Monthly Archives: February 2020

February in Review

The Site

With Firefox and (finally) Chrome trying to make the web safer, both browsers are now less tolerant of potential security risks, flagging sites as containing questionable content much more aggressively.  And The Flag Counter widget, which I have been running for almost a decade in my side bar, apparently started causing the site to be reported as a risk at some point in the last month or so.

The thing with the flags and numbers

After some tinkering and manually updating one embedded URL to be HTTPS things seemed to be kosher again and various browsers stopped declaring the site a danger.

Thanks to MagiWasTake of the Indiecator blog for pointing out that recent browser updates were causing the blog to be flagged as unsafe.  It should be all good now.  But if it isn’t, let me know.  I’d rather just remove Flag Counter than have an “unsafe site” warning pop up when people land here.

One Year Ago

Epic Games had announced their digital storefront the previous December, but we were finally getting a deeper look at their strategy for taking on Steam.  One word: Exclusives.  (Some of which were already up for sale on Steam, then withdrawn, making as many people angry as happy.)

Over at Activision-Blizzard they announced record annual revenues for 2018, then laid off 8% of their staff.  I suppose, in hindsight, they predicted 2019 correctly.

Daybreak gave us some details about their planned special rules EverQuest II PvP server.  On the same front, the plans for the EverQuest anniversary servers sounded a bit muddled.  They gave us a revised plan for all servers before the month was out.

Meanwhile, the PlanetSide Arena launch, pushed back to March, was pushed out again, this time until “summer,” with a planned simultaneous Playstation 4 launch given as a reason.

I also wondered what EverQuest III should even look like, were it a possibility.  I doubt that it is, but it is fun to speculate.

All of that aside, with the approach of the EverQuest 20th anniversary I started logging in to play a bit with a fresh character.  I started on Vox, a standard rules server, with an eye on the tutorial.  I ran through the revolt in Glooming Deep.

On the LOTRO Legendary server I was wrapping up in Eriador.  It was time to start considering Moria.

I was also rolling back into WoW and Battle for Azeroth for a bit.  It was a change up from LOTRO.

On the EVE Online front it was announced there would be no alliance tournament for 2019.  The February update brought us some fixes and the Guardians Gala event.  CCP was also talking about letting people buy skills straight from the character sheet.  There was also talk of a new launcher coming.

I wrote something about the time zones of New Eden, it being a world spanning, 24 hour game.

Burn Jita was back again, kicking off with explosions as usual.

I wrote a bit about the city of Waterdeep, the heart of TorilMUD.

Twitch offered me a free trial in Final Fantasy XIV, but I couldn’t get it to work.

I was on about there being no good expansions again.

And there was word of a smaller Switch, the end of the Wii Shop Channel, eports was stomping its feet and demanding to be taken seriously, and the Olympics rejecting esports all wrapped up in a Friday bullet points post.

Five Years Ago

Sony Online Entertainment ceased to be, having been sold off to Columbus Nova and rebranded as Daybreak Games Company.  The launch was not auspicious to my mind, with Columbus Nova issuing a questionable press release while the new company shed many old hands.  Still, classic Norrath seemed to be safe.  New progression servers for EverQuest were announced fairly quickly thereafter.

H1Z1 was out in early access (or “recently launched” according to Colubus Nova) and having some issues.  Polygon took my own point of view in stating that if a company is out there taking money for a game then they felt entitled to review it as it stood.

The Crowfall Kickstarter campaign launched and the game quickly hit its initial goal.  Meanwhile, I was wondering how Nebula Online, another project with a Kickstarter, was going to make any money.

Massively and WoW Insider were recreating themselves as Massively OP and Blizzard Watch.

I was still playing WoW , which still had 10 million subscribers, while looking towards the 6.1 patch was due.  I was doing pet battles and looking at my addons.

I was also still flailing about a bit with Elite: Dangerous.

Star Wars: The Old Republic seemed headed back to that vaunted fourth pillar.

The Tiamat expansion hit EVE Online, unleashing the Svipul menace.  CCP was bribing people to vote in the CSMX election. And for the monthly blog banter walking in stations came up again.  I was also figuring out how to change my space clothes and Reavers were making a difference.

The now defunct BattleClinic had just finished their site overhaul, allowing players to mine more data out of their kill mails.

Then there was Juche.

And, finally, a farewell to Leonard Nimoy.

Ten Years Ago

We learned SynCaine’s dirty secret.

I was invited to go play in the beta for the web based Crown of Byzantus.  It didn’t really stick with me, though I wrote about it a couple of times.

There was another press release or some such for a Wheel of Time MMO.  My call then: It isn’t going to happen.  And it still hasn’t happened.  And it isn’t going to happen.

Ten Ton Hammer made a list of their Top Ten PvP MMOs, and there was some chagrin that Ultima Online didn’t make the cut.

For reasons I cannot recall, Conner at MMO Fallout started looking into how MMO companies ranked over at the Better Business Bureau.

There was an announcement for a new game… World of Tanks!

In World of Warcraft, the instance group did Scarlet Monastery, Uldaman, and got as far as Zul’Farrak in our horde adventures, though we were still forgetting we could use the Dungeon Finder.  Otherwise we were running around doing holiday events and the like.  Also, I finally fished that last coin out of the fountain in Dalaran.

Oh, the Dungeon Finder.  My first runs with that were… not so good.  I seemed to run into some cliche bad groups.

Meanwhile, WoW decided to emulate WebKinz and start selling stuffed animals that had codes for in-game versions.  My daughter wanted that Windrider Cub real bad.

Hi-Rez Studios launched Global Agenda.  The game went down during a server move in 2018 and was later reported as dead for good.

Over in EverQuest II the Sentinal’s Fate expansion launched.  The sixth expansion for the game, it raised the level cap from 80 to 90.  I remember almost nothing specific about this expansion

The Azeroth Advisor went buh-bye.  Thanks for killing it 38 Studios!  I saved all the email tips they sent me, however they were all pretty much worthless post-Cataclysm.  Also, they were full of live links that no longer work.  Ah well.

Finally, there was Star Trek Online.  The head start ended, The game went full-live, I was fiddling with my super special pre-order collector’s edition junk, and I gave out some codes in a caption contest.  There was even some new content.  But by month’s end, STO faded for me.  Worst gaming purchase of the decade for me.

Fifteen Years Ago

The Dragons of Norrath expansion launched for EverQuest.

Twenty Years Ago

The Sims launched, becoming a staple of video games sales lists for well over a decade and one of the best selling video game franchises of all time.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. The Camelot Unchained Refund Stonewalling Begins
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  4. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  5. Honest Game Trailers Hits Warcraft III Reforged Hard
  6. A Good Fourth Quarter for Blizzard… When Compared to the Rest of 2019
  7. Radical Rock Reductions in New Eden
  8. EVE Online Gets Wormhole Fun, New Implants, and More
  9. Scarlet Monastery Cathedral
  10. Camelot Unchained Refund Received
  11. Raids versus Fleet Ops
  12. I Burst to the Top of the Chart

Search Terms of the Month

will there ever be another everquest
[reply hazy, ask again later]

is it easy to learn everquest if boost to 85
[Oh, heavens no!]

karmafleet which race
[They are down with whatever you are]

i did a search on the internet for somewhere with a warm sea, not cold. with is a none words
[And yet somehow you arrived here]

Spam Comment of the Month

Anything cam have an innuendo with food and/or sex if you try hard enough…

Again, think outside the trapezoid

Game Time from ManicTime

The measure this month shows that I tapered off quite a bit when it came to EverQuest II.  That was both because I ran out of steam on my desire to get more characters to the level cap… four is pretty much three more than I have ever had… and because things picked up in both WoW Classic and EVE Online.

  • WoW Classic – 69.29%
  • EVE Online – 22.07%
  • EverQuest II – 8.36%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.28%

Those percentages do not reflect the raw data reality, in which I spent less than half as much time on video games in February when compared to January.  I was away from home for a week and I didn’t have as much free time when I was home.

EVE Online

A new SIG and a new deployment gave me something to do in New Eden.  I was out in Venal with the GEF.  The DDoS attacks early in the month made playing problematic at times, but CCP got past that eventually and even gave us some skill points for our trouble.

EverQuest II

I have tinkered with some alts, but the drive to level up has faded somewhat.  I had considered seeing what it would take to roll a fresh character from level one to the cap, but upon reflection I guess it would take more than I had in me.  Still, I was surprised to find I still had a free character slot and now I have a level 20 necromancer hanging out somewhere.

Pokemon Go

I have been moving along pretty well in the quest for level 40.  This has been largely due to exchanging gifts with buddies in the game, which yields 100K points when you hit maximum friendship.  I have also had some fun with the new Battle League.  I want to keep going with that at least until I unlock the Pikachu wrestler outfit.

Level: 38 (61% of the way to level 39)
Pokedex status: 512 (+17) caught, 545 (+20) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Dewatt

World of Warcraft

As I have written almost every month since summer, I pretty much only log into retail WoW for Darkmoon Faire.

WoW Classic

Back to the instance group and my alts in the land of vanilla.  I am still happy with the experience.  The combo of simplicity, difficulty, and lost memories around so many corners will keep me going for a while still.

Coming Up

Another busy month in RL for me… though with the Coronavirus running about maybe everything will get cancelled and I will just stay home and play video games.

The instance group will carry on in WoW Classic.  Once we get past Razorfen Downs it will be time to ramp up for Uldaman and then Zul’Farrak.

Out in New Eden we will have to see if the GEF deployment will continue.  There are probably fights to be had and structures to be shot still, but target of the war, Darkness, has disbanded.  Oops.  And then there all the new things that CCP has in store for us.

As mentioned earlier this week, EverQuest is coming up on its 21st anniversary.  I’m not sure it will be as big of a deal as 20, but we shall see.

Finally, RimWorld has an expansion and a new update patch.  After a couple of revisions it looks like it has settled down so it might be time to break that out again.

One thing that won’t be happening next month is GDC up in San Francisco, which has been postponed until late summer due to Coronavirus.

EVE Fanfest Cancelled over Coronavirus Fears

CCP put up a notice today that they are cancelling EVE Fanfest in Reykjavik this year due to concerns with the spread of COVID-19, the Coronavirus.

No Fanfest 2020

The short statement reads as follows:

Dear Capsuleers,

In light of the recent and ongoing global developments surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we have taken the decision to cancel this year’s Fanfest event in Reykjavik, Iceland.

It is with a heavy heart that we make this decision, and we know this news will be disappointing to our wonderful community, but we feel absolutely compelled to follow the most responsible course of action and prioritize the safety and well-being of our attendees, our staff and of course the general Icelandic public.

We realize that the situation a month from now could be very different, but the way events are developing both globally and in Iceland’s neighboring countries, an in-depth and serious review has made it clear that this is a necessary step to take.

We wanted to get this information to you as swiftly as possible in order to allow you to make the necessary changes to any travel or accommodation arrangements that you may have made. We will be providing further details over the course of the next few weeks, so please keep an eye on all EVE Online social media channels for these updates.

Fly safe.

If we all just stay in our capsules we won’t spread the disease.  While it has not been mentioned, I suspect that CCP will come up with some sort of virtual FanFest to be streamed.  I am sure they have a bunch of announcements planned.

There is also no word on other events, like EVE Russia or the player planned EVE Vegas, though the latter is far enough out in the future, and on the far side of summer when viruses tend to abate, that it may see no impact.

This is not the first issue with events due to the COVID-19.  Both GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston have had a number of big companies pull out due to fears about spreading the virus.  This has led to a few people complaining…  I’ve seen people calling out companies for being afraid of this particular virus, comparing it to a head cold, and the mayor of Boston asked companies to reconsider… but for most it is a case of better safe than sorry.

The tone of caution sounded by healthcare professionals was amplified greatly by the US CDC putting out a updated warning about COVID-19 this week.  (latest information here) That has rightly put people on their guard.  You cannot find a N95 mask for love or money right now, and the possible economic impact of the virus will continue to ripple for quite a while.

Related:

 

Overseer Feature, Progression Servers, and Free Heroic Characters Coming for EverQuest Anniversary

EverQuest will be turning 21 in a couple of weeks and there is always something going on for anniversaries.

Classic EverQuest

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale penned a brief producer’s letter about what we can expect.

Progression Servers

Nostalgia is a staple of the EverQuest franchise at this point.  There certainly aren’t any new games on the horizon for Norrath.  And the nostalgia for the game is monetized via special severs.  While such servers were mentioned in the letter, they won’t be coming any time soon.  It seems that Darkpaw Games needs to clean up some of the past servers first, so merges are on the way.  Is it time for the decade old Fippy Darkpaw server to finally wrap up?  But once the get that squared away we can expect some new servers.

Overseer

The Overseer feature was introduced in EverQuest II with the Blood of Luclin expansion.  It is, in its simplified way, a version of the WoW garrison missions that were introduced with the Warlords of Draenor expansion and has been iterated on with every expansion since.

While Bhagpuss has been covering this new thing in Norrath, I am still trying to come up with how I feel about the feature.  A blog post about them has been under way for a while.  But apparently they are popular enough that Darpaw is going to bring them over to old Norrath.  Soon you will have minions to send out on missions in EverQuest.  The feature will be available to characters level 85 and up.

Free Level 85 Heroic Characters

Do you want to play with the Overseer feature but do not have a level 85 character?  Well, Darkpaw will fix that by giving you one for free!  All members will get one, though details are still to come.

Of course, this is the usual opening where I complain about the fact that the EverQuest heroic character boost remains stuck at level 85.  That was fine about a six years back when they introduced them, but the level cap got bumped up to 115 with the last expansion.  30 levels is a hell of a gap, especially since some expansions gave people five long levels.  Some day they are going to have to fix this, but I guess today is not that day.

SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions

SuperData Research is out with their January digital sales chart, so it is time to take a look at that.

SuperData Research Top 10 – January 2020

As usual, on the PC end of the chart the top four on the list remained the same.  There was a bit of a shake up as Dungeon Fighter Online and Crossfire swapped spots, but otherwise it is the same four titles.

In fifth position a new title appeared, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, which launched mid-January and jumped onto both the PC and console lists.

CS:GO bounced up into sixth place from its ninth slot position in December.

And in seventh place we find World of Warcraft West.  That is one position higher than December, but we don’t know if that is really meaningful as the rankings do not include any values with them.  However, there was some supplemental information as part of the report from SuperData:

  • The new World of Warcraft update Visions of N’Zoth successfully turned around declining user numbers. Subscriber numbers grew 17% from December to January (not including China). However, they were still down substantially (64%) from August 2019, the month World of Warcraft Classic was released.

This is a turn around from the news we got with the August charts:

  • WoW Classic drives a huge jump in subscribers. World of Warcraft subscription revenue grew an estimated 223% in August compared to July. Despite this, total revenue was still lower than the Battle for Azeroth expansion last August.

This has led to people to interpret what is going on in a lot of way.  The most egregious hot take seems to be that J. Allen Brack was right, nobody wants WoW Classic, and it was a mistake to do it.

Unfortunately, looking in from the outside, it is hard to know what really happened or where the subs went or even what factors have been in play.  A lot of things have happened since WoW Classic launched in August, including the Blitzchung debacle, BlizzCon, and the release of the honor system in WoW Classic, which I am pretty sure killed off a lot of activity on the PvP server.

Like literally every MMO retro server plan executed before it, WoW Classic was always going to drop off after a big surge.  And given how WoW Classic was almost all Blizzard could talk about during the Q4 earnings call earlier this month, it still seems like it was a worthwhile project to somebody.  We won’t ever know what the numbers would have looked like without it.

But will it have been enough, or will the post-launch drop off let the faction within Blizzard who didn’t want WoW Classic shelve any further development down that path.  After all, they also have the Warcraft III Reforged launch as ammo to argue that nostalgia isn’t all that big of a deal.  We shall see. (Though, given the subscription dive, I suspect that WC3R might have been pushed into a premature launch in order recognize revenue on the year-old pre-orders Blizz was sitting on just to make their internal numbers/goals for January.)

It will be interesting to see what Blizzard talks about on the Q1 2020 earnings call come April.

The rest of the PC list saw World of Tanks holding on to its spot, with Roblox and DOTA 2 bringing up the final two spots.

On the Console list FIFA 20 and Call of Duty swapped spots at the top, with Dragon Ball Z: Karkarot jumping up to third there.  The perennial list member Grand Theft Auto V held on to fourth position for another month while Fortnite, which has disappeared from the PC ranks, held on to seventh spot.  But, as we have seen in the SuperData annual reports, the console pie is smaller overall.  It is a smaller pond in which Fortnite remains a big fish.

On the Mobile end of the chart, the Chinese behemoth Honour of Kings returned to the top spot, as Clash of Clans, last months chart topper, fell back to fourth.  Candy Crush Saga grabbed third place, while Pokemon Go dropped off the list completely for January.  We will have to see if the new battle mode and events revive its fortunes on the February chart.

Now is the point when we compare the SuperData chart with the January numbers from NPD.  As always, NPD is US only, combines PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales.

  1. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019
  3. Madden NFL 20
  4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. NBA 2K20
  7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. Ring Fit Adventure
  10. Red Dead Redemption II

* Digital sales not included

As I have said before, console titles are much more heavily weighted on this list, as they still depend far more on the retail channel, which SuperData does not include.

With that, Dragon Ball Z: Karkarot tops the list, the hot new property on both PC and consoles.  Compared to the SuperData chart, FIFA 20 doesn’t make the cut, but its market isn’t in the US.  And, as often happens, we see a couple more titles for the Nintendo Switch, which seems to rely more heavily on retail than other consoles.  You cannot buy Ring Fit Adventure on digital in any case, as it includes a controller.

And so it goes for another month.  Below are the additional notes from the SuperData Research report:

  • Growing digital games revenue topped out at $9.4B in January 2020, up 3% year-over-year. Mobile earnings rose 13% compared to 2019 levels, offsetting lower PC and console revenue. Console spending was down a steep 42% in the free-to-play segment (due to lower Fortnite revenue) and down 19% in the premium space. January 2020 was a slow period for new console releases compared to January 2019, which saw the launches of Kingdom Hearts 3 and the Resident Evil 2 remake.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot sold 1.6M digital units, a new record for the franchise. In contrast to recent Dragon Ball titles, which were multiplayer fighting games, the new game is a single-player action role-playing game. The genre pivot helped the franchise attract a wider audience, leading to first-month digital sales that were more than double those of any previous Dragon Ball title.
  • Gardenscapes – New Acres climbed to third place on the mobile charts with record revenue of $111.9M. Earnings for the puzzle title from Russian developer Playrix have been rising rapidly and have more than doubled since September 2019. Gardenscapes and its sister title Homescapes are now the puzzle games to beat and currently have greater combined monthly revenue on mobile than all Candy Crush Saga titles.
  • January was a mixed bag for battle royale titles. Fortnite earnings continued their gradual decline and hit their lowest level since November 2017. Likewise, a January update to Apex Legends increased console monthly active users by 12% month-over-month, but the game generated less revenue than in December, which saw a successful holiday event. In contrast, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds released its Season 6 update on both PC and console in January, and PC players responded particularly well. In-game spending grew 512% month-over-month on PC after a lengthy period of low spending on additional content.

Starting Late in Razorfen Downs

As last weekend approached we started looking for a common time when we could meet up.  Common times seemed to be difficult and we ended up aiming for 4pm on Sunday afternoon.  That is a bit of a late start for us, or at least for me on a Sunday. but I had glanced at the Icy Veins guide for our next destination, Razorfen Downs, and it said the instance should take about an hour, so it seemed like we would be fine.

That we all got online at close to the appointed hour seemed like a good sign.  Our lineup for the afternoon was:

  • Viniki – level 40 gnome warrior
  • Moronae – level 40 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 39 gnome mage
  • Skronk – level 38 dwarf priest

I had gone out and bumped Viniki up to 40, which means he is again broke as skills ran close to 2g per, but he can now wear plate armor.  I even had some stored away for him.  But now all of the mail armor I picked up in Scarlet Monastery is effectively obsolete.

Moronae has also been busy the previous weekend and had popped up to level 40.

In looking at the Icy Veins info, I had also noticed that one of the quests started in Stormwind and had picked it up in advance and mentioned it in our Discord.  However, nobody else had and when we logged in everybody was in Ironforge, so there was some travel time as people flew off to Stormwind to pick up the quest.  The quest is not sharable.  And during that diversion we also found out that you need to be level 39 in order to get the quest, so Skronk flew to Stormwind and came back with nothing.

Meanwhile I was hanging about in Menethil Harbor watching the ships come and go.

Will this get me to Kalimdor faster?

We decided that getting to Razorfen Downs, which is at the south end of The Barrens, was probably best done via Theremore.  Feralas was considered, but it wasn’t clear if we all had the flight point and there was the complication of getting up the Great Lift and getting flagged by the NPCs there.  So that was discounted.  Instead we ran through the Dustwallow Marsh, emerging into The Barrens at the Shady Rest Inn.

Some day the renovation will get under way

From there it was a run down to the south end of The Barrens.  On the east side of the Gold Road is Razorfen Kraul and on the west Razorfen Downs.  We found the entrance pretty easily.

It is in there

Well, when I say “entrance,” I am being a little less than accurate.  That is the way into the area around Razorfen Downs, and like a lot of vanilla instances, it has a bunch of elites outside on the way to the actual instance.

As for the instance… it has been a long time since we’ve done RFD and I could not remember where the actual entrance was.  So we wandered for a while before finally finding the correct path and were able to get into the instance proper.   At this point we were well past an hour of elapsed time.

As for where to go… I think we went down the correct path.  Again, the Icy Veins article hand waves the whole thing as linear and yadda yadda yadda, but there were clearly some choices.  We bore left at the first two branches, fighting our way past an enormous gong.  The gong hand a cog wheel when you moused over it, so clearly you could click on it to ring it, but I was hesitant to start banging on gongs just yet.

It is a great big gong

We carried on for a bit past that until we made it to the murder pens around the corner.  Murder pens has such a safe ring to it.  We stopped for a bit and Ula, who had tabbed out to read something about the instance, said we ought to go back and ring the gong, as that would summon the first boss.  Or it would summon the boss after a couple of tries.

Back in the room we were spread out when the gong was rung and the first round was a series of non-elites.  Ula went to ice and AOE them, which did not work out quite as well as hoped, with Ula getting swamped and dying.  But the rest of us were able to clean up the mess.

Ula restored, we rang the gong again, this time faced with four elite mobs, which we were better prepared to face.  It was a bit chaotic… getting everybody on the same target and getting random targets off the casters and such… but we managed.

Then, with a third sounding of the gong, Tuten’kash arrived, the boss we had all been waiting for.

Tuten’kash comes to us

He was actually easier than the first two waves, a single big target being easier to manage if nothing else.  We finished up the fight and Tuten’kash was kind enough to drop a nice armor upgrade for me.

Just my size

I actually had a plate chest piece already, the Jouster’s Chestplate, but this was a significant upgrade.  Also, it wasn’t a bare midriff item.  The Jouster’s Chestplate made me look like Viniki the plumber.

Ula made a GIF of my plumber’s butt

That done, we moved on into the murder pens and cleared out the hostiles, then began looking for that quest mob.  There are a few in the pens, but we found the right guy, Belnistrasz.  This guy I remembered as being the quest give that everybody has to stay on sync with.  If one person blitzes through his quest/complete/quest cycle, only they will get the quest and the rest of us will be stuck.  So we did it carefully… and actually managed to do it right on the first try.  Then it was off to follow him.

Come on, it will be fun

While following him back the way we came we were waylaid by a pair of rampaging boars, the random patrol mechanic of RFD.  They ignored him and we had to stop and slay them before following on.  Belnistrasz had disappeared around a corner and, as we caught up we found that the event had already begun.

You have to defend Belnistrasz through a series of waves in order to get to the big boss.  The waves… pairs of elites… keep coming as time counts down.  We got stuck into the task, but for the first time in a while I think we were suffering from that missing DPS position.  If you burn down the quillboars quickly you are only dealing with pairs, which isn’t an issue.  But if you’re slow because you’re been using your healer’s wand skill as a crutch and now he doesn’t have time because he has to heal, then things may not work out well.

We kept it going for quite a while.  Belnistrasz called out the final minute.  But we had fallen behind the killing curve and we never caught up.

When your kid says, “Just a minute” but you need them now

Skronk ran out of mana, I used my health potion, Moronae went down, then I, then Skronk, leaving only Ula in her ice block at the end.  We wiped.

The run back… well, the graveyard isn’t as far away as the one in Uldaman is, but it is a long ways up The Barrens.  And we got lost… I got lost… again trying to find the instance once more.  But we got back and started warming up again.

First, a snack

We rested there a bit while Ula went off to feed their cats.  We were now past the two hour mark and my wife had been poking her head into my office to ask when we would be done.  It was dinner time and all.

So when we set out again I suggested that we find the next boss and call it.  I was going to have to log off pretty soon.  So we went down the path we had blazed previously, past where we had wiped, past the gong, through the murder pens, and over the bridge, to find the boss I had been expecting.

Skeletons and a pile of bones

This is probably my only solid memory from past runs, Mordresh Fire Eye and his skeleton mosh pit… and his pile of bones.  I wonder if the skeletons pull from their for replacement parts?

The goal was just to finish him off, but first we wanted to clear the dance floor of the mass of non-elite skeletons.  My first pull was good, and we got a couple.  The next one was bad and we got everybody, including Mordresh Fire Eye.  Ula AOE’d the skellies and I ran up and grabbed Mordresh.

It ended up being another pretty straightforward fight and Mordresh was down soon enough.  He dropped a nice caster necklace, the Glowing Eye of Mordresh.  In the roll-off it went to Skronk.  And so we were done for the evening.

The group atop the bone pile

That bone pile is pretty elaborate for what is a hill prop for a secondary boss in a mid-level instance.  There are bones and bits sticking out all over it and it took some of us a bit of effort in order to get to the top.  It is also sizable.

Bone pile zoomed out for some scale

Screen shots taken, we recalled back to Ironforge and called it a wrap.

Our first run at RFD was less than a success.  Two of the bosses we hit were easy enough, but we failed pretty hard on the idol event with Belnistrasz.  We’ll need to be a bit better prepared for that next time around.  Also, Skronk hit 39 along the way so he will be able to grab the quest from Stormwind this time.

Once again, Ula has posted a great video of our run which illustrates some of the situations mentioned above.

Next time will see our return to RFD… which is probably okay, as we should probably all be at least 40 before we wander into Uldaman.

Past runs at Razorfen Downs

CCP Takes Aim at Undercutters and Market Bots in New Eden

CCP has a bunch of things coming up in March, like frigates in battleships and the expansion of the mineral starvation plan and fleet yeet filaments, but yesterday’s dev blog about their planned market changes struck me with the question, “Why now?”

We’ll get to that skill in a bit

Some of the items in that post make sense.  The change to the minimum broker fees in player owned Upwell structures… it will go from 0% to 1%, and only half of the broker’s fee will go to the owner now… seems like a straightforward response to the changes they made to fees back in July.  Those seemed set to push markets to player structures, something set to enrich the owners without being much of an ISK sink in the overall economy.   Now they will take a bit of ISK.  CCP even uses the phrase “ISK sink” in describing it.

In Upwell structures, the minimum broker fee that can be configured by the structure owner increases from 0% to 1%, adding an ISK sink to these market fees by paying half of this incoming fee to an NPC.

But the other two changes… those go into a realm that CCP has previously ignored.  The summaries are:

Introducing tick size – a limit on price precision when creating/updating an order. An order’s price can only be specified with a maximum precision of 4 significant figures.

Increase the ISK fees that are charged when modifying an order. The fee includes a new additional component, the Relist Charge. This is in addition to the regular Broker Charge that covers the increase between old and new order value.

To my mind, those changes have only one target; undercutters.

People have been wailing about undercutters in various forums for any online game that has a market or auction house since there has been online games with markets or auction houses.  And these complaints often boil down to people being butt hurt that somebody comes along and lists the same item for less than the person doing the complaining.

The problem with these complaints is that the answer is always that this is how a market works.  When somebody else wants to list an item on the market and they see the same thing already lists, what do you expect them to do?  Should they list at a higher price?

Arguably, there are situations when people should.  A smart seller knows their market and won’t just undercut everybody.  If there are a couple of low ball sellers you can ignore them or buy them out depending on the situation.  But most people are lazy and just want to sell their stuff, so they will see the lowest price and list just below that and be on their way.

In EVE Online, price increments down to a tenth of an ISK, so you will often see items that cost tens or hundreds of millions of ISK on the market with pricing separated by that tenth of an ISK gap.

A sample of prices from Jita

This situation is aggravated somewhat by the fact that you cannot chose who you buy from.  You can select any listing you want at any price, but it will always buy from the lowest priced listing.  If you want to punish that person at the top of the list with the price that ends in .97 ISK by going with a higher priced listing, the higher price goes to that person anyway.

In New Eden the undercutter always wins, at least in the short term.

The first of the proposed two changes will alter the minimum price increment allowed for listings, limiting it to four significant digits of precision.  That means an item that is worth about a million ISK on the market will go from having pricing that looks like this:

  • 999,999.97
  • 999,999.98
  • 999,999.99
  • 1,000,000.00

to pricing that looks like this:

  • 999,700
  • 999,800
  • 999,900
  • 1,000,000

Rather than a tenth of an ISK increment you get one on the 100 ISK line.

I gather that the idea here is that increasing the increment size will flatten the pricing in the market and keep people from undercutting as aggressively.  With enough items on the market, or for items of a high enough price, that may come to pass.  But there will always be the incentive to be the lowest priced item on the market, and in MMOs, where a lot of players do not take pricing seriously, being content just to get some currency out of an item, it isn’t uncommon for people to undercut well below the vendor or recycle price of an item.

That is a benefit for those who spot the item, but it won’t stop people from bitching about being undercut, and it will keep happening no matter the increment.

The second item, the revised charging scheme for modifying a current order, that feels like it is being aimed at market bots.  Interestingly, as part of the dev blog, CCP says that 94% of market listings are never altered, and of the remaining orders, only 1.3% are modified eight or more times.  And a subset of that are “orders that are being modified hundreds of times, with behavioral patterns that are very likely not human.”  There are your bots, which are not nearly as pervasive as the forums would lead you to believe.  To some people every undercut must be a bot, but in places like Jita where new orders are going up all the time and the incentive is always to be .01 ISK below the price leader, you cannot tell which is a bot and which is just a new listing.

So this new change, and there is a formula detailing how it will be calculated, has been setup to make frequent price changes ruinously expensive.

In the classic CCP way of things though, they have a skill for that.  Or, rather, a skill is being repurposed for that.  The Margin Trading skill, which I gather was little cared for, will become Advanced Broker Relations and, if trained up to level V, will reduce the enhanced relisting fee by half.

If the target is “not human” behavioral patterns it seems silly to repurpose a skill in order to take away some of the sting.  But maybe they want sales of the skill to act as an ISK sink.

Either way, that should put paid to unfettered sell bots, though such a bot never made much sense to me in any case.  Patience and knowing the market has always seemed like a better path than trying to micromanage.  I’ve never had problems selling anything that was priced right even if it wasn’t the lowest price at the moment.

Buy bots, that seems like a better plan, scanning the market regularly to purchase items listed well below market pricing… though I have heard tales in dark places about people manipulating market pricing just to get such bots to buy things they ought not to.

So the best plan seems to be not botting at all.  But somebody is always going to go there if they think they can gain even a bit of an advantage.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  But I still wonder “why now?”  The relisting charge especially intrigues me.  But CCP could have done either or both of those changes at any point in the last dozen years.  People have been complaining about bots and undercutting in Jita for longer than that.  What happened that put that on CCP’s radar?

If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what this breaks and how much it hits the MER.

Capsuleer Fortitude Reward

CCP is giving out some more free skill points.  This time they are throwing us another pile in compensation for the outages that were caused by the DDoS attacks earlier this month.

Reward Award

If you log in between now and downtime on March 9, 2020 you will be able to claim those free skill points.  If you are running an Alpha clone you get 100,000, while if you are an Omega subscriber you get that plus 250,000 more, for a total of 350,000 skill points.

Always a class divide

Since this is coming through the login reward interface, if you’re an Alpha clone but are just dying to get those extra 250K skill points, you can subscribe and claim them.  It doesn’t matter if you were an Alpha during the outage, you just have to go Omega before time runs out on the offer.

Something in the back of my brain says I should be angry about CCP selling skill points this way.  If you’re a high skill point salt that is one and two-thirds of a large skill injector for just $14.99, or 500 PLEX.  Probably not a great price, but a price none the less.  And who cares anyway?  We’ve long since crossed that bridge and burned it behind us.

So don’t forget to log in and grab the free skill points.  I know I will drag out every account, because who knows when I might need it some day.

How Close to Half Way in WoW Classic?

WoW Classic will hit the six month mark this week, having gone live back in late August of last year.  I remember that first night.  It was all about queues.

Waiting in line in the snow

At this point in the game my gaggle of characters is starting to clump up around the level 40 mark.  I am taking my time getting to the level cap, though I suspect that had I put all my play time into a single character I might already be level 60.  But that is now how things work for me.

Getting to and past level 40 made me wonder if any of my characters were even half way to level cap, a thought prompted by Pokemon Go.

Sure, in absolute levels I was half way at level 30.  And in Pokemon Go I was half way to its level cap of 40 back when I hit level 20.  But that doesn’t represent the actual half way point of the effort.  In Pokemon Go, the way the experience curve works, you haven’t gotten half way to the xp you need for level 40 until you are a ways into level 37.  So I wanted to know how the curve looked for WoW Classic.

Fortunately we live in the internet age and I was quickly able to find a chart in a Reddit post that had the xp you need for each level.  I transcribed that into a spreadsheet and setup columns to show a cumulative total for each level as well as a percentage.

Assuming the chart is correct (it matches others I have seen) and that I have caught all my transcription errors, you need 4,084,700 xp to hit level 60, which puts the half way point for xp at around level 47.  My highest level character is close to level 42, which puts him past the one third mark, but still well shy of half way.

However, this raw measure is… well… raw.  Unlike Pokemon Go, where the xp you earn for activity is the same at level 1 as it is at level 39, WoW Classic scales up the xp you earn.  Higher level mobs and quests give more xp.

That chart I linked reflects that as it has a second data set, which is how much xp you get from killing at at-level mob at any given level and how many at level mobs you need to kill to get to the next level.  So I transcribed that as well, once again adding a running total and a percentage column.

To get to level 60 by just grinding you need to slay 16,339 at-level mobs, and the half way point, in raw mobs slain, is somewhere around level 44.

But that doesn’t take into account blue bar kills.  When you have that rested experience each kill counts double, and when you rotate through four characters actively, and another two on occasion, almost every kill is a blue bar kill.  And then there is the quest xp on top of that.  Some times it is minor, but there is the occasional big hit of xp from a quest.

So maybe I am pretty close to half way at level 40.  But is xp even the right measuring stick?

One of the goals for WoW Classic is to do all the five person instances.  Looking at the list of instances I came up with this set:

  1. Ragefire Chasm*
  2. The Deadmines*
  3. Wailing Caverns*
  4. Shadowfang Keep*
  5. Stormwind Stockade*
  6. Blackfathom Deeps
  7. Gnomeregan*
  8. Razorfen Kraul
  9. Scarlet Monastery Graveyard*
  10. Scarlet Monastery Library*
  11. Scarlet Monastery Armory*
  12. Scarlet Monastery Cathedral*
  13. Razorfen Downs
  14. Uldaman
  15. Zul’Farrak
  16. Maraudon – Purple
  17. Maraudon – Orange
  18. The Temple of Atal’Hakkar
  19. Blackrock Depths
  20. Blackrock Spire – Lower
  21. Blackrock Spire – Upper
  22. Scholomance
  23. Stratholme
  24. Dire Maul – East
  25. Dire Maul – West
  26. Dire Maul – North

The instances marked with an asterisk have been run.  That gives us 10 out of 26 run, which is a few shy of the half way mark.  We have also skipped a couple along the way.  I am not sure how we make that up, save with an lower level alt group.

And not all instances are the same.  Gnomeregan and Uldaman should almost count double.  They are equipped with side doors to pick up part way through.  And the Temple of Atal’Hakkar… Sunken Temple… that is a long run in its classic form, also probably suitable for a couple of attempts.  Both sides and the back of Maraudon are probably quicker.  And should I even count UBRS?  That is a 10 person raid.  I am not sure we’re going to get that done with just four of us.

No matter how I stack it up we seem to shy of the half way point six months into the game.  But I am not worried about being too slow.  I doubt we’ll see anything new on the WoW Classic front before the end of 2021.  There is plenty of time.

Honest Game Trailers Hits Warcraft III Reforged Hard

I mentioned at the end of January that Warcraft III Reforged had finally been released by Blizzard, linking out to some of the early problems with the work that people were complaining about.  I had pre-ordered it back after BlizzCon 2018 and was going to wait a while before tackling it because I figured Blizzard might have a plan to fix things.

Meanwhile, the heat on the game just kept getting hotter, and now it is the turn of Honest Game Trailers.

Honest Game Trailers has a tradition at hitting at the weak spots of titles in a way that is often light and doesn’t make you feel bad if you’re a fan.  For example, every video about a Pokemon game reminds us how close to the path GameFreak stays.  But we like it that way and can laugh at ourselves for our devotion.

And then there is their new video about Warcraft III Reforged… but I suspect that it might be tough to find fans of the remake give the tally of issues that have been discovered since it launched.  Have you seen its score on Metacritic?

I was surprised the user score dropped below 1

Ouch.  So instead of a self-deprecating chuckle that fans can have at their own expense, this episode runs more like an indictment.

Compare to that, the look back to the Warcraft RTS franchise they did about four years back is practically a love letter.

I don’t want to say that Warcraft III Reforged necessarily should have been a slam dunk for Blizz… though they still had a lot of goodwill and nostalgia going for them… but they set expectations back at BlizzCon 2018 that they not only didn’t meet, but features that were kind of expected were removed.  Oh, and to keep everything in sync, they were also removed from that copy of Warcraft III you own if you updated it to play online.  Not a good look for what SynCaine is calling the “New Blizzard.”

As for a plan, as reported elsewhere, Blizzard is offering “no questions asked refunds.”

That is less of a plan and more or a mea culpa I suppose, but it is something I guess.  And since this apparently being my month for disillusionment and refunds, I applied for the latter (having experience the former) and it was approved within a few minutes.  There are a series of options to choose from when you request a refund, but for this one “Regret” seemed to be pretty much on the nose.  I am sure that applies to Blizzard’s feelings as well at this point.

My credit card hasn’t been reimbursed yet.  The messaging is a bit muddled, with various responses telling me I’ll have my refund in 3, 7, or possibly 15 days.  But I expect it will come through eventually. (Edit: Just checked and I have been refunded within the 3 day estimate, so high marks for Blizz on that I guess.)

Maybe I should stop pining for a Diablo II remaster and just keep hoping they don’t mess up WoW Classic.  I am still enjoying that.

Ranger Regiment Joins the Imperium

Another item that came up while I was gone for a week was that the Ranger Regiment alliance had joined the Imperium.

Their DOTLAN status as of Feb 19, 2020

Ranger Regiment is one of what I think of as the Chinese diaspora groups that left the Serenity server in China after the Pan-Intergalactic Business Community essentially won EVE Online on that server, which drove people away. (Rooks & Kings did a video about the end of days on Serenity that is worth watching.)  So they and some other groups including Fraternity, The Army of Mango Alliance, and P.L.A came to the Tranquility server in order to play in a sandbox where one group didn’t own all the sand.

The rather brief post about Ranger Regiment making the move to the Imperium did not go very far into why they might have sought to join.  Not that I think there is much mystery as to why they were inclined to join.  The war in the north started with TEST attack Dead Coalition allegedly over something Sort Dragon, CSM member and head of the latter, said to which Vily, also a CSM member and military chief of the former, took grave offense or something.  Wars in New Eden have started over less.

This developed into a alliance between TEST and its coalition and Pandemic Horde and its coalition, against Dead Coalition, there being some bad blood there as well.  That balance saw the Imperium deploy a brand new SIG, about which I wrote previously, in support of Dead Coalition.

But Ranger Regiment has born the brunt of the attack.  Looking at their changes page on DOTLAN, the last month has seen them lose much of their holdings in Branch and Tenal, the once safe ratting and mining grounds of Dead Coalition.  The null sec influence maps paint the picture more graphically.

Ranger Regiment Northern Losses

A big block of those losses came after the announcement, so could be perhaps attributed to them packing up and leaving, but they have still been under pressure for more than a month and had been losing systems steadily over that time.  They still hold some systems in Branch and a chunk of Deklein, though I imagine they will let those go to somebody unless the Imperium wants to expand the arc of its holdings past the outpost systems in Cloud Ring and Fade that are at the far end of the Eye of Terror jump gate system.

I am not sure that we want to have to cover that much territory, and I am sure that wouldn’t make Sort Dragon particularly happy.  We’re allied for the moment, but it is a casual agreement that can change with the situation.  We shall see.

This also marks the first time in a while where an alliance size group has applied to join the Imperium.  There have been some other temporary alliances and agreements when we have worked with other groups, but most of my posts about the state of the coalition membership are from the Casino War era when come alliances were keen to exit.

The Imperium – August 10, 2016

If you look at the recent null sec influence maps, we are in an era where some areas between the coalitions have opened up to smaller, independent groups.  But there are still four key coalitions in null sec right now; Darkness and Dead Coalition in the north, Pandemic Horde and PanFam in the northeast, TEST and Legacy Coalition in the southeast, and Goonswarm and the Imperium in the west.  They have realigned to grind against each other multiple times now, which has caused them to consolidate and reorganize at points.  I suppose the question at the moment is whether or not Dead Coalition, which just lost an alliance, can hold up under the current onslaught.  The Imperium deployed a SIG to come help, but did not call the whole coalition out nor bring any super capitals north, so our commitment to their defense is less than all we could do.

Meanwhile, Dead Coalition is the one group that does not have an obvious and well known new player group that can funnel fresh recruits into the coalition.  They are already more of a regional power than the other three, and if they cannot bulk up they may end up as another small buffer state between them.