Monthly Archives: May 2019

May in Review

The Site

The blog got a bit of an honor this month when it made the IBuyPower Top 60 MMO Blogs list.  There is even a badge for it.

I made the cut

I think 60 is an odd number though and, in glancing at the other entries, it is a bit of an odd list.  There are a lot of recognizable sites in there, though a number of them had shut down or have been quiet or don’t focus on just MMOs or have eschewed the whole MMO thing for some time.

And in looking at it you might think that somebody just used Google to quickly assemble the list.  However, the descriptions associated with the entries are detailed enough that clearly the person who made the list had some insight into each one.

And then there is the value of the list.  SynCaine dropped me a note congratulating me on making the cut before I got the official email and he had to send me a direct link because I couldn’t find it on the IBuyPower.com web site or blog or via Google search.

It is, apparently, a secret list.  Maybe I shouldn’t even be sharing this with you.

Anyway, my usual cynical world view aside, I should be happy to see that somebody still reads the site.  And I would say something nice about their products and pricing, except that I am in the “build my own gaming PC” camp, as posts from just last year would indicate.  You can see why my wife complains about me not being able to just say “Thank you” and stop at that.

In other site related news, I found that Goodreads provides an RSS feed of your book updates, so that is now way down at the bottom of what is now my probably too long by half side bar.  So if you’re dying to know what I am reading, there it is.  The only downside is that position on the list is only by last updated, which happens both when I start or finish a book. (I never give progress along the way.)  Given that I do, at times, have multiple books going, the ordering of the list can be… deceptive maybe?  Perhaps I am the only one that cares about that.

One Year Ago

My other blog turned ten years old, so I did a retrospective… here… since my other blog is a picture blog.

There was the big rumor post about plans at Daybreak that included winding down EverQuest and EverQuest II in favor of a new EverQuest game.  While some items on the list did come to pass ( Just Survive did not and PlanetSide Arena is effectively PlanetSide 3), the old school preservationist faction won out in Norrath and it looks like we’ll be getting expansions for some years to come.  Meanwhile, they were also giving out level 100 character boost in EQII again.

While I was on a WoW break of sorts, Blizzard seemed to be doing well enough in the financial report for Q1 2018.  Of course, they were feeding us tidbits to keep us interested while we waited for Battle for Azeroth, with pre-orders available since January.

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, an RTS from the turn of the century, was still getting expansions.  You cannot keep a good game down.

I objected to a silly post about making the MMO genre “more accessible.”  It was all either blindingly obvious or too specific to be practical as a general rule.

I was still mucking about in Rift Prime, having made it into Scarlet Gorge, though it felt like something was missing.

Microsoft was planning to discontinue support for Minecraft on some older consoles after the Aquatic Update was released.

On the Kickstarter front the was big success for the Empires of EVE Vol. II campaign and a huge flop for the ill advised Flower of Knighthood campaign.

CCP was celebrating the 15th anniversary of EVE Online and I was going on about the importance of all the tales that make up the ongoing story of the game.

I was over on the test server trying out the upcoming Abyssal Space content, which I likened to dungeons.  Why not?  CCP calls things dungeons in their patch notes.

At the end of the month we got the Into the Abyss expansion for EVE Online and people were losing ships to Triglavians almost immediately.

That was preceded by what I called the great third part apocalypse as CCP shut down the old API interface, killing any number of third party applications that depended on it.  I was also on about their New Eden Store scarcity policy.

We got an update on when the elections for CSM13 would be held, while with the MER I was wondering if anybody would challenged the might of the Delve economy.

And then, actually in game, we were still running ops against GotG in the north, exchanging citadel kills and chasing after them into Venal and mounting some ops from there before returning to Pure Blind.

Five Years Ago

EA killed off Mythic Entertainment.  They had already handed over Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot to Broadsword, so what was left in any case?

The news about post-Kickstarter Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen continued to be off-putting.

I got another seven day trial in Landmark.

The strategy group started in on our BIG map campaign in Civilization V.

Nintendo announced Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were coming in November. They also closed down the WiFi game services for the Nintendo DS and Wii, which led EA to shut down the server support for 50 games a month later.  Most of them were DS and Wii related, but EA used the opportunity to kill off some PC game support as well.

Nintendo also launched Mario Kart 8, one of the few bright spots on the otherwise disappointing Wii U.  Soon the Luigi death stare was everywhere.

In EverQuest the Fippy Darkpaw progression server wrapped up the Seeds of Destruction expansion.

In EVE Online I was wondering about the prospects for a summer war.  Everybody just assumed that there would be one, though in null sec the various empires seemed to be settling in and consolidating.  Sure, there was the trap at Daras… another on the list of reasons we shy away from low sec… the run down to Placid for a kill, and that op down in Syndicate (my post on which stirred up some sour grapes about day one players) but otherwise things were quiet.  That left plenty of time to go find my name on the monument.

As EVE Online turned eleven I was wondering if the alleged ‘learning cliff’ was still the biggest issue facing EVE Online.

Meanwhile CCP announced they were getting off the twice a year, huge update release pattern in order to have releases… named releases for a while… every month.  This led into a post about the pacing of content delivery.

In World of Warcraft the Timeless Isle was still a thing.  The Warlords of Draenor expansion was still over the horizon and subscriptions were down to 7.6 million under the weight of wait.  That seemed like a big drop until Warlords of Draenor fell to 5 million two years later.   Meanwhile, our group was slowing down a bit even as we started in on dungeons in Pandaria.

In attempt to make plans for another summer hiatus, I gave Star Wars: The Old Republic a try, going through the Sith starting area.

And then there was the kick off of the 2014 Newbie Blogger Initiative.

Ten Years Ago

I was able to expose the true conspiracy behind the EuroGamer Darkfall review.  Powerful forces have been suppressing this story ever since.

EA lost a billion dollars.  This came after the CEO announced that recessions were good because they eliminate competitors.  They can also eliminate bad execs.

Meanwhile, EverQuest was celebrating its 10 year anniversary by putting up a new server.  Polled on what it should be, people chose the 51/50 rule set.  I’m sure that, somehow, that says something about MMOs and nostalgia.  I cannot recall how that server even played out at this point.

I went back and played some Blizzard classics, Diablo II and StarCraft, both of which have patches now that mean you do not need the CD to play.  This was prompted by Blizzard’s pushing people towards Battle.net and the announcement of the opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  I opted in right away.  I hear that some people got in to the beta almost a year later. *cough*

In New Eden, it was new ship time, as I picked up both an Orca and a Buzzard.  I also managed to lose my Cerebus.   Oops.

And speaking of EVE Online, I announced my one year experiment, EVE Online Pictures.  That site is now eleven years old.

CCP put a new boxed version of EVE Online on store shelves.  I bought a copy and made a fabulous new character.

In World of Warcraft the instance group was moving along slowly.  We did hit Azjol Nerub, but vacations and such kept us down to four people, so we spent a bit of time back in Burning Crusade doing heroics and generally messing around.  That included our run into Ogrimmar to do Ragefire Chasm.

I also messed around with the Noblegarden holiday.  I actually got all the achievements for that.  However, Children’s Week was another story.

Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.

And then there was a little game called Minecraft that was first made available in early access back in May 2009.  Recent estimates put it as possibly the best selling game of all time.

Fifteen Years Ago

Nintendo announces a new console code named Revolution to follow from the GameCubeRevolution would latter be given the official name Wii.

Twenty Years Ago

Nintendo starts talking about Project Dolphin, the console to follow the Nintendo 64.  This would eventually become the GameCube.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. EVE Online Gets Daily Login Rewards Starting with Free Skill Points
  6. Body Blow to Blizzard Margins
  7. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  8. Who Gets Banned for Botting in New Eden?
  9. Was Cataclysm a Required Prerequisite for WoW Classic?
  10. Farewell to MMO Fallout
  11. Quote of the Day – Goblin Gets His Due
  12. Daybreak Rumor Review

Search Terms of the Month

daybreak lifetime membership refund
[Buyer’s remorse already?]

ccp mittani collusion
[#NoCollution]

does candy crush go on forever
[Yes, yes it does]

things that need fixing in tilligerry peninsula
[‘struth!]

Game Time from ManicTime

A couple more games on the list this month.  EverQuest  got no play in May, so I guess my 20th anniversary nostalgia is done.  Still lots of WoW played, but it wasn’t as dominant as it was in April.  Total hours played was actually up as well.

  • World of Warcraft 45.77%
  • Minecraft 26.08%
  • EVE Online 24.33%
  • WoW Classic 3.32%
  • EverQuest II 0.28%
  • Lord of the Rings Online 0.23%

EVE Online

War were declared, and we moved up and out of Delve to the boarder of Tribute.  I’ve been on a few ops, so my total for the month will likely end up higher than a month without a war, but I still had more fun dropping with Black Ops on things.  Plus the war is crowded… like WoW Classic crowded… a topic which I will get to next week.

EverQuest II

I actually meant to play some EQII this month.  One thing I did in March was move to a bigger house in Halas, leaving behind the base model apartment for much larger digs, because I was just running out of space to display all the junk I have collected in the game over the years.  However, the Minecraft update came along and that pretty much ate up my decorating play time.

Lord of the Rings Online

I logged in to make sure I got the anniversary gifts on at least one character.  I appear to have fallen off the wagon for LOTRO Legendary somewhere in Moria.  That might be the end of that because, while I was keen to get into Moria, getting into Mirkwood doesn’t motivate me at all.

Minecraft

I have carried on with the Village and Pillage update for Minecraft.  I haven’t actually found a panda yet, but I have spent a lot of time with villagers and met the pillagers… which got me back to fortifying villages.  A wall around your village keeps your villagers safer… unless they find a way to get out, in which case they will wander straight into death.

Pokemon Go

The leveling up process carries on ever so slowly.  I am about a third of the way to level 37, though I will admit I haven’t been optimizing for gaining xp.  It is possible to burst xp for a short bit, but the increments start to look small when lined up against the 2 million needed to level up.  Oh well.

Level: 36 (+0)
Pokedex status: 419 (+9) caught, 447 (+6) seen
Pokemon I want: Meltan, but I still have to catch a damn Aerodactyl to get one
Current buddy: Luxio

World of Warcraft

Given how much WoW I played over the course of the month I feel like I should have more to say about it.  I did a lot of pet battles and world quests.  I started on another character in Kul Tiras… or carried on with one I started previously.

WoW Classic

WoW Classic is such a different game from current WoW that I expect it deserves its own listing, seeing that it gets its own time tracking category as well.  This month it was just the two stress tests, which was enough to whet my appetite for the August launch.

Also, it was kind of a big month for WoW Classic.  It ended up getting five posts here in May.

A lot of coverage… for me… for something that isn’t live yet.  I’m not even in the beta.

Coming Up

In EVE Online the war in Tribute will continue on, perhaps spreading to other regions.

The CSM14 elections will also go live come the 10th, with results to be announced at EVE North (is Toronto “north” enough when compared to Iceland or Leningrad St. Petersburg?) by the end of the month.

Maybe we will get that 8.2 patch for World of Warcraft by the end of the month.

Since summer will be arriving, it seems likely that there will be a Steam summer sale.  I haven’t actually logged into Steam this month.

Oh, and as I mentioned yesterday, summer FML time.  Now I’ll be blathering about movies once a week yet again.

Failed Headshot in Tribute

It was one of those fights where I could tell we were losing, but things in my own little corner of the engagement seemed to go pretty well.  So my view of the strategic outcome is more a matter of what I have read and heard elsewhere rather than anything I could attest to personally.

There had been pings earlier in the day to rouse the troops and get them to log in at what is generally a late hour for even USTZ, 04:30 UTC.  That translates to 9:30pm here on the west coast, which is about the time I want to be in bed.  But I figured I could be a little tired on Friday, so I stayed up for it.

The stated plan was to take out the ihub in SH1-6P, which is where the defenders of the region have massed their forces.  To finish off the ihub, which had been reinforced previously, meant an entosis fight across the six systems of the constellation.

The two stagings and the target constellation

If we won the cyno jammer would be disabled and we would be able to drop titans and supers on their staging Keepstar at will.  With the jammer still there they can keep out capitals out unless they want to gate in.

The first ping that went out for a Baltec fleet, the battleships doctrine based around the Megathron.  That filled up almost instantly, to the point that even though I was logged in before hand I couldn’t get in.

The next up was the Eagle fleet.  I managed to get into that before it too filled up, though it filled partially with people in Megathrons and interceptors, so there was a while of sorting that out and getting the right ships in the fleet.  It took us a good 40 minutes to get sorted and on a titan and ready to be bridged.

A dramatically lit titan

From there we were bridged into Tribute to sit on one of our citadels, where it seemed like we were bringing out the big guns as two titan fleets landed and tethered up around us.

Shield and armor titans on the field

We bridged off the citadel into Venal, something that a PanFam post on Reddit at least implied was unexpected.  They had bubble fucked the route through Tribute so we went through Venal, which was clear.  They seemed a bit salty about that.

Coming out of Venal with the Baltecs

We didn’t see those titans again last night.  We went in with the Baltec fleet, swatting aside the Sabres sent to slow us down pretty easily, ending up in Q-CAB2 on the WH-JCA gate.  The fight waited for us on the other side of the gate.

Ready to jump in

In we went.  TiDi was surging and while it never got down to the sludge of struggling at 10%, it stayed between 12% and 20% for much of the fight, slowing everything down.  The Eagles went through the gate and shot anchored bubbled and Sabres to clear a way for the Baltecs.

Glancing at the TiDi situation

Once through the bubbles and anchored up the fight became the usual repetition of locking and shooting targets, changing ammo to suit the situation, and managing drones.  For us the fight was trying to hit targets and break their tank before they could get reps, which is tough to do in TiDi, since it gives the logi pilots additional time to respond.  The game may be moving slow, but the humans at the controls are still at normal speed.  I know when I am flying logi it is easier to land critical reps in that situation.

This time however I was in an Eagle, shooting things.

Eagles flocking on grid

It was announced pretty soon into the fight that the entosis effort had failed.  The locals had won the objective.  But we were stuck in and not doing too badly, so there was no rush to get out.  We were managing to pick off a target now and again before they got reps.  I even saw a name or two I recognized, like Dreydan Trovirr of the Open Comms Show.

Saying “Hi” to Dreydan

He, like many of our targets, caught reps in time and lived.

The locals brought out some HAW dreads, which put some hurt on the Baltec fleet, which was taking the brunt of the fire.  Big, fat battleships are hard to resist and the dreads shredded the Bhaalgorns that were with the Baltecs.  But we managed to get in and pop some of the dreads along the way.

A Naglfar blows, other wrecks visible

We were also given a treat when a small pack of Macherials arrived on grid with us, which we blew up as fast as we could lock and shoot.  I ended up on the kills of five Machs and five dreads.

In a bit of a surreal situation, it turned out that one of the hostiles was streaming the fight with a very short delay… or no delay because it seemed only seconds behind… which meant we could hear their FC calling targets, allowing our logi to get reps on our ships before the damage hit.  I am not sure if that was ignorance or arrogance on their part, but we were happy enough to listen in as we continued to shoot.

Our Eagles lit by a dread explosion

As the Baltecs ceased to be much of a force and we became the primary target and the locals brought out their titans it looked like it was time for us to go.  We had lost our anchor, Zintage Enaka and were following a backup as we headed back to Q-CAB2 and though Venal again for home.

Once we were into Venal and grouped up the route was clear for our staging.  Our fleet, the Harpy fleet that came in after us, and what of the Baltec fleet that managed to get out were not bothered after that.  I arrived back at our staging Keepstar safe, having only lost my drones somewhere along the way.

Once there I was able to put the rigs on my ship.  I only noticed when we were into Venal that, after I bought the Eagle off a contract, I forgot to put the rigs on.

Something in my cargo hold I should have noticed

This is maybe the fourth op I’ve been on in this Eagle too.  I’ve glad nobody shot at me, though I am even more glad I didn’t get into the Baltec fleet.  However, I might have got to bed sooner if I had been in the Baltec fleet.  I didn’t turn the lights out until 1am.  Very late for me.

As for the battle, not only did we lose the objective, but the ISK war came out against us as well.  I tried to put together a battle report covering the constellation so as to include kills in battles over entosis hacking. (That just adds to our losses.)  I didn’t get everybody in the right columns, but all the significant groups were sorted.

Battle Report Header

We blew up almost 58 billion in hostiles, helped along by those HAW dreads, but lost over 100 billion ISK in the process.

Nearly 2,000 pilots were involved.  The locals dialed up Fraternity for some assistance while we had TEST and Brave from Legacy coalition, who have been fighting Fraternity, show up on our side.

In the end though, a fight like that doesn’t change much.  We’re not going home, the locals are not going away.  I suspect that rather than jumping straight at their staging we might spend some time drawing the locals out.  There is a Keepstar sitting 0-YMBJ, one gate from our staging in Pure Blind, that is just begging to be blown up.

Anyway, we shall see where we go from here.

Other posts on the battle:

WoW Classic Stress Test Redux

Last week Blizzard ran a stress test for WoW Classic, inviting thousands of players to try and log in to see how their new server architecture would stand up to the kind of loads expected.

Classic is as classic does

And while lots of people pounded the server, and problems were found… which is why you do a test… those problems meant that not everything they wanted to test got covered, so they announced another test, which started yesterday.

We have just wrapped up the first stress test for WoW Classic and while we understand the concerns that a number of you have mentioned, it helped us in many ways. Testing the login process is certainly an aspect that is very important for us to explore and we did gather some valuable data yesterday, so we appreciate everybody who logged in or even attempted to do so during the testing window – you have helped us prepare WoW Classic for release.

That said, because of some of the issues that were encountered, we were not able to test other aspects that we’d planned for. As a result, we will be doing another stress test on Wednesday, May 29 from 2-4pm PDT. The stress test realm will become available at 2pm PDT and the level cap will be increased to 10. For access, we will be including everybody who was invited to the test on May 22. Similar to last time, the stress test realm will continue to be available until 4pm PDT on Thursday, May 30 so there is additional time to check out the starting experiences.

Please keep in mind that while more issues could impact the play experience, it is very important to perform these tests so we can learn about and fix as many of them as possible before the release on August 27. We thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you back on the WoW Classic stress test realm very soon.

Last week the test kicked off at 4pm Pacific, which is just about when I get home from work most days, so I was able to jump right in as it started.  Yesterday the test had been going for nearly two hours before I was able to join.  But clearly I wasn’t late, they held a queue for me to test.

More like the good old days

I gather from reports I saw later that things did not start off very well, but they had settled down by the time I got there.

The queue started big, but kept on counting down.  I let it sit while I got myself a snack and did a few other things.  It took 24 minutes, or about half the estimated time, before I landed on the character select screen.  I don’t know how things were going for the first two hours, but that didn’t seem like an unreasonable performance.

However, in trying to select my character from the last test to join the game I was given the error that the world server was down.

The world server doesn’t like me

I exited the client, deciding to go through the queue again, thinking that I might at least help test that again, but the queue was gone.  I went straight to the character select screen.  I was there so fast I thought something was wrong so I quit the client completely, relaunched, and logged in again.  Still no queue.  I guess the queue was done.

Back at the character select screen I saw the “World server is down” message on the first couple of attempts to get on the server, but then it let me in and I was back to running around the night elf starter area.

Running around

Running is the operative word.  The experience, as you have probably heard, and no doubt expect, is very different from WoW today.  It definitely moves at a slower pace and a lot of what now helps you along with quests is absent.  I had to remember how to get quests to even show up in the on-screen tracker (shift-click) so I knew what I had going.  However, it isn’t as slow as it feels at first.  You will notice that you are moving along.

Getting to quests requires to to read the quest text and figure out where you might need to go… and some of the descriptions are a bit vague.   I largely worked on distant, foggy memories of where I recalled going back in the day.

And, of course, it was crowded.  The new layering system limits the total people you are competing with on quests, but it still (rightly) allows a lot of people to show up around you.

Lots of people in the spider caves

This has strange effects.  For kill quests you can group up and share the credit.  For quests that need drops you can group up, but only one person can get a drop per kill, so that is sort of break-even.  But if you need to go collect something on the far side of a bunch of hostile mobs you don’t have to worry about having to cut your way through, the path will likely be clear.

As mentioned over at Blessing of Kings, the first rule or WoW Classic seems to be that you can only talk about WoW Classic.  Thee general channels were full of people gushing about WoW Classic or complaining about the state of the live WoW game and so on.  This does get tiresome and I ended up leaving most of the general channels just to avoid it.

But in the groups I joined the talk, while also on the topic of WoW Classic, was more interesting.  I ended up at one point with somebody who had not played since classic, somebody who quit at Cataclysm, somebody who only started during The Burning Crusade, and another who started during Wrath of the Lich King.  The latter two were especially keen to be able to experience something they felt they had missed.  I was the only one who had played all the expansions.

I am certain my grouping is not a statistically significant sample size, but it does seem that WoW Classic isn’t going to simply strip people from the live servers.

I got through the quests in the first area and moved along to Dolanaar.  There I found the crowd ahead of me, as well as the expected set of quests.  They did just dump quest givers on you at random back in the day.  In live they have that honed down to just a few quests that guide you along.

Standing in Dolonaar

I wasn’t sure I wanted to just play through the whole started zone to level 10, so I ran on to Darnassus to see that.  There I decided I would try the traditional run through the wetlands to see if I could make it to Ironforge, then take the tram to Stormwind.  That was probably where the real crowd was.

I was only level 5 at that point, and couldn’t remember when that run used to be viable, but I figured I would give it a shot.  I went through the portal thingy and down to the dock to wait for the boat.  I was joined by a group of three naked night elves.  I had forgotten the “get undressed so your gear won’t take damage if you die” part of the run.  Oh well.

Standing at the very end of the dock I managed to end up inside the boat model and fell off the end of the pier and had to swim back to land.  My naked friends at the end of the dock encouraged me by yelling, “Get Rekt Alioto!” but I made it back to the boat in time.

The boat waited for me

One of them also offered to sell me gold, 100G for just $5, which I promptly reported.

Get Rekt Yourself Beeflicker

It looks like we’re going to get all of the aspects of the old days in WoW Classic.

The first boat takes you to Darkshore, where you have to grab the boat for Menethil Harbor.  It was even there waiting for us.

The boat is over there!

However, it was just a tease.  It sailed off before we could get to it.  But I am glad it was there when we arrived if only to remind me where it docks.  And it doesn’t take much time for a round trip.  The first boat takes longer as it doesn’t zone for most of the trip.

Soon enough I we were on the boat to Menethil Harbor and I was running into the Wetlands.

Into the Wetlands

I did not get very far before I got caught.

Barely out of Menethil Harbor

But dying right away wasn’t all that bad.  That puts you at a revive point that is well down the path to your destination.  If you’re willing to take the 25% hit to gear durability, you can carry on from way down the road, well past those raptors and such.

However, I attracted the attention of mobs past that point as well.  I was so much lower level than the mobs that they didn’t display their level, just a skull.  That meant that my aggro radius was huge… another WoW thing, aggro radius based on the difference between your level and the mobs level.

Why spider? Why do this?

I was starting to think that maybe level 5 was too low of a level to attempt the run.  Maybe it was a level 10 thing.  Still, I did move the ball forward a bit.  I just had to get back to my corpse as wisp and could start from there.

Corpse got pretty far

Another run and another death and I figured I might be better served trying something else lest my gear go red before I made it to Ironforge.  I only had 2 silver in my pocket.  So I went back to the night elf starter area and tinkered around there for a bit.

Given a taste of WoW Classic, I am still eager for its official launch in late August.  It is, as I said, a different game in many ways, and much slower and more deliberate.  We shall see if Blizzard can handle the load, though I expect that we’ll see another stress test before launch.

Addendum – A follow up message from Blizz:

We have now completed the WoW Classic Stress Test that began yesterday at 2:00 p.m. PDT. We’re very pleased with the amount of participation we saw, and we’re happy to report that we got a great deal of highly useful data, as well as new issues that were uncovered by your efforts to log in and play.

Plans for a Summer FML League

The time has come, the spring Fantasy Movie League season is coming to a close, and the summer season is upon us.  It is time to fire up the TAGN League for summer blockbusters.

I actually feel like we’re a week too late.  Maybe two weeks too late.  Regardless of what the calendar makers say, for me summer runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the US.  That is certainly when the big summer movies hit the screens and have their runs.  A big Memorial Day release can sometimes still be found on budget theater screens at the far end of summer.

For whatever reason, FML ran the spring league for 14 weeks, putting it through Memorial Day and the weekend beyond.  That means the summer league doesn’t get to start with big box office draws like Aladdin, which launched last week, and Godzilla: King of Monsters.

Add in John Wick 3 and Avengers: End Game having already launched and you start to wonder if we’ve been robbed of the big weeks one expects during summer.

But we shouldn’t fret.  I think we got all of those early because the summer is still full of titles that will no doubt bring in big numbers.  Headliners for some of the summer weekends include:

  • June 7 – X-Men: Dark Phoenix
  • June 14 – Men in Black: International
  • June 21 – Toy Story 4
  • July 5 – Spider-man: Far from Home
  • July 19 – The Lion King
  • August 2 – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

That is a lot of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes.  But there are also the smaller titles that could break out and become horribly over-done dynasties of their own some day.  And then there are the horror movies that always seem to do much better than I predict.  Will they fool me again this summer?

Anyway, my tentative plans for the summer league include the following:

  • Thursday night lock so we all have to pick before the preview numbers hit
  • No empty screen penalty
  • $2 million bonus for the worst performing film

I am sold on the first one, while the other two I am putting out there just to shake things up a bit.  If people scream in the comments about either I may put them back the way they were.

Otherwise things will be about the same as the last season I ran, including the main an alternate scoring method.

I had mentioned possibly breaking up the summer into three shorter sprints.  However, just because FML gives you a field that shows the duration of a season doesn’t mean that you can edit it.  It looks like we are stuck with 13 weeks unless I am missing something.

In the mean time the spring league looks like it might have a surprise winner.  Goat had led the whole season, only to be upset last week by Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex.  Goat (and I) bet against Aladdin, which went on to do better than expected, with an exceptionally strong Sunday.

I will post the winners for spring next week in addition to the opening week post for the summer season.

If you are interested in playing, I will post a link to join the TAGN league in the comments on this post and in next week’s post.  The links expire after a few days and you will need to create an account at the FML site to play.

I am also considering creating a Discord server for the blog where, among other things, movie discussion could be a channel.  Discord is light and, if you already have it, one more server on your list isn’t a big deal. (I actually created one ages ago, I’ve just never invited anybody to it.)

As always, if you have any suggestions for the season let me know in the comments.

Finding the Pillagers

I mentioned at the end of the last Minecraft post, where I was searching for freshly generated villages, that there was something interesting on the map I rendered with Minecraft Overviewer.

What I saw was a tower.

From the map

Naturally I was keen to run out and check out that tower in person, unconcerned about what function the tower might serve.  So I got on my horse and rode out to see what I could see.

As I got within sight of the tower I noticed that there were a few pillagers in the way.  I had seen pillagers wandering about already, so this was nothing new.  I had slain some before, avoided others.  Just another hostile mob.

I dismounted and left the horse to wander… we’ll get to that… to go pick off the pillagers.

The tower is just over yonder, a pillager band in between

I stormed in and started killing off the pillagers only to find more arriving.  I ran towards the tower when things started to get a little overwhelming, finding even more pillagers as I got closer.

I ran in one of the openings in the base of the tower and quickly filled it up with some cobble stone to keep the pillagers out.  The I ran to the far side and did the same to the other opening, then filled in the window opening along the other two sides of the base to stop the crossbow wielding pillagers from shooting me.

I used to be an adventurer like you…

So for the moment I was safe, but I seemed to be in deep with the pillagers.  It was about then that I went to the wiki to see what might be up with this tower only to find that it was a Pillager Outpost, literally the place where pillagers spawn.

I went up through the tower, checking out each level.  There was a chest up at the top with a few items in it, but not much else.  Night was also falling, so I went to one of the lower levels that was enclosed… exposing yourself only draws more arrows from the pillagers… and built myself a bed.

However, it was already night and there were already zombies and skeletons spawning around the place, so I spent the night awake and sniping at the pillagers.  Come the morning I was still firing away at pillagers whose numbers seemed to replenish and remain above my ability to run out and solo.

And they all had eyes for me

In my inventory I have a stack of a dozen units of TNT.  I considered how best to use this to cover my escape.  I leaned out the second floor and placed some above where the pillagers were congregating, then some more lower down, and one right in the center where the door was.  I then hit one of them with a fire arrow to detonate them while opening up a hole on the other side of the building through which to make my escape.

I did seem to have thinned out their ranks as I ran to where I left my horse.  However, try to form, it had wandered off beyond line of sight.  Meanwhile, the remaining hostile pillagers were giving chase, so I headed back north to the village, turning to fight… or to drop a block of TNT to detonate amongst them… every so often.

The pillagers are persistent and would not give up the chase, but I was able to knock off the last of them by the time I got back to the village.  However, on entering the village I learned about the bad omen curse.

When you kill the pillager captains, the guys with the banners, you get the bad omen and as soon as you walk into a village it triggers a raid.  The bad omen effect stacks, and the more you have the more waves you get in your raid.

So it was a further fight, during which most of my villagers were wiped out.  Pillages go straight for them if they can.  They also open normal doors, so just being inside is no safety.  That also introduced me to the ravager, the pillage beast/mount, which has a lot of hit points and hits like a truck.  Fortunately it is too big to fit through a single door, so I was able to find a spot from which to fire away at the one that spawned during one of the raid waves.

Eventually I prevailed, though I was close to death a few times… and, as I said, most of my villagers died.  But I got the achievement for defeating a raid.

Hero of the Village also gets you a discount on buying items from villagers and makes giving them things to increase their level more effective.  This would have been useful had I had many villagers left.

Meanwhile, there were still pillagers lurking about on the route to the pillager camp, though no captains, so I could knock them down without having another raid hit.

Pillager lurking by my village – Also, Hero of the Village effect icon at upper right

That done I headed back to find my damn horse.  I found him up the hill overlooking the pillager camp.

The horse could pretty much see me the whole time

From up there I could also move around to get a look into how much damage I had done.

The tower after my first run

I blew a pretty big chunk out of the side of the tower, and a tree that was there, against which I had placed some of the TNT, had gone completely missing.  But I saw that at least one block of TNT remained.  That seemed like an invite to return.  So I went back in, placed the last of my TNT at various points around the tower, all while avoiding pillagers who began to chase me yet again, and started blowing things up.  Releasing the iron golem they had caged up helped some, as they fought with him for a while.

Then I set the tower on fire, just for good measure before running off again.  Again, a bunch of pillagers were following me.

Not happy with me

I managed to kill off the followers and avoid the captains, leading them into the ocean and out swimming them.  No bad omen this time.

Then it was back to the village to start fortifying it against pillagers, first by building a wall around it.  I also found a few of the pillager banners in my inventory from my fights.

Banners of my defeated foes

I decided to hang some of those up on my defensive structures.

Fortifying my village

Later, I went and rendered a fresh copy of the map to see what was left of the tower.

Tower after the TNT and burning

There are still two blocks of unexploded TNT around the tower, so I might have to go back.  We’ll see if pillagers stop spawning there if I tear the whole thing down.

Rorqual Kills in Malpais

When the ping says “Rorquals and Supers Tackled get in fleet now” you go.

After a three day weekend where I missed out on a number of fleets simply by being a minute late and getting the “fleet is full” message… :goonrush: is a thing and I’ll have some more on that in another post… clone jumping back to our SIG staging to jump into stealth bomber for some capital kills seemed like a good idea.  And when the follow up came asking for dreads I sent my dread alt back over there as well.

PanFam has decided to concentrate their forces in SH1-6P as a base of operations in order to strike at any exposed Imperium operations in Tribute.  That has pulled forces away from other areas of their holdings, including Malpais, where ratting and mining had previously been under the protective umbrella of NCDot.  This, in turn, has led groups like Bomberwaffe and Black Ops to start hunting for targets there.  They found nine Rorquals happily mining away in an anomaly and the call went out.

I logged in and clone jumped down to our old staging, which was just two gates from where Zungen had a black ops battleship ready to bridge us.  He sent us to a mid point, jumped in with us, then after a bit of a cool down sent us on our way to the target system in Malpais.  One DBRB and his bomber fleet had already dealt with one Rorqual by the time I dropped in, but there were plenty more on the field.

I arrived in time to see that first one blow up

The Rorquals on field were in various states of defense.  We were sharing coms with DBRB’s fleet, which was a bit of a challenge at times.  Those familiar with his enthusiastic style will know some of what I mean, but he also kept forgetting that there were two fleets on grid and in coms and had to be reminded to call out target names rather than just saying, “Shoot the target I just broadcast.”

Rorqual getting hit, another in the background

We were only a couple of kills in when the first defense response showed up in the form of a small Jackdaw fleet.  That would have done for DBRB’s fleet, but Black Ops dropped in Lokis, which were enough to chase off the Jackdaws.  A few bombers showed up to take shots at us as well, including one guy in a Manticore who managed to get the final blow on himself with his own bomb.  It has to sting to get your own kill mail.

Meanwhile we were still shooting and watching the time for the Rorquals that had gone into PANIC mode.

Rorqual with the PANIC mode active

Six Rorquals had gone down and we were working on a seventh when NCDot showed up with a Muninn fleet.  When they appeared on grid with us it was time to go.  We warped out, got to safe spots, and cloaked up.

Zungen got his fleet cloaked up on his black ops battleship and we were soon back at the Astrahus mid-point from which we had dropped on the Rorquals.  That was as far as my dead alt had made it.

Dreads tethered up on the Astrahus

The part about supers tackled didn’t pan out, so there was no call to jump the dreadnoughts in.  That’s a pity, as my insurance is going to expire soon on my Naglfar, so I’m disposed towards losing it.  I’d have jumped it in on the Rorquals if asked even knowing it was doomed.  But I guess I at least got to undock it and drive it around a bit.

We bridged back to our initial jump point, followed by the dreads, and escorted them back to our staging.

The Rorquals all top the price list for recent kills I am on

This is the reason I log in when Zungen pings.  At least half the time we end up just sitting on the black ops battleship waiting to bridge, only to stand down as the target was spooked or moved on.  But when it does pan out, it is always a blast to drop in and blow up something big.

The Invasion Expansion Arrives in EVE Online

Today is the day, the Invasion expansion for EVE Online is here.

The Invasion is now

The Triglavian theme is right up front as the expansion features three new Triglavian ships.  They are:

  • Nergal – Assault Frigate
  • Ikitursa – Heavy Assault Cruiser
  • Draugur – Command Destroyer

These are tech II ships, which means that there must also be the related skills, Triglavian Encryption Methods and ,Triglavian Encryption Methods as well as Triglavian Quantum Engineering datacores and Triglavian tech II components, so that players can go through the invention process to build these new ships.

There will also now be Mutaplasmids for modifying Damage Control and Assault Damage Controls modules.

In addition, there is this item in the patch notes:

The Triglavian Collective have begun to exert influence on systems within of the Hi-Security regions of New Eden. Escalating System-wide effects have been observed and Triglavian forces are roaming these systems in varied fleet sizes and compositions. Rumors spreading from capsuleer expeditions into abyssal deadspace indicate that these first waves of Triglavian vessels may be the vanguard of a larger invasion force yet to reveal itself.

This is no doubt the “invasion” to which the expansion refers, but as to what it means and how intrusive it will be in high sec space is left to be seen.  The trailer for the expansion is clearly focused on something happening as well.

However, we don’t know what it all really means, whether these will be like incursions or pirate faction FOBs or something completely new, though I am sure the whole thing will make somebody angry.

The expansion also brings round four of the War Declaration revamp.  With the expansion any aggressive war will now require the attacker to declare an Upwell structure as their HQ.  Destruction or removal of the HQ will end the war and the attacking party will not be able to declare war on the same target until a two week cool-down has passed.

The cost of wars has now been simplified.  They are a straight up 100 million ISK per week.

Mutual wars have also been simplified and do not have a weekly charge to maintain.

There is also a big revamp of The Agency as part of the expansion.

The New Agency?

The old user interface of The Agency represented the conflict between good intentions and poor execution, so we will see if CCP has been able to act on the many complaints about their all-in-one PvE content finder.

Other highlights from the expansion:

  • Faction, storyline, and office weapons can now use tech II ammunition
  • There is now a button to get a rookie ship, a corvette, rather than just handing you one automatically when you dock up in an NPC station in a pod and have no ship in your hangar
  • A new pointer tool has been added to help you explain the arcane EVE Online interface to friends you rope into playing
  • You can opt-in for the 64-bit client beta

There are lots of other details in the Patch Notes and on the Updates Page for the expansion.  Word is that the expansion has been deployed successfully.  Now we’ll just have to see what those Triglavians are up to.