Monthly Archives: August 2018

August in Review

The Site

I think the big news for the site in the successful conclusion of Blaugust.

Blaugust Reborn

I managed to post every single day in August and then some, for a total of 40 posts including this one, so met the highest bar set for participants.  Unwilling to waste a posting opportunity, I will have a summary post about the whole thing later, including one last listing and linking of all those who joined in.

I did put up a feed for Blaugust participants post in the side bar, down towards the bottom.  I used RSS Mix for it, which is very easy to setup, but is not as reliable as I would like.  It shows as down about half the time I look at it.  But it is free and isn’t meant for a dynamic side bar situation, so I can’t be too critical of it.  It is better than it has any right to be.

They don’t really have a logo…

As tends to happen during Blaugust, with my posting a bit more, every day of the week rather than mostly on weekdays, traffic to the site was up.  It is always gratifying to see more results for more effort.  We shall see if that holds come September when the event fades and some of us will no doubt stop actively checking up on other participants.

However, as happened last month, the most viewed posts list for August and Blaugust is again dominated by old posts.  Some I understand as they are Google favorites.  I realize there is a bias towards individual posts popular in Google searches as new posts can be read via RSS or on the main page without clicking on the post itself so may not get traffic.  But why my February in Review post from this year is getting search traffic I cannot say.

One Year Ago

ArenaNet announced the Path of Fire expansion for Guild Wars 2.

In Lord of the Rings Online the Mordor expansion went live with all sorts of new… activities.  I was able to get in and claim my expansion items.

In a Friday Bullet Points post I was looking at financial numbers from Blizzard, NCsoft, and SuperData.  I was also wondering if Raptr was dead.

Age of Empires IV was announced, or hinted at, or something.  I wasn’t sure it was a good idea.  And StarCraft Remastered was launched.

The summer blogger Fantasy Movie League wrapped up, with Liore winning.

I was feeling the urge to go play a flight sim game.  The problem is that I am bad at flight sims game, no longer having the patience to get good at them.

In EVE Online there was the Hakkonen deployment, where the Imperium went to go tangle with NCDot and Pandemic Legion on their doorstep.  I will just list out the post rather than trying to weave a narrative from all the links.

As part of the ops, and because of the seeming impending demise of POSes, I did a post about blowing up POS towers from each of the four empires.  As of this writing the Player Owned Starbase is still a thing in New Eden.

There was also an update for EVE Online in August, which among other things remove the captain’s quarters.  There was also the Alpha Strike event later in the month.  The monthly economic report showed Delve was still booming.  I hit 180 million skill points.

In other news, Vince Draken was asked to step down from CSM12 and Andrew Groen’s Empires of EVE came out in audiobook form.

I summed up my year of playing Pokemon Go.  I started late.  I was tempted to do that again this year… but I had too many posts already in August.

I was pondering replacing my aging Logitech G15 keyboard.  I haven’t yet, mostly because I would miss the LCD display… and because it still mostly works, even if it doesn’t light up quite the way it used to.  A year later and it is still there on my desk.

And, finally, a game dev was arguing that a good video game ought to cost $1,000,  which got me into rant mode as whiny entitlement tends to do.  And I was pretty sure we already had a game that expensive in the form of World of Warcraft.  Blizz was just smart enough to not ask for all the money up front.

Five Years Ago

I wrote about the hunter class in WoW, and how things used to work in the old days.

My summer in Lord of the Rings Online found me finishing up the waterworks and arriving on the far side of Moria at last.

We were trying to do something in Neverwinter.

There was the announcements that both The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar would be going with the monthly subscription model.  I tried to tie this all up into one neat conspiracy theory.

We had the big EverQuest Next announcement, which I summarized with two pictures.  A lot of people were blogging about SOE’s big new MMO plan.  Cyanbane even put up a site dedicated to tracking EverQuest Next news. But I wondered, given SOE history, if they could keep the excitement going.  No they could not.

All that talk by SOE about voxels reminded me of NovaLogic’s Delta Force series of shooters.  So I went back and played the original.

And in EVE Online, the war in Fountain petered out a we took TEST’s last system in the region and began deploying to Delve.  We’re always in Delve during the summer.  The CFC changed long standing policy and created the Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere in order to rent space in null sec.  We were also being encouraged to train for dreadnaughts.  And I also wondered who had the longest standing sovereignty claim in null sec, along with other bits of space trivia, including dumb ways to die.

And finally there was the Star Citizen Propaganda Video of Strongly Beating Spirit.  Is Star Citizen really a thing yet?  As far as I can tell it really isn’t anything more than a few isolated semi-playable alpha level pieces five years down the road.

Ten Years Ago

After what seemed like endless delays, Darkfall went looking for beta testers for real.  Many asked if this product would shed its “vaporware” reputation and see the light of day, and if the feature set would be anything close to what was promised.

Warhammer Online was rolling on towards release with a preview weekend.  The CoWs were gathering.  I looked at races and classes as well as my general opinion of the game as I saw it.  I thought I was generally positive, though I wanted to be able to open up the quest log with a single keystroke.  Rabid fans sensed faint praise and whined a lot in the comments.  Still, Google liked me as I got the top spot for the search on “WAR Preview Weekend.”

Suicide Ganking was the plague a EVE OnlineI suggested that the Secure Insurance Commission be given the power to extract the cost of insurance payouts from high sec gankers as a way to make this “throw away character” exploit a bit less lucrative.  In the end, CCP just made CONCORD a bit more responsive to attacks right under their noses and, eventually removed the insurance payout.  Didn’t change much, but there it was.

Meanwhile I was getting fat selling overpriced Kernite needed for story line missions.  I also gave ice mining a try.

In World of Warcraft the instance group we were hitting level 70 and starting on the Caverns of Time dungeon Escape from Durnhold Keep. We managed the Auchenai Crypts before that, but instances were starting to get tough for us and it would take a revamp of our talents and some work on gear before we would be able to take on an at-level instance on the first try.

Also in WoW, Zhevra fever.

We went down to LEGOLand for vacation, but I left a vacation cliffhanger post to keep people amused.  The cliffhanger was another problem with the World’s Collide mission.  I blew up again.

LEGO Indiana Jones came out, and while it was a lot of fun, I wasn’t sure if it was worth list price.

And finally, people were fretting about Diablo IIIIt was too colorful!  Internet petitions were deployed and accomplished what they generally do… nothing.

Fifteen Years Ago

Motor City Online, something of a spiritual ancestor to Need for Speed: World, went offline.  But it was an EA produced MMO, and we know how EA can get.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  2. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  3. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  4. Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?
  5. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  6. Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More
  7. Honest Game Trailers – Animal Crossing
  8. H1Z1 – Going Live in Time to be a Zombie
  9. February in Review
  10. SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite
  11. Rift Prime Time
  12. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!

Search Terms of the Month

wow bfa is a let down
[ten days before launch and already calling it…]

baltec fleet
[A Megathron and Apocalypse doctrine named after Baltec1]

eveonline best mining corp
[KarmaFleet maybe?  I don’t know.]

eve online capsuleer insane lore
[It’s all pretty insane frankly]

pedipowered posterior punter eq2
[Yes, this was a thing in EQII ]

wow is main bag upgrade account wide
[Yes, you get the four additional slots on all characters]

EVE Online

The War in the North continued to be a focus.  We had a couple of titan-killing Keepstar fights, which are always exciting… at least to read about.  And to write about, really.  Being there though can be a trying experience for many.  But for the most part we carried on trying to sap the will of the defenders with an ongoing entosis campaign in Fade with Circle of Two’s Keepstar as our eventual objective.  Will we get there in September?

Minecraft

I have been pottering around in Minecraft a bit, enough to put it back up on the “games I play” list in the side bar.  After finding my way to a warm ocean I had to find my way back home again then figure out a way to get from one to the other.  That always means more road and rail work.

Pokemon Go

I was having the login crash problem for a bit this month, though deleting the app and installing it again from the App Store seemed to fix it.  I have six friends on my list in the game and several of us send gifts back and forth regularly.  Each gift shows the PokeStop from which it came, which is interesting.  Not all that enthusiastic about 7km eggs.  They seem to hatch 5km stuff but take longer to get there.  Ah well.  Also, I finally got the 400 candies to evolve Swablu.  Now on to Wailmer.

Level: 33 (+0)
Pokedex status: 335 (+2) caught, 354 (+3) seen
Pokemon I want: Still Lapras, still don’t have one
Current buddy: Wailmer

Oh, and if you want to friend me/enable me on Pokemon Go, my trainer code is: 3216 2939 2424

World of Warcraft

Battle for Azeroth went live, as you probably know if you read any MMO blogs during Blaugust.  Those playing it are generally gushing about it, while those not are posting about not playing it.  I suppose that is a measure of popularity, when people feel the need to point out that they are not involved.  I have been playing and enjoying the expansion.  How long the new expansion smell will last and how things will evolve once I hit level cap remains an open question, but I am good for the moment.

Coming Up

It will be September.  The days will be getting shorter, the last blasts of summer heat will hopefully die off, and my state will hopefully stop being on fire quite so much.  I am surprised there isn’t a variation of the “This is fine” meme about the north end of the California this year.

Battle for Azeroth enthusiasm will likely continue.  I will keep on working through the quest lines and such with my main.  Alts will figure in later, though maybe I will move my hunter into Kul Tiras sooner than later.

In EVE Online the war in the north will continue.  We will see what the Monthly Economic Report for August has to say about its impact.  There could be another Keepstar fight.

CCP will be starting to prep for what will likely be their autumnal release.  While we get patch updates about every month, they see to be back on the “two named updates a year” schedule.  I expect that we will at least get a dev blog about the end of player owned starbases and the final plan for the structures that will replace them this month.

And speaking of expansions, we are now drifting into the time frame where  Daybreak usually announces expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  There was that rumor, now mostly discredited, about this being the last year for expansions, but we’ll see.  There is also alleged to be a new Norrath-based game in progress, so maybe we will hear about that.  Probably not, but we can hope.  It would offset the news about Just Survive.

Finally, I will probably get back on a more normal writing schedule.  I wrote so far ahead of myself for Blaugust that I still have a five days worth of posts to run before I need to get back to work.  Expect a few topics to arrive a bit late to the party, and a couple more to be of dubious merit, but whatever.

Runes of Magic Arrives on Steam at Last

The summer’s here! As well as basking in the beautiful weather in Taborea, we’re celebrating the dawn of a new era: Runes of Magic is now available on the world’s most popular gaming platform Steam!

-Runes of Magic news page

When I say “at last” it isn’t as though I was anxious for it to be there, it is just that they have been talking about this for some time and the target was June and then July.  Now, in the final week of August it has arrived on Steam.  Summer is indeed here, but we’re on the far side of it and autumn is on its way.

I’ve written a bit now and then about the game.  It was kind of a big deal back in 2009 when it launched, when it was both a built-from-scratch free to play MMORPG and an attempt for an attempt by an Asian studio to build a western style, quest drive game.

But, as it turns out, this move to Steam is also a moment of opportunity if you have ever wanted to try the game.  As part of the Steam launch they are also putting up a couple of new servers, one in the US and one in the EU, so you can start on a fresh new server rather than joining one where the years have clumped most of the user base at max level and the economy has been distorted by past problems.

Your favorite game is now available on Steam!
In addition, we’re also launching new servers for the USA and Europe to coincide with the game’s Steam debut – the perfect opportunity for newcomers and returning players to discover Taborea afresh.

Runes of Magic, news page

This is probably as close to a retro or progression server as you are going to get for Runes of Magic.  The devs haven’t changed much of the content over the years, so it is mostly still the 2009 experience.  And you can still use your same old account.  In fact, you have to create an account for the game in the same old way, with Steam basically acting like a launcher for the launcher in that way that makes Steam feel a pointless part of the process.

I do wonder what this move to Steam will really do, if anything. The “at last” in the title is also a question about why it has taken so long to get to Steam, why it is happening now, and what they hope to get out of this jump onto the Steam platform.  I hope they aren’t planning on this saving the game.

Steam has gone from a service with a fairly select range of games to a garbage heap over the years.  It is the last refuge for the greedy or incompetent who seem to think they getting on a distribution platform is the main point of the exercise.  And Steam’s premature policy change (we’ll let even more crap in now and give you filtering tools at some point in the distant future) doesn’t promise to make anything better.  It is a mess, with the company still pretty much running by the old guidelines while people debate over what “trolling” really means.

(I’ll tell you what “trolling” means in that context.  It means whatever the person making the decision at the moment wants it to mean, so the games that got rejected before the new policy will probably all still be rejected after the new policy.)

Anyway, there is Runes of Magic hidden in that mess, one of dozens of “new releases” on the Steam store this week (so it is already on page four, in 98th place, on the Windows new releases list in less than two days), with a 2009 launch date in its description, and already being pummeled by a series of negative reviews declaring it old (it is), unstable (it does leak memory), and pay to win (it does sell power), leading it to an overall “mixed” rating, which is as good as a “do not buy” label in big red letters across the page.

And only 31 reviews so far

If the developers were hoping for a bonanza of new players I suspect they may be disappointed.  But it is hard to tell what the real plan is from the outside.  Is this a last gasp effort to keep the ball rolling?

Certainly the new server thing was contrary to my prediction about the game at the start of the year, when I suspected that it would lose at least one of its two remaining servers, with the very quiet US server either disappearing or being merged into the EU.  Instead they have doubled the number of servers they are running.

We shall see if this keeps Runes of Magic alive or if it was just a last, unfortunate roll of the dice.

Two Hundred Million Skill Points

I think it is somewhat fitting that this post lands on my character’s twelfth birthday.

Just past the milestone

Technically I crossed the line earlier than the screen shot above as I still have the 250,000 SP that CCP gave us a while back.  But I haven’t spent that yet, so made it past the mark without it.

The story so far:

So here we are at the 20th milestone and 18th post for this particular run.

Looking at that list of posts above gives a bit of insight as to when I was playing EVE Online and when I was taking a break.

Things started slow at first.  I played for a bit, then stopped, then came back, so it took over a year to get those first ten million done.  And that was back in the per-queue era where you could easily lose training time when training short skills as they would finish up in the middle of the night and you might not get back to put in a new skill before the next evening.

And then there were those skills that sped up skill training.  Those were Satan’s own idea.  I am sure somebody missed them when they were gone… every feature, no matter how bad, has its fans…

Eventually though that 24 hour skill queue showed up and had all the learning skills set and had some implants and started hitting 10 million skill point increments every seven to eight months when I was playing.

There was a slow down when I stopped playing in late 2010 and came back for just a bit in 2011 for the Incarna disaster, which sent me away again until late in the year.  Then I came back and Gaff coaxed me out into null sec just as a war was starting and I have stayed there ever since.  The story of null sec remains interesting enough to keep me playing, though even with that I have had my moments where I have nearly quit.  But something always comes up just as I get there and off I go on another adventure.

The stories of the game are one thing though, skill points another.  Sort of.  Every skill queue tells a story of its own I suppose, even if that story sometimes is, “I have no idea what I am doing.”

Anyway, here is where I stand on skills.

Spaceship Cmd        63,043,028 (63 of 79)*
Gunnery              18,546,396 (36 of 52)*
Drones               17,036,708 (22 of 26)*
Fleet Support        13,343,059 (14 of 15)*
Missiles             11,111,853 (22 of 26)
Navigation            9,660,314 (13 of 13)
Engineering           8,788,752 (15 of 15)*
Electronic Sys        8,119,689 (14 of 15)*
Armor                 6,131,137 (13 of 13)
Shields               6,074,039 (12 of 13)
Scanning              6,011,792(7 of 7)*
Science               5,714,282 (21 of 39)
Resc Processing       4,756,183 (22 of 37)
Subsystems            4,096,000 (16 of 16)
Trade                 3,821,020 (10 of 14)*
Neural Enhance.       3,801,275 (7 of 8)*
Targeting             3,207,765 (8 of 8)
Planet Mgmt           1,612,315 (5 of 5)
Structure Mgmt        1,446,824 (6 of 6)
Rigging               1,312,395 (10 of 10)
Production            1,157,986 (5 of 12)
Social                1,130,040 (5 of 9)
Corp Mgmt                24,000 (2 of 5)

Total              ~200,000,000 (355 of 444)

Skills categories with an asterisk are the ones that have changed since last check in.

Of course Spaceship Command remains at the top.  I don’t think I have ever had an update where some points didn’t go into that category, and nearly one skill point in every three ends up there.  This time around it was for the new Trigalvian ships.  With new ships around there is always a chance that Asher will come up with a doctrine around them and I like to be prepared.

Likewise, Gunnery saw a boost as I trained up the accompanying Triglavian weapon systems.

Drones saw me training up to be able to use tech II fighters.  That would require me to actually use my carrier, but I might do that some day.

Also on the list were some boosting skills under Fleet Support, getting all my Scanning skills up to V, Electronic Systems was likewise honing my ewar skills, Trade saw me training the customs office skill that reduces the taxes on Planetary Management, while Neural Enhancement was all about the neurotoxin skills to help me take drugs more better.

The skill by level work out as:

 Level 1 - 1
 Level 2 - 3
 Level 3 - 38
 Level 4 - 96
 Level 5 - 213

All that and I still cannot fly a titan.

I can, however, fly every subcap aside from the Monitor FC ship, and probably with whatever fit you can come up with.

It is an incredible luxury to be able to face doctrines change or Asher’s latest new fit and not have to worry about whether or not I can fly it.  The odds are very, very good that I can.  I still end up with too many ships sitting in my hangar gathering dust, but at least I can fly them.

My primary alt sits at about 140 million skill points, which seems like a lot, but I have been blindsided trying to stuff him into a ship only to find he doesn’t have something up to level V that Wilhelm trained ages ago.  Even now he is training up a missed skill.  That dreadnought I won has a tech II siege module on it, something I only found out the hard way and had to quickly swap Wilhelm back into the pilot’s seat before we got the orders to drop on that Nyx back at X47.

My next most well trained alt is less than 40 million skill points and using her is like trying to take apart a watch wearing oven mitts some days.  How did I cope when I went to null sec with just past 70 million skill points?

The same way everybody else does I suppose.  I flew the fits in the doctrine I could until I caught up.  There having been many doctrine changes over the years drove me to fill out my subcap dance card.

In the end though I still end up flying logi most of the time.  It is always needed and, unless things go to shit, generally allows me some time to gawk out the window as to what is going on.  Every once in a while I will fly something else, a doctrine ship of the line if I can get away with it, a booster if I can’t help it, or a tackler if we’re short.

This will be the last post in this series.  I think 200 million skill points is a good end point on a nice round number.  Even with a version of EVEMon working again it is is a bit of a pain to piece together all the numbers.  Plus, despite there always being more skills to train I think I am going to actually turn off the queue for Wilhelm at some point and let one of the alts on that account gain some skills.

Addendum: In case it was not obvious, no skill injectors were used in creating this character or post.

Summer Movie League – The Mediocre Muppet Caper

Our summer Fantasy Movie League is coming to a close soon as we are now through week thirteen, the penultimate week of the season.

I like the word “penultimate” and will use it every chance I get.

For week thirteen we had the following choices for our lineups.

Crazy Rich Asians     $318
Happytime Murders     $264
The Meg               $201
Mile 22               $129
Mission: Impossible   $127
Christopher Robin     $106
Alpha                 $102
BlacKkKlansman        $84
A.X.L.                $58
Hotel Transylvania 3  $45
Slender Man           $40
Mamma Mia 2           $35
Ant-Man and the Wasp  $29
The Equalizer 2       $28
Incredibles 2         $27

Crazy Rich Asians was still slated to take the top spot in its second week, but second place was expected to go to Happytime Murders, with The Meg coming in third.

I was not enthusiastic at all for Happytime Murders however.  As I said in league chatter, to me it seemed like a picture in search of an audience.  The clips and trailers, along with the R rating, were pushing it as an adult feature, so you couldn’t expect too many kids going to see it.

But even with Melissa McCarthy at the helm it looked like a rip-off of homage to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a film with a PG rating back in the 80s, done with muppets rather than animation.  Or puppets rather, as muppets are a registered trademark of the Disney corporation.  The film was clearly trying to ride on that association however, along with children’s television with the tag line “No Sesame, All Street,” for which they were sued by the Children’s Television Workshop.

So I was staying away from that.  I was also down on A.X.L. which, despite its low threshold for success based on its FML pricing, seemed trite and uninspired.

At the beginning of the week I was keen on CRA and my Monday Hot Takes League saw me anchor on two screens of that along with some filler that was mostly picked to spend my budget and avoid A.X.L.

As the week went on though, I began to feel like CRA wasn’t going to do it, that to be worth that price it would have to have an almost unprecedentedly small drop in earnings week over week as to be unlikely.

I decided that since I could get three screens of The Meg for less than the price of two screens of CRA that I would go with sharks for my anchor.  So I ended up with 3x The Meg, 1x Mile 22, 2x BlackKklansman, and 2x Hotel Transylvania for the TAGN league pick.

Summer Movie League – My Week Thirteen Picks

That wasn’t a bad pick.  I did okay for the week.  But if I had just stuck with my Monday pick I would have won the week in the TAGN league because CRA only dropped 6% week over week, which was just the sort of unprecedented result that was needed to justify the price.  Anchoring on two screens of CRA was the path to the perfect pick.

Summer Movie League – Week Thirteen Perfect Pick

While I failed to get on board with CRA, at least I didn’t go with Happytime Murders which, in addition to confused marketing and poor reviews, also fell into third place overall for the week behind The Meg.  And that wasn’t because The Meg was suddenly on fire, but because Happytime Murders just didn’t have the draw.

On the other hand A.X.L. did okay, at least based on its FML pricing.  It ended up just about where it needed to be so if you used it as a filler item it didn’t drag you down.

Thus the week ended up with scores looking like this:

  1. Joanie’s Joint – $71,400,125
  2. grannanj’s Cineplex – $70,978,648
  3. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $70,706,218
  4. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $62,887,75
  5. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $60,735,430
  6. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $60,084,033
  7. Too Orangey For Crows – $53,041,276
  8. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $49,660,699
  9. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $42,582,979
  10. Goat Water Picture Palace – $42,550,095
  11. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $40,224,039
  12. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $39,238,157

Joanie won the week, their first win of the season, though grannanj and Vigo were close behind.  All three of them anchored on a pair of CRA screens.  After that we get into people who anchored on The Meg.  Corr had four screens of it, Ben had two, and I had three.  Go figure.

After that Happytime Murders start figuring in lineups, dragging them down, though SynCaine went all in on Mile 22, so stands out in the pack in that regard at least.

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

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $1,175,879,341
  2. Wilhelm’s Abyssal Pocket Playhouse – $1,125,111,970
  3. Goat Water Picture Palace – $1,108,602,352
  4. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $1,034,589,827
  5. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $1,000,347,512
  6. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $993,182,641
  7. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $988,423,806
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $986,412,699
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $974,990,413
  10. Joanie’s Joint – $952,413,909
  11. Too Orangey For Crows – $950,848,424
  12. grannanj’s Cineplex – $944,483,300
  13. I HAS BAD TASTE – $890,174,972
  14. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $707,708,993

Corr widened his lead against Goat and myself, though I was able to reclaim second place from Goat.  Vigo jumped up several spots on a strong performance and Joanie pushed Bhagpuss off of his hard earned tenth place spot with their week winning finish.

Now we are headed into the fourteenth and final week.  While Corr has first place locked, Goat and I are still battling over second, while fifth position still could change hands as well.

To get there we have the following choices.

Crazy Rich Asians     $460
The Meg               $204
Mission: Impossible   $143
Operation Finale      $133
Christopher Robin     $116
Searching             $111
Happytime Murders     $108
Alpha                 $97
BlacKkKlansman        $92
Mile 22               $89
Kin                   $82
Incredibles 2         $62
Ya Veremos            $56
Hotel Transylvania 3  $49
A.X.L.                $44

Falling off the list for the final week are Slender Man, Mamma Mia 2, The Equalizer 2, and Ant-Man and the Wasp.  I am a bit surprised that The Increadibles 2 held on for another week since it was the bottom pick for week thirteen.  Pixar magic I guess, as it has made the cut twelve weeks running now.  That is no Black Panther run, but it is damn good.

New this week are Operation Finale, Searching, Kin, and Ya Veremos, none of which I had heard of until I started working on this post.

Operation Finale follows the story of the Israeli abduction and trial of Adolph Eichmann in 1960.  This tale has been done before as The House on Garibaldi Street , The Man who Captured Eichmann, Eichmann, and Operation Eichmann.  The latter stands out in my mind especially since it featured Werner Klemperer as Eichmann and John Banner as Rudolph Hoess, roles made somewhat surreal due to their characters on the show Hogan’s Heroes.  I remember seeing it on TV at one point and not being able to tell if it was serious or not for quite a stretch due to the actors and how they played it.

Operation Finale was pegged at about $7 million on the last long range forecast I saw, though it was trending upward.  It should be at about 1,800 theaters in the US.

Searching is a thriller starting John Cho, of whom I am a big fan, about a father whose daughter is kidnapped and as the police find no leads he goes off after her, following her digital footprint.  A technological Taken maybe?  I don’t know, but there is no long range forecast for it, so maybe not at the Liam Neeson scale.  It is supposed to be in 1,100 theaters, expanding from just 9, and is in its second week so won’t get any boost from Thursday night previews.

Kin is… well… I will let the ad copy spell it out:

Armed with a mysterious weapon, an ex-con and his adopted teenage brother go on the run from a vengeful criminal and a gang of otherworldly soldiers.

So we have that.  It was called at $5 million on the latest long range forecast and was estimated to be in 2,100 theaters.

And then there is Ya Veremos, a Spanish language film, with no long range forecast either.  While it has done very well in Mexico foreign language films are always a bit of a wildcard here.

On top of all of that, we have a holiday weekend coming up in the US.  Viva Labor Day and all that.  Time to put away the white shoes.

That means this week fourteen is a four day haul, Friday through Monday, and the forecasts I mentioned above were only for the first three days.  Forecasts and results always get messed up on these weeks, a situation made all the worse by this being the final week of the season.  You are pretty much on your own this time around as the forecasts won’t help much.

Meanwhile, the new season starts the following weekend, so there will be a busy transition as this season wraps up a day late while the new season starts.  Expect two posts, but the new season post might be on Wednesday with the old season results showing up on Thursday.  There are only so many hours in the day to write this stuff.

Also, the plan for next season is to return to the default FML rules, including screens locking at 9am Pacific Time on Fridays, so you’ll have an extra day to pick in the hope that fewer people will forget.  If you have any thoughts on next season leave a comment here or in the FML Chatter group for the league, which is where we are also talking about scoring alternatives.

But this season still is still going, though it effectively closes on Thursday at 9am, so you have less than 24 hours to make your final picks.  Go do them!  Now!

My Monday Hot Takes picks are currently 4x The Meg and 4x A.X.L., but you know I’ll change my mind by Thursday.  I am trying to figure out who goes to the movies on Labor Day weekend.

Kickstarter and the Return of the World of Warcraft Diary

I wrote about the first run at the World of Warcraft Diary back in March.  I was concerned that the ask for the project was too much ($400,000) and that the publicity groundwork hadn’t been done for the project.  One of the rules of Kickstarter campaigns is that your core audience should know it is coming and be ready to support it.

Anyway, the campaign failed, but the author took what he learned to heart and said he would be back again with a second run with better groundwork and a more reasonable ask.  And so here we go with round two of the World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter campaign.

And it has funded already.

I got an email via the original campaign because I was a backer letting me know that the new round would be showing up this week.  But by the time I got around to check on it the campaign was already funded.

Op Success

That is crazy first day success, and the first day isn’t even done as I write this.  My usual minimum benchmark for success is 20% in the first 24 hours, but this is already past 1049% and the number keeps going.  The charts over at Kicktraq show the tale of the campaign.

So yes, this book looks like it will be a thing.

The level of success doesn’t really surprise me.  World of Warcraft is huge and still popular and has enough of a fanbase to support this level of effort… or even the first $400K level of effort… so long as the word gets out to the fans.

I mean, if Andrew Groen can get huge numbers out of the comparatively tiny EVE Online fan base, then the WoW fan base should be able to beat that in a blink.  I will be interested to see where this campaign ends up with such big initial interest.

Anyway, if you are interested the campaign will run through to the morning of September 25, 2018.  Again, you can find the campaign page here.

Why are there Levels in Battle for Azeroth?

This is one of those question that I am pretty sure I know the answer to, but I want to ask it out loud just to see what else might shake loose.  What am I not considering in this mix?

It is here…

I am playing through the Alliance side of the expansion right now.  My paladin is already through the Tiragarde Sound zone on Kul Tiras and I am enjoying the new content.  The environments are beautiful, the quests are good, varied, and plentiful, and the various side tasks and ventures change things up.

But, as I write this (ten days before the post went live because I kept pushing it off to post something else), my pally is already past level 116 and I expect will hit level 120, the level cap, long before I am finished running him through the base content.

Not that I will suddenly stop when I get there.  But I will spend most of my time in this expansion… call it two years less the three weeks at most it will take me to meander to level 120…at the level cap.

So why bother having levels at all at this point?

The zones scale with you so gaining a level confers no special benefit.  In fact, there is a downside to it.  All the gear you get along the way is set for the level you at which you acquired it, so you have to keep replacing gear for ten levels to keep it abreast of your progress… after which you can then work on replacing gear to boost your item level.  And, as we found out, collecting gear upgrades actually makes getting through the new zones more difficult.  You are better off keeping your item level low, a seriously messed up situation that Blizzard seems just fine with.  I mean, I was afraid of what ilevel scaling was going to do when they introduced it in Legion, but this goes well beyond what I would have imagined.

Whatever.  If people complain enough Blizz will grudgingly fix it eventually.  Back to levels.

Traditionally levels have been used to gate content, and Blizzard does do some of that.  As you hit certain levels things are unlocked for you.  But with ten fast moving levels players will still be unlocking content after they hit 120 via various other means.  I don’t have to look much farther than the achievements to know that there will be plenty to do past hitting the level cap.  There will be world quests to unlock, new content to enjoy, faction to grind, and the groundwork to unlocking flying to start in on.

EverQuest, the king of MMO expansions, is almost six years older than World of Warcraft, has released 24 expansions so far, and has a level cap of 110 last I checked.  If you look down the list of expansions you will see that not every one raised the level cap.  You can see streaks of two or three expansions in a row with the same cap.

Then again, they do keep raising the level cap in Norrath every so often, so levels have their draw.  But it clearly isn’t a necessity.  SOE found alternate methods.

The downside is that levels are intimidating and/or silly after a certain point.  That the level cap is 120 with Battle for Azeroth has to work against it somewhat.  Purists like to say that you need to play through the whole thing, but when you are trying to collect new players, the starting proposition that you must play through 110 levels in order to get to the new/good stuff is a losing one.  Just having 120 levels can be seen as a pretty big barrier to entry.

So why have more levels when it is pretty clear you can do without them?

The answer, to my mind, is because people expect them.

Blizzard is a very conservative company when it comes to their successful properties, and none of them is more successful nor a bigger money maker than WoW.  When you have the goose that keeps on laying golden checks every month… and when you have made changes in the past they haven’t necessarily turned out well… you do all you can to maintain it with screwing things up.  Launching an expansion with a boost in the level cap… and a 10 level boost because 5 level expansions were not as popular…  is just part of the recipe for success to which Blizz feels they need to adhere.

Basically this is the way they’ve always done it and it works, so why change?

Addendum: There is a closely related post over at GamingSF this morning as well.  Armagon Live also has a post about that as well.

How Many People Play EVE Online?

If we still had Blog Banters going this is one I would throw out as a topic because it is an exercise in estimation given incomplete data.

This is a question that came up in an email exchange with Bhagpuss.  I do, on occasion, communicate with people via sources other than the main page of this blog.

I dropped him a note about something I heard on fleet coms a while back.  A player opined rather firmly that EverQuest currently has more players than EVE Online.  I have reason to believe that the player in question is/was in possession of information that indicated this, that it wasn’t just BS on coms but somebody with enough connections in the industry to know.

I shared this with Bhagpuss because we both enjoy these sorts of informational tidbits, but I wasn’t sure it was worth a blog post.  And it probably isn’t.  If it was I would be done writing by this point.  Instead Bhagpuss asked the pertinent question, which is the headline for this post.

Neither of us has any insight or information as to how many people play EverQuest these days.  The game is coming up on 20 years in age and in many ways feels its age.  But a lot of people played EverQuest back in the day.  It was the gateway drug into MMOs for a lot of people and it retains a lot of nostalgia value.

However, Daybreak is a private company so we don’t get any financial numbers, much less subscriber or player numbers. Even when it was part of Sony its numbers were buried so deep in the financials of its various parent organizations as to be invisible.  All we really know are some estimates based on press releases and various guesses and whispered information.

Subscription estimates – 150K to 1 million

There is that old chart.  Click on it to make it bigger/legible.

It shows EverQuest peaking at 550K subscribers and then dropping down, with the last number being 100K at some point during 2010.  After that the estimates stop.

EVE Online is also on that chart and it peaks at 500K worldwide some time at the end of 2012, which coincides with the peak concurrency event for the Serenity server in China.  The Serenity server’s brief moment of popularity fell away rather quickly if you go and look at the numbers at EVE Offline.

The numbers for Tranquility, which hosts the rest of the world, peaked around 350K at about a year before, after which there is no further data.  I suspect that CCP switch to world wide data during the Serenity surge because that sounded better.

There is also the theory that some put about that the player numbers for DUST 514 were being folded into the overall EVE Online numbers because we were able to drop rocks on them from space and possibly see them in our in game chat.  The only issue there is that I don’t think that DUST 514 numbers were enough to influence the total that much.

Anyway, by the time we get to 2014 we are out of even estimates as both companies had clammed up.  There are no press releases for dropping customers, only for hitting new peaks.  And since the end of the data points for both EverQuest and EVE Online both have gone free to play in their own way.

For EverQuest went free to play back in 2012 for its 13 birthday.  Some bar mitzvah present.  At that point the live servers were free but you needed to buy at least the latest expansion if you want to play the new stuff and if you wanted to play on one of the nostalgia servers you had to subscribe.  This was a somewhat traditional free to play, with the nostalgia server bonus for Daybreak.

For EVE Online the free plan meant the introduction of Alpha clones with the Ascension expansion back in November 2016.  Alpha clones were free, but could only use a limited skill set and the client blocked you from multi-boxing Alpha clones.  They couldn’t cloak, run a cyno, or fly anything beyond a cruiser of their racial choice initially.  That loosened up with the Arms Race expansion last December, but you still can’t log in more than one unless you’re tricky.

Industry wide there has been the claim that going free increases the player base of an MMORPG, but we have to stop talking about subscribers and just talk about players, since not everybody who is playing is necessarily paying.

For EverQuest that is all interesting, but doesn’t help us much.  For EVE Online though we have the data points referenced above at EVE Offline.

Lots of data

The question is, how does concurrency map, if at all, to the player base.

We know that the player base is greater than the concurrent users online because not everybody is logged in together, and all the more so for a server that hosts a world-wide player base.  So the simple answer seems to be to find the ratio of concurrent users to known player base numbers from the past to see what estimates that gives us now.

Looking at the late numbers for Tranquility in 2012, we have 350,000 users.  It is a little more, but I will take the round number for ease of use.  The average concurrent users number for 2012 was 43,000.  That gives us a ratio of 8.14 to 1.  One concurrent user equals about eight total users.

If we use that number and multiply it by the average concurrent users for the last 12 months, which is 33,000, we get an estimated player base of 268,604.

That number seems problematic to me.  I guess you could convince me that EVE Online has that many players, absent other data.  But if we are buying into the statement that EverQuest has more players, then that is where I stumble.  It might be just me, but I have trouble with the idea that the EverQuest population jumped so much with free to play that it is 2.5x its last subscriber entry six years later.  Is there that much nostalgia for Norrath?

Maybe 2012 isn’t the right year to go to for the ratio.  Let’s back off to 2010.  The subscriber number on the chart is 300,000 for that while the average concurrent users number is 47,000.  That gives us a ratio of  6.38 to 1 and a possible user base of 210,638 players.  That gets us closer to reasonable, but it still seems like a big number for EverQuest, beloved though it might be.

If we go back another year to 2009 the subscriber number seems to be about 225,000 and the concurrency number 44,000.  That gives us a 5.11 to 1 ratio and a possible player base of 168,750.

Now I have three numbers with a range of 100,000 players and my like or dislike of them is based solely on my gut feeling for how many players EverQuest might have these days.  The lower the number gets the more comfortable I am with it for EQ, but the smaller the ratio gets the less likely it seems to be accurate.  Again, that is my gut speaking, but 20% of the EVE Online player base being logged in at any given time seems like a lot.

And I can keep moving around the years and getting different numbers.  2008 gives a ratio of about 5.71 to 1, so more, while 2007 sums out to an even 5 to 1, making for less.  The subscriber base is between 150,000 and 225,000 for those two years, while the average concurrency is 30,000 and 35,000.  The average concurrency for the last twelve months sits between those two numbers, so perhaps the current number is also between 150,000 and 225,000.

But with free to play the ratio ought to be higher, there ought to be more casual players on as Alpha clones.  After all, we have been told time and again that a free option increases the player base.  Then, however, I get back to the “must be less than EverQuest” parameter which seems less likely to me the more the current player base estimate grows.

So I don’t really know.

The initial assumption could be wrong.  Those old subscriber number charts could be wrong.  And what constitutes a “player” in any case?  There is always the differentiation between subscribers, players, and active accounts.  Few games reward players for running multiple accounts the way EVE Online does, so the ratio of players between EQ and EVE might be different enough from the ratio of active accounts as to be significant.

In the end, all of this is just food for thought as I don’t think anybody is going to give us any real numbers, but I’d be interested if anybody could come up with another way to try an get an estimate on numbers.

Addendum: After all of that Hilmar spits out a number in an interview with Venture Beat:

GamesBeat: Is the game still well into the hundreds of thousands of players?

Petursson: Yes. The MAU fluctuates a bit, but it’s 200,000 to 300,000 people.

Well, a range of numbers that is still 100K wide, but the base is 200K.  MAU is still a BS metric the way some companies (like Blizzard) use it, but in this case it gives us something to stand on.  It doesn’t distinguish subscribed from free to play or count those playing the long game on training, but it is a number.