newbies good ratting system
[Somewhere in Impass I would guess]

[As in “three pedroom, two path?”]

what update do you need to make an saddle on nitendo 3ds xl
[The horsey update?]

EVE Online

There was a lot going on in the game in June.  Abyssal Pockets were all the rage as the end-of-May Into the Abyss expansion carried on.  Stations in null sec became faction Fortizars.  There was the Federation Grand Prix event which, even though I wasn’t thrilled with, I ended up finishing on my alt.  It was easy enough if you did a couple runs a day.

I didn’t do many fleets however.  Being away for a stretch in back half of the month and our deployment in the north standing down for a rest in the first half meant not much going on.  That should get back going in July.  And I did get in on one nice end of the month kill.

Fallout 4

My one Steam Summer Sale purchase… so far.  I’ve started in on it and am a few hours in.  We’ll see how this runs its course.  At least I didn’t buy it and then NOT play it.

Pokemon Go

It turns out that Pokemon Go isn’t really viable at sea, where cell service isn’t a thing.  That was a week of no progress.  But we came back from vacation to find the new friend features enabled.  Pokedex progress has slowed down a bit, as I have caught or evolved all of the easy stuff at this point I think.  The new Alola forms of more Pokemon are out and about, but they don’t count as new, just variations on the current list.

Level: 32 (+0)
Pokedex status: 331 (+4) caught, 350 (+1) seen
Pokemon I want: Still Lapras, still don’t have one
Current buddy: Cascoon


The Steam Summer Sale kicked off and remains active into next week, so still time to shop… or earn cards.  Every sale I am compelled to earn cards for a badge.

Steam also said they were going to let most any game on their service whether they liked it or not.  Then they demonstrated that when they say “trolling'” they mean something they don’t like and that was about the end of that idea.  They also promised more and better tools for sorting through the trash heap their service has become.  We’ll see.

Coming Up

I think all eyes will be drawn to World of Warcraft before the end of the month.  The Battle for Azeroth expansion goes live in mid-August, which means that the preliminaries, the first 8.0 patch… 8.0.1 I hear, since we can never have a round number… will likely drop some time after mid-July.  Blizz has already started pushing the data files and I hear there is actually a start on the quest that will replace your artifact weapon.  The pending patch will be the signal to return, though I might re-sub a bit early to get in on a last Darkmoon Faire before the patch hits.

We might get the under water Minecraft update we’ve been waiting for.  Version 1.13 was actually expected to go live in May, but it is a big one and there have been bugs to quash.

And… and… well, it is summer.  Something else must be coming along.

No More Toys for Us

I remember the coming of the big Toys R Us store in Sunnyvale, over on El Camino Real near Mathilda Avenue.  It was, in a somewhat conservative time, a brash statement of color.

Something akin to what it looked like back in the day – Pic swiped from the internet

And, more importantly to me at the time, if was full of toys.

More recently they transformed the building into the bland beige store front style so common on strip malls across the country.  But for a while it stood out.  And it was haunted.

Of course, as a kid, it was a big deal even without the alleged ghost. (There is a post on Snopes about the haunting, a recurring story here in the valley, which had to get mentioned one last time when the location was set to close.)  But toy stores seemed to be a thing back then.  We not only had Toys R Us expanding into the valley, we also had a local chain, Kiddie World, with a couple of equally sizable locations, and later another big store… King Something’s Kingdom of Toys I think… it was over off of Interstate 880 with a big wooden soldier on the front of the building … along with smaller local retailers and the mall toy stores that eventually all became KB Toys.  And then there were the pseudo-toy stores, the hobby shops and the like, which grew in importance to me as time moved along.

I suppose it is in the nature of being a child, know where all the toy stores are and which retailer has a decent toy department and which does not.  I recall being disappointed with the one at Sears back in the day.

But even before the internet began to thin the heard of brick and mortar toy stores things were changing.  Silicon Valley was growing.  The population has more than doubled since that Toys R Us location opened.  Population pressures and a level of land scarcity (exacerbated by zoning laws favoring single family detached dwellings, leading the valley to be called a gang of suburbs in search of a city) began pushing up real estate prices, something reflected in retail rental costs, which killed off a lot of the small, independent toy stores.

Time, change, and competition send others packed.  That big toy store off 880 whose name eludes me was gone by the end of the 80s.  By the mid-90s Kiddie World, shrunk to a single location not too far down the road from the haunted Toys R Us, was trying to make its way by focusing on patio furniture and backyard play sets before it closed down.  And, as I mentioned, KB Toys scooped up the mall toy stores… at least before land value made having as many malls as we did economically nonviable.  And then even it fell over, as did the famous FAO Schwartz.

But Toys R Us seemed to be able to hang on and even thrive, scooping up fallen rivals and opening up Babies R Us in the late 90s, the go-to store for new parents.  Gift cards to Babies R Us were very welcome at baby showers and the like.  And in the age of Amazon the chain was able to strike a deal with wrecker of the status quo, even if Amazon reneged on the deal.

The chain was around for my daughter to grow up with.  Trips there were fun for the both of us.  There is something about being able to see and touch toys in person, to get their measure in reality, that surpasses any online purchasing experience.  The web is for buying, but stores are for browsing.  And Pokemon events.  Toys R Us used to host Pokemon download events, and my daughter and I attended more than a few of those.

However the internet kept pressure on the company while retail competitors like Target and WalMart.  Then they screwed up a couple of season of buying and were soon in deep trouble, needing to borrow more money for 2017 holiday season, a time of year which generates the lion’s share of their revenue.  That did not pay off and, having not turned a profit since 2013, the company was in serious trouble.

And so it goes.  Today, Friday, June 29, 2018, the last Toys R Us in the US is closing down.  It has been reported that their overseas subsidiaries will follow suit and the company will effectively disappear.  There is a farewell notice on their web site.

Farewell from Toys R Us

I am, at least theoretically, well past the need for a toy store, though I have persisted pretty well on the “don’t ever grow up” front.  As well as can be expected.

My daughter too is past toy stores for now, but she was sad as well when she heard the news.  She remembers going there when she was younger.  It was a memorable experience, a rite of childhood, being able to go to a big toy store.  And she has picked up some of my sense of nostalgia as she has realized that childhood doesn’t last forever.  The only constant in life is change.

And so one more facet of my life, of my daughter’s life, of the life of the valley, passes into memory.

Good-bye Geoffrey!

It will be a while… I hope… until grand kids are a concern.  I wonder what will fill the gap for them?  What will replace the toy store experience?  Or will video and virtual be all they know?

SuperData Shows Fortnite Peaking and Pokemon Go Surging

SuperData Research has released their digital market numbers for May 2018.

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2018

On the PC end of the chart the top five entries remained unchanged from last month.  For May though DOTA 2, which fell of the chart previously, jumped back on and knocked World of Warcraft down a peg.  WoW, which is in the warm up period before its next expansion held out ahead of World of Tanks, while ninth and tenth spot continued to be held by PUBG and CS:GOWoW will likely rise through August due to the expansion.

On the console chart Fortnite remained on top, FIFA 18 climbed to second spot, and God of War sank a bit after strong launch sales.

Then on the far right the mobile segment still has the same top three titles as last month, but Pokemon Go has surged up a bit, jumping from seventh to fourth spot, allegedly on the coming of summer and good weather, while Candy Crush Saga stuck it out at eighth position.  I expect Pokemon Go will hold on, or maybe even rise another notch, with the coming of the new friend features this month along with the summer surge.

Supplementary notes from the chart post:

  • Fortnite hits a new high but growth is slowing down. We estimate that Fortnite made $318 million across all platforms in May, up 7% from April. The majority of growth came from console, with mobile and PC both coming in flat compared to April.
  • Star Wars Battlefront II players don’t bite on new microtransactions. EA reintroduced microtransactions in April, months after facing backlash over a perceived pay-to-win model at launch, but the reception has been pretty muted so far. SWBF2 Additional Content in May fell short of the levels seen across other top games this year.
  • Detroit: Become Human the latest in series of successful Sony releasesSony’s new sci-fi title sold 291,000 digital units at launch in May, a solid reception for a console-exclusive and new IP.
  • Pokemon Go poised for a strong summer. Pokemon Go generated $104 million in May, up 174% year-over-year. The player base increased to the highest level since the game’s peak in 2016 – just in time for the usual summer bump that goes hand-in-hand with the game’s walkabout gameplay.

Summer Movie League – Clever Girl

Week four of our Summer Fantasy Movie League saw me floating down the coast of Mexico on a cruise ship, so last week’s post covering week three had to be written before Saturday preview numbers were even posted.  No scores listed.

Likewise, I had to make my picks for week four while at sail in the Pacific over a satellite WiFi option that cost daily what an MMO subscription generally costs monthly and which ran about as fast as a 1999 modem connection in the middle of the night when nobody else was using it, and barely ran at all during the day when everybody was trying to update their Facebook status.

Still, there was unlimited soft-serve ice cream, so it wasn’t all bad.

Late Monday night, when the internet was semi-usable I did manage to get onto FML and see the results for Week 3, where I managed to hold on to first place in the TAGN league despite not exactly hitting it out of the park.  I did okay, but only in the defensive sense that I did not screw up badly.  I made it to fifth while grannanj’s Cineplex took first place.  So congrats go out for that.

I was also able to make my picks for week four.  As I noted, I was not keen on dinos, a personal bias of mine.  Generally I try to at least explore such a bias to see if I am cheating myself out of a good pick by “wishcasting” a future that comes out like I think it should rather than how I might actually.

But with my connectivity such as it was, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for research.  I couldn’t even make my picks with the FML app on my phone, I had to log into the web site, the latter seeming much more tolerant when it comes to timeouts.  If the app can’t get the JSON payload in about 20 seconds it gives up, and nothing was happening over that connection in 20 seconds.

The choices I had to work with in my narrow window of active connection time were… um… I’m not ever sure I can recreate the list at this point.  When the new week goes live a lot of the data on the last week disappears.

Anyway, Jurassic World was split in the usual three way across the weekend while The Incredibles 2 was an expensive ticket, ringing in at budget busting $725.  But it also over-performed on its opening weekend and looked to be a strong contender again, so I went with it as my anchor.

That didn’t leave me much additional room for filler, so I loaded up on the filler that would fit, with three screens of Ocean’s 8 in the mix.  Initially I had more and A Wrinkle in Time as my final filler, it running at only $6.  Then I pulled back from that, wondering how A Wrinkle in Time was even on the list.

It turns out the distributor pushed it out with a discount rate to a bunch of dollar threaters and drive-ins in hopes of getting the film over the $100 million mark for the domestic box office.  Somebody’s bonus was probably riding on that.  However, the film did not deserve to be a pick this week.  Hell, they were showing it on the cruise ship at the mid-deck pool one night along side a lot of films from last summer. (I finally saw Black Panther on the ship sitting by the pool.)  There were at least a dozen films that deserved to make the cut ahead of A Wrinkle in Time, and it did poorly enough that I was glad to have avoided it.  My final lineup ended up with 1x The Incredibles 2, 3x Ocean’s 8, 1x The Avengers, 3x Book Club.

Summer Movie League – My Week Four Pick

I copied that to all my leagues, after which I was back to the cruise, hanging out with the family, and trying to drink my weight in Pacificos at every port of call, a venture helped along by the fact that it seemed impossible to order just one.  They seemed only available in pairs or by the bucket.

We returned home Saturday afternoon to find the cats scolding us for being away and the weather considerably warmer than what we left in Mexico.  It was in the high 80s south of the boarder but near 100 at home.  But it was, as they say, a dry heat.

Then the folly of my disregard for dinos became apparent as Jurassic World did better than expected.  Not as wildly as The Incredibles 2 did the week before, but sufficient to make all the best picks require an anchor on a pair of its days.

The TAGN league, without bonuses, ended up with a different perfect pick than the normal league.   With bonuses 2x Sunday and 6x Ocean’s 8 was the perfect pick, the latter getting the best performer boost.  Without bonuses though, the best best was 2x Saturday, 4x Ocean’s 8, and 2x Will You Be My Neighbor.

Summer Movie League – Week Four Perfect Pick

The week’s scores ended up looking like this:

  1. I HAS BAD TASTE – $149,011,139
  2. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $148,790,862
  3. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $145,559,483
  4. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $143,810,831
  5. Kraut Screens – $143,621,570
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $142,299,162
  7. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema – $141,474,176
  8. Too Orangey For Crows – $139,293,799
  9. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $138,485,522
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $132,639,108
  11. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $132,639,108
  12. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $120,433,130
  13. Goat Water Picture Palace – $118,288,783
  14. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $117,948,704
  15. grannanj’s Cineplex – $112,270,121
  16. Joanie’s Joint – $109,582,467
  17. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $108,103,696
  18. aria82’s Cineplex – $106,527,489
  19. Bean Movie Burrito – $13,087,528 (did not pick)
  20. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre – $0 (did not copy picks)

Isey of I HAS BAD TASTE won the week and also got the best possible score for the league having grabbed the perfect pick.

Darren was close behind having gone with what ended up being the perfect pick for leagues with bonuses.

After that, down to 11th place, are the people who anchored on two days of Jurassic World.  There there is a $12 million gap and the start of the people who anchored on The Incredibles 2, or who did not pick or forgot to copy.  I guess, sitting there at 12th place, I can take solace in the fact that I had the best Incredibles 2 lineup.

The sad trombone for the week goes to SynCaine who forgot that I left the empty screen penalty on for the league when I removed the bonuses.  His two screen lineup of The Incredibles 2 and Friday Jurassic World scored pretty well, but eight empty screens pulls $16 million off of his total.

That left the league standings looking like this after week four:

  1. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $413,420,828
  2. I HAS BAD TASTE – $407,058,524
  3. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $403,218,563
  4. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $397,307,676
  5. Kraut Screens – $390,019,856
  6. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $389,940,553
  7. Goat Water Picture Palace – $387,113,020
  8. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $383,706,911
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $382,929,377
  10. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $376,737,891
  11. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $374,008,116
  12. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $368,319,886
  13. grannanj’s Cineplex – $366,567,247
  14. aria82’s Cineplex – $323,895,524
  15. Joanie’s Joint – $306,167,311
  16. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema – $299,887,221
  17. Too Orangey For Crows – $296,721,502
  18. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $221,482,730
  19. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre – $208,549,279
  20. Bean Movie Burrito – $168,373,959

This week saw some shifting in the standings, but I still think my working theory/plan for the season, that the removal of bonuses would keep the pack tighter and the competition closer, seems to be working out… sort of.  The changes with how FML works with the whole need to copy picks across leagues, plus the early lock time, plus the not clearly indicated rule set have all hampered the league, and there is no change of rules that will help somebody bounce back after they miss a week.  Only Liore seems to have that power, as she missed a week last summer and still won the season.

I did drop a couple of people from the standings who have missed a few weeks already, so we are down to 20 players in the league.

And that brings us to week five.

Incredibles 2              $591
Jurassic World SAT         $356
Jurassic World SUN         $278
Uncle Drew                 $275
Jurassic World FRI         $266
Sicario 2                  $201
Ocean's 8                  $97
Tag                        $64
Deadpool 2                 $41
Solo                       $31
Sanju                      $30
Won't You Be My Neighbor   $24
Hereditary                 $24
Superfly                   $22
Avengers: Infinity War     $18

It is an odd week.  After two successive blockbuster opening weekends we have a bit of a quiet week for new features.  There are three new titles on the list this week, Uncle Drew, Sicario 2, and Sanju, none of which are expected to break any records or threaten the current big titles in play.

Uncle Drew is a basketball… Comedy?  Parody?  Homage?  I’ve read the Wikipedia article and I am still not sure.  My getting anything isn’t a requirement for success, but it might be a measure of messaging I suppose.  Also I am not sure if it showing up after the annual Warriors/Cavaliers tournament… I mean the NBA championship… is good positioning or not.  The long range forecast puts it somewhere between $15 and $18 million, but I have no gut on this one.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado, to give it its full name, is a sequel to 2015 film of the same base name about drugs, smuggling, and violence on the US/Mexican boarder.  The original has a slow September opening, only widening to 2,600 theaters on its third week when it brought in $12 million based on the positive buzz it created.

The sequel is going straight for the big opening, but has been referred to as a “hot mess,” while the long range forecast from last week pegs it under $15 million for the weekend.  While I liked the original, it is a bit niche and the follow on seems like an unnecessary appendage to the story.  But in Hollywood they figure a sequel is worth 85% of the original, and the first one did $84 million at the box office.

And then there is Sanju, a Hindi language biopic about Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt.  There was some controversy about a scene in the film to which the government of India objected, but I am not sure that is enough to propel a foreign language film high enough onto the US box office list to make the cut for 11th spot on the list.  Theater count is estimated at 350, which is about what Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had for week four, and it did $1.8 million… but it isn’t in Hindi and is about a US cultural icon.

The modest means of those three titles meant that Jurassic World stays split over three days again this week while The Incredibles 2 stays at the top of the price list.  Meanwhile there is some close prices filler from which to choose.

So there we go.  As usual, I will put my Monday Hot Takes league picks here.  I went with 2x Saturday, 1x Ocean’s 8, 4x Deadpool 2, and 1x Hereditary.   That is a pretty research free lineup, but I feared to avoid dinos for a second week running lest they surprise and bit me in the ass yet again.  Won’t You Be My Neighbor? might end up a better bet than Hereditary, depending on what the eventual screen count is for the week.

Get your picks in now, or copy them over.  The league locks in less than 24 hours from when this post goes live.

The Vulture Venture

This actually started up before I left on vacation and, honestly, I thought it would lose steam and fade away in a day or so.

But this involved Star Citizen, so drama blew up everywhere and proved once again that if you complain aggressively about some perceived slight you can get everybody to focus on it for a week or more.

I am, of course, referring to the Venture/Vulture design thing.

More than a week back Star Citizen announced a new ship called the Vulture from Drake Industries.

From Star Citizen, the Vulture

As images spread out on the web, those familiar with EVE Online noticed a decided similarity between that ship and the ORE industrial frigate in the game call the Venture.

From ORE the Venture

This led to some immediate poking of fun at Star Citizen, kicking off a couple dozen threads on /r/eve about the similarities of the ship (starting with this one I believe) as well as a tweak from CCP on Twitter.

This led to some rage from some parts of the Star Citizen community who protested that it was CCP that copied from some past Chris Roberts game, producing screen shots from the 1990s of something of a vaguely similar configuration while also tossing out any ship model they could find that featured twin booms out front to prove that the concept hasn’t been original for ages.

However, that barely had any impact as the EVE Online community made more memes and bad puns and pointed out more strange coincidences.

The Prospect is also the name of an ORE industrial ship in EVE Online, based off of the Venture, so Prospector is hitting close to home as well.

Meanwhile, on Reddit the two communities were… well… like this:

Smug versus Rage

The Star Citizen moderators on Reddit began banning people who brought up anything about the two ships, which only encouraged the EVE Online players.  The Star Citizen mods complained to the EVE Online mods and were said to have reported the /r/eve subreddit for vote brigading in an attempt to get it banned outright.  More fuel for the fire, more attention drawn to the issue, more memes.

Meanwhile CCP, never shy about poking some fun at other games, had another arrow in its quiver, putting up the Venture Capitalist SKIN Bundle in the New Eden Store.  The copy made pointed reference to the Venture which, in its cheapest form, will run you $120.

Head on over to the New Eden Store and pick up the “Venture Capitalist” SKIN bundle, which contains three Venture SKINs that are ideal for mining below the belt. Just beware of sneaky vultures attempting to swoop in and loot your assets!

The best part about this SKIN bundle is that it won’t cost you $120 – You can get all three of these SKINs for just 120 PLEX – that’s more than 50% off their total value when they’re sold separately!

Score a direct hit with that.  There is more in the post, but that is probably the bit most requiring AN application of burn cream.

However, CCP Falcon also posted a statement over in the Star Citizen subreddit to try and bring a little peace to the situation.  That seemed to be appreciated by the crew there and the whole things seemed to finally be receding from the forefront in both forums.  Of course, this spread everywhere, including the forums of other games in the genre like Elite: Dangerous.

Yes, this is all last week’s news, but I was away last week so I am catching up.  And no, I do not think RSI deliberately or directly copied a ship from EVE Online.  It would be dumb to lift a design from a game in the same space, so to speak, and it is too much to ask that every design be completely new and unique.  And, in any case, we know where this design really originated from:

Space Forklift Simulator 2009

More recently there has even been a LEGO version of the Venture… Vulture… one of them over on Reddit.

Other sites that dug in on this while I was away:

Quote of the Day – The Dumbest Thing Ever Said About PvP

Is combat really fair?

Good god no, you could place a 10yr old player and a brand new player in the same ship, same fittings, same ammo, same rigs and say “go go”. The new player would be dead in seconds…

-Evocationz Adhera, Will Eve Online ever really match any other MMO? Honestly, No.

If skill, experience, and knowledge of the game aren’t supposed to lend you advantage, then what is left?  Should the random number generator determine all outcomes?  Seriously, what else is there that should determine the outcome of PvP, all other things being equal?

Evocationz Adhera is, to use the term of art for the genre, salty about EVE Online.

EVE is, of course, dying, a state of affairs that has been ongoing since not too long after launch.  In fact, we’ll be celebrating the 15th annual “EVE is Dying Day!” in just over a month.

First known occurrence of “EVE is Dying”

But if the devs would only listen Evocationz Adhera has all the answers on how to fix the game… not one of which hasn’t been brought up and thrashed out dozens of times in the past.  But the amateur outsider always knows better than the devs who’ve run a game successfully for a decade and a half, right?

Okay, yes, there are days when CCP doesn’t seem to be fully aware of what the hell is going on in their game as the combined intellect of the player base finds the loopholes in the system a few devs and designers missed.  But some random player complaining that EVE will never compare to WoW and RuneScape is making an exceedingly false comparison. (Not to mention failing to note how many MMOs went down the WoW path and never even hit EVE Online levels of subscribers.)

EVE Online is a PvP game.  CCP has been very clear on that.  Compare EVE Online to other PvP MMOs and it has done very well. 15 years online and having hit a peak of over half a million subscribers puts it well ahead of perennial sandbox favorites like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, both of which tried to change course after launch and yet failed to achieve WoW-like numbers either.

CCP has been pretty clear that they are never going to make any area of space completely safe.  CCP isn’t doing this out of caprice, but because their data say that people who wander off and play the mission running game, the primary PvE element, generally don’t stick around for the long term.

New Player Trajectory

The details were explained at Fanfest 2014 (recorded here) where it was noted that somebody who gets ganked in high sec is actually more likely to stick with the game.

Which isn’t to say some things are not broken.  War Decs have been a bleeding sore for the nearly dozen years I have been playing and no change made has ever made it much better.  Even long time veterans start thinking about change… when they lose something I guess.  You can go peruse /r/eve or the forums and find many things people are complaining about.  But CCP isn’t avoiding radical change because they are ignoring they’re player base.  They are avoiding it because one player’s radical improvement is another player’s game ending move.  That is the problem with the sandbox.  There isn’t a limited set of viable paths in the game, but a multitude of ways to play and killing one in the name of another is always a risk.

And, honestly, EVE is dying.  But it isn’t dying because high sec isn’t safe.  It is dying because it is old and suffers from an accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of old vets.  It is dying because, as a PvP MMO, it has a limited audience to begin with.  It is dying because most people ever likely to invest the considerable time and effort needed to get good at it have already come and gone.  It is dying for the same reason every game dwindles as it ages, people have played it enough and moved on.  Even World of Warcraft is in decline.  Nothing lasts forever.

MMOs are Bizarro World oddities in video games, expecting to live on for years and keep people’s attention in a market that favors new titles.

Anyway, Evocationz Adhera’s comments are hardly new or very moving and seem steeped in resentment.  I feel like you get to the real nugget at the end of the post.

Take me for instance, 3 years of Eve Online videos, not once has CCP plugged me. It seem’s CCP cares about money and not it’s player base.

I’m going to guess that is the real salt.  Anyway, Evocationz Adhera is looking to provoke, yet cannot abide disagreement, deleting my comment taking issue with a few items in their post.  That, of course, is the real tell, somebody complaining about others not listening to them yet having no interest in hearing from anybody else.  What goes around comes around I suppose.

Addendum: Since the post to which I linked was addressed to #tweetfleet in the title, it has gotten some additional reactions:

The Return of the Mystery Code

The Mystery Code is back.

Yes, that Mystery Code Kronk

Being away for a week… literally at sea for several days with only some extremely slow satellite base WiFi which would barely load the main Google page when the whole ship was awake and trying to use it… means I feel there is some catching up to do.  Everything that posted last week, save for yesterday’s post that I wrote on my iPad at LAX while waiting for our flight home, was written in advance and scheduled to post.  But there are things I would have posted about last week, had I been home, if only to mark that they happened.  There is never a completely dead week.

Anyway, the first, and probably easiest item on the list, is the return of the Mystery Code.

The Mystery Code was part of the EVE Online Second Decade Collector’s Edition package that CCP put out back in 2013 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the game.

All the stuff

A number of things were included with that, including a coffee table book, a CD of some of the well known sound track pieces played by the Icelandic  Symphony Orchestra, and a copy of the board game that CCP created to help get funding rolling for their crazy internet spaceship plans, a Rifter shaped USB hub, and that little black card with the title “Collector’s Edition Mystery Code.”

The Mystery Code Card

I still have the card from one of the two Collector’s Editions I ended up with.  (I bought one, then CCP later gave me another one via a PR company they were using on the idea that a) I would write about it and b) that would make some amount of difference in the world.  I gave away the second Mystery Code in a screen shot contest.)  I did not have to dig too deep in my office to find it.

Mystery Code Card

The idea of the Mystery Code was that people who shelled out a hundred bucks or more for this collection of fluff and nostalgia would have something special that would set them apart going forward.  Initially it got you a PLEX (back before the 500 for 1 split), some cosmetic items, and a special ship in the then upcoming EVE Valkyrie.  But the idea was that there would be other exclusive items available to Mystery Code holders going forward.

Unfortunately, CCP didn’t really set expectations as to how often we could expect rewards or what they might be.  I guess that is the “mystery” aspect of it all, even though they tried to demystify it in a blog post. They key quote from that I suppose is this tidbit:

This is just the beginning of what the Mystery Code will unlock. In the future, whenever we have big things happening—not just across the EVE Universe but across all CCP games—you will find a Mystery Code element to enjoy.

There’s much more planned we can’t discuss right now, but you can rest assured that as we continue our journey into the Second Decade with you, the Mystery Code will be your perfect traveling companion.

Much more planned.  There isn’t a specific promise of regular intervals, but it isn’t hard to read into that a potential bounty beyond what we have actually received so far.

This has led to a regularly recurring series of posts over on Reddit over the years about what the hell happened to the Mystery Code.  As noted in this thread, we have received a couple of items since, but the Mystery Code has otherwise remained somewhat aloof and we haven’t seen anything show up for a few years at this point, back in February 2015.

With the 15 year anniversary of EVE Online this year there was some restrained hope that we might see a revival of the Mystery Code, but with layoffs and restructuring and general changes at CCP there was also speculation that the company might not even have the capability of handing out goodies to those holding the Mystery Code.  Its days seems well in the past.

And then, as I was swilling Pacificos at Mauricio’s in Puerto Vallarta, CCP broke its years long silence on the Mystery Code and gave us something.  We got:

  • 1x Men’s SARO ‘Black Troop’ Combat Suit
  • 1x Women’s SARO ‘Black Troop’ Combat Suit
  • 1x Pacifier SARO ‘Black Troop’ SKIN (Permanent)
  • 1x Enforcer SARO ‘Black Troop’ SKIN (Permanent)
  • 1x Monitor SARO ‘Black Troop’ SKIN (Permanent)
  • 1x Marshal SARO ‘Black Troop’ SKIN (Permanent)

The cosmetic combat suits are nice I guess, if you like that sort of thing.  At least the top half of them show up in your portrait in-game.  But the SKINs, which are black and white police models with what appears to be red and blue flashing lights… those are very nice.  I am all over that.

Mystery Code SKINs and outfits

As soon as I was able to log in after my return home the whole set was there for me waiting to be redeemed.

Ready to claim

If you have a Mystery Code you have to redeem these items within 90 days or they will disappear.  Don’t let this linger, grab them soon.

So there we go, the Mystery Code is still alive and has delivered after a long hiatus.

Now, of course, the timer starts again.  I expect that at some point before next Fanfest a thread or two will pop up on Reddit wondering if CCP will ever give Mystery Code holders something else.

When the Steam Summer Sale Hits While You Are on Vacation

You can tell just by checking your email.

Only 25? Is that all?

My Steam wishlist is long, full of games I as much want to watch as actually buy and play. But now the test as to which category some of those games fall into has hit yet again.

Intergalactic Summer Sale is On!

At least I have some time to consider what is on my list. Fallout 4 is right at the top, and with all the talk of the new Fallout 76 coming along it is tempting.

Of course, it will be time to return to Azeroth in not too long, with the opening events for the Battle for Azeroth expansion no doubt hitting some time by the end of July. Do I have time to binge and RPG before then?

Summer Reruns – Online Gaming in the 80s

It officially turned Summer in the northern hemisphere yesterday, so I can legit post a Summer Reruns post.

This time for a look way back in time at the online video games I played in the 80s, a time when a 2400bps modem made you special and the command line was pretty much your only online interface option.  Back then you paid a per hour online charge that makes the whole $15 monthly subscription thing look like a serious bargain.

GEnie Price “cut” back in 1989 actually raised prices for non-prime time

While the internet was a thing at the time (I had a shell account through a company called Portal back then, which at the time was run out of a suburban house that backed up to the middle school I attended years before, and an email address with the domain, only online services like GEnie and CompuServe had the infrastructure to let people all over the country connect together to play games.

I started online games with an Apple //e and an Apple 1200bps modem that I bought second hand from Skronk.  Later I upgraded to a Mac SE and a Zoom 2400bps modem that came in an odd smoked acrylic case.

Apple and Zoom modem pictures gleaned from the internet

That set off a series of events which led me to start my own BBS… back when BBS meant a modem hooked up to somebody’s computer that you could dial into… and eventually launched my so-called professional career of the last 28 years or so.  Time flies.

But before that I played… and spent too much money on… online games.  Fortunately I spent some time writing about them during the early days of the blog, when those memories were at least 10 years more recent than today.

Those were not the only games I played, but the ones that had the biggest impact and, thus, left the strongest memories.  All Kesmai titles, but Kesmai was the online powerhouse of the time. (Staff from Kesmai ended up developing the original PlanetSide as part of Lodestone Games.)

I also vaguely remember playing Island of Kesmai on CompuServe as well as a version of Maze War and the beta of Gemstone on GEnie back then, but not with enough detail to tease anything beyond “I was there” from my brain.

These games were very revolutionary at the time, unique experiences that left indelible impressions on players who were there.  However, they were also very much games of their time in terms of technology.  Impressive as they were in their era they would appear as rough and primitive by today’s standards, where the phone in my pocket certainly has more power and resources than the VAX minicomputer that hosted Stellar Emperor back in the day.

However, that has not stopped people from attempting to recreate these old games, or at least MegaWars III and/or Stellar Emperor.  I have covered those in posts now and again.

And so it goes.

As far as video games go, the 80s started with me owning an Atari 2600 and going to arcades to play video games.  I then moved to the Apple II platform and played a number of the classic games of the era.

Apple ][+ back in the day

Then there was the modem that got me online in 1986, then the move to Macintosh, and the decade ended with me running my own BBS.  MUDs and then MMORPGs still lay in the future for me.

Resupply in the Jungle

The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…

– Sun Tzu

At some point last year I picked up the game Vietnam 65 on Steam.  I’d read a favorable review of it elsewhere and put it on my wish list and, when it came up on a sale, I bought it.

Vietnam 65 Splash Screen

And then I sat on it for many months.  It was installed, but unlauched, not an unheard of situation for games purchased on Steam.

Then came the Steam Spring Cleaning Sale a few weeks back which, among other things, encouraged Steam users to play games they hadn’t played in a while or had sitting in their library yet hadn’t played at all.  They were offering a badge as a bribe and convincingly listed titles that applied for each category and Vietnam 65 covered a couple of those.  So I launched it at last.

The reviews for the game were good and I can see why now.  Vietnam 65 is simple for a war game.  I pretty much picked up most of what I needed in the tutorial mission.  After that there were just a couple of units to learn about and I had the basics.  Then it was just up to me to actually play the game.

Winning is measured by the state of the hearts and minds of the province you’ve been assigned to protect.  Defeating Viet Cong or National Vietnamese Army units strengthens your position in the province so the locals will trust you.  Letting the VC or NVA run wild or mass their forces turns the locals away from you.

A fresh province to win

Those two also affect the political will of the people at home which impacts your supply and replacement situation.  If you’re winning, the folks at home are happy to reinforce success, but if you end up losing badly you’ll find it tough to climb back as supplies and replacements dry up.

Generally speaking the US forces can dominate any situation.  Infantry, tanks, Green Berets, air strikes, attack helicopters, and artillery will lay Charlie low when you spot him.  The key is finding Charlie.  The fog of war is your main barrier to success.  You have to keep scouting.

An rare moment of contact

I’ve been most effective with a fire base planted in the midst of some villages and a couple of Green Beret units, scouts who can spot from a distance without being seen, and dropping artillery from the base, along with air strikes when available, on targets of opportunity, with a Chinook helicopter keeping the fire base supplied with ammo.

Supply is key.  You units out in the field can only survive for so long without being resupplied.  A lot of the effort of the game is keeping the supplies coming to your units out looking for the enemy.  And your helicopters, which can only move so far in a turn, also need to get back to base to refuel before they can haul more supplies.  Some of my early disasters have been caused by too many units spread far afield and waiting too long to start supply runs.

Operations around a firebase

The combat is pretty basic.  There is a simple win/lose mechanic for straight up fights and a hit/miss roll for artillery, air strikes, and other indirect fire.  US units are eliminated after two losses.  This includes your helicopters, which can come under fire from the ground when trying to get supplies out to your units in the field.  One such hit means they need to get back to base for repair, while the second hit sends them crashing into the jungle, leaving a wreck behind to remind you of your mistake.

But combat can be simple, as it is an end result of your efforts.  You need to get out in the field and find the enemy.  The local villagers will help you with intel if you have proven yourself around them.  Defeating nearby hostile units will help, as will clearing mines from the vicinity of their town of hooking them up to the road network with your engineers.

Turn 13 and I am doing well

Once you get used to things and find you’re winning every game decisively you can start fiddling with the difficulty.  There are two presets; Normal, which is where you start, and Veteran, which is all the sliders moved to “hard.”  In between there is Custom, which lets you tinker with the sliders so you can build up to Veteran.

All the sliders

Veteran is a challenge.  You start behind on hearts and minds, your supply pool is low, the enemy is very aggressive, the weather is bad, and the jungle is very dense.  I’ve survived a few rounds of Veteran, but faced defeat as I could not repair or replace units due to a loss of public support from about the halfway point of the game.

The game is single player only.  It also comes with 51 achievements which, because it is single player, you can go out and earn without having to interact with anybody else.  Some are easy, and some are not, requiring you be running in Veteran settings to start with.

All in all an approachable war game that has enough depth and replayability to keep you going for a while.  Play time for a 45 round game is a little over an hour.  Some turns take time, some go by fast.  Overall I recommend the game.  You can read up about it over on Steam.

Vietnam 65 is actually a few years old now and the company that made it has released something of a successor, Afghanistan 11.  In the same vein as the original, you are fighting a counter insurgency and have to win the hearts and minds by finding the insurgents and proving you can protect the locals.

I have already purchased Afghanistan 11, but haven’t dug into it yet because I am not done with the original.  But if you want to move on to more recent conflicts, you can find it on Steam as well.