Monthly Archives: September 2020

September in Review

The Site

Well, the big news here this month was probably that the place turned fourteen.

Just like California State Highway 14… sort of

Perhaps a lesser achievement, with this post I will have posted every single day for the last six months.

While I have posted more than once a day cumulatively in 9 of the last 14 years, I think my previous “post every day” streak was about four months in duration.  Every day for six months took a bit of planning at times.  News and my own game activity do not come in a nice steady flow, and I was out of town for a week when we drove our daughter off to college.

That this streak corresponds with me having worked from home for the last six months straight is probably not a coincidence.  While I wrote about feeling some gaming malaise due to being at my home desk all day, for some reason that does not seem apply to writing.  Or maybe not to the same degree.

One Year Ago

There was the usual anniversary post, this time for thirteen years.

I summed up the labors of Blaugust 2019, linking out to everybody.

It was September and there were five MMO news items I was still waiting for.

Daybreak put PlanetSide Arena into early access.

Standing Stone announced the Minas Morgul expansion for Lord of the Rings Online.

In Pokemon Go, Niantic added Pokemon from the Unova region.

In EVE Online we were coming to the end of the blackout in null sec.  The monthly economic report for August showed that it has a big impact on ratting and mining.  I followed up with a post showing the changes since January.

On top of the blackout, CCP changed cynos, only allowing normal cynos to be lit by force recon ships, which immediately shot up in price.

All of this generated a lot of discussion about how CCP should “fix” the game, which I felt was expecting too much from the company at this point.  There is no going back to the 2013 peak numbers.

Amid all that, Asher called the Reavers together for a deployment to the east.  We passed through Legacy space, where we were allowed to use their jump bridges, because they wanted us out there to help them with their own war.

In WoW Classic the instance group scraped together enough silver to create a guild.  After some begging for signatures, Crag Boar Rebellion was born.

I looked at our progress a week into WoW Classic.  Ula had found the white kitten already.  Then we were off to Westfall.  I also had a druid running through the night elf starter area.

We leveled up enough to head towards the first instance, Ragefire Chasm.  That mean getting to Orgrimmar.  We got in and to the instance, only to find out that the meeting stones did not summon back in vanilla, wrecking our first plan.  We made another plan and managed to get everybody in for our first dungeon run.  Ula even made a video of the run.

Then we started preparing for the Deadmines while doing some more running around Azeroth.

Blizzard was offering free realm transfers already to try and shift people off of crowded servers.  Then there was a DDoS attack that made things even worse, and a layering exploit… maybe.  More servers were added, arrests were made, and Blizz put out some videos about making WoW back in the day, which I put together in a single post.  By the end of the month things were starting to calm down a bit.

I seemed to be enjoying the whole WoW Classic experience, so far as I could measure.  And so did a lot of people.  SuperData said it was driving subscription growth.  I tried to compare the experience to the EverQuest progression server ride.

And, finally, I did a bullet point post about the LOTRO Legendary server, Homeworld 3, how Google Stadia will fail, and the EVE Echoes alpha.

Five Years Ago

The blog turned nine years old.

Some survey said it could guess my age based on my video game preferences.

World of Warships officially went live after its open beta.

As part of the Heart of Thorns expansion, the Guild Wars 2 base game went completely free.

Also on the free front, WildStar went free to play, bowing to the realities of the MMORPG market.

In World of Warcraft, the ability to fly was finally unlocked in Warlords of Draenor… provided you had all the achievements.

In Diablo III I was looking at the whole season thing.

Lord British was on again with some quotes, allowing that Blizzard could do some things well… like Diablo.  But he was more on about sandbox games, like his upcoming Shroud of the Avatar, because sandbox games generate news headlines.  His example was EVE Online, though it wasn’t clear to me that SotA was going to get the same sort of coverage.

In Minecraft I was making friends with the zombie pigmen and using a utility to see a map of our world.  I needed that map as we were all out exploring.  Aaron was kicking of our transit hub in the roof of the nether and I was ruining Xydd’s neighborhood.  Meanwhile, our hosting service was going out of business.

On the Daybreak front I was reflecting on the status of EverQuest Next five years after it had been announced.  The status moved to “cancelled” eventually.

There were expansion plans for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  The Ruins of Kunark expansion was unlocked on the Ragefire progression server while the vote for the Desert of Flames expansion was up on the Stormhold server.  Daybreak also killed off enforced raid rotation on Ragefire, having “fixed” the underlying issue finally. There was talk of the new server names for the coming server consolidation in EverQuest II.  I am not sure I liked the results.

In EVE Online I was happy, in the age of Fozzie sov, that POS towers still gave kill mails.  Even CCP seemed to think that maybe blowing things up was better than sov wands.  They were also considering going back to bigger expansions, putting less emphasis on the monthly updates.  The monthly updates still had names for the moment… the Vanguard monthly update for example… but that would go by the end of the year.

Asher Elias started off his podcast and led us off to a fight with Ron Mexxico, who was one of his early guests, and brought us to Cloud Ring in Fozzie Claws.

The monthly EVE Online blog banter… which seems to have died off recently… wanted to know what we would do were we put in charge of the development of New Eden.

Finally, I was reflecting a bit on lifetime subscriptions and noting Asheron’s Call downtime, Lord of the Rings Online server transfers, the Drunder server in EverQuest II, and Windows 10 in one of my Friday bullet point posts.

Ten Years Ago

Well, there was that whole four year anniversary thing.

Planet Michael, the Michael Jackson virtual world, was announced.  How is that coming along?  The Twitter account have been pretty quiet since… 2011.

The whole David Allen, Derek Smart, Quest Online public blame and shame fest ended when Quest Online gave David Allen some money and he went away.  Derek Smart could not help but throw in a couple final comments.  Good thing he’s been quiet since then… *cough*

CCP was talking about Public Fleets and such that were planned for their Incursions expansion.  We wouldn’t actually see them until December, but there was talk.

More interesting was a guide to suicide ganking in EVE Online put up by TooNuRacoon.

Meanwhile, I was kicking off my EVE Online screen shot contest.  All of the entries have since been posted on my other site.

I tried turning an old joke into an MMO joke.  Some people got it.  Some did not.  Some got angry, because this is the internet and that is what people do on the internet.

looked at cloaks in MMOs, and how little they resemble what we would call a cloak in the real world.

In World of Warcraft I finally got that Brewmaster achievement.

Lord of the Rings Online flipped the switch and went free to play.  We were truly among the free (to play) peoples Middle-earth then.  There were some issues with Turbine Points, though I did get my 5,000 point pay-off.

The instance group was still summering in Middle-earth.  The group was finally into the meat of the Lone Lands.  We also tried some skirmishes and talked about Anderson Cooper.

In LOTRO I also ran into somebody who was looking for a social environment similar to old EverQuest.  I wonder if he ended up on Fippy Darkpaw which, for a short time, had all the best aspects of early EverQuest.

Fifteen Years Ago

Over in EverQuest II the Desert of Flames expansion launched, the first full expansion for the alleged EverQuest successor.  (There were a couple of adventure packs, The Bloodline Chronicles and The Splitpaw Saga, that were released before.)  While it was a quite stunning new place in Norrath, I was really against those flying carpet mounts.  They just were not very “EverQuest” to my mind.  I have since softened on that opinion, SOE and Daybreak having added so many more hideous mounts to the game since then.

Meanwhile, in EverQuest, where two expansions a year was still the norm, the Depths of Darkhollow, the tenth expansion for that game… only six and a half years old at that point… went live.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Sony jumped into the console wars in the US as the PlayStation finally arrived in the here.  It had already been available in Japan for almost nine months, so quite a bit of anticipation had built up.

Thirty Years Ago

Wing Commander, the first entry in the series, and the root of Chris Roberts’ fame, launched.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  2. The Fall of Niarja and the Shape of High Sec
  3. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  6. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  7. WoW Tokens Five Years Later
  8. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  9. Time to Earn some ISK
  10. EverQuest II at Fifteen and the Memories of What Could Have Been
  11. The September EVE Online Update brings Quantum Cores to Upwell Structures
  12. The 49-U6U Fight Foreshadows Battles to Come

Search Terms of the Month

eve what amkes delve so valuable
[The bees]

how to kill marksp
[The mark needs to be skinned first]

eve online can you transfer skill poikts
[With skill extractors/injectors]

any public keepstars in eve?
[There is one in Perimeter]

Game Time by ManicTime

Total time tracked playing was down a bit from last month, which itself was the lowest month for time played up to this point, so I hit a new low.  And I wasn’t even away for a week like I was last month.

  • EVE Online – 59.86%
  • WoW Classic – 25.99%
  • Diablo II – 10.70%
  • Crusader Kings 3 – 3.13%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.32%

Crusader Kings 3

I bought, against my better judgement, everybody’s favorite medieval reality TV simulator based entirely on some many people in my various feeds going on about it.  Peer pressure.  I will say that it is not as incomprehensible as its predecessors, both of which I own.  Hell, I own all the Paradox strategy catalog, so my buying this was inevitable.  I just thought I could hold out until it was on sale.

Diablo II

I finished my play through of Diablo II, completing the main game and the expansion.  I am not sure how much further I will go with this.  The cow level is still there, waiting for me.  But there is an issue that might make that difficult, which I will get to in a post next month.

EVE Online

World War Bee continues to occupy my time in New Eden.  There are plenty of small skirmishes and what not to join in on.  We also had our first real battle that escalated to supers.  The server situation kept it from going all the way to titans, but both sides seem ready enough to go there.  The invasion itself still remains at the gates of Delve.

Pokemon Go

Another good month for Pokemon Go.  Our informal raid group has managed to catch anything new that pops up and I only need one more Mega Charizard raid to have enough tokens to get the second mega evolve registered in the Pokedex.  The Mega evolutions with their limited duration, remain less than useful overall however.

Level: 39 (94% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 577 (+5) caught, 602 (+1) seen
Pokemon I want: Need some Unova Pokemon to fill in the gaps
Current buddy: Fraxure

World of Warcraft

I once again squandered that sweet, sweet double XP bonus and spent very little time in modern Azeroth.  I am sure I will regret that some day, but not today.  All I did was the usual Darkmoon Faire routine and a bit of poking about.  I am sure I will spend more time there next month though.

WoW Classic

The instance group finished up Sunken Temple at the start of the month, then went on a bit of a hiatus as Skronk and Ula moved in real life.  That echoes back to the early days of the instance group when, during the first year, I think most of us ended up moving.  So it is almost a tradition when we’re doing vanilla content I suppose.  Somewhere along the line Ula found the time to make a video about our Sunken Temple runs.  Otherwise I poked around with a couple of alts and made some progress there.

Coming Up

The big thing next month will be the launch of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands.

The question is whether or not it will launch on the 26th as planned.  This comes up because we haven’t gotten the pre-expansion patch yet.  Bets were on it landing yesterday, but then Blizzard pulled the candidate back from the test server and now… now I give it even odds that Blizz will push the expansion launch into November. (Look for titles launching in November that will now accused Blizzard of moving the launch date specifically to target them.)

Having a few weeks with the pre-expansion patch is kind of important because that includes all the expansion story build up, usually spread out over some time.  I suppose they could condense it, or just punt on it altogether to make the ship date.  But since either would be in Q4 2020, I suspect that the revenue recognition aspect of it won’t make a difference.

So we have that to look forward to.

Then there is EVE Online, where World War Bee will move into its fourth month.  I am sure that will keep me busy and continue to provide me with fodder for a weekly post.

But CCP also plans to drop their latest mining nerf on New Eden as they attempt to “fix” the economy on the backs of the players.  CCP won’t explain their plan beyond a “trust us” level of response, but given their track record, trusting them seems a bit of a mug’s game.  They do not exactly have a Paul Volcker level of stature when it comes to economics.  After all, who created the mechanics that caused the problems they are now trying to fix?  But there isn’t a lot the player base can do but go along for the ride or walk away.  I’m in for the ride.

Then there is also that rumored LOTRO mini-expansion.  And it is about the season where Daybreak starts talking about expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II, so that may develop as well.

Friday Bullet Points on a Tuesday just to Catch Up

Basically, the month slipped by and ends tomorrow and there were several things I think I should have mentioned, if only to set their place in the timeline of what happened this month.  So on to summaries and links and bullet points.

  • LOTRO Planning a “Mini” Expansion

Standing Stone Games announced that Lord of the Rings Online will be getting a mini expansion pack titled War of the Three Peaks next month.  SSG will be treating it like an expansion in that it will be available in three different versions:

  • Normal Edition – $20
  • Collector’s Edition – $59
  • Ultimate Edition – $99

SSG has been less than forthcoming as to what players will get for the extra $39 or $79, aside from the possibility of boar mounts.  Reaction to this mini expansion has been mixed.

I’m holding my own opinion on value until SSG comes out with more details, but my past experience with Adventure packs, an idea that shows up at Daybreak every so often, only to be disavowed, places my expectations low.

  • EVE Online Mineral Redistribution Plan

CCP put out a dev blog on Friday about the next steps in their economic work, calling it a “redistribution” plan.  However, it reads much more like a continuation of the “starvation” plan that they have been working on so far, with more things being removed from various areas of space and reducing yields on what remains.  The forum thread regarding this change exploded, which was no surprise.  Likewise, the chat in the live stream discussing the changes blew up as several devs tried not to pour gasoline on the fire and failed. (You can watch a re-run of the live stream or read a transcript if you’re that interested.)

Cutting through much of the general rage about the changes, it seems like CCP is trying to solve super capital proliferation via minerals.  However, supers use the same minerals as T1 subcaps, so T1 stuff is going to feel the same resource squeeze.  Updates that are all pain for no gain never fly well with the base.

The changes are supposed to come mid-October, so look for people to be mining heavily until that happens in an effort to try and insulated themselves from the already spiking mineral prices.

  • EVE Online Ship Models

CCP has a deal going with Mixed Dimensions to make models of EVE Online ships that players can buy, who have just added more hulls to those available.

I have always been a bit dubious about the ship models thing since the battleship models from more than a decade ago, not to mention the floating Nyx model that was a bust.  But maybe this time enough players… who always say they want these sorts of things… will actually pony up and buy them.  For me, however, the prices are a bit rich.  And I have that Rifter model from the 10th anniversary special in any case.

  • Microsoft buys ZeniMax Media

Microsoft agreed to pay $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media.  That name might sound familiar as they own id Software (Doom franchise), Arkane Studios (Prey, Dishonored), MachineGames (Wolfenstein franchise), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within), Bethesda Softworks (Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises), and ZeniMax Online Studios (The Elder Scrolls Online).

While there will be no immediate change to any of the studios or their titles, it does raise the question as to what in the future will be exclusive to XBox and what will be available on other consoles or even on the PC.

  • Sony PlayStation 5 Pre-Orders Open Up, Hilarity Ensues

As foretold by every similar experience in the past, the pre-order process was swamped by people looking to get the new PlayStation 5 console, slated to ship in November, and by people looking to grab one to scalp on eBay to take advantage of desperate consumers as the holiday shopping season begins.  If you Google what happened, the word “fiasco” seems to be a common thread in much of the reporting.  Some of the confusion was caused by retailers putting pre-orders up for sale a day early.  Sony apologized for what happened and promised to do better in the future.

  • Microsoft XBox Series X and S Pre-Orders Open Up, Hilarity Ensues

Later in the week Microsoft opened up pre-orders for the coming XBox Series X and S consoles, slated to ship in November, leading to another rush to get in first to claim a unit, either to own or to scalp later.  While things were less chaotic (the news stories rank the event somewhere between “mess” and “debacle,” which is better than a “fiasco” I think) there were still issues and all units were quickly sold out.

The added dimension here is that the XBox One X, a previous generation console, saw a spike in orders at the same time, so it is quite possible that at least a few people are going to be very disappointed to find out that they were duped by Microsoft’s naming scheme into ordering the wrong unit.

  • Foreclosing on your Farmville

Zynga announced that they will be shutting down Farmville at the end of the year.

Farmville, the big break out game for Mark Pincus and Zynga and the poster child for Facebook “social gaming,” which at its 2011 peak had more than 80 million players, was also the standard bearer for annoying garbage games that made you pester your Facebook friends or straight up pay cash to advance and help define the whole genre as spammy pieces of shit.

Of course, that is what you get when your founder doesn’t even really like games all that much.

The surprise here isn’t so much that the game is shutting down but that it was still up and running.  Then again, literally the most profitable thing that Zynga has done during its entire existence was buy property in the SF Bay Area.  I am told that selling their building earned them more than all of their games combined over the last decade.  And, as they lucked into the social gaming on Facebook trend, they managed to luck into the peak, pre-pandemic real estate market in SF.  Good for their investors I guess.

I expect I will come up with a few choice words for the game, the company, and the genre to mark the final passing of the game in December.

  • EA Secretly Craves Lockbox Regulations

Electronic Arts – Fun is Made Here

I’m throwing this one in here at the last minutes just to keep me from writing another two thousand word screed on the self-destructive behavior that greed drives this industry towards.

According to a story over at Massively OP, EA decided that advertising their FIFA 20 lockboxes in a children’s toy catalog (Smyths’ Magazine) was a good idea.  My bullet point for this section is obviously sarcasm, but only just.  The only other reason I could imaging EA thinking it was a good idea to effectively throw some red meat in front of legislators keen to declare lockboxes gambling targeted at children is that they believed that the current pandemic and political unrest would provide sufficient cover for their plan… their plan to target lockboxes at children.

This is so dumb, like a dumb sandwich with a side order of dumb and a 16oz cup of dumb to wash it all down level of dumb, that I had to stop and check other sources to make sure this wasn’t a hoax because somewhere in the back of my head something was saying that even EA could not be this dumb.

And yet, here we are.

I mean sure, I guess that the ESA declaration on lockboxes last year, who among the signatories you will find EA, didn’t specifically say that targeting children was bad. But I guess I didn’t think that needed to be said.  As I wrote a year ago, this is how you get your industry regulated.

Twelve Weeks of World War Bee

The war made it through its twelfth week and shows no signs of abating.

At some point during the weekend before this past one the invaders, who had been calling themselves PAPI, an acronyms whose origin I hadn’t bothered to look up, decided to change their name to the Anaconda Coalition.  The name was announced on Talking in Stations, and the public response was not wholehearted in its support.  Even members of said coalition were mocking the name on Reddit.  The universal agreed upon symbol quickly became a variation of this internet meme based on the Gadsden Flag.

Anaconda, cha cha cha

The Anaconda Coalition name has since faded from use by our foes in most public forums, though the leadership still uses it in their safe space on Talking in Stations.

Querious Front

The action over the last week was largely concentrated in Querious, where the invaders have taken all of the ihubs in the region save for those in what is sometimes referred to a “fake Querious,” as those systems an an enclave within Delve, and that one ihub in NDII-Q, which somehow still belongs to United Earth Directorate.

Querious – Sept 27, 2020

Of course, action is a relative term.  The week did not start off with much action as the invaders stood down a few times, even when they outnumbered us.  That led to a new Fountain Frank video, featuring soundtrack made up of samples from their comms.

Things livened up a bit on Tuesday night when a battle over the armor timer for a Tatara in NDII-Q escalated into a dreadnought fight that found us outnumbered 2 to 1.  The objective went to the invaders as did the ISK war according to the battle report.

NDII-Q Battle Report Header

I actually missed that battle as the enemy had stood down over another objective shortly before there was a ping and a form up for the Tatara.

The next night came the battle over the armor timer of a Fortizar of ours in 49-U6U, about which I have written already.  This is where the war really began in earnest as the first big capital fight, with both sides escalating up to super carriers and over a trillion ISK destroyed.

On the Fortizar in 49-U6U

We were, once again, out numbered by a ratio of 2 to 1 and the losses lined up to that ratio.  The enemy also won the objective.

The fight ran just four hours, which isn’t bad for a tidi slug fest where capitals are dropped, but the servers, struggling to keep up even at 10% tidi, acted up, causing more problems for us than our foes.  The server issues led both sides to decline to drop titans and even the super carriers were pulled back when it was possible.

This sort of battle is going to become more and more common as the invaders move closer to Delve and within range of our capital fleet.

After the clash at 49-U6U things settled down a bit, with no further large scale fights for the rest of the week.

Other Fronts

When things were quiet early on in the week a group from the Imperium slipped into Detroid and reinforced then took out some TEST ihubs.

A little corner of Detroid made empty

They were replaced after not too long, but it was a nice harassment operation behind the front lines.

Later in the week the invaders managed to drop a Fortizar in SVM-3K, which is their first attempt at a big structure within the bounds of Delve, at least that I have seen.

Hostile Fortizar deploying

As a potential foothold, that system would put a lot of southern Delve in capital jump range while being just beyond the single jump radius of our own capital staging.  But it is withing range of 1DQ1-A, where we keep everything else.

Being in our space, it is taking some time for the Fortizar to anchor.  It should finish its cycle tomorrow, if I counted on my fingers successfully.  I imagine we will be looking to destroy it as it anchors, which could lead to another big fight. (Addendum: A small fight, with the Fortizar killed.)

My Participation

I went on a number of fleets over the course of the week, but about half of them ended up with no fight as the enemy stood down or ran off on our approach.  Of course, the 49-U6U fight made up for that.

I also did not lose any ships during the week, so my tally of losses still stands as follows:

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

Other Items

As noted above, I expect we will come to blows over the hostile Fortizar in SVM-3K.

More interesting will be what the enemy plans to do about the Keepstar we still have in 49-U6U.  They have said they don’t want to fight on our Keepstars, but since that is where we keep most of our stuff it won’t be much of an extermination if they don’t attack them.

And, since I have been tracking this sporadically in posts, I might as well keep it up.  The weekly peak concurrent users ongoing tally:

  • Day 1 – 38,838
  • Week 1 – 37,034
  • Week 2 – 34,799
  • Week 3 – 34,692
  • Week 4 – 35,583
  • Week 5 – 35,479
  • Week 6 – 34,974
  • Week 7 – 38,299
  • Week 8 – 35,650
  • Week 9 – 35,075
  • Week 10 – 35,812
  • Week 11 – 35,165
  • Week 12 – 36,671

We were up a bit for the week, though that probably has less to do with the war than with the threat to the economy from CCP’s plan to nerf mining even harder next month, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Other articles about this week in the war:

Honest Trailers Looks at Streaming Services

I just want to point out that I wrote my two posts about streaming services, yesterday’s and the previous one, before this video came out.

That said, the profusion of streaming services and their popularity now during the pandemic makes it a timely topic, and the Screen Junkies teams looks into services beyond what I have explored so far.

 

Of course, since I just wrote about some of those services, it is interesting to see where my opinion aligns or diverges from theirs.  Also, I forgot that Netflix was no longer the place to watch Friends as HBO paid a bunch of money to have it on HBO Max.  I might know that if I could access HBO Max rather than whatever HBO service I’m allowed to have on the Roku.

Still, I feel solid with my own assessments.

And even Honest Trailers cannot plumb the full depth of channels out there.  My wife keeps asking me at bed time, when the lights are out and I have no electronics handy, if we can get Acorn or Britbox or some other oddball channel because she saw an ad for a show that we might want to watch and it is on that particular service.  And don’t get me started on trying to explain how the PBS app works.

If you are really hot on this topic, then you will probably enjoy the Honest Trailers Commentary video that goes along with the above, where they run through the trailer and talk about why they said what they did and expand upon their opinions.  I enjoyed it.

Pandemic Binge Watching and Some More Channels

Previously on Pandemic Binge Watching I wrote about the three long established streaming services that have been staples of our watching habits, even before the current series of unfortunate events.

Hulu is the little channel that could.  We originally got it in order to watch The Handmaid’s Tale, then cancelled.  But it is the service I keep coming back to.  I had to get it to get through all of Archer after that fell off of Netflix.  At one point a year of so back I had a plan to simply replace our Comcast cable lineup with the local channel and sports package you can through get through Hulu, but was brought up short on the details.

My wife is a hockey fan, and we can get the channel that carries all the Shark’s games, but on Hulu it runs 20-30 seconds behind the cable broadcast and my wife was quickly annoyed that her game night texting buddies would announce somebody scored before it ever made it to our screen.  That is literally a deal breaker here it seems.  A pity, because I was good with every other aspect of it, especially picture quality.  Comcast put in a really bad compression algorithm a year of so back, so their HD service barely looks like HD anymore.  The streaming services look much better.

Hulu has a lot going for it.

Upside:

Some very good original content.  I mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale already, and did a post previously about Catch-22.

The channel really excels at being the place to go watch seasons of things once they have wrapped up on cable channels that do not have their own streaming service yet.

Hulu has a bunch of subscription options.  You can go cheap if you can handle some commercials, or opt to pay a bit more to remove them, and add on a number of additional options, up to and including a basic cable replacement.

Downside:

Their interface hides the depth of the channel more so than some competitors I could mention.  If Netflix is a hyper puppy trying to get your attention, Hulu is an old sheep dog that can’t be bothered some days.

Not so much original stuff as you might imagine.

Really needs some of the features that Prime and Netflix have adopted to skip show intros and the like.  I realize this is related to the relationship they have with networks and what not, and that they are getting some of the features going, but still.  I do get a bit pissy when content from other networks won’t even let you fast forward past promos.

Current Status:  Subscribed and using the service to subscribe to Showtime rather than get into Showtime’s app.  Also still watching Bob’s Burgers.

 

On paper Disney+ should be a subscribe and never leave channel for our family.  It has all of the MCU movies, all of the Star Wars movies and (almost) all the shows, all of the Disney catalog that they’ll still admit to, and it has every episode of The Simpsons.  I should literally be parked in front of that channel forever.

Upside:

Inexpensive at $7.00 a month.  Can get it bundled with Hulu.

Literally everything 14 year old me could want.

The Madalorian was pretty good.  We watched that every week through its first season.

Downside:

The Hulu bundle made you take the ad sponsored version of the service last I checked, plus you have to take ESPN as well, in which I have no interest.  The faux seasons pro sports are putting on now are not enticing at all.

I’m not 14 any more.  I have seen almost everything on the service already.  Hell, I have a significant fraction of it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Not much new/original content

No Star Wars Holiday Special?  Are you kidding me?

Current Status:  Currently not subscribed, but another season of The Mandalorian is coming up soon.

Starz came to us when they had an offer back in March to get 6 months of their service for $30.  The thought was that we could finish up Outlander, but that stopped clicking with us after a couple seasons.  We came for that, but stayed for The White Queen and its follow on series, which I mentioned previously.

Basically Starz is a lesser version of HBO, an old school cable movie service that has expanded into some original content and its own stand-alone streaming app.

Upside:

Always has dozens of movies available to watch on demand.

Some very good original content

Downside:

Really a lesser version of HBO in too many ways.  Not so many movies you’d watch, not so many original series that you’d stick around for.

The UI design of their app always leaves me feeling I need to press the button to start a show or movie one more time that other apps.

Easily the hardest app for me to read text on from the couch.  They expect you to read the show/movie titles from the thumbnail.

Current Status:  Just lapsed, but The Spanish Princess 2 is coming up, so could return I suppose.

Apple TV+ is the latest channel we’ve tried.  I have been wary of it in the past because Apple has run it like the iTunes store in the past, where it is essentially a store front to sell you content, and there are a lot of other options in that market.  Also, it required an Apple device in the past.  Recently they have made it an app that I can get on our Roku and they have added a subscription and some original content.

I have been tempted to try it if only to watch The Morning Show, which has gotten good buzz, but my wariness as to what else one gets with their subscription has left me cold.  It is easier to figure out the difference between HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max that to get that info out of Apple.

But then Long Way Up was announced and my wife is a big Ewan McGreggor fan and watched Long Way Round and Long Way Down, so suddenly we had to give it a try.

Upside:

At $5.00 a month, the cheapest subscription service so far.

Available soon in a bundle deal with Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and iCloud.

Some original content, including Greyhound.

Some additional content from other sources available as well.

Splashy fresh UI.

Apple has the cash to fund content worth watching.

Downside:

Easily the most annoying service to sign up for in my experience so far.  You cannot sign up through Roku… somebody tell Epic Games… their web site is barely functional, and it is unclear to me if you can even sign up if you don’t have an iOS device.  I mean, I think you can, but my experience suggest it won’t be easy.

The original content is extremely limited.  I think I’ve named most of it already.  There is not a lot of “there” there.

Plays like an old school service, metering out an episode a week for their shows… though I suppose they really need to, given how little of it there is, in order to keep people subscribed.

The additional content is nothing special.  I think it is literally a subset of what I get on Hulu as part of that subscription.

98% of the service is there to offer you up rent or buy options.  It is the iTunes store on your TV.

That splashy, fresh UI is overwrought and unclear at times and doesn’t always render correctly on the Roku.  But their website doesn’t always render correctly on anything besides Safari, so go figure.  But at least it mostly works on the Roku.  Apple does not make a Windows or Android client.

Hard to tell if it is a work in progress that needs more time or if Apple arrogance levels have exceeded their eWorld peak, back when I heard Apple execs saying they would own the online experience because they could rebrand a literal copy of AOL.

Current status: Subscribed at least until we finish up get the last episode of Long Way Up.

Diablo II Act Five and some Thoughts

In my brain Diablo II ends with Act IV.  I mean, you kill Diablo, whose name was on the box, just like in the original, you feel like you’re done.  So once that was done, my arrival in Act V and the town of Harrogath, home of the barbarians, felt a bit strange.

Deckard Cain is always there waiting for me

That isn’t to say I am knocking the Lord of Destruction expansion.  It brought a lot to the table, like new classes and the coveted upgrade from 640×480 to 800×600 video resolution.  But the actual content… it only stuck with me in a very vague way.  Something about being in ice tunnels and catapults… though that latter might have been from Diablo III, which itself is already eight years old at this point.

And you don’t even get an opening quest to send you off into the wild.  I mean, sure, you got the pep talk about Baal, so you know who the final boss is, but beyond that you don’t even get a “good luck storming the castle.”

So I just headed out the gates to see what I could see.

Cain’s words about Harrogath being untouched only apply to inside the town.  Just outside are the armies of hell who have the place under siege.  And there were catapults to destroy, so I did at least remember that bit.

You only get the first quest at the far end of the first zone, once you have cleared enough stuff out.  Then it is back to town for an update and a plea to go into the next area and release captured barbarians.

The next zone is more of the same.

I will say that the zone tiles were all new, so it wasn’t a repeat of any of the last four acts.  And there are new mobs, some new mob mechanics, and all that, but I wasn’t feeling a lot of attachment to it either.  That may be due to the new zones being somewhat sprawling in an aimless sort of way.

I freed the barbarians, the reward for which was the ability to put some sockets in a piece of gear.  I bought the highest armor class piece of chest armor I could find, put sockets on that, then put two runes in it, which ended up being the last item upgrade I did during the game.

My memories of Diablo II don’t include crap itemization and drops, but here I was in Act V and I was still wearing a couple of items from Act I because I had yet to find anything better.  And I think the most recent piece of gear was from Act III.

Basically, there isn’t any feeling of planned gear progression.  Some of the stuff at the vendors gets better as you level up, but not radically so in most cases.  My rogue companion had a very good bow with two sockets that I picked up in Act II and I never once saw anything better drop or show up at a vendor.

My stash was overflowing with gems and runs and whatnot, just waiting for a good item to use them on, and I got nada.  I complained about pre-expansion itemization in Diablo III, where it felt bad, but at least it did progress somewhat regularly and, more important, it got fixed with the expansion.

Anyway, I carried on, found the start of the ice caves.  There I realized how nice the open plains had been to me.

Having spec’d as a Hammerdin, as I mentioned last time, I was pretty dependent on that attack in order to kill things.  You launch the Blessed Hammer and it spins around you in an ever widening spiral, applying damage to any mob it passes through.  A pretty good attack when you’re in the thick of things, though the spiral does open up wide enough between orbits that it does miss mobs at times.  It only stops when the hammer fades after it has traveled its full distance, or it runs into something solid, like a wall.

Caves are nothing but walls, so my Blessed Hammer often faded as soon as I launched it.  So I learned to train things back to open areas to make better use of it.  Eventually I found one of the people I was looking for as a follow up quest.

Really, I only vaguely remember why I came here…

There was a quest update, and then more caves.  I could feel myself starting to lose interest in the cave crawl, something not helped by the fact that waypoints seem poorly scattered.  There were the usual full complement of them, but I somehow managed to miss three of them along the way.

I ended up popping out of the caves into an open area again, where I faced a boss challenge blocking my progress.  Something different at least.

Challenge accepted!

This was at least in a nice, open area, where my Blessed Hammer could be used to full effect.

Beyond them was the Worldstone Keep, another indoor crawl.    The mobs ramped up a bit in there and tended to come in large groups.  I hit a few points where I got overwhelmed and died and wondered if I should really bother carrying on.  The closest I came was when I died trying to get my gear back before I could toss a fresh town portal, so there was going to be a long run back to where I was.  But I persisted.  I felt I was close enough to the end that I should hang on.

And I did come to the throne of Baal.  There he throws five waves of special baddies at you, including some old favorites, as they appear to be a group from each of the previous acts, plus a special new group for Act V.  The most recognizable group was the councilors from Act III, largely because they and Mephisto were the only memorable bits of that act.

There were issues and a couple of deaths and a some regret that I didn’t thoroughly clear the whole level before I started on these event spawns, but I managed to defeat them.  Then Baal disappears through a portal and you get to follow him in for the final fight.

This way to Baal

When you get in, you find you are fighting two Baals.  There is no doubt an endless supply of testicle jokes in that.

In the chamber there is a real Baal and a fake Baal.  They look alike.  There is apparently a way to tell them apart by their name tab, but in the end fake Baal is less tanky so it becomes obvious which is which.

It is another fight with a lot of running away, using portals back to town to refill potions, and scrambling about to stay out of the way of Baal’s big attacks.  Keeping on your feet slows things down, but eventually I got the best of him.

Baal down at last

That is the queue for Tyrael to show up for another one of his expositions.

He is always impressed, isn’t he?

After that, you are about done.  You get the victory screen where it announced you have a new title.

Slayer Wilhelm at your service

And then you are tossed back out to the character screen where you can choose to start over again at two of the three difficulties.

Hell remains locked

That is it, I made it through.

Final Thoughts

Despite the low resolution and the distortion caused by the game being rendered at a 4:3 screen ratio, the whole thing was very playable 20 years down the road.

In various ways the experience of playing through was both better and worse than my memories.  A lot of the game is very well tuned and timed.  The waypoints are… mostly… spread out just right to make for nice play sessions in manageable chunks.

The play though showed, once more, that Act I is good and connects you back to the original Diablo.  Act II then takes everything up a notch and gives you a brand new feel and locale.

Then comes Act III, which isn’t bad, but which doesn’t have a lot of flavor to it.  It feels like a bit of a slog just to get to the fight with the council and Mephisto.

Act IV is short, but lively.  And, of course, you face off against Diablo again here.

After which there is Act V, a level that feels like an expansion level, tacked on and perhaps unnecessary.  It wasn’t horrible.  The team clearly had some ideas they wanted to try out.  But the whole act felt like they stretched it out more just to make sure you felt like you got your money’s worth.

Having done a play through, the question becomes what to do next.  I am not particularly keen to run through the same content at Nightmare difficulty.  I am just not that engaged.

I could try another class.  The paladin has been my go-to for ages.  I might try out a druid or an assassin, the expansion classes.  I am not sure I have ever played them at all.

I should/could play each class through at least Act I… maybe Act II… to compare the classes.  We shall see what I feel up to.

But for a 20 year old game, it isn’t so out of date as you might think.  Playing through does make me wonder how a remake or remaster would play.  The temptation to update things that feel “wrong” in 2020, like the respec option, would be strong.

The 49-U6U Fight Foreshadows Battles to Come

A large battle went down last night in 49-U6U, with over 3,000 pilots in system and a trillion ISK in losses.

Right there in Querious

It was a fight over an armor timer on an Imperium Fortizar, one of the structures we still have in that system in Querious.  I joined up with Lazarus Telraven’s Rokh fleet to go out and help defend the timer.

Rokhs on the move

The invaders had been sending out pings to rally the troops for this fight, no doubt feeling a bit stung when, last Friday, they declined to contest the armor timer on this very same structure even though they outnumbered us.  Their advantage then was insufficient.

Last night they got the numbers, outgunning us on the field by about a 2 to 1 margin.

The fight started when the timer finished its count down.  We had subcap fleets on the Fortizar with fax support for reps.  They had subcaps on hand as well, but started dropping dreadnoughts near us almost right away, the first group landing pretty much on top of the Fort.

On the Fortizar

The Rokh fleet started shooting a TEST nightmare fleet and managed some kills but, as the fight escalated and people kept piling in, the server began to stagger under the weight of commands.  And a struggling server can be a capricious factor.  Back at the KVN-36 fight, the node went down and won us the timer.  This time around the node stayed up, but balked at our super carriers jumping in, with a bunch failing to jump and those that made it getting disconnected.

That stopped the battle escalation in its tracks.  Titans were not deployed and the supers started getting pulled back.  The fight devolved to an attempt to kill as many attacking dreadnoughts as possible.  We were told to stop fighting, tether up, and to get to our Keepstar in system to grab an interdictor to hold down enemy dreads.

That was easier said that done.  I sat for about 20 minutes trying to get my drones taken care of… somebody’s smart bomb managed that for me in the end… my guns to cycle down and for tethering to finally grab me.  And it was a near run thing too.  As I was watching the aggression timer count down the last 20 seconds… at 10% speed due to tidi… a hostile Munnin fleet that was rolling through the scrum decided to target me.  I could see their yellow boxes turn to red as their damage started to land on me.  I overheated my hardeners and hoped for the best.  The timer ended and there was a long wait as my shields dropped below half to almost one quarter before tether hit and I was invulnerable.

I’m going to say that tethering is pretty OP, even when it saves my ship.

Then it was just a matter of getting over to the Keepstar… through a field of warp interdiction bubbles.

Bubble, bubbles everywhere

I spent quite a while trying to motor off in a direction that would get me a clear line of warp to the Keepstar.  I went and did the dishes while that was going on.  When I was back it seemed like every time I seemed to be clear, the server would decide that a Sabre had launched its bubble before I had initiated warp and I would be back to trying to get clear again.

Meanwhile more and more Sabres were being bridged in as bubbles when up all over to hold down hostile dreads.

Bubbles all over the place

Eventually I managed to warp off and made it to the Keepstar, but by then it was getting late for me on a work night.  The battle seemed to have reached its crescendo and was now wandering slowly to its conclusion.  I decided to go to bed.

The Imperium lost, undoubtedly and without question.

We lost the objective.  For all of our dread killing the enemy was able to keep applying damage to the Fortizar and it is now set for its final timer this weekend.

We also lost the ISK war by a two to one margin, with the battle report showing us having lost over 756 billion ISK in ships while the attackers lost shy of 380 billion ISK.

Battle Report Header

Two thirds of our ISK loss can be chalked up to the 16 super carriers that we blown up after  jumping in, a tally that includes a Vendetta faction super carrier.  That Vendetta was 19% of our ISK loss in a single ship.  Luckily the two other Vendettas that jumped in got away, or the count would have been much higher.  But that is the risk you take when you allow your pilots to bring their expensive toys to the fight.  The 300+ interdictors we sacrificed to hold down enemy dreads… we might have gone a bit overboard on that… added another 25 billion to the total.

The bulk of the enemy losses came from the 90 dreadnoughts that we managed to kill on the Fortizar, close to a quarter of the 375 they dropped into the battle.

And yet, even having suffered an undeniable defeat, things are not downcast on our side of the war.

Yes, people are pissed about how the servers decided to roll this time.  The first post up about the battle was over at INN complaining about that.  However, somebody is always pissed at the servers when tidi goes beyond 10% and things just stop working.  Generally both sides are, as it leads to missed opportunities.

But there is also the knowledge that this fight is a sign of how hard the invaders are going to have to work to defeat us.  This fight wasn’t even in Delve.  This fight wasn’t even on a Keepstar.  This fight didn’t even escalate to titans.  This fight wasn’t even all that consequential.  There is another timer to go.

But this fight was just a taste of what is to come.  This was the first trillion ISK battle in what may end up being a series of them.  The question is who is going to get sick of this sort of thing first?

In the slow motion scrum of battle

Since Vily has declared this to be a war of extermination, I am guessing we’re good doing this at least a hundred more times.  What other choice do we have?

Of course, that idea must weigh on him as well.  If you look at who showed up to the fight you will see that, once again, PandaFam was there doing the heavy lifting, as they have throughout the war.  If they get tired of this and go back home… which is what they did during the Fountain War, abandoning TEST to their fate… the invasion will be over.

That isn’t going to happen any time soon, but neither is the conquest of Delve.  We’ll have to wait to see who can last the longest.

Other Coverage:

SuperData has Fall Guys on Top for August

SuperData Research got their digital revenue chart for August out and, no surprise, revenues were up over last year for another month.

  • August digital games revenue totaled $10.8B, up 16% year-over-year. Digital console earnings grew the most and were up 88% compared to the same month in 2019. Revenue also rose by 15% on PC and 3% on mobile.

The pandemic continues to boost the video games industry as 2020 stays ahead of 2019.

  • Digital games have earned $82.8B through the first eight months of 2020, a growth of 13% from the same time span last year. Gaming revenue took off in March as COVID-19 lockdowns spread worldwide. Since then, each game device type (mobile, PC or console) has generated higher year-over-year revenue. 

But it is the chart that we like to look at, and the August chart has a shakeup of the usual order on the PC end of things.

SuperData Research Top 10 – August 2020

And, as I wrote above, the usual order on the PC side of things got a shake up in August, with Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout topping the chart.

  • Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout had the highest-earning launch of any PC title ($185M) since Overwatch in May 2016. The innovative take on battle royale, published by Developer Digital and developed by Mediatonic, was free to PlayStation Plus subscribers, but 8.2M players still paid for the PC version. The breakout success of Fall Guys was especially impressive since it came from a relatively small development team. The game’s chaotic, wacky gameplay was a big draw on gaming video content platforms like Twitch, where it topped the viewership charts in the lead-up to launch.

I had not even heard of the game… or I had ignored it… until the SuperData chart came out, but there it is on top for August.

That pushed the usual top four, which I think of as the LCDF lineup due to their frequent ordering, down a notch as their usual order changed up, with Crossfire in second, League of Legends in third, Fantasy Westward Journey Online in fourth, and Dungeon Fighter Online in fifth.

The bottom half of the list saw Fortnite back up in its spot relative to the LCDF titles after having fallen in July, seeing a revenue boost in August.

  • Fortnite revenue grew 76% month-over-month on PC and console, more than offsetting its falling mobile revenue. Player spending jumped in late August thanks to a new season of content featuring cosmetic items based on Marvel Comics characters. This is in sharp contrast to its mobile revenue, which fell by 62% after Apple and Google removed the game from the iOS App Store and Google Play as part of the ongoing legal dispute between Epic and the two technology companies. (Our published mobile revenue totals do not encompass the Android version of Fortnite available outside of Google Play.)

Fortnite was followed by Roblox in seventh, CS:GO in eighth.  New shooter Valorant was down from fifth in July to ninth in August, and World of Warcraft managed to stay on the chart in tenth position.  World of Tanks fell of the list for August.

On the console chart Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took the top spot back as last months number one, Ghosts of Tsushima fell back to sixth position.  FIFA 20 and Fortnite followed in second and third, with the venerable GTA V in fourth position.

And at the mobile end of the chart, Pokemon Go continues its summer reign in the top spot.

  • Pokémon GO continued its upward momentum in August and broke its all-time earnings record. The game generated 25% more that its previous revenue peak achieved during August 2016. It benefited from warm weather and frequent limited-time events that appealed to its passionate player base. Pokémon GO has historically performed best in the summer and revenue will likely begin a seasonal decline in either September or October.

Then there is Free Fire, the title from Singapore that popped onto the charts in third place last month.  It has worked its way past Honour of Kings and into second place.  Behind them in fourth position is Peacekeeper Elite, the mobile version of PUBG available in China.  PUBG Mobile, the version for the rest of us only rings in at eighth position, just ahead of Candy Crush Saga.  However, PUBG Mobile may be in for a fall, as it has since been banned in India.

  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile was the 8th highest earning mobile title in its last month before being banned in India. The game was frequently the country’s highest-grossing game before India’s government furthered a widespread crackdown on Chinese apps (Tencent has operated the mobile version of PUBG). Also in August, the game’s overall revenue and player numbers did not change significantly, which indicates that bans of the mobile version of Fortnite did not lead to a mass player exodus to PUBG Mobile.

NPD also has their top ten chart forAugust 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. Madden NFL 21
  2. UFC 4
  3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  4. Ghost of Tsushima
  5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  6. Ring Fit Adventure
  7. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe*
  8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  9. Paper Mario: The Origami King*
  10. Mortal Kombat 11

*Digital sales on Nintendo eShop not included

As usual, this list continues to indicate how much consoles still depend on physical retail distribution.

So it goes.  Another month of pandemic remains good business for some.

Checking Up on Alts in WoW Classic

I have been mostly on about the instance group in WoW Classic for the last few months.  That is both because that is where I have spent most of my play time as well as the fact that the tales of the group tend to be nice, discreet stories that have a beginning and and end.  The paths of my alts, out in the world leveling up, tend to be messy, with starts and ends that are more a function of my play time available than having reached the end of a particular zone or quest line.

But I have carried on with alts, at least a couple of them.  As tends to happen, I rolled up a bunch of alts and some have fallen by the wayside.  I have a few still lingering in their 20s and another in his mid 30s.  I have kept up with two of them though.

One of them is Wilhelm, my paladin.  I thought he might have been a lost cause, as he hit something of a wall at about level 40 where at-level mobs were starting to get the better of him and grinding them out was starting to feel like a real grind, where he had to stop and recover after every fight.

However, at the end of Zul’Farruk a polearm, Khoo’s Point, dropped as a bind on equip item after a fight.  Nobody needed it so I asked if I could have it for Wilhelm and, as it turned out, it was just the thing he needed.  The boost in damage over what he had been swinging suddenly made him viable again and I got a few levels on him before I found another polearm at the auction house.

Wilhelm running down another quest

He has made it up to 45 and is about set to start poking about in Searing Gorge.

Then there is Tistann the hunter.  He is my main alt, so to speak, and also the guild leader.  I like to keep him up with or a bit ahead of the dungeon group.  He was my first character to get to 50 back in June.

Once he wrapped up Searing Gorge he had a quest to go out to Chillwind Camp in the Western Plaguelands, which actually has a couple of quests that were manageable at his level.  He grabbed those and the Argent Dawn commission, and killed some undead, but the quest chain there ramps up pretty quickly, so he got on the bird and headed elsewhere.

While the post-40 leveling process is known for sending you all over creation, you do get to settle down for a bit now and then.  In Un’goro Crater you can chase down some quests without too much running about… or at least running to other zones.  There is plenty of running about in the zone.

And some things running at you

After that it was off to Felwood, which is kind of a pain to get to in the first place.  And once you get there you get a work out again.

Felwood map

The quests start down in Emerald Sanctuary, but the objectives range further and further up the map.  The first quest is close by, but you end up hunting stuff all the way up around Felpaw Village, which can make for a long ride back and forth.  But at least you can grab the flight point, which is south of there.

While I think of Un’goro as an ideal place for my hunter, since he could skin, Felwood worked pretty well for me.  There are a lot of quests where some patience for grinding mobs will serve you well.  When I am in the mood, that can be quite relaxing.  You just carefully slay mobs and work your way to your target.

Made my way to Xavathras

There are some underground adventures as well, with the and escort quest in the mix, because of course there is.

Nobody can leave captivity without their stuff

And a couple of the quests send you off to other zones, which wouldn’t be so bad, but that flight point is a long way off still.  I actually ran to the Azshara flight point once, just to see if it was closer, but it is about the same distance.

Out to watch a ceremony before I ride, then fly, then ride for the turn-in

Eventually you get the quest that sends you on to Winterspring, which takes you through the Timbermaw tunnel, a location of some renown.  Fortunately, this was not my first Felwood rodeo, and being in no hurry, I went and ground out a bit of reputation with the Timbermaw Hold so that I did not have to fight my way through them.

Unfriendly means they don’t attack

I was able to run through the tunnel unmolested to start in on the Winterspring.

First stop, Denova Snowden

I was 54 at that point, and Winterspring is just a bit above that if you want to play it safe.  I persisted for a bit.  A hunter with a decent pet can get away with some things I won’t try with my pally later.

I made sure to get the flight point at Everlook and picked up a bunch of quests there.  I did the ones I could, but some of them either send you directly, and others eventually, back to the Plaguelands.

So it was back there, where I started off at level 50, to hunt more undead.

A Plaguelands panorama

And it was there that I hit 55, which is sort of the last milestone before level cap.  That was also where I started feeling like I was really going to make it there.  From 55 to 60 is not a trivial grind but, going back to the leveling guide, I still have most of Winterspring and Western Plaguelands to work through.  I’ve barely seen any of the the latter.

Where I’ve been from Chillwind

And I have not even started in on Blasted Lands, Azshara, Burning Steppes, or Eastern Plaguelands.

I have enough content between me and level 60 to just follow that along to 60.

And then I have to get my paladin through all of that as well, which is a very different experience.   But I’ll leave that for another time.

The EVE Online Rolling Thunder Update Attempts to Breath Life into EDENCOM Ships

Last week CCP announced that we would be getting a “balance pass” for EDENCOM ships with an update they are calling Rolling Thunder.  That is an impressive name, even if it got some bad press back in the 60s. But can CCP live up to it?

That is actually lightning, you cannot hear thunder in space

The problem is that EDENCOM ships, introduced with the update back in June, with the splashy vorton projector “hit multiple targets” weapon systems, have failed to catch on in New Eden.

We got a frigate, a cruiser, and a battleship variation, each with its own skill, and the accompanying small, medium, and large weapon system, each again with its own training requirement, along with some subsidiary skills to improve their effect generally, all of which started a mild bit of hype about how cool these new ships were going to be.

And then not much happened.

I mentioned that I trained up all the skills to level IV or V… and some of those skills were freaking expensive, being available only from event drops… because there was some thought about using them for a Reavers doctrine.  But that got dropped because the ships suck and they are difficult to source.

I assume that they do suck because people who know ship fitting better than I, even when being generous about the EDENCOM ships, say that they fill a very niche roll at best.

As for being difficult to source… in short supply and expensive when you can find them… there is an obvious bottle neck there in that you can only buy them with EDENCOM Loyalty Points earned by fighting for the EDECOM side in the current set of Triglavian invasion events.  When you can buy a fully fit Ferox for about the same price as the just the hull of the EDECOM Stormbringer cruiser, why would you bother with that hull unless it is very OP?

So CCP is going to try and fix this.

On the cost/availability front, the fix is pretty straightforward:

  • DED LP Offers for all EDENCOM items have had LP cost reduced by 90%

Make things cheaper to buy and they will be cheaper on the market as more people try to sell them.  We hope.

As for making the ships better, they are getting a couple of tweaks:

  • Optimal Range increased for all Small Vorton Projectors by 30% [hit further]
  • Damage reduction factor down for all weapon sizes (this means mitigation from target speed plays a smaller role) [hit harder]:
    • Frig → 0.6 to 0.4
    • Cruiser → 0.65 to 0.5
    • Battleship → 0.82 to 0.7
  • Damage increase to all Small and Medium Condenser Packs for Vorton Projectors. (Tech 1 and Tech 2) [do… something?]
    • Small Condenser Pack damages have been increased by 20%
    • Medium Condenser Pack damages have been increased by 20%

These actually seem like fairly modest changes on the performance side.  We will see if these, combined with the radical price reduction, get more of these ships on the field.  I have yet to see one in the wild myself.

In addition, a new three day login event will coincide with the update, starting after downtime on September 25th, that will hand out SKINs for these ships, boosters that improve their performance, and, of course, skill points.

If they really wanted us to use the ships, maybe they should just give us all one of the hulls.  It would tank prices on the market, but it would get some in space.

In addition to the EDENCOM focus, some other ships are getting a bit of a buff.  The two lesser force auxiliaries, the Lif and Niazu, are getting a bit of a boost.

  • Lif
    • 7.5% bonus to shield booster amount becomes 7.5% bonus to shield booster amount and cap booster amount
  • Ninazu
    • 7.5% bonus to armor repair amount becomes 7.5% bonus to armor repair amount and cap booster amount

And then there are a couple of buffs for black ops battleships.  The first is an easy one.

All Black Ops have had their Fuel Bay capacity increased from 1250 to 2150

Now the blops pilot won’t have to shovel so much fuel from the fuel truck mid-bridge with larger fleets.  This is a happy, quality of life improvement aim at what the ships are mostly used for these days.

In addition, all of the blops are getting a bit of a boost to some of their default shield and armor resist values.  This hearkens back to the days when people would drop on targets in a blops solo.  These days they are mostly used for throwing covert ops capable ships around space, but I am sure there is some freebooter out there still trying for solo blops kills who will be happy to hear about this.

Details about the blops resist values and other information can be found in the updated patch notes.