Monthly Archives: April 2021

April in Review

The Site

Achievements.  WordPress.com introduced achievements this month, though they have had something akin to that for a while.  I’ve been getting notifications about the blog anniversary or when I get a record number of “likes” on posts in a single day for quite a while now. (43 is the current record.)  But I received an email from them announcing that they were expanding that, and on the first day they were available I received a pop up announcing my current post streak.

My first achievement

Today is, as an aside, my 398th day streak.  If I can manage to post two more days I will hit the nice round number of 400.

Anyway, that’s okay.  It is easier for me if they keep track of such things.  But starting this when you’re almost 15 years into the blog thing is also a little odd.  I am never going to surpass my all time most popular day/month, which was back in 2013.  I mean, it isn’t as bad a EVE Online introducing their Activity Tracker and just ignoring all activity that went before, but there are some peaks I am never going to achieve again.

Also, it really needs an achievements page, some place where it shows me what they’re tracking and what my current count is.  If you’re going to go for gamification, go all the way dammit.

One Year Ago

April Fools at Blizzard introduced googly eyes into Overwatch and gave us the traditional WoW patch notes, and that was about it.

I took a look back at WoW Tokens five years after their debut.  It also seemed like BlizzCon might not happen, after all, live events were being cancelled everywhere, though Blizzard was looking into alternatives.

In Battle for Azeroth I managed to unlock flying.

Over in WoW Classic the group was starting prep for Zul’Farrak by visiting the Altar of Zul and Jinha’alor.  That was sketchy enough that we spent a session just leveling up before we made our way down to Gadgetzan to start some quests there, with the expected diversion into Feralas.  I also found a crypt in the Badlands to explore.

Everybody being at home due to the pandemic led us to do a Blaugust blogging community event early.  Christened Blapril, we had a prep week, figuring out what to write week, a “getting to know you week” where I wrote about a road trip, listing out our favorite video game series, and then something about motivation.

Meanwhile, in WoW Classic news, Holly Longdale was now on the team, phase four was in place, some servers were still over populated, and Blizz was sending out some surveys about how to handle Burning Crusade Classic.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons released just in time for the pandemic and seemed to be everybody’s favorite game on the Switch for a while.

EVE Online was introducing their second quadrant, Eclipse, and kicking off The Hunt event.  The Hunt also coincided with the introduction of new implants.  There was also a PLEX for Good event for Covid-19, and the capsuleer generosity login campaign, and the Surgical Strike update that nerfed damage resistance modules.

CCP also started the ongoing daily login rewards thing, where you get some skill points every 30 days you log in.  The rewards were not great, but skill points are skill points.

And the beginning of the campaign season for CSM15 kicked off. while the monthly economic report was showing CCP’s mineral drought was raising prices.

CCP introduced a new Avatar model on the test server, so I finally got to fly a titan.  The pandemic brought players back to New Eden and the PCU passed the 40K mark for the first time since 2017.

Out in the east of null sec I was out with Black Ops dropping on PanFam ratters and miners.  And then there was a road trip north to fight the Conifers.

And, finally, I revealed my actual first computer.

Five Years Ago

I wondered about the concept of the last good day in the context of MMOs.

DC Universe Online was ported over to the XBox One, one of the fruits of the separation from Sony, which allowed Daybreak to publish on consoles other than the PlayStation.

The whole Blizzard versus Nostalrius issue blew up when the company sent the private/pirate server a take down notice.  Blizzard actually responded to things, but those hoping that they might actually get an official nostalgia server were not optimistic at the time.

We did get a ship date for WoW Legion.  And, for once, nobody complained about Blizzard targeting a competitor with their chosen date.  At least not that I heard.

The Casino War was going badly for the Imperium.  I mean, sure, Dinsdale Pirannah was predicting a Goon victory, but he was in a small minority.

The Mittani held a state of the Goonion and logs documenting CO2’s betrayal were released, but that didn’t stave off black Thursday in Tribute as TNT’s holdings got steamrolled.  The war was getting serious.  First SMA and then FCON left the Imperium.  FCON showed up in Immensea soon afterwards while Darius Johnson tried to take advantage of the war by attempting to restart the original GoonSwarm.

There was a short Russian complication in the northeast that threatened to widen the war, but which eventually blew over.  No relief for the Imperium was to be found on that front.

There was to be no last stand at VFK-IV.  We pulled back to the Quafe Factory Warehouse in Saranen and attempted to fight back against the tide while I wondered what would constitute a victory.

There was some talk of names for the war.  I did not like the names coming from either side and stuck with Casino War, the name which Nosy Gamer coined months earlier and which went straight to the heart of the conflict.

Outside of the Casino War, I took a look at two books about EVE Online.  There was a Rooks & Kings video from the Serenity server. The Citadel expansion was released, bringing Upwell Consortium structures to New Eden.  There was a Blog Banter about what the most important announcement out of Fan Fest was.  And Xenuria made it onto the CSM at last.

I also gave Pokemon Blue a try and was surprised to see how fully formed the first versions of Pokemon really were.

Google was telling me that pretty much every game was dead.

And there was, as always, April Fools at Blizzard.

Ten Years Ago

Of course, there was some April foolery both here and at Blizzard.

I also wrote something about magic quadrants.

Sanya Weathers had one of the best quotes about MMO gamers ever, made all the more amusing by its truth.

Battlefront.com released a completely new version of their original WWII Combat Mission series.

Wargaming.net released World of Tanks.

SOE’s spy themed MMO, The Agency, was officially cancelled.

We got a PlayStation 3.  And then the PlayStation Network got hacked.  At least I could still play Blu-Ray disks and stream Netflix.

The instance group got together and decided to try out EverQuest II Extended, the one-time separate free to play version of EverQuest II.  However, the game immediately began to kick us in the teeth for daring to do solo content as a group.

Being there in EQIIx also meant looking at what the cash store had to offer.  Some of this stuff is gone now in the post merger era of EQIIFlying mounts are still around.  And some idea, like selling max-level characters, would have to wait a while to come back.

And Potshot and I were still playing EverQuest.  We moved on from Unrest to Lake Rathetear and spent an evening there.  Then it was on to Kerra Island and finally we made it to Runnyeye, at which point SOE also went down due to the PSN hacking.  That pretty much ended our EverQuest adventures for 2011.

I did have to explain EverQuest to my daughter.  Her foundation in MMOs is World of Warcraft.

Fifteen Years Ago

ArenaNet released its first post-launch Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Factions. It only took them a year, too.  Right, Blizzard?  See?

Auto Assault went live, perhaps the first “troubled at launch” MMO I am personally aware of that failed to get past its issues.  The game ended up being shuttered by NCsoft 19 months down the road.  It was, for a while, the poster child for MMO launch failures.

Nintendo announced the name of their new console, slated to replace the GameCube.  Known up to that point only by its code name “Revolution,” Nintendo said it was going to call it the “Wii.”

Viacom spent $102 million to purchase Xfire.  According to Viacom: “Xfire and its users fit squarely into the Company’s multiplatform strategy to build an engaging universe of music, gaming, entertainment, news, networking and interactivity for focused audiences.”  They also thought NeoPets were worth splurging on as well.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2021 is a Very Quiet Affair
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. What Does LOTRO Need?
  5. Robbing Some Space Banks
  6. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  7. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  8. SuperData Reviews 2020 Digital Game Revenue
  9. Death on the Plains in Valheim
  10. Diablo II Act Five and some Thoughts
  11. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  12. How Close to Half Way in WoW Classic?

Search Terms of the Month

lists for a game where a man is in a village who goes put of the village to catch bulls sometimes pixels or bee or catch fish and go to the village to sell them and also have magical power like thunder,fire etc and also fight things like octopus,and trolls apk pure games
[That is some search term]

holly longdale height
[a bunch of results for this, and she is tall]

underwood champion typewriter models with tabulator and backspace keys
[Another very specific search, but I do have a typewriter post here]

can you build tunnels in valheim?
[No, you have to dig a ditch then roof it over]

Game Time from ManicTime

In April I actually played a few more things besides Valheim.  Granted, I still played a lot of Valheim, but a few other titles got their turn.

  1. Valheim – 70.20%
  2. WoW Classic – 13.48%
  3. EVE Online – 8.13%
  4. War in the Pacific – 5.46%
  5. Runes of Magic – 1.91%
  6. LOTRO – 0.43%
  7. World of Warcraft – 0.39%

My overall play time for the month was less than the time I spent playing Valheim last month though.

EVE Online

The war in Delve saw a bit of a slump for much of the month of April.  The Imperium and its allies were mostly focused on burning down the space that Legacy Coalition left in order to colonize Delve, Querious, and Period Basis.  However, things are apparently spicing up a bit now, with PAPI making some efforts to take the remaining constellation in Delve.

Meanwhile, CCP implemented its big industry changes.  Now we just need about six months for the supply chains to settle down before we can tell how much everything is going to cost.  Also, it would be kind of nice for CCP to ease up on the mineral starvation thing.  We shall see.

Lord of the Rings Online

In writing about the game again this month… and complaining about the state of the game in general… I did log in for a bit to bang my head against the legendary item mechanics just to remind myself how much I dislike being, for example, in the middle of an instanced quest mission and having the game pop up and tell me I need to go back and reforge my weapon.  That and the teeny tiny eyestrain-o-vision of their UI and horrible iconography (which, honestly, was a day one problem) on my wide screen monitor makes the game unplayable so far as I am concerned.  But don’t worry, SSG has… no intention of fixing any of that.  Oh well.

Pokemon Go

We slowed down a bit after the burst of raiding activity our group had at one point.  We also missed out on a weekend event that had a decent chunk of xp related to it.  But, the balance on that was it had an hour time limit on it and I only logged in and noticed it was happening when there was 12 minutes left to go.  I still actually still managed to capture all but two of the Pokemon needed before time ran out.  But close doesn’t win you the prize.

Level: 41 (23% of the way to 42 in xp, 2 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 633 (+5) caught, 662 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Need Eevees for the level 42 tasks
Current buddy: Eevee

Runes of Magic

I jumped in to take a look at what GameForge had going on for the title’s 12th anniversary, including the new super bonus server they setup in the EU region.  In reviving my account (I am still out a bunch of diamonds) I started getting updates from them in email again including special items… which were delivered (eventually) to my NA region characters.  I can have one or the other, but not both I guess.  Otherwise the game is still busy and playable if you’re into the F2P bag rental plan.

Valheim

We defeated Moder and set up a base in the plains.  We have harvested enough resources that I think everybody in the group can get their gear upgraded fully.  We actually have something of a dark metal glut, as it isn’t used for very much.  Otherwise things have slowed down somewhat as April got some of us outside and in the yard.  Yagluth is the only current boss left for us to slay, otherwise we have been base building, exploring, and gathering resources.

War in the Pacific

A war game in the mix!  I bought this in April and… well, there is a story to be told here.  I will have a post or three about the game I am sure.  Let’s just say that, so far, I have not bested the Empire of Japan.

World of Warcraft

Once more I went in to do Darkmoon Faire stuff and collect the free battle pets that came our way this past month… though I had a little trouble with the latter.  Maybe that will be a post.  I felt like posting about it at the moment it happened, but distance is making me care less and less about that particular transaction.

WoW Classic

After being  idle on this front for quite a while I got back out to start working a bit in anticipation of the coming of Burning Crusade Classic.  The expansion is coming, though how far away it is still remains a question.  But I will have at least a couple characters ready to step through the dark portal when it arrives.

Coming Up

May brings our daughter home from her first year of college.  Due to Covid-19 the school skipped the usual spring break stuff so as to wrap up the semester a bit early.

Meanwhile, we’ve had little rain out here on the west coast, so it is time to prepare for another summer of fires.  Last year we went from fires being in some distant part of the state to being able to see the smoke coming off of them in the middle of Silicon Valley.  This is probably going to get worse unless we get some last minute rain or everybody gets out and starts raking I guess.

It seems quite possible that we will get the pre-expansion event for Burning Crusade Classic this coming month.  The time seems ripe and Blizz has been putting up notes in the character select screen to remind us that we may soon have to choose a path forward for our characters.

In New Eden the war against the Imperium will no doubt carry on.  The current level of effort by the attackers does not portend an early exit by the Imperium.

CCP will also finish vetting candidates for the CSM16 election and we will get the final candidate list.  The election, however, does not happen until June.

Some Time With WoW Classic

We’re getting to the end of the structured content in Valheim.  On that front, until there is a major update, we just have Yagluth to slay, and I’ve already gotten a taste of that fight.

And, while we’re not done there yet… I can still explore for hours and building out the main base is an ongoing home improvement project that, like many a DIY task, is getting done slowly on evenings and weekends… there isn’t a sens of urgency either.  Those covered areas of the map will still be there to explore tomorrow.

In WoW Classic, however, there is a bit of a push to get going.  The beta for Burning Crusade Classic has been running for a while now and the rumor is that the dark portal might get a date for opening in a few weeks.

The portal is not yet active… or green…

Meanwhile, as you log into WoW Classic, the game is up there and warning you about the impending change and the choices you will have to make when the pre-launch patch hits.

They let you know it is coming

The rumor for that is May 17/18, though one should treat such rumors with grave suspicion.  After all, the last rumor on that front pegged the expansion launch date as May 3/4, and seemed dubious even then.  And even the May 17/18 date could be affected by problems Blizz has had with the raid testing in the beta.  Still, the expansion is on its way.

With that looming, it felt like time to make sure I had things lined up for the big change.

I already have two characters ready for Outland.  My warrior, who tanks for the group, is level 59 and probably less than an hour’s effort from being level 60.   My main alt for most of WoW Classic, my hunter, is level 58, which is good enough for Outland, though I suppose I should work on level 60.  It wouldn’t be tough.

But my paladin, for whom I have an affinity, is still a bit behind.  I had raised him up to level 53 in my last burst of activity, but that was still well shy of where I would like him to be at the expansion launch, so it was time to get him out again.

First though, I had to get used to playing WoW again.  After a couple months of Valheim I have found myself used to how the controls there work.  Having to steer again with the WASD keys was a moment of “how do I do this?” as I wandered around.  For a while I kept hitting the TAB key for inventory.  And it will be some time before I stop holding down the shift key hoping that it will make me run faster.

At least I don’t have to manage that stamina bar.

That set I made my way to Felwood again to push ahead there.  Felwood is a bit of a challenge, if only because there is just the one flight point way up at the northern end, which makes coming and going when you’re not into the Timbermaw quests a long run.  And, that comes into play because you have to leave the zone for a couple of quests.

Off to the Barrens to update a quest

As I made my way further north in the quests, I started getting a little ahead of myself in levels, so swapped over to The Blasted Lands.  There I ran into a few quests that were just the sort of thing to gain some ground in levels.  I had to farm a set of mobs for drops.  While that seems grindy, it is the kind of grindy that is good if you’re in the right mood.  It is the sort of thing where you can put on a podcast or an audio book and just kill mobs, collect drops, and watch your experience bar climb.

The Blasted lands got me into level 54 and well on my way to level 55.  Eventually I ran down the quests there and headed back to Felwood and then into Winterspring to deliver a few messages which, in turn sent me around Azeroth some more.  Eventually that settled down and so I did as well, up at the north end of Felwood to attack the Deadwood furbolgs, the foes of the Timbermaw.

Clearing out the Deadwood

This, again, was a nice little grind where I could slay and recharge and listen to something on my headphones.  That moved me into level 55 and about a quarter of the way towards level 56 before I ran out of supplies and had to head back to town for some more mana refreshing drinks.

While I finished the basic quests, I may go back there and grind a little while longer.  I am about two thirds of the way to being neutral with the Timbermaw and the exp is still decent and the grind is pleasant in that very relaxing way.

The Assault on the Imperium Capital Constellation Begins

Over the weekend several of the PAPI alliances had meetings where it was announced that those expecting a huge capital slug fest were set to be disappointed as the coalition would be attacking the remaining Imperium held space in Delve, the O-EIMK constellation, with sub caps alone.

Yesterday in late EU/early US prime time the sub cap attacks began in earnest with an attempt to bring down the Ansiblex jump bridge and the cyno jammer in 3-DMQT, which sits at the southern end of the constellation, and which is the only way into the jammed systems if attackers do not wish to come in straight through 1DQ1-A, the Imperium staging system.

Arriving at the Ansiblex mid-fight

The Imperium still has a small jump bridge network spanning the constellation to facilitate moving forces around, with the key one being the 1DQ1-A to 3-DMQT route that lets us quickly move between the two routes into the area.

As the attack commenced pings went out for more and more fleets on our side.  In addition, as an early defense, anti-sub cap dreads were dropped into the fight along with a Baltec fleet as the first line of defense, followed on by more Baltecs, Feroxes, Jackdaws, and bombers.

A Revelation explodes behind an Initiative Abaddon

Time dilation was down to 10% as more than 2,500 capsuleers began a two hour brawl over the Ansiblex.

I joined one of the Ferox fleets as I ate my lunch and was able to jump straight into the fight to start shooting targets.  The grid was crowded and there were many targets in range.  Our progress in shooting was slowed down by the tidi, though we did not seem to be pushing the server too far beyond its limits.  I had the calls diagnostic window open and nothing was lingering for minutes on end the way they were during the M2-XFE fights.

Another ship explodes

From my perspective it was just lock, shoot, then move to the next target.  We mowed down logi in the hostile Ferox fleet that was close to us, then began to burn down the Feroxes as well.  It felt one-sided enough that the FC eventually just called for us to sort by distance and shoot from closest to furthest as targets became available.

Things went well enough that by the time we were told to de-aggress and warped to the E-VKJV to see the hostiles off I had managed to get on 70 kill mails, including getting the final blow on three different ship including the one flown by Lady Scarlet.  It is always fun to get the kill mail on enemy leaders and other notables.

Kill marks on the left shoulder of the ship

Actually getting the kill mail in a huge brawl with a couple thousand players is a pretty rare thing and tends to go to the people closest to the data center, so getting three was kind of neat.

However, looking at the battle report, we were having such a free time because the hostiles were concentrating their fire on the capitals we brought along, knocking out 19 dreadnoughts and 2 faxes.  That focus tilted the ISK war well in their favor.

Battle Report Header

That arguably understates the losses on the Imperium side as, with the industry updates that were pushed with yesterdays patch, capital are now much more expensive to build and replace.

A fax that was supporting the Baltec fleet blows up as we pass through a mass of subcap wrecks

In in the end though, we won the objective and were able to take satisfaction in destroying a mass of hostile subcaps.  We hung around to shepherd the Ansiblex until it was fully repaired.

Guarding the Ansiblex as it repairs

After it was done we were able to take it straight back to 1DQ and stand down.

We survived the first major attack on the constellation and pushed the hostiles back.  But that was only the first attack.  I expect we will be battling again before too long.

Related:

The Latest EVE Online Update Kicks Off the Industrial Chaos Era

Today’s patch will see the second set of major changes go live which will update blueprints, reactions, and components that are required for ship manufacturing.

CCP Patch Notes for April  27, 2021

There was a quick reminder from CCP Paradox for those paying attention yesterday that Phase 2 of the planned significant industrial changes were set to hit New Eden with today’s patch as planned.   The announcement of these changes and the initial patch sparked a rise in production around week 40 of the war, and was reflected in the MER charts.  Look at that red line climb.

Production vs Destruction vs Mined – March 2021

I will be interested to see if the warning was enough to spark a last moment spike in production.  Numbers in 1DQ1-A seemed on par with the early announcement rush.

Down from 3344 when I last looked

Likewise Jita numbers seemed about the same.

Today though, and tomorrow, and next week… that might be a bit different.  We shall see.

The blueprint changes add new components to the build requirements for battleship and all capital hulls.

For example, the doughty Megathron, a workhorse battleship used by many, has three new components added that come from the new reactions CCP brought in with the previous patch.

The new Megathron BPO

If you have been on the ball and grabbed the blueprints when they first hit, researched them, were able to get enough Mykoserocin gas and other supplies, and get them into production, you might have some around to start building battleship and larger hulls.  Or you could just try to make bank by selling the new items.  Supply is extremely tight at the moment so prices for those items are… volatile to say the least.

Auto-Integrity Preservation Seal supply in Jita

If you need 200 Auto-Integrity Preservation Seals to build a Megathron and you are expecting buy them off the market… well, that alone looks to add about 1.3 billion ISK to the price of materials.  And if you want to build an Archon carrier… I’m sorry, there are not enough on the market because you need 1,600 of those seals to build one.  The cost of an Archon today is close to what an Aeon super carrier was yesterday.  And a titan?   CCP’s plan seems to be that once things settle down those hulls ought to run about 200 billion ISK if leaks are correct.  But they are pretty much unbuildable today due to supply.  An Avatar needs 5,000 of those seals now, which seems likely to represent a significant percentage of what is available on the market.

Now, that is a temporary situation.  At some point harvesting and production will catch up and supply will drive the prices down.  But for a while battleship and capital production is simply going to be dead.  There isn’t enough supply and, at those prices, you would be a fool to build rather than just sell while they are high to reap the ISK of those in need.

But if you don’t fly battleships or capitals, if you stick with battlecruisers and below… well, everything is still more expensive than it used to be with the mineral drought still in full effect… but the build prices are not completely crazy.  A Ferox, for example, is still made of just T1 minerals, the same as it was yesterday.

Other changes that came with today’s industry update:

  • Adjusted all T2 ships to no longer return basic minerals as materials when reprocessed.
  • Reworked EDENCOM ships blueprints to more closely aligned to their Triglavian counterparts paradigm
  • Adjusted Standup T2 fighters to require T1 standup fighters in build requirements.
  • Doubled the effective bonuses on Mykocerosin Boosters
    • Synth Blue Pill – Increased Shield Boost Bonus from 3% to 6%
    • Synth Crash – Decreased Explosion Radius Bonus from -3% to -6%
    • Synth Drop – Increased Tracking Speed Bonus from 3% to 6%
    • Synth Exile – Increased Armor Repair Bonus from 3% to 6%
    • Synth Frentix – Increased Optimal Range Modifier from 3% to 6%
    • Synth Mindflood – Increased Capacitor Modifier from 3% to 6%
    • Synth Sooth Sayer – Increased Falloff Bonus from 3% to 6%
    • Synth X-Instinct – Reduced Signature Radius Modifier from -2.25% to 4.5%

The EDENCOM ship change is no doubt part of the ongoing attempt to dig those ships and their weapons out of the hole CCP put them in.  The ships are not great, but the big problem for quite a stretch was the price of the ammo, which was too expensive to make them anything more than a meme fleet option.

The improvement in boosters is probably there because, as Mykocerosin is suddenly in demand for other things, the price of them has doubled.

Anyway, the patch notes, such as they are, are available.  The update has been deployed.  If you’re reading this now, it is too late to get a battleship into build with T1 materials.  They new reality is upon us.

Related:

Mischief is Coming to EverQuest

I suppose one of the problems with the special server thing, at which the EverQuest team has done very well over the years, is that after a while you end up having done the basics, done what the fans have asked for, and even done a few things that didn’t make a lot of sense.  At that point you start searching for new gimmicks to keep the special server idea fresh.  And so the EverQuest team is going to give us the Mischief, which is billed as a random loot server.

Coming May 26, 2021

So far as I can decipher the rules, the Mischief server will be a time locked progression server based on the Mangler server rules when it comes to xp gain (the Mangler server was one of the 20th anniversary special servers that they had to tweak the rules on before they got it right), with some random loot magic in the mix.

The rules, as listed right now (but, you know, might be subject to change):

  • Agents of Change Enabled
  • Pick Zones Enabled
  • Truebox Enabled
  • Free Trade Enabled
  • Random Loot Enabled
    • The Mischief server is a new experimental server that randomizes loot.
    • Rare NPCs will drop loot from other NPCs of a similar level within the same expansion.
    • Raids will drop loot from other raid NPCs of a similar level within the same expansion.
    • We may add other special case randomization.
    • Rare NPCs have a greater chance of spawning
  • Unlock Cadence:
    • Expansions:
      • 1 month Classic
      • 2 month Kunark
    • 2/3 month regular release cadence
      • 2 months for no level increase
      • 3 months for level increase
    • Exception: LDoN will only be one month

I am not even sure what “Pick Zones” means in the context of EverQuest servers these day.  Maybe Bhagpuss can help me out on that front?

“True Box” is the no multi-boxing rule, “Free Trade” means no drops will be bind on pick up, so you can sell or trade whatever you grab, and then there is “Random Loot,” which honestly doesn’t sound as exciting as I expected.

Though that lack of excitement might be because, as a rule, it seems to impact mobs that I likely won’t ever see, much less bring down.  I was kind of hoping that random, run of the mill mobs might get something special.  That would have been exciting to me, even if it was lotto scratcher level of rarity.

The unlock cadence seems a bit quick, jumping out of Classic in only a month… dude, that is 50 levels at slow xp… though, honestly, I could make the case that they ought to just start at Ruins of Kunark and go for three months just on that.  I think that would be an interesting way to start a progression server.  But I do kind of favor just the first expansion or two in any case.

One interesting side item is that not only will the May update bring this new server onto the scene, but a new feature will be introduced.  EverQuest will get item compare!  When you get a drop there will be an option in the details to compare it to your currently equipped item.  It looks a bit clunky… but so does just about everything in this 22 year old MMORPG.  Let’s face it, this game is old.  The week it launched Cher was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and she’s older than my mom.

This is the first new special rules server for EverQuest in the Enad Global 7 era and I am going to guess the first one to be planned from scratch since Holly Longdale left the Norrath team for Azeroth.  We will have to see what kind of reaction this new server will get.  The game’s fans can be particular and the team has been known to bend with any particularly strong wind when it comes to special server rules.

42 Weeks of World War Bee

Just ten more weeks and the war will hit a year in duration.

PAPI has continued assailing structures outside of the O-EIMK constellation, with a two more Keepstars falling.

Imperium Keepstar Losses in Week 42

On Reddit somebody said that there was only one more Imperium Keepstar left outside of O-EIMK. (Though Gobbins said they were all gone at the PH alliance meeting.)  After that they will have to turn to the Imperium home constellation for more big targets.

Both Pandemic Horde and Brave had alliance meetings this past weekend.  (Recordings here and here respectively.)

Both meetings emphasized the point that there would be no titan and super carrier assault on the Imperium capital constellation and that anybody holding out for that was destined to be disappointed.  Instead, the plan will be to do this with subcaps.

While I get the reluctance of PAPI to trust in CCP’s servers after the losses at the second battle at M2-XFE… you might argue that CCP’s bad servers probably saved them more titans by failing than they lost, though not as many simply not jumping into 4,000 Imperium pilots set up and waiting in the system would have saved… assaulting the Imperium with just subcaps is tying one hand behind their back tactically.  We’re certainly going to eagerly undock capitals to defend the constellation.

I suspect that the real plan is to harass and annoy and hope that we’ll get sick of the whole thing and leave on our own.  But as long as we can surge numbers to log in to meet their attacks on ihubs and cyno jammers, the going will remain tough for PAPI.

Delve Front

I think “hot drop o’clock” was included in at least half the fleet pings I saw over the last week as the Imperium sought to make sure that TEST did not feel safe or welcome in Delve.

The week saw a number of ihub transfers as TEST took over some systems from NCDot and Intrepid Crossing and gave some systems to Legacy Coalition member Already Replaced as they sort things out to try and make the region their home.

Delve – Apr 25, 2021

The metaliminal storm that was keeping cloaky ships away from the Imperium home constellation has moved along into “fake” Querious, the stretch of that region that is only accessible via gate through Delve.  That led to an uptick in PAPI incursions into the constellation.  While no serious fights broke out, they have been in more and taking a shot now and again at  some of the cyno jammers outside of 1DQ1-A.

Other Theaters

Of the remains of the Legacy Coalition old regions, Catch, Immensea, and Impass are all held by alliances not a part of PAPI.  In Feythabolis, much of which was held by TEST, Brave, and Already Replaced just two months ago, only Evictus remains as a major PAPI holding in the region.

Feythabolis – Apr 25, 2021

Esoteria remains a struggled between The Bastion and its allies and Army of Mango and Evictus, who are trying to defend/take the remaining TEST systems and structure in the region.

Esoteria – Apr 25, 2021

And, up in Fountain, PAPI forces have take the last Imperium held ihub in the region.

Fountain – Apr 25, 2021

That probably wraps up the second conquest of Fountain for the war.

My Participation

I was a bit more active that last week, though a lot of the pings were hot drops which you need to show up for right away or miss them.  But I did get out with larger ops to defend our constellation and chase off PAPI forces.

Munnins on the smuggler’s gate in 3-DMQT

One Harpy fleet op saw me in a Scalpel, the Minmatar logi frigate, in T5ZI-S.  In there I realized I had an Acolyte II combat drone in my bay, so I launched it, put it on the nearest hostile ship, which happened to be a boosting Cyclone battle cruiser.  I then forgot about the drone, having to concentrate on reps and staying alive.  Later I recalled the drone managed to get it and my ship safely back to 1DQ1-A with most of the fleet.  Checking zKill I saw that the Cyclone in question had been blown up and my single drone managed to get me top damage for the kill.

Just one drone will do it

Top damage doesn’t get you anything, but I did find it funny that I managed it without really trying.  I just wanted to get that drone out there in a fight where we were 10-30km off the enemy.

I managed, through that, not to lose a ship this week, so my losses for the war remain:

  • Ares interceptor – 17
  • Malediction interceptor – 7
  • Crusader interceptor – 5
  • Atron entosis frigate – 6
  • Rokh battleship – 5
  • Scimitar logi – 4
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 4
  • Drake battle cruiser – 4
  • 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

CCP gave us the Monthly Economic Report for March 2021, which showed what happens when you announce drastic industry changes are coming.  Production saw a surge and people tried to build what they could before the changes hit.  See the red line below:

Production vs Destruction vs Mined – March 2021

That also managed to drive mineral prices, which had plateaued a bit in February, up to a fresh new all time high as people sought materials for all that new production.

The peak concurrent player count for the week remained about where it was in week 41.  But for CCP, any week where it stays above 30K is probably a good week.

  • 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)
  • Week 34 – 35,626
  • Week 35 – 35,379
  • Week 36 – 35,085
  • Week 37 – 34,394
  • Week 38 – 36,319
  • Week 39 – 35,597 (Saturday)
  • Week 40 – 35,384 (Saturday)
  • Week 41 – 33,708
  • Week 42 – 33,521

Related

Pandemic Binge Watching and The Walking Dead

Every so often when we’re looking for shows to watch I dig into award winning series and put them on the list for potential viewing.  In the past this has sometimes been a bit of wrestling match with my wife who, for example, had no interest in watching The Wire or Breaking Bad. I had to start watching them myself and let her come in and settle in after a few episodes, like luring a wild animal.  I actually went back and re-watched the first four episodes of The Wire because it took that long for her to find something interesting and then she wanted to start from the beginning.

But that was fine.  I could watch the first two seasons of The Wire on repeat.

That history helped me lever in The Walking Dead (TWD going forward) once I had mentioned it was long running, award winning, popular, and all of that.  It helped that she knew people who were into the show.

TWD is here

Her primary objection was that she wasn’t all that into horror movies and the like.  I am not really either, not any more, though I did stay up and watch Night of the Living Dead back when Bob Wilkins ran it on Creature Features and one of my brothers, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, expressed a desire to live in some sort of Dawn of the Dead mall scenario.  So I am at least versed in the zombie genre and the George Romero zombie rules, which TWD mostly sticks to.

On the other hand, TWD is a series which has run ten seasons so far, has an eleventh season filming, and a spin-off series that is into its sixth season, all of which means that, unlike a movie, which has to come to a resolution in 90-180 minutes, TWD has to keep the party rolling.

Somewhere into the second season my wife commented that the story certainly didn’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere fast and I responded that this was, after all, the “walking” dead and, as such, speed was not on the table.

The Story

The tale starts of with sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes who, in the first few minutes of the show, gets shot and ends up in a coma.  He later wakes up and the zombie apocalypse has already hit and so the view is on a voyage of discovery with him.  And that is a decent vehicle to bring the viewer into the world of the show.  That lasts for about a season.  Another season or so goes by where zombies are really the main antagonist of the show, after which the real villains emerge; people.

People are just horrible to each other in stressful situations, like zombie apocalypses.  The show is then less about the zombies which, while always a looming threat, can go missing for long stretches while the humans battle each other and make each other miserable.  Basically, at any point in the show where the situation of the main cast seems to have settled down, some other group is going to show up and bad stuff is going to happen. (Unless they’ve decided to suddenly inject a back story episode, which happens now and then.)

I will say, however, that TWD has few compunctions about killing off members of the cast.  It wasn’t too far into the show when I remarked that after Game of Thrones got a reputation for killing off main characters, TWD clearly said, “Hold my beer!”  That said, once they establish that reputation, they play on it a few times by setting up a character who looks like they are as good as dead at the end of an episode, only to find out they had a miraculous escape.

Zombies

Zombies are, of course, the raison d’etre of the whole show.  It is the zombie apocalypse.  And, as I noted above, they remain a looming threat all the time.  Early on the show cannot resist putting zombies around just for mood.  There will be a lone zombie in a field or a couple shuffling along in the distance, which really adds to the creepiness.

But after a couple of seasons zombies are more like the weather.  It only rains or zombies only show up when the plot requires it or if the writers feel we need to be reminded that they’re around.  Some main character is going into an empty building, well we had better put some zombies in there.  They go from constant menace to plot device.

The zombies follow the “Romero Rules” for zombies.  They are slow, hunger for human flesh, and can only be killed by a blow to the brain.  Anybody who dies becomes a zombie, and being bit by one gives you the zombie fever, which kills you and then you become a zombie.  A fair number of cast members who die get their turn in the makeup chair to be the zombie versions of themselves.

Other than that, they tend to be whatever the plot needs them to be.  The shamble slowly and make lots of noise… except when the plot needs them to be silent or move quickly or whatever.  They are dumb and get caught up on very simple traps and get stuck behind waist high walls… unless the plot needs them to be wily and able to climb, jump, or otherwise demonstrate exceptional athletic feats.

We eventually had to set a house rule about not trying to evaluate or define zombie logic.  And both of us seriously have to be reminded of this rule now and then as we’ll get that sudden indignant rush when a zombie is suddenly driven by the plot outside of the usual behavior pattern.  The other just has to say, “zombie logic” to shut that down.

Cars

Lots of old cars.  I realize the show started in 2010, but as something of a car buff in my youth, I keep spotting a lot of cars from the 80s and 90s rolling around. (And not a few from even the 70s.)  I am kind of used to that being a thing living in California where the main weather effect on cars is fading paint from all the sunshine and I get that if you want cars as props you go to the junk yard and not a dealership, but still… there seemed to be an unlikely over representation of cars that were 25-30 years old on set, even in a world where the average age of cars on the road is something around 12 years.  Of course, I am that person who feels they need to ID every car I see on screen that is older than 20 years, so I might be on the rare end of noticing this.  Or it could be my own bias in noticing every old car but passing on anything new.

Guns

Guns, the acquisition there of and the use against zombies and other people make up a key part of the first six or so seasons.  This is not surprising.

The surprising bit is the marksmanship performance of various cast members depending on the target.

A neophyte shaking a revolver with a 2″ barrel vaguely in the direction of a zombie seems capable of putting a shot through its eye at a distance of 20-50 feet on the first try.

But give a trained police officer a fully automatic AK-47 with a full magazine and a human target ten feet away and they’ll blaze away all 30 rounds and not hit even once most of the time.  Along with “zombie logic” I have been known to say “plot armor” as well.  Seriously, I was reminded of The A-Team, a show where people would expend huge numbers of rounds and would never hit anybody.  The phrase “A-Team violence” became a derisive term for that sort of thing among my friends at one point.

Basically, there is a whole lot of silly going on with guns, and it keeps escalating until everybody seems to have a fully automatic weapon and, despite the scarcity of ammunition and the previously demonstrated uncanny accuracy against zombies with single shots, everybody commences to blaze away, emptying full magazines at everything, zombies, humans, or shadows in the night.

Also, there are a lot of “that’s not how guns work” moments.  Sheet metal tables and filing cabinets are not, for example, bullet proof.  Nor are most car doors, sheet rock panels, and a lot of other things people hide behind only to have squibs go off against them.  And most of the guns don’t make a loud, audible click when you pull the trigger on an empty magazine.

Eventually I think even the writers started to realize they had gone over the top on guns and there is a sudden change between seasons and guns disappear for the most part, though not before a horrible gun plot point that made my eyes roll one last time.

Hair

Everybody in the apocalypse seems to have enough time to keep their hair looking good.  Seriously, where do they find the time and the product?  Even Daryl, whose hair is always a mess and hanging down in his face, always has exactly the same style and hair in his face… and the same level of stubble on his chin… even as we get years into the story.  Yes, I get this is television and everybody has their level of vanity, but still.  Also, shoes seem to be fashionable and longer lasting than any pair I have ever owned… and some items of clothing.  Only Bart Simpson’s clothes have lasted longer.

Actually Watching the Show

The first nine seasons were available on Netflix when we started, which was a big reason why we dove right in.  The episodes, without commercials, tend to be about 43 minutes long and, skipping the opening and end credits, get close to 40.  There are occasional long episodes that ran in 90 minute time slots for season openers or mid-season events.  Those run close to an hour without commercials.

The first season is just six episodes and fairly well concentrated.  Things move along.  After that the seasons expand to 13, then 16, then 22 episodes and you end up with a lot more of what I call “bridging” episodes where not a lot happens other than wrapping up the previous episode, setting up the next, and characters expressing their feelings about this or that.

There are often a couple of story lines… or at least points of view on a story… running and the writers are very good at ending episodes on a cliff hanger on one line, then spending the next episode on something else before getting you back the resolution you were waiting to see.

And then there is the tenth season, which you can buy on other services or watch for free, with commercials, on AMC’s streaming channel.  However, this is worse than it sounds.

Being a traditional cable TV show, TWD is set up in acts that break for commercial breaks… again, often on a point of suspense.  But the method used to inject commercials into the streaming service ignores that and just cuts off the show to feed you two minutes of ads… often the same ad repeated… in the middle of somebody speaking or an action sequence or some other point when there was clearly not a commercial break set.  So, in addition to stretching the episodes from 40 minutes to an hour, we also had to sit through the same five commercials over and over an badly timed intervals.

After two episodes we were willing to pay money.  Lucky for us, AMC had a 7 day free trial for their premium service and we were able to grind through the remaining 20 episodes in season 10 before that expired, though we may have wasted most of a Saturday getting there.

Overall

It’s good…. or good enough.  It is, as noted, much more of a zombie apocalypse soap opera where living are far more of a problem than the dead.  We enjoyed it and obviously kept watching to the end through all 153 episodes currently available.  It is easy enough to knock out two or three episodes with dinner… though maybe dinner isn’t the best time to watch as somebody will inevitably disembowel a zombie as I am taking a bit of food.  And we will probably set aside time at some future date to watch season 11, another 24 episodes, which will finish the series, though we will probably wait until it is done and binge it.

That said, I am not sure it is a great show, at least after one pass.  Unlike, say, The Wire, I cannot see myself going back to re-watch any of it.  A lot of the show is less interesting and more about finding out what happens next.  Once you know how any situation gets resolved there isn’t a whole lot of other substance holding things together.  It isn’t all that memorable and the characters are not as deep.  It is a soap opera in that it is always moving towards the next problem or conflict.  Seriously, as I said above, any time things seem peaceful or settled in an episode, or the characters have time to sit around and talk about their feelings, you know something new is coming.

But for a one pass show it is good.

 

The Allure of the Thin Client

For a couple of decades various companies have been trying to get us back to the thin client model of computing.  Oracle has suggested this loudly more than a few times and Google ponders it now and again, with things like Stadia being based on the idea.  Also, if you work for a big company I assure you that your IT department has wet dreams about taking away all your laptops and desktops and making you work on some sort of thin client appliance.  IT at my company keeps pushing Citrix virtual desktops as the solution to every problem.

I say “back to” because I am old enough to remember when dumb terminals and terminal emulators were a mainstay of computing.  In addition to my time spent in the computer lab in college, the online games I played back in the 80s and into the mid-90s, things like Stellar Emperor or Gemstone on GEnie, MegaWars III on CompuServe, and Sonjourn/Toril MUD, were all built on that model.

Star Trek in vt52 emulation

As personal computers came along and started growing in computing power, much of the heavy lifting was put on that end of the equation.  Air Warrior rendered its very primitive visuals on the player end, and shooters and action games like Marathon and Diablo made the user’s system do the graphical work while just data about inputs and positioning were shared.   This meant that in the low bandwidth of the time… I played Air Warrior on a 2400bps modem… the back and forth between client and server was kept to a minimum.

So the end user client became fat.  Eventually so much data was stored at the user end by the late 90s that EverQuest had a little test module app that let you run around a mini-zone to test your 3D card, but you could rename many of the game maps and run around the main, if empty, world if you knew what you were doing.  You couldn’t zone or do much, but if you wanted to explore it was a boon, and you were not even connected to Sony while you did it.  And that is the way that many MMORPGs and other online games went, keeping data on the server and letting the end user machine do the graphical work.

For video game developers there are many benefits to going with a thin client, of keeping all that data on their servers.

For starters, the downloads and patching at the user end are kept to a minimum.  This has often been viewed as a point of friction that keeps players from trying out new games.  The holy grail is for a player to just be able to play without any sort of download, something CCP has been experimenting with recently with EVE Online and their EVE Anywhere browser beta.  If you can just play the game on any computer, then your potential market is greatly expanded.

It also makes updates easy, since things only have to get pushed as far as the servers.  Very little need be pushed to the player’s machine.  New content just appears or is unlocked without a download.  You also get all your settings and configurations as you move from device to device.

It is also a major boon for security.  If all the key files are on the company’s secure servers, then secrets can be kept.  We are familiar with every new pet, item, mount, or NPC being spoiled for us in WoW by the race to datamine any pre-patch update.  And, of course, addons, illicit or benign, and hacks are kept at bay.  This all falls under Raph Koster’s admonishment that “the client is in the hands of the enemy.”  Overall the environment is more secure.

Finally, all the end user issues that come from the wide variety of PC configurations, a huge problem for many applications, are largely eliminated.  A thin client stops caring about processors and video cards and operating systems and the like.  Your game can theoretically run on somebody’s TV or refrigerator.

All in all there is a lot of upside.  Control! Security! Ease of access!

Sign me up today!

So why isn’t every new online game in a thin client in the cloud?

Since I used the word “cloud” there, I am going to take a moment to point out that cloud computing is not the same thing, or required for, a thin client, though when people who should know keep conflating the two things I get how you might be confused on that.  Thin clients are as old as computing.  See my reference to dumb terminals at the top of this post.  And cloud computing is, simply put, a scalable server architecture with redundancy built in… though, again, some things that get referred to as “the cloud” are better labeled “somebody else’s computer” and not used as examples of the technology.  Talking about cloud computing as though that means any remote computer is a simplification that renders the term meaningless.  If that is your frame, then every online game is “cloud” and there is nothing special about it.

Anyway, why is Google’s Stadia something of an outlier rather than the norm for the industry, at least when it comes to 3D rendered world-based games?  (Because you kind of have to count early RuneScape, Club Penguin, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, Nation Geographic Adventures, and all those Cartoon Network games if you don’t put a barrier somewhere.  So I am speaking of high end games where some level of realistic graphic fidelity is a requirement.)

And maybe Stadia is a bad example in that it is attempting to be a virtual console that can play titles that were not otherwise designed for such an environment, but if you take it off the list we don’t have a lot of other big name examples.  Well, at least no successes.  A few companies have tried to do what Stadia is doing in the past and have ended up failing.  But given that it is common as shit unless you want render a ton of polygons, why isn’t already a common thing?

Part of the issue is likely due to the cost of the infrastructure.

The problem is that if you’re going to take over all the rendering functions of the remote device, you essentially have to do all the processing that the end user’s PC or console was going to do.  If you want to run that all yourself or you want to use somebody else’s data center, that still means a lot of extra hardware.  The company basically has to pay to run your client rather than letting you run it on your own hardware.

For example, EVE Online has a minimum system requirement of a 2.0 GHz dual core processor and a modest GPU.  If it went entirely thin client, if EVE Anywhere was the only way to access New Eden, you would have to have the equivalent of 20,000 minimum spec PCs in processing power on hand just about all the time, scaling up to 35,000 or even 40,000 at prime time on weekends.

You can probably get away with less processing power for most operations, but you would most assuredly want to put more processing power behind GPU support unless you want the whole game to run in potato mode for everybody all the time.

In a modern cloud architecture where you can bring capacity online easily and only pay for what you are using at a given time, you can keep the costs down somewhat, but everybody playing is incurring a cost, and somebody has to pay for it.  I don’t think it will be like my days back in college where your online account had an allocated budget to spend on processing time (which inevitably got squandered on Rogue), but the company is going to have to find some way to pay for using their processing power rather that your own.  Expect to pay more.

And, while the company saves on bandwidth when it comes to things like pushing patches to every client, the need to pipe high quality video at an appropriate resolution and quality will more than offset that.

Meanwhile, latency and connection quality issues will become a much more visible, something that Google’s Stadia demonstrated.  These are issues in current games like WoW, but you often don’t see it because the client with all the assets and world data will keep you walking, running, riding, or flying along while it tries to catch up after any data blip.  But if you lose connectivity for a bit and far end is only routing video to you, everything stutters or stops quite noticeably.  And even when the is able to get to you but the network traffic is slow, you’ll see your video quality degrade.

Also, if you live some place with restrictive bandwidth caps you’ll find streaming all that video might put you in danger of exceeding them.  You need high speed and lots of bandwidth to play a thin client game at the quality level you’re used to with an equivalent fat client title.  But you can play the thin client title on your refrigerator, so there is that.

But, if the game decides to take full advantage of the potential platform independence aspect of a thin client, if they’re going to support your high end desktop PC with the 34″ ultra wide screen monitor AND that refrigerator screen, there is likely going to have to be some sort of compromise on quality and UI.  So even if bandwidth and network hiccups aren’t dragging down your quality, the game itself, optimized to some happy medium, might not deliver the same satisfying, high definition experience that you would get if your own gaming rig was doing the work rather than some standardized system on a remote server.  Oh, and I keep using the term “thin client,” but for most uses you can substitute in “web browser,” though a light app is also possible. (Though with that comes the temptation to fatten it up.)

Finally, if the thin client game shuts down… see MetaPlace… you have nothing left but memories and credit card bills.  All of the major pirate /private server projects to restore online games that have been closed rely heavily on people being able to get a hold of a copy of the fat client.  All the graphics and a lot of the data is stored there, which is how so many of these rudimentary projects get stood up so quickly.  The world is in the client, you just need to get a system with the right responses going to get basic walking around the world functionality running.

The thin client idea is an attractive proposition for the dev side.  It simplifies a lot of things for them, gives them better security, and hands them all the control.  Done right in a cloud environment, it could even solve the first day server load issues if they can scale successfully.

But somebody is going to pay for the additional cost, your experience may be degraded if you do not have an ideal internet connection, if the studio wants to run their title across platforms and devices you may find the experience and interface less than you desire, and the whole thing becomes a virtual world that can disappear, never to be seen again, as fast as any virtual good.

Showdown with Yagluth

On our server we’re still pottering about in the plains, gathering resources, building bases, and exploring.  There is no hurry to get to what is currently the final boss, Yagluth.  In fact, we need to go back and slay Moder again just to get a head to hang on the wall in the main base.

But over on the Cat Context server, they were ready to go.  You may remember them from Fantasy Movie League or, more recently, my preview run at The Elder, where I went over to their server to give the fight a try before we did it on our server.  (That fight went well, on our server most everything went wrong.)

I asked if I could tag along again for their attempt and they graciously invited me to join in.

On our server I used some of the resources we were stockpiling and finished upgrading Sigwerd’s gear, save for his weapon.  I decided to stick with Frostner for now, rather than going for the Porcupine.  I grabbed a few fire resist potions, as I heard that was a requirement, loaded up on some arrows, and then logged off and on to their server.

Once there I found my way through their portal network… every world ends up simulating a regional airport plan with portals eventually I guess… and ended up with the group out on the plains biome at a portal build close to Yagluth’s altar.

The group together

It looked like we were ready to get straight to it, until it was mentioned that they hadn’t actually collected the totems yet.  You need five totems to summon Yagluth.  The totems come from fuling camps, so we set out to go find some camps.

This, of course, went comically bad.  We somehow were never able to pull less than four fulings at once and often got more.  And, as night fell, we ended up running into wandering packs of fulings as in addition to the groups from the camps.  Everybody died at least once, and a couple more than once.

Down in a pack of fulings

Maybe Corr didn’t die.  He seemed to be around to cover people as they ran back.

There he is, back where I died

Anyway, after much comedy on the plain the totems were eventually secured and we ran all the way back to where we started, to Yagluth’s altar, to get set up for the fight.

Back and ready to go

As with past boss fights, you set up items, click on the altar, and the boss shows up.  There is also the standard rune stone there with some cryptic clue about what you’re supposed to do.  This one is perhaps a bit less helpful than others have been.

What does that even mean?  Is he a fuling then?

We ate some food and took our fire resist potions, then Corr did the needful and we were greeted with the big intro message.

Ah, there we go

He rose up out of the ground and came for us.

Funny, you don’t look like a fuling…

It is hard to see in any of the screen shots, but he is a giant skeletal torso.  His legs have gone missing, which just makes him moving about that much more creepy.

Also, he has his own heavy metal sound track.  Generally I keep the music turned down, listening, especially in the plains, being such an important survival trait, but Aure said we had to turn that up once the fight began.  He has a Swedish metal sound track that seems wholly appropriate to his character and the fight.  So I turned that up and we carried on.

The fight was fairly straight forward.  He throws around some fire, so you can end up with a burning DOT on you, but the fire protection potion mitigates that to such an extent that you might not even notice.  Fire hasn’t been a strong damage type in Valheim so far.   I’ve set myself alight on so many campfires that my resistance to fire is probably maxed out.  Certainly surtlings in the swamps never did me much harm with their fire attacks.

Of course, I didn’t stand in the fire to find out exactly how harmful they might be.  He slams his fists down for a big AOE hit with an after effect and breaths fire now and again.  We seemed able to avoid most of that and nobody died during the fight.

The plan was to sit at range and hit him with frost arrows, but that was taking time.  Eventually we just moved up into melee range, got in close behind him, and use whatever weapon special attack we had.

Yagluth at melee range

The Frostner big swing attack was doing a lot more damage for me than the bow was able to manage.  But Yagluth is a skeleton of sorts, and piercing weapons and arrows tend to be less effective on those in the game.

So we got in there and beat on him and dodged his attacks until we finally brought him down.

Victory over Yagluth

After that it was clean up time.

He drops several items called “Yagluth Thing” that currently have no use in the game, but which will no doubt be used to unlock whatever the next level of crafting is in Valheim.  And, of course, you get the trophy, which is a giant skull with a crown, which you go hang up on the last stone back at the spawn point.

Hanging the trophy

That unlocks a new buff which gives you a boost against fire, frost, and lightning.  But there isn’t much else.  According to the wiki, fuling base attack events cease with Yagluth’s defeat, though I have heard that fulings also become more common in the world as well, like skeletons, and will show up at night in other biomes.

And that is about it.  Sure, Yagluth’s skull makes a great conversation piece in any trophy room or display, so going back to slay him again to have one to hang up in your base is a likely scenario.  But Odin doesn’t show up or free you from Valheim, as Hugin mentioned back when he dropped you into the world.  The All Father hasn’t finished enumerating the tasks required of you yet, so you get to hang out and wait until he… or the small team in Sweden… gets around to it.

We have Yagluth’s location scouted out… we found that rune stone on our first real run into the plains… and I have explored the map around it and even set up a portal a short distance from the altar.

Yagluth’s Island

When we’re feeling ready, we can go get him.  But we’re not in any hurry.  While I am sure we want his head for a trophy, his buff isn’t all that alluring at the moment and his death does not yet unlock anything new.  We’ll get to him some time though.

Is LOTRO Effectively in Maintenance Mode?

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread

-Bilbo Baggins

There was a lot of optimism when EG7 announced their plans to purchase Daybreak Games.  It was a heady moment for many of us when EG7 gave us a bunch of data about the various titles.

Enad Global 7

There was also statements from EG7 about investing in titles like Lord of the Rings Online, including what seemed like crazy talk about a console version.  It felt like good things could be coming.

Almost five months down the road the, now that the afterglow of the announcements has passed, some of us are now getting a little impatient to see what changes, if any, the coming of the new Swedish overlords actually bring.  As with other such transactions, you only get so much goodwill time before the old problems become your problems.

Unfortunately, the message coming from the LOTRO team seems to be the usual litany of deferral and excuses.  Last week the community got a Q&A with the executive producer and to say it was a disappointment would be something of an understatement.  All sorts of things people have been asking after for years like a scalable UI or wide screen support to make the game playable on larger monitors are nowhere in sight.  They mostly seem to be on about bugs and whatever new content they can scrape together.

Most disturbing to me was the response about legendary items, a horribly grindy feature that should have been left behind in Moria:

We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue.

This betrays such a basic misunderstanding of what makes people stick with these sorts of games that I despair for any future for the game, even if EG7 decides to throw some money at it.  This is all of the worst conspiracies about MMO devs confirmed, that they make things purposely grindy to keep us with the game longer.  Have you met your players?  We do stuff just because we can.  We don’t need enforced mandatory grind, we’ll make our own thank you.

I honestly thought we were past that somewhat when WoW launched as was relatively easy to level up in compared to the industry as a whole and yet people still found things to do in the game.  I guess not.

The legendary items thing really strikes home for me.  Despite my enjoyment of Lord of the Rings Online over the years… I bought a lifetime subscription back at launch and own every expansion… I have never made it very far past Moria in the game.  Part of the reason is that Siege of Mirkwood is just an uninspired expansion where Turbine was clearly just mailing it in while they threw resources at some of their fruitless projects.  But it has been mostly due to the constant need to attend to the legendary weapon… and not the one legendary weapon I got back before Moria, but whichever drop I happened to get that was an upgrade.

Yet somehow they are worried that if they dumped legendaries that players wouldn’t be able to depend on drops to keep up with DPS… though we pretty much have to depend on drops for that anyway.  I guess maybe I should be happy they aren’t planning to make them more grindy, which was pretty much the message back in January, but adjusting the “suck” setting back 10% still means things suck.  And they’re talking about challenge modes that will make grinding your legendary even more of a requirement.  They seem 100% locked into “grind makes the game” as a philosophy.

Leaving aside my personal investment in the demise of legendaries, the whole tone of the Q&A was as depressing as any of the worst periods of the Turbine or Daybreak eras.  Even the positive bits, like the new bit of content, The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, turned out to be hollow, being made up of reused assets and mechanics.

A development team that was going to get an infusion of resources to help it along would surely be able to offer a more convincing vision for the future.  Instead I am beginning to wonder if EG7 isn’t simply perusing the Gamigo business model of buying up tired titles and milking the last bits of life out of them before shutting them down.  I previously dared to speculate as to what LOTRO needed.  Now I wonder what the game can even hope to get.

It should be a good moment for the game.  It is celebrating its 14th anniversary and a major potential competitor, the Amazon funded Middle-earth MMO, has been cancelled. (Though the LOTR series under development is still on, so there may still be a renewed interest in all things Middle-earth.)  Instead, the game is starting to feel like Bilbo at the top of the post, stretched too thin for the resources they have with no relief in sight.