Monthly Archives: October 2018

October in Review

The Site

Happy Halloween.

A happy kitty pumpkin I carved… a long time ago actually

The strange traffic patterns here continued here for the fourth straight month and I am at a loss to explain it.  It is unusual for no posts from the current month to make the list, much less four times in a row.  And while a few posts on the list make some sense, you have to get down to 25th place before you hit a post from October. (Gamigo Buys then Guts Trion World, which was popular and linked elsewhere is in position 25.)

I cannot tell where some of this is coming from as the referrers count is much lower than the total visitors or page views, though that is not unusual.  Some sites just don’t show up in that list for various reasons, including Massively OP.  I can see the traffic hitting those pages in the Flag Counter reports, and it is from all over the US on Windows, iOS, and Mac OS, so it isn’t just one guy hitting refresh.  So I just don’t know.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com continues with its ever encroaching ad placement.  You won’t see it here, as I am on a yearly plan that turns ads off, but if I hit other WP.com sites with a browser that doesn’t have Ad Block of some sort (which I have to have for work), I end up seeing more and more ads.  The latest is an add that drops down from the top of the page to obscure what you’re reading.

Fill in the gap between the top and the other ads

This is one of those things that makes me shake my head.  Ad blockers were not created because people don’t want to support online content, they were created because the ads grew obnoxious enough for people to look for a way to block them.

And then there was this beauty.  I took a look at my other site using Chrome on my iPad, where there is no ad block extension, to use a link from the sidebar and had my whole session hijacked by an ad.

WP.com lets ads take over your browser session

I love those faked comments at the bottom from two and three years ago.  And this ad led into another and another.  I couldn’t get back to my other site.

And so WP.com has inadvertently joined in on promoting ad blockers by becoming an ad shitshow.  Well done.  I could not recommend WP.com as a platform it you plan to blog.  Go make a Blogger account for that, and make sure you have an ad blocker if you visit a WordPress.com site.

One Year Ago

I wrote about how we used to yell and sell in Waterdeep back in TorilMUD, which predates that auction house stuff we have today.

RimWorld was eating up a bunch of my gaming time.

The then still in early access H1Z1 had King of the Kill removed from its name, reverting back to just H1Z1.  This was due to as-yet-still-unrealized plans by Daybreak to bring the game to China where they couldn’t have “kill” in the name.  They have since changed their mind and renamed the game again.  It is now H1Z1: Battle Royale, or maybe Z1 Battle Royale.  It is honestly hard to tell/care at this point.  All I know is it will probably have another new name before this gets to the “Five Years Ago” section in 2022.

In New Eden I had finished up my time with the Warzone Extraction event.  I also remapped my attributes, something that affects the learning rates of skill.  You don’t do that lightly as you’re stuck with the remap for a year.  I also went and rounded up data cores.  I should probably do that again.  It has been a year.

I was headed to EVE Vegas and wrote up my report when I returned.

The Reavers SIG turned three years old.

In space we went out to Aridia to clean up the neighborhood.

As the month headed towards its end CCP released the Lifeblood expansion for EVE Online which changed moon mining, upgraded The Agency, and added a bunch of PvE content.  There was also a joke about lighting farts to be made.

However, following EVE Vegas, where VR was heavily emphasized, and the Lifeblood expansion, CCP had a round of layoffs and effectively stopped developing for VR.  Among teams hit hard was the community team.

I hit level 30 in Pokemon Go.

And I returned to World of Warcraft, having taken a break.  I once again failed to get the headless horseman’s mount.  And I was wondering if Blizzard would announce the next WoW expansion at BlizzCon.  It seemed pretty likely.

Five Years Ago

EverQuest: Mactinosh Edition was slated to shut down after a ten year run.  Meanwhile, EverQuest Live launched Call of the Forsaken, the game’s 20th expansion.  The Fippy Darkpaw server made it to The Buried Sea expansion.  And in EverQuest II, insta-level characters were set to become a thing.

Also, Daybreak got DC Universe Online onto the PlayStation 4 where it reportedly continues to do quite well.

With the release of Pokemon X & Y, which required upgrading to Nintendo 3DS hardware, I was saying farewell to the series.  Little did I know I would be pulled back in a few months down the road.

As part of some NBI event I attempted to recount all the guilds I had joined over the years.

Somebody was attempting to remake the old Kesmai game Stellar Emperor.

Path of Exile finished up beta and was officially live.

After a post-F2P boom, Trion went back to paring down the number of servers for Rift while its servers in China were shut down completely.

The instance group was still running Foundry modules in Neverwinter.

I was trying out War Thunder.  After failing to get through the tutorial for World of Warplanes, I opted for its competitor, which seems better suited for the inept like me.  I was able to get out there and be a target for other players while bombing at least.

In New Eden our gate camp deployment to the Curse region was wrapping up almost as soon as it started.  It felt like we had just snuck in.  It was time to go home to the quiet of Deklein for a while and wait for the Rubicon expansion.  While there I finally bought my first capital ship, an Archon carrier.  It went for its first jump and then stayed docked for almost a year.  Of course, I found out I had a lot of stuff sitting in hangars around New Eden.  Nine million things, to put a number to it.  And CCP was setting up classes for new players… which was great if you lived in the European time zone.

I was pondering the “journey vs. destination” question with MMOs while feeling a bit wistful that World of Warcraft holidays were not offering much new.

Marc Pinkus, founder of Zynga, declared he was bored of games.

And we finally ditched AT&T DSL for Comcast cable-modem internet, resolving the bandwidth sharing problems at our house.

Ten Years Ago

In one of the worst kept secrets in video game development it was announced that BioWare’s MMO project was in fact Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Their subscription goals were, of course, quite modest.

I celebrated my 15 years of playing Sojourn/TorilMUD with the first in a series of posts.  Nostalgia FTW!  And I guess that makes this the 25 year mark.  My, how time flies!  I probably need a post about that.

And speaking of Nostalgia, Tipa was out looking for EverQuest blogs.  I’m not sure any were discovered.  EverQuest itself launched its fifteenth expansion, Seeds of Destruction, which brought NPC mercenaries to the game to assist players.

The instance group formed up a guild and was running in Warhammer Online.  We had our best night and our worst night, plus a few that were somewhere in between.  All in all though, things were not as exciting as we had hoped.

Mythic was trying out incentives to get better server balance while starting to talk about new stuff coming soon.  Not a word about the quest log however.

In EVE Online Potshot, Gaff, and I were playing with fleets and I was flying a shiny new ship.  Also the EVE Blog Pack was defined.

Finally, I stared logging into World of Warcraft again to get things lined up for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  I managed to survive through the controversial scourge event and was intrigued by the shiny new achievements.

Fifteen Years Ago

A shooter named Call of Duty launched.  Now Activision’s annual revenue pretty much depends on shipping a sequel to it.

Lineage II launched as well.  The successor to the original Lineage, which was in last month’s post celebrating its 20th anniversary, it had the usual problem of MMORPG sequels in never living up to the success of the original.

Twenty Years Ago

The Rise of Rome expansion came out for Age of Empires.

Thirty Years Ago

The Sega MegaDrive launched in Japan.  Mentioned mostly because I ended up with a Sega Genesis, the name used in the US, a few years later.

Forty Years Ago

Really, am I going back that far now?  Yes I am!  Back in October of 1978 Space Invaders arrived in North America.  I posted about that event.  It was a big deal back in the day.

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  2. Honest Game Trailers – Animal Crossing
  3. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  4. Rift Prime Time
  5. SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite
  6. February in Review
  7. Spring Movie League – Cats and Birds and Bruce
  8. Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?
  9. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  10. H1Z1 – Going Live in Time to be a Zombie
  11. Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More
  12. How Many People Play EVE Online?

Search Terms of the Month

seagels stop it now
[It is spelled “Seagal” and he’s just the cook]

what game has more people playing everquest 1 or everquest 2 in 2018?
[The original by all reports]

sylvana windrunner rule 34 animated
[Really?]

epic journeys and random encounters (world of warcraft) hentai
[I was with you until that last word]

china gay 3d game pc
[The state probably won’t okay that]

EVE Online

The Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP was finalized and there was EVE Vegas.  While the latter brought news of the future, my time in game was actually pretty low key.  I did get my one kill mail in for the month as I joined in on shooting one of Pandemic Horde’s high sec structures.  Otherwise I spent some time with the Crimson Harvest event and that was about it.

It has been a bit of a tough month on third party sites.  First Total EVE went down due to a problem with their provider.  Then EVE Files which, among other things, hosts the null sec influence maps, had a RAID failure and went down, taking with it a lot of New Eden history.  The influence maps are created elsewhere, but have been publicly archived on EVE Files.  There are backups, and Chribba started moving some of the videos stored there to YouTube, but how this will work out is unclear.  And then there was a scare with the DOTLAN infrastructure earlier in the month.  The EVE Online ecosystem is fragile and getting more so as it ages. [Total EVE is back up.]

And then there was the Monthly Economic Report for September, which failed to materialize this month.  I don’t know if that is over as a thing, but this is the first time CCP has missed a month since they got serious about it over two years ago.

EverQuest II

I made my way to level 100 at last, though that doesn’t seem like much of an achievement when I tell you I started at level 96.  But that leaves out the real adventure of returning to the game, which is simply figuring out where to go.  Anyway, I paused for a bit at level 100 to do some of the Halloween event stuff.  That was probably to stave off deciding on which path to choose now that I am at 100.  This is never easy.

Pokemon Go

I made my first “Best Friend” in Pokemon Go.  It happened to be my wife, so true in game as in the real world.  It turn out that making a best friend yields quite a good chunk of experience.  Here is what you get by levels of friendship:

  • Good Friends – 3,000 xp
  • Great Friends – 10,000 xp
  • Ultra Friends – 50,000 xp
  • Best Friends – 100,000 xp

I was about 40K shy of level when the best friend event happened, which pushed me right into level 34.  Still a long way to go to level 40, but I have some more friends on my list to help me along as our friendships level up.  You do need to send 90 gifts to get to the best friend level, and my current problem is always running out.  I need Pokestops to be more reliable at dispensing gifts.

There was also the introduction of 4th generation into the game, which gave us all new Pokemon to catch.  That helped boost my Pokedex count.

Level: 34 (+1)
Pokedex status: 363 (+24) caught, 375 (+18) seen
Pokemon I want: Dragonite… pretty much no progress on this
Current buddy: Wailmer… past 330 candies now

World of Warcraft

Sort of stopped playing WoW it seems.  This is me being me.  At some intellectual level I want to finish up the Kul Tiras campaign and get my main to level 120, but somewhere deep within me is the bit that gets me to log in and play, and that bit isn’t having it.  Oh well.  This seems to be following my usual pattern of diving into a new WoW expansion, playing for a bit, then going away for six months or so until the issues are settled.

Hallow’s End did get me logging back in some, but the mount of the Headless Horseman still eludes me.  While waiting for the queue to pop my main hit level 118.  Who is the slowest to level now, eh?

Coming Up

BlizzCon is the day after tomorrow.  Those at the event or watching from home with the Virtual Ticket don’t get a cute pet or mount in WoW this year.  Instead it will be a chance to try WoW Classic.  The Barrens and Westfall will be available to download and play.  I expect this to be examined in minute detail and the topic of articles and blog posts for at least a week afterwards.

There was word that we might get the LOTRO legendary server on November 6th, but there is no official announcement that I have seen.  And the LOTRO Twitter account later denied everything.  It would be nice if there was a date front page, center on the LOTRO web site.  The problematic nature of this server aside, SSG failing to do a decent promotional run up to its open… which, again, would be well served by something like a big count down timer to build up some excitement… is just typical of how the game has been handled for over a decade.  There is a quote from Tolkien that I can’t find at the moment, about the race of man failing to live up to its potential that seems to fit very well to LOTRO as well.

There will also be the new expansion for EverQuest II coming on the 13th.  I’m still too far back to worry about buying that, but it will unlock some new content and more crazy stat boosts.

And then the word is that WildStar will be shut down by the end of the month, so it is your last chance to take a look… before somebody gets an emulator project off the ground.

Finally, Daylight Savings Time ends in the US… for locations in the US that observe the change… this coming weekend.  It will be slightly less dark when I drive to work now.

Fall Movie League – Johnny Surprise

The pre-Halloween week, the eighth in our Fall Fantasy Movie League, is now in the past, but not before a bit of a last minute surprise.

The options for the week were:

Halloween                    $666
A Star is Born               $243
Hunter Killer                $202
Venom                        $201
Goosebumps 2                 $128
The Hate U Give              $100
First Man                    $89
Mid 90s                      $88
Smallfoot                    $86
Night School                 $57
Indivisible                  $39
The Old Man and the Gun      $36
Bad Times                    $34
Johnny English Strikes Back  $33
The House with a Clock       $16

My gut last week as I wrote this said that the new stuff on the list was to be avoided.  Sure, my Monday Hot Takes lineup went hard on Mid 90s, with 1x A Star is Born, 1x Venom, and 6x Mid 90s, but I got over that by mid-week.

Still, I was on the right track for an anchor.  I couldn’t get on board with Halloween, even at the too-on-the-nose price of $666, and Hunter Killer was in the category of “new stuff” to be avoided, so I was left fiddling with variations of A Star is Born or Venom or some combination of the two.

In the end I decided to go all-in with Venom, anchoring on four screens of that, backed up with one screen each of Smallfoot, Night School, The Old Man and the Gun, and The House with a Clock.

Not a horrible selection, all things considered.  The Saturday estimates put me in tenth place, while Sunday had me in ninth, but the gap between the whole sixteen player list wasn’t that big.

The perfect pick ended up being 3x A Star is Born, 1x Venom, 4x The House with a Clock.  I was on the right track for an anchor at least.  Nobody in the league hit that combo.

However, once the actuals thread announced the results I checked the league and found a surprise; a few people appeared to be doing much better than I expected.

Fall FML Week 8 – Initial Top Four Scores

Also, Johnny English was suddenly the best performer rather than The House with a Clock.  A closer look showed Johnny English with a bit more than the $1.6 million box office it was alleged to have made.

Worth a K no doubt

That happened to be the same amount that Halloween made for the weekend, not to mention being about 20x what the Sunday estimate had it down for.  This was clearly a data entry error, which led to a dream/nightmare scenario for somebody.

Always bet on Johnny

There were plenty of messages about that in FML chatter.

Once it was corrected, things shook out a little closer to how I expected, with the week’s top ten looking like this:

  1. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $60,377,241
  2. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $58,829,377
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $58,211,494
  4. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $57,408,588
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $56,551,150
  6. grannanj’s Cineplex – $56,522,357
  7. Goat Water Picture Palace – $56,091,308
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $56,091,308
  9. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $55,421,160
  10. I HAS BAD TASTE – $54,830,773

Po was on top with 1x Halloween, 1x Venom, and 6x The House with a Clock, the last being the best performer and worth an extra $2 million per screen in bonus.  But the anchors in the top ten were pretty varied, and even 7x Goosebumps 2 as an anchor beat out my choice.

Still, the gap between first and tenth was less than $6 million, so the overall seasonal ranking did not change much.

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $580,296,393
  2. Goat Water Picture Palace – $549,675,241
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $544,151,551
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – $540,773,830
  5. I HAS BAD TASTE – $531,527,330
  6. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $516,275,892
  7. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $512,050,156
  8. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $511,935,067
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – $506,460,148
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $504,510,372

I think that is the same ten people as last week’s list, with a couple of positional changes.

The alternate score though, that ended up looking like this.

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – 49
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – 45
  3. Goat Water Picture Palace – 40
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – 39
  5. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 36
  6. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 33
  7. I HAS BAD TASTE – 31
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – 31
  9. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 28
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 24

Well, that was also the same ten people as last week with some changes in position, though not the same ten people as the overall seasonal score.  Darren, who would be in eleventh in the overall score is in eighth with the alternate scoring.

Overall, everybody who has been playing has been in the top ten at least twice so far this season, so everybody has some score.

So that is how it stands at the end of week eight.  Now to look forward to week nine.  The options are:

Bohemian Rhapsody       $510
The Nutcracker          $260
Halloween               $201
Nobody's Fool           $180
A Star is Born          $127
Venom                   $80
Goosebumps 2            $62
The Hate U Give         $42
Smallfoot               $42
Hunter Killer           $39
First Man               $35
Suspiria                $31
Night School            $24
Mid 90s                 $23
The Old Man and the Gun $17

Dropping off the list from last week are The House with a Clock , Indivisible , Bad Times, and Johnny English Strikes Back.

Replacing them are Bohemian Rhapsody, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Nobody’s Fool, and Suspiria.

At the top of the price chart is Bohemian Rhapsody.  It has lots of buzz and a bit of controversy to go with it.  It seems a likely anchor for the post-Halloween weekend, though it is priced so you can only get one screen of it.  Long range forecasts had it at about $40 million for the three day weekend, and it seems likely to get there in my book.

Next up is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, which I am shortening to just The Nutcracker for ease of typing and maximum confusion.  This is the movie version of the literary adaptation of the famed ballet, done by Disney, so who knows how the story ends up.  But it has lots of famous names, including Morgan Freeman and is projected at somewhere in the $20 to $25 million range for the weekend.  Seems priced a little low compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, so might be a better anchor if you think we’re close enough to the holiday season to get into this kind of movie.

Nobody’s Fool is yet another Tyler Perry production.  The man is a machine.  And he has a regular following, so this is probably good for the $12-$15 million being projected for it.

And then there is Suspiria, the plot for which is… complicated.  At least it is beyond my ability to summarize.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It is also being distributed by Amazon Studios, which means it won’t be on many screens.  The expected count is 250 theaters.  But I bet it will be on Amazon Prime soon!

Given all that and some tinkering with the Cineplex Builder, I ended up with the following picks for the Monday Hot Takes league; 1x Bohemian Rhapsody , 1x Halloween, 1x Nobody’s Fool, 1x First Man, 1x Mid 90s, and 3x The Old Man and the Gun.

That is kind of a shotgun pick in a world where the beginners guide suggest not having more than four or maybe five titles in your lineup, but it seems like that kind of week.  Also, it used every dollar of my budget.

MMORPG Preservation and Reality

There was a bit of news last Friday when the Library of Congress announced that they would allow an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so that institutions interesting in preserving online games, MMOs and the like, could do so.

An exception had been previously granted for stand alone video games no longer published or otherwise available, so this was something of an expansion of that initial ruling.  The Federal Register document is here for your perusal.

The document covers several rulings.  The one you are looking for is labeled as section 8, but is listed out between sections 5 and 7, so it was probably meant to be section 6 as there is another section 8, concerning 3D printing, after section 7.  Maybe this was an error… or maybe I just don’t understand how government documentation works.

This decision was greeted with almost universal acclaim in the niche genre that is fans of dead MMOs.  The Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment (The MADE for short or The Video Game Museum colloquially) over in Oakland, about a 40 minute drive from my home, was particularly effusive.  They were in the fight to make this happen, so were there to cheer once the ruling was announced.  They tweeted out a couple of messages on Twitter that got a frenzy of support over in the comments at Massively OP, this one especially:

I am going to quote that tweet here, just in case it spontaneously combusts out of sheer naivety:

Hey Twitter fans: please go track down people who could legally get us Star Wars Galaxy’s server code, and City of Heroes server code. If they agree to hand over the server code, we can bring those games back online legally.

That note contains the seeds of the problem being faced here.  If you take some time to leaf through the document I linked at the above, you might have run into a paragraph opening with this sentence:

The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code.

Therein lies the rub.  To be within the law, and thus legally protected, a preservation institution like The MADE needs to obtain a copy of the server software legally.  So far as I can tell, the only way to do this is to get a copy directly from the companies who hold the rights to these games, and that seems an impractical and unlikely scenario for several reasons.

First, there is the question as to what sort of infrastructure such a server might require.

Yes, people who put together emulators of these servers do so on the cheap, using whatever is to hand, so you might think this is a non-issue.  But the official server software wasn’t designed to run on your desktop machine.  This isn’t an automatic pass.  This could be a problem because things as simple as the operating system and patch version required to the database connectivity expected to be in place.  The server software might not run as provided without the ecosystem it was made to run with.

The MADE likes to point out that they managed to get Habitat up and running, but that was not only a game from a simpler time, but they were given the source code to work with. I cannot see many MMORPGs doing that for reasons covered below.  Still, at least this is a technical issue, and enough time and effort could garner a solution.

Then there is figuring out who actually has the software and what shape it is in.

Let’s take Star Wars Galaxies as an example.  That shut down in mid-December 2011, almost seven years ago.  At that point it was run by Sony Online Entertainment, one small cog in the giant machine that is Sony.

Time to settle up with Jaba again

A little over three years after that SOE was bought and became Daybreak Game Company.  One might assume that all SOE games, past and current, went with that deal.  But I don’t know if that was actually so.  Given that SWG was a licensed IP, it might have been too complicated, too expensive, or simply not possible or desirable to let Daybreak have that.  It could be stowed away still with Sony.

And, once we figure out who has it,  we have to see if the software has been archived in a way that it can still be accessed.  The server software isn’t like the client, existing in the wild on hundreds of thousands of install disks.  This is likely tightly held, produce on demand software.  Somebody might need to run the build system to generate a copy.

Let me tell you a story about that sort of thing.

Midway through the first decade of the century a company I used to work for once had a formerly famous consumer film company call up and ask for a patch for the server software they bought from us nearly a decade back.  It was on IBM OS/2 and we had long since switched to Windows server.  But that was fine, we had kept the OS/2 build system machines in the lab.  Only when somebody decided to power the system on the drive on the main machine wouldn’t spin up.  And while we had archival backups stored off site, there wasn’t anybody around who could re-create the build system.  And that was all before we had to figure out the problem that company was having, update the code, and run a build.

Since the company calling us wasn’t current on their maintenance contract… we were surprised they were still running our software… we declined to put in the effort.  We probably could of done it, but the work required was not trivial.  Even with the company in question willing to pay us, we had more lucrative avenues to pursue.  Software development is as much choosing what to focus on as anything, since there are always more plans and ideas than there is time.

If we weren’t going to do it for money, we certainly weren’t going to do it for free, which is what organizations like The MADE will expect.  And no company is going to let outsiders troll through their company to look for such software, so finding it relies on a current insider getting permission from the company and using their own time to find things.  This isn’t impossible, but the candidates able to perform this task are probably few.

And, finally, there is the question who can legally provide the server software.

The above are both solvable problems, things that could be made to happen if the right people were to volunteer some time and effort.  Getting the right people to green light this sort of project though, that feels like the highest hurdle of all.

I am going to go ahead and declare Star Wars Galaxies lost to any preservation effort for the foreseeable future right up front based on this.  At a minimum you need Disney, who holds the rights to the IP, to go along with this, and I cannot see that happening.  Mickey Mouse doesn’t even get out of bed unless he’s getting paid.

So let’s look at City of Heroes instead.  This is easier.  NCsoft owns all the rights, so there is no problem dealing with IP problems.  There should be no issue here, right?

The final plea

No server software stands alone.  Even if the previous problems can be brushed aside, it is very likely that Cryptic, in developing City of Heroes, licensed third party libraries, utilities, and other assets in order to create the game.  That licensing likely doesn’t allow NCsoft to give the server software out, even for a good cause.

This, by the way, is part of the answer to every question about why companies don’t open source their games when they shut them down.  They cannot if they don’t own all the code.

In order to cover themselves, NCsoft would have to run down every third party aspect of the software and get the permission of the licensing entity.  My gut says that NCsoft isn’t going to do this and, if they did, that getting every single third party on board would not be easy.

But if you can get past all of that, then you can have an MMORPG in your museum.

And I don’t even want to delve into the question of which version of a game ought to be preserved.  The answer to that will only make people angry since it likely won’t be the launch version or the version from what you might believe to be the golden era of the game.  It will most likely be the final version available from the build system.

All of that ought to be enough to make you say “screw it” and just start working on an emulator.  That has to be easier, right?  You can do what you want with that.  Then you can put it up in your museum.

Well, there is a whole paragraph devoted to that in the ruling.

The Acting Register did not, however, recommend an exemption to allow for instances where the preservation institution lacks lawful possession of the server software. She found the record insufficient to support a finding that the recreation of video game server software as described by proponents is likely to be a fair use. A number of scenarios described by proponents do not involve preserving server software that is already in an institution’s collections, but instead appear to involve something more akin to reconstructing the remote server. She found that this activity distinguishes proponents’ request from the preservation activity at issue in the case law upon which they relied. Moreover, she noted, the reconstruction of a work implicates copyright owners’ exclusive right to prepare derivative works.

That sums up pretty much as, “No, you may not have cheezeburger.”  Recreating is not preserving.  You either get the real deal or you get nothing at all.

And so it goes.  The door has been opened ever so slightly for the preservation of MMOs, but there are still many problems in the way.

Finally I want to call out what I consider a disingenuous to the point of being nearly deceptive part of the tweet above from The MADE.  This phrasing irks me greatly:

…we can bring those games back online legally

Without the necessary context, always a problem on Twitter, one might assume that people will be able to fire up their clients and play their favorite shut down MMO if only The MADE can get the server code.  However, this is covered in the document linked at the top as well:

Video games in the form of computer programs embodied in physical or downloaded formats that have been lawfully acquired as complete games, that do not require access to an external computer server for gameplay, and that are no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace, solely for the purpose of preservation of the game in a playable form by an eligible library, archives, or museum, where such activities are carried out without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and the video game is not distributed or made available outside of the physical premises of the eligible library, archives, or museum.

The emphasis is my own.

So no, should any of this come to pass, you are not suddenly going to be able to play City of Heroes or Star Wars Galaxies or any other closed MMO.  This whole thing isn’t being done just so you can play a video game. Unless you’re willing to schlep on over to Oakland to visit The MADE in person, you won’t be able to see what has been preserved.

And even then, I wonder what a visitor will be allowed to do.  MMOs are strange beasts.  They aren’t like Donkey Kong with discreet interaction parameters and a “Game Over” state after which everything starts again fresh.  MMOs, at least the ones mentioned above, are MMORPGs, with an emphasis on the RPG part.  You go into the world and play a role, interact with things, accumulate items and wealth.   A story unfolds before you as you progress, and it doesn’t reset when you put down the controller and walk away.

How will a place like The MADE handle this sort of game?

Do you let every random person who walks in create a new character?  Do you have some template characters available for people to wander around with?  Do you let people wander around the world and die or do things that irrevocably change the nature of a character’s position in the world?  Do you store progress?  Do you wipe progress every night?

Probably the best case, within the law, scenario here is that a place like The MADE will get software that will let them setup a closed environment in their facility where the general public will get to see, maybe poke at, but probably not play in any depth, certain MMOs.  The only people likely allowed greater access will be press writing articles or academics doing research… and the occasional big donor or volunteer who will get to make a character and play.   The rest of us will just have to feel better that something has been preserved and move on with our lives.

Which is fine.  I can live with that.

But I suspect that many people expect a lot more out of these efforts.

Addendum: Endgame Viable used a couple comments I made on Twitter in his post on this.  This post is essentially an expansion by a couple thousand words on those two tweets.

Addendum 2: Ars Technica has a write up on this as well.

SuperData Shows the WoW Surge Fading and LoL Still Down

Here in the last days of October SuperData Research finally has their September sales chart out for us.  I was a bit worried after they were acquired by Nielsen that they might stop feeding us this ranking regularly.  Now if I could just get CCP to give us the September MER as well.

Anyway, to the chart.

SuperData Research Top 10 – September 2018

Last month saw the Battle for Azeroth surge for World of Warcraft, which jumped it up to second place on the PC end of the chart, putting it ahead of League of Legends for the first time in the history of this monthly report.

However that head of steam didn’t seem to last, even with Blizz offering a special mount if you would just commit to a six month subscription.  WoW dropped to fifth position, though that still put it a bit ahead of its perennial seventh place slot, so maybe some people jumped on the mount bandwagon.  Of course, if they paid for six months in September then they won’t have paid anything in October, so we’ll see if WoW drops more next month.

WoW’s loss was LoL’s gain though, as Riot’s game moved up into second place as the constant top four on the chart were locked in together again, having also pushed Monster Hunter: World down from fourth to seventh spot.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds grabbed sixth position ahead of the so-popular-the-NHL-banned-it Fortnite, which came in at eighth.  Rounding out the list are a couple of the usual suspects from the bottom of the list, World of Tanks in ninth and CS:GO in tenth.  Hearthstone, which made the list last month, fell off for September.

In the middle, the console chart has Destiny 2 at the top, most likely due to the release of the Forsaken DLC last month.  Marvel’s Spider-Man, a new release, captured second place, while FIFA 19 came in at third place.  Fornite, last month’s top entry, sank to fourth place in the face of this new content, with NBA 2K19, another new release, close behind in fifth.

FIFA 18, apparently not completely sapped by the release of its successor, stayed on the list in sixth position.  Call of Duty: WWII fell to seventh, but stayed ahead of the fresh Shadows of the Tomb Raider in eighth.  2013’s Grand Theft Auto V, which has stayed on the list, and even topped it at times despite its age, stayed alive in ninth place while PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds showed back up in tenth.

Among the titles pushed out of the way was Blizzard’s Overwatch.

Then on the mobile end of the chart, there was only a minor re-arrangement of last month’s titles, with Pokemon Go holding onto third position and Candy Crush Saga moving from tenth to seventh spot.

Other items from the report:

  • FIFA 19 scores best digital launch in franchise history. We estimate FIFA 19 digital console units grew 18% compared to FIFA 18 last year. Sales for the digital launch of FIFA hit another record, although the series continues to lag other AAA franchises in terms of download rates.
  • Destiny 2 gets a big boost from ForsakenDestiny 2 topped our digital console rankings this month on the back of the new Forsaken expansion and an increase in deluxe edition purchases. Over 60% of all monthly active users purchased the expansion.
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man is Sony’s biggest launch to-dateSpider-Man sold 2.17 million digital units on PS4 in September, excluding download codes bundled with console sales, just edging out God of War‘s launch earlier this year.
  • NBA 2K19 marks a new franchise peak – but with a caveat. While NBA 2K19 digital console unit sales were up year-over-year from NBA 2K18, growth fell short of the rate seen in the past couple of years.It should be noted that this year’s iteration of the game launched earlier in the month.

A Fortizar Shoot in Perimeter

As I mention in a previous post, the null sec alliances brought their recent conflict to high sec using war decs, allowing TEST to assail Pandemic Horde’s trade hub in Perimeter.  PH’s structures in Perimeter were reinforced while TEST dropped its own citadels, a faction Fortizar and a Keepstar.

War decs piled up between the groups as The Imperium joined in on the side of TEST and its Legacy Coalition allies while Black Legion jumped in to assist Pandemic Horde.  Notably missing was the rest of PanFam, including Pandemic Legion and NCDot.  Pandemic Horde has truly grown into its own entity.

It looked like there might be a fight brewing in high sec, just one jump from Jita.

Instead, Pandemic Horde decided to punt on its high sec trading empire.  There is a post over at New Eden Report about the impact of this on the market.  But for those of us just looking to shoot things, there would be no war.  Pandemic Horde opted to contest neither the structures TEST deployed nor defend their own structures.  At best there would just be a structure shoot to take them out.

Being in Reavers, structure shoots are clearly my bag.  And since our war dec was still in place, I went out to shoot the PH Fortizar just because I could.

The Safe Trade Hub is no longer Safe

The nervous bit was getting there.  I undocked from Jita 4-4 with my market/training implant clone to run to another station where I could install a jump clone.  Then I ran back.  Fortunately, the usual people who have us war dec’d and are generally camping the undock at 4-4 had joined us in the war.  I was able to safely setup a local clone, jump to it, then roll back into 4-4 to pick up a ship.

I had a Jackdaw handy there and, not wanting to spend any ISK I didn’t have to, I rolled out of Jita to Perimeter in that.

Jackdaw on the way

When I arrived the shoot was already under way.  TEST had a fleet sitting at range shooting the Fortizar.  There was another group about 120 degrees off from them shooting the citadel as well.  That group was putting out constant beams, which confused me for a bit.

Jackdaw spotting the red beams, TEST fleet ball visible

When I put the camera on that group though, the answer was clear.  It was a small fleet of Leshaks, the Triglavian battleship, (supported by a few Nestors) responsible for those beams.

A Leshak at the shoot

The Triglavian weaponry, the precursor weapons, fire a continuous beam that puts out more damage the longer it stays on a target.

I had warped in at 50km and went into orbit around the citadel until the structure got down to about 25%.  I only noticed after I arrived that the Jackdaw was fit for rockets rather than light missiles, which meant I would have to move in close to get my hits in.  Even in sniper mode that meant being about 25km off the Fortizar.  I was wondering if wandering in that close might draw the attention of the defensive weaponry.

However, that didn’t turn out to be an issue.  I decreased the radius of my orbit to bring the rocket launcher in range and let fly.  I am way down the list for total damage, but at least I got on the kill mail.  It has been a quiet month with the peace agreement and PH not defending in Perimeter, so this is the only kill mail I am on for October. I try to be on one every month just to prove I am alive.

And so Pandemic Horde lost its foothold in Perimeter.

The PH logo shortly before the explosion

If you look at the kill mail, you will see that the five Leshaks in that group managed to get the top five slots for damage.  Those precursor weapons work as advertised I guess.

Honest Trailers does Halloween

This past week, in celebration of the release of the sequel, Screen Junkies took a look at the original classic from 1978, Halloween.

I was too young to go see it when it came out, but I remember hearing about it.  And, of course, when VCRs and video rentals became a thing half a decade later, my roommate and I watch it along with most of the movies it fostered with its success.  So many of the tropes we associate with the genre started, or were solidified, with this movie.

And, if you really want to nerd out, there is the Honest Trailers Commentary where they talk about the film and making the Honest Trailer for it.

FLEX Structures and the Return of The Eye of Terror

The first presentation on Saturday of EVE Vegas was from CCP Lebowski.  Titled “FLEX, Decs, & What Comes Next,” it covered a stretch of topics, but opened with the latest round of structures from the Upwell Consortium.  You can watch it here.

FLEX structures are set to replace the last few null sec infrastructure roles that still require Player Owned Starbases.  After that the noble POS and the horrible code base that supports it, long complained about by CCP, can be retired.  Maybe.  A POS is still a pretty hand structure, so they may still need something to replace the simple ability to drop a safe spot in hostile space.

Anyway, the new FLEX structures are coming, FLEX standing for “Fast Logistical EXpansion,” and they share some characteristics.

The Basics of FLEX Structures

There are three FLEX structures coming, each replacing a POS function.  There is the Pharolux Cyno Beacon, on which many an unwary capital pilot will probably die, the Tenebrex Cyno Jammer, which will let you stop capital drops in your territory, and the Ansiblex Jump Gate, which is going to open a can of worms we’ve seen before.

And it is that last one, the Ansiblex Jump Gate, that I want to bring up here, because it has some interesting features.

Jump Bridge becomes Jump Gate

There are some very spiffy aspects of this new structure.  The model looks good, they align in space to the star system they to which they are connected, and the animations for it are superb. The latter will also be used with the upgraded art and animations for jump gates throughout New Eden.

But the thing I want to highlight is how unlike the old jump bridge the Ansiblex really is.  It is the last two bullet points that are key here:

  • No Jump Fatigue
  • No Ship Size Restrictions

My first thought on seeing those two items was that these were, in essence, player made star gates, something that had been mentioned as a possibility quite some time back.  I was kind of hoping that such structures would send us into new space, maybe with some new rules, but these seem to fit the bill if you get right down to it.  Promise delivered on, if not in the way expected.

My second thought, which came very close on the first, and which I heard echoed by Dirk MacGirk amongst others, was, “Here is the return of the Eye of Terror!”

The Eye of Terror!

The Eye of Terror was a jump bridge network setup during the Great War.  While I was playing EVE Online at the time, I was nowhere near null sec.  It is, however, an item of legend, so I went to the Goon Wiki to get a description:

The original Eye of Terror was a series of jump bridges finished in December of 2007 during The Great EVE War. It ran from 46DP in Tenerifis to P8- in Feythabolis, enabling a constant stream of Goons into RISE’s living room for 24/7 harassment.

Since late August, RISE had been increasingly penned in to the “RIT Triangle,” their cluster of home station systems past the P8- choke point, and the constant presence of Black Ops and Pandemic Legion kept their station systems disabled and left them with no means of escape.

By the time the Eye of Terror actually opened RISE resistance had already been reduced to sitting in stations with the odd, terribly fit ship to attempt to escape. The stream of ships through the Eye rapidly destroyed their towers, many of which ran out of fuel as RISE logistics had given up or were trapped in stations.

That was the first Eye of Terror, and legend has it that its construction and effectiveness led to CCP changing the rules for jump bridges, restricting them to one per system so that fleet would at least have to expose themselves to gates along the way rather than just warping from POS to POS and jumping in relative safety.

Then there was the second Eye of Terror, the jump bridge line that I took so often back in the day, the one that first led to the beachhead in Cloud Ring for the invasion of Fountain.  Later it was extended, first through Fountain, then Delve, and then into Querious.

If a fight was happening in way down south we could just hop in our ships up in Deklein and be down there in a pretty short time.  And so battles like HED-GP came along and crashed the server.  Yes, there were other factors, like the proliferation of drones and the Slowcats doctrine that were not helping.  But the fact that people could log in anywhere in null sec and get to an escalating fight… all the easier because time dilation slowed the fight down while those traveling were moving at full speed… led to a pile on after pile on.

So CCP changed the way travel worked in null sec.  The Phoebe update came along and introduced jump fatigue.  Capital ships could no longer make jumps in rapid succession, and the same applied to jump bridges.  Then we got Fozzie Sov, which sought to disperse battles over sovereignty.  Small fights were going to break up the stagnation of null sec.

Certainly, some groups responded by consolidating their holdings.  The Imperium drew back into a much smaller footprint in the north though, in the end, that was still more than could be held by the coalition.  The Casino War proved that well enough.  There was that and other shake outs, but in the end there was still something of an equilibrium.  Outsiders and pundits still speak of the “blue donut” as though repeating it makes it so.

And then… something happened at CCP.  I think they decided big fights were in their best interest.  But the jump fatigue penalties started getting pared back.  At the start, with Phoebe, you could make a character useless for months by taking too many jumps.  That got reduced to five days.  Now it is down to five hours.  But it still injects a wait period between jumps.  You can’t just jump or take jump bridges in rapid succession.

Only soon you will be able to again, and I am at a loss to explain why.  Travel is a factor you must plan for in New Eden.  Jump fatigue seemed to have a purpose in that.  Now that whole “3 minutes per light year” travel time metric goal of just four years ago will be straight out the window.

When the new FLEX structures go in, when the Ansiblex Jump Gate becomes a thing, travel in null sec will lose its burden again.  Subcap fleets will be able to cross large distances at will, giving coalitions the power to hold onto more territory.  And it won’t just be subcaps, because capitals, supercaps, and titans will be able to take those new jump gates as well.

Yes, CCP points out that it will cost in liquid ozone.  But I suspect they underestimate the abilities of GSOL, the miracle working logistical arm of the Imperium.  I bet if The Mittani told them that there was a need to move every titan in the coalition in the next 24 hours, they would have supplies laid in and ships ready to refuel jump bridges along the whole route.  I think we’ve already demonstrated that cost and effort are not really barriers.

So there we’ll be soon enough.  But the gate animations will be cool.  I’m tempted get FRAPS setup again to take videos of giant fleets passing through these new structures as the third Eye of Terror takes shape.

LOTRO and the Legendary Server Idea

We are excited to announce a new way to experience The Lord of the Rings Online: Legendary Worlds! Relive the tales of Middle-earth, chapter by chapter, visiting iconic locations and adventuring with new friends – or reconnecting with old ones – on the path of Frodo, Gandalf, and the Fellowship of the Ring.

Join us this fall on a Legendary World and make a fresh start with a brand new character; see Tolkien’s bustling realm anew, whether for your first or fiftieth time. Initially, the Legendary World will begin at the very start of the game and run through Angmar, then open new regions and levels over time. Relive the legend: where everyone is here and the story is now.

-Standing Stone Games, Legendary Server Announcement

I think the big question up front is whether or not WoW Classic is going to wreck the retro/progression/vanilla server idea for MMORPGs the way that WoW itself can be argued to have wrecked MMORPGs overall.

Yes, that is an odd way to start off a post ostensibly about Lord of the Rings Online, but World of Warcraft remains the dominate power in the genre and when they get into any given aspect of the genre everybody else has to take notice or get trampled.  So bear with me for a minute.

I wonder if WoW Classic will set the bar for quality and fidelity so high as to be unattainable for studios who don’t practically print money.  I mean, you can shit on Blizzard because you think they might not get the Vanilla WoW experience to line up exactly with your memories from 2005, but who else out there has the staffing and budget to pick a point in the past and go remake the game from that time so it will not only run, but will be a full on quality Blizzard experience?

All of which came to mind when I saw the Standing Stone Games announcement about their planned LOTRO Legendary Server… or World… they use both terms.

We’ll just stick with “Legendary” I think

The announcement itself is pretty brief, quoted almost entirely in full at the top of this post.  The bulk of the information is in the form of a FAQ, and the key to the whole thing, and in my question above, is in the final question.

Is the Legendary server a “Classic” or “Vanilla” server?

By most descriptions, a “Classic” server is an attempt to recreate LOTRO exactly as it was at launch, using only assets and content that was available in 2007.

A Legendary server runs alongside existing servers, and therefore contains many of the changes that have been made to the game over the years, such as UI improvements, bug fixes, changes to game systems, etc. In cases where we have updated or changed the layout of regions, the Legendary server uses the updated version of the regions. In cases where we have changed items or player abilities, the Legendary server uses those updated abilities.  Some content or gameplay that isn’t appropriate to the Legendary server’s current level cap may be restricted, until that portion of the story unlocks with level cap increases (one does not simply walk into Mordor on Legendary until the time comes).

This, along with some of the other questions, makes it clear that this is more of a fresh start progression server than anything else.  New classes, new races, and all other changes that have gone into the game over the last decade or so will be present on the Legendary server.  There will be, so far as I can tell from the FAQ, virtually no difference between starting a fresh character on one of the current servers and on this new server, save for the fact that cash shop items related to later features, like legendary weapons, will be absent and you will need to have a VIP subscription in order to play.

So what is the draw then?

This isn’t EverQuest, where the original 1999 content has been bypassed by a tutorial, fresh starting zones, and the Plane of Knowledge.  Going back to an EverQuest progression server means going into content you likely wouldn’t otherwise play.  And while some of the world has had its graphics updated, if you’re like me and long for original Qeynos, it is still there waiting for you. (Just don’t get me started about the fog.)

Also, EverQuest has 20 years and 24 (soon 25) expansions worth of content to work through.

All of the improvements from the Live servers come along for the ride, so hot bars work like you expect and WASD is a default control option, but things that came with later expansions, like new races and classes, are held off until that expansion unlocks.

And this isn’t World of Warcraft, where a lot of the original Vanilla content was hacked out of the game like a tumor, so there is no going back to play it unless you want to try a pirate server, at least until WoW Classic comes along.

As far as I can tell, Standing Stone isn’t even going to make you wear the hair shirt so popular with this sort of server by clipping experience gain or the like.  It is just going to be a live server for VIPs with all the new features and classes and currencies, just restricted to before Mines of Moria expansion… for four months, with new expansions every four months after that until they unlock Mordor two years down the road and it essentially becomes a VIP only server.

So I am not feeling the draw for this Legendary server idea.  I suppose if you had a group of friends and wanted to do a fresh start, this will be your opportunity.  And, of course, there will be the launch time euphoria when for a brief moment everybody on the server will be level 1 together and all the early zones will be full of players.  I might try it for that last aspect alone… I have a lifetime subscription, so why not… though I am not sure how long I would stay.

In addition I wonder both if there is enough to draw players and, if there is, can the live servers stand the hit?  That is a topic that has come up with both EQ and EQII, that the progression

Then there is the fact that, to my eye at least, LOTRO has not aged well.  It is still a balky UI with tiny, hard to distinguish icons graced with some of the least informative imagery to every land in an MMORPG.

EverQuest is old and it feels old as well, but the team has polished up the UI some.  The hitbox for your own character is still huge, so you end up selecting yourself annoyingly often, but a lot of other things are better than they were back in the day.  Those updates smooth out annoyances that you wouldn’t likely want to remember, things that would more likely get in the way of your nostalgia rather than enhance it.

I do want to be fair to Standing Stone Games.  Given their limited resources this is about the level of server they are up to providing.  This isn’t a cash grab, as some have already announced, but an effort to provide something akin to what a vocal segment of the community has been asking about for a while now.

All of which brings me back around to what effect WoW Classic will have on this sort of thing going forward.  When EverQuest or RuneScape classic servers were the benchmark, things like Rift Prime didn’t seem so far off base.

But when WoW Classic shows up with a remade version of late 2006 Azeroth, with paladins who can’t tank and only have a ranged attack good against undead and hunter pets for which you have to go out in the world and find updated skills and ammunition in your bag and the whole Sunken Temple or Uldaman dungeons available in all of their previous horrific glory, how is a special server that limits you to the initial content but is otherwise indistinguishable from the live servers going to stand up?

Oh well, we shall see.

And, in one last bit of irony, even at the four month between expansions drop rate for the new server, the journey from start to the opening of the Mordor expansion will still take longer than the War of the Ring, if measured from Gandalf telling Frodo to get the ring out of the Shire (April 12, 3018 TA) to the Battle of Bywater (November 19, 3019 TA), clocking in at 2 years compared to 1 year 7 months for the events in the book.

Still, that is much faster than the decade it too the game to get to the gates of Mordor the first time around.  And you might be able to start late, a month after the Mines of Moria unlocks, and try to keep pace with the books.  That would be an interesting project… maybe more interesting to read about than to try, but there it is.  Though you could do that on the live servers right now if you wanted.  Oh well.

Others writing about the server announcement:

Just Survive Won’t

Maybe.  It is hard to tell.  But I’m running out of pithy three word titles to track its progress.  The next round will be “Shall” and “Shan’t” I guess, then after that I’ll have to figure something else out.

Anyway, Daybreak announced that they would be shutting down Just Survive back in August, giving people two months notice of the event.  I wrote a bit of a eulogy for the game back then.

The night is dark, and some will go quietly into it…

Then, about a week and a half back, Jace Hall said on a live stream that NantG Mobile, the joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks, was working on a way to bring Just Survive over to be re-integrated into H1Z1… now called Z1 Battle Royale… as a PvE play mode for the game, which would close the circle as the two titles were originally one back when this whole thing started.

Anyway, pending that, Just Survive would remain up, if mostly untended.  The phrase “maintenance mode” was used on the stream, though I remain unsure how that would be different that the previous six month of the game’s life.

Not fully exposed, but not covered either

However, as Massively OP reported yesterday, Jace Hall apparently hadn’t checked things out fully with the Daybreak side of things, as they issued the following statement yesterday at 10:45am.

As we announced back in August, we’ve made the difficult decision to sunset Just Survive on Wednesday, October 24 at 11 a.m. PT. All game servers will be coming offline at that time, and the game will no longer be available for play.

While this chapter for Just Survive has come to an end, we are discussing the possibility of allowing our partner and developer of Z1 Battle Royale, NantG Mobile, to bring Just Survive back online and take over development of the game sometime in the future. Should we have further information to share regarding that matter, we’ll be sure to inform you accordingly.

Thank you again for the countless hours of fun across Pleasant Valley and Badwater Canyon – we appreciate your support and dedication to Just Survive.

Best,

The Just Survive Team at Daybreak Games

The note leaves open the possibility of the game being revived at some future date by NantG Mobile, but it appears that Daybreak isn’t going to leave the servers up until that happens.  And so we say good-bye for now.

This move seems to leave Daybreak with just four games, all from the SOE era, the newest of which is six years old already, while the oldest is going to turn 20 next March:

  • EverQuest (1999)
  • EverQuest II (2004)
  • DC Universe Online (2011)
  • PlanetSide 2 (2012)

Gone from the list are Just Survive and H1Z1, which is now being run by NantG Mobile under the new name Z1 Battle Royale.  Daybreak may be getting some revenue from the latter, but it doesn’t seem to be their game anymore.  Of course, that bring up the whole question as to what is the real, legal relationship between Daybreak and NantG Mobile, but somehow I doubt we’re going to get details on that any time soon.

Fall Movie League – The Old Man and Halloween

Week seven of the Fall Fantasy Movie League went by, setting some records in the process.

The week had the following choices lined up for us.

Halloween FRI            $394
Halloween SAT            $352
Halloween SUN            $217
A Star is Born           $252
Venom                    $218
The Old Man and the Gun  $217
First Man                $148
Goosebumps 2             $143
The Hate U Give          $118
Smallfoot                $80
Bad Times                $48
Night School             $59
The House with a Clock   $28
Free Solo                $14
Beautiful Boy            $12

The big dog for the week was the return of Halloween which, as I noted in last week’s post, was a direct sequel to the original, eschewing past sequels, including past revivals that also had the same plan.

While it was clearly going to dominate, Halloween was divided up into three days, so the question was back to the usual one about which day will be the best.

I have, in the past, run hot and cold on Friday for these sorts of splits.  While it gets the Thursday night previews added in, the pricing often offsets that advantage.  But the previews are a pretty big variable, and FML has underestimated the Friday take dramatically in the past.

This time around I decided Friday felt good.  Halloween seems like a good Friday night movie.  So for my Monday Hot Takes league picks I went with 2x Friday, 2x Night School, and 4x The Old Man and the Gun.

The Old Man and the Gun seemed set to be the best performer.  Robert Redford has that kind of draw with an older demographic.  And Night School filled in the middle to eat up some of the excess budget.

Then as the week went on I was pretty busy at work and getting ready for EVE Vegas, so I didn’t think much about my picks until Thursday evening.  And even then I couldn’t come up with a better lineup.  I tinkered a bit with the new Cineplex Builder Tool that FML offers, dropping in some numbers from a few forecasts, but nothing else struck my fancy.  So I let my picks ride and the league locked as I was sitting at the airport waiting for the flight to Las Vegas.

This turned out to be a decent plan.  For once my Monday picks didn’t outperform my Thursday picks, that is for certain.  Halloween did okay in previews, but stormed on Friday night, making two screens of Friday the anchor to have.  At the other end, The Old Man and the Gun made the best performer mark as I expected.  My only mistake was having two screens of Night School in the middle.

The perfect pick ended up being 2x Friday, 1x Smallfoot, and 5x The Old Man and the Gun.  Still, my choices were good enough to lead the league this week, with the scores shaking out as:

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $92,489,014
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – $87,003,081
  3. grannanj’s Cineplex – $85,141,380
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $84,848,599
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $81,489,202
  6. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $80,126,485
  7. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $76,571,870
  8. Goat Water Picture Palace – $76,571,870
  9. Skar’s Movies and Meat Pies – $76,440,883
  10. I HAS BAD TASTE – $76,289,136

The rankings reflected how much Halloween and The Old Man and the Gun you had in your lineup.  Only SynCaine and Ben bet on something else as an anchor, 5x First Man for both of them, and that hurt their scores.

That left the season scores looking like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $524,875,233
  2. Goat Water Picture Palace – $493,583,933
  3. Too Orangey For Crows – $489,670,051
  4. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $487,600,401
  5. I HAS BAD TASTE – $476,696,557
  6. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $458,888,717
  7. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $457,446,515
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $451,672,915
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – $449,937,791
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $446,298,878

Darren fell from second place out of the top ten because he forgot to pick, bumping up Goat and Bhagpuss into second and third.  While I have opened up a gap, it isn’t that big and the main pack behind remains pretty tight, even down to fifteenth place.

The alternate scoring looked like this.

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – 47
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – 39
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – 39
  4. Goat Water Picture Palace – 36
  5. I HAS BAD TASTE – 30
  6. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 28
  7. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – 28
  8. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 27
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 23
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 16

A first place finish gave me a nice ten point boost, but the top four positions remain pretty close, with six weeks left to go the ranking could still change radically.

All of which now brings us to the week eight choices.

Halloween                    $666
A Star is Born               $243
Hunter Killer                $202
Venom                        $201
Goosebumps 2                 $128
The Hate U Give              $100
First Man                    $89
Mid 90s                      $88
Smallfoot                    $86
Night School                 $57
Indivisible                  $39
The Old Man and the Gun      $36
Bad Times                    $34
Johnny English Strikes Back  $33
The House with a Clock       $16

Dropping from the list are just Free Solo and Beautiful Boy, along with the alternate days for Halloween.

New on the list are Hunter Killer, Mid 90s, Indivisible, and Johnny English Strikes Back.

Hunter Killer is the tale of a group of US Navy SEALs on a submarine on a mission to save the Russian president from terrorists.  I’m not sure this is a story that really resonates, but it does have Gary Oldman in it… so I might watch it when it comes to cable.  The last long range estimate put its take at about $7 million and falling.

Mid 90s is about a 13 year old boy who gets away from his home life by hanging out with his skater buddies.  That was what we used to do before the internet.  I sure as hell got out of the house to get away from my parents.  It is set in LA, it is retro for a time both past and still in memory, and it has no long range forecast.  But FML pricing puts it mid-pack.

Indivisible is a foreign language film.  They say Italian is close enough to Spanish to get the essence of the other if you speak one, but I don’t speak either.  The story is about a man deployed to Iraq and leaving his wife and kids behind.  The long range forecast was last at $2 million.

And then there is Johnny English Strikes Back.  What to say.  Despite Rowan Atkinson’s protestations, in 2003 the first movie sure felt like an attempt to get in on the popularity of the Austin Powers series.  Only it was awkward and poorly paced rather than vulgar and self-aware.  It certainly wasn’t a Ben Elton level of effort.  It didn’t do well in the US, nor did the first sequel in 2011, which brings us to ask why there is a second sequel now in 2018. I guess it must do well in the UK.  Is this something they show on Boxing Day or what?  Anyway, long range has it at about $3 million, but I wouldn’t touch it.

Which leaves me with my Monday Hot Takes picks.  Fiddling around with the new Cineplex Builder, I ended up with 1x A Star is Born, 1x Venom, and 6x Mid 90s.

I know Halloween will stay at the top, but it does seem expensive at a perhaps too on point price of $666, while Hunter Killer doesn’t thrill me.  We shall see.

I am curious to know who else has played with the Cineplex Builder Tool and what you think about it.