Monthly Archives: December 2020

December in Review

The Site

Well, I made it to the end of 2020, and I should be happy about just that I suppose, though it isn’t like the world will change dramatically tomorrow, or the next day, or on January 20th, or whenever.  The same problems will face us and the same people will block whatever solutions might help people or alleviate problems.

2020 banner by my daughter

One thing that happens today is that Adobe officially stops supporting Flash.  You might have seen a few messages like this of late.

The end of Flash is here

This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog, but it is a moment of passing for a bit of code that had a huge influence on the web.  It has its roots back in the 90s in tech that powered games like Spaceship Warlock and Myst and was a gateway for many budding game devs to create projects that could be played by others.  There was a whole era of crappy Flash games in the early 2000s, some of which were not all that crappy really.

And it was the underlying tech for a lot of web animation of that era as well.  Homestar Runner was entirely done in Flash, as were many other greater and lesser known projects. (Shout out to Chris Coutts’ Tales for the L33T: Romeo + Juliette back in the day.)  It got into a lot of places.

Some of those bits of the web have been converted, preserved, or moved to other mediums.  Homestar Runner is on YouTube if you want to watch Trogdor again. (Also, Chris Coutts)

But a lot of stuff will just fall by the wayside and disappear.  Flash got a bad reputation, especially for security issues, but it helped build the web as we know it today.  And so we say farewell to it and the games it fostered.  This is why Farmville is also going away today.  Marc Pinkus went on at length on Twitter about the game, leaving out the bits where he stole it from another company and did a bunch of dodgy stuff for revenue and helped create the aura of Facebook games as “spammy pieces of shit.”  So it goes.

Anyway, here we are at the end of the year and post number 405 for 2020.  It was going to be post 404 with a cute “not found” joke, but then that titan fight happened last night.

405 puts 2020 behind 2019, which had 412 posts, but one ahead of 2018, which hit the 404 mark.  Did I make a joke about it back then?

One Year Ago

After many slipped dates and fan push back, Daybreak decided to shut down PlanetSide Arena, their attempt to re-capture some of that battle royale lightning that H1Z1 held briefly when it launched.

On the bright side, EverQuest launched its 26th expansion, the Torment of Velious.

I also made a pilgrimage of my own in old Norrath.

CCP experimented with a day of no downtime.  I heard later that this caused problems and the next downtime had to run long.  You just have to reboot New Eden once a day I guess.

CCP also brought in the HyperNet Relay gambling mechanic, the new wallet UI, and the Kicking over Castles update to make blowing up structures a bit easier.  We got the Naughty or Nice holiday event which included a station to refurbish melted snowballs.

The holiday season also came to WoW Classic and EverQuest II.

Blizzard introduced battlegrounds to WoW Classic early to stem the completely predictable carnage that came about from the introduction of the honor system.  We also got the key chain and paid character transfers.

In WoW Classic we hit our peak group size as six of us ran off to the Scarlet Monastery graveyard.  Back in vanilla a bunch of dungeons allowed raid groups of 10 players.  Skonk and I also got our paladins out for the Test of Righteousness class quest.

We were also back in Gnomeregan for some quest clean up with Earl.  I had to swap to my pally so he could tank.  And then we went back with a different group mix.  Then we went back in again to get Moronae the Crowd Pummeler 9-60.    Finally, we went back to Scarlet Monastery to run through the library.

Then I reviewed my WoW Classic characters four months into the launch.

On the retail WoW front I broke the story of the rejected squish ideas.

I was still running around tuning up my main in EverQuest II until the Blood of Luclin expansion launched.  Getting to Luclin was a bit of a chore, at least the first time through.  From there the run to level cap was pretty quick.

And, it being December, there were the usual reflection on the year gone by.  I looked at my games played, reviewed my 2019 predictions, looked at the books I read, and reviewed highs and lows of the year.

I also did a Decade in Review post about gaming related stuff.

And then 2020 hit.  But that is another tale altogether.

Five Years Ago

Thanks to The Force Awakens coming out, George Lucas was in the news and rationalizing his “Han didn’t shoot first” change.  I wasn’t buying it.  There were certainly other things he could have changed.

It was December, so I had to go over the usual posts, scoring predictions, looking back at the highs and lows of the year gone past, looking forward to what I might play 2016, and something about the inevitable Steam holiday sale.  I also made a chart to show what MMOs I was playing in 2015 because everybody else was doing it.  I totally forgot to make that chart again this year.

There was the Operation: Frostline expansion in EVE Online.

In New Eden I got blow up trying to slip a Caracal out of Fountain.  It happens.  On the other hand, I did get my first kill mark on another solo op.  I also hit 150 million skill points, an achievement soon to be made trivial by skill injectors.

The much reviled Fountain War Kickstarter was finally cancelled, as it was clearly not going to get anywhere close to its $150K target.  But was that going to bank the flames of the brightly burning Goon hate? (hint: no)

The recently rebranded Imperium was taking its plans to low sec, either to generate content or display its arrogance depending on who was describing it.  We were also waging a war in Cloud Ring.

Turbine finally got their head screwed on right when it came to insta-levels in Lord of the Rings Online.  I was stomping around in the Mirkwood expansion trying to see in the dark.

In Minecraft I was building a prismarine outpost along the great northern road.  Aaron and I also killed the End Dragon.

On the EverQuest front, the Phinigel “true box” server opened, a retro progression server that was supposed to keep people from multi-boxing groups.

I summed up five years of Raptr tracking my game play with my top 20 played games.  There was LEGO’s somewhat nonsensical online name policy.  And I was playing Monument Valley on the iPad.

Ten Years Ago

That December I had one of my all-time most popular posts, Talking Cats Playing Pattycake!  You can thank me for not taking the hint and going all talking cats, all the time.  Or hate me for not doing that.  Take your pick.  And We Didn’t Start the Fire?  Nothing.

But I still had kitty pictures.  Awww.

I still think that if you label a window “Currency” it ought to show all your currency, not just the odd-ball stuff.

I was still feeling the sting of ThinkGeek teasing us with the iCade at April Fools, all the more so because some pretenders were on the scene.

Turbine was giving away 10,000 Turbine Points, which comes out to real, and possibly taxable, value in real world dollars.  The comments on the post were obviously not from tax professionals.

I visited EverQuest for long enough to find a house.  And then I was out of money.

In EverQuest II they were starting the run up to vampires.

And I summed up what we knew about The Agency to that point… which was bupkiss.

In World of Warcraft, Cataclysm launched.  If you weren’t in the beta, there were still scams promising to get you in.  There was the digital pre-order, which worked for me.  And one final hardware upgrade we needed at our house before the expansion launched.  And then there was picking a new character for the re-rolled instance group in Azeroth.

The U.S. release date for Pokemon Black and White was announced at last.

Finally, I wrote something that looked sort of like a review of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s book Mogworld.  And then there was something about zombies vs. werewolves vs. vampires vs. unicorns.

Fifteen Years Ago

CCP dropped the Red Moon Rising expansion on EVE Online, introducing a host of new ships including titans and motherships.  They also introduced a new tutorial and new player experience, so some things never change.

Asherons Call 2: Fallen Kings, the sequel to Asheron’s Call, was shut down by Turbine.  Revived again some years later, it and its predecessor were both shut down when Jeffrey Epstein, Columbus Nova, and/or Daybreak Game Company acquired the MMO portion of Turbine and created Standing Stone Games.  The open question remains as to who might own the AC/AC2 IP at this point.  Warner?  Daybreak?  EG7?  Jeffrey Epstein?  The Russians? [Edit: Massively OP says that WB still owns it, which means it is as dead as any IP can be.]

Twenty Years Ago

The second EverQuest expansion, The Scars of Velious, launched.  The icy continent of Velious brought frost giants, Coldain Dwarves, and more dragons to Norrath.  It also introduced The Sleeper, a once per server event.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Daybreak Revealed in Enad Global 7 Presentation
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. Minecraft Village Population
  4. Leveling up Your Crafting Without Actually Crafting
  5. WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases
  6. Robbing Some Space Banks
  7. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  8. EVE Online Ushers in the Holidays with Winter Nexus Events Starting Today
  9. Do You Need a Level Booster for Shadowlands?
  10. Drone Aggression Nerf and Tech II Salvage Drones Arrive in EVE Online
  11. Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend
  12. Daybreak to be Acquired by Enad Global 7

Search Terms of the Month

what were brad’s aradune stats in everquest
[All 18s?]

velius porno 69 ano 14
[Make up your mind]

will scaling kill wow boring
[It wasn’t the best feature in BFA certainly]

how to rush through all wow expansions
[You don’t even have to do that any more]

eve dodixie losing status
[I’m not sure it had much to begin with]

can you buy skill points in eve online?
[Yes.  Next question.]

eve skill pints per isk comparison
[That’s a bit more difficult]

Game Time from ManicTime

My game play time went in something of a reverse flow in December.  I came off the big WoW Shadowlands binge at the start of the month, focused a lot on WoW Classic in the middle, and then World War Bee activity picked up in the back half of the month, culminating in last night’s titan slaughter fest.

  • EVE Online – 53.14%
  • WoW Classic – 34.20%
  • World of Warcraft – 11.78%
  • About Us – 0.88%

Oh, and I played About Us for about 90 minutes in the middle of all of that.

EVE Online

There was still World War Bee to keep me busy.  With the enemy camped on our doorstep fights have been easy to come by.  Somebody is always trying to provoke the other side into doing something dumb.  I’ve seen fights over anything from bait titans to a bait Raven in T5ZI-S.  And then there was the Catch deployment, where Reavers went out to join in with The Initiative to lay siege to Legacy Coalitions backfield… some more.  And then there was the battle in M2-XFE yesterday and early this morning.  We will have to see how that affects the war.

Pokemon Go

We got released to start working our way to level 50 this month.  The xp climb is very steep, but there are also a series of tasks, sort of feats of strength, to accomplish before you can level up, even if you already have the xp.  The big one for level 41 is to catch 200 Pokemon in a single day.  I managed that sitting in the parking lot at the ER at just after midnight where a couple of Pokestops were close by. (Daughter is fine, but why do these things always happen so late at night?)  They don’t let people hang out in the ER due to COVID-19, so I had little else to do while I sat and waited for a few hours.

Niantic also started releasing Pokemon from the Kalos region (Pokemon X & Y) into the game.

Level: 40 (50% of the way to 41 in xp, all but one task complete)
Pokedex status: 611 (+18) caught, 637 (+21) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 9 of 9
Pokemon I want: Still need some Unova Pokemon to fill in the gaps
Current buddy: Zwelious

World of Warcraft

What else was there beside the Shadowlands expansion?  I made it to level cap, chose a covenant, and have messed around with that some.  I am not as taken by the whole thing as some… I don’t feel compelled to log in every night… but I am not unhappy with it either.

WoW Classic

I think “Blacksmithing and Blackrock Depths” sums up much of my time in WoW Classic this month, though I did spend some time with my alts as well.  Doing the blacksmithing stuff got me to get my druid out to harvest kingsblood and my pally out for any spare iron, and I ended up playing them as well.  I also did a bit of the Winter Veil activities, though not the whole routine.

Coming Up

2021!

But, as noted at the top, a change of arbitrary numbers won’t change the plight we’re in.  Tomorrow is just another day and it is quite possible the new year will vie with the old when it comes to total misery caused.

Here you can expect the usual.  There will be a post tomorrow looking into the new year.  I have a 2020 games post still brewing.  Otherwise I will likely play the same games, write about them in the same style, and report and comment on bits of news that are related.

We still need to go back to Blackrock Depths in WoW ClassicShadowlands is still calling.

There is a rumor that PAPI might try to make a big push against the Imperium come January.  I suspect if they can break into 1DQ1-A or Helm’s Deep they will have destroyed enough of our stuff to declare victory and go home to rest for a bit.  It has been a long war of sustained combat.  And, as mentioned in my earlier post today, there was that big titan battle over a Keepstar timer.  Will that change anybody’s plans?

Titan Massacre at M2-XFE

We had been warned to be on hand for possible fleets yesterday.  The armor timers for three Imperium Keepstars under PAPI cyno jammers were set to come out and we were going to try to make them pay for the effort this time around.

I was busy during much of the day, but I could see the pings coming up announcing fleets.  It looked like the enemy was going to try for the Keepstar in M2-XFE.  The other two Keepstars were ignored and repaired while both sides focused on the remaining one.

When I finally had a chance to log in I flew out in an ECM burst Malediction just to take a look.  Both sides were grouped up, two masses of titans and supers facing each other, the Imperium fleet on the Keepstar and the PAPI fleet below it, shooting the structure.  The timer had been paused at just about the 10 minute mark.

My arrival

As I was scooting around, tethering up, and looking for some way to be annoying, the Imperium titans, which had been tethered, opened up with a doomsday barrage on the PAPI fleet.

Titans open fire with Doomsdays

That was the point that the battle became real.  There were over 5,000 names in local, a number that grew past the 5,500 mark as the battle carried on.

Exchange of fire

At that point I flew my Malediction into the midst of the hostiles and set off the ECM burst.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to commit to the fight.  But then my wife and daughter went out together and I decided to join one of the subcap fleets.  I parked my interceptor in one of our structures, destroyed my pod to revive back in 1DQ1-A, where I grabbed a Rokh to join Mister Vee’s fleet.

While M2-XFE had cyno jammers setup by the hostiles, they were bringing them down now and then to jump in reinforcements, which allowed us to jump in our own reinforcements.  Since the system was running at 10% tidi, the five minute up/down cycle of the cyno jammer lasted almost an hour for those of us jumping in from normal speed space.

I got in and joined the fun, shooting fighters and subcaps of opportunity.  Tidi worked in my favor as my ECM burst hit a titan that was blown up after I returned in the Rokh, so the game counted me on the kill mail.  It shows my ship as a Rokh, but my weapon as an ECM burst.  I fulfilled my goal of getting on at least one titan kill. (I also got on the 10 billion ISK MTU kill mail.)

But then there was a call for boosters for the titan and super fleets.  Asher pinged out to Reavers to get some boosters, so I went to answer the call, which took me out of the fight for almost two hours.  I went to dock up and leave my ship so as to self-destruct again to get back to 1DQ again.  However, by that point the server was under a lot more pressure, and docking took a long time and left me with a black screen that took a long time to clear.  The client went unresponsive and I have to exit and try to log back in.  That took ages, but eventually I was back in and in my pod.  Then it was time to self destruct.  That took a while as well.

I may have pressed the button a few times

Eventually though I ended up back in 1DQ where I had a Damnation command ship ready to go.  The cyno jammers were down again, so I was able to take the slow bridge back to M2-XFE, where I got in one of the capital fleets and started boosting.

My Damnation in the orange of another explosion

With that setup, I felt ambitious and got out my main alt and flew him over in another interceptor.  As he flew over I contracted the Rokh to him, and he was able to dock up, collect the Rokh, board it, join Mister Vee’s fleet.  That took about an hour to accomplish, but I managed it, after which I set him up on my little second monitor in UI-only mode and shot targets of opportunity as I heard them called.   Along the way I tagged some hostile titans with him, and now he his on more titan kill mails than my main.

The command ship had a target painter, so I was able to get on a few kills with my main, but all the big toys were out of range of that.

The hostiles won the objective, reinforcing the armor timer and setting the structure up for the final timer.  That will come out in about two days.  But the fight kept on going.

The exchange of kills was fairly even, favoring PAPI by a few kills for much of the fight, but as the evening drew on past midnight Pacific time and towards downtime, which hits at 3am where I live, the exchange of titans began to favor the Imperium, though ships from both sides kept blowing up until the server shut down.

Ships still exploding around the Keepstar

The tally for this fight will be huge.  I am writing this as the battle is winding down, so the final numbers have not settled, but for titan kills I last saw 10 Leviathan, 18 Avatar, 87 Ragnorak, and 126 Erebus titans destroyed.  That is almost 250 titans down and there will no doubt be more on the list once things settle down.

But this battle far exceeded B-R5RB back in 2014, the previous high water mark for the Tranquility server, when 75 titans were destroyed.  This fight went well beyond that, though the destruction was much less lopsided than the earlier battle.

Expect follow up posts about this fight.  Not only were many titans destroyed, but the total cost of the fight will easily exceed 20 trillion ISK according to early battle reports. (Edit: Now that things have settled down, adding the report header.)

Battle Report Header – Updated as new kills have shown up

To put that in perspective, the total destruction in Delve in October, which saw five huge fights in NPC Delve, only amounted to about 11 trillion ISK according to the October MER.  (11 trillion ISK was also the amount of destruction wrought at B-R5RB, so this fight eclipsed that in ISK as well as losses.)

And there will be some clean up to do after downtime, as many people just went to bed after that and they will need to have their capitals, supers, and titans extracted.

Another historic day in New Eden.  We shall see what the post battle repercussions lead to.  This should certainly inflate the December MER.

Addendum:  Now that I have had a bit of sleep and zKillboard has caught up, the titan loss totals look like this:

Imperium Titan Losses:

  • Erebus – 66
  • Ragnarok – 42
  • Leviathan – 10
  • Avatar – 5
  • Vanquisher – 1

PAPI Titan Losses:

  • Erebus – 63
  • Ragnarok – 50
  • Avatar – 14
  • Leviathan – 1

Total Imperium: 124
Total PAPI: 129
Total Titans Destroyed: 252

[Edit: This is getting updated as kill mails show up. ]

You can tell which titans are considered the least tanky.  Both sides shot the Erebus and Ragnaroks first.  The first titan to die belonged to the appropriately named Titanic Death, while the last was Sandrin Stone, who blew up just before downtime kicked everybody out.

To expand on titan numbers, the count of them on the battlefield was:

Imperium:

  • Avatar – 317
  • Erebus – 137
  • Ragnarok – 135
  • Leviathan – 82
  • Vanquisher – 2
  • Molok – 2

Total 675

PAPI

  • Avatar – 248
  • Ragnarok – 193
  • Erebus – 111
  • Leviathan – 90
  • Molok – 2
  • Vanquisher – 1
  • Komodo – 1

Total 646

Combined Titan total: 1,321

That is a lot of very expensive ships thrown in on a Keepstar armor timer.

For the battle report, the difference in the ISK totals pretty much comes down to that Vanquisher faction titan loss on the Imperium side.  Otherwise it was a pretty even exchange on the titan front.  Now we will no doubt see both sides going on about how the other cannot afford to replace their losses.

Related:

Looking Back at 2020 and Trying for Highs

2020.  What a year.

Every year I try to distill a bit of the world I focus on into highs and lows.  There is a history of posts here.

Sometimes I include a “middling” category, but usually not.  This year though I have had enough lows.  This year I am going to make a list of highs.  And I am going to try… though I make no guarantees… not to include sarcastic highs that are back handed jabs to highlight actual lows.  Your mileage may vary.

Video Games Overall

  • 2020 has been a banner year for video games.  SuperData Research has reported every month since the pandemic began in earnest that sales have been up over last year by double digits.  Lots of new releases, lots of good games, lots of revenue to keep the industry going.

Blizzard

  • The Shadowlands pre-patch events went well.
  • Shadowlands launched to big numbers.
  • WoW Classic remains strong despite the pull of the retail expansion.
  • The instance group’s return to WoW via WoW Classic has kept on rolling throughout the year.
  • Bobby Kotick says WoW is a billion dollar a year franchise.
  • Shadowlands and WoW Classic combined have revived the fortunes of WoW… though the pandemic helped some too.
  • The retail WoW level squish clearly did not drive too many people away and made getting into the latest content less of a chore.
  • It seems likely we’ll at least get some news about a classic The Burning Crusade server.
  • Had a fun run through Diablo II, which still plays pretty well 20 years down the line.
  • Blizz has been quietly fixing Warcraft III Reforged after its bad launch.
  • We got some scraps of information about Diablo IV.

Daybreak Game Company (now including Standing Stone Games)

  • The games are set to be run by EG7, a company optimistic about being in games.
  • The company actually makes money.
  • The games they still have all actually make money too… well, maybe not H1Z1, but most of them.
  • The mystery of who really owns Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online was finally revealed.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got updates and expansions this year.
  • EverQuest was able to play the special server card successfully yet again.
  • We learned that DC Universe Online has what would have been considered a huge player base in the pre-WoW era.
  • LOTRO got a 64-bit client.

CCP

  • The EVE Online franchise is a resilient part of the Pearl Abyss portfolio.
  • EVE Echoes, the mobile version of the game, has grabbed a lot of new players, and took less time to get out than Diablo Immortal.
  • The pandemic helped boost the PCU over 40K for the first time in a couple of years.
  • Hilmar said at the Youil Fireside that 1.9 million new people logged into EVE Online this year, more than the past three years combined.
  • World War Bee got enough players together organically to set two Guinness World Records.
  • Andrew Groen delivered Empires of EVE Vol. II, another great installment in the history of the game.
  • That Triglavian event wrapped up with an epic finale that tore systems out of New Eden to create a new Triglavian region.
  • CCP seems really, really serious about fixing the in-game economy.
  • PLEX for Good ran for both the Australian wild fires and pandemic relief.
  • Tech II salvage drones.  At least one person got their Christmas wish.
  • CCP finally rolled out the replacement for the old fansite program.  I did not make the cut, but a lot of streamers now how free accounts and extra PLEX to spend.
  • CCP still has hopes for an EVE Online based shooter game.
  • The CSM15 election saw a peaceful transition of power and nobody has been kicked off the council… yet.  Seriously, it is a rare CSM when somebody doesn’t get voted off the island.

Pokemon

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield launched at just the right time before the pandemic to become a staple of play.
  • The new Pokemon model on the Switch is expansions after the main game drops, and Pokemon Sword & Shield had The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra this year, which helped keep the game a hot property.
  • Pokemon Home showed up to provide a link to bring Pokemon forward from the DS era and transfer them in from Pokemon Go.
  • Niantic changed up Pokemon Go to adapt to the pandemic, giving us things like remote raid passes to keep us playing when we had to stay home.
  • Niantic also raised the level cap on Pokemon Go in a way that didn’t toss your accumulated xp by tying levels 41-50 in with both xp and special tasks.

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

  • TorilMUD carries on for another year, making it a total of 27… and even added a new class this year.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed just in time to give many a shared virtual experience as we stayed home for the pandemic.
  • Minecraft got a big update to make the nether a more interesting place to explore.
  • Minecraft Dungeons launched, and was a nice, if somewhat simple, clicky ARPG.
  • EA managed to ship another decent Star Wars title, Star Wars: Squadrons, which is supposed to be quite good in VR.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator had an excellent launch.  Again, another title that was supposed to be good in VR.
  • There was a Half-Life game.  That almost never happens.  And, one more time, Half-Life: Alyx was good for VR.
  • Crusader Kings III gave people the medieval royal soap opera simulator that they didn’t know they needed.
  • GuildWars 2 has an expansion coming.
  • A two year old game, Among Us, suddenly exploded onto the scene thanks to streamers.
  • New consoles!  The Xbox Series X/Series S and PlayStation 5 came out!

Blogging and the Like

  • Hey, the blog is still here!  Both of my blogs.
  • This blog is also experiencing a bit of a revival… or a dead cat bounce… as traffic has been up a lot over last year.  It is still a far cry from the heady peaks of 2012, but I guess the pandemic didn’t just boost video games.
  • I wrote a lot of posts in 2020.  This post number 403 for the year.
  • I actually got close to 800 followers on Twitter… and then they purged a bunch of bots and I fell back down.  Also I strayed into the political with the election and no doubt scared some people off.
  • We had a double event year with Blapril and Blaugust.
  • Lots and lots of plumbing related spam comments this month… like tens of thousands. If your comment got stuck in the spam filter I probably never saw it due to that.  Hrmm, that wasn’t a high, was it?

Television, Books, and the Media

  • I watched a LOT of television this past year.  There is probably another post on that coming, though I have done those Pandemic Binge Watching posts along the way.  While not everything was great, there were a lot of good shows available.
  • My reading routine was disrupted by the changes the pandemic brought.  I have to find a regular time in my schedule for that or it won’t happen.  But still I managed to read a lot of books in 2020.
  • I spent a lot more time reading the news… and I do not shirk on that front on a normal year.  No doubt this is some attempt to foster a feeling of control in the world, but I suppose I learned a lot.
  • Podcasts and YouTube content kept me going at times, with new faces popping up like Julie Nolke and Sarah Cooper.

Personal Life

  • We’re in the back half of December and I still have a job and haven’t caught COVID-19.
  • I have somewhat adapted to my new life where I spend 23 hours a day, seven days a week inside at home.  Nothing tests your introvert status than forced isolation from the world I suppose.
  • Daughter made it through her first semester of college living on campus and came out with both good grades and good health still.
  • I bought an exercise bicycle for home and have been very good about using it regularly… except over the holidays when my now weak grasp of time fell completely apart and I only know what day it is when I open up the blog.
  • I started depositing checks via my phone.  This was largely because my credit union finally added that feature to their mobile app.
  • Let me reiterate; family still healthy and safe.

This ended up being a somewhat shorter list than past years.  In part that is because the scope of my game knowledge has been funneled down to a few titles of late.  But mostly it is because I am better at writing negative entries I bet.  The post would be more than double in length if I let go on that front.  But we’ll let sleeping dogs lie, for now at least.  There will be plenty of time for that in 2021.

But if you’re dying for some 2020 sick burns, Honest Trailers has you covered.

Take that 2020!

My Year in EVE Online 2020

As CCP did last year, they setup a way that you can generate a video summarizing what you did in EVE Online.  You may have recieved a promotional email about it.  Otherwise, there is a dev blog post.  There are a couple of changes since last time though.

Me in New Eden in 2020

In 2019 they grouped up your characters and made the video four you.  My video for Wilhelm Arcturus included data for him and 9 alts.  That probably explains why the “skill points earned” value was so high.

This time around it is only for Omega accounts and you can pick the character you want to be featured in the video.  It does appear that you can only make one video per account, so do your main first.  My secondary account has two characters active in different spheres and I could only make a video for one of them.

You can also choose what aspects of the game you wish the video to feature.

Select which categories interest you

I was at a bit of a loss after picking PVP Kills and Most Valuable Kill Mail.  Since you need to pick five, I added in Market, Wealth Generation, and Planetary Production.

As with last year, they allow you to download your video, as it will disappear in a month or so.  I grabbed mine and uploaded it to YouTube.

For those who don’t want to watch it, or if it goes away some day, I took screen shots of some of the key metrics it reports.

Skill points

Everybody gets the skill points screen.  I gained 14,746,215 skill points.  I think I spent some time training an alt on my main account, so that is probably not completely optimal, but still pretty good.

Travel Stats

Everybody also gets the travel stats.  Those numbers are down considerably from last year.  On the other hand, they aren’t the sum total of nine different characters, so it is hard to tell if I traveled more or less in 2020.

Favorite somethings…

There is also a favorites listing.  I don’t spend as much time just sitting in station as some I suppose, though that still seems like a high percentage of my time online.  That I play in null sec makes the security area no surprise.  The Guardian is the logi ship I flew a lot in the first half of the year.

Pee vee pee

For the PvP category… well, I got on a lot of kill mails.  That is ~80% of what zKillboard claims I did for 2020, but most everybody seems to be finding issues with these stats.  I guess if we’re all being measured using the same flawed system then the rankings are okay.

As for getting on that many kill mails, I am going to credit a few ECM burst ops for a lot of that, since I am otherwise in a logi ship most of the time.  ECM bursts are a quick way to pad your kill board.  The pod kills are most certainly victims of ECM bursts.  When it comes to value destroyed I have been shorted some due to the fact that none of the four Keepstars in NPC Delve that we blew up generated kill mails.  I should have been on two of them for sure, while would have been at least a couple hundred billion more ISK.  Oh well.

Most valuable kill mail

My most valuable kill was a Nyx we shot in Tenal back in February of 2020.  I think we were up there to help Guardians of the Galaxy/Dead Coalition when PandaFam was rolling over them.  We were almost all in bombers, so it was likely a hot drop.

Market stats

On the market I had 513 transactions.  I sold 3.3 billion ISK worth of something, but I cannot remember what.  That balanced out the 2.6 billion in ISK I spent I suppose.

Where the money comes and goes

I ended up spending a billion more ISK than I made.  That isn’t a big enough deficit for me to go into government work or run a Silicon Valley start up, but I’m still losing money.  Aside from the 3.3 billion ISK I made on market sales I don’t remember, the rest is probably from Alliance SRP payments and some ISK transfers from my high sec PvE alts.

Planetary Inaction

My Planetary Interaction stats are poor.  This is because I haven’t bothered to get more than three planets running and I constantly forget to restart extractions.  Somebody suggested putting them on a four day timer when I started back doing PI, but I had to move that out to a seven day timer… and can still go for a couple of weeks before I remember to check.  Oh well.

So that is my year in EVE Online I guess.

I also uploaded the video for my primary alt, who did some ratting at one point this year.

Given how little of that he did, he still ranks okay.

You can check out videos from others as CCP is encouraging people to post them with the #MyEVE2020 hash tag on Twitter.  And if you click on the video links that go to the CCP site, you will see that this is also being used as a marketing scheme to get people to try the game.  If you sign up from the video page you will get a bonus 1 million skill points for your new character.

Addendum: CCP posted a dev blog about the video data.  One key item is that the data collected is from Dec. 1, 2019 through to Dec. 1, 2020.

Grousing about the EVE Online 2020 Ecosystem Outlook

Blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought!

Dennis Moore

I mentioned in a cynical aside yesterday that CCP had posted a Dev Blog about the state of the economy/ecosystem after spending most of the year nerfing resource harvesting and wealth generation as hard as they dared.

They say ecosystem, but the focus on the economy

You can certainly accuse me of getting my EVE Online news from all the wrong places… for heaven’s sake, I still check out the official forums and visit r/eve regularly… but my impression has been that any player enthusiasm for CCP’s changes so far has come from outsiders with no skin in the game and via the schadenfreude of players happy to see somebody else getting screwed over.  Granted, the latter accompanies any game change, but this seems a bit more pronounced as usual.

CCP has even put their philosophy into three somewhat nonsensical maxims.

  • Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War

The idea here is to make people fight over resources.  The goal of CCP is always to make ships explode.  Unfortunately there are a few problems with this philosophy, and I’m not just referring to the previous “farms and fields” idea to make people live in the space they conquer.

First, scarcity implies that some people won’t be able to do what they want to do without actively fighting for resources.  People struggle for resources in the real world because they have no choice.  You find a way or you die.  In a video game we have a choice.  Somebody will always put in the effort… people put in crazy amounts of work on things in the game… but others will look at the hill they need to climb in order to do what they set out to do and walk away.

In a year where CCP has said that more people have tried the game than in the last three years combined, but the online player count on the launcher isn’t really reflecting that, some care needs to be take with the scarcity regime.  Or maybe “stop the bleeding” was just a 2019 thing and has been forgotten already.  One guy riding around in an old school bus distributing spaceships should not be the basis of a new player retention policy.

Meanwhile, we live in the New Eden that has developed under the rules and mechanics CCP has imposed in the past.  We have what we have now and unless CCP is going to go for much more active approach to the redistribution of wealth, and those who have accumulated wealth will aim to keep it.  One of the long standing truisms of the game has been, “Don’t undock in something you cannot afford to lose.”  And everybody with a super or a titan right now is going to be aware of how expensive those ships will be to replace now.  Hell, with the price of tritanium, battleships are going to be pricey.

The ironic twist of CCP introducing scarcity to promote war might very well be people docking up their big toys because they’re too expensive to replace and playing with cheaper ships.  Scarcity may prevent war.

  • Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs

This one makes my head hurt even though I sort of know what they’re getting at.  It is one of those things that sounds meaningful if you say it quickly and don’t think about it, but falls apart quickly if you stare too hard.  Was this what Hilmar was going on about in wanting resources to not be predictable?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  The statement doesn’t make any logical sense on its own, so it is difficult to take seriously as an economic philosophy.

So let me say this about predictability; it is a basic expectation of many players.

What is one of the first things somebody will ask in any forum post about a new activity in EVE Online?  What is the ISK per hour?  People will gravitate towards the highest RELIABLE payout. Things that are a gamble will tend to be avoided in favor of the predictable.

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

Edward Castronova

That goes for capsuleers as well.  NPC bounties were the king of ISK faucets not because the content was at all interesting, but because it was steady and reliable.  That was what people wanted, a known quantity.  A   Every NPC has a value amount attached to it.  And, as soon as CCP changed the reliability aspect by allowing somebody to blow through your system and steal all your bounties, NPC bounties tanked hard according to the November MER.

Nov 2020 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

I wish they broke out NPC bounties by high/low/null sec in a form easily read.  I suppose I could estimate it from the MER regional data.  But I suspect that the floor gets you down to level 4 high sec missions being a significant part of that total.  In missions against pirates the bounties are often a much bigger part of the payout than the mission rewards.

And now… now people are moving on to other things with reliable payouts.  Abyssal pockets.  Planetary Interaction.  Burner Missions.  I even dialed up an alt to do some level 4 security missions now and again just to get some LP store items that sell well.  There are plenty of other predictable “solved” and PvE activities out there that people will move to in order to pay the bills.  Predictable is not a dirty word.  But it is something players will gravitate towards.

  • Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

“Autarky” is a Byzantine sounding word that means “self-sufficiency.” And no, it is not “anathema” to free trade, at least not by any definition of free trade I can find.  I suspect that is because CCP doesn’t really mean “free trade.”  Jita 4-4 is the pinnacle of free trade in the MMORPG genre.  We’re already there.

Instead, this is their vision of a future of economic interdependence, the rejection of the past “farms and fields” policy, the idea that if they scatter resources into specific areas people will fight over them.  They don’t want free trade, they want more resources being schlepped to Jita.  Sure.  Whatever.  I’m not sure “all your tritanium belong to high sec” is breaking new ground, but there is a whole school of economic thought when it comes to raw materials versus finished goods when it comes to trade.

We shall see.

After giving themselves a pat on the back and pointing out how responsive they have been because… *checks notes*…. they rolled back that one drone nerf that broke drones in PVP, CCP laid out some future plans as to where their economic ideas might take them.  They are:

  • Improve customization of player-owned space through iHub upgrades, allowing meaningful choices and trade-offs.

From CCP “meaningful choices and trade offs” means nerfs.  Null sec income remains in their crosshairs.

  • Introduce Reserve Bank keys for the ESS as players start planning heists and/or fortifying their bank defenses as billions of ISK become accessible across all of Nullsec.

The reserve bank thing still needs to be explained in detail.  If there isn’t a way for the locals to access it then there seems little need to defend it.  Right now the main bank is your money if it pays out, but the reserve bank might as well belong to somebody else unless there is some benefit from it.

  • Add more dynamic systems – the DBS has allowed for geographical resource balancing and the plan is to extend and expand on that with dynamic systems for resource distribution and industry. The DBS allows for quick iterations, and there have already been two updates since its release (raising the baseline bounty multipliers in Null and Lowsec).

CCP is going to nerf mining yields in systems where people mine too much next.  Scarcity will get worse before it gets better… and that assumes that it will get better.

  • Continue to balance risk and reward for income with attention as an additional pillar within the risk/reward framework. EVE has low-attention style gameplay and that is perfectly acceptable. However, care must be taken to ensure that the rewards of that gameplay balance attention and risk, and so, the intention is to revisit high-risk income platforms like Carriers and Marauders, and revisit lower-attention options in more precise ways.

Making carriers and marauders more viable could be interesting.  I just worry about the usual unintended consequences rule that always seems to bite CCP in the ass.  The collective mind of the community is like water when it comes to finding the most efficient path through something in New Eden.

  • Address one of the most debated subjects in EVE, AFK cloaky camping, with improved systems to get rid of the frustration of AFK cloaking and its total lack of counterplay without removing the ability for hunters to catch lazy prey, or for spies to be able to scout and monitor systems with strategic value.

I don’t know why this was included in what is primarily an economic outlook dev blog.  Yes, they say “ecosystem,” but it is really ISK and the economy they’re on about.  Cloaky camping has been a thing for so long that its presence or absence has little effect on the big picture.  The sinks and faucets chart above has gone up and down, but cloaking has not been part of the equation.  It is just something people perennially bitch about when it is being done to them and dismiss when they’re doing it to somebody else.  This feels more like a sop to people whose income stream has been choked off.  “But at least we got rid of cloaky campers!” CCP can declare.

  • Further define the differences between the five categories of space and foster geographical variety. The semi-lawless frontier of Lowsec has the potential to become much more than it is now as the Empires’ patience with intrusive Capsuleers in Highsec is wearing thin while wormhole resources will see increased demand.

High sec, low sec, null sec, wormhole space, and… what is the fifth space category?  Faction warfare space?  NPC null sec?  Triglavian space?  Anyway, this looks like another attempt to make low sec a thing.  I will believe it when I see it.

  • Establish a sustainable role for Rorquals and Orcas and do a general balance pass on mining ships to ensure that they each have a unique role and they are balanced in terms of wealth generation and survivability.

Sounds nice.  Probably means nerfs… especially for the Orca, which is now the AFK resource harvester of choice in high sec.

  • Add new personal deployables, both to allow more control of your immediate surroundings, and to unlock brand new meta opportunities.

I like the sound of this, but only because I enjoy shooting deployables.  There are not enough MTUs around now, so more targets are good.  How this applies to the game at large is left unexplained.

Anyway, CCP say that things will get better, even acknowledging that things are not great for a lot of us right now when it comes to ISK; income is down, prices are up, resources are scarce.

It is clearly understood and acknowledged that many players are faced with reduced income and some radical changes to what they have become accustomed to in New Eden. To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.

The problem I have, the thing that is making me cranky about all of this, is the obvious (to me) conflict between CCP’s vision of how they want New Eden to work and my experience with players in online games since 1986.  As I said above, the mass of the player base is like water and will flow down the most efficient path.

In EVE Online especially, many see earning ISK as a necessity only to enable them to do the things they want.  CCP reaps the benefit of that in PLEX sales for those don’t want to spend the time earning ISK and can afford to bypass that aspect of the game.  But for the rest of us, we grind to play, and CCP seems set on making that more difficult.

And there is a bit of what I think of as the Jimmy Neutron effect in play here as well.  Those familiar with the show back in the day will recall how many an episode ended with Jimmy solving the crisis and expecting to be lauded for it, only to have it pointed out that he caused the crisis in the first place.  Likewise, we’re in a state where CCP seems to be looking for praise for fixing things they implemented.

Anyway, maybe CCP has a realistic plan that will solve the dichotomy of the situation where ISK earning is a barrier to play.  Maybe 17 years of running this game has finally given them insight into what will work and what will not.  But there is a long history of ideas that just made the player base shift slightly and carry on as before.  We shall see in 2021.

Related:

25 Weeks of World War Bee

As expected, the Imperium Keepstar in NOL-M9 was destroyed by PAPI supers as we were unable to take back the ihub to prevent the system from being cyno jammed.  This will likely be the same fate that the Keepstars in D-W7F0 and 1-SMEB will face.

The highlight of the war last week was likely the Christmas Truce, where each group asked its members not to set timers that would come out on December 24th or 25th.  The truce seemed to be mostly respected, though not everybody got the word and the usual suspects on r/eve and elsewhere tried whine their way to a propaganda victory over things few cared about.  Nobody in an actual leadership position called out the other side.

There was even a game of “Griffinball” in T5ZI-S that both sides in the war participated in.  I saw the ping for it, though I didn’t have the time to join in myself.

Of course, the truce only covered structures and sov timers, so there was still plenty of shooting going on.  A big battle broke out on the T5ZI gate in 1DQ and there was an attempt to dread bomb a PAPI Erebus on the Keepstar in T5ZI that went wrong.  Christmas Day saw more than 150 billion ISK in ships blown up across the 1DQ-T5ZI front, most of it being Imperium losses.

And once Christmas Day was past, things returned to the usual grind, though PAPI seemed eager to give us a few last minute presents as they fed first one, then another Marshal blackops battleship for a combined loss of over 18 billion ISK for two subcaps.

Finally, there was a leak from a Fraternity alliance meeting that they were urging their members to get ready for a “big push” in Delve in January, so perhaps PAPI will make another move on 1DQ or Helm’s Deep.

Delve Front

There were not many big changes on the Delve front over the past week.  Timers came and went, but we haven’t been able to wrest any of the Keepstar ihubs back from PAPI.  Their doom awaits.

Delve – Dec. 27, 2020

The electrical metaliminal storm has kept on moving into the region.  Right now it is at a crossroads, where it might head up into the YX-LYK constellation or it could roam right into Helms Deep and its protected areas.  The storm in Helm’s Deep would actually help the Imperium as the only real threat there right now is covert ops bridges into the area to shoot at those still bothering to rat or mine.  Keeping them from cloaking would be a boon.  But even now, with it on E3OI-U it is keeping covert ops ships from slipping past the gate camp.

Catch Front

The Catch region remains in play with Brave and its Legacy Coalition allies having to spend time defending timers and structures.  Early in the week Brave had to defend its ihub, which The Initiative had reinforced.  They managed to form up enough to keep it from being take in the entosis event, but when their propaganda team compared it to the Imperium defending 1DQ I snorted audibly.  High on my list of objections to that comparison is the fact that PAPI hasn’t actually managed to reinforce the 1DQ ihub yet.

Catch – Dec 27, 2020

We keep pecking away at their infrastructure.  The Watchmen, which I mentioned last week because they appeared to be folding up shop, has lost a bunch of members and its sov will be up for grabs.  Legacy seems to have given up for now on killing our staging Fortizar in 0SHT-A, falling back to a defensive posture.  Brave has been keeping up a small gate camp on the gate between GE-8JV, their capital, and V-3YG7, the direction in which we lay.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Gamma storm that has been wandering the region for a few weeks now, the Plasma storm in Providence has started moving closer to the war zone.

Other Theaters

Querious continues to be a low intensity tug of war over some key ihubs in the region.

Querious – Dec. 27, 2020

Meanwhile, The Bastion and friends down in Esoteria are still holding on to a set of systems in the region.

NW Esoteria – Dec. 27, 2020

The Army of Mango Alliance appears to have all but given up fighting in the region.

And, if you have been watching Rorqual losses on zKillboard, you might have noticed that The Initiative has been busy dropping on Legacy’s backfield where they have been mining.

Dec 27 Rorqual kills

That should keep some crabs on their toes.

My Participation

My week in New Eden started with some fights and ended with some fights, but in the middle I wasn’t on all that much.  I formed up a few times for fleets in Delve where not much happened, but out in Catch with Reavers we have had some fun.

Waiting with Asher

I was involved with the fight over the GE-8JV ihub.  While we lost the entosis event, a significant brawl developed where we at least won the ISK war.  I had a close call on the way out.

Cutting things a bit close

But my Ishtar made it into warp and lived to fight another day.  It also has seven kill marks on it now, which is my new all time high.

Headed home for repairs

After the Christmas truce ended we were back at it in Catch on Saturday, reinforcing ihubs and shooting Ansiblex jump bridges.  Brave eventually formed up for us, but not before one pilot threw their Nidhoggur at us to try and stop an ihub hack.

Nidhoggur tackled

I gather he felt that his smart bombs would defang our Ishtars, but we pulled some range, dropped sentry drones, and took him down from a safe distance.  Not too long after we ran into a Jackdaw and Munnin fleet sent to see us off.  We were seriously outnumbered and had to safe up and log off for a bit.  But after that we were able to get out and home.  Through all of that I managed to not lose a ship.

I did lose another Ares, this time by forgetting it was on an alt sitting on a gate in hostile space because I was focused on my main for too long.  So it goes.  My loss count for the war is now:

  • Ares interceptor – 13
  • Crusader interceptor – 5
  • Atron entosis frigate – 6
  • Rokh battleship – 5
  • Drake battle cruiser – 4
  • Malediction interceptor – 4
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 3
  • Purifier stealth bomber – 2
  • Guardian logi – 2
  • Scalpel logi frigate – 2
  • Scimitar logi – 2
  • Raven battleship – 1
  • Crucifier ECM frigate – 1
  • Gnosis battlecruiser – 1
  • Bifrost command destroyer – 1
  • Cormorant destroyer – 1
  • Hurricane battle cruiser – 1
  • Sigil entosis industrial – 1
  • Mobile Small Warp Disruptor I – 1

Other Items

CCP released the Monthly Economic Report for November 2020 which showed the impact of the latest round of nerfs to the economy.  I wrote a post covering that, but the big news is pretty well summed up in this chart.

Nov 2020 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

Mineral prices are at an all time high, destruction remains high due to the war, and the ISK faucet of NPC bounties has been cut back down to nearly the low point of the Chaos Era null sec Blackout of 2019.

The MER was followed up yesterday with a self congratulatory Dev Blog from CCP about how well they have done fixing the economy.  They promise things won’t remain as grim as they are now, so long as you can do without self-sufficiency, predictability, or wealth.  You can call my outlook cynical and I’ll agree, but I think history warrants it.  I’ll probably do a blog post about the dev blog later this week if I find the time and energy.

Meanwhile, the peak concurrent user count for the week fell on Sunday.  The holiday week was slow and Saturday did not crack the 30K mark, but Sunday it managed to break through to 31K.  The time when it his it peak corresponded to a form up by both sides in the war over a Sotiyo timer.  No fight ensued, so we all just bridged in and glared at each other.

  • 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
  • Week 13 – 35,618
  • Week 14 – 39,681
  • Week 15 – 40,359
  • Week 16 – 36,642
  • Week 17 – 37,695
  • Week 18 – 36,632
  • Week 19 – 35,816 (Saturday)
  • Week 20 – 37,628 (Saturday)
  • Week 21 – 34,888
  • Week 22 – 33,264
  • Week 23 – 33,149
  • Week 24 – 32,807 (Saturday)
  • Week 25 – 31,611

Still, that is the low point of the war so far and, while it might be explained away by the holiday, the count does seem to be trending down.  As I mentioned last week, CCP was patting itself on the back for managing to get 1.9 million new accounts in 2020, more than the previous three years combined, but it doesn’t seem to be reflected very well in the PCU.

Related

Reflections on a Year of Binge Watching

I can be a bit of a luddite when it comes to television.  There are times when I miss the warmth of the cathode ray tube and the warmth of its colors… and its ability to render black and white shows and movies correctly.  I am certainly in no hurry most days to jump on whatever the latest trend is.

On the other hand, I do eventually catch up and have been at times in the vanguard.  We had a DVR from ReplayTV back before Tivo came and went as a generic term for the device.  With streaming channels we were able to start off with Netflix and Amazon on our PlayStation 3 when they launched.

But a combination of events pushed us into streaming as the default television mode at our house, and the first of those events was Baby Yoda.  Or Grogu, as we now know his name.

My wife wanted to watch The Madalorian, which was only available on the newly launched Disney+ service.  However, as the PS3 was days from going out of support Disney declined to build an app for it, so we needed another device.  I got a recommendation from a friend who works over at Roku and we picked up one of their Roku Stick devices in order to stream.

Then, or course, came the pandemic.  That meant we were home a lot more watching TV.  But sports were cancelled… my wife watches ice hockey… so we were looking for something to fill the void on that front.

And then there was Comcast/XFinity, which implemented a new compression algorithm which makes their HD channels look as grainy and dull as standard definition.  In comparison content streamed through the Roku look sharp and clear.

So from some point in February forward we have pretty much watched only stream on demand video content.  The only ads we have seen are the previews for other titles that sometimes get padded into the front end of shows on demand.  We have watched when we wanted to, often as many episodes in a row as we have wanted to, all from the comfort of our couch.

Based on that, I have the following thoughts.

  • No commercials is pretty nice

I would have underestimated this, but then we went to watch 60 Minutes live on cable to see the presidential candidate interviews and the commercials were interminable.  Even when we record things on the DVR I have to fast forward and skip back to get past them… and the cable channels are wise to this and have deliberately started injecting quick scenes from the show your watching into the middle of five minute commercial blocks to make you stop and check to see if you’ve missed something.  Not dealing with that at all… and not watching any commercials… has changed my tolerance level for them.

  • I still won’t buy pay-per-View

I like a service where you pay a monthly fee and can watch all you want from their selection.  And since that is readily available in the form of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and even HBO, the value proposition of spending $6-$20 on a single showing of show or a movie when there are so many other options is a non-starter for me.  If it is special enough that I need to see it now, I’ll go see it in the theater… back when they re-open.  And the idea of “owning” digital content that the provider can take away from you later is ludicrous.  Comcast has literally screwed my on that with the one thing I bought from them.

  • There are too damn many streaming services

I mean, we knew this already.  But when you go to the Roku channel store and see the multitude of services available, you start to get a feeling of how big the eventual culling will be.  And even the big channels are eyeing some consolidation.  Hulu has had all of the FX stuff folded into it and it feels like Hulu and Disney+ might eventually co-join.

  • Finding things is hard

The most difficult part of coming to the end of a show is that you now how to find something new to watch.  My wife and I spend time comparing notes with friends and reading online articles about the ten best things to watch on this service or that.  And it is a multi layer problem.  The UI on any given service is quickly overloaded by too much choice.  There are multiple services and some content swaps between them.  And when you can find things, then figuring out what is worth the effort and investment can lead to decision paralysis.

  • I am torn on weekly versus all at once content

I complained in one of my binge watching posts about services that still dole out episodes once a week rather than just giving us the whole series to consume at once, the way Netflix does.  But for a popular show, where everybody watches on the same day lest they be beset by spoilers, or when everybody in our house is invested in the show, the once a week schedule still works out and becomes a point in time when we all get together on the couch.

  • We have been biased towards shows versus movies

For whatever reason our pandemic binge watching has been heavily biased towards series.  When we sit down in the evening a two hour movie is a commitment, but a show that is 22-60 minutes per episode is something you can take in pieces.  The irony here is that we almost inevitably watch two hours or more when we settle in after dinner, but we have this idea that a movie is too much.  Well, that and movie selection can be odd.  There is still a very old school, HBO monthly selection situation going on where movies come and go and are on this service then that for short stints.  So even finding a movie you want to watch on a service to which you are currently subscribed can be even more of a chore than finding shows.

  • I could cut the cord were it not for sports

Seriously, I could turn my back on the cable company… well, except for the fact that they are also the internet company.  But my wife likes to watch hockey and texts back and forth with her pals about the game and, while I can get the games on a stream, they are inevitably 30-60 seconds behind what is on cable and my wife hates hearing that one side or the other has score before it happens on our screen.

  • It really sucks when the internet goes down

The cable company is also the internet company… that is our only high speed internet option and we live in the middle of Silicon Fucking Valley… so when they go down or are doing maintenance, you get a quick and hard accounting of just how much you depend on that pipe for your entertainment.

  • It does not replace the theater experience

I know a bunch of people who are not at all sad that movie theaters are in trouble and that many may not open back up when the pandemic passes.  I still value the theater experience though, and miss it.  Seeing something on the big screen, like a James Bond or a Star Wars film, is not something that can be at all replicated in our living room, no matter how big of a TV we purchase.  Of course, most everything I would have gone to see on the big screen has been delayed due to the pandemic, so if there are theaters this summer I hope to return.

  • I still cannot watch exactly what I want on demand

I wrote a few years back that the most cost effective way to watch exactly what you want is to get an old fashioned, disks through the mail, Netflix subscription and get things that way.  That remains true today.  I saw that Geoffrey Palmer had passed away and wondered if I could watch some of the early things he was in, like The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

Nope.  Not available.  I could get it on DVD from Netflix through the mail, but even the niche British TV streaming services like BritBox, GranadaVision, BoB, and Acorn, don’t have it.  There isn’t even a pay per view option, not that I would use it.

Others on this topic:

Among Us

I did actually play a popular game this year.  I played Among Us.

Among Us

I was going to say a “new” game, but it came out in 2018, so it is only newly popular thanks to becoming the game to stream on Twitch at some point this year.  But this year was it, even getting a Honest Game Trailers video.

Liore, formerly of the Cat Context blog, invited some people to come play for her birthday and I made the cut and got to try the game out.  I bought the version on Steam for $5.00, though you can play it on your mobile device for free, and you can play across different platforms.  They make money selling cosmetics and pets for you character.

I went and practiced a bit before the big birthday match, but I was still pretty lost when the time came.

Not that the game is all that complicated.  We had nine people all on voice coms together.  When you start the game somebody is selected as the imposter… or, if the group is big enough, two people are selected.  The main crew has to run around and do tasks.  Completing all the tasks give them a win.

The imposters run around and sabotage the tasks in order to stop the crew from winning.  Some sabotage, if left unaddressed as a timer counts down, will cause the crew to lose.

Or the imposters can just kill people for the win.  This is actually much easier when you don’t know what is going on as there is a big button that says “KILL” to click when you get near the crew members.

I got picked as one of the imposters for the first game and I set about killing people with my fellow imposter.

When one of the crew discover a body an emergency meeting is called and you can discuss what you saw and your suspicions and then people vote on who they think the imposter is.  This is the only time you’re suppose to talk while playing… unless you’re dead, in which case you have to be quiet.  No outing your killer as a ghost.

Voting time… the imposters can see each other marked in red, the crew cannot

The winner is then sent to their death and you find out if that pick was correct.  The first game out people did not guess very well and Elly and I, the imposters, won.

Imposter syndrome for the win

However, people got a bit more canny as time went along and we played more matches.  Also, the RNG kept picking me as one of the imposters, so I think I became suspect by default after a few matches.

The crew wins

When I wasn’t an imposter, the game was a bit more nerve wracking and it was easy to start suspecting people who seemed to be following you around.  Either way, you have to be aware of your surroundings and who is passing by and where people were when the body was discovered.

They can see me through the window… and I can see them

Overall it was a fun little game.  I would play it again.  It is probably best played with five friends or more.  You can play random games on the internet, but I suspect that would be less satisfying that voting on people you know.

Suddenly Serious about Blacksmithing

I am unable to resist the lure of crafting and trade skills in MMORPGs.  Despite more than 20 years of fumbling with them halfheartedly and having them draw off huge amounts of play time and in-game resources, I still jump right on them every time.

Seriously.  My advice after all these years.  At most, pick up a harvesting skill or two and just sell stuff you get and use the money you make to buy things you need.  Don’t try to make it yourself.  Every brief moment of profitability and convenience at having investing in crafting is far outweighed by the cost and effort.

And yet, knowing this in the logical and analytical portion of my brain, every single time I start an MMORPG I immediately start on crafting.  Even in games where I have done it before.  I start on a new server and crafting is on the menu.

So it will come as no surprise that I have several characters who have picked up and pursued trade skills in WoW Classsic.  Not all of them, thankfully.  Most of the alts just have two harvest professions.  But I have a leather worker, an engineer, and a blacksmith that I have pushed along into the mid-200s for skill levels.

Viniki, tank for the current incarnation of the instance group, is my blacksmith.  I have been able to keep him moving along by sending him out to harvest ore on his own.  Unlike retail WoW, there is no xp for harvesting, so he has managed to progress.  Ula has an alt that does blacksmithing as well, so I made the choice, when he made it high enough level, to split off and specialize in weaponry.  Ula’s alt could go down the armor path.

On the weapons path

That meant crafting some weapons as part of the quest to open up that path.

A dozen weapons

That was actually a bit of a pain, but mostly due to inventory space.  Collecting up the materials meant devoting precious bank space to the task, and then as I made each group of weapons, they also had to be stored away or carried with me.  But I got that done and was able to turn it in.

That unlocked the first set of weapons for me.  I still have a sub-specialization to go after later.

But then I realized, as we were working our way through Blackrock Depths, that I had an opportunity to pick up some additional recipes.  In the Grim Guzzler, inside the instance, is a NPC who will sell you such, so long as you have sufficient reputation with the Thorium Brotherhood, the Dark Iron Dwarf faction that resides in Searing Gorge.

So I set my sights on doing that.

Getting the faction though, that meant getting the attention of Master Smith Burninate out at Thorium Point.  He has the quests that let you raise your faction.

Is that name a Homestar Runner reference?

But to get to those quests you first have to do another quest, What the Flux?, which requires you to obtain the Firey Flux plans.  The plans are sitting on a table behind Overseer Maltorius and his two companions down in the slag pit in Searing Gorge.

The table behind them

The problem is that all three of them are elite mobs and were a bit too much for Viniki to handle solo.  I managed it with my hunter some time back by sacrificing his pet while he grabbed the plans, but it looked like I would need help to do this with a warrior.

Then I realized that one of my skills, Intimidating Shout, might do the trick.  It is a short term AOE fear that sends nearby mobs running away.  So I ran over to the table, got all three on me, then did my shout.  They ran off just long enough for me to scoop up the plans and jump of the ledge and run away.  The hard part was over I thought, now I just need to grind out the faction quests.

There are three quest options, each of which gives you 25 faction to the approximately 2,500 faction you’ll likely need at this point if you’ve done most of the quests at Thorium Point.

The three faction quests

The first requires four Kingsblood, the second four iron bars, and the third ten heavy leather.  After assessing my situation, it seemed that Kingsblood would be the best route.  I used a bit of heavy leather and some iron bars, but I sent my harvesting alt out to the Wetlands to get me Kingsblood.  I supplemented that with some I found cheap on the market.

The quest requirements

Each turn in also required two Incendosaur scales, which come from mobs down in the slag pit.  I had almost enough on my hunter from his time in Searing Gorge, and sent him down to collect some more… and skin… to fill out my need there.  And then you need one coal, which Master Smith Burninate sells, so seems like something of a silver sink, as you buy they from him only to turn them right back into him.

So I did that set of quests the 100 times required, which got me to friendly with the Thorium Brotherhood.

To get to honored you have a different quest.  You need close to a thousand Dark Iron Residue climb the 6,000 faction you need to go from friendly to honored and you need to do it in increments of 25 faction.

Dark Iron Residue has a use

Fortunately we had all been saving or Dark Iron Residue from the Blackrock Depths runs, so when everybody sent me what they had I was pretty much covered.  The tough part was doing the four clicks to turn in the quest 240 times.  I did it over three sessions.

But I made it, and am now ready to go talk to Lokhtos Darkbargainer in the Grim Guzzler in Blackrock Depths.  Of course at honored I can only get a few of the recipes, and to get beyond that in faction you have to raid Molten Core regularly.  And the recipes require Dark Iron Bars, the smelting of which requires another quest from one of the dwarves in the Summoner’s Tomb.  But we’ll be going there.  Then to actually smelt the bars I have to get down the the black anvil by Lord Incendious again, so I have been collecting those up to carry along if we make a run down there again.

All of which is more serious than I have ever been in the past about a WoW trade skill.  We’ll see how far I get and whether or not I end up making anything in any case.

As usual, if I had used the time I spent on this to just level up a character I would no doubt have at least one level 60 by now.  But that is the way I roll.  I cannot stop crafting.