Monthly Archives: August 2019

On the Eve of WoW Classic

Technically WoW Classic goes live on August 27th.  That is what the graphic says.

Classic is as Classic does

However, Blizzard is doing a world-wide-ish launch, so for the purposes of WoW Classic, the launch time is 00:01 Central European Summer Time (CEST) on August 27th.  That puts the launch at midnight in a time zone 9 hours ahead of my own, which means out here in California we get WoW Classic at 15:01 pm on August 26th.  That is just about 27 hours from when this post goes live.

Find your launch time here – for me it is 3pm

So for me at least, tonight is WoW Classic eve or something.

When I get home from work tomorrow the who affair will be live.  All the talk about faction, race, class, and server choices will be over.  It will be time to get in and play.

As we sit here in anticipation it is probably as good a time as any to reflect on what might come to pass tomorrow.  I’ve been through enough of these launches to have developed a list of possibilities that come to mind.  They are not exactly Bernard Pivot level of depth or insight, just a few things that might crop up.

  • Servers Open Late – Very Unlikely

This is pretty much the norm with Daybreak, despite their having more experience launching this sort of thing than maybe any other studio.  But Blizzard isn’t Daybreak.  Blizz has the staff and the budget and the sense of corporate pride to not allow this.  If the servers are not all up and going by 00:15 CEST I will be shocked.  I honestly expect that the servers will open up early to start getting that first night surge handled.

  • DDoS Attack Keeps People from Logging In – Very Small Chance

DDoS attacks only catch those not prepared for them.  Blizzard is a high profile company that likely faces this sort of thing more often that they would let on.  I expect that if somebody goes after WoW Classic that we won’t even notice.

  • Login Queue Reporting  Waits over an Hour Long – Almost Assured

Once Blizz gets us logged in and shunted off to our own little layers in their new server architecture things will be fine.  But we’re all going to hit that login server like a crashing wave and getting everybody logged in, validated, sorted, and onto a server involves enough operations that things are just going to take some time.

  • Login Server Crashes – Even Odds

I hope this won’t happen, but it happened on the stress tests a few times, so it remains a possibility.  Blizz saw it happen and has likely attempted to address whatever fell apart, but they also haven’t had to face the actual WoW Classic launch.

  • Patching Problems – Low Probability

Blizz has been pushing out the WoW Classic updates for months now.  Those of us keen enough to join in a stress test or reserve a character name will be all set.  The late arrivals might see some slow down, but I suspect that will just help stagger the load on the login server.

  • Starter Zone Crashes – Unlikely

The starter zones were subject to lots of load during the stress tests.  They let more people into the starter zones then than they plan to for the launch.  The whole layering tech they have is just to keep this from happening really. (Described here)  Still, the test is never like the real event, so who knows?

  • Starter Zones Denuded of Quest Mobs – Mais Oui!

Oh yeah.  This will be a big deal and you’ll hear a lot about it if you don’t turn off general chat.  Help out by grouping up for quests that just require kills and pray for the favor of the spawn table for quests that require drops.

  • Somebody Gets to Level 60 in 12 Hours or Less – Not going to happen

I know that there are people out there with a plan.  They have been in the beta, they have charted out the path forward, they have friends ready to assist in the attempt, they have the addons, they’ve read all the guides, and they are set.

But this isn’t a WoW expansion with just ten levels and all your mythic raiding gear ready to carry you half way there.  This is the full level 1-60 event, with an exp table that laughs at the puny excuse for one that exists in WoW today as well as a whole lot of running to get everywhere.

In addition, there are the crowds with which to contend.  Anybody looking to get to max level first has to break away from the pack or spend forever competing for mobs and drops.  I suspect that they won’t be able to get clear of the mob for at least the first 20 levels.

So I am going to go with a hard no on max level achieved in that time frame.

  • Somebody Gets to Level 60 in 24 Hours – Maybe

Everything still applies, but an extra dozen hours is a huge difference.  I still feel it will be a lot closer to the 24th hour than the 13th if it does happen, but I won’t rule it out.

  • Somebody Gets to Level 60 in 48 Hours – Without a doubt

Double that time again and I think somebody will get there for sure.  More than one.  More than one per server, per region, per whatever.

  • Calls in the forum for more servers due to crowds – Oh yes

Pretty much standard item from the checklist for this sort of server event.  It won’t matter how smoothly things go, somebody will be in there telling Blizz that they need more servers.

  • Blizz actually rolling out more servers – Maybe?

Again, I have no clue how far the new Blizzard layering architecture can stretch, but my gut says that the low initial server count, and even the additional servers, reflects both the capability of the tech and some conservatism on the part of Blizzard.  Or J. Allen Brack telling everybody it is a mistake.

  • No Crowds At All – Hahahahahaha… No

If we have learned anything over the last decade of this sort of thing… more than a decade, SOE did this back in 2007… it is that farming your installed base by playing the nostalgia card works pretty damn well.  It doesn’t always hold on, and I don’t expect there to be crowds or login server waits in six weeks, much less six months, but this was the most popular subscription MMORPG ever in the west, and the first such game for many, many people.  There will be a crowd.

  • Drop in Population on Live Servers – Of Course

The problem with farming your installed base is that it includes your current subscribers.  I don’t know that it will have any lasting impact, but some people will drop Battle for Azeroth to go play WoW Classic.

  • Complaints about the server in general chat – A Sure Thing

But at least they can’t complain that it isn’t WoW.

  • Waiting for the Weekend and Being Happy Logging In – Seems Likely

This is almost always the best choice

What else might come to pass tomorrow when the servers finally go live and we’re allowed to pour into the starter zones to explore Azeroth of old?

WoW Classic with The Creators and some Lore

Blizzard, in the warm up to WoW Classic… which is launching tomorrow afternoon… put together a of video featuring some of the original WoW team talking about their experiences in creating WoW and what they worked on.  Then they bring them all into a room to start playing WoW Classic together to get their reactions, which gets some moving responses from the them.

That is a fun and encouraging watch.

Blizzard followed this up with a second episode focusing on one of the team, Aaron Keller, one of the original 3D artists, and what he worked on during early development.

That there was an episode 2 implies that there might be more coming.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, Fandom Entertainment, the group that does Honest Game Trailers, did a video to summarize the lore on which the original World of Warcraft was built.

That always gets a little… or more than a little… mixed up in my head.  And all the more so since the lore has moved on and there has been time travel and all of that.

Anyway, that is something to watch while we wait for Monday afternoon to finally arrive.

The Factions of MMO Nostalgia and Progression Servers

I feel like I am a bit ahead of the game here.  In the last few months people have been writing blog posts, myself included, about what Blizzard should after WoW Classic.  Blizz can’t just stop at vanilla, can they?

The Classic Background

But I have been watching debates rage over how classic servers or progression should be handled for about a decade over in the EverQuest forums.  Remember, SOE put out the first EverQuest progression server back in 2007.  That was just eight years after the game launched, proving once again that it takes Blizzard twice as long to do everything I suppose.

So I had to chuckle a bit when Kaylriene suggested this might be unknown territory in his post the other day.  Unknown only if you focus solely on WoW I suppose.

Now, granted, what Blizzard is attempting to do is way above and beyond what SOE/Daybreak have ever attempted, which is to create an authentic 2006 experience.  This has set expectations which means that they won’t be able to half-ass their way through adding additional expansions.  And I think that they must, at some point, go that route.  Again, given the EverQuest experiences with this over the last decade, an authentic revisit to some of these old expansions is worth as much in subscriptions as another new expansion.

The problem is that the WoW audience is not a unified group.  No MMO audience is.  And this progression/nostalgia idea tends to sort people out into a few different categories which I have noticed and noted over the years.  They are:

The Classicists

These are the people who are not interested in progression.  In fact, they’re complaining that WoW Classic is coming in at version 1.12.  They are the ones arguing about what vanilla WoW really was.  They don’t want a 2006 version of the game, they want the November 23, 2004 version.  They want all the warts and issues of the first day of the game.  No looting bug, no deal!  And they sure as hell don’t want any expansions.  They want the game to stay right there, locked in time.

The Progression Raiders

These have been the key drivers for EverQuest, and will likely have a notable role with WoW Classic.  These are the old raiding groups that get back together to race to level cap in order to be world first/server first to take down bosses, farm raids for gear, and advance to the final boss in any expansion.  They want a specific phase to last only as long as it takes them to bring down the boss and farm for enough gear to move on.  They are always pushing for a faster unlock pace.

The Nostalgia Tourists

These are the people who want to relive the good old days, but are not too concerned with total authenticity or wearing the launch day hair shirt.  I am mostly in this group.  I want to take my time going through the content, so I am not in a hurry to see the next expansion show up.  However, I still want the game to advance eventually.

The Fresh Starters

Bhagpuss first identified this group to me.  There is a group of players out there just loves that fresh server smell, running out into the newbie zone with a mass of low level players, and just enjoying the spectacle of a new world coming alive.  They just shows up again and again at every new special server launch, hang out for a while, get to a point where they are done, then wait for the next one.  If nothing else, an easy crowd to please, and their subscription dollars spend just the same as everybody else’s.

The Cult of PvP

This is sort of a sub-group, since people here usually identify with one of the other groups as well.  But they just want you to know that PvP is the most important thing and the biggest draw and that if you just focused on PvP everybody would be happy and the servers would overflow.  When this hasn’t panned out in the past, at least in Norrath, the PvP response has always been that not enough focus was spent on PvP.

The Live Purists

These people want all the other groups to just shut up.  They are all about the live game and see any diversion into nostalgia servers as players and resources stolen from their game.  J. Allen Brack is their patron saint and they will repeat ad nauseum that nobody wants this and it is all a waste of time and the servers will be dead in three months and so on and so forth.

And they are not totally wrong.  There is always some impact on the live game player base, and development time can be a bit of a zero sum game.  There are only so many people on the team and hours in the day.

Then there are The Outsiders, who are not really a direct faction, but who wander into the picture now and again.  They are generally noticeable for being against the game overall, retro, live, or whatever, but still insisting that their voice be heard.  They can be random passers by who just drop a line and move on, or they can be the die hards who show up to bad mouth various games any time they are mentioned anywhere on the internet.  You know who I am talking about.

They occasionally make temporary common cause with one group.  Right now they fit in with the Live Purists because they are loudly predicting failure for WoW Classic.  But often seem to just be at war with them all.

None of these groups forms a majority, and the boundaries between them can be pretty soft at times, with the PvP group something of an overlay on a couple of the other groups.  Depending on the circumstances, various groups will be natural allies or opponents.

If the topic is whether or not there should be nostalgia servers, it will be everybody versus the Live Purists.

When it comes to content, the Classicists tend to be at war with the other pro-nostalgia groups.

Content pacing, and suddenly the Progression Raiders are the loudest voice, and more often than not get what they want over the objections of the other groups.

When things are taking too long or when the server launch is way in the rear view mirror, the Fresh Starters start asking for the next server.

And the Cult of PvP remains consistent in its demands for focus to be on PvP ahead of everything else.

I have not seen anything so far to indicate that World of Warcraft and WoW Classic will end up being any different.  The question is really just how soon Blizzard gets going on creating an unlock, advancement, or progression system to allow people to move forward beyond vanilla.

Until then, the Classicists sort of get what they want, even if it isn’t the exact right version.

Which group are you in?

(The poll above may not appear if you have Firefox set to extra protective mode)

Of course, there is an “other” option if I have missed a group.

Addendum: Ehrmagahd, Massively OP totally stole my idea! Go vote in their poll!  That will show them!

MER and the Blackout

Somebody finally got back from vacation and pushed the button to generate the EVE Online Monthly Economic Report for July.

This is the first report that reflects the Blackout and the VNI nerfThe tax increase didn’t go in until August 1st, so that will be for the next report.

Anyway, there is an obvious graph to jump into first, so here we go.

July 2019 – Top Sinks and Faucets over time

It is easy to see what day the Blackout began on that chart as the yellow NPC bounty payout line, already down considerably from previous changes this year, fell off a cliff, no doubt contributing to an actual reduction in overall ISK in the New Eden economy.

July 2019 – Sinks and Faucets

The total bounties for the last few months:

  • July – 29.1 trillion
  • June – 48.2 trillion
  • May – 55.5 trillion
  • April – 57.2 trillion
  • March – 71.4 trillion
  • February – 69.8 trillion

But where did it hit hardest?  Last month the top 11 regions, since I wanted to include Delve, sorted out as follows.

  1. Branch – 4.90 trillion
  2. Esoteria – 3.56 trillion
  3. Detorid – 2.88 trillion
  4. Insmother – 2.71 trillion
  5. Deklein – 2.70 trillion
  6. Cobalt Edge – 2.15 trillion
  7. Fountain – 1.96 trillion
  8. Tenal – 1.80 trillion
  9. Perrigen Falls – 1.70 trillion
  10. Period Basis – 1.67 trillion
  11. Delve – 1.57 trillion

Delve was way down because the Imperium was deployed to the north and attacking structures in Tribute and Vale of the Silent.  And then came the Drifters and the start of the Chaos Era and we pulled back home.  Being at home put the Imperium back on top of the NPC bounties rankings.

July 2019 – NPC Bounties by Region – Bar Graph

The top ten regions for July were:

  1. Delve – 4.71 trillion
  2. Esoteria – 1.77 trillion
  3. Branch – 1.61 trillion
  4. Detorid – 1.23 trillion
  5. Deklein – 1.22 trillion
  6. Insmother – 1.10 trillion
  7. Tenal – 1.1 trillion
  8. Fountain – 1.06 trillion
  9. Omist – 0.85 trillion
  10. Feythabolis – 0.81 trillion

Delve is at the top again, but that number is still below even the April number, which included a the start of the deployment north to Tribute.

So the Chaos Era has hit NPC bounties, though there was a bit of a bounce back up at the end of the month.  August will show if things continue down that path or if null sec adapts.

Then there is the mining front.  Last month the top producing regions in ISK value mined were:

  1. Esoteria – 3.31 trillion
  2. Detorid – 1.84 trillion
  3. Insmother – 1.78 trillion
  4. Domain – 1.31 trillion
  5. Branch – 1.25 trillion
  6. Querious – 1,19 trillion
  7. The Forge – 1.16 trillion
  8. Fountain – 1.12 trillion
  9. Sinq Laison – 843 billion
  10. Metropolis – 829 billion

Delve was down in 22nd place with a mere 276 billion ISK.  Again, June had the Imperium deployed to the north, so economic activity was down.  But in July everybody was back home to face the Blackout.

July 2019 – Mining Value by Region – Bar Graph

Delve was resurgent, with Rorquals out using tech II mining drones to combat attacks on excavator drones.  The top ten regions for July were:

Delve – 5.77 trillion
Querious – 3.18 trillion
Esoteria – 2.61 trillion
Syndicate – 1.99 trillion
Fountain – 1.92 trillion
Etherium Reach – 1.77 trillion
Domain – 1.69 trillion
Malpais – 1.64 trillion
The Kalevala Expanse – 1.61 trillion
The Forge – 1.47 trillion

Numbers were up in some places, including high sec, which remains a safe mining haven, and down in others.  But was there more necessarily more mining in places like Domain or The Forge?  Maybe not.  Since mining isn’t an ISK faucet, it is valued via the market prices, which change over time.  And July saw mineral prices going up some more.

July 2019 – Economic Indices

While not up as sharply as in June, mineral prices continued to rise.  That raises the value of ore mined for the purposes of the MER and encourages more people to mine.

And then there is destruction.  The Blackout was premised on greater destruction happening.  And, overall, there was more destruction in New Eden.  The summary of all regions in June showed 38.28 trillion ISK in destruction, while July saw that rise to 40.73 trillion ISK, and increase of 2.45 trillion ISK.  But where did that destruction occur?

Last month the top regions were:

  1. The Forge – 3.46 trillion
  2. Detorid – 2.31 trillion
  3. Sinq Laison – 1.69 trillion
  4. Tribute – 1.58 trillion
  5. The Citadel – 1.54 trillion
  6. Black Rise – 1.37 trillion
  7. Delve – 1.28 trillion
  8. Placid – 1.11 trillion
  9. Lonetrek – 1.10 trillion
  10. Vale of the Silent – 1.10 trillion

The chart for July shows the new ranking.

July 2019 – Destruction Value by Region – Bar Graph

The top ten regions were:

  1. The Forge – 2.81 trillion
  2. The Citadel – 2.33 trillion
  3. Detorid – 1.86 trillion
  4. Delve – 1.78 trillion
  5. Sinq Laison – 1.47 trillion
  6. Domain – 1.31 trillion
  7. Lonetrek – 1.29 trillion
  8. Metropolis – 1.17 trillion
  9. Providence – 1.03 trillion
  10. Cache – 1.00 trillion

Delve is up, but that was expected with everybody home again.  What is interesting is that there are now more high sec regions on the list.  There were four last month, but six on the list in July.  You might credit this to the alleged war on high sec, or maybe the less well known structure war in high sec, which is a topic for another post, except that not all the high sec regions saw more destruction.  The Forge, home of Jita, was more than half a trillion in destruction.

It feels rather that destruction was more spread out in July, that the increase was the result of a wider spread skirmishes rather than the destruction of ratters and miners due to the Blackout.  And, of course, the reduction in mining and ratting seems to indicate that many players simply declined to undock due to the Blackout.

All of which leaves me bereft of big conclusions.  But that is to be expected I guess.  The Chaos Era changes modified player behavior, but will it stick or are we just in a transitional period while people adapt?  And while NPC bounties were down a lot, they remained mostly a null sec thing. Null sect saw 88.7% of the bounties in July, compared to 93.6% in June.

June vs. July bounty payout ratio by space type

For August we will have to see how the trend continues, along with what the change in tax rate does.  Plus we still have the coming cyno changes and something about wormholes that has some people freaking out, plus other things mentioned during the Fanfest Home keynote, which may impact the September MER.  We shall see.

Anyway, all the data and charts are available to download from the MER Dev Blog.  In addition, CCP has also introduced a Monthly Security Report about how many people they have banned and what they were banned for.

Also looking at the July MER:

 

Blaugust and Burning Things Down

Here we are into the third full week of Blaugust and another topic of the week.

I have tried to keep up and do something on the right theme each week, though I failed a bit last week.  I mean, you got to know me some, but maybe that wasn’t what you were looking for.  And I felt, looking at the calendar, that this week was going to be another punt.

Blaugust 2019 Schedule

Developer appreciation things never quite resonate with me for a variety of reasons I’ve been over in the past.  I neither revere nor dismiss game devs or their work, or so I tell myself.

So I was going to give this week’s topic a miss… and then INN posted an article with the title, Why EVE or CCP Games Needs to Fail and I felt maybe I had an angle.

The basic premise is that CCP has done so many things wrong with EVE Online, made so many errors in the face of players telling them what would happen, been so tone deaf in their relations with customers, that the whole thing, game, studio, and all, should be burned down and scattered to the winds.

I have run across this attitude many times, the idea that things are so bad that we need to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.  Only then can we get something good.

I think there is a class somewhere that instructs young developers, when faced with taking over somebody’s code, to say that it would be easier just to re-write it all from scratch.  (Oh cute little dev, if we trusted you to do that we wouldn’t have handed you that code to maintain.)  But even old salts fall into that trap, the idea that it would be easier to go back to a blank sheet rather than start with code not their own.

Starting from scratch is a hazardous path, one that I’ve been down before.  It can even kill whole companies.  Microsoft gets the attention for the fall of the Netscape Navigator web browser, but if Netscape hadn’t decided to rewrite everything from scratch… in Java… it might have remained viable, or at least capable of keeping up with the features of Internet Explorer.

I’ve watched devs get their wish to start from scratch only to have to spend their time on a long voyage of discovery as they have to relearn all the wisdom that went in to forming that mess of code they are trying to replace.  Instead of spending time adding to the product that dev is stuck redoing something we already had.

Which isn’t to say there is a lack of code that deserves a fiery death.  There was a fax form editor I had to work with about 20 years back that was so problematic that it might actually have been better to restart from scratch.  But you never know until you’re waist deep in things and begin to regret your decision.

Anyway, my point here is that EVE Online or CCP failing would not automatically result in something better coming along.  If anything, the opposite is likely true.  Who wants to create a harsh, dystopian internet spaceship sandbox game if the premier example of the niche has failed?

And what other options would former New Eden residents have?  Star Citizen is not ready for prime time, Elite: Dangerous requires docking skills I’m too old to want to work on, Prosperous Universe is all the bad UI and spreadsheets of New Eden without any of the pretty pictures, and the handful of spaceship MMO startups are so far from being anything close to the scale of EVE Online that we would all be clamoring for an EVE Online emulator five minutes after the game went down.

Appreciate what you have got.

That doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with everything.  One of the more dynamic aspects of EVE Online is the discussion of what it is, what is wrong, and what it could be.  And it can be tough when “chaos” is the new flavor of the month.  But EVE Online with chaos is still better than no EVE Online at all.  Space is still pretty, the scale is still epic, fights still happen, and chaos cannot go on forever.  Maybe Hilmar will read Ringworld Engineers and become obsesses with stability.

Leave the wishes for financial failure, closure, and all that to the people who find the game’s mere existence to be an affront.  There is enough hate out there already.

Blizzard Adding Still More Realms for WoW Classic

As the grand opening of WoW Classic approaching, so the pressure on the servers via the name reservation system continues to build.

Classic is coming

Blizzard announced today that more realms will be opening up in both the US and EU regions.  These realms will be available Monday, August 26th at approximately 17:00 UTC, which will put them in reach just before WoW Classic goes live in some time zones.

For the US the new realms are:

  • Incendius PvP Eastern
  • Bigglesworth PvP Pacific
  • Old Blanchy Normal Pacific
  • Westfall Normal Eastern

For the EU region the new realms are:

  • Flamelash PvP English
  • Gandling PvP English
  • Mograine PvP English
  • Nethergarde Keep Normal English
  • Razorgore PvP English

That brings the total number of servers for launch up to 39.  I’ll go update my post about the WoW Classic server names again.

In addition, on Monday at the same time the name reservation restrictions will be lifted and players will be able to log in and create up to 50 characters, 10 per server, which is the limit that World of Warcraft had back in the day.

With a little less than four days left to go as of this writing, Blizzard is also once again pointing people at the community resources page for WoW Classic, in case you need to know what is going on and where to find further information.

EVE Fanfest Home and the Finale of the Long Summer of Skill Points

One hates to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there are times when you feel like you’re getting too much of a good thing.

We’re all injector addicts to a certain extent it seems

And so it has been for me with CCP’s DAU/MAU boosting efforts during the Season of Skills event.  For over a month you were invited to log in every day with every character to earn some free skill points by blowing up between 1 and 10 NPCs.

10K for my alpha clone

I could see that becoming a drag if I tried to that with every character every day, so I decided to focus on a few Alpha characters that were already at their 5 million skill point limit.  The only way they could get more skill points was to subscribe, buy those special injectors (I think), or jump in and shoot some NPCs daily.

I managed to do that diligently for about a week, then started to slide.  By this week I was paraphrasing Linda Evangelista and saying, “I don’t even undock for less than 50,000 skill points.”

Sometimes the party just runs too long.

But I no longer have to think about that.  The NPC shooting portion of the Season of Skills has wrapped up and we are on to the final round of CCP asking us to log in on the promise of giving us something for free.

This weekend if the bonus skill point weekend.  On August 23 through 26 log in each day for another grant of skill points. Alpha clone accounts will get 75,000 skill points while Omega clone accounts will get 250,000 skill points if they log in all three days.

So don’t forget to log in Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in order to collect… those days being after down time in UTC, so if you’re running late you can grab the last grant if you get in before down time on Monday.

Also coming this weekend is the next stage of the EVE Invasion World Tour, with the Fanfest Home edition.  Somebody in Finland won the contest to have an EVE Fanfest event staged in their home.  No tickets are available, so we’re all going to have to watch it on the CCP Twitch channel… or watch replays on the CCP Twitch channel, since it will be kicking off in the middle of the night out here on the Pacific coast.  We’ll see how quickly CCP makes replays available.

CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson is set to present, along with Creative Director CCP Burger, about the past, present, and future of EVE Online, so I am sure we will be hearing more about the wonders of the Chaos Era and Hilmar’s depth of knowledge about the game.

Daybreak Sketches Out some EverQuest II Anniversary Celebration Plans and Other Items

Destined to remain ever in the shadow of World of Warcraft, EverQuest II has its fifteenth anniversary coming up in November, just a few weeks before WoW celebrates the same milestone.

Oddly monochromatic logo, but sure

Daybreak published a Producer’s letter for both EverQuest titles yesterday which give some details, and more hints, at what to expect from the coming anniversary.

The EverQuest update says that the senior title, which turned 20 earlier this year, will celebrate the EQII milestone with the launch of a new progression server.  Go figure.

This will be a new style of server, with players starting as level 85 heroic characters… nice to use a mechanic that is already in place… and content through the House of Thule expansion unlocked, with further expansions unlocking every 2-3 months.  The details are not set yet, so there will be further updates as the plans mature.

The EverQuest II update offers both more and less when it comes to anniversary celebration details.

A progression server for EQII is also planned, also featuring players starting off with level 85 heroic characters, with content unlocked through the Chaos Descending expansion.

There are also mentions of completely new server-wide event on live servers, including a dragon themed event that will reward players with something never before seen in the game.  As before, more details will be made available as the events draw closer.

The Producer’s letters for both games also reference the coming expansions for each game.  While no names or themes were mentioned, both will see a increase in level cap, boosting the top level in EverQuest to 115 and in EverQuest II to 120.  As is customary, the current expansions for both games are now available for a discounted price.

There was also a mention of in-game bonuses for the coming US Labor Day holiday, and a reminder that the next update for EverQuest II, which includes the annual summer panda event, will land on August 27th.

August 27th is also the official opening date for WoW Classic, so in a way history continues to repeat itself.

Finally, there is also a poll linked in both producer’s letter related to a possible EverQuest oriented player event, possibly for next year.

Addendum: The latest episode of The EverQuest Show has some extra screen shots from the next EverQuest expansion which they have posted to their site if you want to examine them for clues as to what to expect.

Also on this topic, Inventory Full has a post up about both producer’s letters.

And Massively OP has their own update on the letters.

Summer Movie League – A Good Week for Good Boys

Week eleven of our Fantasy Movie League went on past and it is clear that I should have been paying more attention.

Being the leader overall I sought to play something of a conservative lineup.  Back on Monday night that meant 3x Hobbs & Shaw and 5x Hollywood, because the early estimates put that as pretty safe.  The was even a hint that it might be the top earner again, confidence in the new titles being somewhat sketchy.

And then… well… I am blaming the coming of WoW Classic for distracting me because I didn’t really go back and look at forecasts or which way the wind was blowing for the weekend.  And given that everybody else seemed to have picked up on where the week was headed… well, it was a bad week for me.

Bhagpuss even gave me a hint, mentioning that Good Boys seemed to be looking very good on Wednesday of last week, but I didn’t take the clue, so when the league locked and became visible on Friday, I was clearly the odd man out.  Everybody else who picked had at least one screen of Good Boys.

When the Saturday estimates came it, I was in 7th out of seven who picked, a situation that only got worse come Sunday.  The final results did not make things better, with Good Boys piling up $21.4 million, well past all estimates, so the results for the week ended up looking like this:

  1. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $128,365,213
  2. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $125,762,910
  3. Too Orangey For Crows – $125,633,270
  4. Conical Effort – $107,071,667
  5. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $89,391,600
  6. Joanie’s Joint – $86,197,240
  7. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $80,944,180
  8. grannanj’s Cineplex – $44,487,408
  9. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $30,509,473

Remember week 4, where I was the only one who went all-in on Yesterday?  Well, this was the opposite of that week.  A least I stayed ahead of the two people who did not pick but still had some viable screens carried forward.

The perfect pick for our league was 5x Good Boys, 1x Lion King, and 2x empty, worth a little over $134 million, which made it more valuable than the perfect pick for the standard rule set, which rang in a million behind.

But nobody got the perfect pick, though SynCaine was close.  The scores then go down based primarily on how many screens of Good Boys people went with, with filler separating the close picks.

All of that left the the overall scores looking like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $1,051,585,775
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – $1,031,812,091
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $941,115,614
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $918,351,656
  5. Conical Effort – $873,997,889
  6. Joanie’s Joint – $871,510,090
  7. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $848,776,622
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $826,649,988
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – $731,422,446
  10. Goat Water Picture Palace – $557,351,870

I stayed in the lead, but Bhagpuss is now less than $20 million behind me and, as we just saw, during a chaotic week jumps of that amount are totally possible.  He just closed the gap between us by $40 million after all, so I need to pay attention.

SynCaine got a solid jump as well.  He would need another big week to be a threat to first place, but it could happen.  Without any big moves, the nearest fight seems to be for fifth position.

The alternate scoring looks like this:

  1. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – 80
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – 77
  3. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 64
  4. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 62
  5. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – 59
  6. grannanj’s Cineplex – 52
  7. Conical Effort – 48
  8. Joanie’s Joint – 48
  9. Goat Water Picture Palace – 45
  10. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 41

I did make the executive decision that I would award no points for a zero score, which means that Goat is no longer accruing alternate scoring points.

Bhagpuss closed the gap between us here as well and, frankly, could have made it a tie race if he had made it to first.  The buffering effect of the alternate scoring means that there is still a tight race for third place, with Cyanbane holding onto that spot for the moment.

And so it goes.

All of which brings us to week twelve, the next to last week, and a lineup of choices that looks like this:

  1. Angel has Fallen – $253
  2. Ready or Not – $175
  3. Good Boys – $167
  4. Overcomer – $148
  5. Hobbs & Shaw – $114
  6. Lion King – $114
  7. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – $81
  8. Angry Birds 2 – $78
  9. Dora and the Lost City of Gold – $71
  10. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – $69
  11. 47 Meters Down 2 – $59
  12. The Art of Racing in the Rain – $38
  13. Blinded by the Light – $33
  14. The Peanut Butter Falcon – $26
  15. Spider-man: Far From Home – $25

Gone from the list are Toy Story 4, The Kitchen, The Farewell, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette, while last week’s top priced picks are decidedly mid-pack, save for Good Boys, which got the usual pricing punishment that best performers tend to receive.

At the top of the list this week is Angel has Fallen, which is the sequel to London has Fallen and Olympus has Fallen, though the films have been so chaotic that, despite having seen both, I did not realize that London and Olympus were actually connected movies.

Shows what I know.

Olympus grossed $30 million its opening weekend, while London hit $20 million.  The LRF puts Angel has Fallen at around $18 million.  That seems a little optimistic for a third sequel, but it is also opening up against less direct competition than the previous two titles.

Next up is Ready or Not, a “black comedy” that sees a possibly Victorian era bride (just judging by the poster) who realizes her soon-to-be in-laws’ plan for a game of hide-and-seek has turned into a game to hunt and kill her.  She turns the tables and hilarity ensues.

Didn’t we have another Most Dangerous Game rip-off already planned for this summer? The Hunt I think?  It was pulled due to recent mass shootings, or because the president criticized the idea, or possibly because preview audiences didn’t like it.  But Victorians killing each other is fine.  Most people killing each others in movies is fine I guess.  I’m sure Angel has Fallen will be knocking off more than a few.

There is no LRF for Ready or Not, but given the Angel estimate and the FML pricing, $12-13 million seems like what somebody thinks it ought to do.  I guess.  There are B-list names in the cast, but nobody who is a draw in and of themselves, so I really don’t know.

Then there is the Overcomer, a Christian faith-based drama about a high school basketball coach finding himself in Christ.  Written, directed, and starring a former pastor who is on his sixth such film, the LRF is calling for $3-8 million depending on how things play out.  The films by this group have never done less than $6 million, while the FML pricing seems to indicate $10 million is expected, so maybe count on that end of the spectrum?

And, finally, there is The Peanut Butter Falcon, a retelling of Huckleberry Finn staged around a man with Down’s Syndrome who runs away to achieve his dream of becoming a professional wrestler.

Already in limited distribution in 47 theaters, it is expanding this week.  The theater count will influence this.  The reviews are excellent, so it is a wild card, though the name might be fighting against it as much as anything.  It’s position near Spider-man: Far From Home seems to predict at least a $1.5 million box office for it, and its low price means that it doesn’t need to go beyond $2 million to be a best performer contender.

So what to pick?

Safe seems to be an anchor on Angel, but there is a gap where Ready or Not could under-perform just enough, around $11 million, to grab worst performer, which would ironically make it an excellent choice.  Good Boys could pull that off as well, thanks to the rules of the league.  But that is a pretty thin line to walk.

(Also, I was wrong previously, or it got changed, but the FML Cineplex Builder takes the odd rules of our league into account so long as you select our league from the drop down.)

A mix between Angel and Peanut Butter could work, if you believe the latter will break out.  That is my Monday night lineup.  We’ll see if I stick with that.  All I know is that I need to pay more attention this week.

Anyway, get your picks in soon.  The league locks late tomorrow night.

The WoW Classic AMA and Layering

Another day and more things to mention about WoW Classic.  Earlier today some of the WoW Classic dev team took some time out to do an Ask Me Anything event over on the WoW Classic subreddit.

I’m going to need a new default graphic in a week

You can find the whole raw AMA here, or you can go read the nice, clean summary that WoWHead put together.

There were quite a few short and easy questions thrown out there with clear answers that I might sum up with:

  • No, you won’t be able to transfer from Live to Classic
  • No, you cannot send gold from Live to Classic
  • No, there won’t be character boosts
  • Yes, I found code I wrote back in 2005
  • Yes, we have contingency plans for crowding
  • No, really, we have contingency plans
  • Yes, we might consider transfers for Classic population imbalances, but we’d rather you pick a lower population server right now instead
  • Hunters were the hardest class to recreate and required a huge amount of work

But things went deep quickly when the team was asked about the plan and functionality of the layering technology that Blizzard is using on the WoW Classic servers, such that I want to reproduce it here:

We’ve seen some confusion about layering, both about how it helps support our launch, and how it’s supposed to behave while its active, so I’d like to both speak to it and clear up some misconceptions about it.

First, we’re absolutely committed to reducing to one layer per realm before our second content phase goes live, and the sooner we can get there, the better. The reason we can’t do that initially is that on launch day, everybody will be clustered in the starting zones, and having players so close together causes an exponential drain on server resources. In fact, the same number of players cause more server problems crammed into Northshire than they do spread across all of Elwynn Forest. We expect that even after the first couple of days, we’ll need fewer layers than we need for the initial hours of launch, and our stress tests have confirmed that expectation.

A related concern that was raised during our pre-launch test was that capital cities felt empty, but that only occurred because we left the pre-launch test running two days past its original end date, and we didn’t reduce the number of layers at all during that test. During our launch week, as the players spread out across the world, we’ll monitor activity and reduce layers as necessary, so the world continues to feel full.

Some players have suggested using sharding in low level zones to address launch demand, both because we talked about that at Blizzcon, and because it’s what they’re used to from our modern expansions. Unfortunately, while modern WoW has content designed to work with sharding, WoW Classic does not. The most obvious example of incompatible content is Rexxar’s famously long patrol path, but there are lots of other examples throughout WoW Classic. Since we want all that content to work as it was originally designed, we’ve made sure that every layer is a copy of the entire world, so you can kite Anachronos all the way to Orgrimmar, and you can ride the boat from Ratchet to Booty Bay with the same people alongside you the whole way.

Some players have asked us to use realm caps and login queues to handle the demand, and while those are tools we have at our disposal, we don’t want to rely on them exclusively, because they keep people from playing the game.

One of the most frequently reported problems during our tests was players transferring to a layer for what seemed like no reason. There were several bugs that caused this, and we’re confident we’ve fixed them. At this point, the only thing that should cause you to change layers is accepting an invite from a player on another layer. Additionally, it should always transfer the player who was invited to the layer of the player who invited them.

Nonetheless, after accepting an invite, the layer transfer doesn’t always happen immediately, because we don’t want to transfer you in the middle of combat, or before you get a chance to loot. During our pre-launch test, we saw a few reports of what seemed like random layer transfers, but when we investigated, we realized this was due to us making that transfer delay too long. The delay was so long that players could unintentionally chain one delay into another by starting combat immediately after looting. Because of those reports, we’ve fixed the transfer delay to give you enough time to loot, without being so long that you’re left wondering why you can’t join your friend. We’ll keep an eye on that, and we may decide to reduce it further.

We’ve also seen reports of people transferring suddenly at the entrances to capital cities, which was related to the transfer delays. If you’re waiting to transfer to your friend’s layer, and you enter a capital city, we ignore the delay and transfer you immediately. The long delays were making it more likely that you’d enter a capital with a transfer pending, and now that we’ve reduced the transfer delay, it will be a bit more clear that your transfer was the result of accepting a group invitation.

Regarding PvP, we saw many posts from players wondering if getting invited to a party is a good way to escape from PvP combat. I’m pleased to say there’s actually a separate, longer transfer delay following any PvP combat. We know a lot of world PvP enthusiasts are excited for WoW Classic, and we don’t want the additional layers to feel like they’re robbing you of your kills. When the time comes to withdraw from the fight, you’ll have to escape from your enemies and get to a safe place before you’re able to join your friends on another layer.

I’d also like to clarify how multiple layers work with logout. Early in our stress testing, players reported that logging out and back in would let you hop to a new layer to farm the same mineral or herb node on different layers. That was a bug, and we’ve fixed it. Your layer assignment now persists for a few minutes between logouts, long enough that by the time the game would choose a new layer for you, that node would have respawned on its own anyway.

I hope that all makes things a bit more clear.

That is quite a bit more that I knew or considered about the layering plan.  And, of course PvP complicates everything.  But the overall goal is to get the population down into a single layer while making sure that servers have populations large enough to be viable over time.

Another item of interest to me was the question of player caps on dungeons, which got the following response:

This was indeed a bug that we have fixed and you should be able to enter most lower-level dungeons with up to 10 players, as was possible in Original WoW 1.12. There are some dungeons that had specific caps by the end of Original WoW however. To be specific, all lower level dungeons available through Maraudon should have a player cap of 10, with Blackrock Depths, Scholomance, Stratholme, and Dire Maul being capped at 5 players.

As was the case in Original WoW 1.12, Blackrock Spire should also have a cap of 10 players.

Somewhere in the back of my brain I knew that you could have 10 players in a dungeon, but that was so long ago that it ceased to be a thing to me.  Also, we were rarely ever in danger of having too many people to go do a dungeon.  Our primary problem was getting at least five together for an instance.

Finally, there was an entertaining bug mentioned, which I will reproduce since it involves Skronk’s favorite priest spell:

There was a bug when two priests mind control each other the mind control itself would cancel out but the camera would still switch to each other. The result is both priests would be stuck watching each other move around which hilarious and very confusing.

And so it goes.  As noted up at the top, you can find the whole AMA here, or the more concise summary over at WoWHead.

Other related posts or recaps: