Author Archives: Wilhelm Arcturus

About Wilhelm Arcturus

I started playing online, multiplayer games in 1986. I expect to get the hang of it any time now.

A New World Dawns

The day has come at last.  After changes and postponements and what not, New World goes live today.

Just how new and how worldly?

I received an email yesterday morning from Amazon with the Steam key that was the fulfillment of my pre-order.  I launched Steam and plugged that in and downloaded the client, which weighed in at about 39GB, putting it about on par with the Diablo II Resurrected client I downloaded last week.

After that all there was left to do was wait.  And even the wait wasn’t that long.  The various server regions were all set to start up at 8am local time… except Australia for some reason.

It is 8am somewhere

That means pretty much everything is live now.  But I won’t bother to log in until later today, after work and the usual rest I need.  It is hard to sit at you desk at home all day working and then transition to games.  I need to be somewhere else for a while.

Amazon has provided a whole bunch of details about the launch in a post on their site, including the list of servers available.

Meanwhile, somebody has also put together a whole web site about which streamers will be on what servers for launch so you can avoid  the servers that are going to get slammed because somebody with 100K followers is going to swamp the server.

As for why I am playing, a legitimate question after my somewhat tepid summary of the latest beta relative to where the game stood a few years back, there are a few reasons.

First, I remain interested in how it turned out.  The change to a theme park stance has worn away any hype I might have had for the title, but that might be a good thing.  Hype knows no sense or logic, it only knows hype and it is very easy to let hype inflate your expectations.  Lower expectations mean a more appraising look at the title and less likelihood of real disappointment.

Second, it has been a bit of a ride getting here since the game was announced back in 2016.  Five years isn’t that long of a stretch… let me tell you about some Kickstarter backed MMOs that promised to ship more than five years ago that still aren’t even in beta… but given the gyrations and the delays and the change of course… again, I am interested to see where it ended up.

Third, it is a bit of an event in the genre, the first big studio launch of an MMORPG in a while.  How it goes will likely be read as a barometer for the genre as a whole.  Are MMORPGs a thing again?  Is the market ready for new blood?  And how long has it been since I was at an MMORPG launch?  Expansions don’t count and I cannot remember the last time I was there on day one for a new title.

Finally, it is kind of a low commitment.  New World is buy to play; grab the box for $40 and no subscription required.  I am down with that.  Not having a subscription cuts both ways of course.  While it makes it easy to buy in, I also have a tendency to prioritize the games I am paying a monthly fee for when it comes to play time.  But we’ll see.  I also want to see the day one cash shop versus what it looks like a year from now.

I have no idea where I will end up server-wise.  And the fact that companies (guilds) are capped at 100 people means I’ll likely not join one any time soon if only to avoid taking up a limited resource for some group.

And, of course, we’ll see if Amazon is really ready.  There is certainly a chance that there will be issues.  It would barely be an MMORPG launch without some problems.  I’ll be along for the ride.  Let’s see how it rolls.

Addendum: I peeked in this morning just to see how things were going and it is queues everywhere, rolling up into the 25K zone for some “cool name” servers, like Valhalla in US East.  I expect we might see some additional servers coming online before the weekend.

Addendum 2: Oh yeah, new servers inbound

24 Million EVE Online Pilots Means What?

As part of their announcement that EVE Online was now available on the Epic Games store CCP put out a press release that indicated that more than 24 million “pilots” had played the game and that more than 91 million ships had been destroyed.

Some numbers

Those are some impressive numbers.

When I write about older titles in the MMORPG genre I often refer to a game’s “installed base.”   Those are the total number of users who have played the game and who are still interested in or fond of the game. They are often a lucrative resource for a company to sell to.  There is a direct correlation between that “installed base” number and how successful an older game can be playing the nostalgia card with retro servers and the like.

EverQuest, for example, while peaking at 550K subscribers, was the biggest show in town when it came to the genre for the first five years of its run.  During that time several million people played the game and then moved on.  So, while many players didn’t stick with the game forever, they played long enough to have had good times.  When SOE, and later Daybreak, started offering old school servers based around early content, that became a significant part of the title’s business.

Likewise, we saw WoW Classic revive the fortunes of World of Warcraft when Battle for Azeroth was foundering a bit, and Old School RuneScape… playing the retro card there has gotten it concurrent player counts more than a lot of titles have total players.

So EVE Online looks to have a sizable installed base to work with.  Even if they can’t play the retro server card, they can still market to appeal to players who have played and lapsed over time.

The question is, how big the core installed base, the players that got invested enough in the game, really is.  And for that we have to first figure out what 24 million “pilots” really means.  That could mean characters, accounts, actual individual people, or some other metric they came up with after a night of too much aquavit.

Fortunately, even as I was thinking about what it could be, CSM member Brisc Rubal was using his position to find out from CCP what it really meant.  On The Meta Show on Saturday he said that he got clarification and that “pilots” really meant “accounts.”

That means 24 million accounts have been created for the game.

But he got even further clarification.  Of those 24 million accounts… and I know I keep rounding down, but I am going to get into some sloppy math in a bit and that will be my margin for error or some such… 18 million were created by unique individuals.

So the largest potential installed base for EVE Online is 18 million people.

Of course, it is not that big.  Not every one of those players spent enough time to form at attachment with the game.  After all, we’ve all seen this chart from EVE North 2019, haven’t we?

How many new players log back in as time passes

And that wasn’t even news in 2019.  We had seen a similar sort of chart back at EVE Fanfest 2014.

New Player Trajectory

People who leave without engaging, people who don’t log in after a day or two, nothing has hooked them.  They got a glimpse, didn’t find anything to their liking, and moved on.

This was the view of EVE at the time

The retention problem has changed over time.  That 2014 chart reflects the pre-F2P era, when you had to commit a bit more to even get going because the whole thing required a monthly subscription after the 14 day trial, a fact that chased a lot of people off before they took their first step towards the game.

Now, with free to play, the reality of the first chart, where nearly 90% of new players fall by the wayside in a week and the overall long term retention is something like 4%, that 10% “Group / Diverse” long term retention path probably feels like the good old days.

That means that the installed base isn’t 18 million.  But it also isn’t 720K, which would be 4% of that number.  It is somewhere in between, though much closer to the lower number I would guess.

So I am going to do a bit of hand waving with the data we have to come up with a guess that, while not solid, has some foundation in reality.  And that is where we get to that gap between 24 million accounts and 18 million individuals.

That is a gap of six million, and I am going to use that as the basis of my estimate, because to me those are the secondary and tertiary accounts that users who are committed to the game, people who would likely count in the installed base, players that CCP could reasonably be able to market to with some new initiative.

So if that is six million alts and, let’s take a 3 alts per main as an estimate… I know, somebody will say that person X has a hundred accounts, but a lot of people still just have one, and even Goons by the last participation metric count are a little past 4 to 1…. that means that there are maybe 2 million individuals out there that have committed to the game enough to manage multiple accounts.

That leaves 16 million in the total users, who can’t all have turned and run, so I am just going to somewhat arbitrarily declare a million of them…  6.25% of that total… are also in the installed base of the game.

That gives the game an installed base to draw on of maybe 3 million individuals, and I am going to use the slop in my rounding down to 24 million at the top to hide the current player base, where CCP has said they have an active monthly user count that runs between 200K and 300K.

That is pretty healthy.  But EVE Online has had some promising numbers of late, like that floor of 110K subscribers that the redeemed ISK token line in the July/August MERs seemed to indicate.

Of course, the question is what CCP does with this installed base.  As I noted above, they don’t really have the retro server option, the New Eden economy being a bit precarious as it is.  Splitting the player base with another server would likely doom both, leaving aside the giant elephant in the room of what an EVE Online retro server would even be.

So they have untapped potential.  Can they do something with it?  What would lend itself to getting the installed base engaged and back to the game?  Or is the installed base really a thing at all for New Eden?  When you “win” EVE and log off, do you want to come back?  It is a game that can absorb all the effort and dedication that you have, so would you miss it when it was gone or just feel relieved?

Binge Watching Prime Suspect

When digging through Hulu, which has a pretty poor interface for discovering content, and I say that comparing it to a field of apps that are all pretty bad at that, I stumbled upon the entire Prime Suspect collection.  Having watched the original back when it premiered in the US in early 1992, I decided to give it a go to see how it has stood up over time.

Prime Suspect

The series stars Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jane Tennison who is the only woman of that rank at her station in the London Metropolitan Police.

British crime dramas have taught me that DCI is the rank at which you personally run a major investigation into something like a murder and people are supposed to call you “Guv” or “Boss.”  DCI Tennison, as the first series opens, has yet to be given her own case despite the obvious competence that got her into the otherwise male dominated command structure.

And then, in the midst of a grisly murder investigation, the DCI running it dies of a heart attack.   Her superintendent’s first action is to find another male DCI from another station to step in and take over the case.  Tennison points out that she is a DCI, in the building, with no current assignment, and pushes to get the case assigned to her.

She gets it, though it is clear that it is somewhat probationary and the male DCI they were considering is always just a phone call away.  Meanwhile, the team she inherits is not all on board with a woman DCI either.  And when the late DCI who had been running the case is found to have been hiding some evidence due to his own association with the case, her looking into that makes everybody bristle because she seems to be trying to tear down her well liked predecessor.

So it goes.  But her hard work and insight win over key members of her team and, when her superintendent is pressured to replace her with the male DCI waiting in the wings because the case isn’t moving along fast enough, her teams stands up for her and the progress she has made even as she is hiding from her boss to avoid being dismissed.

This was 1991 after all.  No email, no texts, no mobile phones, except for one giant car phone that is seen in the first act.  You had to find somebody to talk to them.

Anyway, the ploy works, she gets a reprieve, and eventually solves the case, cementing her position as an effective DCI.

The series carries on to follow her career.  It isn’t really a series in the same way that TV shows tend to be.  The format for each season is generally a pair of episodes each formatted for a 2-hour block of TV time, with obvious spots for commercial breaks. A season generally follows one case in detail, though season four breaks the trend in being three episodes, each one about a different case.

The case is always murder, but the themes vary with each season, though Tennison’s struggle to maintain her place in what remains a very male dominated world from start to finish is a universal thread.  She manages to be promoted to Detective Superintendent, which mean the DCIs report to her.  But well groomed and correctly bred male sergeants and inspectors who serve under her early in the timeline sometimes come back as her boss or her boss’s boss as things progress.

Seasons explore immigrants, racism, gay and trans acceptance, the drug trade, street gangs, pedophilia, government corruption, and police involvement or indifference in all sorts of crime.

The show overall is a solid, gritty police procedural that focuses on the dedication and investigative work that it takes to solve a crime; not a lot of car chases or gun battles.  It takes place primarily in London, though Tennison is banished to Manchester for a season and visits Bosnia for a brief bit in season six.

And, as with any British series of any length, a number of notable actors wander through including Tom Wilkinson, Peter Capaldi, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, David Thewlis, Brendan Coyle, and Ralph Fiennes.

But the whole thing is carried on the shoulders of Helen Mirren’s Tennison.  The character works because Tennison doesn’t bring magical female insight into the role, though a knowledge of how a woman’s body actually works is useful now and then, but is just more tenacious and hard working than anybody around her.  She is as tough on herself and does the difficult tasks rather than delegating, which earns her the respect of her team.

She also has many of the issues of her male colleagues.  She works long hours, can’t give up smoking, drinks too much, sleeps too little, neglects her personal and family life, makes poor choices with whom she sleeps occasionally, and generally puts the job ahead of everything in her life.  She won’t play the promotion game, except through hard work and success, or work a case in a way just to please her superiors. Her affinity is with the gruff old guy who has been a detective sergeant for 20 years rather than the up and coming bright starts looking to tick the boxes on their way to higher rank.

And she doesn’t cut her female colleagues any extra slack.  No sisterhood here.  She opens one season trying to kick a female detective inspector off her team because she goes home at the end of the work day to be with her husband and kids rather than putting in the extra hours than Tennison does.

In season seven, when Tennison has been on the force for 30 years and the powers that be are pressuring her to retire, she does question whether it was worth it.  She is 54, her mother has passed, her father is dying, her sister has a husband and a family, and all she has had is a string of short term relationships and an obvious problem with alcohol, with no real place to go if she retires.  The force has been her whole focus for almost her entire adult life.

So ends her career and the force goes on looking not much different than it did when we first saw her fifteen years back, though everybody does seem to have a cell phone on them at the end.

The seven seasons run from 1991 through until 2006, with a rather significant gap between season 5 (1996) and season 6 (2003).  The early seasons have been cleaned up a bit and made to work in HD.

I had only watched the first three seasons previously, but the series holds up well enough through all seven.  Season four is the odd duck, as mentioned, being three episodes about three different cases.  The stories are all a bit weak, even the third one, which goes back to the original season one case when some copy cat killings bring her conviction under scrutiny.  But I suspect that the inability to pull together a single strong story probably necessitated the variation.  Sometimes plot ideas don’t pan out.

More recently somebody went back and tried to make a prequel series, Prime Suspect: 1973, charting the rise of Jane Tennison.  But not everybody needs an origin story and it lasted a single season.

So it goes.

Diablo II Resurrected Arrives

Diablo II has been resurrected at last.  Well, it never really died, there being a community that still plays it and the various mods to this day.  But it has been remastered.

And it has been a long time getting there.  Much has happened since Blizzard had an ad for developers to work on some remasters they had planned, which was almost six years ago at this point.

The return of the classic

We got a remaster of StarCraft back in 2017, which came quickly enough to give hope that the other two titles were on their way soon.  They weren’t, but at least we had a slightly better looking/sounding version of StarCraft.  A modest update with a modest price that mostly got a modest reaction, but it served an audience.

Then in early 2020 we got Warcraft III Reforged, which was… less good.  Broken and missing features along with a draconian licensing agreement that simply proved that Blizzard remained aggrieved that somebody else was getting paid for Defense of the Ancients.  It was very much a black eye for Blizz, a company that at least had a reputation for polish and quality until then.

We were left hanging on Diablo II until BlizzConline in February of this year, blowing right past the game’s 20th anniversary.  Maybe it wasn’t ready yet.  Maybe Blizz learned a lesson.  But the company was still in mostly good odor at that point.  Shadowlands was still fresh and people were eager for its first big content update, Burning Crusade Classic was keeping the old school Azeroth fans happy, and now they had a classic to update for fans new and old.

And then, of course, Blizzard’s world fell apart when the State of California sued the company based on its two year investigation, which the company denied and minimized, a reaction that just got more people to come forward publicly and tell their tales of the company.  The company that could do no wrong for many is now the pariah that couldn’t get a favorable headline if it suddenly cured COVID and achieved world peace.

But you get to sleep in the bed you made.  These are Bobby Kotick’s chickens coming home to roost and execs down in Irvine have been jumping onto the evacuation slide… or are they being pushed… with grim regularity.  The circus has years to play out I am sure.

But they shipped Diablo II Resurrected.  It went live on Thursday.  I downloaded it when it became available, having pre-ordered it ages ago, but I didn’t even get around to playing it until last night.  I wasn’t in a rush.  I didn’t need to take the day off work or spend that night playing.  I knew what I was getting.

The beta, as I wrote, tempered my enthusiasm for the title a bit, though not necessarily in a bad way.  The title wasn’t going to make be 20 years younger just by playing it and I was reminded, as I have always been reminded when I gone back to play the original, that it is a product of a different time.

Still, I played last night and it was good.  It sticks to the original in the important aspects, even the ones that don’t always thrill me.  That “one respect per play through” is still a huge penalty if you spec wrong.  But I remember Blizz relenting and giving us that respec because it wasn’t there at launch.  Things could be worse.

I gather that the launch was less than perfect.  I saw one article that called it Blizzard’s Latest Disaster.  I kind of want to write in and remind them of the Diablo III launch, next to which the list of issues I saw seemed pretty minor.   I know the editorial slant these days is to hit Blizz hard on everything, which they certainly deserve.  But given the scope of disasters the company has managed so far in 2021, this launch seems like a non-event by comparison.

Of course, that is a problem for Blizz too.  The coverage feels grudging save for sites that have hooked their brand up to the Blizzard name.  Sorry Blizzard Watch, that is kind of the path you chose.

For me, last night, things seemed to be working well.  Though, child of the original Diablo that I am, I remain dubious of making character on Battle.net unless I have to… as during the beta… and rolled some local characters for my kick off.  That shielded me from many problems I am sure. (Something that wasn’t an option for Diablo III as we all well recall.)

The animation, which seemed a little janky and off back when I played in beta looked to be locked down.  The “weapon swings, hits mob, makes swinging sound, mob dies, makes striking sound…” audio coordination also seemed to have been addressed.  But maybe that was just Battle.net.  I remain wary.

As for the critical aspects of the game, which has always been atmosphere for me, that seems spot on.  The graphical update managed to enhance the light and shadow movements.  Things feel very good, and the old sound track and sounds, tuned up, are all spot on.

Meanwhile, some of the fire and magic effects are huge improvements.  When that shaman throws a fireball at you it looks very good.

Here comes the heat

This isn’t going to be a new obsession.  I’ll want to play through and see all the locations redone.  But the reality of my history with the game is that I have played through Act I dozens of times, and Act II nearly as many, but my enthusiasm tends to wain a bit with the tepid Act III.  If I do get through Act III and generally go straight through Act IV, though its brevity doesn’t make that too difficult.  Then there is Act V, which I think I have played through three times top, and once was in my play through of the original last year.

But it is in my library and I am happy to have the option to play it when the mood strikes me.

Cooking in the Blood Furnace

After the three run struggle to get past Hellfire Ramparts, I have to admit that I was a bit pessimistic about our chance for the Blood Furnace, the next instance on our four person instance tour of WoW Classic.

Yes, we had leveled up and geared up some, but even so we barely squeaked out that last fight on our third run in ramparts.  That was not a promising sign.

Still, what else were we going to do?  We can only go back to visit Blackrock Depths so often.

So we got together… this was back on the 12th… and our group was:

  • Ula – level 63 gnome mage
  • Beanpole – level 63 gnome warlock
  • Wilhelm – level 63 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 63 human paladin (holy)

The first thing was to get everybody to the instance.  I scouted it out early, which wasn’t too hard because I had found it when I was looking for the Hellfire Ramparts instance previously.  But then I had to explain to everybody else where I was as they logged on, which I did poorly, so I ended up running out to the end of the wall to where the siege engine with the ramp is that lets you get up onto the wall so they could come to my marker on the map.  Eventually we got to the instance.

Up on the wall and around a bend and there we are

Once inside we looked around and steeled ourselves for a hard slog.  None of us could remember in any detail any of our past runs, though as we moved through we had flashes of wipes and bad turns.  I try not to go re-read the old instance group posts from back in the day before we do a run as not to spoil things, but I had a feeling there were stories.  So we moved forward to see how it would play out.

Inside and ready to move

We made our way in and up the passage, taking out groups, then up the stairs, where somebody mentioned stealthed rogues in a comment on the last instance group post, so we were warned and managed to handle them well enough.

We seemed to be doing okay, though I suspect our being level 63 help us avoid an accidental proximity pull here and there.  There were a few close runs, but it wasn’t until we got to the room outside of the first boss’s chamber that we had any real problems.  There are three groups close together and a walker that moves between them.  In an attempt to pick off the walker I managed to pull everybody in the room.

Things went badly soon thereafter.  I fell, then Fergorin, then Beanpole.  Ula ran for the instance line, blinking to keep ahead of all the mobs chasing here, which just allowed her to make it out.  That was all that kept it from being a full wipe.

The chorus line running back past our corpses after chasing Ula out of the instance

We had a soul stone handy, so Fergorin was able to revive then ress Beanpole and myself.

With that out of our system, we went in a bit more carefully and managed to pull a group, then the walker, then the other groups, clearing the room and letting us into the room of The Maker, the first boss in the instance.

You have to clear his room too, and there are groups standing around and in motion, but they are spread out enough that we were able to clear the room, which left us the prize.

Facing The Maker

The Maker did not end up being all that tough.  After a short sharp fight he was down.  He dropped the Diamond-Core Sledgemace, which is not only a very healer focused weapon, but a very dwarven one as well, which made it a perfect fit for Fergorin.

Sledgemace in hand

From there it was into the tunnel that runs to the second boss, where there are mobs in close proximity and wandering mobs and at one point Fergorin had to use Divine Intervention on me to avoid a wipe when we got in over our heads, so I was able to ress everybody so we could carry on.

In the tunnel

We managed to get through that and into the room where the next boss fight would take place.  We had to clear it out, of course, but once done there was a big lever to pull that would set the event in motion.

The lever awaits

We looked this one up in advance just to prepare.  You pull the lever and you have to face four groups of four elites, one at a time, then Broggok, the boss comes for you.  Mana management was recommended, with the suggestion that you crowd control the final elite from the last group and let your mana regen before killing him and facing the boss.  Seemed easy enough.

This went a bit rough with the groups.  We had some trouble focusing on a single target and mobs would break away to chase the casters and then I’d have to go chase the mobs and it was a bit of a circus.  My taunt, which pulls multiple mobs, has a 15 second cool-down and inevitably I use it for one caster seconds before the other unloads with some huge windup and then I am off chasing a mob while swearing at the cool down timer on my taunt.

Anyway, we somehow managed to keep it together through the first three groups all the same, then Beanpole died on the fourth group and it seemed like we might be done for.  We managed to finish off all but the last elite in that group, then kept him crowd controlled while we regenerated mana and considered our options.  We were in combat and didn’t have a combat ress, so we were just going to have to fight the boss without Beanpole.  So we offed the last elite and went to dance with Broggok.

You can just see Beanpole’s corpse on the floor a bit to the left

And dance is the right word.  One thing I did remember through the years was that he drops a poison stink that you need to avoid, so you have to keep moving through the fight.  So I unloaded everything I could on him, there being no point in holding back.  Fergorin kept me healed, I held aggro, and Ula burned him down.  And we won.  With just three of us.

It seemed kind of amazing.  We got Beanpole ressed and checked the loot.

Broggok Slain

He dropped the Arcing Bracers, which went to a roll-off between Beanpole and Ula, though I cannot remember who won them in the end, but they were another upgrade for somebody.

That left us clearing our way to the final boss, Keli’dan the Breaker, which we managed to do without too much additional drama.  There are still some stealthed rogues that far into the instance, but we managed  to spot them before they surprised us.

For Keli’dan you have to slay five elites who are holding him in place, and for once we managed some very good target discipline and chopped them all down one after another, before launching into the boss.  All we really knew is that he has an AOE fire blast and that when he says “Come closer” you run away like he’s promising you there is candy in his white panel van, and you don’t stop until you know the blast is over because you’re probably not far enough away when you think you are.

And with that bit of knowledge we managed to best him.  He died with some parting advice.

Says the dead guy

He dropped the Raiments of Divine Authority, which went to Ula, another upgrade on the run.

We took our end of instance screen shot.

The group made it to the end

Then we headed out the back door and called it a day.

Happy fun ramp exit

A rather successful run.  No full wipes, no runs back to the instance, upgrades dropping from each boss.  Hard to argue with that.

It will probably boost our confidence slightly until we get to the next instance, which is The Slave Pens in Zangarmarsh.  That probably means we’ll have to do some overland content to get quests lined up and all of that.  I have been avoiding that content for a few months now.  Maybe it is time.

And, after all of that I went back and looked at our original run back in the day… and we did it on the first try back then as well.  So maybe I was worried about nothing.

Pandas and Gear Up and Level Up Events Hit EverQuest II

With the announcement of the Visions of Vetrovia expansion last week I opined that we might soon be seeing Gear Up, Level Up events as well as the possibility of the now usual Days of Summer event.

The 2021 Expansion

And this week saw both get announced, though not in that order.  The Gear Up, Level Up event news hit the EverQuest II site late on Tuesday announcing the usual array of pre-expansion bonuses.  For live servers we will get:

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, September 27, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double loot drops, double experience for members, double status for members.
  • Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 4, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double loot drops, and for a limited time: mount training drops.
  • Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 11, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double loot drops, and for a limited time: spell research.
  • Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 18, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double loot drops, for a limited time: spell research, double experience for members, double status for members.

For those on the Kaladim server, there are some lesser bennies… but they’re paying to walk to school up hill in the snow both ways, right?  I guess they do get a bit of double XP.

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, September 27, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double status for members.
  • Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 4, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double Destiny of Velious Hunter coins.
  • Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 11, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double experience for members.
  • Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 18, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double Destiny of Velious loot drops.

And then there is the Tarinax PvP progression server, which I am reminded is even still a thing, has its own set of bennies.

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, September 27, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double status members.
  • Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 4, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double Cobalt coins.
  • Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 11, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double experience for members.
  • Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. PDT until Monday, October 18, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PDT
    • Double Kingdom of Sky loot drops.

As with Mickey Donovan’s favorite jacket, these bennies are “Members Only,” which means you have to subscribe to the Daybreak All Access plan.  $15 a month is all they ask.

Those bennies are all fine and good, though not much there really appeals to me.

On the “Level Up” front  I managed to get six characters to the current level cap of 120 back when we first went to the moon with the Blood of Luclin expansion.  I still have characters that are not at level cap, but I do start to wonder how many level cap characters I really need.  (Also, there is a pile of them in the 40-70 range, which is a long way from level cap.)

As for “Gear Up,” I am already way behind there having not bought the Reign of Shadows expansion.  That means I’ll be depending on the crate of gear that is on the ground at the start of most of the recent expansions.

And then there is the Days of Summer event which, even at its earliest, ran deep into autumn, and has finally submitted to reality and been given a name change.  It is now Panda Panda Panda … because the related NPCs are pandas.

Panda Panda Panda starts in autumn

As with gear up/level up, there isn’t much available that we realistically ready me for the next expansion, though I am sure the gear will be upgrades over what I have.  But the event, which comes in a series of weekly tasks, sends you all over Norrath and is kind of fun.  And there are always some cosmetic items worth having, and this year there is a mount… and ant mount.

I wonder if that is foreshadowing for the next expansion?

Anyway, I’ll be doing that over the next few weeks.  And then when that ends we’ll be in the zone for the launch of the next expansion.

Bhagpuss also has a write up about the event and I am sure we’ll both share pictures of the mount.  It certainly won’t be the worst looking mount in the game.  I wonder if it scales to barbarian size?

A Keepstar Dies in Catch

The war is over and most groups are back in their homes… old or new… and working on building up for the next struggle.  Out in Delve we have Ansiblex jump gates again and an industrial infrastructure in progress and ADMs on the rise.

But there are still some details to take care of.  While most of the PAPI structures have been cleared out, a Keepstar was still hanging on in Catch, in U-QVWD.  That might have been the most reinforced structure of the war.  The Initiative went after it many times, but it was a key waypoint on the capital highway to the east, so PAPI forces kept showing up to defend it even when they were not doing much in Delve proper.

They even gave it a name to taunt Dark Shines of INIT

But Monday night late USTZ the final timer was coming up for it.  The question was whether or not TEST or PAPI would put any effort into defending it one more time.  It was far from Outer Passage, but not impossible to get to.

The Imperium was not going to take any chances.  Capitals moved out the day before and as tht timer counted down subcap fleets were formed up and sent to Catch.  After all, who doesn’t want to get on a Keepstar kill?

Titans waiting their turn

There was even some chatter about Pandemic Horde doing a flash form and maybe coming our way.  But nothing came of it.  The joke went around that they accidentally jumped to the bait beacon in UQ-PWD like so many of their comrades before.

I had a jump clone and a couple of ships over in Curse in an NPC station just a couple of jumps away, so I grabbed an Ishtar I had sitting around and joined in to watch the fun.

Ishtar watching the Keepstar

I have been a bit under the weather and wasn’t feeling up to being in main fleet, so I did this on my own.  I waited until the Keepstar was down to about 15% then warped in range and took a few distant pot shots at it.  I scored no hits, but you get credit for trying.

The Keep exploded soon there after.

Another one bites the dust

I made it on the kill mail with about 800 of my fellow Imperium pilots.

GSOL, well practiced at this now, swooped in and grabbed the core then salvaged the wreck.

GSOL doing its thing

There is another TEST Keepstar in 0SHT-A, one gate over in Curse.  I am sure that will be next on the list.

 

Yulai Bot Bash 2021

GM Week is back upon us, and it opened up with the traditional Bot Bash in Yulai.  I think they get straight to that to grab botters before they realize the even it coming.  While there are plenty of other things to do during GM Week, this is always has a good turnout.  It is described as:

In this fan-favorite event, Capsuleers discovered using CONCORD-prohibited automated piloting technology will be dragged into Yulai, ship and all, where countless players will be sitting in wait to tear them apart!

So I had to find a character who could go out and take part.  Due to other commitments, the only character I had handy was  5 million skill point alt that I rolled up back in 2008 and only just started working with recently.  Most of his skill points are in planetary industry, but he had just enough in Caldari ships, and enough un-allocated skill points, that I could get him in a Kestral with decent range so he could get his first kill mails after almost 14 years of hanging around in the station waiting for his turn.

Of course I bought him a SKIN, I have some sense of style

I flew him out to Yulai early and set him up in a wide orbit around the Yulai Graveyard beacon.  (You can read about the Yulai Graveyard here.)

Things were warming up even as got there very early.  People had started to gather already and fireworks were being thrown about liberally.

It looks like the battle has already started

I left that to itself and went about my business until the time was almost upon us.  I was going to be ready this year, so I set my alt up with a capitals only overview and got ready.

There was an announcement in local.  The targets were going to be arriving soon.

Here they come

CCP Convict was on grid and rolling around in his Polaris Enigma Frigate.  Destruction was imminent.

CCP Convict in the thick of thins

Then the first three targets, three Rorquals, appeared on grid on my overview.   It was on!

And then I did a very null sec thing.  I shot them right away.

Unfortunately, Yulai is a high sec system, so you’re supposed to wait until the GMs flag the teleported ships as suspects, making them legal to shoot, before opening fire.  Honestly, if I had just counted to five I would have been fine.  I saw them turn suspect even as my own handle was broadcast across the system as a criminal and CONCORD came to get me.

And then I exploded.

My pod lasted long enough to get on the kill mail for the Rorqual I shot.  Or maybe the system was just lagged and I snuck in.  But now he is on his first kill mail… and he has his first loss mails as well.  He is a capsuleer now.

The event carried on without me.  It looks like the haul was those three Rorquals, five supercarriers, and a Titan.  Not ships you get to see in high sec every day.  Not as big of a haul as last year… one of my baby characters is on two titan kill mails from that… but still decent.

I am a bit bummed about my mistake,  but I am sure the event will be back next year.  Bots never sleep and they keep coming back.

The August MER and the End of the War in EVE Online

Time once again for a look at the New Eden economy as CCP posted the August monthly economic report for EVE Online late last week.

EVE Online nerds harder

August saw the end of World War Bee.  After the great PAPI summer lull, when the told line members to take some time off and we saw daily activity follow them out of the game, the coalition announced a final push against the Imperium, threw some subcaps against 1DQ1-A, then promptly began their retreat from Delve.

From there it was a time to clean up and return to normalcy, or something like it.  So let’s go through the usual categories and see what happened in August.

Destruction

While the final battle in 1DQ1-A resulted in a mere 340 billion ISK in destruction, blowing up the many PAPI structures left over in the region boosted the destroyed amount, putting Delve at the top of the region list once again.

  1. Delve – 4.27 trillion
  2. The Forge – 2.33 trillion
  3. The Citadel – 2.12 trillion
  4. Lonetrek – 2.08 trillion
  5. Vale of the Silent – 1.42 trillion
  6. Sinq Laison – 1.37 trillion
  7. Querious – 1.27 trillion
  8. Catch – 1.1 trillion
  9. Genesis – 1.04 trillion
  10. Metropolis – 905 billion

You can see the effects of some of the clean up in Querious and the cyno beacon trap in Catch that added to the 36 trillion ISK in destruction that took place in August.  That was up 9 trillion from July.  With the war over, I expect we will see that number dip once more with the September MER.

Production

The end of the war saw a bit of a boost in production as well as parties settled down and began rebuilding for the next war.

August 2021 – Production vs Destruction vs Mined

You can see the red line pulling upward again after having dropped off in April with the industry changes.  Overall a total of 94 trillion in ISK value was produced, up almost 13 trillion from July.  The top regions were:

  1. The Forge – 18.27 trillion
  2. Delve – 11.38 trillion
  3. The Citadel – 7.08 trillion
  4. Lonetrek 7.04 trillion
  5. Vale of the Silent – 5.27 trillion
  6. Sinq Laison – 3.81 trillion
  7. Fade – 3.36 trillion
  8. Domain – 3.1 trillion
  9. Placid – 2.77 trillion
  10. The Kalevala Expanse – 2.74 trillion

The regions feeding Jita, The Forge, The Citadel, and Lonetrek, dominate still, but Delve managed to clinch second place as the Imperium ramped up production to rebuild the region shattered by the war.

Mining

Mineral prices changed a bit as the war ended, falling slightly.

Aug 2021 – Economic Indices

That would have seemed like a big change in past eras, but after the starvation spike it feels like a normal fluctuation.  A total of 21.95 trillion in ore was mined, up about 1.5 trillion from July, with the top regions being:

  1. Vale of the Silent – 1.43 trillion
  2. The Forge – 997 billion
  3. Domain – 979 billion
  4. Metropolis – 800 billion
  5. Fountain – 775 billion
  6. Insmother – 641 billion
  7. Malpais – 576 billion
  8. Lonetrek – 565 billion
  9. Sinq Laison – 538 billion
  10. Deklein – 531 billion

Delve was down in 14th position, which isn’t bad considering the need to install moon mining structures and the need to raise ADMs to get upgrades so that mining anomalies would spawn.  I expect that we will see Delve in the top five for September and that overall mining value will go up with the changes we saw in last week’s update, where ice availability was doubled and Mercoxit spawns were increased.  That is the first step away from CCP’s economic starvation plan.

Trade

The market also saw a jump in August.  I am sure all those players trying to buy fuel to move their capital ships added to that number.  There was a total of 647 trillion in transaction recorded, up from 513 trillion in July.  That is quite a significant rebound.

The top regions were:

  1. The Forge – 471 trillion (Jita)
  2. Domain – 51.36 trillion (Amarr)
  3. Delve – 25.81 trillion (Imperium)
  4. Sinq Laison – 16.15 trillion (Dodixie)
  5. Lonetrek – 13.41 trillion (Caldari High Sec)
  6. Metropolis – 9.62 trillion (Hek)
  7. Heimatar – 7.09 trillion (Rens)
  8. The Kalevala Expanse – 5.15 trillion (PanFam)
  9. Vale of the Silent – 4.62 trillion (Fraternity)
  10. Essence – 4.21 trillion (Gallente High Sec)

All of those regions, save for Heimatar, were up, with the top three being up significantly as the economy shifted back into gear after the early summer slump.

ISK Faucets

I have left the most interesting for last and we might as well get right to the Redeemed ISK Token entry.  Last month that line on the faucets chart spiked dramatically as CCP handed out 235 million ISK in login rewards to players with Omega accounts.  The main spike finished in August and then fell off as the month carried on.

Aug 2021 – Top Sinks and Faucets Over Time

The sudden prominence of that line last month led some to believe that it only tracked the ISK tokens that were redeemed as part of the login event, myself included.

Following that logic, with the event over and most of the redemption likely concluded, the assumption was that the 25,869,509,165,000.00 ISK that line represented in July and August could be neatly divided by 235 million to give us a minimum number of Omega accounts active in EVE Online.

That gives you a minimum of 110,000 subscribers to the game.

However, nothing is ever that easy.  That Redeemed ISK Token line runs back into 2020 on the chart, and while it isn’t significant amount, it does mean that it isn’t all from that one event.  The Nosy Gamer did some research on that line item.  The upshot is that there are other things that feed into that line.  I pulled the data from the source file in the MER and found that from July 1st through July 26th, that line accounted for close to 20 billion ISK in payouts before the login event occurred.  That isn’t a lot relative to the trillions that the event adds in, but it isn’t nothing either.

Still, that 110,000 floor for subscribers seems to be fairly solid.  While a far cry from the 400K subscriber count the company was reporting in 2012, relative to titles of its age not named World of Warcraft, the game is doing pretty well.  The list of aging MMOs that would like to have 110K paying subscribers is pretty long.

Otherwise the faucets were the usual suspects.

Aug 2021 – Faucet end of the chart big chart

You can see that commodities are still in the top position, with bounty prizes lagging behind as has been the case for the last year or so.  Overall bounties were up by about 4.5 trillion ISK, with a total of 29.14 trillion ISK being collected.  But if you look at the sinks and faucets over time chart above, which shows daily activity, you will see bounties making a surge towards the end of the month as people settled into a more normal peacetime roles.

Tiny little crop

It is very possible, given that trend, that we might see bounties back on top as the primary ISK faucet come September.

As for where bounties are coming from, these were the top ten regions:

  1. Vale of the Silent – 2.46 trillion (Fraternity)
  2. Delve – 2.43 trillion (Imperium)
  3. The Kalevala Expanse – 1.47 trillion (PanFam)
  4. Tenal – 1.12 trillion (Fraternity)
  5. Malpais – 1.07 trillion (PanFam)
  6. Insmother – 1.02 trillion (FI.RE)
  7. Esoteria 953 billion (AoM)
  8. Oasa – 940 billion (Fraternity)
  9. Tribute – 908 billion (Fraternity)
  10. Branch – 886 billion (Fraternity)

Fraternity is still leading the way on NPC bounties, but Delve surged back on the list in the the back half of the month as work on raising ADMs continued.  Delve could climb back to the top of the list, though Fraternity’s diverse holdings will likely still add up to more ISK income over time.

And, finally, on the commodities front, one of the big questions was whether or not that estimated 20 trillion ISK sitting in ESS reserve banks would suddenly be let loose on the New Eden economy.  The chart says… not so much.

Aug 2021 – Top Commodity Items Over Time

While looking at the yellow line clearly shows an uptick in redemption of the encrypted bonds that both ESS banks and reserve banks yield when you rob them, relative to other commodities it wasn’t a huge impact.

Of course there have been ongoing issues getting the actual reserve bank keys, the fact that reserve banks have been “nationalized” in a number of regions, and the rather slow payout mechanism involved with robbing reserve banks that keep that number from suddenly jumping into the trillions.

Something to keep an eye on as time goes by.

Other items of note, going back up to the sinks and faucets line chart, you can see the brokers fee and transaction tax changes that CCP put in place reflected in the chart as well as a rise in the asset safety recover tax as people get their stuff out of hock after the war.

That is all I have for August.  As always you can find all the charts and data at the dev blog for the MER.

Related:

Maui Driving Adventures

My daughter complained to me a few years back that she had never been to Disneyland.

This was not true.  I pointed out pictures hanging on the wall the proved we had been not just to Disneyland, but to Disney World AND on a Disney cruise.  She pointed out that she was 3 and 4 years old in those pictures, making that was long enough ago to not count.

I had to fall back on my usual defense, which is Hawaii.  She had been to Hawaii more times before she was 8 than most people will go in their entire lives.  We have family there, including my mother, so we tend to fly there for vacations.  This tends to defuse my daughter a bit, but she is still a bit surly when her friends talk about the magic kingdom.

Maui is the usual destination for us.  Again, family.  I’ve been going there since the late 70s and my wife and I for our whole relationship, so the island is both pleasant and familiar.  So it was a natural choice for our first trip in what seemed like the post-COVID era.  When we booked back in June it seemed like we were done with that.

Then came the delta variant and by the time we were ready to fly earlier this month the governor of Hawaii was asking tourists to stay home again.  We were “visiting family” so didn’t have any problems on that front, though the state was also requiring vaccine cards and health statements and a visual check before letting anybody in.

We even found the pre-check queue at the airport before we got on our flight, which got us a “cleared” wristband to get through inspection on arrival.  Getting into Hawaii was like getting into a club, you needed a wristband to bypass the line or something.

We also had a rental car lined up.  We ended up doing that at the last minute because, back in June, rental cars were in short supply and thus very expensive… like the cost of our lodgings expensive.   The rental car companies stopped buying them because nobody was traveling, which also impacted the used car market because rental car companies break even on rentals and make their profits selling the cars when they’re done, which is a huge supply flow in the car market that suddenly dried up and now finding a used car is a bit of a chore.  Also, when people went back to traveling in May and June when the CDC prematurely said everything was good demand for rental cars drove prices through the roof.

We debated going without.  There have been trips where we have rented a car, driven it to the hotel, stayed a week, then driven it back to the airport without a trip in between.   We also looked into some other options, including one service where you rent a car from a local ala AirBnB for a day or two, which we would have needed to visit my mom who live up country, far from the shore where we were staying.

Then the delta variant put a crimp in the travel plans of many and demand dropped, bringing prices down as well.  A week before our flight the price of a car was still a bit pricey, but about a third of what it had been in June.  We reserved a compact from Sixt, which was new on the island since we last visited, so we thought we would give them a try.

After some rather poorly targeted attempts at an upsell… how about a Mercedes for more than double what you’re paying, or a convertible Mustang for triple… we were handed a slip to take to the lot that would get us a Kia Optima.  It was a bit of a beater.  The pre-listed damage sheet was a page long… but at least they gave us that because I’ve had Avis/Budget come after me for damages they signed off on… and the car had 30K miles on it, which is old for a rental, but it seemed to otherwise be passable.  Only later did I find that the Optima was considered an upgrade and that Sixt slipped in a daily upgrade charge on the invoice.  All rental car companies are horrible.

I was a bit confused at first.  The guy in the dispatch shack handed me what looked like a fob, the whole keyless proximity thing becoming more common.

It sure looks like a fob

However, when I went to look for the start button I noticed the usual steering column key receptacle.  But where was the key?  Examining the fob, I found that the little silver button on it would extend the key out like a switchblade.

The key extended

It was about a day that I was asked to stop saying, “I will cut you!” every time I flicked the key out of its recess.

The car also made some strange sounds on the highway.  If you remember the pod racing scenes from The Phantom Menace, the sound that Sebulba’s pod racer made… that was what this car sounded like.  Not obnoxiously, but reliably.

Anyway, to get to the heart of the tale after rambling up to this point, being on the island for seven nights without much of an itinerary beyond “hanging out” and visiting my mom, we decided to take a drive.

We have driven around two of the other islands, Oahu and the big island of Hawaii, both of which you can easily manage in a day with a few stops along the way.  The big island has the best roads and goes from dry badlands around Kona to rain forests around Hilo to the volcano and then the vineyards as you come back around again.  Oahu is a lot more crowded, it being the main tourist destination.  Two thirds of the way around is semi-rural and then other third is huge hotels, a naval base, and airport, and all the traffic that goes with it.

But we had never driven around Maui.

There is a reason for that.  Technically there is a stretch of east Maui where rental cars are not allowed.  Maui is smaller than the big island… duh… and larger than Oahu, but is much less developed than either.

I tend to think of Maui as an eight laying on its side, with the west end of the island being the small, upper loop, and the east side being the larger, lower loop.

Maui main highways – greatly simplified.

Kahului, where the airport is (code: OGG) is the middle of the two loops.  That is also where the harbor is… everything has to go to Honolulu first, get unloaded from the big container ships, then stacked on a barge and sailed over to Maui… the Costco and most of the main non-tourist large businesses.  It is as much of a city as the island has.

We generally stay in Kaanapali, which is past Lahaina there on the map.  It is very touristy, has decent beaches, and it a great spot to watch whales in February, when we usually go.  We have also stayed in Kihei, which is more condo rental focused.  It has better beaches than Lahaina, but the condos aren’t as pretty.  You get a couple of streets back from the beach and it feels like any apartment dense part of the country.

Further down from Kihei is Wailea and Makena where the rich people live.  Oprah has a place down there.

We had drive all of those places many times.

We had also driven the road to Hana, which I have marked in orange.  It beautiful and windy and will make children throw up. (Google “road to Hana”)  I went with my family when I was young and have no desire to make the trip again.  My wife and daughter went with my cousin about ten years back, while my aunt and I sat by the pool and read.  Our daughter threw up on the way down, as I predicted.

The red stretch on the map is dirt and gravel roads and your rental car agreement explicitly warns you that you are not allowed to drive there.

So we had been on all the roads I have marked in black and each down the orange road to Hana individually.  But we realized that we had never been all the way around the back side of the west end of Maui, the yellow stretch on the map.  So that was where we headed.  We got on Highway 30 and headed north and around the tip of the island.

It is very pretty up there.  The resorts end past Kapalua and as you round the northern tip there are bays there are excellent for snorkeling.  It is one of those places where you can see all the fish on those charts they sell about the island.  The road there is narrow and winds along the coast, but is still two lanes wide, well maintained, with a freshly painted double yellow line down the middle.  As you go further the turns become more sharp, and you are advised to honk your horn when going around some of the blind turns, but it is otherwise a solid road.

And then, as you come around the tip of the island and start heading down the back side you come to a large sign that says, “END OF STATE HIGHWAY” and it is like a zone line in a poorly joined MMORPG.  Right up to the sign is this well maintained all weather two land road, and then at the sign it suddenly changes.  You can see that a stripe had been painted down the middle at some point, but it has faded away.  The road is crumbling at the edges and has more than its share of cracks and divots.

But it is still a two land road, if a less well maintained one.  So we carried on.

This put us on the north coast of the island, which faces the open ocean.  This is where the waves and the wind happen.  Between Kahuliu and Haiku on the road that ends goes to Hana you will see lots of windsurfers on the open water.  The airport is there for a reason; the wind blows strong and continuously, making landings a bit of a “seat belts required” part of many flights.  The big waves are also along that stretch with Paia being about the center of that zone.

This is not a place of nice sandy beaches like the sheltered side of the island.  This is cliffs and volcanic rock and the power of the ocean beating against the shore.  We stopped a couple of times to take pictures.

We kept on going and after a while the road started to get a little more ragged and little more narrow.  Not a lot of people live out there and those that do tend to be outdoorsy types.  We came around a bend to be surprised by a pack of riders on ATVs roaring up the road, a pickup tailing behind.

Then the occasional signs start warning you that the road is narrow and windy ahead.  The road has to follow the coast, which has many inlets and so my nice yellow line on the map hardly represents the actual route.  Still, we were fine until a sign announced that we would be facing a single lane road ahead.

This might have been a good time to turn around, except that the road was already down to one and a half lanes between a cliff on the right side of the car and a drop off into the roiling ocean on the left, which meant turning around might be a bit dicey.  So we carried on.

The signs were very serious about the whole “one lane” business.  I became very conscious of wide spots in the road where two vehicles could pass.  As we went into each inlet we could look across the gap to see if a car was coming the other way so as to be prepared for the dance of who gets to back up when we meet.

I had to back up a number of times, nearly a quarter of a mile at one point, in order to get to a point where the car coming the other way could get around us.

Gone was any pretense of a line painted down the middle of the road.  Instead there was… now and then… a white line painted at each shoulder of the road, defining the space in which you had to stay to keep moving forward safely.  I wouldn’t want to try this whole thing at night.

We also started to see signs asking people not to honk when coming around blind corners.  Apparently tourist take those signs on the state highway very seriously and the locals have gotten sick of all the horns going off.

So I asked my wife if she had gotten a picture of one of those signs, then looked over and discovered that she was not having a good time.  I had been very focused on the road, it being the sort of drive that really requires full attention to everything going on, but had been feeling okay about things because I could see a full sized Jeep Wrangle about a half a mild ahead of us.  That thing was a good couple of feet wider than our Kia and, while it had the whole four wheel drive thing going for it, I was pretty convinced that being narrow and nimble and sounding like a pod racer was the more advantageous configuration.

My wife was a little more focused on the edge of the road and the deep blue see way down the cliff below us, so she was a bit more into gripping the arm rest and not really about taking pictures with her phone.  This caused her to make what I will call a couple of declarations against interest along the way.

We’ve been together for about 25 years at this point and, being an old married couple, bicker about stupid little things, like where things go in the cupboards or refrigerator as well as each other’s skill as a driver.  She likes to kibitz and will grab onto the arm rest when going into turn at anything over 15 mph, while I am prone to mutterings of “Oh God” and have a habit of just closing my eyes and letting my body go limp when I am sure we’re on the verge of disaster.

It is a wonder we get in the car with each other some days.  And neither of us will back down from our positions.

But here, in our rental car, going “whomp whomp whomp” down a one lane road between a mountain side and a cliff in a rural area with no cell phone reception facing locals coming the other way in full size pickup trucks barreling along with no fear, she conceded that she might not always be the best passenger and that I am a good driver.

This pair of admissions caused me to laugh out loud, which was probably the wrong thing to do, but it broke the tension of the drive.  I had been kind of quiet, focused on the road, and she had been just gripping the arm rest, but with that we felt a little better.  I started talking about my strategy for getting through this, spotting outlets, while she kept and eye out for cars and trucks coming towards us, and we both focused our scorn on this horrible one lane road.

This was a classic vacation situation for us.  We have a long tradition of going off on a lark and getting in over our heads.  Often it involves a seemingly easy hike in places like Lake Tahoe or Muir Woods or up Diamond Head on Oahu, where we get too far in to back out and realize we’re out of our depth.  I spent a good portion of time lying to her on a trail up a mountain in Marin, telling her it was downhill after the next turn, only to have her get there and see that we still had more climbing to do.

But we always managed to get through it together and then we go some place and have several drinks and curse our naivety and how sore we’ll be in the morning and swear we’ll be smarter next time.

So after a couple of moments of false hope, where the road seemed to be widening for good, only to narrow down to one lane for another few miles, and a few too many minivans coming the other way for comfort, we hit the start of the state highway again, with the road once again well paved and wide enough for two lanes with a solid double yellow line painted down the middle.

And that was our big adventure for this trip.  We contented ourselves by sitting on the beach or next to the pool for most of the rest of the time before we headed home.