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.

Pandemic Bing Watching as We are All Still at Home

Back again for more shows we have binged through as we stay home, waiting for the vaccine queue to finally get down to reasonably healthy non-essential workers in their 50s.  It seems like forever-ago that we were watching Tiger King.  ?Anyway, there is still likely time for a lot more TV before we’re going out again.  But on to what we’ve seen.

The tale of Assane Diop, a Frenchman of Senegalese descent who models himself on the Lupin books of Maurice Leblanc, which makes him a one-man Ocean’s Eleven at times, and his search to find evidence to exonerate his father who was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.  Fun, stylish, compelling, and the dub into English over the French was very well done.  A bad dub can be a distraction, but I barely notice this one.

However, there was one huge problem with the series… we only got half of it.  We went in not knowing that we were getting five episodes now and five at some point in the future.  So now we wait.  Merde!

Cynical, biting, and funny by turns, this look at public relations focuses on Robyn as US born PR exec living in London trying to balance her love life, family, friends, addiction, and self with a job that doesn’t want to allow time for any of that.  And then there are the clients, as she spends times spinning stories to bail them out of their own self-made messes.  Probably the most compelling episode takes place with her sitting on a trans-Atlantic flight next to a client who tells her about a problem after take off that she needs to solve before they land.  Quite enjoyed the whole thing.

What?  A lawyer show from David E. Kelly?  Crazy, right?

This time around we have Billy Bob Thorton playing cynical, brunt out, alcoholic lawyer Billy McBride who lives/works out of a motel by the beach near the Santa Monica pier.  When he isn’t in his room/office, he is drinking at the bar next door, only occasionally heading down to the court house to find clients like “Slippin’ Jimmy” McGill.  And then a case he doesn’t want to take gets under his skin and we’re off to the races as he comes out of his daily routine to fight against his old partner.  Billy Bob Thorton excels in the part.

There are three seasons, and the first two don’t have much to do with each other, but then we get to the third season where the past comes back on Billy in unexpected ways.  Good, in a strange way, and season 3 involves irrigation rights in the California central valley, which is always an issue when we have a drought… and we’re pretty much permanently in a drought at this point.

My desires for The Expanse at this point are pretty simple.  I want some spaceships, some Earth/Mars/Belter politics, a few dramatic visuals, an existential threat, Amos being Amos, and an elegantly dressed Chrisjen Avasarala swearing at inappropriate moments.  Give me that and I am set.

Which is why season 4 was kind of a let down for me.  We spent most of the season with Holden and his crew on a planet on the far side of the ring, away from our solar system, trying to remake Prometheus.  Or maybe it was Defiance.  I don’t know, but it wasn’t all that satisfying.

Season 5 though was back in the black, with spaceships and Belter plots and and Holden trying to get the band back together and what was hiding under Fred Johnson’s bed this whole time.  Good stuff… only now we have the long wait until season 6.  I hate that part.

Billed as a documentary about Elizabeth Carmichael and her attempt to create a lightweight, fuel efficient car in the 70s, if that was all it was about it wouldn’t have needed four hour long episodes.  I am pretty sure John Oliver could have given us all the relevant facts, made it funny, and still had time to review the new and have two “and now this…” segments without going over his usual 30 minutes.  But this is also the history of a con man with ten kids, trans gender acceptance, and where all those guys selling flowers on the side of the road in Texas came from.  Strange stuff, and oddly illustrated, but after seeing Tucker Carlson’s dad one can at least say that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the asshole tree.

A detective in Japan, his dead brother, a murder in London, a missing family sword, and a bunch of actors that might wife and I kept identifying from other shows from which we knew them.  The whole thing doesn’t quite fit together into a story that I was willing to believe in.  Too many complications that worked themselves out, too many “no person in position x would do that right?” moments, too many people suddenly willing to work against interest.  It was kind of forgettable… proven by the fact that I forgot all about it until Netflix reminded me about it under the “watch it again” header and I suddenly went, “Oh, right, the one with the woman from Boardwalk Empire, the acolyte from The Fifth Element, and the “I’m a Mac” guy!”

That said, we did watch the whole thing.  So there was enough there for that.  And that makes me wonder if I should do a post about the shows where we watched an episode or three and said, “Nope!”

Quote of the Day – But We Did It Anyway

We definitely don’t want to sell skill points

-CCP Rattati, EVE Online Director of Product, OZ_eve interview

I don’t even have the energy to care about the actual selling of skill points now.  That ship sailed last year. I’ve accepted it as the new reality.  I just wish CCP would get their messaging in line with that reality.

On Monday CCP Rattati who, among other things, has been driving the economic starvation plan in EVE Online, did this interview on Twitch, which was then posted up on YouTube for your watching pleasure. (And now there is a transcript.)

He talks about the New Eden economy for about the first ~40 minutes, then the discussion moves to monetization.  You can find that quote at the top of the post at the 49 minute mark.

The interview happened on Monday, the video went up on YouTube on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday CCP literally started straight up selling skill points.

Personal Offer!

This is the sort of self-defeating corporate bullshit that just drives me crazy.  He is the Director of Product, did he not know that this was happening the same week he was saying that?  The usual paths are that the person is lying, stupid, or believes their audience is stupid, and I can’t really pin down which this is.

Now, you’ll want to talk about context, and you can justifiably point out that this was part of a discussion about the Expert Systems feature, the “rent a skill” plan announced last week.  As part of that he said that CCP had ruled out the idea of selling skill points to new players, preferring to rent them temporary skill increases… because new players won’t understand things like skill injectors or something.  Somehow giving them skills then taking them away will be more clear.

I remain unconvinced that this will somehow be better or make EVE Online more comprehensible to new players, but the details are still vague, so final judgement has yet to land.

But, even in that context, his statement not once but twice that they do not want to sell skill points seems pretty strong, as though it would apply outside the justification for renting skills.

He was also very firm a few minutes earlier that Pearl Abyss was in no way pushing CCP to sell skill points.  In fact, he was quite adamant that PA has taken a very hands off approach to EVE Online and that they have given no direction or advice on monetization, which seems to torpedo the idea earlier in the week that the whole Expert Systems thing was handed down by them, and based on their experience as a way to monetize the Asian market.  CCP Rattati said that this was all very much a home grown, Icelandic idea.

Then again, he also said CCP doesn’t want to sell skill points in the same week that the company did just that, so one might be tempted to point out that he has a credibility problem.

Anyway, if you want to hear how everything is totally going to plan with the economic starvation and resource redistribution plan and the rationalization of the rent a skill idea, this video will help you along.  I will say that the host does push back, gently at times, on some of the statements, so it isn’t a free run statement by the company, but CCP Rattati remained firm on his own positions.

I hope this will be my last post related to selling skill points for a while, but CCP will be CCP.

Related:

Haldor the Trader Found at Last

Having defeated The Edler and started in on crypts in the local swamp biomes, we began to feel the need, even more so than before, to find Haldor, the trader who sets up shop somewhere in Valheim and who sells the Megingjord, a belt slot item that adds 150 lbs to a players carrying capacity.

Having carried scap iron out of a crypt, across a swamp, to a forward base, 15-18 units at a time due to weight restrictions, this was starting to feel like a big deal.

Another crypt to clear and loot

We had been looking for Haldor for a while now, but our explorations had failed to locate him… or any one of his incarnations.  He apparently has multiple spawn point on any given world, you just have to get close to him for him to show up on your map.  So we started to make exploration a priority, with Fergorin heading north and I heading west from our main base.  But it was Boogerfart, Crowbar’s son who finally found the trader as he explored south.

And once one person finds Haldor his little money bag appears on everybody’s game map.

The bag appears

However, Boogerfart hadn’t brought materials with him in order to make a portal.  So the next thing on the agenda was to sail down there and get a portal set up.  He was closest to our southern base, named Dieppe, the one in the black forest with the persistent troll visitors.  I built a portal at our main base and tagged it “Trader,” grabbed the materials to make another portal, then took the portal to Dieppe and sailed from there around the island and south towards Haldor.

Sailing southward

It looks nice and easy on the map, but most of the water on the west side of the first island was uncharted for me… I had to go that way as the prevailing wind was going to fight me going the other way around.  You go with the wind when you can and hope it changes when you need it to.

The trip was fine during the day.  It wasn’t even so bad when the fog rolled in as I reached the southern tip of the island.  But night was also falling and you can navigate okay in fog or at night, but in night and fog… not so much.  I took a while getting around the islands in that thick soup, hitting the shore a few times before I could even see it.

I could see the troll standing on the shore before I hit it.  I turned the boat hard and opened up the sails with the wind to get out of that.  The troll waded out waist deep and smacked the boat for a big chunk of damage, but I got away.

Eventually I wound my way through the shallows into a little bay close by Haldor, jumping ashore on his island.  It was still night and in a black forest biome, so there were greys all over to fight.  I had to clear out the shore before I could finally make my way to the camp.

Howdy Haldor!

Once there I setup the portal, then harvested some more wood and built a palisade fence corridor from the portal to the safety of the magic bubble that surrounds Haldor’s camp and keeps the bads at bay.  Then I settled down and checked out his list of goods.  The Megingjord belt rang in at 950 coins, which seemed quite pricey.

The shopping list

That done, I took the portal back to see what we had for coins.  We had nearly 900 in the main base, and had squirreled away another 800 or so at Dieppe, largely based on looting fallen trolls.  But we had also been storing amber, amber pearls, and rubies, loot from burial chambers, which you can sell to Haldor for some coin.

I collected up a bunch of that and too the portal back to Haldor.  Selling that off raised almost 1,500 gold in addition.  I took 950 off the top of that and bought myself a belt.  Boogerfart had already purchased one out of coin he had been gathering, which left us with resources to buy two more, and closing in on a third. (And there was still more loot to sell lying around.)

Unna at Haldor’s camp for another belt

I put the belt to good use later in the evening by emptying out another swamp crypt and hauling back 150 scrap iron from the effort.  Being able to make trips back and forth carrying a full stack of 30 scrap iron is a bit of a game changer.

Of course, first I had to sail the boat back to Dieppe, which was an adventure on its own.  I decided to once again go with the wind and explore around the edge of another island… you can see my path on the map… finding another swamp area adjacent to some meadows, which will make a likely new base for us in the future.  Of course, the locals took their shots at me if I got too close, and there was a sea serpent incident.

A sea serpent attacks

There I am, trying to get to shore, into the wind, as the serpent attacks.  I made it, but the serpent swam off before I could kill him with my bow.

With Haldor finally found, we can now all get that carrying upgrade.  Once we have that set for everybody, then I will see about collecting some coin for the fishing pole and some bait.  Another source of food would be handy.

Finding Iron in the Swamps of Valheim

Having defeated The Elder previously and obtained some swamp dungeon keys and then found a few swamps in our explorations, it was time to head into there at last.  Though first we had to slay The Elder again.

Only four of us had been there for the last kill, giving each one of us a key.  However Boogerfart had not been along for that fight and we were not clear as to whether or not everybody had to have a key, so we went back to summon The Elder again.

This time around we checked the area thoroughly to make sure we wouldn’t end up with two trolls and a host of skeletons joining the party this time.  That done, we tossed the ancient seeds in the fire and along came The Elder.

Here he comes again

This fight went much more smoothly.  There were a couple of deaths, but several of us made it through the encounter without suffering any reduction in skills.  Boogerfart though, he paid the initiation fee into the club.

The Boogerfart marker

Having many swamp keys available now, we all made sure we had one then traveled back to the main base to repair and resupply.  I had cooked up a couple stacks of sausages and minor healing potions, so everybody had a few to hand.

We had portals setup to two different swamp biomes, but the one Fergorin had setup had a swamp dungeon in sight, so we went with the sure thing and went through the portal to get to the main adventure.  There was a bit of tidying up to do and beds to make, but we were soon on our way.

The swamp visible from the camp… and is that banjo music I hear?

The swamp is… well… largely swamp, which means there is some land and lots of water.  And in the water are leeches, which are sizable mobs.  Rather than wading straight to our first objective, we decided to skirt around the end of the swamp until we got to the closest point we could.  The swamp was adjacent to a black forest biome, so we came up through that, along the boarder of the two areas.

In between swamp and forest

That didn’t stop the skeletons and Dragur from pouring out of the swamp to come get us.  That combo, and some blobs, managed to cause a full group wipe about a hundred meters from our start point.  I actually made it away from the fight, but had been poisoned by a blob and died from that.

Not an auspicious start.

We got ourselves collected and finished off the remaining bads, then moved a bit more cautiously forward.  We crept along until we reached the point of closest approach from the black forest.  It was time to cross into the swamp proper.

Ready to become swamp vikings… a swamp dungeon in the distance

There were only a couple mobs between us at the dungeon and we were able to get to the crypt gate without further losses.  I went up and opened the gate.

Just press E to open

As it turns out, the gate is just a gate and when one person opens it, the gate is then open for everybody.  Only one person in the party needs a key.  My suggestion that somebody could just speed run through the swamp and unlock all the gates in advance was given the reception that such a patently suicidal idea deserved.

Inside the crypt it was dark… with some green illumination.

A dark and eerie scene

It was also wet.  There were sections where we had to swim for a bit to get to the next room even.  And there were some mobs in there.  We ran into a couple of Dragur, but more dangerous to us were the blobs.  Their poison persists and we had several near run situations where people were down to their last few hit points before the poison expired.  I had to drink a minor healing mead (health potion) to survive one such event.  We tried to take the blobs at range when possible, which avoids the whole poison thing, but that is always situationally viable.  Some times you have to get in and beat the blob to death up close.  I’ve since brewed up some poison resist meads to help with that.

More important though were the muddy scrap piles.

Digging in the Muddy Scrap Pile

You dig into those with your pick and they yield scrap iron, which is the raw resource required for the next stage of gear and tools and what not.

We moved through the crypt digging out scrap iron and fighting the occasional mob, some of which are hiding behind those piles.  There are also the occasional crafting item in there, like iron chain.

We ended up digging out about sixty units of scrap iron, which seemed like a lot until we later found out it takes about 20 refined iron bits to make anything.  We’ll be visiting a lot of crypts before we’re all wearing iron armor and wielding iron weapons.

Once we were done we got back out of the crypt where Fergorin put up a quick workbench with a cover so we could repair some of the basic stuff.  My bronze pickaxe needs a forge, but some came with the hardened horn version, which can be repaired at the workbench.

As we were hanging about the crypt some Dragur and skeletons started showing up and we realized that there was a pair of body piles… essentially swamp mob spawners… just up the way.  We started laying into that to try and destroy them and got in over our heads and the whole group wiped once more.

Oh what fun.

Somehow I managed to run back ahead of the pack… the joy of dying first… slipping past several Dragur and grabbing all of my gear in the middle of that mess on the first try.  I don’t know how I got away with that, aside from making sure my inventory was empty so there was no mucking about with individual items.

I ran off and got myself geared up and fed, then went in to help cover the rest of the recovery operation.  The worst was Unna, who died pretty much between the two body piles.  We managed to wade in and take them all out on the second run, though not without some comedy.  I was at very low health and running around the crypt with a Dragur Elite chasing me while Fergorin shot him with his bow as he kept passing by.  That worked after a few laps and soon it was clear enough for Unna to recover her gear.

At the scene of the slaughter

That complete, we decided to get the hell out of the swamp, retracing our steps back to the black forest border and taking that line back to the outpost.

And then we realized that we had all of those iron scraps… which cannot go through portals… in the middle of nowhere.  So we stuck it in some chests and took a portal back to the main base, then over to the camp that is now the farm, where one of our boats was docked.  We then sailed that up the coast to the outpost and loaded it up with the iron scraps.

From there our closest forge and furnace was back at the base by The Elder altar, which is where we started the day.  So we sailed for that.

Sailing under the world tree

We managed to avoid mishap on that journey and were soon hauling scrap iron to the forge.  Smelting the first piece and picking it up unlocked a plethora of recipes… as well as shocking us a bit at the amount of iron we would need to get ourselves fully geared up.  Then again, we were not yet full geared up with bronze, so we might be getting ahead of ourselves.

The best item though… and the one I was most looking forward to… was the stone cutter, a crafting bench that lets you turn stone into stone blocks so you can build much more durable buildings and fortifications.  Given that a troll in the front yard was turning into a daily occurrence at the Elder Base, as we call it, the walls were an immediate project for Fergorin, who is the master architect of the group.

Stonework fortifications are much more troll resistant

Now we just need to find a couple dozen more crypts to loot to get ourselves geared up.  Though I am carrying on with mining copper and tin for bronze so we can at least all get into that level of gear first.

CCP Now Just Baby Steps from Selling EVE Online Skill Points Directly

I woke up this morning to find an email from CCP offering to sell me 1,620,000 skill points for the low, low price of $43.99.

Personal Offer!

The body of the email said:

Greetings Wilhelm Arcturus,

Rise like a phoenix and make a triumphant return to New Eden with the Skill Point Resurgence offer! Until 17. May, you can get 1,620,000 Skill Points for $43.99 to catch up with all the training time you have missed. Claim your offer today in the EVE Store.

And it assured me that this offer was ONLY FOR ME.

After taking a peek over at Reddit… and confirming that it appeared to be available on all of my accounts… I might be led to suggest that this offer was not that personal at all.  It seems to throw itself at you if you just log into the EVE Online web store.

Of course, this new turn will no doubt set off a fire storm in some quarters of the fan base, especially in light of the Expert Systems announcement from last week, which already has them stirred up.  Long time EVE Online fan/player Manic Velocity went so far as to make this video about milking the player base at the expense of the game’s integrity last week.

I wonder how he feels today?

I am less concerned.  Or maybe “concerned” isn’t even the right word any more.

As I wrote in a previous post, I’ve already made my peace with the idea that CCP is going to straight up sell skill points in their online store at some point.  Past statements from the company promising not to generate skill points out of thin air to sell are distant memories.  Corporations are not people, they are not… and cannot… be your friends, and their promises are meaningless.

So I am writing this just to take note of how far along they have come.  It is just another step in the journey.  We went from skill injectors to skill point give aways for compensation to alpha clone skill injectors to skill points in starter packs to skill points in packs in general and now to skill points sold directly under the guise of a special, personal offer… that is available to anybody who logs in… in just five years.

We are almost there now, just millimeters from skill point packs being a regular item in the web store.  If I were making predictions, I would guess that we’ll see these skill point packs before the end of Q2 2021.  That the “personal” offer expires on May 17th might be a tell as to when the pretense will be removed and it will be generally available.

And that will be it, case closed.  Skill points for sale in the store all the time.

Of course, there are still things about this offer that rankle or raise questions.

  • Why 1,620,000 skill points?

I suspect that if I looked I would find that specific number of skill points adds up to exactly some specific skill or set of skills in game.  I just can’t be bothered.

  • Why the alleged marked down price in the offer?

That seems dumb unless, of course, the direct sale of skill points is closer than I predicted above.  Maybe this is the “special” intro price for something that will now be in the store.  There certainly seemed to be some legal questions about how you can have a marked down price for something that is otherwise not available for sale.  Of course, if the plan was to make it generally available all along, then no problem.

  • What does this mean for Expert Systems?

I wrote about Expert Systems just yesterday, CCP’s plan to rent you skills, which seemed silly to me… even in light of Asian market practices… in a game where you can buy PLEX to buy ISK to buy skill injectors to get the skill points for keeps.  And now you can just buy skill points.  Seems odd.

  • Is there a timing aspect to this offer?

Suspicious minds will note that we’re now in the final month of Q1 2021, so seeing CCP make this final move into direct sales of skill points feels like it could be something to juice sales a bit… because we know people will buy these skill points… in order to make their quarterly sales goals.  If that were true… and we do not know that it is… it would imply that subscribers, sales, or player retention is not going as well as Hilmar’s rosy statements about 1.3 million brand new players trying the game in 2020 might lead you to suspect.

Anyway, the writing was already on the wall, we’re just finally arriving at our predetermined destination.

So it goes.

Expert Systems in the Face of Failure

As I noted yesterday, if there is one thing you can count on from CCP, it is an overly grandiose and technically incorrect name for something mundane.

Last week CCP announced a new feature called “Expert Systems,” which I immediately summed up as “rent a skill,” as you’d be hard pressed to convince me it was anything else. (It was certainly nothing like an expert system.)

No expert that I know

It has been billed as a way for new players to try out skills they have not yet trained, which doesn’t sound awful on the surface.  The announcement, lacking in details though it was, did specifically mention the “magic 14” skills as part of the plan along with some industry stuff, but nothing about it was crystal clear.

The thing that got a lot of people riled up was the implication that this would be a paid service.  The gut reaction was “pay to win,” though “rent to be mediocre” might be more accurate, but the deeper issue on that front for me was the company having its hand out looking to make money from helping new players figure out the game.  That isn’t a good look.

Well, that and the whole thing seeming to add up a tepid and ineffectual compromise that won’t change anything, which got me back to the bigger problem of the new player experience and how it drives away pretty much everybody who tries the game.

We saw this chart back at EVE North in 2019, which was when CCP said they were making the new player experience a priority.

How many new players log back in as time passes

But we’ve seen charts like that in the past like this one from FanFest 2014.

New Player Trajectory – 2014 edition

CCP has been focused on the new player experience, the NPE, for a year and a half now, tweaking and making modest updates and generally trying to fix the issue without really doing anything too radical.

And it seems to have largely been a wasted effort so far.  CCP was given a golden opportunity during the pandemic to increase its user base.  Every month of the pandemic I have posted the revenue chart from SuperData which has indicated that revenues across the board have been up 15% for video games.  Even CCP has seen a bit of that surge, with the peak concurrent player count finally cresting above the 40K mark back in April as people sought indoor activities during the lockdown.

Hilmar himself was on a Venture Beat panel in late January where he said that EVE Online added 1.3 million new players in 2020. (This number gets mentioned again in the Expert Systems post.)  That was more that the previous few years combined, a gift to the company from the pandemic.

The question is, where did they go?  If CCP was running at the 4.4% long term retention rate their EVE North numbers suggested (which also didn’t seem bad compared to numbers I could find from comparable titles), that ought to have dumped another 57K players into New Eden.  That would be about a 20% boost over the approximate 300K monthly active users that Hilmar has mentioned in the past.

With that big of an influx of new players… so I am assuming they are not counting returning vets joining the war or looking for something to do during lockdown… the peak concurrent players online ought to be up enough for that surge to stand out.

But is it?  Looking at EVE Offline, it doesn’t seem to be.  After the great valley of the null sec blackout and Chaos Era, when CCP seemed keen to actively drive players away, the PCU climbs, sees a surge around April and May, then settles back down to about where it was pre-blackout.  Congratulations to CCP for flattening the curve?

Further evidence for CCP failing to capitalize on the jackpot scenario include the 2020 financial results from Pearl Abyss.  On the surface it looks like the EVE Online IP is growing.  But in we cannot forget that in Q2 2020 CCP was able to re-open the Serenity server in China and in Q3 EVE Echoes launched and attracted a couple million players on its own.  If you were to subtract those two items I suspect the EVE Online IP bit of the chart would be closer to flat.

And then there is the bottom line for the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP, which ended up with PA paying just $225 million of the potential $425 million price tag due to CCP missing performance goals, which I am sure included some revenue requirements.  Hilmar and some other big investors missed a payday there.

Fun times.

I don’t want to go all “EVE is dying” meme now.  But in the face of all of this, which stinks heavily of failure, the idea that CCP spent dev time to design and implement this new Expert Systems feature which allows new player to rent skills for some amount of currency in a game where skill injectors exist seems like a wasted effort.  It doesn’t feel like something that will move the needle at all on new player retention, in large part because it doesn’t feel like something that will impact a new player’s experience before they get frustrated or bored and log off.

I have bemoaned the fact that EVE Online is old and cranky and and has issues that will never be fixed because, after nearly 18 years, there just isn’t the time, money, or wherewithal to do it.  And I myself have been cranky about CCP in the past about things like selling skill points and the fact that when they say they won’t do something, that statement has a hidden expiration date of about a year.

But I try not to get too worked up about monetization.  This is a business and, frankly, the price we pay to play hasn’t changes in almost 18 years.  It was fifteen dollars a month in 2003, it remains fifteen dollars a month in 2021.  But I am going to bet somebody has gotten a pay raise or the rent has gone up or costs have otherwise risen in that time.  To balance that out you either have to make more money or have less staff.

So I am not irate like some about the real money aspect of this so much as being unable to see how this will make a lick of difference.  Software development is a zero sum game.  You only have so much time and resources, and if you waste them on things that don’t make the product better you cannot get that time back.

Now, maybe I am just not seeing the big picture here.  Maybe CCP has all the right data to hand and they know that this is a winning idea.  I’d like to be wrong in my assumptions and the announcement was vague enough for a lot of wiggle room as to how this will turn out.  Unfortunately, I have been party to way too many half assed, badly calculated products and features in my career to have a lot of confidence.

The real problem with software is that is written and designed by people who all have their own special collections of bad ideas.

Related:

34 Weeks of World War Bee

This past week saw Snuffed Out carry on with their prodding of the Tranquility Trading Consortium, the null sec coalition that runs the Tranquility Trading Tower in Perimeter, among other things.  Having destroyed the TTC keepstar in Ignoitton last week, the group declared war on the TTC, leading people to wonder if they were going to actually assail the high sec trading hub.

This led to the push/shove scenario and answered the question as to whether the owners of the TTC… which includes both sides of World War Bee.. would cooperate to defend their lucrative market situation.

The answer was “yes” as both TEST and The Imperium joined the war to defend the TTC, leading to a set of instructions going out to Imperium pilots about how to setup their overviews so they could be allied with TEST in high sec yet still see them as hostile targets in Delve.

In order to declare a war in high sec a group has to designated a war headquarters.  In this case, Snuff’s HQ was an unfit (and perhaps unfueled) Raitaru in Ichinumi, which the TTC forces promptly destroyed.  That meant that the TTC “won” the war and kept Snuff from declaring war again for two weeks.  This quick resolution led some to believe that Snuff was just in it for the memes.

Meanwhile, in his weekly fireside chat on Saturday, The Mittani announced the F2 program, a call for members of the Imperium to step up and be more than just F1 monkeys in fleets.  The idea is to take an organization that, since the levee en masse inception of KarmaFleet, has often been seen to simply be about simply getting more people into fleets and pulling the few who show some talent into positions of responsibility, and get more people to step up into support roles in addition to going on fleet ops.  Scouts and spies were mentioned specifically, but were not the sole possible paths.  Mittens banged the drum for this through his whole speech and, though he vowed there would be no shaming of people who did not step up, wandered perilously close to that position a few times himself.

In the traditional Imperium way, having long adapted to the daunting complexity of life in New Eden and the running of a space empire, there was a promise of guides to help line members find that second role… the F2 button on the space career… to help support the coalition.

Delve Front

As we enter the eighth month of the war, Delve has now been in play for almost half of that time.  PAPI put down a Keepstar successfully in NPC Delve on their fifth attempt back in October.  That means that the invasion of Delve, the alleged final stage of the war, has now gone on longer than many past wars have taken all told.  I know everybody loves the “not winning fast enough” meme, but public promises as to when 1DQ1-A would fall have all proven to be pipe dreams so far.  The system, and the constellation behind it, remain in Imperium hands and largely unscathed.  But for PAPI to take Delve, they must evict the Imperium from 1DQ1-A.

That said, there isn’t a lot left of Delve in Imperium hands.  PAPI came in and took the 1-A81R constellation, home to The Bastion and Get Off My Lawn.  Aside from a few outlying systems near Querious, the 1DQ1-A constellation is all PAPI has left to take.

Delve – Feb 28, 2021

The hellcamp in M2-XFE carries on.  There were some operations by PAPI against the bubbles over the week, but no real break out attempts have come.  And the two metaliminal storms continue to wander the region, though the electrical storm looks like it might be out the door and into Fountain if it carries on in its current direction.

Other Theaters

In Querious Brave has managed to hold on to the systems they have been trying to claim.

Querious – Feb 28, 2021

That said, Siberian Squads hasn’t gone away either and remains in their own constellation as well as staging out of the Keepstar in W6V-VM.

In Catch however, Brave’s holdings are under siege as The Initiative and other groups have laid siege to and started taking what one might consider Brave’s core home systems in the region.

Catch – Feb 28, 2021

Brave is committed to Querious now because their backfield is on fire behind them.  Likewise, Immensea remains under pressure, and Federation Uprising is down to two ihubs and Warped Intentions has lost all of theirs.

Immensea – Feb 28, 2021

And down in Esoteria The Bastion has kept the pressure on TEST, though an incursion popping up in the region probably hasn’t made their life any easier.

Esoteria – Feb 28, 2021

There is word that Impass and Feythabolis may also start getting the torch soon, once some of the above regions are wrapped up.

My Participation

I was a slacker yet again this week, though I have to say that a lot of the ops I saw pinged were in EUTZ, which I cannot really go on unless I know they are going to be short.  I can’t go missing in the middle of the work day for long.  I did jump in when PAPI made a run at the bubbles at the M2-XFE camp, which put me on some fighter squadron kills.  I also got the final blow on a TEST Scimitar, so my Rokh has a kill mark on it now.

The M2 Keepstar abides

Other than that I ran around Delve and collected my PI.  PAPI hasn’t been after the customs office in the region, or at least not in the systems where I work, so that trickle of income has remained steady.  Oh, and I was on the Theta Thursday show on INN last week, proving that they are getting low on available guests.

With that my losses for the war remain:

  • Ares interceptor – 15
  • Malediction interceptor – 7
  • Crusader interceptor – 5
  • Atron entosis frigate – 6
  • Rokh battleship – 5
  • Drake battle cruiser – 4
  • Scimitar logi – 3
  • Ferox battle cruiser – 3
  • Purifier stealth bomber – 3
  • Guardian logi – 2
  • Scalpel logi frigate – 2
  • Raven battleship – 1
  • Crucifier ECM frigate – 1
  • Gnosis battlecruiser – 1
  • Bifrost command destroyer – 1
  • Cormorant destroyer – 1
  • Hurricane battle cruiser – 1
  • Sigil entosis industrial – 1
  • Mobile Small Warp Disruptor I – 1

Other Items

This past week saw the Bastions of War update from CCP which introduced improvements to marauder class battleships.  Buffing 2 billion ISK hulls in the middle of their economic crunch seemed a bit comical to me, but the left hand rarely seems to know what the right hand is doing at CCP.  We will see if that changes anything in the game meta.

The update also nerfed heavy assault cruiser survivability, which will no doubt change the null sec war meta, which has largely been “HACs online” for most of the conflict.  It seems that Muninns and Eagles might fall by the wayside, though the speedy Cerberus might still be viable.  What will replace those as ships of the line remains to be seen.

CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson gave an odd interview about the EVE Online economy which was published over at The Gamer in which he went on about the New Eden economy in attempt to play up some bizarre connection to the GameStop short selling event earlier in the month, by describing things that don’t or can’t really happen in the game.  Has anybody, as an example, really been banned for margin trading?  It was really every bad interview I have ever witnessed where the CEO proves he doesn’t know his product and nobody is there to stop him.

And then CCP posted their Expert Systems dev blog, which in classic CCP fashion, uses words that sound cool but which do not mean what they seem to think they do. (see “logistics” meaning “repair” for another example.)  While lacking in details, this came off as a “rent a skill” program to get new players to pay money for temporary access to skills to try them out.  It seems like a complete non-starter to me, but I’ll have more words about that later.

And the peak concurrent users for the week rang in about where it did last week, with Sunday being just slightly ahead of Saturday this time around:

  • 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

Related

February in Review

The Site

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

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

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

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

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

Valheim on Steam

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

One Year Ago

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

Daybreak was warming up for the EverQuest 21st anniversary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The we were off to Razorfen Downs.

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

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

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

Five Years Ago

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

I was wondering about MMOs and their middle age problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Years Ago

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

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

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

There was yet another sign of the coming apocalypse.

NetDevil got pulled out of LEGO Universe.

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

Van Hemlock was slumming back in MMOs for a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fifteen Years Ago

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

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

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

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

Twenty Years Ago

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

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

Thirty Years Ago

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

Most Viewed Posts in February

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

Search Terms of the Month

goons papi eve meta explained
[Good luck with that]

keepstar meme
[Yes]

keepster broom
[What?]

how do keepstars protect themselves
[Memes, brooms]

eve echoes burn jita
[One can only hope]

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

Game Time from ManicTime

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

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

EVE Online

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

Pokemon Go

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

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

Valheim

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

World of Warcraft

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

WoW Classic

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

Coming Up

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

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

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

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

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

The End of Fry’s Electronics

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

Always Fry’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over time though things began to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Fry’s Electronics

So it goes.

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

A Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Remake At Last!

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

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

Diamond and Pearl remade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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