Monthly Archives: February 2021

February in Review

The Site

I haven’t complained about WordPress.com in a while, so let me get stuck into them.  They broke the classic editor… again.  Not drastically, but the break made it much more annoying to use.  When I wrote to their support… they call them “happiness engineers,” which sounds like a title the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation would use… the response was pretty much “LOL, use the block editor dummy!” followed by a long, cut and pasted entry about how wonderful it is.

I do not like the block editor.  It feels like a software dev’s view of a word processor, with each paragraph in its own block, as though people somehow felt a need to re-arrange paragraphs so often that they made it a feature.  Object oriented writing isn’t really a thing.  My paragraphs cannot be re-ordered at will and make sense.  They barely make sense when correctly ordered.

There is the “classic” block in the block editor, which is almost tolerable, but lacks some of the features of the classic editor.  And trying to explain the omissions to a “happiness engineer” was like trying to explain tea to a robot.

Fortunately, Paeroka at Nerdy Bookahs noticed that the classic editor was only broken in Firefox, not Chrome.  Another typical dev problem, and one I run into at work a lot, where everybody only ever uses Chrome despite the fact that our customers are often on locked down work machines that only have Edge or IE11 on them.  I personally prefer Firefox, though I can complain about most browsers for one reason or another, but I can use Chrome to write if I have to.

Otherwise it was a pretty good month.  Traffic was up as the swell of Valheim players looking for information about the game sent a bunch of people my way.  I was also enthusiastic to write about the game.

Valheim on Steam

The traffic tapered off towards the end of the month as every gaming site in creation jumped on the Valheim bandwagon.  But you can see from the most viewed posts list that it generated some interest here.  And I am sure I will have more to say about the game.

One Year Ago

The anticipated Torchlight Frontiers MMORPG was demoted to Torchlight III, another action RPG with multiplayer support.

Daybreak was warming up for the EverQuest 21st anniversary.

Blizzard reported a decent Q4 for 2019, at least compared to the rest of the year.  WoW Classic helped.  A lot.  But the Warcraft III Reforged fiasco was not likely to help Blizz for Q1 2020.

Over at CCP Project Nova, the latest attempt at a first person shooter, was transitioning into some other project.  But they were going to keep that quiet until the had something real to bring to us.  They also cancelled FanFest in Iceland over corona virus fears, and rightly so.

For the February update in EVE Online we got the Guardians Gala, new implant sets, and the start of what would become a year of nerfing mining into oblivion.  CCP gave us some skill points for being down due to a DDoS attack.  The also announced a plan to fix undercutting in the market.

Out in New Eden the Goon Expeditionary Force was formed and went out on its first deployment.  I managed to get on a bunch of kill mails in my ECM burst interceptor.  We were also out shooting structures and

As fall out from the death of Guardians of the Galaxy coalition, Ranger Regiment joined the Imperium.

I also compare raids, where up to 40 people need to coordinate, with fleet ops in EVE Online, where up to 255 people work as a team, facing off against another group generally of equal size.

In WoW Classic the instance group was working on the Scarlet Monastery Cathedral wing, then we were back again to finish up a quest.  Then I summed up all of our Scarlet Monastery time over the years in a post, including a mock version of the place in Neverwinter.

The we were off to Razorfen Downs.

As we were getting to level 40, I wondered how close we were to being half way to level cap.  There are a variety of ways to measure that.

I was also still playing the EverQuest II expansion, and even bought a couple Krono as my cash resources were rather meager.

And then there was Camelot Unchained, where City State Entertainment announced that they were working on another game which would somehow magically speed up delivery of the game that was already four years past the promised date, prompting people to ask for refunds, myself included.  Of course, getting a refund was not easy, and City State was not at all inclined to be helpful, with Mark Jacobs himself showing up to tell me I must be dumb to not have all the details of a seven year old credit card charge close to hand, but I ended up finally finding the transaction ID from the 2013 pledge and got a refund, minus processing fees.

Five Years Ago

We were in Hawaii for a few days for my wife’s birthday.

I was wondering about MMOs and their middle age problems.

I was on episode 80 of the Couchpodtatoes podcast, where we reviewed Daybreak’s first year.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens was announced, and it was even going to be available on the PlayStation 3.  Lucky me.

Pokemon turned 20.  To celebrate there was a re-launch of the classic Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console, special legendary downloads every month, and the announcement that we would be getting the next installment in the series, Pokemon Sun & Moonfor the holidays.

Daybreak announced the splitting of H1Z1 into two gamesH1Z1 – Makes Some Money and H1Z1 – Gets Ignored.

I was making the case that Blizzard should continue to talk about WoW subscription numbers, even if they were down, as they were at least more concrete than MAUs, which have no correlation with revenue.  Of course, times have changed.  I was able to pre-order WoW Legion with a 20% discount thanks to Amazon Prime.

The shut down date for CCP’s DUST 514 was announced.  The end was nigh.  They also announced they were shutting down EVElopedia, thus creating dozens of new dead links on my blog in one fell swoop.  Some days I just hate the internet.  But at least the company’s financials seemed okay.  Not bankrupt yet.

In EVE Online we had the Madi Gras release that introduce skill injectors/extractors and the skill point economic boom. Of course, it became about penis size right away and somebody had to inject enough to train up all the skills in game.  You can buy your way to the top now, a pity it doesn’t actually make you any smarter in real life.

The EVE Online Blog Banter was about road maps for the game.

The CSM 11 election season was warming up, with CCP Falcon spreading bullshit in an attempt to cover the “no Sions” rule.  Sion Kumitomo was boycotting the CSM 10 Winter summit as it was the only agency he felt he had.  But at least CCP Falcon and CCP Leelo were off the CSM detail, with CCP Guard and CCP Logibro taking their places.

In space there was the last flight of the Reaver Ravens and a final fight down in Querious before returning to the north.  Then it was Yacht Fleet and the war between SpaceMonkeys Alliance and the RMT tainted I Want ISK in what was already being called “The Casino War.”

And then there was a call to go play PlanetSide 2, which seemed ill timed considering the war.

In Minecraft I reviewed the state of our automated farms… which were mostly Aaron’s.

And in Diablo III I was giving season 5 a run, running first through story mode and then going after some of the seasonal objectives in adventure mode.

Ten Years Ago

I was accidentally declared influential.  That was the first and last time that ever happened, and in an era before “influencers” were even a thing.  We got over that pretty quickly.

Hulkageddon IV came and went.  We all survived.  And then there was the new character creator in EVE Online.  It had… options.

LOTRO had a welcome back event… even though it was free to play, so coming back wasn’t all that hard… unless you count time spent waiting for the patcher.

There was yet another sign of the coming apocalypse.

NetDevil got pulled out of LEGO Universe.

Nintendo was banging the drum for Pokemon Black and White.  We were certainly ready for it at our house.

Van Hemlock was slumming back in MMOs for a bit.

I was taking a look at the holy trinity of roles through a historical lens.  It wasn’t always exactly Tank/Healer/DPS.

The instance group was still playing World of Warcraft Now we just get nostalgic about it.

World of Tanks.  It was in beta and set some sort of bogus record.

Rift was getting ready to launch.  People were freaking out in the absence of calm words.  Personally, I wasn’t buying into the game.  Who needed a WoW clone when we had WoW?

Nostalgia was officially on with the launch of the Fippy Darkpaw Time Locked Progression server.  Characters were rolled.  Low level zones were crowded and experience was slow.  But the tour was a go.  We hit the Qeynos HillsBlackburrowWest Karana, and the Qeynos Sewers.  Important spells were rediscovered and camping trips were planned.  Not everything was as we remembered it, but it made for a pretty darn good nostalgia adventure.

And while that was going on, SOE shipped the Destiny of Velious expansion for EverQuest II.  But I couldn’t be bothered.

And, finally, one of our cats was on top of the refrigerator.

Fifteen Years Ago

Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach launched.  Based somewhat on the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rule set it set out to be the best dungeon crawl experience in the MMORPG genre, and featured no dragons at launch.  It also unapologetically required required player grouping, something declared right on the box.  That made me put it back on the shelf at Fry’s.  It has since become solo friendly, free to play, and toned down the name to just Dungeons & Dragons Online.

SOE lauched the Kingdom of Sky expansion for EverQuest II, which raised the level cap to 70 and introduced alternate advancement, a mechanism long familiar to EQ veterans by that point.  This was also at a point of peak performance issues in the game, including the height of the Qeynos Harbor lag problem.  I was on board with WoW by then and declined to buy the expansion.

EVE Online reached the 100,000 subscriber mark, back when companies talked about such things publicly, and launched the Bloodlines expansion.  That expansion, which basically complicated character creation and made everybody go Caldari, would be the current state of the game when I made my first character in New Eden a few months down the road.

James Cameron was jumping onto the MMO bandwagon with Multiverse Network, which was going to lower the barrier to entry for MMO creation.  The plan was for there to be an MMO released alongside his next movie, but Avatar had to go it alone in the end, while Multiverse Network shut down in 2011.

Twenty Years Ago

Civilzation II, perhaps one of the oldest games I can still play, and which I have invested many hours into, launched on leap day 1996.

Pokemon Red & Green, the genesis of the Pokemon franchise, launched in Japan.

Thirty Years Ago

The Legend of Zelda launches on the NES, the first game in the long running franchise.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Deer Hunting in Valheim
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. Tunnels and Trolls and Teens and the Bronze Age in Valheim
  4. The Guardians Gala Event Returns to EVE Online
  5. A First Look at Valheim
  6. Traveling to the Black Forest in Valheim
  7. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  8. Robbing Some Space Banks
  9. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  10. Time to Earn some ISK
  11. What Does LOTRO Need?
  12. Titan Massacre at M2-XFE

Search Terms of the Month

goons papi eve meta explained
[Good luck with that]

keepstar meme
[Yes]

keepster broom
[What?]

how do keepstars protect themselves
[Memes, brooms]

eve echoes burn jita
[One can only hope]

eve minokawa solo fit
[Again, good luck with that]

Game Time from ManicTime

When the month started off it looked very much like WoW Classic would be at the top of the list.  I was serious about my paladin alt, the group was finishing up Blackrock Depths, and things were going well.  And then Valheim showed up and ate up all my free time.  Well played.

  • Valheim – 63.16%
  • WoW Classic – 22.85%
  • EVE Online – 13.52%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.47%

EVE Online

The was carried on.  There were a few big clashes, but nothing like the titan battles or the Keepstar drops from the end of 2020.  I got into a few fights, but mostly spent my time on the M2 hellcamp, which carries on.  Both sides are grinding away at each other and trying to keep their side motivated.  The side that loses interest first loses.

Pokemon Go

There were some fun events for the Kanto celebration that got my wife and I out of the house.  Lots of raids and tasks.  We’re slowly closing in on level 41.

Level: 40 (88% of the way to 41 in xp, all tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 619 (+6) caught, 647 (+5) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 11
Pokemon I want: Still need some Unova Pokemon to fill in the gaps
Current buddy: Frogadier

Valheim

The surprise hit game of 2021 so far.  I went from, “Why no, I have never heard of this new early access game on Steam” to it consuming all of my gaming time over the course of a week.

World of Warcraft

WoW has really fallen down the list.  As I said in my BlizzConline summary, it isn’t so much that Shadowlands is bad, it is just always the 3rd or 4th thing on my list to play.  I forgot to log in and do the Darkmoon Faire tradeskill quests even this month.  I am really falling off the retail WoW wagon.

WoW Classic

We finally finished up the last quest for Blackrock Depths on our twelfth run.  Doing it as a four person group was often a challenge.  And, for a four person group I am not sure we have the optimum class balance.  Had I to do it over again I might have tanked with a paladin.  The raid meta won’t allow pally tanks, but for the 5 person dungeons it would have worked.  Now we just have to decide what to hit next.

Coming Up

More Valheim I bet.  We’re kind of moving slowly on our world, but base building is satisfying.  We still haven’t found the damn vendor, so hopefully that will happen next month.  I’ve explored a lot of black forest biome on foot so far and that is getting a bit old.

World War Bee will carry on in EVE Online.  Neither side seems ready to crack yet as the war enters its eighth month.  Meanwhile, CCP is carrying on with strangling the economy along with a couple more odd ideas that I might explore.

The instance group might get back to WoW Classic.  We’re all playing Valheim together at the moment, but that isn’t as structured as a dungeon run, which is both good and bad.  We’ll see.

EverQuest will turn 22 in March.  Are there any good birthdays after your 21st?  I think the last real birthday party I had was when I was ten.

I will also expect that we will start getting a drip feed of news from Blizzard about their projects for this year, including The Burning Crusade Classic and Diablo II Ressurected.  Likewise from Nintendo around Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl and Pokemon Legends: Arceus.   And I am still waiting for some new on LEGO Starwars: The Skywalker Saga, which was delayed into 2021.

The End of Fry’s Electronics

Oh the stories of Fry’s Electronics.  There was a point in my career when “we’re going to Fry’s” was a legitimate excuse to leave the building for a while.  Our offices at the time were over on Arques Avenue, about where Nuance is now, and Fry’s was across the street and through a parking lot, over on Kern Avenue.

Always Fry’s

That was the second Fry’s location in Sunnyvale, the one with the building painted up to look like a giant computer chip that would later become the location of Weird Stuff Warehouse in the late 90s, the used electronics outlet which finally closed back in 2018. (Some pictures of that here.  I remember seeing an early hard drive the size of a small washing machine there.)  The original Fry’s was across Lawrence Expressway, over off of Lakeside Drive, and the third and final location was in the huge building at 1077 Arques Avenue.

Not that Sunnyvale was the only Fry’s location.  They had a few across the valley, each with their own odd theme.  The one in Palo Alto was made up in an old west style, while the one in Campbell had a Mayan facade, and there were other odd or interesting styles to their stores, which 34 across several states at the chain’s peak.

But I don’t think that Fry’s meant quite as much outside of Silicon Valley.  Here it was an institution both loved and loathed.  In the early days in its first location, a crowded and comically small store… in light of the size of some of their future locations… with shelves practically up to the ceiling tiles to try and cram in as much merchandise as possible.

Fry’s was known not just as a place where you could buy chips and electronics, but also just about anything else that would get nerds in the door.  Their early ads inevitably featured case lot pricing on soda in addition to RAM and motherboard specials.  The joke was that you could buy both computer chips and potato chips there, with the offerings around the checkout line adding up to a convenience store all on its own.

As the stores got bigger, what they carried expanded.  They became the place to go for the release of new titles on DVD and used to stock an amazing array of titles.  I remember the day that the original Star Wars trilogy came out on DVD.  At the Sunnyvale store… by then at the huge third location… there was a continuous parade of nerds (including a few I knew, and myself of course) walking in the front door, following the sign to the pallet of copies dropped in the middle of an open space at the end of an aisle, picking up a copy of the wide screen set (because screw that 4:3 conversion), then turning around to get in the snaking line that led up to the long bank of cashiers.  As I went in to get my copy I had to laugh at so many people… mostly younger men… standing in line with exactly the same item in their hand.

The same went for software releases.  I went there on launch day for a number of titles.  The store opened up at midnight for the release of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade and had pallets of boxes, both standard and collector’s editions, out in the aisles.  That is recent enough that I have a blog post about that day.  (Same for Wrath of the Lich King.)  Before digital delivery became the default, Fry’s was a good bet for any big release.  They would always have piles of copies.

And for years they never seemed to cull their shelves of older titles.  I used to go up and down the PC games aisle to spot things that were no longer readily available.  They had an array of EverQuest expansions and always a few copies of Total Annihilation or Command and Conquer that were otherwise out of print.  They cleaned all that up about a decade back, but for a while the place was like an archive.

Of course, there were problems.  The complaints about Fry’s could be legion.  The place was big and often crowded on weekends.  The sales staff was not hired for their technical knowledge.  Even getting directions in the store, much less advice about products, was very hit and miss.

There was a period of time when Apple would only see through a series of specifically vetted retailers in the early 90s when the new PowerBook laptops were a hot ticket and Fry’s got deep into the gray market, selling Macs without being an authorized reseller.  Since Apple, like most manufacturers, offered quantity discounts, it was guessed that Fry’s was buying excess from a certified reseller, but since they were not the first party purchaser there was some question as to whether warranties and such would be honored by Apple.  At the time I worked at a small authorized reseller across the street from the Sunnyvale Fry’s (second store) and we used to grumble about this shady practice and moan when somebody came in and wanted us to price match Fry’s.  Somehow they managed to sell at less than our cost. (The margin on Macs was razor thin. We needed to sell you a SCSI cable to make any money on the deal.)

Then there was the legendary return counter, the caprice of which was manifest.  Some days it seemed that you could returned used gum because you didn’t like that the flavor had gone out of it, while at other times you could come close to a fist fight trying to return an item still sealed in the box with the receipt.  A friend once bought a motherboard at a discount because it had the “returned item” sticker on it… Fry’s would just put returned items back on the shelf with a small discount, rarely ever checking to see if the item was still good… only to get it home and find that the motherboard inside was an old 386 model and not the current generation Pentium he was expecting.  When he tried to bring it back, explaining the issue, the person at the counter accused him of trying to scam the company.  In fact, they had been scammed by the first person who returned it who probably told them it didn’t fit in his case or was the wrong chip set or the like.

It was pretty much holy write never to buy an item at Fry’s that had the “returned” sticker on it.

Then there was the time somebody gave me a gift certificate to Fry’s, which practically took a DNA test to redeem.

But for all of that I generally enjoyed taking a trip to Fry’s.  I always favored the Sunnyvale store, which had everything from chips and components to phones and appliances, plus whatever was the fad of the day, from drones to hoverboards to anything else that was momentarily hot.  Over the years I bought many things from Fry’s.  I built several PCs out of their stock, bought controllers and games for our Wii, grabbed cables and presents and updated video cards at need.  It was the place to go if I was working on something over the weekend and needed some strange connector or a way to mount a SATA drive externally to try and rescue some data for a friend.

Over time though things began to change.

The valley used to be full of places that sold computers and electronics, from once ubiquitous Radio Shack to Best Buy and Micro Center and the once mighty CompuUSA.  But online began to fill a lot of that niche.

I would be hard pressed to recall the last piece of Windows software I purchased in a physical box.  Maybe WoW Legion?  Digital has take over on the PC front pretty much completely for me.  The last PC I built has a DVD/BluRay drive, but it rarely gets touched.  I keep my Civilization II disk in there, as that is the only game I play that needs to go find the original DVD… wait, that is a CD… in order to launch.

And then there is Amazon.  I built my last PC almost entirely by ordering through Amazon as the price advantage was significant.  I also bought that copy of WoW Legion through Amazon back when they had a 20% discount on physical pre-orders.

The last time I can recall going to Fry’s was before Thanksgiving in 2019, when I went to the Campbell store, which is closer to our house, to find a specific item I needed.  They didn’t have it.  In fact they barely had anything at all.  Considering it was the ramp up to the holiday shopping spree the shelves were quite bare.  The once amazing video aisle had been consolidated down to two and a half shelves of leftovers.  It was a place that looked like it was getting ready to shut down, not one braced for Christmas shoppers.

That was before the pandemic was even being speculated about.  Since then business tanked as we all stayed home and ordered online.

Fry’s had an online business as well.  They had bought another online retailer and consolidated them into their fold, but I was never keen to use them.  The reputation of Fry’s did not encourage me to trust them unless I could hold the product in my hand before I bought it.  If I wanted something from Fry’s I’d go there in person.

But I have been very few places in person over the last year.  It was a bad year for physical retail unless you sold toilet paper.  Now I wonder if Fry’s had that on the shelf somewhere?

So it was a bit of a shock, but still unsurprising, that it was announced earlier this week that the entire chain was shutting down.  Their web site was replace by this message:

After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Company will implement the shut down through an orderly wind down process that it believes will be in the best interests of the Company, its creditors, and other stakeholders.

The Company ceased regular operations and began the wind-down process on February 24, 2021. It is hoped that undertaking the wind-down through this orderly process will reduce costs, avoid additional liabilities, minimize the impact on our customers, vendors, landlords and associates, and maximize the value of the Company’s assets for its creditors and other stakeholders.

The Company is in the process of reaching out to its customers with repairs and consignment vendors to help them understand what this will mean for them and the proposed next steps.

If you have questions, please contact us using the following email addresses:

  • For customers who have equipment currently being repaired, please email customerservice@frys.com, to arrange for return of your equipment.
  • For customers with items needing repair under a Performance Service Contract, please call (800) 811-1745.
  • For consignment vendors needing to pick up their consignment inventory at Fry’s locations, please email omnichannel@frys.com.

Please understand if we are a bit slow to respond given the large volume of questions. The Company appreciates your patience and support through this process.

Sincerely,

Fry’s Electronics

So it goes.

I will miss having a store like that close by, though the Campbell store actually shut down in November 2020, surprising me by lasting that long.  There was never a store quite like it in the valley and, given the real estate prices, I doubt there will be again.  But change has been the way of the valley all of my life.  When I was born there were still huge tracts of active farmland here.  Now it is a sea of industrial parks and campuses and over priced suburbs.

A Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Remake At Last!

My daughter and I have been hanging on and waiting for a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for several years now, so we were both pretty hyped up when the announcement finally came.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl will be a thing in 2021.

Diamond and Pearl remade

There are a few reasons that we’re feeling some hype for this.

The first is, of course, that Pokemon Diamond & Pearl is where we started playing Pokemon games back in early 2008.  It is the foundational experience for us with the series.

Then there is the fact that the Pokemon remakes tend to be pretty good.  HeartGold & SoulSilver might be the titles I spend the most time with in the series… the one time I caught them all… and OmgaRuby & AlphaSapphire were great remakes with a ton of depth.

And, as I said, we’ve been waiting for this remake for a while now.  There has been a pretty well established pattern of remakes over the years, and Diamond & Pearl now sit as the oldest titles in the series that have not had a remake.  They are due.

We expected them to be the next title on the Nintendo 3DS hardware after Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon back in 2017.  Then GameFreak announced that they were done with the 3DS hardware… just after I bought a brand new 2DS model… and it was off to the Switch platform, where they first had the Let’s Go, Pikachu! & Let’s Go, Eevee! titles in 2018, rather light fare compared to where the core RPG stood at the end of the 3DS era, before giving us a full blown entry in the series with Sword & Shield in 2019.

I now have a Switch Lite… my daughter and I both do… and we played through some of Sword & Shield.  It was a solid entry in the series, but didn’t really grab us and neither of us finished it out.

But now, with Diamond & Pearl coming back, we’re ready to give it another go.  The ship date is currently slated for “late” 2021, which I am hoping will put it before Thanksgiving, or at least before Christmas.  Then my daughter will be home on break from college and can perhaps find some time to play with the old man.  Watching the trailer, I am surprised at how much I remember from the old game.

Nintendo also announced Pokemon Legends: Arceus today as well.  Due in 2022, it is a new style of Pokemon adventure set in Sinnoh like Diamond & Pearl, but in an earlier era.  As Nintendo put it, first we get the re-make, then we get the pre-make.  Details on that were somewhat scanty in comparison, but in its trailer it looks to be an open world style game, akin to the Legend of Zelda titles, which is not a bad thing.

This all comes as the Pokemon franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  That is covered, along with a more information about games and events, in the Pokemon Presents video from today.

So there is plenty to look forward to on the Pokemon front it seems.

Death on the Plains in Valheim

Having defeated The Edler, it was time to find a swamp.  However, the seed value of our server did not put a swamp in close proximity to our base camp, which meant it was time to go out and further explore our world.

Fergorin and Crowbar headed out to the east of our main base, something recounted in a post over at the now rekindled Potshot blog.  When I was on by myself, I decided to set out from the base we made to assault The Elder.  I sailed east from the base and started up a river which turned into something like a passage between two stretches of ocean, its steeps sides reminding me a bit of the Corinth canal.

This canal was a bit more twisty though

I passed through to the open water on the far side and sailed quite a ways, but did not spot a swamp.  I ended up taking a the boat back down through the open straights well to the east of the canal, ending up coming down the eastern shore of our original island (and passing a Fergorin corpse marker from the adventure linked above) and back to our main base.

Just a death marker along the shore

That showed me a bunch of coastline, but I decided I needed to fill out the interior of The Elder island, so I went through the portal back to the base and, with the coming of a new day, went exploring on foot.  I found some meadows and more black forest and a Dragur camp that I gave a wide berth to, eventually ending up at the northeast of the island at a tower that seemed to have a lot of copper nodes about it.  Always hungry for more copper, I set up a small base there with an eye towards mining the copper for a few days.  After I had it all ready, I would run back to the base with the portal and take a boat around to the shore near the tower, load the boat up with ore, then sail it back.  It was too far to run back and forth with ore in my inventory and the terrain was too rugged for a cart.  But I knew the boat could get there easy enough, taking the canal I had already sailed through.

The sailing route to my copper hoard

Once I had filled up a chest in my tower with copper ore, I filled up my inventory with as much as I could carry and still not be overloaded, and set about walking back to the Elder Base.  The route was through rolling black forest terrain with lots of wandering greys.  As I walked a storm came up and it got dark and rainy and when I crested a ridge and ran into a troll there was a bit of chaos unleashed.  I wasn’t quite prepared for that fight, and all the more so as had arrived with some greys in pursuit.

I ended up dodging around, trying to kill him, kiting him off as he and the greys pressed me.

Not paying any mind to direction, I kept on kiting him and going down the easiest route.  Eventually I decided to just ditch him and ran all out down the level path to get away.  This sent me wildly off course and, as I saw some water on my mini map, I headed towards that thinking I was at a different coastline that I was.  As the water came into sight I heard a buzzing sound a saw a large flying bug coming towards me.  It attacked and I died.  I had been introduced to the deathsquito.

My unfortunate route

I respawned at the copper storage tower, having built a bed there and set it as my spawn point.  I immediately started to run back to my corpse.  It was still dark and rainy and the place was still swarming with greys, but I found some blueberries on the way and avoided the troll, only to arrive at my corpse and die immediately to the deathsquito again.

I tried another time, but with the same result.  That skeeter seemed to be patrolling the area.

Skronk was on and offered to help out.  I made a naked run back to Elder Base to meet up with him and get some food.  The word on the deathsquito was that they hit for 60 damage, so if you’re health is low then you’re done for.

The plan was to sail out and stop a bit off shore from my corpse, which was within sight of the water, at which point I would go ashore and try to collect my stuff.  Fergorin would stand off to pick me up, but would otherwise try to avoid getting mixed up with the hard hitting skeeter.

The expedition route

I sailed us up through the canal again, so Fergorin got to add that to his explored areas, and along the coast towards my corpse.  As we came to the headlands at the end of the island we saw a pair of giant bison.  As it turned out that tip of the coast was a plains biome, which is why the deathsquito was there.

In the hierarchy of biomes it goes meadows -> black forest -> swamp -> plains when it comes to difficulty, and we were still finding trouble in the black forest and only looking for a swamp.  Hitting the plains was a sudden step up in difficulty.

Our first run at the shore went about as expected.  I jumped off the boat and swam ashore and pretty quickly ran into the deathsquito again, dying before I could get very far.

Fortunately I was still set to spawn at my tower, so I was able to run to the shoreline so Fergorin could pick me up for another run.

Waiting on a rock for a pickup

On taking the second run Fergorin decided to see if he could kill the deathsquito from shore.  The wiki said that while they hit hard, they only have a few hit points, so killing them was supposed to be quick if you could get a shot in.  So this time we stood a bit off shore in the boat and Fergorin tried to shoot the skeeter.

This went about as well as expected.  After trying to call out the position of the deathsquito, he got a shot off that just brought the damn thing down on us.  In the mean time, a Fuling, a goblin looking creature, that had been on the beach, decided to join in with attacking us.  I jumped off the boat and made a run for my corpse and got there… only to find that my corpse could not be auto-looted due to the fact that my inventory was full.  I had a bunch of stuff, including my swamp key, the reward from slaying The Elder.  So I had to start going through my stuff, grabbing armor and a weapon.

As I was doing that Fergorin lost his battle with the skeeter/Fuling combo.  I ran to the shore to try and help with just a few things on me, only to have the deathsquito zap me dead.  The boat ended up getting destroyed along the way as well.

So, in the grand tradition of corpse runs, we now had two people with missing corpses rather than just one.  Fergorin felt that he needed to be geared up for the next run.  Also we needed to build another boat.  I, on the other hand, decided to just try to run and get my stuff again, something that surprisingly succeeded on the third try as I managed to sneak and evade both Fulings and the deathsquito.  I then ran back to Elder Base to meet up with Fergorin.

Getting Fergorin’s corpse promised to be a bit easier.  Having gone down with the ship out the water, he was far enough away from the shore that his corpse was expected to be easy to grab.  The corpse marker nicely floats on the surface of the water, so we just had to sail up to where we had been a couple of times already, make the pickup, and move on.

However, he wasn’t keen to go the long way through the twisty Corinth canal.  So, Fergorin at the helm of the new boat, opted to sail the other way around the island, sure that it would be a quicker passage.  It was not.

Going way out of our way

At least we discovered a swamp biome that was not too far down the coast from the Elder Base.  We just need to kill the Dragur… the house labeled “Bad People” due to my going ashore earlier to say “hi” and then fleeing for my life… and set up in the meadows biome next to the swamp.

Having gone all that way, as Fergorin decided to turn the boat back, we ran straight into a sea serpent.  He came after us and Fergorin ran the boat to shore where we got out and managed to slay it.

Fighting the serpent in yet another storm

Once it was dead I jumped in the water and picked up the serpent meat it dropped.  No point in letting that go to waste.

The Fergorin built a workbench, repaired the boat, and we headed back the way we came, stopping at Elder Base for resupply and so I could cook the serpent meat.

Some big serpent steaks on the fire

As it turned out, it gives quite a nice hit point and stamina buff even in its basic cooked form.

I also put my swamp key, bronze axe, bronze pick, and a few other items in a chest.  No need to carry any of that into danger again.

From there we went the other way around the island, finally catching some wind going our way… the predictive wind AI, which seems to know which way you are thinking about going and turns the wind against you had been working almost flawlessly up to that point… and managed to get ourselves back around the island and off shore from the deathsquito.  I was at the helm and edged us slowly towards Fergorin’s corpse.  We had eaten our best food, including the serpent, and were pushing past 140 hit points as we glided close, ready for trouble.

Corpse marker on the water

Once we got in range he was able to loot all the critical items from it.  Then I backed away from shore and we turned to head home.  Nothing had assailed us on our last run.  It was now about 11:30pm local time on a weeknight when I generally like to be in bed by 10pm.  We managed to sail home without issue, though when I turned in to take the canal back home we spotted a troll standing right at the shore so opted to take the outside route around the island.

And so it goes in Valheim.

SuperData Research Says WoW is Back to Normal in January

But what is normal these days anyway?

SuperData released their digital revenue chart for January 2021, and it leads off with another side effect of Covid-19 and the pandemic; revenues remain up when compared to a pre-pandemic month of the previous year.

  • Worldwide digital games earnings rose by 15% year-over-year to reach $11.6B in January 2021. Revenue was up annually across all device types. Mobile revenue grew by 6%. During the time period, PC earnings rose by 31% and console revenue increased by 24%. While January marks yet another month of revenue growth above 10%, it is one of the last months where year-over-year comparisons to game revenues before COVID-19 will be available.

We’ll see what happens when we hit April and the weather warms up and a lot more people will have had their vaccines.  Anyway, to the chart!

SuperData Research Top 10 – January 2021

And it does seem there is a bit of a return to normalcy on the PC end of the chart.  The usual top four are back together again atop the chart, though Dungeon Fighter Online pulled ahead of League of Legends in January.  That happens now and then, but LoL usually bobs back up to the number one spot eventually.

In fifth spot we find World of Warcraft.  I do wonder that they continue to divide WoW into east (China) and west (the rest of the world) rather than a combined number, given that the top four all combine those regions.  Whatever.  It seems to be doing okay even though the luster of Shadowlands has settled down.

  • World of Warcraft player numbers fell back to normal levels as the excitement around November’s Shadowlands expansion subsided. From November to January, revenue fell by 61% and user numbers declined by 41% (these figures do not include China). This roughly matches the pattern seen for the past several expansions, though Shadowlands had a bigger launch. Blizzard does appear to have found a way to increase how often expansions are able to boost earnings. The publisher recently announced that it will be adding the 2007 Burning Crusade expansion into World of Warcraft: Classic this year. Alternating between releasing all-new and classic expansions could cause WoW revenue to spike annually for the near future, instead of every two years (the typical development time for the title’s expansions).

Following that in sixth spot is Valorant, which is also from Riot, the studio that gave us League of Legends.  So Riot… well, Tencent, their parent company… is doing pretty well.  The game popped up the list due to some fresh content.

  • Valorant earnings and player numbers rebounded in January thanks to the launch of a new character and fresh season of content. From December to January, earnings were up 39% while player numbers rose by 29%. Returning lapsed players accounted for 72% of the growth in monthly player numbers. The game’s long-term success will likely depend on the ability of developer Riot Games to consistently launch content in order to entice players to keep coming back.

The top ten then finishes out with CS:GO, Roblox, World of Tanks, and Fortnite, all of which are regulars on the list.  Cyberpunk 2077, which topped the December list, fell off, as popular games that are not “games as a service” with an ongoing revenue scheme tend to.

On the console chart we have a bunch of old familiar titles.  As with the PC side, Cyberpunk 2077 fell off, leaving the usual suspects… Call of Duty, NBA 2K21, GTA V… behind.  The only real surprise I suppose is Apex Legends getting back in the top ten.  EA must have stopped neglecting it for a bit.

Then, on the mobile end of the chart… well, the usual suspects are there too.  The order was shaken up a bit.  Free Fire, the shooter title from Singapore, jumped up to the top of the list again, putting it ahead of Pokemon GoPeacekeeper Elite, the China market mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, came in third while Honour of Kings, which was has been down near the bottom of the list the last few months, looks to be making a move towards the top of the chart again, a place it occupied for many months straight.

And then, perennial list member Candy Crush Saga was still hanging around, coming in fifth.

The only other tidbit from the report was about Red Dead Redemption 2,  which reported that its PC player base had jumped up.

  • The PC player base of Red Dead Redemption 2 hit its highest level ever in January and nearly doubled the user count of the console version. In December, Rockstar began selling the game’s multiplayer component, Red Dead Online, as a standalone purchase for $4.99 (raised to $19.99 on February 15). In December and January, PC sales of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Online totaled a combined 1.8M, far higher than the console version (611K). The PC edition of the game benefited the most from the deal because some owners of the console version likely picked up the game on PC for cheap in order to take advantage of features like improved graphics.

That said, the game did not make the top ten for either PC or console.  Rockstar has a good game, but it doesn’t have the same following as its stable mate GTA V, which always makes the console list.

And, finally, the question for the February chart; will Valheim make the PC list?  They have reported 4 million units sold this month already.  At $20 a pop will that be enough?

Battling The Elder in Valheim

Having set ourselves up with a portal to an outpost close to The Elder, all we had to do was get together and fight him.

Of course, having gone into the Eikthyr fight after reading some “it’s easy” comments, I was a bit paranoid.  But I had an opportunity.  Having prodded Liore, formerly of the Herding Cats blog and the Cat Context podcast, and her crew about the game, they jumped on board with it, rolling up their own server.  So I have been over there to visit and build things now and again, though Valheim is one of those games where there is always a bunch of things to do, so playing on two servers can be a bit much.

However, thanks to the youthful enthusiasm of Corr, whom some will remember from the now dormant Fantasy Movie League runs, they quickly caught up to our level of progress and they were looking to slay The Elder on Saturday, while we were not going to get together for the event until Sunday, so I had a chance for a practice run.

I put my first character, Vikund, onto their server… though again, having two characters is like having two servers at times, it just doubles the things you want to do… because he had okay equipment.  I upgraded him to a fine bow and made sure he had a stack of fire arrows and a stack of flit arrows.  I did this because Corr had done some research and came back saying that melee is bad, ranged is good for this fight.

So we got together and rolled on out to the site of The Elder, three ancient seeds in hand, the requirement to summon him.  The Cats had a base close to the alter, so it was a short run.  We setup around the place, each of us taking a pillar to shoot from as that was alleged to be solid enough to block the ranged attacks we would be facing.

Setting up with the cats

Corr threw in the seeds and the battle began.

As with Eikthyr, you get the big boss health bar on the screen so everybody can see the progress at taking them down.

The Elder shows up

Fire arrows nicely set him ablaze and put a little DOT damage on him for effect, though I wouldn’t swear to them necessarily being better than flint arrows.  I am not sure it the DOT effect stacks or not, for example.

The fight was very active, and there was a lot of running about and avoiding attacks.  He summoned some greys in the back half of the fight and I think everybody besides Corr died at least once.  But the run back was easy and you just pick up your stuff and carry on.  Victory was inevitable.  Once slain, his head was brought back to the henge to be displayed on its anointed hook.  A celebratory screen shot or three was taken.

Whatever you do, nobody look at the camera

So I came away from that with the blush of optimism.  Hell, I was nearly full on Sir Robin at the Bridge of Death declaring, “That was easy!”

When the next day came we spent a full day cycle at our main base gearing up, upgrading, grabbing food, and collecting the health potions that had been cooked in the cauldron then simmered in the fermenter.  As night fell we got into our beds for a night’s rest.

Skronk/Fergorin has invented the footlocker in Valheim

When the new day dawned we went through the portal to the outpost and ran over to the altar of The Elder.  We got a bit wet on the way because our main gate opened onto some standing water.  I have since fixed that with the hoe.

Dripping wet still on arriving

I had the seeds and had explained what I had seen the previous day.  The sun was rising and for once it didn’t look like rain.  We spread out, each taking a pillar and then I went up and put the ancient seeds in the fire, summoning The Elder.

Time for The Elder to rise and shine

The fight started off as expected.  We started peppering him with arrows and he lit up nicely when hit with fire arrows.  We dodge the tendrils he throws your was and stayed clear of the roots as well as we could.   I think we had an early death, but the run back was quick.  And then things started to derail.

First, there were the greys, who seemed to be out in force.  So there was time out to turn and take them down.

Then there was the troll.  I mentioned the troll cave near the outpost and my suspicions that its presence foretold future spawning of trolls.  Well, now was apparently that time.

So we were shooting The Elder and kiting the troll… when the second troll wandered into the fight.  So, two trolls to deal with.

Kiting a troll

I had been doing pretty well until the second troll showed up.  I tried to kite him away from the fight so I could safely set him up and kill him.  However, he had other ideas.

The troll kills me instead

Deaths began to mount and it became clear that dying by the altar was going to make getting your stuff back to resume the fight difficult.  My corpse, having kited the troll down to the water, was a relatively easy recovery.  Both Crowbar and Unna had problems at points getting to their gear.

And then the skeletons showed up.

Unbeknownst to me there was a burial chamber just over the rise from the altar and somebody got too close to it and brought the skeletons who were guarding it into the fight.  They were not a huge threat, but they just added to the chaos on the field.

We died some more, but eventually got a handle on things and managed to kill off both of the trolls and were able to return to The Elder as night fell.

The Elder, on fire, shooting his tendrils attack as the sun goes down

Then, of course, the greys came again and the battle carried on, but as night came one, it was clear we were going to take it.  We had managed to brute force our way through a variety of unexpected turns.  But this is the afterlife, so “live, die, live again” is par for the course.  I have to think this explains the trolls and the greys constantly showing up.

The Elder defeated

That was a hell of a fight.  On death The Elder dropped four swamp dungeon keys, which get you access to… dungeons in the swamp biomes.  That is important because that, as I understand it, is where one collect iron for the next layer of crafting.  We stopped and collected ourselves and bits and pieces all over the place, then took a victory shot in front of the rune tablet that gives you the vague instructions related to summoning The Elder.

Again, nobody look at the camera, it might steal your soul

I love that there is a little Crowbar death marker behind us.  I could have cropped that out, but felt it was better with it in the background.  Also, I think the death markers are pretty cool.  They sit there glowing and bubbling, waiting for your return.  They even float on water… which I will get to in another post.  It is the afterlife.  Why shouldn’t we have happy little markers?

We also got a trophy for The Elder.  We ran that back to our main base and hung it up on the appropriate hook, so now we have defeated two of the bosses that Odin set us to get.

Trophies in the night

Having that gives us access to the next buff, which for The Elder is enhanced speed at cutting down trees… which seems like something from the ironic punishments division of hell.  I don’t know.  Eikthyr’s buff gave us enhanced stamina for swiftness, like a deer, while The Edler gave us the ability to murder his children more efficiently.  Go figure.

Anyway, with keys in hand, we now needed to go find a swamp biome, as we had, so far, not seen one.  Time for more exploration.

Addendum:

Bhagpuss beat me to a post about defeating The Elder, but I’ve done it twice now!

The Perils of Entering the MMORPG Market

The MMORPG market has been rolling along for about 25 years at this point, depending on when you want to start counting.  I like to think of Meridian 59 as the starting point of the things, but you could make arguments that the roots of the genre go back to MUD1 or Island of Kesmai or any of a number of antecedents. 

Live in 95 is you count early access

But M59 was an early, commercial, 3D world MMORPG and, to the point of this post, while I haven’t seen anybody running a server for a while, the code is out there and the game could reappear if somebody felt the need to bring it back.

And that is kind of the problem here.  Fans of the genre tend to bemoan its stagnation and blame WoW or free to play or whatever for the fact that things can seem stale.  But the real problem is that old games don’t go away, or at least not fast enough.

Leaving aside M59, the next game on the list is Ultima Online, which will turn 24 years old come September.  Unlike M59, it is still there, ready to play.  It has been hanging out all this time, holding onto a group of players that might otherwise have gone off to explore other games… or maybe they have and then returned… and generally holding its own in a corner of the market.  I mean, EA owns it (Broadsword just has a contract to run it), so if it isn’t making some sort of return it wouldn’t be around.

That is, of course, a core aspect of the MMORPG space, games as a service, where players have an ongoing relationship with your game as it grows and evolves.  But games that make the transition to success and achieve financial stability tend to stick around forever. 

Scott Jennings gave a presentation at IDGA Austin back in 2014 titled Let It Go – A Modest Proposal, which I would link to if I could find it again (maybe here or here), which suggested that maybe these games shouldn’t hang around forever, that maybe it doesn’t make anybody happier or healthier to perpetuate these games past a certain point, that maybe there ought to be an exit strategy, a denouement, an end to the story.

Wishful thinking.  The only sure exit is to stop being profitable, and even that is no sure exit.  The fans, unwilling to let go themselves, will build their own private/pirate servers just to prolong the experience.  I would suggest that it is easier to list shuttered titles that don’t have some sort of emulator or server project running except that I am not sure I could even list one title.  Club Penguin maybe?  Is there a Club Penguin emulator out there?

We have reached a point in the genre where farming nostalgia for the old days and the old ways and the old experiences is a certified path to keep the fans on board and paying. (Because, it turns out, they’ll make emulators for that too if you won’t provide it yourself.)  So we have EverQuest progression servers, WoW Classic, Old School Runescape, Aion Classic, and others out there serving that portion of the user base.

As Jennings pointed out, these games have come to belong, emotionally at least, far more to the fans than the companies. It is their experiences and histories now and they won’t let it go.  It almost isn’t up to the company anymore because the fans will take matters into their own hands if the developers won’t cooperate.  And if the game is going to be running in some form with or without the studio, the studio might as well keep its hand in and make some money from an official version rather than losing what control they do have.

So the market never really contracts.  Nearly everything that ever was is out there in some form.  Think of all the video games you played over the last 25 years and how many of them are viable and playable still today.  Yes, nostalgia farming has arrived in the rest of the industry and we have some remasters and 4K remakes of older games, but I cannot go back and play every game. Of the ones I can, anything over a certain age that had some form of online support has probably lost that aspect of the game.  As an example, literally every Pokemon DS/3DS title has lost its online support.

But if you want to play The Sims Online or Dungeon Runners or most any past title, there is probably a project out there for you.

Which brings me around, at last, to the point I think I was aiming for when I started out this wall of text, which is what does this mean for new games in the genre.  One of the complaints about MMORPGs is that there is nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing different, just the same old stuff, mostly WoW or WoW knock-offs, along with a few pre-WoW titles.

But, in a market segment where nothing ever dies and the fan base is constricted by the level of commitment the genre demands (a “causal MMORPG player” is almost an oxymoron) where is the incentive to actually try something new, to invest in something in an increasingly fragmented and entrenched field?

I do not have an answer, and the fact that most of the Kickstarted, will arrive some day (just not today), titles that some have pinned their hopes on all seem to be grounded solidly in nostalgia doesn’t strike me as a hopeful sign.  Pantheon, Star Citizen, Camelot Unchained, and others all carry the message “Remember that cool thing we did nearly 20 years ago? We’re going to do it again!”

Thus endeth the genre, drowning in a pool of nostalgia, always asking for something new and never getting it because nobody seems to want it.

I suppose this should be a warning to the rest of the industry, which has been going down the path to games as a service for a while now.  I saw a quote from Chris Livingston at PC Gamer about Grand Theft Auto V about how he had by this point completely forgotten the original story of the game having spent so many years since in the sprawling open world content of the game.  And there it is on SuperData’s digital revenue charts every month.  It has essentially become an MMORPG in all but name.

So the question, to which I most assuredly do not have an answer, is can we get out of this situation?  Has the genre become like the RTS genre before it or, I would argue, the MOBA genre now, where the dominate players have so defined the genre that it is locked into stagnation?  And, were something fresh and new to come along that fit within whatever definition you might choose for MMORPG, could we pry enough people away from the treasured memories long enough for it to find an audience?

Getting to The Elder in Valheim

Valheim has its sandbox, base building, and maintenance task elements.  I think Skronk and I spent a good four hours in the game on Friday night just pottering around and doing “things” that were not exactly epic, but which kept us busy and engaged until the clock had gone past midnight.

But there is still a story and a through line that the game expects you to eventually follow, holding back on crafting upgrades by way of incentive to get you to leave your base tweaking and look for something besides more copper nodes.

Previously we defeated Eikthyr, the lightning horned stag, which got us the antler pickaxe and opened the way to the bronze age for us and our obsession with copper nodes.

The trophy hung

Now, as we have begun to sate our thirst for bronze… there are only so many items to make and upgrade… iron is the next item on the list.  But to gain access to iron you need to defeat The Elder, the next boss on the list.

Which means you have to find his altar.

Fortunately, that is pretty easy.  At the end of some of the burial chambers you will find a rune that, when activated, marks the location of The Elder on you map.  Our map… in this case Skronk’s map… showed about the limits of our exploration on the island where we started, with our main base being at the southern tip, and the Black Forest base about a day’s sail on a raft to the south.

Skronk map

The marker for The Elder was across the water from the northernmost tip of the west coast of our island and at least as far over the water as our Black Forest base was to the south.  That was something of a journey.

However, we had not been wasting all that tin and copper on cauldrons and knives.  80 bronze nails, 30 fine wood, and some resin and deer hides will get you the Karve, the upgraded water craft.  This is a real boat, not a few logs strapped together like the raft.

Sailing the Karve into Dieppe base in the Black Forest

The Karve actually sails much faster than the raft and has four inventory slots to carry cargo.  I did some coastal raiding for tin ore with it, and we’ve all used it for some exploration.

We had decided that our instance group dungeon for the week was going to be The Elder.  But the afternoon before Crowbar (Moronae from the WoW Classic group) were on and decided to go get things setup for the event in advance.  Planning!

Well, sort of planning, in a half-assed kind of way.  We decided to sail north around the western side of our island, up the coast and as far as we could to get as close as we could to the site of The Elder.  Our idea was to get up there, build a secure compound, then put up a portal so we wouldn’t have to muck about with all that sailing just to get to the fight.  Not that I don’t enjoy sailing… the Karve is a delight… but it does take time.

So off we went, a few supplies… mostly a couple of surtling cores for the portal… in hand.

On the sea in the rain

Of course the weather was bad and it was raining most of the time and the wind seemed set against us, as it always seems to be when you’re actually traveling to a destination.  But we pressed on and found that The Elder’s site was pretty close to the shore when we finally spotted land.

We actually found a nice little cove to come ashore.  There was even a stone tower there to mark the place.  I am always optimistic about such landing sites, even if I have no basis in fact or history for being so.

The landing cove, our little Drake’s Bay

It was there that we discovered that we ought to have packed more supplies… like a lot of wood.  You think you’re going to the Black Forest so that wood won’t be an issue.  But once we knocked down a few nearby fir trees to start a building, we found we were in an area heavily made up of pine trees, which yields a bit of regular wood, but mostly core wood.  Core wood is good, but for basic building you need plain wood.

Meanwhile, the greys were showing up constantly, so our progress was slowed by fighting.  As it turned out there was a greydwarf nest on either side of the camp, just out of line of sight.

Time to take the axe to this

Eventually we took those out, but it was a long running fight before we had a building standing.

A house to stage from

There was also a troll cave just up the hill from us, so we had to kill a troll along the way as well.  No end of problems… and recurring ones too.  My current operating theory is that troll caves are troll spawners, since they clearly respawn.

You can see our camp from the troll cave

It was then that we found ourselves shy of fine wood.  We actually could have found some… there were some birch trees in a Meadows biome not too far from us, but we had other issues.  All the combat had made my copper knife and bronze axe useless, and you need a forge to repair those.  So we had to sail back to a base to get supplies.

Fortunately, about a third of the way up the west coast of our main island is a base with a portal to our main base, so we did not have as far to go and the sailing was a straight shot, without need to navigate the shallows that we had to slip through to go north.

So we sailed, made it to the portal, got back to our main base and repaired.  We also grabbed supplies and built a portal at that end with the tag “Elder” so once we built the portal near The Elder we would be hooked up for travel.

The trip back on the boat was uneventful, though we spotted an abandoned raft on the way.  Somebody left that behind while exploring.

Back at The Elder outpost the greys were there to greet us, so we had to fight to clear the area.  With plenty or core wood around I built some pointed stakes around the house, which the greys have a knack for impaling themselves on.

The portal went up, once I found some space for it in the house.  Houses fill up with junk quickly, just as in real life, as we had a workbench and beds and chests already there.

Once the portal was in place, we were able to jump back and forth with supplies.  I brought back wood and built a palisade wall around our outpost, moving the sharpened stakes outside of that.  Our outpost was set.  Then I felt the need to sail the Karve back to one of our bases with a harbor.

But, with this outpost connected to the main base via a portal, we were all set for the Elder.  His altar was just a short walk.

The site of the coming fight

We just had to take him out.  But with all four of us, how hard could that be?

EVE Online Gets the Bastions of War Update for Marauders

CCP launched the Bastions of War update today which seeks to make marauder class battleships more powerful.

Here come the marauders

The changes for marauder class battleships are:

All Marauders class ships:

  • Lock range increased by 30%
  • Sensor strength increased by 8

Bastion Module I:

  • Bastion now increases the rate of fire for all large weapons by 50% (100% DPS increase)
  • Bastion duration reduced from 60s to 30s

Vargur:

  • 5% bonus to large projectile rate of fire changed to 7.5% large projectile damage

Paladin:

  • Amarr Battleship bonus to Capacitor Capacity changed to 10% reduction in Large Energy Turret capacitor need

Kronos:

  • Capacitor Capacity increased to 8000 GJ
  • Capacitor Recharge rate reduced to 17m and 30s

We will see how this changes the marauder state of play in New Eden.

In order to celebrate this update CCP would like to sell you a new pack for $35 that has marauder (and recon) SKINs and skill books as well as some Omega time.

In addition, there were the following changes to try and nerf the ubiquitous null sec heavy assault cruiser doctrines that have dominated the war.

Assault Damage Controls:

  • Duration reduced by 25%
  • Passive hull resist bonus reduced from 30% to 25% for Tech I and from 40% to 30% for Tech II

Heavy Assault Cruisers:

  • Removed the reduction in Microwarpdrive signature radius penalty

CCP also took a pass on interdictors in an attempt to make the Sabre a little less dominant in the category, buffing the other three hulls in the segment.

Eris:

  • The reduction in plate mass penalty increased from 15% to 20%
  • Bonus to the rate of fire increased from 5% to 7.5%

Flycatcher:

  • Bonus to Shield HP increased from 10% to 15%

Heretic

  • Bonus to Armor HP increased from 10% to 15%

In addition to that, CCP took another pass at web bubbles, an interdictor item, to try and make them more viable.  Now they web harder and further and faster.

Stasis Webification Probes:

  • Web strength increased from 30% to 40%
  • Area of effect range increased from 10km to 15km
  • Warm-up Duration reduced from 3s to 2s

The Revelation dreadnought, currently the dominant hull in the dread meta, got some changes.

Revelation:

  • Power Grid reduced from 780,000 MW to 700,000 MW
  • XL Beam Power need reduced by 10,000 MW
  • XL Beam CPU need reduced by 10 tf

And, finally, the Monitor fleet command hull got some buffs to help out your FC.

Monitor:

  • Added a Drug Bay and a Charge Bay
  • Removed Target Painter Resistance from Structures.

That second sounds more like a change to structures, but since the Monitor can only mount a target painter, the price of its durability, up until now your fleet commander has been out of luck if they wanted to get on structure kills.  Now the FC and all the Vigil and Hyena pilots can whore on citadels kills.

These changes and a couple of other minor items, can be found in the patch notes for today’s update.

33 Weeks of World War Bee

This week saw Snuffed Out, the big bad guys of low sec space, declare that they were going to attack the Tranquility Trading Consortium (TTC) Keepstar in the Ignoitton system in a low sec stretch of the Sinq Laison region.  The TTC is a combined operation of TEST, Pandemic Horde, and the Imperium, who split the profits from these structures.  While the primary money maker is the Tranquility Trading Tower in Perimeter, one gate over and in the same region as Jita (which means you see results from it when you do a market search sitting in Jita), the TTC runs other structures, including the one in Ignoitton, which is used for third party capital and super capital sales.

Snuffed Out had been paid to leave the structure alone but apparently decided, with everybody burning ISK and resources in the war, that it would be more fun to just blow it up.  Which they did yesterday.

Vily issued a statement advising people to evacuate their stuff before it ends up in asset safety.  Elsewhere (I cannot find it at the moment) Snuffed Out issued a statement that they could no longer abide a structure like that acting as a safe haven in their back yard.

At the beginning of the month Snuffed Out destroyed the Sixth Empire Keepstar, the most majestic structure of his holiness Max Singularity VI, also in the Sinq Laison region.

Delve Front

The past week saw PAPI’s operational tempo continue to escalate.  The completed taking all of the ihubs in the SG-CTQ constellation, which includes the KarmaFleet home system of 39P-1J.  Then on Wednesday in EUTZ they made a major push against the ihubs and cyno jammers in the O-EIMK constellation, which includes the Imperium capital system of 1DQ1-A.

The subsequent battle saw nearly half a trillion ISK in destruction as both sides traded blows in the constellation.  The 8WA-Z6 system was the main focus of the clash, seeing 355 billion in losses alone.

Battle Report Header

At the end of the fight, PAPI had managed to reinforce zero ihubs and only destroyed five cyno jammers, which could be replaced.

The fight, which saw fairly equal numbers, seemed to take the wind out of the PAPI sails again, and the remainder of the week saw only small actions in Delve, including the occasional feint towards the M2-XFE hell camp.  Progodlegend blamed CCP node reinforcement for PAPI’s failure.

Delve – Feb 21, 2021

The Imperium continued to lose structures, but the main base of the coalition, 1DQ1-A and its surrounding systems, remains mostly unscathed nearly eight months into the war.

Meanwhile, on the weather watch, the two metaliminal storms that have come to Delve are both still hanging about.  The Electrical storm, which looked to be headed to 1DQ1-A, turned back and headed towards the constellation containing the M2-XFE hell camp.  I wonder who is hurt more by the lack of cloaking in the area.  Then the Gamma storm headed into a dead end constellation, so will eventually roll back out into the rest of Delve at some point.

Other Theaters

In Querious, Brave and Siberian Squads have been in a shoving match over ihubs, with both sides taking and losing ihubs over the course of the week.  Brave did score a coup just yesterday however, taking the ihub in W6V-VM, the Imperium staging system used by Siberian Squads.  But the region is still in flux.

Querious – Feb 21, 2021

Catch and Impass, the other end of Brave’s problems, also remain in play.

Catch – Feb 21, 2021

Systems were reinforced that Brave had to defend and The Initiative managed to take another ihub in Catch.  Brave’s core systems remain intact, but ihub timers there continue to be set, forcing them to defend.

Immensea was also the scene of more ihub action.

Immensea – Feb 21, 2021

Federation Uprising and Warped Intentions were both under pressure to defend.

And down in Esoteria, The Bastion and its allies kept the pressure on TEST in the region.

Esoteria – Feb 21, 2021

They did not take any further ihubs, but they managed to kill a TEST Sotiyo in what may be the most expensive engineering complex loss so far.  The loot on the field valued at 100 billion ISK, is alleged to be greater in value than Brave’s SRP budget.  Those in the know say that there were two titans in build when the structure was destroyed.

Further afield, Evictus began to evacuate Feythabolis, unanchoring structures, with an eye to moving into Delve.

My Participation

Valheim ate up a lot of my time, as it did the previous week.  I still managed to find some time to go on a few fleets and sit in the M2 hellcamp, which always seems to have 100-150 people in it just waiting for some abandoned PAPI line member to log in and take the hit.

The bubbles still stand around the M2-XFE Keepstar

I did managed to log in to the 1DQ1-A constellation fight towards the end.  There was a call for ECM burst interceptors to break locks on entosis ships as the vulnerability timer ended.  I went out in a Malediction and made several runs at the PAPI forces around the ihub, which padded my kill board a bit.

As part of that I also managed to close with the TEST Wyvern that ended up trapped on its own and was quickly bubbled and attacked by Imperium forces.

Just had to get close enough to fire my pop-gun laser

I got on the kill and got to watch it explode.  In that screen shot you can see a Nestor exploding… it may have been out to give the Wyvern pilot an opportunity to refit as the Nestor has that ability… the Wyvern itself, an Imperium Rorqual on its tail hungry for the loot and Salvage, and my Malediction interceptor racing to catch up.

Despite a couple of close calls, my losses for the war remain as follows:

  • Ares interceptor – 15
  • Malediction interceptor – 7
  • Crusader interceptor – 5
  • Atron entosis frigate – 6
  • Rokh battleship – 5
  • Drake battle cruiser – 4
  • Scimitar logi – 3
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 3
  • Purifier stealth bomber – 3
  • Guardian logi – 2
  • Scalpel logi frigate – 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

With the Tuesday update CCP managed to break jumping to cynos.  While an emergency fix went in quickly, requiring a launch restart for those already patched, this is the sort of thing that causes consternation out in null sec.

CCP released the Monthly Economic Report for January 2021, which includes the carnage from the hull timer battle at M2-XFE.

There was some alliance drama in Red Alliance, an ally of the Imperium.  This led to people and corps jumping to other orgs, including Siberian Squads.  The Russians are fractious and it is best not to get in the middle when they fall out.

Also, somebody on Reddit put together a map of null sec to illustrate the sides in the war at its start.

Null sec affiliation in the war

When somebody complains about the “blue donut” and they are in one of the alliances in the blue zone on that map, you are free to point and laugh.

At one point last week both sides in the war accused the other of padding their alliance numbers with freshly minted alts so as to hide any fail cascade.  That sort of thing, if either side is doing it, won’t help with numbers in fleets, which is where line members count.

Brave chief Dunk Dinkle was attacked by a bee this past weekend.  But he keeps bees.  I am sure there are multiple metaphors for the war in that.

Also, I went through all of the weekly updates and added the tag WWB Weekly Update to them. Now you can click on that if you want to scroll back and see how the maps have changed over time, when Fountain Frank showed up, when I started actually putting maps in the weekly update, or any of the inconsistencies in my own reporting, of which I am sure there are many.  It is all there in one long continuous scroll.

But you don’t have to go back to see the weekly peak concurrent user numbers, because I keep that going every week with the full list.  This past week saw Saturday once again take the top spot for the week as the numbers fell back down to about the 36K mark:

  • 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
  • Week 26 – 39,667 (Saturday)
  • Week 27 – 34,989 (Saturday)
  • Week 28 – 34,713
  • Week 29 – 35,996
  • Week 30 – 38,323
  • Week 31 – 38,167
  • Week 32 – 37,259
  • Week 33 – 35,886 (Saturday)

Related