Monthly Archives: August 2020

August in Review

The Site

It was Blaugust and Promptapalooza this month.  I participated a bit in the prompt thing, though not very much.  I kept myself busy elsewhere.  There was plenty to post about without additional prompts.

August means some sort of Blaugust

Belghast, who set the whole thing up, has a summary post about the event up with links out to everybody’s prompt post.

I did, however, stick closer to the old school meaning of Blaugust by posting every single day over the course of the month.  In fact, I managed to do that from the start of April, which was Blapril, all the way through August of Blaugust.

A post a day keeps… something away…

153 days in a row of blog posts, so “go me” I guess.

One Year Ago

I wrote way too many posts.  49 in one month, and not a bunch of short ones either.  But it was Blaugust, so I was in the mood.  As usual I went on about all sorts of things like what to write, and burning things down, and how to crank out posts.  Oh, and that gamer motivation profile thing again.

Daybreak was setting up Twitter accounts for its new sub-studios.  They also brought DCUO to the Nintendo Switch.  And they were sketching out some plans for the EverQuest II 15th  anniversary.

PlanetSide Arena also resurfaces with a new plan.

I explained the difference between Team Fight Tactics and DOTA Overlords.

There was more talk about lock boxes and bad analogies.

I hit three years with Pokemon Go.

The August update brought community fittings to EVE Online.  A big cyno nerf was also announced.  EVE Fanfest Home also happened.

Out in null sec the blackout continued, though not without issues.  Local came on for a bit, even in WH space.  The MER showed a big hit to NPC bounties in null sec.  I was starting to wonder about chaos fatigue from the stuff CCP was doing.

Meanwhile, I was in low sec with Liberty Squad, flying Abaddons.  Some days we didn’t get a fight.  Other days lots of stuff blew up.  But we tired of the locals refusing to fight unless they had the numbers to overwhelm us us, so we flew home.  The “hell dunks or blue balls” routine gets tiresome and there was nothing really at stake.

I was also on about the absolute nature of some things in New Eden, warp core stabilizers, interdiction nullification, and the things that they counter.

There was also announcement of the the alpha for EVE Echoes, the mobile version of EVE Online.  Could you play EVE on your phone?  Should you play EVE on your phone?

There was another round of EVE Aether Wars to try, this time with prizes.  It seemed to go pretty well.

I also celebrated 13 years of playing EVE Online by going down the list of all the places I had called home in the game.

But mostly I was wetting myself about WoW ClassicThe count down to launch was on.  They announced the server names, a list which ended up expanding greatly.  The crowd trying to reserve names on various servers proved Blizzard was not thinking big enough.  PVP realms seemed popular.  Like, very popularSuper popular.

Blizzard was trying to get the word out on what you should know.  They even did a Reddit AMA and explained things like layering in detail as well as some videos with the game’s creators.

I tried to define the different factions of players these servers attract.  I also had some predictions about what would happen on the eve of the launch.

The instance group eagerly played the last load test just to get a taste of it, because all I really wanted to do was play WoW Classic.  I was wondering about addons, which have come a long way since back in the day.  What would enhance the experience and what would ruin it?

And then it was LAUNCH DAY and we queued up to get in the game, then queued up again once we got in.  My hunter tamed his first pet just a couple days in as I wrote about the strange ways of the class.  Good times.

Five Years Ago

It was Blaugust and a lot of people played along.

I told the strange tale of my first automotive test drive.

Project: Gorgon had Kickstarter success at last, then there were stretch goals, the grand total, and mapping out a plan going forward.

Blizzard, on the other hand, was facing bad news as WoW subscriptions dropped to 5.6 million, the lowest since December 2005.  In order to drown that out, Blizz had a big WoW announcement planned later in the week.  There was much anticipation.  I speculated on what it might be, but it turned out to be the WoW Legion expansion announcement, sans cinematic.  Of course, once they announced it, everybody wanted to know when we would get it.

In EVE Online, it was all about Fozzie Sov.  People were complaining.  We had to take sov from allies in order to transfer it, at which point MOA temporarily scooped up a couple systems. Crazy days!  The Galatea expansion addressed some of our issues.

Then the Imperium went to Providence to test out the new sovereignty mechanics… and to purge the Jamylites with the blessings of Maximilian Singularity VI.  The resulting conflict is all under the Provi War tag here.

Meanwhile, CCP was doubling down on VR, adding EVE Gunjack to their lineup.

Turbine was warming up for the great LOTRO server upgrade and merge effort.

Daybreak was also planning server consolidations, these for EverQuest II.  They were also working on a server for misfit players, which seemed like a dubious idea.  And on the Stormhold server, the first expansion unlock vote came up.  The players said “no” to the unlock.  And in EverQuest, on the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers, the inevitable enforced raid rotation schedule was implemented, with an eye to keeping out casuals it seemed.

In Minecraft, I was discovering fire and putting our world up on a hosting service to share it with friends.  Xydd joined up and began working a lot on the nether, while Skronk began his own building project, as I tinkered with dungeons.  We had a setback with our hosting service.  It was a good thing I was keeping backups.

ArenaNet made the base version of Guild Wars 2 available for free, no doubt hoping to sell expansions.

And I wrote a little something about the passing of Robert Conquest.

Ten Years Ago

Let’s see… people were hating on GameStop for selling used games, which was equated with stealing.  That was before GameStop started officially stealing.

Massive Blips went away.  I miss it.

I made my position on raspberries perfectly clear.

Yahoo had a couple game related lists.  I love lists.

Cryptic and Atari announced they were doing the game Neverwinter.

Runic started talking about Torchlight II.

Stunt Rock.  I need say no more.

EverQuest Next was announced at Fan Faire, and I was wondering about the lessons SOE has learned after a few turns of the EverQuest wheel.  Pity nothing came of it.

In the real world, boars were starting to become more like their MMO counterparts.

WoW account hacking was still a big deal, though getting to be common enough as to not be news on an individual level any more.  People have their views on whose fault it is.  But was any game facing as much account hacking as WoW?

My daughter got into the WoW Cataclysm beta.  She got me some screen shots of Stormwind,  Southshore and the Barrens.  This, by the way, probably killed her interest in Cata when it finally did ship. Indulging early can take the edge off of things.

Blizzard got a serious judgement against somebody running a for-profit WoW pirate server.

The instance group, done in WoW and on the now usual summer hiatus, was spending some time in Middle-earth, which required a bit of selling.  We made it through Othrongroth, and to the North Downs and the Lone Lands.  I finally found my way to Evendim, which I had never  managed to visit before.  It was in a state of change, pre-quest revamp but after they added in the boat routes.

And, finally, in EVE Online, there was the PLEX story we had all been waiting for.

Twenty Years Ago

The Age of Empires II expansion, The Conquerors, launched.  Good times.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Command and Conquer launches, an RTS game that spawned a franchise and gave us the hell march (with Red Alert at least).

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. The Fall of Niarja and the Shape of High Sec
  2. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  6. The Ahn’Qiraj War Effort set to Begin in WoW Classic
  7. Remembering Brian Green
  8. Reflections on the Eve of the 20 Year EverQuest Anniversary
  9. Campaign Medals
  10. Burn Jita 2020 Seems Unlikely
  11. The Coming Metaliminal Storms May Decloak You in Null Sec
  12. WoW Tokens Five Years Later

Search Terms of the Month

project discovery 40 million isk per hour
[Tell me more]

eve online notoras
[They have icecream]

can a drake null sec rat
[A Drake can do anything… except light a cyno]

felwood or un’goro first
[Un’goro]

Spam Comment of the Month

Hey mate are you selling your blog by chance?
[Everything has a price!]

Gaming Time from ManicTime

I was away for a week… pretty much all of last week… so my overall hours played were at their lowest since February, when I was also away for a week.  I was in Portland, Oregon both times, as that is where my daughter goes to college now.

As an aside, I was downtown a couple of times last week and it is not the dystopian landscape of destruction that the President or Fox News would have you believe.  In February we stayed at a hotel that is at the mid-point between the park where the nightly protest forms up and the two federal buildings where the protests take place.  Unless you’re in about a four block area, you might never notice a thing, and during the day nothing looks out of place.

Anyway, game times:

  • EVE Online – 50.33%
  • WoW Classic – 33.31%
  • Diablo II – 13.93%
  • World of Warcraft – 1.01%

Both Minecraft and EverQuest dropped off the list in August, with no time recorded for either.

Diablo II

I kept on going through Diablo II, if a bit more slowly than back in the day.  I am through Act II, so a post about that is coming this week, and into Act III.  I think the challenge will be Act V, the expansion act, as I have zero memory of it.

EVE Online

World War Bee continues.  The invaders have taken all of Fountain and have moved their supers and titans into the region.  Querious remains a skirmish zone around the gate to Catch and the hostiles come through into Period Basis as well, but our core home region of Delve remains mostly unscathed.  Oh, and Niarja fell to the Triglavians and people wonder what that will mean in the long term.  We shall see.

Pokemon Go

A good month for Pokemon Go.  A friend of my wife’s is part of a raiding group and she got us on the friend’s list, so we get remote invites to raid now.  Have to save up coins for remote raid passes though.  (Good thing they are selling some cheap ones soon.)  On the down side, I haven’t hatched anything new or useful from an egg in months now.

Level: 39 (70% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 572 (+16) caught, 601 (+12) seen
Pokemon I want: Need some Unova Pokemon to fill in the gaps
Current buddy: Fraxure

World of Warcraft

As has been the pattern for a while now, I went and did the Darkmoon Faire stuff on my main and then mostly did not log into retail WoW.  We did get some big WoW news though; Shadowlands will launch on October 26th, which means the big 9.0.1 patch will hit some time before then, introducing the level squish.

WoW Classic

The instance group did the ground work for quests and then dove into Sunken Temple for the first time.  I had to miss a couple of weeks due to travel, but we have another run or two there to finish up the instance.

Coming Up

More World War Bee in EVE Online is a given.

More instance group in WoW Classic for sure.  Also, we’ll probably get the retail WoW pre-expansion patch with the big level squish.

More Diablo II certainly.

And some sort of anniversary post.  I’d better start working on that.

What else is coming up in September?  I am sure I missed something.

SuperData Say Pokemon Go was All Go Go Go in July

SuperData Research got their monthly chart out for July last week and I am going to squeeze in a post about it here on the last day of August.

SuperData Research Top 10 – July 2020

On the PC side of the chart, the usual top four remain in place, though League of Legends regained the top spot on the chart after being down in second for June.

Valorant, the shooter from Riot, moved up a spot.  It showed up on the scene in sixth place, but moved to fifth this month, swapping positions with RobloxWorld of Tanks, which fell off the list last month, returned in seventh spot, just ahead of World of Warcraft.  And bringing up the rear are CS:GO and FortniteThe Sims 4, which was in tenth spot for June fell off the list.

For consoles, the much talked about Ghost of Tsushima topped the chart.  Per the report:

Ghost of Tsushima sold 1.9M digital units in July to become the fastest-selling new PlayStation IP. The game far outpaced the early sales of other new franchises launched on PlayStation 4: Horizon: Zero Dawn sold 1.9M units in its first two months on the market in early 2017, and Days Gone sold 1.3M units in its first two months after launching in late April 2019. Ghost of Tsushima also set the record for the biggest console game ever launched during the month of July. The Last of Us Part II, also a PlayStation exclusive, set the June record only one month prior. A lack of alternative entertainment options due to COVID-19 has contributed to the success of recent PlayStation titles during what is historically a quiet season for new game releases.

GTA V pulled in fifth place, just ahead of Fortnite, and Pokemon Sword and Shield made it on to the list thanks to the expansion for the game launched on the Switch.  Paper Mario: The Oragami King also got a mention from SuperData:

Paper Mario: The Origami King sold 555K digital units in July. While its performance was nowhere near those of the last big Switch exclusives, Animal Crossing: New Horizons (5.0M) and Pokémon Sword and Shield (2.7M), the game did better than Fire Emblem: Three Houses when it launched in July 2019.

And on the mobile end of the chart Pokemon Go rose to first place based on a dedicated, if smaller, following.

Pokémon GO had its second-biggest revenue month ever. Earnings were just 0.4% lower than in August 2016, when the game was a global phenomenon. Now, however, it relies on a dedicated core of high-spending players, and July 2020 user numbers were just 15% of what they were in August 2016. July revenue was up thanks to the ‘Pokémon GO Fest’ in-game event on July 25 and 26. The event required a $15 fee to access a range of challenges and activities.

Meanwhile, the venerable Candy Crush Saga remained on the list, holding on in tenth position.

SuperData also pointed out the game Free Fire, which grabbed third place in July.

Free Fire has become the number two [three?] mobile game by carving out a niche in emerging markets. The mobile battle royale title from Singaporean publisher Garena has the distinction of being the world’s top Southeast Asian-published game. The game runs well on affordable, low-spec mobile phones and regularly tops the charts in markets like India, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

I’ll have to keep an eye on Free Fire going forward, representing the markets it does.

NPD also has their top ten chart for July available as well.  As always, NPD numbers are US only, combine PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales (where noted).

  1. Ghost of Tsushima
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  3. Paper Mario: The Origami King*
  4. The Last of Us: Part II
  5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  6. Ring Fit Adventure
  7. Mortal Kombat 11
  8. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe*
  9. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  10. Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris

*Digital sales on Nintendo eShop not included

Being focused on retail, the NPD list is heavy on console titles, as they depend on physical sales much more than PC games.  And, while Ghost of Tsushima tops the list as expected, half the list is also Nintendo products, showing again how much they depend on retail over digital sales.

 

Fourteen Years of Spaceship Meta

Another year has gone by since I started playing EVE Online.  Fourteen years ago today I rolled up my first character using a name I had originally made up back in 1986 to play another online spaceship game.  This pre-dates the launch of the blog by two weeks, so EVE Online was the last new game I started playing before I started this mess.

New Eden Me

I don’t really have much to say for this anniversary.  I think I have told and re-told the tales of my early days enough and I barely do anything new anymore.  New Eden is like a story that keeps going, a book I cannot quite put down.  Some chapters were so good that I can put up with some more pedestrian times in the hope of something interesting coming up again.

Like a war.

Well, we have a war, a good one, with lots of stuff blowing up and potentially a climactic ending.  A last stand in 1DQ1-A would be something… though I thought a last stand in VFK-IV would be something as well, and we didn’t get that.  But I’ll write about the war some more later.

Today I thought I would reflect on something else.  In looking for something to write about I started thinking about all the ships I had flown and how the meta of the game dictated many of those choices.  Even early on, when I was wandering about solo and chasing the goal of mining perfection, there was an optimal path forward.  You went from the Bantam to the Osprey to the Retriever to the Hulk.

Oh, and you totally needed a Mammoth to haul ore on your alt.  That was the optimum configuration.

Mammoth and Retriever… with jet can… back in 2007

That all got shaken up later on.  They redid the mining barges and exhumers, then added mining frigates.  You need never mine in a combat ship any more as you climb the ladder to the Rorqual, the current mining pinnacle.

But change is the way of things.

Early on the Rifter, the icon frigate of New Eden for so long, was what you flew.  Now you don’t.  Maybe you fly a Kestrel instead, or an Atron, if you want to go do some frigate PvP.  Just not a Punisher.  Two mid slots are never enough.

It is fun to think about the cycles over time, of balance passes bringing one hull or another to predominance and then further tweaks casting that same hull down.  When I came out to null sec, the Maelstrom was the CFC ship of the line and the Hurricane the battlecruiser of choice.  I had a Digi-cane at one point, though I couldn’t tell you what that signified.

Then there were some changes and the era of the MWD Drake came into being, moving along at 1,300 m/s and spewing heavy missiles.  That was good because back then I had few skill points, but I had invested heavily in shields, heavy missiles, and the battlecruiser skill. (Back when it and destroyers were just a single skill for all empires.)  Then some counters came up and then heavy missiles got a nerf and we were on to something else.

Meanwhile the Malestroms gave way to the Dominix when drone assist was the thing.  Then came Megathrons then the Apocalypse and then a mix of the two.  We were hot on the Machariel for a bit, then the Typhoon off and on, and then back to the Megathron.  The Rokh and the Abaddon show up now and again as well for special tasks.  Oh, the Rokh showed up again just last week in a new doctrine:

To this day I remain mildly amused at the spot the Ferox now plays in null sec fleets.  To have suggested it as a doctrine back in the day would have been met with derision.  I remember an early attempt to form a doctrine around it had to be called the “non-ironic Ferox doctrine” just to indicate that it was serious.  Now you can’t show up to a fleet fight without tripping over Ferox wrecks, while a Drake on the field is a rare sight indeed.  We actually blew up an NSH Drake the other day and I was practically shocked.

The a balance pass comes, the meta shifts, and a new ship becomes the doctrine flavor of the month.  How many times have people complained, at least out in null sec, that the game has become Ishtars online, or Lokis online, or Feroxes online?  If we’re talking destroyers then it is Cormorants online for sure.  Or maybe Jackdaws online.  Caldari hulls seem to be doing pretty well.

The only sure things are that eventually something will change and that somebody will start complaining about the new meta, whatever it ends up being.

Well that and that some ship will remain left out.  The balance pass doesn’t promise every hull a chance.  I’ve never flown a Hyperion, for example.  The Harbinger was popular for about five minutes during a break with the Ferox.  But the Ferox came back and I never got to fire the lasers on the Harby in anger.  And we had a Cyclone doctrine for about 15 minutes one summer afternoon years back.  I know because I have a screen shot.

Orbiting the customs office in some Cyclones

Cruisers also seem neglected, save for the Caracal.  But they tend to be fragile.  I think every Rupture I ever flew ended up getting pipe-bombed.  So heavy assault cruisers rule the day.  I have at least flown some of those in combat.  The Ishtar, the Cerberus, and the Munnin seem to always have a place.  Eagles were popular for a season, and Zealots seem to come and go.  The Sacrilege is a hot item currently, and I see a Vagabond now and then, but I don’t think I have ever seen a Deimos in the wild.  Probably not suited to the kitey bullshit… the term of art these days… that FCs favor.

And then there are the faction ships, especially faction battleships.  They come and go or have special roles.

The nice thing is that after fourteen years I think I can fly any subcap you throw at me.  I even trained up the EDENCOM hulls to V since they were released.

The story of the game and your own history with it can be told in many ways.  Expansions.  Skill points.  Battles.  ISK.  Or even the ships you flew and when you flew them.

Addendum:

The Greybill linked to some videos about ships and their popularity over the years in EVE Online.  You can find the videos listed below:

Those graphs are for the game overall, so don’t always reflect the null sec meta.  In battleships you could see the drone assist era with the Dominix at the top.  But after that the Machariel rules the roost, likely based on low sec, as it is a fairly rare doctrine in our corner of null sec these days.  Though, that said, null sec is also Feroxes and Munnins online most days, so battleships do not get that much weight out where I live in any case.

The Shadowlands Expansion is coming to WoW on October 26th

I knew if I was away for a few days some big news item would drop.  Actually, a few things came up while I was gone, but for me the big one was Blizzard announcing the launch date for the Shadowlands expansion.

The worldwide launch, similar to how the company launched WoW Classic last year, will happen across time zones landing on October 26th or 27th depending on where you live.

The world-wide launch plan

There is also a release date trailer… which looks pretty good.

I wish my in-game experienced looked so good.  I probably need the latest generation video card to get there.

By a complete luck, when I wrote about potential launch dates, my sample date for estimating the time between releases was October 27th.  If only I had been that on the nose with my new year’s predictions, where my call was August 18th.  No points for that prediction I guess.

So, if Shadowlands launches on time, the time between expansions list will end up looking like this:

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 778 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 670 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 728 days
  • Battle for Azeroth to Shadowlands – 804 days

That still makes Battle for Azeroth the longest running era for WoW, running out to 804 days, passing even the run from the launch of vanilla in 2004 to the release of The Burning Crusade 784 days later.

I have not been paying much attention to the Shadowlands beta.  That probably makes it more likely I will enjoy the expansion, if my rule of surprise… not knowing the content ahead of time keeps me more engaged… holds true.  We shall see.

We still have one major milestone to hit before launch though, and that is the pre-launch patch.

While the pre-launch patch is generally a big deal, as it opens up the lead-in stories and quests that set the stage for a new expansion, this one is doing extra duty as it will also usher in the level squish.  The level squish will make 50 the new pre-expansion level cap.  All old content will scale for levels 10 to 50, and a new level 1 to 10 starter experience will be introduced.

What the new level ranges will be

For at least some period of time my highest level character in WoW Classic (my hunter is level 54) will be higher level than any of my retail WoW characters, which will cap out at level 50 pre-expansion.

Strange but true.

So the big question is when the 9.0.1 update will hit, bringing with it all of these changes?

Another chance to guess a date!  I am going to guess it will hit the week of September 21st.  This is a big change, so my thought is that Blizzard will want some extra time to work out the wrinkles.  That will give them five weeks to get things settled down.

Of course, with the 10-50 scaling of all of the old content, it also means that if you were solo farming some old raid for a specific drop… maybe something for one of the Raiding with Leashed achievements… you had best get it done before the patch hits, as all the content will be level 50 afterwards.  How things will play out when you get to level 60 is an open question for me still.  We shall see.

Promptapalooza and Writing a Blog Post

This Blaugust is Promptapalooza where we spend the month chasing a series of daily prompts… if we so desire.  I opted in, but only for the minimum effort, which meant writing about the prompt I had drawn on the day it was due.  Mission accomplished.

August means some sort of Blaugust

It isn’t that I am against any of the other prompts on the list, but I am not sure I really have anything to add.  But the prompt from  August 9th prompt, led by Paeroka over at Nerdy Bookahs, felt like something I could address in some way.  It just took me most of the month to get to it.

The pompt itself is:

Share the process you go through in order to create content, both mental and mechanical.

Which sounds a bit pretentious to me.  I am not a fan of the idea of “content creators” as it is both over broad if you interpret it literally and often extremely narrow in the vision of some.  A few weeks back somebody asked on Twitter for “EVE Online Content Creators” to speak up and be recognized.  The person really wanted Twitch streamers and people who make YouTube videos.  People who write stuff?  Not content creators to them.

So I am a fan of saying what you mean on that front.  I am a blogger.  I write a blog.  I do not “create content.”   How does one even define “content?”  How many units of content are created by a Twitch stream versus a YouTube video versus a blog post.  Some of my posts are remarkably content free, so will likely not spoil your diet if you’re trying to cut back on content.  You will not get your USDA recommended minimum amount of daily content by navigating to my URL.

In fact, I would argue that, 300 word in to this post I have created no content so far.  Maybe I should stop grousing and move on, eh?

So how do I write blog posts, which is how I am going to interpret the prompt?

First, there are three types of posts on my blog.  They are:

  • I did a thing
  • A thing happened
  • I have an opinion about a thing

The first is the meat and potatoes of this blog.  The instance group runs a dungeon, I write about it.  I am in a big fleet battle in EVE Online, I write about it.  I do something new in Minecraft, I write about it.

Easy.  I generally write about it as a story, a tale of how I or we started in situation A and ended up in situation Z.

The second is the structure that holds the blog together.  Weeks can go by where this is mostly what I post about.  There are lots of these, an you probably recognize some of the common ones.  EVE Online releases a update or the Monthly Economic Report.  SuperData sends me their digital revenue chart.  An MMORPG I am interested in announces, reveals, or actually launches an expansion.  An anniversary of some sort arrives again.  Something new and relevant to my interests launches.  The last day of the month arrives.  It is Memorial Day.

This is interrupt based blogging.  Stimulus, response.  These not only give a month structure… unsurprisingly, I am usually aware of when the last day of the month falls… but gives me filler to chew on when I haven’t done something I feel like writing about.

I have an opinion covers most everything else.  Quote of the Day posts are generally vehicles for an opinion.  Book reviews, movie reviews, posts about shows we have binge watched during the pandemic, those are all opinion pieces.  They are not stories and, while they can be timely, they are generally not as locked into a time slot as, say, an expansion launch or the end of the month.

As for the mechanics of how I write blog posts, I wish I had a process I could share.

I tend to sit down and just start writing.  If I am writing about something I did, I will generally at least go and look at any screen shots I may have taken along the way.  You will find some early blog posts about the instance group where I talk about taking notes, but that fell by the wayside for the most part.  At best I’ll jot a sentence or two into a Notepad++ document, usually some small tidbit I want to remember.  Maybe I will write very simple timeline… we went here, A blew up, B said something funny, we went home… but that is about it.  Screen shots are usually my reminder.

And then I write the story.  I might revise it a bit, especially if I think about it over night, though that can be a mixed blessing.  If you see a horribly mis-matched sentence in the middle of a post, that is usually the result of my thinking about the post in the middle of the night, obsessing about some phrase, getting up in the morning and adding it in, and then not checking to see if it actually made a damn lick of sense.  There have times when I have tacked something on to the end of the sentence that mirrors a revision I put at the start of the sentence, but forgot about.

So it goes.

When I write about something that happened, those are the posts that involve the most research.  I go back and look at how the SuperData chart changed since the previous month.  I open up the .csv data files to get regional numbers to compare against past months.  When an expansion launches I try to mention the theme, how much new content is being added, and if it is a WoW expansion, how long it was since the last expansion with a list showing other expansions for comparison.

I take “a thing happened” and try to apply some context.  That is my value add, though the value may only be seen by me.

These posts not only give the blog structure, but also have structure themselves based on past posts, which also makes them easier to write.  My Month in Review posts follow a pretty strict format. Even ones that change up a bit, like patch notes, generally have a formula that lets me put things together quickly.  Practice and all that.

And then there are the opinion pieces.  Aside from Quote of the Day posts, which tend to be quick and spontaneous based on something that popped up, these are usually things I think about in the shower or while trying to get to sleep.

I can hear an objection out there.  Yes, these three post types are not mutually exclusive.  I have written, as an example, about an event the CCP launched for EVE Online, told the story of my own experience with that even, and given my opinion about said event, all in a single post.  Rare is the post that does not have an opinion, stated or implied.

But the posts generally are written for one reason, and the other two may or may not tag along.  So that EVE Online event post example would be “A thing happened” primarily.  But you can tell which is which by what the theme is based on; a story, some facts, an opinion.

A Year of WoW Classic

It is hard to believe it has been a year.  It feels like it has been both much longer and no time at all since WoW Classic launched.

Classic is as Classic does

Last year we were standing around in queues in the very crowded starter areas politely waiting for our turn with a quest mob.

Waiting in line in the snow

Of course, it isn’t like I have been in any hurry to get to the end of the game.  I have a couple characters in the mid-50s and a couple more in their 40s and we’re just now tackling Sunken Temple.  Some short breaks have happened.  But we have kept plugging along.

And it has been good.

I know, back in the build up to the launch, I was pretty starry eyed about the game and its potential.  I literally have a post from last August, after the final load test, with the title “All I want to do is Play WoW Classic.”

But I was also a bit worried.  When I get heavily invested in something coming down the pike it often leads to disappointment when reality fails to live up to expectations.   And I was so very invested in WoW Classic.

But here’s the thing; I was not disappointed.  Things were and remain good.

Sure, they were not perfect.  The recreation is not exact.  There have been issues.  Issues are part of the MMORPG experience.   But the popularity of WoW Classic keeps getting proven.  Blizz removed layering again last week and and queues returned.

That is a sign that things are still rolling pretty strong.

Overall, I think the game has lived up to my desire of last year.  I have done things other than play WoW Classic, but it has also been part of the bedrock of my rotation.  The instance group being back together is great and we all seem to be having a good time reliving our early days in the dungeons that were there for us back then.

I just hope Blizzard has a long term roadmap for the classic idea.  Maybe we’ll hear something at virtual BlizzCon this year.  But they really need a plan.  Even if Shadowlands does very well Blizzard has shown in the past that they really need something to boost subscriptions after about a year.

 

Quote of the Day – Retro MMO Ideals

As for the ‘give us an old version of LOTRO’ thing – my answer is the same as always: why unfix all those bugs? You think it was perfect back then, but I remember our bug queues at the time and I can assure you it was not. Thirteen years of bug-fixes just disappearing? Yikes!

-Master of Lions, LOTRO Dev team, LOTRO forums

There is in some of us, myself included, a longing for the “good old days” of a particular game.  That isn’t so hard to find when it comes to single player games.  I have enjoyed a return to Diablo II on its 20th anniversary.

Back with Cain and his tales again, basically unchanged in 20 years

But when it comes to MMORPGs, which are as much a service as a game, a service that must exist within a complex and changing ecosystem, and which host players in a shared world that is being constantly fixed and updated, it becomes problematic to reach a state where the “good old days” can be achieved.

SOE, and then Daybreak, have been playing the nostalgia card for well over a decade with EverQuest by rolling out servers where the content is restricted and unlock by expansion and where they have tinkered with the xp curve and mob difficulty.  But purists rightly argue that this doesn’t get you back to 1999 as so much has changed in the game since then.

LOTRO likewise experimented with that a couple of years back.

Even with WoW Classic, where Blizzard spent time and resources creating an experience very close to a point in 2006 gets criticism for some of the compromises they made in order to ship a product that would be viable in 2019.  It is very close to the 2006 experience, but it is not perfect.  Even I can spot a difference here and there.

Creating the exact early game experience, while maybe technically possible, does not seem practical and, in some ways, problematic.  As the quote at the top asks, do you re-introduce bugs, some of which can be quite annoying, merely to get that first day feel?  Does fixing those bugs invalidate the experience?  And how does all of that interact with current operating systems?  In the case of LOTRO I was running on Win XP when it launched, an OS that was already starting to get a bit long in the tooth and, even skipping Vista and Win 8, I am personally still two operating systems down the road.

And what is the experience true to in any case.  I’ll bring out another salty old quote:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

Heraclitus

The problem is two fold.  Due to changes in technology and the infrastructure around games, it isn’t likely you can set foot in exactly the same game you did back in 2007, or 2004, or 1999, or whenever.  Too much has changed.  If a company with all the resources that Blizzard has cannot get there without making compromises, small studios like Daybreak or Standing Stone don’t have much of a chance.

But you too have changed.  Even the forgetful, like myself, cannot be surprised anew at everything in a game.  There are too many memories of what happened before, too many blog posts, too much information on wikis and news sites to possibly be able to approach a game as you did back in the day.

The best you can hope for is a good time that in some way reminds you of how you felt back in the day, an experience that revives memories and makes you feel good.

Diablo II Act One

As I mentioned, for the 20th anniversary of the game last month I downloaded it and set up to play a bit, just to remind myself of what it was back in the day.

It has been a long time

I did try to run down mods that were alleged to help with screen resolution.  The problem with Diablo II is that the base game runs at 640×480, with the Lord of Destruction expansion boosting that to a big 800×600.  However, I did not have much luck on that front.  A lot of stuff I ran across was out of date.  20 years will do that.  So I opted to just go with 800×600 and rough it.

Which, honestly, wasn’t all that bad.  When you first get into the game things look blocky and distorted as the 4:3 aspect ration maps itself onto a 16:10 screen.  Everything is a bit wider than one might like.  But I found that I got used to it pretty quickly and only really noticed it when I was looking at screen shots, which show up as 800×600 4:3 images.

The main problem with getting 800×600 is that the expansion added some things that were not in the base game.  While gems were always there, charms and jewels were expansion items, and I started getting those as drops pretty early on.  So not a real run at the experience of 20 years ago, but close enough I guess.

I went with a Paladin, which is sort of my default class in the game.  I like the aura and the tanky nature of the class.

You start out in the rogues camp and there is a quest waiting for you.

Oh look, a quest!

You can see how that quest marker might have evolved into the yellow exclamation point we know in WoW.

Diablo II drives the plot via quests, but it is not at all quest obsessed.  The quest UI only has space for 6 quests per act, and if I recall right, a couple of them are optional and the final act doesn’t even have the full six.

Quests are more central to the game than in the original Diablo, but not as rampant as they are in Diablo III, and they seem almost rare relative to how most MMORPGs in the last 15 years have handled them.

Things start off slow… though the pacing is never frantic save for in a few boss fights… as you are sent forth from the camp to find some bads in a den.  You need to slay them all, which starts you on what is my own obsession, exploring all corners of the map.  Eventually you’ll find that last little demon in a side path you missed and then return to camp for a reward… and a new task.

You gain the esteem of the rogues and get one to follow you around and assist.  I had forgotten about that, but quickly came up to speed.  The rogue assistant, who is a ranged player, is the best in the game.  I recall that in Act Two you get a melee helper who jumps in and gets themselves killed a lot, compare to the rogue who hangs back, pelts mobs with arrows, and lights them up with a target marking ability.

Lighting them up is important because the game is dark, and the play of light and dark and the shadows in between is still amazing 20 years down the road.  I have said this before, but I don’t think any game I have played has done this better.  I always use this video from Act Two as a sample.

But it is everywhere in the dark underground or indoor places in the game.  I was wandering around places just to see how the shadows moved around my light source, how places remained dark until I got up close.

(Also, you can see I have the Act One rogue helper there in Act Two.)

Eventually though you have to go find the narrative voice of the series, Deckard Cain of “Stay awhile and listen…” quote fame.  He is locked away on old Tristram, the setting of original Diablo, which has fallen to the forces of evil.

Cain locked up in Tristram

Once he is freed he portals back to the rogue camp… not sure how he knew where to go, but sure… and then he starts in on what he believes is really going on.

There is another quest along the way, but it takes you along the path to where you need to be.

Charsi lost her hammer

That gets you into the final area and gives you another preliminary boss to fight.

The Smith has the hammer, or course

This is where I want to point out how much I like the map system in the game.  It is an overlay, which has its pros and cons.  You can have it up while still seeing what is going on, which is a big plus.

The map in the barracks

I do find that it can be a distraction when up though.  I find myself looking at the map and not the tactical situation if I leave it up.  And, of course, it isn’t mapped to the M key by default.  The Tab key isn’t a bad choice, but habit keeps me pressing M over and over.

Once you have fulfilled Charsi’s quest, which has an excellent reward, you’re on to Cain’s mission.

Cain and his working theory

This is where the pacing of the game shows its patience.

One of the key features of the game is the waypoint system, little teleport pads that you find as you move further into each act.  There is one in the starting base, then eight more through each of the first three acts, and they allow you to basically pick up where you left off rather than having to camp in place or walk all the way back to the start of the act to turn in quests and get updates.

My general play style is to play through to the next waypoint.  They are good ways to dice up the content into more manageable pieces.

In Act One, Charsi’s quest gets you to the Outer Cloister.  The barracks is just beyond that.

The waypoint list

That done, the final battle, where you face Andariel, is a good three waypoints down the line.  In between are levels to explore, loot to find, and mini-bosses to slay, but nothing to advance the final quest, save getting closer to it.  I am not sure a more modern game would let you wander that far without a quest update cookie or, if it did, it would likely be accused of padding out the game needlessly.

Here, it is just a nice, extended dungeon crawl, part of the experience you’ve paid for.  It isn’t in the way of the game, it is the game.

Loot is, of course, everywhere.  Some named bosses along the way almost explode in a shower of loot.

Gold spilled everywhere in the tower

But inventory space keeps you honest.  You need to carry potions and keys and scrolls and those charms you may have picked up that need to be in your inventory to work.  You cannot pick up everything, and anything good needs to be identified.  Once Cain shows up he will do it for free, but you have to portal or waypoint back to town for that.  Otherwise you have to keep identify scrolls on hand to asses the value of something.

And it often feels like feast or famine when you’re deep in a dungeon.  I will go from walking past some healing potions because I have too many in my bag and on my belt already, then get in a tough fight and suddenly I am scrambling to grab every healing potion I spot because I am running dry.

I did reach Andariel and defeated her without dying myself.  I made it through the whole of Act One without dying.  But it was a tough fight and I had run in and out of the area a lot.  I long ago learned to pull a fight like that back to the zone line so I could flee at need.  I lost my rogue helper at one point, so had to portal back to town to revive her.  But I always keep a town portal up for those fights as well.  And, after a few retreats to heal up, Andariel exploded as nicely as an ship in New Eden.

The loot fairy says yes!

Then there was the sorting through the drops.  There was a set item, which I think were also expansion things.  The problem is that once you get a piece of gold level gear, it is hard to find a replacement that scratches all the same itches.  I got a gold scepter early on, have to level up into it, and then used it for the full first act as nothing else I found came close.

And so Act One was done.  I moved on to Act II, arriving to the welcome in Lut Gholein.

Welcome to Act Two

Act Two is out in the desert, a bright and sunny landscape unlike that of Act One.  But there are still many dark, underground places to explore.  We shall see how far I get on that.

Seven Weeks of World War Bee

This past week saw CCP take some official notice of the war.  We didn’t get a dev blog or a news item.  Instead CCP sent out a press email to some gaming sites announcing that $112,000 worth of ships and structures and what not have been destroyed so far in the war which has involved maybe 130,000 players/accounts/capsuleers.  Some examples of sites running with that:

And then there are sites who couldn’t even copy the email successfully, like MMOs.com that attributed that destruction amount to the Triglavian invasion of high sec.  Or maybe they got it right and the others were wrong.  I haven’t actually seen the email that CCP sent out.

I do wonder what the distribution list looked like, as I haven’t seen PC Gamer, where Steven Messner has done a bunch of in-depth coverage of the game over the years, mention this.  The email must not have had enough to build a story of much substance around.

I am disappointed that CCP didn’t publish a Dev Blog or a news item on their site, but you can figure out what it said based on what got repeated over the multiple stories.  I am curious as to how they came up with that 130,000 number.  Hell, I am curious as to how they came up with the $112,000 amount.  Back at the end of week four it was estimated that ten trillion ISK worth of ships, structures, and modules had been blown up, an amount that, with even the most generous PLEX package they sell (who spends $500 on PLEX?), comes up to nearly that $112K figure.  Maybe that count at four weeks was wrong, but that just makes me want to know how CCP counted all the more so.

And then there is the World War Bee site which is trying to log all the losses, and it tallies up to more than that as well.

I am also a bit surprised they went for the ISK to real world dollar measurement, which generally hasn’t been their thing.  But I guess it does get headlines.

We also saw some action in high sec as Legacy Coalition went into Niarja to defend its supply lines from the Triglavian invasion.  The Imperium pushed back and now Niarja is a free fire zone with no CONCORD there.

EDECOM gives up at this point

Haulers will want to bypass that system, which means taking a lot more gates between Caldari and Amarr space.

Northern Front

PandaFam has turned their attention to Imperium structures in the Fountain region.  They had killed a number of smaller structures, but the attention has mostly been on the Keepstars  The successfully reinforced then destroyed the Keepstar in O-PNSN and had the Keepstar in KVN-36 in their sights.  However, a server crash interrupted things during the fight for the armor timer.  The clock reset and they now have to start the process all over again.  That moved the fighting to social media, forums, and Reddit, as people tried to blame one side or the other for the crash.  It is all about the smart bombs people say.

PandaFam is momentarily stalled them on the road to Delve.  But they still have four Keepstars in the bag already.

The Fountain kills

The Keepstars in KVN-36 and Y-2ANO remain standing, waiting to for the coming assault.

Southern Front

It is difficult to sum up what TEST and their Legacy allies have been up to for the last week.  I mean, sure, they showed up at the Keepstar fights in some force and managed not to get bombed off the field, though their leader seemed to have problems fitting the rigs on his ship, as I mentioned in my post about the O-PNSN Keepstar fight.

They were, of course, part of the fight at Niarja, where Brave and TEST both declared they were going to help EDENCOM defend the system.  And Brave actually showed up.  But I mentioned that at the top of the post.

And then there is Queirous, where one can describe efforts as dissolute at best.  In order to prove that nobody really wants to hold that space, a bunch of systems now sit with no ihub installed.  Neither side wants to defend ihubs in eastern Querious, but neither can they abide the other side holding an ihub.

Querious ihub map – Aug 22, 2020

So the Legacy ihub count is down to 18, but it is clear they are not really trying any more, so the count is more an indication of that.

There have been the usual range of skirmishes at the gates between Legacy and the Imperium, but the war is happening in Fountain right now and the south is just a side show at best.

My Participation

I managed to get in on a couple of big ops, including the two Keepstar battles, but otherwise it has been a quiet week for me.  A massive heatwave out here, plus the state catching on fire (smoke from two of those fires are visible from our house), work, and getting ready for our daughter to head off to college has kept me from doing much gaming at all over the last week.  And this week will likely see me even less focused on gaming.

I did manage to lose at least one ship on every fleet I went on however.  My ship loss count for the war so far now stands at:

  • Ares interceptor – 9
  • Atron entosis frigate – 5
  • Drake entosis battle cruiser – 3
  • Malediction interceptor – 2
  • Scalpel logi frigate – 2
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 2
  • Bifrost entosis command destroyer – 1
  • Cormorant destroyer – 1
  • Purifier stealth bomber – 1
  • Hurricane battle cruiser – 1
  • Sigil entosis industrial – 1

Overall

As I mentioned at the top of the post, CCP half-halfheartedly tried to drum up some press interest in the war with an email that got a few takers from second tier gaming sites.  I guess our fights are not big enough to be worth a dev blog yet.  But they at least put a little effort into some publicity.

But, after last week, I guess CCP doesn’t want to go bragging about a server crash.

Of course, CCP has been all about EVE Echoes since it launched the week before, putting out some odd adds.  But they are justifiably proud of the millions of players who have signed up for the game.  Now they just have to buy some stuff.

And then there was the fight over Niarja, which pulled null sec into the Triglavian invasion event.  I’m not sure everybody is happy that we showed up.

Anyway, another week of war has gone by and a victory for the attackers, or an accord between the belligerents seems a distant hope.

If the word is right, the invaders are moving their titans and supers from FAT-6P, where they have been sitting since the war, idle behind the 49-U6U4-07MU gate connection, to come around and approach Querious from a low sec direction to get them into the fight.  Apparently we’re too formidable for them to gate through directly into the region, so they have put down a chain of Keepstars to avoid that gate.

Maybe that is what drove the peak concurrent users up to 38,299, up from 34,974 last week.  Still not up to the first week peak of 38,838, but close.

We shall see how the move op turns out and what the invaders plan to do with their 1,000 titans.

Addendum:

Pandemic Binge Watching Part Two

I wrote up the first post about the shows we have binged during the pandemic, thinking I had this covered and that I had gotten them mostly in chronological order.

And then, of course, I kept remembering other things we had watched.  Like, a lot of things, which proved my ordering not very chronological at all.  So here, in part two, the things I missed in part one.

I am forgetful at times, but I think I am also a victim of the 2020 news cycle where there is some new horror every 15 minutes.  This is the only way I can explain having forgotten Tiger King, which was pretty much the seminal shared experience of millions of Americans of the “everybody stay home and watch TV” era in which we now live.

So you’ve probably seen this.  Or if you have not, you’ve probably sworn you’ll never watch it.  I get it.  It is an eight episode train wreck of people who, at times, have significant insight into other people, but a complete blind spot to the over the top crazy they themselves manifest.

The main problem is that it feels like they signed a contract for eight episodes and found they only had about five episodes worth of crazy on the main story thread.  So they went looking for some additional crazy… which wasn’t all that hard to find in the world of big cats.  As far as I can tell the whole Doc Antle thread had nothing to do with anything other than spectacle, but there it was.

Good for:  Really, nobody, but once you get past episode 2 you probably can’t stop. And it may end up becoming a touchstone, a point of nostalgia, for those early days of the pandemic when we thought we knew what the hell was going on.

A psychological thriller murder mystery, where a young girl is found dead in a forest where two kids went missing 30 years earlier.  Everybody seems to have a dark secret they aren’t sharing.  A good atmospheric tale, though things do seem to be spinning out of control… and then comes the big reveal.

Good for:  People who are too good at solving TV mysteries based on the fact that the most famous actor that is a suspect inevitably did it.

This was recommended by our neighbor across the street who came over to borrow some… sugar I think… or flour… something cliche… and started talking about what people watching on TV now that we were all stuck at home.  Look, we were desperate for any guidance.  They are really the most wholesome family, full on Cleavers, so they were not biting on Tiger King.  But they did like Outer Banks, though there were some bad words, so it was a bit risque.

It starts off okay, it is about a missing treasure, and some high school kids who look like they are closing in on 30 and there is a whole Veronica Mars “rich kids vs poor kids” dynamic and things kind of start spinning out of control.  But the scenery is very pretty, as are all the too old for high school “kids.”  Very light fare that won’t make you think too hard.

Good for: Somebody who wants an action based, southern coastal 90210 maybe?

Warrior Nun – Netflix

Dead orphan is brought back to life by a holy relic belonging to an order of ninja-nuns who do battle against evil unseen to most of us for the Catholic church.  Only, the order would like their relic back please, so she needs to sign up for the cause or return to her previously dead status.  Oh, and there is an corporation that may or may not be evil trying to create a portal to heaven and an archbishop… or was he a cardinal… I forget… who wants to be pope and who is probably evil as well.  Also, about twice as many coincidences than the human mind can generally accept before going all skeptical.

Still, fun enough, not too deep, and everybody is young and attractive and in swanning about in sunny Spain.  You can guess what is going to happen next most of the time, but we watched the whole thing.

Good for: Somebody for whom Dan Brown novels are too mired in detail.

Peaky Blinders – Netflix

Technically we started watching this pre-pandemic, but finished it up after we were all staying at home, so I am counting it.  Good performances, based somewhat on reality, gets into the state of England in the interwar years, with the BUF and all that.  I tend to be somewhat less enthusiastic about shows where brutal criminals are cast in a sympathetic light, but they are also a product of their environment as well.

Good for: Anybody who wanted The Sopranos set in England in the 20s and 30s.

Perry Mason – HBO

Perry Mason was a staple of afternoon TV reruns in my youth and a cornerstone of early television, so there was a bit of a risk trying to start it over again.  But HBO did a credible job of it.  If Perry Mason was an MCU super hero this first of no doubt many seasons would be his origin story.

Set in 1931, with the Great Depression started and prohibition still in place, the series is alive in gritty details.  Everything is weathered and dirty and a bit sweat stained, just like Los Angeles for real, and the people are all flawed.  Perry is a private investigator in a case that will change his life.

The one nit I have to pick with the series involves the “release an episode a week” method of HBO versus the “give them everything at once” system that Netflix has adopted.  Perry Mason isn’t Game of Thrones, where everybody talks about it in between episodes, so it loses a bit of its edge in the wait between.  But now that it is out and done, you won’t have that problem because you can binge it all at once.

Good for: Gritty crime drama fans, 30s re-enactors, people patient enough to wait until the final episode credits to hear the classic theme from the original show.

Next time: Series where a new season has dropped