Monthly Archives: November 2018

November in Review

The Site

This month I started putting links to posts here on Facebook manually.  I’m not sure why.  Probably because I still manually post them to the Blaugust Discord channel as well, and once I am doing that why not do another site?

My posts used to get posted to the Wilhelm Arcturus timeline on Facebook automatically.  Then Facebook blocked the automatic posting of links to timelines a few months back in an effort to look responsive to people claiming that the company was in some way responsible the results of the 2016 election.  Hiring a firm to promote George Soros conspiracy theories is fine it seems, but random individuals feeding their work into their own timeline is a threat to democracy.

Honestly, after writing that last sentence I am wondering again why I even have an account there.  I don’t believe they influenced the election at all, because in my experience most people make their decision first and then rationalize it after the fact with cherry-picked data.  (See Gevlon for an extreme example.)  But that doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t a loathsome company run by an ongoing PR nightmare of a CEO.  So I might not even be there tomorrow.  It isn’t like Facebook generates any significant traffic.  Posting links this month did increase traffic… actually doubled it… but double means about 60 referrals.  I get more than that when somebody popular (i.e. not me) shares one of my links there, so I am back to not being sure if it is worth the effort.

In other, less dramatic news, the blog hit another minor milestone, crossing the 5 million page view mark.  I think the last such milestone I noted was 1 million page views back in March 2010.  So 4 million since then.

Milestone of a sort

5 million page views is probably what a popular site gets in a day, if not an hour, but it seems like a big number for my little blog.

The site is also coming up on 5,000 posts.  So, on average, each post has over 1,000 page views.  In reality, most people land on the main URL and read from there or hit one of about 30 posts that have anywhere from 10K to 65K views.  About 10% of posts have 1,000 page views or more.

The visitors number on that graphic is a bit deceptive.  WordPress.com didn’t start counting visitors until the end of December 2012.  However, 2011 and 2012 were the peak years of the blog.  Since then popularity of the blog began to fall off in 2013, the visitors entry only represents a “past my prime” sort of number.

Still, April 13, 2013 remains the most popular day ever on the blog.  Looking at the post for that day, my theory about there being an inverse relationship between effort and popularity seems to be confirmed.

Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, posts related to Lord of the Rings Online saw a bit of a surge this month, as the most viewed posts section below indicates.

One Year Ago

It was BlizzCon.  Blizzard, while pretty much ignoring the Diablo franchise, did announce the next World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, as well as WoW Classic.  There was much discussion after BlizzCon wrapped up.  I brought up a list of things that would likely be different in WoW Classic compared to live.

Actually in WoW I was into Suramar and my class hall campaign, timewalking in Northrend, and picking up again with pet battles.  The WoW thirteenth anniversary event was timely as it gave a boost to faction gains, something I was working on to unlock flying.  Also, as predicted, I failed to get the headless horseman’s mount yet againThis is fine.

In EVE Online we were off on what would become a nearly year long deployment to the north of New Eden.  I was worried about these upcoming Alpha clone skill injectors.  CCP also had a screen shot contest.  And I did a write up about the Neocom II app for iOS and only got a few material facts wrong.

I was trying to get my copy of ZMud 7.21 up and working again.  This comes up every so often.

I had to get ZMud going so I could finish up my post about the Elemental Glades in TorilMUD.

EverQuest II became a teenager, turning 13.  For its birthday it got the Planes of Prophecy expansion.

In Minecraft I was touring our world looking at some of the epic structures.

There was some crazy talk out of EA.  And that was before the Star Wars: Battlefront II fiasco started to boil over, with Disney stepping in to check EA.

Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon launched, marking the end of new Pokemon titles for the Nintendo handheld line.

And a video on YouTube ended up prompting a long discussion about how much it costs to make a video game.

Five Years Ago

TorilMUD, measured through its lineage via Sojourn MUD, hit the 20 year mark.  So I was playing that before there was any sort of Warcraft.

Time was running out on Warhammer Online, but they were going to give people a last chance to see the place… for free.  A pity I couldn’t get my account to work.

There was a scathing quote of the day about what “social gaming” had come to mean.

The Tears of Veeshan expansion launched in EverQuest II while we said farewell to EverQuest: Macintosh Edition.  Meanwhile, EverQuest veteran Aradune was back in play talking about a new MMO he had planned.

As for SOE, they were also being called out for selling Founder’s Packs for EverQuest Next or Landmark or whatever.  I was also wondering about the alleged new combat might imply that latency was no longer an issue.

The Rubicon expansion for EVE Online went live, complete with lots of stats.  The update did not save us from the node crash at E-YJ8G.  Big fleet battles, with thousand of drones in play, were taxing the servers beyond their limits.  Meanwhile, there was the Long Guy Fawkes Day… another node crash, but only after 6 hours of crushing TiDi… and we were headed back to Curse again.

EVE Online community site EVE Bloggers found a new home at last.

BlizzCon rolled around and I was speculating about what they might announce.  The actual big news generated much excitement for WoW players with the Warlords of Draenor announcement, though few thought it would take a year for them to ship it.  There was a silly moment where they declared something impossible.

I was already back and binging on the WoW, but the rest of the instance group came back as well after the announcement… and we basically did what we should have done a few years back, we got out the old group and picked up where we left off.

I was dropping bombs in War Thunder.

I wondered why we couldn’t just turn off achievements.

There was also a moment of Apple II nostalgia.

I was having problems with the LOTRO patcher… again.

And, after having read Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire at its 20th anniversary, I got around to reading the other two books in the series.  The title of that post is a spoiler.

Ten Years Ago

We were all excited about expansions.

For EverQuest II, there was The Shadow Odyssey that showed up around the four year anniversary and which gave us the bear mount.  If you bought retail you also got the pewter bear which went on to feature in so many Tipa cartoons and my own parody thereof.

In EVE Online, the Quantum Rise expansion was available, granting those of us in New Eden certificates, among other things.

While it wasn’t out yet, Turbine was warming people up for the Mines of Moria expansion for Lord of the Rings Online.  It sounded great.  It just took me forever to get there.  At least I got the T-shirt… erm… the cloak.

And then there was a little thing called Wrath of the Lich King.  Yeah, that.  Sort of a big deal for some, setting sales records at the time.

The instance group did its last Outland instance (well, the last one at level) and then began poking our noses into Northrend to start the grand tour of the new expansion.  We even got into the first instance.  We also took a shot at the Headless Horseman.  To this day I still don’t have his mount.

On the flip side, Warhammer Online passed from regular play rotation.  We left, never to return.

Finally, I was keeping the nostalgia ball rolling with a look back at how information used to be regarded back in the days of MUDs, a notable MUD NPC, hitting level cap in TorilMUD, a question about Anarchy Online, and a hazy recollection of a GEnie game called Stellar Warrior.

Twenty Years Ago

In a trifecta month, Half-Life, StarCraft: Brood War, and Starsiege: Tribes all launched.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Who is My Middle-earth Main Anyway?
  2. Finding Evendim
  3. Crafting Again in Middle-earth
  4. LOTRO and the Legendary Server Idea
  5. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  8. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  9. Home From EVE Vegas 2018
  10. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  11. Gamigo Buys then Guts Trion Worlds
  12. Why Fan Expectations for Blizzard are Hopeless

Search Terms of the Month

lotro anor server queue
[Don’t get me started]

lotro anor vs ithil population
[Going to say sun > moon]

blizzard stock
[ACTI, and it is down]

everquest 3?
[Nope]

apps people pay 99 cents for
[Crappy ones?]

arti kata1- a lot of gold for killing 2- the daily reward for watching 6000 videos is increased all in all that a day is offered 3- energy is not wasted 4- rapid level increase 5- increased inventory size to 2 billion)) 6- vip included 2
[I don’t even know how that gets you here]

EVE Online

Kind of a quiet month for me in New Eden.  We did have the Onslaught expansion and two Monthly Economic reports show up, so I didn’t lack for things to post about.  But I only went on a couple of fleet ops and, while I was resolved to run more Abyssal deadspace sites with my high sec alt, I never really got around to it.  Mostly I was tending skill queues and writing about the theoretical rather than the actual.

EverQuest II

My latest dalliance with EverQuest II seems to have come to an end.  I cannot jump between more than a couple of games.  I like to be able to focus and get into a game.  I enjoyed my time, but the game does have a rather jarring transition between content that interrupted what was otherwise a smooth run.  At least I spent a bunch of my Station Cash.  That should make Daybreak happy, or at least somebody in accounting.

Lord of the Rings Online

The LOTRO Legendary server was the flavor of the month for November.  Despite being bad at promoting it and reticent to declare an actual launch date… and the whole thing being rather shy on things to distinguish it from the normal live servers… it was quite a success.  After past optimism on the server front as Turbine, SSG went safe and stuck to a single server, opting to open a second only after the first was well and truly overrun with players.

Being back in Middle-earth has been fun, though that is easy to say when I am still in the midst of content I know and enjoy.  I might even make it to 50 before they unlock the Mines of Moria expansion.  But I have my doubts as to whether there is anything they can do to make anything after Moria fun.

Pokemon Go

This remains the one game my wife and I play together.  I just wish it would let you change teams, as she is Instinct and I am Mystic.  I would pay for a team change token.  But being on different teams hasn’t stopped us from going out to do research tasks and knock down gyms that are help by team Valor.

Level: 34 (+0)
Pokedex status: 371 (+8) caught, 391 (+16) seen
Pokemon I want: Rhyperior, the Rhydon evolution, but I need about 80 candies
Current buddy: Eevee, for the special research task

World of Warcraft

I did managed to hit level cap.  120 wasn’t all that hard, I just fell off the horse when distracted by other things.  I was a bit sullen at yet again being denied the Headless Horseman’s mount, but I did get on and do a bit for the WoW 14th anniversary event.  But by the time Pilgrim’s Bounty showed up I was heavily invested in LOTRO, so my time in Azeroth had tapered off quite a bit.

Coming Up

A new year is in the offing, which means those standard end-of-the-year posts.  There are predictions to review, highs and lows to chart, my January gaming plan to go over, and whatever else I write about every December.  Maybe I’ll pick my books of the year or examine what it was I played in 2018.

The usual holiday events will no doubt be in full force in games soon enough, along with a Steam Winter Sale.  Neither stirs much excitement in me at the moment.

EverQuest will get its 25th expansion next month.  I am sure that will be a moment of note.

And I will have wrapped up the TAGN FML league for a while.  I am going to take winter and spring off from that with a plan to return again for another summer blockbuster season.

As for play time, it seems likely that the LOTRO Legendary server thing will keep my attention.  I am currently working on how to make a LOTROmon joke as a post because, not only do your characters never die (they merely lose morale and are defeated, which seems akin to how Pokemon faint), but the servers are named Anor and Ithil, Sindarin for sun and moon, which were the names of the last real Pokemon games from Nintendo and Game Freak.  I think if I could find a sleeping Snorlax analogy I’d be set.

Project Nova Postponed

After showing off Project Nova at EVE Vegas this year, where it looked as good as any other shooter but seemed to lack much of a edge to set it apart from a market full of shooters, CCP has decided to go back to the drawing board.

As reported over at Massively OP, the Project Nova page now has an informational update, quoted below for posterity:

At CCP, one of our core principles is that we work to provide our players with excellent experiences. This mindset can be found within every creative team working on bringing your beloved virtual worlds to life. This means that we keep challenging ourselves every step of the way by asking difficult questions when facing tough decisions – especially when this principle could be compromised.

The development of Project Nova is an example of where this fundamental belief has been continuously exercised and put into practice.

At EVE Vegas, we showed you the most recent iteration of our vision to provide an engaging and unique FPS experience to enrich the EVE Universe. Our goal for this was always to reinforce the ‘One War // One Universe’ gameplay and create a worthy spiritual successor to DUST 514 that has the potential to captivate not only existing Mercenaries and Capsuleers, but also to attract new adventurers into the ever-evolving world of New Eden.

Over the course of Project Nova’s development, we conducted a number of player research sessions with external partners, tirelessly playtested the game internally and brought community stalwarts in to help us evaluate the project. Now, after taking all this research and feedback into account, we see that the gameplay experience in its current form does not live up to our original vision and would not achieve our ambitious goals for this project. As a result, we will not be moving forward with the upcoming invite-only Alpha until further notice.

We are aware that many of you have been eagerly anticipating the moment when you can get your hands on Project Nova. Please accept our heartfelt apologies for the disappointment this will no doubt cause. We hope you understand that we need to take a step back and return to the drawing board, where we will spend more time figuring out how all this hard work can translate into something better and more meaningful for the EVE Universe. Remaining true to our vision of Project Nova’s future in connection with EVE is essential. That is the only way we will be able to continue creating memorable experiences that ensure you – our ineffable players – are satisfied and make us proud as developers.

Project Nova continues to evolve and we remain committed to delivering a high-quality team-based shooter experience to EVE Online fans, while exploring new and exciting opportunities to integrate the two games. CCP is in no rush to release Project Nova until we’re satisfied it provides a rock-solid gameplay experience and visuals to match.

Naturally, there will be a rush to figure out what hand CCP’s new owners, Pearl Abyss, had in this change.  I am sure people will be speculating as to how PA put the brakes on this project and attribute it to malice or greed.  It is always easy to do that.

But it could be completely the other way around.  It might be that Pearl Abyss owning CCP has given the team in Iceland the ability to hold off shipping the project, allowing them time to find the raison d’etre that this game seemed to lack when it was shown at EVE Vegas.

Anyway, there it stands.  Project Nova seems unlikely to see the light of day in 2019.

25 Years of TorilMUD

About a decade back I wrote a short (by the standards of my current writing style) post celebrating the approximate fifteen year anniversary of TorilMUD.  The trigger event to get me to write that post was the 30th anniversary of MUD1 (which is now 40 I suppose).  MUD1 gets a lot of deserved credit for its position in the history of online games, but I felt that TorilMUD had been a bit overlooked.

So I wrote about how I ended up playing TorilMUD, called Sojourn MUD back in 1993, the little bit of the history and evolution of the game I could recall, its revival nearly fifteen years back, and the influence it had on EverQuest.

The influence on EverQuest is hard to overstate.  It is often said that EverQuest was the graphical translation of the DikuMUD model, but it was specifically a translation, often down to the level of item names and stats, of the mechanics of TorilMUD.  That was because a number of the key EverQuest developers, including Brad McQuaid, were TorilMUD players.

That post, a decade back, got me thinking about TorilMUD and led to a number of follow on posts.  I explored some of the EverQuest influencing things like how vendors worked (including how stuff you sold went back up for sale), how class roles evolved from TorilMUD through to WoW, how game information was treated, and how the inability of a commercial game to depend on crashes led to the epic mob camps of early EverQuest.

That post also led to a series of posts about TorilMUD itself, including how the in-game economy used to work, how questing was in the game, dealing with never raising the level cap, the idea of greater challenges, and my recently completed Leuthilspar Tales series of posts about the life and times of the Elves of Evermeet. (I wanted to get that last zone post done before I wrote this.)

By the time the twenty year anniversary rolled around I had a series of posts to which I could link, along with some tales about how people still play and a run through the zone credits.

So what do I write at the twenty-five year mark?

TorilMUD remains up and running and people are logged in and playing.  Again, that includes many of the same people I met along the way over the years, including at least one from twenty-five years back. (Mori, who rescued me back in the Faerie Forest.)  But development and change continues.  It one of my recent research explorations I ended up in over my head against a pair of very angry bugbears and died.

Back in the day, death was a chore.  The whole thing about having to go find your corpse to retrieve your gear in EverQuest, that was a mechanic lifted directly from TorilMUD.  Experience and possible level loss on death as well.

That was removed from EverQuest years ago as a mechanic too punishing on players.  TorilMUD has caught up, and now death does not have nearly the sting.  Text from the game as I died:

When you die, you are transported to Kelemvor’s realm on the Fugue Plane
with all of your equipment. As you are technically dead, you can’t do much
on the Fugue Plane. From there, you have two choices:

1) Wait for another player to resurrect you.
2) Enter a portal that allows you re-enter the game at your guild master.

However you choose to enter the game, there are two penalties for dying:

* Equipment damage. Your worn equipment will take damage that costs money
to repair. See “HELP REPAIR” for details.

* Death Fatigue. Your stats will be negatively impact for a short time after
death. See “HELP DEATH FATIGUE” for details.

You don’t lose any experience when you die, and your equipment always stays
with you. The manner in which you enter the game will determine how much damage
your equipment takes and how long you will be under the fatigue effects.
Typically, powerful spells such as resurrect will lower the penalties
significantly, while entering the game on your own will incur the highest cost,
but it the most convenient.

As with many modern MMOs, the penalty is now in the form of equipment damage and resurrection sickness.

They have also added in a maps function to the game.  It still isn’t a replacement for the world view of my aging collection of ZMud maps, but it can help you if you’re lost.

And even as I was preparing to write this piece, TorilMUD added yet more content.  The zone count went up again with the addition of Bahamut.

Bahamut, king of dragons

From the update post:

For many years, Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons, has reigned supreme as the pinnacle of epic foes on TorilMUD. Today, a new challenger approaches.

The God of Dragons. The Justice Bringer. The Angel of the Seven Heavens. The Platinum Dragon. These are just some of Bahamut’s many titles.

Bahamut is the king of the good dragons, and the eternal rival of his sister, Tiamat. He can be found on Lunia, the first layer of Celestia, where he guards an enormous treasure trove. A mysterious dragonspawn has also been spotted lurking in the shadows of an old forest, with needs as dark as the most vile desires.

Bahamut is the second epic zone added to Toril and is intended for 20-30 players. It will present a challenge every bit as difficult as Tiamat, with rewards to match.

I went on a Tiamat run at one point years ago.  It took a lot of planning and coordination and whole day’s commitment and we never even got to her.  I spent most of the day dead.  But for the dedicated player, challenges still remain.

I think I am past those days myself.  When I drop in to do research and say hello… when ZMud is being cooperative… I sometimes get carried along for a zone run.  It is an interesting reminder of how things once were.  But my ability to mentally parse… or even read… so much scrolling text on screen has faded.

But while I have grown tired, the game still seems strong, with updates coming regularly, a dedicate development team tending to its needs, and a collection of regulars who still log in every day to hang out and run zones.

WildStar Shuts Down

Today is the day that WildStar faces the inevitable end and goes dark.

The news came back in September that WildStar would be shutting down.  The surprise wasn’t so much that it would shut down but that it lasted as long as it did, given how keen NCsoft has been in the past to terminate titles.  Many a City of Heroes fan still laments that the game was making money when it was closed.

Back when the announcement came I wrote a post that summed up the lift of the game, from the idealistic foundation to the harsh realities of the MMO market through to the seemingly inevitable demise. That post includes links out to many others doing the same.

The announcement of a game closing seems to be the point of reflection, the time for shock and acceptance, gloating and regret, nostalgia and dismissal.  By the time the actual closing date comes much of the emotion has run its course.

And so we say good-bye to WildStar today.  It has run its course.  Launched in June of 2014, it ran for nearly four and a half years.  Carbine Studios itself, founded back in 2005 by former Blizzard employees who had worked on World of Warcraft, was shut down back in September.

Others saying farewell to WildStar:

Fall Movie League – Ralph Breaks the Deadlock

Penultimate.  I’m only sorry I failed to use my favorite word in last week’s post when looking over the options.  But now week twelve, the penultimate week, of our Fall Fantasy Movie League is done and gone and there is only one more chance to do well or blow it.

The week twelve options were as follows:

Ralph Breaks the Internet $566
Creed II                  $363
Fantastic Beasts 2        $362 
The Grinch                $307 
Bohemian Rhapsody         $146
Instant Family            $127
Robin Hood                $94
Widows                    $94
Green Book                $68
A Star is Born            $39
The Nutcracker            $36
Overlord                  $22
Boy Erased                $15
The Front Runner          $12
Nobody's Fool             $11

We had a couple of big new anchors on the list.

It was pretty obvious that Ralph Breaks the Internet was going to get the top spot, the question was whether or not it would be worth the price.

How Creed II would fare was less certain.  It was poised and priced for second place, but Thanksgiving weekend tends to be a kids movie weekend.  Then again, counter programming for adult sports fan might work.

Fantastic Beasts 2 was into its second week while The Grinch was on his third.  There was a match up of the Harry Potter universe sans Harry Potter against The Grinch in his primal season.  The moment you’re done with your last slice of pumpkin pie the law says it is Christmas season.

And then there was Bohemian Rhapsody and Instant FamilyBR was aging but still had some strength while Instant Family was priced to move after failing to meet expectations on its opening week.

For the Monday Hot Takes league I was feeling like Fantastic Beasts 2 might be the anchor of choice.  It is hard to beat Harry Potter, even when it lacks Harry Potter.

However, on Tuesday evening my wife and I went and saw the confused mess that is Fantastic Beasts 2.  Harry Potter, as a series, has always felt more than a bit ad hoc to me, picking up and dropping things at a whim, but at least each movie had a weighty tome behind it to explain things.  Not so with FB2, which put me off it as an anchor.  And while my personal views about a movie are rarely a good guide, this time around my gut served me well.

As part of the holiday week, the new titles officially opened on Wednesday rather than Friday, which meant no preview dollars to work into ones calculations.  It also meant a bunch of five day forecasts, rather than the usual three day weekend versions.

On the upside, we all got a good look at how the week’s line up was doing starting with the Tuesday night previews.  Both Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II looked to be out performing expectations.  Likewise, The Grinch was doing solid, secure in the holiday season.

In the end I decided to opt for two screens of Creed II, though in hindsight I should have gone for a screen each of Ralph and Creed.  My hope was that filler would make up the difference, and my lineup was 2x Creed II, 2x Widows, 1x A Star is Born, 1x Overlord, and 2x The Front Runner.

Come the Saturday morning estimates, Ralph looked to have the best performer nod, which grants it an additional $2 million per screen.  But the numbers were very close and Saturday is often a fool’s paradise as the estimates are pretty rough.

On Sunday though, Instant Family took over as the estimated best performer, with the perfect pick anchored on five screens of it, giving it a $10 million boost.  But the estimates were still very close.

When the actuals started rolling in, Instant Family came up a bit short on its estimates and fell out of the best performer role, to be replaced by The Grinch.  At that point SynCaine had the perfect pick.  But the numbers necessary for another change were still too close to feel secure about anything.  Then the Ralph and Creed II numbers came in and Ralph was on top again.  At that point everything hinged on how well The Grinch did.  It just needed to do about $300K better than its estimated box office, barely a 1% change, something that is pretty standard on any given week.

However, when The Grinch finally reported, he was up just 0.6% from the estimate.  Ralph took the best performer nod.  That was not good for me, knocking me out of the top ten for another week.

The numbers for the week ended up like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $99,473,989
  2. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $99,214,810
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $99,205,717
  4. I HAS BAD TASTE – $99,205,717
  5. grannanj’s Cineplex – $98,144,855
  6. Too Orangey For Crows – $97,873,450
  7. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $96,974,610
  8. Goat Water Picture Palace – $94,271,930
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $93,015,598
  10. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $93,004,638

Ben took the week, and anybody who went with Ralph and Creed II as anchors made it past the $99 million mark.  Still, it was a tight week with the gap between high and low of those who picked standing at about $7 million.

That tight of a range meant not much movement in the overall season totals, which ended up looking like this:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – $920,866,092
  2. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $913,478,307
  3. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $904,240,326
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – $895,300,662
  5. Ben’s X-Wing Express – $886,505,792
  6. I HAS BAD TASTE – $883,962,097
  7. grannanj’s Cineplex – $861,395,328
  8. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $844,566,659
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $843,259,499
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $840,558,352

The gap between Goat and I is close enough that I might be able to make it to first, so long as we don’t pick such similar line ups again.  Corr isn’t too far back, but the gap is big enough that Goat and I probably have to pick badly for him to have a hope at first place.

On the alternate scoring front though, things look much rosier for Corr.

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – 71
  2. Goat Water Picture Palace – 61
  3. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – 57
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – 57
  5. Ben’s X-Wing Express – 49
  6. I HAS BAD TASTE – 47
  7. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 41
  8. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 41
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – 38
  10. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 38

Corr isn’t a 100% lock to win the alternate scoring, but in order for him to fall into second he has to forget to pick or pick so badly that he doesn’t make the top ten AND Goat has to get first place.

Ben’s rise up the ranks has probably reached its zenith, though he could get up to third place if he can manage another first place finish and both Bhagpuss and I do poorly.

So that is how it stands.  The volatile alternate scoring looks to have already picked its winner while the traditional scoring, where the winner is generally obvious by now, still has a couple of possible outcomes.

All of which brings us to the final week, week thirteen, and the titles we have to work with.

Ralph Breaks the Internet       $460
The Grinch                      $334
Creed II                        $304
Fantastic Beasts 2              $205
Bohemian Rhapsody               $144
Instant Family                  $134 
Robin Hood                      $73
Widows                          $67
Green Book                      $64
The Possession of Hannah Grace  $57
A Star is Born                  $32 
The Nutcracker                  $27
The Favorite                    $18
Boy Erased                      $14
Nobody's Fool                   $8

It is going to be an odd week as there are no big new releases, so we have to work with pretty much the same anchor options as before.

For filler we do lose Overlord and The Front Runner, getting The Possession of Hannah Grace and The Favorite in their place.

The Possession of Hannah Grace is a supernatural horror film… just the season for that… involving an exorcism gone wrong, a midnight morgue delivery, and demonic possession.  I know I always under estimate the draw of the horror genre, but is the timing on this bad enough?  Long range tracking has it down for $3 million for its opening weekend.

Then there is The Favorite, an 18th century period-piece comedy drama, if that is really a thing, about two women competing for the favor of Queen  Anne.  It stars Olivia Coleman (Hot Fuzz, Broadchurch) as the queen, with Emma Stone (La La Land, Birdman) and Rachel Weisz (so many damn things, but the only one of the three to be a guest on The Simpsons), who are all top notch, but it isn’t even being tracked and the pricing puts it at like a third of The Possession of Hannah Grace, so call it maybe $1 million?

Where does that leave us?

Ralph is going to be strong, and there is enough cheap filler that you can get away with two screens of it and not face an empty slot penalty.  But you really have to believe.

The Grinch is in his home season, enough so that it is the one film that went up in price this week.  But it is also going into its fourth week and the kids are all back in school until Christmas, so will it be worth the money?

Fantastic Beasts 2 is still Harry Potter without Harry Potter and in its third week… and remains a mess that only a true fan could love or understand.

Then, for the adult audiences, there is a Creed II in its second week and Bohemian Rhapsody going into its fifth.

And, finally, you can go with as many as seven screens of Instant Family as an anchor if you’re feeling it for Marky Mark.

For me it is a toss up between two screens of Ralph and three screens of Creed II, each supported by some very cheap filler options.  Maybe two screens of The Grinch, if it looks like it is staying strong, and some more expensive filler to back it up.  No matter what, it seems likely to be a slow week, so my hopes of catching first place are probably only slightly better that Goat’s hopes to win the alternate scoring title.

My Monday Hot Takes compromise pick is 1x Ralph, 1x Creed II, 1x Bohemian Rhapsody, and 5x The Favorite on the hope that this is the season for 18th century period-piece comedy dramas.

Finally, as a heads up, at the end of this season, which will come to a close with next week’s post, that will be it for FML here for a while.  I will be taking a break from running and posting about the TAGN league.

If somebody else wants to run a league, blog about it, or whatever, I’ll join in.  And I will leave the TAGN league up and still likely pick every week.  I just won’t be doing any posts about it here.  The plan is to get back to that for the summer blockbuster season again in 2019.

Now Just So Many Bubbles in Space

Today is the day that player-owned starbases, the POSes of legend, lose their final utility function in New Eden.  With the Onslaught expansion two weeks back the new Upwell navigation structures, the FLEX structures, became available.

Onslaught killed the POS

Those new structures overlapped, with intent to replace, the POS functions of cyno jammer, cyno beacon, and jump bridge.

As CCP has been warning us for the last few days, the two week window when both options would co-exist has come to an end.  All of those POS based jump bridges, cyno jammers, and cyno beacons are now off-line.  Upwell structures are now in place for all of the old POS functions, from capital ship construction to moon mining to reaction farms to navigation.

A POS is now just a tower in space with a bubble around it.

You can still hole up in them, use their protective bubble as a place of safety.

Reavers in a POS in the middle of Insmother back in 2014

And the old POS still has the advantage of being quick to deploy as a forward outpost as well as being somewhat covert.  They don’t show up on everybody’s overview when you drop them, though there are a limited number of locations in any system where they could be placed.  If you didn’t have a prober handy you could always just warp to every moon to scout for them.

Gone too will be the automatic defenses.  A citadel just sits there when you shoot it, just warp scrambling you for a bit when you open up on it before lapsing into passivity unless actively gunned.

And, of course, some of us will miss that feeling of joy when, during a POS shoot, you discover that the defender failed to fuel the stront bay.  Rather than the shoot cutting off when the POS shields hit 25% you got to keep going for a kill on a single op.

My first op with the CFC back in late 2011 was a POS shoot, so the first kill mails I was on were POS towers and modules.  That was also the first time I saw a titan.

Shooting a White Noise tower with a CSAA back in 2011

Some of the aspects of POSes won’t be missed.  There were some arcane aspects to how things worked when it came to the POS, including when cyno jammers worked and when they did not and the whole password thing.  (As Google will confirm, the Goon POS password is always 420)

Others just spell out the POS password with modules

And then there was the POS code base, a source of legend and something brought up to scare young developers.  The POS code was reputed to be an unruly and undocumented monster whose influence was felt far and wide, breaking features with no apparent relation to it.

In the Imperium it was announced that, with today’s transition, GSOL would be heading out to take down all the POS towers and modules that were being used to support jump bridges and the like.  That will free up some corp bookmark space as the FLEX structures will show up on you overview… if you are on the access list and if you have gone in and updated your overview settings.  But if you have those two, they will pretty much act like jump gates… well, jump gates that you may have to pay to use.

Among the features of the new Ansiblex Jump Gate structures is the ability to charge those who use if for the fuel used for their jump.

The new Ansiblex Jump Gate is also a toll bridge of sorts

You can setup a FastPass auto-pay in your wallet, there is a new tab there for just that purpose, though remember that the price you set is the per-unit of fuel price and not the total price, so don’t set it too high lest you accidentally auto-approve payment at some outrageous price-gouging rate.

Much of that, however, is theoretical at the moment because the other joke on all of us is that two weeks was not nearly long enough to get these new structures built and deployed in order to replace the now non-functional POS modules.  Even the ever amazing GSOL says it will be weeks, if not months, before they have fully replaced every jump bridge and beacon.

But that is the way it goes in New Eden.  CCP cares not for your logistics.  In fact, they seem to delight in the suffering of capsuleers from time to time.

And once CCP figured out how to replace the forward deployment aspect of the POS, they will be removing them completely, bringing the eldritch horror of the POS code with it.  So you are on notice that the noble POS may be disappearing completely in 2019.  Go have one last look before they’re all gone.

And then there is the capsuleer cemetery in Molea, which depends on the POS shield to keep the graves from disappearing.  CCP is aware of that, but I haven’t seen any word on what they might do.

Addendum: The Starbase modules have been turned off, but may still look like they are active in the UI.

SuperData Research Shows WoW Slipping Further and LoL Still in Second

SuperData Research released their October 2018 charts just before the US Thanksgiving Holiday.

SuperData Research Top 10 – October 2018

On the PC end of the chart there seems to have been a new status quo reached for the top four, with League of Legends continuing to run in second place after a long, long stretch in first.  Proof, I suppose, that no game is king forever.

Fortnite popped up to fifth place in October, ahead of the new Call of Duty: Black Ops III.  That left World of Warcraft down in seventh, where it tends to live when there isn’t an expansion to sell.  You may doubt WoW, but being able to hang in seventh with nothing new to sell it still a decent trick.

The rest of the list is rounded out by PUBG, World of Tanks, and another new title, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

On the console chart Call of Duty: Black Ops III grabbed the top spot for October, ahead of the much talked about Red Dead Redemption 2. Fortnite stayed in the top half of the chart, grabbing third spot while FIFA 19, new to the September chart dropped back to fourth.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey debuted at fifth spot, while NBA 2K19 sank to sixth and Marvel’s Spider-Man, the number two in September, dropped to seventh.  Then, proving that two titles from the same franchise can hold spots on the chart, FIFA 18 and Call of Duty: WWII held on in eight and ninth while Forza Horizon 4 grabbed tenth.

The number one title from September, Destiny 2, fell completely off the list for October.  Also gone missing was Grand Theft Auto V.  The 2013 title had been holding strong on the list for ages, occasionally taking the top spot.

At the mobile end Honour Kings maintained its hold on the top spot, but Pokemon Go showed its strength as made it into second position, up one slot from last month, getting ahead of QQ Speed. Likewise, Candy Crush Saga didn’t just hold on but moved from eighth to fourth spot in October.

Other items from the report:

  • Gamers spent over $1B on console full game downloads for the first month ever
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII sets a new high mark for console digital units. We estimate Black Ops IIII sold an estimated 4.2 million units in October on consoles, a new single month record for digital console sales. PC sales also grew significantly year-over-year, but still represent a small minority of the user base.
  • Grand Theft Auto V begins the holiday quarter on a low note. GTA V Online revenue in October showed a double digit decline both month-over-month and year-over-year. This marks the lowest earning month for GTA V in over two years and points to a tough road ahead as Red Dead Redemption 2 ramps up.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 sells 4 million digital units in less than a week. Roughly 67% of the units were purchased on PS4. Based on initial sell-through, we expect RDR2 to have the strongest ever quarter of digital console sales.
  • Overwatch’s disappointing run continues. Overwatch microtransaction revenue in October was up from September due to the Halloween update but down 20% from last year. This now makes it five consecutive months of year-over-year declines for Overwatch, which had previously shown consistent growth since launch.
  • Fortnite rebounds but loses top console spot to AAA releases. Fortnite revenue was up sequentially, and more than 20x what it made last October. This follows back-to-back months of sequential declines, although Fortnite is still off from its peak in July.

Deeds of the Lone Lands

As I felt I was falling a bit behind in levels relative to the quests I had been chasing in the Lone Lands, having rushed into the zone a bit early, I decided to take a level or two off from questing to pursue some of the deeds available in the zone.

You know which server I’m talking about

In LOTRO deeds are something like achievements and something like quests and they come in a few regular flavors.  You can finish them by doing quests in a zone, by visiting points of interest, by slaying some of the nearby mobs, by gaining reputation with the local faction, and by simply using some of your skills a bunch of time.

Pretty standard achievement stuff these days… except for maybe the skills thing.

The difference is that they sometimes come in different levels, they are very zone-centric, and that can pile on a lot of rewards.  You get titles, but WoW will give you titles for some achievements.  However, you can also get faction, boosts to virtue traits, faction boosts, skirmish marks, and even LOTRO Points for use in the cash shop.

North Downs Orc-Slayer Advanced Deed

As an aside, the fact that deeds hand out skirmish marks like candy means that you really don’t need to do much crafting to keep your gear up to spec.  The local skirmish camp… and they are outside every major settlement… will sell you armor, weapons, and jewelry that will keep you going.  So you have that, virtues to improve your character’s combat abilities, cash for the store, and reputation that will unlock items at the local faction store.

And still I don’t always do them, or concentrate on them at least.  But this time I thought I would take a day or two off to just work on those.  And while, as noted elsewhere, grinding mobs isn’t as good for xp as quests, if you persist at it you will get your due there.

I had also gotten a deed accelerator writ as a daily Hobbit present.  For 90 minutes each kill would count double.  So I decided to use that wisely.

The Lone Lands

On the list was a deed for slaying trolls.  Those are tough, signature mobs and, aside from the one you meet at the summit of Weathertop, they only show up in the swampy eastern portion of Harloeg, in the southeast of the zone.  I headed out there to find some trolls.

He is a big boy

I needed 40 trolls for the first deed, which included a title, a 80 more for the advanced deed.  But with the writ running for 90 minutes and one in the bag already, I just needed to kill 59 trolls to get there.  So I found a quiet corner of Harloeg with plenty of trolls close by, put on a podcast, and set to work.

Thanks to another troll hunter who happened by for a bit… casual team ups are definitely a thing in LOTRO… I actually finished up the trolls more quickly than I thought I would, getting the advanced deed done with an hour still left on my writ.

I headed over to Haragmar, a bit to the north, to use the remaining time on the writ to get the advanced deed for wights out of the way and then get stuck into the bog lurkers for another deed.  Bog lurkers are a bit rare, but both deeds together need just 90 overall.  I managed to knock out the first deed for 30 and get 30 out of 60 for the advanced deed before time ran out.

I was keen to get the slayer deeds done as they wrapped up into a meta deed that I had never bothered to do before.  With four months or so to get ready for Moria I figured I could spend the time.  In addition to trolls, wights, and bog lurkers, I needed to kill craban (those spying birds), goblins, orc, spiders, and wargs.

Craban are everywhere in the zone.  Goblins are all over the western half, and I was well into that deed, while orcs are all over the eastern half of the zone, so I wasn’t worried on that front.  What I really needed was bog lurkers, though I was pretty set there, and spiders, which are pretty common, though you need a 180 for both deeds, and wargs, which are not uncommon but you need 150.

It was easy enough for me to run around and finish off the goblins and the orcs and the craban.  Then I made a pretty big dent in the spiders, though the wargs were giving me some trouble.  They spawn in a range of areas, but seem to share the spawn table with other mobs that people don’t care so much about, so they tend to be hunted off the map unless you want to stand around and work the spawn table by clearing out the other mobs so wargs can pop.

Spending time with that got me up to level 29, at which point I decided to pick up with quests again.  I had about exhausted all the quests in Ost Guruth save for the story line quest with Radagast the Brown.  So I followed him through the Red Pass.

Radagast and his little animal pals

That gave me access to the quest lines into Agamaur where, among other things, I was set to hunt bog lurkers.  I was successful in that, as well as in finding another rare creature of the realms.

The idle level 31 bard in the Red Pass

Having managed to knock out the bog lurkers, I was left with only spiders and wargs, and I was about 30 shy on each.

I headed back out to work the spawn table a bit more, sitting in a little dell where orcs, spiders, and wargs shared the same spawns.  I just cleared out anything that spawned, collecting spiders and wargs as they appeared.

I was not alone in my quest for wargs.  I spotted at least three people passing by again and again, on the roam for wargs, tagging mine if they were in time, but not touching any other mob, and so basically populating all the spawn points with things other than wargs.

Spiders finished up first, but not too long later I finally got that last warg.

The last warg done

And that, in turn, popped this.

Slayer of the Lone Lands

The rewards that show up in the first screen shot are for both deeds.  That got me two out of three of the meta deeds that would unlock the finish off the final deed for the Lone Lands.

All the meta

I just needed the explorer deed.  So I headed back up to the Red Pass, which was the only place I hadn’t explored, and carried on with the quests there.  I soon hit level 30, which is actually required to even get the final exploration deed.

However, it was not going to be as easy as all of that.  I managed to grab the first few locations fairly quickly, but the balance of them are deep in the east side of Garth Agarwen, which is an area for fellowships.  The quests that would lead me through to the points I wanted to visit were not viable for me at level 30, and certainly not alone.

All group quests

However, on hitting level 30 I also received the second quest aimed at getting me to Oatbarton and Evendim.  I figured that probably ought to be my next major destination.  I would return to the Lone Lands to get that last set of deeds done later.   Though, in doing the quests I could, I did get to kindred status with the Eglain, the local faction, which allowed me to purchase their signature mount.

The mount of the Eglain

I can ride that on into Evendim.  But first I had to make a detour to Esteldin in the North Downs as the story line required me to check in there for a few tasks.  But after that, Evendim.

Final Notes as I Move on from EverQuest II Yet Again

As has become obvious to any regular reader, my time with EverQuest II has fallen by the wayside with the coming of the LOTRO Legendary server.

It isn’t quite correct to say that the latter drove out the former.  Instead, the story is pretty much as it always tends to be with EQII, where I find a path, play it through, and then am left wandering about, looking for a new path, which the game tries to hide from me.

In this case, I hit level 100, finished out the zone I had been running, and was offered several paths forward by the game.  I wrote a post musing about why Battle for Azeroth has levels, and I think EQII made a case for every expansion having a boost to the level cap.

Gating content is reason enough, even if the levels are not that much of a hurdle.  Since EQII hasn’t raised the cap much of late, my hitting level 100 yielded three in-game mail messages inviting me to come experience some content.

One proposed to send me to an alternate version of Zek, though the transportation method wasn’t all that encouraging.

Is there room for my horse in there?

There I encountered a rogue orc priest and then the Zek triplets, Rallos, Tallon, and Vallon, who discussed the nature of things over my dying body.

Les Triplettes de Zek

I ran that alternate version of Zek for a bit before getting hung up on a quest with prerequisites that needed me to go elsewhere.

I spent some time chasing down the Words of Pure Magic quest in order to learn the Druzaic language, which I needed for some reason I cannot recall.  Along the way doing that I managed to pick up the Hierophant’s Crook, one of the early heritage quests.

I am not a crook

I also ran into Firiona Vie.  Despite not being a staple of the cover art for EverQuest II expansions, she is apparently in the timeline.  I probably knew that already, but I have forgotten so much over the years.

Posing with Firiona

And then she died, which was awkward for all concerned.

Look, I was just following orders…

I understand that she is better now, but it was a moment.

And then at some point I ended up in the Vespyr Isles and started doing some quests there and simply ran out of steam.

I thought that perhaps I should change things up and decided to roll a new character.  I was surprised that I even had any character slots left.  The idea behind the new character was to explore some of the old zones from the early game and maybe write up something about them, the way I did with Thundering Steppes way back in the day.  Was that really eleven years ago?

Of course, nothing evokes nostalgia like a completely out of date welcome to the game.

Welcome to EverQuest II

The funny thing is that the graphic there makes me think this was updated around the Echoes of Faydwer time frame.  Even then, three years into the game, it would have been tough to call the experience entirely new.  And fourteen years into the journey?  Forget about it.

I did, however, try to run through a new character, doing the Isle of Refuge and then launching into Qeynos.

Arriving in Qeynos Harbor

But it wasn’t sticking with me.  I found it a bit difficult to get around Qeynos, in part because of the semi-regular bell reorganization plan.

What do you mean the bell “moved?”

And in part because I was used to going through some of the sub-divisions, the racial ghettos like Greystone Yard, to get to some of the early zones.  This was not helped by some of the quests still referencing a layout of Qeynos that is only one of memory.

The destination map

Eventually I figured it out and visited a few key points.

Somebody will get this reference

But I wasn’t feeling it and let it slip.  I got myself wrapped up in writing two more TorilMUD posts, one of which will go live this week, and then came LOTRO Legendary to fill the void left by my tiring of Norrath once again.

So another autumnal venture into EverQuest II draws to a close.  My interest has slackened and awaits once again the siren’s song of nostalgia.

That is not how this works

Maybe next time around I’ll get a bit further past level 100.

The Search for Tin

As tends to happen when I return to Middle-earth, I got myself wrapped up in crafting.  Legendary server or not, I do get hooked up in that.

This post brought to you by the Anor Legendary server

I mentioned a couple of posts back that, with my first character, I had opted in for the Armsman vocation.

Your vocation choices

I am bad at keeping my gear up to spec, but I never slack on my weapons.  I operated on the theory that you don’t need much in the way of defense if you can slay your foe fast enough.

But when my first character, a champion, hit level 10 I rolled up my first alt, a dwarven guardian who quickly became my main.  However, when Nomu, my guardian, was able to, I also set him a vocation, choosing the Explorer’s path for him with the idea that he could collect wood and ore for my champion to enable all that crafting of arms I could imagine in my head.

I’d done this before on servers in the past.  It is all I can do to keep myself from rolling up more alts to craft.  I even bought Nomu the universal toolkit to keep him from having to swap tools to harvest.

150 LOTRO points well spent

But I hadn’t run into a problem I have found on Anor.  I cannot find any tin.

For metal workers, the first crafting tier requires you to craft bronze armor and weapons.  Bronze is, if you look it up, an alloy made up of copper and tin.  So copper and tin ore harvest nodes are what you expect to find in the low level areas.

At first, when the mass of players were roaming about the starter areas, I could find neither tin nor copper.  But by the time my alt started the pressure was off a bit and I started being able to find copper nodes here and there.

Nomu and an early copper find

Tin, however, remained elusive.  I spent time stalking about low level zones, even at off peak hours, and have, up to this point, yet to espy a single tin node.  I haven’t even seen one only to have it snatched before my eyes, a common enough event with copper nodes early one.  I have seen no tin.

Nomu has found just enough copper to advance his harvesting and smelting skills so he can continue to harvest and refine as he levels up.

Prospectors Progress

So he has built up a supply of ore from higher tiers that my champion could use for his Armsman vocation… if only he could get past the first tier.  He cannot get anywhere, at least as a weaponsmith, without tin.  And if he cannot get past the first tier, all that higher tier metal doesn’t do him much good.

And so it goes.  The search for some tin to continue.

Also, as a side note, I am considering one of the LOTRO black Friday deals, which is good through the weekend, the Bombur’s Bounty.

Black Friday Special

The deed acceleration could come in handy, for reasons which I will get into with a future post, and 400 mithril coins on top of that seems like a deal.  And I was sitting on over 17K LOTRO points when the server launched.  What else am I going to spend all of that on?

Also, a congrats to SSG for finally getting the queue in the launcher working and updating your position.  The queue isn’t a so much of a big deal now that the server has settled down a bit, but I was happy to see when I did find myself in a queue that I didn’t have to play multi-launcher logout games in order to actually get into the game.