Monthly Archives: October 2018

Gamigo Buys then Guts Trion Worlds

I used to be on the press mailing list for Gamigo, and the opinion I formed of them based on that wasn’t exactly stellar.  They seemed like a publisher of second tier MMOs that often had names which sounded vaguely like other, more popular games.

Wasn’t there a Desert Combat mod for Wargame 1942?

There is a market in being mistaken for somebody more popular I guess.

They also bought Aeria games a while back and added their MMOs to the list.

I think the title of theirs I most recognize is Fiesta Online, though I couldn’t tell you why.  Maybe Bhagpuss played it.  I’m sure he has played others off of the long list on their site.  There is nothing that looks offensively bad there, but nothing that looks all that appealing either.  As I said, second tier stuff, a crowd of familiar ideas in an already crowded market.

So I knew who Gamigo was when it was announced yesterday that they were buying Trion Worlds.  Sort of.  I knew enough that the news wasn’t good for people working at Trion, something confirmed not much later when it was reported that 175 of the 200 employees of Trion had been let go.

Having 25 people left gives them about enough staff to keep the servers running, maybe apply a security patch now and again, and transfer control to the new owners before being let go further down the road.

So I went to look into who Gamigo was and, of course, the answer to that is a bit murky.  Gamigo isn’t a stand-alone company.  It’s own site describes it as follows:

The gamigo group is one of the leading German companies in the gaming business with more than 250 employees.

gamigo offers more than 30 online games, focusing primarily on MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) of various genres. The portfolio includes first-person shooters (i.a. S4League and Ironsight), fantasy role-playing games (i.a. Fiesta Online and Aura Kingdom), and build-up strategy games (i.a. Desert Operations and War2Glory), as well as more than 500 casual games. This variety has been constantly extended by company aquisitions (i.a. Intenium, Looki Publishing, Aeria Games) and the purchase of games licenses (i.a. Fiesta Online, Last Chaos).

The B2B area has been enlarged too. gamigo follows a clear platform strategy and is constantly expanding through the acquisition and integration of new subsidiaries (i.a. Mediacraft and adspree media). It is gamigo´s main goal to build up a diverse, unlimited and global platform for online and mobile games, and to provide its services to other players on the market.

Besides 5 German locations, gamigo operates further international offices in Warsaw (Poland), Istanbul (Turkey), Chicago (US) and Seoul (Korea).

This comes with an inspiring chart.

All with 250+ employees

Nothing screams commitment like having 25+ MMOs and 500+ casual game supported by less staff than works on World of Warcraft.  Trion had 200 staff just to handle its five MMOs, Rift, Defiance 2050, Trove, Atlas Reactor, and ArcheAge, and it was only the publisher of the last.

(Also, the description of their business model in their consolidated financial statement makes for an interesting read.)

And Gamigo itself is in a nest of companies.  It is reported to be owned by Samarion S.E. which is, in turn, owned by Solidare Real Estate Holding plc according to Bloomberg.  And they are just a holding company for Solidare Real Estate Holding GmbH, a company founded by a Turkish family 15 years back, according to its web site, whose focus is building high density housing in Germany.  And even that rolls up to Suryoyo Holding GmbH, about which I couldn’t find much, at least not without handing out information of my own.

Somewhere at the top of the tree

So it is a money machine for somebody somewhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find Russian oligarch money in the mix at some point in the food chain, probably via a subsidiary in Cypress.

As for why Trion Worlds was sold, no company stands alone.  As we saw recently with CCP, when your investors tire of you not providing a level of return they expect, they will sell you on down the line.  CCP got lucky, relatively speaking.  Trion Worlds, less so.  Their backers (because Scott Hartsmann didn’t fund this venture out of his checking account) likely wanted out of an underperforming investment.  And so it goes.

No, no we are not.

What does it mean if you play Rift, Defiance 2050, Trove, Atlas Reactor, or ArcheAge?  Today, tomorrow, and next week, probably nothing at all.  The games will keep on ticking over, the servers will stay up, the cash shop will continue to prompt you to buy.  That is, after all, what Gamigo wanted out of this purchase, an expansion of its already large stock of online games.  There won’t be much shut down… well, maybe Defiance and Atlas Reactor.  I don’t know how well those two are doing.  But the other three will no doubt be sticking around.

But if you’re used to frequent updates or special servers or live events or getting responses in the forums (or even having forums I imagine) then you’ll probably find that is about to change.  Gamigo’s community outreach seems to be mostly in the form of Facebook ads.

I feel for those who got laid off.  I’ve been down that road a few times.  Fortunately for the technical team, the economy in the SF Bay area is very hot right now (Seattle as well) and their skills are all in demand… if they want to get out of gaming and get a pay raise.  If they want to stay in that industry… well, there is EA and Zynga close by I suppose.  But it is more likely people will end up moving, one of the costs of being in the video games industry.

As somebody pointed out in the comments of the post about this over at Massively OP, there were signs that something was up, listing out a series of stories the site ran that added up to what happened yesterday.

It is, in its way, the end of another story in the MMORPG niche.  Trion Worlds started as a feisty upstart, taking on Blizzard directly, trying to out-do World of Warcraft by being more nimble and more aggressive.  There was definitely some hubris in their messages at times, something I might be inclined to pin on David Reid of “Tabula Rasa – Triple-A and Here to Stay” fame.  For example, Trion was straight up claiming that the 600,000 players that dropped WoW at one point during Cataclysm (Remember when that was a big drop?) were playing Rift.

In the end though, being small and nimble also means not making any mistakes.  Blizzard has the mass to lumber through the ups and downs, but Trion Worlds had to get things right every step of the way or face imminent demise.

For me the Storm Legion expansion stepped away from what made the game great at launch, trading tight zone design for more space that meant schlepping back and forth for quests.  That is anecdotal, but I know others who couldn’t find their way through that expansion.

But whatever happened, Trion had to make changes.  The market pretty much demanded that Rift go free to play in order to survive.  They started with what I felt was an over-generous free model and had to tighten things up later, which is always hard to justify to your players.  They ran with new titles, Defiance with its tie-in with SyFy and Trove to tap the Minecraft niche with more color and options.  They tried to be a publisher and sales portal akin to Steam with their Glyph launcher.  And they became the US publisher for ArcheAge, hoping it would be lucrative enough to put up with the heat that always goes with having to front somebody elses’ work.

In the end, it wasn’t enough for somebody.  And so we say farewell.  Trion’s games will be absorbs into Gamigo’s list.  Those that can make money without much minding will carry on, and those that can’t will disappear.

I am glad I went back and played Rift Prime earlier this year.  It gave me a taste of the early game I enjoyed.

Others covering this story:

Home From EVE Vegas 2018

This post won’t be going into the things that CCP announced at EVE Vegas.  Not in any depth anyway.  Some of those items will get posts of their own, though some I will likely wait for the appropriate dev blog to show up before I cheer/jeer/panic.

EVE Vegas 2018

Instead, being true to my presentation, this is more my story of EVE Vegas than anything else.

My wife and I probably made about the minimal duration visit to the event, flying in Friday in time for registration and having to catch a cab during the closing ceremonies to get out flight home.  Silicon Valley is just an hour away from Vegas by air, which makes that seem reasonable.

The Linq

This isn’t the worst venue on the strip but, as I noted last year, it does leave something to be desired.  It used to be the old Imperial Palace hotel, easily the cheapest place on the strip in its day, and Caesar’s Resorts takeover and refurbishment of it was only a semi-successful attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

It isn’t a bad place to stay, and it is still reasonably price, but it ain’t the Bellagio or Madalay Bay or even the Cosmopolitan.

Our room was nice enough.  We arrived before check-in, but if you upgrade your room they’ll get it for you straight away.  After some discussion as to what constituted a “strip view” (the Linq is set back from the strip, so you most see the backs of other buildings) we ended up with a room in District 3 looking out over the High Roller Ferris wheel.  It was very pretty at night.

The High Roller from our room

During the day it was less impressive.  That patch behind it is a construction site where Caesar’s Resorts are building even more stuff.  Maybe that will be District 9.

Fortunately our room was pretty much directly across from my room last year, so I knew the paths through the hotel and the secret of the “No Casino Access” elevator that pretty much goes directly to the casino level.

The real problem for the Linq is that its convention/event space is really sub-par.  Planet Hollywood had the sort of huge event areas that I am used to from professional events, with a lot of hallway space in between and some big open areas for people to congregate.  The Linq’s space is relatively small and EVE Vegas used it all.  That was good in a way, being the only event there.

EVE Vegas Floor Plan

The problem is that this was the biggest EVE Vegas so far, which meant something over 1,200 people from around the world showed up.  However, the Showroom, where the keynotes were given on Friday can seat maybe 500 people tops, and probably not even that.  So they had to put most of us in Social A to watch a live stream of the keynotes, which meant most of us in attendance ended up watching a big screen showing the same thing everybody at home was seeing.  That is not optimal.  And while there was free beer for the room, the supply was limited and ran out quickly.

There was a gap between the opening ceremony and the EVE Online keynote, during which I found Nosy Gamer and joined him at his perch near the back of the main hall, so I saw that live.  It honestly makes a difference.

Anyway, the word is that next year EVE Vegas will be at a different venue.

The CCP Presentations

  • Opening Ceremony

Mostly about the other projects CCP is working on.  Posted to YouTube.

  • EVE Online Keynote

Preview of things to come in-game and to be talked about in presentations.  Also on YouTube.

The bit about War Decs was interesting.

War Dec Stats

Half of war decs come from five corps.  Those corpse make about 105 kills for every loss they sustain.  Only 4% of wars have a defender making a kill.  But the kills per war go up significantly if the defenders have a structure.  So the coming in December temporary solution is going to be to restrict war decs to corps that have structures, with a full re-work of war dec mechanics underway for 2019.

It was clear from the presentation and from talking to CCP Burger later that this was in the minutes because CCP had, at last, spent time looking into data around it and found it was worse than they expected, so CCP wanted to get it out there that it needed to be changed.  PC Gamer already has an article up about it.

  • Upwell Structures – The Future

Interesting and controversial as CCP maps out moving the last few POS restricted features to the Upwell format.  Jump bridges without jump fatigue that can move titans.  Waiting for the dev blog on that!  But the new visuals for that, and for upgraded art for jump gates, are awesome.

  • Project Nova

Interesting look at Project Nova.  It is in pre-alpha but looks really good.  They are clearly trying to find some positioning for it that doesn’t make it a space version of Call of Duty.  You can sign up to be in the alpha.

  • Ships & Balance

New triglavian ships.  I missed some of this getting ready for my presentation.

  • Introducing The Activity Tracker

I missed all of this because I was talking to Matterall, but they spoke about some of this at Fanfest earlier this year.

  • Events & The Agency

This was good.  Guess what, the Federation Grand Prix event was not popular.  Who knew?  I mean, besides anybody who actually tried it.  Also, a big revamp for The Agency interface is under way as well as more events.

  • Closing Ceremony

Was catching a cab to the airport, but it is also on YouTube already.  It was announced that in 2019 one of the “away fanfest” locations will be Toronto.  Good for Canadians and those in the northeast US.

Player Presentations

They were all excellent.  I showed solidarity with my fellow speaks and attended them all, and I was clearly in among some very talented people.

My own presentation wasn’t streamed and was at 4pm, which put it at the end of day two and just three hours before the party, so let’s just say that it was an intimate event.  My wife counted just over 30 people present, and I only knew about ten of them already.

Me looking serious at the podium, my winter beard already started

Still, it went well, people there were engaged and asked questions, and the wormholers at the back responded when I said they need to get somebody writing about what goes on there because I want to hear about it, but I’m not going to go live there to find out.

Probably the biggest loss due to presenting in that time slot was the person who went after me, Ahlea Corinth.  His presentation,  “Multiple Accounts = EVE On Steroids” was great.  Fortunately, CCP cut back from Stream Fleet and streamed his presentation, so you can find it at the end of the day two stream at CCP’s Twitch site at about the 4 hour 43 minute mark.

My presentation was the only one not streamed and is lost to history.  My moment of streaming fame came at the end of Talking in Stations on day three.  I have a two minute summary there.

Or there is this image that I made as a summary.

Highlight of my Presentation

Addendum: The Greyill put together links to all of the presentations in the recorded streams if you want to go directly to any specific one.

The Party

Drai’s is awesome.  This is a high roller location.  I can see coming to EVE Vegas and not getting a badge for the presentation if you want to hang out with friends, but the party… you have to get a ticket to the party.

Looking at the stage from the back

More up the center line

The drinks were free (and not the cheap stuff either) the crowd was happy and having fun (though Rixx was scowling some in the ABA pit when I passed by and shook hands) things were loud, and Permabanned played, as they always do.

CCP Guard on stage

That brings the house together as well all know some of the words.  HTFU remains the fan favorite I think, though Warp to the Dance Floor isn’t far behind.

People

This is why you go to EVE Vegas.  I am glad my wife went with me, as I tend to be quiet in person (though often tagged as a “good listener”) but my wife, the sales rep, she will get into any conversation and has no problem talking to strangers.  So we went around the event, and especially around the party, talking to people.

Of course, I talked to old friends from past events, like Matterall, Johnny Splunk, Nosy Gamer, and of course, the larger than life Dirk McGirk, who ran the Open Comms Show operations from a pool-side cabana at the Linq, where he was looking much worse for the wear after the Friday night Fremont Street roam.  The cabana reminded me a bit of a civil war aid station, with worn bodies strewn about the loungers.  But Dirk was looking out for me again and had an EVE Vegas Open Comms shirt for me.

Wormholers survived all the same

Anyway, I will wrap this up with pictures of some of the people who I talked to at EVE Vegas, though I have a special one I want to call out.

CCP Falcon and I at Drai’s

I’m sure that will send Gevlon’s tinfoil hat spinning.

Anyway, this isn’t everybody I spoke to, just those that I somehow ended up with in a picture, along with some other shots.

Imperium Capital Move Op Video

I mentioned in my post about the big move op back to Delve earlier this month that our jump to the Y-2ANO Keepstar was being recorded.

A batch of caps arriving in Y-2ANO

Well, I finally spotted the video on YouTube.  It is about four minutes long, which means it is considerably sped up.

But it would have to be sped up, since the jumping in part pushed us deep into time dilation, so the first part of the video ends up being about normal game speed.  As things settle down though our movement on screen accelerates until we align out and begin warping to the gate, which happens much faster than it did at the time.

Still, if you want to see a big pile of capitals jumping to a Keepstar, this will do ya.

Friday Bullet Points Before EVE Vegas

Today is the start of EVE Vegas and when this post, scheduled in advance, goes live I will probably be on a plane for the short flight from Silicon Valley to whatever euphemism you care to use for Las Vegas.  Though, given the actual layout of the boundaries in the area, it is debatable whether or not I will spend even a moment in what is actually Las Vegas while I am in Las Vegas.  Call it a trip to Paradise instead I guess.

So while I am traveling I have some bullet points to post about.  This is good for current me, as these posts are easy to put together.  Future me, writing the month in review post in October 2019, will hate this because it is a pain to reference multiple topics in a single link in my usual format.  Current me is always burdened by the actions of past me and generally seems unconcerned about sticking it to future me.

  • One Week and No Cash Shop Apocalypse

The Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP closed a week ago, on October 12th.

Together for reals now

So far the new owners have managed not to burn down New Eden with horrible game-breaking pay to win schemes.  Yes, they haven’t had much time, and they have an opportunity this weekend to spring that sort of stuff on us at EVE Vegas, but if you read some of the panicked threads on /r/eve after the acquisition announcement you might be surprised that New Eden isn’t already a cash shop dumpster fire.

  • No Commerce War in Perimeter

Back on Monday it looked like there would be something interesting going on in high sec with war decs sprouting between null sec groups looking to battle over the trade citadels in Perimeter, a system just one jump from Jita.  TEST even dropped a Keepstar in the system, a first for high sec space.

A Keepstar in Perimeter

However, Pandemic Horde, who previously held the Perimeter PLEX and Skill Injector market, announced to their pilots that they would be punting on defending this source of income, as well as any income from their home in Geminate, in order to concentrate on attacking the Branch region.  Branch is where GotG had to send the ratters and miners during the war in the north when Imperium forces were working to suppress such income generation in Fade, Deklein, and Pure Blind.

So TEST will be taking over the Pandemic Horde markets in high sec without a fight.  The TEST citadels are online and offering a very low tax rate, while the PH citadels look to be headed to destruction.  Hail to the new boss, same as the old boss, only at a slightly discounted rate.

  • 64-bit EVE Client on the Road Map

CCP has been bringing up the idea of a 64-bit client for over a year now.  It was part of the justification for shutting down the captain’s quarters and the built-in Twitch integration.  But I noticed earlier this week that the idea has made it to the Updates site, along with some other items we’ve been expecting, as part of the Winter update.

A 64-bit client would help players during large null sec fleet battles as it would be able to access more memory.  The current 32-bit client dies at just past 3GB.  And anything that would make those battles more viable would be good for CCP, since they are pretty much the only things that gets the company publicity lately, barring being acquired by yet another company.

When will we see this and the other things planned for winter?  I am sure we will hear more about that at EVE Vegas.  But, while winter may be coming, it doesn’t actually start until December 21 and runs until March 20 in the northern hemisphere, though emotionally I would accept any date in December as counting as winter.

  • No Monthly Economic Report for September… so far

The usual MER for EVE Online is running late this month.  Posting about the changes and economic imbalances has become a monthly staple here, so I hope they haven’t given up on it.  I suspect that prep for EVE Vegas has gotten in the way, but maybe we will hear something about that at the event.  With my luck it will probably get posted while I am driving to the airport rendering this bullet point moot.  But that is why I hid it in the middle.

  • Crimson Harvest Event Returns Soon

Holiday events are always a bid odd in New Eden since playing the game mostly amounts to being in outer space.  And, in any case, CCP has been sporadic in its acknowledgement of holidays for most of the life of the game, save for maybe the time around Christmas.  But they seem to be settling into a routine, with the Crimson Harvest event, a pseudo-Halloween thing, coming again to the game.

2018 Edition

As has become the norm, this event comes to you as part of The Agency interface where you will get tasks to earn points to collect prizes.  This year there is a mention of mining as an option in addition to combat as well as being able to construct your own cerebral accelerators.

I don’t know what that really means other than CCP is trying to make these events appeal to a broader range of players.

  • Days of Summer Ending in Norrath

And, as a “screw you” to future me of next year, I can’t even keep the whole post focused on EVE Online.

The Days of Summer event in EverQuest II which, among other things, yielded a comically overpowers armor set for my recently turned level 100 character, is coming to an end.

I’m here for the event please

As with baseball, summer seems to run well into October in Norrath but comes to an end eventually.  So if you want to get the last quest, which takes you on a tour of Lavastorm, it is time to head to the Sundered Frontier zone and pick it up from Yun Zi.  If you don’t pick it up now… well… I really don’t know.  Does Yun Zi and his vendor Pas Yu go away at the end of the event, or do they just sit there handing out quests and updates until next summer?  I don’t know if Days of Summer, despite having a seasonal name, is treated like a seasonal event akin to holidays or if it is different.  Welcome to Norrath.

  • Sinnoh Comes to Pokemon Go

It is like I don’t even care about future me.

In the land of Pokemon Go Niantic has unleashed the fourth generation Pokemon, the ones introduced with the first titles on the then fairly new Ninetndo DS handheld, Pokemon Diamond & Pearl.  So I now have the first starter Pokemon I ever chose, Piplup.

Best penguin ever

I realize that Niantic has only released some of the fourth gen Pokemon, and some are only available in certain regions, but the fact that I have Piplup makes me pretty happy.  I hate to evolve him, as I do almost all of the starter Pokemon, but at least his later forms aren’t as crazy bad as some of the starter Pokemon.

I think if I catch a Shinx and show it to my daughter she’ll start playing Pokemon Go again.  That was her favorite Pokemon ever.  Time to test that theory.

So that is it for bullet points.  Monday’s post will likely be some sort of news round up from EVE Vegas.  I don’t care enough to lug a laptop with me to post live updates, so my scribbled notes and vague recollections will have to do.

Heading to EVE Vegas 2018

That time of the year has arrived, at the other side of the calendar from EVE Fanfest in Iceland is EVE Vegas.  This coming weekend, October 19 through 21, CCP will be setting up in the city most closely representative of New Eden, if only New Eden still allowed gambling.  CCP has a dev post up covering the various aspects of the event.

EVE Vegas 2018

There will be a lot of eyes on CCP as this will be the first public event for the company after the acquisition by Pearl Abyss, the deal having closed on October 12.

I expect that the keynote will cover this in a very “everything will remain business as usual” sort of way.  Neither CCP nor Pearl Abyss wants to rock the boat right now, so a sense of soothing continuity seems like the best plan.

Still, if you want to panic about something, you can go check out the job posting for the new Monetization Director position at CCP.

You will work with Project Managers, Directors and EVE development teams to strengthen monetization designs, vision and process.

As it turns out, CCP is in it for the money.  Who knew?

EVE Vegas is also where we’re likely to hear about the next big thing for EVE Online.  We are at the end of the year where we often get a big, named release as opposed to a monthly update, and CCP like to announce that sort of thing in front of a live studio audience.

We will no doubt be hearing about CCP’s other New Eden related plans.  There is a presentation for Project Nova on the schedule.

For the fourth year running I will be attending EVE Vegas.  This year, in a change up from my usual lurking off on the side, I will be doing a presentation.  If you are going to EVE Vegas as well you have a good chance of spotting me at 4pm on Saturday in the Social A room.

EVE Vegas 2018 – Saturday Schedule (Pacific Time 16:00 = UTC 23:00)

Yes, my topic is blogging.  Go with what you know.  I will be attempting to evangelize the joys of blogging about internet spaceships.  So if you are in Vegas, have a badge, aren’t going to the Abyssal Deadspace round table presentation, and cannot find anything better to do, you can see me mumble into a microphone about the history, future, and reality of blogging.

If you are viewing from home… and CCP is streaming a lot of the event on their Twitch channel… then you’re not going to see me.  While some presentations are being streamed, the block of time where I am speaking is being used for Stream Fleet.

EVE Vegas 2018 – Saturday Streaming Schedule

Given that at least one slide of my presentation goes over the new media options that have supplanted blogging over the last decade, the irony of being pre-empted by streamers is not lost on me.  I suspect they looked at the list of speakers and put the two most dull topics into the same hour so they could turn the camera elsewhere.  Hard to blame anyone for that.  But at least the pressure is off and I don’t have to worry about accidentally saying “fuck” or anything.

Anyway, there it is.  I will be at EVE Vegas to hear what is coming for the game live and in person as well as communing with my fellow blogging types.  These events do tend stratify into groups, so it is probably telling that I’m over in a corner talking about CCP and New Eden rather than at the bar drinking and being loud.  Look for reporting on the event and some pictures next week.

Addendum:

After writing this I got the email from CCP about watching EVE Vegas remotely which includes a streaming schedule that is different from the one on the megablog post linked above.

Alternate universe streaming schedule

I suspect that the one in the in the original post is correct and that somebody just copied the presentation schedule rather than the streaming schedule, but who can tell.  Maybe you’ll see me, maybe you won’t.  We’ll only know when the time comes I suppose.  But now I’ve gone from wondering what I should wear to not caring what I wear to again being concerned about what I will wear.  I’m thinking one of the Open Comms show T-shirts.

Fall Movie League – First Man Third Place

The results for week six of our Fantasy Movie League are present and accounted for.

The week saw a host of new entries, leaving us with a fairly fresh lineup of options, with more than half the titles in their first or second week.  Even Best of the Rest was in play, usually a sign that the team at FML needs a wildcard to cover all of the possibly pricing possibilities.

The choices for week six were:

Venom                    $501
A Star is Born           $412
First Man                $371
Goosebumps 2             $265
Smallfoot                $150
Bad Times                $149
Night School             $109
The House with a Clock   $57
A Simple Favor           $27
The Nun                  $21
Colette                  $21
The Hate U Give          $21
Crazy Rich Asians        $19
Free Solo                $14
Best of the Rest         $12

The top of the list saw Venom and A Star is Born pegged to hold first and second place, but new contenders First Man and Goosebumps 2 were lined up after them, with some enthusiastic talk about First Man maybe pulling even with A Star is Born.

Buoyed by that enthusiasm, my Monday Hot Takes pick was anchored on First Man, the lineup being 1x First Man, 1x Goosebumps 2, 2x Bad Times, 1x A Simple Favor, and 3x Best of the Rest.

That was a pretty fresh lineup, and I was especially enthusiastic about Best of the Rest back at the far end of the week.

My mood changed on anchors, and I eventually opted for A Star is Born as my choice, but I kept working on getting more Best of the Rest in my lineup.  And then for some reason I soured on Best of the Rest around Thursday afternoon, instead jumping on The Nun in the three way $21 derby.  (The more puerile reader is likely giggling about “jumping on The Nun” and the mention of a three way… yeah, me too.)

My final lineup ended as 2x A Star is Born, 1x House with a Clock, 1x A Simple Favor, and 3x The Nun.

And that seemed like a solid choice come the Saturday estimates.  A Star is Born was, as expected, holding on to a smaller drop than Venom, while First Man seemed to be disappointing estimates and looked to fall shy of even the $20 million conservative predictions.

The problem was that the Saturday estimates had a zero for Best of the Rest.  By Sunday, when the picture started to resolve into clarity, Best of the Rest got its number from Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, which well enough to place ahead of Colette, Crazy Rich Asians, and Free Solo.

And then Venom held on to more than I expected over the previous week, leading my lineup to fall from first place with the Saturday estimate to eighth position come the Sunday update.  The final count brought me up one, to seventh place.

The anchor of the week was Venom and A Star is Born, with the perfect pick adding six screens of Best of the Rest to that.  The scores for the week ended up as follows:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – $87,429,240
  2. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $87,429,240
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $80,456,605
  4. Joanie’s Joint – $78,330,845
  5. Too Orangey For Crows – $72,430,676
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $68,795,872
  7. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $67,445,771
  8. grannanj’s Cineplex – $67,130,097
  9. I HAS BAD TASTE – $66,999,704
  10. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $64,868,616

Goat and Darren both go the perfect pick this week, with most of the top ten sorted out by how close you were to that pick.

Those scores shook up the overall scores for the season a bit.

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $432,386,219
  2. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $417,642,696
  3. Goat Water Picture Palace – $417,012,063
  4. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $406,111,199
  5. Too Orangey For Crows – $402,666,970
  6. I HAS BAD TASTE – $400,407,421
  7. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $385,624,711
  8. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $377,496,203
  9. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $377,320,030
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $375,101,045

I managed to hold on to first place overall, however Darren and Goat jumped up from sixth and seventh to second and third places respectively based on their strong finish this week.  Cyanbane’s unfortunate lineup anchored on First Man and Bad Times dropped him out of the top ten while SynCaine’s third place vaulted him into seventh spot.

The alternate scoring ended up looking like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – 37
  2. Goat Water Picture Palace – 33
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – 33
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – 30
  5. I HAS BAD TASTE – 29
  6. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – 28
  7. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 22
  8. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 21
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 19
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 16

There are fewer ties with this scoring as we move along.  I managed to hold on to first here as well, while Goat and Corr are now vying for second, Goat ahead due to the overall box office score tie breaker.  All in all, the top six are within a single first place finish of each other and even tenth position could catch up give the volatility of this system.

Which leaves us looking ahead to the options for week seven.  The options are:

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

Gone from the list this week are Crazy Rich Asians, A Simple Favor, The Nun, Colette, and Best of the Rest.

New this week are just three films, Beautiful Boy, The Old Man and the Gun, and Halloween.

Halloween is supposed to be big enough this week that it is broken out into individual days.  This is a direct sequel to the original 1978 classic John Carpenter film and features Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle reprising their Laurie Strode/Michael Myers roles forty years down the road. The film ignores/disavows all of the intervening films made since then, including that strange period where Myers turned into a retro British super spy.

I will never stop making this joke

So can a return to the roots of the series succeed?  The original was a pretty big deal back in its day and arguably launched a series of knock-offs in the 80s including the Friday the 13th films.

On the other hand, this isn’t the first time Jamie Lee Curtis has been back to the franchise, including the 20 year celebration sequel with the awkward name Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, which also disavowed some of the titles after the original.  That did well enough to get its own sequel, after which the next run at the series was a reboot.

Well, it is certainly the right time of year and the score on Metacritic is better than one might expect.  Of course, as we saw with Venom, the opinions of critics don’t always sway movie goers.  Still, a good score can only help.  So that, along with nostalgia for the original will probably mean it will do well enough.  The long rage tracking had it at around $65 million for the three day weekend at last check.  The question is just which day to pick.

I have a love/hate relationship with Friday.  It is either the worst choice or the only choice most times we have a three day split.  This time I am leaning towards Friday though.  The pricing gap isn’t that huge, you can get two screens of Friday with room for filler, and I think this will be a heavily front loaded run.

But I could make an argument for 4x Sunday and some filler too.  We’ll see.

Then there is Beautiful Boy, a story of a father and son and the son’s struggle with a meth addiction.  This stars Steve Carell, who can play serious roles very well, but who is mostly known for his comedic roles.  It is an Amazon production and opened last week in four theaters, making $200K.  It is likely expanding this week, but there is no word on how many more screens it will get.

And then there is The Old Man and the Gun, Robert Redford’s final film by his own word.  It is coming into its fourth week, and last weekend it was in fifteenth place with just 228 theaters, making just over $900K.  It is expect to boost into about 600 theaters this week.

Also worth mentioning is The Hate U Give, which is getting its wide release this week, going from 248 theaters to about 2,300.

So there it is.  My Monday Hot Takes league pick was 2x Friday, 2x Night School, and 4x The Old Man and the Gun.

Of course, I haven’t run that through FML’s new Cineplex Builder tool yet.  That looks very interesting. It is more user friendly than my spreadsheet, and will let you copy your simulated picks directly into your various leagues.

Level 100 in Norrath

It is always a bit of a problem for me in EverQuest II.  I find a zone that is about the right level that I can work though to the end… and then I am at the end and have to go someplace else.

The last time I checked in from Norrath I was wrapping up the Withered Lands.  I had finished the overland zone and had gone off to the instanced area, Skyshrine: City of Dracur.  There I had fell short of finishing up everything when faced with an ornery boss dragon, Ovilas.

Looking on at Ovalis

I couldn’t best him either solo or with a merc healing me, so it looked like I ought to find a new path in order to get to level 100.

I wasn’t badly equipped.  Sigwerd had made it up to level 70 when I took one of the occasional free boosts that Daybreak hands out and jumped him to level 95.  That boost came with a set of gear that was better than any drop I received over the length of the Withered Land and, aside from Ovilas there, I was able to face most foes solo.  Those that I could not solo were generally doable with a merc, though I did have to be careful not to pull half the zone.  I could still be swamped if I wasn’t at least a bit self-aware.

And so the search began.

This ought to be an easy thing.  You can Google the zones by level for EverQuest II and find a nice chart at one of the wikis.

But what is the right level and what you can handle and how you actually get there are always complications.  This is made more difficult by the fact that there is quite a bit of overlap when it comes to zones in a given level range.  95-100 covers several expansions worth of content, often gated by various quest lines and by levels of difficulty that can vary greatly.

For all the problems WoW has, knowing where to go generally isn’t one of them.  And, I suppose, this is another answer to the question about why their expansions have levels.  It doesn’t just gate, but also segregates content.

Anyway, in looking at that list on the Wiki I decided to hit the Tranquil Sea, only to find out when I got there that I had done a lot of the lead-in quests for the first part of the zone about two years back, when I had boosted Sigwerd to level 95.  He’d even made level 96 there.  But as to where to pick up after two years away, I was at a loss.

Feeling a bit optimistic, I then tried Zek: The Scourge Wastes, a re-use of the old Zek zone, one of my favorites back in the day.  It was listed as level 100 and it was on the list of locations available from the spires.  I was level 98, close enough right?  However, selecting that as a destination only informed me that I did not meet the requirements to enter the zone.  There is a quest to get there, and you can only get the quest after you hit 100.

Then there was another zone on the list… the name of which has already escape my brain… that seemed about right but you needed to learn the language of dragons which was a quest from the old days which involved a dungeon in Lavastorm and a quest chain that I looked into and then gave up on pretty quickly.

And then there was Cobalt Scar, where I started early on, gave up on, then returned to after the other paths did not seem so fruitful.  I think the problem was that I took the spires to the zone, and that drops you in one end of the zone, but not the end where any quests lines start.

Cobalt Scar on the map

This was not helped by the fact that apparently at some point I visited and started up one of the quest chains, so the camp part way into the zone that seemed like an obvious place to start… was not at all a place where I could start.  Eventually I got that sorted out as I found where I had left off, which was with the otter-like Othmir down on the beach.

Osh and Nika of the Othmir

The Othmir quest line carries on down the shore, dealing with the usual collections quests and a hostile walrus-like people encroaching on their turf, but then takes a dark turn as you are sent on down the beach into what becomes the Othmir version of The Walking Dead.

Zombie otter people attacking the otter people

There is a fairly sizeable set of quests where you help the surviving and besieged Othmir fortify their outpost them investigate what is going on, which involves travel through both time and space.  At one point I was sent off to another zone and somehow totally lost the thread of the story and ended up in the Tower of Frozen Shadow, which is in the Great Divide zone, which happens to be, for the most part, much lower level than what I was looking for.

Tower of Frozen Shadow

Game for anything that would get me along to level 100, I went into the tower, grabbed the inevitable quest, and became a bit lost.  I went to look up information about the zone and ended up with the walk-through for the original EverQuest version of the tower, which told me to go kill the big undead gnoll.  This actually turned out to be correct for the EverQuest II version of the tower as there was indeed a gnoll guarding the mirror that serves as a gateway into the rest of the tower.  The problem was that the gnoll was epic.  No, really.  All the mobs in the zone are.

Not the gnoll, but the same warning

Again I have run into the problem of being able to tell what I ought to be able to kill and what I should avoid.  Ovalis, up at the top, slaughtered my merc and I, so I was a bit concerned that this guy might wipe the floor with us, named Epic 2 full group raid mob that he was.

But it was no problem.  My merc and I killed him handily, no problem at all, barely an inconvenience.  So I carried on with the quest… until it required me to take on a whole room of such mobs.  That was a bit too much even for the merc and I, even when the merc was able to ress me mid-fight for a second run.

This is too epic

Thus thwarted, I turned back from the tower and began to look in earnest for the Othmir undead story thread I had lost.  Eventually I found it, got back to Cobalt Scar, from whence I was sent off to the Eastern Wastes, another zone in the Destiny of Velious expansion, to run down some quests at the Othmir camp on the beach.  There I met the leader of the Othmir.

King of the cute

They live alongside, and are constantly battling with, a race called the Yha-lei, which I can only describe as what murloc would look like if they lived in Norrath.

You know what you are

I did the Lore and Legend quest for them, the trophy for which is a trident described as “Glubble Bluggle Blurggle Bluggle Glubble.”  If that isn’t a straight knock-off of murlocs then I don’t know what is.  Unless they were in the EverQuest Scars of Velious expansion, we know where these came ceom.

Again, after being side-tracked for a bit with that I got back on the story thread, ended up back in Cobalt Scar, and seemed to wrap up the whole zombie Othmir quest chain… though the zombies seemed to still be swarming.  I guess that is how it always ends up.  But there was a quest chain out of there which sent me to a remote camp which, in turn, eventually sent me off to the New Combine fort where the spires dropped me when I entered the zone and into a series of quests that were almost at level for me.  At last!

Following those along for a stretch got me through level 99 and to the magic number.

Level 100 at last

At that point I finished up the quests I had opened and headed off to Yun Zi and his vendor assistant to pick up the level 100 equipment set that was available for characters level 100 and above who had completed the 2017 Days of Summer quest line.

While, as I said, the level 95 gear I got with the boost two years back was pretty good, this new set was a serious boost in stats.  I took before/after screen shots just to see how much of a boost it was.

Upper stats old vs. new

lower stats old vs. new

Aside from my shield block percentage, everything went up by a huge amount.

So, of course I made my way back to the Withered Lands to test all this gear on Ovalis, who had so soundly defeated me before.  Things went a bit differently this time.

Calling all crazy damage numbers!  Boom! Headshot!

He was no problem now.

Of course, I had just rushed into the instance to slay him, forgetting to pick up the mid-point quests so I could complete the zone.  But at least I had made it to level 100.

Which naturally left me once again looking for my next path forward in Norrath.

Null Sec goes to High Sec for a War Dec

Weren’t we just talking about war decs?

Okay, this isn’t that sort of griefing war dec that drives high sec care bears from the game.  In fact, this is exactly the sort of thing CCP wants war decs to be.

With the ending of the war in the north there was supposed to be a month of peace.  However, Pandemic Horde took great exception to the peace payoff that sent the Imperium on its way and loudly declared it was not bound by it in any way and heading off, along with Black Legion, after Guardians of the Galaxy in a war that seemed set to disturb any recovery peace might bring.

Pandemic Horde setting themselves apart from the peace terms left the door open to further conflict before the month long timer ran down.  And while there is combat going on in null sec space as each side drops on the others ratters and miner, a new front opened up over the weekend in Perimeter, a system one jump over from Jita, the central trade hub of New Eden.

Jita and Perimeter and the general area

Perimeter has been the system of choice for attempts to setup trading citadels since they were first introduced.  While not much trade has moved to those citadels… nobody is going to buy hulls or ship modules there when their market alt is in Jita 4-4… certain commodities like skill injectors have found a market home there.

If you are sitting in Jita 4-4 and you look at the market for skill injectors sorted by price, the lowest prices are in the Perimeter citadels.  Since you can activate them remotely, you should probably buy them there.  The lower tax margins allow for lower prices, though that still doesn’t stop people from buying them from Jita 4-4.  I’ve sold a couple dozen skill injectors, always in Jita, and always for much more than the current going rate in Perimeter, without issue.  People will pay more to buy from the station they are in, often much more, just to avoid having to undock and travel.

This is one of the special features of EVE Online.  There is no magical delivery service.  If you buy something remote you then have to go get it or pay somebody to bring it to you.  Travel is a burden in New Eden, but it makes market segmentation possible.  There is not a single, unified auction house that will pop your purchases in the post.  Distance matters.

CCP, in their usual techno-Viking libertarian madness, despite having seen how we generally behave, wants players to control as much of the economy as they can get away with, so this citadel market operation is their plan working as designed… for once.  Player owned citadel markets haven’t taken over the economy.  Gevlon citing this as a corrupt developer game-killing excuse to leave the game was yet one more sign of his self-deception.  But they are a thing and can make some groups a decent amount of money.

And, in the case of Perimeter, Pandemic Horde is a big player both directly and through their neutral alt alliance, IChooseYou Holding.  So this weekend a new front was opened against Pandemic Horde via high sec war declarations.

Declaring against Pandemic Horde

Both GSF and TEST got in early with their war declarations.  While the Imperium reset standings with TEST and its allies with the peace in the north, high sec is a different story.  We can work together and not be blue as standings between alliances do not matter in high sec, only war decs do.  And so both groups declared against PH and their alt alliance right away, with a few additional groups trailing in late.

Probably at war by the time this post goes live

Those mirror the war declarations against IChooseYou Holdings as well.  You can check their info in-game and see the same list.

So we may be working with Darkness, the lead alliance of Guardians of the Galaxy, in this war.  Black Legion, sided up with Pandemic Horde, was also included in the whole thing.

Black Legion’s war plan

Null sec alliances are used to having war declarations against them.  This is usually done by groups like P I R A T, which you see there on Black Legion’s list, that camp the undock in Jita (and sometimes Amarr) hoping to catch the unwary and the unknowing leaving the station for an easy kill.

If you look at Pandemic Horde’s status in-game, you’ll see they have no shortage of war decs running.  But none of them are quite like what they are facing now.  And TEST was quick off the mark to get the party started.  Once their war dec went active they immediately hit the trading Fortizars in Perimeter.

Pandemic Horde Fortizar reinforced

With the first timers down those using the market in either the PH or the IChooseYou Holdings face a choice.  If TEST comes back and wins the armor timer, then the market functions will be shut down and sellers may end up having to wait for asset safety in order to recover their goods.

But TEST was also in to setup their own trade hub.  There was a TEST alliance hub being spun up, using a Draccous faction Fortizar no less.  A bit of showing off in that I am sure.

TEST branded sales

But bigger still was the Keepstar they dropped in Perimeter under an alt corp.

A Keepstar in Perimeter

INN says that this is the first high sec Keepstar and it is right there on the Jita gate in Perimeter if you want to see on up close.

The Keepstar managed to slip past the initial vulnerability period when it was deployed, but anything that big is too sweet of a target to ignore.  War decs on the alt alliance went out immediately and we shall see what happens when it goes into its initial repair cycle after 19:00 today.

Fortizar with the Keepstar in the distance

So for those who were asking, “Now what?” when the war in the north ended, here is the answer, and likely not one many expected.  We will see if Pandemic Horde can be thrown out of the market hub business, something reported to be a serious source of income for the alliance.  The proximity of Jita, still the undisputed trade hub of New Eden, makes for fairly frictionless logistics, so both sides in this conflict could hang on for quite a while.

And, as null sec pilots prepare to enter high sec, the usual comedy will no doubt ensue.  If you live in null sec, where pretty much anything goes, the rules of empire space can be arcane and confusing.  There are already warnings going out for people to check the security status lest they find themselves a target of CONCORD and I am sure the locals will take advantage of anybody’s suspect status.

Finally, with war decs in the spotlight and loud calls to turn the feature off resounding around the community (if only until a better solution is found), there is the possibility that whoever can control the Perimeter trade might have their supremacy locked in by CCP.

Draccous Fortizar anchoring

That is, if you believe CCP will actually turn off war decs.  Somehow I doubt that will come to pass.

Further information:

Honest Trailers does Doctor Who

The crew at Screen Junkies took on the Herculean task of making an Honest Trailer about Doctor Who, which involved sitting down and watching a lot of old TV.  This ended up being broken out into two videos cover classic and modern versions of the show.

Classic

Modern

Both videos try to get to the heart of each era.

Being a big fan of Screen Junkies as well as a peripheral fan of the Doctor, I also went and watched the Honest Trailers Commentary for both the classic and modern trailers where they talk about the trailer and spending lots of time watching, digesting, processing, and, in the case of the classic era, just finding seasons and episodes of the show.

There is about an hour and a half of time spent.  I enjoyed it, but I like that sort of thing.  I am the type that used to listen to the director’s commentary audio track on DVDs until the idea became mandatory for video releases and they started all getting pretty samey and dull.  Some, like the discussion track with Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh on the DVD for Catch-22 are wonderful.  And if you haven’t listened to both audio commentary tracks for Monty Python and the Holy Grail you cannot consider yourself a true fan.

But I digress, as usual.

Back on the topic at hand, I will say that in my own personal timeline of Doctor Who it is Tom Baker who is the Doctor, bordered by Peter Davison at the more recent end, who I think of as the guy from All Creatures Great and Small and who I sometimes mix up in my head with Tim Brooke-Taylor, and Jon Pertwee at the distant end, the old guy who I don’t recognize from anything else unless I go read his bio.

This pretty much corresponds with the primary age of television in my youth, starting with getting a small black and white Sony TV in my bedroom and ending when I got a personal computer.  After that I became a much more deliberate watcher of television.  I turn on the TV to watch something specifically and rarely just sit and watch whatever is on.  There wasn’t a TV in my dorm room in college and I went through about half the 90s with no live TV at all, just a VCR and a membership to the video rental store around the corner… and a girlfriend who recorded episodes of The Simpsons for me now and then.

And, in one final digression, what is up with that League of Legends ad that has been playing in front of videos on YouTube lately?  I guess the casual art style is open and friendly, but is it really depicting the game being advertised?  I don’t expect them to say up front that random strangers will swear at you constantly, but the whole thing doesn’t show anything about the game itself.  But I am always suspicious of ads for a product that don’t actually show the product.

Just Survive Might

There was little in the way of shock or surprise when, back in August, Daybreak announced that their long neglected zombie horror title, Just Survive, was going to go dark on October 24.

The night is dark and full of dead SOE games

The gaming world moved on without so much as a ripple.

Then in early September came the announcement that Daybreak and NantWorks would be creating some sort of joint venture, NantG Mobile, to reboot the battle royale title H1Z1 in some way in which we might end up with a new Windows version of the game, along with a mobile version, under the name Z1 Battle Royale.

Also, EverQuest might be involved somehow.

The whole thing was more than a bit opaque as people tried to piece together all the things mentioned and the parties in play, which included, among other things, the LA Times and some sort of esports event center.

Left out of all of that however was Just Survive.  It was not part of the deal.  It was still dead.

Only now it might be part of the deal.  Maybe.  Could be.  If things align.

As noted over at MMO Fallout, Jace Hall said on a twitch stream that, while Just Survive was not part of the deal as it was originally cast, they are looking for a way to bring it into the joint venture.

There is nothing set in stone yet, but it could happen and, in anticipation of that, Just Survive will be put in some sort of “maintenance mode,” though I dare you to tell me how that differs from the support mode the game has been in for the last year, until the details can be worked out.  But the idea is to move Just Survive back into H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royale… as a play mode for the game.

Jace Hall seemed mostly concerned about the skin situation and not diluting the skin market in H1Z1, from which I took that there is a skin market in H1Z1 and not much more.

So Just Survive might carry on.  I am sure this is a ray of hope to the small but dedicated fan base that follows the game.

The follow on conversation also seems to makes clear that Daybreak and the joint venture NantG Mobile are two completely separate entities, so it sounds very much like NantG Mobile it trying to figure out how to get Just Survive from Daybreak in a way that makes financial sense all around.

Of course, that just brings up more questions in my mind as to what this means for EverQuest and any future title in that domain, as that was clearly mentioned back in the original NantG Mobile announcement.

Remember, as Jace Hall said slowly and clearly on the stream, Just Survive is not a done deal yet.

Hat tip: MMO Fallout