Monthly Archives: June 2019

June in Review

The Site

I was excited momentarily when I saw another WordPress.com blog had a switch on their side bar that allowed you to turn on and off “night mode” on your blog.  This mode makes your blog dark, which solves the war between those who want black text on a white background and white text on a black background.

The magic switch

On seeing that I immediately started looking up how to add that to TAGN.  And I found out how.  It is a plugin, and to be able to add plugins you need to have a business level account with WP.com, which runs past $300 a year.  Given that is over 10x what I pay today (I have a no longer available “No Ads and CSS editing” plan for $30 a year), night mode won’t be here any time soon.  I just don’t care about you, the reader, that much.  Sorry.

I did also see that WP.com had re-arranged their plans yet again.  I hadn’t gotten a note about that, but the range now includes some more reasonably priced options.

The June 2019 personal plans

The Blogger plan is only slightly more than what I pay now, so I might be tempted by that for the other site, if only to remove ads.  The Premium plan would even be within my means for this site, if I had any use for most of the features.  Therein lies the problem.  I don’t even want a custom domain name.  After more than a dozen years as tagn.wordpress.com, why would I want to mess with that.  All I really want is ads removed and enough storage space for my many screen shots.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com pushed a new version of their mobile app last week that not only shows less information, but insists on showing stats based on the time zone you happen to be in as opposed to the time zone to blog is set to.  My attempts to engage with WP.com have been met with the usual blank looks and unhelpful replies.  This does not make me want to give them more money.

On another front, I got sick of the Blog Roll Feed in the side bar failing to load.  It was always a bit problematic, but of late it seemed to be failing to load almost all the time.  So I dug into my Rube Golberg setup and found a problem that should have prevented it from loading ever.

This comes up more often in software than you might hope in software.

Anyway, I redid how everything connects and it seems to be much more reliable now.  So op success for what is now v.7 of the sidebar feed.  It isn’t bullet proof… it is still a hack… but it shows data now more often than it did previously.

One Year Ago

I was done with DragonVale.

Blizzard picked the version of the game that would become WoW Classic.  Version 1.12 would be the destination for nostalgia.

With Pokemon moving on to other platforms, it was clear that the Nintendo DS/3DS/2DS platform was on its way out.

In New Eden it was time for the CSM13 election.  Surprise!  Null sec candidates won most of the seats yet again. #NoCollusion

Running Abyssal pockets seemed to be all the rage.  The Federation Grand Prix, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment… unless you were selling shuttles I suppose.

I was also time for the great outpost conversion, where all those stations dropped in null sec over the years were converted to faction Fortizars.

We were also wondering what EVE: Project Galaxy was.  I guess we still are, since it hasn’t shipped yet.

Somebody said something dumb about PvP in EVE Online, then went on to get banned.

Star Citizen was roundly trolled for rolling out a ship that looked a lot like an EVE Online ship, and they took that trolling badly.  It happened to be the same ship that we used for a race.

I also went on a main fleet op, which is something I do every so often to remind myself why I do not go on main fleet ops.

And then there was the return of the Mystery Code in EVE Online.  There was a lot of stuff going on at CCP.

And it was a year ago that Steam announced that they weren’t going to judge games, they were just going to let everything onto their service… unless they considered it “trolling,” which sounds like a judgement to me… or if it was on the version of their service in China.  The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China pretty much demands curation of all aspects of life.

But the Steam Summer Sale was on, so who really cared about all that?

I wrote something like a review of the game Vietnam 65.

Daybreak gave us all another free character boost in EverQuest II.

I did a summer reruns post about 80s video games.

Finally I did a Friday Bullet Points post that included Star Citizen, Diablo IV, Apple killing support for OpenGL, the pending Aquatic Update for Minecraft, free video games for Amazon Prime subscribers, and perhaps my last Pokemon download even post ever.

Five Years Ago

I toasted the Newbie Blogger Initiative class of 2014.  Long may they post… those that remain in any case.

WildStar launched… and started its journey to F2P and eventual closure.

SOE finally broke its ties with the ill-fated and ill-conceived ProSiebenSat.1 deal.

Derek Smart was telling us why to charge for beta.  Lord British was getting serious with virtual real estate.  Meanwhile, DC Universe Online was doing well on the PlayStation.

It was summer and the short lived strategy group was looking to the Steam Summer Sale for a new game.  Meanwhile we were still playing our epic game of Civilization V.

We heard about how CCP handled/mishandled World of Darkness.

CCP launched the last of its expansions with a six month lead-time.  Kronos was the end of the line for twice yearly expansions.  I set off on the training plan to be a wing/fleet booster in EVE Online.

I also did a summer reruns post about the Fountain War in EVE Online.

In Azereoth, my attempt at the Loremaster achievement had me in Darkshore and then on to Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains .

Meanwhile the Warlords of Draenor alpha was starting, so I had to avert my eyes.  So I started pondering things like how Blizzard should change the starter edition of WoW.

The instance group, heading towards its regular summer hiatus, was hitting the Mogu-shan Palace.

I took a look at a long history of gear obsession.

And I was wondering if authenticators were still a thing.

Ten Years Ago

People were upset about Blizzard not including LAN play in StarCraft II.  It looks like Blizzard stuck to that plan company-wide, as every game since has been always online.

The NeuroSky MindSet was released, but I still cannot cast fireballs in WoW using only my brain.

Then there was that Wii Bowling Ball controller.  Seemed more like a lawsuit magnet.

There was a new definition of hard core gamers.

I was complaining about the local newspaper being made up of 8 pieces of paper.  I have since stopped getting the daily paper.  We still get the Sunday paper however.

There was an attempt to get Age of Empires II: Age of Kings going while people in the instance group were on vacation.  We did end up getting connected via a service called Game Ranger.  Now you can play it live on Steam.

The in-game map in EVE Online was showing me where I had been and where all my stuff was.  Pretty neat.  CCP added a new map since, but they had to leave the old one in because the replacement still hasn’t achieved feature parity.

And then there was World of Warcraft.  They changed when you got mounts in the game allowing people to (literally and figuratively) fly through The Burning Crusade.  There was that whole WoW/Mountain Dew cross promotion which, if nothing else, got me another in-game pet.  I spent all my gold on the artisan flying skill, and then they lowered the price with the mount changes.  I got the achievement The Explorer, but that didn’t mean I was necessarily an achiever.  And I bought an authenticator.  Viva account security.

And then there was the Midsummer Fire Festival.

The instance group was deep into Wrath of the Lich King.  We did Ahn’kahet: the Old Kingdom and Drak’Tharon Keep when we were all available.  When not we went back to TBC and did some heroics with four of us just for kicks.

And then there was FarmVille, a Facebook game that had our attention for a brief moment.  It went live ten years ago.  It won awards and faced criticism from a range of sources.  Even Martha Stewart was on Zynga’s case for a bit.  And, of course, it set the standard for spammy, cash hungry crap games on social media.

Twenty Years Ago

The Half-Life mod called Counter-Strike had its first public beta release.  Valve hired the two people who developer the mod, acquiring the code and name as well, and it was developed into the stand-alone title Counter-Strike.

Thirty-five Years Ago

The first version of Tetris was released.  It might have made an appearance on more platforms than any other commercial title, and variations on it are still appearing.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  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. Is New Player Retention Fixable in EVE Online
  6. Drifters Hitting Null Sec Upwell Structures
  7. Three Problems MMORPGs are Never Going to Solve
  8. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  9. That EVE Online Starter Pack Controversy
  10. WoW Classic Stress Test Redux
  11. The Alleged Purity of Leveling
  12. Failed Headshot in Tribute

Search Terms of the Month

best way to raid with mouse/keyboard in eq2
[Can you even do so without mouse/keyboard?]

redeeming starter pack eve online
[There wasn’t much redeeming about it]

wow classic support 32 bit?
[A big negative on that]

Game Time from ManicTime

Overall time was down by 30% this month.  I must have been doing other things, like writing blog posts about everything that happened last week.  WoW also seemed to be down, though I’ll get to why in that section.

  • EVE Online 40.10%
  • WoW 27.47%
  • RimWorld 21.79%
  • Civilization V 6.16%
  • Minecraft 3.99%
  • LOTRO 0.50%

EVE Online

There was quite a lot going on in New Eden in June, what with EVE North, CSM14 elections, selling skill points, and the war in Tribute and Vale, I had lots to write about.  And then the Drifters started hitting our structures, future war plans were suspended, and we all went back to Delve to PvE.  Oh well.  The 64-bit client seems to work though.  I used that all month.

Lord of the Rings Online

I did, in fact, play a bit of LOTRO this month.  I wanted to grab the 64-bit client, which didn’t take too long, relatively speaking.  LOTRO updates always take longer than they should because the patcher is archaic.  But I managed it.  Then I logged in and was in Bree and had to remember how to get back to Moria.  And then Mirkwood opened up a few days later on the Legendary server and my interest waned completely.

Minecraft

I ran out of steam somewhat when it came to the Village and Pillage update.  I found villages, improved them, fought pillagers, did a bunch more exploring, and then came to the usual “now what?” part of the game, at which point I tend to stop logging in so much.  We’ll see if the bug hits again.

Pokemon Go

I had a pretty good month with Pokemon Go.  I didn’t level up, but I got some break throughs, such that there is a blog post in progress on this, that would have gone last week… but last week managed to fill itself up.  So I’ll get to that.  Otherwise, the usual stats:

Level: 36 (+0)
Pokedex status: 425 (+6) caught, 453 (+6) seen
Pokemon I want: Togekiss
Current buddy: Prinplup

RimWorld

As Minecraft faded, RimWorld came back into the picture.  Both are games you can sit and play while listening to podcasts or audio books, which I find relaxing.  Having won the original scenario a couple of times, I wanted to do the next more difficult scenario.  You start with five colonists and almost no technology.  That led to a some restarts as all my colonists died again and again.  But I got past that finally.  There is a blog post in the works as to where that led.

World of Warcraft

What with the war in EVE Online and not much new happening in Azeroth, WoW time slid quite a bit.  The percentage shown even includes the WoW Classic load test, since the final WoW Classic client registers with ManicTime as the same as the live client.

Actually, something big did happen.  We got the 8.2 update and more content and the chance to unlock flying.  Due to EVE Online, I haven’t even started on any of that.

Steam Summer Sale

Despite my guess last  week, the Steam Summer Sale is not the same old thing.  No, they have some new ideas, and some old ones, and they have had odd results.  First, you have to choose a team and nearly everybody decided to go with Team Corgi because corgis are cute.  So Team Corgi wins a lot.  I went with Team Tortise, which won a day after Valve gave us a way to sabotage other teams effectively and everybody hit Team Corgi.

Then there was the chance to win something from your wish list.  They did this years back, and it got people to add games to their wish list.  Now we all have so much crap on our lists that Valve threatening to give us a random game from it for free triggered a mass wish list purge, much to the horror of devs, who get stats on that.  That was amended so that you will now win the first game on your wish list, so you don’t have to banish all the five dollar indy crap from your sight.  I did so anyway, paring my wish list from 71 to 11 games.

Finally, to earn points and such in the event you have to buy games (duh), play some specific games and complete special tasks within them, or play a game that has Steam achievements.  I did the latter, which is how Civilization V made it onto my ManicTime list this month.   I would have just played RimWorld, but it does not have Steam achievements.  Oh well.

Coming Up

We have another week or so to run with the Steam Summer Sale, so we shall see if I end up buying anything.  My daughter is pestering me about a couple of titles.

In World of Warcraft I have the whole Rise of Azshara update to explore.  With almost two months to go before WoW Classic I should have enough time to unlock flying.

With null sec wars in EVE Online called off on account of CCP, there will likely be a return to SIGs and Squads being the place to actually play the game.  We’ll see what CCP has planned for this Drifter invasion, but it isn’t making people in null sec happy.  The Drifters aren’t actually killing structures and don’t even drop loot.  They are just a plague sent to afflict us.  We’ll survive, but there had better be a point to this.

And, otherwise, it is July.  People used to say August was the dead month for video games, but then Blizz started launching things in August, so now July is it I guess.

Starter Pack Frenzy

I suppose we should not lose sight of a key bit of irony that has stemmed from the controversy surrounding the whole EVE Online Starter Pack thing this week.

The reasonably priced packs

By objecting loudly to the Starter Pack, by bringing attention to it to as many people as possible, those against such things have probably been able to sell a lot more of them than CCP would have otherwise manage on their own.

CCP dropped this Starter Pack update on their DLC page right after EVE North and without any fanfare and a group of angry capsuleers went and did the marketing for them.

One of the arguments for the Starter Pack has been that a million skill points isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things.  For any but the youngest character a million skill points isn’t going to change the world, and for a crusty old vet like me, with over 200 million skill points on my main, the Starter Pack barely moves the needle.

But that is the wrong way to look at this.  That ignores what will be the motivation for many, which is value.

The blurb on the Starter Pack says “Worth $10,” but that is wrong… very wrong for some people.

A million skill points is two large skill injectors worth.  A large skill injector was selling for around 1 billion ISK when I last checked.  (EVE Market Data confirms that for the moment.)  With PLEX past the $4 million mark each, you need to buy about 500 PLEX in cash to end up with enough ISK to buy two fill skill injectors.  So a million skill points is roughly worth 2 billion ISK, which even at the current end-of-quarter sale prices, comes out to more than double that “Worth $10” statement, if you buy the 1,100 PLEX pack.

But that assumes that you have a character who can get the full benefit of a skill injector, which have diminishing returns the more skill points you have.

  • < 5 million total skill points = 500,000 skill points per injector
  • 5 million – 50 million total skill points = 400,000 skill points per injector
  • 50 million – 80 million total skill points = 300,000 skill points per injector
  • > 80 million skill points = 150,000 skill points per injector

So for a vet like me, a large skill injector is worth just 150,000 skill points.

350K SP go to waste

That means that a million skill points is actually worth almost SEVEN large skill injectors to somebody over 80 million skill points, or 7 billion ISK or 3,500 PLEX or somewhere past $100 even at the current PLEX sale prices.

Basically, a lot of people read this deal and see “Seven Large Skill Injectors for $5!”  Why wouldn’t you throw a bit of change at that, even if you can only buy it once?

And then, with their promise to change the Start Pack, presumably in the near future, CCP has put a time pressure on getting the deal, so people think they have to buy it now or miss out!  I mean, CCP could have yanked it from the buying options immediately.  They have that power.  Instead, they let it linger.  It is still there as I write this.  I doubt it will be gone before Monday.

Hilmar was on Twitter discounting the idea that this Start Pack was going to sell enough units to have any real impact on the financial numbers, but I suspect that whatever modest goals they had for it have been exceeded in less than a week, all thanks to player rage.  Talk about having your cake and eating it.  They get the money, the attention, and the good will for walking back their change, but only after it has had time to sell even more units.

Well played CCP, well played.

SuperData Sees Overwatch Appear and Fortnite Hang On

It is the last weekday of the month and I am finally getting to the SuperData chart.  It is one of those posts that isn’t time sensitive, so long as I get it in during the month the chart drops, but there hasn’t been a lot of room for extra posts this week.  I had four posts on Tuesday.  I never do four posts in a single day.

Anyway, my digression aside, they dropped their chart for May so let’s take a look.

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2019

On the PC side of the chart the top five remain in place.  “LDFCF” was the ordering last month as well.

After that bloc, we have Total War: Three Kingdoms, the latest entry in the Total War series.  That launched near the end of the month, but saw enough sales… mostly on Steam I would guess… to make it up to sixth place.

That pushed World of Tanks and The Division 2 both down one spot, to seventh and eighth places respectively.

While World of Warcraft remains absent, and Hearthstone‘s fling in April was cut short, May saw Overwatch pop up into ninth place.  I do not pay enough attention to Overwatch to be able to explain why.

Finally, there was DOTA 2, one of the titles perennially fighting for that last spot.

In the center, Fortnite returned to the top of the console chart, displacing Mortal Kombat 11, which fell to third place.  The FIFA, MLB, and NBA titles held on, while Grand Theft Auto V returned to the top ten after dropping off for the first time in ages back in April.

And in mobile, Honour of Kings remained securely on top with Perfect World staying in second.  Candy Crush Saga popped up to third place and Pokemon Go remained in seventh.

SuperData also posted a chart to Twitter indicating that, year over year, digital spending was down in May.

May 2018 vs 2019

And, if you want to know where battle royale players spend their money, they posted a chart about that too.

For comparison, NPD also has their top ten revenue chart out for May as well.  Their list is:

  1. Mortal Kombat 11
  2. Days Gone
  3. Total War: Three Kingdoms
  4. Rage 2*
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  7. Red Dead Redemption II
  8. MLB 19: The Show
  9. Minecraft
  10. NBA 2K19

*No digital data

As usual, the NPD data covers both physical sales as well as some digital numbers from participating publishers, and only covers the US.

There is, as expect, much overlap despite the different data sets.  The most interesting item on the list for me is Minecraft.  It is one of the best selling games ever, but never cracks the SuperData chart because I am sure Mojang/Microsoft simply don’t share that data.  But something got it on the NPD chart.  I am just not sure what.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions League of Legends returned to the top, followed by usual suspects of Fortnie, Grand Theft Auto V, DOTA 2 and CS:GO. Hearthstone was on the list last month, supplanting DOTA 2,

Finally, the notes from the SuperData post for May:

  • Worldwide digital game spending dips on every platform. Consumers spent $8.7 billion digitally on games across console, PC and mobile in May, down 4% from the same month last year. This was driven by a 6% decline in Mobile, which continues to be a larger contributor than console and PC combined. The drop off in Fortnite also continues to drag both console and PC.
  • Fortnite gets a boost from Season 9 but is still far off from its peak. Fortnite made $203 million across console, PC and mobile, up significantly from April but down 38% from May 2018. Console continues to contribute the largest share of players and revenue.
  • FIFA Ultimate Team revenue declines year-over-year. We estimate that FIFA in-game spending generated $93 million across console and PC in May, down from the same month last year, partly due to a tough comparison against the initial strength of the World Cup mode last May. However, we note that World Cup performance weakened over time and will likely lead to more favorable comparisons in the coming months.
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms breaks one million units at launch. Sega’s latest strategy game led the top rankings on PC this month with $62 million in digital revenue.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds quietly continues to sell millions of units. We estimate that PUBG has sold 4.7 million digital units across PC and console year-to-date through May, maintaining its position as one of the best selling shooter titles on any platform despite losing much of the spotlight to EA’s Apex Legends and Fortnite.

That EVE Online Starter Pack Controversy

So as not to bury the lede (one of my favorite things) the title refers to the updated Starter Pack which you can get from CCP’s EVE Online DLC page.  It includes one million skill points and runs just $4.99 currently.

There are, and have been for ages, some reasonably priced packs you can buy to give yourself a leg up on the game.  They have come in assorted flavors.  In the past they were sometimes related to professions like mining or exploring or even combat.  Now they are more generic.

The reasonably priced packs

And then, of course, there is the Galaxy Pack, for the more whale-ish of customers.

The Galaxy Pack!

The theme of these packs has been pretty consistent over the years since Alpha clones showed up.  You get some Omega time, to get you a taste of being a subscriber, you get some PLEX so you can buy something in the cash shop, and you get a some cosmetics, something nice to wear and/or a ship SKIN.  Maybe there is an implant or a multiple character training cert, but that was about it.

Even the Starter Pack used to be mostly that.  It’s previous payload was:

  • 7 days of Omega, ensuring Double Training and many more benefits
  • 250,000 Skill Points, giving you a head start in skill training
  • Skill and Damage Booster (Cerebral Accelerator)
  • A stunning bundle of starter ship SKINs
  • Blood Raider apparel

For no doubt emotional reasons, 250K SP as part of the bundle wasn’t viewed as a betrayal by CCP.  That much was available via a friend referral.

However, CCP changed the Starter Pack so, as the screen shot above indicates, it includes:

  • 1,000,000 Skill Points
  • Skill and Damage Booster
  • A stunning bundle of starter ship SKINs
  • Blood Raider apparel

No more Omega time and 4x the skill points now.

And some people are quite angry about that change; specifically the move to handing out a million skill points.  That crossed an emotional barrier.  And I can see why.

In the three years since what I called the Mardi Gras Release in February of 2016, which brought Skill Extractors and Skill Injectors into the game, the whole skill point market has put a lot of players on edge as they have expected CCP to step over the line and start injecting skill points into the game for cash.

Skill Injectors have also been blamed, and not without merit, for ruining the game already, for specific definitions of “ruin.”

The intentions were, if not pure, at least not straight up evil as presented.  With a then 13 year old game based on the skill training queue, there was a large negative perception that new players could never “catch up,” could never be on an equal footing with those who started before them.

The long held vet opinion that this meant players had to learn the game and that newbies have a place in fleets in things tackle frigates and should work their way up the ladder the same way we did back in the day fell on deaf ears.  Nobody wants to be told to do it the hard way, they want to fly a titan today.

And with PLEX able to turn real world money into ISK and then with ISK able to buy Skill Injectors, anybody with enough cash could fly a titan today.  New players could catch up.  Problem solved.

Well, sort of.  The more likely scenario was this.

Iron Bank buys ALL THE SKILLS

More so than new player, old hands ended up buying Skill Injectors to boost up titan alts and now we have more titan pilots in the game than CCP ever imagined would be possible.

But this did not lead to a wide player revolt like Incarna for a couple of mitigating reasons.

First, you had always been able to buy characters in EVE Online, so technically you could buy your way into a titan pilot before, though getting the ISK was for it was a challenge.

Second, this was not introducing new skill points into the game.  All of the skill points would be extracted from the current player base.  In fact, because of the diminishing returns of Skill Injectors… somebody like me only gets 150K or the 500K skill points an injector contains… it was actually removing skill points from the game.

350K SP go to waste for me…

But most important was what the dev blog about Skill Injectors stated:

It’s very important to note here that this means all the skillpoints available to buy on the market in EVE will have originated on other characters where they were trained at the normal rate.  Player driven economies are key to EVE design and we want you to decide the value of traded skillpoints while we make sure there is one single mechanism that brings new skillpoints in to the system – training.

The mob was mollified, if still wary.

And then CCP started straight up selling skill points they injected into the game.

The daily Alpha Clone injector

This was the daily Alpha Clone injector, which came into the game back in November of 2017.  I thought surely this would be the breaking point, that the mob would come unglued and that there would be rioting in Jita and so forth.

But there wasn’t.  The Alpha Clone injector had just enough limitations to be mostly palatable, or at least not worth an insurrection.   Those limitations were:

  • Only one Daily Alpha Injector may be used per day, per character [not account] (resets at downtime)
  • May only be used by characters in the Alpha Clone State
  • Can be purchased in the NES for PLEX or purchased for your regions real money currency via secure.eveonline.com
  • Can be activated to immediately to add 50,000 skill points to your character’s unallocated skill pool (roughly one day worth of Omega training)
  • Can be traded on the in-game market
  • Does not award Omega Status

Still, the seal was broken, CCP was just injecting skill points into the game for cash.

I guess CCP had been generating them on occasion before, giving out skill points as compensation for game problems.  But the lid was well and truly off last November when they added in the login reward mechanism, and gave us some skill points just to test it out.

And then came the 16th anniversary where any Omega logging in for 16 days got ONE MILLION skill points.  At that point you could argue that CCP was just printing skill points for cash… cash via Omega subscriptions, but cash none the less.  CCP created skill points were now the norm.

Which brings us to today and the Starter Pack and the straight up “give me five dollars and I’ll give you a million skill points” deal.

Things have moved along incrementally.  If you have accepted everything CCP has done up to this point it is a tough be taken seriously if you argue that this is the breaking point, that CCP has gone beyond the pale, that CCP has broken faith with players, that the Pearl Abyss cash shop gold ammo power selling apocalypse is upon us, because we were practically there already.  Why didn’t you say something before?

And, Jin’taan’s unlikely work-around aside, you can only apply one Starter Pack per accoun., (Along with some other fresh restrictions, threw in only after people began to object loudly.)  So what is the big deal?

The flip side of that is how the incremental changes have continued on, which means that they will likely continue on going forward.

Today is it just the Starter Pack, which you can only use once per account.  But if that is okay, if we accept that, then how soon until skill points are part of the Meteor Pack or the Star Pack?  How soon until that $99 Galaxy Pack comes with a Skill Injector or three filled up with skill points CCP created just for that purpose?

That is not at all a stretch.  CCP has been close to this in the past.  They used to sell industry packs that came with Aurum, the old cash shop currency.  At one point Green Man Gaming was selling those for a dollar each (they were normally $10) and there was no limited per account.  So seeing that happen with skill points is very easy to imagine.  After all, CCP didn’t add them to the Starter Pack by accident.  Somebody thought that was a good idea, and nobody objected to it.  Somebody within CCP will always be looking for ways to boost revenue, and skill points are always going to be there as a temptation.  CCP edged back some when it got push back, but the company is certainly looking for that next step forward.

It is hard to stand up to any incremental change because it can be argued away as not being radically different from what you had accepted before.  But in the face of an ongoing march of incremental changes that set a pattern that appears to lead to an unhappy conclusion, it doesn’t seem exactly radical to reach a point where you can see the pattern and feel the need to push back on it.  At some point the frog realizes that boiling is in its future.

So I get why somebody like Manic Velocity, a passionate member of the community, has found his breaking point with this move. (I wonder what would have happened had he made it onto the CSM.)  It isn’t that the move is so radical, it is that it appears to be yet another step on the path towards a game we won’t like.  Sometimes you reach a point where you just can’t go along with it any more.

Most people won’t mind though.  Some people will complain.  On Reddit there will be threads about betrayal, predictions about the next steps, and calls for protest that will be ignored by the vast majority of the community.

I’m aware of the situation, but I am unlikely to walk away from the game.  I see the path being trod, but I am of a fatalist bent and cannot see CCP deviating far from that path as time goes forward.  We can perhaps slow their pace, but in the end they will get there.  CCP will continue on down this trail.  They pretty much have to.  The game isn’t growing, they have no other products, past attempts at other products have failed, so what is left?  Monetize harder!

Meanwhile, the retention rate of new players will remain weak.  I don’t think CCP is capable of addressing that, and I am skeptical that there is anything they could do in any case.  And as time goes forward the older player base will erode… from tiring of the game or from whatever outrage comes along… which will also hurt new player retention… until the population hits a tipping point and the economy starts to collapse.

Then there will be huge inflation as the endless ISK from NPC bounties chases the dwindling PLEX supply while the Jita market deflates otherwise as fewer and fewer players buy ships and modules and ammo and what not.

CCP will step into try and stabilize things.  They’ll hit NPC bounties hard, but that will just drive more players away by then.  They will setup NPCs to sell things again, putting an effective floor on the price of minerals the way shuttles used to, but driving out miners and industrialists.  Pockets of null sec that can maintain self-sufficiency will keep fighting, throwing excess titans at each other and dropping low power Keepstars with abandon as the PCU dwindles.  It will be hilarity, a Mad Max post-apocalyptic spaceship demolition derby, in the midst of tragedy.

The last gasp will be CCP putting out a fresh server so people can start anew.  That will be fun for a bit, but it will kill TQ and signal the beginning of the end.  CCP won’t change their ways and all the old problems will crop up, in weeks or months this time rather than years.  We have seen that in every retro server.  The go back in time only accelerate it.

Eventually a few old players will be sitting around chatting in local about what a great game it was.  What other online game let you do even half of what EVE Online did?  What a wild ride it was while it lasted. And then Sadus will remind us that WoW was the first MMO.

Or maybe it will all work out.  We’ll see.  Either way, CCP has a PLEX sale going, because of course they do.  It is the end of the fiscal quarter and CCP has to make Pearl Abyss happy with their numbers.

The Triglavian’s only known weakness: PLEX

Because if they don’t make Pearl Abyss happy… well… buy some PLEX today or we’ll be buying skill injectors and gold ammo tomorrow.

Other coverage:

Drifters Hitting Null Sec Upwell Structures

Reports began popping up on Twitter during the afternoon of June 26th about Drifter NPCs attacking and reinforcing Upwell structures in null sec space.  This was picked up by Imperium News, who reported that the Drifters were moving around Delve and reinforcing structures around the region.

When I got home from work I jumped into game on an alt and fly over to the one of the systems they were reported to be working in and, sure enough there were Drifters firing away at an Azbel while other structures in the system had already had their armor timers set.

Drifters in the compound!

Dismissed at first as a boot.ini level bug by CCP, the Imperium has decided that CCP is not going to “fix” what is happening and has sent out pings for a recall to Delve from our staging in the KQK1-2 Keepstar, which itself was hit by Drifters earlier.

Drifter Cruisers hitting the Azbel

Coincidentally, back on June 5th I saw a small Drifter force hitting the KQK Keepstar, though it was only three ships and they were sent packing right away.

Drifter webbing and shooting the Keepstar

I thought at the time this was anomalous behavior, Drifters doing silly things, especially after the mention at EVE North about the great NPC battle nobody saw. But now, after they have started hitting structures in force, it seems like we have a new event in null sec to keep up busy.  The EVE North mention might have been an alert or might have been a ruse in hindsight.

Drifters on grid

There has been word that the Drifters have hit structures in TEST and Pandemic Horde space as well and have set up gate camps at times to shoot players as they travel through the various null sec regions.  There is also word that damage caps do not apply to Drifter attacks and they are reinforcing structures more quickly that players are able.

Imperium move ops are coming soon and I guess I have the answer as to what we are going to do now that the last Keepstar in Tribute is gone.  PAP links for PvE coming up I guess.  We’ll be fine, throwing our forces against the Drifters.  We’ll see how other groups fare.

We will also have to see what CCP has in mind with this.

Others on the Drifter menace:

And CCP has a video from The Scope

So there we go.

Summer Movie League – Toy Story 4 Merely Dominates the Week

Were done with week three and there already seems to be a pattern for this summer’s Fantasy Movie League and the box office in general.

And that pattern is “under performance.”

For the third week in a row the top new releases of the week have failed to hit their expected numbers.

This past week saw Toy Story 4 dominate the weekend as expected, and even set a Pixar record for Friday numbers… which included the Thursday night previews… and yet fall short of expectations.  The film was being projected to bring in between $145 and $160 million.

Instead it barely broke the $120 million barrier.

That is still literally dumpsters full of cash being hauled in for a movie that is well reviewed.  Everybody I know who saw it recommends it.  Even Jason Scott called it “… the best and most well made unnecessary sequel I’ve seen.”

It just didn’t get to where the industry thought it would.  Is this just not a summer for movies?  Because the other two new films, Child’s Play and Anna, both missed their estimates as well.

Anyway, I went all in on Toy Story 4.  Taking advantage of the lack of penalty for empty screens, I went with the Friday + Saturday pick I mentioned in last week’s post, leaving blanks.  That wasn’t an awful pick in hindsight, but it wasn’t as good as the full lineup I went with for other leagues.

With Toy Story 4 pulling up the way it did, the scores for the week ended up looking like this:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – $95,542,794
  2. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $89,080,065
  3. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $88,349,964
  4. grannanj’s Cineplex – $87,148,187
  5. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $86,931,732
  6. Conical Effort – $86,931,732
  7. Joanie’s Joint – $86,648,508
  8. Too Orangey For Crows – $85,698,734
  9. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $83,672,691
  10. Ben’s X-Wing Exp(r)ess – $43,148,969

The perfect pick for the week was 1x TS4 Friday, 1x Child’s Play, 1x Aladdin, and 5x John Wick 3, the last being the best performer, which was good for $109 million.  But nobody in the league got that.

Goat got first going with Friday TS4, Sunday TS4, 2x John Wick 3, 1x Avengers: End Game, and three empty screens. and getting in

Hamster rang in second with 1x TS4 Friday, 2x Child’s Play, 1x Dark Phoenix, and 1x Avengers: End Game, earning an extra $2 million because Dark Phoenix was the worst performer of the week.

Conical and I both went the 1x Friday TS4, 1x Saturday TS4, and six empty screens route.  I only came in ahead because I had the better estimate on the tie breaker.

Of note is SynCaine, the only person on the list without Toy Story 4 in their lineup.

Unfortunately, the most common pick was forgetting to pick this week.  Ben’s pick was a roll over of his pick from last week and several people past 10th place were in the same boat.

All of which left the overall scores as:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – $256,899,574
  2. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $246,793,598
  3. Too Orangey For Crows – $237,172,334
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $233,860,872
  5. Joanie’s Joint – $224,306,550
  6. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $220,641,904
  7. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $219,431,873
  8. grannanj’s Cineplex – $183,864,990
  9. Ben’s X-Wing Exp(r)ess – $176,726,850
  10. Conical Effort – $171,160,273

There is still not an insurmountable gap between 1st and say 7th place yet.  That could be made up over the next ten weeks of the season with small wins.  Anybody below that is probably going to need a big win or for the front runners to pick badly or miss a week.  It has been known to happen, especially over the summer.

Then there is the alternate season score:

  1. Goat Water Picture Palace – 26
  2. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – 23
  3. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – 19
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – 15
  5. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 15
  6. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 14
  7. Joanie’s Joint – 13
  8. Ben’s X-Wing Exp(r)ess – 10
  9. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 9
  10. grannanj’s Cineplex – 9

That is, of course, much tighter.  Win a few weeks and you’ll be on top or vying with those who are.

All of which brings us to week four of the season.  The choices for the week are:

  1. Toy Story 4 – $752
  2. Annabelle Comes Home – $319
  3. Yesterday – $136
  4. Aladdin – $126
  5. The Secret Life of Pets 2 – $74
  6. Child’s Play – $73
  7. Men in Black International – $69
  8. Avengers: Endgame – $59
  9. Rocketman – $41
  10. John Wick 3 – $38
  11. Godzilla – $23
  12. Shaft – $22
  13. Anna – $18
  14. Late Night – $17
  15. Dark Phoenix – $16

We have an off week for blockbusters, so Toy Story 4 is fully expected to hold on to first place by a large margin this week.  Given a standard 50% drop it ought to be worth $60 million at the box office.

There are two new films on the list this week.

The first is Annabelle Comes Home, the latest entry in the Conjuring universe, which includes The Conjuring series, the Annabelle films, and The Nun.  Horror, especially during the summer, is always a wildcard for me.  The Annabelle movies have done well in the past, often better than expected.  But what happens when Annabelle is sharing theaters with Child’s Play?  Does a supernaturally evil doll care about one that is evil via a software issue?  And does the fact that some drive-ins are doing the pair as a double feature have any impact?

The long range forecast is for $31 million.  However, the long range forecasts have also been too optimistic pretty much every week so far, so how much stock do you put in them now?

Given the $60 million estimate for TS4, the FML pricing seems to indicate that they think $25 million is more on par.  Do you take two Annabelles as an anchor or one TS4?  Maybe?

The other new film is Yesterday, which features Himesh Patel as the only person who remembers the Beatles.  Something happened and they are no longer part of our timeline, only for whatever reason one musician remembers them and their songs… and, of course, can play them and remembers all of the lyrics to the key hits.

So he spends a while trying to figure out why nobody has heard of the Fab Four, then proceeds to make bank by introducing the songs of the Beatles to the world, claiming them as his own.  Along the way, hilarity no doubt ensues.

Now this brings up a decent late night dorm room discussion, which is whether or not the Beatles catalog is timeless and would become hits no matter when they appeared in history, or if they are part of their time and might not get noticed today.  Does I Want to Hold Your Hand go anywhere in a world with 50 Cent?  Can Elenor Rigby make a dent against the last know pop song ever, Uptown Funk?  Would Hey Jude have to be Hey Dude as the trailer suggests?

Feel free to argue about that in the comments.

The film was written by Richard Curtis, whose works are well known, and directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting fame, but I am having a hard time getting behind it, if only because I know in my gut the ending has to restore the Beatles to the timeline and it will be all for naught or end up with Paul McCartney suing or something like that.  Amusing premise, likely has no satisfying ending.

And the long range forecast seems to agree, pegging this at around $10 million.  Decent, but no summer blockbuster.  The FML pricing likewise puts it around that point.  On the other hand, this is the Beatles we’re talking about here, which probably means my 70 year old aunt and all her UC Berkley friends will want to go see it.  I don’t know.

And the rest of the field is just leftovers from past weeks.

So what do you pick?  Do you go with the likely stability of Toy Story 4 and back fill with some titles that might break out or be under priced based on their previous week performance?  That might get you 1x Toy Story 4, 1x Yesterday, and 6x Anna.

Or do you bet on a pair of Annabelles, with something like 2x Annabelle Comes Home, 2x Yesterday, 1x Rocketman, and 3x Dark Phoenix, the latter being the worst performer in week three, which might make it subject to over-conservative pricing?

I am leaning towards Annabelle, but the filler is still wide open for me.

Whichever way you go, get your picks in soon.

The Rise of Azshara Update brings Flying to Battle for Azeroth

The long discussed 8.2 update for World of Warcraft, the Rise of Azshara, goes live today in Azeroth.  The servers might even be up by the time this goes live.  There was an extra long downtime scheduled. (Also, too much stuff happened today, so now I have my fourth post of the day here.)

The 8.2 update splash screen

This is a pretty major content drop for Blizzard.  There is a lot of stuff coming, practically enough to qualify as a full on expansion for some other MMORPGs.  The update notes go into things in detail, but we were given a brief summary a while back.

Rise of Azshara Features

That ought to be enough to keep people busy over the summer as we wait for WoW Classic to show up.

Of course, new zones and new raids aside, the big item for me is the second part of the pathfinder achievement which, when unlocked, will grant you the ability to fly on your flying mounts in the Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Flying is Coming

You even get a flying mount for unlocking the ability to fly in BFA… and the bar doesn’t seem so high.  At least not for me.  They tweeted a little video about what you had to do to unlock flying.

Since I have done all of the part one pathfinder tasks, it looks like I just need to get two factions in the new areas to revered standing and I will be there.

In the process there are two new zones to explore and a raft of quests to complete.  Blizz even has a survival guide video for the new content.

 

It is time to set aside my alts, with whom I have been tinkering for the last month, and get back to focusing on my main.  My summer goal for Azeroth is set.